This blog's mission is simple--to encourage moms who are married to non-Catholics and raising their children in the Faith. If you know a mom who needs a little encouragement in continuing her efforts, I would be delighted if you would share Kathleen's Catholic with her. Thank you!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Taking Time Off to Focus: Priorities, Priorities...

You might have noticed that it's been a while since I last posted to Kathleen's Catholic. While I love blogging, I've had to re-assess where to put my creative and physical energies these days, and tending to my children and home have been put back at the top of my priority list where it belongs. Mostly, some issues in our homeschooling need to be addressed. It's so important to me that my children's education--both academically and spiritually--goes well and that these years don't simply slip by.

I hope to return to regular blogging and writing sometime soon. Until then, please feel free to check out all the features on Kathleen's Catholic. You might be interested in the recipes from The Little Catholic Kitchen. Or a Catholic Mom Basics kinda article (which you will find in the right column of this blog). Or you might find something new and interesting from KC's page, Links for the Family. If you love to read, check out my book reviews (I tell you how in the right column) and Kathleen's Catholic Book Shop. There are so many great titles out there for Catholics, and, well, the winter months are just about upon us, so it's a great time to snuggle under an afghan and take in a good book or two...or a time to purchase a literary gift for someone special.

When I return, I'll be posting a bunch of new recipes in The Little Catholic Kitchen--my spiral notebook is packed--and I'll have a new book review for you, on a title that shows how the Holy Bible gives us sound guidance in raising our teens. I found the book fascinating...and much needed!

But before I sign off, I'd also like to tell you that my new pamphlet, Catholic Mom: Nurturing the Home, will be available in Spring through Liguori Publications. Many parishes provide Liguori's pamphlets in their vestibules or libraries, but if yours doesn't you can order a copy (or copies) directly from Liguori. I'll let you know when it finally comes off the press, and I'll provide a link. I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished product!

I hope to be back into blogging before too long, but until then please send out a little prayer for me...that my endeavors in educating my children are successful in the way Christ would want them to be. I would truly appreciate that. Your support and encouragement always mean a great deal to me.

God bless!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Terrific, Edifying Catholic Fiction: Classic and Contemporary

by Kathleen Blease

Visit Kathleen's Catholic Book Shop for almost 50 Catholic titles that are wonderful reads! Many of them are available on Kindle as well.

Is there a way to teach the Catholic way of life through fiction, without making it soft and shallow?

These last several weeks, eastern Pennsylvania has been suffering from an unusual amount of rain. Although the tomatoes in the garden aren't liking it one bit, and they have yet to ripen, I've found an easy and enjoyable way to get through the dreary days.

Catholic fiction has found its way onto my Kindle, but it's been a journey to begin the download.

Last year, when I attended the Catholic Writers' Conference, I met Catholic novelist Michelle Buckman. After a brief chat, she offered me a copy of her latest book. I didn't know what to say, so I just nodded and blurted out a quick, "Thanks!"

You see, up until then I had been sorely disappointed by contemporary fiction. After earning my degree in English Literature (not American) and well-steeped in classical fiction, I went off to work for a major publisher in New York City, where we published literature-quality non-fiction. I spent many years engulfed in how-to's, history, business and success stories...not romance and who-dunnits. And each time I picked a contemporary novel, it was either a harsh view of the world or just plain smut. I was turned off. And when I tried to read Christian novels, I found stories that had little depth and weren't very fulfilling. They didn't seem to present a real-life scenario to me.

And time? Who had time? I had two little rambunctious boys running about, hardly providing the setting for quiet reading. I will still engulfed in Bionicles and Rescue Heroes. I knew in the back of my mind that my time would come. And it did.

But I didn't know what to think of Catholic fiction. I heard Michelle speak and then decided to give her book a read, although I admit the paperback sat on my reading pile for a few months while I embarked on yet another and typical deep-read about a saint, this time St. Bernadette of Lourdes in Bernadette Speaks by Rene Laurentin.

But once I picked up Michelle's novel and began reading it, I couldn't put it down. Not only did I find a compelling story that drew me back to its pages time and time again, but I was also amazed by the edifying quality of the work.

Is there a way to teach the Catholic way of life through fiction, without making it soft and shallow? Obviously, the answer is Yes. These authors have found the way.

So, without further ado, I'm presenting here a very short list of the books I would consider must-reads. Some of them are modern and gritty, some are Victorian and almost like poetry, while others are easy-reads like romance novels. Some take more effort to read, while others are a breeze and perfect for the busy mom. All of them are worthwhile, in my opinion, and wonderful entertainment that help fill the reader's heart and soul. All of them are available in both book form and on Kindle, and I've noted which  ones are free on Kindle.

I'll top the list with Michelle Buckman's award-winning title. Happy reading!

Rachel's Contrition by Michelle Buckman, winner of the Catholic Arts and Letters Award (CALA): Michelle weaves a modern story of loss, renewal, and compassion. By the end of the book, I was crying like a baby. The story is well-woven and leads you through Rachel's agony from her unique and often tumbled (but very real) perspective. In the end, the cloud is lifted, and the reader is taken through Rachel's healing process. Throughout the story, she is guided through her days by a new friend, St. Therese of Lisieux. She is also guided by her husband, who Rachel viewed as "the enemy". The story is gripping, a little gritty, and feels very real. It does not suffer from soft, gentle Christian writing but instead illuminates how true healing can take place with God's grace.

Death Panels: A Novel  of Life, Liberty and Faith by Michelle Buckman: Here is a futuristic story that is timely and thought-provoking, set in 2042. This one is truly gritty and will make you think about where our nation is going in our beliefs and attitude about the value of human life. In Death Panels, David saves a newborn from certain death when it is not born perfect. The story quickly unfolds as faithful believers, who had been forced to go underground, are pulled into a holy scheme of saving this child and changing the world forever, if but only a bit.

The White Ladies of Worcester by Florence Barclay: (Free on Kindle) Written in 1917, this novel is as pertinent today as it was then. Both its language and story line feel remarkable contemporary; despite its age, it is still an easy and delightful read that has a great deal to offer. However, when I first read a description of the book, I wondered if it was worth reading. The main character, Mora, is a prioress of a cloister. When her love from long ago shows up, it's her bishop who helps her leave the convent and marry the knight. Doesn't sound very obedient, does it? I began reading it wanting to find it filled with flaws. To my surprise, I found that Mrs. Barclay had written a beautiful and holy story.

The main character, Mora, had been tricked into believing that her love had returned from the Crusades and married another, and so she felt that her only other option was to give her heart (and all her agony over her loss) to Christ in service to the Church. When the truth is revealed by her prior, the bishop, she is faced with a difficult decision, and she again takes her heart to Christ to find the answer. Her decision, alas, was not based on her feelings but on what was right in the eyes of the Church. And it was there in the laws of the Church that she found her heart. It's a moving story I couldn't put down. I was amazed by the depth of the characters--all the characters, even the little old nun who watched the convent's entrance and talked a the robin to pass the time. Mrs. Barclay had carefully written into the story a fabric of Catholic doctrine and way of life.

The Rosary by Florence Barclay: (Free on Kindle) Another story written by Mrs. Barclay, here is a Victorian love story that stands the test of time. Just like The White Ladies of Worcester, it is easy to read and compelling. Barclay relates falling in love with the Rosary, how each moment can be like praying the beads, holding the beads of joy in your hands and giving away your heart. The story also invokes patience and deep abiding love. It depicts two characters of opposite demeanor learning to carefully consider the needs of the other--something we rarely read in romance novels. Garth declares to Jane, "You have lifted the veil, and I am entering in!" However, Jane is overwhelmed by this surprise declaration from her lifelong friend, and she makes a decision she later struggles to undo, praying that she will not have to live with the regret for the rest of her life. Garth's condition, both physical and spiritual, will chip away at your heart, as Jane secretively brings him back to life with her selfless and thoughtful actions. This story reduced me to tears, and I couldn't stop thinking about it for days.

Daughter of Joy (Brides of Culdee Creek, Book 1) by Kathleen Morgan: (Free on Kindle) I'm not sure what possessed me to download this onto my Kindle, but I'm glad I did. Here is a contemporary novel that's a light read but very compelling and thought-provoking. It is the first of four titles in the Brides of Culdee Creek Series. I especially like how the main character brings to life the beauty of what John Paul II called "the feminine genius." The story also depicts clearly the Catholic belief that sorrow and pain is useful and edifying by how it brings us closer to Christ, at the foot of His cross, bringing us deeper into our faith.

The author is a well-published romance novelist, but her life changed suddenly in 1996 when her youngest son died unexpectedly of cancer. In A Word from the Author, she explains to her readers that her Christian faith had turned lukewarm over the years, and her son's death brought her back to God. There was something she wrote that led me to believe she is Catholic (although she writes nothing to confirm it). It was about her suffering; her words ring of Catholic beliefs. She wrote: "My son's death brought me back to God. There are still times, even now, when all I can do is hang on to Him with all my might and be grateful for that. At other times, I cannot help but marvel at how far I've come and how blessed I am. Grieving, I think, is a lot like that--a wild, agonizing, bewildering, yet sometimes glorious ride into the deeper, more essential aspects of self and humanity."

Her novel, Daughter of Joy, is set on the Culdee Creek ranch on the plains east of Colorado Springs in 1895. It's a story of how Abby, who lost both her husband and son, brought life back to Conor MacKay, who had lost himself to quiet anger. Throughout the story, the author depicts circumstances we can all relate to. But what I enjoyed most was Abby's determination to show the teachings of her faith through her everyday actions. And it wasn't easy! Conor made sure of that. Throughout the story, you will meet characters of all stripes, and you just might recognize more than one (that is, people in your life, too). Edifying, compelling, and satisfying, this easy-read is perfect entertainment for busy moms.

Woman of Grace (Brides of Culdee Creek, Book 2) by Kathleen Morgan: The Culdee Creek story continues with Hannah, whom Abby rescued from forced labor at the local brothel. She is brought home to the ranch, much to everyone's dismay. Hannah comes face-to-face with an old client, the husband of Abby's best friend, who is also Conor MacKay's cousin and ranch foreman. In this twist, hearts that are hurt turn to forgiveness with Abby's help, and Hannah begins a new life, grasping her second chance with thanksgiving. Her old client, the foreman, must face painful realizations of how he failed his wife, but not before losing her to influenza. His grief is deep and his sins he feels are unforgivable. He creates a private hell for himself, believing that he is not worthy of God's love. Abby and Hannah help him to find forgiveness, peace, and God's grace. Like Book 1, Woman of Grace shows the feminine genius at work. It's not an easy task, but Abby and Hannah cling to God's grace and find strength to do His will.

I hope you enjoyed this short list and consider how you can add a little Catholic fiction to your reading list, too.

Click on the links in each book description, or click here to visit Kathleen's Catholic Book Shop for almost 50 Catholic titles that are excellent reading.

Happy Catholic reading!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Love Letters From Heaven: Summer


by Kathleen Blease

The Lord's love is all around us, expressed through His Heavenly Father's grand Creation. It's all made for our enjoyment and contemplation. What a love letter! I hope you enjoy a few photos I collected over the summer. Some are of God-made items, others are of man-made. All of them are reminders that God provides in so many ways!


At nearly five feet tall, these cleomes are the largest I've ever seen.
They are the offspring of plants that naturalized themselves here last year.
I collected the seeds last August, but I never suspected they would produce plants this massive.
It seems to me that the swallowtails arrived late this year,
but then again the zinnias were extra late, too. And it's the zinnias the butterflies come to enjoy.
This is Honey Bun's favorite spot to watch her humans. When she embarks on a deep snooze,
she claims the wicker chair as her own. Here's where I like to sit and read,
pray, contemplate, plan, and enjoy a nice glass of wine...on the back porch.

A piece of plywood made into a boat to spend an afternoon on the pond.
That's his dad's really good kayak paddle, but no matter.
 Right now, Max has turned his attention to building a motor-driven bicycle,
and he's thinking about how to build a wooden motorcycle.

Crochet and knitting have taken up some of my time this summer.
Here are some towels I made from left over cotton.
I also completed my first lace piece (a scarf),
played around with curtain patterns, learned a bit about beaded crochet edgings,
and started a sweater that features a cabled shawl collar and cabled cuffs.
A piece of lacework I bought for mere pennie many years ago. It's 22 inches wide.
 Last month, Interweave magazines asked if they may include it in one of their columns.
I still have yet to find out how this was made.
 It is not knitted, crochetted, or tatted. I believe it is a needle tooled lace.
 I'll let you know when the magazine publishes it.

Here's a detail of the lace, pictured above. Imagine the patience required to craft this!
 If you have any knowledge of this lace technique, please let me know.
Our skilled hunter is snoozin'. He's sound asleep. Truly, he has brought home his fare share of rodents.
He knows how sharp his fangs are! When he wrestles with my hands,
he just gums my fingers so he won't hurt me. He's a real sweetheart, our Meemo is.

My mother-in-law sent us packets of seeds from Vermont.
This lovely cosmos, among the bachelor buttons, were just some of the vibrant flowers
that sprung from her thoughtful gift. This month, I'll collect their seeds,
 share them with others, and save some to plant in the Spring




Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Frogs, and Mallards: From the Bird & Nature Journal

I love writing about the nature that's just outside our window--both its peacefulness and its fury. And we've had plenty of both in the month of August! Just a few minutes of quiet time every day really adds up to lots of writing fodder.

Visit The Bird & Nature Journal for an introduction to the nature in Eastern Pennsylvania, a bird watching guide, and tips on identifying birds, as well as lots of links about nature.

Here is my latest sampler from that page. God bless!

Oops. Pardon Me. Hop, hop.August 29, 2011

Photo source: PA Herp Identification.
Cleaning away the debris from the storm today. (Unlike our neighbors, we have lost no trees or even branches. If you take a look at the picture of the cresting pond, below, you will see a majestic maple that's about 100 feet tall. Praise God it lost nothing! A few years ago, we had several trees heavily pruned to lighten the canopies.) A small pile of leaves and twigs were gathered around our statue of the Queen of Peace. I scooped it away with the broom, and....boing! Hop, hop. A huge frog jumped out. He must have been forced into the dry spot by Irene's swirling winds. I wish I could record his memories of the storm! Poor guy didn't have his land legs and hopped about sharp to the left. He navigated the entire perimeter of the porch's stone wall before he finally regained his composer and headed for the pachysandra. I identified him by visiting PA Herp Identification: Online Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of PA. He was a green frog, about 5 inches long. It was a delight to watch him use those long legs!

She's Here!
August 28, 2011

Our serene pond has turned into a raging river.
Here she comes, just walkin' down the street, singing.... Irene's winds are hallowing up a storm outside our windows, and right now I'm glad I took the time to tape them up. The boys spent the night in the library, since a large and ancient maple trees resides just outside their room. I don't trust those branches to hold on.We are watching Fox 29 Philadelphia and Channel 69 Lehigh Valley (our local channel) for up to date coverage, and we're grateful for all the information. Our pond, as you can see from the picture, has become a raging river. Water from the hill behind us is pouring into our basement, even bubbling up through the base of the stone foundation. Believe it or not, our 100+ year-old foundation was built to do this--water in, water out. The sump pump was installed years ago to help the process. I'm sure not a few farmers have had to bail out the basement before the days of these mechanical helpers; we just might be the newest addition to the club, if the power fails.

The storm is eery. It comes in wails. Then there is silence for about half an hour. I can hear only the crickets. The birds are silent. Then the storm returns, and Mother Nature directs a new symphony of wind and rain.

By early morning, Irene is going full strength, without those half-hour breaks. High winds. The trees are bending, and I can't believe nothing is breaking. The rain is heavy, but not as heavy as I've expected. However, it's certainly enough to cause serious flooding.

Thankfully, we have not lost power, but we've learned that we are one of few who have been blessed! Our neighbors just to the North and just to the South have been left without. However, the damage caused by floods and the wind and rain are minimal. We are so very grateful!

Getting Ready for Irene's Visit
August 24, 2011


Some of the flowers I picked before Irene flattens them for good. I tried to leave some behind, so the birds will have seed pods to enjoy during the winter. Usually, they have plenty to gleen from during the frosty months, but this year I'll need to make special note to buy extra bird seed.

I picked all the ripe tomatoes, as many herbs as I could cram into jars, vases, and pitchers, and all the flowers. I'm sure they will be flattened by the wind and rain.

Preparing for Hurricane Irene, a huge storm. We usually don't worry about hurricanes in this neck of the woods, but we are hearing that Irene will reach over New Jersey's borders with ease. That would be us. We have brought in all the yard items, secured all the outbuildings, bought food, water, batteries, collected our flashlights, set up buckets in the basement (in case we need to bail manually), taped picture frame windows, and set to praying. In the meantime, we just heard that Albany, NY, has experienced another earthquake, at 3.0. The east coast is having a great week. What a time to be a meteorologist! This is their week to make observations and put their hard-earned degrees to work!

Shaking It Up!
August 23, 2011

An earthquake in Eastern Pennsylvania? With its epicenter in Virginia, the little quake registered a 5.3.

Did my cats sense it coming? Hardly. I was sitting on the bed reading, with two of our cats lying next to me. The bed began to shake back and forth. Our felines just looked at me as if to say, "Say, just what are you doing, anyway?"

Well, Hello There!
August 21, 2011

I went outside to check the mail and heard the steady peep of a chick calling out to mama. It was coming from the ground. I looked about and found among the cleomes and tick seed a little beak and eyes surrounded by downy feathers. He was precious. I reached it to pick him up and he zipped away in the air. Yet to grow tail feathers, he was flying without direction and trying to land...somewhere, anywhere but in the pond. I didn't like that he was left out in the open, so I tried to direct him back to the cleomes and tick seed. But he didn't want to go, so I decided to pick him up and transport him. To my surprise, he hopped onto my finger. And he had no plans of going anywhere. He was perfectly content. After admiring him, I took him over to shrub. He hopped onto a branch and hopped about like he as king! This was an afternoon I thoroughly enjoyed. (I will have pics soon.)
All Grown Up
August 2, 2011

These mallards were hatched here. The trap in the background
was set by our neighbor, who is trying to catch the family of
muskrats, to no avail
It's fun to observe the brood of mallards that were hatched on our pond this year. They are now fully grown, but for a long while they still exhibited the habits of chicks. They insisted on flocking together when they swam--shoulder to shoulder-- and scooped into the water to eat. They were just too big for all that togetherness.
Over time, I noticed that they gave each other more room little by little. It was a gradual transition. They also exhibited more courage and were less likely to run to the safety of the water when cars drove by and when a bicyclist came along. They were conditioned as to what was safe and what wasn't. Curious people who wanted to take pictures were still not on that list.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Catholic Mom is a Big Job: But to Some Just A Big Bag of Beans

Today I am working on writing a pamphlet for Ligouri Publications, about being a Catholic Mom. You know, it's funny. I really thought I was just about finished, but so many thoughts are now criss-crossing my mind. Being a mom is such a big job, a complete blessing, and a true challenge. How can I express it within my publisher's limit of just 2800 words? Good luck, right? Well, I've decided to focus on a few themes, and now I feel like I'm starting all over. But that's how writing goes!

At about word-count 6000 (which I have to whittle down!), I decided to take a break to peruse a few blogs and then my own. I came across an old post, called Even the Angels Have Not Been Blessed with This Grace, about having babies and one mother's challenge to give up her unborn child in exchange for a big bag of beans.

The family desperately needed that bag of beans. They were starving during the worst of times. Yet, the father's desire to protect his unborn son rose up in fury--a righteous, Godly fury!

I think you would enjoy reading it. Click on the link above. Find out who that baby became later in life.

And, yes, I will let you know when my pamphlet, Catholic Mom, will be available. I'm writin'! I'm writin'!

God bless!

Friday, August 12, 2011

KC on the Go! Kindle, iPhone, eReaders and Mobile Devices

The new school year is just around the corner. Whether you are a homeschool mom or devoted school volunteer mom, you probably will agree with me that September usually means a new schedule of driving, picking up children, and...well, waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting at soccer practice. Waiting at the doctor's and dentist's office. Waiting at the orthodontist. Waiting for Scouts to wrap up. I've gotten in the habit of taking along one of three things: knitting, Catholic literature, or my Kindle.

This is just a gentle reminder (and maybe shameless promotion?) that Kathleen's Catholic is formatted for your mobile devices and eReaders, including iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Kindle. Below are all the links you might like to have.

Mobile formats
Click here to learn about and view KC's mobile format.

eReader formats & free trial
Click here to learn about KC's Kindle format and how to subscribe. Try a free trial for 14 days. If you have the Kindle 3G, you can also access Kathleen's Catholic for free by simply launching the web browser and typing in the blog's address, www.kathleenscatholic.blogspot.com. However, the subscription makes it so much easier by formatting and archiving the blog for you.

Free Kindle Apps
There is are also free Kindle apps, so you do not need a Kindle to enjoy the subscription. Click here for the free iPhone, iPad, and iPod apps. (If you download the Kindle app, you can also download many, many free books, such as the novel The Rosary, which I recently reviewed.)

To Purchase a Kindle
If you would like to purchase a Kindle, click here or on the Kindle icon in this blog's right column. At the top of the Amazon page, click on "Buy a Kindle."

*******
With these readers and mobile devices, you can take Kathleen's Catholic  columns, book reviews, and the recipes from The Little Catholic Kitchen with you wherever and whenever you find yourself with some "waiting" time to spare.

God bless!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Exciting News from Catholic Icing: A New Preschool Curriculum

I just wanted to send you a very quick note:

If you have preschoolers, you will want to check out Catholic Icing's new book, Catholic's ABC (The Book), a preschool curriculum. I'm a big fan of  Catholic Icing, and I'm sure you are, too, especially if you are a teacher, a CCD instructor, or a Catholic homeschooling mom (or dad) of little ones.

Catholic Icing's founder and producer, Lacy, has put down all her tricks and talents into book form and produced a curriculum that is both engaging and edifying. As soon as I saw it, I thought, "Oh, I wish the boys were little again." If anything, little children are tactile learners, so Catholic's ABC (The Book) might be a great way to ease your little students into home school, with its 26 lessons based on the alphabet.

For a peek inside the book and to pre-order, click on the link above. And please tell Lacy that Kathleen's Catholic sent you!

God bless!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Catholic Update Guide to the Mass: A Book Review

by Kathleen Blease


Edited by Mary Carol Kendzia
St. Anthony Messenger Press
$5.99, 48 pgs., paperback

From the back cover:
What is the Mass?
Why do we need to go?
What do we do when we get there?
The Mass is the central mystery of our faith. Do you know what it's all about? Are you up to speed on the changes in the Roman missal? Does the Mass hold real meaning for you or has it become routine?

This is a little guide that is concise and easy to read and absorb. Read it, dog-ear it, underline it, share it, and study it during your free moments. You know, like when you are waiting at the orthodontist, waiting for soccer practice to end, waiting for Scouts to wrap up. There's lots of waiting in moms' lives. Keep it in the car with a pen and you will be good to go.

The Catholic Update Guide series takes materials from their popular Catholic Update Newsletters to educate readers about the Catholic faith—its doctrine, its expression (the Mass), the Sacraments, and its guiding influence in daily life. You can order a free copy of the newsletter by visiting http://www.catholicupdate.com/. There is also the Catholic Update Guide to Confession at The Catholic Company.
This particular edition explains the most important prayer on earth—from what the Mass is, to what to do when we are there, to the forthcoming and valuable changes to the Roman missal.
In its first chapter, Fr. Tom Richstatter explains how the Mass perpetuates Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. That means that the three holiest days of the year, called the Triduum, live in real time and during the Mass we witness Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection as He was two millenia ago. Fr. Richstatter explains how the Mass has remained the same in this way even though it has changed in appearance over the years. He provides a beautiful and eye-opening explanation of our sacred and unique Sunday (and/or daily) devotion.

The book's second chapter continues with Fr. Richstatter and moves on to answer a question that infects and haunts many Catholics across the globe. I often hear this question from Catholics I think of as “cultural Catholics” or “secular Catholics.” That question is: Why do we go to Mass? Many Catholics want to know, Why bother? (You might want to read “What Kind of Spouse Are You?” about why it is important that we worship.) Especially when children are preparing for their sacraments and their parishes require them to attend weekly Mass, this becomes a hot topic.

Father Richstatter clearly explains why attendance at Mass is such a critical component of our Catholic faith. Do you wonder why you must attend Mass to be considered a practicing Catholic? I think you'll find Father's answers heart-filling and beautiful.

He also addresses the very basic question: “What can this one hour do for our faith and our lives?” Father gives us five answers (emphasis added):
  1. I need others to pray well.
  2. The Mass enables me to pray with my whole body.
  3. Besides talking to God, I need God to talk to me.
  4. Being borne again once didn't quite do it.
  5. The Mass helps me find the sacred in the ordinary.
The third and final chapter answers the question, “How do we go to Mass?” This is an important chapter for all of us, but especially for those who have been away from the the Mass and are curious yet hesitant about returning home. In this chapter, Fr. Lawrence Mick explains the changes in the new Roman missal and what it means for our personal experience of the Mass. His writing is clear and comforting, helping readers to realize that there is nothing to be afraid of. It seems to me after reading this chapter that this particular change in my life will not be hard.

This chapter reminds me of a recent conversation I had with a priest. He said, “The changes are not necessary but they do deepen the meaning of the Mass and more clearly reflect the original intention of the Mass.” In other words, the Mass is a deep and beautiful expression as it is celebrated today and that the consecration, the summit of the Mass, is complete and truly valid without the changes. However, the changes in the Roman missal will help reveal to us even more so the beauty of the liturgy, and by giving us this gift of understanding it will bring us that much closer to Christ. The changes are given to us as a gift, and as always we must receive this gift with graciousness. To put it simply, give it a fair shake!

Upon our Confirmation, we are given the directive to continue our faith formation. And this Advent, the new Roman missal is coming. The changes are not difficult to learn, but we should be informed and ready!

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Catholic Update Guide to the Mass. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

Monday, August 8, 2011

How to Use Social Media for Learning--The Right Way!

Just in time for moms preparing for the new home school year, here is an excellent post about how to use social networking in a productive, educating, and respectful way. You will want to bookmark the link below for future reference!

Allison at Totus Tuus Family & Homeschool attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting in Rome, she explains, and has become much more interested in the realm of social media and its possibilities.

As Catholic moms, I know you will agree with me that there are many pitfalls to social networks, but--as with all things--they also possess a potential that can praise Our Dear Lord and help teach our children in new and glorious ways. As always, it is up to the parents to provide the proper guidance.

If you don't know where to begin, here's a great place to start.

As my children are getting older (now both teens), they are aching to use more social networking, something I have been holding back. And I have been wondering how I can help them learn the beneficial ways to use the new medium. First, I need to educate myself. That's why I like this post so much. It gives specifics, sites and resources to check out myself.

Many thanks to Allison at Totus Tuus Family & Catholic Homeschool!

Totus Tuus Family & Catholic Homeschool: How to Use Social Media for Learning ... and homes...: "I just read this article that relates to the image above and wanted to capture it's message here and share it. Ever since my trip to the V..."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

From The Little Catholic Kitchen: Easy, Breezy Cantaloupe Sorbet

August is the best time for this refreshing, easy dessert!

In The Little Catholic Kitchen, we use simple ingredients that are easy to find to make something special. To find more recipes, visit The Little Catholic Kitchen. Bless us, O Lord, and these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ, Our Lord. Amen!


New!

This is super easy and incredibly delicious. It's summertime bright and fresh! I'm almost embarrassed to say how I came across this, but... One day I was cleaning out the fridge when I found a container of half a cantaloupe I had cut up. It was very ripe and past that happy "mouth feel" that would entice anyone. I was about to toss it in the compost bin when I reached in and took out a little piece to try. It was mushy... but sweeeet and yummy. Oh, I couldn't throw it out! I decided to plop in a few ingredients and make some sorbet, with a little help from a ice cream cookbook called The Perfect Scoop.

You won't need an ice cream maker for this, although I used mine. It will work with just a blender, too. The proportions are what I used and had on hand. Feel free to double the recipe if you are going to use a whole cantaloupe. The acid in the lime juice heightens the cantaloupe's taste, so don't be afraid to use it. Bottled lime juice works great.

1/2 jumbo cantaloupe, cut into large chunks
1/4 c. sugar
splash of lime juice to taste
dash of course kosher salt

Yields: 4 to 6 servings

Place ingredients in a blender and blend until very smooth, or use an immersion blender. Taste before moving on, and adjust ingredients as necessary. If the cantaloupe doesn't taste bright, add more lime juice. Avoid adding more sugar; it will only make the sorbet sweeter and cloying, so add more lime juice before you decide to add more sugar. I found 1/4 c. of sugar was plenty.

Chill for about 30 minutes. If you have an ice cream maker, you can use it; it will help force air into the sorbet to make it easier to scoop after it's been frozen. But if you don't have an ice cream maker, it's not a problem. Either way, just pour the readied cantaloupe mixture into a container and freeze. After it has been frozen, take it out of the freezer and set on the counter for about 5-10 minutes to allow it to soften. With a heavy spoon or ice cream scoop, scrape the sorbet into servings.

You can also pour the sorbet mixture into Popsicle molds and freeze.



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Piece of Plywood and An Afternoon: A Day in a Life


Plywood, caulk, stain and paint equals a nifty craft, on
her maiden launch.
 by Kathleen Blease

That piece of plywood was stored in the garage for a good five years. Our thirteen-year-old son, Max, eyed it the other day. Hmm. He had an idea.

He spent a few afternoons planning and building, sketching out his idea, then measuring and cutting. Next came the trim, then the sanding, caulking, and painting...and a few prayers from his old Mom, as I watched him from the kitchen window. Please let it float. Please let it float. I saw a second or two of the YouTube video that inspired Max, and the boatmaker well in his 30s was slowly blessing himself right before "putting in."

Yesterday, just before dinner, Max decided it was time for the maiden launch. Max secretively made plans on how he was going to pull it out from the muddy bottom of the pond should it sink, but his dad and I didn't ask. I wouldn't be surprised if he had supposed that he would employ his father and his Jeep Wrangler that's equipped with a tow strap--a driver and kit that has had plenty of experience at Jeep Jamborees. We even joked about turning the little boat into a flower box, and Max suggested what we could plant in it.

The moment fnally came. He carried it to the water's edge with his brother's help and slipped it off the bank. His dad and I were watching from inside when we saw him flip off his socks and shoes. Oh, we just had to see this! All kidding was put aside, and the four of us held our breath as the boat slipped into the water. Max wiggled into the tiny craft, got himself situated...Don't lean back, Max! Don't lean back, Max! we called out as the boat's bow reached sky and the stern dipped into the water. Working his way into the center, he jammed his knees against the sides and found his ballist.

It took a little practice, but once he got the hang of it, he was able to zip around the pond and show us how the boat could be nimble--in the right hands and with the right touch.


Knees against the side and steady as she goes!
 Max would normally wear a PFD (life jacket) but the pond
is only a few feet deep these days.

Getting the hang of it.



As I watched my son put his water craft to the test, I couldn't help but think, What a great way to spend an afternoon!

But to Max, well he's a builder, so it's all just a day in a life, albeit he is riding high on adrenaline. Of course, he's planning another afternoon excursion on the little boat he has yet to name, while improvements on the design will surely be buzzing around in his head.



What a great way to spend an afternoon!


Monday, August 1, 2011

From Kathleen's Kindle, THE ROSARY: A Book Review

I just finished reading a wonderful love story, and it's free on Kindle. It's how I spent much of the heatwave, after weeding and watering the garden in the early morning hours and cleaning the house before the temperatures spiked. And it was good reading!

The Rosary by Florence Louisa  Barclay is a Victorian love story that stands the test of time. Beautifully written and thought-out, it is indeed a page turner. Now, I am not a reader of romance novels. A Harlequin Romance title has never crossed my threshold. But this story is unique.

Barclay relates falling in love with the Rosary, how each moment can be like praying the beads, holding the beads of joy in your hands and giving away your heart. The story also invokes patience and deep abiding love. It depicts too characters of opposite demeanor learning to carefully consider the needs of the other--something we rarely read in romance novels.

I truly believe that-- in the way Barclay uncovers the love and how the two lovers, Jane and Garth, live out the callings that were implanted in their hearts and souls-- the author has left us with a remarkable and timeless primer of how to love best.

Garth declares to Jane, "You have lifted the veil, and I am entering in!"  However, Jane is overwhelmed by this surprise declaration from her lifelong friend, and she makes a decision she later struggles to undo, praying that she will not have to live with the regret for the rest of her life. Garth's condition, both physical and spiritually, will chip away at your heart, as Jane secretively brings him back to life with her selfless and thoughtful actions.

Even though the novel is Victorian, it is still very readable and enjoyable today. It just might be a great story to read with your teenage daughter.

If you don't have a Kindle, you can download a free app for your laptop, iPhone, etc. Just visit Amazon, click on the Kindle Store, and check out the sidebar on the left. Everything you need is there. Kindle has a large selection of free literature that is in the public domain--everything from cookbooks and knitting instructions to classic literature and Boy Scout campfire stories. You'll never know what you'll find. There are three more free titles from Mrs. Barclay, all novels. I hope you enjoy a little reading during these hot August days.

God bless!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Receiving Christ With A Single Shoe

originally posted April 27, 2010

by Kathleen Blease

Every mom goes through it. It's a time in her life when she realizes that Mass is not fun and/or peaceful and fulfilling, but it's a time of training her children. Any chance of hearing the gospel, contemplating the homily, or receiving Christ in perfect peace becomes pretty slim. Yet, there is a fullness that comes from this all-important maternal task.

My all time low was when my toddler was sitting on my lap and began spitting on my arm. He then took his finger and drew in his spittle. It was the final straw at the end of a long line of antics, and I was sure the entire parish heard me when I stood up and flew my arms in the air and yelled, "Yuck. Oh, yuck. Just stop. Just stop!" But, no. No one heard me. In fact, when I returned to my senses I was still sitting squarely in my seat, facing forward trying with deep breaths to absorb Father's words.

Yes, every parent has this moment. You will love to read about Jennifer's. Click here to visit her blog, Conversion Diary. In her article When Church Isn't Fun she explains beautifully how our sweet Jesus still comes to us in the Eucharist, with our arms wrapped around a drooling toddler dressed in a single shoe and shirt pulled over his ears. (Oh, wait...those were my kids.)

God bless.



My Envy At Mass Was Finally Put Away

originally posted August 18, 2010

by Kathleen Blease

Going it alone was hard, but the Lord gave me my solution.

I used to sit in Mass, in between my two boys, and look around and notice all the families. Moms and Dads flanking the kids. I envied them. When one child acted up, Dad was there with silent discipline. When the family prayed the Lord's Prayer, they were united with clasped hands. Kids could look to the left and see their mom, then look to the right and see their dad. When my children were little and hard to contain, I longed for my husband to attend Mass with us, but I knew I couldn't force it. Yet my longing turned into frustration and then into envy as I watched other families march to Holy Communion together.

Then one day, it hit me. It was so clear. It happened while I was teaching our boys about the Mass, how the gifts are taken to the altar. And when the bread, wine, and treasure are offered to the Lord, we should be putting ourselves there on the altar as well. We should offer Him everything, I told them. Offer your successes throughout the week, your failures, your fears, your celebrations...everything that is in your life and in your heart. Who knows you better than Our Lord? He will treasure what you give to Him.

Yes, there it was. All those years when I stewing in my envy I should have been offering the needs of my husband and putting them on the altar. At first, I offered his discernment of conversion, not sure there even was a discernment, but it didn't hurt to try. Then over time I decided to forget about what I wanted my husband to be, and I began to think about what my husband really needed on a daily basis. Even though he hadn't detailed his challenges in a list for me, as his wife I knew well what those were. So I offered them at the altar, right along side my own little successes and failures and needs and fears and wants. And, yes, even my envy. I finally gave it to the Lord. It was time to give it away for good.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

From The Little Catholic Kitchen: A Quick & Fresh Recipe For Tomato Season

by Kathleen Blease

In The Little Catholic Kitchen, we use simple ingredients that are easy to find to make something special. To find more recipes, visit The Little Catholic Kitchen. Bless us, O Lord, and these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ, Our Lord. Amen!


Cannelinni Beans with Fresh Basil Tomatoes Over Penne


Here's a fresh new recipe just right for tomato season. This is a quick sauce that's bursting with flavor, and it serves up lots of protein, thanks to the beans. The idea here is not to cook the tomatoes down, but rather just to warm them through, which keeps the sauce light and fresh, just right for a summer-time pasta dinner. It takes only about 10 minutes to prepare (once the pasta water is boiling), and it's surely economical and satisfying for families big and small. Omnivores and Vegans alike can dig in.

If you don't have fresh tomatoes, don't worry. Just use two cans of petite diced tomatoes. Fresh basil, oregano, and parsley, however, are a must. In Rome, you will find this dish swimming in olive oil. Here, I suggest only 1/3 cup, but you should feel free to use as much as you like. Use whatever pasta you have on hand--penne pasta, bow ties, twists, or even linguine all work well. By the way, Cannelinni beans are also called Great Northern Beans.

Serve this dish with a crusty bread and olives for a complete and hearty meal. To me, it has summertime flavors written all over it, and it's one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it!

3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced or diced
4 large fresh ripe tomatoes, diced (or two 15-oz cans petite diced tomatoes, do not drain)
1 15-oz can cannelinni beans (or Great Northern Beans), drained and thoroughly rinsed
1/2-1 c. fresh basil, coarsely chopped (amount to taste)
1/4-1/2 c. fresh oregano, coarsely chopped (amount to taste)
1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. dried penne pasta
1/4-1/3 c. fresh parsley, coarsely chopped (amount to taste), for serving
grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Yields: 4 generous servings

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to manufacturer's directions. Meanwhile, begin sauce, which will require only a few minutes.

In a large saute pan, add olive oil and gently saute the diced garlic over medium heat. Be sure it doesn't burn. As soon as you can smell it cooking, add the beans and saute together for a few minutes. Add the basil and oregano and saute a minute more. Add the tomatoes and simmer for only a few more minutes, until the beans and tomatoes are just tender. This dish should not be cooked down; the beans and tomatoes should be just about tender but yet still a little firm. It should have a fresh appearance and a wonderful fragrance from the garlic and herbs. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Also add a little more olive oil to taste, if desired.

Drain the pasta and spoon into pasta bowls. Top the pasta with the cannellini beans and tomato sauce. Sprinkle with plenty of fresh parsley. The heat of the pasta and sauce will bring out the parsley's wonderful aroma. Provide Parmesan cheese at the table for serving.


Monday, July 18, 2011

From The Little Catholic Kitchen: Two Refreshing and Quick Summer Desserts

In The Little Catholic Kitchen, we use simple ingredients that are easy to find to make something special. To find more recipes, visit The Little Catholic Kitchen. Bless us, O Lord, and these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ, Our Lord. Amen!


Vanilla Lemonade Sorbet


(photo copyrighted by Roger L. Blease)

This dessert is easy to make and deliciously refreshing, especially on a hot summer day. While the cicadas chimmy, sit back and enjoy the freshness of summer berries heaped over scoops of this icy treat. All ingredients are to taste, except the water. Use as little or as much of sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice you would like. Make it sweet, or tart, or sweet-tart. Feel free to use a sugar substitute, such as Stevia, but be sure to adjust the amount since substitutes are extra, extra sweet.

1 c. granulated sugar

1 c. bottled lemon juice

dash of vanilla

4 c. of water

sprig of mint for garnish

special equipment: electric ice cream maker (be sure your maker has a large enough capacity for 5 cups of liquid. If you are not sure, it would be better to cut the recipe in half.)

Yields: 1 1/2 quarts

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients. While your ice cream maker is ON, pour in the mixture in a thin stream. Process in machine until it looks like a soft Italian ice. Remove sorbet from machine and place in a large plastic container. Freeze to almost harden, about one hour. Scoop into serving bowls and serve immediately. If you would like, top with berries (the berries in the picture were just handpicked), blueberries, or strawberries. This is also delicious served as a slushy, in a tall glass with a straw.

Note: If you freeze the sorbet overnight, it will be as hard as a rock. Simply remove it from freezer about 20 minutes before serving. The sorbet in the picture was frozen overnight. As you can see, it still made a beautiful presentation, and I think it tasted ever better after the flavors had time to meld together.

Vanilla Ice Cream In A Snap


It takes just five minutes to make the cream mixture. You'll need an ice cream maker, of course.

Two years ago, we gave all our brothers and sisters ice cream makers for Christmas, but we didn't buy one for ourselves. During the following summer, we dreamed about fresh ice cream and all kinds of frozen desserts. As if on cue, recipes popped out of the now-defunct Gourmet magazine and cried out, "Get an ice cream maker!!" Funny, we never noticed those recipes before. So, last summer there was no need for dreaming. My husband surprised me with a Cuisinart model that came with an extra mixing cylinder. I...we...love it!

The first time I made this recipe, I thought I would be good and use just a little salt. The result was a dessert that tasted just like frozen whipped cream, and it had a funny way of coating our teeth. Hmm. While we were happy to have it, it was a disappointment. Then it dawned on me that it was all about the salt. So, while I have listed here merely a dash, you should make it a BIG dash--the kind you see TV chefs tossing into their recipes while they say, "Now we need just a little salt." You might also want to keep this in mind for the vanilla, too. While 3/4 tsp. seems to be the standard (as thus that's how I have it listed), I really don't measure. I pour it in while counting "one, one-thousand." I'm sure that comes out to more than 3/4 teaspoon.

One more note: While you are pouring the mixture into the ice cream maker, be sure the maker is already running. Then pour the mixture in a steady stream. If you don't do these two things, the liquid will immediately freeze to the sides of the cylinder. (This is another beginner's mistake I made.)

Easy and tasty!

Yields: about 1 1/2 quarts

1 c. whole milk

2 c. heavy whipping cream

3/4 c. sugar

dash of salt, preferably sea salt (which is a little sweeter than kosher or table salt)

3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

special equipment: ice cream maker with frozen cylinder, silicone spatula, deep container for freezing finished product.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients until they are well combined. The sugar will not dissolve completely; this is normal.

With the ice cream maker already running, pour the mixture into the cylinder in a steady stream. Use a silicon spatula to scrape all ingredients out of the bowl and into the cylinder.

Run the machine about 25 minutes. Test the ice cream by gently dipping in a spoon (keep the machine running). If it stands firmly on the spoon and seems like "soft serve" in texture, it is ready. Remove the machine's lid and blade, and scoop the ice cream into a deep container. Cover tightly and refrigerate. In about an hour or two, the ice cream should be nice and firm and easy to scoop out.

Enjoy!










Saturday, July 16, 2011

Getting Out the Needles and Using What I've Got

Using up cotton yarn. Two hand towels down, more to go.
The stripes make them related, from the same family.
by Kathleen Blease

I'm on a cleaning kick. Actually a cleaning out kick. There's a difference, no?

My idea of cleaning is scrubbing toilets and mopping floors. But cleaning out, that's another matter, and I'm starting with my knitting bag. Today, I'm on a tear to gathering up my bits and pieces of yarn and using what I've got--getting rid of the yarn stash. My mom and I just sent off some hats for Knit for Japan!, and now I'm stitching up cotton hand towels. My husband watches and says, "I can't believe you can turn these out so fast."

Yes, indeed, I can! I love to knit and crochet. My grandmother taught me many moons ago when I was just eight years old, and every time I take the needles into my hands, I think of Grandma clicking away as she talked. Talk. Clickity-Clack. Talk, talk. And like magic, after just a few visits to her house, another sweater would appear on her blocking table.

A whole bunch finished and topped  with
a washcloth that's made from the very last bits.
Charles' Yarn Shop was a treasure trove--the colors stacked on shelves, the needles in the glass case, and books upon books of how to do this and how to do that. It was a creative haven in Grandma's basement...and that jar of sugar cookies was a great draw, too. You might enjoy my post, called About Rose and Yarn.

Grandma didn't waste time. As soon as I was old enough to get bored, she called me into the breezeway and sat me down with a hook and my very own skein of yarn. The chain stitch came first. Nice and even. Grandma sat next to me on the glider and instructed: "Hold that hook like a pencil, Kathleen, just like you learned in school. That's how you can crochet fast with an even hand." Then I was on my way to the single crochet and the double crochet. Then on to how to read a pattern. Zoom!! The days flew by.

I'm still knotting together yarn with a hook and clickety-clacking with needles. Recently, my mother gave me a huge bag of fisherman's wool, the real thing, 100% merino. At first, I planned on making an afghan, but I have so many already. Then I thought about an aran sweater for my husband. I love knitting cables, but the fisherman's white didn't appeal to him. I already have a genuine aran sweater expertly handknitted in the round, so I'm not in need of one for myself. (I found the sweater under a pile of clothes at a thrift shop. I paid just three bucks! It still has the distinct scent of lanolin. It's an awesome find.)

With the wool, I decided to experiment. The picture below shows a test run. Believe it or not, I've decided to knit kitchen curtains.

Wool curtains? Only if the wool is free.
Made in mock baby cable on size
15 needles.
 Yes, I know what you are thinking, "Merino wool curtains? Are you crazy?" Well, I guess it's better to be crazy with something I got for free than to spend money. But isn't the curtain lovely? It's made with a mock baby cable on size 15 needles, which creates an airy lace. After it was blocked, it took on a very natural and lovely drape, and it's so light the breeze easily pushes it back and forth. I think I will treat it with Scotch Guard to make cleaning a little easier. But I'm not set on this. So far this is only a test run. I decided to try knitting the curtains since we have several windows in the kitchen and fabric alone would be well over a hundred dollars, even with bargain hunting. Besides, I am much more skilled at knitting than sewing.

To tell you the truth, it's the journey that I enjoy, too, so I'm not afraid of taking on a large project. Or experimenting. In fact, my husband marvels at how I can freely and happily rip out row after row, then to try again later.

I'm on board for the ride, and I really like it. And for a frugal nut like me, the great thing about knitting and crochet is that if my project runs off the tracks, it's easy to rip it out and save the yarn for something else. (Ever make a mistake cutting fabric? It's a heartbreak that really doesn't happen with knitting or crochet.) There is no waste, especially if you enjoy the time with needles in your hands--even if a project is a complete failure. For me, it's all time well spent.

In fact, the completion of a project is not my favorite part. I like working through a pattern and feeling the project come to life in my hands. There's something special about creating row after row of a lovely design from what is basically just a single piece of very long string. Okay, there are times I become frustrated, mostly when I know a pattern should be working for me yet I can't quite grasp it, but I know after all these years that it's a matter try, try again. Patience is a virtue that has never let me down. Take it like a big spoon of medicine, and lo-and-behold everything works out, right down to the correct stitch count--yes! It helps, too, that I'm not in a rush to get to the end. When a project finally gets blocked, I feel like I just finished a good book. It's time then to reflect and decompress, then off I go looking for more.

Grandma's mother crocheted and knitted, as Grandma did, as Mom does, and now as I do!

One more thing I'd like to brainstorm is a Rosary pattern, perhaps for a pillow or blanket. It would feature stitches that represent the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, the Our Father, the Fatima Prayer, the Creed, and the decades that recount the mysteries. Well, Peggy Bowes found a way to beautifully apply the Rosary to working out, so surely--somehow--we can find a way to apply the prayer to knitting and crochet. Wish me luck!

Do you have projects you would like to share? Please feel free to leave a comment and link up.

God bless!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Weeds are Welcome!

by Kathleen Blease


wild blue flox
photo source: http://darylrice.com/pawilist.html
I think weeds could be the most precious of Pennsylvania plants. They are sweet and unassuming, they crop up anywhere they please, and they are quite hardy. They come in an array of lovely colors--from soft pastel to vibrant neon. I have to admire that. Sometimes I'm content to see the lawn go unmowed...a better chance to enjoy a few more days of the tiny buttercups and minuscule blue flowers that blanket the...

Wait a minute! Did I just say that?  Could it be I am becoming soft and losing my gladiator gardener spirit? Is this the same woman who flexed every muscle and stretched every tendon to pull arm-fulls upon arm-fulls of  weeds from eighteen tomato plants and ripped away hundreds of "little daisies" that were choking the babies off the butternut squash plants? This couldn't be the same mom who had to give in with exhaustion and retreat to the cool shade of the porch for a refreshing drink, only to turn to her charges staked on top of the hill and call out, in the words of the Governator, "I'll be back!"

Each and every time I approach the garden, it is not with a zeal but with a darn-you determination to take out those buggers once and for all. My husband admires the piles of  hanks I yank out of the ground, but then in time he cautions me, "Honey, you're going to hurt yourself. It's time to stop." Stop? I have miles to go before I sleep! And the womanly machine of cleanliness among the dirt churns on. As you can see, I approach my veggie garden with what my grandmother called a tiger-like zest.

Ah, yes. But, dear readers, that's the vegetable garden, the plot that feeds the kids, my precious little ones--or should I say my voracious teens who probably would support the boxed cereal and dairy industries if left to their own devise.


A short view of the lay of the land. The lawn sweeps up along
the right and heads to the garden and the grape arbor.
To the left are the mill and pond.
And behind us are the pool, orchard, and woods.
  Let's talk about the other terrain, the one I am not able to weed and water due to pure exhaustion, and there's lots of it.

When we first moved here, I had every intention and hope of clearing out the nooks and corners so I could experiment and ponder over new cultivars, the kind that catalogs promise will bloom from the wet spring through the chilly fall. I dreamed of a showy and intoxicating display, whatever the cost--even human. And those catalogs showing up in our mailbox every January didn't help quash my unrealistic dreams.

If you can imagine a land that's squeezed in between veggie garden and woods, tucked into hills with an uneven lawn that reaches into an old orchard that makes us happy when it produces a mere basket or two of fruit, then you can surely imagine our place. And after a few years as director of land maintenance, I am coming to my senses, albeit a little bit at a time. These sorts of things take a while for me.

Just today, as I was walking across the lawn and thinking it was getting shaggy again, I had an epiphany that has probably been baking for a while. Here it is: There are plenty of nooks (even sweeping scapes) I am happy to give over to nature, and she always fills them in happily. No seeding on my part is required, and the flower show each year is worth the long, if neglectful wait. Thank goodness I have finally obtained this basic knowledge before the labor took too much out of me. What a relief.
Pink clover takes over the vinca just as the cultivar
finishes blooming.

The pink-flowered clover, wild blue flox, Queen Anne's lace, common milkweed, wild rose, honeysuckle, and the wild raspberries surely make a palette and nosey perfume with which my gardening experience could never compete. And why would I try? Why wrestle out the clover to put in lilies? Why hack away the honey suckle to put in some cultivated climbing beauty that can't handle the rugged terrain the muskrat digs into and the chipmunks and moles tunnel without shame? Along the edge of the garden the wild raspberries and thistle has taken over, and what a joy to sneak among them to pick the juicy berries. (Granted, I have to wear long rubber boots, but trudging in the brambles actually cleans the garden mud from their deep treads. That's one less chore for me.) By the garage, vinca vine and English ivy have been overrun by pink clover. And why not? The vinca finishes blooming just in time for the clover to reveal its summertime show, something that would require the use of a journal and a few years of observations and notes if I were to get it right on my own.

pink clover
I'll admit that the flowers we find in the catalogs and nurseries are intriguing and down-right lovely. But in the end my practical side, my human and frail side, has to accept the reality that I can do only so much, then I have to let Creation creep in and take over. And ain't it lovely! 


Below are a few more pictures of the lovely weeds that have made their place here.

God bless!




iron weed
photo source: http://darylrice.com/pawilist.html

milkweed
photo source: http://darylrice.com/pawilist.html


Okay, this isn't a weed. This is a small portion of the
clematis that has taken over an arbor near the back
entrance.
Times this by two; it also has take over the
other side. Every fall, I cut this down to the  ground
and am met with a big show every summer. It is at least
fifty years old.
Purple coneflowers have naturalized.
The old concord grape arbor stretches out next to lilies. Wildflowers and naturalized cultivars flank it.



 
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