Friday, April 29, 2011

Mad Hatters

Well, if you've been watching any of the coverage today of the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, there's one thing you've figured out about the British: they're mad about hats! I have found it so interesting and amusing to watch all the female guests streaming into Westminster Abbey with those huge, colorful, ostentatious concoctions perched (some of them very precariously, it appears) atop their heads. Many of them I find simply adorable, some the height of elegance, and others just plain ridiculous looking; but overall, I love the idea of wearing hats! There's something about the wearing of a fancy hat that adds such pinache to an outfit. It's such a retro thing, a throwback to other eras when there was no such thing as unisex dressing and women celebrated their femininity through fashion.

Several years ago, I decided to start covering my head again for Mass, as we used to do in pre-Vatican II days. My reasons for doing so will be a topic for another day; but in any case, this led to a new preoccupation with hats. I began by wearing lace mantillas and chapel veils, and at first this was very hard for me, because I like nothing better than to blend in and call no attention to myself. Once I got comfortable with the veil, though, I thought it might be fun to wear a hat every now and then. I've never been a hat person--again, because you don't see a lot of people wearing them, and I don't like to stand out--but gradually, I grew to love them. My husband gave me the beautiful hat pictured above two years ago on Mother's Day, and it is my very favorite. There's nothing that will make you feel more feminine than donning a charming hat festooned with a huge silk flower! I wore it on Easter Sunday, and I overheard one of the old gentlemen who greets people at the door saying, "I love to see a woman in a hat!"

There must be a thriving millinery industry in England, if today's samplings are any indication. I still can't believe the diversity I saw in those hats the English ladies were sporting for the big event: every color of the rainbow imaginable; small pert ones and gargantuan "look-at-me" ones; some stiff and others floppy; some wide-brimmed and others brimless; all of them decorated with feathers, flowers, rhinestones, bows--it was simply amazing. Some of them were so large, though, that they looked almost too dangerous to wear. You could poke someone's eye out! But it won't surprise me a bit if suddenly, our stores over here are flooded with similar headwear. That would actually please me very much, because it's hard to find a really great hat.

As a sidenote, there was another thing that pleased me, fashion-wise, about the royal wedding, and that was Kate Middleton's very tasteful, modest, absolutely beautiful wedding gown. If you've looked at a bridal magazine lately, you know that about 90% of the wedding dresses these days are strapless, and this young bride (who will no doubt be copied ad infinitum) chose to wear long lace sleeves. Maybe this fashion trend, like hats, will hit the states, too!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Men Are from Mars, Women Love Shoes

Women love shoes. And men don't understand why women love shoes.

Years ago, someone e-mailed us this hilarious document called "THE MAN RULES," a list of some things women should know about the way men think (and some things men wish they could say to women without ending up in the doghouse), which I laminated and posted in our ultra-manly "sports room." One of the humorous rules is: "Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!" Another good one is: "If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you angry or sad, we meant the other one." And then two others with more than a grain of truth in them are: "You have enough clothes" and "You have too many shoes." (It's good when we can laugh at ourselves, girls.)

In my younger days I was never much of a shoe person; but as I got older, they suddenly became one of my favorite clothing items to shop for. That's probably because nothing from my feet up looks the way it used to, and outfits viewed in full-length dressing room mirrors under harsh fluorescent lighting can sometimes look rather frightening. But my feet, God bless them, are just about the same as they've always been, so shoes are a safe and satisfying purchase.

I know I already have more shoes than I actually need, but I keep seeing styles I like and finding myself tempted to bring them home with me. So I've come up with a way of turning one pair of shoes (in this case, inexpensive black flats from Payless) into three different pairs. I found these "Fab Feet" clip-on shoe embellishments at Target, and I just love them. They don't cost much--certainly not as much as a new pair of shoes--and, as you can see, they transform a plain pair of shoes from drab to fab in an instant.

My husband insists that men don't really even notice women's shoes; but shoes are fun for us girls. And to quote one of my favorite bloggers, Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman fame (, "I enjoy being a girl."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Peep Show (It's not what you think!)

It was my plan to save this little story for next year around Eastertime, but after giving it a brief mention in a recent post ("Hang onto That Easter Joy!"-April 25), I found I just couldn't wait that long.

You've heard of pie eating contests and hot dog eating contests, I'm sure; but have you ever heard of a marshmallow Peep eating contest? Leave it to some pixilated college man-child to come up with this harebrained idea! When my #4 son was a senior in college (I won't tell you where, because it's a top university with a reputation for academic excellence, and I wouldn't want to create doubt about the intelligence of its student body), he and his buddies decided to put on a Peep eating contest in celebration of Easter.

Most of the judgment-challenged participants were lucky enough to vomit as a matter of course afterwards. My son, however, was not so fortunate; he ended up with a leaden stomach jammed full of hastily ingested marshmallow chicks and bunnies. He suffered a good deal of intestinal distress in the aftermath of the infamous contest, let me tell you, because Peeps--if I can put this in the most delicate way possible--tend to sort of gum up the digestive tract. They act like a plug, or a dam, if you get my drift. (At least that was one man's experience.) It almost took a stick of dynamite to finally open the floodgates. My poor son! All that, and he didn't even come in first!

You would think that after such an unpleasant ordeal, he would never eat a Peep again--but you would be wrong. My boy is made of pretty stern stuff, I guess.

During the festivities, these crazy kids took a picture of a pool of multi-hued pastel vomit, with an uneaten blue Peep bunny rabbit artistically posed atop the mess. I want to keep the gross-out factor on this blog to a minimum, so I decided not to post that one. (You're welcome.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Heroes Among Us

Young people like to find heroes to admire and emulate. Sometimes, they look for them in all the wrong places: among the professional athletes on their favorite sports teams, the plethora of fast-living Hollywood movie stars, or the ranks of their too-cool-for-school-type peers. But there are true heroes in our midst; they may never get accolades or awards for what they do, but they carry out their mission--protecting and defending our country and her citizens--on a daily basis, with incredible courage and selflessness. They do their jobs bravely, sacrificing all the worldly pleasures and leisure activities we take for granted, with few days off, far removed from their loved ones. These heroes are the deployed members of the U.S. Military.

When you say someone is in the service, nothing could be more true; our men and women in uniform--both at home and abroad--serve us, and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

This is a picture of my oldest son, who will always be a hero to me. Within 3 months of getting engaged, he had to spend a year deployed to a far-off war zone, separated from his fiancee as she planned their wedding. He came home, got married 2 months later, and within 10 months was sent away again on another year-long deployment. Shortly after arriving at his overseas post, he received the happy news that his wife was expecting twins. He may or may not be there to watch those babies come into the world, but he will at least be able to spend 2 weeks with his little family, when he comes back to the states for his deployment leave, before he returns to his post to finish out the year.

Some people would be understandably gloomy having been dealt such a hand. But whenever we talk to and see this son on Skype, no matter how grainy the image is, his eye-crinkling smile beams out of the screen at us. He never grumbles or complains. He likes to talk about regular things, to ask how his brothers are doing and get caught up on their news. He is an inspiration to our family, and we couldn't be prouder of him.

So look closely at the photo above: that is what a real hero looks like.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hang onto That Easter Joy!

Okay, I've posted this picture on my blog already (see "The Easter Bunny Will Be Here Soon," March 19), but I love it so much I thought I'd showcase it again. How can you look at it and not smile?

I guess part of the reason I needed to bring it out one more time is that son #4, who's in the Army Reserves and is currently going through a four-month Army school out in AZ, still hasn't received the enormous Easter box I sent him. The mailman left a few slips on his door saying he'd tried to deliver it, but for some reason he wouldn't just leave it on his stoop. That box was chock-full of all my son's favorite Easter candy items--especially his beloved Peeps! (I have a good story about a college Peep eating contest in which he took part, but I'll save that for another time.) It's hard for me to imagine this particular son without an Easter basket on Easter morning. He's my holiday boy, who takes holiday joy to a whole other level. And he was far from home, with no family around him, no homecooked turkey dinner...and no Easter candy!

That's him in front, in his jammie shirt and diaper--hand's down my favorite outfit for a chubby toddler--going bananas over the noisy T-Rex spark-making gun the Easter bunny left in his basket. (What was the Easter Bunny thinking, anyway? My husband really wanted to know.)

All my boys love this photo. Son #3 (the one in red, who's holding up his gun while making what he believes are intimidating roaring noises) posted it on his Facebook page with the caption, "My brother is happy in his diaper." And son #4--who, mind you, is a grown man of 23 now--typed back this reply: "Those T-Rex spark guns would give me that same reaction today."

I love my kids. They make me laugh!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

"This is the day which the Lord has made: Let us be glad and rejoice in it! Alleluia!" (Ps. 117: 24)

"Be not affrightened: you seek Jesus of Nazareth, Who was crucified: He is risen." (Mark 16: 6)

"I arose and am still with Thee, Alleluia!" (Ps. 138: 18)

"We know that Christ arose from the grave; O Conquering King us sinners save. Amen. Alleluia!" (Sequence of Easter)


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday (and St. George's Day!)

Today is Holy Saturday and I'm thinking of my late mother-in-law. This wonderful woman was born on All Saints' Day and two years ago, she died very suddenly on Holy Saturday. She was a woman of such deep faith, it seems only fitting that she would enter and exit this life on such holy days.

As you can see from this photo, my mother-in-law was as beautiful on the outside as she was on the inside.

Rest in peace, Mom. We miss you.

I'm also thinking of my dad today, because April 23 is the feast of St. George, the Patron Saint of England. In case you're not familiar with him, St. George is usually depicted riding on a white horse while slaying a dragon with a long spear.

My father--"Bigfoot" to his grandchildren--is a proud descendant of English royalty (I kid you not) and a fanatic Anglophile. He likes to remind everyone that St. George performed much greater deeds than Ireland's St. Patrick, dragons being a whole lot tougher to slay than snakes; he laments that much is made of St. Patrick, while his favorite saint is under-appreciated.

In general, Bigfoot just likes teasing people of Irish descent, and that includes my mother, about the superiority of all things British. (Will the British ever stop oppressing the Irish?) But I do believe Bigfoot genuinely admires St. George. So pip-pip, cheerio, and Happy St. George's Day, everyone!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Then Jesus, uttering a loud cry, breathed his last. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion who stood guard over him, seeing the manner of his death, declared, "Clearly this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15: 37-39)

Today is Good Friday, a day of prayer, fasting, and abstinence. It is the day Our Lord suffered His Passion and died on the Cross for us, all so that our sins could be forgiven. We remember today the events of the five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary: the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross, and finally, the Crucifixion.

It has become a tradition in our family to watch Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ between the hours of noon and three on Good Friday. You can say what you want about Mel's messed-up personal life; but this movie of his, though extremely hard to watch at times, is a loving tribute to both Jesus and Our Blessed Mother. It illustrates the true horror of what Our Lord suffered out of love for sinful man, and also reminds you that Mary suffered right along with Him, as any mother would for a beloved son.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday

Today is the feast that commemorates Our Lord's Last Supper with His disciples, when He instituted the Mass and Holy Eucharist as He celebrated the Passover meal with them.

During the meal Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. "Take this and eat it," he said, "this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them. "All of you must drink from it," he said, "for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matt. 26: 26-28)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tiny "Easter Basket" Cakes

This is not so much a recipe as it is an idea for decorating individual miniature Bundt cakes to look like Easter baskets. (I saw this idea in Ladies Home Journal so I can't take credit for coming up with it. I'm just being a copycat.) I thought these were so cute and would not only make a yummy dessert to serve at Easter dinner, but would also make my holiday table look even more festive. First they're decorations, then they're dessert--I love it! I decided I had to give them a try.

You can use your favorite yellow cake mix and bake up some mini Bundt cakes (my pan makes six at a time). Remove them from the pan and when they're cooled, turn them upside down so that they resemble little baskets. Then hollow out a little of the top (what used to be the bottom!) and fill with green icing to make the "grass." If you use an icing tube and decorator tip, or pipe the icing out of a Ziplok bag with a tiny corner snipped off, you can get the grass effect. In the magazine, the grass was created using flaky coconut dyed green. It looks more like grass, but unfortunately it probably tastes more like coconut; and everyone in my house thinks coconut is yucky in the extreme, so I had to improvise.

Now add whatever else you'd like: jelly beans, Peeps, little chocolate bunnies, etc. If you have little kids in your house, they would probably have fun filling up the baskets. It could become a yearly tradition, and be to Easter what decorating sugar cookies is to Christmas!

Enjoy! Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter Basket Buddies

I'm on a kick with old Easter pictures from my childhood, having gone through them recently to find one for yesterday's post about Easter bonnets. I needed an excuse to post another, so here it is: this is me with my older brother on Easter morning in 1963 (I'm almost 5). He and I are only 16 months apart, and we were always great buddies growing up. I think the two of us are looking pretty stylish in our Easter Sunday outfits. Note my lovely hat; see, it's true--in the early sixties, little girls pretty much always wore Easter bonnets for Mass on Easter morning. (By the way, my hair was as straight as a stick,;but it appears that my mother went overboard with the pink sponge rollers, trying to give me Shirley Temple curls.)

This picture amuses me, not only because of my hair-do, but because it looks like my brother is checking out my basket, cataloging the items in it to make sure that I didn't get so much as one more jelly bean than he did. There were 5 kids in my family, and everyone was always on the alert for lapses in fairness, particularly when it came to candy and treats. This must be common in big families, because when my own 5 boys were young, my husband and I often jokingly called them the "fairness police."

But having lots of sibling-buddies with whom to share life's joys--one of them being checking out each other's treat-filled baskets on Easter morning--is one of the greatest blessings in the world.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nostalgia for Easter Bonnets

When I was very young, back in the early sixties, all little girls wore Easter bonnets to Mass on Easter Sunday. It seems like kids didn't get as many new things back then as they do today--at least the kids in my family didn't; but there was one time of year when we all got new clothes, and that was at Easter. I remember I would get a new dress, a shiny new pair of Mary Jane's to wear with lace-trimmed ankle socks, and best of all, a white straw hat decorated with flowers and ribbon streamers.

I think this picture is priceless. That's me, front and center (almost 3-years-old), all decked out in my Easter finery, including a pretty new hat and dress, and even a cute little purse that I'm sure held some vitally important items I had to have with me at all times. Now look up on the hill and you'll see my older brother, who's cutting quite a dapper figure himself in short pants, long socks, a button-down shirt, and--not to be outdone by me--his own spiffy Easter chapeau. How adorable is he? (Little boys just don't look like this anymore!)

I am so nostalgic for those days! Today, people generally don't get all gussied up in their "Sunday best" for Mass, even on Easter. Little girls rarely wear bonnets. I think it's sort of sad. Of course, females no longer cover their heads when they're in church, as we all did back then, so the absence of Easter bonnets isn't that surprising. But I tell you, when we got ready for Mass on Easter morning back in those long-ago pre-Vatican II days, there was no doubt in our minds that we were getting ready for something very special.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Holy Week Begins

Today is Palm Sunday, the feast that commemorates Jesus' triumphal ride into Jerusalem in the days before His Passion.

"The huge crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while some began to cut branches from the trees and lay them along his path. The groups preceding him as well as those following him kept crying out: 'Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!' "(Matt. 21: 8-9)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on wait, those aren't really even in my top fifty. And warm woolen mittens? Too itchy. This picture, though, is filled with some of my very favorite things in the world.

The cup and saucer (in Noritake's pattern "Royal Hunt") is part of the 10 place settings of china that I inherited from my mother-in-law. It's got rabbits, quail, deer, and hunting dogs on it. I love it, love it, love it.

The silver sugar bowl and creamer were passed down to me from my grandmother on my father's side, and the old white linen napkin is part of a set of eight that I inherited from my grandmother on my mother's side.

The spoon is from the Oneida stainless pattern for which I registered many, many moons ago when I was about to become a bride. And I picked up the antique coffee pot at a great antique/gift shop in our town. I thought it would look sweet with my mother-in-law's dishes (and I'm a sucker for things with vintage charm).

Doesn't this picture just make you want to sit down, relax, and enjoy a nice cup of coffee? Wait a minute! I forgot to mention the most important favorite thing in this picture, the only thing I couldn't do without on a daily basis: the coffee!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

I'm a Fan of "Cake Boss," Baby!

I have a guilty pleasure, and that's watching the TLC show "Cake Boss." It stars Buddy Valastro, the owner and boss of family-run Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken, NJ. Buddy's a tough on the outside, mushy on the inside, likable Italian baker. He's a bit rough around the edges and speaks with a wicked New Joisy accent; but he actually has quite an artist's eye and creates some of the most spectacular cakes you've ever seen for weddings and other special occasions. The show's kind of funny, too; Buddy and members of his familia spend a lot of time shouting and playing practical jokes on one another when they're not baking cakes. That's how they do it--"Hoboken Style, baby!" (as Buddy would say).

I always loved to decorate birthday cakes for my boys when they were growing up, with icing pictures of Sesame Street characters, animals, dinosaurs, sports heroes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Super Mario Bros. icons--the list goes on. But boy, I wish this show had been on back then, because I realize now that I was a complete amateur! Of course, I don't have all the fancy, industrial-strength equipment Buddy has, or the team of assistants. But I've learned a few things from "Cake Boss," like "crumb coating" for instance (which comes in handy when you want to carve a cake into a shape). Watching this show has inspired me to try to create bigger and better cakes than I ever did before.

Inspired by Buddy et al., yesterday I made a two-layer cake decorated to look like one of my sons. (It wasn't his birthday; he just wanted me to bake something special that he could bring in to share with his fellow teaching interns, and he wanted it to be funny as well as tasty, so...) This cake was not up to "Cake Boss" speed, not by a long shot. But I'm going to keep watching my new favorite show and trying to incorporate some of what I learn into my own cake making.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Decifering Allie's Subtle Signals

Here are two pictures of my son's dog Allie. One shows what she looks like when she's hinting, ever so subtly and politely, that whatever it is you're eating, it looks mighty good and she wouldn't mind at all if you'd give her a taste of it.

The other is of Allie hinting, ever so subtly and politely, that if you could spare a minute or two, she sure could use a belly rub.

Every now and then I just like to bring up my son's sweet-tempered, uncomplicated, low maintenance doggie ("low maintenance" being a relative term when it comes to pets). Allie is so subtle that her hints are almost unreadable, aren't they? It's always so hard to figure out what's going on in that cute little noggin of hers!

Allie is simply a bundle of love, there's no other way to describe her. She adores people with manic intensity. When you walk in the room, she greets you as if you're the most important person in the universe. My sister once shared this little bit of wisdom she'd heard, and it's so true: "May you be half the man your dog thinks you are."

(By the way, until today, my blog was being posted on Pacific time zone time, so it looked as if I was some crazy person up at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. doing this; I just figured out how to put my blog on Eastern time!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mom's Valuable Player

We have a little joke in our family: that whenever one of my boys is out on a playing field, be it football or lacrosse, he's the MVP of the team ("Mom's Valuable Player," that is). I suppose I see everything they do through rose-colored glasses, but that's okay; their father is never afraid to tell them, in the gentlest possible way, if their performance wasn't up to par. (He speaks not only as their dad, but as a former football player who coached their youth football and lacrosse teams and has been their high school lacrosse team's defense coach for many years.) They go to him when they really want to know how they've done, because they know I'll just say, "You did great!"

Well, yesterday my youngest son, a 4-year starter and captain on his Catholic high school lacrosse team, had his first game of the season against his team's cross-town rival, our local public high school. My son's team had a rough outing and lost 13-8. There is no other way to put it: it was ugly.

But who do you think was the MVP? Well, here's a picture of him. He's the defenseman in blue who's going lefty with his long pole and having no trouble motoring and muscling past the short stick, all the while hanging onto that precious ball. You should be duly impressed. I know I am.

The game may have been abysmal, but there was one bright spot: this is one of the best lacrosse action shots I've ever gotton of one of my beloved MVP's.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Easter Decorations

Here are a couple of my favorite Easter decorations. Just looking at them makes me happy, and I thought it might make you happy, too. They're not vintage, but they're made to look like they are. (I love old stuff!) I think the little chick dressed up like a bunny is just precious. One of my sons once told me he thought it was ugly; but to me, that chick is so ugly that it's cute!

I don't decorate a whole lot for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, or (dare I admit it?) even St. Patty's Day; but I love to go a bit overboard decorating for Christmas and Easter, my two favorite holidays of the year.

I hope you're enjoying decorating your house, too, in anticipation of a visit from the "Easter Bugs Bunny." (That's what one of my boys insisted on calling him back in the day. Isn't that just adorable?)

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Great Baby Shower Idea

If you are planning a baby shower for someone in the future, here is a unique idea for an activity for your party guests. I saw this at my daughter-in-law's shower this past weekend. It gets all of the guests involved, and in the end, an alphabet book--handmade with love--is created for the new little one (ones, in this case--this shower was for twins).

A sign that would become the cover of the book was set up on a table; it said Our ABC Book, Made Before We Were Even Born, By: People Who Love Us! Nearby was a stack of 26 pieces of paper, each with a big black letter of the alphabet printed out on it, along with pencils and crayons. (Markers could also be used.) Each guest was asked to pick at least one page and decorate it with items that began with the letter on that page.

There were some protests of "I can't draw!" and "I don't have a bit of artistic talent!", but eventually, people got into it and really enjoyed it. It was so fun to see the twins' future great-grandma and great-aunts coloring away at the craft table! The thing to remind your guests is that when it comes to illustrations for a children's book, simple, colorful shapes are perfect, so it's okay if you're not a skilled artist.

The sheets can either be laminated or put into plastic pages and then into a binder, and voila!--a one-of-a-kind, heirloom children's book has been created. I just thought this was the most wonderful idea, so I wanted to share it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fear of Flying

This past weekend, I flew out to the Midwest to attend a baby shower for my daughter-in-law, who is staying with her parents while my son (the daddy-to-be) is on an Army deployment. It was absolutely wonderful, and I am so happy I was able to be there! I had not seen her since before I found out that she was pregnant with twins, and I will most likely not see her again until her two little bundles of joy make their eagerly-awaited appearance into the world a couple of months from now. So it meant a lot to me to be able to be with her during this very special time of her life, even if just for a few days.

The only down side for me about the entire experience is that I am a white-knuckle flyer--in spite of the fact that my husband flies for a major airline and this means that I can fly wherever I want, whenever I want! I have to fly stand-by, but the price is right! And yet, if I could avoid ever getting on an airplane for the rest of my life, I think I would.

My brain tells me that statistically, flying is much safer than driving; but my nerves don't always listen. I don't know if it's the fear of being up high or the sensation of a complete loss of control, or a combination of the two; but I don't handle being airborne very well. Those huge metal machines don't really seem like they should be able to get off the ground empty, and certainly not with hundreds of bodies on board, not to mention all that luggage--my bag alone always feels like it weighs a ton! I know it can all be explained by physics (right, son #4, my favorite physics major?), but it still boggles my mind.

However, I'm really working on my phobia. With my children moving far away, flying is a reality I'm going to have to learn to maybe not quite embrace, but at least get used to. This morning, my daughter-in-law's dad (who is an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church) gave me a traveler's blessing before I left their house--and I have to say, that did make me feel more at peace as I set off for the airport. Sometimes during flights I feel like I'm in H-E-double hockey sticks, if you know what I mean; but today when I looked out the window at those puffy, cotton-ball clouds, I could almost imagine I was close to Heaven.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Making Christening Dresses, Part 2

On March 8, I blogged about trying to make christening dresses for the twin babies my son and his wife are expecting. I had discovered a box of white linen pillow shams, with cutwork and embroidery on them, that had belonged to my late mother-in-law, and my plan was to take them apart and (hopefully) figure out how to turn them into dresses.

I ended up making two of them in one style and then I thought it might be too long and voluminous if the babies were preemie-sized; so I made two more in another simpler, shorter style.

I used one of my porcelain dolls (who happens to look a lot like the twins' father when he was a baby) to model the two types of dresses. I think she looks sweet in them.

Making christening dresses out of pillow shams is exactly the sort of project my mother-in-law would enjoy and appreciate. I miss her and wish I could show them to her!

Our Lady Speaks to Us

Here is a little story about an incident that occurred in front of our house. It still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.

We have a statue of Mary in a perennial garden in our front yard, not too far from the sidewalk. It's not a particularly large one (about 24 inches tall) or pretty one (just heavy plastic made to look like concrete or granite). But years ago, a neighbor of mine came to me and told me how it had affected her then 3-year-old son. She said they were out walking one day, when suddenly he looked at it and said, "I have to kiss the lady," and he went over and kissed our humble statue. "The lady"! What had drawn him to Her? My neighbor and her husband were Catholic and their boys had been baptized; but they were not practicing their Faith.  The incident surprised her, and she made a point to tell me about it the next time she saw me. She thought I would be delighted, and I was.

It does not surprise me at all that a 3-year-old boy would be drawn to an image of the Blessed Mother, even though he had no idea who She was, because a little child's soul is so pure. This story, to me, is proof that Our Lady speaks to us, and we must open our hearts with childlike love so that we can hear Her.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Heavenly Dirt" Recipe

My 5 sons all played high school football, and their team's tradition was to have a spaghetti supper for the players and their families the night before each and every game (with parents volunteering to host the entire horde at their homes). Above is a recipe for a dessert that I made every single week for the past 10 years; it was passed down to me by a mom who'd made it until the end of her son's senior season, and now that my youngest son's playing days are over, I've passed it on to another mom. This Heaven in a bowl has become as much of a tradition for the football team as the spaghetti suppers themselves. (Superstitious types would have been worried about the next day's game if they hadn't had some at the team supper!)

I used to double the recipe, yet those boys would always scrape the bowl clean mere minutes after I'd set it down on the dessert table! If you have any teenage boys in your house, it would probably be a hit with them. Older folks like it, too, though--with the exception of my husband, who's not much of a fan of Oreos (did I hear a gasp of disbelief?). But you can always substitute moist, fudgy brownie chunks for the crushed Oreos.

Postscript: Lent is probably not the best time to post a great dessert recipe, since so many of us Catholics give up desserts or chocolate (or both) for these forty days. But if you can't have it now, it's always something you can look forward to making when Easter arrives. Or if you can have it now, it's a cure for just about anything that ails you. And there are some hurting Notre Dame fans out there this morning who might want to drown their sorrows in sugar, as the Irish women's basketball team--after their astonishing upset of #1 UConn in the semi-finals (see "Perseverance," April 3)--lost the national championship game against Texas A&M last night, 76-70. The Aggies forced the Irish to turn the ball over 16 times, proving the old adage that "Offense wins games, but defense wins championships." Maybe if the Irish girls had had some "Heavenly Dirt" the night before their game, there would have been a different outcome!


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Open the cabinets!

Don't you just love it when really great, memorable family moments happen out of thin air, when you're not even planning them? Moments that make you laugh, and then provide you with insider "you had to be there" quotes that forever become a part of your family's lexicon? This happened in our kitchen about 15 years ago, when my sons were still in grade school.

My husband has a thing about people leaving kitchen cabinet doors open. Even though he's not the most accident-prone person in our family, and he's usually not the one who ends up banging his head into them, it still drives him crazy.

He travels for days at a time for his job, and for some reason there was a stretch where every single time he came home he'd walk in the door and find a cabinet door left open. Finally, he'd had it. "Do you guys do this on purpose or something? What goes on around here when I'm not home?" he asked, a bit exasperated. Without missing a beat, our oldest boy sprang up from his chair and started flying around the kitchen, opening wide every door while shouting gleefully, "That's right, Dad! When you're not around, it's party time! We're all like: 'Woo hoo! Open the cabinets!'"

Everyone laughed so hard--especially my husband, the butt of the joke. And from then on, "Open the cabinets!" has been our family's little celebratory catch phrase for commenting on happy or exciting news.

There's nothing like family. Just thinking about mine makes me want to open the cabinets.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Oh, For Pigs' Sake!

My kitchen is filled with pigs. (I don't mean my family! I mean my collection of decorative pig objects d'art!)

This all began when I was a young wife and my mother-in-law gave me a cutting board shaped like a pig. It was a special cutting board, because she'd had it made using my husband's grandmother's cutting board as a template. (She had 8 of them made after this grandmother died, so that all of her children would have something to remind them of their Nana.) I loved that cutting board so much--I use it to this day--that I decided PIGS were going to be the "theme" of my kitchen. There's no going back now! As soon as everyone found out I was collecting pigs, friends and family began to give them to me as gifts. I have wooden ones, resin ones, ceramic ones, glass ones, cross-stitched ones, and framed pictures of them, too--you name it. I can't change my theme now, because I'd have to get rid of some items that have come to have great sentimental value to me.

One of my most prized piggies is a whimsical terra cotta one with his tongue hanging out. My husband's brother saw it in a butcher shop and thought he'd buy it for me, so he asked the guy behind the counter how much it was. "It's not for sale," was the answer. My brother-in-law came back with, "Everything is for sale," and somehow walked out of the butcher shop with the pig.

Another favorite is a lovely wooden pig in silhouette that was handmade for me by my sister's husband. He cut it out of wood from a tree that grew on his orchard and gave it a dark stained finish. I treasure it, not only because it's beautiful (it really is a fine piece of craftsmanship), but because of the effort he made to create it for me.

I also am quite attached to the cute little piglets I painted on my kitchen wall, copying them from an illustration in one of my boys' favorite childhood books about baby animals.

Obviously, I have made a commitment to pig decor. The pigs, I'm afraid, are here to stay. And it all started with Nan's cutting board.


I had planned to do a quick post on Monday about perseverance. I was hardly going to write anything, because I thought this picture was worth a thousand words. Talk about never giving up, and putting your all into something! These two chubby baby creatures show that with determination, no mountain is too high. (This is a vintage painting by artist Besse Pease Gutmann, one of my favorites.)

I had not intended to write about sports (again!), because I had this theme of "perseverance" all picked out, and I wanted to stick to that; but then tonight, the Notre Dame women's basketball team went and displayed a great deal of perseverance by playing their hearts out and upsetting #1 ranked UConn, the perennial powerhouse of women's hoops, 72-63. I knew I was going to have to comment on this impressive feat. (It's well after midnight as I write this, having stayed up to watch the game--or more accurately, to do some handsewing while the game was on in the background.) The Irish put on quite a show, outscoring the Huskies 46-31 in the second half. UConn had beaten ND 3 times during the regular season, but they came up short when it counted and are now officially out of the race. The Irish gals are the ones who've earned a spot in Tuesday's NCAA championship game against the Aggies of Texas A&M.

So congratulations to the ND women's basketball team, who fought the good fight and never gave up!

Go Irish!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jesus Loved the Little Children

"Let the children come to me. Do not hinder them. The kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (Matt. 19:14)

How much better off my soul would be if I had retained the simplicity and innocence of childhood! I must strive to be more childlike in my love for and trust in God. That would be a good Lenten project.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Red Sox Lose Opener

There's no joy in Mudville today. Yesterday, our beloved Boston Red Sox lost their opening game of the season to the Texas Rangers. It wasn't pretty. Boston's starting pitcher Jon Lester had a rough outing, giving up 5 runs in 5 innings, with no strike-outs. Big Papi made it a game by tying it up 5-5 with a solo home run at the top of the 8th inning, but then the Rangers scored 4 runs off relief pitcher Daniel Bard (or as I like to call him, the Bard Dog) in the bottom of the 8th to go ahead 9-5. But don't despair, all of you out there in Red Sox Nation; it's early yet for our boys, and the Sox are no longer a cursed team. You still gotta believe.

Friday, April 1, 2011

I quit...

Well, I've decided to stop blogging. It's much too addictive, and it's taking me away from other things I ought to be doing. I'll miss it, but I think it's best if I just quit cold turkey.

April Fool's!

I'm just joking, because I don't think I can stop blogging! It's too much fun. If I'm still at it this time next year, I should give it up as my Lenten sacrifice, because that would be even tougher than giving up Diet Pepsi!

On another note, it may be April, but there are no tulips blooming here today. In fact, we are being hammered by a major snowstorm (and that is not an April Fool's joke!). The tree branches are so weighed down already that they're drooping, and the forecast calls for snow to continue falling all day long. Later, it's supposed to get windy, so we may lose power. There's no school today, as you might have guessed; and my son's season-opening lacrosse jamboree, scheduled for tomorrow, will most likely be cancelled, too.

As I've said before, you gotta love springtime in New England!