Friday, February 29, 2008

More Bolani Recipes

The other day, I discovered some bolani in my freezer that I hadn't eaten yet. Since it is nearing the end of the month, it is time to scrounge for what is on hand and use it creatively rather than to buy more. So I pulled out the pumpkin bolani and heated it in my large skillet with a little canola oil. It crisped up around the edges and smelt absolutely wonderful. With a drizzle of honey and a scoop of plain yogurt it was like having dessert for lunch. Delicious!

Then I realized there were spinach bolani in the freezer as well. Warmed up the same way and topped with freshly sauted (in canola again) mushrooms and parmesan cheese this was another wonderful combination. I should probably team up with these folks to write a booklet on how to use their marvelous products. (Another idea. I don't need more ideas!)

February has been a slow month, colder than usual and I am glad that tomorrow is the beginning of March--I hope it will be better all around for everyone whom I know who has been struggling through February.

The daffodils, tulips and hyacinths have lightened the burden of February. Spring is coming. Easter will soon be here. The flowering plum trees are blooming. Hope is in the air with the promise of the Resurrection. I hope that I do not hope in vain. Hope is akin to gratitude. Perhaps if we do not hope we cannot be grateful. I am grateful for spring and for quiet time to try to work on the myriad of projects I have started. Perhaps some will finally be completed this year.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Working from Home

Working from home is a trend followed by a number of blogs, web-sites and even Squidoo lenses. (I have one called Downsized:Finding New Ways to Work. Check the web links to the right.) One of the most traditional ways of doing this (since the 1930's so that is probably long enough to constitute a tradition) is the "party-plan" or "multi-level marketing company." Just about everything, from laundry soap to face care products, color cosmetics to pots and pans can be sold this way.

The companies are called "party plan" because the major method of sales is the in home party in which one person invites friends to come and see the products. The hostess usually wins a prize of some product and her guests are given small items as well. In addition to seeing the products the guests hear the pitch about having a party of their own and/or becoming "consultants".

They are called "multi-level" because they rely on team building to build commission income and people can rise in the companies to the level where they will actually earn insurance and retirement benefits, which most do not.

I have had a Mary Kay business for several years. I love the products, love the social interaction with my customers, love being of service to others and love being able to earn some income in addition to my disability benefits.

This would have been a better fit for me, of course, when I was young, mobile (and drove) and knew more people. Still it is fun.

My niece has just become a Pampered Chef's Consultant. When her website shows, I will add it to the links list. Years ago her grandmother, my Mama sold Avon, so I guess this runs in the family.

We like to be independent, serve others and earn our own way. There are other ways to work at home--the web makes some of these easier and certainly makes networking much easier. I will be exploring more of this in the Squidoo lense.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oh Happy Spring!

Daffodils from my yard and tulips from the Farmer's Market adorn the end of my kitchen counter. The sun shines in and Spring is truly here!

A few years ago (probably four) I was able to buy a quantity of daffodil bulbs from a neighbor who had gotten a bag of 100 from Costco. (The marvel of Costco combined with the wonder of the Internet--our neighborhood email list.) The bulbs bloomed perfectly, with flowers as large as the saucers that match my Mama's good teacups. Their first blooming season coincided with my purchase of a digital camera.

At the same time my young friend M, then a freshman in High School, was taking a photography class. She photographed my flowers with my camera. One shot stood out and I labeled it, "Perfect Daffodil".

The next year I began tinkering with cafepress and learning how to place my designs on their templates. One of my first designs was, "Daffodils, Oh Happy Spring", which is also available in Spanish as "Daffodils, Feliz Verano". Here it is on a mug

It is available on other items as well and when I checked it this morning I realized that I need to update more products to it (or should that be it to more products?) Anyway, I do hope that folks will check it out. Spring is coming and this is a perfect way to celebrate it! Thanks so much. I am so grateful for the beauty of the flowers, the warmer weather coming and all of my customers.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Homemade Luxuries

I was sixty before I discovered the immense pleasure of using a hand-knitted washcloth to wash my face. Now I don't want to use any other! I am spoiled.

Knitting washcloths is easy, rhythmic and mindless knitting--until the middle row when one has to remember to "reverse engineer" the thing and start making decrease rows. After that it goes back to being automatic. I can see why women made washcloths in bygone days--they weren't swamped with mail order catalogs advertising sales, couldn't drive to the outlet mall and needed something to do with their hands that would soothe their minds.

Washcloths are the epitome of "mindless knitting" and would occupy time while waiting. Women have always waited, for children, for husbands, for sailors to come home from the sea, for wars to end, and just for pots to boil.

Now I knit to wait for the news to get to the weather so I can turn it off and go to bed. I knit because it's there to pick up and soothe. I knit to experiment with different yarns and eventually I plan to design and knit a sweater to keep me warm.

Hand-knitted items are homemade luxuries. So much nicer than store-bought. So much more personal than mass-produced. I wear hats all winter and I hope to venture into socks eventually--but I think I really do need a teacher for that.

Chocolate fudge is another home-made luxury. That is another post! I am grateful to make something mundane into something extraordinary and to make it for myself.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Remembering Mama

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of my mother, Helen Rose. A petite woman, she had more than sufficient energy and fire to make up for her small stature. I remember that she was pretty, had a ready smile and a lilting laugh. Her complexion was perfect, "peaches and cream" or rosy like her nickname. Her eyes were large and brown and both her daughters inherited them.

Her hands were always busy and once when I was small I commented that her hands were beautiful--I had been watching her ply a needle deftly and quickly into blue fabric she was transforming into doll clothes for one of my dolls. She looked down at her hands and was startled. "These hands?", she said. "These are dish pan hands." But she never failed to keep her nails neat and I also remember sitting at her vanity watching her put on lipstick and wanting to be old enough to do the same.

My mother graduated from a Catholic girls school, in fact the same school that decades later her granddaughter, would graduate from, Notre Dame in Toledo, Ohio. The depression came soon after; Mama put aside her dream to be a music teacher and instead of going to a four year college went to nursing school at St. Vincent's School of Nursing. It was a boarding in school, so even though she lived within walking distance of home, she "boarded in". She told wonderful stories of how strict the nuns were (the nun who taught dietetics threw things if the students got the material wrong), mutton cooking in the cafeteria and smelling so bad that she never again ate either mutton or lamb, and of hiding with other girls in the walk in closet, a blanket carefully stuffed along the bottom of the door so that no lights from their flashlights would show as they devoured a goodie basket someone had received from home, or studied after lights out for exams.

Her graduation picture in her starched uniform is on the buffet in the dining room and I can look over as I write this. The formal uniform with its cap speaks of her accomplishment and professionalism that I totally took for granted growing up. Mama described herself as "just a housewife", in today's terms a "stay at home Mom". How blessed we were!

She taught us to cook and bake, to sew, to sing, to pray, to laugh, to believe, to serve others, to hope and to love. She made the best birthday cakes--mine were usually chocolate with chocolate frosting and I still have her recipes. I remember that when a bad thunderstorm threatened she would unplug the tv (after we got one in 1952) and put the kitchen stool in the middle of the living room floor with her little statue of St. Anne de Beaupre and kneel and say the rosary that the storm would pass.

In fact, so far as I know, the only real vacation trip she ever took before she married was to the shrine of St. Anne in Canada. The statue was her souvenir and she bequeathed it to me.

Her piano still sits in my living room, virtually unplayed now for twenty-five years. It will find a new home soon,again and a voice with someone who will play it.

I miss her today and remember her with love, gratitude and joy.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Prayer Boxes and Prayer Journals

Today I found myself visiting and updating one of my Squidoo lenses on prayer journals and boxes which can be found here,

  • When I set it up last year I had just begun using one of the boxes as a prayer box. This is a receptacle for all of the requests that people were making for me to pray for them. The requests are written on slips of paper and placed in the box. I can take them out one at a time or lift the box (even physically in my two hands) to place the requests before the Lord for His consideration. It is a nice concept and a nice use of the cafepress Keepsake boxes.

    At the same time I wrote about using the little journals, which are nicely made from quality paper for pray journals. I have one for a gratitude journal, which I particularly try to use when I am feeling down so as to keep depression at bay. It is not a cure, but it does help. I have another one for my Christmas inventory and other seasonal notes. They would also make nice presents if filled with family recipes, pictures and anecdotes, or favorite prayers or quotes in the handwriting of the person presenting them as gift.

    As I read through my lens I found that I had written about my mother's prayer journal. This was a collection of prayers that she had copied from various sources in her high school days and had kept hidden away in a drawer. I found it after she died and just before I returned to graduate school to take my doctoral qualifying exams (which I passed). I copied the prayers and put some of her holy cards and photos into a beautifully bound blank book so that I could take it with me without risking the loss of the original. (When I look back now, I am surprised I took the pictures with me, since there were no copies. There was one of me on her lap and another of me at three with a favorite doll. Her first communion photo is there and several others that are priceless family heirlooms. Fortunately, I still have them. Now of course, I could scan and load them into any number of online sources for an album I could look at anytime anywhere. Such is the marvel of modern technology.)

    Today is good day to write about this, not only because it is a shameless plug for my Squidoo presence and cafepress designs, but more importantly because today would be Papa's 88th birthday, if he were still alive, and Tuesday will the be twenty-fifth anniversary of my Mother's death from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She made a valiant fight and we mourned deeply. We still miss her. Papa's birthday was always colored by this afterward, for Mama lay in a coma in the ICU for ten days before he died. It was hard to celebrate for several years after and I thought that God's timing was more hard than perfect. Today, I think of them both with gratitude and joy. Remembrance is an act of the will and the intellect as well as the heart. I am grateful to remember.

    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    St. Valentine's Day

    Red hearts, pink hearts and flowers. I love red and pink and flowers so that may be part of the reason that this holiday seems so much like fun for me. Of course, the association of chocolate with the day is good too, although since it is Lent I resisted the temptation to make chocolate cookies and told myself I should keep on writing! Last year I made a Squidoo lens with information and links about St. Valentine, so here is the link


  • A favorite cookie recipe is linked there.

    Of course, See's chocolates are always good. (The best actually.)

    E-valentine's are also great fun now. They are more ephemeral than cards, but that is good. Throwing out pretty cards is so hard that I tend to accumulate them in shoeboxes and after twenty or thirty years of doing that the shelves that aren't full of books are full of boxes.

    Twenty years ago I made a beautiful Valentine that was part calligraphy and water color and part sachet. The paper was sewn to another sheet of paper to make a pocket, filled with lavender and then sewn across the top. I still have a few of these and they are still pretty and still smell faintly of lavender. It is good to see that something that I made endures.

    Happy Valentine's Day to everyone, especially my sister, my niece, my friend in Indiana and everyone who may find this post.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Tuesday's Glory

    Today I got outside for the first time since well before Christmas to look at and photograph my daffodils. They are almost all blooming at once this year as though they couldn't wait any longer and had to spring up and shout! Their bright yellow, the color of sunshine itself, is so cheering and beautiful. Five had flopped over onto the ground and when my housekeeper, who is also my dear friend, came this afternoon she cut those for me so that now they cheer up the end of the kitchen counter.

    So I have been indulging myself all day, first in being outside and taking pictures--not as good as the ones that M takes, but they don't all have to end up on cards and mugs--and then in reading favorite blogs.

    My friends who blog in frozen Minnesota make me glad I live in California. Seraphic is fun to read and I am eagerly awaiting her book which should arrive tomorrow.

    I glued more Valentines and sent out a bunch and am resisting the temptation to end the day with chocolate--maybe Thursday, on Valentine's Day.

    Not much, certainly not world-shaking, but it was a good day.

    Wednesday, February 6, 2008

    Ash Wednesday

    It is the first day of Lent and the first daffodil is blooming! It seems too cold for me, but then I am not a plant! It is beautiful and fragile and I wouldn't have noticed it if it hadn't been for a friend's visit. While she waited for me to come to the door, she noticed it and pointed it out to me.

    The daffodil blooming on the first day of Lent is a glorious symbol for the flower is a symbol of the resurrection, as appropriate for Easter as the lily is and full of hope and joy. Even though we seem still locked into cold warmth will come, the sun will shine and the world come alive again.

    Then I decided to try to solve my computer keyboard problem--the space bar went back to sticking--by seeing if anyone in my neighborhood had a usable keyboard. Through the power of our neighborhood list I immediately had more offers than I could answer and two keyboards from one kind woman sit in my front hall waiting to be tried out.

    All of this engenders gratitude and offsets the fear that builds when I listen to the news with its constant din of recession. Our community is not the world given us by the nightly news but our neighbors, our friends, our family. Our economy is more than the sum total of macro trackable events such as the stock market; it is even more than the sum total of all our transactions for it is about our interactions with each other on one on one encounters too.

    I am more hopeful tonight than I have been in some time and am going to goof off and watch a movie.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2008

    Super Tuesday

    Or is it? After all the hoopla and ads quiet down will we be better served for having the primary process so early? What will be the encore since the election is still months away and several seasons too. I don't really like having these elections in winter, spring would be better. I hate hearing of last minute polls and would like to see them eliminated and I do wish that the ads would cease on Saturday night so that some quiet reflection time could be regained before the actual election. Tomorrow we will know, probably who the candidates are going to be in the Fall. Will it be anti-climatic?

    It is also Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, the last day before Lent begins. In a very traditional Lent all the butter and eggs should be used up on this day--pancakes are traditional. Catholics will abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays in Lent. We used to abstain from eating meat on Fridays all year long--that shows my age.

    I am not ready for Lent to begin. This is too early. Maybe that is part of the reason I am so grumpy about "Super Tuesday"--it is too cold and I just want to hibernate.

    Hibernation would be a good way to use up the weeks of Lent--but wouldn't be very productive, either for my business or my soul. (And I would have to wake up to pay the bills in March--definitely something no bear or groundhog need worry about.)

    So I will make pancakes sometime today--probably for lunch fairly soon and go back to writing. (The keyboard is going to have to be replaced--it sticks and that is too much of a nuisance. I thought I was a slow typist until I started to try to use the on screen keyboard for the spacebar. Type a word, lift hand, mouse to spacebar, hand back to keyboard. Especially when the word is is or a preposition, this is unbelievably time-consuming. Still it is an advance of Windows XP that this exists at all and it was interesting to poke around at it.)

    Monday, February 4, 2008

    One Hundredth Post

    How quickly time does go by! I can't believe this is actually my one hundredth post. Guess I'm wordy enough after all. Over the weekend I discovered the my squidoo lenses had been languishing and so began fiddling with them. This is fun. The format is good with modules that are reasonably easy to use. The marketing part is always the most difficult.

    I also discovered that I had printed out the correct file for my novel after all and now I can do a search for the next section--the Irish famine section. The hard copy is in the living room (part of the clutter) and the computer files are there on the computer. Better organization is needed. A theme of my life.

    The weather continues to be colder than normal. The sun shines, but without clouds last night it seems colder. Supposedly it will warm up to near normal by the end of the week and everyone is going to be grateful, I am sure! Still it is good to see that water may not be as much of an issue as it threatened to be. We are still part of nature and dependent on it for so much of our lives.

    Now if I could just find out why natural gas has been so expensive this year. I would like to see Congress look at and regulate this, as well as the oil companies. They have the mandate to do so right there in the Constitution. It's time we hold them to it.

    Lent begins in two days. A little too soon, but nonetheless, it is going to be Ash Wednesday day after tomorrow.

    Sunday, February 3, 2008

    Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

    The readings for today are Zep 2:3;3:12-13, which includes the line, "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility,...

    The Responsorial Psalm is Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10, with words, "Blessed be the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs!" which anticipates the Sermon on the Mount of today's Gospel.

    The Second Reading is 1 Cor 1:26-31 in which Paul continues to talk about calling and admonishes us to "boast in the Lord."

    The Gospel is Mt. 5:1-12a. While the earlier readings are truncated and it is difficult to see a coherent whole, the Beatitudes are included in their entirety. The connections become clear. The poor in spirit shall inherit the kingdom of heaven; they who mourn shall be comforted; the meek shall inherit the earth, and so forth. This is one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture surely, but at a time when real troubles plague us it is difficult for the most part to relate to it.

    What if we are not hungering for righteousness but for real food and drink? Not to mention heat and warm clothing? The reward of heaven may seem far off. It has seemed so for me for many years. How do we apply this to our daily lives?

    Saturday, February 2, 2008

    February Saints

    Yesterday was the Feast of St. Brigid of Ireland. Today is the Feast of Candlemas also known as the Feast of the Purification. These are wonderful feasts. I particularly love Simeon who says upon meeting the Christ Child, "Lord now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation". The Elizabethan composer, Gibbons, set it to music--a fine and beautiful motet indeed.

    I am watching the Democratic candidates debate. They are making history. I hope that one of them will win and make further history. An end to an unjust war that has besmirched our national character and our standing in the world. An end to poverty in our life times. (Perhaps and economics of generosity instead of scarcity. Certainly higher taxes for the ultra rich to discourage CEO's from walking away with tens of millions of dollars. A pricing structure for energy that puts money back in consumers' pockets when the the company profit reaches a certain level--Exxon Mobil is a scandal in my estimation.)

    What does this have to do with two women's feasts? Am I digressing. Not really. St. Brigid was a nun who had charge over a community and is reputed to have been responsible for a miracle involving making sure there was enough beer to go around. The Blessed Virgin was a mother, who watched the household economy as women ever have; when her son came of age and performed his first miracle it had to do with making sure there was enough wine to go around.

    Women have always fed and washed, combed and clothed, the children and the elderly. We haven't always had a strong voice in politics, although history shows that queens have led as well as kings, and that the pantheon of saints shows us women leaders.

    Only in recent times (the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) have we had fewer women leaders (I think of the demise of Catholic women's religious orders here) and an economics of scarcity.

    So on this Marian feast, one of my favorite in the calendar because of its text and images, the music and the candlelit procession around the church, I pause to ponder women's role yet again and say a prayer for Hillary, a strong woman who is making history.