Monday, December 28, 2015

Seedbeds of Charity

From Pope Francis:
“the family is the answer to the great challenge of our world, which is a dual challenge: fragmentation and solidification, two extremes which co-exist, support each other and together support the consumerist economic model. The family is the answer as it is the cell of a society that balances the personal and community dimensions, and at the same time the model for a sustainable management of the goods and resources of creation. The family is the protagonist of an integral ecology, as it is the primary social subject which contains within itself the two basic principals of human civilisation on earth: the principles of communion and fruitfulness. Biblical humanism presents us with this icon: the human couple, united and fruitful, placed by God in the garden of the world to cultivate it and protect it”.
My son, Joshua, who is in his second year of seminary shared this in an email along with something Dr Topping, one of his Thomas More College professors, told them. "One time John Paul II said that the family today is like the Benedictine monasteries of the Dark Ages. Both are centers of moral order, seedbeds for charity."
With the blessing of having Pope Francis visit the U.S. a few months ago, this is something for us to ponder. As parents, we must lead our families along the way towards holiness. Whether our children are young or have reached adulthood, we have the opportunity to help them figure out life as a follower of Christ. 
One thing we have to realize is that we cannot do this by ourselves. That is why it's so important to be in community. I must admit with the way life has been for me lately, I have fallen away from that more than I would have liked to do. With our kids all off to school, I find myself insulating a bit more than is good for me. I don't think this is being a good example to others- from my own young adult children to extended family to friends- and I've been trying to figure out how to remedy this. 
One way I was able to start was when we finally decided to take the leap and invite a fantastic young family from our parish to come to our house for an Advent "crafternoon".

I came up with a couple of easy crafts- snowflakes cut from coffee filters and gingerbread houses from graham crackers and candies. The family which has 7 adorable children came for a few hours, and we all had a wonderful time. My heart was filled with joy as the mom came in and after greetings, went right over to our little oratory, knelt down on the prie-dieu Josh had made for me a couple years ago, and prayed for a moment. It was the first time anyone other than our family members had done that. Laughter filled the house along with lots of smiles as each of the kids made their creations.  

Joshua and the girls got into the action, helping with the crafts and they all did a great job of keeping the littlest visitor entertained. Simple snacks of cookies and hot cocoa & cider topped off the "crafternoon". 
After that small step, I am longing to do more. We have so many families with young children in our parish, and it's up to us older moms (for I am realizing I have reached that spot on the spectrum of life) to make sure they are being nourished and cultivated. It's not that hard. It just takes a willingness to give a bit of time.
So many young mothers and fathers do not have the time, extra money or energy to do the little extra things those of us on the other side of raising our families are able to do. As the new year approaches, I pray you consider how you can help to plant seedbeds of charity. I know I am looking forward to trying it soon!

An ending and beginning in 2015

2015 has brought so many changes to our family. It started in January when Brian was hospitalized for three weeks with a life-threatening staph infection. Thanks be to God, he recovered and continues to take antibiotics to make sure the infection stays away. Spring came with not a whole lot of changes except for my 50th birthday. Then, as summer came, my Grandpa Aziz became very ill and ended up passing away in July. August found us sending off Cari & Mary to their first year at Christendom College and Thomas More College- both on the east coast. Joshua then headed back for his final year of his masters in philosophy study at Mt. Angel. In September, David flew to Rome, Italy for a semester of study. By the 18th of that month, Brian and I were empty nesters. Even with those changes, more things were still to come. At the end of the month, I started feeling a bit dizzy and just not very well. I thought it was perhaps just because I had been so busy then all the sudden the kids were gone, but it didn't go away. As I wrote in earlier posts, I was finally diagnosed with Meniere's Disease in October. During this time, I stayed at home mostly sitting on a recliner and just not feeling well enough to do much of anything. The time finally came to make a decision to resign from my position as head instructor at Salem Fencing Club. I've decided to share with you the letter I wrote to the fencers and families. I have no idea where we go from here, but I do know the Lord has blessed and guided us continuously throughout this year and will do so as we move into 2016.

Dear SFC fencers and families,
I sit here at my desk, hoping you are all having a wonderful beginning of December. As most of you are aware, I have had a period of illness over recent months and unfortunately, we are now aware this illness has very little possibility of improvement as there is no medical cure at this time. For those of you who donʼt know, my physician diagnosed me with Meniereʼs Disease October 28th. This is an illness which affects my balance and hearing along with migraines, tinnitus, memory loss and fatigue. I will be continuing my care with an ENT and most likely going to a vestibular neurologist in the next few months.
With this being said, I am sorry to inform you that I am needing to step down as the head instructor here at the salle. After much praying and talking with my family, we feel it will be the best thing for SFC. Please know this has been a very hard decision for me. I have seen many of our fencers grow from musketeers to high schoolers. I have had the privilege of traveling with and coaching some of you at tournaments in the Pacific Northwest, California, Reno and even Virginia. Iʼve watched many of our fencers go from beginners to getting their USFA rating. It has been an amazing ride.
I have enjoyed my 10 years with the club and learned more than I ever could have imagined, not just about fencing and coaching, but what it means to be part of some- thing very special. I am hoping to still be able to come and visit as my illness allows me. I would like to be able to come to tournaments and cheer you on as well as stop by once in a while to see how all of you are doing.
Our clubʼs motto has always been “Honor, Chivalry & Respect”. This has stood for not only our beliefs but our actions as well. I am so proud of all of the fencers that have come through our doors over the last ten years. My personal goal as well as the goal of the salle has always been to not only help people learn to love fencing and all it entails, but to help them be the very best men and women they could be. It is my sincerest hope that Salem Fencing Club continues to pursue this goal in the future.
Please know my thoughts are with all of you during these holidays. I am grateful for all of you~ the rest of the staff, the board members, the fencers, the fencing families and everyone who has helped make SFC what it is today.
With much love and gratitude,

Friday, November 13, 2015

It's a Friday the 13th Feast Day

"Friday the 13th"s have never really bothered me. It's so cool to know that today's Friday the 13th is actually Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini's feast day.  Mother Cabrini is a great example of taking what you've been given and using it to the glory of God. You can read more about here amazing life here.
In honor of St. Frances Cabrini,and since today is Friday, here's a recipe for a low sodium spaghetti with meatless meatballs from The Daily Dish.

Low-Sodium Spaghetti with Meatless Meatballs

Serves 6.

SODIUM CONTENT: 81 mg per serving
Meatless Meatballs:
1/2 c. low-sodium vegetable broth
1/3 c. uncooked bulgur
1 t. olive oil
4 oz. baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1/2 c. sliced scallions
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
1/3 c. panko
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. red hot-pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
1- 25-oz. jar no-salt-added pasta sauce
1 lb. dried spaghetti
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
In a small saucepan, bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Add the bulgur, stir to combine, and remove pot from heat. Cover the pot and let stand 20 minutes. Drain any excess broth and set aside.
In a skillet, heat oil over medium. Add the mushrooms and scallions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar. Remove from heat and spread mixture on a plate to cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.
Place the mushroom mixture and walnuts into a food processor. Pulse until coarse. Add the bulgur and finely chop. Add the remaining “meatball” ingredients and pulse to combine. Let stand 5 minutes to absorb liquid. 
Pour the pasta sauce into a pot or saute pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, use a tablespoon to scoop out the meatball batter and gently add the meatballs to the pan. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10-15 minutes, until the balls are firm. Turn the meatballs halfway through the cooking time, being very gentle so as not to break them.
Meanwhile, prepare the pasta according to package directions (omitting salt). 
Serve the pasta topped with meatless meatballs and sauce, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.
Buono Appetito!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"A Traffic Circle in the Road"

I have come to what normally I would call a "fork in the road", but in my case, I'd say it's more like a traffic circle.
A month ago I went to the doctor to find out what had been causing dizziness/vertigo I had been experiencing for a few days. After my check up, she told me it was most likely being caused by an inner ear virus and should go away on its' own after a bit. I ended up having the dizziness for another week until it went away. I started back at work as well as the rest of my life getting back to what it was before the virus hit. For two & a half weeks, everything seemed to going smoothly. Then it hit again- this time with a vengeance. The dizziness/vertigo was back, along with nausea, tinnitus and head pressure plus migraines. I prayed and hoped it would go away for over a week. Finally, I ended up back at my doctor's office to see what was going on this time. She did another check up and this time the diagnosis was Meniere's Disease (MD). The Mayo Clinic defines MD as, "a disorder of the inner ear that causes episodes in which you feel as if you're spinning (vertigo), and you have fluctuating hearing loss with a progressive, ultimately permanent loss of hearing, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and sometimes a feeling of fullness or pressure in your ear. In most cases, Meniere's disease affects only one ear.
Meniere's disease can occur at any age, but it usually starts between the ages of 20 and 50. It's considered a chronic condition, but various treatments can help relieve symptoms and minimize the long-term impact on your life."
Umph- I wasn't actually taken aback as I had already read a bit on MD along with other possibilities during the first round. I might have been thinking that she would tell me I have MD which is why it didn't really come as much of a shock as it could have. After talking a bit and getting a referral for the ENT plus a couple of prescriptions, Brian and I went on our way. Once home, I pretty much felt sorry for myself for a while while eating my dinner of way too much Taco Bell. Thankfully, my ENT nurse friend, Shelly, had been texting to see how I was. She asked if the doctor had put me on a low salt diet. I answered no, while thinking all the while of all the fast food I had just consumed. Knowing more than I about this subject, I followed her advice and started reading up on MD and a low sodium (lo-so) diet. It looked like a really good idea, and so I set forth on my new quest of low sodium cooking and eating. 
Well, since I can't do a whole lot, I've been on the Internet a lot lately. I'm excited to say I've found some great websites with terrific recipes, my favorite being Not only does Christy have a touching story about her own journey with MD, her recipes are mouthwatering! If that's not enough, she's got great tips and suggestions making eating low sodium easier than it seems. and the Food Network website have some yummy recipe ideas too.
There are even a lot of packaged foods that are lo-so.  Brian and I shopped today at Natural Grocer's and found a few things including these-
And this-

Needless to say, I'm not as worried as I was when first facing this new unknown. I've pretty much got the gluten free, lactose free & nut free thing down when the kids are home, so hey- I know I can do this..

So where does this leave me? For now, I spend a lot of time on our borrowed recliner while the world spins around- sometimes more literally than others. I've learned to pray more for others (some I've never met, like my "friends" on Instagram), and am finding the joy of being able to read for fun again. I'm thankful for my iPad and phone, so I can do whatever work I can from home. I miss being at the salle a lot, but I'm learning to at least try to be content with where the Lord has me for now.

With all that being said, if you have a prayer request, I'd love to pray for you. Just leave a comment or email me with your need, and I'll add you to my list! 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle...Recipes?

Part of the empty nest thingy is figuring out how not to cook every meal to serve 8-12. Yes, we're only a family of six, but I've had three men eating here for awhile now plus leftovers once in a while are helpful.  This being the case, I realized last week that I had a good amount of homemade granola bars leftover from when the boys were still home. Now, I could have frozen them or given them away or eaten all of them, but there comes a time to figure out something else. And so was born the Granola Bar Muffin recipe. Quick and easy plus not requiring any fancy ingredients, these moist breakfast gems have been not only delicious but a great way to reduce extra food, reuse an ingredient in a new way and recycle a recipe tweaking it enough to make something new! 
               ,                           Good mornings come with muffins and meows!



    For the muffins:
  • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granola bars*, crumbled up 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • For the topping:
  • 1 & 1/3 cups granola bars*, crumbled up
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted


To make the muffins:

Preheat oven to 375°. Line 12 standard-sized muffin cups with paper liners.

Whisk together flour, crumbled granola bars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 

In a separate bowl, mix sugar, yogurt, butter, eggs, and vanilla until well blended. Add flour mixture, and mix just until blended.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full.

To make the topping:

Combine crumbled granola bars, brown sugar, and butter until combined and crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over muffin batter in pan.

Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until muffins are set and edges are browned.

Cool in pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then, remove from pans to cool completely. Makes about 12 regular size muffins. 

*i used homemade granola bars, but I think any kind would work. Experiment with different kinds & let me know your favorite!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dealing with Empty-Nestness

How many times have you heard, "Enjoy them now, they'll be gone before you know it."? I know I've heard it a lot as I've raised my four kids. Never did I dream it would be the case for me. Well, this last month my husband and I joined the ranks of what is known as "empty nesters". That's right, all four of kids are away at school. I guess this makes us "mostly" empty nesters as they'll be home for Christmas and summer breaks. 
Lots of folks have told me how nice it'll be for Brian and I to have time together to do things we want or how much money we'd be saving once the last one goes. While that is true, no one mentions how you now need to do most of the chores yourself or how many leftovers you have because you've forgotten how to cook for just two or how it feels when it comes time for night prayer and you're the only one here to pray it. No one ever said how dinner time can end up being a quick 15 minutes because you and your spouse have had at least one or two other people at the table keeping up conversations for the past 25 years. And even though I knew it was coming, everyone forgot to mention just how quiet and lonely the house feels when you're the only one home. 
So now that's off my shoulders, what does one do to deal with the "empty nest syndrome"? I'm sure there are a ton of websites, books and even YouTube videos with advice, but I've decided to stay with the basics.
1) Pray. That's the first and foremost priority. Pray for your spouse. Pray for your kids. Pray for your extended family, your friends, the Church, the World. You can do this at home, at Mass, at Adoration. Just be sure you're doing it. 'Nuff said.
2) Love on your spouse. My husband has been doing an amazing job this last week showing this as I've been down with a viral thing causing me vertigo. I've actually been home from work for over a week. He's been making sure I'm keeping up on my meds, getting me tea and food, not to mention going to the salle today to be the "office guy" and doing my spot at Adoration tonight. Last night we talked about planning some specific things to do together, and the smile on his face when I suggested making homemade pasta was worth more than I could have imagined!
3) Fellowship with others. Plan a meal with another couple or family. Go to coffee with a friend. Join a Bible study or other group at church. Also be sure that you're serving in some capacity somewhere- church, a food bank, pregnancy center, etc. There are a lot of people out there needing a bit of help!

I guess I wrote this as a reminder for myself as much as sharing it with others. Let me know what other ideas you may have for getting ready and dealing with being an empty nester!

And Sew It Goes

My latest fabric adventure has become a joy and privilege as I've started making & selling pocket oratories and quilted icons. Theses were inspired by The Little Oratory by David Clayton and Leila Lawler as well as a photo of a beautiful French vintage travel prayer packet found on Pinterest. I started making these this past spring and opened up my Etsy shop "Piccolo de Luce" which means a little bit of light. It has given me so much joy to have folks buy these tiny traveling oratories which helps them to be able to pray wherever they may be. I'm working on revising my design and plan on having them ready for share the middle of October.
                                One of my Triptych (three-sided) Pocket Oratories
I've also started making some of my own quilts, and I am super excited to have had one in this weekend's Quiltopia Quilt Show at The Willamette Heritage Center at the Mill. It was a fun quilt to make, and I'm happy with the way it came out. 
                                                    My "Put a Bird On It" Quilt
After reading about winterizing old houses on Like Mother Like Daughter last week, I've decided to start making the list for our 1912 uninsulated and sometimes very damp farmhouse. The one project that I'm most looking forward to doing is the "door cover quilts". With the winter breezes that blow through our house (remember, uninsulated) this should be a fun project to help us stay a bit warmer. Be sure to check out LIke Mother, Like Daughter for more terrific winterizing suggestions.
                   The sun is shining now, but Old Man Winter's just around the corner.

I'd love to hear about your latest project- sewing, crafting, cooking or whatever you've got going on. It's way more fun to share projects and bits of life with others as we continue on our journeys!