Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Thoughts Before Christmas and Health

As we move into Christmas, I have had to reconcile myself to the fact that I will be working all of it.  This is a fact of life for a nurse, especially when in a new job (next year I will have a better chance of having at least some of Christmas off).  It is hard for me: no singing with the choir on Christmas Eve, no family dinner Christmas Day, watching Tyler open presents on Christmas morning in a blur after coming off a night shift.  Our dinner will be postponed to the weekend.

My health has been a challenge starting back at the beginning of fall.  I am working with a new doctor and am improving, but my energy is so sapped.  A simple walk to the pharmacy today in beautiful weather was tiring.  I feel extremely old, but I am only 56!  I must have faith that the interventions the doctor has prescribed for me will continue to improve my health.

So I am a little melancholy this season.  What I am telling myself is that there is hope for health improvement, and that I am performing an invaluable task this Christmas: caring for tiny preemies that I love, giving of myself and providing aid to the sick, as Christ asks of us.

"The care of the sick is to be placed above and before every other duty, as if indeed Christ were being directly served by waiting on them."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Saint Perpetua

Today at Mass, an excerpt from the diary of Saint Perpetua was read during Scripture reading.  She was a young mother, martyred for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.

 "Perpetua, unwilling to renounce Christianity, comforted her father in his grief over her decision, 'It shall happen as God shall choose, for assuredly we depend not on our own power but on the power of God.'"

Monday, December 8, 2014

English Country Dancing

Last week Paul and I, along with our friend and her daughter (the daughter is in the process of choreographing a Regency dance for her school's production of Pride and Prejudice) went to St. Mark's Church in Evanston for their biweekly English Country Dancing.  I spontaneously decided to dress up.  My recent weight loss enabled me to fit back into my Regency stays, and a gown I made several years back.  I even found enough time to do a Regency hairstyle.

The dancing was fun.  We were all a bit confused, but the more experienced people helped guide us into the proper places.  I would like to do this again soon.  Below are some photos of me in my gown, and my hairstyle.  (Please excuse my wrinkled appearance; although I had ironed my dress prior to dressing, it got very wrinkled in the car ride to pick up our friends and drive to the church.)


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Saint Nicholas Day

Yesterday was Saint Nicholas Day.  Tyler found a surprise in his shoe:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Two Gluten-Free Dessert Ideas

I have tried going gluten-free previously on health cleanses I have done, and I have always felt great during these times.  This time, however, my doctor has placed me on a gluten-free diet due to lab results showing an auto-immune problem (nothing super-serious, but requiring medication and lifestyle changes).  This has not been too bad (three weeks so far), but I was concerned with Christmastime and treats.  I recently tried two gluten-free desserts.  Both were very easy (one requiring no real baking skills at all!).

First I tried gluten-free amaretti cookies.  These were very good, and especially important, as our go-to meal for any holiday is a butternut squash lasagna that calls for three amaretti cookies to be crushed into the squash mixture (Obviously, we would need to make two pans of the lasagna - one with regular noodles, the other with gluten-free noodles).

Some of the amaretti cookies.  I made a few plain ones for the squash recipe.

Next I wanted to try a gluten-free pie.  I was completely lazy on this one, but what can I say, I have been working a lot lately.  I ordered pie crusts and some all-natural pie filling.

These pie crusts were pretty good, but ever-so-small.  
I will try to find a larger crust for next time.

I loved this filling.  Not too sweet, and no corn syrup, gluten, or other undesirable ingredients.  You can find it on amazon.  Caution, these are large jars - more than enough for one pie each, and the link is for a four-pack.  It might be best to buy a single jar to try.  But I was glad I ordered four, because I will definitely use this again.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Advent Prep - Grandparents' Day!

Just before Thanksgiving, Tyler's school held a Grandparents' and Friends Day, where the children could have their grandparents (or another special friend if their grandparents were unavailable or no longer with us) come and help them with an Advent project.  Fortunately, both Paul and I were able to come.  We traced our hands in red and green construction paper, added paper candles and a bow, and made a fine Advent Wreath for the season.  It was fun.  After that, we all went to the gym for a prayer service led by our priest and some of the children from the school.  It was a wonderful start to the season.

Da and Tyler

Nana and Tyler

The finished project

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Experiencing the 1920's/Folkwear 264

Another Book Club costume!  This was from our late summer book in August.  We read An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, which was written in 1925.  It is a bit out of the time frame we usually read (Victorian), but it was perfect for a summer setting.  I was Sondra Finchley for this gathering.  I made my dress using Folkwear's pattern 264.  

I liked the pattern; however, it is far too long.  Plus they were a little short on direction for making the section where the top meets the skirt at a point go in properly.  So I may re-do the attachment, and in the process shorten it. It's not a measure of simply turning up more of a hem - I lined the dress, and attached the skirt and its lining together at the hem line to make a smooth edge.  But all I will need to do is detach the skirt section from the top and restitch the bottom edge where the fabric and the lining form the hem about an inch or so above the current joining, making it a little shorter, and cutting off the excess.  Then I can rejoin skirt and top, fix the point and sew it in more professionally.  I also made the chiffon scarf.  I love chiffon!  It feels so soft, just perfect for spoiled Sondra to wear to an afternoon tea!


Saturday, October 18, 2014


Tyler and "Grammy" last month at a late-summer visit to the Botanical Gardens.  Such a blessing for the both of them that they have gotten to know each other - not everyone gets the privilege of knowing their great-grandparent or great-grandchild.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pesto From The Garden

We had ciabatta and mozzarella cheese from the grocery, but had forgotten the pesto to go with these yummy sandwiches.  I was going to use plain basil leaves from the garden, but then thought that maybe I could make my own pesto (something I have never done).  We just happened to have pine nuts and grated Parmesan (not fresh like the recipe recommended, sorry!).  I mixed it up ...

...and then we made these wonderful sandwiches (using our garden tomatoes as well).  Delicious!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fruit from the Garden

After a dreadfully cold winter, a rainy and cold spring, we are exhausted.  However, the plentiful rains were much appreciated by our cherry tree and our raspberry bushes.  We have been enjoying a bumper crop of each.  My friend Dorothy came over with her family and picked four large Ziplock bags of cherries to make "Drunken Cherries" (brandied cherries).  Julie and Grandson picked a huge bowl of cherries for us.  Every day Paul and I go outside and eat raspberries right off the shrub; Paul takes some to work with him.

I finally pitted the cherries, and found the best and fasted way I know of so far: Instead of picking up two at a time and smushing them until the pit pops out, I now stand by two bowls, use my thumb to split the cherry, take the pit between thumb and forefinger and drop into the bowl to the right, put the good part in the bowl to the left.  This is at least twice as fast as my old smushing method.  Then the cherries can be cooked with the other ingredients for cherry pie filling.  (Note: as you are cooking them, observe carefully for any pits that might have inadvertently snuck into the good stuff.  I found five in my pot, in spite of how careful I was.)  The pies were delicious!

Cherry Tree


Homemade Cherry Pie.  Yum!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tea Ladies and Little Golden Books

Once a month I play Mah Jong with some of my Tea Ladies. It's lots of fun: we have lunch (usually with a glass of wine or two!), then we play the game, and then dessert, with tea served throughout the afternoon. This time we were at my sister Barbara's house. She had the cutest book, Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book. This book takes the artwork from the Little Golden Books of years ago and compiles their sentiments into life advice. Much nostalgia to be had!  I was inspired to buy three more vintage books to add to My Kitten, which I bought recently. I bought Baby Listens, My Little Golden Book About God, and Georgie Finds a Grandpa.  

Tonight I opened up the packages and showed them to Tyler. He wanted me to read two of them to him. I made it through My Little Golden Book About God without a hitch, but when I started reading Georgie Finds a Grandpa, I simply could not get past the first few pages without crying! Such a sweet book, a happy ending, but I was caught up with feeling bad for Georgie in the beginning of the book, while reflecting on what a great grandpa Tyler has in Paul. Anyway, I turned the book over to Paul to have him finish reading it. Vintage books are such fun!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I Should Probably Explain (Choir)

I realized that I never did explain how I ended up back in the church choir.  You may remember past posts here and here.  I had had simply a terrible experience with a former choir director.  He has since moved on to apparently greener pastures, and a new director was hired, one who had worked off and on there previously.  I was not planning to rejoin the choir, but God intervened in a most fascinating way.

There was this one Sunday in the summer of 2013, after the other director left, when I went back to my church.  We had been away for almost six months.  Somehow, we ended up at the 9:00 Mass, which we never go to (we are not early birds).  It just so happened that another former choir member ended up sitting right behind us.  After Mass, we walked out and ran into yet another choir member, one who was/is still an active member.  He asked us both if we would come back.  It became one of those situations, "I'll come back if you'll come back!"  And we both did.

I am very glad to be back.  It is not a perfect choir; every choir and director has its idiosyncrasies.  But in general I am happy there and glad to be singing again.  I have not offered to play harp there yet.  I don't know that I will; I was so traumatized by my previous experience.  But at least I am making music for the Lord again.  And that is a good thing.

The View from the Choir Loft - Lovely!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Grandson's First Holy Communion

Tyler celebrated his First Holy Communion last Saturday.  How nice it is for him!  He has been waiting for this day anxiously, lately asking us each Sunday if it was time for him to receive.  It was a lovely ceremony.  The day after we had a big family party.  Lots of fun with family!

Before the ceremony, all spiffed up.

His banner for the pew.  Da and I helped him with the shapes, and then I stitched them to the banner.

We gave Tyler a small cross to wear.  

Mama and Ty at the church after the ceremony.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Up Late Studying

For work, I have to train and be tested for Neonatal Resuscitation.  There is a 300 page book to review, and online tests for each of nine chapters.  Next week I will go in and need to demonstrate the techniques, and then be evaluated.  I finished the book and tests tonight.  What a relief.  It was a very good review however, and some things have changed from 10 years ago when I previously worked in the NICU.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Blessing From The Pope

Paul and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this past Monday.  The day before, I wanted to find our wedding album, not remembering where it was (it turned out to be up in the attic).  While looking, Paul found a box of wedding memorabilia.  How fun!  One of the things we found was a parchment sent to us by Bishop Vladimir Tarasevitch, who married us.  He had brought it from Rome, a blessing signed by then Pope John Paul II.  The funny thing was this: the day we found it again was the same day of the canonization of Pope John Paul II.  Anyway here it is.  I feel this blessing has been a special gift these past thirty years!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Table

A long, but beautiful weekend: the Triduum, tons of choir music to sing each day of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Saturday Vigil Mass, working a day shift Easter Sunday morning, and then coming home and cooking and baking with family for our meal.  I am grateful for Christ's sacrifice and Resurrection, for family, music, and good food.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Breakfast for Dinner

Ty's go-to meal, made more interesting and fun 
once Nana remembered the pancake molds hidden in a cupboard 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Losing a Friend and a Fellow Nurse

I received very sad news the other day.  A friend of mine died unexpectedly.  She was only 57.  She leaves behind her husband and three children, all of whom are still so young, late teens and early 20's.  Her name was Norine.  I met her when we were both attending St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing.  We had a lot of laughs during school.  Later, we met up again when I first began homeschooling Robert and Kristin.  She was a wealth of information, gave me lots of ideas and some books.  After our kids grew up we still kept in touch, sometimes for "tea lady" events, and most recently when I called her for advice on a situation with my grandson in the fall, and then more recently when we just called to chat.  We had a good long talk that I am very grateful to have had.

I went to the Shen Yun dance performance today (stunningly beautiful performance).  The themes of many of the dances dealt with the divine and the struggles of life.  I found this to be great comfort.  In particular, one of the songs sung made me think of my grief at the loss of Norine.  Although this song comes from a different faith practice than mine, the sentiments are universal, and I was particularly touched by this:

Life's True Meaning
by D. F.

Human life is ever changing
Joy and happiness always go hand-in-hand with worry and grief
Happiness is paved with hardship
When wishes don't come true I often wonder
What is human life after all?
Dafa helped me to understand the truth
Most people come from various heavenly paradises
When the heavens faced disaster we came to earth
To wait for the Creator to purify our lives
I have no more sorrow and am no longer lost
Because I waited, and now the Creator,
King of the Fa (Great Way of the Universe), has arrived
Because I am on a god's path to home

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Thawing Out The Garden

Finally, our area is feeling warmth (i.e. 40° "warm" today).  Tomorrow is supposed to be even better (52°!).  This got me thinking about my garden for the first time in months.  Last week I had gotten an indoor basil kit (when it seemed like it would never get warm - gotta have some fresh veg in the house), and Tyler and I prepared it today:
The Kit

Ty watering the newly planted basil seeds in the cute metal container

After this I thought it would be a good idea to go ahead to the garden center and get some supplies in anticipation of tomorrow.  I wanted to go today while it was colder, because on the first day of the first sign of true warmth in this area, the garden centers are flooded with people.  In spite of the cold though, I donned my boots and at least got started with some prep work outside.  It was great to be outside for longer than a few moments.  My body was in shock from fresh air and exposure to sunlight!

I cleaned leaves and dead stalks from the garden beds.  The soil in the raised beds is loose, but below it is still frozen.  Fortunately I can plant cool-weather crops in the raised soil and not worry about that.  There is still more clean up to do, but at least I got it started.

I mixed up the first batch of a soil to replenish soil lost in the boxes last year.  
I used the Mel's Mix recipe from the Square Foot Garden website (although I use cow manure rather than compost).  I was lucky that Paul had found some packages of vermiculite - very hard to find nowadays.

At the center I also bought cool-weather seeds: broccoli, carrots, leeks, romaine lettuce, 
buttercrunch lettuce, spinach, and sugar snap peas.

I also bought a pair of extra-small gardening gloves.  
In case a little pal might want to help me plant.

Quittin' Time!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Organizing a Child's Room

First, you may wonder where I have been.  I have been very busy with my new job, and it has been an emotional roller coaster.  But after a very sad week at work last week, I have had some time off and rested up.  Today I finished a project Paul and I started a week and a half ago: organizing Tyler's room.

His room was a *bit* of a disaster.  He had no real storage other than his closet (with no shelves) and too many toys.  There were Legos everywhere.  It got so bad I couldn't get in to vacuum.  Dusting?  Forget about it.  I will show you some Before pictures, followed by After.

Tyler, looking a little unhappy with his messy room!

More mess.

His closet, note the inadequate bookshelf (from when he was an infant), and the lack of toy storage.

So, we looked online for Lego storage solutions (the brunt of the problem).  We found a great suggestion on the website I Heart Organizing, which was to purchase some IKEA Trofast drawers (shown in photo below, note that you can get many combinations of drawer sizes and colors, most of the stock of drawers is in the IKEA warehouse rather than on the showroom floor in case you are hunting for them).  Paul assembled them (for once, an IKEA assembly that did not take hours), and he is in the process of making color labels for each drawer. Then the long, arduous process of sorting Legos into their drawers. Robert and Tyler reassembled some of the sets, which we bagged and placed in their own drawer.  Besides the colors, we also have a drawer for characters and "specials" (unusual pieces or special props).  There are some smaller storage boxes for other completed sets next to the drawers, and we used one of the old Lego plastic boxes for his "build bucket" (a bucket to put works in progress into, see link here).

Paul also got an inexpensive bookshelf from Home Depot for the closet.  We went through Tyler's toys, and fortunately he was willing to give away some of them.  The rest were went on the new bookshelf.  We used one of the now emptied baskets to make a little game storage for video games.  We also are waiting for a spinning video two-sided tower to be delivered, which will then go in a corner with all of his videos placed on it (currently they are in the hall).  I finished the final pick up and sort today, gave the room a thorough cleaning.  I cannot tell you how nice it feels to have his room clean and organized, and to know that he can now help keep it picked up.  And that he will enjoy his room so much more now.  

The Trofast storage.  Note the shocking lack of Legos on the floor!

The organized closet.  (Note the wooden stove and hutch in the back - my dad made those, and my sisters and I had years of fun with them!)

Much better.  Tyler ran around on the rug once it was mostly clear and exclaimed, "It will be so much more fun when I have playdates now.  We can run around!". 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

In the Pastures of the Lord

This morning at St. Joe's we sang a beautiful choir arrangement of Pastures of the Lord by Curtis Stephan.  It is simply gorgeous, and totally inspiring.  It almost brought me to tears.

Lord, now your servant may go in peace;
your salvation mine eyes have seen.
I will walk near running streams
in the pastures of the Lord.

The day is gone, the work is done;
many battles I’ve lost and won.
I shall rest and find welcome
in the pastures of the Lord.

Lord, lay me down in verdant fields,
in green valleys with golden hills,
there to find your face revealed
in the pastures of the Lord.

Lord, let this trav’ler find sweet repose.
From pain and sorrow your mercy leads
to living waters, where angels sing
in the pastures of the Lord.

Lord, now your servant may go in peace;
your salvation mine eyes have seen.
Only goodness shall follow me
in the pastures of the Lord,
in the pastures of the Lord.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year's Cooking

What I am up to today: a crock pot dahl from the cookbook Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, while listening to Christmas Carols (still!).  And I get to use my new Cutco Vegetable Knife (Christmas present from Paul - love!).  It is a good day for warm cooking.  We are in the midst of a snowstorm.