Thursday, December 27, 2012

10 Favorite Posts, The 2012 Edition

January 1 will be the fourth anniversary of this blog.  This past year has been a light one, as my posts have been particularly few and far between.  I expect this will be the case for quite a while, at least until the school year ends in June.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!  We had a busy, but quiet, one here at home (Relatively quiet, that is, considering we had twelve people here including one AMAZING AND ADORABLE three-week-old baby plus two dogs), and I spent the day after Christmas doing literally nothing.  The next few days will be busier; you'll find me grocery shopping, cleaning up from Christmas, and catching up on some mundane tasks I've been putting off since before Thanksgiving.

We've seen our new nephew twice now since he was born in early December.   His mommy, my sister-in-law Jenn, has a wonderful blog called The Cookie Jar Adventures where she has been posting lots of cute photos and video of "Baby E."  Yesterday we got to spend some time playing with him, watching him wiggle, holding him, and taking some family photos with him.  Jenn posted some of their photos and memories of E's first Christmas here!  I can't wait until we see them again!

Last year around this time I published a list of my ten favorite posts of 2011.  Since 2012 has been a light blogging year (I've posted nothing since the tragic shooting in Connecticut, for instance; I've kind of been at a loss for words on that one), in the spirit of Seven Quick takes I figured I'd choose only seven of my faves from this year.  When I came up with eight and didn't want to eliminate one, I thought, oh heck, surely I can find two more good ones.   Here they are, in chronological order (click on the title to read each post):


Each year on January 22, Jill Stanek invites prolife bloggers to ask, "What exactly do you mean by choice?"  This was my seven-part question.


Get Thee To the Church:  St. Stephen Martyr, Washington, DC

In which Joe and I spend a night on the town, and enjoy Mass and a pretty spring walk the next morning.


Take a walk down this Broken Path

In which I, somewhat reluctantly, review a book and learn a little something in the process.


Get Thee To the Woods: A Couple of Blacksburg Parks

I like to blog about our adventures in the out-of-doors; here we explore two parks while visiting my parents for Easter.



I picked this one because it was the last day of CCD classes last spring, and I really miss teaching CCD! (despite the fact that with so much going on in our lives, not teaching has been kind of nice, too)


The Marvelous Gift of...well...

Possibly my most bizarre post ever.  But there are lots of pretty pictures, and links to some cool animal sounds.  Besides, I had fun posting it.  So there.


Friendship. Loss. Rock and Roll. Gavin DeGraw. And Rick Springfield.

Mostly Gavin DeGraw.  In which I act like a teenager one memorable evening.


7 Long Days: The Alaska Edition

Lots of photos of our summer vacation.  You'd be hard-pressed to find prettier scenery, and I expect it will be quite a while before we go anywhere like this again.


Get Thee To the Church:  Immaculate Conception, Fairbanks, Alaska

The first place we went after arriving in Alaska.  Possibly the prettiest little church in the 49th state.  One of the oldest, anyway.


A Visit to Monticello:  Life, Slavery, and the Pursuit of Religious Freedom.

In which we spend a wonderful day with my parents at Thomas Jefferson's home, and I share some random thoughts.

My apologies for not including any posts this year from my other blog, Cooking Nick's Books; for one thing,  I've all but abandoned it (temporarily, I hope), plus I'm hoping to publish another "7 Quick Takes" over there highlighting some of my favorite posts (and if I can't find 7 good ones from this year, perhaps I'll include some earlier ones, too).  Maybe that will motivate me to jump-start that one again, and maybe chew on some ideas to make it better.

UPDATE:  Done.  Read it here.

Merry Christmas, and many blessings for the coming year!

And for more Quick Takes, visit Jenn's Conversion Diary blog.  And be sure to read her post; you'll laugh your head off!  Have a wonderful Last Weekend of 2012!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Immaculate Misconception

(I was hoping to get this post up in time for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, but it was not to be.  This has been a crazy-busy week, the most important event being the birth of my new nephew, "Baby E!"  Many blessings  to my brother and sister-in-law as they start the journey of parenthood.  They live an hour away and we haven't had a chance to meet the little one yet; we'll see him next weekend for sure, Lord willing! 

Oh, and the statue in the photo above adorns the lovely Immaculate Conception Church in Fairbanks, Alaska.  For more photos of this beautiful little church, click here.)

I remember when Joe and I were dating and I was still a Baptist, we had many in-depth conversations about Mary.  I had always known that Catholics gave Mary special honor, even naming churches after her and reciting prayers to her.  I never really understood why this was.  Joe explained to me that Catholics honor and venerate Mary because she is the mother of Our Lord, and the Church teaches that Mary was preserved from sin--and never sinned-- so that Christ would have a pure vessel to enter this world through. In fact, he was surprised to learn that other Christian faiths did not teach this.   I dismissed this concept at first, saying that I did not believe that at all; Mary was no different from you and me, and she was a sinner just like everyone else.  I figured God must have chosen her because she was particularly faithful and holy--after all, some sinners are more faithful than holy than others. 

One night during a get-together with some of Joe's high school friends, many of whom were Catholic, someone brought up the subject of the Immaculate Conception.  I had heard this term before, and never thought much of it; I assumed it referred to Christ's conception by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb.  That was one thing all Christian faiths taught, and I could wrap my head around it.  Someone asked the group if they knew what the Immaculate Conception referred to.  Several people said, "why, it's Jesus' conception in the womb of Mary, of course."  The person then explained that even though many Catholics have this notion, it actually means that Mary was preserved from original sin at the moment of her conception.  (I'm pretty sure Joe knew the right answer, by the way.)  This REALLY confused me, because now I'm like, "WHAT??  The Church teaches that Mary was conceived in her mother's womb in the same way that Jesus was?  Like without sex??"  Well, no, I was assured; Mary was conceived in the usual manner, but God protected her from the sin of Adam and Eve.  (I later learned that many Protestants hold the mistaken view that Catholic Church teaches a virginal conception of Mary.  This is not the case.)  Surprisingly, this made perfect sense to me, even though I had earlier pooh-poohed the idea of a sinless Mary.  Why, after all, would God not want a pure vessel for His Son?  Why wouldn't he make a sinless mother to bear Him?  Over the years, since becoming Catholic, I have come to a better understanding of it.  Some ask, "Why does Mary refer to God as her savior in the Magnificat?  That proves she's a sinner."  Remember, Christ is beyond space and time.  Mary was saved by the merits of her divine Son on the Cross at the moment of her conception.  I sometimes think of it as if Mary was baptized at the moment she was conceived--thus having the stain of original sin removed--but an even more powerful one because she lived a completely sinless life. 

I found this wonderful video by Scott Hahn, who explains beautifully why Catholics celebrate Mary's Immaculate Conception.

I have no idea when you'll hear from me again, on this blog anyway (although I expect I'll be around on Facebook and Twitter).  This week, with what little free time I have, I'm hoping to get a good chunk of Christmas shopping done, start sending out Christmas cards, and spend some quality time with little E. and his mommy and daddy.  I might try to see what I can do about moving my blog over to Wordpress, or at least clean up my web albums to make room for more photos to post here, although that might not happen for a while.  Have a great week, and happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

Here's Moe when he dressed up as Saint Juan Diego for the All Saints Day parade at school last year.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Visit to Monticello: Life, Slavery, and the Pursuit of Religious Freedom

Monticello called us.

It was Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.  The weather was beautiful, I hadn't been to Thomas Jefferson's home in years, and the boys had never seen it.   My parents were visiting, and it was their suggestion and their treat.  (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

The tour guide (Oh, sorry, docent) said something that gave me pause:  When Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, he stated that we are given (I don't think she mentioned God or the Creator, come to think of it) specific rights, including liberty; but that ironically, he owned slaves.  I resisted the temptation to point out that the first right he mentioned was life, and wasn't it ironic that we now allow the rampant killing of unborn children in the womb, and act as though it's another inalienable right?

I was thinking about that again this morning.  I realized that back in Jefferson's day, slaves were considered non-persons, and that's how people justified the buying and selling them as personal property and treating them however they pleased.   Nowadays, we know better.  In 1973 the Supreme Court decided that unborn children were non-persons and therefore can be disposed of as a piece of unwanted garbage.  We are right 
back where we started, it seems to me.

On our way out we stopped by Thomas Jefferson's grave.  When I read the inscription on the tombstone ("Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia") I realized I was standing on sacred ground.  Even though Jefferson's religious views were a little bit unconventional--I'm told he wrote his own version of the Bible that eliminates all references to Jesus' miracles and makes no mention of anything supernatural--he understood the importance of our right to practice our religion without interference from the government.
...Almighty God hath created the mind free;
That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do,
That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time; 
That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical...
(Source:  Wikipedia.  Emphasis mine.)

Jefferson noted that we are to be free to exercise our faith without coercion, without ridicule, without the threat of being sued, and without having to pay any taxes or penalties.  

Standing there I thought of the HHS mandate that forces employers to pay for contraceptives and abortifacient drugs even when it violates their religious beliefs.   I wonder how Thomas Jefferson would feel to see the United States government giving faithful Christians and Catholics the finger.  I think he would weep.

(P.S.  I may not be using Blogger much longer.  When I went to upload my photos I was informed that I'd used up all my space on their photo sharing site, and if I wanted more I'd have to pay $2.99 a month.  Since I'm a cheapskate and this blog generates zero income for me, I'm not willing to do that.  I deleted quite a number of photos that I'd published on older posts, and that seemed to do the trick--we'll see if they're also deleted from the posts--but at some point I will run out of space again.  Wordpress is looking quite attractive today.  I'll keep you posted...)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

7 Quick Takes, The Sunday Edition


I've been trying to put my thoughts into words over the last week and a half since the election.  I pound away at my keyboard and push "Delete" over and over.  How do I express my profound disappointment without sounding like a sore loser and a whiner?  How do I say that four more years of Barack Obama will turn our country on its head and it will be almost impossible to get back what the Founding Fathers gave us without sounding like an alarmist?  How do I lament the fact that so many people seem more interested in getting handouts than taking risks without sounding like a snob who doesn't care about people in need?  And how do I (finally, after four years) admit that Barack Hussein Obama is in fact anti-American, has no interest in our national security, doesn't give a crap about you or me or anyone else except himself and his own twisted agenda to make America weaker and poorer without sounding like a loony conspiracy theorist?  I've heard many conservatives rant about how people who voted for Obama are fools, crazy liberal extremists, Kool-Aid drinkers; some Catholic bishops even went so far as to imply that because of Obama's pro-abortion record, voting for him would constitute a mortal sin.  Well, I know plenty of people who support Obama, and they're not any of these things (and I'm certainly not about to point any fingers and yell "sinner" at anyone).  They are kind and generous people who, like you and me, want the best possible future for their children and our country.  We just disagree (quite strongly, to be honest) about what that might look like and who would better serve our nation.  There are certainly some raving lunatics and Kool-Aid drinkers on both sides, and I'm convinced that the results of the election (assuming there was minimal voter fraud and Obama won fair and square--although did you see this story fromPhiladelphia?) is a reflection of our culture's moving away from God and from basic moral principles and our adoption of if-it-feels-good-do-it and how-dare-you-judge-me attitudes.  If I say abortion is always wrong, I'm an extremist.  If I don't want to pay for your birth control, I don't care about women.  If I say that marriage is between one man and one woman, I'm a bigot.  Am I racist if I criticize Obama?  Most people I know wouldn't accuse me of that, but remember when Jimmy Carter said that people who were against Obama just couldn't deal with having a black man in the White House?  We have a challenging four years ahead of us, but I am not going to sit around and whine about it.  I've made a promise to myself to be more kind, more patient, and more generous.  Every day I pray for four things:  tirelessness, selflessness, wisdom, and joy.  (I don't pray for patience; that always gets me into trouble.  I figure "wisdom" is much better, don't you think?)  If we all had more of those things, how much more wonderful this world would be.


Do you know this is the Year of Faith?  Truthfully I haven't really thought much about it; other than to tell myself perhaps I should start reading the Bible daily again and pray more regularly and consistently.  I have done one thing, though:  Flocknote has a very cool way you can read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I have one sitting on my shelf that I've barely touched.  Well, you can sign up to receive daily emails with a little bit of the Catechism in each one, and if you keep up you'll read it all the way through in a year.  I've already fallen behind, but every few days I'll read several of them at once, so hopefully it won't get too far ahead of me.  Interested?  Go here.


Saturday I ran my first 5K.  I shouldn't say I ran it; I walked some and ran some.  I originally signed up for it because Curly and Moe are preparing to test for their black belts (hopefully in January) and they need to do some "endurance events" between now and then.  The 5K was a fundraiser for the Special Education program at the Catholic high school up the road from us; and although our kids don't attend, many of their friends do.  I figured this would be a great way for us to get out and get some exercise, give a little something for a good cause, and help the boys earn their black belts.  I even downloaded a totally boss app on my phone to help me get into a running routine, and for the last few weeks I've been pretty faithfully doing my little running/walking workout up and down the street.  (AND, I say the Rosary while I'm doing it.  That's the best part.)  As it happened, Moe came down with an upper respiratory infection this week, and although he's much better we decided he should forego the race; and Curly, well, he just decided he didn't want to do it. (He owes me $15.)   I thought seriously of skipping it altogether, but decided to go ahead and do it.  I was a little nervous not knowing what to expect, whether anyone I knew would be there, and hoping I wouldn't be the only one who would mostly be walking.  I did see a few people there I knew, and there were many people who walked the whole three miles and had a great time doing it.  I finished in a little under 44 minutes, and I think this will be the first of many 5K races I'll participate in.  Next time I'm going to drag my family with me, assuming no one is sick...


Joe got a new car last weekend.  Want to know why?  On Friday as he was turning left through an intersection a woman driving a minivan sped around a curve, ran the red light, and slammed into him.   The whole front of his car was smashed.  I'm just glad she didn't hit the driver's side door, and that no one was injured.  Now he has a 2011 Hyundai, with automatic transmission that he can take to work and Larry can learn to drive; he's already talking about the two-seater sports car he'll someday get to drive on the weekends.


And now for our family entertainment report:  Moe made all-county chorus, and he got to spend a day at one of the area high schools practicing for the concert that was held in the evening.  He stood in the front row, and you can imagine how proud it made me seeing him standing up there singing his heart out.  Last weekend (in the middle of all the excitement with the accident) Larry starred as the prince in a musical production of Cinderella.  My parents came and stayed with us for the weekend, and Joe's mom and my brother and sister-in-law spent time with us and came to the show as well.  And this week, Curly and Moe auditioned for the school production of Disney's The Little Mermaid.  Curly will play Chef Pierre, and Moe snagged the most coveted part--Sebastian the crab.  Needless to say we'll be hearing this a lot in our house these next few months:


In the past we've traditionally traveled to my or Joe's parents' house for Thanksgiving; this year I'm hosting for the first time.  Yesterday I picked up my turkey at the farmers' market (I'm told he--she?--lived a happy life on the farm until Friday morning), and today's agenda (besides Mass, of course) will be to do finalize my menu plan, make my shopping list, and do some of the cleaning around the house that I didn't do yesterday. (BAD mom, BAD!)  My dad sent me a recipe for gluten free stuffing, and I expect I'll be browsing the Internet for some more of those; and my mother-in-law has already given me lots of great advice about cooking the turkey.

When I brought home the bird yesterday I found myself talking like the Swedish Chef.  I may be doing that quite a bit this week.


Our prayers continue to be with the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Seeing the devastation and hearing the stories of communities coming together and helping each other reminds me of how much I truly have to be thankful for. 

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, no matter who you voted for (haha) !

For more Quick Takes, visit Jenn's Conversion Diary blog.  Happy Sunday!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Internet Is Sending Me Off the Deep End

There is a hurricane bearing down on us.  Even though it isn't going to hit us directly, we're likely to get a lot of rain and wind, and they're telling us that we'll probably lose power.  All over Twitter and Facebook people are posting updates on how they're preparing for the storm.  "We've filled our bathtubs with water!" (We didn't fill our tubs with water.)  "I'm cooking everything in my refrigerator!" (I'm not cooking everything in my refrigerator.)  "I've made the mad dash to Wal Mart for canned goods, toilet paper, bottled water, and ice!" (I did go to the store on Thursday, but that was before I even knew about Sandy.)  I'm starting to think that maybe we're going to be the ones who are going to be screwed because all we've done is bring in most of our deck furniture and scrambled around the house in a nearly futile attempt to locate flashlights.  We're up to our ears in batteries, thank goodness.  We don't have a well, so we should have clean running water available.  We have a gas water heater; after Hurricane Isabel hit us we lost power for a week and we were grateful that at least we could take hot showers.  We have a gas stove and matches, so we should be able to cook pasta or canned soup (that is, if we have any in the house).  Larry has a doctor's appointment tomorrow, so I took the day off; I should be able to run to the store in the morning if I feel an urgent need to stock up on whatever is left on the shelves. 

And then there's all the political vitriol.  I think my blood pressure goes up every time I read some new development in the Benghazi fiasco.  Most of you know which candidate I support (I used to have a Romney/Ryan sign in my front yard, until last week when someone went up and down our street and yanked up all the Romney yard signs), and I've said as much on my Facebook page.  There are a lot of things I've been tempted to say but I've mostly kept my mouth shut because I really don't feel like getting into any arguments with people who I love and respect but don't necessarily share the same political views with.  If I see one more advertisement or article about how those mean Republicans want to deny birth control to poor women I think I'm going to scream.   I'm sick of the rhetoric, but at the same time I can't seem to get enough of it.  It's like a bad drug.  That's why I've (finally) made up my mind to take an Internet fast for the next few days.  No Facebook, no Twitter, no blogs.  I might even stay away until after the election.  I haven't decided yet.  (And I have a feeling that this one will be like 2000, when we didn't know the results for more than a month.  I wouldn't be surprised if certain politicians are going to act like sore losers and call for recounts in several states.)

I have laundry to catch up on, books stacked on my shelves that I have yet to read, and for some strange reason Sandy is giving me a sudden compulsion to clean and organize.  (I think our mad scramble through the house in search of flashlights is what did it.)   It will be hard to resist the temptation to post photos of what damage Sandy might do to our trees to my Facebook page, or tell my friends about how we're hunkered down by the fire roasting marshmallows (something to add to tomorrow's grocery list).  Hopefully there won't be any news to report anyway.

I've been anxious to blog again.   Soon I hope to return and tell you all about the wonderful weekend we spent with Joe's brother and his family, about my sister-in-law's baby shower and how joyful we are about welcoming a brand-new life into our family, about Larry receiving his black belt in taekwondo and how proud we are of him, and the everyday goings-on in our lives.  Meanwhile stay safe, and don't forget to vote.  (Especially if, like me, you can't wait to throw the bums out!)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Get Thee To the Church: St. Thomas Aquinas, Charlottesville, Virginia

It was a spur-of-the moment decision to attend Mass here that Saturday evening.

We were in town that day for the Penn State vs. University of Virginia football game (our annual trek to a Penn State game--this year we didn't need to go far).  On our way to the stadium we saw this sign:

Sitting in a chair on the sidewalk were two Dominican friars--one of whom had a sign next to him identifying himself as "Friar 'Hoo"--smiling and waving at the fans going by.  "Hmmm,"  we said to each other; "Maybe we can go to Mass here after the game."  I was already committed to attend Sunday Mass at our home parish the next day though, to sign the Profession of Faith that the teachers and catechists in the Arlington diocese were asked to do this year.  (You may remember hearing about a few catechists at St. Ann's Parish who made such a stink a few months back about being asked to--gasp--believe and teach and live the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Oh, horrors.)  We figured we would just wait and go on Sunday.

After the game (which the Nittany Lions lost to the Virginia Cavaliers by ONE POINT, darn it), as we were walking back to the car, ominous dark clouds rolled in.  The wind picked up, and it began spitting rain.  Just as we were walking past St. Thomas Church, it began to rain harder.  We looked at each other and said, "Hey!  Let's go to church!"  We ran inside looking like a bunch of drowned rats, but it was dry inside, and beautiful, and the Mass was lovely.  (Then again, Mass is always lovely.  Jesus is there.)

As I was walking around after Mass snapping photos, a young friar told me there was a lovely chapel across the hall, and I should be sure to check that out.  That was not to be, however, because Joe and the boys balked at having to wait even longer for me.  There were sandwiches back at the car after all, waiting to be eaten.

(I think this was the chapel the young friar was referring to--from the outside.)

Before we left home that morning, Joe warned the boys that since this was the first Penn State game we've been to since the abuse scandal broke, we might see some protesters and we might have some unkind things said to us because we were wearing our Penn State clothing.  I am happy to report that the atmosphere during the tailgating and at the game was happy and festive, and the Penn State fans--and there were a lot of us--were made to feel welcome.  We even saw people from both sides tailgating together.  At Mass, Father (Friar 'Hoo) asked for a couple of volunteers to bring up the gifts.  One was wearing a Penn State jersey, and the other had on a UVA t-shirt.  Father remarked at how fitting that was.  And by the time we left the church, the rain had stopped.   It was a great way to wrap up a fantastic Saturday, don't you think?

And I did go to church the next day, and signed the Profession of Faith.  I hope Father R. didn't notice me sneaking out early...

Happy Sunday everyone, and get the to church!  (And no leaving early.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Get Thee To the Church: Sacred Heart Cathedral, Fairbanks, Alaska

It's the northernmost cathedral in the United States.  We had passed it several time as we tootled around Fairbanks in our rented monster SUV.  On the day of our departure, a Saturday, we found ourselves at Pioneer Park, which happens to be right across the street from Sacred Heart Cathedral.  Our flight didn't leave until 9 pm, so we had plenty of time to go to the Saturday Vigil Mass, have dinner, and get to the airport.

I wasn't sure what to expect to see inside the cathedral  given how ordinary-looking it seems from the outside (Did you know the Diocese of Fairbanks is the largest in the U.S. in geographical area?  And it's the only mission diocese in the nation, and one of the poorest?). I even wondered if the building might have housed a church of some other denomination and the diocese had purchased it, but that is not the case; it has always served as the cathedral for the Fairbanks Diocese.

Inside it was simple, elegant, holy, and undeniably Catholic.

We arrived about a half hour early (the boys were eager to leave the touristy Pioneer Park; they were bored out of their minds.  I wanted to stay a little longer and check out the Indian Village section of the park but was met with resistance) and I snapped a few photos before Mass.  I didn't get very many; there were already a number of people there quietly praying, and I got several strange looks as I walked around with my camera. 

After a lovely Mass we headed to The Cookie Jar for our last meal in Alaska; then to the airport for the long flight home.  Next summer I expect we'll vacation someplace a little bit closer, like the beach.
Happy Sunday, and Happy Fall!  Now get thee to church!

(If you want to see the church where we attended Mass on our first morning in Alaska, click here.  And for some highlights from our amazing Alaska vacation, go here.  Thanks for visiting!)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

7 Things I've Wanted To Tell You But Haven't Had Time


It's rare that we take a vacation to a place like Alaska, and I wanted to share some more memories, in addition to the pictures I posted.  I wanted to tell you how strange it is to be where there are so many hours of daylight, and that when it's 10 p.m. and still light out, I hardly know what to do with myself.  I feel like if I go to sleep, I might miss something.  I wanted to tell you that I never cared about dogsled races, but after this trip I might just have to follow some; at least the Iditarod, and maybe the Yukon Quest too.  I wanted to tell you more about the musher we met and the dogs he trains, and how he rescues them from shelters, works with them, and adopts them out to families with kids; they'll most likely never be in any races, but they'll be happy and loved.


We found this video of Emmitt the Dog Musher giving a demonstration on how he trains his dogs.  We were privileged to see him do this while we were there.


Did you know there are geocaches all over Fairbanks, Alaska?  We didn't have time to go searching for many of them, but we did manage to find one here

Maybe someday I'll go back to Alaska and look for some more.


I still haven't quite adjusted to my increase in work hours.  I'm still getting myself into a rhythm, and I've been trying out different time management strategies to help me balance my work, play, rest, and prayer.  Once I get into a regular manageable routine I'll tell you all about it.  Meanwhile, bear with me as blogging takes a back burner.  And pray that I don't lose my mind.  All you moms out there who work full time (and technically, my job is still part-time), any advice you can give me will be most welcome!


Last week I overheard a three-year-old say to her friend, "Sometimes I just get weally fustwated wif my mommy."  Ah, the deep discussions that take place over Play Dough.  I'm sure my boys have said this about me plenty of times.  I love my job.


Last weekend I pulled a ham bone from my freezer left over from last New Years', and I made split pea soup for the very first time.  I am happy to say that even though the color seemed a little off, it was delicious.  We've been eating it off and on all week for lunches and dinners, and I even had enough to freeze for later.  Here's the recipe I followed from The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook:


1 (16-ounce) package dried green split peas
2 quarts water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 cup chopped celery*
1 large meaty ham bone
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf (which I forgot to put in)
2 cups chopped carrot

-Sort and rinse peas; place in a Dutch oven.  Cover with water 2 inches above peas; let soak overnight.  Drain; add 2 quarts water and next 9 ingredients.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionallyt.  Remove ham bne; cut off meat and dice.  Discard bone and bay leaf.  Let soup cool slightly.
-Process mixture in batches in an electric blender until smooth.  Return mixture and meat to Dutch oven; cover and simmer 5 minut3es or until thoroughly heated.  Sprinkle each serving with Homemade Croutons.**
(The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, p. 428)

*Joe and Larry do not like celery, so I left that out and just used a little more carrot and onion.

**I did not follow the recipe for these provided in the book.  I just took some extra pieces of gluten free bread (mostly heels and such) and cut them into pieces; stirred them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and placed them on a baking sheet.  I baked them at 425 degrees F for about 10 minutes.  You can stir them after 5 minutes of baking, but I don't think I did that and they turned out just fine.


And last but not least, my sister-in-law Jenn has joined the blogging world!  Pop on over to The Cookie Jar Adventures and say hello!  (And be sure to check out this post to see an ultrasound photo of our nephew, due to enter the world in late December.  I love his nickname, "Bopper;" after my most favorite contestant on The Amazing Race ever.)

This week, Grace at Camp Patton is hosting "7 Quick Takes;" head over to her place for more!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Get Thee To the Church: Immaculate Conception, Fairbanks Alaska

We started our vacation by going to Mass.

After checking into our hotel in the middle of the night and catching a few hours' sleep, we walked across the flag-adorned bridge that spans the Chena River to the little church on the other side (which, as you can see, seemed to be in the process of having having the siding replaced). 

(I said a prayer for this little guy...)

I was excited to learn that Immaculate Conception Church was the very first Catholic church in the interior of Alaska.  When it was built in the early 1900s, it was on the opposite side of the river.  In 1911 they rolled it across the frozen river on logs.  (Have you ever read The Shipping News?  I couldn't help but think about the house that was dragged across the ice in that story.)  

I was also surprised to learn that this is the only church in the entire state of Alaska with lovely stained-glass windows like these. 

(Surely not, I reasoned; that must be a mistake.  But it says so right on their website. I've browsed photos of many, if not most, of the Catholic churches in Alaska, and it just might be true.  Perhaps there are some Protestant ones...)

(I just loved the pressed-tin designs on the ceiling and walls!)

The little church--about the size of Our Lady of the Valley, I would say--was surprisingly full on this particular Sunday, and a fair number of the worshippers were tourists like us.  I know this because the priest asked everyone who was visiting from out of town to stand up and introduce themselves.  (I took these photos after Mass, by the way, when everyone had already gone outside.)

We were only in Fairbanks for a couple of days, but it was clear that the people here take great pride in their city, their state, and their heritage.  We encountered some homelessness and drunkenness (in one restaurant, a man had to be escorted from the establishment for wandering in and bothering customers), but everyone we crossed paths with was warm and friendly and welcoming.

We ended our vacation with Mass, too.  I'll show you that church in another post!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Bookmark and Share