Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Here or There on Wednesdays

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong
Wednesdays give me a feeling of ambivalence. Sometimes it makes me regretful for being at the midpoint of the week not having done much or anything that I can be proud of. Sometimes I claim all gloating rights for clocking in a week's worth of work by midweek.

Wednesdays come with a persistent temptation, and it is this: I am tempted to slam shut my planner, wobble along for the rest of the week, and start anew on Sunday. On the other hand, hey, I still have the rest of the week, why waste the remaining three to four days?

Wednesdays make me want to rest whether or not I deserve it. If I deserve but a nap, it would have to be because I have managed to plod on thus far, poor results looming notwithstanding. Otherwise, hey, can't a girl just doze off or go some place nice (read mall) once in a while?

On most Wednesdays, though, I just feel relieved and grateful for having lived to midweek.

Friday, March 15, 2019

7 Quick Takes: Random Musings and Goings-On

I am linking this post with Kelly's 7 Quick Takes at This Ain't the Lyceum.

1. As a book lover, one of the most painful tasks that I have to do is to dispose of some (or a lot) of my books. The trouble is that my fascination for books is infinite while our bookshelf square footage is limited. Lately, though, I have also become more appreciative of the importance of letting go of things that mean many a thing to me but need not be physically available to retain their value in my life. Like letters from a period in the past, knick-knacks from friends, my children's baby stuff, and yes, books. Memory is a powerful faculty to have and when it fails in old age, I believe that some tender, however nebulous, fondness for things once treasured will remain.

2. The week is drawing to a close, and menu planning looms low and dark. My two middle children are in college, stay in the dorms on weekdays, and come home on weekends. On every day that they are not at home, I worry about what they eat. At the very least, I'd really like to send them off with salad packs that they can easily open and drizzle dressing over at any given busy school day.

3. Urbanization has a way of creeping up on you. I grew up in what was then considered a faraway suburb. Our subdivision could be accessed through a road that cut through ricefields and was lined with trees. The ricefields and trees are gone now and replaced by an assortment of small businesses, apartment buildings, haphazardly parked vehicles, and people too busy to look up from where they are walking. Where I live now was once a cogon-filled, sparsely populated area. If you lived there 25 years ago, you had to catch the 5:00 p.m. jeepney at a station some 10 kilometers away or you sleep on the street. Now they are constructing a light railway transit system to run through the entire stretch of the main thoroughfare. Urbanization has crept up on me again.

4. Last Saturday, the hubby and I managed to wake up early enough to attend the first Mass of the day and to do the Stations of the Cross after that. I like it when we are able to devote the first hours of the day to the Lord in thanksgiving for the fresh set of 24 hours that He is blessing us with.

5. I had a good scare this morning when my Kindle wouldn't open. I just charged it, and I know it was fully charged, but it just wouldn't turn on. Well, after some more tries, it did, and this book lover is happy. Until the next time that dear Kindle decides to play tricks on me again. Actually, I prefer hard copy books to ebooks, but shipping to our place is very expensive, and some books, ya gotta read n-o-w, right?

6. I love seasons. Liturgical seasons, climatic seasons, academic terms, and even sports seasons. They start at around the same time, end at around the same time, and people are expected to do the same things each season. Still, the cycles are never boring because if we resolve to find something new and exciting with the coming of each season, we are sure to find it. And with each cycle, we become enriched from the accumulated blessings and learnings of seasons past. Now, about tax seasons...

7. Do you have a pet cat? Does it sleep the whole day? How does it do that?!

Now, head over to the 7 Quick Takes at Kelly's This Ain't the Museum, and take a look at what the others have to share. 

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Worth Revisiting: At the Proper Time with the Divine Office

Today, I am linking with Elizabeth at Theology is Verb.

My first brush with the Divine Office was as a nine-year old. We were on a rare vacation in Baguio, a mountain city in northern Philippines, and our parents brought my siblings and me to the Pink Sisters Convent where we attended the vespers. It was one of those childhood experiences that you remember rather well, but whose mark you fully understand only many years later.

Fast forward to the present. Three years or so into the Divine Office, I still consider myself a newbie. While I am not anymore confused with ribbon placements and the four-week Psalter rotation, I have to admit that I still have to be, uhmm, regular in praying the Divine Office. I am trying to do just the Morning and Night Prayers for now, which is more manageable and less overwhelming. Maybe and hopefully, in the not so distant future, I can do the rest.

My Divine Office

This is what hit me recently. The Morning Prayer works if it is prayed at the first waking hour. The Night Prayer works if it is prayed long before the Sandman has used up his last grain of sand.

If I do my Morning Prayer after I have done a myriad of little chores that could actually wait, the purity of intention would have been diluted, the predisposition to immerse myself in the prayers and psalms would have been lessened, and the resolve to carry on with the Morning Prayer's inspirations throughout the rest of the days would have been weakened. Pffft...

In like manner, if I do my Night Prayer with my eyes half-closed and half of my mind in dreamland, the spirit of thanksgiving, repentance, and renewal becomes but a drowsy thought.

In the cycles of nature, activities are undertaken in their proper seasons. And with the course of daily prayers, the Divine Office in particular, it also pays to observe The Proper Time.

Perhaps this is a no-brainer for the Divine Office veterans, but for a newbie like me, it was actually a lightbulb moment!

The Lord will keep 
your going out 
and your coming in
from this time forth
and forever.

~ Psalm 121:8

You can pray the Divine Office online here and here

You can read the Apostolic Constitution Promulgating the Divine Office as Revised in accordance with the Decree of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican here

You can check out Daria Sockey's blog Coffee and Canticles here

Friday, March 8, 2019

7 Quick Takes: Reasons for Choosing Home Cooking and Dining Over Dining Out, Takeout, and Delivery

I am linking this post with Kelly's 7 Quick Takes at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Disclosure: We eat out a lot as a family. Yup. But I want to change that. Soon. Very soon. Hence, these seven quick takes.

1. It is cheaper to cook your family's meals and dine at home versus dining out, "taking out", or calling a fastfood restaurant's delivery hotline. I doubt if anybody is going to argue on this. While both home and restaurant use ingredients, gas/electricity, and labor to cook, restaurants do their costing and top up all that with p-r-o-f-i-t. Business textbooks will not frown on this, and business is good for the economy, but it is better to keep your money than fatten the money bags of fastfood giants.

2. If you are serious about it, homecooked meals are healthier. And us moms, of course we are serious! Nutritious and safe ingredients are key. When we shop, we carefully select our food purchases. We spend a long time at the green grocer section, examining fruits and vegetables. At the butcher's, we sternly remind sellers that we won't be fooled. You know the routine. I don't know how carefully and meticulously merchandisers/buying staffs of restaurants do their job, but it makes a huge difference if you personally know and care for those you are cooking for.

3. Since you cook your own meals, you are assured that they were prepared hygienically. Ever since my eldest was but a baby, I have dreaded the thought of my children being ill because my kitchen is dirty or I have been remiss at keeping the standards of hygiene in meal preparation. I sometimes spend more time than I should be spending in cleaning the kitchen and its many corners and crevices. I also would like to think that food churned out by my kitchen is nourishing and hygienically prepared with much love.

4. Home cooking provides opportunities for teaching your children how to survive in their own kitchens someday; in short, with home cooking, your children learn how to cook. As parents, we can be so wrapped up with academics that we forget about life skills, like driving a car, managing personal finances, and cooking. It's so easy to deploy a child into the world without caring if he can cook an egg for breakfast or not. But if we don't teach our children to cook, they will grow up to be obese from eating too much fastfood and impoverished from dining out too often.

5. Dining together provides opportunities for teaching table manners to our children. As parents, we should not underestimate the importance of table manners. Outside of saying please and thank you, the earliest manners that we teach our children are table manners. Through these initial learnings of propriety, they understand why it is important to mind one's manners, and that underlying all the do's and don'ts of manners are respect for the personal space, property, sensibilities, beliefs, and feelings of other people. They will understand that through good manners, we can co-exist even with people with whom we share nothing in common.

Supper at Emmeus by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1870s,
from the Brigham Young University Museum of Art
6. When a family dines together, they talk, laugh, and bond together. Which is what families should be doing. (No gadgets allowed during meals!) Of course, conversations can be carried out even in noisy fastfood restaurants, but conversations and sharing of ideas, stories, opinions, triumphs, and disappointments at a leisurely pace with family members in your own home while partaking of a lovingly prepared meal are precious and meaningful. Even very expensive fine dining restaurants will never match the glow from the hearth of a loving family.

7.  A shared meal is almost a religious rite. Some of God's special messages were relayed to His people during mealtimes. Remember the Last Supper and the meal our Lord shared with the two men on the road to Emmaus. In the Last Supper, our Lord assured us that He will never leave us, and instituted the Holy Eucharist. The resurrected Christ shared a meal with the the two men who did not recognize Him, on the road to Emmaus because they asked Him to stay with them as the day was almost over. He explained the Savior's sufferings and coming to glory to them. He went on to bless the bread, break it, and give it to them.Then they recognized the Lord, but he was gone. "Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road?" (Luke 24:32)

Do you eat out a lot like we do? Do you maintain well-orchestrated kitchen routines than churn out good meals three times a day, seven days a week? Do share!

Now, head over to the 7 Quick Takes at Kelly's This Ain't the Museum, and take a look at what the others have to share. 

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Simplifying Lent

With the deluge of information in the Internet, it is easy to get lost and confused when trying to get even the simplest information, e.g., a recipe for mac and cheese. The same is true for our Lenten planning. You do a Google search for "Lent" or "planning for Lent", and out comes an overwhelming collection of prayers, activities, and whatnot's for you to choose from.

I'm taking a break from that this year, and maybe, hereafter.

The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In terms of knowing what to do, fasting and almsgiving are rather simple and straightforward. It is prayer that I have to tackle and simplify. (Not that the three pillars are stand-alones. They embody and are bound together by the spirit of repentance, sacrifice, and love.) I can engage in all the prayers and prayerful activities offered in the Internet, but if it is volume that I target, prayer won't mean anything. So, no more grand plans. Simplicity is key.

This year, in addition to the Holy Mass, confession, and the Holy Rosary, I will

1. use only one meditation book, In Conversation with God, Volume Two by Francis Fernandez
2. use only one prayer book for the Stations of the Cross, The Way of the Cross by Saint Josemaria, and
3. use only one prayer book for the Visita Iglesia, Visita Iglesia: Guide, Reflections, and Prayers by Rev. Fr. Arian Joseph M. Ocheda, OAR. (You can read about the Visita Iglesia tradition here.)

Like so:

One page from In Conversation with God, Volume Two by Francis Fernandez 

I am very convinced that simplicity, not only in material things but also in spirit, leads to much meaning and better resolve in prayer. May it be so this Lent.

Come, Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of Thy faithful,
and enkindle in them the fire of  Thy love.
~ from the Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Saturday, March 2, 2019

7 Quick Takes: Socialization Tips for Homeschoolers

I am linking this post with Kelly's 7 Quick Takes at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Hands down, socialization is probably the most controversial topic about homeschooling. To many of us who have been homeschooling for a long time, we know that socialization does not have to be a problem, and that a homeschooled child can actually experience socialization in as meaningful a manner as his "regular" school counterparts. 

I offer the following socialization tips, for your consideration:

1. Define the parameters of your children's socialization. These are the whats, whos, wheres, whens, hows, do's, and don'ts.

Why? Homeschooled or not, we want a child to grow up with a strong sense of self, well-adjusted with a healthy sense of community, and able to get along with and edify the people with whom he lives and works. It is good to keep this in mind as we form our children to be social beings.

Who? The key term is "kindred spirits". Associate with families and groups that share your interests and beliefs especially on matters that involve moral formation and entertainment. This concern is highlighted when you have very young children whose minds and hearts are still in the formative stages. This question also reminds me one of the reasons why we decided to homeschool, and that is, we wanted to be able to monitor the social influences to which our children are exposed.

Where and when? These questions obviously depend on the activity undertaken. Considerations include thematic dictates from the curriculum, safety, security, and practical considerations, such as time, distance, and finances. An example of an activity where all these come into play is the field trip. If only our children realize the efforts moms put in to plan and make these exciting events realities!

Do's and dont's. Do's and dont's define the boundaries of your lifestyle and the activities that you undertake as a family or with your community, church, and other groups. On the practical side, do's and dont's cover budgets, schedules, distance of travel, age range of children, and health needs. On perhaps the more substantive side, do's and dont's involve religious beliefs, social influences, and rules conduct.

2. Parameters notwithstanding, neither should you be very structured about socialization. Socialization is not an academic subject. Your children don't read textbooks, sit for exams, and get grades for their efforts. Socialization is necessarily integrated into your family and community life.

It can be as simple and unplanned as siblings embarking on a Scrabble challenge or planning the next trip to the beach. When you and your children are in the supermarket and you bump into the elderly couple next door and have a happy chat, that is socialization, too. Even reluctantly joining parish Christmas bazaars and similar events can hone socialization skills. I have heard of parent-chaperoned balls for homeschooling teens. And when your child gets into an argument with you, his siblings, or say, the pizza delivery guy, the supermarket cashier, or the checkout librarian, those too, constitute socialization  They learn to present their case logically and calmly.

What is important is that your children know how to behave in these situations, how to get along with others and be of help without compromising tenets of propriety, self-respect, and what they have learned from you about the good and the bad.

3. Determine your purpose for joining particular activities. Joining other families or members of the community for say, cultural events, are gems of opportunities. Before you commit, however, be sure that your purpose and expectations align with those of the other participants.

For example, you are joining another family for art lessons. Being not much of an artist, you want your children to be able to be able to draw, paint, and handle various art media confidently. You also want them to enjoy their art pursuits. So you engage another homeschooling family for joint art lessons. First day of "classes", you pack art materials and kids in the car. You reach the venue, then settle down the kids. Then comes the other mom with her elegant PowerPoint presentation of the impressionism art movement. Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cassatt. Definitely welcome, but not just yet...

4. Start with family and community. With good reason, socialization, just like charity, begins at home. A child's first social contact is with his parents and siblings. Within the family, a child learns communication skills, manners, values. Then, he gets introduced to neighbors and the rest of the community. The point is that teaching your children to be social beings does not have to be a deliberate, programmed, and regimented undertaking. Start with what you have: family and an inner circle.

5. Find a good mix of activities. Don't forget to ask your children what they want to do, what interests them, who they want to meet. Then ask yourself what it is that you want them to learn in a group setup, the places that you want them to visit, the people that you want them to know and learn from. All these are excellent inputs to socialization opportunities.

It is also good to update yourself with the events of your church and immediate community. Be in the habit of collecting museum brochures, information of theater offerings, and similar materials from friends, libraries, and of course, the Internet. They provide numerous ideas on where you can slowly slide your children's socialization skills to environments outside the home.

6. Be realistic with schedules and your capabilities. Don't over-schedule. Keep in mind that it is quality over quantity. Beware of the flexibility feature of homeschooling! The last thing that you need is being behind academic lessons in favor of field trips, spending over your budget, and an overused, messy car. And the last thing that your children need is a cranky mom.

When working with other families and groups, be sure that there is a fair division of work among the moms and organizers. Remember, you also need to allot time and effort for your house chores, teaching your kids, checking their work, and spending time with the hubby. Don't be unnecessarily heroic!

7. Pray. Yup, last but not the least. Pray to God to bless your homeschool. Ask the Holy Family to help you raise your children well. Ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for you that you may acquire her virtues as a mom. Ask Saint Joseph to intercede for the hubby that he may decide to occasionally join play and sports dates. Remind your children's guardian angels and patron saints to be with them all the time.

I hope these tips made sense and can be of help somehow. Please feel free to comment on or correct them.

Now, head over to the 7 Quick Takes at Kelly's This Ain't the Museum, and take a look at what the others have to share. 

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

How I Organized My Cookbooks (Recipe Organization Series, #1)

This is the first post of the Recipe Organization Series. To those of you who like me, can cook only with one hand clutching a cookbook, this is for you!

A kitchen cannot be without a cookbook. When frequently used, a cookbook can be a kitchen's backbone, making sure that the hearth yields only decent meals. When rarely used, a cookbook is a symbol of hope for the near-desperate housewife who looks forward to that day when husband and children finally applaud the evening's fare. I venture that even at this digital age or with the spread of minimalism, even the toughest advocate will reluctantly put a hard copy cookbook on his shelf. These make the case for organizing your cookbooks. Unorganized, they probably will never be used.

This is how I organized my cookbooks.

First, I culled all cookbooks from the bookshelves around the house and stored them on the kitchen shelves because according to organization gurus, you store things where you use them. Then, arguing that I plan meals at my desk and not in the kitchen, I moved all the cookbooks from the kitchen to my workstation. I bring them to the kitchen as needed for actual cooking.

Second, I pulled the cookbooks from the shelf and classified them. This will make looking for a cookbook and recipes easier. After sorting, I assigned each stack a category name, like so:

Here are clearer views:

Third, I sorted the categories themselves to make a meaningful sequence. I ended up with this:

1. Teaching/Reference. Some cookbooks are not compilations of recipes, but instead read like textbooks. They discuss cooking methods, e.g., the difference between grilling and roasting, kitchen hardware, e.g., if you can have only two knives in the kitchen, what would those be, and even table manners. While these books also offer some recipes, they are best used in conjunction with your regular cookbooks.

Example: The Cook's Handbook by Prue Leith, Stewart House, Toronto, 1981. I bought this book as a young bride almost 30 years ago in a store called Academic Remainders, tagging along when the hubby was searching for affordable schoolbooks. 

2. Cultural I wasn't so sure how to name this category. I thought of anthropological but I wasn't sure if it would be an accurate description. It also sounded too serious. I refer to books that discuss the culture surrounding the culinary characteristics of a certain place or the cultural influences that molded a chef's techniques.

Example: Food and Cooking in Medieval Britain: History and Recipes by Maggie Black, Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, 1985.

3. General. The books in this category contain wide ranges of recipes across places of origin, ingredients, meal and dish types, and ingredients. They can be used to plan meals for everyday or for special occasions.

Example: Famous Recipes from Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House in Historic Savannah, Toof Cookbook Division, Memphis, 1976. I bought this from a used book store, where I buy many of my books, and I had the good fortune of landing on an autographed copy.

4. Health-focused. Of course, all food should be healthy, and these books ensure exactly that.

Example: Healthy at Home, Paulynn Chang Afable, editor, Summit Publishing Inc. Co., Mandaluyong City, the Philippines, 2013.

The rest of the categories are self-explanatory:

5. Ingredient-specific. Example: The Classic 1000 Pasta and Rice Recipes by Carolyn Humphries, Strathearn Publishing Ltd., 1997 and 2003.

6. Dish-specific. Example: Gifts in a Bottle: Sweet and Sassy Sauces, CQ Products, 2004.

7. Occasion-specific. Example: Recipes for the Holidays, Cookbook Publishers, Inc., Lenexa, Kansas, 1998.

8. Country-specific. Example: Filipino Cooking and Entertaining Here and Abroad by Eleanor R. Lacquian, National Book Store, Mandaluyong City, the Philippines, 2009.

9. Baking. Example: The Secrets of Fat-Free Baking by Sandra Woodruff, RD, Avery Publishing Group, New York, 1994.

10. Magazines. Example: Reader's Digest Best Health, Beth Thompson, editor-in-chief, The Reader's Digest Association (Canada) ULC, October 2016.

Finally, I shelved the books based on the categories.

Here's how my cookbook shelf look like now (outlined in blue). As you can see, the other shelves need organizing/tidying up:

Here are segments of the cookbook shelf. You will notice the category labels on the fileboxes or on the edge of the shelf:

How do you organize your cookbooks?

I hope this post can be of help should you decide to organize your cookbooks.

In the next post of the Recipe Organization Series, I will talk about how I digitally catalog/document my cookbook collection. I will include individual citations for all books in the collection, especially those pictured here.

Happy organizing and cooking!

"So we come home hungry. The first thing I do is put a pot of water to boil.
Only then do I take off my jacket and raid the refrigerator for vegetables.
By the time I've grated some zucchini, carrots, onions -
and whatever else I might find -
the water is boiling."