Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lost and Found

Yesterday was a pretty tough day. Someone very close to me had an operation, and I had not slept the night before, cried out of exhaustion, fear, and stress the whole night (even though it was a relatively safe operation, the whole situation and the buildup to it was still very unnerving) and walking into the hospital to go to wait for the person to get out of the operation room was like being hit with a wall of opression. I had brought a few bright 'Get Well Soon' balloons, my quilt, a photo, and half a loaf of homemade raisin cinnamon bread to make the room just a little brighter, and more homey.

Those rooms are ridiculously depressive. Same color, harsh lighting, and bare of any sort of decoration, don't they understand that your surroundings have an impact on your will to get better?

In any case, I went to brighten the room just a bit, and then waited outside with other people, but I excused myself with every intention to just grab a quick coffee and head right back upstairs. The problem was, on the way down, I just couldn't help myself and my eyes started to tear up and I just needed a few moments to isolate myself, and I headed straight to the first private place I could find, which ended up being the hospital chapel. This was a tiny room, with about six chairs, and soft music playing with a small cart full of books. But as soon as you entered, there was an open Bible underneath a small statue of Jesus with his arms upraised and a very peaceful look on his face. I sat on a chair and released all my built-up tension for a few seconds, then I got up and walked over to the Bible and just stared at the statue. To be honest, it had been a long time since I had prayed, and it just felt awkward, I didnt know the words to use, and how to start. So I just looked, and then flipped the Bible to a random page, and started to read. I had opened up the Psalm 23.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
What are the odds of my opening this book of hundreds of pages to this one passage, which seemed to be the thing that I needed to read the most? I read it maybe four or five times, just that passage. It filled me with peace, simply put. When I left the chapel and walked back upstairs, I repeated the first line over to myself 'Le Seigneur est mon berger, je ne manque de rien'. I felt stronger, better. I felt prepared to go see the person come out of the operation room, and face all of this in a positive way. Isnt it funny, how the one thing I had refused to believe in and vigorously denied was the one thing to give me comfort in a time of weakness?

Of course, when I saw the person come out, I still started bawling out of relief that the operation was over and there had been no complication, but I don't see how it could have been any other way!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Simply Advent

While my bread is baking in my (borrowed) bread machine. and pecan pie is cooling on my counter, I am inspired to write about an upcoming event which is going to have incredible meaning for me. No I am not talking about Christmas, but rather what comes before Christmas, which would be Advent. Although I have seen some symbolism of Advent (like the wreath, or the colors associated with it) I have never really observed Advent, and this year will be my first time discovering what it is and trying to understand and anticipate the birth of Christ through it. I have been reading, discussing, and researching for about three weeks to have at least some background knowledge on this mysterious and not much talked about season. I have seen some absolutely adorable customs (such as the crib made of paper 'good action' hay) and some customs that are very intense (like the Divine Office), but they all have one thing in common - they prepare us for the coming of the birth of Jesus.

From the little that I do understand, it is a time of reflection, anticipation, and also of restraint. At first when I understood this, I thought I was reading about Lent, rather than Advent, but through further research I understand the tradition and meaning behind choosing certain actions in which to restrain yourself. I have personally chosen to abstain from all alcohol and to refrain from using Facebook more than twice a week (what a contrast from previous generations!). I have also worked on making a manger out of clay, and although it is my first attempt at serious sculpting, I am taking pride in every character that comes out of my hands, unshapely as they seem! The more I make the characters (shepherds, animals, etc) the closer I get to making the Holy Family, the more I am anticipating making them, and I think that this could be my alternative (for now) to having Holy images around my home covered to create this desire to see Him (which was a beautifully described idea my friend Amy gave me). I want to make Joseph, Mary, and finally baby Jesus in a crib pretty badly, I must admit. I actually wanted to start with them, but I would rather practice with the sheep than with the Virgin Mother, lets say :D! Amy also gave me particular readings from the Bible to help me along with connecting to the true spirit of Advent, which I am very much looking forward to (I do love the Old Testamanent). I have also promised myself that I would attend Mass at least once before the Christmas Mass, this being really hard to do because of school from 9-5 on Sundays. The last thing that I will do for Advent, is light the candles on each night around supper time. I say around because I have a very tough schedule (I finish work at 3:15, and go to school for 7:00. Jeff starts to work at 5:00. Which means I usually wait for him to eat after school) and so I will not only try to light the candle, and listen to O Emmanuel, but regulate my eating schedule. I am quite proud of my wreath! I have to admit that I have this annoying habbit of starting many projects, but having difficulty finishing them, so not only am I still working on my manger, but I have finished my wreath and have it all ready to light tonight!

I have also been thinking that I want to use Advent to come closer to Mary, and try to reach her and understand her and her voyage, but Im wondering if I should be focusing on the Birth? Ah, the things I have to learn!

"It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from the commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the enfleshing of God—the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people—kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people—no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush…" - Fr. Andrew Greeley

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Having a Mary Heart and a Martha Mind

Lord of all pots and pans and things, since I’ve no time to be
A saint by doing lovely things, or watching late with Thee,
Or dreaming in the dawn-light, or storming Heaven’s gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates.

Although I must have Martha’s hands, I have a Mary mind,
And when I black the boots and shoes, Thy sandals, Lord, I find.
I think of how they trod the earth, what time I scrub the floor:
Accept this meditation, Lord, I haven’t time for more.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy love, and light it with Thy peace;
Forgive me all my worrying, and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food, in room or by the sea,
Accept this service that I do - I do it unto Thee.

—Cecily Rosemary Hallack (1898-1938)

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm a Winner!

For the first time in my life I have won something (not including all the msuhy things that I have won like a peaceful life and a new found faith). I actually won a portrait photo session from Alana Richelle (http://www.alanarichelle.com/index2.php#/gallery2/4/) who just happens to be a most wonderful photographer who takes the most beautiful shots! The first thing I did when I learned that I was the winner was go THANK YOU LORD.. then I actually thought what the heck am I going to do with this? But the answer came as soon as I had formulated the question. What better way to share my happiness than with my family? I am going to have a family photo shoot with my mother, step-father, little sister, and my dog. I am so very excited about this! We have been going through a pretty stressful time and this just comes as a blessing to us, especially since we were talking the other day about getting family pictures done, but money being pretty tight, it was a topic that was dropped. I am so happy that I am able to share my gift with them, and in turn give us all a ray of sunshine in our lives. Thank you Alana for making this possible!

On another note, I finally decided on my Christmas gifts for friends this year! You see, every year I make some sort of homemade goodie to hand out (much more budget friendly than buying stuff, and in my opinion, just better than anything out there) I make a different goodie each year, and I was wondering what I could possibly do this year, when one of my friends posted this awesome idea on my wall - Pie in a Jar! I am quite excited to make this! Basically, you line the mason jar with dough, them fill it with the pie filling of your choice, actually bake it right in the jar in the oven, and voila! Just add a pre-baked top piece of pie dough in an attractive shape on the top and it looks awesome! Now I just have to decide on what pie fillings to make! Im thinking blueberry, cherry, and apple..

How cool does this look? Bake the top as something Christmas-y (tree, star etc), and add a Christmas fabric to the top of the jar before tying it closed, and there's an awesome present!

Here is the link for anyone that would be interested http://greenweddingshoes.com/diy-pie-in-a-jar-treats/

Sunday, November 21, 2010

To Be Or Not To Be

I've been seriously questioning myself lately on what it is I want for myself. Where I want to go. Who it is I want to be. And I have to admit that I am still as confused as always. Its no secret that for the past year I have been saying that I truly wish to raise my own children within my home, cook and clean and keep my home beautiful for my husband and children. Now at first (and still, to some who I haven't spoken about this before) friends and family look at me like I am absolutely crazy. Admittedly, I don't blame them. I have in the past been a very outspoken supporter of equal rights between men and women, so it wasn't unusual for people to ask me if I was a feminist (which I would deny, saying simply that I just want equality within our society). So jumping from assumed feminist to wishful homemaker had tons of people wondering if I had lost my mind. Some of them told me it was a phase (just like my Gothic one), some told me I would want to get out of the house ASAP and I was kidding myself if I thought I would want to stay home with screaming brats all day long (not because they would be brats because they were my children, but rather because all children are brats). Many people also said that it would be extremely difficult, see impossible, in our current economy to have one parent stay at home long-term. Some told me that if I wanted to become a slave to my husband and children, then it was my business, but maybe I should also give up voting and wear skirts every day to go along with my new found mentality (true story). All that to say, the response I received was largely negative.

But why was that? How come people are so against the idea of a woman staying home if she so chooses? Is it in remembrance of days when we didn't have a choice in this matter? It seems people are now afraid that because I look at a more traditional role I am dooming all of womankind to the same choice, that I am not appreciating the sacrifices of the suffragettes, all the women that defied society and the men that ruled them to offer us a more diversified future where we could make choices for ourselves. Well I say that there is nothing more liberating then the idea of being able to raise my children, instill in them our values, our way of life, etc rather than having a daycare educator see them 8-9 hours a day, teaching them what I would not. I will bear my children in me for 9 months, then in pain give birth to them. Why is it such a foreign desire to take over their education? Not only will I be doing so, but they will be seeing me running my household and doing all of that which is needed to have a beautful home. What better way than this to instill in them what I wish for their future, to give a message to my daughters that this is a possible way of life, and to my sons how much work the stay-at-home parent must do in order for this home to be possible. That I, as a parent, would become my children's role model, the person to emulate, is I think any parent's wish for their own children. But how can this be so when from, say, 9-5, children are with daycare educators. Then when work is done mom or dad goes to pick them up, rushes home, makes supper, cleans up after supper, and has scant hours to make lunches, do bathtime, and then its time for bed. That is not including all the stress one might have from work, which is brought home. How can anyone have any time to teach their children what is truly important to them? I don't want this for my children, for myself, or for my husband (to be). And I can make it otherwise, and I have the inclination to do so? So WHY so much negativity?

As for the people that tell me that I will never be able to afford living in this way, I have to say, everything is possible. In this day and age, where each child has an X-BOX, a Wii, a PS3, a laptop, a TV in each room, where children are taken to McDonalds for supper every second night because mom and dad are just too worn out to make supper, where family vacation means Walt Disney World resorts, having only one parent working seems to be nightmarish, and doing so willingly could sound like insanity. However, and the more I think upon this the more I appreciate my childhood, I was raised in a household that didnt have all that. We never went to Disney land, we didnt have a TV or a computer in each room (thankfully) and we very rarely ate outside of home. But we had each other, we had a strong family that sat down with each other for supper and talked rather than everyone seperating into their respective bubbles, or rushing to eat to move on to the next task to be completed. And best of all, when we did do something out of the ordinary, my sister and I were so thankful and appreciative of it. And this is what I see lacking in so many children, teenagers, and young adults that are given everything. I was privileged to live a life where I saw all the sacrifices that my parents went through, to see the hard work that is needed to keep a home clean and the fridge full (I appreciate my mother so much more now that I have my own household, and see it even more). And I want that sense of respect and thankfullness within my chidren. So what if we probably wont be able to afford the latest toys and gadgets? I choose family suppers or PS3, any day and every day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Today's Experiment

So in our Good Food Box this month were 5 big red tomatoes. Now I do love an occasional slice of tomato in a sandwich, or I use them in my spaghetti sauces, pizza sauces etc. But I already have 2-3 containers full of sauce and a bag full of pizza sauce icecubes. And I just know I wont get through those 5 tomatoes before they go bad with my occasional slice! So, considering I had a hankering for tomato soup the other day, I decided to make up my own fresh tomato soup. So here is what I came up with -

Fresh Tomato Soup
2 tsp virgin olive oil
2 fresh pressed garlic cloves
1/2 sliced onion
4 cups of diced tomatoes (with skin and seeds, about 4 large tomatoes)
2 cups of chicken broth or vegetable stock
1 tsp thyme
2tsp oregano
2 tsp sugar
a couple dashes of chilli flakes
1/2 cup of milk or cream
pepper and salt to taste

  1. Saute the onions and garlic with the oil in a deep pan or a stockpot
  2. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil
  3. Add the broth with the thyme, oregano, sugar, and pepper flakes. Let it cook at mid heat for 20 mns
  4. Pour the mixture through a food blender (or use a hand blender like I do) until soup is creamy and the texture is smooth
  5. For a thicker soup, add the cream or milk.
This makes about 2 medium bowls. And it tastes like what a real tomato soup should! MMM!

Tomatoes with onion and garlic


Blending the soup

Mixing in the cream


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fresh Harvest

Anyone want to guess how much this wonderful array of farm produce cost?

20$? 35$? 50$? WRONG I received all of this lovely package for the measly price of 17$. How you ask? With this lovely program called Good Food Box, with Moisson Montreal (http://www.moissonmontreal.org/en/projects.html) Basically, twice a month, you can choose a box of three sizes (small, medium, or large) and just pick it up at the drop-off center, and voila! An assortment of fresh fruits and veggies that is mostly local, for a low low price! Ill be drinking fresh mango smoothies for breakfast for the rest of the week!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Christmas Christmas Christmas

I loooove Christmas. Even in my most rebellious days, I made a point of going to Mass on that night with my grandmother, or with my cousins, or with whoever would come with me. I would never take communion out of respect (check out why here --> http://www.catholic.com/library/Who_Can_Receive_Communion.asp), but hearing the story of Christ's birth made me feel better in a way I would never have admitted back then. I remember I always sat in front of this statue of the Blessed Mother of Christ, and I just watched her throughout the sermon. She was beautiful, gracious, peaceful, and looked like I could whisper my darkest secrets to her and she would just... hug me. All of this from a self-proclaimed pagan! But I will discuss this in another post on this later on. What I wanted to focus this post on, was what I had noticed years ago, back when I was still living with my mother. The price of Christmas decorations are absolutely outrageous. Seriously, decorating your home for the holidays should not make you broke. Now, if you can stop yourself from buying all those out-of-budgets sparkly pretty house ornaments (and you should) here are a few tricks to save that hard earned money, beautify your home, and still feel like your home is Christmas-y.

  1. MAKE YOUR OWN DECORATIONS. There is no way I could stress this enough. Making your own whatever, from stockings, to tree ornaments, to a wreath, will be a tiny percentage of the cost of buying those made-in-china decorations. No matter your craft skills, whether you be a shy debutante, or a master of the scissors and ribbons, there are so many crafts to make. I still haven't seen a single thing they sell in stores that I couldn't make myself. And even better, you get it customized to your liking! Initials, colors, whatever it is, you get to make it yours. Have children? Make this a family activity where everyone can pitch in, or everyone can make their own. Working with 5 year old children all day, I consider myself a pretty good authority on the way their little faces light up when they see their own artwork decorating the classroom. They take pride in their art/craft work, and I bet that they love putting up those tree ornaments that they made last year,and the year before that, etc. This could become an awesome family tradition that would not only bring you closer together, but perhaps help instill this sense of the beauty of handmade items in children at a young age. You can also use natural things like pine cones and pine to make things or just arrange in a pleasant way! Here s an awesome website with tons of crafts - http://www.craftbits.com/christmas-crafts I love craftbit for any and every craft, FYI!
  2. If you NEED to buy some decorations for whatever reason, go on the cheaper end. For example, I bought some window decals for my apartment because I cannot put outdoor lights around the window. They cost me 89 cents for a sheet (I bought two), they are super cute, re-usable, and they had a variety from religious to silly. There are many other low cost decorations like these that are found if one can look past those flashy big price items!
  3. You know those annoying after Christmas sales? They're actually great to buy decorations for whatever reason. They are 50 - 95% off, and you can get some pretty good deals, and not only on decorations, but cards, wrapping paper, etc. I usually buy my Christmas cards for next year on boxing day! Here are a few examples of Christmas decorations that I bought on boxing day through the years. Notice the difference in price!
  4. 49.99$ down to 4$

21.99 down to 2.50$

34.99 down to 1.99$

The internet and the library are such wonderful places where you can get MILLIONS of ideas on how to stay budget friendly and Christmas lovely!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Beautiful Life

As I am sitting here, in my tiny 1 1/2 appartment, listening to Christmas classics (YES this early :D) I am realizing how simple my life is. I am surrounded mostly by what I need, rather than the superfluous. When I first entertained the idea of living in such a small space, I couldnt understand how I would survive. Where would all my stuff go? How would I move around? How would I survive? And I soon realized that I didnt need all this stuff to live happily. In fact, since I moved into here and have had to simplify everything, it seems that simplicity has also settled into my daily life, into my being. I am calm, I know more of who I am, and best of all, I am really enjoying being free of the very things I thought I needed to survive. Now comes the realization that happiness is made by how I surround myself (people, things, academic pursues, etc) rather than by how much I can surround myself in. My appartment is clean, and warm (and also decorated for Christmas). My dog is laying in the sun on my bed watching me. I have a fridge full of good food, with containers full of flour, sugar, etc. just inviting me to create new delicious culinary things. I have a wonderful fiancee who is willing to unite his life to mine for the rest of our days. What more can I need? God forbid I ever forget this lesson.