Monday, March 31, 2014

wretched March

I've never liked March. I have tried!

I probably don't hate it as much as I used to. But unless it comes along milder than normal, it's an unpleasant month which seems interminably long after the shortness of February. We've had blizzards in March, the snow is heavier in March, there is mud everywhere in March. Brown is the color of March.

Yesterday afternoon I was at my neighbor's and her granddaughter called from Maryland to say she'd popped outside for something and snowflakes were falling as large as golf balls! So one good thing I can say about this March is that we've been threatened several times with big snowstorms, but none of them ended up coming our way.

Still, lo and behold, whatever weather they had last night, arrived here this morning - after a day and a half of rain. It's melted of course. Surely now the grass will turn green!

March, good-bye. I won't miss you.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

no one more patient

"In the presence of God, during a recollected reading of the text [Bible], it is good to ask, for example:  Lord, what does this text say to me? What is it about my life that you want to change by this text? What troubles me about this text? Why am I not interested in this?  Or perhaps: What do I find pleasant in this text? What is it about this word that moves me? What attracts me? Why does it attract me?  When we make an effort to listen to the Lord, temptations usually arise. One of them is simply to feel troubled or burdened, and to turn away. Another common temptation is to think about what the text means for other people, and so avoid applying it to our own life. It can also happen that we look for excuses to water down the clear meaning of the text. Or we can wonder if God is demanding to much of us, asking for a decision which we are not yet prepared to make. This leads many people to stop taking pleasure in the encounter with God's word; but this would mean forgetting that no one is more patient than God our Father, that no one is more understanding and willing to wait. He always invites us to take a step forward, but does not demand a full response if we are not yet ready. He simply asks that we sincerely look at our life and present ourselves honestly before him, and that we be willing to continue to grow, asking from him what we ourselves cannot as yet achieve."

                                                 -  Pope Francis,   The Joy of the Gospel

Saturday, March 29, 2014

a surprise from Margaret

Margaret, my apron buddy, surprised me with this sweet little crocheted bag.

I'd sent her the handwarmers she won in the giveaway, but certainly didn't expect anything from her! She was trying to encourage me to continue hoping for spring - thank you, Margaret.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

nowhere to run, nowhere to hide

There isn't much flat space here for laying sweaters to dry, so I use the ironing board.

Somebody discovered it.

My new Anthropologie sweater -

a cat bed.

Monday, March 24, 2014

a handy edge

With this never-ending cold weather I figured I had time to squeeze in another winter skirt from a brown velveteen that needed to be used up.  And I found another use for that scalloped edging.

When I cut a waistband, I try to cut one long end along a selvage; because it's already finished, I can use it on the inside so it doesn't have to be turned under. Especially with heavier fabric it prevents a thickness at the waist. But I didn't have a long selvage with this, so I thought I'd try this finish with it. When I hand-stitched it, I made sure to catch it above the edging. It should hold, and I'm going to use it also for the hem like I did on my velvet skirt. I may never hem again!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

the little terror

Well, after almost two weeks, Cindy has definitely made herself part of the household. Today she spilled Dolly's water all over the tablecloth, I accidentally closed her up in the pantry closet for about thirty to sixty minutes, and she is trying desperately to get Henry to play. (Good luck with that one!)  She's often underfoot and can't seem to be ready to eat when it's eating time. And I think I'm going to have to move the milk glass hobnail basket where her little sun can't shine.

She's awful cute.

Friday, March 21, 2014

the old man's birthday

Emily has reminded me that today is the birthday anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach.

I tend to think of him as "the old man" because there are so many other well-known Bachs - his sons.

He apparently dedicated all his music to the glory of God. I think he must have been a happy Christian, because even in the St. Matthew Passion, there are no melancholy passages; perhaps he was incapable of it!

Listen to this piece sung by the wonderful Thomas Quasthoff, Mache dich, mein Herze, rein. A most lovely, lilting melody. Beautiful!

 The translation:

Make thyself, my heart, now pure,
I myself would Jesus bury.
For he shall henceforth in me
More and more
Find in sweet repose his dwelling.
World, depart, let Jesus in!

Happy Birthday, old man!  I'm sure he is very happy where he is.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

scattering and gathering

"The English word sin is derived from the German term Sunde, which carries the connotation of sundering or dividing. The Greek word diabolos, from which we get our word devil, the evil one, basically means “scatterer”. In the Book of Genesis, the original sin – incited by the serpent – amounts to a sundering of the human relationship to God (expulsion from the Garden) and a radical division and scapegoating among creatures. Separation, suspicion, mutual hatred, blaming – all are signs that the scattering power of sin is let loose.

God, on the other hand, gathers. The history of Israel is the story of God’s gathering of his people into one through the power of his covenant. It is the story of Israel’s hope for unity, a hope kept alive through the suffering of periodic separation, of division, and even exile because of their infidelity to that covenant. All of it is God’s narrative, the unfolding of his plan for Israel and, through Israel, all of humanity. In the sending of his Son, God gives definitive expression of his power of gathering."

                                                          -  "borrowed" from here, if you want to read the rest of it

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

joy and service

I slept and dreamt that life was joy
I awoke and saw that life was service
I acted and behold, service was joy.

-   Rabindranath Tagore 

Monday, March 17, 2014

a tale of two cindies

A elderly customer of my brother's had a stroke; she lived with her little cat, and we've been trying to find someone to take it before the brother closes up the apartment and sends kitty off to the Humane Society - but no takers.

So, guess what?  Her name is Cindy. There is much hissing and growling on her part during other-cat encounters but I think it's getting better. She's been here a week.

Up the road a mile away, my friend Cyndi has a few stray or feral cats hanging around and one is a Scottish Fold!  She is trying to entice it in the house with the hope of making it a pet. No luck so far.

Friday, March 14, 2014

prayer for peace

For an end to hatred among nations and races:
                 we pray you, O Lord.

For an end to quarrels and divisions within the Church:
                 we pray you,  O Lord.

For an end to anger, abuse, and intolerance within families:
                 we pray you, O Lord.

For an end to jealousy, gossip, and destructive competition in neighborhoods school, and workplace:
                 we pray you, O Lord.

                                  -  from Magnificat,  March 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Anna's broccoli soup

I've made this so many times, and my friend Debra loves it, too. Because it happens pretty fast and with very little effort.  I made it after work today and I'm not feeling that great. 

Here is Anna's recipe, but all you need to do is chop an onion and three garlic cloves and saute in olive oil for a few. Add two quarts of chicken broth, two potatoes diced up and two heads of broccoli, cut up. Cook, covered for forty minutes. Blend most of it. Adjust seasonings if you like.

 Very tasty.

Monday, March 10, 2014

my guardian angel

I first started wearing the (rigid) contact lenses when I was twenty. If you want to know my age now, it's over on the left. That's a long time. I bought contact insurance for a year or two at first; it was worth it at the time if you lost more than one a year. Contacts are only supposed to be worn a certain amount of hours per day, but I have always put them in when I got up and taken them out at the very end of the day when I'm tired and ready for bed. Consequently, there was many a night when I was up an hour later than I wanted to be, looking for the one that got away. And many nights would find me crying in tiredness and frustration, unable to find it.

I don't know how long this went on, but at some point I got the idea to ask my guardian angel to help me. It's Catholic belief that each of us has an angel given to us by God, to be our help in everything all our lives on this earth. Many people depend on St. Anthony to find their lost things, but I've never been able to get too far with him, so my angel it was going to be. I'd drop the lens while popping it out, search for it, and if I couldn't locate it, ask my guardian angel to help me, with the idea that he knows where it is - he just has to get it across to you somehow, and you have to try and be open to it. (A little iffy-sounding, isn't it?) Anyway, I would ask, compose myself and just start looking quietly wherever I "felt" I should. Sorry, but it's kind of an instinctive thing - I guess. I would always feel doubtful. But I always found it. I can not tell you how many times I've dropped my lenses. How many times I've asked him (I just think of him as a "him") for help. How many (each and every) times I've felt doubtful. How many times he's led me to it. I have never again had to search around for an hour, so tired and weepy.

One night, a long time ago, I was kneeling by the side of my bed, saying my prayers I guess - anyway, I must have gotten something in my eyes because I took them both out and laid them on the sheet. The bed was turned down, so it was the fitted sheet. By the time I was finished, I had already forgotten and just got into bed. Slept all night. Got up in the morning. Knelt down to pray, and what should be winking at me - exactly where I laid them! - but my two lenses. Even though I'm not one who thrashes around in my sleep, still - I've always thought of this episode as miraculous. I did not make this up - I'm not such an idiot to think that anybody would believe something so incredible!

Anyway, you may have guessed I'm leading up to something. A few nights ago I took out one lens, put it away and then popped out the other. It fell, but I didn't find it anywhere on the sheet, or on my hair hanging down (and believe me, they are so light they get caught on your hair or they can sit on your clothing or up your sleeve) or any place. I asked my angel friend to help me. I think I said it before but I'll repeat - I always doubt that he'll help me *this time*. I tell myself that he'll just think, Oh, not again, this girl is too much, etc.. But it apparently doesn't depend on any inner certainty on my part because he always does help me find it. But this time I groped around, all over the place, and I wasn't finding it. It was late already -  I should have been to bed long before. I said I have to give up. In the drawer I found that I did have an extra that I could wear to work the next day, so I just went to bed. There was an itty bitty part of me that still hoped it would turn up, but I told myself not to expect this. In the morning I kind of looked quickly but didn't have much time.

To tell the truth, by the time I got home from work I'd forgotten all about it. But I was in and out of my room, changing my clothes, getting my knitting, my book, sitting at the laptop and back and forth, etc., etc., etc. And when bedtime came I suddenly remembered it! I looked down on the rug beside the bed, and there. it. was. I put it on a piece of paper and took a picture of it.

Thanks, Friend. Again.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Saints Felicity and Perpetua

Today was the feast of Sts. Felicity and Perpetua, Christian martyrs of incredible courage and faith from the early third century.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dolly watches me

But I don't think she'll take up knitting anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

the three polarities

"The spiritual life is that constant movement between the poles of loneliness and solitude, hostility and hospitality, illusion and prayer. The more we come to the painful confession of our loneliness, hostilities and illusions, the more we are able to see solitude, hospitality and prayer as part of the vision of our life.

Often it is the dark forest that makes us speak about the open field."

                                          - Henri Nouwen,  Reaching Out

Saturday, March 1, 2014

bread rules

Last Sunday I got it into my head to start baking bread regularly. Meanwhile, someone dropped off their old books at the library, and I saw a cookbook called Ladle, Leaf and Loaf. All soup, salad and bread recipes, and who could resist that? Since I am really trying to not accumulate anything, I will take from this book just what's useful to me, and pass it on.

The soups are the kind of thing you'd have seen at a health-food restaurant in the 1970s. They seem interesting, but I'm not sure they'd fly here. Some of the breads did catch my eye, though. The other day I made a pumpkin bread.

With apple cider in place of the water, a bit of maple syrup and one third cup of canned pumpkin puree, it's slightly sweet and very nice, and I want to make it again. 

The recipe makes one loaf, calling for a packet of yeast. But I like to play the as-little-yeast-as-possible game, so I put in a scant teaspoon and used cold cider from the fridge, rather than heating it. When I mixed the yeast with the liquid it just didn't want to dissolve, so I ended up making a sponge of sorts and left it to sit on the shelf till I saw signs of life. After it was mixed and kneaded, it still took eight hours to rise! But that was what I was looking for - a very slow rising time. There is only one rise required with the bread, but when it was ready I wasn't, so I punched it down and put it in the fridge till next day when I had time. It worked out fine!

Because of the (mostly unknown to me) relationship between yeast and salt amounts, I put less salt in because less yeast was in it - not wanting the salt to inhibit anything. But it needs a little more because of the sweetness of it, so next time I will increase it. This is the way I like to make bread; altering the recipes according to the newer techniques I've read (and re-read) about. This is the way to learn, and I prefer it, even if I fail at times.  It called for some seeds but I was out, so I threw in some toasted wheat germ for crunch. I wonder how it would be with cinnamon chips. I toasted some this morning and had it with buttery spread and elderberry jam (not my own). 

*Margaret, my apron buddy, won the hand warmer giveaway. I thank everyone for their interest!