Thursday, December 12, 2019

awaiting the day

I was mixing a batch of cupcakes today when I heard a metallic "clunk". There was a screw on the counter. The KitchenAid was still running and it took me a while to find the space where it belonged. Check your mixers once in a while for loose screws!

We had two days of warm weather and plenty of rain, and our lovely snow disappeared. But then it got cold on Wednesday morning and snowed again, more than the weathermen thought it would, so it's white once more, and cold. I went outside that morning at work to get the newspaper and grabbed my little camera.

Later, the sun came out.

Today was Frank Sinatra's birthday  anniversary - how could I forget? Other Catholics know this to be the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe; I know it's Sinatra's birthday.

The little orphan has been howling and acting strangely. It took us a bit to realize what the problem is, poor mite. She is six months old and needs to be spayed; her appointment is in a month. She still seems so small!

We've been singing this in church recently.

O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
and sadness flee away.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

prayer of St. Ambrose

Yesterday was the feast of St. Ambrose. He wrote this prayer:

God, creator of all things
and ruler of the heavens, fitting
the day with beauteous light
and the night with the grace of sleep:
May rest restore our slackened limbs
to the exercise of toil,
lighten our wearied minds,
and relieve our anxious preoccupations.
Now that the day is over and night has begun,
we, your devotees, sing our hymn,
offering thanks and begging
that you would help us in our sinfulness.
May the depths of our hearts magnify you,
may our harmonious voices sound you,
may our chaste affections love you,
may our sober minds adore you.
Thus, when the deep gloom of night
closes in upon the day,
our faith may not know darkness
and the night may shine with faith.
Do not permit our minds to slumber;
it is sinfulness that knows slumber.
May faith, which refreshes the chaste, 
temper sleep's embrace.
When the depths of our hearts have been stripped of unclean thoughts,
let them dream of you,
nor let worry, the stratagem of the envious foe,
disturb us as we rest.
We beseech Christ and the Father,
and the Spirit of Christ and the Father,
who are one and omnipotent.
O Trinity, assist us who pray to you!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

golden fence

It seems our neighbor treated his fence with something which makes it golden, especially in the light of morning.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Advent joy

"There is a joy in the Advent prayers that nothing on earth can equal, because they are so perfectly in accord with the spirit of those who did receive the Redeemer. They might be the very words of Mary, or Joseph, or the shepherds. Following these prayers yearly, as the Church urges us to do, makes us one in spirit with the humble ones who saw him and understood. It makes the Incarnation a living thing, not an incident of the long ago but a tremendously important part of our lives which recurs again and again.

Two thousand years are nothing in the eyes of God, who is eternal. Today we are as certainly given the opportunity of receiving or rejecting him as were the people of Bethlehem on a starry night long ago when the Word was made flesh and came to dwell among us."

Monday, December 2, 2019

still snowing

This is the way December should be. A white month. Of course, it's only the second, but it's been snowing all day, just flakes here and there, but enough to make a blanket and now it's gotten heavier.

I went across the brook the other day to try and find something of interest to stick into the urn on the front step. I cut something that's probably spruce and two dried hydrangea heads. I'll keep looking, because it still needs more. A little here, a little there.

Not very wintery-looking, but beautiful.

I was cleaning in the bathroom and got a sudden notion to wash the window. It occurred to me that just because it was too cold to wash the outside, I could do the inside and the storm windows (which we keep in all year). This was a novel idea. I mean, window-washing weather is over, so I thought I just couldn't clean them till spring. You see how hard it is for me to think outside the box when it comes to housework. Anyway, it was fun, opening the window in the snowing and blowing to remove the storm windows, and then quickly shutting it again. It looks so much better! Never too old to learn (something obvious).

 see the cobwebs? gone now!

After I cleaned the shower curtain liner, the supervisor came along to survey my work.

Where I live, December is a month eclipsed by Christmas. Or, one could say it takes its identity from its association with Christmas. And as such, in my imagination it is fresh and white all month. But in reality, it isn't. The temperatures are usually mild and start getting near freezing around the time of the solstice, although this week temps in the thirties are predicted for every day. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

an Advent snow

Well, it's December first already, and it also happens to be the first day of Advent. Outside it is overcast and cold. It feels raw; it's going to snow! How amazingly convenient - there's nothing like a bit of snow to bring you into the holiday spirit, especially since Thanksgiving was just the other day and it's hard to go from one to the other so quickly.

I've put out the electric window candles; the ones in the living room are taped to the woodwork, in case a certain little person gets any ideas. The small nativity won't be on the lower shelf in the corner cabinet this year, because stepping on that shelf from the kitchen table is too much of a temptation even to our older cats. I put Mary and Joseph on one of the little shelves above the sink and cut out a  piece of plaid flannel to the shape of the shelf. I think it may work out well -  when the Three Kings come, I can put them on some of the other shelves there.

The watchmen on the heights are crying,
Awake, Jerusalem, at last!
Midnight hears the welcome voices
And at the thrilling cry rejoices:
Come forth, ye virgins, night is past!
The Bridegroom comes, awake,
Your lamps with gladness take;
And for his marriage feast prepare,
For ye must go to meet him there.

Zion hears the watchmen singing,
And all her heart with joy is springing,
She wakes, she rises from her gloom;
For her Lord comes down all-glorious,,
The strong in grace, in truth victorious,
Her star is risen, her Light is come.
Ah come, thou blessed One,
God's own beloved Son,
We follow till the halls we see
Where thou hast bid us sup with thee.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

"What it's all about in the end"

"The ultimate goal of all prayer is the coming of the Kingdom of God, and hence first of all the sanctification of his name, so that, in a word, his will, his whole will and nothing but his will may be accomplished.

If God, if the knowledge of God, if, in a word, the love of God should interest us so strongly, it is not only because that is the way of salvation, for ourselves...and for the world. On the contrary, we should say that the salvation of the world and our own are only worthy of interest because God wishes to be known and loved, known and loved for himself.

In the last analysis, that is the great Christian revelation. For the Christian, for the Church, God is not just a 'Good' to be revealed to people so that they can profit by it. God is Someone: Someone who loves each and every one of us, who expects us all to love him, above all who expects each of us, this very day, without waiting any longer, to recognize his love and surrender to it as completely as possible."

                                     Father Louis Bouyer,    from Magnificat, November, 2019   

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

a day in the kitchen

I have a nice co-worker who didn't have to cook for Thanksgiving, and she wanted to work today, a half-day. So, she worked and I stayed home! I spent the day in the kitchen.

I always have more pumpkin pie filling than will fit in the crust, so there were three extra custards for dessert today.

The broccoli/cauliflower gratin is done.

Gruyere is often the cheese called for in these dishes, but I was in the middle of grating the cheese when I realized I'd bought gouda! I really couldn't find a huge difference online, and the sauce looks and tastes fine, so - it is what it is! As long as we can eat it and it's tasty!

I also made the gravy. There won't be drippings with a turkey breast, so I would rather do as much ahead of time as possible.

I wanted a cranberry apple pie, but didn't want to bother. I was going to make a crisp, but really wanted it in pie form. I ended up making a one-crust pie with crisp topping. (don't know what I was fussing about)

A lot of dish-washing, a minimal bit of cleaning, one load of laundry, and a small batch of cookies.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

pie crust ramblings

For my brother's birthday I was going to make a cheesecake, as I usually do. But he seemed to be fighting a cold the week before, so I asked him if he wanted to be eating so much dairy, and he said a blueberry pie would be just fine. So, that's what I did.

My mother was a good cook, but she couldn't make a pie crust; we would eat supermarket pies when we were kids, and we didn't know any better, but then I learned how to make one in Home Ec. class. Afterward, the holiday pies would fall to me - everyone liked my pies and all was well for years. I think I used a recipe from a Farm Journal cookbook, and shortening was called for.

When "The Omega Plan" came out, I found out how unhealthy Crisco was, so I switched to using canola oil. (it took another several years for me to understand about organic, non-GMO canola oil) I've been making oil crusts for years now, but it's a softer dough. No rolling it out on a floured counter - I roll it between sheets of wax paper. It's thinner, too, and I've given up trying to crimp the edges prettily like I used to do back when. The taste is good and my fruit pies never get soggy on the bottom.

Back to my brother: I was too low on canola oil to make a crust, but at the supermarket I couldn't find any of the Spectrum brand I always get - it was nowhere. I thought of trying lard, but the package said it had three additives which sounded foreign and awful to me. Well. At home I had butter, and coconut oil. And, while they say that some things make better pie crusts than others, fat is still fat, and I knew I could make one with whatever I had around.

I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but with one stick of butter and one cup of coconut oil. I left out the sugar. It was like the old days, rolling it out on the counter with flour all over the place! It came out fine, except that the bottom crust got gooey from the berries. (I always put way less thickener than called for, deliberately, for plenty of juiciness.)

I've been pondering for a while if I should start making butter crusts. If I do, I am going to roll them out between wax paper, in order to get them thinner - I think I can avoid the gooey factor that way. Meanwhile, I bought some grapeseed oil at the store, as the bottle said it was suitable for higher heat, as in baking. I'll probably use it for the pumpkin pie I make tomorrow, as I'm more used to the oil crust and I have lots of cooking to do ahead of Thanksgiving. But I will go back to the other method again - it's good to have options.

I ended up making the cheesecake anyway. It's a great recipe, isn't too big, has not-too-much sugar, and can be made with goat cheese, so is pretty healthy.

It went fast. Unlike this post, which I'm sure was too involved for anyone but a dedicated pie baker!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

a fresh treat

My brother came home with a dozen eggs from a client who has chickens. They said, don't refrigerate! They'll last a week on the counter. This seems hard to get used to. But in the end, it won't matter - we used nine of them the first day.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

an end in sight

They paved our road today; with many large trucks and other vehicles, rolling and flattening; men tamping down the asphalt around the edges of the storm drains by hand, all glimpsed out the window in between ironing and cleaning and cooking, all very fascinating. My brother says they'll have to make another layer, but it is almost done.

shake, rattle and roll

We thought, last Thursday, the road would soon be paved, because they were putting down more dirt and rolling over it to flatten it out. But, no.

Monday, after my brother went out, I looked outside to see a large mound of dirt at the end of our driveway and the big claw was parked on our front lawn.

it got bigger than this

There were deep trenches again with workers in them up to the neck. Phase three, I guess: They were doing the storm drains. So, first they had replaced pipes that brought sewage out, the the pipes which bring clean water in, and now the storm drains. Phase four, presumably, is the paving. (I am surmising).  Everyone's yard has either mounds of dirt on it, or stacks of pipe.

Day after day they dig these pits, and have to fill them in at day's end. Amazing. 

This is all a prelude to yesterday morning. My brother had just gone out on an errand and I was getting ready for work. The house began to shake, like an earthquake. I knew it wasn't that - those fellows were outside. I think this contraption compacts the soil to ready it for paving.

These fellows always show up around 7 every day, but this morning all was strangely quiet and deserted. Until now - I can hear their vehicles beeping as I write this. We'll see what transpires today. If anyone on the street has a large party planned for Thanksgiving next week, that could be interesting.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

he comes

All faded is the glowing light
That once from heaven shone,
When startled shepherds in the night
The angels came upon.

O shine again, ye angel host,
And say that he is near;
Though but a simple few at most
Believe he will appear.

O come again, thou mighty King,
Let earth thy glory see;
And let us hear the angels sing,
"He comes with victory".

-  from Magnificat, November 2019

Saturday, November 16, 2019

more futility and destruction

I was wondering how long it would take the little orphan to find the throw over the back of the rocking chair.

Not long. And that stuff you probably think is lint on the chair pad? It's the stuffing coming out of the slits she cut in the fabric. Probably the first week she came.

And why did I ever think I could have periods where the kitchen table would actually be clean for a few minutes? I do scrub it, since cats do go on it.

She shows up even before it has a chance to dry. And wriggles all around. Of course.

Cute little bugger.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

working on the bathroom window

I have been slowly, very slowly removing the wallpaper in the bathroom and painting the walls - just the upper half of the small room, the bottom half being tile.

It looks bare without any pattern on the walls; it will take getting used to. So, I was looking at the window with fresh eyes the other day. I had removed the shade and the upper curtain a while back, with the idea to let more light in, but with just a curtain on the bottom half it did look rather blah. I picked out a book from my shelf and flipped through, looking for ideas of, I don't know what, things to put above the window, or a very sheer curtain (I really didn't want to do that but sometimes a good picture changes your ideas). I saw this:

Now, I don't have painted woodwork, or those nice knobs. But, laughably, the curtain rod brackets were still up, screwed into the window frame. I looked through my fabric and saw some left from my summer dress. I cut a long piece, pinked the ends to make it neater, folded it and laid it over the brackets.

Very hard to get a decent photo, and it's certainly nothing fabulous, but now something is up there and it doesn't block any light. And today I made new curtains with some beautiful soft denim I've had for years, which matches the swag very well. They still need to be hemmed and I hope I can do that Saturday.

I love the frayed look of the selvages.

right on time

The Christmas cactus at work is doing what it's supposed to do.

It will bloom at the proper time and all will be well.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

pink and cold

Yesterday was a blessing - warmer (around 60) than expected (50-55). Outside, I cut off all the rosehips and washed the outside of the back storm door. Some windows were even opened for a while.

Today, rain and then a few snowflakes, and then wind, wind blowing in very much colder (30-ish) air. It will be way down in the teens tonight, but there was a beautiful pink sunset this evening. I ran outside the front door at work and took a picture.

Monday, November 11, 2019

for Veterans' Day


by Phyllis McGinley

Stand up, young man with the pink and earnest face,
Tonight grown paler.
The crease of your new flannels pinch into place,
Tug at your collar.

The Principal, beaming parentward, has left the stand,
Having given his Message, complete with whimsical comment,
Stand up, my boy. Clutch the notes tight in your hand.
This is the eloquent moment.

On behalf of the Class, for yourself, for the monitors with their badges,
You have much to say.
Make the good-bys, make the promises and the pledges,
Map out the way.

Never farewells like yours were spoken before,
Against this shabby and familiar curtain,
Never was any future so naked and sure,
Or any path so certain.

There was always in other years a sound that was hollow
To the adolescent vow.
There were always the climbers and those who could not follow,
You will march together now.

One flashing destiny awaits you all:
Neither the job at the mill (or the drugstore counter)
Nor the wide campus colored with the fall
Nor the poolroom's banter.

There will be none left idling at the gate,
No prizes for the bolder,
But only the rifle resting its equal weight
On every shoulder. 

So stand up, boy, forgetting the Golden Fleece.
Step up to the rostrum, bow, and speak your piece.
There were never farewells spoken so stoutly here
Nor a path that showed so clear.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

"with heavenly hope"

O Jesus, to your servants give
The consolation they require;
And when the cloud of trouble falls,
With heavenly hope their souls inspire.

As you were with your saints of old,
Be with us, ever present, Lord;
Unite us to yourself, we pray,
As you have promised by your word.

from Magnificat, November 2019,  part of a hymn

Thursday, November 7, 2019

romantic November

Where I live, November is the month with the least amount of sunshine. That's funny, coming right after the sunniest.

Today was such a day - cool, drizzly and dim. They warned of possible snow flurries tonight, but just a dusting. We'll see.

This month is when most of the leaves come down, when the temperatures drop, frosts come at night. It's when you put the gardens to bed, cover everything with compost, give a good root fertilizer to the shrubbery and prune any wayward twigs. Put the garden hoses in the shed and shut off the outside water faucets.

November appeals to me. I feel more like focusing on the inside, and getting ready for Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. The gray skies, the brown leaves serve as contrast to the coziness within doors and make everything in the home more appealing to me. So, I like it. There's a certain romance about this month.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

a thoughtful gift

A nice young woman who brings her boys in the library makes soap.

And she brought some in for all of us!  Pumpkin spice. It's lovely!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

pretty smart

I've noticed Annie lately going through the basket of cat toys. She knows where to get them, and she can pull some out with her claws.

She was doing this yesterday. Then she knocked it over in order to get to the bottom of things.

Don't know if she had a certain one in mind.

Monday, November 4, 2019

harvesting the basil

I had almost entirely forgot about the basil, and last night's temperatures in the twenties almost did it in.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

brown sugar, berry stains and George Washington

Well, I went to the supermarket today. The Domino light brown sugar was light, and the dark was dark. The store brand, however, was another matter; the light was darker than it should have been and what I suspect is that they had made a mistake, either with too much molasses in a huge batch of the stuff, or maybe something got mis-labeled. So I guess for a while if I want real light brown sugar, I'll just get the brand name, until things settle down properly.

Last Sunday I made a fruit crisp for dessert, using frozen strawberries and some blueberries. I ended up with berry stains on one cotton napkin, one linen napkin and a lace tablecloth - polyester, I think. Normally when I'm doing laundry, I'll spray any spots with Shout, and I would say that about eighty percent of the time, they will come out. But you know how berry stains are - I decided not to use the Shout, but try something different.

I had earlier stumbled on this youtube video on stain removal, and set about using their method. It was an oily (a bit of canola oil in the topping) organic stain and I first sprayed the areas with a vinegar water solution, then dealt with the stains. Honestly, I was amazed that the biggest one on the tablecloth came out - they all did!

This Gentleman's Gazette also has a video on how to wash your wool suits - yes, you heard me correctly! Exciting stuff!

One more exciting thing: I forgot to tell you that George Washington has agreed to come to our library!  And he knocked one hundred dollars off his price!!

Never give up.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Last Week in October

The trees are undressing, and fling in many places -
On the gray road, the roof, the window-sill -
Their radiant robes, and ribbons, and yellow laces;
A leaf each second so is flung at will,
Here, there, another and another, still and still.

A spider's web has caught one while downcoming,
That stays there dangling while the rest pass on;
Like a suspended criminal hangs he, mumming
In golden garb, while one yet green, high yon,
Trembles, as fearing such a fate for himself anon.

Thomas Hardy

Thursday, October 31, 2019

wild but warm evening

Tomorrow is November, and it's seventy degrees out - now, at night! We bought loads of candy for the trick-or-treaters and then they said there was wild weather coming.

It was pretty wild - the wind, at least. But it's so balmy and moist out, it was really quite pleasant, and very little rain. So we still had over one hundred come. And they liked seeing the cats in the window.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

our mission

"God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission - I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next - I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work, I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; he may prolong my life, he may shorten it; he knows what he is about. He may take away my friends, he may throw me among strangers, he may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me - still he knows what he is about."

                                                       -   Blessed John Henry Newman, from Magnificat, October 2019

Monday, October 28, 2019

what happened to the light brown sugar?

I realized I was out of light brown sugar, so I bought some. That's it on the left; on the right is some dark. Do you see it? They are the same color. What's going on?

The next time I'm at the supermarket I'm going to examine every brand of brown sugar they have.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Thursday, October 24, 2019


When did I first mention they were digging up our road, and re-doing the pipes? June or July, I think.

two or three weeks ago - our front yard!

these dirt piles come and go

Yes, there is a toilet in our front yard. 

last week: The Grand Canyon

They dig these holes every day, then have to fill them up before they leave.

this was Tuesday

This crevasse at the end of our driveway is filled up, and they've moved up a house or two, inching their way along the street. They are entirely replacing the sewer pipes and hope to be done and paved before the snow flies. What a monumental job!

When they were underground in front of our house they saw our pipes; they told my brother they looked to be in good condition. Good to know!