Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Easter!

"If Christ is risen, then nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen, then nothing else matters." (Church historian Jaroslav Pelikan)

We had a lovely Easter dinner at friends Karen and Jeff's yesterday. It was a wonderfully ecclectic group of friends, with an assortment of cute kids. As Ed said, "Nothing says Easter like a bunch of Jews, ham, and Ethiopian children!" (A couple of our friends at this dinner are culturally Jewish.) I made the Guinness Chocolate Cake again; that's Mesvin (sporting his new Obama haircut) gobbling some down some cake.

This is Jeff's daughter Maggie, visiting from St. Louis, with baby George, the son of friends Mark and Michelle from St. Gertrude's Church. Karen and Mark are friends from way back. (I brought bunny ears for all the kids, but we adults ended up wearing them and looking somewhat like Playboy bunnies!)

That's Karen and Mari, plus Matt (another church friend) with some of the food spread. The ham was cooked with mango and onions, the mashed potatoes had something special in them (can't remember what), as did the broccoli (again, can't remember). My favorite was a kugle made with cauliflower. So yummy. Jeff gets most of his recipes from epicurious.com. Desert included a lemon curd cheesecake, pear tart and my chocolate cake.
This is Matt's wife, Bridget, and their newly adopted son Dawit, who just arrived from Ethiopia a month ago. Dawit, Mari and Mesvin love playing together. And it turned out that we had a bunch of friends in common: Matt used to live with my friend Megan when he worked for ICTC, plus he studied to be a Jesuit and knows my friend Lourdes. I love those "small world" moments, especially in a city as big as Chicago.
My only Easter crafting and/or decorating was a knitted Easter egg from this pattern, which I made for my sister and forgot to take a picture of. I'd like to make some more in pastel colors, plus some knitted carrots (possible patterns here and here), to hang on my white feather tree next year. With Easter so early this year, I just missed the ball on crafting and decorating for the holiday. Luckily, the true Easter season lasts until Pentecost, so I have until early June to get my Easter crafting done!












Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

"Each of us needs an opportunity to be alone, and silent, to find space in the day or in the week, just to reflect and to listen to the voice of God that speaks deep within us." (Cardinal Basil Hume)


I had good intentions of going to the annual Good Friday Walk for Justice in downtown Chicago, but as the snowflakes kept falling this morning, I wimpped out. I also have some papers to grade. I had my second class last night and am so impressed with my students. I really am lucky to be teaching "non-traditional" students rather than typical undergrads. They are so much more motivated.
So instead I am having a quiet day at home: finally got these felted mittens (see them unfelted here) out in the mail to my sister-in-law, whose birthday was almost two months ago. I've got some sweaters felting in the washing machine. I hit the motherload of good colors of wool sweaters at the thrift store last weekend, so I'm hoping to have a bunch of pastels and brights in my shop soon. If anyone has a request for a special order of a particular color, let me know before I put all my packages together.
We are having dinner with our new neighbors this evening. And on Easter Sunday our friends Karen and Jeff are hosting a huge group of 11 adults and 5 kids, four of whom are adopted. We are lucky to have such amazing community here in Chicago.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Erin Go Bragh

"Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me." (St. Patrick's Breastplate prayer)

Someone on one of my many adoption listservs forwarded this cake recipe today. I made it tonight and it is amazing! (Ed enjoyed the rest of the Guinness too!) Otherwise we didn't do much to celebrate St. Paddy's Day. I even forgot to wear green.


GUINNESS CAKE WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

This cake, which originated with British cookbook author, Nigella
Lawson, has a deep chocolate taste that seems almost sinful. I say
"almost" because it is the frosting that truly pushes this dessert
over the line that divides delicious from decadent. Composed of cream
cheese, powdered sugar, and whipping cream, the frosting is supposed
to resemble the frothy foam that sits atop a glass of Guinness. All I
know is that the sweet white frosting is the perfect complement for
the dark, chocolate-y cake.

• NOTE: You can buy superfine sugar in the baker's aisle of any
grocery store. However, you also can make your own. Just pour the
sugar into your food processor and process for about a minute. The
sugar should have a consistency somewhere between regular sugar and
powdered sugar.

Ingredients

For the cake:
1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
¾ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2½ teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs

For the frosting:
8-ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
1¼ cups powdered sugar
½ cup whipping cream

To make the cake:
Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Line the
bottom with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350
degrees.

Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan. Add the butter and cook over
medium heat until the butter melts. Remove from the stove top. Whisk
in the cocoa and the sugar.

In a separate bowl, beat the sour cream, vanilla and eggs. Pour them
into the beer mixture and whisk to combine.

In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Whisk into
the chocolate/beer mixture.

Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a tester
inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool
completely before removing the sides of the pan.

To make the frosting:
Beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Sift in the powdered
sugar and mix until smooth. Add the cream and continue to beat until
it's a spreadable consistency.

To assemble the cake: Frost the top of the cake with the frosting.
Lawson says it should resemble the frothy top of the famous pint."

Friday, March 14, 2008

My second family

"To love means to stay with." (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

I'm lucky enough to have two families: first, my parents and sister; and then the Misiewiczs, with whom I lived for awhile when I was in college and who are now like a second family to me. Kevin and Kathy (above, celebrating their anniversary) are very involved with Worldwide Marriage Encounter, and have eight children (Kassie, Kristi, Kaycee, Kaz, Kelley, Kory, Kregg and Kayla) and bunches of grandchildren. They are two of the most generous loving people I know, and have really been great examples of a deeply spiritual couple and intentional marriage partners.

Kaz lives in the Phoenix area with his wife, Abril and her son Josh. My parents spend the month of March in Arizona and often hang out with the Misiewiczs while Kevin and Kathy are down there for spring break. Last week they celebrated Kevin and Kathy's birthdays and their anniversary at a party at Kaz's. I'm jealous they all got to hang out without me, but glad they had fun. (Looks like yummy fajitas on the grill!)

I am especially close with the three older daughters: Kassie (who lives in Arkansas), Kristi (who lives in South Bend) and Kaycee (who luckily lives right here in Chicago, as of last year). Kristi is visiting tomorrow with her new baby, Connor, so I'm hoping to get together with her and Kaycee. We always have so much fun just hanging out and catching up.

Knitting content: This white baby sweater (the first time I've knit with Cotton Ease and now I see why everyone likes it so much) is for the next Misiewicz grandchild!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Harvest gold

"There is only one thing necessary: to be what God wants us to be." (Thomas Merton)

Remember the popular '70s color Harvest Gold? It was the color of our kitchen growing up: Harvest Gold appliances, linolium floor, and this cool wallpaper with gold drawings of clocks, rootsters (and what else? Help me, Mom and Amy). Well, I've been busy with Harvest Gold lately. First, I finished knitting the Scandanavian Felted Mittens for my sister-in-law Kremena. Next time I stay at my sister's, I'll felt them and get them in the mail to her--just in time for spring! She requested this color, to match her handbag. I worked on these during the drive to Rice Lake last weekend.

I'm not a big cook, but I do like homemade soups, and I made this Harvest Gold-colored one this week for our church's simple supper night Wednesday. The adoptive parents group was in charge of the food. I love that there are so many adoptive parents in our parish. This is Winter Squash Soup from The New Basics (one of my favorite cookbooks. Love their carrot cake, too). It has butternut squash, acorn squash, carrots and onions, all roasted then pureed into soup. Yummy!

I think it's funny that I ended up painting my house a shade of harvest gold (Benjamin Moore's Dorset gold--and my sister chose the exact shade, too, for her family room). I took this photo of my hallway, then realized it showcased an empty frame (I've filled two of three with photos from international travel: India and Ethiopia). I've been meaning to do the third with either Israel or Bosnia.

More empty frames. I got these on clearance at Target (notice the orange stickers) and was planning to put photos from Vietnam and China there. I think they've been hanging there empty for over a year. I tend to be a very slow, "in process" decorator.

**Yesterday was my husband's 40th birthday. We celebrated with an awesome dinner at Dorado, a cool Mexican/French fusion restaurant, compliments of a gift certificate from Tom and Kremena (so cool that we could only get a reservation at 5 p.m. We felt like senior citizens!) I had scallops and Ed had this amazing fish. They brought a dessert of apple fritters and ice cream with a candle but didn't sing. (Ed doesn't like to be the center of attention) Then we headed to Warren Park to go ice skating but learned that they had closed for the season. So it was home for an interesting but rather depressing movie, Half Nelson. We've been watching a bunch of movies about teaching lately. I got married when I was 40, and I know Ed has many new exciting changes in his life for this decade to come, too. My 30s were better than my 20s, and so far my 40s have been the best! Happy birthday, honey. You're as precious as gold to me (how's that for a connection?)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Grandma Doris

"Life is a stocking," Grandma says, "And yours has just begun."
"But I am knitting the toe of mine, and my work is almost done." (19th century rhyme)

I said goodbye to my Grandma Doris this weekend. Thanks to all of you for your prayers for her. She went in the hospital last week with congestive heart failure and had a "mini stroke" on Sunday that affected her right side. Still, tests show her heart is still relatively strong, though obviously she is declining. She could have another stroke and not be able to talk, though. So my sister and I decided to drive up to northern Wisconsin to see her. It was a good visit; we spent about three and half hours with her on Saturday and about two on Sunday. She was in decent spirits but also seemed like she was letting go.

The quintessential saver, she was even letting go of her stuff. She had wanted us to go over to her place at the assisted living center and go through her clothes and things to see if there was anything we wanted to take. Amy and I both have a lot of cool stuff from my grandma, as she has slowly been doling it out to family. She really was the pack rat of all pack rats (it must be where I get it!) It was weird going through her stuff without her to tell a story about each piece, but of course she has written notes attached to almost everything. I thought these vintage handkerchiefs were cute.

I have a few pieces of jewelry from her already, but took these two vintage pins and fun 70s earrings. The beads are jade and were a gift from my grandpa. She told me a story about how my grandpa's first gift to her was a tacky windmill tchotchke thing, but that she was honest about not wanting lots of knickknacks and he always gave her nice stuff after that.

This knitting bag is the coolest (thanks, Stacey, for pointing it out to me!). You can see a peek of what I knit in the car (Amy drove the whole way, including through the most awful fog I have ever seen). I also got a few clothes and books, too.

It's always sad when something like this is what prompts a trip to see relatives, but it was a really nice visit, even if less than 48 hours. We stayed with my Auntie Sue (I got a cool gift from her, too, which I'll post later) and got to visit with cousins Stacey, Kim and Kendra. And I got to tell my grandma how lucky I was to have a grandmother like her throughout my life, and that I would be sad that she might not meet my kids. She is a huge Packers fan, so I hope today's news that Brett Farve is retiring doesn't put her over the edge! At 96, she clearly is a fighter, but I also think her sock is almost finished.