Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wiedersehen Papa Benedict

On the eve of Pope Benedict's last day as pope, the whole thing has hit me much harder than I thought it would. It had been 34 years since I had really cared a whole lot who even held the office of Pope before coming back home to the Catholic Church. For the past 3 years now, I have heard his name from so many sources everyday- when we pray for him at Mass, on EWTN radio, in the National Catholic Register, the mainstream media, and of course, in our home where our photo of the Pope hangs in the dining room. Many of his books- both as Joseph Ratzinger and as Pope Benedict- line our shelves. We've had numerous conversations about his amazing grasp of theology and life. In other words, he has become part of our family.
Fr. Wall
I've been attending our Lenten Mission at Saint Joseph's this week with Fr. Antoninus Wall, O.P. (that means he is a Dominican). His talks have had to with God's love and human suffering. So much of what he has said resonates with what is going on in my life- both personally and in the world at large. Of course, being a mom whose son is discerning becoming a Dominican, I have really enjoyed all of Fr. Wall's references to the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, and how we need to be praying for vocations. I am also looking forward to getting a copy of his book, The Journey to God.
The main reason for writing about the mission is because I've been hearing things that have made what's going on make sense. As Fr. Wall has said, we've been called to holiness. Sunday he told a story about asking a group of schoolchildren who wanted to be a saint. Hardly any of the children raised their hands. He then asked who wanted to be holy. All of the kids raised their hands. While telling this story at our 10 a.m. Mass, two people actually raised their hands as if he was asking them. One was a little boy of about 9 years old. The other was Stanley, an older adult who has some special needs. How that humbled not only me, but others as we all looked with joy at both this young boy and older man who both are obviously working on being those saints about whom Fr. Wall was talking.
I felt so blessed as I got to talk with Joshua Monday which normally doesn't happen during the week because he's so busy with his studies. We talked about what I learned Monday at the mission. The thing  Fr. Wall said that hit me was, "It is by prostrating our inner dreams in the embrace of outer reality as God invites us to live it, that we attain union with God." Easier said than done, but something I want to continue to try to do. Last night he talked about Mary at the foot of the cross, and how she was totally sure of God's love during this time of ultimate suffering. This morning's talk was on how the example of Jesus in Gethsemene can bring us closer to adoring God when we accept the cup of reality that He has given us.
The reality is that things are going to happen- both good and bad. We will have to deal with illness, family issues, unemployment, misunderstandings, bad memories, hard relationships, and so much more. Even in all of this, we can choose to believe God is in control or not. When news of the Pope's resignation first came up, so many people started freaking out about what would happen. Others shared how they believed the Holy Spirit would be taking care of things. I tended to be in the second group along with the many people all over the world who were confident in our Holy Father's decision while being sad about his departure. This week's mission has helped me understand all of this better. I know Pope Benedict (being glad I can call him that for another day) will be praying for us as he spends the rest of his days at Mater Ecclesiae. Whether we say "Gratias", "Gracias","Danke","Merci" or "Thank you" for all he has done, we will always remember him and be grateful for his years as pope!

Battle in Seattle~ Fencing, Friends and Fantastic Food

Larkspur Landing- Bellvue
Last Friday found David, Mary and I- along with fellow fencers, Cristina and Rebecca- heading north on I-5 towards Bellevue, Washington for a USFA Division 1-A fencing tournament. the Battle in Seattle. David was going to fence both men's epee and foil while I was signed up for women's foil. We were also going to be coaching fencers Clare, Paulina as well as Rebecca during the weekend. Mary had come with us to help coach and to give support. We left in the early afternoon which got us to Bellevue by 5:30~ allowing us to drop off Cristina so she could fence veteran epee before heading over to the hotel. After a few wrong turns, we arrived at Larkspur Landing,
Time for pasta
at Romio's
our "home" for the weekend. We had chosen to stay there as David had stayed there with another fencing family during a previous tournament. Besides the price, we always look for somewhere to stay that has a good-size breakfast when David comes with us! Larkspur Landing met those expectations with both a nice one-bedroom suite, including a full kitchen, and a well-appointed breakfast selection. When we were done checking in, Rebecca, the kids and I talked about what we wanted for dinner. Everyone decided on pasta, so we used our iPods to find somewhere that was not too expensive, and hopefully locally owned. We then headed to dinner at Romio's, a family-owned Italian/Greek restaurant in Factoria. Their menu did not disappoint as it had a large variety of pasta dishes that all sounded good. David chose shrimp fettuccine, Mary had fettuccine alfredo, Rebecca enjoyed her eggplant parmigiana, and I ordered tortellini with red sauce and cheese. All of the dinners came with salad plus we ordered dolmaes (stuffed grape leaves). The servings were so huge that we were able to take leftovers with us for Cristina when she finished fencing. The service was terrific, and when we left there were a good number of Seattle's finest law enforcement officers having dinner. We then knew for sure this was a good choice~ even though our well-sated appetites had already answered that question!

We spent the rest of Friday evening at the hotel. The kids and I used the workout room before heading to bed. Using the kitchen in our room, I put together sandwiches for lunch the next day. Upon rising Saturday, we all got dressed then headed down to breakfast before driving to the venue, Rain City Fencing Center. The tournament was really fun. Our SCF fencers did well, and I was able to meet two goals- not coming in last and scoring some points in my DE bout. I also qualified for veteran women's foil at Nationals this July in Columbus, Ohio! After we all finished fencing Saturday, Cristina, the kids and I went to Sacred Heart of Jesus for Saturday vigil Mass. We then drove back to the hotel, picked up Rebecca and headed to downtown Bellevue for dinner with the SCF crew. Originally, we were going to try the Cheesecake Factory, but the wait was really long. We then were going to try California Pizza Kitchen, and then Clare's dad decided to run across the street to check out Rock Bottom Brewery. They could seat us right away, so we all headed over. What a good choice. The food was delicious, the service was great and the beer was very tasty (at least my brown ale was)! We got to talk a lot which was really fun too, and by the time we left the girls (Clare, Mary and Paulina) were all sporting drawn on mustaches.

Rock Bottom's Mac & Cheese
with bacon and chicken- yum!
The next day we had a bit more fencing for David, Cristina, Clare and Paulina on Sunday before we could head home. David had an early check-in time, so I drove him to RCFC then headed to Tully's. I ended up trying their dark chocolate eclair mocha. One should know when a coffee drink has so many words in its' title, it is most likely going to be either really good or not able to stand up to its' name. Thankfully, this one stood up to its' name- rich, chocolately goodness along with a good coffee flavor. The others were all ready for me to pick them up when I arrived back at the hotel. We headed off to the salle where the girls got ready to fence their final event. Cristina did really great in the first round- coming into the round of direct elimination in 2nd place. Paulina also did really well, coming in the top 16 while Clare was the youngest fencer in the event and did great, too!
Heading home, we stopped for gasoline and a cup of coffee just south of Tacoma. We also stopped in Longview for a quick bite of dinner at Burger King. Since by then we were all hungry, the food tasted good. As Socrates said, "Cibi condimentum esse famem, potionis sitim" ( loosely translated- hunger is the best appetizer).  
We arrived in Salem tired and very glad to be home. We'll be heading back up to Bellvue in April for the Super Youth Circuit, and we're looking forward to seeing what other places we'll be able to find some more fantastic food. Before we go there, however, Mary and I get the opportunity to travel to Reno, NV~ the biggest little city in the world, for a North American Cup tournament. Know that we'll be checking out some of the food there and sharing it here!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Of Popes, Pancakes & Penance

What a whirlwind of a week it has been! After helping three days at Salem Alliance Church for their annual Great Expectations Dinner last week, the cold that has been getting at everyone else decided to visit me. I've been trying to get some rest, but I also thought I'd try some other things to help my "unwelcome visitor" leave as quickly as possible. One of these actually helped my sore throat- a clove of garlic chopped up on a spoon drizzled with honey swallowed a few times a day. I had first heard this from my friend Debbie when she shared how it helped her family to keep even strep throat at bay. Whatever you may think, it works! Next time you feel a sore throat coming on, you may want to give it a try.
Of course my cold wasn't a huge deal compared to other things going on this week!
Looking good, Papa!
Turning on my iPad Monday morning to listen to EWTN, the news about Pope Benedict's resignation announcement came as quite a shock as it did to so many people around the world. There are so many blogs and good news sources- especially Fr. Z and New Advent- that if you need more info, I suggest you go to
Eggs Benedetto!
one of them. Needless to say, after figuring out just what's going on, I spent some time praying and talking with my family. We are all sad that
"Papa Benedetto" is no longer going to be our Holy Father, but we look forward with joyous anticipation as the next pope is chosen! In honor and thanksgiving for all Pope Benedict has meant to us on our journey to the Catholic faith (including his amazing books), we decided to have, what else, Eggs Benedict, for supper.
Served in puff pastry squares, we enjoyed them with pomelo slices. What a nice way to celebrate our Holy Father and all he has done since he has been pope. He will truly be missed by our family, but we are looking forward to seeing who the Holy Spirit- through the conclave- will choose for the next leader of the Catholic Church.
Mary makes yummy "brunner"!
Tuesday found me still not feeling well- stuffy nose, wobbly head and all. I woke up without much voice, sounding more like "batmom" than myself~ seriously, just ask Mary! I was supposed to cover for Emma as she was in Baltimore at Junior Olympics, but Mike and David ended up covering for me. I spent the day feeling pretty bad, but thankfully Mary was home, so she took charge of our second annual Fat Tuesday pancake "brunner"- breakfast served for dinner. She did a terrific job of making delicious buttermilk pancakes, "schmancy" scrambled eggs and sausage too. We had been planning this since the next day would start the season of Lent. I even think it's what helped me start to feel a bit better.
Breakfast- ummm!
With my voice starting to sound a bit back to normal, the kids and I went to the 7a.m. Ash Wednesday Mass in order to get David to his Spanish class on time. As we fasted (two small meals and one regular size meal/no snacks and no meat) on Ash Wednesday, I decided to make cinnamon-scented quinoa. This had mixed reviews in our house. Mary thought it tasted like bird seed, but I really liked it. I thought of telling her it could be counted for penance which wouldn't really work since I did like it so much. We ended up having some leftovers, so I have been enjoying it for a few mornings. As we've got a family member who's given up meat, one that's given up sweets and one that's given up bread, this season of penance should find me experimenting with some new ideas. I plan on also trying to keep up with the blog, if for no other reason, it gives me an opportunity to sit for a while and muse. For those of you who would consider quinoa a treat instead of penance, here's the recipe~

Cinnamon Scented Breakfast Quinoa
  • 1 cup quinoa (I used a mix of red & white)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  •  butter, pure maple syrup, dried cranberries and flaky sea salt (we have some Jacobsen from OR that's amazing!) are my favorites, but you can use what you like
To Prepare: Wash quinoa in several changes of water in a bowl, rubbing grains and letting them settle before pouring off water until water is clear, and then to drain washed quinoa well in a large fine-mesh sieve.
Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan and bring to a boil, covered. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and keep covered to keep warm. Divide quinoa among bowls and top with butter, maple syrup and sea salt.