For freedom Christ set us free

We had a fantastic second reading this morning after everything that has happened this week.  For a refresher, read it here. Gal 5:1, 13-18.  Freedom doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we want. We were given freedom so that we can do the good.  So that we can become fully what we were made to be.

Am I free to fly with my arms?  Nope.  Some day we may have the technology so that I can fly of my own accord, but that’s not what I was made to do. I am different from a bird, and no matter how much I desire to fly, no matter how happy it might make me, no matter what I want to do — if I jump off my balcony right now, I’m not flying.  Freedom is not about doing what we want – it’s about doing what we ought.

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;rather, serve one another through love.

Remember that wonderful priest I wrote about yesterday?  He was filling in for the pastor today and he had a beautiful homily on marriage.  A courageous homily about marriage.  He simply defined what marriage was and explained how a homosexual couple cannot marry — not because we hate them, but due to the very nature and end of marriage.  Simple.  To the point.  This is marriage.  This is why we have marriage.  The definition of marriage and the purpose of marriage is not whatever we want it to be.

He told the congregation that truth is the highest form of charity, and he was preaching the truth.  He didn’t say homosexuals were going to hell.  He didn’t speak of civil unions or federal benefits.  He preached the truth about marriage.

It was a courageous homily.  It was a packed church and there were many, many tourists sitting in those pews.  Father didn’t know his audience, but he knew he had to preach the truth.

The woman in the pew next to me walked out in the middle of the homily.  I think she yelled something once she got outside, but I couldn’t be sure.  The server at Mass told me two others walked out as well.

I shook Father’s hand after Mass and thanked him.  This is what we need to be hearing from the pulpit.  The truth — in season and out of season, popular or unpopular.  It’s time to preach.

Feasting for Peter and Paul

This is one of my favorite feasts of the Church.  The glorious Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

I had an interesting thought at Mass today.  As Peter and Paul preached against the decadence of Rome — a decadence that bears frightening resemblance to our own day – do you think their audience mocked them with their sins?  It seems that whenever the Catholic Church tries to preach the truth these days, those who don’t want to hear the truth attempt to discredit us by bringing up the sins of members of the Church.  Do you think the same thing happened to Peter and Paul?  Who are you to tell us we are sinners, when you denied Christ?  When you have the blood of Christians on your hands?

Just a thought I had.  Scandals are always with us, and they are certainly stumbling blocks for many people.  Peter and Paul should be reminders to us that the Church is greater than any of our sins because Her Founder is greater.  Keep that in mind as the storms get rougher.

If you want more deep thoughts from Joannie, be sure to read my Fortnight for Freedom meditation from last year here.

Some day I’ll celebrate this feast in Rome.  Until then, I’ll find ways to celebrate here in the States.  No palliums or papal Masses, but I still managed to have a good time.

I began celebrating last night, when I attended a Mass of thanksgiving celebrated by a wonderful priest here in the diocese.  He was ordained on the vigil of the feast last year and celebrated his year anniversary with a simple but beautiful chanted Mass at the Cathedral.  I’m pretty sure I beamed like crazy throughout the whole thing, just like I beamed during his ordination and his first Mass.   Plus there was the added bonus of hearing that awesome story from Acts when Peter tells the cripple,

      “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

How often do I pray for something very worldly when God is waiting to give me something so much greater?  Another thing to keep in mind as the storms get rougher.

Then I went to the symphony with friends to hear Tchaikovsky — his Danse Cosaque from Mazeppa, his Serenade for Strings, his Capriccio Italien, and of course, the 1812 Overture.   It was fun to hear familiar friends, like Capriccio Italien, but also to gain a new appreciation for him through the Serenade for Strings, which I think I had only heard snippets of previously.

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The cannons were just a recording.  Slightly disappointing.  But at least they had the volume loud enough so that we could feel them in our chests.  And the bells were beautiful.

After the symphony we walked over to The Southern to get drinks and ended up getting delicious but very small and expensive appetizers.  I got crab cakes that were wonderful but about the size of silver dollars.

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My friend Larry (Larry, can I call you my friend?  I hope so.  It’s a lot easier than saying “the husband of my friend Molly,” and I’d like to be your friend) got this pasta dish that was somehow four times the size of anything the rest of us ordered.  We decided it was a strange appetizer but a delicious meal.  It was sort of a Southern spin on spaghetti carbonara — brown butter linguini topped with pine nuts, goat cheese, bacon lardons and two fried eggs.  I should have taken a picture of it before we ate it:

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But the crown jewel (even more than my sangria, which was delicious) was this beauty:

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It was as good as it looks.  The cream and those sauces were out of this world.

This morning I woke up for Mass (different readings than the Vigil for the Solemnity last night, and I want as much Peter and Paul as I can get) and treated myself to coffee at a new coffeeshop in town.  After running some errands, I had a wonderfully long FaceTime chat with my friend Lori and then headed out to hear some live music with my friend Manda.  Live music, food trucks – what more could you want on a Saturday afternoon?

IMG_4661Korean BBQ from Riff’s Fine Street Food

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One of the bands was called St. Paul and the Broken Bones.  I resisted the urge to find them after they played and wish them a happy feast day…

Waking up in the Garden

Today is one of those days that I feel like I should have a really profound blog post.  Then I read a bunch of other people’s blogs and wonder if I should just do a giant link-up.  Is there anything new to say?

Part of me is just scared that if I even mention the issue on this blog I’ll be hammered with hate speech in the comments.  As we’ve seen, nothing is more intolerant than “tolerance.”

But I’m wading in a little bit anyway.

Could things have gone worse this morning?  Yes.  Is there some hope?  Sure. (There’s always hope…right?)

But do I think things look pretty grim?  Yes.  Read Kennedy’s language carefully. It will have serious repercussions.

As Justice Scalia said in his dissent in United States v. Windsor, “It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here—when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority’s moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress’s hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will ‘confine’ the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with.”

I think we have some interesting days ahead, and I think you’re kidding yourself if you’re thinking, “Yeah, but it won’t directly affect me.

But what I think concerns me even more than what happened this morning is what didn’t happen this morning.

Millions of people in this country went along with their day and didn’t even know what happened.  They didn’t even care.  That’s scary to me.  I’m not expecting everyone to be glued to their computer screen waiting the decision to appear, but this was a turning point for our culture and the future of our society.  And people are clueless.

I’m sick of complacency.  WAKE UP, PEOPLE.

Eve is in the Garden. Adam is beside her.  The devil is telling her that freedom is doing whatever the hell she wants it to do.  And instead of saying, “No, actually, that’s Hell,” Adam is ignoring the whole exchange.

The devil is telling Eve that making it illegal to kill babies after they’re 20-weeks old is “anti-woman.”  He’s telling her that passing a law so that abortion clinics need to have the same health standards as surgical centers (because last time I checked, that’s what pro-abortion advocates say happen there — “safe surgical procedures”) is “bad healthcare.”

And all Adam does is tweet his support for Eve and then pats himself on the back for being pro-woman.

We’re in the garden with the serpent.  He’s lying.  We’re buying it.

And no one seems to care.

Wake up, America.  Last night was not about women or democracy or healthcare.  This morning was not about equality.  It was not about love.

“In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us. The truth is more complicated.” (Scalia)

Perhaps it is fitting that this all happened on the feast of St Josemaria Escriva.  Living at a time when the Catholic Church was under attack for Her beliefs and practices, he noted, “It is surprising how often, even in the name of freedom, many people fear and oppose Catholics being simply good Catholics.”

This morning wasn’t about the Catholic Church.  It was about natural law, the fundamental unit of society, and the future of this country.  But because our Church upholds natural law, we will be persecuted.  I would say “and this is just the beginning” … but it’s not.  It’s been happening for awhile in this country.

And it’s time to wake up.

(If you are desirous to read what real people are saying: “Worse Than it Sounds” “Why I’m Scared” “Marriage is Dead” … If you need less gloom and doom: “DOMA, Prop 8 Could Have Been Worse”  and there’s always good stuff to be said by Archbishop Chaput)

Fortnight 2013

I’ve been away, and in my absence I neglected to post a link to last year’s Fortnight for Freedom meditations like I had intended.  It’s up now, right there at the top of the page.

The US Bishops called for a period of prayer and fasting for our country last year — a fortnight for Freedom that ran from the Feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More (June 22) until our Independence day on July 4.  This year the Bishops called for a second Fortnight, although I fear we have already become lukewarm and complacent, and I’ve heard less about this year’s than last’s.

If you’re so inclined, you can go back and revisit my meditations.

But most importantly, pray for our country during these days.  Tomorrow is a big day.

St. Thomas More, Pray for us.

Our Lady, Immaculate Conception, Pray for us.

Review: Rolf & Daughters

I’ve obviously waited too long to do this restaurant review, because I have to actually go back to the photo I took of the menu to remember everything we ate that night.  My lasting impression of the place was: Yum. We need to go back.

So there’s your review.

Longer version: I first heard of Rolf and Daughters back in the first few months of the year when reading a review of the city’s best spring cocktails.  One of the cocktails was a creation at Rolf and Daughters, and I realized there was a new restaurant in town that Manda and I needed to add to our list.

There’s a large factory in the “Germantown” area of town that has been transformed into loft apartments. I’ve dreamed of living there since my early days of moving here, ever since I began going to the parish in Germantown for Sunday Mass.  The lofts are out of my price range and the neighborhood is still on the sketchy side of the upswing into yuppiness, but it doesn’t stop me from getting on Craigslist occasionally and looking at pictures of the various units for sale or rent.

When I found out Rolf and Daughters is in the transformed boiler room of that factory, I already liked the place.

Manda and I had a little trouble getting reservations, and we blamed the fact that we hadn’t gone before they were featured in Southern Living.  Now we were just jumping on the bandwagon.  But we did our research, figured out what we wanted to try, and headed over there.

They are a restaurant that prides itself on its “seasonally-driven menu,” which I really appreciate.  This city really has fantastic restaurants.  If you’re willing to spend the money for a nice night out, there’s no excuse to go to a chain restaurant in this city or a restaurant that doesn’t have respect for real ingredients. I’m getting spoiled by the prevalence of farm-to-table restaurants around here, too.

I loved the vibe of the place — they had a cute little front patio of outdoor seating, and then the inside was very open and natural.  Everyone seems to be going for the natural wood look, but they got some props in my book for not covering the place with the Edison bulb light fixtures that are everywhere now.  (I love them, don’t get me wrong, but they’re everywhere.  There were a couple here, but not evident at first.)

The ceiling was so awesome I almost wanted to take a picture of it – and probably should have.  You can kind of see it in the picture below – it was exposed wood laid almost like a floor — but unfinished (some strips still had the bark on them).  Hard to explain, but very neat.

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The crowd was fun – some families, some couples, some groups of friends. It was pretty laid back, although you wouldn’t have been out of place dressed up.   The owner of one of our favorite coffeeshops, Barista Parlor, was sitting next to us.  I’m not usually a “he’s cool, he’s here, this place is cool,” type of person, but when a successful restauranteur is sitting next to me at a restaurant (Barista Parlor makes darn good coffee and knows how to treat their customers), I’m feeling good about my choice of dinner locale.

We started off with cocktails – a Buon Appetito for both of us (Campari, Cocchi Americano, Grapefruit, Lemon, Soda Water).  We wanted to try the Cumberland Sour, which has sorghum in it, but it wasn’t on the menu that night and we decided to wait for our next visit.  (We’re sure they would have made it for us.)

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It was excellent — definitely girly-looking, but not girly-tasting.  If I was a cocktail connoisseur, or a true food blogger, I would describe it to you, but all I can say is that the taste of it was complex — not sweet, like it looks — and the taste changed after about the fifth or six sip.  Since I’m not a cocktail connoisseur, I will tell you it was “delicious.”

In the course of our research, Manda read that their pate was quite good.  Since we aspire to be foodies, Manda questioned whether we should try the pate, even if “chicken liver pate” kind of made us feel a little funny inside.  How were we ever going to be foodies if we weren’t a little daring? I encouraged this line of thought and said I would go for it if she did.

So for our first course — our “snack,” if you will, we ordered the chicken liver pate, carrot marmalade, cacao.

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Well, there it is.

At first I was on board.  Then I realized it was really just the carrot marmalade I liked and I was trying to like the pate so I could be a foodie.

Do I want to know what that layer of gelatin is on the top?  Do I really?  I don’t think so.  We ate a few pieces of toast with the pate, finally finishing the toast with the marmalade and wondering if our server would notice we couldn’t finish it.  I’m sure it’s good pate.  Nothing against R&D.  I just don’t like pate.  It has the consistency of Fancy Feast, and I don’t really want to think about it.

When our food came, the pate was still sitting there.  So our waiter asked if we’d like more toast.  I shook my head no, hoping the pate would go away.  Manda said, “Sure!”

As he left, I hissed, “That means we have to finish the pate!”

He brought more toast — after quite a long time, I might add– and we tried to push around the pate to make it look like we ate it.  I think I may have eaten another bite.

My one complaint– and I really think this was my only complaint of the evening with R&D — is that they charged us for the second plate of toast (only a buck or two, but still).  And our first toast had been slightly burnt.  I thought that was pretty lame.

Any complaint with burned toast was forgotten when I tasted my pasta.  It was beautiful, and it tasted just as beautifully as it looked.  We had both ordered pasta dishes — Manda had the Garganelli verde with heritage pork ragout and parmesano, and I ordered the pasta special of the day.  They have a pasta special each day, and that day’s had lamb and chili pepper in it and other wonderful things I’ve forgotten because I took too long to blog about it.

It was glorious.  Goodness gracious, I’m not sure I’ve had pasta this fresh since living in Rome.

IMG_0001_2And I’m not just talking about the fact that the pasta was clearly made in house.  Everything about it was fresh — the flavors exploded with a clean energy.  They had been treated with respect — what was in season, what was at hand, what played together well.

It was unexpected, actually.  I knew I would find great food and flavors at R&D, but I wasn’t going thinking I was going to order pasta. When Manda and I go to these places, I tend to order steak or fish or something I wouldn’t cook at home.  Most people think pasta is easy.  R&D reminded me that good pasta is an art.

Next time I’m in the mood for good pasta, I won’t be going to an Italian restaurant in town.  I’ll be heading to Rolf and Daughters.

Of course, no meal is complete without dessert.  Since the serving size of the entree was actually a normal, healthy serving, there was room for dessert.  Another sign that R&D just understands food.  And life.

There were three options, all of which sounded pretty incredible: there was a bomboloni with vanilla cream and chocolate sauce, a vanilla panna cotta with saba and almond cookies, and a chocolate torte made with local Olive and Sinclair chocolate with caramel and bourbon nibs.

Manda got the chocolate tart:

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And I got the panna cotta:

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The tart was deceivingly light, and my panna cotta was refreshing, as I expected.  I had never had saba before — a reduced grape juice that reminded me of balsamic (similar process) but had a sweetness to it.  I guess it’s a classic in traditional Italian dishes, so it fits R&D’s description of their food as “modern peasant.”

We will definitely be back — there was a Brussels sprout salad we wanted to try that wasn’t on the menu that night, and there’s that sorghum cocktail we need to go back to get.  We just won’t ask for more toast.

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Duck Donuts

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This time last year, the entire family was together, all in one house, celebrating Father’s Day by spending Dad’s money.  We were beginning a beautiful week vacation in the Outer Banks.

I realized as I was looking through pictures that I never posted about our favorite breakfast spot in Duck, NC, despite taking lots of pictures to document the magical place.  I figured since Dad likes donuts, and in homage to a certain nickname Dad once had for me, this was a fitting post for Father’s Day.

Our first day driving into Duck we saw a billboard for Duck Donuts, but we figured it was just another donut place.  Boy, were we wrong. It was so much more.

The donuts there are made to order.  Customizable.  Warm.  And deeelicious.

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When you arrive, you’re greeted with a big board of options and a stack of order sheets.  You fill out your order on paper — do you want a few donuts, a dozen, or a bucket of donuts?  Do you want coatings?  Glaze? Or vanilla icing? Chocolate icing?  Strawberry icing?  Maple?  Lemon? Peanut Butter?  Dusting with cinnamon sugar?  Powdered sugar?  Oh, and that’s not all.  Do you want rainbow sprinkles?  Chocolate sprinkles?  Shredded coconut?  Chopped peanuts?

You fill out your sheet (which is really nice — no stress about trying to do math and make decisions at the same time), hand it over along with your moolah, and then watch as your donuts are created right in front of your eyes.

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IMG_1733The wait isn’t long, and it’s worth it.  Not only is it straight out of a Brian Regan sketch (although we never asked for a donut with frosting all over it but sprinkles only on one end), I don’t think I’ve had a better donut.

We went twice, but now I don’t know why we didn’t go every day. Maybe it’s because we didn’t want to gain fifty pounds. (Or we were just too lazy to get off the beach and into the car.  That’s probably more like it.)

But I really want a Duck Donut right about now.

IMG_1741Look at those.  The donuts were still warm and the frosting melted right in…

*sigh*

Let’s go back to the beach.

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Musings while painting a bathroom

About a month ago I was helping my aunt edge my cousin’s bathroom, and I thought to myself, “I could do this. What am I so afraid of?”

My thoughts are grammatically incorrect.  I apologize.

I guess I haven’t necessarily been afraid of painting… but I did feel like it was a project that I was reluctant to bite off alone.  When I painted my bathroom in my old apartment, it required taking down old wallpaper.  And that did sort of scare me.  So when I say “I painted my bathroom…” it actually went like this:

I picked out the paint.  I purchased the paint.
Mom and Dad drove down here.
We took a few trips to the hardware store.
Mom and I helped spray stuff on the wall.
Dad took down the old wallpaper.
Dad painted the bathroom.
Mom and I talked in the living room.
I baked Dad a cake.
The end.

But my apartment now is a clean slate.  Bright white walls.  No wallpaper in sight.

So what was there to be afraid of of which to be afraid?  Memorial Day weekend.  Me. My guest bathroom. Paint.

I figured picking out the paint color would be the hardest part.  I already had towels and a rug in the bathroom, both of which were purple, and I wanted to still be able to use those.   I thought I would go with a safe “gray” (or “grey,” if you prefer), but when I brought paint chips home, I realized for the first time that the tile was an interesting brownish that turned sort of pink when I brought the gray near it.  So no gray.

My mom suggested green, and I’m thinking she probably had a subtle, light green in mind.  But anyone who knows me knows that I don’t go for light and subtle.  So I finally fell in love with a sage color and wondered just how dark I could go.

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I bought two sample cans of almost the same color and brought them home to test.  I ended up going with the darker of the two (the top one) because the lighter one dried more of a “mint” green than I wanted.  That picture doesn’t really do either of the colors justice.

I hesitated before buying the paint.  What if it was too dark?  What if no one liked it?  What if I was making a huge mistake? There’s no natural light in the bathroom — should I go with a lighter color?  Will the room look super small?

Then I realized… who cares?   I liked the color.  I didn’t need a quorum to make this decision.  I was painting the bathroom.  Me. All by myself.  And I could paint it whatever the heck color I wanted.  And if I didn’t like it?  Guess what?  I could buy another gallon of paint and paint it the next weekend.

Which leads me to my musing as I painted my one coat of primer (clearly the most unsatisfying thing anyone could do in a morning.  I probably won’t do that again) and my two coats of paint over the weekend.

Tom Petty’s greatest hits were blaring in the guest room, and “The Waiting” was on when I began my musing.  I’m sure the song is about sex or drugs, but the refrain got stuck in my head and I started thinking about “the waiting is the hardest part.”

I’m at a time in my life now where I’d like to think I’m waiting for the next thing.  Waiting for my knight in shining armor.  Waiting to become a famous Catholic speaker or writer.  Waiting for what’s next in life.  I love my life, but I’d like to think something is going to be different in the next five years.

But then I thought about the dangers of living that way — waiting for the next thing to happen.  It seems as if it would be impossible to be happy.  Sure, maybe life will be different in five years.  But maybe it won’t be.  Maybe I’ll be sitting in this chair in my sunny living room blogging.

I’ll at least have a pretty bathroom.

A bathroom I painted all by myself.

So forget waiting.  I’m going to start doing.

What if “he” never comes?  Will I have to be “that single girl” for the rest of my life?  Only if I choose to be identified by the lack of wedding ring on my finger.  And I’m not willing to do that.  Heck, according to married people, single life is carefree!  So why don’t I act like it?

Why don’t I do crazy things like paint my bathroom?

I’m ridiculously happy with the bathroom.  I love the color (although I’m not sure its true color comes out in pictures).  And I love how satisfying it was — to go from a completely white bathroom to a warm, “misted fern” one.  And it was so gratifying to know that I did it all myself.  I know it sounds pretty silly, since I’m a grown woman and should probably be able to paint a wall.  But just let me enjoy my success for a little while.

I didn’t even tape!  And, if I do say so myself, I did a pretty good job free-handing it.  I like a challenge.

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Okay, maybe not always:

IMG_4341I also like reminders of my inadequacies.

I was very happy with how the paint matched both the tile and the purple.  I settled on a pretty white shower curtain from World Market- a rarity for me (“plain white” usually means “borrrring” in my book), but I glad I did.

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Okay, ready for the final reveal?  Unfortunately, I can’t get a picture of the whole bathroom, but one wall will have to do.

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Just turn your head a little.

I’m ready to paint the whole apartment now.  If that little room gave me so much satisfaction, why wait?