On Giants' Shoulders

Friday, August 17, 2007

Well She Did It!

My daughter headed off for a bridal shower last night having finished the whole outfit she's supposed to wear to the wedding on Saturday. That's not too bad for someone who hadn't even purchased the material for the dress until Monday midday. She sewed a dress, knitted a shrug, and even made her own necklace and earrings. The whole outfit looked like it came from some fancy boutique and it was far nicer than anything she could find in any stores around here. Here I figured she'd still be knitting away on the shrug tomorrow...

While she hemmed I spun Dorset yarn. I am almost finished with spinning the yarn for a sweater for my son. It's been a much longer project than Abby's dress, and in fact if I'd spent all the hours spinning that she did sewing, knitting, beading, I still couldn't have done it all. Double ply relatively fine yarn simply takes a lot of time. The good news is that shortly I'll be able to put yarn in a dye pot and then think about the actual knitting. Only think about, however, because no pattern has been decided upon by the recipient. So once I finish this yarn I can go back to the thick and thin bulky I need for a knitting project for me. Of course I could go work on the skirt I cut out for myself several weeks ago... If I can find it that is. Our computer room/sewing room is in a confusing state since the guys have been hard at work getting DSL put in this week. Abby (fortunately for her) sews in her own room, I don't have that luxury which is one reason I've been spinning, not sewing. Of course this week she was using my machine which meant I couldn't.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

All I Can Say Is WOW!

Last night my son and I traveled to Burlington for Mass. The bishop was celebrating at the co-cathedral using the John XXIII missal from 1962. There was a choir singing the responses in Gregorian chant. This was the first time this extraordinary form of the Mass has been celebrated in Vermont for over 30 years. My reaction was simply WOW.

It was all incredibly beautiful, despite the difficulty I had following along in my missal. My son said that it would have been easier if it had been a low Mass, but that with a high Mass the celebrant and the choir were sometimes not on the same place on the page at the same time. When I was able to catch up with my place I was simply blown away by the beauty of the language. I'm sorry, but the ICEL translations simply haven't been able to do justice to the Latin.

The homily was the best I've ever heard and that includes my previous all time favorite homily by Cardinal Ratzinger before the conclave. Our bishop was simply flat out on fire. His delivery had all the fire of a Pentecostal preacher (and having been raised Pentecostal I should know!) He used the homily as a time to explain how this rite worked differently from the Novus Ordo and to explain the significance of these differences. He talked about the doctrine of the Assumption in unapologetically Catholic words. If it hadn't been Mass, his words: "If this is what it takes to fill churches" would have brought a standing ovation from the near capacity congregation. His plea for people to come home nearly brought tears to my eyes.

For the first time in my Catholic life I was able to kneel for communion and receive it from the bishop himself. It was almost like starting all over as a Catholic. I'd waited so long for this particular privilege (the kneeling part especially).

Now, much of the time I felt like am awkward little kid. I wasn't always sure when to stand, sit, kneel. I kept worrying that my chapel veil was going to fall off (since I hadn't pinned it on). However, on balance I think it's good every now and then to feel like an awkward little kid. When I did get lost in the missal I took the time to read some of the side notes that gave some insight into the what the worshipper should be meditating on at that point in the Mass. Then when an obvious landmark came into place (like the Kyrie, or the Agnus Dei) I could get back on the proper page again.

This will take awhile getting used to, but so did the new rite. Maybe there's the advantage to being a convert, you assume that there are things that will be somewhat foreign so you don't simply reject them out of hand. I simply know that I've never heard any priest before describe the mystery of the sacrifice of the Mass in quite so clear terms, nor with such passion as our bishop did last night.

I hope Bishop Matano was as encouraged by the attendance at Mass as we were with his beautiful celebration of it. Oh, and you might go over to Owl of the Remove and congratulate Father Ben on the beautiful job he and the rest of the choir did as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Domestically or Geometrically Challenged

My online friend Karen is frequently calling herself domestically challenged. Yesterday I demonstrated that she isn't the only one. I decided to make a recipe that Kitchen Madonna posted sometime back (white bean ravioli). You see, years ago I bought a pasta machine at a garage sale, but I've never used it. The instructions were in Italian, and I'll admit I've been a bit intimidated by it. However, the recipe sounded so good I have been wanting to attempt it. A couple of weeks ago I bought semolina flour at the co-op, although KM's recipe didn't call for it my other pasta recipes did.

Anyway yesterday was the day. I mixed up the dough using the recipe from my Ciao Italia cookbook (sorry KM, but this one included the semolina). My son set the pasta machine up for me (using the pictures accompanying the Italian instructions) and I was off and rolling (dough that is). Everything went fine until I started actually making the individual ravioli's. I tried making the triangles KM called for with the amount of the bean mixture she called for. It didn't work, the filling went everywhere the dough got goopy, and by the time I finally got the ravioli made it looked like something a kindergartner would do (although I suspect Karen's Ramona would do better than this!). 40 some odd ravioli later, and after trying a number of different shapes I finally discovered that it worked better to simply put the filling (and a much smaller amount of it) between two pieces of the pasta. My last few ravioli actually looked like ravioli. Of course it could be partly that I am geometrically challenged and cutting long rectangles into appropriately sized squares to turn into triangles is not easy for me.

So after all of this I had to cook the ravioli. The recipe said three minutes, but I must not have gone quite thin enough with the dough, because 3 minutes left them somewhat more al dente than I like. However, the family said they were good. I didn't do KM's sauce because I was out of balsamic vinegar after making the filling. So I sauced them with sage butter (sage directly out of my herb garden) and that was quite yummy. I ended up with a lot more filling than I needed, although I made more pieces than the recipe called for, so I'm a little confused about what I did wrong there. I think next time I'll roll the dough thinner, but I'm not even going to attempt triangles since my final method worked so well. I also think I'm going to see if I can find one of those lovely little things that you place the rolled dough on and press into to fill the ravioli's. I've seen Marianne Esposito use them, I know they exist, and I think it would be a whole lot less messy a procedure.

I also discovered that my pasta machine makes noodles and linguine as well. Now that I know how easy that part of the procedure is, I just have to find a way to dry the noodles. However, I already can see myself making lasagna noodles for our very favorite Marianne Esposito lasagna recipe (it has a spinach and pine nuts sauce). The really best part about that is that you simply make the long sheets of pasta (got that down pat). There's no messing around with triangles or slippery filling that insists on sliding out the edge before you get it sealed.

So while I may be domestically challenged, I am also determined (or some people might insist too stubborn to give up and admit defeat). I am not, however, going into the fresh pasta making business. The whole rolling and filling process took over 2 hours. Making ravioli by hand is obviously not for the faint of heart (at least not until they get a whole lot better at the filling end of it than I am).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


When you insist that at the age of 6 your daughter begins to learn to sew you only begin to glimpse at a far distance the day when she will be able to do what mine has done in the last 24 hours. After spending at least 2 fruitless days shopping for a dress to wear to a wedding this week she decided to make her own. Yesterday we went to the fabric store and she picked out fabric, purchased a pattern, a zipper, thread, and interfacing. She also bought yarn for a coordinating shrug and knitting needles to knit it on. She came home and began the project. As of late this morning she had only the hem left to do on a very pretty floral print dress. The dress is far prettier than anything she saw in the store and the whole project is going to cost her less than to have purchased anything even close to comparable.

What amazes me is that she is a far better seamstress than I am (thanks to the better seamstresses who helped teach her like our friend Chris, my late sister, and even the 4-H leader of a group to which my daughter never even belonged. What I mostly contributed was a sewing machine, the knowledge of how to cut out a pattern, and do very basic stuff. Oh, and I also contributed the push to actually be engaged in this particular activity. It was my responsibility to make sure she had fabric for a lead line outfit each year, to help her select a pattern, and to get her the additional adult instruction she needed. Now she needs no instruction other than the pattern directions and she is free to turn her back on the ugly dresses in the store, or the expensive skirts made with slave labor. She gets a lot of satisfaction from being able to sew her own stuff, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing that she can do it.

The shrug she'll be knitting is a more direct result of my instruction since I was the one who taught her to knit, who encouraged the knitting, even pushed her along when a project was getting sidetracked for too long. Now she's a very competent knitter, she's even better at parts of that than I am (although there are still areas there where I'm better!). I'm willing to bet the shrug will be finished by Saturday, even though it's in a lace pattern and she's never tried lace before. After all: it's on big needles, it's a small garment, and anyone who's knitted an entire Aran sweater in a celtic knot pattern should find this particularly simple lace to be a breeze.

We talked about how factories make garments and agreed that there wouldn't be a whole lot of satisfaction in being the person who just sewed leg seams. The satisfaction comes in completing the whole item. Or that's where the satisfaction comes for the sewer. The satisfaction for the mother is seeing the child they've taught become such a competent adult. Ah, the rewards of homeschooling.