30 June 2009

Urgent Prayer Request

A very dear friend of ours, who lives in our building and hitches a ride to Mass with us almost every Sunday, was mugged and shot in the chest last night, about half a mile from where we live. She was house-sitting for a friend, and had gone out to run an errand. She is in the hospital in critical care--the bullet punctured her esophagus and one of her lungs. Pray for her speedy return to health, and for the man or men who perpetrated this crime against her.

Women and girls--I beg you, do not go out alone at night! We live in a good neighborhood. A lot of people walk around at night. Children live here. But it is not safe, especially for a petite young woman who was alone after dark. We were with her just an hour before--she could have asked us for a ride, but she didn't. Again, I beg you, no matter how safe you think your neighborhood is, do not go out alone at night!

Our friend's name is Rosario. It might be appropriate to ask her patroness, Our Lady of the Rosary, to intercede for her faithful daughter.

27 June 2009

Free Things Are Cool

Archery lesson: free
Equipment rental: free
Changing Facebook status to "has learned archery. +2": priceless.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, you should definitely check out the Rancho Park Archery Range. Every Saturday there is a free lesson for beginners, along with a safety course mandatory for all archers new to the range. After you've completed the safety course, you can come any weekend on Saturday morning (about 9:30 to noon, when the safety course finishes) or Sunday afternoon (12-2) and use the range and their equipment absolutely FREE. Parking is also free. The range was built with money from the Olympics (can't remember what year--early 80s?), and is maintained by the volunteer instructors and donations from users. The instructors were really friendly and helpful, and it is kid-friendly (children must be at least 8 years old and accompanied by an adult). It is probably also handicap-accessible, although the path to the range is not paved.

Unlike with the rifle, my husband shot better than I did today. All 16 of my shots were on the target, though, and three were, well, in the vicinity of the bullseye. We will definitely go back and do it again! It was very fun. As I said, if you live in Los Angeles, you have no excuse not to go! Do be on time, though, because once class has started they won't let you in--you have to be there for the whole safety lecture. Seriously--go! How cool is it to be able to say you can shoot a bow?

21 June 2009

Brick by Brick

First of all, some congratulations are in order to a dear friend of both Lizzy's and mine. Our former schoolmate Joe is now Father Joe. You can read an interview with him here. Even before he entered the seminary, we called him "Cardinal" because he knew so much about the faith. (Seriously. Should Fr. Z ever retire from blogging, I think Joe could fill his shoes.) May God be with you, Father Previtali!

Second of all, last night my husband and I went to dinner at the rectory. We discussed Friday night's Solemn High Mass with our pastor. He was very impressed by how beautifully the visiting Norbertines said the Mass, and also by how well-attended it was. (This is the second time we've had a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and we had a packed house both times.) Monsignor expressed an interest in learning to say Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and asked one of the Norbertines, who was at dinner, how long he thought it would take to learn. Please keep this in your prayers, that Monsignor will follow through with his interest in learning the Extraordinary Form! It can only be a good thing for more priests to learn it.

20 June 2009

Prayer Requests

I had breakfast with my half-brother this morning, and he had some bad news: he's been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The diagnosis was a big shock for a couple of reasons, mainly that he is twenty years younger than most people diagnosed with this, and that there is absolutely no family history of cancer of any kind. Virtually everyone in our shared background (Dad's side) has had diabetes, and there is some heart disease, but no cancer. It's perhaps doubly scary because his wife has a chronic health condition (which isn't currently making her sick, but could at any moment), and they have three children under the age of nine. Fortunately, his lymphoma is not currently causing symptoms, and the long-term prognosis is pretty good: highly treatable, and even a chance of being cured, provided that it has not spread to his bone marrow yet (they are testing for this next month).

My dad's younger sister is in the hospital. She had a stroke earlier this year, and for a while was doing well, but she has been back in the hospital for a couple of weeks now. She had pneumonia, and they anesthetized her to drain the fluid from her lungs. She has not been responsive since then (although no one has said she is in a coma), and her kidneys are failing. Relatives who have been able to visit her in the hospital have said that she does not seem to be fighting for her life--she seems to have given up.

Please pray that if it is God's will, my aunt will pass peacefully and be taken swiftly to heaven. She is not Catholic, but she has always been a good and kind lady. Please also pray for my brother's peace of mind; he feels a bit as though he is waiting for the axe to fall.

17 June 2009

Never Thought I'd Say This...

...but I went to a shooting range today, and shot a gun. Two guns actually: a Ruger 10/22 (a common, inexpensive .22 caliber rifle, the sort of thing a hunter might use to shoot rabbits), and a very pretty six-shooter that belonged to a nice gentleman down the line a bit. He saw us taking turns with the rifle and asked whether we'd like to try his six-shooter. He's been part of a cowboy quick-draw group for a few months now, and I guess he likes showing off his weapons, or he liked the look of us, or something. I didn't see him make the same offer to anyone else.

I didn't do that well with the six-shooter. It had a significant kick-back to it that surprised me every time (I shot it ten times), and I think I was nervous handling what was obviously a very nice and very expensive gun. I wasn't exactly shooting wildly--every shot made contact with the paper target, at least--but only two of ten shots were in the orange center-section of the target. This was at pretty close range.

The Ruger was much easier for me. It has almost no kick, and with a scope it was a piece of cake to aim. I shot about 80 rounds through it, at both a paper target and some metal targets placed at different distances. At the larger metal targets at 50 yards I landed about 7 out of 10 shots! I got about 4 out of 10 shots at larger targets at 65 yards. Not at all bad for my first time--in fact, I did slightly better than my husband, who has Boy Scout badges for both rifle and shotgun, and has been shooting on a couple of occasions more recently.

I'm quite pleased with myself, a bit surprised at how well I did and how little afraid I was. I'm also pleased that everyone at the range was really nice and normal. I think because of what I've seen on television or in the media, I grew up with a notion of gun-owners as oddballs, and shooting ranges as potentially very scary places. Well, the Angeles Gun Range isn't any scarier than anyplace else in Los Angeles, and the people there aren't any weirder than anyplace else in Los Angeles. I've discovered something new that I'm pretty decent at, and I had fun. I'll probably go again.

15 June 2009


My husband and I went hiking last Saturday. To those who know us, this may seem a little odd--we are not known to be the outdoorsy type. Hiking is a relatively new thing for us, at least in our adult lives. My husband was a boy scout as a child and went on lots of hikes and camping trips, and I participated in a fair number of short hikes and camp-outs myself as a kid. But I haven't walked more than a few feet into a forest in the last six or eight years, and my husband about the same.

On Memorial Day, we thought it would be fun to rent some bicycles and ride up and down the broad paved path that runs along the beach in Santa Monica. We didn't realize that the entire population of Los Angeles County also wanted to go to the beach that day. In despair of finding parking, we abandoned our beach plans and decided to go a bit further up the road to Topanga State Park. That was gleefully uncrowded, and we hiked about a mile and a half on a circular trail--quite enough for a warm day.

We liked it. A lot. So we made plans to hike again. This time we drove up to Angeles National Forest. I have to admit, I always laughed about Angeles National Forest, because the only part of it I had seen was the part that you drive through on Highway 5, which has no trees. Lots of little scrubby shrubs, but nothing more than four feet tall. "Angeles National Forest?" I'd say, "What, exactly, makes it a forest?"

Well, there are plenty of trees further east. We paid $5 for a daily parking pass (cutely called an "Adventure Pass"), and found the entrance to the Switzer picnic area--not as easy as it sounds, because the mountains were shrouded in a heavy fog and we couldn't see more than ten feet in front of us.

See? Fog! In June!

We parked the car and hopped out, with our little backpack in tow. (We didn't have a backpack before, so I'd made a quick trip to K-Mart and bought the cheapest one they had--it is now the only thing we own with a sports team's logo on it.)

The hike is about 4.5 miles round trip. My husband tried to tell me it was 6 miles, but I looked it up when we got home and it's 4.5. A lot of it is up- and down-hill, though, so it feels like 6 miles! The waterfall at the end isn't spectacular, but it's very pretty, and a nice little payoff for the trip.

We're a little out of shape, and were both sore the next day, but it was a fun trip and I'm sure we'll go hiking again soon. Exercise is a lot more fun when there are pretty trees to look at and streams to pick your way across.

11 June 2009

Sweet Cherry Cobbler

Summer, for me anyway, always brings thoughts of summer fruit. I buy apples, oranges, bananas and grapes all year long, but cherries can only be had at my local grocery store during the summer. It's just as well, because although I love fresh cherries, I hate pitting them. I probably wouldn't buy them very often even if they could be had all year round.

Last week I bought a bag of fresh cherries. We had some with ice cream the first day, and I had some on my cereal the next morning. I was staying with my parents and grandfather, and though they happily ate the cherries I pitted, no one else was eating the cherries unless I served them. Cherries are a fragile fruit and don't keep for very long--if any of them are bruised they are likely to get moldy, and mold spreads quickly. So by the third day of the cherries sitting in the fridge, less than half of them eaten, I began to get worried and decided to take drastic action--time to bake!

I made the following cobbler, and it turned out so well that I decided to make it again today (fortunately, we in Los Angeles have something called "June Gloom," meaning that it is cloudy and cool for most of the day for a good portion of the summer--perfect for summer baking).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

1-1 1/2 lbs fresh sweet cherries (I used Bing cherries), pitted
4 tablespoons of sugar (or your preferred sweetener, to taste)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon orange pips or 1 teaspoon orange juice
2 teaspoons brandy (grand marnier or rum would also work)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until the cherries all appear to have a bit of the liquid and spices on them. You can use more sugar if you like it sweeter, but cherries are naturally fairly sweet and I prefer to let the fruit speak for itself. A lot of people will pour a mixture of cornstarch and water over the fruit in a cobbler, so that the fruit juice thickens into a nice sauce, and I sometimes do this. It wasn't necessary for the cherries though--they were fine on their own.

Coat the inside of a medium-sized shallow baking dish with butter. Yes, use butter; unless you have a serious health problem that precludes it, life is too short to use Pam Spray or shortening or whatever in your baking. It doesn't taste the same.

Pour the cherry mixture into the buttered baking dish.


I am lazy, and do not like to make cobbler topping from scratch if I don't have to. I generally use some kind of pancake or general baking mix. For this one I used Bisquick. You can substitute any baking mix you think will work.

1 1/2 cups Bisquick
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange juice
Some milk--I didn't actually measure it (yay for intuitive cooks, huh?). Slowly alternate adding milk and stirring until the mixture is slightly on the runny side but doesn't immediately drip off the spoon. It should be about the consistency of pancake or waffle batter--runnier than biscuit dough, but thick enough not to run down into the filling too much.

Stir in a bowl until all ingredients are blended. It might be slightly lumpy--this is ok. Pour the contents into the baking dish on top of the cherry mixture. Don't worry if a few cherries stick up through the topping, or if the topping doesn't quite cover the cherries around the edge of the baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes, or until the topping is cooked through and slightly brown on top. Serves 8.