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Yesterday I sent my daughter to the garden, asking her to please see what’s for dinner. She returned with snow peas, kale, and turnips, and together we turned these into a satisfying salad. Thoughtful child that she is, she also brought in a branch of catnip for her cat.

Before deciding on a salad, my daughter paged through Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook for inspiration and ideas, noting dishes that might make great options for our next meal. We have had a lot of fun with this cookbook, which has colorful photos and recipes that are very easy to follow. I posted a review a while ago, but with the gardening season in full swing, I feel compelled to highlight this fun and inspiring cookbook. Whether you grow your own food, shop at a farmer’s market, or visit a grocery store, these recipes will help your children prepare easy, seasonal dishes.

I appreciate that Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook inspires children to make wholesome food choices and to develop an understanding of nature’s cycles. In our home, for example, strawberries become even more special when we remember they are an early summer treat.

In a time when too many things are instant or fast-paced, books like this can help families to live values of simplicity and stewardship. Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook would make a great gift not only for families with young children, but also for camps, libraries, and religious education programs.

I welcome your comments about websites and books that inspire your family to grow and prepare food together.

Disclosure: As mentioned above, a copy of this book was received for review purposes a while ago. My original review can be read here. No fee was received for the reviews.

homemaking hiatus

I apologize for the lack of reviews posted during the Spring. There were many things happening around home, including the birth of several goats and the hatching of chickens on our farm. Outdoor pursuits and homemaking tasks had to take precedence over writing.

happy St. Patrick’s day

©Quilligraphy

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! Saint Patrick’s Day blessings on you. Growing up in an Irish American household in a city full of Irish Catholics, Saint Patrick’s Day always was a big deal. My grandparents, who were from County Kerry (southwest Ireland), lived in the apartment upstairs, and my grandmother and mother would prepare a big family meal. We would put on records of Irish music and gather together.

I have many happy memories of listening to my Grampy tell stories, humorous tales as well as more serious chronicles of history and legend. Grampy could draw a map of Ireland, freehand, that included every bay, river, and inlet. He could trace out the journeys of the great heroes, Saints Patrick and Brigid among them. Those stories, songs, and meals shaped me. Today I am thinking of my grandparents, the joyful times we shared as well as the hardships they endured.

Go n-eírí an bóthar leat.
May the road rise with you.

by Mary Jacque Benner, RSM. © 1997-2012 Mount Saint Agnes Theological Center for Women, Inc.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent in the Christian calendar. Those who observe Lent engage in practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, with the intention of turning one’s heart away from selfishness and toward God.

As we turn toward God, mindful of God’s mercy and forgiveness, we recall the requirement to love our neighbor, and to show mercy and compassion to one another. Lent offers an opportunity to reaffirm one’s commitment to practicing works of mercy. Further, if I want more time for serving others, this means I need to spend less time on self-indulgence. In this way, the works of mercy can be liberating.

One book I plan to savor this Lent is City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles. While I await my copy, I shall re-read her book Jesus Freak, in which she does an exemplary job of showing what it means to live out the call to show love to one another with tangible acts of care. It is a very inspiring book, and I highly recommend it.

Lent can be a special time for self-examination, and for rededication to God. Some denominations hold special communal gatherings for prayer, service, and thanksgiving. Other churches carve out periods for quiet reflection, opening doors for individuals seeking space for prayer. However you choose to observe this season, may God draw you closer.

Unshakeable Belief: Advent 2013

Advent, the season of expectant waiting when Christians prepare to observe the birth of Jesus, begins on December 1. To support contemplation and reflection during this special season, Pax Christi USA has created a rich pamphlet, Unshakeable Belief, based on the daily lectionary readings, available in an electronic format.

The programs and resources of Pax Christi USA lift up the message of love, reconciliation, and healing that is woven throughout the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. A spirituality of nonviolence requires one to take time in prayer and reflection, so that actions for peacemaking come from a solid ground of faith in God’s vision for justice and peace. The writers who contribute to this pamphlet offer reflection questions that can help one move from busyness into contemplation, and from contemplation into action.

Sr. Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA, opens the pamphlet with an invitation. She writes, “Take time apart to honor, praise, and thank God throughout this Advent season, building a deeper sense of peace and calm, an unshakeable belief that peace, not violence, is God’s plan for all creation. Then, moving outward from prayer and the study of these Advent reflections, what action will challenge you in Advent 2013?”

Readers are invited to turn away from greed and commercialism, from fear and ignorance, and to turn hearts toward God’s love coming into the world, God’s love already present among us. Contributing writers include Darleen Pryds, professor at the Franciscan School of Theology in California; Msgr. Ray East, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila parish, Washington, DC; Kimberly Mazyck of Pax Christi USA and Catholic Relief Services; and Alex Mikulich, of the Jesuit Social Research Institute in New Orleans. These writers are not afraid to ask challenging questions, to nudge hearts in the direction of confident faith in God’s love for us all.

I highly recommend this encouraging and inspiring pamphlet as a companion during this holy season.

Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this pamphlet was provided for review purposes. No fee was received.

happy Chanukah

In My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of strength, refuge, and belonging, author Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., shares a beautiful description of Chanukah from her grandfather, Rabbi Meyer Ziskind. I found this to be a beautiful, powerful message, and a heartfelt description of the holiday’s significance. I share it in hopes that these words will bless you:

“The story of Hannukah says that God’s light burns in the darkness even without oil, and it is so,” said my grandfather. “That is one of the miracles of the light. But there is more. There is a place in everyone that can carry the light. God has made us this way. When God says ‘LET THERE BE LIGHT,’ he is speaking to us personally, Neshume-le. He is telling us what is possible, how we might choose to live. But one candle does not do much in the darkness. God has not only given us the chance to carry the light, he has made it possible for us to kindle and strengthen the light in one another, passing the light along. This is the way that God’s light will shine forever in this world.”

May this special season of light bring joy to you and your loved ones.

a Maryknoll liturgical year

Reading scripture with Maryknoll is an invitation to engage in the gospel call to peace and justice-making throughout the year. Readers hungry for an inspiring and practical peacemaking message will be glad for the efforts of editors Judy Coode and Kathy McNeely, who have produced an excellent resource, A Maryknoll Liturgical Year: Reflections on the readings for year A.

The Maryknoll Society consists of Catholic sisters, brothers, and lay missioners who feel called to live alongside the poor whom they serve. Through their work and their lifestyle, Maryknoll missioners seek to live out the call of Jesus to serve those in need. This collection of stories and reflections, each three to five pages in length, will be an inspiring guide to opening the scriptures. Each writer extends an invitation to delve into the week’s text (cited briefly at the beginning of the selection) and to make connections to the needs of the world.

One writer, based in Nicaragua, describes the celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In the midst of poverty, Mary’s story brings great joy. The author asks, how do we respond to God’s call with whole-hearted surrender as Mary responded? Can we envision the joy as well as the struggles of our fellow humans, accompanying one another, at least in spirit?

In this book, we read the stories of community health workers in Brazil alongside the healing narratives of Jesus; stories of Abraham seeking a homeland, alongside the struggling pastoralists of Kenya; the parables of Jesus heard in a farming community of Peru. Amidst this diversity, our shared humanity shines clear, and the need to listen to one another becomes compelling.

For me, the entire book reads as a prayer for a heart open to God’s guidance, and for strength to follow teachings of love, even when—perhaps especially when—those teachings veer from the mainstream. May we see with our hearts that we all are made by the same one creator, that there is no god but God, that any idols that stand as walls between us must be removed.

The new church year begins with the first Sunday of Advent, December 1. I encourage you to obtain a copy of this book to bless your new year with inspiration.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. No fee was received.

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