Temptation… in a variety of colors

I’m pretty sure there couldn’t be an advertising campaign better aimed at me than this one.

Cardigan Ad

Remember this?  Oh, and that was two years ago.  Let’s not talk about whether or not the collection has expanded since then. Let’s not talk about the fact that I may have purchased a cardigan yesterday before I even ate breakfast.  But it was on sale! And it was purple and buttonless, and I don’t have one of those yet…

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Goal for Day: to be a saint

When I stumbled upon this homily from Pope Benedict this morning, I wondered why I hadn’t read it before – or even heard of it before.  I guess I knew he spoke to the youth when he was in England, but I thought I had read most of his homilies and speeches from that trip.  I somehow had missed this one.

His audience may be students, but the message here is one that we all need to take to heart and remember.  We are called to be saints — not cold figures memorialized in plaster statues or stained glass windows, but citizens of heaven.  Being a saint doesn’t mean having your own feast day or holy card… it means going to heaven.  Everyone in heaven is a saint, whether we know their name and they’ve been officially recognized by the Church or not.

So today’s goal — begin working on sainthood.

From Pope Benedict’s address to students of the UK, September 17, 2010 (emphasis mine)

It is not often that a Pope, or indeed anyone else, has the opportunity to speak to the students of all the Catholic schools of England, Wales and Scotland at the same time. And since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.

“Perhaps some of you have never thought about this before. Perhaps some of you think being a saint is not for you. Let me explain what I mean. When we are young, we can usually think of people that we look up to, people we admire, people we want to be like. It could be someone we meet in our daily lives that we hold in great esteem. Or it could be someone famous. We live in a celebrity culture, and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment. My question for you is this: what are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What kind of person would you really like to be?

When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.

Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but he invites us to respond to that love. You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person’s friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend. God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage, and you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.

In your Catholic schools, there is always a bigger picture over and above the individual subjects you study, the different skills you learn. All the work you do is placed in the context of growing in friendship with God, and all that flows from that friendship. So you learn not just to be good students, but good citizens, good people. As you move higher up the school, you have to make choices regarding the subjects you study, you begin to specialize with a view to what you are going to do later on in life. That is right and proper. But always remember that every subject you study is part of a bigger picture. Never allow yourselves to become narrow. The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerously narrow if it ignores the religious or ethical dimension of life, just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding of the world. We need good historians and philosophers and economists, but if the account they give of human life within their particular field is too narrowly focused, they can lead us seriously astray.

A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person. And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints.

Dressing up

A fellow female Catholic blogger has lamented on a few occasions that men have lost the art of dressing well.  She recently pointed out that while Downton Abbey is said to be affecting fashion, it means that Ralph Lauren’s fall women’s line has more tweed.  But isn’t it the men of Downton that wear tweed?  She lamented the lack of “smartly dressed men.”

I have to second that lament.  Of course, the men I work with do wear ties every day.  After all, they’re in academia.  But have you been to a Catholic church on a Sunday morning lately?  I could count the number of men in suit coats on one hand.  And this is January!  It’s cold out there.  Why not wear a tie and suit coat?

I’ve been spoiled my whole life by my father.  I can’t remember the last time Dad didn’t wear a suit coat to Mass on a Sunday.  Maybe when we were traveling abroad.  But he wore a coat even in our un-airconditioned church in the middle of July.  In fact, I think he often even wore long-sleeved shirts under his suit coats in July.

That’s something our society has definitely lost.

I don’t think that clothes make the man, and I’m not advocating that we should all start judging people by the way they dress.  Not everyone can afford a Tom Ford suit.  And honestly, I can think of a lot better ways to spend thousands of dollars than on a Tom Ford suit.  (although they are terribly nice.)  But I know men who don’t make six-figure salaries but still make an effort to look nice.

When I sigh over bow ties, three piece suits, and pinstripes, it’s not just the shallow boy-crazy side of me coming out.  Perhaps it’s a bit of a longing for days gone by, when men and women dressed up…. even men surveying a road.

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that’s my greatgrandpa on the left : )

And even if clothes don’t make the man, taking time to look put-together shows respect for yourself and those around you. Why do we dress up for job interviews?  Why do we dress up for weddings or funerals?

But before this post becomes philosophical, I want to get to the point: Do guys realize how handsome they are when they’re dressed up?

We used to joke that the number of Christendom students who dated and got married was so high because everyone looked so nice all the time.  Sure, guys wore plaid ties with checked shirts or ugly ties or ugly sportcoats.  They didn’t always look like JCrew models.  But compared to some guys you see at Mass, they looked pretty darn sharp.

I know sometimes it’s a pain to dress up.  After all, I have to wear a skirt every day and I complain about it plenty.  But it seems that if guys knew how much they could make a girl’s heart pitter patter just by putting a tie on … I think they’d do it a lot more often.

Okay, so maybe a vest too.

gottaloveavest

I was arguing with a friend over bow ties and how they’re wonderful (he didn’t think so), and he finally asked, “What’s the point of a tie, anyway?  They serve no purpose.”

At first I didn’t know what to say.  But then I realized — they do serve a purpose.  They make you look nice.  I don’t know who decided that a strip of material made you look nice, but it’s true.

And so maybe they don’t serve any other purpose but that.  But we aren’t utilitarian.  They don’t need to serve any other purpose.  They tell the world, “I’m a classy person and I care enough about you and me to put this uncomfortable thing around my neck and look awesome.”

And while I may seem to be partial to Neal Caffrey’s slim fitting suits and ties, I’m okay with Windsor knots and wide lapels, too.

harvey_specter_USA_Suits

I’m very open-minded.

 

 

 

Restaurant Week: 2013 Winter edition

Whoever thought up the idea of Restaurant Week deserves a big pat on the back.  Or maybe a smooch.  Or maybe the Nobel Peace Prize.

Restaurant Week, for those of you who are deprived of one, is a week when a number of local restaurants offer a special menu for a set price — $20.13 or $30.13, or occasionally something else (like $13.13 or $25.13).  It’s a great opportunity to experience restaurants that would normally be out of your price range.  It’s also just a great excuse to go out to eat.  Not that I usually have a hard time finding one.

I’ve heard NYC’s Restaurant Week lasts almost a month.  This gives rise to two questions. 1) why do they call it Restaurant Week?  2) why am I not there right now?

Last fall I was only able to go to one restaurant the whole week.  That was unacceptable.

So I made up for it this year.  Seven days, six restaurants.  Yes, I’m poor and fat now.  But boy, was it fun.

I didn’t take pictures of every meal for a variety of reasons.  And then later I was listening to Jim Gaffigan and these words hit a little too close to home..

“‘Hey, instead of enjoying this moment, let’s take pictures!‘  We take pictures of every day life and act like we’re capturing history.  ‘Unbelievable!  The cat’s asleep!  Post that on my Twitter.’  It’s because we have the cameras on our phones.  Do we need that?  It’s not like ten years ago we were like, ‘I wish I could take a low quality photo of my dessert and text it to someone who’s not interested.  But I can’t, so I guess I’ll just eat it.’” – Jim Gaffigan, Mr. Universe

Guilty.

Monday: Watermark

No pictures here because the restaurant’s mood lighting was too low. And I felt a little conspicuous taking pictures since the restaurant was so nice.  I’ll stick to taking pictures of my McDonald’s french fries instead.

Watermark had received high praises from my  Restaurant Week veteran friends who go there every year. It’s a very nice restaurant that none of us could afford outside of RW.  I’m already looking forward to going back in the Fall.

There was a choice of appetizer and a choice of entrée, then dessert was chosen for us.  For an additional price, they had also paired wine with all the appetizers and entrées and offered half glasses, which was a nice touch.

My choices:

Appetizer: Hickory grilled baby octopus over Tennessee stone ground grits with ratatouille in a lemon, opal basil and roasted pine nut vinaigrette. (paired with a Spanish red wine)

Fantastic.  I hadn’t had octopus that wasn’t fried since Rome in 2005… and actually, I didn’t eat it then.  So I was kind of second-guessing my bold choice until I tasted it… and it was wonderful.  If you didn’t look at it, you didn’t know you were eating octopus.  The texture was tender and rich … not chewy at all.  A+

Two of my friends got mushroom soup, and the waitress brought bowls of mushrooms — and then simultaneously, two waiters appeared on either side of them and poured soup into the bowls, perfectly choreographed.

Entrée: Amish chicken confit over a black eyed pea and roasted shallot ragout in a cracked hazelnut and fresh thyme jus (paired with another red wine)

I really wanted to get the other entrée (Carolina shrimp and Tennessee stone ground grits scented with lemon in a garden rosemary and roasted pine nut sauce) but thought that might be a little grits-overload.  I’m sad to admit that I chose poorly.  The chicken was good, but I tasted Manda’s shrimp and it was much better.

Dessert: Pineapple upside down cake with brown butter ice cream.

The dessert was a bit of a let-down.  When a restaurant lists its pastry chef on the menu, you’re expecting big things.  It was okay, but nothing I would go back for.  And it was a bit heavy after a pretty rich dinner.  I was hoping for something light and chocolate.

With our bills, the waitress brought a “taste” for each of us, compliments of the pastry chef-  chocolate shortbread.  It was good, but didn’t make up for my disappointed expectations for dessert.

The service was wonderful.  I’m definitely going back in the fall.

Tuesday: Burger Up

Burger Up is a nice burger joint in a hipster part of town.  They’re known for their farm-fresh ingredients, locally raised beef, etc.  That translates into “expensive for a hamburger.”

But it’s definitely worth treating yourself every once and awhile, because they’re darn good burgers.

Their RW deal was two burgers and two beers for $25.13.  Since you might normally drop $18 on one burger and beer there, it’s a pretty good deal.  So on the spur of the moment, three of my colleagues and I decided to head over there for lunch.

I had the “turkey burger” on beef.  I liked the toppings listed for the turkey burger but was craving some good red meat.  Avocado, caramelized red onions, mayo, romaine lettuce and tomato.  I had the seasonal beer, a winter lager, which I really liked.

My burger was cooked perfectly.  I think I should probably take my parents there when they come down in a few weeks.  Mom, you’ll most likely get a hipster sighting as a bonus.

Wednesday: PM

I had heard good things about PM but never ventured over to check it out, partly because I don’t venture into the college part of town very often.  PM is owned by Arnold Myint, a Nashville chef celebrity.  PM isn’t completely out of my price range on a normal night, but RW was a nice opportunity to try it for the first time and have a girls’ night with my friend Rachel.

My choices:

Course One: Crab & Bacon Wontons

Course Two: Salmon Teriyaki w/ Lo Mein Stir Fry

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Dessert: Brownie Tempura donuts

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All in all, it was a ton of food.  I ended up taking half my salmon home for lunch the next day.  It was all very good, although I would get a different dessert the next time.  Their dessert menu was pretty impressive and unique– American standbys with Asian twists.  These donuts were a little too tempura and not enough chocolate.

Thursday: Holland House Bar and Refuge

Again, no pictures here because of the mood lighting.  It’s really too bad, because the Holland House is such a neat place.  The atmosphere and decor are so fun but hard to describe. To say industrial country chic just sounds weird, but I’m not sure how else to describe it.  Think exposed ducts and lots of wood, chandeliers and two really awesome bars. I wish I could somehow replicate it in my apartment, especially since I already have the concrete floors.  But I’m not sure it would be very cozy to live in a bar.

My choices:

Course One: warm white bean and spinach salad, lardons, honey vin, gorgonzola, almond

This was such a winner.  I want it right now.

Course Two: spicy ginger grilled hanger steak, olive oil smashed potatoes, arugula, pea pods

The steak was a bit chewy, although I guess I should have read the Wikipedia entry beforehand to know I should order it medium rare “to avoid toughness.”  I didn’t really get a lot of spicy gingerness. The potatoes were good but nothing I couldn’t make.  The pea pods, strangely enough, were my favorite part.

Course Three: flourless chocolate cake, dark & white chocolate ganache, mixed berry compote

Goodnight nurse.  This thing was fantastic.  So light yet so rich… I guess this is what I had been hoping for on Monday.  The Holland House won the dessert competition.

If you can’t tell from the name “Bar and Refuge,” the Holland House is probably better known for their drinks than their food.  Like the Patterson House, another favorite watering hole, their cocktails aren’t just drinks… they’re works of art.  They’re also expensive.  Hey, you have to pay for a Raphael or a Degas.  We took advantage of the time of day and ordered off their happy hour menu, which meant drinks were only $5 instead of $11 or $12.  I was boring and got a Manhattan with Weller bourbon, partly because I would like to acquire a taste for bourbon while I’m living down here.

Saturday: Flyte

This was sort of a wildcard.  Manda and I had wanted to try this place but hadn’t gotten a chance, so we decided to take advantage of the price drop of RW.  Neither of us knew what to expect, although we had heard good things.

The interior was not what I was expecting — very bright and open.  They somehow achieved a feeling of warmth, even though it was almost industrial inside.

No pictures here because I had just listened to Jim Gaffigan.

My first impression was good — our waiter was very nice.  And nice looking.

After we ordered, a waitress brought us a “taste” compliments of the chef — pear butter with goat cheese.  It was silver spoon (short handle, big bowl) with just a dab of the pear butter with a tiny square of cheese sitting in it.  One little taste.  And it was wonderful.

My choices from the menu:

Starter: Cauliflower Soup

It was like dessert.  So smooth and creamy.  And it had to be healthy because it was cauliflower, right?

Entrée: NY Strip with Kimchi butter and fingerling potatoes

The steak was perfectly tender.  And the Kimchi butter!?  It really elevated the steak from “hm, that’s a good steak,” to “I’ve never had anything like this.”  It wasn’t the best steak I’ve ever had (that was at Shula’s, for anyone keeping track), but it was pretty darn good and the Kimchi butter was great.

No choice on dessert, but that’s okay —

Dessert: Zeppole with mascarpone cheese, tangerine and blood orange

Two wonderful creampuffs.  Light and creamy and perfect.

Then with the bill came a taste compliments of the pastry chef – a chocolate brownie bite.  It helps sticker shock to get a present when you have to pay the bill.

What really elevated Flyte in my book (besides our good-looking waiter) was the red wine flyte.  They had an enormous wine list, but before I got completely overwhelmed, I glanced at the back and noticed they offered six flytes — three red, three white.  Essentially, each flyte was made up of three glasses of wine grouped together for different reasons.  Manda and I both chose (per our waiter’s recommendation) The Olde Country, which was a wine from Spain, a wine from Italy, and a wine from France. All of the wines were very good, but tasting them next to each other really highlighted different parts of the wines that you might not have noticed otherwise.  Manda and I will be going back soon to try another flyte and to see our waiter again.

Sunday: Table 3

It’s hard to believe I was still hungry on Sunday, but after Mass I met my friend Maria for brunch at a fairly-new French restaurant.  They were having a nice lunch special that was $13.13. Again, I had never been there, and this seemed like a good time to try them out.

My choices:

To drink, a café au lait.

First Course: Potato-Leek Soup with a Gruyère crouton

Second Course:

Croque Madame – Grilled Ham and Gruyére Sandwich with Mornay Sauce and Sunny~Side Up Farm Egg

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While the sandwich was very rich, it was also very good.  I think I need to learn how to make it — it can’t be hard once you perfect a béchamel sauce, and I’m pretty sure Julia Child would tell me it was about time I perfected a béchamel sauce.

All in all, restaurant week was a success in my book.

Kudos to anyone who got through the whole post.

And I’m taking reservations at Chateau Joan for anyone who wants to come into town for the fall edition of RW.  Just bring your credit card and your elastic-waisted pants.

Why make cookies today?

1. It’s Sunday.

2. The first reading told us, “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks… for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”

3. I survived the first two weeks of a unexpected transition at work.

I didn't have chocolate chips. That didn't stop me.

I didn’t have chocolate chips. That didn’t stop me.

4. I should be packing for my move.

5. Downton Abbey is on tonight.

6. My goddaughter was at a kindergarten open house today. That is impossible, because her mother and I were just in kindergarten ten years ago.

7. One of my good friends is returning to Poland in a few weeks. And the first reading told me not to be sad but to eat good food instead.

8. If I didn’t do something else, I would sit on my couch and watch old episodes of White Collar again and again.

9. This article was slightly depressing.

10. I wanted to.

11. It’s better to consume baking ingredients rather than move them, even if it is only a move of a few floors in the same building.

Did I go overboard on the chocolate chips?

I wondered if I went overboard on chips/chunks. I didn’t.

12. They’re called “I Want to Marry You” cookies… and since there’s no one around here whom I want to hear that from, maybe if I bake them a straight Matt Bomer will knock on my door out of the blue.

13. Today is the 200th birthday of Pride & Prejudice.

14. I needed something to eat while I drank Coole Swan tonight.  Adult milk and cookies.

15. Tomorrow is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas.

 

Perfect.  I wish this blog was scratch and sniff.

Perfect. I wish this blog was scratch and sniff.

conversion & mercy after abortion

The March for Life is usually on January 22, the anniversary of Roe v Wade.  This year, due to the inauguration, it was moved to today, January 25.

During Father’s homily at Mass today, I realized how fitting it was that the March was today, the day we celebrate the Solemnity of the Conversion of St Paul.

St Paul is the only saint whose conversion we celebrate, even though every saint has a conversion.  But his conversion is perhaps the biggest of them all — to go from seeking the death of Christians to the greatest preacher of the Faith after a single roadside vision is a pretty great leap.  The story is told repeatedly in the book of Acts, and like every passage of Scripture, we can meditate and reflect on it again and again and never exhaust the riches of the story.

But what does that have to do with the March for Life?

One of the most important things we have to remember as champions for the prolife cause is that behind every abortion is a woman and a man who are hurting, whether they know it or not.  Each mother and father have a story that lead them to that act and each have a future after that act.

The answer to ending abortion is not a political one — it’s a personal one.  It’s not a change of law — it’s a change of heart.

Before the road to Damascus, Paul believed he was doing what was right.  He didn’t witness and approve of the stoning of Stephen because he was bloodthirsty, but because he thought that was the answer.

How many men and women choose abortion because they believe it is the right choice?  They don’t seek the death of their child, they seek answers.  They seek to set their world back on course.  But abortion only causes more destruction.

Saul did not believe what he was doing was wrong — but that didn’t change the fact that it was.  So as he was on his way to Damascus, Jesus Christ came to him.  He didn’t come to him as a judge with accusations.  He came to him as a Savior with a question — why are you persecuting Me?

Jesus didn’t give Saul a long list of things he had done wrong.  He didn’t lecture him.  He didn’t berate him.  He didn’t even argue with him.

He came to Saul with mercy and compassion.

But that isn’t the end of the story.  Saul had to accept Jesus.  He not only had to admit what he was doing was wrong, he had to accept the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus was offering him.  Often that can be the hardest part of our conversion.

Jesus is waiting for those men and women who are hurting after abortion.  He is waiting to show them what they have done … but ultimately, He is waiting to show them mercy and compassion.

And so must we.

http://www.rachelsvineyard.org

A Nation Rises

Prayers for all those traveling to DC for the March tomorrow!  You will be ignored by our President, our Senate, and by most of the mainstream media.  But God will hear your cries.  And when we’re all asked at the end of our lives what we did to save our country and our generation, you will say, “I fought for them when so many ignored them.”

“Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage?  that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

Those of us who are under 40 years old — we are survivors of the biggest killer in American history.  Thank your mother that she chose life.

righttolife(Hat tip for this incredible graphic: Sacred Monkeys of the Vatican)