30 June 2012

Very Berryful Frozen Yogurt

The 'big thing' in summery desserts these days seems to be frozen yogurt; chains are popping up right and left to take advantage of our society's warring desires to eat ice cream and yet be skinny. One of the chains near us advertises that their frozen yogurt "tastes great and looks great on you!"

I enjoy the faintly sweet tang of yogurt for its own sake, but generally, if I want ice cream, I want ice cream; it just seems silly to spend more money for a smaller container (if you buy it at the store), and if we go out to get ice cream, I'm not going to try to fool myself into thinking that I can eat more just because "yogurt" is healthier than "ice cream." It is still an absurd amount of dairy and sugar, and it's still going to require a good bit of exercise to balance it out.

That's not to say that I don't eat it - I just don't believe that it is all that much healthier. This belief was confirmed this morning when I was looking for a frozen yogurt recipe online, and was appalled by how much sugar they all called for. Sucrose, and corn syrup, and honey... all in the same recipe? This is supposed to be good for us? Unfortunately, I did actually need a yogurt recipe; we discovered this morning that the nearly 60 oz of yogurt in the fridge needed to be used by the end of this weekend, and there is only so much yogurt a person can eat in one day!  I normally purchase plain yogurt, but the other week there was an excellent sale on packs of all-natural blueberry and strawberry yogurt, and it seemed like it would be nice to have a change. Having flavored yogurt instead of plain now that it all needed to disappear quickly, though, added a bit to the challenge.

We eventually settled on frozen yogurt as the best way to use up a large portion of the berry-flavored yogurt at once. Every recipe I found, though, called for a discouraging amount of sugar. I'm sure they would have turned out well, but I didn't want to feel guilty for eating this, so eventually I gave up on looking through recipes and decided to come up with something myself. The end result certainly isn't as sweet as some commercial frozen yogurts, but it really preserved the yogurt-y flavor.

Berryful Frozen Yogurt

16 oz strawberry yogurt
16 oz blueberry yogurt
1 lb frozen mixed berries

Thaw the berries enough to break them up a bit with a potato masher (a stick blender might have helped, but we don't have one). Mix in the yogurt, combining thoroughly. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to your manufacturer's instructions. Ours took about 5 minutes shorter than ice cream would have to freeze, since the yogurt mixture is already thicker when it goes in, so keep an eye on it.

29 June 2012

Eggs to the rescue!

I'm a little too familiar with the uncomfortable feeling of walking into the kitchen after 5 pm, aware that the fridge is mostly empty and possessed of no earthly idea what we will be eating for dinner.  It seems to happen more frequently when I'm pregnant, possibly because there are so many times when eating simply doesn't sound like something I want to do.  This happened again just the other night, but I'm happy to report that it had a very successful outcome.

The only meat thawed was a quarter of a rope of smoked sausage.  The only other inhabitants of the fridge were half an onion, a tomato, some fruit, assorted condiments, and eggs.  Fortunately, eggs were on sale last week, and we still had several dozen of them.  We also had two large, slightly stale, sandwich rolls: the perfect foundation for a strata.

Dinner was in the oven within a half hour, I got to feel like I'd made "real" food, and we had lovely leftover strata to heat up and enjoy for breakfasts for the rest of the week!  Strata is such a wonderful way to take advantage of little leftover odds and ends while still providing a filling meal.  You could certainly substitute similar quantities of other leftovers into this recipe to replace any of the ingredients except for the eggs, milk, and bread.

Sausage Tomato Strata
6 c bread, cubed (2 large rolls, 4-6 slices of bread)
1/4 link cooked sausage, diced
1 large tomato, diced (or 15 oz diced tomatoes)
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 to 1 c mozzarella cheese, shredded*
8 to 10 eggs, beaten
1.5 to 2.5 c milk
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  In a 9x13 pan, layer half of the bread cubes, sausage, tomato, onion, and cheese; repeat.  In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, and salt and pepper.  (Use more milk if fewer eggs; less milk if more eggs).  Pour egg mixture into pan, covering the layered ingredients.  Press down if necessary to ensure coverage.  Bake for 50 to 55 minutes; allow to sit 5 minutes before cutting.

*A bag of shredded mozzarella lives in our freezer at all times; it is SO helpful to be able to pull it out in a pinch!

27 June 2012

Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Today, June 27, is the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help!  We wrapped up the novena last night, and continue to pray for her intercession as we approach the baby's due date.  What a reassurance it is to know that Our Lady will always look after and care for us, if we are only willing to ask for that help!

Almighty and merciful God, Who has given us an image of Thy Most Blessed Mother to venerate under the title of Perpetual Help, graciously grant that among all the variabilities of our way of life we may be constantly protected by the same Immaculate and ever-Virgin Mary, so that we may be worthy of Thy eternal redemption.

Did you know that you can view a live video streaming of the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help?  The Redemptorist priests who care for the icon and promote devotion to Our Lady under this title have set up a website where you can view the icon, submit prayer requests, and more!  The National Catholic Register has an article about the icon and the website here.

25 June 2012


In years past, it has frustrated me to no end that many people here in Alaska begin moaning and griping as soon as we pass the solstice about how we are losing daylight now.  My reaction has always been, "Really? We still have more than 20 hours of daylight... do you need something to complain about that desperately?"

This year, though, I've been reflecting on St. Augustine's words about the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, which we celebrated yesterday, in connection with the summer solstice and our gradual transition from this period of light into the near-total darkness in which we will be entombed before the Nativity of Christ in December.  While I still don't believe that our loss of daylight is something to complain about, I have begun to see it as something that does bear taking note of.

In John 3:30, St. John the Baptist is reminding his disciples that he is not the Christ, and the words he chooses show a beautiful humility and understanding of his role.  Looking at the Vulgate, we read: Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui.  What a picturesque way of describing it!  Jesus must crescere, must become visible or great, increase: the word is a cognate of the Italian crescendo, a term we use today in music for sound that begins softly and grows.  John must minui, must be reduced, diminish.  As our pastor put it yesterday, after John prepared the way and announced the coming of Christ, he faded into the background for Christ's public ministry.

With our celebration of John the Baptist on June 24, our hours of daylight begin to slowly slip away from us: as John gave way to Christ, so our light diminishes to almost nothing.  It will not be until we celebrate the birth of Christ, on December 25, that we will being to gain light again: Christ crescendos, and our light increases daily until we again reach this point of near-complete sunlight.

22 June 2012

Restless Heart: The Confessions of Augustine

I came across this trailer over at God and the Machine, and had to share...  Surely you've learned by now how much I like St. Augustine!

Caveat: In the Confessions Augustine writes of his hedonistic, amoral young adulthood, and those elements are present in this trailer.  Watch it yourself first before allowing preteen viewing.

Ever since the semester I spent translating and studying St. Augustine's Confessions in college, I haven't been able to get enough of his writings.  Now Ignatius Press is coming out with a cinematic adaptation of the Confessions!  There hasn't been much information released yet, apart from the names of the lead actors and the fact that it should be coming out this fall.  Keep an eye on their website and facebook page for future news.

UPDATE: A press release has come out with information about how you can get involved to bring Restless Heart to a theater near you.

21 June 2012

Solstice in the Land of the Midnight Sun

In our part of Alaska, where we go from twilight-at-best during the middle of winter to round-the-clock-sun in summer, the solstice is a pretty big deal.  The sun will technically "set" tonight, but even then, the majority of it will still be visible above the horizon.  It will certainly still be brighter outside at midnight tonight than it was at noon on December twenty-first!

The city of Fairbanks celebrates summer solstice in style: the first pitch of the 107th annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game will be thrown at 10:30 pm tonight, and the game will be played completely without artificial lighting.

On Saturday, thousands of locals and visitors will take part in the annual 10k Midnight Sun Run, which begins at the University of Alaska Fairbanks at 10 pm and winds through neighborhoods where residents line the streets to cheer on the runners or douse them with squirt guns and sprinklers.  Even the most competitive racers will be appreciating the cold water this year: the weathermen are calling for high 80s to 90s that night.  Many people also run in costume for fun; last year we saw everything from stormtroopers to lumberjacks to an octopus!

Sunday, downtown Fairbanks will be stretched to capacity with an expected 30,000+ people wandering through the Midnight Sun Festival between noon and midnight.  With more than 200 vendors, many ethnic food choices, and a plethora of live musicians and entertainers, it is the largest street fair of the year.  One of the highlights of this year's festival is expected to be the Dawg Gone Canoe Race; teams of two humans (a Dawg Driver and a Dawg Handler), one Dawg, and one canoe will float several miles down the Chena River, which flows through the middle of town.

Can Catholics participate in these celebrations?  Every year, I hear a few pious people lamenting the involvement of Catholic youth in these events because of the pagan roots of solstice celebrations.  Clearly, the Church condemns participation in pagan rituals; the first commandment proscribes superstition, idolatry, divination, magic and sorcery (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2110-2117).  But does this prohibition relate to celebrations like the above?

Playing baseball in the middle of the night without artificial light.  Running a 10k when you could be asleep, just for the fun of it.  Wandering through a sea of tasty food, local arts and crafts, and music while soaking in the late-night sun.  Canoeing down the river with a friend and a dog.  These are not pagan rituals, they are ways to celebrate the glorious abundance of sunlight we are blessed with during the summer!  "This is the day the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Ps 118:24).  God has given us a period of time when it never gets dark!  Are we to sit in our houses and block out the light, because the ancient peoples who did not know God also celebrated the longest day of the year?

An ancient sermon attributed to St. Augustine contains an interesting reflection connecting the births of Christ and John the Baptist with the biannual solstices:
Christ is born and the days start increasing; John is born and the days start diminishing.  So let man's honor diminish, God's honor increase, so that the honor of man may be found in the honor of God.  s.380
The Nativity of Christ and the Nativity of John the Baptist do, in fact, coincide very closely with the winter and summer solstice:  We celebrate Christ's birth on December 25, and John's birth on June 24.

Celebrating the changing seasons of the physical year complements our celebrations of the Church's year.  As long as we are not trying to rationalize participation in events which are opposed to Church teaching, there is nothing wrong with taking this time around the longest day of the year as an opportunity to praise God for another of the many ways He has blessed us!

Fortnight for Freedom kickoff

Today begins the US bishops' Fortnight for Freedom.  Please join in these next two weeks of making your voice heard in support of religious freedom!  

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has compiled resources to assist in your observance, which can be found here.  Be sure you understand the issue at hand, so that if you are asked about the Fortnight for Freedom, you will be able to explain why people across the country, including but by no means limited to Catholics, are so concerned about their First Amendment rights as a result of the HHS mandate!

Here is the prayer, promulgated by the USCCB, to be said throughout the Fortnight for Freedom (June 21, 2012 through July 4, 2012):

Oh God our Creator,

Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Mary, Immaculately Conceived, patroness of our country, pray for us!

Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, pray for us!

St. Thomas More, patron of religious liberty, pray for us!

20 June 2012

Slow-Cooker Sesame Pork

What could be easier than putting a few ingredients in a slow cooker, walking away, and coming back to find dinner ready and waiting for you?  Today was pretty busy, and it was wonderful to be able to get everything ready, go run errands, and return to the whole apartment smelling of pork and ginger.  I promised a few people that I would post the recipe if it turned out well; I hope you enjoy it!

Slow-Cooker Sesame Pork

0.5 c soy sauce
0.5 c white vinegar
4 Tbsp ketchup
2.5 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp brown sugar
0.5 tsp ground ginger
0.5 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, diced
0.25 c onion, chopped (optional)
1 to 1.25 lbs pork (you want some marbling - I used pork shoulder that was sold as "boneless ribs")
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Cut pork into four portions.  In a bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, honey, brown sugar, ground ginger, pepper flakes, garlic and onion.  Coat each piece of pork in sauce, then place in slow cooker.  Pour remaining sauce over pork.  Cover and cook on Low for 4-5 hours.  Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

I served this with medium-grain white rice and broccoli, and it turned out very well!  We're definitely adding it to the "to make again" folder.

Upcoming Class!

This class will focus on the Sympto-Thermal Method, and will also touch on other methods such as the Standard Days Method and the Marquette Method.  Fr. John, the current Catholic chaplain at Fort Wainwright, will address the spiritual side of NFP at the end of the class.

I would strongly recommend this class for any Catholic couple, married or engaged, who have not yet learned a method of NFP.  It has been such a blessing to our marriage!  Also, Alexandria is my midwife, and I have been so happy working with her; I'm sure the class will be wonderful.  As the poster says, the class will be held at Northern Lights Chapel on Fort Wainwright, so make sure that you have the necessary paperwork to get onto post!

For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/447985905213763/

19 June 2012

Faith from our Fathers

Our pastor's homily this past Sunday was excellent:  He tied the parable of the mustard seed to our American celebration of Father's Day, connecting the time and effort that go into cultivating a seed in order for it to grow large enough that "the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade" (Mk 4:32) to the time and effort which fathers are called to put into cultivating their children's faith.  Fr. Robert Fath discussed several ways that fathers need to be involved in their children's spiritual upbringing.  Here is an excerpt from his homily:

...Teach your children the Faith. Now many of you are in my generation or on either side. We come out of a Church that quite frankly, the catechesis was not good when we were growing up. The Jesus that we were taught was the warm, fluffy, buddy Jesus. The guy who's standing there giving you high-fives and putting his arm around your shoulder. Now that's not to say that we don't teach our children that God is Love, that Jesus is standing there, walking along the path with us. But teaching our children an authentic faith, one that recognizes God as Lord and Sovereign of the universe, who is loving and just, is what our children need. If you don't know the Faith yourself, pick up the Catechism. Pick up Catholicism for Dummies. Educate yourself in the Faith, so that you can take on your role as the first teachers of the Faith to your children.

This one I think is probably the most important: Take on and live the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church. Just as seeds need the proper soil, and nutrients, and water, and care to grow, so do the seeds of faith. Jesus Christ offers us what we need to grow and to flourish if we reach out to Him. He feeds us each and every time we gather around the altar with His Body and Blood. He gives us the strength and nourishment to grow in the Faith. But as we grow, we also need to recognize that we need to protect those seeds of faith from the weeds that grow up in the garden. The only way to do that in our spiritual life is to avail ourselves of the sacrament of reconciliation. You cannot pull the weeds out of the garden of your children if you haven't taken care of your own...

I highly recommend that you listen to the whole thing!  You can find a recording here, under 11th Sun OT Cycle B 2012.

The article he refers to can be found here, and is a thought-provoking read as well.

How rarely do we hear such a clear call to step up and live our roles as parents?  The Catechism clearly states that "parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children" and that "parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children," (CCC 2223), but many "cradle Catholics" can attest that over the past few generations, passing on the Faith has not always seemed to be the highest priority for Catholic parents.  In families where the Faith has been passed on, as Fr. Fath noted, the bulk of the family faith formation has most often been the responsibility of the mother.  How much more effectively our families can create a domestic culture where the Faith thrives when both parents make a conscious effort to be involved, and to teach by their example!

How such a culture is developed will be unique to each individual family.  When I was growing up, there was a clear understanding that no family member-- child or parent --attended events that prevented them from participating in the family dinner each evening, the daily rosary, or attending Mass and other special liturgies with the family.  This helped us to understand what the most important things really were, especially when our parents were also willing to give up other activities to be present.  When Matt was in high school, he was fortunate to belong to a parish with an excellent MC program, and was encouraged to spend time participating in both liturgical and just-for-fun activities with the other MCs and the parochial vicar.  This gave him a broader understanding of how Catholicism can be a part of life beyond "going to church on Sunday."

In our family, we try to incorporate the life and calendar of the Church into our home life: finding fun ways of connecting feast days with daily meals or activities, incorporating seasonal prayers and novenas into our evening prayers, bringing a Catholic worldview to our discussions of current events and the culture...  Does "both parents being involved" mean that I expect Matt to surf the web for novenas and recipes for rose petals during his lunch break at work?  Of course not.  It means-- and this will vary from family to family --that he takes a leading role in our family prayers, that he is open to including prayers and petitions specific to a particular feast day (and it's my job to let him know about them before we begin prayers that evening!), and that he is supportive of my efforts to link meals and activities to the life of the Church, whether that means praying the Stations of the Cross on Fridays of Lent or eating hot cross buns during Holy Week. We certainly don't have "the perfect system" down yet, but as we are both committed to working together and asking God's blessing on our efforts, I'm confident that we will continue to improve.

18 June 2012

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

The novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help begins today!  The icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, also known as Our Lady (or Our Mother) of Perpetual Succor, has been an instrument of miraculous intercession for centuries, and is one of the most well-known icons of Our Lady.  It depicts Our Lady holding the Christ Child, while the archangels Gabriel and Michael display the instruments of Christ's passion and death.

The icon resided in San Matteo in Rome from its discovery in 1499 until Napoleon's troops sacked Rome in 1798.  The Augustinian friars preserved the icon from looters, and kept in in hiding until Pope Pius IX transferred it to the care of the Redemptorists in 1866.  Since then, the icon has resided at the Church of San Alphonsus de Liguori in Rome.

The novena runs from today through June 27 (next Wednesday), the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  Here is the prayer for the novena:

Oh Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke your powerful name, the protection of the living and the salvation of the dying. Purest Mary, let your name henceforth be ever on my lips. Delay not, Blessed Lady, to rescue me whenever I call on you. In my temptations, in my needs, I will never cease to call on you, ever repeating your sacred name, Mary, Mary. What a consolation, what sweetness, what confidence fills my soul when I utter your sacred name or even only think of you! I thank the Lord for having given you so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name. But I will not be content with merely uttering your name. Let my love for you prompt me ever to hail you Mother of Perpetual Help. Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for me and grant me the favor I confidently ask of you.

(Then say three Hail Marys).

We are praying the novena this year for the baby and me, that the delivery be free of complications and that we both come out of it in good health.

17 June 2012

Rose Petals for Our Lady

My favorite Alaskan wildflower has to be the wild rose.  They're simple yet beautiful, fragrant and enticing yet capable of defending themselves with those pesky little thorns that get into your skin with the lightest touch.  Best of all, they are edible!  The petals make a lovely addition to salads, and have an almond-like flavor when baked.  Their fruit, the rose hip, is an excellent source of vitamin C and antioxidants, and can be turned into jelly, tea or wine.

Our wild roses bloom in early- to mid-June every year, and range in color from deep pinks (as above) to pastels to nearly white.  Toward the end of their blooming season, we send the children out to pick petals.  After a very gentle washing, some petals go into ice cube trays with water to make pretty additions to chilled drinks later in the summer, while the rest are laid out to dry in preparation for baking.

Yesterday was the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and it seemed appropriate to use Our Lady's flower, the rose, in our celebration.  My mother found a recipe years ago for wild rose petal cupcakes with ground almonds, and makes them every year now.  On Friday, my youngest sister came over to make a batch with me.

They turned out very well; unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced the recipe!  I will add it as soon as I can find it.

UPDATE:  Recipe found!

Rose Petal Almond Cupcakes
1 c all-purpose flour
0.5 c almonds, ground
1.25 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
0.34 c shortening
0.5 c sugar
1 egg
0.34 c water
0.5 c fresh rose petals

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a small bowl, combine flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt.  In a mixing bowl, cream sugar and shortening.  Beat in egg.  Add dry ingredients alternately with water.  Gently fold in petals, reserving at least 10-12 for decoration.  Line 10-12 muffin cups with cupcake papers.  Fill two-thirds full with batter and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.  Remove from pans and allow to cool completely.  Makes 10-12.

1 c powdered sugar
1.5 Tbsp butter, room temperature
0.5 tsp almond extract

Beat together until fluffy.  Occasionally requires a few drops of water, depending on humidity.  Once cupcakes are cool, frost, pressing on reserved rose petals to decorate.

15 June 2012

Feast Fit For Friday

If today wasn't a solemnity, I think we would probably feel guilty about having such a fancy dinner on a Friday night!  Salmon with a dill-lemon glaze, rice pilaf, steamed green beans... the only thing missing was a nice sauvignon blanc.  Just a few more weeks; there are so many reasons to look forward to baby's arrival.

Fortunately, today is the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus!  The solemnity is observed on the 19th day after Pentecost, which means that it always falls on a Friday.  According to tradition, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque received a vision in which Christ requested that the Feast of the Sacred Heart be celebrated on the Friday following the octave of Corpus Christi.  Today we recall the great love Christ has for all mankind, and make reparation to His Sacred Heart for the many times when we reject His love and the sacrifice He made for us.

Today you can receive a plenary indulgence for a public recitation of the Act of Reparation!  If you weren't able to make it to Mass today, or your parish didn't offer the chance to recite the Act of Reparation, you can still gain a partial indulgence by reciting it privately.  The standard requirements for indulgences apply, of course.  Don't miss this opportunity for grace!

I would be more than willing to consider tonight's dinner as a candidate for a family tradition for the feast day...  It was simple, with no overtly rich or heavy elements; quick to prepare, with the entire cooking process taking just a little over a half hour; and certainly suitable for observing such an important feast day!

Salmon with dill-lemon glaze

2 fillets salmon, fresh or thawed
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp dill weed
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Lay fillets on foil-lined baking sheet, skin side down.  Combine melted butter, dill, and lemon juice; pour over fillets and brush to coat evenly.  Bake at 450 degrees for 6-7 minutes per half-inch of thickness (at thickest part of fillet).  Note: if you have a heat-sensitive smoke alarm too close to your oven, baking at 450 is likely to set it off; be prepared.

14 June 2012

Things Better Left Unsaid

It is astounding how unintentionally rude people can be to pregnant women!  (For charity's sake, we're going to assume that it is, in fact, unintentional.)  I'm sure many, if not most, moms have their own stories of shocking or hurtful things people have said to them during pregnancy.  You know, the sort of things that leave you pondering for a moment whether cutting out tongues is really cruel and unusual punishment?

One thing that has really gotten to me all through this pregnancy has been the unmarried, childless people with no medical background who ask if we found out the baby's sex, and barely waiting for me to respond, remind me that ultrasound predictions aren't always accurate and we really can't know...  I'm sorry, but why did you ask?  I started just saying, "We aren't entirely sure," months ago to try to head off these comments, and even that didn't work.

The insensitivity seemed to pick up with the arrival of the third trimester, and now that I'm finally down to the last few weeks, I've compiled a few of the most common offenders.  Do. Not. Say. These. Things. to a pregnant woman.

5) "You haven't had the baby yet!"
Really? I hadn't noticed; thank you so much for enlightening me... make sure you keep reminding me every day so that I'll know when the baby comes, okay?

4) "What is the baby's name? You've decided on a name, right? Come on, what is it? You can tell me! Why won't you tell me? I don't believe that you don't actually have one picked - you're just holding out on us. What is it?"
Some couples really do decide not to tell people the baby's name until after the birth. Some couples are really bad about procrastinating.  And some of the ones from the second category are happy that the first category exists, so they can use that as their excuse... Either way, badgering the mom-to-be isn't going to get you anything other than a frustrated woman, so just give it up!  Note: Many couples do decide early, and don't mind sharing the name, so it's fine to ask! Just don't be a jerk about it if you've been told once that they aren't telling.

3) "Enjoy getting a full night's sleep while you still can; you're not going to be getting much soon."
I have a fun game for you: duct tape a 15-20 lb watermelon to your lower abdomen, such that it's pressing on your pelvis and the tape is cutting into your lower back muscles, before you go to bed tonight.  Have your spouse wake you up every two hours to use the bathroom by poking you sharply in the ribs.  Oh, and you're only allowed to lay on your left side.  Let me know how much sleep you get!

2) "Labor is going to be torture! Mine lasted XX hours and they had to..."
Stop. Just stop. Filling the head of a woman who is approaching labor with horror stories about the very worst things that could go wrong is simply unacceptable, and has a good chance of making her own labor worse than it has to be by starting her off stressed and unable to relax.  This is not just insensitive: it's cruel.

1) "Oh my gosh, you're huge!"
I know that.  Really, I do.  My husband has been doing his best to convince me that it's not true, and I definitely don't believe him...  Would you say this to a woman who wasn't pregnant? No? Then how is it appropriate to say to one who is?  The best response I've heard to this comment is unfortunately one I would feel guilty for using, although there have certainly been times I've wanted to: At least I'm pregnant; what's your excuse?  Variations on this comment include "Are they moving your due date up?" and "Are you sure there's just one in there?"

Bear in mind that, as always, the lessons we learned as kids still apply a great deal in our adult lives:  If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!  This rule applies to the pregnant mom as well, but try to make it easier on us, please?  Before you say something that could be insensitive, think!

13 June 2012


When I was looking for a wedding dress, I went through... unconventional sources.  As long as it was white, pretty, and didn't have a train (I'm incurably prone to tripping), I didn't really care whether it was technically considered a "wedding dress" or not.  From what I could tell, the main difference between a "wedding dress" without a train and a "pretty white dress" was hundreds of dollars in price!  I found one that I really liked from Holy Clothing and had it shipped.

Their clothing ships directly from their factory in India, and I'd procrastinated a bit on placing my order, so I was starting to worry that it wouldn't arrive in time when it finally showed up.  Unfortunately, the embroidery along the edge of one of the sleeves had snagged and was unraveling!  They have an excellent customer service department, and when I sent them a photo of the damage they immediately refunded my order and told me to just keep the dress.

I wasn't willing to risk the delay of ordering another dress from India, though, and went with a dress from a US company (The Rose Dress, which I highly recommend!).  It arrived just in time and fit perfectly, so the first dress was relegated to a shelf in my sister's closet and forgotten about... until now.

How crazy would it be for me to try to use the yardage from the first dress to make a baptismal gown?  It is a floor-length dress, so there is certainly more than enough material... and the whole thing is hand-embroidered, so it would be lovely... if I could do it.  I don't currently have a pattern, and would want to find one that someone else can attest really works.  It would be so nice to make a baptismal gown to use for all of our children, though!

I haven't been able to find specific guidelines for the design and composition of baptismal gowns for Catholics, and the incredible variety of styles and materials available for sale across the Internet seem to indicate that a baptismal gown isn't subject to the same sort of regulations as some other liturgical garments (natural fibers, etc).  As far as I can tell, the most important thing is that the garment be white, symbolizing the fullness of Divine Grace with which Adam and Eve were clothed in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, and the purity which is restored to the child's soul when original sin is washed away in Baptism.


11 June 2012

Corpus Christi

I meant to post this yesterday and life has just been too hectic... my apologies.  I'm still trying to get over the cold that had me down for the better part of last week.

Were you able to participate in any special events at your parish for the solemnity?  Our parish offered 24-hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament leading up to the vigil celebration of Corpus Christi.  What a blessing to have the chance to spend time in prayer with Our Lord, preparing for the solemnity which in a particular way emphasizes the mystery of transubstantiation and our belief in the Real Presence!

Pope Benedict's reflections on the celebration of Corpus Christi (link below), particularly his discussion of processions, were beautiful.  Eucharistic processions are rare here, unfortunately; I think I've only ever seen one or two.  It would be wonderful to reestablish such an active, concrete sign of our calling to bring Christ into our communities!

Here are a few resources I found helpful in our celebration of Corpus Christi:

Information about the solemnity

Pope Benedict XVI's sermon for Corpus Christi with Fr. Z's commentary

Our pastor's sermon for Corpus Christi

A reflection on the Eucharist: The Miracle and Gift of the Eucharist

06 June 2012

Choosing joy

One of the joys of renting is that major interruptions to your daily life can sneak up on you without warning.  We learned from our landlord late yesterday evening that the roofers were coming bright and early this morning; apparently the roof needs to be re-shingled.  He just wanted to make sure our car would be out of the way...  I spent this morning listening to a cacophony worse than a herd of little boys with Nerf guns thundering around overhead, watching as the stray shingle plummeted past our living room window and praying that none of them would hit my potted herbs on our front step.

I would hope that, on an ordinary day, I would be happy to have the roofers here as an unusual and interesting event in what would otherwise have been a boring day.  Today, though, finds me exhausted after being kept up all night by a bad cold and longing for quiet in order to attempt a nap.

You ask me whether I am in good spirits.  How could I not be so?  As long as Faith gives me strength I will always be joyful.  Sadness ought to be banished from Catholic souls... the purpose for which we have been created shows us the path; even if strewn with many thorns, it is not a sad path.  It is joyful even in the face of sorrow.
- Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

How often the saints remind us not to complain!  It is easy to confuse happiness with joyfulness, and to mistake a lack of the first for an incapacity for the second.  In college, I had a poster on my wall where I could see it every morning; it read, "Today I choose joy."  Happiness is an emotional response to a stimulus, but joy is an act of the will.  As Bl. Pier Giorgio reminds us, we are called to be joyful in following the path God has for us.  Today, my path includes a sinus headache and noisy roofers, but that does not prevent me from accepting God's will and choosing joy.

What can I choose to be joyful about today?  So many things.  My throat does not hurt quite as badly as it did yesterday.  No fever accompanies this bug, so it's almost certainly just a cold and will be over soon.  I am able to stay home today and rest between the bouts of frenetic hammering on the roof.  Alternating treatments of ice water and vegetable oil finally succeeded in coaxing the rings off of my swollen fingers.  I am so incredibly grateful that they are having the roof re-shingled now rather than in July; at least I'm the only one unable to take a good nap today!

04 June 2012

Trinity Sundae!

Terrible pun... so sorry.  We couldn't resist such a perfect excuse to make a banana split for dessert, though, and it was delicious!

Yesterday we celebrated Trinity Sunday, the solemnity reflecting on the mystery of the Holy Trinity, our belief that there are three Persons in one God.  I've always loved the story told of St. Augustine in relation to this mystery:

Augustine, bishop of Hippo, was walking along the shore as he struggled to find a way to fully explain the Trinity.  As he was pondering, he noticed a young boy digging in the sand with a spoon.  The boy ran to the water's edge, filled his spoon with water, and ran back to pour his spoonful of water into the hole he had dug.  Augustine watched him go back and forth several times, then came closer and asked the boy what he was doing.

"I'm going to pour the whole sea into this hole!" the little boy told the bishop.  Augustine smiled, and told the boy that it was impossible for the entire sea to fit into such a small hole.  The boy looked up at him thoughtfully.

"I will sooner fit the whole sea into this small hole," he said, "than you will fit the whole mystery of the Trinity into human comprehension," and as he vanished Augustine realized that he had been speaking with Christ.

02 June 2012

Sourjacks for Saturday

We are so grateful for the arrival of this weekend!  Matt has been moving pretty slowly the past few days under the combined effects of seasonal allergies and a bad head cold, and needed a break.  While he tried to get some extra sleep this morning, as much as his restricted airways would allow, I took advantage of the long morning by making breakfast.

I started by taking my new pet out of the fridge.  Have you ever cooked with sourdough?  I'm so proud of myself for not having killed mine yet! (I've had it a whole three days now).  Matt and I have agreed that sourdough is one of the best pets for apartment-dwellers:  As long as it can breathe and you feed it fairly regularly, it will sit happily in your fridge forever and you can use it to make delicious food whenever you want to!  It doesn't need any exercise, doesn't make any messes that you have to clean up; it is easier than having a fish, and aquarium fish can't really be considered a renewable food source...

Anyway, half a cup of my sourdough starter went into a mixing bowl with half a cup each of water and flour, and I let them integrate while I made a strawberry-banana smoothie and got bacon ready to go in the pan.  Four rashers of bacon took the same amount of time to cook as a good-sized pile of sourdough flapjacks, and as an added bonus, Matt was able to wake up to the smell of bacon frying.

My "sourjacks" recipe came from my mother, who got it from Jedediah's House of Sourdough in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  I believe the original restaurant has closed, which is a shame; I would have enjoyed visiting some day!  According to the restaurant reviews I found, their sourdough starter was from the 1870s.  I don't know exactly how old my starter is, but we do know that it came into Alaska via the Chilkoot Trail during the Klondike Gold Rush (1896-1899).  Sourjacks were a weekend breakfast staple in my parents' house while I was growing up, and I'm so excited to be able to bring this delicious Alaskan tradition into our home now.


2 c sourdough starter
0.25 c buttermilk
1 egg
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp sugar
1.5 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp salt

Combine liquids and dry goods separately, then whisk dry goods rapidly into liquids.  Batter will be much less viscous than regular pancake batter!  Cook in lightly oiled skillet or griddle over medium heat, flipping when many bubbles form on top, until both sides are golden.  Makes 12-16 sourjacks when using 0.25 c batter for each.

01 June 2012

What is a day?

Does the new day start at midnight and end at 11:59 pm?  Is it from the time you get up one morning until the time you get up the next?  Or do you follow ancient traditions and count from sundown to sundown?

Most Catholics have probably contemplated this question on at least one Friday night, when the clock says 10 pm, the sky is dark, and they are suddenly craving meat.  For Catholics, there is no hard and fast rule on when one day ends and the next begins for religious purposes.  The best advice I've heard is that we should decide for ourselves which measure we are going to employ, and then stick to it:  Saying that Friday began and ended at dark last week because the pizza place was conveniently open several hours after dark, and then changing it this week so that Friday begins and ends at midnight so you can have that late-night pie on Thursday, is just plain cheating, and only a crazy person thinks that they can get away with cheating God.

In this part of Alaska, though, we can generally discount "sundown to sundown" as an option:  In the middle of winter, the sun rises at or after 10 am and sets by 3 pm.  In the summers, we eventually make our way up to nearly 24 hours of daylight, so there isn't even a "sundown" to speak of.  Today the sun rose at 3:31 am, and it will set at 12:13 pm tomorrow.  If we tried to keep the "sundown to sundown" rule here, over the course of a year we would be observing "Friday" at very different times depending on the season!

Our family uses the "getting up one morning to getting up the next" measure.  While we are almost never up late enough that it would be different than basing the determination on what the clock says, it certainly makes things easier when we visit friends and family out of state:  Alaska is in a time zone all to itself, so no matter where we travel, we are always gaining or losing at least one hour.  Being stuck in an airport in the middle of the night is difficult enough, without having to figure out whether or not it is technically a day of fast or abstinence in that particular time zone when the only restaurant open is McDonalds...

How do you measure Fridays?

Sed what?

Welcome to the journey and reflections of a Catholic mom from Alaska!  The title of this blog, "da mihi sanctitiam, sed noli modo," is a rephrasing of the famous quote from St. Augustine's Confessions: "da mihi castitatem et contentiam, sed noli modo."  More about that here.

I plan to write about our life as a young Catholic family, with the occasional post by my husband as well.  We will be sharing recipes, ways we try to incorporate our faith into our daily life, and some of the exciting and unique situations that come with living in Alaska.