Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Final Countdown!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

All Soul's Day 2019 and Icon Mounting

We had an excellent All Saints Day into All Souls Day weekend.  Saturday we hosted a baby shower sprinkle for a wonderful family that is having their first girl after 5 boys.  To distract the children we went to a Russian Food Festival.

To cap the weekend off, I mounted one of the many icon prints I have needed to take care of for the chapel.  It seems appropriate that I tested out my woodworking skills on an icon of St. Joseph.  A few ruff edges and imperfections, but all things considered, I think it looks pretty good.

St. Joesph, Pray for Us.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

New Candlesticks

We are approaching a year of our Chapel in its current form.  To celebrate, the most beautiful candlesticks replaced our pewter and rust candlesticks that have chipped and flaked since day one.  I would be intrigued to compare these inexpensive "San Pietro" style candlesticks from Sudbury with some of the older ones I see in various churches.  As far as I can tell, the brass is true, and are every bit as lovely as ones that cost 10s or 100s more.  They are solid proof that if you keep an eye out, you can find worthy things for your home chapel/prayer corner without breaking the bank.  So often the bulk made things for home use are more plasticky and not much better than tchotchkes.

Also, I know in the first picture that the burse is crooked, but my 3-year old insisted on helping last night and he was so proud, I don't have the heart...

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Svíčková and St. Wenceslaus

Dedicated to my little sister Alžběta who has never had a poor critique of my Czech roast.

This is an excellent time of year for my family, both of our Confirmation Saints are celebrated within days of each other: St. Wenceslaus and St. Therese of Lisieux.  We also get to celebrate the great traditional feast of Michaelmas / The Feast of the Archangels.  Sept. 28th is my eldest daughter's baptismal day, so she also renewed her baptismal promises that evening after vespers.  Good Times for all.

Every year, we have a Czech feast, and most years we post pictures and my little sister asks me for recipes, and I tell her I will get them sent.  She has been very patient with me. 

Svíčková na Smetaně 

Basically marinated beef in cream sauce, we had been eating this by the pound from Bohemian Cafe long before they even thought about closing their doors.  The problem with the recipe is that it is a matter of proportions, time, and what is available.


Some roast like meat, sirloin is classic, tenderloin is tasty, chuck is just fine
Root vegetables: onion, carrots, celery, parsnips.
Seasoning: salt, peppercorns, allspice, marjoram, bay leaves
Liquids: Vinegar (I like Apple Cider), Topping off liquid (I use apple juice if the 3-year-old prince is not looking.
Sour cream... and corn starch..... and some milk type liquid...

If you have days to marinate, use a little less vinegar.

If you have a day and a half to 2 days:

Lard the beef with the bacon: cut into the meat, force bacon inside.

Season roast with salt and pepper.... just for good measure  

Stick in a non-reactive container or plastic bag with cut-up vegetables.  

Fill halfway with vinegar and halfway with topping off liquid.

Use your common sense.  you want the liquid to be in contact with everything, but you don't want to stick it in a giant metal stockpot, so don't chop up 12 onions and 2 large parsnips and then use a whole jug of apple cider vinegar for a 2-pound roast.

When the time has come, remove the roast from its bath, sear on all sides and place in a pan so that when you put the vegetable bath in, it only goes halfway up the roast.

Roast at 350ºF till it's done.  Seriously, it depends on your cut of beef.  

Take the roast out and let it set.  Strain the juice from the veggies, discard the veggies.  Bring the jus to a boil.  On the side mix some milk or water, or almond milk with cornstarch and add to boiling liquid to thicken.  Season to taste.  Remove from heat and stir in 2 spoonfuls of sour cream.

While all this is going on, make some potato dumplings that are the size of your child's forearm and cook them

And serve
We didn't have sourcream that the Eldest could have this year.... so it doesn't have that classic look to the gravy.... my bad.

Betty, I am sorry this was so late in coming..... if you can even call it a recipe.

Eat Kolaces for desert

Saturday, September 28, 2019

A Moment of Spontaneous Prayer

This is why we have this space... for beautiful moments like these.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Power of a Word

I don't know about some of these companies' mottos and such.  I don't care who makes it my way, or who has the spiciest chicken or whatever the king is doing.  What has made an impact on my life are the simple words of the Saints, calling us to do something better.  St. Mother Teresa's call to respond to Jesus's plea on the cross of "I Thirst" and St. Benedict's rule guiding us to moderation and to strive to do all things for Christ, That in all things God may be Glorified, (Ut in Omnibus Glorificetur Deus); these are real and meaningful, and things I can impress upon my children.  So, ahead of the swish, the apple, or the golden arches, place the words of the Saints; if you paint them on your hearts, you give your children a chance to paint them with their lives.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Candle Making

In my opinion, beeswax candles are incomparable.   They smell better, they are better for you, they are a natural product of little worker bees, etc.  Even though rubrics concerning candles for liturgical use have changed, and the vast majority of churches use either 51% beeswax candles, or some varying sorts of oil filled things made to look like candles, I don't think the reasons to use them have changed.

It has to be awkward to read/sing the Exultat at Easter Vigil and know you are using the wrong thing... particular these parts...

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.

I know there are financial constraints, etc.  It is unfortunate, but it does not have to be the case for your own home.  Make yourself some candles, get them blessed, enjoy.

Over the years we have collected a fair bit of equipment, and made candles a few different ways.  Lots of people go the hand- dipped method.  My problem with it is that you always have to have a few pounds melted, you never use up everything.  Yes, you could dip, and then pour others.  My other problem is that I love consistency, and I just can't get them as consistent with dipping (maybe SOME people can.)

I have moved away from the tin tapers because I fought with them too much and silicon/polypropllethan (whatever plastic they are) are so much easier.

Start with good wicks.  We use Atkins and Pearce square wicks that are made for beeswax, and they are super.  They are very consistent and burn very well.  You will have to test wick sizes to match candle size and wax type.  For these I used #1/0 for the tapers and #1 for the colonials.

Use beeswax.  There are lots of sources, and I'm sure you can find some local too.  I like having a stock of the pastilles in both bleached and unbleached varieties.  It makes quick candle making sessions possible.  Ultimately, the local beeswax is going to be more expensive, but will be worth it just for the smell.  Depending on how much and how many you burn will effect you choice.  We have some sources on the resource page.

Get your mez together.  Just like in the cooking world, the concept of Mise en place applies here as well.  When we started making candles, we only made them outside, but since we got a handle on it all, I make them inside with minimal clean up or mess.  You will need molds, a thermometer, a melting vat, a spoon, and a double boiler.

My super fancy double boiler.

Don't melt wax directly, it doesn't boil.  It goes from liquid to flash fire.  Keep the temp below 180F.  I usually poor at 165-170F . Color starts getting weird at 180F.

Prepare molds for pouring by threading a wick through the base and securing it at the top, bobby pins work well, and move it all to the side so it is easier to pour.

No pictures of the first pour... I scared all my helpers away.

You will notice that the wax contracts and that after 5 minutes or so there is a void at the bottom.  Fill that back up, but don't go over the cooled section of the original pour (the white in the pictures above.  If you do, two things will happen.  1. You will have a weird looking end with a place that is liable to crack, and 2. You may get wax running down between the cooled part of the candle and the mold, disfiguring the final product.

I was making 7/8" Standard Tapers and 1" Straight Colonials.  They take about 35 minutes to cool.  When you pull them out, I like to leave enough wick with which to wick the next candle, and secure it with a bobby pin before cutting the candle loose.

They will still be warm and capable of warping, so hang them on your wife's cast iron wall hanging rack.

I then like to weigh my candles, especially if I am using new wax or molds.

12" x 3/4" Taper      = 2.6oz
10" x 3/4" Taper      = 2oz
10" x 1"    Colonial = 2.6oz
6" x 1"      Colonial = 1.5oz

I like to polish them with wax paper/parchment paper or panty hose before I call them done, It gets rid of any roughness, I get to inspect for imperfections, and it gives a cleaner finish.

At this point, I get them blessed, and I keep them in a cool spot.  We posted here about Candlemas and the blessing used there.  The older blessing outside of Candlemas can also be used, and... I find it very comforting.  Here it is in English:

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord. All: Who made heaven and earth. 
P: The Lord be with you. All: And with your spirit

Let us pray. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, bless + these candles at our lowly request. Endow them, Lord, by the power of the holy + cross, with a blessing from on high, you who gave them to mankind in order to dispel darkness. Let the blessing that they receive from the sign of the holy + cross be so effectual that, wherever they are lighted or placed, the princes of darkness may depart in trembling from all these places, and flee in fear, along with all their legions, and never more dare to disturb or molest those who serve you, the almighty God, who live and reign forever and ever. All: Amen.

They are sprinkled with holy water.