Office of the Night

November 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

You know that exhilarating feeling when you buy a CD that was worth every penny?

That’s what I have felt ever since I bought this one a month ago. Yes, I am a chant-junkie of sorts.

Happy Feast of Blessed Miguel Pro

November 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

I spent one of my favorite feast days very enjoyably today, beginning with Mass, followed by breakfast with a lovely gal in Baltimore and Thanksgiving prep at home, and some shopping with my sister still to come this evening. I couldn’t have asked for more.

A little about my heavenly friend, Blessed Miguel. Miguel was born in Zacatecas, Mexico on January 13, 1891. The talented boy struggled with his studies in Mexico and later in Europe, and was ordained a priest in Belgium in 1925. After returning to Mexico – where many Anti-Catholic laws, particularly targeting priests and other religious – he worked underground and often in disguise to minister to the Mexican Catholics. Eventually, after being in Mexico for a little over a year, Blessed Miguel was discovered to be a priest and under trumped-up charges of being involved in a plot to assassinate the President was sentenced to death.  Facing the firing squad on November 23, 1927, he shouted “Viva Cristo Rey” (Long Live Christ the King) as he died. (We celebrate his feast on the day of his death, as in all other Catholic feast days, because the day of death is considered the day we are born into our true Eternal lives.)

I “met” Miguel through a friend when I was twelve. My best pal Dustin, with whom I have unfortunately lost touch, read and lent me a little biography of the saint. He was so enthusiastic I could not resist. I read the book, and the “Merry Mexican Martyr” captured my heart: his joy through suffering, his contagious laughter that contemporaries mentioned, his love for fun and games, and his passion for Christ and for his own vocation to the priesthood. An awkward teenager, I finished the book and prayed for two things – that Miguel would be my heavenly friend, and that he would teach me the virtue of holy joy.

Twelve years later, I am still learning to practice holy joy but I trace any resilience back to his intercession with Christ and tutelage. We are great friends — Miguel always manages to pop up when I most need it and least expect it. For example, several years ago I was beginning an internship at the White House and was absolutely terrified. Knowing the only place that I could calm my nerves, I headed for the nearest Catholic church to sit awhile. Since it was a church I’d never visited, I poked around the scaffolding (the paintings were being restored) and, to my surprise, behind the scaffolding was a life-sized painting of Blessed Miguel. I was overwhelmed.

This holy man is a constant companion, intercessor, and confidante. I hope very much that every one of you will take the opportunity today to invite him to teach you holy joy as well and become your friend.

French Apple Cake

November 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

Yesterday, I had a hankering for fall flavors. Something apple-y and rummy and warm. Maybe it has something to do with all the Thanksgiving ingredients piled in the kitchen waiting to go into the AMAZING DINNER planned for Thanksgiving.

I decided to make the French Apple Cake from David Lebovitz’s site. I love love LOVE his website, and this French Apple Cake did not disappoint. We put scoops of vanilla ice cream on warm slices of cake, and I seriously thought I was eating a slice of Heaven. Try making one yourself! It was surprisingly simple, although I usually get nervous when there are fewer ingredients because there is less room for error. (Read the original post here.)

French Apple Cake
One 9-inch (23 cm) cake

Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

3/4 cup (110g) flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
4 large apples (a mix of varieties)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (115g) butter, salted or unsalted, melted and cooled to room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.

2. Heavily butter an 8- or 9-inch (20-23cm) springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Peel and core the apples, then dice them into 1-inch (3cm) pieces.

5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy then whisk in the sugar, then rum and vanilla. Whisk in half of the flour mixture, then gently stir in half of the melted butter

6. Stir in the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the butter.

7. Fold in the apple cubes until they’re well-coated with the batter and scrape them into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top a little with a spatula.

8. Bake the cake for 50 minute to 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan and carefully remove the sides of the cake pan, making sure no apples are stuck to it.

Serving: Serve wedges of the cake just by itself, or with crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

Storage: The cake will keep for up to three days covered. Since the top is very moist, it’s best to store it under a cake dome or overturned bowl.

Hello again

November 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

I’m back! Lots and lots and lots of things have happened since I last posted.

Where to begin?

Right before Triduum in April, the Chief of Interpretation at Fort McHenry called and offered me a job as a seasonal Ranger for the National Park Service. I asked for 24 hours to think about it. Over that scant 24 hours, I had to make the biggest decision of my life thus far, the decision to leave my chemistry research and the scientific work I’d been studying and preparing for since 2004 and make a total career switch. I decided to take the plunge – admittedly terrifying at first and still requiring faith on my part that God knows what He is about – and have not regretted it once.

(This is also why my fashion blog has suffered severely. Perhaps one of these days I’ll get a chance to revamp that one too.)

Now, with my first summer of Ranger-business (a nod to Lost Skeleton of Cadavra) behind me, I am nearing the end of 2010. Who knew a year ago that I would be here now? Working as a National Park Service Ranger and a teacher for the Maryland Historical Society, studying history for an M.A., doing various and sundry research projects for fun, living at home, working on my relationships with my younger sisters…none of these things were on my radar screen in early April. I thought I was going to study Neuroscience at University of Northern AZ and take off on a brilliant scientific career. But thanks to a providential chain of events, that didn’t happen.

It amazes me how I ended up applying for NPS jobs; I think about it fairly often. My roomate (who I only accidentally ended up with for a roomate) from 2009-2010, Xiaofang, taught me that making money in your job wasn’t what mattered; the most important thing was working where you were best suited and were happiest. Whenever I whined about my job, my friend Ryan would ask what I’d be happiest doing (to which the answer was always “working at the Fort”). My friends at the Fort offered encouragement and inspiration, the straws that broke this camel’s back, so to speak, and made me realize that maybe the best thing isn’t always to “soldier through”.

So here I am. During Fall-Winter I am taking grad classes in history, doing research, and have spurts of employment (12-14 days at a time) mixed with bouts of quiet. The spring looks pretty exciting too: I just got a volunteer internship at the Maryland Historical Society helping to plan, develop and set up an exhibit on “Accessories throughout the Ages”, a project for which I can barely contain my excitement.

Enough of my history…I am happy to be back online. And just in time for Blessed Miguel Pro’s feast day, coming up tomorrow. :)



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