18 March 2016

Planning for Holy Week

We have the Solemnity of St Joseph on Saturday, and then Holy Week is upon us! It's time to try and hammer out our plan for this final stretch: lots of liturgies happening, lots of things to make and do, but all the while trying to keep a sense of solemnity and spiritual preparation for Easter.

...then add little kids into the accounting, and the "low bar" goal becomes something more like "keep the chaos to a dull roar."

Solemnity of St Joseph, March 19
There's no Mass for the day at any of the parishes in town, as far as I know. Disappointing, but we'll read the readings at home in the morning, and read and talk about St Joseph with Little Bear throughout the day. Because he's the patron saint of husbands, fathers, workers, and Sicilians, we also make a point of celebrating St Joseph as one of Matt's patrons. 

Supper: something Italian, anyway... I'm sure Matt and Little Bear will both vote for pasta. Most of the recipes I've found that are explicitly linked to St Joseph's feast day involve ricotta and cream and other wonderful things that I can't have right now, but we'll think of something. Last year I made a chocolate sheet cake, but I don't want to have half a cake left over and sitting in the kitchen during Holy Week, so I'll have to find something smaller for dessert. Matt and Little Bear have been talking about milkshakes lately, so maybe the two of them will make those.

Palm Sunday, March 20
Mass: 7:30am, possibly with a procession? There was one last year, but no one said anything about it last weekend. We'll hope it happens!

Palms will immediately go up with the icons, to discourage Little Bear from playing with them... If it's warm enough to take the kids for a walk, we will go hunting for pussy willows as well.

Supper: Psari plaki, cinnamon carrots, and long-grain brown rice. If two years' occurrence makes something "traditional," the psari plaki is our traditional Palm Sunday supper. Or will be, once I'm washing dishes Sunday evening. The recipe is based on a traditional Greek dish for Palm Sunday, and brings the day a brief "taste" of the joy and richness we're looking forward to on Easter.

Monday/Tuesday of Holy Week, March 21/22
It is my firm intention to play the Easter clothes prep game on one of these days, and not let it wait until later in the week. Kit's dress, tights, sweater, shoes; Little Bear's vest, shirt, pants, socks, tie, shoes; whatever Matt and I are wearing: I want to see everything laid out all together, mended, ironed, set aside neatly together so it's all ready for Easter morning.

Just to get our week off to a great start, Kit has a doctor appointment and vaccinations first thing Monday morning.

Tuesday evening, I need to bake the Jidasé for Wednesday.

Spy Wednesday, March 23
Jidasé, Judas buns, for breakfast.

Little Bear and I will read about Judas' agreement to betray Christ, which is where the day's name comes from. Interesting fact of the day: in obsolete usage, "spy" could be defined as meaning "ambush" or "snare," according to the 1933 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Those meanings help "spy" make a little more sense in the context of Judas' actions, I think.

Little Bear loves hard-boiled eggs, so he should be excited to help me make a bunch of them this afternoon to have them ready to dye. He definitely remembers dying eggs last year—I've been hearing about it all Lent!

Holy Thursday, March 24
Mass: 7:00pm. We're doing it. Little Bear has never been, and it's a long, long Mass that doesn't even start until bedtime, so it could be very hard... But Matt's on the parish council, so he was asked to volunteer to have his feet washed. And maybe the novelty of the special liturgy and the being dressed nicely and at church late at night will inspire good behavior? Let's hope so.

Midmorning, I'll start the dough for the Hot Cross Buns. We have a couple of picture books about the Passion, which I'll pull out in the afternoon.

Supper: I have an unfortunate 2-for-2 record of somehow catching lamb on fire in the oven when I try to cook it, so we will not be having lamb this year. In past years we've always tried to have a nicer supper on Holy Thursday, in commemoration of the Last Supper, but because we need to be able to leave right away afterward for Mass, this year I'm leaning toward a simpler shepherds pie with a spinach salad.

Good Friday, March 25
Hot Cross Buns for breakfast.

Good Friday is a fast day, and while Little Bear and I will not be technically fasting, whatever we eat during the day will (hopefully) be plain and unexciting.

I don't have any idea how to make this happen, but ideally I'd like to try and keep things fairly still and quiet between noon and 3pm, the hours that Christ hung on the cross.

There's a chance we will make it to the Good Friday evening liturgy, but we're not going to push our luck by planning on it. We'll likely do the Stations of the Cross as a family after supper instead. In the evening, Matt and I will begin the Divine Mercy novena.

Supper: Greek lentil soup, crusty bread. I'm planning to use the soup recipe from A Continual Feast, which features vinegar "in memory of the vinegar that Christ was offered on the cross."

Holy Saturday, March 26
The dough for my Italian Easter Bread will get started right away in the morning, and we'll dye eggs with Little Bear while the dough rises. My mother braids raw dyed eggs into her bread and they always cook through completely, but so far the colored eggs in my Easter breads have always come out soft-boiled at best, so I'm going to just stick hard-boiled dyed eggs in it this year. 

We'll also make these spinach-artichoke bites to bring to my parents' house for Easter. If I recall correctly, there was a good bit of spinach-artichoke dip left over last year, so we'll have to work out whether we're bringing that as well or Matt will take care of it at home. (I figure this goes without saying, but while I can make the Jidasé, Hot Cross Buns, and Italian Easter Bread with non-dairy substitutes, I can't do that with these!)

This is not the right year for us to attempt going to the Easter Vigil with the kids, but hopefully some year soon. Once Little Bear is asleep, Matt and I will go around taking down all of the purple cloth covering our crucifixes, statues, icons, etc. The icon of the Resurrection will come out, the black beans in the "sacrifice jar" will be traded out for jelly beans, and we will set out Easter baskets.

Spread out like this, I don't sound too crazy for thinking I can do all these things, do I? As long as I'm really truly not trying to do any extra things outside of the house, and the children are at least marginally cooperative, I think—I hope—I'm choosing to trust that we're going to have a not-too-chaotic Holy Week. And I pray that yours is on the less-chaotic side, as well! What do your plans look like? 

We thank You, O Lord, for having brought us thus far in our journey to seek You anew. Forgive us where we have failed along the way. Strengthen us to continue with peace of soul this last week of our journey, that we may partake in the joyous and glorious day of Your Resurrection. Amen.

From Daily Lenten Reflections for Orthodox Christians, by Emily Harakas.

The list/plan/thing wound up having seven days/entries, so yay, I can link up with Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes! You can find more thoughts on Holy Week and Easter preparation over there this week.

17 March 2016

Midweek motley

What we're doing

Migraines on Monday, teething on Tuesday... It's been "a week" so far. Late Monday morning, bright flashing lights began invading my vision, eventually clouding over half of my sight at a time. When it hadn't lessened after an hour of laying down in a dark room, Matt came home from work to take me to the eye clinic. By the time the optometrist was ready for me, I was curled up on the floor in the dark waiting room, trying not to throw up from the pain in my head. Turns out that I'm one of the lucky people who can get "auras" leading into their migraines... yay.

Given that I was having a migraine and could barely keep my eyes open, it was not exactly surprising that I sort of failed the visual field test on my left eye. I'm not sure why they even bothered to have me do one right away, now that I think about it. But I'm supposed to go back the week after Easter to repeat it, just in case.

Kit has been fussier and clinger than usual all week, which has been so much fun with the "aftershock" headaches that have popped up by midafternoon every day since Monday. On Wednesday morning I finally figured out why: another tooth has been breaking through. Eight teeth in two months—Little Missy should hopefully be ready to take a break from teething now!

Little Bear and I talked about St Patrick today and he colored a picture of the saint holding a shamrock and ordering some snakes to leave. I don't think the snake story made much sense to him, because we don't have any snakes here, either, so he's never seen one outside of a zoo. But he liked how St Patrick used the shamrock to teach about God! We never did get around to the idea of green being associated with his feast day, which is good because I'm not sure I know why it is; Little Bear was very sure that he should use purple for St Patrick's chasuble and mitre since it's Lent, so I wasn't about to argue with that.

What we're eating

Lentil soup, pasta with marinara... Nothing very impressive, though it's Lent so that's kind of the point, isn't it? We did not have corned beef et al tonight, thank goodness; the week has been penitential enough without that!

I made a chicken pie this evening, and I think this crust turned out better than my last dairy-free crust; I used a bunch of whole wheat flour in it, and added some savory, marjoram, thyme, and lavender. Being accustomed to butter- or cream cheese-based pie crusts, shortening pie crust tastes so bland! The toasty wheat and the mixed herbs certainly helped, though.

So I grew up believing that all shortening is basically evil, right? Straight-up hydrogenated vegetable oil. Yuck. But when we received Kit's diagnosis right at the beginning of Advent, I went to the ladies at my natural foods co-op in the hopes that they could give me dairy-free alternatives to salvage my Christmas baking. One of the things that came home with me was this:

Non-hydrogenated shortening. It's made from 100% "mechanically pressed" palm oil, so even now that I've had to cut out soy as well, it still works for us. No trans fats, no weird additives; I still prefer coconut or olive oil for most things, but I use this for greasing pans, and it works fine in recipes that call for shortening, like pie crust.

Little Bear and I also made some quick no-bake granola bars the other day, but I was working one-handed with Kit in the other arm, so no photos. They are soft and chewy, and everyone seems to agree that it's a recipe worth saving:

2 cups rolled oats
2 cups rice crispies
1/2 to 3/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line a 13x9 pan with foil and grease well. 
Combine oats and rice crispies in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, bring honey and brown sugar to a boil, then remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla, and pour over oats and cereal. Stir until there are no more dry patches, then stir in raisins.
Press mixture firmly into pan and allow to cool completely. Remove foil from pan, cut granola bars to desired size, and wrap individually.

What we're reading

Same books as the last few weeks: 

This week it's been all I can do to get through the daily readings from each of these books, plus the daily emailed reflections from Bishop Robert Barron and Blessed Is She. And I don't want to give any of those up, because they are all so good! So I've wound up not really having the time or mental ability to read much else. Hopefully once these headaches go away I'll get a chance to catch up on some blog reading; right now, my eyes are preferring to avoid screens as much as possible.

12 March 2016

Seven reasons to feast during Lent (SQT)

Linking up with This Ain't The Lyceum.

It's pretty common knowledge that Catholics "give stuff up for Lent." Sweets, alcohol, gossip, broccoli... everyone has something they've given up in order to (hopefully) draw closer to God. Our family does meatless Wednesdays as well as Fridays, along with some other personal sacrifices.

As Matt and I were talking the other day, the question of "what for Lent entails, exactly" came up, and it's an interesting one. Does sacrificing something for Lent mean it's completely gone for the whole span from Ash Wednesday through the end of the Triduum (which is technically not Lent, but definitely a penitential season anyway)? Or are there exceptions, and if so what are they?

It turns out that this can be a surprisingly heated question; many people I've talked to who favor or oppose marking certain days and times in Lent by taking a break from their voluntary sacrifices seem to feel very strongly indeed that their way is best, or even the only correct position to take. We lean more toward the position that if "how to Lent" hasn't been set in stone, well, it's not set in stone. Given that stance, this should be obvious, but just in case, I'm not telling anyone that they're doing Lent wrong! Unless they're eating meat on run-of-the-mill Lenten Fridays without a dispensation, I suppose. But in the Shifflerhaus, and with our understanding of Lenten sacrifices, we do make a point of celebrating these days even during Lent:

Birthdays. So far, Matt's the only one with a Lenten birthday; the latest date possible for Easter to occur is April 25, and Alex's birthdate is April 26, so her birthday will never quite fall during Lent. But we do celebrate Matt's birthday despite its always being in Lent, complete with a meal of his choosing and his favorite brownies. (I should note that we as a family have not explicitly given up dessert; I focus on making "simple" food, so not making desserts has been a natural extension of that, but if someone gives us cookies they're fair game for after supper. His requested supper, burgundy meatballs, is definitely not what I would consider "simple," though, so having brownies was not the only thing that marked the day as different and celebratory.) 

Name days. (Otherwise known as the feast of your patron saint.) In our house, name days are a big deal. Goodness knows I badger all of our patron saints for prayers and help on a regular basis; the least I can do is celebrate their feast days! We read about the saints, maybe read something by the saint of the day, see if I can find a coloring page to print off... And like with birthdays, we let the one celebrating their nameday pick out supper, and dessert is likely to appear. For Kit's nameday last week we didn't have anything particularly special, since she's little and wouldn't have understood, plus Matt was out of town and "fancy" just wasn't happening, but Little Bear was happy to pick one of his favorite suppers to celebrate for his sister. Octopus pancake it was.

Baptismal days. If the day you're born makes the list of "days worthy of celebrating," the day you're reborn through Baptism should definitely count too. It's arguably a more important day, even! Same basic drill: we talk and read about the sacrament of Baptism and make a specially-requested supper, with a strong possibility of dessert. 

St Joseph. The feast day of St Joseph, March 19, is a Solemnity. A capital-S solemnity means it's a really big deal, a celebratory, no-fasting, meat-eating-even-if-it's-a-Lenten-Friday sort of big deal. 
"Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (Can. 1251)."
So, we celebrate it. 

Annunciation. Well, usually; because March 25 (the Annunciation—exactly nine months before Christmas) happens to be Good Friday this year, observance of the Annunciation had to be bumped all the way to April 4; they couldn't just move it to the week after Easter, because each of the seven days following Easter Sunday (the "octave of Easter") is a Solemnity in its own right. The Annunciation is a Solemnity as well, so even when it falls during Lent (as it usually does), we celebrate it as such. With waffles.

Laetare Sunday. The fourth Sunday in Lent is Laetare Sunday, "Rejoice" in Latin. The name comes from Isaiah 66:10, "Rejoice, O Jerusalem..." which is the Introit for the day. When we hit Laetare Sunday we're halfway through Lent, and everything starts hurrying along toward Easter: next comes Passion Sunday, then Palm Sunday, and we're already into Holy Week! So the Church marks Laetare Sunday as a day of rejoicing that Easter is in sight; a ways off yet, but we've crossed the turning point. 

Sundays in general. This one might be the most controversial; the two opposing views as I understand them (and please, if you interpret them differently, share your position!) are A) Lent is Lent, and taking breaks from your sacrifices every week is cheating and is opposed to the spirit of Lent, vs. B) every Sunday is a "little Easter," a commemoration of the Resurrection, and it's thus inappropriate to fast (c.f. Matt 9:15). We agree with the latter view, and do not treat the Sundays of Lent as penitential days.

Edited to clarify: The "no meat on Fridays of Lent" is a hard-and-fast rule, so birthdays, name days, and baptismal days don't overrule that. Solemnities, though, do. We have meatless birthday, etc. celebrations if they fall on Fridays, but meat for supper on solemnities regardless of what day it is.

Agree? Disagree? Did I forget something? What days, if any, do you count as exceptions to your Lenten observances?

09 March 2016

Midweek Motley

What we're doing

Little Bear learned about exclamation points today. That knowledge may or may not have been acquired by reading comic book sound effects... He was very proud of himself.

Matt is home from his work trip, and hopefully not traveling again for a while. So many things are just better when he's home, when I know that he'll be back every evening. Rhythm and schedule are important to me, and it seems like the kids do better when our days follow familiar patterns as well. And of course, it's good to spend time with him and for him to have time playing with the kids. Kit definitely talks more for/to Dada in the evenings than she does all day with me: he regularly gets "drum," "(s)tan(d)," and even "dum(p) t(r)uck" from her, and I rarely hear anything other than "nigh(t) nigh(t)" and "done," both cues that she's tired of whatever else is going on and just wants to go nurse. Daddy is for playing with, Mommy is for eating and sleeping on. :-)

Kit has reached the point where she's very sure that she should be able to move around the room, and becomes upset quickly when it turns out that nope, actually, she can't. Tonight during story time she was rolling all over the bedroom floor, and found herself over by the mirror, where she happily smiled at herself for a while. She's become very good at "driving" her walker where she wants to go in the kitchen and dining area, but she can't get off of that hard-floored area into the rest of the apartment. If she's sitting on the floor and something or someone is out of reach, though, she quickly turns on the tears until Matt or I come and pick her up.

What we're eating

Red lentil vegetable soup tonight! It was my first time cooking with red lentils, and I'm pretty sure also my first attempt at vegetable soup. I left out the spinach and green beans, mostly because I forgot about them, but it was very colorful anyway with the carrots, tomato, and green bell pepper. The red lentils did not dissolve into creamy shapelessness like the recipe had promised, but it was a very good soup regardless. Little Bear was not a huge fan, but I'm hoping we can attribute his reluctance to eat it to the brown basmati I served it over... There's a lot left over, and I'd like him to help me eat it for lunches.

For breakfast on Matt's birthday, I had a pan of these dairy-free banana pecan cinnamon rolls waiting for us. So delicious! I was planning to have the rolls all prepped the night before and ready to pop in the oven when we got up, but then he had to take a later flight home than he'd planned and I was up waiting for him until midnight, so I just went ahead and baked them. We didn't wind up frosting them, and they really didn't need it. I wouldn't have believed that you could get such a smooth, springy dough with no milk or butter, but they were perfect; I even used spelt flour!

If, and this is a big if, everyone gets enough sleep tonight and is having a good day tomorrow and I decide that I'm feeling adventurous, we may be attempting to make homemade coconut milk. Surely it's not that difficult; the only ingredients are flaked coconut and water. There's a sack of unsweetened flaked coconut taking up pantry space that is not disappearing quite as quickly as I'd expected, and oh my goodness non-dairy milk is expensive. I've been using almond milk from the store, not coconut, but if I can make non-dairy milk at home with ingredients I already have instead of buying those cartons that cost twice as much per ounce as cow milk? I should try. We don't have a blender, though, and the idea of making milk in the food processor still has me a little skeptical.

What we're reading

I loved Simcha Fisher's post at the National Catholic Register today, "Suck it up" vs. "Offer it up". She explains well what "offering it up" means, and the reasons why we do it.

Over at Carrots for Michaelmas, Haley has a great collection of suggestions and ideas for How to Do Holy Week with kids. Although I've been keeping track of Sundays in my head—last Sunday was Laetare Sunday, we're coming up on Passion Sunday, and after that is Palm Sunday—I needed to see those lists of so many things we could potentially be doing to remind me to get our own lust hammered out here quickly.

Plus, she's hosting a giveaway for beautiful handmade beeswax candles shaped like Easter eggs, from Toadily Handmade Beeswax Candles! We used their make-your-own Advent candles kit this past year and loved it, and now I'm eyeing those eggs... do I really need more candles? But they're so cute! Check them out here.

Katherine of Half Kindled is hosting a series this week on creating a capsule wardrobe, which has been fun and informative so far. If you're interested, it begins here with Capsuled Style Day One.

And Little Bear is reading superhero books. Well, I'm reading superhero books, and Little Bear is reading "Boom!" "Crack!" "Zzzap!" etc. We have a set of Little Gilden Books featuring the Avengers, and it looks like they are back in the current set of books he wants to hear every day. At least it's not Dick and Jane; his insistence on trying to read that all by himself, when they start out assuming the kids know about silent Es and double vowels and all kind of non-short-vowels was making me crazy!

02 March 2016

Midweek Motley, Vol. 2

I kind of like this format, and clearly I didn't manage to get anything more substantial written in the past week, so let's try another jumble of thoughts.

What we're doing

It's been a fairly laid-back week in the Shifflerhaus. 

That's completely false, actually. This afternoon was laid-back, and yesterday afternoon was fairly laid-back, which is why I initially thought the week so far had been. But it hasn't, not at all; I spent much of the weekend and Monday dealing with more "soy is in everything!!!" craziness, researching and grappling with contradictory opinions on whether glycerin, vegetable (which usually means soy) glycerin, is safe for people who are allergic to soy. The stuff that's in practically all soap, and toothpaste, and lotion, and deodorant... That was very stressful, trying to figure out replacements for all of the things I presently use that contain glycerin. 

Our pediatric allergist got back to me Monday evening. As long as Kit isn't abnormally sensitive to it, the soy in glycerin should be so far broken down that the problematic proteins won't be able to affect her. So I'm not going to keep scouring the wilds of the Internet for glycerin-free toothpaste, at least for now. I'll keep an eye on her, though, in case it turns out that she is unusually sensitive; reputable sources including the Canadian health department list glycerin among soy-based items for those with allergies to be careful of. She's had a couple of reactions again recently, all slight enough and spread out enough that they certainly could have been from simple cross-contamination, but we want to keep track of everything just in case.

So, soy is everywhere, and that makes life stressful. But that's not really news, because I've been complaining about it for months.

Taking up all of my other spare moments this week was the paperwork for our home loan program application—we're hoping to be house-hunting again this spring/summer! I turn the packet in tomorrow morning, and we should hear back in about a month.

I wish I'd gotten a picture of this afternoon. Little Bear was playing with a balloon, batting it with his hands and bouncing it off of his nose to keep it in the air. While he played, Kit sat on the floor watching the balloon: eyes wide, smile wider, laughing and laughing every time he hit it. I love watching her watch him play. Whatever he is doing immediately becomes just the most wonderful, exciting, interesting thing in the world, and she is gets so, so happy when he sets aside his play for a moment to crouch down and smile at her.

What we're eating

There's a something or other for Kit's nameday! I can't remember what it is called, because I'm sleepy. That's not very helpful, is it?

Matt hasn't been here for supper the last few nights, so cooking has been lower on my list of priorities this week; I know that Little Bear is always happy to have breakfast for supper, so yesterday I scrambled up a mess of ham and eggs, and tonight it was waffles and fruit salad. Proper supper food tomorrow! I'll have to remember to bake some bread and pull some meat out of the freezer in the morning, because we're pretty much down to peanut butter, cheese and lettuce in the fridge.

Oh, wait; there's a big pot of caribou chili in the fridge, one that I made this morning but didn't want to eat today because we're doing meatless Wednesdays, and anyway the house had been smelling like kidney beans all morning. I really like the idea of buying dry beans, and I don't mind having the extra step of soaking them the night before, but the smell of beans slowly cooking is not my favorite.

What we're reading 

Look, paper books! Three of them! I forgot about the Daily Lenten Meditations booklet on last week's list, though to be accurate, I must admit that I forgot about reading the meditations themselves at least half the days last week. So far this week I haven't missed any, though! Each is just a page long, a handful of prayers, Scripture verses, and saints' quotes. I've found that if I actually read them aloud to however many children happen to be in the room at the moment, I am much more likely to finish them (rather than start reading the first prayer, get interrupted, set it down and never come back to it... that happens a lot.)

33 Day to Merciful Love is the brand-new book from Fr Michael Gaitley, MIC: a preparatory 'retreat' for making a consecration to Jesus' Divine Mercy. To time the 33 days to lead up to Divine Mercy Sunday this year, we started it on March 1. I've had a particular devotion to Christ's Divine Mercy for years, so this consecration caught my attention right away, and Divine Mercy Sunday in this Year of Mercy seemed like just the perfect timing. 

As for The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization, I've really only flipped through it and begun the introduction; I keep going through the start-reading-get-interrupted-never-come-back-to-it routine, unfortunately. There's a delightfully Austinian flavor to what I have read, though, so I have high hopes for it.

Only one link this week, but it's a good one: Liturgical Living at a Glance: March 2016, from Carrots for Michaelmas. Haley does such a great job of pulling together ideas and resources for celebrating the liturgical year!