St. Charbel & Living the Liturgical Calendar

So I may not have mentioned in my earlier introductory ramblings, but our family has really been trying to immerse ourselves in the liturgical calendar in order to feel better connected to our faith. That means that we do what we can to celebrate our favorite saints’ feast days in big or little ways (depending on who the saint is and how far in advance we remember,) do our best to observe things like ember days, and just generally try to unite our days intentionally to the rest of the Church.

Sometimes we observe a feast day with a whole big meal like Haley does (check out her great ideas for Sts. Anne & Joachim’s feast day,) but often we just throw together a little something to acknowledge its passing. Honestly, we tend to remember the day-of or the day before at best, so we do what we can. Some kinds of living our liturgical calendar are harder than others (I’ll tell you all about ember days later,) but they’re all so fulfilling to attempt.

St. Charbel!

This looks EXACTLY like the picture of St. Charbel that a customer at the store gave us. It hangs right next to my desk every day and in person the details are so lifelike.

Today’s feast is for St. Charbel, who is, to my knowledge, the first Lebanese saint to be canonized. Neither of us are Lebanese, but we have a few Lebanese friends (including the one who gave us a copy of the above lovely icon for the store.) Upon the recommendation of these friends, we picked the yummiest (and most readily available) Lebanese food we know: Hummus!

Store bought hummus

Store-bought hummus. I can’t even take credit for the picture!

I’d like to say that I had the forethought and energy to make my own batch of hummus to bring into work with me today, but that just didn’t happen. We JUST got back from vacationing with my husband’s family at the beach and both the fridge and pantry are completely empty. Let’s just say it wasn’t gonna happen today. However, one of my aforementioned Lebanese friends ran out to the store and picked out a few tubs of this brand, so you know it’s legit. The three of us at the store basically ate 2 1/2 tubs of this deliciousness and called it lunch. (Just so you don’t miss out on this mental image: my friend couldn’t find the pita chips or any regular pita bread that met my current weird dietary needs, so we wound up eating our hummus with Ruffles potato chips and Cheddar Harvest Sunchips. Yum, right?)

Just so you don’t feel like I’ve completely gypped you out of a real food post, I’m providing you with a recipe for it from my new favorite cookbook which hasn’t let me down yet. I’m leaving out a few of the ingredients to make it simpler (and just in case of copyright issues!) Sorry this has turned into lazy steal-it-from-the-internet night, but que sera, sera!

Yummy Simple Hummus

Ingredients:

1/4 cup tahini (I read somewhere that in a pinch you can sub peanut butter for this. I tried it and it was…ok. Lacking though.)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

_______

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic (app. 2 cloves)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon coriander

_______

1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans, rise and drain

The trick, it seems, is to add the ingredients into the food processor one group (divided by lines above) at a time, while processing for about a minute after adding each set of ingredients. That makes it SO much smoother and yummier. Putting the ingredients in in the order listed above works wonders and I highly recommend chilling it for as long as you can stand to wait to eat it (seriously, if you make it the hour that she recommends, you’re amazing.) Also, you can always add more garlic. 🙂

Let’s pretend I made this batch, ok? For the one-step-at-a-time idea, click the picture.

Happy Feast of St. Charbel!

How the Rosary Fixed Everything

In the last couple of weeks, hubby and I have finally started something new and wonderful: our family rosary.

We used to both try to squeeze in separate rosaries during our commutes to work, sometimes successfully and sometimes…not so successfully. Well, his was pretty much always successful. It’s mine that seemed kind of hit or miss. Sometimes I’d just be so tired that I’d wind up praying so slowly that I’d barely get in a decade during a half hour commute. Ridiculous, I know. I’d lose track of what Hail Mary I was on and pray the same one over and over and over. I’d tried doing other times of day too, but what I discovered is that I’m just the sort of person who needs to move in order to focus my mind enough to pray a rosary. I make it through Mass with minimal twitching, but apparently for me, stillness of heart does not completely equal stillness of body.

Our Lady praying her rosary

This is what I imagine praying a daily rosary is supposed to be like.

In all honesty, it got to the point where I was beyond frustrated and beginning to feel resentful of the time it was taking me to get it done. Which is NOT how I want my prayer life to feel. During a really great heart-to-heart one night while we were driving home, I confessed my frustrations to him and he said he’d been feeling a lot of the same pressure to “hurry up and pray” during his commute.

One of our guardian angels must have whispered in my ear, because out of nowhere, I got the sudden urge to suggest that we try to do our rosary together before bed. We were both very hesitant. In fact, almost as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was cringing with regret.

You have to understand: we have very different bedtime needs. My husband gets tired all of a sudden and then wants to go to bed RIGHT. NOW. I, however, need a very deliberate wind down. Then he tends to get maddening second winds while I’m doing my wind down and then just as soon as I’ve gotten myself pulled into the second wind because I feel guilty watching him clean all by himself, BAM. He’s done. Time to crash. And I’m left more wound up than a jack-in-the-box.

Clearly planned bedtime anything did not sound like a good idea to either of us. But we decided to try it. The worst that could happen was that it would be an epic blundering fail and we’d wind up miserable and exhausted for a couple of nights before we gave it up, right?

The very first night we were set to try it out we were already far, far behind (I blame getting out of work late and sheer laziness.) So I asked if he wouldn’t mind if we started our rosary while we did the dishes, thinking we were cheating ourselves into a little extra sleep time afterwards. He agreed, and as we began something miraculous happened: it all fell into place.

As we prayed, we did all of the dishes. And tidied the kitchen. And the living room. And made sandwiches for the next day’s lunch. And folded and put away the laundry. And set out our clothes for the next day and got changed into to pajamas. And I mindlessly filed away the paperwork for our paid bills.

Pretty Pinterest Kitchen

Imagine that this pintrest kitchen is our now beautifully clean kitchen! Imagining is fun. 😉

All of those (stupid) mind-numbing household chores that were stressing us out and there was never time to do got done. But we didn’t feel like we’d done them–we felt like we’d prayed a rosary. Because we had. Our minds and hearts had been focused on the mysteries of Our Lady’s rosary, but our bodies had just gone along doing other parts of our vocation by taking care of our house. We couldn’t believe how peaceful and refreshed we felt, both from the graces of praying our daily rosary together and from the side perk of having finally got caught up.

Needless to say, praying the rosary this way together has changed. our. life. After a few weeks of our new prayer routine, our house is actually under control, our laundry stays (mostly) caught up, our dishes are done and the sink is almost always empty when we go to bed (gasp!), and –drumroll please– I have a really clear idea of when we’ll be done with our tidying and therefore of when it’ll be time to sleep. So I can wind down appropriately and settle my mind to sleep. And he has a clear idea of when it’ll be time to stop all cleaning.

After seeing how well this was working, we made the deal that all cleaning would stop when our rosary was finished, regardless of what was left, and that it would be bedtime once we were done too. I wasn’t watching him run around the house anymore and he wasn’t watching me desperately trying to calm myself down and mentally prepare for bedtime (clearly I’m a night person and have to fight the adrenaline rush that kicks in around 10:30 pm. )

Our Lady and her beautiful rosary saved our peace of mind, our bedtime routine, and our ability to do housework (I won’t get all dramatic and tell you it saved our marriage–this was definitely a major point of tension, but our marriage was not in trouble by any means.) It was truly amazing what she was able to do for us once we just decided to make a shared commitment to our prayer life. We’re no longer stressed throughout our day, wondering whether we’ll get our individual rosaries finished, or get anything else done. I know we’ll pray a focused rosary and that we’ll fulfill our vocation with the work of our hands as we do.

We are so blessed to have found this way of making our family rosary work for us. I’d love to hear how other families do things differently, especially ones that have been blessed with children. If we are given children, I’m sure we’ll have to re-evaluate at some point whether our “active rosary” communicates the right message to them or not, but for now, this is part of our path to Heaven.

Family Rosary!

This is how I imagine it one day. This illustration is from an incredible set of books by Susie Lloyd. I highly recommend them both, “Please don’t drink the Holy Water” and “Bless me Father, for I have kids.”

7 Belated Not-So-Quick Takes

First ever 7 Quick Takes!

— 1 —

Sooo the weekend of friends visiting and helping people move got away from me and these “Friday Seven Quick Takes” have turned into “As long as it’s done by Sunday that’ll be good enough, right?” Takes. Sorry for the delay of this exciting post that you did not know you were expecting. 🙂
I’m pretty psyched to do my first 7QT. So psyched, in fact, that I’m not even paralyzingly self-conscious that they might be lame. Because everyone knows that you can’t make random lists on the internet without being held accountable for the level of awesome that you add to people’s day. And let’s be clear about that too: My draw to this lovely method of sharing a little bit with other lovely bloggers is based almost entirely on the fact that I get to make a big list. I’ll do my best to refrain from creating sub-lists.

— 2 —

MY BEST FRIEND IN THE WHOLE WORLD IS COMING TODAY! I’m more obnoxiously excited than caps-lock can convey. She’ll only be here long enough for dinner as she passes through on a road trip to Philadelphia, but I’m over the moon. I haven’t seen her since our wedding nearly a year ago! We met in third grade through sharing crayons in what was supposed to be a gifted class, but was really just about doing those little brain teaser puzzles all day and were…friendly. Not best friends ever yet, but friendly all the same. And then, one horrible day during an assembly on the first day of fourth grade, she sat behind me and must have made a face at something entirely random, but which I thought was directed at me, which caused me to make a face in return, which caused us both to mistakenly think the other one hated us for the remainder of the year. That, folks, is exhibit A of why it’s important to make our assumptions with charity about one another. Because when you don’t, you miss out on a whole year of life-altering best friendship.

Not to fear though, on day one of fifth grade we both quickly looked around the room, realized we knew no one else in our class, and literally simultaneously ran to one another calling each others’ name in great big bear hugs. That’s when our best friendship started. It was magic and I will probably never know what gave each of us the sudden confidence to act like we’d been besties all along. Other than God, of course. Clearly, this was a friendship made in Heaven. We’ve been so blessed over the years to stay close even when we’ve had to go months (or in a few cases, years) without seeing each other or even speaking much over the phone. So tonight we’re gonna party like it’s elementary school!

— 3 —

Thursday was mine and hubby’s 11th “mensaversary” (mens=month…yes, we’re that quirky.) We made a promise when we got married that we would make sure that we gave ourselves a date night at least once a month. To hold ourselves accountable, we decided that we’d set date night on (or as close to when it doesn’t work out) the 4th of the month to line up with the date of our anniversary. So far it’s been working REALLY well. We missed one month entirely back in March because I had just had major surgery, he was starting a new job, and–quite frankly–we had both lost track of what day of the month it was. Our days just blurred together. We made up for it later in the month though when we realized what had happened.

Do you do something like that for date nights?

That said, the fourth of July was date night. We had it all planned to go out for a nice dinner (in our world, that’s Red Lobster) and just spend some time together. What we wound up doing was SO MUCH BETTER. We stayed inside. All day. Just us. It was amazing. It’s only recently since he started the new job that we started getting weekends and holidays off together, so having a whole day to ourselves is still a real treat. We slept in, cooked, watched our favorite tv shows, played on our computers side-by-side a little while, ordered in Chinese food, and basked in the joy of each other’s company. We only walked out the front door in the evening to watch the multitude of fireworks being set off in our neighborhood. These, by the way, included the most awesomely huge and close illegal industrial-type fireworks ever being shot off from the backyard of the house across the street. They were over our heads and HUGE. And AMAZING. They would do them in small batches every twenty minutes or so, but they’d be over quickly, so every time we heard one going off, we’d drop everything, sprint for the door, and run outside to watch what we could. It was a great day.

— 4 —

I was all set to give you a great post about what I decided to do with these bananas:

Sad, spoiling bananas

Sad, spoiling bananas

I actually have a plan and what I think is a pretty great idea. I was all set to do the whole “experiment and take pictures because that’s what blog people do” thing, and very excitedly and proudly told my husband all about my yummy plans. He was super pumped–until he remembered that he had to crush my spirit by informing me that he had been a good and thoughtful husband (and reasonable) and had thrown those smelly suckers in the trash since, apparently, they had attracted a “cloud of tiny flies.” I swear our house is not that nasty. But nevertheless, because I have a helpful husband, you have no banana experimentation. His solution was to buy the ripest bananas from the store, wait a few more days and just pretend I’d gotten busy. He wanted me to lie. :p Which I maybe would have done if I didn’t need to use it as fodder for 7 Quick Takes. But rest assured, there will be new bananas and I WILL make a delicious experiment with them and share the results–for better or for worse.

— 5 —

We helped two of our best friends move into their very first house yesterday! (One more reason for this delayed post.) It’s a beautiful little house for two beautiful people who will, God willing, fill it up with beautiful little people! The whole day was somehow very thrilling. I know most people would rather die a fiery death than move or unpack or help someone else do those things, but I think I get some kind of weird jollies from it. I’ve moved what feels like countless times over my life, most of them over the past 6-8 years of my adult life, and while the moving OUT part is terrible, I really enjoy the unpacking, the settling in, the methodically going through boxes one at a time with a glass of wine and a favorite tv show or cd on. And my favorite room in the world to unpack, the one that I always, always, always unpack first that instantly makes me feel like a billion-pound anvil has been lifted off of my chest is the kitchen. Once my plates, pots and pans are accessible and I can cook, it’s officially a home. Not a moment before. Am I alone in this?

— 6 —

Update on those mushroom burgers that were marinating in their super-photogenic Ziplock bag in the freezer here:

Waiting to become Mushroom burgers

Waiting to become Mushroom burgers

They were delicious. So delicious that we forgot to take any pictures. Sorry. I’m going to have to learn how to grow an extra set of hands so I can take pictures of things while I do them instead of doing a thousand other things and then remembering after we’ve already devoured the food and have nothing left to take a picture of. I’ll do better next time. But for the record, they were incredible.

We stemmed and cleaned out our Portabello Mushrooms and soaked them in the fridge for 2+ hours in a marinade of about 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, a little salt and a little more pepper. Then we grilled them up on the stove until they looked mouth-watering, melted some provolone on top, and stacked it on a toasted Italian bread bun. The only extra that I forgot to do and will try next time is to add some caramelized onions to the burger. I think it’ll be meatless Friday HEAVEN.

— 7 —

It’s harder to come up with 7 of these things than it looks. I almost chickened out and used my “Oops now these are belated” blurb at the beginning as a number one. But that wouldn’t have been fair. So instead, I leave you with this make-believe take while I run off to start some laundry, sun tea, cleaning, and if I’m really on the ball, at least two meals for the week. Enjoy reading all of those other great Quick Takes!

For more Quick Takes or to linkup your own, visit http://www.conversiondiary.com

Welcome to blogger-hood!

I imagine that for all new bloggers the first post is the most awkward. I mean, what are you supposed to write? Do you rehash your entire “about me” section like this:

Blah blah blah rambunctious newly-wed (-ish?, we’ve been married almost a year and I’ve noticed that everyone seems to have a different opinion on where to draw the newly-wed line.) I love tea, and making lists, and crossing things off of lists, and using far more words than necessary to say something (let’s call it a verbal adventure!), doing really simple, short-term budget-friendly DIY projects (because anything long-term will probably sit for months), cooking easy new recipes, running a Catholic bookstore, incorporating our faith into our daily family life, and waiting (sometimes not so patiently) for God to grow our family.

Nah. That’s what the about page is for in the first place. And a longer version of that just sounds horribly self-centered and boring and cruel to whatever poor souls just stumbled across this post. 😉

Maybe an explanation of the blog title? Let’s try that.

The Happy Almost Homemaker: Let’s break it down. I’m happy. That’s simple enough. The “almost” portion is because everything I do is just a little more complicated by the fact that we’re renters on a budget and don’t have the freedom to do everything we’d like to with our home just yet. Also, a house just isn’t completely a home to me until there are small screaming people running around in it. We’ll get there. And it will be loud and wonderful. And someday there will be paint on the walls.

Maybe you just jump straight in with a picture about something new you made for lunch, like this:

Oh so appetizing shot of the portabello mushrooms marinating in the fridge. They'll probably look better later, when they become burgers.

Oh so appetizing shot of the portabello mushrooms marinating in the fridge. They’ll probably look better later, when they become burgers.

Or maaaybe a picture of your latest partially-finished sewing project:

Pretty picture, yes? One day, this project hopes to grow up to become a nice set of couch pillows.

Pretty picture, yes? One day, this project hopes to grow up to become a nice set of couch pillows.

Piping picture!

On second thought (or third, or fourth), I’ll leave you with those teaser pictures and save something for myself to write about in future posts. It would suck to burn out on post #1.

It seems that the answer is just to ramble incoherently about how hard and awkward it is to write your first post so that no one will realize that you just threw something out there to get it over with and move on.

Wow, check that out. We did it!

P.S. Does anyone have a suggestion of what to do with two very soft questionably over-ripe bananas? Banana bread will be the fall back, but I’m looking for a more interesting suggestion if there is one. 🙂

Annnd one more gross-ish picture, this time of our spoiling bananas:

Yum!

Yum!