Sunday, December 4, 2016

Dumpling Daze

Grandma has been hankering for dumplings for several weeks now.  We wanted to make her some but weren't sure what recipe to use.  Grandma eats gluten-free.

Emma and I thought that the Urban Poser's tortilla recipe would give us a good starting place for strip dumpling experimentation.  It uses Otto's Cassava Flour which is naturally gluten and grain free.

Grandma nixed this idea, favoring biscuit-type dumplings made from a gluten-free mix that she had on hand.  It includes corn flour, which Emma is allergic to--thus the necessity of dual dumpling development.  Emma made the strip dumplings while I made the biscuit ones.

With both of us working in close proximity to the stove and Emma's kitten, Elsie, underfoot and sometimes climbing our legs while our hands were doughy, it got pretty interesting at times.

Finally Emma stuck Elsie in her apron.  We had a few moments of peace, for which we were grateful.

I cooked Grandma's dumplings in a separate pot of chicken broth to avoid cross-contamination.   They turned out well, and she scarfed them up.  Yay!  It's great to be able to satisfy someone's craving, especially when that someone is in a wheelchair and can no longer cook for herself.

The cassava flour ones were definitely not like the traditional Southern (white-flour) strip dumplings that I grew up eating in Chicken and Dumplings.  But they were still good, and we're looking forward to trying them again with the addition of some grain-free baking powder to make them a little fluffier.  And I think Emma said she will roll them out a little thicker as well.  The only thing we regretted with this first try was not having more homemade chicken bone broth on hand to make a bigger batch of soup.

One word of warning.  If you grew up nibbling dumpling dough while you made the dumplings like I did, do not try this with cassava flour.  It tastes gross.  Bleh!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Advent: The Cross and the Crib

The painting of the Sacred Heart commissioned by Gabriel Garcia Moreno for the consecration of Ecuador

The aftermath of the presidential election revealed to me in a startling way how desperately this country needs to be Catholicized.  How much better the Catholic way when faced with situations one finds disagreeable: practice resignation and embrace one's cross!

Instead, it seems as if the country has been taken over by toddlers in their terrible twos.  Such whining and temper tantrums I've never before witnessed on a national scale.

The experience shone a light on my own weaknesses in this regard and gave me pause.  How often, I, too, whine and complain!  And how unattractive it must be for those around me!

Consequently, on St. Andrew's feast I decided to start saying St. Andrew's prayer, O Good Cross, every day in addition to the St. Andrew Christmas novena during our Advent wreath prayer time.  The idea of being led to both the cross and the crib by St. Andrew is one I hadn't considered before now.  I find it enormously helpful, and it has given me reason to be thankful for the Trump protestors.  May their unhappiness work toward their conversion and the establishment of the Social Reign of Christ the King.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Goodbye Cemetery, Hello Advent

Just a few more days in the month dedicated to the Holy Souls.

We'll start the St. Andrew Christmas Novena on November 30:  You say it 15 times a day from St. Andrew's Day through Christmas Eve:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight in Bethlehem in piercing cold.  In that hour vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayers and grant my desires (mention your request) through the merits of our Savior Jesus Christ and of His blessed Mother.  Amen.


I know.  A kitten getting a flea bath is not your normal idea of Advent symbolism, but that is the way my mind works.  Make straight the way of the Lord!  Hair shirts and locusts and honey.  Flea bath.  Same thing.  Advent is supposed to be a little bit uncomfortable, right?

Wishing you much spiritual progress on your Advent journey.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Logic of Secession

From Trump Wins--Secession Back in Style by James Ronald Kennedy
"The idea that a large and supreme central government in the United States can protect the rights and interests of all the people is mathematically absurd. When the original federal government under the constitution was established (1789) each member of the House of Representatives represented the interests of 60,000 citizens. Today each member of the House of Representatives is supposed to represent the interests of over 700,000 diverse people. If we had the same ratio today, there would be over 5,000 members of the House of Representatives! It is absurd to think that a supreme central government that rules over the lives of over 300 million people would be able to protect the interests of the political minority. Under the current system of supreme federalism, the lives of 300 million people are governed by a majority vote of 269 members of Congress and even less if acting by a mere quorum. With Trump’s victory, even liberals, who once controlled the federal government, are now beginning to see the logic of secession."

Friday, November 25, 2016

You're the Cream in My Coffee

The sacred coffee station at my parents' house
Nothing gets more attention from my mother during her bedtime ritual than making sure that I have prepared the coffee pot for the next morning and set out the cups.  She starts worrying about it in the early afternoon and flips up the lid to the basket where the coffee grounds go in as a warning flag to draw my attention to my serious duty.  It works exceedingly well.  I see the upright lid as a giant exclamation mark and immediately feel the weight of my responsibility to ensure that her next morning will begin properly.  It's kind of like being in charge of making sure the sun comes up.  Nothing predicts a gloomy day and a grumpy grandma more than a sub par coffee ritual.

Recently, a new twist has been added to the defining morning event.  Mom must have cream.  She has drunk her coffee black for at least the past forty years.  But this past June she was hospitalized three different times for a gastrointestinal bleed so serious that each time she had to have blood transfusions.  She has a rare blood type plus lots of antibodies that have to be matched, and so in each case it took a long time to get the blood from the blood bank.  It was rather a harrowing experience watching her hemoglobin count fall steadily while the clock ticked off the minutes and hours with no sign of the replacement.  Oh, and her veins kept collapsing.  There were several times I truly thought she would die.  The doctors never did discover where the bleeding was coming from, but the end result of all this was that we started adding cream to her coffee in the off chance that all the acid she was getting in her morning three cups played a contributing factor in the bleeds.

She discovered that she likes cream in her coffee.  She likes it a lot. Like to the moon and back.  Now, after forty years of imbibing black coffee, SHE MUST HAVE CREAM.  And since she is in a wheelchair, the cream must be easily accessible to her in the refrigerator.  Since she has made it clear how important cream is to the satisfactoriness of the morning ritual, Emma and I have striven to make sure we keep it on hand and in the right place in the refrigerator.

Except sometimes we fail.

I hurried in one morning to cook breakfast for Mom and Dad and was greeted by Mom with the complaint, "This cream doesn't taste right."  Immediately I remembered that I had forgotten to buy cream and that there was none left.  I looked at the coffee station where she sets the cream each morning.  There stood my dad's $50 bottle of liposomal glutathione, which we keep in the door of the refrigerator.  

"No way," I thought.  

Then, a doubt crept in.  Have I mentioned that she has bad eyesight?  I picked up the bottle and showed it to Mom. 

"Is this what you used in your coffee?"
"Yes.  And it doesn't taste right," she repeated.

"That's because it isn't cream.  It's Dad's glutathione," I explained, shaking the bottle to see how much was left.  "And I think you just drank about $25 worth."

"Hmph," she answered.  "Well, I couldn't find my regular cream, so I figured that had to be it."

Immediately I thought of Starbucks and what a lucrative option they could offer to the health conscious:  Glutathione Pumpkin Lattes for $35.  Or maybe they could just sell the glutathione by the shot.

At any rate, I realized that my mom could not conceive that we could let the cream supply fail, and so she looked until she "found" it.  

It could have been much worse.  Thank goodness we don't keep Milk of Magnesia in the refrigerator.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Play Me

While walking down the sidewalk, enjoying a festival in an economically-depressed small town, I came upon the scene in the photo to the left.

I stood there mesmerized while the little girl plunked away at the tired keys.  She obviously had never had a piano lesson, but that did not dampen her enjoyment at all.  It probably heightened it.

I was struck with the idea--so simple--that We Can Do Little Things That Make a Big Difference.

There is the possibility that the opportunity to play this piano will lead to an interest in studying music.  This would undeniably be a great return on the investment of making the piano available to festival goers.  But even if no one was inspired to learn music, what a fabulous expression of goodwill!  I believe that such acts create good returns, even if they appear to be invisible.

Recently I noticed an old and scarred baby grand piano on display in my local community center.  It was roped off, but there was a small placard on it that explained that the instrument had been used to teach piano lessons to local children for 30 years.  I marveled at the remarkable impact this piano most likely has had on our town, probably with immeasurable ripple effects of goodness that have echoed throughout the country.  I am grateful to whomever had the insight to put it on display.  So often we are encouraged to publicly admire the big industrialist.  His impact can be measured in dollars, so he easily gains recognition.

I struggle to remember these lessons.  I have gotten caught up in all the national election hoopla.  Yes, the president of the United States is important.  But we cannot discount the importance of the little local things that we can do.  Locally, we can have a far bigger impact than nationally.  

I have been reminded since the election that even a smile matters.  With all the news about the animosity of different groups, I realized that I was beginning to expect people to be unfriendly to me.  I have been enormously relieved to have my expectations proved completely unfounded.  Representatives of the different groups have gone out of their way to greet me with warm smiles and welcoming eyes--to politely and cheerfully say, "Excuse me," as they pass by me in the grocery store.

I happily return the greeting and remind myself to take a break from the news, even the alternative news, and to make decisions on my own experience.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

In the Cemetery

For  the last four years or so, Emma and I have gone to pray the rosary in the small Catholic cemetery nearest our house every day during November.  It belongs to a rural parish that was established early in the 20th century by people of Czech descent.  We can see the tiny brick church across the hay fields to the west of us as we walk and pray.

We have grown to cherish our time in the cemetery each year.  It is so peaceful there, and often a refreshing breeze washes over us as the setting sun glints golden on the surrounding fields.  Here we have the comfort of the community of the dead, many of whom died before Vatican II and so professed the same Faith as we do.  We love reading the Old Country names.  I am particularly fond of "Frantiska" and "Zofie".  

Along with the joy we experience in the cemetery, we feel keenly the sharp stab of exile.  We gaze with longing at the little church and wish that we could go to mass so close to our house.  To be able to go to daily mass and rosary--what bliss!  We have driven 2 hours roundtrip on Sundays for the last 12 years to be able to assist at the traditional mass.   In desperation several years ago we tried going to mass at the little brick church.  We hungered for Catholic community--to live our faith daily among those who shared it.  The experience was so shocking that we never returned.  That novus ordo mass sharply illuminated for me how formative the traditional mass is.  Ever since, whenever I remember our experience, the word "hootenanny" pops into my mind.  It's far more accurate than "lack of reverence."

I firmly believe the old dead at the cemetery would feel the same way we did if they were allowed to return to their little brick church.

Happily, on All Souls Day, we met an older couple at the cemetery who belong to the parish.  Emma asked them if they would like to join us in praying the rosary, and they agreed.  So most days this month they have met us there, and we have walked and prayed through the cemetery together.  It has been truly lovely to have their company.

From them we learned that there is a new Polish pastor and that he asked the parishioners if the old altar and altar rails were stored somewhere--a hopeful sign.  Sadly, these fixtures, along with many beloved statues, were shipped off to Mexico after the new mass was introduced in 1969.

Our rosary companions told us that one parishioner managed to save the large Sacred Heart of Jesus statue that used to stand at the front of the church on the epistle side.  He carried it home and has kept it ever since.  Now he is quite elderly, and rumor has it that he is wondering if it is safe to bring it back. But the "praise band" now occupies the spot where the Sacred Heart used to stand.  I thought about how that displacement was true on so many levels in the novus ordo.  The day we learned this story, we added to our rosary the intention that the Sacred Heart statue be returned to its rightful place and that the "choir" would return to the long-vacant choir loft.

Let us pray hard for the restoration of the Church.