Living Single

Being single can sometimes be a challenge. What makes it hard is that in our minds this should be a temporary phase. So long as we’re single, we live our lives in transition wondering about the future. We’re not settled, we’re stuck in ‘in-between’ time, and this can make us anxious. Anxious people tend to be terrible decision makers, especially women who are anxious about this very topic. Anxiety about being single can cause us to rush into relationships or keep us from ending bad ones. We have plans and hopes and dreams–and that’s good and natural, but we shouldn’t be so attached to them that we become sad when things don’t go as planned. Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to our happiness.

When we wrestle with the idea that things should not be as they are, we should remember that we have a Father who loves us. Abandonment to divine providence. That’s the key to lasting peace and happiness whether we are single or not. As simple and trite as it sounds, all we need to do is accept God’s will. This does not mean that things should not change or that we should give up what we hope for. Our desires are not meaningless. When we accept God’s will, we are not accepting the will of a tyrannical God or a stranger who will have His way. Rather, we are accepting the will of someone who cares more for us than we would ever know. We don’t have to resign to God’s will, we can embrace it with joy. We do this not merely because we want to be generous with God, but because we know that he is our Father. The realization that we are children of God should have a real impact on our lives. We should have the cheerful optimism and trusting simplicity of little children.

Because we so easily forget, trusting in God is something that we need to continually maintain. This is our daily cross, to see all the events and circumstances of our day with a supernatural outlook and believe with St. Paul, “that all things work unto good for those who love God.”

neutral colour bridal bouquet, wedding flowers

“Obviously, an active faith is necessary to see in all things God’s hand—but the just man liveth by faith. And it may be admitted that there are times when one’s faith may have to be exercised by a vigorous and deliberate effort…the pain and the sorrow inflicted upon us or upon those we love by special trials are so keen, that we find it hard to convince ourselves that God ‘knows what He is doing’…There are many flowers in our life that seem of great value to us. In God’s sight, they are only flowers, and in His mercy, He removes them that we may yield Him fruit. He alone knows the deep desires of our hearts, and He alone can satisfy them. We must trust Him absolutely if we wish to achieve our heart’s desire.”

“The whole trouble is that—literally—we do not know what is good for us; and what makes the trouble still worse is that we think we do. We have our own plans for our happiness and too often we merely regard God as somebody who will help us to accomplish them. The true state of affairs is just the opposite. God has his plans for our happiness, and He is waiting for us to help Him accomplish them.”

Let us never forget, or better yet, let us keep remembering, “We cannot improve on God’s plan for our happiness.”

Let us pray, My body prefers one thing, my mind another, and my heart another, yet I desire nothing but the perfect accomplishment of Your will.

Quotes from This Tremendous Lover by Eugene Boylan
Image from Deivika’s Photobucket

Blueberry French Toast, Food for Thought

Is that breakfast? Yes, for today it is. We could potentially commemorate special events with something else, but we do it with food. Usually it’s a traditional dish from a family recipe and other times it could be a special cake. Even when we don’t try, food memories are created. A smell of a certain food can pull you back to a time in your childhood. I would say, that pretty much 100% of the time, it’s a pleasant memory accompanied by only good feelings (The olfactory where smells are processed is part of the limbic system which is where emotions are moderated in the brain. When you smell things you remember your emotions.) When we eat together and the food is before us, all of our senses are captivated. Some of these moments are etched in our minds, becoming a part of what we remember of life, and most of the time we aren’t even aware of it.

For me, this particular blueberry french toast brings back fond memories from college when my friends and I would get together on some bright Boston morning for breakfast. We were comfortable, cheerful, and in great company.  In those days, I was never the one to make the blueberry french toast, but since then, I’ve borrowed the recipe, made it a few times and plan to make it about a thousand more times. It’s sweet, buttery, crispy, fresh-out-of-the-oven, and topped with pecans and a lot of blueberries. It also comes with blueberry syrup.

french toast

Baked Blueberry French Toast with Blueberry Syrup

Ingredients:
For French Toast
  • a 24 inch baguette (maybe more than one)
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 tspn nutmeg
  • 1 tspn vanilla
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup pecans (about 3 oz)
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) plus 1 tsp butter
  • 1/4 tspn salt
  • 2 cups (about 12 oz) blueberries

For syrup

  • 1 cup (about 6 oz) blueberries
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tblspn lemon juice

Directions:

  1.  Butter a 13 by 9 inch Pyrex baking dish (make sure you butter well). Cut the baguette into apprx. 1.5 inch slices and arrange them in one layer in the Pyrex.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the 8 eggs, 3 cups milk, nutmeg, vanilla, and 3/4 cup of the brown sugar (I use an immersion blender to quicken the process). Mix well  and then pour it evenly over the bread. Wrap it in aluminum foil and then refrigerate it for 8-24 hours. (There should only be a thing layer of liquid just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. If there is too much liquid, the french toast can be soggy.)
  3. Morning of, preheat oven to 350. In a shallow baking pan/sheet, spread pecans evenly and toast in the middle of the oven until fragrant, about 8 minutes. Toss pecans in this pan with 1 tspn of butter and 1 tspn of salt.
  4. Increase temperature to 400.Sprinkle pecans and blueberries (2 cups) evenly over bread mixture. Cut 1/2 stick butter into pieces and in a small saucepan heat with the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, stirring, until the butter is melted. Drizzle butter mixture over bread and bake mixture 25-30 minutes, or until any liquid from blueberries is bubbling and the bread is starting to get toasty.
  5. While the French toast is baking, make the syrup: In a small saucepan cook blueberries and maple syrup over moderate heat until the berries have burst, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice. (You can make it one day ahead, chill it and reheat it.)
Serves 6-8 generously.
(Note: I usually use about 1 and half baguettes and use a bigger pan. I find that the recipe’s egg/milk mixture needs more than 1 baguette. Anyhow, more is better!)

Secrecy

The things you and God alone know,
should they only be deep and dark?

The smallest thing that you could do.

That could become your secret
the secrets of your love.

The signs that you show
And all the Signs that he shows.
These are what lovers share
—the things you and your Beloved alone know.

Unnoticed by all others,
done every day
with the usual
Ingredients

These acts of love can be so small
as small as a moment’s pause
or these could be difficult
done so well that no one sees.
In his love, he will see in secret
and you will remember him

by that lit lamp
and that marked door
beneath that tree
How he came to you

How can we live if it were not
for this. Romance. Even our love would not be so.
How can it be but the Perfect choice
to be so close.

The reason for this hiding
Its purpose is for showing
the singularity of your love,
These are what you and God alone know.

Image from French Wedding Style

Gallery

Cakes From My Kitchen

He’s Just Being A Man

“He’s just being a man.” I’m sure we’ve all heard this sad phrase used to excuse perhaps some inexcusable behavior (marital infidelity, vulgarity, indecency, lewdness, etc.). The phrase used in this way reveals a great misunderstanding of what men actually are. They are not and cannot be characterized as creatures without self-control because self-control and the ability to be faithful are precisely what makes men men.

With our American psyche, we make icons of freedom and “choice.” Therefore, when a man, a public figure, has an extra-marital affair, a scandal, nonetheless, some may be tempted to accept this as a consequence of his freedom and even as an expression of his masculinity. The phrase, “he’s just being a man,” then, is an expression of the standard of what we think men are. It reveals that we, as a society, think that men are without self-control or self-respect. Here at Whatsoever Lovely, we would say that that’s setting the bar a little too low!

A man has a will and freedom to choose. He can choose to act on some desires and not others. He can be devoted to one woman, whereas an animal does everything by instinct and without freedom.  Our free-will is precisely what sets us apart from animals and gives us our dignity as human persons. Therefore, when we do things without self-control and follow our every whim and desire without thinking, we are more animal than human.

In you just as in bees there is the honey-making urge…longings may conform to this first will, there is in you, inborn, the power that counsels, keeper of the threshold of your assent. (Dante Alighieri)

Normally, we think freedom is the ability to say, “yes, I can do what I want,” or freedom is having many options for our choosing. But paradoxically, self-denial, when we are able to say, “no,” to ourselves, is a more definite indication of our freedom. When we choose something against our own pleasure for a greater good, when we sacrifice our own interests for something higher, we express our freedom because it shows intelligence—it shows that we can choose rather than just act. Our attraction to pleasures, instincts, desires and opinions must be tempered by human reason.

A man who has self-control and self-mastery shows not only that he is intelligent, but he is honorable and worthy of respect. This is attractive. And, “he’s just being a man.”

Summer Afternoons with Brazillian Limeade

Last summer we went to this really great Brazilian restaurant and had their limeade. We tried to recreate it, and after a few tries, we were able to come up with a pretty good ratio of the ingredients. It’s easy enough to make on any afternoon so don’t wait for a special occasion (even though it would be a great drink to have for guests). It’s cold, sweet, tart, and refreshing.

Ingredients

  • 6 limes
  • 6 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 2.5 cups of water
  • 2.5 cups of ice

Directions
Juice the limes. Put the lime juice, condensed milk, sugar, ice and water in a blender. Blend until very well mixed. Serve with a full glass of ice. If you have a good blender, the drink will be frothy, which is good.

Also, you can try juicing 5 limes. With the remaining lime, cut into slices, place in the blender with the other ingredients. Blend well. Strain the mixture. Blending the lime adds extra lime flavor, but after a few hours the drink may have a bitter rind taste so serve immediately.

Even though this is a good ratio, you may have to adjust the amount of sugar to taste because limes vary in size and flavor. This recipe makes 6-8 servings.

Image from Half-Baked Baker

The heavens [and little things] show forth the glory of God. Psalm 19:1

Imagine you have a nectarine. You’re biting into it. That red orange color, that smell, that taste. The nectarine juice. The way it feels. From all eternity, God knew how good all those things would be. He created those great sensations, and He put it all together in that one nectarine just as a present for us when we eat it. Or if we’re eating an ice cream cone… the taste, the feel, and the consistency of that ice cream cone. All those good things are presents. They’re presents packed into that little piece of food by God who loves us. He wanted us to enjoy that right then and there.

THE HEAVENS [AND LITTLE THINGS] SHOW FORTH THE GLORY OF GOD. PSALM 19:1

From eternity my God has started creating this fruit for my sake to give me a proof of the love he has for me. (St. Mary Magdelan de Pazzi)

Instead of food we can think about things. The early morning sunrise, the giggle of a baby, a well executed football play, the smell of a freshly mown field of hay, the song of a cardinal, or what it feels like to squish mud between your toes, the sound of steam locomotive, or how it looks when the sunlight hits the dew on a spider web, the smell of coffee, or snow blowing in your face. All the beauty, order, and goodness of anything we come across is a just a little tiny reflection of the infinite, beauty, order, and goodness of the good God that created them.

Keep in mind this beauty order and goodness is something that only man can appreciate through his senses. We’re the only ones. He’s done all that specifically for us. We get a dim notion of how incredibly much God must love us since from all eternity God planned all these delights. He spread them throughout all creation just as gifts for us. Now on the other hand, we begin to get a dim idea of how much we haven’t done, how little we deserve this, how ungrateful we are, how ungrateful we’ve been, and how much we owe this infinite and generous God.

(Link to full sermon Pray with Humility and Pray Always)

Image from Aran

Painting with a Vision

When I paint, I start by mixing a very light color like yellow with a tiny bit of brown and water. It becomes like water color. I draw all the major lines for the figures in the painting. This helps get the proportions right and serves as an outline. An art professor taught me to never get caught in one section of the canvas, working out all the details, let’s say in the left corner, and leaving the right side disproportionately blank.

Then I make my palette. I think of the darkest shadow in the image and usually mix black or dark brown with another color like purple. I think of the brightest light and I do the same. Then, I make some of the colors in between. A single color is never used by itself out of the tube (unless it is used to blend with another color on the canvas). I start. Here, I record a shadow, there light. Then starting each time with a clean brush, I layer on the colors. I pay attention to the textures, see how they can be recreated, here smooth, there rough. What gives objects form? In life there are no actual hard borders. There are reflections, and there are shadows. At first, the canvas usually looks like a mess, but I hold the image in my minds eye, or I focus on the actual image. I record what I see. With time and patience, it begins to take shape. Details are added near the end, and they do what details usually do—they make all the difference. I step back frequently and see the painting as a whole. My mind must be present, focused on the task at hand. Many decisions are made in the process. The method of painting I described is different from painting corner to corner. I get the best results when the entirety and the end are in sight.

Living well is also an art. Decisions are made throughout life. We can’t really just decide to make life decision later or think, “Right now, I just like to go with the flow. This is just temporary.” This is a dangerous thought because “the temporary seduces us. We are victims of a trend that pushes us to the temporary… as if we wanted to stay teenagers for life!” (Pope Francis). When we think about our future, we can start to imagine our life in phases, but the habits we form in high school are the habits we take to college. The characteristics we build in college will follow us elsewhere. Development of character and growing is a process, and if you miss out, you can become old and callow. “We should not be afraid of the agreed commitments, commitments that involve and affect the whole life! In this way, our lives will be fruitful!” (Pope Francis).

Each decision that is made affects you and the people around you. We should go day to day with a vision in mind, with an idea of the type of person we want to be (this is more important than thinking about the career you will have). C.S. Lewis says that in heaven, there are no instances for you to be courageous, no instances for you to be magnanimous. It is on earth that you practice these virtues to become the type of person who would reside in heaven—one who is courageous, kind, generous etc. “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature.”

The end is a vision held in your minds eye, but you reside completely in the present moment. Any person who loves life can tell you that the small, ordinary details in life are very important.

Image from Modern Hepburn

Healthy deliciousness, not an oxymoron: the perfect roasted vegetables

We all know plenty of people who don’t like vegetables or just tolerate them. We have a friend who says, “I don’t eat my food’s food.” Those of us who love vegetables start to feel a little like vegetable evangelists trying to convince everyone around us that vegetables are delicious and healthy. These recipes are inspired by Ina Garten, Food Network star, genius. If you try any of these, you’ll surely be converted! People have had their hearts changed about vegetables after tasting these recipes.

The trick to making great vegetables is: don’t overcook. The reason why Chinese stir-fry vegetables are so good is because they are stir-fried at high eat and don’t spend much time stewing in the wok. When vegetables are not overdone, they are fresh, bright, and tender-crisp. One of the easiest things to do is roast vegetables. It’s simple and requires very little prep. The vegetables get a little toasty, a little caramelized but don’t lose their tender crispness or crispy tenderness. The cooking technique is about the same for roasting any vegetables with just slight variations in cook time and temperature (and you can be creative with seasoning).

It’s basic really: toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast, turning once, until just tender.

Broccoli
1 ½  pounds of broccoli
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves minced garlic

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Rinse broccoli and cut into florets. (Note, if veggies are too wet, they won’t be crispy. After rinsing, allow them to dry or pat dry with paper towel.)

Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Arrange broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast, turning once, for 12 minutes, or until just tender.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and heat, stirring, for about 1 minute. Place the broccoli in a serving bowl, pour the garlic butter over it and toss to coat.

Carrots
2 pounds of carrots, sliced diagonally, 1 ½-inch-thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves minced garlic

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel carrots and slice diagonally in 1 ½ -inch-thick slices. (Note, if carrots are thick, cut them in half lengthwise.)

Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chili powder.

Arrange carrots in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast, turning once, for 20 minutes, or until just tender.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and heat, stirring, for about 1 minute. Place the carrots in a serving bowl, pour the garlic butter over it and toss to coat.

brussels sprouts

Brussels Sprouts
1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Cut into halves.

Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Arrange Brussels sprouts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast, turning once, for 30 minutes, or until just tender.

Suggested Temperatures and Cooking Times for Easy Reference

                                                  Temperature             Cook Time
Broccoli or Broccolini                   500°                     12-15 minutes
Carrots                                            400°                        20 minutes
Brussels Sprouts                            425°                        30 minutes

If I am making more than one kind of vegetable at a time, I set the oven to 425°, and everything still comes out perfectly.

Images from Design Sponge and Recipe by Photo

Einstien’s Fear about Technology

A philosophy professor once told me that over the years he has had to assign less and less reading to his class because he noticed that each generation of students completed less and less of the reading. The attention span of 18-20 year olds has been slowly dwindling. This is an outstanding tragedy of our day– we have the world at our fingertips and we have it immediately, but for this so-called efficiency,  we are paying with our attention spans.

Albert Einstein once stated, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Even though he made this statement without knowing about text messages or Facebook, his point stands. In the past, if you wanted to communicate with someone you had to sit down, preplan your writing, write the letter and then mail it. If you wanted to see someone you had to call on them, make an appointment, then travel relatively slowly to reach them. Today, we receive a text message, put the location on a GPS, and drive over. In a sense you can reach a lot more people and spend more time actually being together, this may be an accomplishment of technology after all. But what is lost is the planning or forethought. The effort to reach someone is in itself valuable and meaningful because of the amount of time it takes. To sacrifice time, especially in our fast-paced world, implies a great level of care and desire to be with the other person.

letter-writing-picture

Even if we are not looking to talk to someone in particular, we should be aware of the people around us. What would it be like if instead of checking our phones anytime we have a spare moment, we made an active effort in any public place, work, class, even at home to pay attention to people and talk to them? What if we made an effort to know someone authentically? Maybe try to build a relationship and enjoy a particular person’s company? Why is it necessary that we would agree with them? Why should they even mind any of our judgments or opinions? How are we to share the love that we know? –What is the point of really caring anyways? In the long-run or maybe in the short-run, we want that particular person to know Christ and the fullness of the faith. It’s really not enough to be correct or to exhort someone to do right. Our job is to help others fall in love with the truth and what is right.

Women by their nature have a particular role in bringing people together because of their sensitivity to the comfort of others and ability to attend to many things at once. Now that only a portion of the world’s population knows life before Facebook, we really have to be aware of the illusion of knowing someone.  There is a lot material online that we can use to draw conclusions about someone and start to form an idea about who they are, but we really don’t know them. A superficial relationship is a far cry from friendship and a comment is a far cry from actual human interaction. We should slow down and pay attention. When you are apart, think of a particular person and do spend time wondering about the things they would like to talk about. What are their interests? What are their needs, cares or worries? Bring it to prayer. Plan ahead to spend time one-on-one and face-to-face. Be tangible!

Even with the enjoyment of so many fleeting pleasures, humans still have the capacity to appreciate the good and still long for something deeper. We desire things that last, things that take time to appreciate, things that we can get to know now and grow to love later. Only these things can fill our lives. We have the social capabilities of building true friendships. We trust that, but we have to pursue it. In this pursuit, we need our attention spans which is the very thing that is escaping us. To correct it, we have to practice paying attention to the things we read and the things people say.

Are all these things worth our time? Yes. Perhaps, put away the device if it is not pressing and wear a watch. Pick up a long novel in print like Brothers Karamozov. Or become a lover of someone.

Image from Cathy Day