29 December 2012

Seven Quick Takes, Vol. 13

Late again... (I said I'd be using that this week, didn't I?)

Little Bear has been going through clothes ridiculously fast of late; he was in his third outfit of the day by 8 this morning. I think that's a bit excessive; we tried to tell him that only little girls change outfits that often, and he just smiled and messed his diaper again.

I cannot wait for him to be off of these antibiotics! Hopefully we will go back to single-outfit days after he stops taking them. We started a probiotic a couple of days ago to try to help it, but so far there definitely hasn't been any improvement.

Little Bear is sure happy about the probiotic, though; it's a powder, so it has to be mixed into a food for him to eat it. That means I can't give him smushed-up peas: they are too thick to mix in the powder. I had to go buy baby oatmeal, which I'd said I wasn't going to do because it seemed silly to give him pretend, just-add-water food instead of real, mashed-up food. And to my chagrin, he loves it. I'd never have imagined it, but powdered oatmeal is wildly popular, even more so than applesauce--he can't get enough of it!

Everyone says that infants become constipated when they are first introduced to cereal. Falsehoods. The oatmeal hasn't been any more help than the probiotic at making his messes less... messy.

Thanks to Little Bear, and Christmas, and moose hunting, I washed five loads if laundry yesterday. Five! And there is another half-load accumulated already since yesterday evening. In the interest of conserving water and electricity I only do laundry twice a week, and on a typical laundry day I have one or two loads. Darn antibiotics.

One non-baby-related take: Matt went out looking for moose with my father and brother on Thursday, and they got one! It sounds like the hunt went very well: warm (above 0) weather, no mechanical problems, they got the moose at 10:30am so they had good light for the cleaning and bringing it back out to the road. Winter hunts are so much more convenient than fall hunts; the quarters freeze solid, so there isn't as much of a hurry to get everything processed right away. We'll still try to have everything cut up fairly soon, but if it stretches over a week or two, we don't have to worry about the meat going bad. I'm looking forward to having good meat in the freezer again! Beef is so expensive, and I prefer the taste of moose anyway.

More quick takes at ConversionDiary.com!

25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Christ is born! Glorify him!

So grateful to have had a peaceful, joyful celebration as a family today! I enjoyed a quiet hour to myself early this morning before Matt and Little Bear woke up (probably my last quiet Christmas morning for many years!), and we attended morning mass together before swinging by my parents' house for dinner. I'm still fighting off the flu, and got progressively more dizzy and faint as time went on, so we headed home and skyped Matt's family quick before LB and I went down for a good long nap.

Exchanging gifts with/around a baby was exciting; there wasn't much, but he certainly didn't care--his favorite part by far was tearing (and trying to eat) the paper! He also got to sit in his high chair and play with real food for the first time today: I didn't expect any of the mashed peas to actually make it into his mouth, so I wasn't disappointed, but he had great fun throwing the spoon on the floor. Bath time, which is always necessary after the daily medicine taking-and-throwing-up, was made much more fun by the rubber ducky from his grandma, too. Hopeful he will sleep well tonight--he was tired out by so much excitement.

Oh, one thing more: I keep promising folks pictures, so here you go: a genuine Alaskan Christmas tree! They aren't "sparse;" they have an extra dimension to decorate. :-)

24 December 2012

'Twas the Day Before Christmas

'Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the house
The stomach flu lingered! And Mommy did grouse,
"The stockings aren't finished, the cookie tin's bare,
And presents still need to be wrapped and placed there!"
The baby lay nestled midst Christmassy threads
While the sewing machine hummed over bright greens and reds.
With box cutter dexterous, with paintbrush and glue,
Dad made the last gift, and he wrapped it up, too!
All the cookies were baked and the presents wrapped quickly:
All seemed well and good, 'til the baby turned sickly.
We worried and fussed, then at last called the nurse
Who enflamed all our fears by predicting the worst;
We sprang to the jeep, and the heater-vents whistled
As to the ER we flew, like a 4x4 missile.*
The waiting room empty, they called us back quick
And the baby would not act the slightest bit sick!
He squirmed on the table and chortled and cooed;
The doctor commended his holiday mood.
"A result of his antibiotics," he said,
"Is quite likely this bleeding; you have nothing to dread."
So with lab scrips in hand we returned to our home
To watch him, but not worry, unless more symptoms come.
O what a first Christmas for our Little Bear
We will surely remember his fun, and our scare.
Now quieted down, set to turn off the light
We wish to you all a peace-filled Christmas night!

*Dreadful, I know, I'm sorry, but it's late and nothing else rhymed.

23 December 2012

Christmas Craziness and Toffee Bars

It's the night before the day before Christmas. The stockings are still three steps from finished; the tree is losing needles every time we turn around; the presents aren't wrapped; I found out two hours ago that, surprise, I'm making Christmas dinner for the family! and Little Bear just threw up his antibiotics for the second time today. All over me. Ho. ho. ho.

So how am I industriously using my time now that LB is finally napping? (Other than blogging, silly). No, I'm not doing any of the things on my rapidly growing list: I'm baking cookies!

Toffee bars are one of the traditions Matt grew up with every Christmas; they're something he would really miss if they didn't show up. He was good enough to say, knowing that I was stressed by everything else that must be done, that he didn't mind if they appeared later in the Christmas season... but I really wanted to do something nice for him, so here we are.

I also grew up with toffee at Christmas, but I really like my mother-in-law's recipe:

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup cold butter. Pat into a foil-lined, greased 13x9 pan. Bake for 12 minutes.

In a saucepan, melt 1/2 cup room-temperature butter over low heat until bubbly. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3 tablespoons honey, 1/2 cup heavy cream, and 2 tablespoons syrup and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it reaches a boil. Allow to boil 1 minute without stirring, then pour over hot crust.

Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped evenly over the toffee. Bake another 12 - 15 minutes, until the toffee bubbles. Sprinkle up to 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips on top and allow to melt for 2 minutes, then swirl across toffee with a spatula. Cool completely. To remove, invert pan on a cutting board, then peel away foil.

I'll get a photo up once they are out of the oven and cut!

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior; come to save us, O Lord our God.

The last of the O Antiphons: tomorrow night, Christ will be with us as we recall His birth in Bethlehem, so many years ago. As we hurry through these last few hours before Christmas, remember that the most important preparation takes place within our hearts. Rejoice, rejoice; men from all the nations await together the coming of Emmanuel!

O Come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

22 December 2012

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 12

Late again... (would it be cheating to make that count for one? Maybe next week...)

It was COLD this week! We got down to -50F at least once, and it didn't get warmer than -30F all week long. Matt was brave enough to go out tree-hunting on Sunday anyway; Little Bear and I were happy to sit by the fireplace in Grandma's nice, warm house!

Two more trips to the doctor under our belts; the current opinion is that Little Bear has unusually aggressive seborrhea with a secondary skin infection. We're having to give the poor child penicillin and septra twice a day for the next week. Needless to say, he hates it.

We may only be having one kind of Christmas cookie this year. I grew up in a house where there were at least fifteen varieties every year, so the concept of just one feels strange, but I accidentally made a lot of the first kind and I don't think we need anymore. That's "a lot" as in "nine and a half dozen." What was I thinking?!? I was clearly planning on giving cookies away, but still...

The superabundance of cookies isn't a variety I ever had growing up, but is one of Matt's traditions: peanut butter Hershey kiss cookies. Some time before next Christmas, I need to get his mom's recipe: I just made my standard peanut butter cookies and stuck Hershey kisses on top when they came out of the oven, and while they taste fine, they look very little like the ones he is used to.

Drumroll... Little Bear has learned to roll over! Being our son (i.e. stubborn and unique), he can't go from stomach to back yet (supposed to happen first), but he can happily roll his chunky little self from his back to his stomach. In which position he has learned to violently kick his legs up and down, because it makes such a fun noise.

Not such a little self, I suppose... He gained a quarter-pound between Monday and Thursday! Little Bear is now just over 17lbs, and is 26 inches long. It's hard to picture how small he was just a few short months ago.

Three days left before Christmas! And you know what? I'm not panicking. Presents still need to be wrapped, no progress has been made on the stockings since last Sunday, I still don't have any idea what is happening (or what we're eating) Christmas Eve or Christmas... but the tree is up and decorated, Matt's present will be ready for me to pick up Christmas Eve morning, and I have 114 cookies. Everything's going to be just fine.

O Rex Gentium

O King of the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

In stonemasonry, the block at the apex of an arch is called the "keystone". An arch cannot support itself without the keystone; it is the piece that holds the rest of the arch in place and allows it to bear weight. Truly, Christ is our keystone: He is the head, the Church His mystical body. He gives us life and hold us in existence--with God we are strong ("I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me," Phil 4:13), without God we crumble back to the dust from whence we came.

Only through Christ, our Keystone, can all nations be united in peace: the "arch of man," the coming together of all humanity, cannot bear weight without Him.

O come, Desire of Nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid every strife and quarrel cease,
And fill the world with heaven's peace. Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

21 December 2012

O Oriens

O dawn of the East, brightness of light eternal, and sun of justice: come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Today's Antiphon echoes the end of yesterday's, but with a different focus: enlightenment as opposed to release. By placing these two Antiphons together, the Church illustrates that we are in need of both: Come, set us free from our sins; come, teach us what is right that we may not fall back into error again.

The rising of the sun has long caused the East to be viewed, at least symbolically, as the direction from which The Lord comes. We still see this in our worship today: all Catholic churches are (supposed to be) built with the main altar facing East, and we sing hymns like "People Look East" during Advent.

O come Thou Dayspring from on high
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadow put to flight.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

19 December 2012

Ember Days

Today we observe the first of the winter Ember Days, which always falls on the Wednesday following Gaudete Sunday. Doesn't sound familiar? Don't worry, you're not alone: Ember Days are one of those parts of the liturgical calendar that somehow got lost in the kerfuffle following the Second Vatican Council, but bringing back the observance at home is simple!

Basically, the Ember Days are four sets of three days--Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday--marking the four seasons of the physical year. They are days of penitence (fasting, partial abstinence, prayer), but are also meant to focus on thanksgiving for the natural world. Traditionally they have also been periods particularly set aside for prayers for priestly vocations, and are a popular time for ordinations.

How can you observe the Ember Days this season? It doesn't have to be something big. We are having smaller, meatless meals today, Friday (obviously), and Saturday, and will be adding extra prayers for vocations, and for the priests and seminarians we know.

There is an excellent explanation of Ember Days at Why I Am Catholic, which I strongly recommend for a more in-depth look at the hows and whys of this observance:


O Clavis David

O Key of David and Scepter of the house of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and under the shadow of death.

When cities were enclosed by heavy walls for protection, the keeper of the key to the gate was a powerful and respected figure, usually the king (or prince, baron, mayor...). This is whence came the custom of presenting an honored guest with the "key" to a city: today it is a symbolic gesture indicating respect. By naming Christ Scepter of Israel, we announce his kingship; by naming Him the Key of David, we proclaim that He is not only the one with the power to open the gates (the key holder), but also the very opener (the key itself). Today's Antiphon immediately put me in mind of this verse:

And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.
Matthew 16:19, DRV

Christ comes to open the gates of Heaven to us, and he entrusted that key to the Church through the authority of St Peter, the first pope.

O come thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav'nly home.
Make straight the way that leads on high
That we no more may have cause to sigh.

17 December 2012

O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: come to deliver us and tarry not.

So many things we can draw from today's Antiphon! "Root of Jesse" points back to the prophecy of a"shoot sprung from the stump of Jesse" who would save his people. Christ comes to save His people from their enemies, but rather than crushing the Gentiles who have stood opposed to the Israelites, He allows them, too, to take part in His salvation and victory over death. All who make supplication to Him may be saved. We beg him, as His people have done throughout history, "Hurry, come quickly! Do not delay; we need you."

O Come thou rod of Jessie's stem;
From ev'ry foe deliver them
That trust thy mighty power to save,
And give them vict'ry o'er the grave.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.

O Adonai

O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with outstretched arms.

Today's verse is a bit less complete a transliteration of the Antiphon than yesterday's was, but the sense is still there; come, mighty ruler and law-giver, majestic and powerful beyond our human comprehension! Come, lord who spoke through fire and cloud, at once ruler and ransomer of your people.

O Come, O come, Thou Lord of might
Who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.

O Sapientia

O Wisdom, who came forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly; come, and teach us the way of prudence.

It's December 17! We begin the final stretch of Advent this evening with the O Antiphons. Each antiphon invokes one of the Scriptural attributes of Christ, referring to Isaiah's prophecy of the Messiah. By praying them in English, we miss the acrostic hidden in the Antiphons: read backwards, the first letters of the titles in Latin form the phrase "ero cras," or "I will be with you tomorrow." (The Antiphons begin tonight and end on December 23, as we celebrate Christ's birth the night of the 24).

For several centuries, the Church of England began their O Antiphons on December 16, adding an Antiphon invoking Our Lady: O Virgo virginum, or O Virgin of virgins. The acrostic then read "vero cras," or "truly, tomorrow." This practice, however, was not adopted by other Christians.

The Advent hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel" is actually a musical setting of the O Antiphons. Include them in your prayer this evening by singing the verse:

O come, thou Wisdom from on high
Who orderst all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.

(Out of respect for a former schola director, I feel compelled to point out that we "dreadful American congregations" have an unfortunate tendency to add a comma after "Emmanuel" in that last line. Note the meaning of the text; we aren't telling Emmanuel to rejoice--we're telling Israel to! It doesn't make any grammatical sense to put a break there.)

Murphy's Laws of Monday

You can't take the baby to the doctor just once.

It's seborrhea.

No, it's ringworm.

No, it's seborrhea.

We don't know. Come back on Friday.

The baby will only throw up at the times calculated to make mom craziest.

Four weeks running now, Little Bear has thrown up like clockwork: Monday and Thursday midday, while the last (planned) load of laundry is in the washing machine. There's something to be said for predictability, I suppose, but I'm in my third shirt of the day and it's not even 1pm.

The less convenient a nap is for mom, the more easily baby will fall asleep.

House to clean, laundry to fold, dinner to prepare, stockings to sew and tree to decorate? Definitely time to nap in mom's arms. Finished with chores and ready to fall into bed? Playtime. For at least two hours.

Bonus: Did you know that it's possible for a box of laundry soap to fall over in such a way as to spill its entire contents at once? The carpet in front of our washer and drier is nice and clean now.

16 December 2012

Christmas Stockings

I think I've said this before, but arts and crafts aren't exactly my thing. Drawing stick figures, okay. Crocheting, yes, but only rectangles. I sewed a quilt and some skirts back in high school, but haven't attempted more than basic mending jobs for years. So it still kind of boggles my mind that I suggested that I make Christmas stockings for the family. The insanity doesn't even end there: I volunteered to decorate them with appliquéd white satin silhouettes, a technique I have admired for years but have never once attempted.

Maybe Matt knows how many hours I spent working on the silly project today-- I don't want to know. After far too long spent trying to freehand a stocking pattern, tracing and painstakingly cutting out shapes on the satin, and learning to use the satin zigzag stitch on the machine (sewing machines have a special stitch just for edging satin! Who would have guessed?), the first silhouette has been safely attached to it's fleece.

I did my own first, so I could have a little more practice before doing the others (I.e. so that theirs will hopefully look better). The other two should actually be easier: Little Bear's star of Bethlehem is all straight lines, and Matt's bell is a simple shape with no tight turns. My angel had all manner of corners and curved edges to maneuver around! It's not perfect, but it went pretty darn well for a first attempt.

UPDATE: All three appliqués are done! The star was actually the hardest, because my bobbin thread broke and the machine kept insisting on making knots all the way up and down one ray. I'll have to go back by hand and fix it up a bit.

I'm pretty critical of them, of course; it's my own work. Matt thinks they look great, though, so I'm going to be satisfied and move on to the next step: sewing up the stockings themselves.

14 December 2012

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 11

The winter weirdness continues. Snow is still falling, although it has slowed from whiteout conditions to a bare few flakes at a time. No sooner did the snowfall slack off than the mercury began falling: It dropped 18 degrees in four hours yesterday, and the forecast lows keep sinking lower. We're fortunate to stil be hovering at -4.9 F right now; the high for tomorrow is -27, and for Sunday is -36. Little Bear and I made an extra trip to the store today to stock up on essentials in case the cold front sticks around!

Sunday is supposed to be Christmas tree cutting day, but if it gets into the -40s, I doubt the men (Matt, my father, and my brothers) will be too eager to haul their chainsaws up the mountain to hunt for trees... The other night, Matt remarked nonchalantly that it would be cheaper to get a fake tree and then donate it to the thrift store than to buy a real tree from one of the places selling them around town. I was having none of it; growing up, the very idea of a fake tree was anathema, and the idea of buying a Christmas tree instead of just going out and cutting one has always bugged me. It wasn't until I was partway through college that I learned that people in many parts of the country aren't allowed to just go out in the woods and cut their own! That's so sad... our scraggly wildfire-fodder black spruce that I've always decorated will certainly never be as "perfect" as a farmed tree, but I have so many great memories of tracking through waist-deep snow, off a windy dirt road halfway up a mountain, helping my father find our Christmas tree. I would hate to deprive Little Bear of that!

Those mountain roads will be exciting if it is warm enough for them to go out Sunday; even in our neighborhood, I have been so grateful to have four wheel drive and a higher-slung chassis. I saw several small cars sitting in the middle of the road, stuck, snow more than halfway up the wheel wells. There was so much snow that schools were closed yesterday! I have lived here 23 years, and have never once seen the schools close for snow. Hopefully the roads in our area will be plowed soon; they're fairly well packed down by this point, but they are anything but smooth!

The snow plows don't go nearly as far out as my father goes to cut Christmas trees, and from what I hear the hills around town got even more snow than we did, so tree cutting will truly be an adventure this year. A wear-warm-gear-and-take-survival-equipment adventure.

Even with the threat of being cold- and snow-bound next week wouldn't have taken me to town today if we hadn't had doctor appointments. Little Bear has something on his scalp that looked like an infected scratch, but fortunately, the doctor thinks it is only seborrhea that is getting irritated by friction and the extremely cold, dry air. She gave us some hydrocortisone to help calm it down.

Little Bear then accompanied me to the chiropractor, where he screamed in the poor nurse's arms the whole time. Remember when I said I was never bringing him to the chiropractor with me again? *sigh* Hopefully we won't be repeating that again for a good long time. It's a shame he dislikes it so much, though, because my chiropractor's office is only a block away from his pediatrician, and it would be so convenient to schedule our appointments together, because they are on the opposite side of town from us.

Speaking of which, it wasn't until I was all the way on the opposite side of town that I discovered I'd driven off with Matt's work keys after dropping him off this morning at the university. I'm sorry, dear...

So many feasts this week! After my failure on Sunday to really do anything for St Juan Diego, I felt obligated to make a better showing for OL Guadalupe (on Wednesday). A nice meal did make it to the table--roast chicken, bourbon-glazed yams and apples, and lemon-poppyseed bread pudding--but I didn't remember up set the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe with our Advent wreath until halfway through dinner, so I felt a bit silly. My mother and I talked about Saint Lucy yesterday evening, although, we didn't manage to really do anything else to observe her day, and today we will be celebrating St. John of the Cross by reading from his poetry. John of the Cross is famous, among many other things, for his drawing of the crucified Christ from the perspective of one looking from above; this drawing inspired Salvador Dali's Christ of Saint John of the Cross, an image special to Matt's college household.

I just, as in five minutes ago, realized that Christmas is only ten days away and I have not nearly finished making presents, have not begun wrapping presents, have not made stockings, have not done an iota of decorating, have not even thought about what food we will be eating or when/where we will be eating it... I can feel my hold on this "celebrating a peaceful Advent" ideal slipping. Here's hoping I can knock out one or two of the big projects (stockings would be great!) while Matt is home this weekend, so the last few days of Advent aren't crazy and stressful!

Have a very joyful Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)! For more quick takes, visit ConversionDiary.com.

12 December 2012

Winter Wonder

Such inconsistent weather we are having this month! December started out wretchedly cold, but this past weekend it was a pleasant 9 degrees above zero. Our cold, clear skies finally clouded over early this week, and snow began falling steadily yesterday. Today, the thermometer has shot up to a balmy 21 degrees, and the snow is still falling--we have gotten nearly 10 inches already, the roads are a tad treacherous, and those children not old enough to shovel are beside themselves. Tomorrow should be the last day we see positive temperatures for a while, the meteorologists say, and by Sunday it could be -45 again.

We will take the beautiful weather while it lasts! Matt just moved to an office in a new building on campus, and remarked this evening that if it stayed like this all winter, he would really enjoy the half-mile walk to and from the parking lot each day. (Don't worry about him walking in the cold; the university has a system of shuttle busses.) Little Bear came out to check the mail with me today because it was so warm, and he stared and stared--everything looks so different than it did the last time I took him for a walk! He didn't know what to make of the cold, white, soft things falling all over us, either. By the time we got back into the house, he had accumulated a good half-centimeter on top of his hat!

It was such a joy to watch him watch, wonderingly, as the snowflakes piled up on his snowsuit and my coat. What is this pretty white stuff, Mommy, and why is my nose getting cold? The wonderment of children is so beautiful, especially as we are preparing for Christmas: watching Little Bear wonder at the snow, I was reminded of the wonder with which we all approach the manger. What child is this? What does this mean to my life?

I hope that, before it gets too cold again, we have a few more chances to share the joy of wonder with Little Bear in the beautiful, snowy winterland outside!

09 December 2012

A "Feast-ive" Weekend

What a lot got packed into this weekend! Yesterday, of course, was the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and today was both the second Sunday of Advent and the feast of St Juan Diego! If I had unlimited time, energy, and resources (ha!), we would celebrate every feast ever, but as it is we do our best to celebrate the big ones and the ones that have a special meaning to one or more family members: name days, special patrons, etc.

Saturday morning, I baked lemon-blueberry sweet rolls: blue for Mary, lemon for the bitterness her Son's suffering caused her, sweet rolls because they look like roses (one of her flowers). Mmm! Even Matt, who isn't always fond of sweet citrus, pronounced them good. They were pretty simple, too; if you would like to give them a try for the next Marian feast (Our Lady of Guadalupe, on Wednesday), the recipe is at the end.

Saturday afternoon was a little bit crazy, beginning when Little Bear and I showed up at the university music department for what I thought was my little sister's studio recital, but which turned out to be the winter gala concert of all the city youth ensembles. Oh no, a baby at the symphony concert? The dirty looks were something fierce when I slipped in--late, of course--and took a seat in the very back, intending to just listen to my sister's pieces and then run out before Little Bear could disturb anyone. To my surprise and delight, he loved it: he sat on my lap watching the musicians for an hour and a half without making a peep! Sure, I played with him a bit to distract him once or twice, but he was soooo good.

He made up for it at mass that evening, but we won't get into that.

Mass was also exciting because I found out as I was leaving the concert that my sister had been at rehearsal when the rest of the family went to mass that morning, and could she come with us? Little Bear, realizing that there was an extra person in the car, decided that the best course of action would be to scream at the top of his lungs all the way there and all the way back. What fun.

This morning we celebrated the Second Sunday of Advent at mass, moved the wise men a little closer to the crèche, and reveled just a bit in the knowledge that I'm not worrying about Christmas decorating just yet. I have a feeling that this may come back to bite me, but we are giving it a try, for this year at least. The wise men seem to be acquiring a retinue, or vanguard, or something... a porcelain cat and a ceramic ptarmigan have joined their trek to Bethlehem. We will see if they pick up the grizzly bear on the desk as they pass it next weekend...

Matt has a particular devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego, so we will be sure to celebrate her apparition on Wednesday; tonight, because I was too tired to be more creative, we made nachos for dinner and pretended that it was real Mexican food! Wednesday will be better, I promise; if not real Mexican food, at least real food period.

Credit where credit is due: the idea for these sweet rolls came from The Pioneer Woman, although I didn't use her recipe.

Lemon-Blueberry Sweet Rolls
Combine 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast and 2 cups flour in a large mixing bowl. Heat 1/3 cup melted butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk until just warm (about 115*F) and beat into the flour and yeast. Beat 3 minutes (if using an electric mixer) or 10 minutes (if by hand). Add as much of 2 1/2 cups flour as you can get the dough to take, kneading until thoroughly combined in a firm dough. Let rise covered until it doubles, about an hour.
When risen, divide in half and allow to rest, covered, for 10 minutes before rolling out first ball into a rectangle 1/4" thick. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle liberally with lemon sugar and blueberries. Roll up like a jelly roll and cut into rounds. (I got 10 out of one ball and 12 out of the other). Bake in ungreased 8" or 9" round cake pans at 375*F for 20 minutes or until tops are golden. Drizzle with lemon glaze and serve warm.

In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup granulated sugar with 3-5 teaspoons lemon juice. Mix with your fingers (really!) until it reaches a consistency and lemony-ness that you think your family will like.

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup powdered sugar and up to 3 teaspoons lemon juice. Drizzle in water as needed to achieve the desired consistency.

07 December 2012

Seven Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 10

We have gone more than 24 hours with nothing breaking down! Is it sad that I'm excited about that? Yes, yes it is.

The other night, Matt was holding Little Bear while I cleaned up after dinner. Little Bear has learned to pull beards. From the living room, I suddenly hear a burst of wild baby giggles as Matt exclaims, "Ow! Not the hair of my chinny chin chin!" Ah, children's literature.

The first week of Advent is almost over! Has yours been as fruitful as you hoped? I have really appreciated our efforts to keep things simple this year: I have purple linen and the Advent wreath on the table, the three wise men are slowly journeying across the living room to the nativity scene, and we have been praying the Collect every night. No trappings of Christmas yet; it has been so nice to just focus on Advent!

Little Bear has heard an awful lot of "Veni Veni Emmanuel" and "People Look East" this past week, since I am holding off on Christmas hymns until the Christmas season. It would be nice to have a bit more variation, though; what are some other Advent hymns?

Tomorrow, Saturday, December 8, is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation. (Hint: that means that if you're Catholic, you HAVE to attend mass; willfully missing mass on a Sunday or holy day of obligation is a mortal sin.) Unfortunately, our diocese seems to be having trouble with this concept: there will be one vigil mass tonight at one parish in the area, and ALL of the other masses for the solemnity are being combined with the parishes' Sunday vigils. There are no morning or daytime masses on Saturday within at least an hour and a half's drive of us.

Dr. Ed Peters, a canon lawyer, says that one mass cannot satisfy two obligations.* We cannot make it to the vigil tonight due to Matt's work, so will be attending a Saturday evening mass for the holy day and a Sunday mass for our Sunday obligation. I hate to be suspicious of people, especially those who work for the Church, but I just don't understand how they can believe they are truly doing what is best for souls in their care by making fulfilling our obligations so difficult and confusing!

On a less frustrated note, I want to encourage you to go check out a friend's post about Our Lady, Destroyer of Heresy. That is one of my favorite titles of Our Lady, and I thought it quite apropos that she posted it on the feast of St Nicholas, smiter of heretics!

Have a great weekend! For more quick takes, visit ConversionDiary.com.


06 December 2012

Happy Feast of St Nicholas the Wonderworker!

 Little Bear wasn't quite sure what to make of the toy and shiny gold (chocolate) coin in his shoe this morning. As long as I didn't want to put the shoe on his foot, though, he was happy!

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra. Pious legend relates that the good bishop, when he learned that a poor man was going to sell his daughters into slavery because he couldn't afford to feed them and had no money for dowries, secretly dropped three bags of gold down the man's chimney to provide dowries for the girls. He is known for performing many good deeds and numerous miracles, including multiplication of wheat in a time of famine.

His feast day is also jokingly referred to as "punch a heretic day," because during the Council of Nicea, Nicholas lost his temper while arguing with his former student, Arius, who had denied the Godhood of Christ, and struck him in the face.

05 December 2012

Counting My Blessings

They say that you become your parents as you get older... while I doubt I'll ever be as much a Pollyanna as my mom, it surely wouldn't hurt me to try a little harder to find silver linings in the problems that somehow keep piling up. Especially since, if I take the time to look beyond my own little home bubble, I know that my "problems" are not really worth complaining about at all.

Sure, the car looks a wreck, but the other guy's insurance is getting it fixed. The "check engine" light came back on with the exact same problem code that we just paid the dealership to fix, but it went away all by itself. My thermometer reads -19, which is practically t-shirt weather after yesterday. And I needed a push to clean the fridge and freezer, anyway...

Last night we discovered half an inch of ice on the floor of both fridge and freezer, with water dripping from an unknown source and freezing on items and shelves in the fridge. After several hours of mopping up water and chipping away ice (punctuated by baby-tending), I figured out that the mess in the fridge was caused by water dripping from the iced-over freezer vent. I unplugged the refrigerator and allowed the whole thing to defrost and dry out all afternoon/evening.

Honestly, it was pretty frustrating; my chiropractor is going to scold for moving the refrigerator by myself, I saturated nearly all of our kitchen towels by the time I finished, and the baby screaming at the top of his lungs whenever I wasn't holding him added a hefty dose of stress and mommy-guilt. We got the vent fixed, though, and have a shiny clean fridge and freezer to boot. I'm so thankful, too, that this happened during the winter: I just threw all of our frozen food in a cardboard box and put it out on the front step until the freezer was cold again! There is something to be said for having a giant freezer (that doesn't affect the electric bill!) five or six months out of the year.

04 December 2012

Warm Up with Fruit Compote

Oh the weather outside is frightful... Truly, it was -37 F yesterday! Cold, snowy weather outside makes warm food inside particularly nice, though, and I've been looking for an excuse to make a warm, spicy dessert. Hot fruit compote just says "winter" to me: warm, full of cinnamon and cloves, not too sweet but still dessert... and such a delightful aroma!

Little Bear was VERY interested in my steaming bowl this evening, and we only narrowly avoided having it upset all over us (a trick he pulled a few days ago with a dish of tapioca). He is five months old now--how time flies! Soon he will be actually trying solid food instead of just staring at it as hard as he can. It really looks, at times, like he is trying to will the spoon to his mouth instead of mine. :-)

It's been quite a while since I posted a recipe, hasn't it? The fruit compote this evening was so easy and so delicious... give it a try!

Hot Fruit Compote
1 cup fresh, canned or frozen fruit per person (I used frozen peaches, strawberries, apricots, and mango)
1/4 cup water or fruit juice per person
cinnamon and cloves to taste

Combine all ingredients in a covered saucepan. Bring to a bare boil, then simmer uncovered until fruit is quite soft and the liquid has reduced by at least 25%.

Some people (like me) say that the longer you cook it the better it is, while others (like Matt) prefer a little structural integrity left in the individual pieces of fruit. Just let the fruit stew until it is as soft as you like.