Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Plain Living

In a couple of months or so there will be a meeting to talk about the amish and their plain living, to get ideas and compare within different communities for applying to a distributist model of community.

Meanwhile I thought I will do some reading and post here also our journey alongside with some paintings.
We left the busy San Francisco city in search of a better life, a simpler life, that was Summer 2005 and with a child and baby we left behind the commodities of a secure job and ventured into God's hands.

 Our first stop was the island of Mallorca, Spain, where I had my best friend experienced in gardening work for disabled people and goat farms, ( We also had a website of plain life and got one response in the whole year!).
But it probably was not our time, God had other plans for us, because after a year we moved back to USA, this time to Madison,Wisconsin, (to have some more opportunities of substitute teacher jobs). We had our third child there and then we left again away from the city, this time closer to a farm area, but yet we still lived in town, (I do not drive, and we thought it would be better to get acquainted with the area while in town).
After one more year we decided to be in Spain for a last chance to make it work there, ( my first niece was born and I wanted to take care of her, since her mom had to work soon), we lived in Barcelona for one year and it was clear that it would be very difficult to overcome the pace of materialism and modernism around there, plus my husband's nationality made it difficult for us as a family group to be adapted to the culture. On top of that I have always kept in my mind the stories of the Old Testament, where the wifes left their land and joined in the land of their husbands, costume which has to have a lot of wisdom in it, besides the obvious practicality.
Finally coming back to the rural town, we have been trying to sell our house for two years, and looking for a place.

It is clear that it has not been God's will for us to be in this farm that I have been envisioning for the past 6 years, and it could be that we have mistakenly been away from the right path, we have been in error in many things and that could have been in itself a stumbling block for us.

 It could also be that God's timing is perfect, and that it had not yet arrived the time for us to be living plain. That is one of the reasons I got very surprised when I heard about a Catholic back to the land movement which supports community and plain living, I thought to myself, maybe God was waiting for the right time to disclose this to us, now that we had let go of the desire of it.

God bless.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Traditions of Lent

The "Vella Quaresma" or old Lent Lady is an image very much used for the seven weeks of Lent. Children would cut one figure out of newspaper and take one leg out for every week of Lent. She carries usually a cod fish in her hand and sometimes her feet are depicted as salty sardines ( arengades).

The time for Lent started just the last day of carnival, the big manequin of carnival, dressed with party favors and many colors, was burned or buried, and the children would come to have snack with sardines, they would put them in a stick and cook them in an open fire, eat them and bury the bone of it, celebration that was called the burying of the sardine on Ash Wednesday.

Fasting is one of the aspects for this time until Easter ( Pasqua), and the tradition observes no eating meat neither eggs on Ash Wednesday, Saturdays of Lent and the regular abstaining on Fridays kept during the whole liturgical year. But the Feast of Saint Joseph ( 19 March) brings a break on this season, with special treats and desserts. The tipical one in Catalunya is the Crema catalana, a cream presented usually with broiled sugar on top.

2 cups whole milk
1 cup cream
1 vanilla bean
4 strips orange peel (can also use lemon)
1 cinnamon stick – optional
8 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
½ cup turbinado or raw sugar
3 tbs corn starch

  1. Bring the milk, cream, vanilla, orange rind and cinnamon (if using) to a boil over low heat.
  2. Remove from the heat and let it cool down.
  3. Strain the milk and cream mixture to remove the vanilla bean, orange peel strips and cinnamon stick.
  4. Mix the egg yolks and ½ cup of regular sugar until you obtain a thick creamy mixture.
  5. Dissolve the cornstarch in 4 tbs of milk mixture, the stir it back into the remaining milk.
  6. Mix the milk in with the eggs and sugar, place it in a double boiler pan (or in a heat resistant glass bowl in a pan of water baño Maria style) over medium low heat, and stirring consistently until the cream thickens, do not let it boil.
  7. Cool the cream and pour into the ramekins or cazuelas.
  8. Chill for 24 hours or overnight.
  9. When ready to serve sprinkle 1 tbs of the raw sugar over each ramekin or cazuela, heat the iron and press it against the sugar until it is burnt. You may also use a torch or place it under the broiler in the oven.
  10. Serve immediately.
Otherwise the traditional food during Lent are sardines, especially whem mounted in a "coca de sardines" and the "bunyols de vent", a pastry made with flour, olive oil, and air, hence its name.

Coca de sardines
 During Dia de Rams, Palm Sunday, families would get together and dress with their best clothes, children would go hand by hand with their grandparents and all the relatives to the nearby park, and every child would hold a branch of palm tree, decorated with colorful candy and braided with laces.

Bunyols de vent

Finally Easter weekend came and in some regions the tradition is very strong and loud: in Aragon, they have the drums procession, which starts at 0h. on Holy Thursday with the "breaking of the hour", the drums do not interrupt playing until Saturday at 2pm, and then the silence created in the village is breathtaking .
Archivo:SemanaSanta Urrea.jpg
On Easter Sunday, the families would gather and once more on Monday for a festive meal, Dia de la Mona, when godparents would celebrate with their godchildren, renew their promise, and bring a special cake with eggs called la Mona de Pasqua.
Mona de Pasqua

All and all, the children that lived these traditions, witnessed a powerful season, from very ascetic eating and intense prayer during Lent to the great festivities and celebrations on Easter. Food, family and Church were always an anchor to the attittude of the soul, and we intend to recreate this year all these ingredients to bring us closer to God, which is the main purpose of the underlying traditions.