Thursday, July 31, 2008

OPINIONS?: Food processors

It has come to my attention, mostly through the subtle but determined prodding from Kayte, that I need a food processor. Plus there are those messy memories of whizzing about ten cups of my Whisk Wednesdays Leek & Potato Soup in my tiny food chopper to kind of nudge me in the direction of the appliance aisle at Target.

With a food processor, I'll be able to make homemade salsa, which is something my family would like me to do, because we can never find one that is tomatoey or jalapeno peppery enough for us. I could also make a pie crust, which would allow me to bake a Summer Fruit Galette from the Dorie Greenspan book Kayte peer-pressured me into buying. If you want to see why I should bake a galette, check out the pics from these Tuesdays with Dorie bakers and Whisk Wednesdays buddies: Kayte's site is Grandma's Kitchen Table and Natashya's is called Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. Sara's blog is The Wine-Maker's Wife and then there's Shari, our fearless Whisk Wednesdays leader, over at Whisk: a food blog.

Their photos will make you drool, so please cover your keyboard before clicking over.

Now can you see why I need a food processor? Because I am not a foodie and I can't even make the meager claim that I play one on TV. I don't have the mad skills necessary to "cut in" a pie crust by hand, and truthfully, I'm not even completely sure what that means. I do have a curvy thing with a handle that my mother told me was a "pastry cutter," but she's been using a food processor to make her fabulous pie crusts since I was about ten, so it could be a really small, handle-less sidewalk edger, for all she and I may know.

So anyhoo, I'm looking for a food processor and I can spend less than $40 on it. Does anyone have any recommendations?

You can post your opinions in the comments section or email them to me InsomniMom @

READER ALERT: Day of Reparation Proposed After Professor Desecrates Host

Desecration of Host Not Seen as Free Speech: Confraternity Proposes Prayer Day in Reparation
JULY 30, 2008

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania- The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy is proposing Friday as a national day of prayer and fasting in the wake of the desecration of the Eucharist by a Minnesota professor.

Father John Trigilio, Jr., the president of the confraternity, a U.S. association of 600 priests and deacons, sent out a statement this week asking Catholics "to join in a day of prayer and fasting that such offenses never happen again."

Paul Myers, a professor of biology at the University of Minnesota at Morris, says he desecrated the Eucharist by piercing it with a rusty nail, then he threw it into the trash.

The self-professed atheist wrote about the incident on his blog and posted a photo of the desecrated host.

The statement of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy said it found the actions of Myers "reprehensible, inexcusable, and unconstitutional. His flagrant display of irreverence by profaning a consecrated Host from a Catholic Church goes beyond the limit of academic freedom and free speech."

"Attacking the most sacred elements of a religion is not free speech any more than would be perjury in a court or libel in a newspaper,"added the text.

Father Trigilio told ZENIT that the congregation is asking the faithful to make a holy hour before the Eucharist on August 1, the feast of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, and to fast in "reparation for the sacrilegious desecration of the Holy Eucharist.

Copyright (c) 2008 Zenit News Agency. All rights reserved.

Did it make good leftovers? Overnight Slow-Cooker Oatmeal

This morning when I got up, I was still hungry for the slow-cooked oatmeal, so I went in search of the leftovers. There wasn't much left, since all four of us had a bowl yesterday morning (well, Aisling had a bowl which she sugared and covered in milk and then put in the sink), but there was enough for a couple of bowls.


RECIPE: Overnight Slow-Cooker Oatmeal

As expected, the leftover oatmeal was gluey and unappetizing in appearance, but I was prepared to deal with that. I pried a hunk out of the fridge container, put it in a bowl with a glug of milk and microwaved it for two minutes. When the beeper sounded, I pulled it out and stirred vigorously to reconstitute it to yesterday's creamy lusciousness and sweetened it with one packet of stevia and a dribble of maple syrup. The crowning touch was a scant palmful of chopped pecans.

It was perfectly delicious. My husband, who slept in on this, his day off, trundled downstairs when I was about halfway through my bowl, with an interested look on his face. I offered to make him a bowl before he went out on his three-mile run in training for the Indianapolis Marathon in October (he's running the half-marathon), leaving out the pecans because he prefers a creamy texture with no chewiness.

He proclaimed it delicious, much better than the half an expensive protein bar he usually eats. I pointed out that it was about three times cheaper, too: the entire packet of organic steel-cut oats, which I figure will make about four or five crocks of oatmeal, cost about half as much as the carefully parceled out protein bars he and Meelyn consume in one week. Those things are not delicious, although they are a good protein source for the crazy people who insist on getting up early and exercising and running and all that kind of thing.
But not as good as old-fashioned, slow-cooked oatmeal!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Whisk Wednesday Assignment #13, Part 4 -- Bisque du Langoustine (Lobster Bisque)

Okay, I cheated. But I cheated with a purpose, and the purpose was to keep my husband from shouting at me with a crazy look in his eyes and then cutting up my debit card for spending our $90 per week grocery budget on lobster and cognac. Because I could have, you know? I priced cognac in a couple of different places, several different brands -- Hennessy, Courvoisier and Remy Martin -- and they were all in the $38-$44 range for smallish bottles. Boone's Farm apparently doesn't run to cognac.

And then there was the lobster. When I passed their tank at the grocery, I just turned my head aside and walked a little more quickly. I am SCARED OF FOOD that doesn't give you an actual cost, but instead offers the bone-chilling message on a little blackboard: "Market Price."

I bet you anything that the market price on lobsters flown from Maine to Indiana is not $2.09 a pound.

So I emailed Shari and begged off the Bisque du Langoustine for this week, but I did offer to make instead the Lobster Bisque recipe that I found printed on the label of my little jar of Superior Foods' Better Than Bouillon Lobster Base. This is the same lobster base I bought to use in the Seafood Enchiladas à la Chi-Chi's recipe I posted on July 8. It was good stuff in those enchiladas, so when I read that little tiny recipe, printed in a font so small I thought I was going to have to hire a fairy to come read it for me, I thought, "Hmm, that sounds pretty good. And easy! I'll have to try it someday."

This was the day.

First of all, this recipe scored huge points for me because it took all of ten minutes to prepare, HUGE. Secondly, it tasted delicious. Other than the absence of the quenelles, which are little egg-shaped bundles of puréed lobster, egg whites and a few other ingredients, basted and cooked with the bisque, I wonder if anyone would have known that this recipe came from a jarred base. A purist would have made the quenelles anyway, using lobster or crab meat or even shrimp, but I am very impure when it comes to that sort of thing. Look not upon me. I am not worthy.

So my bisque was just a mug full of creamy deliciousness of a gorgeous pumpkiny sienna hue. I really do think that this could be served as a first course to guests: it tasted that good. For lunch, a bowl would be very nice with a French baguette and some really cold butter.


2 cups heavy cream OR half-and-half (or milk, if you have to be that way)
1 cup water
1 cup white wine (a sweeter variety) or sherry
1 tablespoon Superior Foods' Lobster Base
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon paprika

All you had to do was throw all this stuff in a medium saucepan, give it a go with your whisk, allow it to come to the boil, and then turn the flame down to allow it to simmer gently for five minutes. Done!

I poured myself out that mug-full I mentioned and sat down for a quick taste. The texture was lovely and creamy, the color delightful and the taste completely delicious. I don't know who these Superior Foods people are, but their Lobster Base is darned good. At it cost me a whole $4.95 at the grocery, where I found it on the soup aisle.

Since I'm confessing things anyway, I'll add that I got some crispy golden butter crackers and naughtily crushed a few up into my bisque. I know this makes me sound about eight years old, but it sounded to yummy to pass up.

Next week! Consommé Madrilène (Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes) pages 267-268

RECIPE: Overnight Slow-Cooker Oatmeal

One of my favorite cookbooks in the whole world is the one by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann titled Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook. It has a wealth of recipes that not only rise above my admittedly tacky and pedestrian Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Casserole, but also offer a variety that I'd never before associated with a slow-cooker. Like breakfast foods, for instance.

I was very intrigued by the hot cereals recipes in chapter two, which was delightfully titled "From the Porridge Pot." The very idea of "porridge" makes me go all Mamsie Pepper, but the problem is that I'd never eat it. Because, yuck. Didn't that little boy named Paul have to manfully choke down a bowlful of porridge every morning in order to please his old-fashioned grandmama in Anne of Avonlea? See, he didn't like it either.

But Beth and Julie had some recipes that honestly made me think that cooking some oatmeal for the family's breakfast would be a really smart thing to do. First of all, steel-cut oats are very rich in protein and fiber. Secondly, if you make them yourself, you control the amount of sweetner your children use in them. I mean, I don't want to offend that Quaker Oats guy, mostly because HE IS FREAKIN' SCARY, going around and offering chewy oatmeal granola bars to children and the only food character who could possibly be any more WRONG than the Quaker guy is the Burger King with that giant head, but the instant oatmeal? FULL of sugar. MOSTLY sugar. So much sugar, it's like having a bowl of sugar for breakfast with a few rolled oats sprinkled on top.

So last night, I got out my small slow-cooker and assembled what ingredients I happened to have on hand, and kind of cobbled this recipe together from several that the cookbook's authors had listed.


1 cup steel-cut oats (I used organic steel-cut oats from Bob's Red Mill )
4 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup evaporated milk (Don't use fresh milk because it will turn caramel-colored in the slow-cooker, and this recipe is already slightly dark because of the oats themselves, and the spices.)
cup raisins
1 teaspoon apple pie spice OR 1 teaspoon cinnamon with a pinch of ground cloves, nutmeg and allspice

Spray a small round or oval slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in cooker and stir well. Set on LOW heat and cook overnight or for 8-9 hours. Easy-peasy!

When we woke up this morning, the house smelled absolutely divine. I ate my oatmeal with a dollop of milk and two packets of Sweet-n-Low (I understand that it makes little sense to buy organic oats and then muck them up with an artificial sweetner, but I have to watch my blood sugar and I forgot I had some stevia in the cupboard until it was too late.) My husband ate his with one packet of Sweet-n-Low and a tablespoon of brown sugar. Meelyn used some sugar and added some vanilla soy milk. Aisling, who is the family's champion oatmeal-eater, was nervous about an upcoming sleepover and couldn't finish her bowl, which I'm sure she regrets now that she's with her friends and having so much fun.

I look forward to making this oatmeal and trying dried cherries or cranberries instead of raisins. I look forward to smooshing half a banana into it. I like the idea of adding some chunks of fresh, ripe peaches or crisp apple to the pot in the last half hour of cooking. So many possibilities for a delicious, hot breakfast, full of proteiny goodness!

It was good the first time,, but how did the leftovers stand up? Find out by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I've always been the type of cook who liked a plate to look nice. My mother was always a wonderful cook when I was growing up and she taught me the finer points of both nutrition and culinary aesthetics of not serving a pale, naked boneless, skinless chicken breast shivering on a plate next to some mashed turnips and a serving of wax beans. Her meals were always hearty and filled with color, if lamentably short on desserts.

But actual plating is something I've never really done until the double-whammy of Whisk Wednesdays and Top Chef hit me. All of a sudden, I'm enjoying little finicky details like a flat-leaf parsley and grape tomato garnish, or a sprinkling of paprika and dill weed across the top of a potato salad. (I know the paprika thing is hopelessly stuck in the 1950s days of casseroles baked with chicken, noodles, cheese, cashews, pimiento-stuffed green olives and two cans of cream of mushroom soup, but I can't help it. Just be thankful that I don't make that casserole.)

Tonight we ate a simple dinner of Mexican chili, which the girls and I dished up into our faithful old Pfaltzgraff rimmed soup plates. We laid a slice of Colby-Jack cheese on the top of each bowl, threw a few corn chips on it like a group of little seafarers perched on a life raft in the middle of a bumpy red sea, and topped it off with a sprig of the aforementioned parsley. It looked very pretty, and my husband was appreciative of our efforts. Which made me sigh in relief, because he's a pickier eater than he thinks he is, and I was trying to disguise the fact that we'd run out of our usual cheddar cheese.

I'm also teaching the girls some little niceties of the table, things I left behind me from my mother's training when I had two little ones "helping" and just getting supper on the table took the organizational skills of General Patton. For some time, I've been just throwing bottles of ketchup and mustard out there, along with chips in a bag instead of a bowl, sometimes with a big plastic jug of milk acting the part of a centerpiece. It used to drive me batty when my mother put mayonnaise in a tiny dish and pickles in a tiny dish and croutons in a tiny dish. It made so much extra stuff to wash. If it had been possible to put my frayed nerve endings in a dish, it would have taken a big one.

But tonight, Meelyn, Aisling and I did what we've been trying to do and put jalapeño peppers in a tiny dish and slices of Colby-Jack on a little plate and corn chips in a medium-sized bowl. And decorated everything with parsley, because if you're going to serve your family a cheap dinner like chili made from canned ingredients, the least you can do is make everything pretty.

My husband nodded approvingly and said that everything looked very nice and congratulated me that the girls aren't growing up like wild animals with no manners. He seems to believe that all problems with child rearing can be solved by everyone's sitting down at the dinner table in the evening. Although I could tell him some stories about throwing a buttered biscuit at my father that might change his mind about that.

My personal theory includes flat-leaf parsley.

And plating.

Tuesday Toot! (July 29)

Here's my Toot for Tuesday, July 29.

I can do algebra! Anyone who reads here knows that I am not a math person. I am such a non-math person that I still count on my fingers and never can remember if 8 + 6 is thirteen or fourteen. Or, fifteen? No, definitely not fifteen, but anyway, I told Meelyn that I'd do algebra with her for moral support when she started ninth grade. We're using the Math-U-See program, which has the world's dumbest name, but turns out to be a really excellent way to learn math. We've been going through the lessons and both of us are actually doing excellent work. I'm getting A's and so is she!

There were so many times after I told her I'd do algebra with her that I wanted to kick myself. Kick. My. Self. But now I'm very glad I've stuck with it because, strangely enough, it has given me a nice boost in self-confidence. Although my family would argue that higher self-esteem is not something I should be seeking. But what do THEY know? Probably not algebra, like me!


I just want you to hush up right now, because I can hear your incredulous laughter ALL THE WAY FROM WHERE YOU ARE. All I can say is, if you haven't tried it, don't knock it.

Because I have tried Poo-Pourri. And without going into too much indelicate detail, IT WORKS.

But maybe you haven't heard of Poo-Pourri? Then please let me tell you what it is.

Poo-Pourri (patent pending) is a bathroom air freshener, but it is an air freshener with a difference. It doesn't come in an aerosol can that you keep on the back of the toilet and then spray around the powder room after you've done your business, which we all can still smell, even though you've tried to discreetly mask the odor with the scent of apple pie or French vanilla or a tropical garden or whatever. And I don't want to be too bold right here, because it will bring my mother down on my head like a duck on a June bug, but all that spraying only makes it seem that you just did a poo in your grandma's kitchen, a Breyer's ice cream manufacturing plant or some botanical gardens in Thailand or similar. The aerosol sprays that come after the fact don't really work.

Do they? Let's be honest. We can do that because this is the internet and we can't see each other blushing. YOU CAN STILL SMELL THE POO.

That is the beauty of Poo-Pourri. Poo-Pourri is a liquid that comes in little spray bottles. It consists of natural, plant-derived essential oils in a citrusy blend of bergamot, lemongrass, grapefruit and more, according to their website. Their tag line is "Spritz the bowl before you go and no one else will ever know" and that's exactly what you do: Give the little bottle a shake, spray 4-6 sprays on the water in the bowl, and discover that the essential oils form a barrier on the surface that traps the, er-....odor of whatever you did when you....sat down.

Obviously, this product is a wonderful find for anyone who has to use, heaven help us all, a public restroom, but possibly even more useful for those who have to use a company ladies' room at work. (Poo-Pourri also makes a manly blend of essential oils called "Royal Flush" for the gents who don't want to slay anyone who enters the restroom after them.) Or when you're visiting friends and nature calls? Poo-Pourri has you covered. Literally. Tuck that little 2 ounce bottle in your handbag and you'll leave your hostess's bathroom with confidence. The next person who wanders in (or the next person walking down the hall, as the case may be) will think that you merely stopped by to powder your pert little nose and give yourself a refreshing spray of body mist.

Poo-Pourri comes in absolutely adorable little bottles in a couple of handy sizes, one to carry in your purse and the other to place near the potty in your house. Each bottle is decorated with a little bit of bling to make it hip and fun, which totally works for me because the clever packaging is what initially caught my eye. You can order it online or find it at a number of retail locations, nation-wide and internationally.
Image used with permission. Copyright (c) 2008 by Poo-Pourri. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Drivers' education class complete!

Meelyn has completed her drivers' ed class with a B in the coursework and a B+ in the driving. She has a nice diploma-style certificate and some comment sheets from her teachers, who wrote glowing descriptions of how smart, nice and competent she was in the classroom and behind the wheel.

My husband and I are so proud of her and feel that she, with her cute hair and outfits and good attitude and attentiveness, scored positive points for homeschoolers in our community.

She is busy logging road hours in Applesauce Anne and drives us almost everywhere now. We did chicken out of letting her drive on the interstate yesterday, but other than that, I rarely have to bestir myself anymore, and felt slightly ill-used when I had to get in the van and TAKE MYSELF TO CVS the other day.

Blowin' through the jasmine in my mind

Yesterday was one of the best days we've had in a summer that has been hallmarked by nice days. Not only was the weather beautiful, but events transpired to make an already pleasant day even better.

We went to 10:30 Mass, which meant that my husband and I got to sleep in until 8:00 and the girls got to sleep in until 9:00. Which if you know teenagers, it is REALLY IMPORTANT that they get to sleep in until 9:00, or they walk around with beady eyes and snarled-up expressions on their faces, moaning about how ti-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ired they are until you think you're going to go mad.

The church was hot, so we sat near the back, and although the cantor's music stand completely covered my view of Father, we did have the dual benefits of sitting in a cool draft from the air conditioning vent above our heads and being the first ones out afterwards. Receiving communion, as always, was a joy and a consolation and the highlight of the day.

Being as it was the last Sunday of the month, it was brunch day at my grandparents' assisted living center in New Castle. Despite what Grandad says -- soup too hot, eggs to cold, coffee too weak, oatmeal too smooth, meat too tough -- the food is delicious and we ate at two long tables with most of the family, including my aunt and uncle, a cousin, Pat, Angie and the kids, Nanny and Poppy and Mary Elizabeth's brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. We made up quite a party and there was a lot of laughing going on.

While I was sitting there eating some mashed potatoes and chicken, I was inspired by a sudden idea: Since my family was planning to go to the pool after leaving the assisted living center, I thought it would be a snazzy plan to take Kieren and Dayden back with us to swim and eat dinner. (I wish we could take Kiersi, but she's too little for the big pool and Dayden is too big for the little pool and I can't watch both at once, so maybe next summer. It hurt her little feelings that the boys were going to come with us, leaving her behind, though. *sob!*)

Kieren and Dayden were pleased with this plan, so the six of us piled back into the van and drove home to change into our swimsuits and pack up more stuff that you'd ever dream possible -- the blue burrito and funoodles and a cooler and swim bags and towels and goggles and bottles of sunscreen.....We looked like a herd of pack mules from the Grand Canyon as we trudged our way across the parking lot.

The water in the pool was deliciously cool on our hot skin and we swam some races both with and without the funoodles, all of which Kieren won without any effort at all. We also played several games of Sharkey and enjoyed ourselves like dolphins until my husband and I were both waterlogged and slightly breathless.

The swim club's snack bar serves the best soft pretzels in the world -- all salty, with a side of hot pepper cheese in a little cup -- so all of us had one as a snack, except for Dayden, who preferred an ice cream. I happened to look at him as he was eating it, and he had a perfect circle of vanilla spread from the tip of his nose to down below his chin. I love the enthusiasm with which seven-year-old boys eat ice cream!

We stayed at the pool for three hours, which flew by like magic, and my husband called our favorite pizza place from his cell phone to order a giant pie. We took that home and I passed around the paper plates and everyone dug in, the kids at the dining room table and my husband and I lounging on the couch watching SportsCenter.

After supper, Meelyn and Aisling wanted to show Kieren Michael Jackson's Thriller video, followed by Billie Jean, which they think are the funniest things they've ever seen, especially Thriller, with the special effects that look like they came out of the seventeenth century. My husband and I did some amazing 80s dance moves for the kids, which practically had the three of them rolling about on the floor, clutching their sides with the tears rolling down their cheeks.

My husband's bony hip hurt my hip when we were doing the bump and I had to take some ibuprofen.

We had the boys home by 8:30 so that Dayden could be in bed by 9:00 - he has to get up very early to go to day care with Kiersi and apparently, he is not a morning person.

My husband, the girls and I prayed our rosary on the way back home and came in and put the dogs (who had gone with us to take the boys home) in their crates, water the flowers, and head upstairs to bed.

At some point in the night, I woke to the pleasant, cozy patter of summer rain against the windows and snuggled the sheet closer under my chin, put my feet on my husband's legs, and drifted back off on a cloud of sleep.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wimzie swims again

Meelyn and Aisling were pining to see Wimzie in freestyle action, so we took her with us (plus some towels) to go pick up my husband from work this evening.

We gathered up my husband, who was also curious, and drove across the parking lot to the pond. There were several adult ducks swimming; three of them took offense to our presence and left precipitously. One remained, however, and as Aisling walked Wimzie around the pond's edge, the duck got out of the water fairly near to where Wimzie was sniffing.

Before Wimzie caught sight of that duck, Aisling had made several abortive efforts to get Wimzie to swim without the temptation of a duck dinner looming invitingly before her. Wimzie had no truck with being placed shoulder-deep in the pond, and splashed back out each time Aisling tried to coax her in, giving Aisli looks of deep disdain.

But then the duck hove into view and Wimzie took off after it like a blue streak. The duck, quacking irritably, went back to the water without any apparent need to hurry, and sailed away. Wimzie plowed into the water and started swimming, accompanied by cheers and laughs from the pond's bank.

The duck was WAY faster than she was. It continued to quack at her, and climbed back out of the water onto the bank at the opposite side of the pond. Wimzie, sensing this new tactic, got back out of the pond and ran lickety-split around the pond, where the duck, laughing at her, hopped back into the water and lazily paddled away.

Not to be deterred, Wimzie plunged back into the water and redoubled her efforts. I think it's safe to say that the duck could have swum circles around her and been in no danger at all, but it was very, very funny to watch. The duck and the dog repeated the out-and-in performance several other times as we cheered from the grass verge. Finally, we were all tired of standing in the hot sun, so I called her and she came surging out of the water and ran to the van.

Unbeknowst to all of us, one of the side doors had been left open, and before we could stop her, Wimzie leaped in and covered the interior with a mighty shake. Nice. Very nice.

That's our Wimzie, the swimmer.

First I wondered; now I know

Wimzie comes with me every morning to drive my husband to work. She moves fluidly from seat to seat in the passenger area of the van while we're en route, but on the way back home, she rides shotgun, her head nobly poised out the window, all fourteen pounds of her a-quiver with excitement.

Today was slightly different than most days, because I hung around the dealership until 9:30am. My intention was to go to McDonald's to bring back breakfast for whatever salesmen wished to pitch in and also get a little something for myself, like a crispy-delicious hash brown and a Diet Coke.

To pass the time, I had brought my book, but my eye was attracted by the ornamental man-made pond that stands on the south-east edge of the dealership's property. It's of a biggish size and beautifully landscaped and it looked like a pleasant place to allow Wimzie to go off-leash. I did check beforehand to make sure there were no Canada geese hanging around, smoking cigarettes and drinking Boone's Farm wine out of paper-bagged bottles. Those things are mean and always looking for trouble.

I didn't see any geese, because they were all apparently still sleeping off whatever they did last night. But I also failed to see a family of mallard ducks -- perhaps the same mama and ducklings we saw a couple of weeks ago -- that were camouflaged against the muddy brown banks of the pond.

(Don't worry -- this story doesn't get end with a family of ducks getting eaten by my Jack Russell terrier. It just looks that way right now.)

I found a parking space and Wimzie and I got out and began walking around the pond. It was just a gorgeous, lovely morning. I was looking at the different shrubs and flowers and wondering what they were, other than pretty (I am not a horticulturist by any stretch of the imagination) and Wimzie was happily sniffing the scent of Ducks from Ages Past.

And that was when we came upon the Ducks of Present Day. They'd left the muddy bank and had gone for a swim and there they were out there in the middle of the pond, which was right where Wimzie went in hot pursuit.

She paused for one brief moment, one paw lifted in a perfect point, and then she shot down the grassy verge and across the muddy bank and into the water before I could cry out, "Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!"

On seeing Susie's dog, Summer, swim around the pool last Saturday, I'd been wondering if Wimzie could swim. Jack Russells are hunting dogs, so I figured it would probably come instinctively to her if she ever had the chance to be over her head in water, and boyoboy, was I ever right.

She swam with grim purpose for the duck family, who either didn't see her or perceived that she could pose no possible threat: after all, Mama Mallard was a water fowl and in her element, while Wimzie was a land animal and outnumbered. I figured I was getting ready to see a smackdown (splashdown?) of major proportions as Wimzie zipped across the pond, leaving a wake behind her worthy of a bass boat at full throttle.

It took me a moment to find my voice. I feebly yelped "Wimzie!" a few times, but as she neared the middle of the pond, where a lovely fountain was merrily spraying twinkling water up into the morning sunlight, I finally swallowed down the heart-shaped lump in my throat and shrieked, "Wiiiiiiiiim-ziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!"

Wimzie didn't stop swimming, but looked over her left shoulder at my frantic figure jumping up and down on the bank, and actually decided to obey me for once in her life. She executed a neat U-turn and swam back to shore, climbing out and showering me with a generous, full-body shake of silty, stinky water. She looked enormously pleased with herself, and trotted back to the van with ears perked and her stub of a tail held high.

Could someone please pass the digitalis?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

4-H results!

Can you believe that we entirely missed the fair this year? My husband was working, the girls were with Nanny and Poppy, and I was at CousinFest and it all slipped by far too quickly. Before we knew it, we were back at the fairgrounds picking up the projects and looking dejectedly at the closed up corn-on-the-cob, funnel cake, meat-on-a-stick and Hoosier Dairy Farmers milk shake stands. Even the popcorn was gone!

Likewise, all the rabbits, goats, llamas, guinea pigs, chickens and other livestock that I always want to take home and name and make outfits for were all being loaded up into trucks and trailers. It was terribly disappointing.

But the girls did have some great results from their projects, as follows:


Scrapbooking - blue with honors
Fine Arts (colored pencil) - blue with honors
Fine Arts (pencil) - blue with honors
People in My World - blue with honors
Travelogue - RESERVE CHAMPION!!!!!


Scrapbooking - blue
People in My World - blue
Fine Arts (pencil) - CHAMPION!!!!!
Folklore - CHAMPION!!!!!!

READER ALERT: Update on Professor Paul Myers' hate attack

Paul Zachary Myers, benighted professor of biology at the University of Minnesota Morris, looks to be having a great big giant fatwa opened up on his head with his latest hysterical rant that he will desercrate both the Eucharist and a copy of the Koran in a childish display of equal opportunity bigotry. Click here to read last week's Wednesday update and here for the original reader alert post from July 11.

Below, copied with permission from the Catholic League's website, is the latest statement from president Bill Donohue:

July 22, 2008

On July 15, Catholic League president Bill Donohue called attention to the way Professor Paul Z. Myers of the University of Minnesota treats Catholicism and Islam: the biologist’s pledge to desecrate the Eucharist contrasts starkly with the deference he has shown to Islam.
Now Myers says that “Thanks to all those who have demanded that I treat that silly book [the Koran] with disrespect, I’ll have to treat both equally.”

Donohue responded today:

“The latest threat by Myers only makes matters worse. Instead of treating Catholicism with the respect he has previously shown for Islam, he now pledges to disrespect Islam the way he pledges to disrespect Catholicism (once again!). This is his idea of equal treatment.

“Much has been written about the moral vacuity that marks the Darwinian vision of society that Myers embraces. He now has a grand opportunity to rebut those critics. Or sustain the perception. So which will it be, Professor Myers? I will let Ibrahim Hooper at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) know of your latest bluster. And I sincerely implore you to drop both threats now.”

*Copyright © 1997-2008 by Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Copied to this website with permission.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Burns my biscuits -- a mild rant

I have to get this off my chest.

GRRRRRR!!!! ArrRRrrararaghhhhhh!!!!! Fricken-racken shizmafizzlin' $%#&!!!!! THAT MAKES ME SO MAAAAAAAAD!!!!!

Now that that's over, you can read on if you'd like to know why I just threw that tantrum.

I am the scheduling secretary for the girls' volleyball team, and it is a wearing kind of job. I mean, nothing like blowing glass or mining coal or anything like that, but it requires work with a calendar and an advanced paranoia that makes one check and re-check and re-re-check every scheduled home and away date until one's eyes -- meaning mine -- turn into little wizened marbles and fall out of the head.

So the form of correspondence for all this scheduling is email. It used to be done, believe it or not, by snail mail. UGH! I think the Pony Express may have been involved, but I could be wrong about that. Then the telephone was employed, but email is so much easier that it has become the exclusive method of communication between all the secretaries in the league.

Except for one secretary.

We have been trying to schedule two games -- known by me as (H) and (A) -- and she asked me in our first round if she could have my home phone number. I demurred, because I already hate telephones and would like to have a stern word with Mr. Alexander Graham Bell someday about the nuisance of never being able to sit down to the dinner table without the merry ringing of an electronic bell causing us all to groan. I gently told her that everyone else was doing their schedules via email and I really wanted to stick to that. She gave in with bad grace.

So then we worked a little more, but it seemed like every date her team had available, my team was already booked. So she asked me again for my home phone number, and I told her no for the second time, wondering what she thought we were going to accomplish on the horn that we couldn't accomplish on the net. We could reach the exact same impasse, only with voices instead of typing.

Finally, she asked me a third time for my home phone number and I began to feel like she was some kind of crazy stalker. I resisted the temptation to do what I do with the girls when they're being particularly thick and write, "Look, girlie, what part of NO do you not understand?"

I just let it go unanswered.

So do you know what she did? Knowing that I had told her twice that she could not have my home telephone number, she called last year's scheduling secretary and asked her for my home telephone number AND THEN SHE CALLED ME AT 10:00 LAST NIGHT.

I was so outraged, you would have thought I was a Jane Austen character, like Mr. Darcy in full, tight-lipped dudgeon. Why, out of about twenty other people who are scheduling for teams, does she have to be the ONLY ONE who won't comply with the email thing?

My mother trained me very carefully to never be rude to people, but sometimes, you have to allow a certain coolness to descend upon a situation, and I have that straight from Miss Manners. I allowed a chill to fall on that conversation that was worthy of that big honkin' thing that sunk that sunk the Titanic. It is not okay that she called and got my home phone number from the former secretary, especially after being told twice (and ignored once) that she couldn't have it. And it most definitely was not okay that she called when we were all getting ready to go to bed.

As Winston Churchill said, there are certain things up with which I will not put, and that was one of them.

Whisk Wednesday Assignment #13, Part 3 - Velouté Agnès Sorel (Cream of Chicken Soup)

Back in my undergrad days at Ball State, one of my favorite things the food service came up with was known as Chicken Velvet Soup. Everybody loved that soup, so creamy, so rich, so....velvety! On the days when it was served for lunch or dinner, people would sit at the tables, their heads bent dreamily over their bowls, inhaling the inviting fragrance the way a lover breathes in the scent of his beloved.

Well, okay. Maybe not quite that dreamily. But still, it was really good soup. And throughout my adult life, I have judged all chicken soups on this criteria: Does it measure up to BSU's Chicken Velvet?

I'd have to say that Velouté Agnès Sorel is very, very close. Velouté does mean "velvety," so I was hoping to achieve a very close approximation.

I prepared the stock on Monday afternoon, having scored a gorgeous three-pound chicken at a butcher's markdown price that morning. I made the stock in the slow-cooker, using the recipe I posted here a couple of weeks ago. Only this time, I filled the cooker a bit too full, and when everything inside came to a simmer, it sort of sploshed out and my copy of Le Cordon Bleu at Home received a chickeny baptism that marks it as a true cookbook: In my mind, a cookbook can't properly carry that title if all its pages are pristine and untouched as they were the day it was boxed up by the printer. No, a real cookbook -- a Velveteen Cookbook, if you will -- is one that has pages with notes scribbled in the margins, and greasy butter stains and pages stuck together and all that. My copy of LCBatH already has notes scribbled in the margins ("Totally screwed this up - use fresh mussels next time" the chagrined note at the edge of the Billy Bi recipe reads) and now it has about forty pages that have been well and truly chicken-stocked.

But I digress. As usual.

I was intrigued by the idea of using beef tongue or ham in this soup (guess which one I chose?) because it seemed it would add another dimension of lusciousness to something that sounded pretty darned good, even without the meat. It also called for the breast of the chicken cooked in the slow-cooker plus the addition of butter-sautéed mushrooms, so I was looking forward to a really hearty soup, which is what we got. I found that surprising, considering that this soup is named after the favorite mistress of King Charles VII of France, Agnès Sorel, natch. In fact, several delectable dishes and a couple of operas feature her, a person of reported grace, beauty and intelligence, so I'm thinking she must have been one hot little number who would have appreciated a thick soup made, tongue. And breast.


ANYWAY, the soup came together fairly easily, except for four problems that dogged me.

1) The first trouble spot occurred when I tried to julienne the mushrooms, which refused to comply with my dull and unintimidating knife, so I just sliced them and reflected that last week's Julienne Darblay's results had been better, but not by much;

2) Then I tried to slice the chicken breast before it was cooled because my family was standing outside the kitchen door, murmuring among themselves and sampling the leg of one of the dining room chairs as an appetizer. It wouldn't slice, and was so tender from the slow-cooker that it ended up shredding itself in the creamy broth later on. It still tasted okay, but it wasn't the look of julienned chicken, ham and mushrooms that I was supposed to achieve;

3) I ran out of twine and the becursed bouquet garni went all to pieces in the broth. You know those pictures you see sometimes of a bouquet garni tied with a bit of a scallion's green end? Well, that's all just a cruel lie, so don't bother, and;

4) The soup wouldn't thicken when I added the cream. I don't know where I went wrong on that one, because I followed the recipe to the letter. Is one of my daughters a secret Cordon Bleu spy who made an international call to tattle to the director that I made the stock in a slow-cooker instead of on the stove? And then, according to instructions from abroad, did that girl replace my real copy of the cookbook with a fake one that had little changes made to the recipe so that it would flop? And have I been watching too many TiVo'd episodes from The X Files, or what?

So I served the soup and I thought it was pretty good and Meelyn thought it was just okay and Aisling turned up her naughty nose and my husband ate one bowl in stoic silence, pushing his mushrooms onto the rim of his soup plate with a pained grimace. I sat in a grim silence of my own and resolved to serve the ingrates some pre-fabricated macaroni and cheese for the next three nights.

I just ate the rest of it for lunch and thought it was rather good, although still not up to the Chicken Velvet standard. The combination of chicken, ham and mushrooms in that really delicious creamed stock is quite good. But I would definitely try this out again and work to make it thicken the way it was supposed to.

I felt that this soup, because it was so full of chunky ingredients, was definitely the type of soup you eat for a meal, whereas last week's Julienne Darblay, smooth and creamy could be either a first-course dinner soup, or a main course luncheon soup, or even a simple supper soup, if you wanted it to. To complement the Velouté Agnès Sorel, I made up some buttery garlic croutons to float on top (along with a garnish of flat-leaf parsley) and placed them on the table in a serving dish for people to help themselves.

I would have made a lovely little green salad to go with this soup, but I was pressed for time and everyone was mad at me, so pretend that's what I did, if you don't mind. I'd like you to imagine it with some cucumber and tomato chunks, plus a little chopped red onion and a handful of dried cranberries. We like a nice garlic vinaigrette with that. If you'd like to pretend that my husband and I had a chilled glass of white wine and didn't have some cross words after dinner, it wouldn't hurt my feelings.

Next week! Bisque de Langoustins (Langoustine Bisque) pages 185-186

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday Toot!

The Tuesday Toot is a new thing I'm doing with through my affiliation with Blogamama. Toots are done weekly to celebrate the accomplishments of moms because moms are a modest group and won't admit to being able to do much of anything other than breathing and eating. We all do some bragging on our kids and lots of us do some bragging on our husbands, but if someone says, "Boy, your chocolate chip cookies are the best I've ever had," we tend to say things like, "Ohhh, no. Really. They taste like my dog baked them." Or if someone says, "That presentation was absolutely brilliant - you had them eating out of your hand," mommies respond, "That presentation? You've got to be joking. If you want to see a great presentation, you should take a look at the dinosaur diorama my third grader just turned in. Now that was a brilliant presentation."

So on Tuesdays, I'll be tooting with a bunch of other moms -- to read their toots, just click on the little graphic up there and enjoy. I spent some time reading at other mom blogs today and some are funny and some are inspiring and all are interesting. Moms can do the coolest things!

Here's my toot for Tuesday, July 22:

I wrote a small book about William Shakespeare's life and Catholic roots, with a little info about Elizabethan history and theater thrown in for makeweight. It's not very long, seeing as how it was meant to be an overview for middle school/high school students. As it is, it's pretty much non-publishable because there's not much of a market for a book like that, unless I publish it myself. Which, I don't know about that. But I love it. It's my very own literary baby and I'm proud of it.

CousinFest '08 Vignettes -- Chick flicks & peach margaritas

It was really lovely having an extra night for CousinFest this year. Last year, we stayed Friday and Saturday nights, and this year, we added Thursday night for a little extra fun. I've been poring over my '09 calendar trying to figure out how I can parlay those three nights into something like around thirty, because being in Doug and Susie's house is the adult equivalent of going to Disney World. And I would much rather ride around in a fancy Lexus than in one of those dumb teacups, anyway. Because, the teacups? They can take you around and around and around until you lose your Mouse-eared hat, but the Lexus can take you to a liquor store with a drive-thru window. Snaaaap!

Friday evening was the evening of chick flicks and peach margaritas, so we four girls -- Carol, Susie, Aunt Peg and I -- left Doug the Gallant with his Rhett Butler voice in the kitchen where he'd offered to do the dishes, God love his angel ways, and trooped upstairs to the theater room, where a real-live movie screen descends from the ceiling in some kind of slow-motion deus ex machina splendor and a projector at the rear of the room turned Juno's Ellen Page's head the size of Mars during close ups. The theater room has a huge, wrap-aroundy black leather sofa and a comfort station where you can get snacks and drinks, although we'd all climbed the stairs clutching bucket-sized margarita glasses. Susie climbed up carrying the pitcher part of the blender, sloshing with extra peachy goodness.

The first movie we watched was Juno, which is a really good movie with a pro-life message, told from a secular worldview, which made it the other side of the Bella coin. Quirky, adorable Juno, the main character, finds herself pregnant at age sixteen and totally rejects the idea of having an abortion after finding out that her tiny, tiny unborn baby already has fingernails. The entire film is a celebration of life and families and love - I enjoyed it very much. I wish it were appropriate for Meelyn and Aisling, but there are just a few situations in the movie that were a bit beyond Meelyn's experience and definitely beyond Aisling's. Naturally, they both know that babies don't spring fully diapered from under cabbage leaves and Mee knows a good bit beyond that, but in the context of the movie, it seemed like a bit too much for right now. It will be a great story for them to enjoy and learn from a couple of years from now.

The second movie we watched was 27 Dresses, starring that girl from Grey's Anatomy who plays the idiotic Izzy and James Marsden, that absolutely adorable bit of eye candy from Enchanted (he played the played the brave, handsome-yet-dorky Prince Edward) and also the X-Men movies. Anyway, he is just too yummy in this film and all I remember about it was him and that Izzy chick who was all worked up about being a bridesmaid twenty-seven times and Edward Burns didn't like her as much as she liked him. And James. Jamesjamesjamesjames. Sounds just like the chiming of bells, doesn't it?

Then Susie made us go all troop back downstairs to watch Freaky Friday. She had TiVo'd it on the giant plasma screen above the fireplace, which made Lindsay Lohan's amped-out head look about the size of the space shuttle, only shaped differently. Freaky Friday is one of Susie's favorite films and I do agree with her that Jamie Lee Curtis is so funny in it, but I can't forgive the movie for being nothing like the book. Gone With the Wind, do you hear me?

On Saturday, we spent all the early afternoon either beside or in the pool, deeply enjoying the sight of Summer, Susie's golden retriever, climbing down the steps into the water and paddling sedately around and climbing back out again to shake and then writhe exuberantly on the cement. I know what you're thinking, and let me just say that Carol, Susie and I witnessed Summer squatting in the grass three or four different times, so no worries.

Late Saturday afternoon, we went to Mass at Holy Spirit. Susie and Aunt Peg came with us because they are Episcopalians and all high churchy, although Susie did brief Aunt Peg beforehand so that she wouldn't go up to receive communion. Holy Spirit is a very nice church, although I was slightly scandalized to come out afterward, feeling all holy and all, to see the last-dog-hung people at a wedding reception loitering in front of the parish hall, talking NASCAR, smoking and gulping beer out of plastic cups, undoubtedly obtained from the tapped keg inside at the open bar. Only in Catholic World does stuff like this happen, although I'm sure that the more top-drawer Episcopalians probably get just as hammered while tidily drinking champagne and discussing their investment strategies at tasteful, white-draped round tables. (People in all the other denominations drive to liquor stores in other counties where no one will recognize their cars outside and then go home to drink in private.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

CousinFest '08 Vignettes - "Sooorrreeeee, Sissy!!!!!"

As I wrote before, Susie gave Carol and I the lovely gift of a mani-pedi at the glamourous spa/salon named Panache where she gets her hair done and her nails done and her little pink piggies done and her back and shoulders massaged and who knows what else -- Brazilian, Susie? Hm? It was a premium, A+ experience and so for all two of you out there who, like me, have yet to experience the wonders of a mani-pedi, read on.

When Susie first called Dana, the manicurist/pedicurist to schedule the appointment, she confessed to Dana that neither Carol nor I had ever had a pedicure before.

Dana, who has a Kentucky accent that rolls off her tongue like butter 'n' black pepper off a cob of sweet corn, was aghast and said, "Sissy, you take a look at their feet when they get to y'all's house and then run off to your bathroom and call me on your cell phone, so I'll know if I need to schedule an extra half hour for them."

Sissy. That's what she calls everyone, Sissy. Isn't that just so cute? I've been called "Missy" before (mostly by my mother whenever she was angry with me and tired of using my middle name, which is dumb and ugly, in tandem with my first name), but never "Sissy." I found it very endearing, even though Dana was obviously implying that mere professional pedicure tools weren't going to be nearly powerful enough for my rough dogs and that she was going to have to break out the Black & Decker belt sander to deal with me. And maybe a pair of diamond-blade toenail clippers of the size usually reserved for the massive claws of Great Danes.

We got into the mani-pedi room at the spa and it was so beautiful, I thought maybe I'd been somehow transported through a time warp to the Empress Eugenie's personal sitting room. There was even a little fireplace! I had never seen a mani-pedi chair before and was enchanted by the swirling warm water in the little footbath, lighted from within and glowing aquamarine in the golden earth tones of the elegant decor. The water felt so very, very good and I thought that was as good as it was going to get until Susie handed me a glass of wine and Dana punched some buttons on a remote that was nestled on the arm of the chair and the blessed thing started giving me a massage. A chair! Giving me a massage! I think it was one of those Shiatsu-type things, and although it did punch me once in the kidneys, a slight upward adjustment of my posture took care of that little problem.

After allowing my feet to soak, Dana got down to business, lotioning and massaging and probably surreptitiously looking at my calluses and wondering why she hadn't chosen some pleasant, easy career path, like, say, working in a mine. Then she went to a sterilizer and selected a number of tools, which she placed on a tray and as she set them down on a low table by her elbow, I began to wonder if she was going to work on my feet or remove my spleen.

This is the part of the story where Susie and I began laughing so hard, I began to see little black dots swimming in front of my eyes. Carol was getting her manicure from Tiffany and her back was to us, so she kept going, "What? Who? What are you doing? Who?" like an owl, but it was kind of hard to hear her over the screaming and bellowing.

Dana was no shirker when it came to callus and cuticle removal. She grabbed my left foot, propped it on her knee, secured it in the crook of her elbow and began to pumice my calluses so hard, smoke was practically pouring off that scouring tool. I yelped a few times, mostly because I am a big baby and she said, "Sooorrrrreeeeee, Sissy!!!" in her inimitable accent, which made me laugh and shriek at the same time. Which sounded slightly drunken, but I'd only had the one glass of wine, so I can't be blamed, no matter what the manager of Panache says.

When she got done with that, she went to work on my toenail cuticles, which were a great disappointment to Dana. But she was brave and stalwart and went after those things like Aragorn going after those Nazgûl in The Fellowship of the Ring. I twitched and whined and Susie bent double laughing and Dana looked at me over the tops of her rhinestone-studded glasses and said, "Soooorrreeeee, Sissy!" while continuing on with her own stream of side-splitting patter until I had tears in my eyes, either from her conversation or from my owie toes, it was hard to tell which.

By the time she got finished painting my toenails a very nice mango/coral color, I was giggling and relaxed and aware, even more than usual, that beauty requires some suffering. My feet looked fabulous -- all painted and satiny-smooth and kind of glowing. They did not really look my own usual feet, and only the fact that they were attached to my legs convinced me that they were the same sturdy things that carry me around from day to day.

Tiffany did my manicure afterwards, while Carol got her pedicure. Tiffany and I had a long, lovely discussion about Meelyn's possibly going to cosmetology school (starting during her senior year) and how important it was for her to go ahead and get her four-year degree so that she'd have two professional careers. Tiffany told me what's important to look for in a school of cosmetology and some other interesting stuff about the beauty business and the whole conversation ended with me wanting to go to cosmetology school and become a mani-pedi person, never mind about Meelyn.

It was all so much fun and I couldn't have enjoyed myself more if Santa had suddenly come down the chimney and landed in the mani-pedi room with a reverberating "Ho, ho, ho!!!" and given me a mani-pedi person of my very own to paint my finger- and toenails a different color every day.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back from CousinFest '08

I am finally back home and although I am just about pole-axed from riding in the car half the day and I've eaten more cheese that any sensible person would ever deliberately ingest, I had an absolutely wonderful weekend. Wonderful!

My mani-pedi still looks fabulous and Susie gave me a little plastic bag with some Colon Cleanse tablets in it and my husband and the girls met me in Madison at Carol's house and we visited with Uncle Graham and Miss Bella and swam in their gorgeous pool.

It was an amazing weekend and I am about to fall face-first onto the keyboard. I shall go to bed tonight and dream of drinking peach margaritas with watching Juno and 27 Dresses and looking at my pretty, pretty toes.

Sending out some BIG LOVE to Carol, Susie, Aunt Peg, Doug, Uncle Graham, Adrienne, Summer and Bella, plus Dana and Tiffany at Panache Spa and all the friendly folks at Holy Spirit Catholic Church and the cute guy at the drive-thru liquor window (I know. I don't get it either) where we bought a wee little bottle of tequila for our limited alcohol needs (we talk big, but we don't drink much)....and of course Lilly, who couldn't come this year and was missed tremendously.

Good times. Goooooood times.....

Friday, July 18, 2008

Live from CousinFest '08

I'm snatching a minute away from the action to post that I have just returned from Panache Spa in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where I just had my FIRST EVER MANI-PEDI, a gift from Susie. She packed a lunch of chicken salad, pimiento cheese sandwiches, sugar snap peas, baby carrots, strawberries, watermelon and chocolate cream cheese brownies and a bottle of Oliver's white wine and I was able to sit while Dana tended to my feet and Tiffany repaired the damage done by too many sinkfuls of dishes, sipping wine and having strawberries and gosh, was it fun.

This has become, somehow, the Weekend of Cheese and we're kind of wondering how things are going to come out, if you know what I mean. Carol is in the kitchen making a chocolate chip cheeseball and Susie is in the kitchen making chicken and cheese enchiladas and we have some cranberry cheese to snack on, right before we start on the blue cheese cheeseball that I'm going to make as soon as I can get into the kitchen. Last night, we had brie, pepper jack and goat chevre with pesto on crackers and oh, heaven help us all. It's the first time I've ever thought that a quart bottle of Senokot would be a good hostess gift.

I have to go. I just heard Susie say "Let's get this blender goin'!" Which means that margaritas, which are fortunately cheese-free, are on the way.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Whisk Wednesday Assignment #13, Part 2 -- Julienne Darblay (Creamed Leek and Potato Soup)

The Julienne Darblay was a wonderfully easy soup to make. It made the whole house smell deliciously of promises of dinner to come, which was confusing for my family, considering that I was cooking it at 5:30am on Thursday morning. But really, is there a bad time for your house to smell of simmering leeks and potatoes and bouquet garni, in a rich homemade chicken stock?

I don't think so either.

I had to make a number of executive decisions on this recipe, based on the fact that I am leaving for CousinFest for the next few days and I haven't yet packed a single cotton ball. Even though it's less than twelve hours until my husband and I meet Carol and transfer my cotton ball (and hopefully some other things as well, like a clean top to replace the one I will undoubtedly spill a cosmopolitan on) from our car to hers. I was working under pressure.

Julienne Darblay's most difficult task was doing the julienne, and I was pleased and surprised to discover how easy that was. Everything else consisted of cutting and washing the leeks (the recipe didn't call for the bits of dirt and sand that you can find in a leek's layers), dicing the potatoes and assembling the bouquet garni. The bouquet garni consisted of parsley, a bay leaf, thyme, celery and the green part of the leek: I used dried herbs and fresh celery and leek for mine.

The only part that stumped me about the soup was the potatoes. The recipe didn't specify if they were to be peeled or not. I hung over the sink for a moment with Le Cordon Bleu at Home at my left and a veg peeler at my right. To peel or not to peel? I remembered with sorrow the Billy Bi soup from last week that desperately needed the flavor from the mussels' juices; is there some essence of potato that I'd be missing in this soup if I peeled? On the other hand, the cookbook features a picture of the soup on page 132 and it was very light in color. The leeks and potatoes are puréed in a food processor after cooking to render a smooth, creamy texture and I had to wonder if that light color could be achieved if the skins of my lovely russets were part of the purée?

In the end, I chose to peel.

The leeks, potatoes, bouquet garni and chicken broth had to simmer together for about half an hour, so I left them to their business and practiced my julienne skills with a carrot and a leek green, observing that it's hard to cut anything when you buy your knives from the grocery's baking aisle for $7.99. I still do have all my fingertips -- but only because the knife isn't sharp enough to cut one of them off -- and moved on to the final stage of the soup.

The food processor.

I have an admission to make here: I don't own a food processor. When I told Kayte this a few months ago, she practically needed smelling salts. I fanned her energetically as she sat slumped in a chair and said in a weak voice, "You don't have a food processor? How do you cook?"

"Mostly from cans and boxes," I confessed. Which practically brought on a panic attack and I had to dial 9-1-1 on my mobile and stand there, still fanning, and waiting to see if I needed to press the Send button.

I do have a teeny little food mill that is fifteen years old. I know how old it is because I bought it to make baby food for Meelyn with. Many's the pea and peach I've whirled around in that handy little gadget, but the problem is that it holds about a cup of whatever you want to mill in it, and I had a good deal more than one cup of soup to handle.

However, no one's going to say that I'm not intrepid and ready to take on a challenge, especially from Le Cordon Bleu. Mine is not to question why and all that. So I got my soup pot, my food mill, a strainer and a clean bowl assembled and went to it.

My first surprise was that my bouquet garni had come undone and that little flecks of dried herbs were merrily bathing themselves in the broth. Oh, well....the soup was going to be speckly instead of one color and mirror-smooth, but what can you do? Other than strain the soup before milling it, which I wasn't inclined to do at 6:00am.

It took less time than I thought, and before long, I was rewarded with a lump of greenish potatoey-leeky stuff that looked very strange but smelled divine. My only problem here is that the silly stuff was too thick to strain and I was a little confused about the whole "pressing out the liquid and discarding the solids" thing that the book told me to do: It seemed to me that I'd be reducing the amount of soup from six or maybe eight servings down to about four. So I decided against the pressing.

"Le Cordon Bleu," I said. "You are not the boss of me. But only because I am not paying you a giant tuition, but instead purchased this book at a very reasonable price from"

The only thing left to do after that was return the soup to the pot and the heat, allow it to warm again, and then take out a small portion in a little bowl so that the cream could be stirred into that to avoid curdling the cream. At least that's what I'm assuming might happen. With a pint of store-brand heavy cream at $3.99, I wasn't about to just throw it into the pot and hope for the best.

The cream stirred into the soup pot easily, and although I didn't have the delightfully smooth look the picture in the book called for, it still looked pretty darned good. And again I have to return to the smell, which was better than you can imagine. No, better than that.

I got a small serving out of the pot and sat right down to sample. I have to say that this is one really delicious soup. I know that a lot of it is due to the stock, because the rich, chickeny-ness provided a good base for the flavor, layered by the mild potato and leek and still again by the combination of herbs. It evoked a taste and feeling of autumn, with soup in warmed bowls and homemade croutons floating on top... it was just sooo good.

Next week! Velouté Agnès Sorel (Cream of Chicken Soup) pages 444-445


Due to circumstances as far beyond my control as the rising and setting of the sun, I did not get a chance to make the Julienne Darblay soup today (or yesterday or the day before that), although I did make a lovely, golden pot of stock on Friday, which I froze, and bought all the groceries I needed except cheesecloth for the bouquet garni, that little bag of herbs which is so dearly beloved in French cooking, also which I cannot remember no matter how many times I walk through the doors of the market. Some brain cramp occurs and wipes "cheesecloth" right off my slate and puts "chocolate" there instead and now I have forty-seven bits of candy and no cheesecloth.

And no soup. Although I hopefully will have some here tomorrow, since the leeks are sitting hopefully in the fridge and the stock is defrosted and the potatoes are beginning to ask "Are we there yet?" every time I walk through the kitchen.

Very nice!

I wrote a post a couple of days ago about Meelyn in the driver's ed class titled In the horrors describing the birthday gifts that some girls seem to expect from their boyfriends of three months' standing. I was gobsmacked when Mee said that one girl bragged that her beau had purchased a $178 necklace from Kohl's, and I expressed the fervent hope that it was just big prideful talk.

The conversation came up during the class's ten minute break because one of the boys asked what he should buy for his girl's birthday. They'd been dating for three months, he said. That's how the subject of jewelry came up.

So I'm happy to report that the boy said today that he'd bought her a $20 gift certificate from Starbucks. If you're into the whole dating-at-fifteen scene (which I'm not, just in case you hadn't noticed), I think that this is a very thoughtful and respectable -- and respectful -- gift. I have a feeling that there were some parents in there putting the ix-nay on the whole jewelry idea, and this gift idea was a nice thought.

Well done, unknown boy from driver's ed!

READER ALERT: More on Professor Paul Myers' hate attack

Here's an update on Paul Zachary Myers, the University of Minnesota Morris professor of biology and maaaaajor hypocrite I posted about last week. Evidently, Myers has obtained a consecrated Host and lets the world know that his bigotry doesn't extend to Islam.

July 15, 2008

Catholic League president Bill Donohue commented on the latest developments to surface regarding the pledge made by Paul Z. Myers, a professor at the University of Minnesota, to desecrate the Eucharist:

“Myers was quoted yesterday saying, ‘I have to do something. I’m not going to just let this disappear.’ [Last Friday it was reported that he had acquired a Host.] He continued, ‘Something will be done. It won’t be gross. It won’t be totally tasteless, but yeah, I’ll do something that shows this cracker has no power.’

“The biology professor made it clear that he would never disrespect Islam the way he does Catholicism. When asked about those who abuse the Koran, for example, he said such an act was analogous to desecrating a graveyard. ‘That’s completely different,’ he said. ‘I don’t favor [that idea].’ But when it comes to the Body of Christ, he opines, ‘The cracker is completely different.’

“This isn’t the first time Myers has shown deference to Islam. For instance, two years ago he was critical of the Danish cartoons that simply depicted an image of Muhammad. ‘They [the cartoons] lack artistic or social or even comedic merit, and are presented as an insult to inflame a poor minority.’ So now the Planet-of-the-Apes biologist has divined himself an expert on the artistic value of cartoons. So thoughtful of him. He even went so far as to say that Muslims ‘have cause to be furious.’ (His italic.) Worthy of burning down churches, pledging to behead Christians and shooting a nun in the back, Professor Myers?

“We hope Myers does the right thing and just moves on without further disgracing himself and his university. The letter I received from University of Minnesota President Robert H. Bruininks makes it clear that school officials want nothing to do with his hate-filled remarks. It would also be nice if Myers’ fans would cease and desist with their hate-filled screeds.”

*Copyright © 1997-2008 by Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Copied to this website with permission.

FEAST DAY! Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

"His mother said to the servers, 'Do whatever he tells you.'" ~John 2:5

Before converting to Catholicism, I never understood why Catholics placed so much emphasis on Mary. The first time I went to Mass with my friend Cathy (I was about seventeen at the time,) I remained on high alert for anything, anything at all, that would indicate that anyone other than the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was being worshiped. Because? I was going to hit the center aisle and start running before the lightning struck.

Imagine my surprise when Mary was only mentioned once, and that was to ask her and the angels and saints in heaven to pray for us all for strength to resist sin.

I couldn't argue with that and politely kept my seat, thus avoiding embarrassing Cathy and her parents and shocking the nuns who knelt in the front row.

In these past six years or so, I have developed a devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, mostly because I love the Brown Scapular and its meaning, but secondly because all the artwork of Mary with the infant Jesus is so beautiful. There are probably a thousand depictions of Mary and Jesus in Carmel mode, and I love them all.

I was surfing around on the 'net today, looking for some info to put here on the blog about Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Brown Scapular, which I wear daily. (I used to have an actual little woolen scapular, but it got so frayed and threadbare that I decided to switch to a medal. That scapular, its meaning and its physical presence, got me through a really difficult and depressing time about four years ago and I take great comfort in the meaning it holds for me.) I found this website, which is simply titled The Brown Scapular and I really love the way it clearly stated what the Brown Scapular is and what benefits it holds for the wearers.

The Blessed Virgin teaches us:

~To be open to God, and to his will, shown to us in the events of our lives;

~To listen to the Word of God in the Bible and in life, to believe in it and to put into practice its demands;

~To pray at all times, as a way of discovering the presence of God in all that is happening around us;

~To be involved with people, being attentive to their needs.

The Scapular finds its roots in the tradition of the Order of Carmel, which has seen in it a sign of Mary’s motherly protection. It has therefore, a centuries old spiritual meaning approved by Church.

It stands for a commitment to follow Jesus, like Mary, the perfect model of all the disciples of Christ. This commitment finds its origin in baptism by which we become children of God.
It leads us into the community of Carmel, a community of religious men and women, which has existed in the Church for over eight centuries.

It reminds us of the example of the saints of Carmel, with whom we establish a close bond as brothers and sisters to one another.

It is an expression of our belief that we will meet God in eternal life, aided by the intercession and prayers of Mary.

Some notable saints of the Carmelite Order are:

St. Teresa of Avila
St. John of the Cross
St. Thérèse of Liseux
St. Simon Stock
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (author of the well-known little book The Practice of the Presence of God.)

Happy feast day, our mother of Carmel!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In the horrors

Meelyn comes home every day with interesting stories to relate about driver's ed class, but only a small part of it has to do with the driving. During the ten minute break time, she and the other four girls gather in a group accompanied by one or two boys, and sit and chat. Meelyn says that she mostly stays silent and observes, filing comments away for later family discussion.

One conversation that took place yesterday started when one of the boys said, "I've been dating my girlfriend for three months and her birthday's coming up. What should I get for her?"

I was thinking about what Ellen's rules were for Scarlett in Gone With the Wind: she could receive gifts from a suitor such as a book of poetry, a small bottle of eau de toilette...maybe a single pink rose. Even Bill Clinton followed those rules. We all know that he got Monica Lewinsky a lovely copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, which was a very tasteful and irreproachable gift, although I think that the fact that he was married must have put a bit of a damper on things from the suitor angle. And I don't know if Ellen O'Hara would have approved of the fact that his pants were around his ankles when he presented it to her.

Anyway, the girls in Meelyn's class piped up and starting one-upping each other with stories of what their young swains had given to them, up to and including a $178 gold necklace from Kohl's.
Are there parents out there who think that this is okay? Do they even know that their daughters have received gifts like this? In a world where a boy can be constructing bombs in the very garage where his parents park their vehicles at night, I don't think that parental obliviousness can possibly be overstated enough.

It creeps me out. Because whether we want to admit it or not, there are some men (and presumably boys) who buy costly gifts for their girlfriends as a return for services rendered. Some men, not all. The problem is that a girl might not have an accurate idea of who's who until he starts taking liberties (also from Gone With the Wind; ref.: Rhett buys Scarlett a bonnet in Paris.) Please don't get upset with me for saying it, either. If you are reading this and you don't know that for some, this is an unspoken rule of the world of dating, I think you may have been living under a cloud. Miss Manners speaks to this very issue of gift-giving and dinner-buying in her book, Miss Manners' Guide to Excrutiatingly Correct Behavior, about how some men expect payment for the dinner they've bought before it even has time to leave the lady's digestive tract. Heh.

Besides, my mother taught me that the only gift of jewelry a young man can present to a young lady that she can accept without compromising herself is an engagement ring. And then he still has to wait.

But the really disturbing thing that the kids were talking about had nothing to do with gifts or implied IOUs for sex or who's doin' it and who isn't; it had to do with their grandparents. Not everyone participated in this conversation. It apparently was just two of the girls.

One of them said, with a deep, disgusted sigh, "I dread class being over today because I have to go see my grandma."

Another one chimed in, "My parents pay me $20 to go talk to my grandma, who is really old and practically deaf."

Meelyn was astounded by this, being brought up in a family where grandparents are beloved people. She told me this story with disbelief and for a moment, I thought she was going to have to restrain me from punching a parent in the head.

Here's the scenario:

Me: [Walks up to an SUV in the driving center's parking lot with a mother waiting behind the wheel] Hi! I'm Shelley. Our daughters are in driver's ed class together. How 'bout them one-way streets, huh? Anyhoo, my daughter told me that you pay your daughter $20 to go visit her grandma. Is that true?

Mother: Yes. Brittany just refuses to go, so my husband and I thought that $20 per visit would be a great incentive.

Me: Okay. Just checking. [Swings Louis Vuitton handbag at mother's empty shell of a head] Take that!...*whump!*....and that!....*whack!*...and I won't hit you anymore because you're going to have enough pain as it is when you get old and your grandkids HAVE TO BE PAID TO PRETEND THAT THEY LOVE YOU. Enjoy that crappy nursing home they'll stash you in, toots."

I seriously think it would kill Grandad if he thought that my kids had to be paid to come visit. And with my mom and dad, getting Meelyn and Aisling to visit isn't as much of an issue as getting them to come back home after the visit's over.

To set the record straight, I don't think that Christian parents or homeschooling parents are exempted from this kind of lousy parenting. You can observe both great and horrible skills from both groups. But the people I know and hang with aren't like this at all about their families. Katie's Beck goes to stay with her grandma; Kayte's Alex looks forward to his annual Nephews' Field Trip with his Aunt Nan; another friend has her frail, elderly parents stay with her for weeks on end and as far as I know, her children have never suggested that Mimi and PawPaw should be kicked out into the streets. And I've never heard any suggestions that financial transactions were involved between parents and children, either.

The idea of paying a kid to visit her own grandmother is just beyond my ken. I sincerely hope that the girl was just being a big braggy talker, trying to make herself look tough and all full of ennui about the older generations in front of her peers.

If she wasn't, what's this world coming to?


Meelyn has been driving us, like, everywhere.

She drove us home from the 4-H Fairgrounds on Sunday, which was a half-hour trip on a not-busy state highway. She drove us around town yesterday running errands to Goodwill and the Second Harvest Food Bank drop off (because of all the fires, flooding and tornado damage, they really, really need your donations; go to to find donation sites in your area) and then she drove us to go pick up my husband from work. On a medium-busy state highway.

We pulled into the parking lot of the dealership and saw my husband standing out front under the big portico with some colleagues, talking and spinning tales of the big sale that got away. Meelyn glided gently into a parking space and came to an easy stop, put the van in park and then tooted the horn twice to get her dad's attention. Everyone looked over at us, and when they saw Mee, they all went, "Whooooooaaaaaaaaaa!!!!"

I have to say, it is really lovely being driven around. I feel like I wedge myself behind Anne's steering wheel about a thousand times a day, and it is very nice to sit as a passenger, talking to the girls and offering instruction to Meelyn: "You need to pick up your speed just a bit - we're in a 55mph zone now...You're coming up on a red light, so start braking easily and that way you won't have to step down hard and rock our heads forward....Do you remember what your instructor said was a safe distance to travel behind another vehicle at 55mph? Good!...."

She's really doing a great job and I didn't anticipate driving with her on a state highway for a few more weeks. Or, let's be honest, months. Because after all, I changed her diapers and fed her smashed peas from a little jar and I know there's no way she could be old enough to drive.

I'm pleased to say that she also took the Lesson Three test in the Math-U-See Pre-Algebra book yesterday and scored a B-.

So yesterday was a banner day for Miss Meelyn and my husband and I raved over her on the way home from the dealership until we heard a dry little voice from the rear seat say, "Okay. It's time to give a little praise to me, your youngest child, the cherished BABY OF THE FAMILY."

Aisling, Aisling, Aisling.....hee hee

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Thanks be to the saints and angels in heaven, who undoubtedly watched over us yesterday and kept us from killing each other with the scissors or even that little saw-toothed cutting edge on the Scotch tape dispenser: THE 4-H PROJECTS ARE TURNED IN.

Yes. After working like maniacs for the past three weeks and for seven hours -- I kid you not -- yesterday, project turn in day arrived. I can now sleep at night without having nightmares about showing up at the 4-H Fairgrounds and realizing that we'd left all the projects back at home, piled on the dining room table. I'd finally reached the point where I refused to go to Hobby Lobby one more time, even if we ran out of stickies, even if it meant the girls had to mount photographs on their People in My World project boards with old chewing gum they'd collected from under the tables at Waffle House. I was. Not. Go. Ing. Back.

"I think the parents of 4-H kids ought to have Reserve Champion ribbons pinned to their shoulders," I said as we wearily made our way to the exhibition hall where the Fine Arts projects were being checked in.

The only problems we ran into were monumental at first. The girls went to turn in their Travelogue (Meelyn) and Folklore (Aisling) projects, and neither of the people who had been scheduled to check them in had bothered to show up. The person who was there knew nothing about the projects, but she did have some gold-standard advice.

"They're supposed to have project record sheets with these," she said. "But I don't know what those are."

I couldn't help but wonder how she knew they didn't have them if she didn't know what they were, but I was too busy trying to stave off my nervous breakdown with deep breathing exercises to ask.

The four of us ended up in the 4-H office, where we thankfully ran into a head honcho. She listened to our tale of woe, wrinkled her forehead and said, "Project record sheets? I don't think so...." Ms. Honcho ended up affixing sticky notes to the girls' projects that said "PROJECTS O.K. AS IS" with her signature. I taped them to the project binders with TWO pieces of the mailing tape I had in my handbag.

It turned out that signature carried a lot of weight, since a reverential silence fell over the check in table as the girls presented their binders. "Thank you," said the un-helpful volunteer meekly.

And with that, we were done! As free as little birds, we went out and immediately saw Katie, her husband and Beck. Beck told us that her projects were driving her so crazy, she decided to take an incomplete in Cooking. The alternative was to drive the entire family so insane, they'd end up taking her biscuits or cookies or whatever and throwing them at one another. We thought she chose wisely.

Now all we have to do is wait until Thursday, when we get to go see how they did. It's almost as bad as waiting for Christmas.

Friday, July 11, 2008

More than just the driving

An interesting thing happened to Meelyn today in Driver's Ed, something that had nothing to do with driving over curbs or sending elderly ladies shrieking up trees or methodically hitting mailboxes with the right-hand mirror, all along the side of a country road.

Before I tell the story of what happened today, let me explain what happened on Monday. Monday was the first day of class, and as part of a getting-to-know-you exercise, the teacher asked people to raise their hands as he named off high schools from our city and ones in the surrounding counties.

Out of thirty kids in the class, Mee was the only homeschooler, which wasn't really a surprise. She said that when the teacher finished naming high schools, he looked at her and said, "Do you go to high school, Meelyn?"

"Yes," she answered in her easygoing way. "But I'm a homeschooler."

As one group, the entire class turned their heads to look at her. She couldn't really gauge their expressions, she said. But obviously, people have their opinions about homeschooling and homeschoolers, which range from thinking that homeschoolers are smart nerdy kids who can play Rachmaninoff with one hand while eating mashed potatoes with the other. Or maybe they think that homeschoolers are like members of some strange religious cult. Meelyn, with her fabulous hair and gorgeous smile (we paid $5,400 for that smile and if I feel completely entitled, if not compelled, to say how beautiful it is) and cute outfit, doesn't seem to fit either of those descriptions.

Later, Meelyn reported that she was waiting outside for me to come pick her up and she found herself standing near the girl who sits next to her, whose name is Hannah. "Who's picking you up?" asked Meelyn conversationally.

Hannah flicked her hair over her shoulder and with studied nonchalance replied, "My boyfriend."

Keep in mind that Hannah, like Meelyn, is fifteen years old.

Meelyn said to me later, "That seems weird, a fifteen year old girl like me having her boyfriend come pick her up."

"Weird....I don't know about weird," I said tartly, wishing I could give Hannah's oblivious mother a piece of my mind. "What it seems like to me is giving your very young teenage daughter an invitation to have sex because you know what they say: 'Teenagers are going to do it anyway,' especially if their parents are making it so easy for them."

"Do you really think she's having sex with her boyfriend?" asked Meelyn, wide-eyed.

"Yup," I said flatly. "And guess what else she may be having? Besides sex?"

"A baby?"

"Could be. Or possibly a venereal disease. Maybe both. Thanks, Mom!" I said. It was before Meelyn was even born, but it isn't hard for me to remember the girls who used to show up in my classroom before or after school with puffy red eyes, telling me in strangled voices about the positive pregnancy tests, the heartache as they saw the boy they had sex with last weekend walking hand-in-hand with another girl. Or the crabs. There's nothing like a rampaging case of pubic lice to knock the romance right out of you.

Actually, the problem with those memories is that I can't seem to forget.

So that brings us to today, when Hannah asked Meelyn if she had a certain booklet in her Driver's Ed folder. "I lost mine," said Hannah. "I think I left it under my boyfriend's bed."

"Can you believe she said that to me?" asked Meelyn incredulously. "I wanted to say, 'Excuse me. But that is, like, too much information.'"

"She's just trying to subtly tell you that she's a grown woman and you're just a little homeschooled ninny. Only it's not really that subtle, is it?" I said.

"No, especially since she went on to say, 'We were eating tuna casserole on his bed last night and it must have fallen out.'"

"Just ignore it," I advised. "Just give her one of those steady, penetrating looks in the eye, which is something Miss Manners says she does to people who insist on telling her things she doesn't want to hear."

I'm glad, actually, that Meelyn is having this experience so that she can see how sad and even pathetic the teen dating scene is. That's what she'd likely be around all day long if she went to public school. It's certainly what I was around all day long. And I can't tell you how depressing it was, the exact opposite of all that is empowering and self-affirming. For so many, it was all about attracting a boyfriend, getting a boyfriend and then doing whatever they could to keep the boyfriend. Which, of course, meant sex. Which they often didn't really want to do. But they felt they had to, they ought to, because if they wouldn't do it, some other girl would.

I look at Meelyn and her smartness and her innocence and her intact sense of self -- her certain knowledge that she is worth something, capable of many things, with a wide array of interests; a person who has already accomplished some awesome goals -- and I wonder. I wonder what she'll choose. Obviously, I can't say what will happen in the future. But I hope she'll choose wisely and stick to what we've taught her so that she won't make mistakes along the way that will break her heart and harm her body. She is my beautiful girl and I have such hopes for her, for Aisling too.

Dear Father, keep them and protect them. St. Maria Goretti and St. John Vianney, watch over them.

And watch over Hannah and all the girls out there like her, too.

FEAST DAY! St. Benedict of Nursia

St. Benedict is one of my favorite saints. The little one decade rosary I always carry in my pocket has a St. Benedict medal on it and I really treasure that little sacramental because of the testimony of this great saint.

Here's an excerpt from the EWTN website:


Overrun by half-civilized pagan and Arian hordes during the fifth century, Italy and the entire Mediterranean world was falling back into barbarism. The Church was torn by conflict, city and country alike were made desolate by war and pillage, violence was rampant among Christians as well as heathen. During this anarchic time appeared one of the noblest of the Fathers of the Western Church—St. Benedict of Nursia, founder of the great order which bears his name. We know little of his background, save that he was born about the year 480 at Nursia, in the province of Umbria, in north central Italy, and that his family was probably of noble lineage. We
also know that he had a sister called Scholastica, who from childhood vowed herself to God.

The remainder of that really interesting article can be read by clicking here.

One of the things I like about St. Benedict's philosophy -- his Rule -- is this line: "He who works, prays." That idea is a great source of strength to me during the busy days of school when I'm teaching the girls and supervising their studies and teaching the Shakespeare class.

Happy feast day, St. Benedict, patron saint of schoolchildren. We love you.

READER ALERT: Stop this hate attack

With this READER ALERT, I've added a new category to my list of topics; this is the first time I've ever posted a news article like this.

Please be aware beforehand that there is strong language in the following article, which I have modified by the use of asterisks.

I nearly fell off my chair when I read this article today at the Catholic League's website:


July 10, 2008

Paul Zachary Myers, a professor at the University of Minnesota Morris, has pledged to desecrate the Eucharist. He is responding to what happened recently at the University of Central Florida when a student walked out of Mass with the Host, holding it hostage for several days. Myers was angry at the Catholic League for criticizing the student. His post can be accessed from his faculty page on the university’s website.

Here is an excerpt of his July 8 post, “It’s a Frackin’ Cracker!”:

“Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers?” Myers continued by saying, “if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the b*lls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a g*dd*mn*d cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web.”

Catholic League president Bill Donohue responded as follows:

“The Myers blog can be accessed from the university’s website. The university has a policy statement on this issue which says that the ‘Contents of all electronic pages must be consistent with University of Minnesota policies, local, state and federal laws.’ One of the school’s policies, ‘Code of Conduct,’ says that ‘When dealing with others,’ faculty et al. must be ‘respectful, fair and civil.’ Accordingly, we are contacting the President and the Board of Regents to see what they are going to do about this matter. Because the university is a state institution, we are also contacting the Minnesota legislature.

“It is hard to think of anything more vile than to intentionally desecrate the Body of Christ. We look to those who have oversight responsibility to act quickly and decisively.”

Contact President Robert Bruininks at


Regardless of whether this buffoon thinks the consecrated Host is the Body of Christ, a fancy cracker or a pleasant snack to stave off hunger pangs during a long Mass, he has absolutely no right (according to UMM's Code of Conduct, as well as state and federal laws) to indulge himself in such religious hatefulness and bigotry.

Advanced degrees -- and tenure, no doubt -- are awarded to the strangest, most unworthy people nowadays. The idea of people losing their jobs usually fills my heart with dread, but I would be positively jubilant to read a few days hence that the Perfesser here had been given the bum's rush out of the University of Minnesota Morris and was home in his pajamas, stewing in his own choler.

I know from SiteMeter that there are some Minnesota readers who stop by this blog on a regular basis. It would be so great if you could contact your Minnesota legislature and let your opinion be known about what's going on in this state-funded university.

This link will take you to the Contact Us page of the Minnesota State Legislature's website.

The email contact for UMM President Robert Bruininks can be found above at the end of the article.

I'll keep an eye on the Catholic League website and try to update this reader alert as things progress.

*Copyright © 1997-2008 by Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Copied to this website with permission.