Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Photo Journal: the May Garden

It has been tremendously hot here in our neck of the woods. We've had a few good soaking rains as well. The garden is thriving. I've had the best rose blooms ever and our sugar snap peas are prolific. Makes me wish I had planted more. Note for next year. I dug a nice big potato yesterday and the boys made it into potato chips. It was divine. The carrots and onion and peas were all consumed at the same meal. Yum. I almost felt like a farmer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Mother's Rule of Life

After I got over my initial unwillingness to put aside my sewing and concentrate on my faith I started thinking about St. Benedict and his Rule. That thought led me to a book on my bookshelf: A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. I pulled it off my shelf and re-read it.

I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty of this book. Holly tells her own story and how she finally created her own Rule, just like every religious order does, for organizing all the parts of her day. We have things pretty well under control at our house. My boys are teenagers and have had their own chores for years. They help out with anything we ask. Mike and I share the other household needs and we live fairly simply. So setting up the kind of system Holly talks about isn't something I need.

Yet I found this book to be incredibly insightful. I wanted some help determining how to order my days so that I put my faith study and prayer at the center but didn't ignore my husband, my children or my home. 

Holly orders the married vocation into 5 P's.

  1. Prayer
  2. Person
  3. Partner
  4. Parent
  5. Provider
They are ordered by importance. At first I wasn't sure I agreed that Person should be second but then I realized that if I don't take care of me, I am unable to give to my partner and be a good parent.

I have noticed that I am an all or nothing type of gal. Once I get something in my head I focus completely on it, often to the detriment of other things. While I believe that simplifying life helps us focus on the 5 P's mentioned above, being obsessed with one area is almost never a good idea. By taking a close look at each of the P's in my life and giving time to all of them I find I am more balanced and living my vocation to the Glory of God.

Here are some of my notes:

1. Prayer: I definitely need to set aside a scheduled time during my day for prayer, scripture and faith study. If I don't it doesn't happen. The same can be said for Confession, Adoration and Daily Mass. For this month before school begins I have been led to focus on this area. I am attending daily Mass, studying the Gospel of John and reading up on the saints. In addition I am praying fervently for those who have asked and for some others. I am a morning person so I tend to do this after the kids leave for school and prior to lunch. Once school starts I plan to download the Divine Office and Daily Readings onto my ipod so I can listen during the drive. I also have a few spiritual books on my iPod. Once I start my job I'll have to rethink my schedule again. The important thing is for me to remember that I NEED a schedule so I don't get off track!

2. Person: Taking care of self is so important to our vocation as mothers! This is easier now that my boys are older and self-sufficient. I'm trying to be mindful of my eating and exercising habits and to make sure I'm getting enough sleep. Socialization and recreation are also important points in maintaining our personhood. For me that means getting together with some good friends every so often and reading and sewing. Yup, you heard me...sewing! I just have to be mindful that I am taking only a small portion of my time to these goals, not the majority of my day! Holly also talks about the importance of taking stock of our own spiritual, mental and emotional health to see if there are any underlying difficulties. 

3. Partner: Mike and I will be married for 20 years in December. We know each other pretty well. We work together really well and tend to be like minded about parenting and household decisions. In the book, Holly reminds us that love is not something you seek for yourself but something you concern yourself with giving. Love is a decision, not a feeling. Love is constantly coming up in my Bible reading, my reading about the saints and in my prayers. Without it we cannot be living a Christian life. It seems to be the thing that is so often missing when I hear Christians talking! But I'm not here to judge anyone but myself so I'm working on being loving, thinking loving, acting loving and speaking loving at all times. I'm also trying to take time in the day to be available to Mike. We planned a date night for this week but I also am trying to give him my full attention when we are talking.

4. Parent: There are two things that I'm really working on here. One is to be available to the boys when they are home. I try to put away my reading and my projects or work when they come home from school. I sometimes have a hard time spending the hours it can take to get homework finished and I have not been a loving parent much of this school year. I'm trying to remember to dedicate this time out of love of Jesus and my boys so that I do a better job. The second thing I'd like to see change is to have the boys look more to their own spiritual life. When we homeschooled it was so easy to have prayer and Bible Study. It has really gone by the wayside. I'm still pondering how to incorporate family prayer without it being a burden. My first goal is just to pray for my boys and to ask for guidence in this area. I know that often just seeing me be a good example can lead the way.

5. Provider: This includes your job if you have one but also taking care of the home. Again, this isn't something that I need a lot of help with at this time. We all do our bit to keep the house in order. I will be sitting down with the boys to talk about the extra help I will need from them over the summer. My boys have always been willing to do what is asked of them and so I'm not expecting too much trouble here. I am blessed that my husband works from home and so is able to help out much more than he was when he was working. Again, once I start my job in the fall, this area will have to be tweaked.

I've written all of this out for my own reference. I'm sure it wasn't the best reading for anyone else. One thing I'd like to comment on is something Holly focused on in the book. This idea of a rule, of getting things in order is about more than a schedule. It's about deciding to change, to use your will and your reason for the love of God in all the small things you do every day instead of acting purely because of your feelings. Remember how I said I didn't WANT to change? Well, luckily my will won out over my feelings in that case. 

"The fulfillment of our Mother's Rule in fidelity to God's designs for us as women, wives, and mothers is an act of love for God. But it must become more than an act of the will; it must develop into a movement of the heart. God is not satisfied with a mere external observance. He wants our hearts as well, and over time, we need to see the obedience of our relationship with God transform into the love necessary for intimacy with Him." (page 185)

This change from wants to will to heart doesn't happen over night. It does, however, mean that I have to start somewhere. It also means I need to be kind to myself and not expect to be perfect. Thank goodness for God's Grace!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


 At the beginning of May I attended our parish 40 hours services. The visiting priest really knew what I needed to hear. One of the things he said was that if we have a need, we need to pray like we mean it. No reading over a list of prayer requests will do. That really spoke to me, along with some other things he said. So I began praying in earnest for some people who were on my heart. Things started happening! I find that when I pray for others I usually also get an abundance of blessings.

At the same time I started reading the book Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly. What a powerful book for any Catholic. It too has been changing my heart.

In the meantime I've been sewing and quilting up a storm. I decided to get more in my etsy shop and see if I could make the money I need to pay for gas to get to my classes in Phila. this summer. I estimate it'll cost about $500. So I've been working and pondering and had my pedal to the metal (the one on the sewing machine) so to speak. It was exhilarating.

After a day of sewing and planning and updating web sites I snuggled into my bed and picked up Matthew Kelly's book again. I've really gotten so much wisdom from this book, it's really helped me to fall in love with the Church all over again, to redefine my own mission as a Christian, to help me take a hard look at my own life and see where I could be doing better. Saturday night it wasn't just the book.

God spoke to me. Clearly. And it wasn't what I wanted to hear.

Matthew Kelly was writing about the saints and other secular people who have made a name for themselves. Why do we know about them and what made them different? They had a singleness of purpose. Bill Gates has a singleness of purpose, Michael Jordan and TIger Woods have a singleness of purpose. Mother Theresa had a singleness of purpose. To do what they knew they wanted or were called to do they put aside the extraneous things of life and poured everything into their purpose. As Christians, we all have a vocation, we are all called to love God and serve God. To do that we must have a singleness of purpose.

In the book, Matthew Kelly encourages Catholics to read the stories of the saints, to obtain the sacraments as often as possible and to study our faith. If we have singleness of purpose in our faith and in the vocation we are called to do we will be prepared when the hard times come. We need to grow strong roots.

That's when it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. I was told to put away my sewing and put down roots in this last month that I have at home. My mission isn't to quilt for the world, nor are we desperate for money. God will provide. My vocation is wife and mother, my journey toward teaching. I have a difficult path coming up in June. It will continue to be challenging all next year. Are my roots solid? Will they stand up to the bad weather that may come?

Here's the rub. I KNEW God was telling me what to do. He CLEARLY wants me to clean up the sewing room and start studying and praying. He wants me to PREPARE. He has given me the gift of time. Now. It is fleeting.

But I didn't want to do it. I flat out had a conversation with God that started, "But, I don't WANT to." I said it over and over and over. Even as I said it (and I continued to say it the next morning) I knew that I would do it. I knew I had to be obedient. And I have been.

I want to create a habit of prayer and study that I can continue after I start my classes and my job. It won't be easy like it is now when I have very little else to do during the day. They say it takes a month to get into a good habit. That's about what I've got. So I'm praying and attending daily Mass and studying scripture and the saints and a few other books.

Pray for me. Tell me if you need me to pray for you. I'll pray like it matters, because we know that it does.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

In the Shop

The Scrappy Quilt. I call it the I Spy Quilt.
Quick Pinwheel quilt with Organic line Quilting
Up close and personal with the organic line quilting.
Satin Baptismal Minky Blanket
Close up of the Baptismal Blanket 
Antique Pie Tin
1960's Dial-X Sharpener
It's been a productive week (I finished everything on the list). I finished my hourglass quilt which I am very pleased with. I am in love with the organic line quilting method. It does take a lot of thread but it gives the quilt so much texture. I was going through my scrap box and thinking of making some kind of scrappy pieced quilt. Most of the scraps were too small so I decided to make a quilt that is sandwiched first and the scraps sewn right onto the top. It's piecing and quilting all in one. I will never do it again. I like the quilt ok but I don't love it. I HATED making it. It took a lot of energy to finish it. I dislike having unfinished projects so that helped push me along.

On Friday I took a trip into our local Re-Use store and snatched up a boatload of satin. Much of it was between 10 and 15 inches wide and of various lengths with quite a few smaller pieces. I just couldn't resist buying the lot. I think it cost me $10 at the most. I decided to make baptismal infant quilts with it. The quilts ended up being about 26x26 and are backed with the softest minky fabric. I got 4 quilts out of the stash. Now I'm going to try to make baby booties with some of the smaller fabric. I have one larger piece that I'm hoping to make into a baby dress of some sort.

This morning I went to a few garage sales. I snapped up the pie tin and Dial A Sharpener you see above for a total of 75¢. Everything is listed in my etsy shop. I'm hoping to make enough money to cover my gas expenditures traveling to Philadelphia this summer. Traveling 3 hours every day for seven weeks is going to be expensive. I have a few other sewing projects in mind with the rest of the fabric I bought. More on that later this week. I think I need to make a list......

Friday, May 18, 2012

Feast of San Paschal Baylon

Yesterday was Ascension Day which trumped the Feast of St. Paschal Baylon on the Church Calendar. However, since St. Paschal is Nolan's confirmation saint we chose to have a little dual celebration meal. Above you can see the little St. Paschal that I had made for Nolan for Confirmation. There aren't any readily available statues or medals and one of our fellow parishioners makes these lovely little saints. Isn't he great? If you'd like to read a little about St. Paschal you can click here. This is the best summation of the religious and folklore that surrounds St. Paschal. Nolan loves him because he is the patron of cooks and kitchens. If you have younger children you may be familiar with his story by Tommie de Paola, Pascual and the Kitchen Angels.
For our culinary celebration I wanted to have something southwestern because although St. Paschal is from Spain, he is well known in Mexico and the south western U.S. Above you can see the Chimichangas and Spanish Rice we ate. I think I'm still full but it was decadent and delicious.
 In celebration of the Ascension, we had these Sopapillas (or little pillows). They puff up in the oil when cooked which I thought was sort of reminiscent of Christ rising to Heaven. Ok, that's kind of pathetic but Nolan loved making the dough and we all had fun eating them and it brought about some conversation. Works for us! Here's the web site I used to find the recipes. It was not the most healthy of meals but feast days are for celebrating, right?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Veg


Hugh, from River Cottage, my new favorite tv show, always refers to his vegetables as 'the veg.' I love that and am now going to refer to my own garden as such. I wanted to update the photos of our garden as of the middle of May. Since I use this blog as a little fournal of our life (I can't tell you how many times I've looked here to find out something about where we've gone or what we did or how we celebrated) I wanted to keep a little photo log of sorts. Mike and I expanded our mulch circle today around the garden boxes.
The top two photos are almost identical but I kept them both in because in the top one the photo is clearer but in the 2nd one you can see more of all of the boxes. We love being able to just go out and cut our lunch. We also love that we have a backyard gardening cat friend. It's our friendly neighborhood cat, Finn. He was with me all morning in the garden. He makes weed pulling fun!
Today is Ascension Day but it is also the Feast of San Paschal Baylon which is Nolan's Confirmation Saint. We're having a special dinner in honor of both. I hope to blog about it tomorrow if I can remember to take photos during all of our cooking!

(***I can not get blogger to edit correctly today so my photos and paragraphs are lined up wacky. I have no idea what the problem is but don't want to spend this gorgeous day futzing with it. Futzing....that's Lancaster County for spending a great deal of time trying to make something perfect that is driving you bonkers.***)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wednesday in Bloom

It is amazing to me that my flowers grow. To be honest, I think nature in general is an amazing thing. The fact that I can dig up a plant from one part of my yard and stick it in the dirt in another section and year after year it blooms. Amazing. In April I always think the yard looks so dreary. Shoots are up and I know things will get better but it all looks so sparse. 

Then all of a sudden it's May and the ferns have filled in, the hosta is big again and the buds are bursting. I took these photos on Sunday and we have quite a bit more action out in the yard since then. The white and yellow Peony are blooming like crazy. I just love them. I don't know the variety but they always surprise me when they bloom with that crazy yellow center! I love the little ants that make it all happen. Without them chopping on the outer leaves we'd have no blooms. See what I mean when I say nature is amazing?

My love in a mist is blooming like crazy now, too. I like them best in bloom but their funky UFO seed pods always crack me up later in the season. My roses are looking so much better this year than last. Last year was year one after I transplanted a lot of things in the garden. Nothing did great last year. This year I composted around everything and mulched and everything is growing much more lush. I'm sure it's a combination of it being year 2 after the transplant and the extra vitamins. My foxglove have started to bloom although I don't have a photo. I just love them. It's my English Cottage Garden spot!

Speaking of England, I can't get enough of the River Cottage series. It makes me want livestock so much more than I already did! You Tube has quite a few episodes available or you can purchase the whole set on Amazon, I believe.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Working Man

Nolan started his first job this weekend. He's working food and beverages at a local amusement park. When I say 'food and beverage' I'm talking Dippin Dots, Slushies and soft pretzels. He worked two 8 hour shifts this weekend and was tired, tired, tired last night. He seems to really like working (and counting up his pay). We're very proud of him. 

We're counting down the days until school ends. This has been a very difficult year for Nolan. I think 8th grade is just a hard grade in general. Nathan struggled last year as well but has had a wonderful 9th grade year. Nolan has made the decision to attend our local Catholic High School next year. So it will be my first year having two children in two different school districts. 

I'm counting the days until school starts. In just over a month I'll be traveling 1.5 hours twice a day to and from my Montessori training college to learn the ins and outs of teaching in a Montessori classroom. I have to admit to feeling a little nervous about the whole thing. I've really enjoyed my time here at home and am a bit sad to leave it behind. 

I find that to really get things accomplished (again....that nervous feeling that my time is coming to an end....MUST....GET....EVERYTHING....DONE....) I need a list. I guess my memory isn't very good or I get too distracted. I do love checking off the things I've accomplished. So here's my list for today:

  • Sew the binding onto my latest quilt to finish it
  • Hem the Cassock for our seminarian (Holy sewing....)
  • Paperwork (health insurance, school, work, etc.)
  • Call a few friends about getting together
  • Plan for the feast of San Paschal Baylon (Nolan's saint)
If I can finish that by 3:15 I'll be happy. Once the boys are home I concentrate on their needs and push my own desires to the side. I'm blessed to have this day to work here at home. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thinning the Carrots

As I've been reading about the joys of gardening one item kept recurring and always made me chuckle....until today. The books talked and talked about the necessity of thinning out the garden plants if after they started to grow, they were too close together, in essence crowding each other out of growing to their proper vegetable size. The part that always made me snicker was how often the books said most gardeners have a really tough time thinning their harvest. Even though they know it will insure a better crop, once those little plants start growing, the gardener just can't stand pulling out that little living thing. "Really," thought I, "are these gardeners soft in the head, or what?"

So today I took a hard look at my carrots. Carrot seeds are tiny. Miniscule, really, so it is difficult to sew them without extras getting out of your hand and into the soil. The result is a crowded carrot bed. I couldn't believe how much I did NOT want to pull those little baby carrots out of the ground. I sat there and looked and thought and hemmed and hawed but eventually I knew I had to do what was good for my crop. I thinned. I apologized to the carrots the whole time. I've assured them a good spot in my next batch of chicken stock. They are almost as cute as the little baby bunny in my flower bed this morning. **Sigh**

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Photo Notes

Mike and I enjoyed a Friday morning at the Landis Valley Herb and Garden Faire. We bought lots of sweet and hot peppers and some eggplant and squash for the garden. It was a beautiful morning to spend out of doors.
You can see some of our heirloom peppers.
I promised Nolan he could make some homemade pasta tonight. The dough had to sit for 30 minutes.
Of course, what is homemade pasta without homemade sauce? We used the last of Nolan's 2011 sauce for his Confirmation party. This sauce was made from scratch but with canned tomatoes. Nolan's Secret Hobo Spices added just the right flavors. Yum!
This is my herb planter. We've started using the herbs already. Oregano and basil were added to the sauce tonight.
Here's garden box number three. I love the little baby lettuce. My sugar peas are growing like crazy! I added a little chicken wire support for them this morning.
Have a wonderful weekend and happy Mother's Day to all you moms!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gardening and Quilting

 These red beets look a little larger in this photograph than they were in real life. They were between one and two inches in diameter but they came from our little garden. Nolan and I had great fun pulling them out of the ground last night.
 Since I knew that the greens were edible and full of some kind of nutrient (800% RDA of vitamin K among others) I sautéed the greens in olive oil and added them to our plate. I roasted the beets with some sweet potatoes.
In other news, I'm doing some more organic line quilting. This is the last quilt I wanted to finish while I was off work and before my Philadelphia classes begin in June. I'm hoping to finish quilting it today and fully finish the quilt this week. What I'll do with it after that, I don't know. I do love the line quilting because it reminds me of life's journey. The road is never straight and sometimes it gets closer or farther from others roads but the journey is really the important thing. It's what makes us who we are.

Well, I'm off to help a friend dye her hair for a job interview! I warned her I've never done such a thing so I'm glad she trusts me!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

This is How My Garden Grows

 We've been planning our backyard garden for many months. I guess we really started thinking about having our own garden last summer. Here's what our garden looks like today. We built the tomato trellises right before supper. They are made out of electrical conduit and secured in the ground with rebar. I am proud to say I sawed metal today.
 Here are my peas. They are doing really well. I set up little rope trellises for them to grow upon. They seem a little squished in their square but I planted them just like the book recommended. I guess so much of this year's garden is a grand experiment.
 Can you guess what this plant is? I would never have known if I didn't plant it myself. It's potatoes! They are HUGE! I'm afraid the leaves shade some of my other plants in adjacent squares. I also worry they don't have enough depth to the soil to produce a large potato. Again....it's all a grand experiment. 
 Carrot tops here. Again, I wasn't sure about planting them but found a variety that doesn't grow very long. I find most carrots in the grocery store to be bland. That is especially true of those pre-peeled baby carrots. I can't believe I ever bought them. I find them kind of gross now.
 Here's a close-up of our newly planted tomato plants and the trellis. We definitely started the seeds about a month too soon but I hope they'll  do well now that they are outside. They already look happier.
 Here's the first box I planted. It has the lettuce, onions and spinach. You can also see the carrots in the bottom left square. We've been harvesting from this box all week. I should have planted more lettuce and spinach sooner but do have some growing in another box.
We had one of my favorite meals for dinner. Hamburgers (no bun) over salad with sharp cheese slices. The onion, spinach and lettuce came from the garden. The beef came from a Lancaster County steer and the carrots were also local. I think only the red pepper came from far away. I attempted to make mayonnaise which didn't quite turn out but makes a lovely dressing anyhow. A delicious meal. Nolan was the hamburger chef extraordinaire. He uses some special hobo spices to make the burgers finger lickin' good!
And the final glory to the day. We bought a lovely wooden table from a friend. It needs some TLC but is just what I've been dreaming about for the sunroom. It is very plain (in terms of decoration and architecture) but expands to a square which will seat 8 easily. I'm thrilled. I have to plan a dinner party to celebrate!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Test of a Quality Quilt

I can always tell it'll be a warm, comfortable quilt when I have to fight the cats for it. Cloe loves to sit and sleep on my sewing table and will sit directly on whatever I happen to be working on at the moment. Quilts are, of course, her favorite. This is the feedsack quilt top I bought at the Roots Flea Market. I put flannel on the back for maximum warmth and cotton batting in the center. I ended up quilting it diagonally to catch as many seams as possible to keep the quilt from fraying over the years. I've already used it quite a bit as the days have been chilly and damp. You can see that Gizzmo agrees that it is a good place to sleep!
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