What kind of woman veils at Mass?

Imagine you are a millennial Catholic woman. You are at Mass, kneeling at the altar rail, waiting to receive Christ in the Eucharist. As you peer at the high altar through your lace mantilla, your heart burns with love.

And into your back burns the searing hot gaze of that weird dude in the pew behind you—the one who once cornered you after confession to let you know your modesty is smoking hot.

I am not making this up. That really did happen to a friend of mine. And, based on a recent meme posted to the Facebook group Traditional Catholic Millennials, her experience may not be unique. The group, which has over 20,000 members, posted a photo of three young women kneeling at an altar rail, veiled and apparently in prayer. The emoji-littered meme exclaimed:

Looking for a good husband? [shrugging emoji] Want to be irresistible to Catholic men?? Simple!

[heart eye heart eye] VEIL! It’s a SMOKING HOT

Trad magnet! [fire fire] #Truth

#GetAHusband #NotPC

And the photo description read:

#BringOnTheTrollArmies TRIGGER WARNING:

It’s so true!!!! Holy men LOVE virtue and reverence for the Eucharist! Inner beauty is SMOKING HOT! [heart eye, panting emoji panting emoji heart laughing/crying fire] Externals show it. Buy one Here: https://www.veilsbylily.com/

Because God forbid there be one hour per week when a woman is not forced to deal with the consequences of whether or not men find her hot.

The cognitive dissonance was jarring if you are not familiar with the bizarre netherworld of outré ultra traditionalists, where pants are verboten because their pockets form a visual arrow pointing to the crotch; where working outside the home is stealing time from your family, but incessantly tweeting about collarbones and hemlines is doing God’s work; and where feminine modesty is a great way to advertise your…modesty.

If this makes any sense to you, I am telling it wrong.

The good news is, it does not make sense to a good many traditionalists, either, millennial or otherwise, and they found the “smoking hot veil” meme revolting and ridiculous. Lily Wilson herself, the founder of Veils by Lily, the website that was promoted in the post, told the group to take the meme down, which they eventually did.

Ms. Wilson thinks the contingent of traditionalist Catholics who objectify women and fetishize veils are in the minority.

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine

Photo by kilarov zaneit on Unsplash

BREAKING: Fulton Sheen beatification postponed

The beatification of Fulton Sheen has been postponed. Originally scheduled for Dec. 21 of this year after a protracted legal battle over his remains, the beatification has been put on hold “at the request of a few members of the Bishop’s Conference who have asked for further consideration,” according to a Dec. 3 statement from the diocese of Peoria.

“In our current climate, it is important for the faithful to know that there has never been, nor is there now, any allegation against Sheen involving the abuse of a minor,” the statement said.

Peter Jesserer Smith, a reporter for the National Catholic Register, said on Twitter:

“The Vatican will have potentially a year’s worth of lawsuits, with depositions and court findings of fact, to sift through. This is the ultimate test of Sheen’s beatification: either he’ll be stained by the abuse crisis, or the vindication of his holiness will shine like the sun.”

In July of 2019, a blog and some chatter on Twitter referenced an unsourced allegation that Sheen walked in on a priest abusing a female child, but that he merely told the priest to put his pants back on, called the victim a “slut,” and proceeded to help cover up the crime.  My husband and I made a thorough assessment of the credibility the accusation and its sources. We concluded that the allegation and sources, according to all available information, were not credible. In fact, there was considerable reason to doubt that any victim had even actually made an allegation. Essentially, there was a rumor, spread by un-credible sources, that there had been an allegation; there is no evidence of a victim, and there is nothing to investigate. 

The rumor also claimed that the Cause for Sheen’s canonization knew about the allegations and did not respond to them. But Monsignor Soseman, who was delegated by Bishop Jenky to oversee the Cause, told us “no such letter [as the one described in the allegations] ever arrived at the office in Peoria,  nor have I ever heard of any such allegation, in any of the extensive testimonies we took.”

Read our investigation of the rumored allegations

In its statement today, the Diocese of Peoria said:

“the life of Fulton Sheen has been thoroughly and meticulously investigated. At every state, it has been demonstrated definitively that he was an exemplary model of Christian conduct and a model of leadership in the Church. At no time has his life of virtue ever been called into question.”

In the statement, it says that the Bishop of Peoria, Bishop Daniel Jenky, was “informed by the Holy See” that the beatification would be postponed. 

 

The Peoria statement says:

“Since a few members of the Bishop’s Conference have requested a delay, the Diocese of Peoria remains confident that Archbishop Sheen’s virtuous conduct will only be further demonstrated. Bishop Jenky has ever confidence that any additional examination will only further prove Fulton Sheen’s worthiness of Beatification and Canonization. The Diocese of Peoria has no doubt that Fulton Sheen, who brought so many souls to Jesus Christ in his lifetime, will be recognized as a model of holiness and virtue.”

The statement says: “Bishop Jenky is deeply saddened by this decision. In particular, Bishop Jenky is even more concerned for the many faithful who are devoted to Sheen and will be affected by this news.”

Read my interview with Bonnie Engstrom, the mother of the boy who returned to health after his heart stopped beating for sixty-one minutes, and his parents prayed to Fulton Sheen. 

The statement continues: 
[Bishop Jenky] is firmly convinced of the great holiness of the Venerable Servant of God and remains confident that Sheen will be beatified. Bishop Jenky has every intention of continuing the Cause, but no further date for Beatification has been discussed.”

The Diocese of Peoria is not offering any more information at this time. 

 

 

Keep It Light, Stand Your Ground, Salt the Earth, or Waldorf

So here is a Thanksgiving essay I wrote for an Australian audience, knowing it would be published after American Thanksgiving. Australians do not, of course, celebrate Thanksgiving, and even if they did, this piece is so intrinsically stupid, it would be stupid anywhere on the globe, at any time of the year. I thought I’d share it today, on Giving Tuesday, as a gift to you. You can read it and think happily to yourself, “At least I never wrote anything this stupid.”

You’re welcome

***
Image via Flickr from page 221 of “Pompeii, its history, buildings, and antiquities : an account of the destruction of the city with a full description of the remains, and of the recent excavations, and also an itinerary for visitors” (1867)

 

Introducing Clara Fisher, published illustrator!

I’m kvelling! The book Clara illustrated just came in the mail. 

Ceremonies Explained for Servers: A Manual for Altar Servers, Acolytes, Sacristans, and Masters of Ceremonies by Bishop Peter Elliott, published by Ignatius. Clara is 19, so I’m pretty psyched.

Here’s a short review of the book by Thom Ryng.

Here are a few of the illustrations she did (there are 17 total):

Doesn’t she have such a fresh, clean style? It looks completely modern, but dignified. I like how all the people look reverent, but the one boy swinging a lit thurible has a tiny little smile, because fire

You can follow her on Instagram @clarascuro.

Here’s the book description:

Ceremonies Explained for Servers may well be called the “mother of all servers’ manuals”. This is the most detailed guide available for servers and those who train and supervise them at the altar.

In accessible language, Ceremonies covers the roles of servers in a wide range of Catholic liturgical celebrations. These are described in full, such as: the Mass in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms, the seven sacraments, the ceremonies of Holy Week, the Liturgy of the Hours, funeral rites, the liturgies that are celebrated by a bishop and major blessings.

Ceremonies also provides accurate explanations for each of these rites, with Catholic teaching on the liturgy and sacraments and a history of the ministry of servers. The skills, techniques and discipline involved in serving are explained, such as: how a procession should move, how to assist with incense, team-work and responding in emergencies and unforeseen situations.

A spirituality of this ministry runs through the manual, with an underlying theme of service and vocation. In an encouraging personal way, Ceremonies sets out high spiritual ideals that can inspire and guide those who enhance Catholic worship through their ministry.

 

25+ gifts our 10 kids loved! The 2019 Christmas list

Back by popular demand! It’s the 2019 list of Christmas presents our ten kids loved. I’ve been doing these lists every December since 2014. We actually own everything I recommend, so browse around and be inspired or horrified, as the case may be. I’ll include links to previous lists at the end. 

I’m not an Amazon Associate anymore, but if you’re ordering through Amazon, please consider going through this link and supporting my kids’ charter school through the Amazon Smiles program

Prices are about what we paid, but they may change over time. The list is a bit shorter than usual because we’ve been trying to shop more locally, which means I don’t have a tidy little list of past orders to refer to.

***

 
An attractive little set. Seal letters and envelopes with your initial. Works as expected. 
 
Scratch away the black coating with wooden styluses to reveal colors or shimmering glitter underneath. Kids’ hands get a bit smudgy after using several of these, but they are pretty self-contained otherwise. Sheets come in sturdy little boxes. A big enough supply so you don’t have to stress out that they’re wasting them on scribbles.
 

3. Harry Potter Gryffindor Robe, about $40

For those kids who are still, still, still into Harry Potter. A comfy robe, very Harry Potter, holds up with lots of wear. Other houses available, of course.

4. Sorry We’re Dead Retail Store Sign, about $8

For that one kid to hang on her bedroom door. 

5. Lizard leash with wings, $8.99

For them as has bearded dragons. If you’re thinking of getting a pet, you could do worse than a bearded dragon, by the way. They require a large tank and heating elements and fresh food like crickets, but once you buy the supplies, these guys are pretty cheap and easy to maintain. They are surprisingly charming, and have a lot of personality. Our bearded dragon is much smarter than our cat. 

6. Multi-tool Swiss Army pocket knife, about $20

A good little knife. Cool translucent cover, comes in several colors besides this blue. 

7. Naruto Uzumaki Jacket

Quite snazzy. We have some rabid Naruto fans. This is not a costume, but a real jacket, albeit not the warmest one in the world. 

 

It’s either very comfortable, or just so fabulous you don’t care if it’s uncomfortable, not sure which. Not to be worn at Stations of the Cross, but good for every other last possible waking moment, including *sigh* school picture day. 
 
 
 
 
It’s still not clear to me why the kid wanted this so desperately, but she sure loves it. A smallish purse on a long chain, with an inside section you can remove from the outer, cut-out layer. 
 
 
 
Clever product for people who can’t leave their jigsaw puzzles lying around. It has an inflatable tube on one end of the felt mat. Roll it up and secure it with rubber bands, and your puzzle is safe from cats, toddlers, etc. I was skeptical, but it really works. 
 
11. A few nice puzzles:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Can you believe this is the first time we have bought Snap Circuits? They are just as much fun as everyone promised. Hours of fascination putting together all kinds of projects that really work, without welding. For ages 8 and up. 
 
 
 
Two game modes. Works well for parties, or you can play solo. Just like you remember: Very bright and very loud. Caveat emptor. 
 
 
 

Easy to learn, a little weird and crude, lots of laughing. You have to draw cards that say things like “see the future” (so you can look at the top three cards) or “potato cat” (they explained it to me, but I forget) until you choose an exploding kitten card, which has to be defused. Trip up your opponents and prepare yourself for the exploding kitten card. Good party game. 

15. Ukulele bundle, about $85

 
 
 
One hipster fad I fully endorse. It turns out a ukulele really is easy to learn to play, and it’s small enough to bring with you. Very pleasant to hear the gentle music wafting through bedroom walls. According to the seller, this “concert” size is the size “recommended for most adults & children age 9 & up.” Comes with case, strap, picks, tuner, and an instructional video. 
 
 
 
 

Lots of variety, great for learning. Opens flat (also comes in digital format).

Just as described! We had a kid who was really into making little beaded lizards for a while, and this kept her busy. Sturdy storage box, but note there is only one lid for all the compartments, so be careful!
 
 
 
 
Fun little set. My 13-year-old got a lot of use out of it. A generous supply of glitter stuff. The tattoos last for a few days, but are easy to clean off when you’re ready. 
 
 
Generous size (3.5×5 feet). My then-six-year-old made this almost entirely on her own with no trouble, and found it very satisfying. 
 
 
 
Lots of fun, great for tournaments. Brings together characters from all different Nintendo games, and you can also design your own Mii fighter with their own moves and voices and clothes. One of my kids fights with an axe-wielding Abraham Lincoln. 
 
 
You need two, so they can fight with each other! Or help each other down off horses, or hand each other grapes. Great present for an aspiring artist. 
 
 
 
This is what my daughter, THE PUBLISHED ILLUSTRATOR, recommends as a good starter set. 
 
 
eeBoo games are hands-down the best games for little kids. In this one, you spread a cheery red picnic blanket and start spinning the spinner to collect food. You win when you’ve collected all the elements of a perfect picnic meal. The pieces are bright and sturdy and the spinner works well. My then-three-year-old adored this game, and the older kids didn’t mind playing with her. 
 
 
 
This is just cute as all get out. The color is somewhat brighter than it looks in this picture. Glossy and solid, sturdy enough to hold up under some living room rodeo action.  Kids love having their own special chairs. (It also comes in brown, pink, blue, and white.) Very well made for the price. You do have to assemble it, but it wasn’t difficult.
 
 
 
Just a pretty headband for your little flower. Comes in many different colors. 
 
 
 

This is just an awesome, basic sewing machine that makes sewing as easy as it can possibly be. It has dozens and dozens of cool stitches, it’s easy to thread (with instructions printed right on the machine), and it takes a beating and keeps on sewing. Comes with hard case and many accessories. I showed my teenagers how to use this machine in about 15 minutes, and away they went. 

If you want to spend less (or more!), you really can’t go wrong with Brother.

 
***
 
And that’s it! Happy shopping. Here are my lists from previous years. I haven’t checked through to make sure all the links work, but at least you can find some ideas. 
 
The 2018 list (50 presents)
 
The 2017 list (50 presents)
 
The 2016 list (50 presents)
 
The 2015 list (25 presents under $50)
 
The 2014 list (50 presents)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sold by: Amazon.com Services, Inc
 
 
 
 

What’s for supper? Vol. 194: Cranberry brie tarts! Spanakopita pockets! Sausage oyster stuffing! The Thanksgiving 2019 feast.

Just a one-day post this week, and you know which day! All week we had no-brainer meals like hamburgers and hot dogs while I baked and shopped and cleaned, and then we had a very delicious Thanksgiving. I tried two new recipes this year, and both are keepers. Here’s what we had:

There was so much phyllo dough left over from the youth group shawarma feast, I decided to make two appetizers: cranberry brie tarts, and spanakopita. Both were delicious! They didn’t take much skill to put together, but the tarts were a bit of a hassle. I assembled them ahead of time, and then threw them in the oven when the guests arrived. 

Phyllo dough cups with honey, then brie, then sugared cranberries, baked then topped with fresh sage and a little honey-butter-almond syrup. They would make lovely Christmas party treats, and were just melty and tart and exciting.   

Jump to Recipe

I wish I had let them sit in the pan a few more minutes before attempting to pull them out, but they eventually all came out intact. 

These are little tarts, made in a mini muffin pan, but I also made some bigger ones in a standard-size muffin tin. I prefer the mini ones, but both were tasty. 

Aren’t they pretty? I may spring for some better brie next time, but the creamy, slightly earthy cheese with the sharp snap of the cranberries was very nice indeed. You could also use thyme instead of sage, but I thought the little breath of green on top of the honey was wonderful. Altogether a really great cold-weather appetizer, very festive. 

While people were eating the cranberry tarts, I baked the spankopita pockets, which people ate while the turkey was resting. I’ve never even seen spanakopita before, but these little pockets were quite easy to make and tasted wonderful. Fresh spinach sautéed in butter with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, mixed with plenty of feta, then wrapped up in buttery phyllo dough, brushed with more butter, and baked. YUHM. Very filling and cozy.

Jump to Recipe

I read the directions on how to fold them up and just kept going, “. . . what? . . . . WHAT?” so I finally looked up a video, which helped tremendously. I’ve included a link to the video in the recipe card. I need to do this again to get my folding technique down, and maybe use a bit less filling so it doesn’t burst out, but they sure tasted good.

Then of course the turkey. We think brining delivers very little for the hassle, so Damien seasons the birds with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, stuffs them, and cooks them at 350 on a rack, basting every thirty minutes with melted butter and tequila. We had two large birds and they were swell. 

One had stuffing with onions, celery, and mushrooms, and one had stuffing with sausage and oysters. It was freaking delicious. You could skip the turkey and just feast on the stuffing. 

Jump to Recipe

On Thanksgiving morning, I make a giblet broth with the hilarious neck and any organs they give us, other than the liver, and some celery and onions and carrots, and set that simmering to use later in the gravy. I fry up the liver with with some onions, then cut that into pieces and fry some more until it’s in little crisp bits. Then, in a heavy pot, I melt plenty of butter, then add flour and salt and pepper, then add the giblet broth a little at a time until it’s the right consistency. Then I stir in the little liver and onion bits, and after the turkey is removed from the pan, I shove in a ton of pan scrapings and some of the fat from the turkey. It was some very fine turkey this year, a rich, dark brown and full of exciting savory bits.

My dad brought mashed potatoes made with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese. Fantastic. I need to get that recipe. 

My brother’s friend brought some sautéed asparagus, which was very tasty, and we also had roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash, broiled with salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar, and a bit charred. I skipped the honey, because there were so many sweet things in the meal, but here’s a recipe that explains how to process butternut squash for cooking.

Jump to Recipe

See? Vegetables!

Clara made her famous hobbit bread, from An Unexpected Cookbook (Which would make a great Christmas present for Lord of the Rings fans, by the way). It’s a braided loaf (well, three braided loaves) stuffed with mushrooms, onions, herbs, and cheese. I guess the theme here was “every dish could have been a meal in itself.”

A little burnt, as we were cramming pans in on top of other pans. We really need a second oven, or at least a third oven rack. 

Of course we had mountains of cranberry sauce, and I made a ton of cranberry orange bread

Jump to Recipe

which was a bit dry but still pretty, and some banana bread

Jump to Recipe

which I was too stuffed to even look at. This was half of the bread pile:

We had wine and various beers and hard ciders, plus mulled cider, which I cleverly set up in the crock pot in the morning with some cinnamon sticks. Dessert was pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie, with ice cream and whipped cream (both canned and freshly whipped, both!), and some eclairs courtesy of my mother-in-law. See my pies! See my pies!

I’m finally able to make pretty reliable pie crust.

Jump to Recipe

 The secret is to freeze the butter and shred it on a box shredder, and then just lightly mix it into the flour and salt, then sprinkle with ice water until it’s the right consistency. Then you go ahead and manhandle that crust however you like. I heard a great tip on Milk Street Radio: Lots of people think their pie crust needs more flour or more water, but really it’s at the wrong temperature. My pie crust is often too cold, making it crumbly and stiff, and giving it an extra half hour to warm up before I try and roll it out really helps. 

The lattice top pie came out nice. 

The free-form floral one turned out kind of confusing. 

Then I made this:

If I hadn’t been at a low ebb, I would have made little owls to sit in the holes, or little flowers, or even little tentacles. But the best I could come up with was a sort of progressive eclipse theme, which didn’t end up looking like much. Oh well! IT IS PIE. 

For the pecan pie, I used real maple syrup and whisky instead of corn syrup, and it made it so much more palatable. I made the pecan pie section of this insane mega pie. Still not my favorite pie, but a far more reasonable pie. [Marvin the Martian voice:] Isn’t it lovely, hmmm?

I also made three pumpkin pies using ready-made graham cracker crust just like Squanto showed us. 

I put the pies together earlier in the week and froze them, then thawed them Thanksgiving morning and baked them while we were eating dinner, so they were warm for dessert. I think I’ll be doing it that way every year.

I was planning to make some rolls and some sweet potatoes, but you know what? That would have been too much food. And the last thing we want at Thanksgiving is too much food. 

As you can see, I don’t exactly lay an elegant table. We didn’t have enough seating for everyone at the table, and we couldn’t get all the food laid out at once anyway, because the oven is too small. So we just kept hucking more and more platters of food at people as they finished cooking, and they kept loading their plates and then carrying them off to whatever spot they could find. There was a dog and four-year-old scrambling around under the table. People had birds in their pockets. The cat almost had a stroke. I had crock pots plugged in in weird places. Corrie flossed to “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah.” I do believe everyone had a nice day! I hope you did, too. 

And here are the recipe cards:

Cranberry brie tarts

This recipe looks complicated, but you can simplify or alter it however you like. Basically you want some kind of pastry, brie, cranberries with sugar, and honey, and an herb on top. A delicious and beautiful little appetizer, great for Thanksgiving or Christmas parties.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 roll phyllo dough
  • 6-8 oz brie
  • small bunch fresh sage or thyme, coarsely chopped

cranberries:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • dash salt
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter for cranberries

honey mixture:

  • 2 Tbsp butter for honey mixture
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425

  2. In a little pot, combine the honey, the butter, and the extract. Heat through and set aside.

  3. In a bowl, mix the cranberries with melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of salt. Set aside.

  4. Cut brie into 24 equal pieces and set aside.

  5. Prepare a 24-hole mini cupcake pan with butter or spray. You can also use a full-size cupcake pan, but the tarts will be a little unwieldy and won't hold together as well.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cut it into twelve equal stacks. Cover the dough with a damp cloth while you're working so the dough doesn't get brittle.

  7. Pull out one stack of phyllo dough squares and use half the squares to line a cupcake tin, fanning them out to make a little cup. Make sure the bottom of the tin has several layers of dough, so it won't fall apart when you take it out of the pan.

  8. When you have arranged all the pastry cups, drizzle them with half the honey-butter mixture.

  9. Lay a piece of brie in the bottom of each cup, then put a scoop of sugared cranberries on top of that. Drizzle with the rest of the honey-butter mixture.

  10. Bake for 15 minutes or so until the pastry is just golden brown.

  11. Top each cup with a bit of chopped herbs.

  12. Let the tarts sit in the pan for five minutes before serving. Serve hot.

 

Spanakopita triangles

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs spinach
  • 1 stick butter, plus 1 Tbsp for sautéing spinach
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups crumbled feta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 roll phyllo dough, thawed

Instructions

To make the filling:

  1. In a big pan, melt the 1 Tbsp butter and sauté the spinach until it's soft. It will be a giant heap of greens at first, but it cooks way down and will fit in the pan when you're done!

  2. Let the spinach cool and then squeeze out as much water as you can.

  3. In a bowl, mix together the cooked spinach with the salt, pepper and nutmeg, and stir in the feta until it's combined. Set aside.

  4. Preheat the oven to 375

  5. Melt the stick of butter and set it aside. You'll need it handy for assembling the triangles.

  6. Unroll the phyllo dough and cover it with a slightly damp cloth to keep it from getting brittle. Take what you need and keep the rest of the stack covered.

To assemble the triangles:

  1. Carefully lay a phyllo dough square on your workspace, long side horizontal. Brush it with melted butter. Lay another sheet on top of it and brush that with butter.

  2. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into three strips.

  3. Put a scoop of spinach mixture at the bottom of each strip. Then fold that section of dough up diagonally, enclosing the spinach, so it forms a triangle. Continue folding up to make triangles, like you'd fold a flag, until you reach the top of the dough. If you're having trouble figuring out how to fold it, here is a helpful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVwA3i_tmKc&t=2s

  4. If there's a bit of leftover dough on the triangle, fold it under. Lay the finished triangle on a baking sheet, seam side down. Brush with butter again.

  5. Continue until the phyllo dough is gone. I made 18 pockets, two sheets thick, with one roll of phyllo dough, but you can change the proportions and make lots of smaller triangles if you like.

  6. Bake about 25 minutes until golden brown. Let them sit in the pan for a moment before removing. Serve hot or cold.

 

Sausage oyster stuffing for turkey

Ridiculously savory and delicious. Stuff as much as you can in the turkey and bake the rest in a separate pan, covered with tinfoil to keep it from drying out.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz stuffing mix (we used pre-seasoned, for simplicity)
  • 1 lb loose sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 8-oz cans of oysters
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup broth
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • salt ad pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Sauté the onions, mushrooms, and celery in the butter.

  2. In a separate pan, fry up the sausage, crumbling it as you cook, until it's browned. Combine the sausage, including the fat, with the vegetables, and add in the oysters with their broth.

  3. Put the dry stuffing in a bowl. Add the broth and stir gently until it's all moistened. Add the vegetable-oyster- sausage mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

 

Cranberry muffins or bread

A pretty, sweet loaf or 12 muffins.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter, chilled and grated into shreds
  • zest of one orange
  • juice of two oranges
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare muffin tins; butter and flour loaf pan.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients and lightly incorporate the shredded butter.

  3. In another bowl, mix together the egg, orange juice, and orange zest.

  4. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Lightly mix in the cranberries and walnuts. Pour batter into tins or loaf pan.

  5. Bake muffins for about half an hour, loaf for an hour or more.

 

Banana muffins (or bread)

Makes two loaves or 24 muffins. Quick, easy, and pleasant. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium ripe bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 cups chopped nuts (optional)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter loaf pans or muffin tins, or use cupcake papers.

  2. Mash the bananas in a bowl. Beat the eggs and blend the into the bananas. 

  3. In another bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Add the dry mixture to the banana mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in nuts if desired. 

  4. Pour batter into pans or tins. Bake about 28 minutes for muffins, about 1 hour for loaves. 

 

Roasted butternut squash with honey and chili

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • honey
  • salt and pepper
  • chili powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler to high

  2. To peel the squash: Cut the ends off the squash and poke it several times with a fork. Microwave it for 3-4 minutes. When it's cool enough to handle, cut it into manageable pieces and peel with a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife. Scoop out the pulp and seeds.

  3. Cut the squash into cubes.

  4. In a bowl, toss the squash with honey and olive oil. You can use whatever proportions you like, depending on how sweet you want it.

  5. Spread the squash in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder.

  6. Broil for 15 minutes until the squash is slightly charred.

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

Sausage oyster stuffing for turkey

Ridiculously savory and delicious. Stuff as much as you can in the turkey and bake the rest in a separate pan, covered with tinfoil to keep it from drying out.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz stuffing mix (we used pre-seasoned, for simplicity)
  • 1 lb loose sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 8-oz cans of oysters
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup broth
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • salt ad pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Sauté the onions, mushrooms, and celery in the butter.

  2. In a separate pan, fry up the sausage, crumbling it as you cook, until it's browned. Combine the sausage, including the fat, with the vegetables, and add in the oysters with their broth.

  3. Put the dry stuffing in a bowl. Add the broth and stir gently until it's all moistened. Add the vegetable-oyster- sausage mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

10 just plain enjoyable movies to watch with the family on Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Who wants to watch a movie?

These movies don’t have anything to do with Thanksgiving. They’re just suitable for a wide range of audiences to sit and just enjoy while they digest. No hard truths, no profound moments, no searing tragedy, just movies that you will like because they are good. I’m skipping obvious favorites like Indiana Jones and The Mummy and recent hits like Into the Spiderverse, but of course I endorse those wholeheartedly. 

Pictured: Benny laughing her head off at UHF, which I can’t quite bring myself to include on the list. 

  1. THE ODYSSEY (1997) I’ve written about this two-part miniseries before:

It’s long, so you could watch it over the course of the long weekend. Everyone I know who loves The Odyssey loves this production. Don’t get me wrong. Much of the movie — sets, effects, and acting — is hokey to the max. But it’s charmingly, enthusiastically hokey, and every minute of it is made with great love. 
Above all, this production understands the Odyssey not as some kind of effete literary relic but as a really exciting adventure story full of fighting and monsters, with sexy ladies here and there, and a huge, endless love propelling the whole thing. And that is what the Odyssey is. I wouldn’t change a thing. 

2 hours, 56 minutes. For age 14 and up (sex and gore, because duh, The Odyssey)

2. THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1952)

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in their finest roles. I said what I said! Oh, and look, I wrote about this one, too.  Thrilling, funny, thoroughly engaging from start to finish.

Here are two people who have so far only half-lived their lives.  If they fall together quickly, it’s because they’ve been waiting so long.  At the opening scenes, we see that Miss Rose has taken herself out of the stream of life, and Mr. Allnut travels up and down the river, but only to deliver other people’s mail.  It’s time for both of them to go somewhere, and the river is waiting.  What an artful and deceptively simple portrait of a marriage the movie is, from start to finish — and it’s all done in gestures.  Every time Katharine Hepburn touches her hair, it means something; and every time Humphrey Bogart scratches his chin, you know what he’s thinking, and whether or not he’s relishing that thought.

Just an absolute treat. 

1 hour, 46 minutes; ages 7 and up

3. MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000

The new series didn’t get renewed by Netflix, but they will be doing their Turkey Day Marathon again this year, and you can watch it on YouTube or Twitch or other places.

The set-up of the MST3K series is that a guy is being held captive on a spaceship and forced by evil scientists to watch terrible movies, and to keep himself company, he’s made some robot friends. You see their silhouettes in front of various absurdly awful movies, as if they’re in the theater with you, and you hear them making wisecracks all throughout. Really funny stuff. 

If you don’t know MST3K, a good place to start is EEGAH. A truly hideous 60’s movie about some teenagers who discover a caveman; culture clashes ensue. 

1 hour, 32 minutes. All ages, I guess, depending on which movie they’re riffing on. Little kids may not understand the premise, but that’s okay. A very kid-friendly series, although later episodes that featured Mike instead of Joel lost a bit of the charm and included a few more dirty jokes. 

4. HIGH ANXIETY (1977)

Probably the most family-friendly (read: Fewest dick jokes) of all Mel Brooks’ movies. It’s a loving homage to Alfred Hitchcock, but you will still enjoy it even if you’re not a Hitchcock fan. Come to think of it, it does have some dick jokes. And some uh flagellation jokes. Okay, so it’s for an older audience! But it somehow comes out, like so many Mel Brooks movies, smelling sweet and cute and, most of all, snappy peppy. Includes the incomparable Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, and Cloris Leachman. Fully 40% of the things we say to each other in my family are quotes from this movie. 

1 hour, 35 minutes. Age 14 and up for dick jokes, etc. 

5. THE ADVENTURES OF MILO AND OTIS (1989)

This is the greatest animal adventure movie of all time, sweet and moving and exciting and very funny. Great if you have a bunch of kids in the house, but still entirely entertaining and engaging for adults. It’s brilliantly narrated by Dudley Moore, and it’s shot in such a way that you really believe he’s giving the animals voice. It does show a dog giving birth and has a few creepy and alarming and sad scenes, but the ending is almost paradisally happy. Absolutely gorgeous scenery, shot in Japan over the course of many seasons. 

1 hour, 35 minutes. All ages, possibly scary for very sensitive kids.

6. DUCK SOUP (1933)

Well, of course. This is the one where Rufus T. Firefly becomes the president of Fredonia. HAIL, HAIL FREDONIA! Chico and Harpo are spies and Margaret Dumont is Margaret Dumont, and they’re going to war. If you know Bugs Bunny saying “Of course you realize, this means war!” then this is where he got it. Duck Soup has the famous mirror scene (which is where Lucille Ball got it). This is one of the few Marx Brothers movies with no painful harp part with Harpo. It does have a sort of minstrel show interlude, so be aware, in case you’re watching it with people who freak out about minstrel show interludes in old movies. 

1 hour, 8 minutes. All ages. 

7. HELP! (1965) 

It’s been too long since you’ve seen this movie! So ridiculous and full of high spirits, and of course it has the wonderful Beatles soundtrack all through it. I’ll tell you the plot, but it doesn’t really matter. The Beatles are being chased by a gang of fanatics from some Eastern religion, and they need Ringo’s ring? or something? so they can do a sacrifice? It doesn’t matter. Paul gets shrunk. They all go skiing. A million sight gags and inexplicably hilarious bits. You can’t even call it culturally insensitive because it’s so dang weird. 

1 hour, 35 minutes. All ages. 

8. NATIONAL TREASURE (2004) 

This isn’t actually a good movie. I’m including it out of respect for how hard my kids tried and will continue to try to persuade me that it’s a traditional movie that we have always watched and must always watch on Thanksgiving. 

2 hours, 11 minutes. Are you kidding me, 2 hours and 11 minutes. No ages. No ages should watch this. 

8a. BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS (2009)

I’m putting this here to balance out the Nic Cage ratios in the universe, which I put out of true by including National Treasure. This movie is what we call in professional terms “whack.” I don’t even know what to say. It’s sleazy in a way that will make you laugh and funny in a way that will make you want to go lie down for a while. It’s just whack, man, especially with that iguana. It’s the Werner Herzogiest. If you decided to try out some kind of new punch for Thanksgiving this year and it had kind of a lot of alcohol in it and it was a really big hit, then I believe you are ready for this movie. 

You can increase everyone’s enjoyment of this movie by murmuring medium-loudly to yourself as you watch, “My goodness, he really is a very bad lieutenant!”

Sidenote: Apparently Werner Herzog found out they were thinking of using CGI for the baby Yoda in The Mandalorian, and he got really mad and called them cowards. Say what you like, Werner Herzog is not a coward. 

2 hours, 2 minutes, Pretty dang R rated

9. THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN

Satisfyin’. This movie, which was supposed to be the first in a series, somehow really does justice to the odd, beloved characters from the comic albums (you cannot make me say “graphic novels”). It’s done in 3D computer animation with some live action capture or something, but . . . it doesn’t make your skin crawl, but retains a cartoony style that’s just fun. Tintin is an intrepid reporter who stumbles into one adventure after another with his dog, Snowy, his profane sea captain friend, Captain Haddock, the vague professor Calculus, and the unrelated but identical incompetent police detectives, Thomson and Thompson. Great adventure story, lots of jokes, some absolutely gorgeous scenes.

10.¡THREE AMIGOS (1986)

Ay yi yi yi yiiiiiii! This movie is pure happiness.  If you’ve seen Galaxy Quest, this is the same plot, except it came first, and instead aliens and TV actors, it’s Mexicans and a bunch of washed-up silent movie stars who think they’re getting a great gig. But the people who hire them think they’re real heroes who will save their town of Santa Poco from the nefarious El Guapo. 

Gosh, I love this movie. This is what the 80’s did really well: the unbridled nuttiness and sweetness and total dedication to a ridiculous premise. 

1 hour, 45 minutes. All ages. Some suggestion of sex, but it will go over kids’ heads.

Honorable Mention: THE MANDALORIAN

I know, it’s not a movie. But if you got Disney Plus and haven’t gotten started on The Mandalorian yet, go for it! It’s way so much better than I was expecting. It knows exactly what people like about Star Wars and it keeps it all, including the wipe cuts and the puppets and the ridiculous names, but it’s tight and suspenseful and entertaining. Fun fun fun. Lots of very explicit references to old Westerns, which is, of course, what Star Wars always was 

Even more honorable mention: SHAOLIN SOCCER (2001), which isn’t on the list because I forgot to put it on, but I have to get that stuffing started now. So silly and cute and tender. 

Happy Thanksgiving! I love you all very much, but I love movies more. 

With Fred Rogers, it was personal

When I was an adolescent, our girl’s group made a large batch of cards for the residents of a nursing home. “YOU ARE LOVED,” we spelled out over and over again, switching to scented markers when we got bored. We added a few stickers, then we threw all the cards in a bag to be delivered, and we got back to our real lives.

I felt obscurely ashamed and angry at the disingenuousness of this exercise, thinking how little it would mean to some ailing old woman to get a card from a girl she never met. Or, I thought, maybe it would mean a lot, and that would be even worse. “You [whoever you are] ought to feel loved [passive voice] by someone who couldn’t even be bothered to sign her name, because she has field hockey now [smiling sun sticker].” How worthless. Worse than no card at all.

But it never occurred to me to fix it by being sincere — by actually showing actual love to actual people, spending time with a lonely stranger. I didn’t want to do that, either. So I scrapped the whole thing.

I felt something of the same angry distaste when I was little and would occasionally watch Mr. Rogers at my grandparents’ house. My sister and I thought he was unbearably goony (and it didn’t help that I was secretly terrified of Lady Elaine). When his show came on, we would elaborately die of boredom, rolling our eyes so hard, we could see the inside of our snarky little skulls.

But I also didn’t like how he was always talking directly to me. You don’t know me! You’re just on TV! You don’t even know if I’m watching or not, so why are you pretending you care about me? I pretended to be bored, but I was also truly angry.

There was something more, though. I couldn’t deal with his face. I just didn’t want to look at it. He had that smile of extreme simplicity that you see in people who have gone through tremendous sorrows, or in the mentally impaired at Mass. It’s a radical openness, a lantern that burns too bright.

Looking at his face now, fifty years after his first show aired, I think that I was very wrong about this man’s sincerity. So many people have reported that, as children, no one else was telling them that they mattered, that they were lovable, that someone cared — no one but Mr. Rogers. His steady gaze and his warm voice were the only steadiness and warmth they had.

And he wasn’t only leveling them through the camera. Mr. Rogers was remembered by François Clemmons on StoryCorps a few years ago. (The very short StoryCorps features on National Public Radio are almost always worth a listen — sort of the audio equivalent of Humans of New York.) In this edition, Clemmons tells how Fred Rogers invited him to come play a policeman on his show.

Clemmons, who is black, says that the idea didn’t appeal to him. 

“I grew up in the ghetto. I did not have a positive opinion of police officers. Policemen were siccing police dogs and water hoses on people,” he says. “And I really had a hard time putting myself in that role. So I was not excited about being Officer Clemmons at all.”

But he agreed; and one show in particular stands out in his mind. It was 1969.

Rogers had been resting his feet in a plastic pool on a hot day.

“He invited me to come over and to rest my feet in the water with him,” Clemmons recalls. “The icon Fred Rogers not only was showing my brown skin in the tub with his white skin as two friends, but as I was getting out of that tub, he was helping me dry my feet.”

Shades of Holy Thursday. 

Fred Rogers clearly saw his career as an opportunity to invite, to serve, and to model charity. When he dried Clemmons’ feet, he wasn’t only doing it for the cameras — although that in itself was a momentous statement in 1969. He wasn’t merely modeling charity; he was being charitable, personally, to the actual person beside him.

Rogers didn’t hide behind the TV screen and consider that he had discharged his duty by broadcasting his message to the millions of people who watched his show. Talking to a crowd was not a substitute for talking to the man in front of him. Writers and social media warriors, take heed: There is no substitute for the personal.

[Clemmons] says he’ll never forget the day Rogers wrapped up the program, as he always did, by hanging up his sweater and saying, “You make every day a special day just by being you, and I like you just the way you are.” This time in particular, Rogers had been looking right at Clemmons, and after they wrapped, he walked over.

Clemmons asked him, “Fred, were you talking to me?”

“Yes, I have been talking to you for years,” Rogers said, as Clemmons recalls. “But you heard me today.”

Okay, so, that sounds familiar. Doesn’t it? Who talks that way? You know who. That’s why I still find it hard to look Fred Rogers in the face. But I am trying.

I have heard his widow’s pleas not to turn him into a plaster saint, or to put him on a pedestal, making people think that he achieved something rare and extraordinary. 

“He’s out there now as somebody who’s somehow way above all the rest of us,” she said. “People invariably say, ‘Well, I can’t do that, but I sure do admire him. I would love to do it.’ Well, you can do it. I’m convinced there are lots of Fred Rogerses out there.”

And that is holiness. The steadfast resolve to respond with love to the person right in front of you — that’s holiness, and it’s achievable. That’s how you turn a generic and useless “you are loved” into a personal and transformative “I love you.” It may not be sainthood, but it is holiness all the same. 

***

Photo: By Dr. François S. Clemmons (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In which I give thanks for the Chicken of Life

Last Sunday, I had the kids in my faith formation class draw a picture of a Thanksgiving feast at their house. Most drew a table, some food and family and friends gathered around. Then I had them draw a picture of the Mass and nudged them toward drawing a similar scene. We talked about how the altar is a table, as well as a place of sacrifice, and how the food is Jesus, and all of mankind is one family.

I was working my way up to the central idea—that “Eucharist” literally means “Thanksgiving.” But the lesson did not really land because most of the kids did not know the word “Eucharist” yet. Also, some of them did not know what “Mass” meant, and some of them did not know what to draw since they were going over to their mom’s new boyfriend’s house for Thanksgiving, and they weren’t sure if he had a table. One child steadfastly insisted that last time he went to Mass they had wine and chicken. The chicken of life.

And, of course, three of the boys were still convulsing on the rug because, during the story portion of class, I had made the tactical error of showing them an illustration of St. Juan Diego in his tilma, and you could sort of see part of his butt. His butt.

Some weeks, my husband says I come home from teaching with my eyes shining and my face alight. This was not one of those weeks.

On a good week, the kids are spellbound while I tell them that God made the world because he is so overflowing with love, that he just wanted to be even happier by making more things to be good and beautiful and true, which is why he made the stars and the animals and you and me, and all he wants now is to get back together with us again.

On a good week, someone wants to talk about the war in heaven, and another kid pipes up, “But Ms. Simcha, the devil didn’t have to go to hell because he had free will!”

On a good week, we read about how Jesus called the shambling, shocked Lazarus from his dark grave, and one of the boys screws up his face with skepticism and blurts out, “Is this a story true?” and I can look him in the eye and say: “Yes, sweetheart. This is a true story. It’s all true!”

Those are the times when I feel keenly what a privilege it is to be there, to be allowed to feed these eager young Christians who are so hungry for the truths they were made to receive. Sometimes it feels like the cluttered little classroom is blazing with light and I am so glad, so glad to be there with them.

But we do have bad weeks . . . 

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine

Image: Dion Hinchcliffe via Flickr (Creative Commons)

 

8 ways to be generous without spending a dime

Being a Catholic means hearing constant appeals for donations; but sometimes, we truly don’t have a lot to give. If we’re barely getting by ourselves, then as much as we’d like to write a cheque and solve everyone’s problems, we just can’t. The best we can do is to give the little we can, and make a promise to do more if our situation improve later.

The same is true for non-financial giving: Sometimes we’re tapped out, emotionally and psychologically. We’re barely keeping our heads above water, and it takes all our effort to get through the day without murdering anyone or falling apart completely. Sometimes there truly is no room for extra effort, nothing non-essential to give.

I lived that way for a long time, off and on. Raising 10 kids, being very poor, homeschooling, and managing health problems can take just about all the mental and emotional energy you have to give. But now my kids are older, my finances are more stable, my health is under control, and I find that I don’t have to live in survival mode anymore. I’m trying to shake myself out of survival habits, and remember that now that I have some extra to give, I really should try!

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Photo: Thekiwimaster [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]