Our Midwest Mary Table

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In our old house, our Mary Table/Family Altar was in the living room just as you came in from the front door. When we moved to the midwest, this house was set up very differently from our old four-square. The first question was where, in this house, would it be? What better place than the first place your eyes fall when you walk in the house? By the kitchen door, in the living room. After all, everyone who comes in the house ends up in the kitchen! This is the place we decided to create our Family Altar.

Midwest Mary Table

Midwest Mary Table

After setting everything up as we had it before, we realized that with a new house and a new life maybe we needed some new things. While searching the net, I found tons of ideas.

We have since learnes that the focal point of a Catholic home should be the family altar. For us, it is a place where our family gathers to offer up our prayers and to ask Mary, and the Saints to pray for us. Morning Offerings, family Rosaries, prayers for special intentions, family novenas and Lectio Divina are all made here.

Family altars, ideally, should be on the Eastern wall of a home, in the same orientation as church buildings.As “luck” would have it, ours is on an east facing wall/ The altar can be as simple or as elaborate as your familiy desires, but should be beautiful and conducive to contemplation. We also like to have enough room for flowers for Our Lady.

A few key items to be placed on or around the altar table have been:
The Crucifix
our Family Bible
Missal(s)
Several icons (statues and two-dimensional)
a Holy Water font or a cellar of blessed salt
charcoal incense burner
Rosaries, Rosaries, Rosaries
vigil candles and candles blessed at Candlemas. We burn them on All Saints Day, Patron Saint’s Days and in times of trouble, (for me it’s the storms)
Baptismal candles

Other things that have made their way to our Family Alter are the Breviary or the Little Office of Our Lady, Holy Cards, flowers, the names of dead family members (printed in a little book) so we may be reminded to pray for them, pictures of the Stations of the Cross or the Mysteries of the Rosary (ours are hand drawn), something with which to play sacred music and Gregorian chant (under the table in the basket and palm branches from Palm Sunday.

Gâteau de Bayou

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Have you ever tried this cake? Gâteau de Bayou is a version of a traditional spice cake from the Acadian region of Louisiana. Every year we try a new Cajun recipe for Mardi Gras. this is 2011’s addition. Do you know the history of Louisiana’s Cajuns?

Accordianing to the website Cajun Country, “CAJUN (‘ka:-j@n), n. A person of French Canadian descent born or living along the bayous, marshes, and prairies of  southern Louisiana.  The word Cajun began in 19th century Acadie (now Nova Scotia, Canada) when the Acadians began to arrive. The French of noble ancestry would say, “les Acadiens”, while some referred to the Acadians as “le ‘Cadiens”, dropping the “A”.  Later came the Americans who could not pronounce “Acadien” or “‘Cadien”, so the word “Cajun” was born.”

The Cake:

2 pieces of fresh ginger (each 4 inches long), peeled and grated
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter , softened
3 3/4 cups and 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking soda
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 2/3 cups cane syrup
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil or peanut oil
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp. hot sauce
Meringue:

4 large egg whites , at room temperature
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
Note: Browning the meringue requires a blowtorch; alternatively, leave off the meringue and serve with butter pecan ice cream or extra cane syrup.

To make cake: Combine ginger and 1 1/3 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and strain ginger through sieve, pressing with a spoon; discard pulp and let ginger water cool.

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 10-inch Bundt pan (without nonstick lining) with butter. Dust pan with 3 tablespoons flour, tapping out excess.

Whisk together 3 3/4 cups flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pepper in bowl.

Combine 1 1/3 cups cane syrup, oil, brown sugar, and ginger water in the bowl of a standing mixer; whisk with a handheld whisk until blended. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Add hot sauce and flour mixture; attach bowl to a mixer with paddle attachment; beat on low speed until batter is smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes, scraping bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Let cake cool on wire rack 10 minutes; then unmold cake onto rack. With a thin wooden skewer, poke holes in top of cake about 1 inch apart. Brush cake with 1/3 cup cane syrup. Let cool.

To make meringue: In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites, salt, and 1/4 cup sugar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Combine remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, swirling pan occasionally to dissolve sugar. Cook until syrup is dark amber, about 10 minutes. Stir in corn syrup; mixture will bubble vigorously. Cook, without stirring, until syrup is 240° on a digital thermometer.

With mixer on low speed, pour syrup into egg white mixture; don’t let syrup touch whisk. Increase speed to high and beat until meringue is thick enough to spread, about 2 minutes. While meringue is still warm, spread over cake with a large spatula, making peaks and swirls. With a crème brûlée torch, brown meringue. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 16–20

If you google “Gateau de Bayou” you will find many variations, some of which sound delicious.

Daisy – A Memory

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Prayer of Saint Francis for Animals
God Our Heavenly Father,
You created the world
to serve humanity’s needs
and to lead them to You.
By our own fault
we have lost the beautiful relationship
which we once had with all your creation.
Help us to see
that by restoring our relationship with You
we will also restore it
with all Your creation.
Give us the grace
to see all animals as gifts from You
and to treat them with respect
for they are Your creation.

We pray for all animals
who are suffering as a result of our neglect.
May the order You originally established
be once again restored to the whole world
through the intercession of the Glorious Virgin Mary,
the prayers of Saint Francis
and the merits of Your Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ
Who lives and reigns with You
now and forever. Amen.

St. Francis of Assisi, additions added later

If you are like me, over the years you have lost a dog or two. This time, I was blindsided by just how much it hurts when Daisy died. It was easy to think about if she was unable to get up and would just poop on the kitchen floor, but it hadn’t happened yet. I just never thought that it would affect me very much. I thought I’d just be able to go on with little disruption to my day.

Until it really happened. I hadn’t mentally prepared myself, I found myself staggering under the weight of unexpected grief. And I was surprised.

We’ll be waiting on the “getting a new dog” part…that’s how we got Daisy all those years ago!

We got Daisy 13 years ago from the pound in Oil City, Pa. Our English Setter “bob” had passed away in late January when the PA soil was hard and unyeilding. I tried picking away at it for about 3 hours and finally gave up. I brought bob to the pound and they creamated him that day.

Everytime a new dog came in the lady at the pound called me and off I’d go, looking at all those sad eyes, begging me to take them home. Around about this time of year, she called me about a tri-color collie that they just got in. The dog was found wandering along side the interstate with a collar and a leash. The people that brought her in said they had put up posters, taken out ads and had contacted breeders in the area with her picture. They had seven dogs and just couldn’t keep her.

We had collies when I was young, so we took her home. When we took her to the vet, he estimated her age to be between 3 & 5. She was a weird dog. She wouldn’t walk on the grass and refused to leave the step when it rained. Our little Doxie loved her! He ould run out into the grass and bark at her until she’d come out on that dreaded green stuff as well. They’d play all day.

Four months later I found out I was pregnant with Patrick. That was 12 years ago.

Something you may not think about is that like humans, dogs do occasionally suffer from bouts of depression. They get mopey, lethargic, stop eating, and drink only minimal amounts of water, stop wanting to play, and even lose drastic amounts of weight.

Losing a playmate, especially an in-home playmate is often a reason for canine depression. We may not notice it very often, but pets do grieve, and in some cases, especially concerning a death , dogs can grieve to a dangerous point, and it can be very hard to bring them out of it.

Loss of initiative is a clue that something is bothering your dog. If this is happening to your dog, you need to get right on it and start to make life fun again. Depression may not seem like it, but left too long and it could very well turn into a life-threatening physical condition. We are watching ours.

Prayer in Memory of a Pet

Almighty God
We were fortunate to receive the gift of Daisy from You
Now that she has left this life,
please help us cope with our loss with strength and courage.
We know that our beloved companion no longer suffers,
and will live on in many fond memories.
May she be treated with the care and respect
As she has enriched our life,
We pray that we may enrich the lives of others. Amen.

Good bye my friend, I’ll miss you!