Thursday, July 29, 2010

Let the waters rise

I have to thank my Cornerstone sister Lenore for introducing me to this beautiful song, "Let the Waters Rise," by Mikes Chair. The words and melody are just perfect, at least as far as I'm concerned. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Catechism and the future of Catholicism

I'm offering my perspective on the future of Catholicism over at the Catholic Portal of Patheos. I'm the second commentary on day five of the symposium, so scroll down to find me. I'll get you started here:

Open the Catechism, Open the Heart

When I look at our Church today and imagine it ten, twenty, one hundred years down the road, I see a faith that has been reinvigorated from the inside out, a Church whose members participate out of love, not out of fear.

Far too many cradle Catholics have abandoned the faith of their birth without ever really knowing the heart of it. They look on their religion as crime and punishment rather than mercy and love. They see the individual threads of specific teachings rather than the broad tapestry woven from Scripture and Tradition. The end result is a Church with many members who don’t know enough about their faith to feel fully integrated into the Body of Christ. And if you don’t know your faith or understand your Church, it’s hard to be loyal and easy to walk away. Continue reading...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

More than you ever wanted to know about me

My Catholic writing, blog world friend Roxane Salonen is featuring me in an interview on her Peace Garden Writer blog. I'll get you started and then you can click the link to read the rest. (I'm such a tease.) Here it is:

This month’s “Spotlight’s on” features someone I have admired and been in contact with for several years now. Mary DeTurris Poust and I have never met in real life, but we hope to someday. When that day comes, we’ll have much to talk about. Mary is a wife and mother of three, and the author of several books, each focusing on matters of the soul, as well as many articles, including those she’s written for the much-respected Our Sunday Visitor Catholic magazine. She blogs regularly for “OSV Daily Take” and at her own blog, Not Strictly Spiritual.

Mary, first off, I know you just learned you’ll be traveling to Rome in September. Please share with us details of your trip, why you are going there and what you’ll be doing while you are there.

Yes, I’m going to Rome the first week of September. To be honest, this is one of those moments that just feels like it was meant to be. A few years ago I promised myself I’d get to Italy – where my paternal grandfather was born – before I turned 50, but I really didn’t see how that was going to happen. Then a few weeks ago I got an email about a program called “Church Up Close” at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. Continue reading HERE.
Thanks again, Roxane.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pesto season is upon us

Someone recently asked me about this pesto post from last summer (and the summer before that), so here it is again:

Some of you have requested my pesto recipe, so I thought I would oblige during this season of abundant basil. This recipe originally came from my mother-in-law, Mary Ann, although I've changed it up enough to consider it mine. I will give you the main ingredients first and then tell you possible alternatives.

I have two pots of basil on my back deck. I buy starter plants around Memorial Day and by Labor Day or a little after, I typically have at least 15 batches of frozen pesto stored in my freezer to get us through the long winter months. (That's in additional to the weekly pesto pasta we eat all through the summer.) There is nothing like the taste of homemade pesto in the middle of an upstate New York winter. Grow some basil. Buy some basil. Savor the taste of summer any time of year.

1 cup of basil leaves, tightly packed
1/4 cup of fresh Italian parsley, stems removed
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (split in two 1/4 cup batches)
1/3 cup pine nuts (pignolis)
1 tsp. salt
Reserved pasta water, if needed

Extra pine nuts for toasting/topping pasta (optional)

Put all of the "dry" ingredients -- EXCEPT THE CHEESE -- into a food processor. Turn the motor on and drizzle the olive oil in slowly until it's well blended. This is going to be enough pesto sauce for two pounds of pasta, so, unless you're having company (or have a really big appetite), you're going to want to freeze at least half of this.

NOW, if you are going to eat one batch right away, mix 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese in with it and you're good to go. Toss a pound of pasta into boiling salted water, take it off when it's al dente, mix it with the pesto sauce, and top it with some toasted pine nuts, if you're using them. (Be careful when toasting pine nuts, which you can do in a dry saute pan or in an oven on a cookie sheet. They can go from untoasted to blackened very quickly. I tend to burn at least one batch before I get it right. Every single time I do it. Drives Dennis crazy.) Also, save some pasta water in case the sauce is too thick. Just mix a bit of the pasta water into the sauce until you have the consistency you want.

IF you are going to freeze a batch, DO NOT mix the cheese into that batch. It doesn't taste as good when it defrosts if the cheese was frozen first. Instead, freeze the cheeseless sauce (I use the smallest of the Glad reusable containers for one batch); some people use ice cube trays so they can defrost in even smaller increments. Add the 1/4 cup of cheese later when you defrost it.

Alternatives: OK, I am not one to stick to a recipe, any recipe. In fact, I'm not happy unless I'm changing a recipe. My problem is that I usually can't remember what I did when I've done something especially good. But there are few options when making this pesto. Here they are...

Sometimes I add the fresh parsley, and sometimes, if I have lots of basil and zero parsley, I go with straight basil. I often use Romano instead of Parmesan cheese because that's what I usually have in my fridge. And sometimes -- and the purists out there might want to cover their ears for this -- I use walnuts or even sunflower seeds instead of the incredibly expensive pignolis. Now, I don't do that often and usually I label it so I know to serve it to my own clan and not company, but, really, you can't tell the difference. At least I can't.

Serve with additional grated cheese and a nice side salad (and a glass of wine, of course). Mangia!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Making our annual 'Beach Bucket List'

Summer has been off to a crazy start, as I prepare for the publication of one book and finish up writing another. That's why you haven't seen much of me in these parts. I'm hoping to be able to return with some lighthearted vacation posts next week, followed by more regular spiritual posts after that.

For now, however, here's my latest Life Lines column, which expands on something I first blogged about last summer:

Last summer we established a new tradition at our house: a summer list of things the kids want to do before they return to school in September. It’s sort of like a Bucket List for kids, or, in this case a Beach Bucket List. The kids liked the idea so much that when I suggested it they immediately got out a marker and a giant sheet of neon orange poster paper and started mapping out the details.

Family camping and tide pooling were listed alongside bike riding and making s’mores. They even listed a few oddities, such as repainting their bathroom, as well as some very basic things like swimming and gardening. Each item on our list had an empty box next to it, waiting for a check mark to show we’d fulfilled a wish or goal. We hung the list on our basement door so we could watch our progress over the days and weeks.

Sometimes there would be a flurry of Beach Bucket List activities, days when sleepovers and water slides and picnics collided all at the same time and allowed us to check off items in rapid succession. Other times things lingered unchecked – like family camping -- until the very end of summer, reminding us that some goals take time and planning and, dare I say, an extra dose of enthusiasm on mom and dad’s part. Even at that, our camping “trip” was in our own backyard, but the kids loved the tent and fire pit and eggs cooked outside in the early morning as much as if we’d driven an hour or two to real campsite.

We recently made this summer’s list. Clearly some things are going to be perennial favorites. Walking on the beach and going out for breakfast are probably always going to be on our list, no matter how the old our family gets. But we discovered some new twists. Chiara, almost 5 years old, added “coloring and crafts.” Olivia said she wants to meet up with a little girl she met at the beach last year and has been pen pals with ever since. And, of course, family camping – at an official campsite – is at the top.

Lots of people talk about making a Bucket List, based on the movie of the same name. And there’s something to be said for writing down our hopes and dreams so we can look at where we’ve been and where we want to go. The danger is when we fill our list with only those difficult-to-attain dreams, the things that may take us a lifetime to complete. Not everything has to be over-the-top.

We grown-ups have to learn to approach our own Bucket Lists with the enthusiasm of a 5-year-old on a summer afternoon. Sure, we may want the big stuff – a trip to Italy, a week-long silent retreat. But we can’t overlook the seemingly small stuff – sitting on the deck with the kids and watching the bats come out at night, picking apples from the tree, buying a bouquet of sunflowers for no reason at all.

Life is full of big moments, small moments and in-between moments. We have to relish each one as it comes along without getting hung up on the one that got away. By making a printed, taped-to-the-wall list, we can see our hopes – and our accomplishments – in plain sight, reminding us of all the good things that are yet to come with a little effort and a lot of trust.

So this summer I’m making my own Beach Bucket List. I’m guessing that many of my wishes will duplicate those of my kids. What a happy coincidence it will be when we simultaneously check off our accomplishments with fingers sticky from toasted marshmallows and hair sticky from salt water and sand.

To read previous Life Lines column, visit my website HERE.