Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chocolate Birthday Cake

My daughter, the gourmet cook, continues to come up with creative ways to decorate cakes, and I had to show off this picture of her July creation for my son's birthday: using the new Skittles Chocolate Mix, she decorated this chocolate cake. I believe her method was this: she first did a row around the edge of the cake of Skittles ranging them from dark to light over and over again. Then she began a new row inside but shifted every color over one step. "It makes it look like a snail shell," she said.
Allow me to gush: isn't she creative?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Plastic-Elimination Campaign: Spice Rack

Not being a gourmet cook like my eleven-year-old, I tend to buy basic spices that come in large 99-cent jars from the dollar store. But of course I can't stand having the jars on my counter. So some time ago I started collecting empty Trader Joe's balsalmic vinegar jars. I love the shape and the cork stoppers. I find they're wonderful for spices: the narrow neck takes the place of a shaker top. I do have a set of shakers for smaller spices I picked up at a flea market. I have them arranged on an IKEA shelf that has been with us since the early days of our marriage. Someday, I will get custom made labels for my spices from one of those custom-made label places, but for now I'm happy with a permanent marker, even though it does wipe off.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Favorite Things: Serving Pedestals

I admit, I love silver and I love dishes on pedestals. I was first introduced to the beauty of pedestals at a homey hole-in-the-wall pizzeria, where the pizza was served on pedestals so that even six diners could gather around the restarant's diminuitive tables to eat. I actually own one restaurant pedestal, bought from a diner going-out-of business. I happened upon the other two in separate thrift stores: they cost about $8.00 each. Right now I don't use them very often, but they always stay on my counter. Alas, the glass cake stand I blogged about has met its demise, but its top remains with us, at least as of this blogging, as you can see from the photo above.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Purse Diary: Done!

I'm glad I managed to finish the purse before the end of the summer! I have to say, I think it turned out pretty well. The bright colors are uplifting to me now, and I have hopes of carrying this purse into the fall. And because to the button-on cover, I can change it again for another look later on. :) Thanks for those of you who were following my little project: it's wonderful to be able to chalk it up as: done!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What Can I Give God?

I have to say I'm becoming very fond of the book series that my friend Ben Hatke is doing with my other friend Neal Lozano. I just received their third book in the mail, and it's gorgeous, with a cover that reminds me of summertime. If you're not familiar with the books, visit the site to see their trilogy of books, Will You Bless Me? and Can God See Me in the Dark? Gently ecumenical in text but thoroughly Catholic in sensibility, these hardcover books with their handsome typesetting would be wonderful gifts for the children in your life. Enjoy!

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Spiritual Bouquet

I had the honor of attending the funeral of Thom and Marc Girard on July 5th, and when I went up, I presented the family with a spiritual bouquet of prayers from the teens on the Fairy Tale Novel Forum (Marc was a member). The night before, I was inspired to create a bouquet card out of paper to present the bouquet. It was fairly simple: I printed out the prayer promises from each of the members (for example, five rosaries and two Masses) in a decorative font in blocks of four to a 8.5x11" sheet of paper. On the reverse side, I printed out images from the comprehensive J.W. Waterhouse site of ladies and girls gathering flowers. I rolled each piece of paper into a cone, and put them into a larger cone I made out of card stock. It took a little bit of fixing to get them to all stay inside nicely (I recommend pushing them down as far as possible) but with some care they made a nice-looking, if fragile, bouquet. I attached a ribbon to the cone with floral wire to finish.
Thanks to all of you who sent prayers and donations to the Girard family: I know they are so grateful. The funeral itself was moving, almost beyond words. I will be blogging about it on my Updates page.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Passing of a Young Knight

Marc Girard, 18, looked like your ordinary Catholic teenager. But he was not.

He had a Facebook page. He was a part of the Fairy Tale Novel Forum (even though, like most guys, he hadn't read the books :) ). He was careless about spelling. He hated having his picture taken. His avatar was a man making funny faces. To his four younger siblings and to most of his friends, I am sure he sometimes seemed very ordinary. Even though he took his Catholic faith seriously, and sometimes challenged his high school friends on different issues.

His friend Paul Ethier was surprised when Marc told him that he was planning to join the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, who had a friary near the Girard home in Griswold, CT. Marc was accepted as a postulant, and was going to join the Maine, NY friary in August.

The Girard family had been through a lot. Last year they suffered two hardships in a row: first, their home burned down. The only thing in Marc's room that survived the fire was his picture of Padre Pio.

The family lived on a trailer through the winter, but then this spring, the property was foreclosed.

Marc's father Thomas was working hard to keep the family together. In his free time he helped the Friars of the Immaculate on their outreachs: this past spring he was "Grand Master" knight for their group, The Knights of Lepanto, as Catholic fathers and the friars "initiated" their sons into Catholic knighthood. The photo at the top shows Marc carrying a "penance pack" of 15 pounds of rocks during the "intiation."

Thomas found a new house for the family, and they were going to move on the first day of July, yesterday, in fact.

The day before the big move, Thomas took his two sons, Marc and Lucas and daughter Hannah swimming at a pond down the street from their old house. There was an island a short distance from the shore, and they decided to swim out to the island.

Marc took his younger brother Lucas, 11, along and they swam safely to the island. Mr. Girard took their daughter Hannah, age 7, in his arms and came along behind them.

Hearing his sister Hannah screaming, Marc turned back and the boys saw her bobbing in the water. Their father was gone. Marc stopped several feet before reaching the island. He sent Lucas ahead and went back for his father and Hannah.

Marc swam out to Hannah. He pushed her towards shore until she was safe, told her to pray, and then dove back in to find their father.

He died trying to save him.

Rescue personnel speculate that Mr. Girard died of a heart attack suffered while swimming. Marc was brought to the hospital, barely alive. His mother Carol, some of his friends, and the Friars of the Immaculata prayed with him. He received the Annointing of the Sick and was blessed with a relic of St. Padre Pio. Then at 1:50 AM, on the Feast of the Precious Blood, he died.

It is terrifying how fast death can come. Earlier this past month, Marc was on the forum (screen name: The Illustrious Marceg) and on his blog, joking and laughing with his friends, running for "President" on the forum against Barak Obama and Mr. Darcy, and offering "words of wisdom" about following one's vocation:

Topic: Lord, what are You calling me to do? (Read 460 times) Illustrious Marceg
member is offline
Joined: Feb 2008
Gender: Male
Posts: 30 Re: Lord, what are You calling me to do?
Jun 19, 2008, 10:35am
I was so happy to find a thred wich focased on vocations. Just some words of wisdom, First, you are so right when you say long and short term vocation. Like being a good student was mine and being a good son, but now that I'm done with school. It's now to be a good son as well as a good friend. In August I will be leaving to enter the FI (Fransican Friars of the Immaculate) and am very excited about doing so. The thing is though, in my case, I'm almost poitive that this is Our Lords will for me, but as I grow closer and closer to the day i leave, I get spiritually attacked more and more (with emotions and worries such... I'm not talking about Emily Rose stuff ). I was warned by two very holy Friars about temptation and think it would be very helpful to everyone on this fourm especally for those who are looking into religious life. And that is that you will be tempted in ways you didn't think were possible, and if you do end up entering religious life it's still pretty hard. Its the transistion of being more contempt and 'unplugging' your self from the world. Many of the Saints went trough temptation and trial so just be prepaired and persivere. This also goes for those who are asking the question "what do you want from me". Satan will try to lead you against your vocation, just pray, hope, and don't worry and you'll end up doing His will.
Marc was ready to follow his call from God. But this week, he was called to be a hero. And he answered, without hesitation.

I am so sorry that Marc couldn't save his father, and that he couldn't save himself. But I am struck by his courage, and I will always remember him. Marc's friends were unanimous in calling him, immediately and from the start, a true knight.

I'm a novelist: I write modern adventures in which young adults carelessly tagged as "knights" and "ladies" battle modern demons and dragons. My friends and I play games and hold ceremonies similar to that of the Knights of the Lepanto: serious but always a bit tongue in cheek. We have to ask ourselves at some point: is any of it real? Are we really knights and ladies, or are we just moderns playing an odd game?

And then life overtakes us, and for a moment I recognize that for some of us at least, it is real. For Marc, it was real. He truly attained knighthood.

Just now I went on the Fairy Tale Forum and voted that Marc be elected president-forever of the Forum. Post mortem yes, but I think his qualifications are out of this world.

I love to write about young men who are heroes: it's one reason why I retell fairy tales. Marc Girard is a hero to me, a real knight of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart. I am so honored that he was part of our little online group and that our paths intersected for a short time.

Please pray for Carol Girard, and for the remaining children, Adam,17, Jaqueline, 15, Lucas, 11, and Hannah, 7. Pray especially for Lucas, who witnessed the entire tragedy.

As the Girard family has been under such financial stress, I can only imagine that this tragedy has left them even more at risk. I would like to ask the Christian community to consider helping them during this hard time. I know how much it helped our family when we suffered the loss of our son Joshua: please let this family know that they are not suffering alone.

Condolescences and donations can be sent to:
Carol Girard c/o the Ethier Family
133 Lake Shore Drive
Pascoag, Rhode Island

UPDATE: a fund has been set up for the Girards at the local Bank of America.
Bank of America
590 West Main St (Rt 82)
Norwich, CT 06360

Until I find out if they have a way to make donations online, I will continue to collect donations
through my PayPal account and send them to the Bank of America fund.

If you would like to make a donation through Paypal, you can send a donation to me at or use the button below. Attach a note or send an email to me saying that your donation is for the Girard family and specify the amount in your email. I will make sure it gets to them.

My husband and I attended the funeral at St. Mary's Church in Connecticut. It was beautiful. I hope to post more about it later.

For more about the Girard family, see this link from the Friars of the Immaculate.

UPDATE: Since some of you have asked, by all means feel free to copy or excerpt this post for your own blog or email.

St. Padre Pio, pray for us. The first martyrs of Rome, pray for us.

To donate to the Girard family via my paypal account, click below.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Bowl of Cherries

If life was a bowl of cherries, it would be sweet indeed. We went cherry picking at Hartland Orchards on Sunday (we managed to hit the last day of cherry picking and the first day of blueberry picking at the same time: what a bonus!). I wish I had bought my camera: I don't think I ever appreciated before how red cherries are: almost too red to be believed. Red cherries filmed by pale green leaves glowing against perfect blue skies was a sight I would have loved to capture.

So I am settling for this more prosaic shot of cherries in a bowl, whose subtle variations of red are still enchanting.

Also this photo documents my latest conquest: spotting a good price on a set of vintage green Hull pottery! I am happily awash in green bowls these days.