Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Get Thee To The Woods, Volume 16

Moe waited patiently by the water with his net...

...and waited...

...until he finally caught this little fish. He wasn't too happy with me when I told him he had to let him go right away.

The lingering warm weather means our dog can still go swimming,

and enjoy a nice bath afterward. The lake water doesn't smell very good when it's all over a yellow lab.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday Morning Quick Takes


It seems lately that all of my blog posts have been either "7 Quick Takes" or my "Get Thee To the Woods" series, when I celebrate the joy that God's creation brings and our love for the outdoors. Why? Probably because a. these two memes are my favorite ones to write (and I get to post lots of pictures, which I love), b. they're *sometimes* the fastest kind to put together and c. I'm so busy between Monday and Friday, the traditional days for these posts, that I don't seem to have time for any others. (It doesn't help that I've started another blog, either; I'm excited about it nonetheless. Check it out here.)


Speaking of my other blog, Cooking Nick's Books: a Sparks Fan's Food Blog, I posted a quick "take" of sorts there yesterday; it's so quick, in fact, I can repost it below:

I was tempted... (that's the title of the post, don't ya know)

...to buy this last night when I stopped in at Border's.

Nick's new book, Safe Haven, just came out last week. I hope I have the willpower to wait until it comes out in paperback, or at least until the price for the hardcover comes down a little. I wonder what we'll be cooking for this one? We still have quite a number of books to get through first.

At our house, fried chicken a' la The Notebook is on the menu this weekend; stay tuned! (I think we'll be watching the Dear John movie, too. I'll let you know what I think. Chances are I'll like it.)


We finally got Netflix streaming on our Wii, and since that's in our basement rec room, I'm planning to mainly use it for when I'm working out on my elliptical. (We also got our Fios box fixed in that room, too; now I have absolutely no excuse not to use the elliptical since there is ALWAYS something on the TV to keep me entertained.) Right now I'm watching the series, The Pillars of the Earth that aired on Starz recently and is based on the book by Ken Follett. I am enjoying it immensely, even though--as with all films based on books--they've changed and left out some details from the book. It wasn't until I started the third episode that I realized that it's produced by Ridley AND Tony Scott, who are famous for those films like Gladiator and Troy (or, what I like to call, "Manly Men Weilding Swords" movies). This one stars Matthew McFayden (I've nicknamed him "Dreamboat Darcy" because I first saw him in the most recent Pride and Prejudice film, and even though Colin Firth is the One True Darcy, Matthew sure gives Colin a run for his money in his version) as Philip, the prior of a Benedictine monastery; Donald Sutherland--I LOVE him--plays a nobleman and the father of the cheif romantic female character. I've finished the first three episodes, and still have five more to go. (I'd better hurry up and make these takes quick so I'll have time to work out on top of all the chores, errands, flag football games, etc...)


Meet my new best friend:

I took this photo last January when we went to Sunday Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. (read my post about that trip here.) I'm not sure why I decided to take the picture of the St. Anthony statue; I've always been quite skeptical of Anthony's reputation for finding lost things. I'd heard many stories of people who had lost something important to them, prayed for St. Anthony's intercession, and then found what they had been looking for. Being an unorganized person by nature, I have lost things from time to time; occasionally I have prayed, "OK, St. Anthony, can you help me with this one?" only to never find what I'm looking for. (One possible exception was when my brothers then-fiancee' had bought her wedding dress on her trip home last Christmas, had it shipped to her apartment in Northern Virginia, and the shipping company lost track of the package. I asked St. Anthony for help--practically dared him, really--and the package finally showed up. I told myself that this probably would have happened with or without Anthony's intercession, but my prayer certainly didn't hurt.)

So last week (I guess it's been almost two weeks by now) I needed to write someone a check for something or other and my checkbook wasn't in my purse. I had use another one I happened to have and write the check with that, but I was quite concerned not knowing what had happened to the one I was supposed to be using. I racked my brain and looked around for a day or so before finally breaking the news to my husband; we checked and fortunately no one had used any of the checks. Yet. Meanwhile, I prayed, "St. Anthony, if you're ever going to help me, now would be a good time." As an afterthought, I added almost childishly, "Please? I'll be your best friend!" The last place I remembered having it was the allergist's office, where I had taken Moe for his annual test. I called and they hadn't found it. I called the SubWay where I had stopped for lunch that day, and they hadn't found it either. I went to the bank, ready to stop payment on the lost checks, and was standing in line when I remembered I had also gone to the grocery store that day as well. I went out to my car, called the store on my cell phone, and Praise God, they had it. It must have fallen out of my purse when I was trying to figure out the dang self-checkout machine.

Thank you, Jesus, and thank you, too, Anthony, for your help! I've got a couple of other things in mind I'd like you to help me with, if you would...


This one is for all you blogging pros out there: My number of blog followers seems to be diminishing, although I do gain new Twitter followers almost daily, so I think this space might get more traffic than I realize. I've set it up with Networked Blogs so it will automatically post to my Facebook and Twitter pages; I get comments on my blogs from my dear friends on Facebook, so I know some of those (fabulous) people are reading them. I try not to be discouraged when I see other blogs with hundreds of followers, and mine with only 45, and I'm NOT jealous (really, I'm not!!) but truthfully I would love to have more. So my question to you bloggers who have a plethora of followers--what's your secret?

Oh, and one more thing...is it rude to unfollow blogs and un-friend people? I have blogs on my reader that I ALWAYS read, some I read from time to time, and some that I never read. The other day I dropped a few friends from my Facebook page, not because I don't like them or they made me mad or anything like that; it's just hard to keep up with everyone, and frankly, I didn't think I knew those people well enough to be all that interested in what they were up to. I hope this doesn't make me a bad person. Does it?


Today I have so many things to do I'm going to have to leave this post without all 7 takes. There is more I want to talk about: like the Great Adventure Quick Journey through the Bilbe study our parish mom's group is starting; and how I'm thinking about my priorities in life, and how I'm hopefully managing my time--what I need to devote more time and energy to and what needs to be cut, and where blogging fits in. These deserve blog posts of their own, and right now I don't have time to write them. Maybe later this week? We'll see!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Get Thee To the Woods, vol. 15: You know it's September when...

Flags start appearing again on or around the eleventh of the month. We have a renewed sense of pride in America.

Pumpkins appear at the Farmers' Market;

but you can still find good tomatoes,

and fresh flowers.

But leaves are beginning to turn, and berries are starting to appear,

and it isn't to hot to dress up.

A quick game of football in the front yard

and an outdoor round of Apples to Apples (with no mosquitos to bug you)

tops off a fine weekend indeed.

Friday, September 17, 2010

7 Quick Takes. I don't know what volume, cuz I'm not counting.

Boy, are three-year-olds fun! I've been at my job for a couple of weeks (except I had to cut out today to pick Moe up from school early with some kind of icky virusy thing), and I am loving it. I'm busier than I've been for a long time. And the kids are SOOO adorable! Some of them have never been away from Mom and Dad, and it's a big adjustment for them. We've had a few tears, and a lot of, "Put the dinosaur away now, we're listening to a story. Please keep your hands in your lap; your friends don't like it when you bonk them on the head." The Barney Cleanup Song and "Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes" are on a permanent loop in my brain. I love that Jesus is a central part of our school and our classroom. Every morning they pray,

Good Morning, Dear Jesus,
This day is for you
I ask you to bless
all I think, say, and do.

We say Grace Before Meals at snack time, and the Guardian Angel Prayer (Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here, Ever this day be at my side: to light, to guard, to rule, to guide.) before the children go home. We are teaching the children that God made them special and unique, and remind them every day how much Jesus loves them. Sister M. comes and talks to the children in the Monday, Wednesday and Friday classes; and yesterday, Father R. poked his head in to say hello to my Tuesday-Thursday class. The preschool director and all the teachers I work with are FABULOUS. It's a lot of work (even for a part-time job), but I'm blessed.


A while back I saw this post on Faith & Family Live, and couldn't pass up a good contest. If I left a comment about my fitness and spiritual goals were, I'd win a T-shirt from the Mamas Movin' with Mary. (About a year ago, a group of moms in Columbus, Ohio, started meeting regularly to walk and pray together to train for the Columbus Half Marathon. Soon they began calling themselves "Mamas Movin' with Mary." They've got a great website full of lots of resorces on fitness and Marian devotion, as well as information about their adopted charity, Run the Race Club.

The other day I opened my "new" email--the one I need to start checking more often because, after all, I set it up SPECIFICALLY for this blog--and there's a week-old email from Danielle Bean. Danielle Bean!! She emailed me to tell me I had won the shirt! Wow. The Mamas had emailed me too, and I had to contritely apologize to all of them for not getting the message sooner, because this is a new email that I always forget to check, etc. etc. So anyway, the other day I opened my mailbox to find this:

The Front

The Back

I put it on right away, and I LOVE IT!! I hope it will inspire me to get off my butt and get some exercise, and to get to know Mary a little better, too.


I'm pretty sure the "3" above and to the right of the "M" means the 3 M's in the group's name: Mamas, Moving, Mary. The boys asked about it, too, and when explained it to them, I said, "You know, like E=MC squared, except its M cubed." When Larry reminded me that in Einstein's formula, the M stands for "Mass," I said, "THAT'S IT!! EUCHARIST equals MASS x COMMUNION squared." The boys just rolled their eyes.


Did I tell you that I love that my job, where I go every day to work, is at my church? I love that I get to go every day to the place where I worship on Sundays, where I go to confession (although not often enough, I'm afraid) and where I receive Jesus in the Eucharist?


On Monday, our parish's Religious Education program begins. I'll be teaching third graders again this year. Last year I only had four students; I have nine this time around. I'm looking forward to getting started, even though my life will be even busier.


Tonight Larry, Curly, and I saw the movie Inception. (There was a fourth very special person with us, but I'm not sure if Larry wants me to blog about that. I was the chaperone and Curly was my, erm, son-who-went-to-the-movies-with-me. I'm not allowed to use the D-word.) The movie is quite a ride, let me tell you; although you've probably already seen it--we seem to be the only people we know who still haven't Until now, anyway. It's the kind of movie you're thinking about long after you've left the theatre, with all its dreamscapes and mind-melds; if there is a message in the film it's this: Power is meaningless; it's the people we love that matter. All that other stuff is only fluff and spinning tops. (Click here to read the USCCB review of the movie.)

After I brought the older boys home, Joe and I watched another movie about telepathy and Jedi mind tricks: The Men Who Stare At Goats. Not quite the same. (Although, I've always liked Ewan McGregor, even when he fakes an American accent.)


Next Wednesday, September 22, is the start of the Fall 2010 campaign for 40 Days for Life! Forty days of fasting and prayer to end abortion. If you happen to drive past an abortion facility, you're likely to see people standing there praying, and maybe holding signs; give them a honk and a thumbs-up! Better yet, plan to spend an hour praying with them. Every year many babies' lives are saved from abortion by the power of prayer. Click here to find out how you can get involved, and where there is a local campaign near you.

Have a blessed weekend! See more Quick Takes at Conversiondiary.com.
(I just thought of one more quick take. I'll save it for tomorrow--I hope--but I will tell you this: St. Anthony is my new best friend.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Get Thee On A Pilgrimage (just a little one)

In the first chapter of The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul, Lisa Hendey (she's the founder of CatholicMom.com and a fabulous writer and blogger) talks about ways we can nurture our marriages. While I'm not planning to talk about the book much in this post (I do want to share a lot more about what I'm learning as I read, as well as some additional thoughts about focusing my priorities around Christ, in a future one though), I do want to tell you about one of the "Mom's Homework" assignments that Lisa suggests at the end of each chapter--the one that says, "Make a pilgrimage to the church where you were married...to celebrate your anniversary." (at the end of Chapter One, p.11) We have been talking about doing this for years, and decided that now would be as good a time as any, even though our anniversary was more than a month ago.

Fortunately we live close enough to Southern Maryland, where I lived for two years before we married, right down the road from the little church where we celebrated the Sacrament of Matrimony, to make a day trip of it.

On our wedding day fifteen years ago, the weather was sunny, hot, and humid here in Hollywood, Maryland. Today it was cloudy and damp.

There used to be a crucifix here, but they've replaced it with a painting of--I presume--St. John Francis Regis (I've never heard of him, but now I'm curious to find out more about this Saint), whom the church is named after. I had always thought the patron of St. John's was John the Evangelist, Jesus' beloved disciple.

That's the deacon who gave the homily this morning. Archbishop Wuerl had presented a pastoral letter to the Washington Archdiocese this weekend urging people to be evangelists. He talked about this in his homily, since evangelization was also a theme in today's Mass readings (especially the Gospel reading from Luke, with the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin and the prodigal son.) As we were leaving Mass, Deacon (?) was standing in the back; and when he shook my hand in greeting, he asked me, "Are you ready to be an evangelist?" A chill went up my spine.

(UPDATE: I was browsing through our wedding photos recently, and I noticed that there was a curtain hanging behind the altar, with the crucifix in front of the curtain. I'm wondering now if the painting had always been there.)

You can kinda see what the front of the church looked like when we married. Now there is a new altar and a new tabernacle (as well as the painting). You can see the bottom part of the crucifix an the curtain behind it. As for the people in the photo: I was thinner then; and both Joe and Father Jenkins had more hair, too.

This little shrine to Our Lady was here when we were married, but I never visited it since I wasn't Catholic at the time.

After Mass we drove across the Patuxent River to Solomons Island.

Moe liked the diamondback terrapin who lived in the touch tank.

When Curly and Moe pressed their faces to the glass, the otters decided to check them out. They would swim right up to the glass, and examine the boys' faces, swim away, and come right back again. A couple of times it looked like they were trying to lick them. So cute, just like puppy dogs.

Before heading home we took a stroll on the pathways behind the hotel where we had our wedding reception.

Next time we'll stay for a whole weekend. Maybe we'll go camping. We'll visit Calvert Cliffs State Park, where they say you can find fossils galore. We'll visit Historic St. Mary's City where English Catholics settled in 1634, and could practice their faith freely without persecution. Maybe we'll go fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. One thing is certain--we aren't going to wait another fifteen years.

If you haven't already, go on over to cookingnicksbooks.blogspot.com, and see what you think of my new blog, where I've combined cooking with Nicholas Sparks. Even if you're not a fan of Nick, maybe you'll like it--at least, I hope you will! :) Have a blessed week, everyone!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My new blog is up!

I'm calling it "Cooking Nick's Books: A Sparks Fan's Food Blog." I hope to post to that one once a month or so, maybe more if I have time; keep your fingers crossed! I'm sharing the very first post here; check it out, then come on over and be among the first followers! Maybe I'll make a Nicholas Sparks fan of you if you aren't one already.

The Notebook: A Crab Feast (But First, and Introduction...)

If you are a regular visitor to my other blog, Musings of a Catholic Mom, you'll know that I'm an avid reader and I love to cook. Since I love reading Nicholas Sparks--yes, I've read ALL of his books--I wanted to start a blog dedicated to both Sparks and food. (I was going to call it "Channeling Nick" but since we Catholics aren't into that sort of thing I didn't think that would be such a good idea.)

If you've read any of Nicholas' novels, especially if you've read more than one, you may have noticed a certain pattern to his stories: In a small coastal haven on North Carolina's Outer Banks, a stranger moves into town from someplace up north, meets a boy/girl, and falls in love. Somewhere along the way the blissful couple must confront some sort of baggage that one or the other is carrying (more often than not, it's both parties who have issues), and try to overcome it so that their relationship can thrive. Often there's a deep dark secret involved. Anyhow, during the course of the courtship, the couple inevitably cooks a meal together. Sometimes the man invites the woman to his beach house and prepares dinner for the girl; often they end up cooking the meal together. (Occasionally the meal goes uneaten because the tension is just too much for them and they end up...well, we won't go there.) This scenario varies from story to story: in one or two of his books, the couple goes to a barbecue together where a feast is enjoyed by all; in his most recent novel, The Last Song, a father lovingly prepares meals for his rebellious vegetarian daughter. (I don't know if I'll be able to bring myself to cook the tofu breakfast burritos he makes, though; I hate tofu.) After dinner they go for a walk on the beach. Or something. The novel's climax usually involves some unfortunate twist of fate that threatens to end the couple's relationship. Sometimes they end up living happily ever after, sometimes not. In a few of the novels, a main character winds up dead, and the grieving guy/girl has to cope with life without his or her true love.

Years ago, before I had read any of Nicholas Sparks' books, I happened upon an interview with him on EWTN's The World Over with Raymond Arroyo. At the time I had seen some of his paperbacks in the checkout line, and his name was vaguely familiar. My first reaction upon seeing Nicholas for the first time was to think to myself, "Oh, my! He's cute!" Watching the interview, I learned that Nicholas is a devout Catholic, married for many years, and he and his wife have five children. He talked about how his Catholic faith shapes his life and his stories. ("But wait!" I hear you saying. "There's SEX in Nicholas Sparks' books! Outside of marriage!" True. Nobody's perfect. There are also many Christian themes in his books as well. People go to church and read the Bible. Clergy are respected members of the community. The men treat their women with respect; the ones who don't are the bad guys. Family bonds are essential, and children are welcomed, even if they are conceived out of wedlock. Curse words are few and far between, and even those are what most people would consider mild ones.) When Raymond asked Nicholas what his next project would be, Nick's reply was something like, "Um, well, It's a story about a guy and a girl who meet and fall in love in North Carolina." He shrugged and grinned sheepishly, and Raymond laughed and teased him, trying to get him to reveal more about the book. I wondered at the time what was so funny. Little did I know.

When my family asked me why I wanted to write a blog about food that people eat in the books I read, I told them the truth: For fun. So here goes.

Nicholas' first novel, The Notebook, tells the story of Noah and Allie, who meet and fall in love one summer in the 1930s, when they are teenagers. The summer ends, Allie goes back with her parents to Charleston where she is from, and Noah goes off to fight in World War II. Years later, after Allie gets engaged to a nice boy from a respectable family, Allie decides to pay Noah a visit. (The book also flashes ahead to the present day, in a nursing home where a woman suffers from Alzheimer's disease, and her husband reads to her the story of their love. The woman is Allie of course, and the man--well, I won't tell you but it's pretty easy to guess.) When Allie arrives, she finds Noah living alone in a fixer-upper of a house on the banks of some salty coastal river. After spending the day together catching up, you guessed it--they have crabs for dinner.

Now, I will make a confession to you. In The Notebook, Noah catches the crabs right by his back door and cooks them up in a pot. He puts one part beer and one part water in a crab pot, adds some unidentified seasonings and some hot sauce, and throws in the live crabs. Now, I don't have a steamer big enough to cook more than three or four crabs at a time; and besides, when you buy crabs around here, they'll cook them up for you for free. I wasn't sure I was willing to plunk down $30-$50 for a crab steamer when it would be much cheaper and easier to get them already cooked. Plus, where I live it's fashionable to steam crabs in the Maryland style, with vinegar in your water, not beer. I'm pretty sure these guys were cooked that way.

Allie and Noah chop up some zucchini, onions, carrots and okra (we aren't okra eaters, but since I cheated on the crabs I wasn't going to cheat on that) and fry them up in a pan. When I prepared the vegetables, I put chopped onions and carrots into a skillet with some olive oil, and sauteed them for a couple of minutes; then I added the chopped zucchini and okra along with some salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme. I also added some local shiitake mushrooms I had on hand, along with a little bit of Emeril's Essence for a little extra flavor.

You can't have a crab feast without sharing it with someone, so we invited our next-door neighbors over and enjoyed a FABULOUS evening with them. They brought the beer and apple pie--and with a hunk of crusty bread and corn on the cob (no corn in The Notebook, but what's a crab feast without corn on the cob?), it made for a fantastic dinner. This was the first time their kids had tried crabs, and my husband had fun showing them how to crack them open and extract the meat inside. My friend said the vegetables were delicious, and I didn't think they were half bad. (Next time though, I'll skip the mushrooms and okra and put in more Emeril's Essence. Maybe I'll yell "BAM!" as I'm throwing it in, like Emeril used to do.)

My next project? Fried chicken. I'm a little skeered of that one, but I promise I won't cheat and invoke Popeye or Saint Colonel Sanders.
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