Emily M. DeArdo

writer

Food Friday 2: Open Faced Avocado Sandwich

food, Food Fridays, recipesEmily DeArdoComment

Avocados are AWESOME. Really, they are! It's high in healthy fats (because we do need some fat in our diet, guys!) They contain more potassium than bananas, and are high in antioxidants. 

And did I mention it's delicious

One of the problems is that avocado flesh can become brown quickly once you've started to eat the avocado. So this recipe uses an entire avocado. All you need for this is a toaster (and you can probably do without the toaster, if you want). And it's really not even a recipe. It's so simple it's hardly even cooking!

One of the changes I made back in April was cutting out bread--but not entirely! I stopped eating pasta except on special occasions awhile back, and I honestly don't miss it. But I still loved cereal, bread, all that other carb goodness. And I've decided I can have it, but I have one piece in the bread basket. A soft pretzel is a treat, and usually when I'm having serious salt cravings in the summer (thanks to my CF genes, since my body doesn't regulate salt secretions appropriately. In the summer, I have to be sure I'm getting enough sodium, which means some not-so-healthy treats, like salty pretzels and popcorn, are important for that.) But sometimes you want a sandwich. Or toast. The key is to have one or two pieces--not four. 

I've started using Ezekiel bread (Trader Joe's carries it now! Yay!), which is good toasted. I don't really like it un-toasted. But you might. So try it. 

This is adapted from a Weight Watchers cookbook, and I've actually left out the prosciutto the recipe calls for, because I don't think it really worked here. But hey, if you want to try it, go for it. Just go easy on it. 

Open Faced Avocado Sandwich

Makes four slices 

1 ripe avocado

1 lemon, zest and juice (so zest it first!)

kosher salt

pepper

four slices regular bread or Ezekiel Bread

Toast the bread. While that's happening, split the avocado and put the flesh into a mixing bowl. Crush it with a fork to break the flesh into small pieces. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste, and combine with fork until well-mixed. Spread on toast. Place the rest of the mixture in a container such as Tupperware or Pyrex, and refrigerate. Can be used again the next day. 

 

Sketching Animals and preparing for vacation sketching

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Sketching animals is not really my forte, but I thought I'd share my completed zoo sketchbook pages with you guys anyway.

The only way you get better is with practice, right? So, here we go. 

OK so the first sketch was of a bonobo. This was first because it was the first really good place where I could sit and observe for awhile. Since I was with my friends and their children I didn't want to drag down their pace, so most of these are pretty quick. All of them are done with colored pencil. 

The bonobo liked to move, as many animals do (obviously), and I tried to catch that by drawing the limbs in a few poses. My favorite part of the sketch is the bonobo arm reaching up for the bar above. The face and all that is just a mess, but that's what happens when I decide to use colored pencils! The arm, though, is done correctly, just wildly out of proportion with the top torso. 

The Flying Fox was drawn in a sort of half-light--this was an indoor exhibit, and since these are nocturnal animals, the fox is hanging upside down, the wings enfolding the body. I tried to get the hard structural edges of the wings, and I think I succeeded pretty well. 

I knew I wanted to get the mandrill's face, since it's so colorful. This guy was very active, but I was able to get the basic shapes and the color variations on his fur. 

The flamingo is probably my favorite. They were out in full sun, and this one was quite obliging and stood still for awhile while I got the basic shape and did some shading with the feathers. I was going to color her in later, but one of the little girls I was with asked me to do it then, and I'm glad I obliged!

This one was drawn inside, with light coming in from above, so I decided to do it in a deep indigo pencil and just get the outlines of the langeurs sitting on their beam. (There are a ton of ways to spell "langeurs" as I found out when I did an Internet search--this is how it was spelled on the exhibit sign). This started as a single line contour and then I went back in and drew heavier lines to differentiate the animals, with the one closest to me getting a bit of his facial fur drawn in. 

The other thing I need to remember next time is to bring the pencil sharpener! 

I'm working on prep for my first vacation with my sketchbooks, and I'm really excited. I think I've got my palette set. We're going to Colonial Williamsburg and the Outer Banks, so I need a variety of colors. I'm definitely going to be playing with mixes. I'll be doing some trip prep (Liz Steel inspired) sketches in my big book over the next few weeks. 

 

Happy St. Dominic's Day!

Dominicans, dominican saints series, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

Happy Feast of St. Dominic! Today is a big day for me since I'm a Lay Dominican, and I intend to make it a good Feast Day!

If you're asking, St. Dominic who? Go here

For more on some of my favorite Dominican saints, go here

And today would be a great day to pray the rosary, since St. Dominic was the one who got it from Mary, and all that. :) From my St. Dominic piece: 

Besides the Dominican order, St. Dominic gave the church another treasure: the rosary. The rosary was given to St. Dominic at Prouilhe in 1214. Bl. Alain de la Rouche, a Dominican priest, spread devotion of the rosary in the 15th century. The habit of Dominican friars, nuns, and sisters includes a rosary worn on the left side of the body, where knights use to wear their swords, since St. Dominic said that the power of the rosary was more powerful than any other weapon. Pope Pius XI said that, "The Rosary of Mary is the principle and foundation on which the very Order of Saint Dominic rests for making perfect the life of its members and obtaining the salvation of others." 

 

 

Summer adventures

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One of the great things about summer is the desire people have to get out and do things, and my friends and I are no exception. When you live in Ohio, or really any place with four seasons, you know that Winter Is Coming, and you won't be able to do these things!

My friend Gary and his wife Adelle brought their gorgeous baby daughter to meet us two weeks ago at the Columbus Hofbrauhaus. 

Me, baby A, and Tiff

Me, baby A, and Tiff

A bunch of us have been friends since high school (or more, in most cases), and we still love to get together, even though with kids and jobs and other responsibilities it's not as easy as it used to be. So it's even more fun when we get together now. And when adorable babies are involves, I'm all for it! 

Last Thursday, I went to the Columbus Zoo with one of my college friends, his wife, and their four children. They have a zoo membership and they graciously extended a free guest pass to me. I hadn't been to the zoo in years and it was great to be there with friends whom I also don't get to see that often, since they live about two hours away, and I hadn't even met the new baby yet!

Blurry, but that's what happens when you take a photo while you're holding a baby!

Blurry, but that's what happens when you take a photo while you're holding a baby!

The oldest girl especially liked to watch me sketch the animals and was very helpful in holding my pencils, giving me color advice, and asking good questions. We had a lot of fun drawing this flamingo!

She also liked the colors on the mandrill. Drawing animals is not, currently, my forte, but this was good for practice, and fortunately the flamingo stayed still! (Unlike the mandrill, who kept moving, so his face is a bit of a composite. But the essence of it is there. I love his colors.) 

Doing things in the summer was really hard pre-transplant--the heat and humidity, plus crappy lungs, really wore me out. It's still sort of hard because I have to make sure I'm amply covered in SPF, that the UV index isn't too high, and that salty things are readily available to eat. But before transplant, going to the zoo with four kids would've been impossible. I'd have dropped from exhaustion after two exhibits! So getting to do things like this are extra special to me.  

 

Food Friday 1: Salmon with mustard dill sauce

food, Food Fridays, recipesEmily DeArdoComment

This is one of the easiest and most made recipes in my healthy food box. I hope it makes it to your house, too!

I love fish, almost all of it. And that's a good thing, because we can get a lot of great nutrition from fish, especially salmon. It's an excellent source of high quality protein (which keeps you feeling full longer), potassium, selenium, and vitamin b12. They're also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to healthy brain, heart, and joint function, as well as general well-being. It's a power-packed bit of fish!

I know fish can be pricey, so try to find the best and most affordable source in your area. Even adding it to your diet once a week can reap great benefits. 

(And for the Catholics among us, it's good to stockpile fish dishes in the recipe boxes to use on Fridays during Lent, or every Friday, if you want to do that, or your diocese requires it.) 

This dish takes maybe 20 minutes, and 10 of those are preheating the oven. 

Salmon with mustard dill sauce

(from the book Dinner: A Love Story)

4 6 oz. salmon fillets, skin removed

kosher salt

pepper

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (any fat content, but I usually go 0%)

one lemon

1 heaping teaspoon dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. dried dill weed

 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. While that's happening, place the salmon on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. (If you have a stoneware baking stone, that's great for this too, and easy clean up!) Sprinkle salt and pepper over the fillets and roast for 10-15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, add the yogurt, salt, pepper, dill weed, and mustard to a mixing bowl. Add half of the lemon, whisk together, and add the rest of the lemon if needed. Taste for seasoning and adjust as required. 

When the salmon's done, place it on a plate and top with the sauce. 

Notes

I use one fillet for me, and eat all the sauce. It's delicious and healthy and so filling. 

Roasted cherry tomatoes, or even raw ones, are good served along side this. You can also put them in a hot pan with some extra virgin olive oil and toss them around for a few minutes, until they start to blister/open, and serve. 

You can get fresh dill weed, but I prefer the dried, because it's more cost friendly (given how often I make this). 

 

New weekly series!

food, recipes, Food FridaysEmily DeArdoComment

So I've missed writing every week in Catholicism 101, but I haven't had any great ideas for a new weekly series, until recently. 

I'm going to be sharing healthy and easy recipes once a week. I know, there are five bazillion recipe sites out there. But I'm going to do this differently: one recipe a week, with some background about it, including why I love it. The recipe will be healthy and simple. It will not be overwhelming. It will cover dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even things you can take to parties that are healthy. 

Healthy in this context doesn't really subscribe to any particular bent. It's not paleo. It's not the Mediterranean diet. It's not vegetarian. It's just...simple, easy, yummy food that doesn't have a million ingredients. 

Since Easter, I've been implementing a new way of eating and I've lost 22 pounds so far. I'm really happy with this, but that doesn't mean that there haven't been hard parts. So I want to encourage people with these recipe suggestions, and show that just because you want to lose weight doesn't mean you have to abandon cooking, you don't have to use weird fraken-food substitutes, and it can still be yummy and delicious and simple

For a sample of what this will look like, this post is a good template. 

I'm excited to be sharing this with you--and maybe some food tips along the way? We'll see!

 

On The Town

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IMG_5243.JPG

Tiffany and I have been best friends since we were freshmen in high school--so, holy cow, 21 years now. She and her husband, Bill, like to take me out for my transplant anniversary, so it's the one night a year we go out on the town to a fancy restaurant and eat great food and have fun together. 

This year we went to Mitchell's steak house, and then afterwards to the Book Loft in German Village, which is a bookstore in an old house. It's fantastic. If you've never been there, come the next time you're in Columbus. It's 30 some rooms of books, and fun things like Baby Lit buttons: 

It's really sweet of them to do this for me. They're good people. 

Creative Burst

behind the scenes, Catholic 101, current projects, knitting, writingEmily DeArdo1 Comment

The last week has been so exciting! I've been making progress on some big goals, including one thing I never thought I'd do, so I thought I'd share this with you today. 

First, as I said last week, I've got a cover for my ebook!

This was a big hurdle for me, because graphic design is elusive in my world. But I'm really pleased with how this came out. I took the photo during my last trip to D.C., when I visited the Franciscan monastery

Now I have to finish writing and editing a few pieces, then it gets sent to a few beta readers for testing, so to speak--and then it's almost ready for the rest of you! If you use an e-reader, what format do you use the most? Kindle? iBooks? Doesn't matter? Let me know!

The ebook is based on my Catholic 101 series, but there are also brand-new pieces, to make it worth your while. I'm hoping to have it on offer later in the fall! 

The second big thing--I've decided to start selling some of my knitted pieces. 

 

Whenever I post photos of my variegated basketweave scarves, people always say how much they love them. And that got me thinking--would people buy them? Turns out, YES. I have three orders already! I'm really excited about this. 

I'm not planning on making this a huge thing, but I'm excited to be offering these scarves, and some other projects, in various styles and colorways. Right now I'm posting most of the information about them on Instagram and Facebook. So keep your eyes out--I might also cross-post some things here, too, when the pieces are available. Right now I'm sort of behind the gun because I had to order yarn for the projects, but soon I will have some available! 

And in between all this, I'm still working on proposals for my memoir. Whew! There's a lot going on. But I'm using pockets of time to work on these things in a somewhat organized fashion. For example, the yarn for the next project isn't here yet, so I can use today to write and work on the proposal and the ebook. (And give my shoulder muscles a break--knitting so much really does cause them to work!) 

Thanks for all your kind comments and support with my projects! I really appreciate it and I can't wait to share these with you in the near future. 

 

Saturday Miscellany

books, behind the scenes, current projects, Jeopardy, knitting, writingEmily DeArdoComment

Normally, as you know, I don't do a blog post on Saturdays, but I had a stomach bug on Friday, which derailed my plans to do one then, so, here we are: Saturday! (Stomach's fine now.)

First, the winner of the Cultivate Book: Cristina! Yay! I'll get this book out to you in the next week!

Second: Next week marks a year since my appearance on Jeopardy!, which you can read all about here. The Tour de France, people! :-P (If you don't get that, read the posts....or try to find my episode online. I wish Jeopardy re-runs ran around here....)

Third: Take a look at this!

 

I'm kind of a fan. Do you like it? Let me know! I took the photo at the Franciscans of the Holy Land Monastery in D.C. a few years ago and I thought it was a good choice for the cover. 

And finally, in the knitting area: here's the second Christmas gift in progress. 

Yes, it's the same pattern as the first scarf. But man, I love this yarn too! This is called Sugar Cookie--same yarn as the last one, too. 

So, that's my miscellany for this Saturday! Hope you have a great weekend! 

Twelve Years, and a Celebratory Pork Chop

food, health, transplantEmily DeArdo3 Comments
Me as an intrepid toddler. 

Me as an intrepid toddler. 

Twelve years is a substantial amount of time, if you think about it. It's your entire education from first to twelfth grades. It's an entire pro sports career, if the player is lucky. Ad it's how long I've been alive with another person's lungs inside me. 

It's insanely lucky. It really is. When I consider the people who don't get listed, who don't get the call, and then who don't survive past five years (which more than half of female lung recipients don't)....it's amazing to be so gosh-darn lucky. It's miraculous, really. 

So I thought it would be appropriate to share a good bit of food with you. Before transplant, I hated food. I liked cooking and baking, but I really didn't like eating much of it. Post, I loved it. The entire world of food opened up to me. 

Just recently I've been working on tempering the two--eating what's good for me, in good portions, and not going overboard on the stuff that's delicious but not so healthy. I'm seeing results on a lot of levels, which is exciting, but I'm also learning how to embrace cooking really great food that's also not terrible for me. Thus, this pork chop recipe. 

You can eat it just as it is, or serve it with some buttered leeks

Here's to more celebratory pork chops. 

Celebratory Pork Chop

This is the best pork chop you will ever have. I guarantee it. 

Start with two thick pork chops, about an inch. Don't trim the fat off. Season with with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. 

Preheat the oven to 375. Drag out your oven proof skillet (cast iron is great). Heat it over medium high heat, and add olive oil to it. When the pan is hot, add the chops. Cook for three minutes on each side, then throw the whole thing, pan and chops, into the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the pan and put the chops on a plate to rest for four minutes. 

Make a pan sauce--in the hot pan, add 1/2 cup water or stock, let it reduce a bit. Add 2 teaspoons dijon mustard and a good knob of butter--about a tablespoon, but whatever odd pieces you have in the fridge. Whisk together. Serve the chop with the pan sauce. 

Enjoy deliciousness. 

(Also, are you an organ donor? Please be one. When I was first listed, 18 people died every day waiting. That number is now 22 people, and the national list stands at 118,000 people who are waiting for new organs.  Sign up here. ) 

Giveaway: A copy of "Cultivate"!

books, goal setting, give aways, transplantEmily DeArdo6 Comments

In honor of my twelve year transplant anniversary, which is tomorrow (holy cow, that sounds amazing to write--incredible to believe), I'm giving away a copy of Lara Casey's new book, Cultivate, which you've all heard me babble on about for months now. It's so good, folks. I'm so excited to share it with you! 

(You can read my review here, and my preview here)

What do you want to cultivate in your life? Share it in the comments! It can be anything, big or small! 

Charlie's Dignity

current events, healthEmily DeArdoComment

I love my parents. They've done yeomen's work the past 35 years, helping to keep me alive. I know parents who do not do a good job with their children's illnesses--my parents have been rockstars on every level. 

I love my doctors. They are also rockstars. They are the people who continually keep me alive, even when other doctors have told them that it was a waste of time and/or effort. I have a doctor who got an international pager (back in the day) so we could always contact her. I have nurses who will answer my emails at any time. I've worked with incredible medical professionals of all stripes. (And some that suck. But we're not talking about them today. We're talking about the awesome people.) 

Most of the time, the two groups of awesome are in agreement about what should be done. But not always. When I was in the ICU in 2001, and no one knew what was wrong with me, several of the ICU doctors were ready just to write me off. My parents weren't, and neither was my doctor, or the head of the ICU, who worked insanely hard to figure out what was wrong with me--eventually, they did. And I'm writing to you today. 

Doctors are awesome. But doctors can be wrong. And parents are awesome. But parents can be blinded by love. 

Which is why we need moral and ethical guidelines in place, in cases where the two groups of Awesome cannot agree on what is the proper course of action.  Except...what do we do when doctors want to embrace a course of action that will kill their patient, and the parents are vehemently opposed? 

If you aren't familiar with the case of little Charlie Gard, here's the nutshell: Charlie has a very, very, very, VERY rare disease--so rare that maybe 17 other people in the world have it. Since birth, Charlie has been treated at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). Because of Charlie's disease, he cannot breathe on his own, and he cannot see or hear. 

GOSH wants to take Charlie off life support so he can die, because they feel he's not going to get any better, so it's time to embrace the inevitable. His parents, obviously, are against this, because Charlie is alive with the help of ventilators--like many other people, in ICUs the world over, or people who have tracheostomies. They are alive because of machines, but they are alive. A ventilator or breathing support really isn't an extraordinary measure, these days, on its own. 

The parents would like to take Charlie to the United States to try another treatment--GOSH won't let them. This case went all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, which sided with the hospital.  (Isn't that just dripping with irony?) 

What's the hospital's argument? That the treatment the parents want to try will cause Charlie pain and suffering and it won't work, so they refuse to let Charlie's parents try it

I find the hospital's "reasoning", on multiple levels, insane. One because doctors are supposed to help patients--not kill them, which is what would happen if Charlie was taken off the ventilator. It's no different than removing a breathing tube for a quadriplegic. Now, Charlie's condition, as it stands now (and as I understand it), won't get better. He's going to die. But that doesn't mean the parents don't have every right to try another treatment, in another country, that the parents are going to pay for. The money's already been raised. Hospitals in the US, as well as Gesu Bambino hospital in Rome (which is run by the Vatican), have offered to take Charlie as a patient. But GOSH will not release Charlie to his parents' care. 

Just because Charlie cannot breathe on his own, cannot hear, and cannot see doesn't mean his life has no value. OK? I can't hear without my CI, really. So does my life have no value? I've been on ventilators before. Did my life have no value then? Does Stephen Hawking's life have no value, because he has a tracheostomy? Or people in wheelchairs, or quadriplegics, who also need help to breathe and do just about anything on their own? Since when is the value of a person determined by what they can do? 

When a person is dead, then yes, it's time to let the child go. But Charlie isn't dead. This isn't the case of parents fighting a hospital over a brain death certification. Charlie is alive, and the hospital wants to stop that--because he might be suffering. And he's not going to get any better (they think. They might be right. But we don't know that.). 

I talk about this sort of thing a lot here, because people need to realize that life isn't about what you can do. Life has value because a person has value, no matter what. Pain and suffering are inevitable parts of life. 

But apparently no one told the folks at GOSH, or the European Court of Human Rights, this. Because Charlie's life, to them, isn't really all that important. They've kept him alive long enough. Now it's time to just shut of the machines and kill a little boy. And if we're going to talk about pain and suffering, they will basically suffocate Charlie by removing his ventilator. Is that going to cause pain and suffering? I think so.  

I'm not going to say the hospital doesn't care. I'm sure the nurses and doctors who care for Charlie care very much. But the state has clearly overstepped its bounds. 

Charlie can't make a decision on his own about his care. His parents have to do it for him. They would like to, at the very least, take him home to say good-bye to him, and let him die with them, in real dignity, not the fake dignity the state is suggesting.   If Charlie's parents decided that they wanted to pursue hospice care for their son, that should be their decision, and the hospital should give them the resources they need to make sure that Charlie can have a peaceful passing. 

Is it inevitable that Charlie will die? Yes, because we all will. But there is absolutely no need to hasten it, the way GOSH wants to, because The Almighty Doctors have decided that it's time for Charlie to die. 

 

What I Read In June

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A sample of what I read in the past month. Read all the way to the bottom for giveaway news!

 

June was, surprisingly, light on the books. I read twenty-three, fourteen of them new, so that's something. Here's some of the ones I liked the best. 

A Man Called Ove. I know I'm late to the party on this one, but I really liked it. It was so sweet, much like My Grandmother Told Me To Tell You I'm Sorry. I read his books in the wrong order. His newest one, Beartown, is what I read first--and it's very different from his previous books. But I liked it because HOCKEY.

Carve The Mark. The latest from Divergent author Veronica Roth, this book has been on my to-read list since it came out in January, but I finally picked it up when I saw it was 20% off at Target. So, win. This is a very good start to another trilogy, one that I hope doesn't disappoint me like the Divergent one did.  It's hard to describe, but it's good. Trust me. 

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. Yes, the bio that inspired the musical. I'm using the word "inspired" here loosely, because the musical plays fast and loose with a LOT of history (and no, not just the basics, like Thomas Jefferson et al. being black rappers). In fact, the more I read, the more annoyed I got at the musical...but all that aside, the biography is well-written and I encourage people to read it. Hamilton really does deserve to be better known. 

The Seeds of America trilogy: Chains, Forgeand Ashesby Laurie Halse Anderson. The story of the Revolutionary War from two teenage slaves' points of view. Amazingly well-researched, wonderfully written, and totally engaging, they're definite must reads for anyone who loves American history, in particular the Revolutionary War/ Colonial period. 

Isabel is a slave in Rhode Island who was bought by new masters and serves in a house of Loyalists in New York City in 1775. She and her sister are brutally separated by the mistress of the house, who sends her south. Will Isabel ever find her sister again? 

Also in New York, Isabel meets Curzon, who works for a patriot household. He tries to involve Isabel in the fight for independence, but she wants no part of it. The two become fast friends, and their relationship is what makes up the rest of the trilogy. 

And to celebrate my transplant anniversary, I'm giving away a copy of Cultivate! Yayyyyy! Giveaway will run all week next week, with the winner being announced next week. I'm so excited to share this book with y'all! Come back on Monday to get the details!

 

Yarn Along No. 60

books, knitting, yarn alongEmily DeArdoComment

I'm working on a few projects at a time here, which I've never done before, so it's interesting. I've decided that, while I'm making Christmas gifts, "my" knitting (i.e., projects for me) will be done on Sundays/holidays, while the Christmas gifts get first priority. This has worked out pretty well so far, because I'm almost done with the first Christmas scarf. 

The Supermoon Kerchief is coming along nicely, though. I figure I'm about to the halfway point. 

The second Christmas scarf is the same pattern, just a different colorway. And after that, I have a dilemma. I have an idea for a gift, but I've never done the pattern before. It's really simple--just stockinette stitch with slipped stitches at the beginning of each row (A slipped stitch means you just move it from needle to needle, without actually knitting it). But I'm loathe to dive into a gift knit without having tested the pattern first, so to speak, by making one for me. Dilemma time. It's big--the same size as the Supermoon Kerchief--but it's easy, so I figure once I start it, it won't take long. Right now I'm planning the "test knit" to be my vacation project. 

Quince and Co. Sparrow yarn in Truffle, for the "test knit". 

Quince and Co. Sparrow yarn in Truffle, for the "test knit". 

As far as books, you can see them above: Mansfield Park, as part of the great Jane Re-Read, and then The Vengeance of Mothers, the sequel to One Thousand White Women. This book isn't actually out yet--I won an advance reader copy in a Goodreads Giveaway. Love me some free books. :) So that one came in the mail on Monday, and I've started reading it. I read One Thousand White Women awhile ago, so that's made the beginning of this book so of difficult, as I try (in vain) to remember what happened in that one. (I'll have a better review of this one once I'm done with it.) 

So that's the state of the yarn the day after Independence Day. 

 

 

Independence Day Meditation: True Independence

CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

One of the most memorable aspects of my pastoral visit to the United States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America's historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship between religion and culture. At the heart o every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation's founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a comittment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature's God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly oppossed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.

For her part, the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposed unchanging moral truths by proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering (cf. Gaudium et Spes 10). To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, either constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power of majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God. When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitable comes impoverished and falls prey, as the late [St.] Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.  

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truths. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane, and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning. The Church's defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that the law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a "language" which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future. 

The Church's witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation. 

In light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic Community in the United States come to realize the grave threats tot he Church's public moral witness presented by radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres...

No one who looks at these issues realistically can ignore the genuine difficulties which the Church encounters at the present moment. Yet in faith we can take heart from the growing awareness of the need to preserve a civil order clearly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as from the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church's presence and witness in American society. The hope which these "signs of the times" gives us is itself a reason to renew our efforts to mobilize the intellectual and moral resources of the entire Catholic community in the service of the evangelization of American culture and the building of a civilization of love. 

--Pope Benedict XVI 

 

Book Review: Lara Casey's Cultivate

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I know that if you follow me on social media--particularly Instagram--you've seen me almost jumping up and down with excitement about this book. :) And let me tell you, it's merited. 

Lara Casey's first book, Make It Happen was a big step forward for me. After I left my job and began freelancing, I was sort of stuck. I had lots of dreams, but how do I make those reality? Make It Happen helped me, especially in conjunction with Lara's Powersheets--and without it, I never would have written a completed draft of my memoir, never mind started soliciting agents. I've made things happen because of Lara and her book. 

So with Cultivate, I was wondering how the story would be different. How many times can you talk about goal setting, after all? 

This book isn't about goal setting, really. It's about living a cultivate life--a rich life, one that's full of things that matter, and doing the things that God created you to do. That's so different than just checking things off an arbitrary to-do list. Lara talks to her readers from the heart, addressing several big lies--and I've believed some of these! They include: 

  • I have to do it all. 
  • I have to be perfect. 
  • I can't start fresh. 
  • Small steps don't make a difference. 
  • I have to know all the details of the plan ahead

and five more. These make up the chapters of the book. 

Do you recognize yourself in any of these? I sure do. 

In Cultivate, Lara  shares with us how to cultivate a rich, meaningful life--right here, where we are, with what we have. She doesn't ask us to fly to Indonesia and enter an ashram, or run off to some spa in the Berkshires. She asks us to cultivate our lives right where we are

"But I'm afraid to get messy," you might say. "If I start thinking about these things, it'll be stressful and hard and I don't want to do that. Better just to play it safe." 

NO! 

Don't you want that fullest life? I sure do. And with my twelfth transplant anniversary coming up next Tuesday, let me tell you: It's no fun to play it safe. It's no fun to wonder. We are made to do . We are made to live

Lara's books and products have helped me live life big, and Cultivate is the perfect answer to all of us who feel rushed, defeated, unsure...Trust that God is always with us, always loves us, and always has a better plan. 

In the wait, cultivate, Lara says. And it's true. I'm terrible at waiting. I suck at it, to be honest. You would think, having been on a waiting list in order to survive, I'd be OK with waiting for anything else, but not really. 

Lara's message of growing in the wait is a powerful one for me. I want everything right now! I wanted it yesterday! I want it all to be perfect, now! I don't want to wait. 

But in the waiting, God might be doing amazing things that we can't see just yet. 

This book isn't just a book you read--there's a study guide in the back, for sharing with friends; there are journaling prompts and questions. It's a book to really internalize and dialogue with, and ponder and pray with. It's a tool, like a garden spade or a rake. 

Give yourself the gift of a cultivated life. I promise you, you will not regret it. 

Seven Quick Takes

7 Quick Takes, books, politicsEmily DeArdo1 Comment

I. 

I haven't done one of these in awhile, but I thought, since I had a lot of linkage to share, I'd bring it back! :) 

II. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I've been so excited about the launch of Lara Casey's Cultivate book! I'm so excited, in fact, that I'll be giving away a copy next month! So watch for details! Here is my preview of the book (my real review goes up soon!).  If you can't wait for the giveaway, you can get your copy on Amazon here or at your local bookstore!

 

III. 

Since we're talking Health Care (again), I thought I'd share some links on a series I wrote earlier this year: Parts one, two, and three. I might have something else about the Medicaid stuff next week. I know some of you enjoy my policy wonk adventures, but not all of you, so I try to keep it to a minimum. :) 

Essentially, what it comes down to is this--if we want to expand something--or even create something-- we have to make it solvent. I'm reading the Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton right now (the one that inspired Hamilton, although the more I read the book, the more I am annoyed at the liberties the musical took....), and Hamilton wrote something I found prescient: "Creation of debt should always be accompanied by the means of extinguishment." 

Or, in other words--how are we going to pay for this

IV. 

As we're heading into the Fourth of July weekend, here are some of my favorite book/movie suggestions for you. They either talk about the revolutionary war, or revolve around July 4th: 

The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, and the movie, Gettysburg, which is based on the novel. 

Laurie Halse Anderson's Seeds of America trilogy: Chains, Forge, Ashes

The movie 1776 (the musical. It's great! Mr. Feeney is John Adams!) 

The miniseries John Adams, and the David McCullough bio upon which it's based. Also McCullough's 1776, which is amazing. 

V. 

Also, read the declaration, and the preamble to the Constitution: 

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

(And also realize the difference between the two--please?) 

VI. 

If you love candles, but have a hard time finding a good summer scent, then you need this candle from the Laurel Mercantile Co. (It's run by Erin and Ben Napier, of HGTV's Home Town.) It is a divine floral smell that smells just like being outside in the spring and summer

 

 

Not only does it smell great, but it also burns very evenly and cleanly--both big bonuses. And, in fitting with the American theme of this post, it's made in Mississippi, so go American manufacturing! (Which was also something Alexander Hamilton supported. He wrote an entire paper on manufacturing and the sort of things he thought we should make.) 

VII. 

Finally....

I've been seeing a lot of "lose" vs. "loose" on the Internet this week. Y'all know the difference, right? :-p 

 

This moment of June

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There really is just something to love about June. I'm not sure what it is. But it feels like the beginning of summer, of everything just stretching out and opening to vacation season, and summer reading, and just...ahhh

(In general, I don't post toooo much during the summer. It's that whole relaxed vibe. :) But I'll still be here at least once a week.) 

 

Yarn Along No. 59 (We're back!)

knittingEmily DeArdo2 Comments
IMG_5162.JPG

After a crazy long hiatus, we're back to the yarn! 

So, above you see some gorgeous Sparrow yarn in Truffle from Quince and Co. Seriously, isn't it gorgeous? I'm using this to test drive a pattern I want to make for a Christmas gift. Before I make a gift for someone, I make a prototype for me, to make sure I can actually do the pattern (ha!) and make any notes. I don't mind messing up so much on things for me--but I obviously do for gifts for others.  

The yarn came like this....

So I got out my swift and wound it up. 

I ordered more yarn for a Christmas project for my mom, and I have three skeins that need wound today, so it's just all yarn all the time over here. I know it's early to be thinking about Christmas gifts, but when you have to make them, it is not early at all! 

More yarn wound and ready to be made into a Christmas gift!

More yarn wound and ready to be made into a Christmas gift!

As for current projects, I'm still working on the Supermoon Kerchief (also using Sparrow yarn, but this time in the Venice colorway). I'm on the second skein now (out of three), so I'm approaching the halfway mark. I really love working with this pattern and this yarn. Since this is a "for me" thing, I might have to put it aside to start some Christmas gifts. 

 

 

Sketching Summer

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I seem to sketch a lot more during the summer. Not sure why--maybe because there's so many fun things to sketch? Winter gets boring fast. Maybe what I need is a tinted paper sketchbook so I can draw the whites of winter without it being boring? A thought for the next "daily" sketchbook I need. 

I always have my travel sketchbook but I realized recently that I'd been neglecting my big Moleskine Watercolor book. So I got that out and took it to Pittsburgh. I also got my Stillman and Birn Zeta book (my daily book) into my bag for some daily pages. 

The top sketch here is my "daily page" in the Zeta book for June 7. I really love the shading and coloring I was able to get on the mint tea, and I'm glad the cardigan looks  like a piece of clothing. The first few I'd drawn were awful! 

art journal 6.8.17 1.jpeg

 

This one was just fun. I was at a stoplight--a very long one near my house--and I decided to draw this really, really fast with a Tombow marker. I added the black pen lyrics later, at home.  (It can take three light cycles to get through this particular intersection. I had a lot of time.) 

 

 

This is my sketch kit bag. It's a Vera Bradley cosmetic bag that my friend Tiffany gave me a few years ago for Christmas, and I felt it deserved its own sketch! I drew this in the cafeteria at Children's before my first volunteer shift. 

 

When we went to Pittsburgh I knew I'd have a chance to draw some fun things. So I did a few different spreads in both books. 

This is a sketch of a bridge over I-70 E near Zanesville. The flowers in the corner are representative of what grows along the highway in Ohio (clover and ox-eye daisies, in this case). 

 

And since I only have about 8 pages left in my current sketchbook, I ordered a slightly different one for my next "daily" book. This is a softcover Alpha from Stillman and Birn, as opposed to the hardcover Zeta I have now. The paper isn't as thick (150 gsm vs. 270 gsm), but I really like the pages (at least based on the one I've used so far). Like Liz Steel, I do a sketch of my palette on the first page. Not only is it easy, but I love having a reference of what colors are where in the palette at the front of each book! 

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