Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring migration...

I've been enjoying the increased level of bird activity lately in our neighborhood. Over the winter, we will continue to see Northern Cardinals, House Sparrows, and we also get Dark Eyed Juncos here that winter in this region from their summer home in the arctic. Come spring though, suddenly our community becomes alive with American Robins, Common Grackles, Black Capped Chickadees, and Blue Jays. I've always liked robins, despite the fact that they are fairly commonplace throughout the country. They just look so confident, no? They have a very cute stance. And children love them, including Hank, because they are so distinguishable with their bright red breasts. I love childrens' sweet and innocent take on birding:

"Mommy, wook, a WOBIN!! Why is he hopping away, Mommy? I wanted to hold him."

Everyone is nesting right now. Here on campus, we have a number of resident Red Tailed Hawks, and these are beautiful birds. They had a nest stationed on a light post on the practice track, and this winter it was taken down for fear of it falling and hurting someone. These are *big* birds, and as you might imagine, they make *big* nests for *big* babies. Thus, this year, the mated pair is hard at work assembling a brand new nest right in the exact same spot. These are routine-oriented birds. I think this is why I like them so much - we relate to each other well.

At any rate, every time I walk out to my car, I spot a hawk flying by with a twig in its mouth. And the funny thing is, all of the smaller birds are afraid of them, because, well, the hawk could eat them for a mid-afternoon snack in the blink of an eye. But right now, the hawks aren't so much focused on munching on pigeons; rather, they are in clear NEST-BUILDING MODE. This is very reminiscent of your Catholic Librarian in the months leading up to Henry's birth. I was a woman on fire.

So anyway, amusing little scenes inevitably result. A gigantic red-tailed hawk is busily gathering small branches in its beak, halo perched firmly on head. Meanwhile, a nearby robin or blue jay nearly has a heart attack sending out an alarm cry to alert every other bird on campus. Robins, in particular, just won't let it go if a hawk is within a mile of it. They're going to be hoarse by the end of the season.

In a few months, the new little ducklings will start to come out with their parents. We have Canada Geese here, and Mallards. They're adorable. Unfortunately, they are very prone to being hawk food :( I worry for them quite a bit. In my mind, the hawk's instinct to protect its own young should prevent it from eating anybody elses. This makes perfect sense to me, but the birds don't seem to agree.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Easter is in the air...

Easter is in the air, and I'm very excited. Mike, Henry and I are leaving Saturday to drive to my older sister Rhonda's home in New Jersey. We're optimistic that Henry is old enough now that our car ride won't be an absolute debacle, but there's still a bit of prayer involved on that one. At my instigation, we bought a portable DVD player to make the 6 hour ride more bearable for Henry. I had to use my feminine charms on my husband in order to convince him to see my point of view on this one, but I think he's going to be glad that I was successful. Because, when we hit hour 4, and instead of whining and/or sobbing, Henry will be happily watching Scooby Doo, and I think that we're all going to wing up a prayer of thanksgiving for the wonders of technology.

I'm also busily knitting and crocheting away, making Easter gifts for everyone. I have a new favorite place to obtain patterns - e-Patterns Central. These are not free patterns, you purchase them, but there are patterns for sale there for as little as $1.99. My newest obsession is kitchen and dining items - dish cloths, towels, and placemats. There are free patterns out there for all of those things, definitely, but I found some stupendous ones at e-Patterns Central. I just paid less than $11, and I was able to buy 14 patterns for gorgeous crocheted dishcloths and pot holders. One of my finds was 2-Hour Dishcloths - ooohhhh, aaaahhhh. They'll make excellent gifts. I'm super excited. All the patterns are available as immediate downloads, so you can set right to work :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

The exciting night life of the Catholic Librarian, and the Easter Bunny Complex...

This was a busy weekend for me. And I'm different from most (normal) people in that I actively avoid having busy weekends. One would think that having weekend plans was a good thing. But your Catholic Librarian is such a classic introvert. Choice: (a) go out for dinner and dancing with friends, or (b) stay home and knit dish cloths. The fact that I longed to do (b) on Friday means that I'm some sort of freak.

At any rate, I did go out and I did have a good time, despite my dish cloth intentions. I went to a local Arab cultural association event with my bellydance troupe for dinner, live Middle Eastern music, and dancing. It was super fun, and I was glad that I went. It's not easy for me to spontaneously dance in public, but I do what I can.

Saturday we awoke early and readied to take Henry to visit the Easter Bunny. We met up with some friends there, and their young son, Jude. We arrived first, and since the bunny was already set up and waiting, I hustled Hank right in line. Quickly, a theme became apparent.

A woman ahead of us was there with two small children - a little boy who looked to be around 15 months or so, and a little girl in the 3 year old contingent. The mother was combing their hair and trying to psych them up for a cheerful trip to the bunny's lap so that a good photo might be obtained. Each child was to receive one free photo with the bunny, and it is printed on the spot- a pretty good deal nowadays considering our shopping mall Santa wanted a minimum package purchase of $20 and no external cameras allowed.

So, the turn of the children ahead of us arrives. The mother grabbed the little boy out of his stroller and popped him onto the bunny's lap. Immediately, he burst into uncontrollable sobs and attempted an ill advised leap right off the bunny's knee. The bunny hung tight, but the little boy was not havin' it. Despite much cajoling from his mom and the picture taker, he would not be soothed. A picture was taken anyway, but I can't imagine that one's a keeper.

Finally, the mother wrenches him from the bunny and pushes his sister over. Before even coming into contact with the bunny, she screams, bursts into tears, and refuses to sit on his lap. I think the bunny was exhausted by time he got to Hank. Luckily, Hank hopped up, smiled for a picture, and hopped down to hurry over to the candy distribution area. His picture came out cute. As we were waiting for it to be printed, and for Jude to arrive, I kept glancing over to what was quickly becoming The Lap of Doom. Every time I looked, a sobbing child was being dragged over and pleaded with to please just take one nice picture with bunny.

And he was a cute bunny! No scary face to be had. Mike still talks about this picture of my nephew Nathaniel with the Easter Bunny when he was a baby. Nathaniel is beaming adorably on the lap of the most frightening looking Easter Bunny of all time. He looks as though he's still mulling over precisely how many Cadbury Eggs he's going to demand in exchange for the return of the baby, unharmed.

When Jude arrived, things didn't improve for our Easter Bunny. Jude was fine as well until he approached the bunny and then began screaming for intervention. I think the bunny likely needed a drink to soothe his hurt feelings by the end of the afternoon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Crazy day, and family musings...

I started the day off at the dentist. That's never the way you want to start a day, no? Just a routine cleaning, but I find "going to the dentist" right up there on my list of "things I'd like to put off as long as possible."

And, to top it off, on my way there, I experienced a problem that is notorious in all cold winter weather climates - the spring/summer road construction season. UGH. It's a limited window of weather that is warm enough to accommodate such work, and thus it begins in earnest near April and goes non-stop until October, when we're all weary from detours and beaten into single lane submission. Not pleasant. As well, when I reached for my planner - where I have my dentist's phone number written down, since I feared I may be late - I realized, for at least the 4th time since yesterday late afternoon, that I left my planner at work and that such an action is a huge mistake. Sigh.

But it went fine, and my pulled wisdom tooth seems to have healed nicely. I then drove into work (on a different route) while I called my sister Shauna'h on my cell phone and insisted that she talk to and entertain me until I arrived on campus. I get lonely in the car; it brightened my day :)

While I was talking to her, I asked her about something that has been occupying my mind recently: our family geneaology. My paternal grandmother passed away just last summer; my dad's father passed away about about 13 years ago. I've been thinking about them both a lot lately. My grandfather was a Native American, a Six Nations Mohawk. Given my recent interest in crafts, I was thinking back to when I was a little girl. I remember my mom taking me once to a friend of my dad's family who introduced me to Native beading art with a loom. I loved it. I always wish that I had followed up on that. Maybe I still will, 30 years later.

My grandmother, I wasn't as sure on her lineage, so this is what I was asking Shauna'h about. I always recall her background being described as Pennsylvania German, or Pennsylvania Dutch. I'm suddenly very intrigued by this - could this explain my obsession with Amish fiction? :) I'm going to see my dad this weekend, and I'm going to ask him about it. It's entirely possible that her family was Anabaptist at some point. Both of my paternal grandparents were converts to Catholicism from a variety of mainline Protestant denominations. (Side anecdote - a number of my dad's relatives, including him and my grandparents, converted to Catholicism via a parish near us that was located on the Tuscarora Reservation - the only such parish on a Native American reservation in the entire state. My dad and grandfather both chose Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha as their patron at confirmation).

A year after my first Amish fiction post, I remain quite entranced with the Amish. And not in some "isn't it so quaint?!" kind of way. In a genuine admiration of their faith and way of life. I'm not looking to convert, granted :), as I don't agree with some of their beliefs about the sin of pride. But overall, I see them as shining beacons of Christian faith and living, and I would be honored to have that as part of my lineage.

Not to be forgotten, my mom's wonderful family is 100% Italian. My mom is only two generations removed from their original journey to America. They were all originally Catholic, as was most of the population of this area at that time. Today, my immediate family are the only Catholics left, although my other relatives are still very devoted Christians, just of the non-Catholic variety. It's all very interesting, from the perspective of a religious person. I feel very lucky to have the family that I do - lots of love and support, all based on faith in our God. It's good stuff.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring has sprung...

What does this mean?

I love my bellydance teacher, Claire's, take on it:

"Spring has sprung. Let's work on our lower belly. Bathing suit season will soon be upon us."

And then there's Hank, who noticed the "First Day of Spring" magnet on his Melissa and Doug magnetic calendar for this past Saturday:

"It's spwing, Mommy. I want to pwant flowos. And when can I see the baby birds?"

Yes, my dumpling, who is also suddenly very concerned with human anatomy. Warning: adult body part language forthcoming.

"MOMMY." *concerned eyebrow knit* "You no have a penis?"

"No, honey, girls don't have penises."

We've always tried to be matter of fact with Hank about bodies. Not graphic, mind you, but simply truthful about what things are called. Although, I'm going to admit right now that I'm so relieved that I have a boy and don't have to use the word 'vagina' with any regularity. I'm much more comfortable with peni than with vaginas, apparently.

"Ok, so, Mommy." *Hank pulls down his pants and exposes himself.* "You don't have this?" *points* "What about the other stuff?"

"No, honey."

"But where does the pee pee come out?"

A very perceptive question.

"Well honey, girls don't have penises, but the pee pee still comes out from there. Girls have different body parts than boys do."

*WIDE EYES* "Can I see?"

"No, honey. There's really nothing to see. Boys' parts are on the outside, but girls' parts are on the inside. You can't see them."

O mouth. "Wow."

Sigh. I hope that's all the questions for now, but somehow I doubt it.

At any rate, Lent will soon be coming to an end, and it really seemed to fly this year. Easter will soon be upon us, a time of year that I desperately love. I've been enjoying my meat-free, headcovering at Mass living this Lent, but I have to say it's gone so smoothly that it doesn't seem like a particularly dramatic Lent. Whatever that means. I suppose that's a good thing. After Easter, I will write a full post on my headcovering experience.

In the mean time, I have been noticing that I haven't been praying as much as I should outside of Mass. I don't feel distant from God, but I feel like I haven't been putting in as much effort into talking to Him as I should be. It's sort of like a marriage where you're happy, but you're on autopilot; you're starting to notice that while eating dinner you're each watching tv or reading separately instead of talking, and at night you have a lot of 'headaches.'

This morning, I picked up my Living Faith, and I found the passage very relevant.

"Being Mindful of God...

The truth is we have to cooperate with the little opportunities we are given each day to slow down, become quiet and notice how the Holy One is speaking to us. After receiving some news recently that will mean major changes for our family, I prayed for the ability to recognize God's presence in the midst of turmoil. While walking that evening and admiring a neighbor's flower garden, I was deeply moved by the beauty of creation. It didn't alter the situation, but the presence of so much beauty reminded me of God's faithfulness and changed my attitude."

I've been trying to work on my spontaneous prayer since I noticed my neglect. I tend to feel like I need to put together a full rosary or something when something is on my mind. I need to remember that I can simply stop what I'm doing, and ask God to help me. It doesn't need to be complicated. It's the little things that matter.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A yarntime bonanza...

Sorry for not posting for a few days. I had intended to yesterday, but my computer was behaving *very* badly and needed to be smacked into submission. This makes it sound so quick and simple. In fact, this was a Malwarebytes version of a full body cavity search and it consumed my entire afternoon. Hence, no post.

And I was *dying* to post because, as I mentioned, I took Friday afternoon off to head to JoAnn's to stock up on yarn for future projects, and BOY did I have a fabulous time. So, bear with me as I go into WAY too much detail about yarn.

So, first, I was on the lookout for some good old Red Heart SuperSaver yarn for a large afghan I want to make for mine and Mike's bedroom. The pattern is really pretty and different. It's a square afghan crocheted in the round, and it uses a bunch of different stripes in purples, green, and variegated coordinates. I ended up choosing Medium Purple, Lilac, Tea Leaf, Sea Grass, Monet Print, and Artist's Print:

Really excited about this one. After that, I did branch out into our friends, the natural fibers. I bought a beautiful pattern online for a jellybean runner for our dining room buffet, and I ended up selecting Lily Sugar 'n Cream yarn for that in Yellow and Over the Rainbow:

It feels very summery to me. I also picked up 4 balls of one of my favorite yarns, Lion Brand Cotton Ease. This stuff is awesome. It's 50% cotton, 50% acrylic, and it feels fabulous. I'm going to be making a free pattern with it, the Lion Brand Zig Zag Wrap, so I bought the yarn in the recommended colors of Almond, Lime, Maize, and Stone:

Finally, I splurged a bit ($4.99 a skein is more than I like to spend :) but I had coupons...) and bought some of the new Stitch Nation Bamboo Ewe yarn. Another free pattern for the Taffy Pull Scarf, and I bought the yarn in the recommended colors of Lipstick, Snapdragon, Sprout, and Geranium:

I left the store aglow, especially since I was also able to snag the beautiful lavender print tote bag I had had my eye on (regular price $14.99) on clearance for $4.99. Score!

I've also finished up a few other projects lately. I made a shawl for myself (pattern is free at Lion Brand as "Afternoon Breeze Shawl") out of some beautiful (and cheap!) yarn - TLC Essentials in Falling Leaves:
I also made a lacy shawl out of some leftover bulky yarn that I had in a burgundy color. I think it'll be good for dress-up occasions, like weddings:
You've already seen my spring placemats, but they're all blocked now (assisted by Henry :) and I also picked up some artificial sprays at AC Moore in spring colors that I *love* (and they were only $2.29 each!):

A very happy crafty girl results.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ready for the weekend, and some musings on yarn...

So very glad that it's Friday today, and that I'm going to have a relaxing weekend. I have a 2 hour reference shift, and then I'm taking a half day of comp time for myself. *bliss* I've used up a bunch of yarn in my stash lately, and so I'm bound for the craft stores, coupons in hand, to pick up some yarn, and I couldn't possibly be more excited. Time to browse yarn and pattern books, all without the interruptions of an adorable 4 year old voice. *super bliss*

I am, what you would call the anti-yarn snob. Even though I very much appreciate finer, more expensive yarn, and will use it for small projects, for the most part I buy my 100% acrylic yarn at the large craft stores. I have used inexpensive wool blends and I adore cotton (but that is extremely cheap, actually), but for the most part I do crochet with acrylic. I love to crochet (and knit) but we're on a budget, so it's Red Hear Super Saver (and the like) for me, and I'm thrilled to have it. Debbie Stoller has a new line of reasonably priced yarn out, in natural fibers, and JoAnn's carries, it, so I'll be checking that out. I may be premiering my first bamboo shawl :)

In non-craft news, Henry has been SUCH a big boy about staying in his bed for the whole night all of a sudden. He has been *so good* lately, it's like he matured overnight. 4 seems to be a magic age for him. Our only problem with the new sleeping arrangement (and isn't there always one?) is that he has no idea what time it is, so when he wakes up, he stays up and hangs out until we come to tell him it's morning. And he doesn't always make enough noise to wake us and let us know that he's awake. So, case in point, Mike gets up at 4 am to use the bathroom, and there's Henry, sitting up patiently in bed, awaiting a morning greeting. We're not quite sure what to do about this. I think we're going to get him a digital clock, so that we can tell him that if the first number is not a 6, he needs to go back to sleep. A week or so ago, I heard his little feet hit the ground and him start talking to Teddy, so I rolled over and looked at our clock: 3:45 am. Sigh. We'll get there.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Books, books, books...

As we continue our Lenten journey, I thought I'd mention a few more books. One is a favorite of mine that I own and re-read every couple of years. The other is a library book that I read recently and have mixed feelings on; but it provides an excellent discussion piece, so let us begin!

So, Lenten things first. One of my Desert Island reads (this is what romance readers call their absolute favorite books that, if they were to be stranded on a desert island, they'd *love* to have with them) is Brian Murphy's The New Men: Inside the Vatican's Elite School for Catholic Priests. As you know, I love personal stories. This book is a collection of (I believe) 6 men studying for the priesthood. Each was selected by his diocese for the special honor of studying at the prestigious North American College in Rome. So...lots of pressure. Your diocese has forked over a considerable amount of money to sponsor you to go to Italy, and they expect you to come back a finely honed priest machine. The book starts out on their first day in Rome, and we meet each man and learn a bit about his background. Also, right away, we find out that the rector of the North American College at this point in time was none other than Timothy Dolan, current archbishop of New York.

I was drawn into this book right away. Archbishop Dolan is a wonderful beacon of the faith, and his role in guiding the men through the initial stages of their priestly vocation provides a gripping narrative. We spend an academic year following each man through his struggles and joys, and the reader comes to care about them, and root for them to find contentment in their vocation. At the end of the book, we find out that one of the men discerns that the priesthood is not for him, and that he should follow a different path. But...which one is it? This is *good* stuff.

This book went out of print, and it's a bit harder to come by. But you can still find some copies on Amazon, just click on the link above. Although this was not published by a Catholic press, the viewpoint is extremely orthodox; we don't hear any of the typical objections to the Catholic priesthood: "But isn't celibacy totally unrealistic?!" The struggle of real men to live out their vocation, yes, but no off-hand anti-Catholic remarks to be had.

The other book I wanted to discuss is a brand new book that I checked out of my local public library. It is Ed Dobson's The Year of Living Like Jesus: My Journey of Discovering What Jesus Would Really Do.

I love books like this. First off, I love spiritual memoirs, but in addition to that, I love this current trend of "a year of doing something." The journal-like quality of those stories really grabs me. So, I had high hopes for this book. That being said, I didn't like this book as much as I'd hoped.

From the title, I thought that the author, a Christian and a former pastor, would be spending a year of trying to methodically live out Jesus's message and teachings. Certainly, we all should be doing that, but his title and introduction seemed to imply that he wanted to spend a WWJD year, real structured-like. As well, in the introduction, he contrasts his book with another recent title, A.J. Jacob's The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest To Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. I've read Jacobs' book as well, and that one I really liked. A.J. is Jewish, and so he spent a year growing a beard, eating kosher, wearing tassels, and not combining cotton with linen. It was an engaging and humorous memoir.

Dobson's book, on the other hand, I thought would be focused on the New Testament, but yet we start out once again mired in Jewish dietary minutiae and tassels. I was baffled; I thought Dobson's book would be a Christian perspective on Jesus's complete message, yet he was determined to live like a first century Jewish man. It just wasn't at all what I expected.

The book starts out in journal form, and eventually switches over to a topical arrangement. I didn't like this either, as it felt choppy. Towards the end, he spends a lot of time talking about why he chose to vote for President Obama, and this just wasn't something I was interested in. Also, Dobson, while a good writer, just isn't as engaging as Jacobs.

That all being said, let me mention what I *did* like, and those things are significant. One of the things that Dobson explored was the use of prayer beads and ropes, including the rosary and the Orthodox chotki. *Loved* this. Now, in the Amazon reviews, a ton of people said things along the line of, "what on earth does the rosary have to do with living like Jesus? Jesus didn't pray the rosary. Jesus didn't pray to Mary."

Ah ha. Dobson actually goes into this in the book a bit. He came from a prejudiced view of the rosary, ("it's unbiblical to pray to anyone other than Jesus,") and subsequently realized that the rosary, via the spoken mysteries, is actually praying the scriptures and the life of Jesus. As well, he spoke to a priest, and came to understand that Catholics do not pray *to* Mary, but pray *with* her and ask for her intercession. Also, very importantly, Paul instructed us to "pray without ceasing." I think the rosary and using the chotki to pray the Jesus prayer silently are excellent mechanisms for carrying that out. Dobson's dawning of understanding on this issue is a beautiful witness.

In addition to that, through the book, I learned that the author, Ed Dobson, has progressive ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. I thought that reading this book provides a wonderful opportunity for me (and all of you!) to pray for him as he battles this cripping terminal illness. Above everything, what was clear to me from this book is that the author is a sincere, genuine Christian man, and I pray for his health and healing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Our Lenten journey continues, fun times at the home of Mom and Dad CatholicLibrarian, and baby hats abound...

This past weekend was the fourth Sunday of Lent, and this continues to be an interesting one. I wore my black velvet headband headcovering, and I definitely prefer the coverings that tie in the back. They stay put very nicely. After Lent, I'd love to pick up a few more. I'll keep you posted :) At any rate, Hank went up for Children's Liturgy of the Word like a big boy, despite being one of only 4 kids that went up (Father Jay looked down at them and said, "we seem to be missing some of the little children today..." :) All went well.

Later that day, the 3 of us traveled to my parents' house to celebrate my dad's birthday. We're arriving slightly later than originally planned because my parents had a wake to go to immediately prior to our visit. We arrive to find my mom fluttering about the house anxiously. Does this sound familiar? Yes, it's true. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. We are ushered inside, and my mom announces:

"The lasagna is still frozen."

I'll pause the story at this point to mention that I absolutely adore my mother and we get along famously. As well, we're very much like each other in many ways. She never fails though, to provide many an amusing anecdote with some of her idiosyncrasies. And for whatever reason, food takes FOREVER to cook in her house. Originally, I assumed it was because of the sheer denseness of some of the dishes she makes (cue the lasagna...), but now I'm beginning to believe it has to be her oven.

"The lasagna has been thawing since yesterday, and it's been in the oven for 5 hours!"

"Ok. Well, mom? Maybe you need a new oven? You've had this one a really long time, and..."

"Well!" *huffy sigh* "Ovens aren't cheap, you know!"

"Yes, I know. But you can get one for well under $500."

"Not with a ceramic top!"

*sighs* My mom doesn't like change.

"Well yes, but isn't it more important to have an oven that cooks the food in a reasonable amount of time?"

Her glower seems to imply that she does not agree with me. So I drop it. The lasagna is snappily placed back into the oven. Meanwhile, Henry has begun to whine, and I pacify him as best I can.

An hour passes. The lasagna is re-checked, and is still frozen in the center. I find it prudent to hold my tongue and simply attempt to set the table amongst the piles of unexplained paperwork and small appliances that litter the kitchen. I am who I am about de-cluttering my house because of my mom: she hordes more stuff than anyone in the free world. I still have nightmares about helping her clean out the basement as a teenager.

I'm starting to get a tad anxious because it's getting late and Henry is becoming tired and cranky. I posit the idea of slicing off individual pieces along the edges of the pan and microwaving them if need be. My mom isn't too thrilled about this plan, but she complies. We find that the slices along the sides are cooked just fine. I spoon out salad and everyone sits down to eat. We're all happily munching lasagna noodles when the next bomb is dropped:

"OH NO. The ice cream cake!"

So, here we have the opposite problem of the lasagna. Food takes an eternity to get hot in my parent's house, yet the freezer manages to keep things somewhere in the range of zero kelvin. My parent's have this mammoth Amana deep freeze in their basement that you can only hold open for seconds at a time lest your very extremities succomb to frostbite. My sisters and I all know that the deep freeze is the death knell for having ice cream anytime in this century - you take a quart of ice cream out of that baby and you could crush someone's skull with it.

After my mom's proclamation, we all freeze in horror; Henry has been promised ice cream cake, and if we do not deliver, we will have one unhappy 4 year old on our hands. My dad immediately
jumps up:

"I'll get it!" The cake is henceforth rescued from the dreaded deep freeze. As we eat, my mom continues to comment,

"It's going to be a LONG TIME before the cake is ready to be cut. A LONG TIME."


We finish our lasagna and clean up. My dad is dispatched to wield the cleaver that is necessary to cut through the ice cream cake. He manages to hack off enough slices to accommodate each of us. Following that, Henry is quickly stuffed into his jacket and Spider Man sneakers for an immediate trip home and usherance to his bed... And there you have a typical visit to the home of the Catholic Librarian's parents. Fun times.

Ok, finally, my craft update (for those that care :) Here is my latest baby hat creation:

It's *much* better than the last one I made. On this one, the brim doesn't roll up, plus the colored swatches on the lower rows "puff out" in purl stitch, instead of laying flat like the last one. Here are the 2 hats together:

The newer one is on the right. I'm now starting a pink hat for a baby girl...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Club Monday...

I've really been enjoying the book club that I joined at work. I've always wanted to belong to one, and I'd never found one that worked with my schedule. This one meets once per month during the lunch hour, so it's ideal. At first, I shied away from joining because I feared that I wouldn't always finish the books prior to the meetings. I do love to read, and I always have a litany of books in a "to be read" pile, so squeezing in another that I perhaps wouldn't have chosen on my own unless it was for the book club sounded a bit overwhelming.

I finally decided to give it a go last fall when I heard that the club was going to be reading the interesting sounding Loving Frank. Well. You may remember how that went. I hated the book, but I couldn't wait to go to the meeting so that I could see what everyone else thought and discuss it. Since then, I've been a devoted member.

I haven't always liked the books that we've read, but the process is still so very worth it. I did *love* Carol Goodman's The Night Villa, and in fact have read some of her other books as a result and enjoyed those too. On the other hand, I did not particularly enjoy The Princess Bride, or Margaret Atwood's Moral Disorder (which I didn't even blog about, a bad sign right there). But what I truly appreciate is that I'm finding authors that I wouldn't have tried on my own, and for a bookworm on a budget, this is totally awesome. If I can find additional popular authors, I can check the books out from the public library, and my book budget is suddenly $0. That's right, 99% of what I read now is totally free. The hearts of all my bookworm readers soar in delight.

Our book club tends to vary the selections each month so that we read books in all sorts of different genres. This month it's urban fantasy. Ok. I read Catholic fiction and non-fiction, spiritual memoirs, romantic fiction, and Amish fiction. That's pretty much it right there. I like feel good stuff. Urban fantasy is totally out of my realm, but I was excited to give it a try since it's SO completely different from what I favor.

Well. I was *extremely* pleasantly surprised. We read Charles de Lint's The Blue Girl, and let me tell you, this is a GOOD book. It's geared toward a young adult audience, but it's one of those books that is so well written that adults can enjoy it quite easily. The only caveat I have is that if you are a person that does not enjoy fantasy from a non-Christian perspective this is not necessarily for you. It's fiction, so that doesn't bother me at all, but just throwing that out there.

So, the plot. We have a very engaging main character cutely named Imogene. (Conversation between and Mike in bed as we read: "If we had a girl...What do you think of the name Imogene?" An arched eyebrow ensued). She comes from a divorced family and her parents are both a bit flower child flaky. She had gotten involved in a rough crowd in her previous school, and since she moved with her mom and brother, she's trying to not attract the wrong element. She befriends a girl named Maxine that she sees as a bit of a loner so that she does not have to socialize with too many people. Their mutual desire to "not fit in" yet remain under the radar of the "beautiful people in-crowd" makes for an interesting backstory.

As our story unfolds, we find that Imogene's new school has a resident ghost, Adrian, that she and Maxine can see. Adrian develops a large crush on Imogene and introduces her to another supernatural crowd, the fairies. These fairies, however, are not all cuteness and light. They have a distinctive mean streak, and cause Imogene to come under scrutiny from an evil element that lurks in the shadows. These dark evil guys apparently eat your soul and cause you to simply cease existing - no hope of an afterlife for their poor victims. We find out a bit more about Adrian, as well as about a good creature that Imogene always thought was her childhood 'imaginary friend' but that has manifested physically to come to her aid.

This book did actually touch on spiritual themes a bit. Angels appear in the book, and although the author puts an interesting spin on them, they decidedly are trying to assist Adrian to move on to a better place than skulking around the high school all the time. Also, the soul is a central theme. Imogene and Maxine, non-religious characters, both come to realize that people do have souls and can lose them. Also, they find out a few strategies to ward off the mean fairies that bring in Catholic elements - the use of a crucifix, for instance.

One thing I really liked about this book is that the author really brought in a positive message - Imogene and Maxine both mature in this book, and both come to appreciate their parents in a new light after understanding their motives a bit more. Both also come to make decisions that are based on sacrificing their own health and happiness for the good of another that they love.

I don't usually read fantasy, but I *really* liked this book. Check it out at your local public library. Apparently this author writes a whole series of books that take place in this same town that Imogene moves to. I may read another!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A day in the life of a marriage...

Yesterday was one of those evenings that I think demonstrates very nicely an inside look into a real marriage. I'm very happily married, and I treasure each and every day that God grants me to live in this contented state with my beloved spouse. Naturally, although the good far outweighs the challenging, there are moments that are not so rosy. Mike and I are at a point in our marriage in which we know each other so well that we are aware of, and implement, behaviors that please each other, and avoid those that don't. Additionally, Mike and I both have a personality that is truly unsettled if we know that the other person is upset or angry, and we rarely argue. However, nobody is perfect, and sometimes we still do things that bother the other.

Last night, I came home all emotional. *snorts* Mike is quite used to this. I'm an emotional person by nature; it's just the way God made me :) I am super, *super* sensitive, and in any way drawing attention to myself turns me into an emotional puddle. I was really upset with myself yesterday that I accidentally sent that email message to a whole group of my colleagues instead of just the one person that I intended. This makes absolutely no rational sense, because the message was totally inconsequential, simply asking for assistance with a project, and other people make this mistake all the time, but all of this makes no difference to your touchy Catholic Librarian. I still hated that I called attention to myself in this way. If I could be invisible, I would be, I just can't help it.

Before I left work, I sent around an email to the same group making fun of myself for clearly losing the mental ability to control my own email address lists. Whenever someone else does this, I always get a good laugh out of it and think to myself that the person is a very good sport, so I felt better after that. But still, by time I arrived home, I was just feeling out of sorts and vulnerable.

Que: wine. I immediately poured myself a glass and started sipping. It relaxed me, but it also made me even *more* emotional, which I'm certain you can already see is not a good thing. I started making dinner and Mike came in to chat with me. That helped, but I continued to sip more wine and hence become *more* emotional.

Dinner took longer than I anticipated, and by time it was nearing readiness it was at least a half hour past when we usually eat. I had never made this recipe before, and there was WAY more liquid in it than there should have been for a rice dish. I implemented my usual strategy of popping a top on the wok and praying that it cooked down.

Meanwhile, Mike wanders in, starving. He keeps inquiring as to how long it'll take, because originally I had told him dinner would be ready by 5:30. It was now nearly 6 pm. I tell him that it'll be about 5 more minutes and peer under the lid. Still a LOT of liquid to be absorbed. *sigh* I turn the burner off and hope that it'll just absorb without the heat.

At 6 pm, Mike comes down and crankily asks if dinner is ready yet. I glower at him, tell him to just go ahead and eat, and head upstairs where I burst into tears. Of course, none of this actually has anything to do with poor Mike. Our spouse, the one whom we love above all others, is always the one that bears the redirected brunt of our full emotions. It's just part of marriage.

I sniffle up there for a few minutes wondering if Mike is going to come looking for me. He doesn't, because he knows me very well and knows that I will simmer down if I'm left alone for a few minutes. This of course, pisses me off royally.

I change into comfy clothes and sniffle my way downstairs where I proceed to not talk to Mike, my usual "make him pay" strategy of choice. He compliments me on dinner, and I refuse to respond. After we finish eating, he gets up to do the dishes, which also somehow annoys me.

I go into Hank's play area to snuggle with him, and this cheers me up a bit. Mike finishes the dishes and starts running a bath for Hank, and inexplicably this also makes me mad for no discernible reason. Finally, after both Mike and Hank come back down following the bath, I come out with it:

"You hurt my feelings."

If you can believe it, I've actually gotten *better* about communicating when I'm hurt about something to Mike and in a more timely fashion. This is actually *sooner* than I would have fessed up when we first got married. Of course, Mike looks totally flabbergasted that I'm even still thinking about the dinner fiasco because he's totally forgotten about it already.

"Oh, Sweetie, I said I was sorry. You're not still upset about that, are you?"

"Well actually, yes I am. I'm not having a good night, and I was trying to make a nice dinner for us, and sometimes that takes longer than 20 minutes. If you're starving, then have a small healthy snack to tide you over until dinner is ready on nights like this."

Once again, I've improved here. In the past, I wouldn't fully articulate everything that I was feeling and upset about, and Mike would have no idea how upset I really was about something. This way, even though I'm sure he still thinks I'm a bit nuts, he can rest assured that I've expressed everything that I was stewing about and we can just move on.

"Ok. I'm sorry I was so impatient; I was just really hungry and looking forward to dinner."

"Ok. I know that I'm really emotional tonight, and that's not your fault. I'll try to feel better."

That was the end of that. And I did truly let it go, another improvement. Because I recognized that I was taking out my hyper sensitive state on Mike when he really hadn't done anything wrong. I continued to be a little touchy for the rest of the night, but I also recognized that it was one of those things that after I got a good night of sleep, I'd totally feel better in the morning.

And I do. And I gave my sweet husband a kiss this morning and assured him that I'd make it up to him with a fabulous weekend :) But see the interesting male/female dynamic here? Woman upset about something; man inadvertently hurts woman's feelings; woman feels unappreciated; woman wants man to understand, but man has already moved on; woman feels even more hurt. Whenever Mike and I have a disagreement (and it's not that often, granted) this is *always* the pattern that is followed. Like, every single time. It's quite amusing when looked at from afar the following day; not so much in the heat of the moment :)

At any rate, I did crochet last night, so I thought I'd share. This blanket is a UFO from, I swear it, about 15 years ago. I started it way back when I first started crocheting as a teenager, and just never fully finished. I lost the pattern, so that didn't help its cause. Finally, I pulled it out and figured out a way to finish the current row, and since it's already gigantic sized (another Catholic Librarian-ism; everything that I make is huge, including Henry) I just tied it off. I call it Springtime in Coral:

I also finished a scarf for my sister Rhonda for Easter that I call the Sweetheart Scarf:

Mike identified it as having a Valentines Day theme going on, and I think he's right. It's really pretty.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring is in the air...

The other day, I woke up and heard a very distinctive bird call: that of a breeding male black-capped chicadee. It sounds just like someone whistling in a very come hither sort of way, and you'll only hear them making this specific call during mating season. I got all excited when I heard it: spring is coming!

Chickadees, in particular, are just precious little sweethearts. They are actually friendly; they're usually not frightened to come near people, and will land very close to you. They will happily eat the seeds in our feeder while we also work in the yard. Very, very cute birds. And the mating whistle is just too cute. It just screams: "llaaaadddiiieeessss! I'm here making a nest! See how fluffy and rich-hued my feathers are? Want to come join? We'll make beautiful chicks. *disarming smile*"

As is usually the case in Western New York, the instant the temperature gets up above 40 degrees, everyone (including your Catholic Librarian) starts walking around outside with short sleeves and no jacket. In fact, I just did that for a full 25 minutes while I took my daily walk around campus. It felt good, though I'm certain the rest of the country thinks we're quite odd.

Tonight I'm making a new dinner entailing sauteed shrimp and wild rice, and if it's good, I'll post the recipe tomorrow...

Right, I just discovered that I sent an email message to an entire group of my colleagues that I meant to send just to our student assistant. Clearly, it is time for me to head home and have a glass of wine. Heading now...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An evening with Henry, and that pesky last 5 pounds...

Since the holidays, I've been trying to lose a few pounds. The thing is - what woman isn't? It seems to me that men are never trying to lose 5 pounds. Some may be trying to generally lose weight and get in shape, but for the most part they don't obsess about the number on the scale the way we women do. It's just one of those male/female mysteries. At any rate, like every other woman alive, I've been trying to lose various amounts of weight at various different times in my life.

I've never been overweight, although I do weigh more now than I did when I was in high school. However, I wear a smaller size, I eat better, and I exercise more, so overall I think that I look and feel healthier. At one point when I was in college, I gained 10 pounds. I got on the scale one day (it's always a bad sign when you realize that not only haven't you weighed yourself in quite some time, but you are now actively avoiding doing so), was horrified, and rectified the problem within a month by cutting back on fattening foods. Ah, those were the days. Those days when I was like 20 years old and merely no longer looking at the Oreos in the cupboard meant that a pound dropped right off my hips.

After that, my weight stayed consistent until I graduated from law school and was studying for the bar exam. Scale - wherefore art thou? Certainly not a part of my morning routine, no sir. I remember consuming a LOT of Cheez Its during this interim. Think: industrial sized portions. During that exact period of time, I had a doctor appointment, and I actually refused to be weighed. This was unprecedented territory for your introverted Catholic Librarian. I wasn't obnoxious about it, but I remember the interaction quite clearly.

"Could you step on the scale for me?"

"Actually, no, I'd rather not."

*nurse raises eyebrows* "Why not?"

"Well, I'm studying for the bar exam right now and I'm under a lot of stress. I know that I've gained some weight, but if I find out right now exactly how much that is, I know it's going to upset me. And if I'm upset, this will disrupt my studying and I'll fail the exam. So, you can see how crucial it is that I not be weighed right now."

The logic seemed perfectly clear to me, no? The nurse wasn't happy about it, but she did let me slip away unweighed. And I tell you, after I took the exam and did weigh myself WHOA BABY.

*devils cackle*

In my whole adult life, I'd never weighed this much (and I never have again, aside from when I was 9 months pregnant with Hank.) I wouldn't classify myself as tall, but I'm still slightly above average height for a female, I believe, at nearly 5'7". I carried the weight decently (meaning I hid it well) and so I wasn't really prepared for the number that appeared. I swear it, I saw stars. I walked around in a stupor for the remainder of the day. I had gained 28 pounds over the course of the previous year.

And the worst part was, I didn't take it off right away. When I went back to work, I knew I had to do something because we had formal business attire requirements, and my suits were cutting off my circulation. And the panty hose - well, let's just not talk about those. It was *bad*. I put forth a bit of effort and lost about 7 pounds, but after that I became complacent. My suits stopped threatening my life, and in my clothes (that is, those that I bought in a new larger size - the only time in my life I've ever done that, and I'll never do it again) I didn't look any differant than I did before, so it just didn't seem all that dire.

After I met Mike and we started dating, I decided to renew my efforts. Over the course of the 10 months that we dated, I lost an additional 7-8 pounds. After we became engaged and began planning our wedding, I lost 10 more pounds. I never got back down to my original high school/college weight, but overall I lost 24 pounds and without a doubt I was (and am) smaller overall because I have more muscle mass and wear a smaller dress size.

Soon after Mike and I married, we were expecting Henry, and I gained the doctor recommended 30 pounds. After I had him, I really lost the weight right away, aside from 3 pounds or so. (the whole issue of the way your body looks and redistributes weight after a pregnancy is a topic for a whole 'nother post - not that it's bad! it's just...different). I was pretty pleased with that, all things considered. Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing for so many reasons, and one of them is that it burns fat like a house on fire. We are truly wonderfully and beautifully made by our God :)

Anyway, I digress. Since then, I have gained just a few pounds. I'm 5 (ok, 6) pounds more than when I was married and I'd like to lose that. I have lost a few and I'd like to keep going. The tough part for me now is motivation. I'm actually pretty happy with the way I look; when I had put on that significant amount of weight before I wasn't happy and I felt sluggish, so therefore I had that as motivation. Now, I feel good about the way I look, particularly since I have had a full term pregnancy in the mix, so it's harder to get motivated to lose this pesky 5 pounds.

But I'm trying. If I do have another pregnancy, I'd love to be back where I was when I conceived Hank. And it's just a small amount of weight, so it's doable; right? Sigh. This whole female metabolism thing is monumentally unfair.

So today, my lunch was so super awesome that I just had to share. I brought in some fresh strawberries, some low-fat cheese (Cabot 50% light - I swear, it's actually decent. But whatever you do don't get the 75% light. Apparently that extra 25% is crucial to assuring that the cheese doesn't taste like tire rubber), Triscuits, and...*drum roll* The most awesome lunch snack EVER. A 100 calorie pack of Wholly Guacamole. This stuff is *awesome*. Totally, totally wonderful. I dipped my Triscuits in and nearly swooned. I *must* procure more.

I'm also trying to bump up my physical activity. Work has been so busy that I've gotten away from daily walks, and I'm getting back into those. As well, I like to run, but I often don't find the time to do it on the weekends. I made time last weekend, and I'm going to continue to do so. I also need to watch my cholesterol a bit, and exercise is ever so important for that reason too.

So, we'll see how it goes. I'll report in :)

Ok, Henry. Adorable anecdote. Last night, he received one of his Easter gifts early as a reward for sleeping in his big boy bed the entire night 3 nights in a row. As you know, we've struggled for nearly 2 years to get him to stay in his own bed the whole night and not come out to sleep either on our bedroom floor or the hallway. He's really into his Fisher Price Planet Heroes lately, and I found their Solar Quarters (on clearance!) at my Toys R Us, so I grabbed one. I gave it to him last night and he was beside himself with excitement.

We put batteries in it, and when you press a button, some sort of Planet Heroes commanding officer spouts out instructions. Hank quickly absorbed these.

As I was in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner, Hank comes running in:

"Mommy! Professo Darkness's powerful neutrino ray is shrinking the sun! The entire solo system hangs in the bawance!"

Well. That sounds pretty serious.

"We must launch the turbo shuttle!"

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Crafting away, and the joys of spring break...

It's spring break here on campus, and for me, that means a nice reprieve from the busyness of the library. I'm actually having time to work on some book reviews for the Catholic library periodical that I write for, and generally experience some quiet time in my office to get small things done. This isn't that much different from spring breaks back in my own college years. I wasn't exactly what you would call a "party animal" at any point in my life. Spring break meant that I had more time for my leisure reading. *snorts* It's little wonder that I didn't have the guys beating down my door...

Yesterday, I left work after my morning reference shift so that I could spend additional time with my in-laws prior to the end of their visit. I made a meatless dinner that earned praise, so I thought I'd reproduce it here. The joy of all my dinner recipes is that they are EASY. I'm no cook extraordinare. Anyhow...

Spinach Ravioli Bake

1 pkg. (10 oz. or so) frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 pkg. frozen ravioli (approx. 24 oz. to feed 2; I used 3/4 of a 48 oz. bag to feed 4 adults and 1 child)
1 medium pkg. part skim mozzarella cheese, grated
Parmesean cheese
Tomato sauce

All you need to do is layer the above in a casserole dish as follows: sauce, ravioli (yes, go ahead and pop them in there still frozen), spinach, mozzarella cheese, and then sprinkle parmesean cheese. Do this 2 or 3 times. Bake uncovered at 350 for 45 minutes, and voila! Instant meat-free goodness.

I'm always very self-conscious (surprise, surprise...) when I cook for others. I spend the whole dinner with my little mind all awhirl; "do they like it?" "how fast are they eating it?" "are they going up for seconds?" "is it warm enough?" "should I...?!*" This is all complicated by the fact that my mother-in-law is enviably slender and eats like a bird. I'm always frantic that she doesn't like what I make and secretly thinks that it's all too fattening, although she always tells me that she does like it. So, again with the crazy thing.

Another thing that I do when my in-laws visit is crochet and knit my little heart out. I'm incapable of simply sitting and relaxing when I have houseguests. I'm either tornadoing around the house, or I else I have to have something in my hands. So, the stitches were flyin' this weekend. I finished my inaugural baby hat:

It has a bit of what I call "Loose Pom Pom Syndrome" which is really bugging me, but I can't fix it now. I think I'll just hold this one in reserve for a potential future male Baby CatholicLibrarian. Did you all know that there are such inventions as Pom Pom *makers*? I sure didn't. But I found out, and even had a fight with one this very weekend. The yarn simply didn't want to wind around the maker the way it was supposed to. I fixed it's wagon by cutting a slit in the Pom Pom maker and then it complied.

As well, I finally finished the spring placemats and centerpiece:

They need to be blocked, which I hope to get to this weekend. That should be interesting, as I've never done it before. These are made of cotton, so let's hope they don't end up miniature sized when I'm finished with them. I'm now working on baby hat #2, improved edition, and I'm about to start a scarf and shawl bonanza with leftover yarn that I have in my stash. I want to make some for my sisters for Easter, and a few for myself. A girl can never have too many scarves and shawls.

Oh and...*IMPORTANT ALERT* JoAnn's is having a *huge* sale this week. We're talking coupon commotion here, people. I have my eye on some of the new Stitch Nation yarn, created by Debbie Stoller, author of the Stitch 'n Bitch books, as well as some pattern books. The amount of excitement that I feel at the prospect of a trip to my local craft store is really quite comical.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lenten headcovering week 3, and entertaining visitors...

This weekend, my in-laws are in town from Florida visiting us. And it's been a great visit, but as you will be unsurprised to learn, I get very anxious about house visitors. I feel like I always need to be "on," making sure that the house is tidy and welcoming, preparing meals and assuring that everyone has everything that they need. And my in-laws are so nice that, that with regard to the aforementioned Type A daughter-in-law behavior, it actually backfires. I feel *more* anxious because they won't let me do nice hostess things for them.

"Do you need anything? Can I make you some tea?"

"Oh, NO! We're, FINE! In fact, why don't we go out to eat so that you don't have to cook."

"But. *sniffles* I don't mind cooking, really..."

"oh, NO! We want you to enjoy yourself. Let's go out to eat."

So, basically, I'm crazy. We knew this already, so moving on...

This weekend, I also embarked on week 3 of my lenten headcovering experiment. This week, I wore the brown lace covering, and as expected, I *loved* it. It stayed put like a champ, and the covering is just so beautiful. I also feel fairly unobtrusive in it, especially with it being brown and matching with my hair. So, after wearing all 3 of the original coverings that I purchased for 1 full Mass, I think that I can safely say that I prefer the ties in the back. Those stay put better. The brown lace one ties, as well as the black velvet headband. If I keep covering at Mass (and I suspect that I will), after Lent I'd like to pick up a black lace one, and another of the same style in cotton that ties in the back. Then I should be all set. I can match anything :)

Henry has been intrigued by my headcoverings, but then again he's always loved my hair, which has always driven me crazy. His pulling and playing with my hair is a habit that I've never been able to get him to break. So he was all strokey with my brown lace yesterday. But overall he was good in church, and he went back with the big kids for Children's Liturgy of the Word like a good boy.

My mother-in-law was with us, and Henry managed to finagle a strawberry cereal bar out of her while I wasn't looking. I don't bring snacks to church for Hank anymore, but my mother-in-law doesn't know that, so no harm. Henry is the one that should know better, but we know how well that works with 4 year olds. So, right in the middle of the consecration, I hear all this crinkling, and I just know that my son is responsible. Sure enough, he triumphantly squirrels his cereal bar away and begins munching. I kept a half an eye on him as he proceeds to drop crumbs all over the kneeler. Sigh. We clean them up, and I go back to my Missal, but the crinkling continued. I felt bad, because there were people *right* there sitting behind us, but hey, when you sit right by a child you have to expect a certain amount of non-adult noise. Mercifully, Hank finished the bar and we were able to move on with him looking through his books.

I read a few Living Faith pages while we waited to go up for Communion; I was a few days behind. I liked this one, and it brought to mind my perpetual anxiety:

Severing Our Shackles

They had weighed him down with fetters, and he was bound with chains... Psalm 105:18

"The shackles and chains that held Joseph captive when he was enslaved are symbolic of whatever keeps us unfree. What might hose shackles and chains be? The list is unending. Some of the shackles include: always needing to be right, constant self-pity or self-doubt, blaming others instead of taking responsibility, endless criticism, refusal to leave the painful past behind, happiness at other's misery, *continual fretting and worrying* (emphasis mine), arrogant put-downs and opinions, an ungrateful heart, avoiding forgivenes, thinking only of oneself. Whatever keeps us from being at peace and from accessing our innate goodness - this is what chains us and holds us captive. Lent focuses on breaking these shackles, on freeing us to be people of deep and lasting love. "

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lenten recipe and a book suggestion...

I haven't posted about meatless recipes or Lenten book suggestions for a few days, so I thought I'd do both today. Last night, I made one of my new favorite meat-free on-the-go dinners. I call it "Chick Pea Pita Pockets."

All you do is sautee some fresh galic in olive oil, and then add a can of chick peas and a package of spinach (I use fresh, although you could use frozen if you prefer). Cook the spinach down, and then squeeze a fresh lemon overtop. Serve in toasted pita pockets. Additional add-ons include feta cheese, chopped tomatoes, or avocadoes.

Very good, and quite healthy. On a food note, I wanted to recommend a book that I read a few Lents ago. It's Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy, by Frederica Mathewes-Green. Granted, this is not a Catholic book, but it is a thought-provoking religious memoir all the same. What I liked about the book is how the author takes us through a year in the life of her new Orthodox congregation, beginning in Lent. Of all religious traditions (it seems to me, at least) we mostly know the least about Eastern Orthodoxy. I guess because their numbers are pretty small in this area of the world. But it's a beautiful, rich faith, and I enjoyed learning about it. One of the issues that she touches upon is fasting. The Orthodox abide by a very rigid menu for fasting, and avoid all meat, fish *and* dairy for Lent, which they call the Great Fast. Fascinating stuff. I also enjoyed learning about their liturgy and prayer life. A highly recommended memoir.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Knitting school dropout...

Yesterday, it was a real pleasure to take the afternoon off from work and head to my local Jo Ann's to attend Knitting 102: Baby Hat. I wanted to learn how to knit on double pointed needles and how to add additional colors in knitting.

I arrived to find my instructor and only 2 other students waiting. We got right down to business. Naturally, I (Type A...) had all of my supplies tucked away into my angel tote bag and got everything out in neat piles. Our teacher asked us to cast onto the scary needles, 20 stitches per needle. Knitting with double pointed needles means that one is knitting a round object using straight needles. Kind of crazy. And it *looks* crazy:

After quite a bit of fudging, I managed to get 60 stitches evenly distributed between 3 of the double pointed needles. You arrange them in a triangle and knit through them consecutively. Then comes the frightening part. You have to actually knit the stitches with a 4th needle, one that my friend Karen calls the "naked needle." Like other things that get naked in public, this guy causes quite a bit of trouble. I found it very awkward to be attempting to hold on to so many needles at one time. And I'd drop the naked needle, or worse, I'd forget about him entirely, and just start knitting on the 3 existing needles causing an ugly situation to unfold in my triangle.

Additionally, we were knitting with multiple skeins of yarn at once, to create a pretty pattern in the hat of alternating solid and multi-colored patches. Apparently, in kntting, you can carry different strands of yarn with you throughout your project. This sounds all cozy, but my triangle was not a happy home with all of these different yarn strands competing for my attention. And worse, they'd get all snarled up on the table in front of me. Pretty soon, my area of the table looked more congested than rush hour traffic in Atlanta. I had to keep stopping in order to untwist yarn and clear up some space.

I'm knitting along, and suddenly, I hear the sound that all knitters dread: the sound of a tinny, teeny, tiny needle hitting the floor. I freeze in horror. Dropping your crochet hook is no big deal. The worst that could happen is that you have to re-do your current stitch. In knitting, a dropped needle can mean that many multitudes of stitches are on the verge of absolute obliteration. I panic.

I look down, and quickly realize that I (once again) neglected one of my needles, and in protest, it slipped out, leaving 20 stitches in peril. I grabbed it and attempted to stuff the stitches back on quickly, before one of them could unravel. Miraculously, I managed to actually do this. Neither yarn nor needle was too crazy about the process, but they complied, and my hat was able to continue on.

By the end of the class, I had completed 7 rounds, and I was pretty pleased. It's not perfect, but it's not bad. I'm hoping to make multiple editions of this guy to make lots of baby gifts. Excited. I need to not drop any stitches though; because I don't know how to fix them.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March is National Craft Month!

I know that I have some readers that are probably sick to death of me talking about crafts - so, sorry :) But I'm really into it right now; I can't help myself. Bear with me :) And yes, it truly *is* National Craft Month, so maybe I'm just infected with the fever of the season.

I have a few new projects to show off. I crocheted a baby blanket for some friends of ours who are expecting a baby girl in June:

Instead of making it a full afghan, I chose to make a smaller, more portable blanket. I thought it would make a nice nursing shield or carseat blanket, easy to fold up and stuff into a diaper bag.

And this is my new scarf, that I'm very proud of. I call it the Garden Scarf:

I made it with some reasonably priced yarn I found at Michael's. It's their store brand yarn (acrylic), and the color is Fresh Lilac Ombre. The pattern is a super quick one skein jobber; I finished it in one night. I may make some more for gifts, and so that I'll have additional colors to choose from. It's the type of light scarf that you can wear during the day just to jazz up your outfit. It's got a very fresh, springy feel to it.

And in that vein, last night I started some beautiful placemats for our dining room table. The pattern is free, and it's called Teatime in Spring Placemats. I'm using Lily Sugar 'n Cream cotton yarn in Violet Stripes, and I'm just in love with it. Crochet looks so dreamy in cotton yarn. Yes, I really am this excited about spring placemats. Go ahead; make fun :)

Other than crocheting, I am signed up for a baby hat (knitting) class at my local Jo Ann's this afternoon. I'm tremendously excited. I have a bunch of vacation time saved up, and I thought I would use it before it went to waste. I'm going to learn how to knit on those scary looking double pointed needles, which I've been wanting to do. Plus, lots of babies to make gifts for, so bonus.

Ok, so, I'll move on from crafts. Although, I love them so much. I'm certain you can tell. At any rate, were you all watching Team USA in the gold medal hockey game on Sunday? We were, sigh. Obviously, we're big hockey fans here in Western New York. We're so proud of Ryan Miller (as if we have something to do with his success; but hey! we'll take credit anyway) and were really rooting for the American men to pull off a gold in hockey.

As soon as I saw Sidney Crosby wearing a Team Canada jersey, I thought to myself, "oh for heaven's sake! He has the audacity to also be *Candadian*?" Because the thing is, we love Canadians. We love their anthem; we love their Maple Leaf insignia; we love their climate. And living so close to the border, we feel a bit like honorary Canadians. We'd love to be Canadian. We're honored to live near them. We always root for them. But Sidney Crosby has already wrecked havoc for my fantasy hockey team and for my real life hockey team. Does he also have to go and play for Team Canada, making them some sort of freakish hockey dream team? How totally irritating.

And then! AND THEN. He has to go and score the winning goal IN OVERTIME against my beloved Ryan Miller. Can't this guy share the wealth, even a fraction? It just seems colossally unfair. Seems like he's due for a goiter to sprout up on his neck or something.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lenten headcovering, week 2...

I had a *very* pleasant weekend. It was relaxing, refreshing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Henry seemed to have a little bug or something Sunday morning, and so my nurturing instincts were in HIGH GEAR. It was nice to be able to just focus on him and not worry about anything else.

As well, on Sunday, I enacted week 2 of my headcovering experiment. I wore the khaki-colored stretch one, and felt very cute in the process. It did slip a bit, but overall I like that style. Next week I'm going to try the brown lace one, which ties in the back, and I have a feeling that one will stay put nicely. All of this information-gathering is good for when I'm able to buy more headcoverings in the future :)

I had a class to teach this morning, and another tomorrow, but I promise a longer post tomorrow. It's another 'plumb tuckered' kind of day.