Friday, October 29, 2010

7 Quick Takes: The 40 Days for Life Edition

I don't have time for a blog post today. I have to run errands and make potato salad and do laundry and change beds and clean bathrooms and make phone calls, and in between all that go to work at the preschool and help throw a Halloween Party/Fall Festival. Don't ask me what we're having for dinner. I have no idea. I expect we'll order out. However, I do have some thoughts as we wind down the last days of the Fall 2010 40 Days for Life campaign, so maybe these takes will be quick!

1. Thank God we don't have an abortion facility in our town. The closest ones are 45 minutes to an hour's drive away. Instead we are blessed to have the 40 Days for Life founders living here, raising their kids here, attending church at my parish, and running 40 Days for Life from here. I first met David and Margaret Bereit a couple of years ago when I first learned about 40 Days for Life. They are very active in our parish, and I know Margaret through the mother's Bible study group I attend. And over the summer Shawn Carney and his family moved here from College Station, Texas, where 40 Days for Life began. I haven't met Shawn yet, but I got to chat with his wife Marilisa a few weeks ago and she's lovely. Someday I hope to stand side-by-side with all of them in prayer at a 40 Days vigil, or even a rally.

2. By the way, I'll let you in on a little secret: as often as I see David in church and attending parish functions, and hear his name mentioned quite a lot as someone who is very involved in church activities (I have stood with him more than once in our parish hall serving coffee and donuts after Mass), it surprised me when I learned that he isn't Catholic. Yet. I don't know the Bereits well enough to know where David is on his faith journey (but if you are familiar with the 40 Days for Life campaign you'll know he is VERY strong in his Christian faith) but I suspect that his crossing the Tiber at some point in the future is a very real possibliity. Will you join me in prayer for David and his family, that David will take that leap into the Catholic Faith? What a blessing for him and for the Church that would be.

3. Since we don't have an abortion mill in our area--Praise God, and hopefully we never will--I don't get to actively pray at one as often as I would like. (I do pray from home, though; at least offering my Rosary intentions for the unborn as often as I can--I'm making a pledge right here and now to make more of an effort to do this more diligently) It does take some planning to make the two-hour commute to and from Richmond to attend the one there. This past Monday my friend J. and I decided to go down together, even though it would be a quick trip since I had to be back at a certain time to go to work. I think God's hand was in the planning, because when we left the church parking lot, it was a little later than I had hoped, but we made good time, we were able to say all of the mysteries of the Rosary while we were there, and arrived back just in time.

4. I've stood outside this particular abortion facility before, trying not to think too much about the unspeakable horrors that take place behind the drawn shades in the windows. The building itself (I couldn't find any photos of it online to show you what it looked like) is an innocent-looking place that appears to have once been a home. With a pretty little yard and a big, shady front porch. I can't help but imagine, if a house had thoughts and feelings and memories, would this one long for the days when a family lived within its walls, where children were born and laughed and played? Would it weep for the children who are torn limb from limb on a regular basis, for the frightened mothers who are tricked into thinking that the "doctors" ripping their babies from their wombs are doing so to help them?

5. I wanted to find a picture of the facility, and when I put the name of the abortion clinic into Google images, this was one of the images that popped up:
It came from a website for an insurance program for pregnant mothers sponsored by the Florida Department of Health. But how ironic; this picture of a healthy baby and a happy mother is the absolute antithesis of what the abortion industry does.

6. When I looked at the abortion mill's website to get the address, I couldn't help but notice their slogan: "Over 30 Years of Caring." (Make that Over 30 Years of Killing.) "Our doctor is a Board Certified OB/GYN who is called on to train other physicians." (That's right; the abortionist teaches others how to poison and dismember babies still in their mothers' wombs.) "Your safety, well-being, and future fertility are our greatest concerns." (We'll take your money, kill your baby, and keep you coming back for more. We've got to stay in business, don't ya know.) "One fee covers initial ultrasound, counseling, procedure, follow-up exam, and lab work done in our office." (Pay us and we'll look at your baby--we won't let you see the ultrasound, of course, cuz then you'll know it really IS a baby we're about to kill--convince you that aborting your child is the best choice, kill the little brat, and before you leave we'll make sure we didn't leave any body parts behind.)

"30 Years of Caring." Right. If you don't believe the devil is a liar, just look at the whoppers the abortion industry tells.

7. J. and I prayed at the facility on a Monday, when no abortions are performed. It was just the two of us, praying together. We had an uneventful hour (click here to see my post about our more eventful vigil that took place there), although we did see a young woman walk up to the building as though she was going to enter through the front door (we stood by the back of the building, next to the entrance to the parking lot and the back door where clients normally enter.) A minute or two later she came back around the building and begin talking to a young man standing nearby. They walked away from the facility in opposite directions, and a few minutes later I saw the man walking back toward us, and the young woman then drove up in her car and the man got in and they left. Were they there to make an appointment? To pick up birth control? Did they leave because Monday is an "off" day? Or because we were there? We're not sure if she actually went inside since we couldn't see the front door from where we were standing. I offered up my prayers for this young couple.

As we were finishing up our vigil and preparing to leave, we saw a man and a woman loading boxes into cars, chatting happily and laughing. J, who used to work in a hospital, said they looked like medical waste containers. God forbid. Holy Michael the Archangel, pray for us. Maybe they were, maybe they weren't; but still I offered up a prayer for the innocent lives that are discarded through abortion, and for the conversion of those who facilitate their deaths.

That is what 40 Days for Life is all about.

Visit Jennifer Fulwiler's Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Small Successes Vol. 1: Cakes and Pumpkins

I've seen the Small Successes button on a lot of blogs, and I enjoy reading the posts. The idea is to list three things you've accomplished this week that you feel good about, and share them on your blog. I'm jumping in this week, partly because I wanted to show you the results of my creative juices (however mediocre they are--I am not very good at artistic endeavors, and I'm always a little jealous of my fellow bloggers who post pictures of the fabulous knitting, sewing, and crafting projects you've done. I don't do any of those things. But I'm not a bad cook and as you'll see, I can be pretty savvy with a kitchen knife.) And thanks to Danielle Bean for hosting this fun meme on Faith and Family Live! (I think this is supposed to be a Thursday meme, but I'm posting a day early, mainly because I'm not quite awake yet and I don't feel like starting on my chores. If I can finish this in 30 minutes that will be a small success to add to the list. I've only got 20 minutes left, so I better hurry so I can get something done before I have to go to work.) Okay, here goes:

1. Moe celebrated his birthday recenlty and since it's getting close to Halloween, he decided he wanted a tombstone birthday cake. Yep, you read that right. When I asked him what he wanted written on the tombstone, he said, "R.I.P." "What about if I write '2000-2110' so it looks like you've lived for 110 years?" I asked. Nope. "What about Happy Birthday Moe?" suggested his father. "Um, NO, Dad. I'ts a TOMBSTONE." Because of his food allergies I made this dairy-free, egg-free cake, and improvised the design.

I doubled the recipe to make one square cake and one round one.

The dirt mound and the zombie hand were Moe's idea.

Even though we already had plenty of colorful birthday candles on hand, when I saw these black-and-white ones I thought they'd be fun for this cake. The boys were impressed and said they were "Goth."

2. Of course when it's your birthday, you HAVE to bring cupcakes to school to share with your class. Every year for Moe, I bake chocolate cupcakes using a recipe I found years ago on the back of a Hershey's Cocoa box:


1- 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Hershey's Cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 T white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin cups (2 1/2 in diameter) with paper bake cups. Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla; beat with whisk or spoon until batter is well blended. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 16 to 18 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 16 cupcakes.

They are delicious, and Moe says that the kids in his class had been asking him all week if he was going to bring them. I was surprised they remembered them from last year, but that's how yummy they are!

Last years cupcakes...

...and this year's.

3. I picked up a beautiful pumpkin at the Farmer's Market on Saturday; not too big, but just right for carving. Instead of my usual method of cutting out eyes, nose, and mouth without any real planning (i.e. making it up as I go along), the kids wanted to find a pattern online and carve a REALLY COOL one. After vetoing several choices--the Darth Vader and Yoda ones were just too complex, and I'm NOT carving a puking pumpkin again this year--...
(Last year's pumpkins. The kids designed them both; I thought the one on the right was particularly clever. The one on the left--not so much.)

...Curly found a cute Sonic the Hedgehog pattern that seemed reasonably simple to carve, and one that everyone liked.

Definitely NOT professional quality, but we had fun making it and it does look a little like Sonic the Hedgehog.
(One other success: Last week I managed to complete almost everything on my to-do lists every day. Quite a feat if I may say so myself. This week I'm not getting nearly as much done, but I haven't made any to-do lists either. And this post took way longer than 30 minutes; I ended up taking two blogging sessions to complete it.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Get Thee To The Woods vol. 17: Golden Sunday

Don't you love those sunny autumn days when the sky is a deep blue and the air seems to glow with a warm golden color? Today was one of those days.

A perfect day for a fall picnic,

a ride on a tire swing,

a walk in the woods,

a visit to the creek,

and a knaw on a bone.

The hummingbirds have been busy, seeing as the feeder is half empty. We've seen them coming and going, but still haven't been able to get them on film ( or rather, my memory card)

Today a flock of geese stopped by on their way South for the winter. They might move on tomorrow, or they might stick around for a while.

The locals decided to check them out.

Curly did some fishing, even though he was supposed to be doing homework. Last weekend when Joe and I were in Newport, my father-in-law helped Curly with his fishing techniques. He's become quite skilled, and was disappointed today when he only caught one fish.

Later this week I'll update my other blog, Cooking Nick's Books, with our Message In A Bottle inspired picnic. I'll post the recipes for the sandwiches, coleslaw, and potato salad we ate--all of which were delicious! Follow me there so you won't miss it!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Get Thee To Newport (in 7 takes)

Earlier today I accidentally published the unfinished version of this post. Here's the new and improved one, hopefully complete. Enjoy!

On Columbus Day Weekend, my husband and I decided to take some time away from the kids, and we chose Newport, Rhode Island as our destination. The town is amazing, and the weather was perfect. For this week's 7 Quick Takes post I'll share some of the incredible things we encountered on that trip.
1. Beauty

2. Boats

Pete Townsend owns this sailboat.

We took a tour around Newport Harbor in a vessel like this one. Being a morning cruise, they gave us complimentary mimosas.

Since I helped hoist the jib, they gave me an extra mimosa.

Maybe next time we'll take a boat like this,

...or maybe sail on a pirate ship.

3. Food

There is so much to eat in Newport that you can't walk outside without smelling something delicious. From the amazing breakfasts we ate prepared by Christine, the proprietor of the inn where we stayed, to the lobster rolls, countless varieties of burgers, all kinds of seafood, even chocolate and pastry--believe me, we didn't go hungry. At the Italian Festival that was happening in the little park near where we stayed, we couldn't resist sampling some of the fare.

We even stayed to listen to the cheesy lounge act providing the entertainment for the event; and according to my half-Italian husband, they were just like the ones he'd seen at every confirmation party and wedding he attended growing up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the 1960s and 1970s.

4. Remarkable Trees

Have you been following Ginny's Remarkable Trees of Virginia series? She and her children have been reading a book of the same title which features specific trees in Virginia that are particularly unique. Most are very old and very big. As part of their homeschool program, Ginny and her kids have been visiting these trees, and learning about that type of tree and the history of its location. When they visited one at James Madison's Montpelier in Orange County, for example, they toured the mansion and learned about about early American life. Anyway, when I saw some of the trees below, I thought somebody ought to write a book about the remarkable trees of Newport.

This was actually four trees growing close together.

Under the four trees would be a fun place for kids to play. Someone built a fort here--a lot like the ones our kids like to make.

I admit I did a double-take when I saw these topiaries.

The leaves were just starting to change in Newport. This tree had a head start.

5. Remarkable Churches

We went to Mass at St. Mary's Church, where John F. and Jackie Kennedy were married.

It's beautiful on the inside, and this picture unfortunately doesn't capture it very well.

Trinity Episcopal. I loved its traditional New England-style steeple.

The Unitarian Church near our bed-and-breakfast had a lovely carillon that played hymns on Sunday morning.

6. Remarkable (and unremarkable) Oddities

Our bed-and-breakfast was across from Touro Park where there is a tower that some believe might have once been a windmill. No one really knows excactly how old it is or what it's for, though; some even think it might be some astronomical Stonehenge-y type of thing.

(See Wikipedia for more.)

We got a kick out of this sculpture near the wharf.

Nancy Pelosi or Cruella DeVil?

(After I snapped a couple of photos Hubby scolded me for taking pictures in an art gallery. But here's a link to this artist's website; his caricature art is very good. I hope this makes up for my impulsive behavior.)

Did you know the guy who brought us tomatoes lived in a modest house in Newport, Rhode Island? I was immensely excited to learn this fact, and even though my husband makes fun of me for taking pictures of signs, I HAD to share this with you.

7). Remarkable Houses

(As a rule I don't post pictures with people in them, and I hope the anonymous folks in this picture don't mind if I make an exception just this once. I took this when we toured The Breakers, a summer house owned by the Vanderbilt family. I couldn't find any photos online that I liked better than this one.)

This was owned by the Bouvier family, the parents of the future Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

The Bouviers built this as a guest house and then realized their main house was so big there was plenty of room for guests. Jackie and her friends used this as a playhouse instead. Somehow I think it's more fun to make your own out of chairs and blankets and refrigerator boxes.

The story goes that a hundred years ago or so, a fellow built this on a rock in the middle of Newport Harbor for when he needed a break from his wife, who was afraid of water. Seriously.

Not the biggest or fanciest house in town, but this bed-and-breakfast was the perfect place for us to stay. Christine the innkeeper is the hostess with the mostest.

(Check out Jen Fulwiler--the 7 Quick Takes hostess with the mostest--for her latest post. I'll just say this: I am thankful we don't have scorpions in Virginia.)

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