Monday, May 23, 2022

a fresh day

 The windows are all open and it's almost cold in the house, but I'm okay with it. It was up over ninety the past two days, and oppressively humid - this bright sun and crisp air is welcome. I can hear a lawn being mowed, birds having a conversation, things are growing - it's wonderful. 




Friday, May 20, 2022

lilacs

 A co-worker brought in a bouquet of lilacs, and they perfumed the workroom at the library. But it wasn't overpowering and I was surprised that it didn't bother me. Meanwhile, I read this the other day - and I hope it's okay to reprint it here. 


LILACS

You stand beneath the lilac bush at night
And smell her heavy blossoms, think, ah, right,
I've caught this scent a thousand times before,
Which, subtle though it is, you can't ignore.
It fills the mind and yet escapes it, too,
As every mystery worth the name will do.
Perhaps that's why, like baby faces, ants,
The curious innards of a marshland's plants,
Like love songs or the neighbor's lab you pet,
No matter how familiar, we still get
A pulse of wonder and a hint of fear
That some ethereal visitant draws near.

-   James Matthew Wilson, from National Review, May 16, 2022

Thursday, May 19, 2022

red lentil soup for a damp day

 It really seems like summer has begun early this year, except for today. It was barely sixty and rainy. I made a new recipe for the second time, a hearty red lentil soup on this damp day. I don't remember where I cut it out from, but the paper says it was developed by a Bill Millholland. Thanks, Bill. 

Dice up a large onion, two carrots and two celery stalks, and saute in olive oil for ten minutes. Add three minced garlic cloves, a tablespoon of tomato paste, a half teaspoon of ground cumin, one quarter teaspoon of saffron and one quarter teaspoon of turmeric. Stir around for another minute. 

Add four cups of chicken stock and one and a half c. water, half a bag of frozen spinach and a pound of red lentils, rinsed well. Cook this for twenty minutes. I end up adding another quart of water, it's so thick, so you will, too. It's still like porridge when it's done. One teaspoon kosher salt and a half tsp. black pepper. This is really tasty and filling.

Monday, May 16, 2022

red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet

 We had a bit of a thunderstorm at suppertime. Well, it's been hot and humid for a few days - like July! I wonder if summer has already begun. 

Anyway, the storm. There wasn't much to it, but then while it was sprinkling, the sun came out and you know what that means. A rainbow! 


It was a double - you can see it! 

I have never seen the colors so clearly in a rainbow before; I saw every single shade.



You'll have to pretend that dark spot isn't there - my camera is old. 

It got brighter and brighter; it lasted so long! And then I looked over to the right, and could see the other end 


This is unusual for our neighborhood. It was lovely! 

And now it will be comfortable and in the seventies for a few days. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

prayer for the coming week

 God is love; to Christ we pray -

You are the way:
   - lead us in your ways today and throughout the coming week. 

You are the truth:
   - let truth be our guide in every conversation.

You are the life:
   - teach us to live according to your love.

                 Show us the way we should choose!


                                        -  from Magnficat, May 2022

Saturday, May 14, 2022

hanging a plant already

 Ordinarily I'd never buy a hanging plant this early; we usually can expect frosts in mid-May. But the days are actually hot, and this pretty plant at the supermarket caught my fancy. 


Yellow would never be my first choice, but it hangs over the pot so prettily! And that's what matters - hanging plants need to hang. So I guess the color is of secondary importance. I looked ahead two weeks on the Accuweather site, and it seems like these warm temperatures will continue through the month's end. Unless, of course, things change. But this is quite unusual.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Dolly cools off

 We're having very summery weather, like eighty-something, and with humidity. Dolly has definitely been  uncomfortable, restlessly going here and then there, trying to find a cooler surface. After supper it went down to seventy and she was lying on the bare floor in the living room, limp as a rag. On a whim, I grabbed a quilt and her harness, scooped her up and went outside in the front yard. She came alive instantly, and I wish I had a photo, but I didn't want to take too many things. She ate grass, walked around and then sat near me, giving me a little bite on the hand in cat gratitude. We watched people drive and walk by, and we came in when it got damp after sunset, but I've got window fans in two windows on the north side and the house is cooling fast. It'll only go as low as sixty five tonight, so I'll run these till bedtime - they are a little noisy. But she is much better. 

But poor Annie cried from the window. We'll have to see what we can do about that.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

new things to plant

 A year ago we took down two trees, and lost a lot of shade in the back yard. We researched different tree types but then the nursery didn't have those. It was hard to decide what to do - we never bought any replacements last fall. 

Well, my brother picked up a white crabapple tree today, and a couple of variegated hollies. The arbor vitaes that are along the side fence are all yellowed, and I think it's from the two overflows we had last summer - here's a film of one. We were told that crabapple trees can take some wet conditions. The little dogwood is totally dead, too! And it did so well last year. It has to be from all the water. 


So the hollies will replace the arbor vitaes and I think the crab will also be on the side somewhere, but we want to get two more trees and more shrubs. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

discovering Rick Bragg, finally

 I had to read a biography of someone living, for my reading challenge. I kept this in the back of my mind for some time - it would mostly likely be somebody I admire, or at least find interesting. But no one name occurred to me. 

I decided to go through the biography section at work, until I remembered that we don't have it anymore; they are all interfiled throughout the non-fiction. So I wandered over to the new books to have a look. 

Over the years, when Rick Bragg's name passed by, I would always feel a pull, and wonder about his writing. Never did anything about it. So I'm looking through the new non-fiction and I see a small book with a dog on the cover. The Speckled Beauty. It's about a beloved dog of his (no, the dog doesn't die at the end.) So, I said to myself, you've always wanted to read something of his, and this looks like a biography - of a dog, but so what? I read it. It was a beautiful story. If you're a dog lover, or an animal lover, you may want to give it a try. Rick Bragg is a poet.

So now, I've got something of his called Where I Come From: Stories from the Deep South. I expect to enjoy it, because of his beautiful story-telling ability. 

"The stories in this collection are of the South's gentler, easier nature. It is a litany of great talkers, blue-green waters, deep casseroles, kitchen sink permanents, lying fishermen, haunted mansions, and dogs that never die, things that make this place more than a dotted line on a map or a long-ago failed rebellion, even if only in some cold-weather dream."

Monday, May 9, 2022

Potato Leek Soup, delicious

 Melt 3 (or 4) tablespoons of butter. Add two leeks, which have been cleaned up and sliced, two stalks of celery, chopped, and a clove of garlic, minced. Throw in some thyme and saute it for ten minutes. Add eight cups of chicken stock, a few potatoes, peeled and cut up (a pound and a half or so), and some tarragon and parsley - dried or fresh, as much as you want, but plenty!). Cover and cook for forty minutes. Press it all down with a potato masher and then add some cream or coconut milk, as much as you like. Put in a bit of white pepper and taste to see if it needs salt. 

Adapted from Food and Wine magazine. I love this recipe, so thought I'd better share it. 



This evening. You can see where they've marked the road, preparatory to replacing the pipe. We don't have an appointment yet.


Thursday, May 5, 2022

not much to complain about

 It's May now - surely it's safe enough to put away my boots. 

Everyone I know has high hopes for this month - April was a disappointment, too cool. Today is certainly lovely and will get over seventy, which is above normal but no one will be complaining about it.

I could complain about our sinks draining too slowly. Drano hasn't done much, so the rooter fellow was called. I could complain that he had bad news for us; the pipe underground which goes to the street isn't good. (they're made of cardboard and tar!) The front yard will have to be dug up. We'll have to be without water for a few days, who knows how long. The water company was called and they notified a subcontractor to come out and assess things. 

Well, the fellow said the whole business will take one day - less! They would start 9-ish and be done changing the pipe by lunchtime. An inspector will come (quickly) and it will all be filled in by two! Compared to what my imagination was telling me, there is very little to complain about here. In our state, there is an insurance you can pay into in case of water pipe problems: there are three levels to the coverage and we had the middle one, until our neighbor had bad problems a few years ago. After his situation I decided to up our coverage to the third level, and now I think we won't have to pay anything. 

The mountain laurel will have to go - that's okay, and we may decide to move it, although it doesn't look good. He thinks the cherry tree may get partly damaged by the work, but we'll just wait and see how it goes. All in all, not bad!

Sunday, May 1, 2022

paying attention

I had a cold last week, and am shedding the residual effects of it. I reached for a book to read, wanting a pleasant distraction, and picked up L. M. Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill. I was just beginning to ask myself if it wasn't too much a children's book and maybe I should find something else. But when Janes's father shows up and they spend the summer together at the shore, the descriptions of their days and the scenery just take over. His car broke down, and he had to hire a horse and buggy, so they got to enjoy the scenery:

"A blithe soul was Jane as they drove away. The glow at her heart went with her across the Island. ...The road was full of lovely surprises...a glimpse of far-off hills that seemed made of opal dust...a whiff of wind that had been blowing over a clover field....brooks that appeared from nowhere and and ran off into green shadowy woods where long branches of spicy fir hung over the laced water....great white cloud mountains towering up in the blue sky....a hollow of tipsy buttercups....a tidal river unbelievably blue. Everything seemed just on the point of whispering a secret of happiness."

The other day I was looking at some clouds and trees and searching for words of description -  could not find any. I'm not a writer - I know it. But I knew that the clouds could have been described in a glowing way by someone like Lucy Maud Montgomery, if not me. There are many things we see, and many moments like she writes of, which are worth remembering in this way. If we try to pay attention.




merrie

 Now the bright morning-star, day's harbinger,
Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire
Mirth, and youth, and warm desire!
Woods and groves are of thy dressing;
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.


                       -  John Milton from Magnificat, May 2022


Thursday, April 28, 2022

losing a friend

 A month ago, my friend Cyndi called - I hadn't heard from her for a while; we hadn't exchanged Christmas and birthday gifts, and I couldn't get replies to any emails. She told me she had pancreatic cancer. They gave her two weeks. 

I was stunned for a week. At least. She passed away on Monday. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. Let perpetual light shine upon her, and may she rest in peace. Amen.

Around fifteen years ago, her beloved brother Bob died in his sleep - he was in his fifties. Four years ago her husband who had severe MS, shot himself at home, while she was there. She had to deal with the horror of that for a while. 

We were friends for almost fifty years. It's going to take a while to get used to.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

the Easter challenge

" In the risen Christ, wounded and glorified, we see all our hopes realized. In him all the wounds of our hearts, minds, and bodies are transformed into his holiness. The sorrow and pain of our lives are made the source of our sanctification and joy."

        -  from Magnificat, April 2022

"Everything was different - and so it has to be for us. ..The religious instinct in every person, perhaps, in our time, is beginning to awaken. Who can tell them where to find the truth but those who belong to the Christian community which believes in Christ who died and rose from the dead?"

"Easter challenges us each year..Death is not for us the end of the story. It is the beginning of a new chapter. ..The purpose of our present life is to prepare for that....Life matters...When we know pain or depression, when we feel abandoned, or when we are dying, we remember that Christ had the same experiences. Our suffering brings us closer to Christ and closer to God."

                          -  Cardinal Basil Hume, The Mystery of the Cross


Monday, April 18, 2022

"fearful, yet overjoyed"

 Easter was so lovely this year. I mean, it was too cool - not even fifty degrees - but bright and sunny,   just very Easter-ish. And I was able for once to go to all the services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and that's enough to really draw you into the whole experience of the death and resurrection of the Lord. It was terrific.

Meanwhile, I decided to make a favorite veggie lasagna for a change, and after puzzling over what to have for dessert, I remembered the Polish lady had made a babka for us with icing on it, so I defrosted it and served it along with some chocolates we had left over from Christmas. That was plenty! An easy dinner. I like fussing, but I need to be realistic and use what we've got. 

This image is on the current cover of Magnificat, and I like it -

The Maries at the Sepulchre, imitator of Andrea Mantegna

"Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed".*

 Yes, I'm sure they were.


*Matthew 28:8

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Alleluia

Rise, heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays

- George Herbert


Human language falls silent before the mystery of resurrection.
Only one word remains to us: 
Alleluia!
-
from Magnificat


"The sun arising in the East, 
Though he give light, and th'East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume."
- Geo. Herbert

Friday, April 15, 2022

"the seed of divine life"

 "It is finished; the work is done. ..There will still be wars, famines, earthquakes, and other kinds of suffering too, which come in the wake of sin. Mental anguish, anxiety, loss of reason are still part of human living, but now different. He has hidden in human pain the seed of divine life. Hope is now hidden in human despair, joy concealed in human sadness. Anguish, anxiety, the ravages of war and famine - all hide within themselves a rich reward, a precious treasure - life hidden with Christ in God for the sharers in his passion."

                                                     -      Cardinal Basil Hume


Crucified Expiring Jesus, by Zurbaran


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Ash Wednesday is not the norm

April 12th and tonight I showered with the window wide open - what a pleasure! It's just going down into the forties now. 

I am preoccupied lately, and find it hard to come here and say something. So I read now and then, and share when it speaks to me. 

"One Ash Wednesday I was motoring up the A1 on my way to give a lecture. Intending to listen to the news, I turned on the radio and heard with joy the familiar strains of Allegri's Miserere. It was quite beautiful. Unfortunately, reception was marred by my having to pass under a series of bridges, and you know how that acts like a dam in the flow of the music.
  Such music and song, superbly performed, raises the spirit and lifts the thoughts into a world of pure beauty where it is good to rest and just be there. Experiences like this are happy reminders that the journey through life, often dull and monotonous like driving on a motorway, is tolerable if the end of the journey will bring happiness and fulfillment. They are pleasant reminders, too, that Ash Wednesday is not the norm. Easter Sunday is."

                                            - Cardinal Basil Hume, from The Mystery of the Cross

Thursday, April 7, 2022

nearing the end of Lent

I see more clearly every day that our contemporary society has, as it were, to begin all over again. In our religious thinking we have lost too much, and we must needs rediscover the central part which Christ must play in the lives of each one of us. 

We have, perhaps, tried to cross the waters relying too much on ourselves alone. Darkness has fallen, and Jesus has not yet come back to us. Meanwhile, there is a strong wind blowing, and the sea is beginning to grow rough. Maybe, if we look hard enough, we shall see him coming towards us, walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. That might be a frightening experience until we hear him say: It is I. Do not be afraid.

Then we shall take him on board willingly enough; and all at once our boat will reach the land we were making for, that land where deep calls to deep. That is where God's love meets man's, and no matter what cataracts roar, or what waves and breakers roll, we shall know that we are safe, held and led to that heaven which is the vision of the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

                                                -  from The Mystery of the Cross, by Cardinal Basil Hume

Monday, April 4, 2022

singing together

 I was going through some old magazines before passing them on. I found this:

"America is a tune. It must be sung together."   -  Gerald Stanley Lee

Sunday, March 27, 2022

the Cause of our wonder

 From The Mystery of the Cross, by the late Cardinal Basil Hume of England:

"What are the Articles of Faith to you and me? They are pointers to the mystery, they are starting points for endless exploration, right down the ages, and that exploration is never completed, either by the Church itself, or by us individually. One of the problems in the Church today is that there are people who think that doctrine does not evolve. But I was encouraged when I read these words by a Greek Orthodox theologian:  

                We see that it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder."

Saturday, March 26, 2022

"nor death nor hell shall harm"

 Thou art the Way: to thee alone
from sin and death we flee;
and he who would the Father seek
must seek him, Lord, by thee.

Thou art the Truth: thy word alone
true wisdom can impart;
Thou only can inform the mind,
and purify the heart.

Thou art the Life: the rending tomb
proclaims thy conquering arm,
and those who put their trust in thee
nor death nor hell shall harm

Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life:
grant us that Way to know,
that Truth to keep, that Life to win,
whose joys eternal flow.

          -  George Washington Doane from Magnificat, March 2022

Monday, March 21, 2022

birds singing, threads breaking

 It's wonderful to hear the birds singing so much. The cardinals are whistlingrobins are laughing. Everyone is busy doing spring things. Dolly is feeling cold lately it seems, because she's been wanting to burrow.


I made the cake; it came out of the pans beautifully. Always a relief. I found a broken thread on my linen dress with the tucks - the one I put on backward once - maybe you remember. 


I went into my embroidery floss, looking for an exact match - and actually found one! It will be easy to repair.

prayers for Ukraine

 Here is something from some Benedictine monks, remembering the situation and people in Ukraine.




Sunday, March 20, 2022

third Sunday of Lent

 The grass turned green the day before St. Patrick's; it's been warm. Friday it was in the seventies! One hardly knows what to wear, when the clothes in the closet are for the forties. New Englanders always have something to complain about in the weather. :)

                                                           

When I brought pieces of the gluten-free, sugar-free cake to work, it was very well received. So, I'm making it up tomorrow for Wednesday's celebration. Meanwhile, I still haven't done my taxes. It's always this way - I wait long enough for all the pertinent forms and things to come in the mail, and then things like this come up and before you know it, it's the eleventh hour. But I still have a little time.

In Malcolm Guite's poetry guide through Lent, this week Dante will accompany us. He says: "Most of us are under pressure, external and internal, to do everything, be good at everything, be accountable to everyone for everything! It is not so. In the divine economy each of us has a particular grace, gift and devotion. Finding out what that is, and learning how to be guilt-free about not doing everything else, may be part of what our Lenten journey is for." I underlined that last line! But I still must do my taxes.

                                   

I like this magazine

At the supermarket I thought to get a kielbasa for Easter and the local brand I like was twenty two dollars! I bought the ten dollar one - they taste the same to me. I'm not quarrelling with their price - maybe they source better ingredients, maybe they pay their employees better wages and benefits, I have no idea, but I just can't bring myself to pay that much. 


The Gospel reading at Mass today was from St. Luke, chapter 13:

"Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply:

Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them - do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!"

St. Patrick pray for us

Thursday, March 17, 2022

a timely psalm

This morning's psalm in my prayer book:

 Why do you boast of your wickedness,
you champion of evil?
You love evil more than good;
lies more than truth.

For this God will destroy you
and remove you forever.
He will snatch you from your tent and uproot you
from the land of the living.

The just shall see and fear.
They shall laugh and say:
So this is the man who refused
to take God as his stronghold,
but trusted in the greatness of his wealth
and grew powerful by his crimes?

- Psalm 52: 3-7


Monday, March 14, 2022

cake experiments

 I made a cake today. I've made this recipe before, and had written "excellent" on the paper, which I'd cut out from Gourmet Magazine, May 1993. It has no eggs, if that might be of interest to you. If you make it, I guarantee enthusiasm from your guests (or family, as the case may be). But today I took a chance and changed up some things.

Someone at work has been on a sugar-free, dairy-free and wheat-free regimen, and she's having a birthday soon. What to do? I was very curious about what would happen if I took a known recipe and subbed some crucial ingredients. It came out quite good, I think.


It rose nicely. Came out of the pan easily. 

I used King Arthur gluten-free Measure for Measure flour. I also used Nature's Besti sugar replacement with monk fruit (very little, I believe, even though in BIG LETTERS on the package). I was nervous about it, but it tastes pretty good. This was a trial run; I'll bring a few pieces to work to see what people think, while keeping it secret from the Birthday Person. 

The fake sugar taste isn't quite like real sugar, and is seventy percent as sweet. This woman can have maple syrup, actually, so I'm considering using half the amount of the Besti and using half maple syrup - the batter is so thick, I don't think there'd be a problem with doing that. I'd rather have it thinned out, in fact; it was hard to smooth out in the pan, sticking to the spatula. It does contain dairy - I could try using coconut milk, but another thing this cake doesn't have: baking powder. I think I'd have to include it with coconut milk. We'll have to discuss all these issues. It's quite possible she'd have a piece no matter what, but frankly, the challenge appealed to me.

The frosting: I wish I could find a maple syrup frosting, but nothing turns up. There are plenty which claim to be that, but they all contain powdered sugar, too. Perhaps it can't be done. I may make regular buttercream in case she's willing to indulge - if not, she can avoid eating it.

I find this sort of thing so interesting. Meanwhile, check out the link to the recipe, especially if you're looking for a good chocolate cake and you've got buttermilk on hand. It makes one delicious layer.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

someone calls us by our name


This morning we stepped out and were brought back in time to the depth of winter - breezy and frigid after a very windy night. Yesterday snow fell, accumulating rapidly; the sun poked through later for a while, then a squally sort of snow returned for the rest of the evening. Everything got covered. But the forecast has us in the fifties and sixties the rest of the week - then spring comes on Sunday. I am peering into my closet to make sure I have things to wear for these warm days.

I liked Malcolm Guite's Advent guide so much, I have his Lenten one, The Word in the Wilderness. He wrote a beautiful meditation last Friday on The Song of Wandering Aengus (Sam Neill again - I love his reading!)   He speaks of the key line of the whole poem: "And someone called me by my name", and how our Christian vocation is a calling of us by name - a call out of nothingness into being, a call out of darkness into light, and "all our lives, all our journeyings, 'through hollow lands and hilly lands', are a response to that call."

I finished a terrible pile of mending, terrible because it was around too long, not because it was so hard to actually do. Procrastination is always bad. Now to get back to "real" sewing.


I went out to a hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread.

And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Friday, March 11, 2022

little diversions


 It was truly a winter wonderland yesterday morning, snow sticking to all the tree branches and the clothesline. But it was just a diversion because the temp went up to fifty and the snow mostly went away. I don't miss it - my daffodil leaves are up, very clumped together and I can see I'll have to divide them after blooming. 

A co-worker introduced me to Wordle - do you know it? I'm not one for crosswords, though I used to like the cryptograms in the Sunday paper years ago. Wordle appears on the New York Times website every day; it's always a five-letter word that you have to guess, and you've got six tries. If you've got a letter right, it shows in yellow and if it's also in the correct spot, it shows up green. It's a little thing to get your mind working, and I love it. And the fact that it's every day, clean fun and others you know may be doing it is also a nice thing. You can also go back to previous games because they're archived. It may be just what you need. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

a bit of fresh air

It began to snow around eleven, and I had the desire for some brisk, cold air, so I put on my scarf and hand mitts and took the camera with me. 


 It's going to be on and off through the day, with an inch or two as the result.

Monday, March 7, 2022

moving into Lent

 The robins are back.

 I've already washed two of my warm and woolly turtlenecks. Even though it's been kind of cold, it's almost spring and I have crewneck sweaters which can keep me warm enough. 

Our friend came over yesterday and I thought a fruit dessert would be nice for a Sunday in Lent, not too dessert-y. I had cranberries in the house, so I made a cranberry crisp. The recipe I use is for pears or apples and it always works well, but I hadn't ever made one with only cranberries. I put thickener in it - flour. I used maple syrup instead of sugar. It came out too thick, and too tart. What to do? 

I got an idea - I got out some fancy dessert dishes and put some in each. At serving time, I plopped plain yogurt on top and drizzled a bit of maple syrup over all. A lovely dessert! I was a little nervous about the tart yogurt over the tart berries, but my brother said it tasted good with the "whipped cream". I told him I'd remember that he thought my yogurt tastes like whipped cream. 


I think that cranberries have so much pectin, they don't need thickener. Next time.

Like last year, I am playing my chant music during Lent and I was reminded how much Sweetie enjoyed it last year. Was she really around a year ago?  Meanwhile, Dolly eschewed the monks of Norcia and listened to Bolero, of all things. It was on the radio. I kept laughing; there's something funny about that, even in this house.

Dolly listening to Bolero

She didn't mind when it gets loudish, at the end. She liked it. Of course.


Saturday, March 5, 2022

"when you rest, you tell the truth about the world"

 I'm reading Joy Clarkson's new book, Aggressively Happy.

"The metaphors we use to describe ourselves matter. I've noticed that we often talk about ourselves like we're machines. We "adjust." We "process" life events. We "recharge our batteries" when we're worn out. On their own, these metaphors might be harmless enough, but when they become ingrained in our self-imagination, they can become destructive. We act like we should be able to expect the same things from ourselves every day. We demand consistency; we are hard on ourselves when we don't perform, function, work. Machines work and so should we. When machines break, we throw the useless things away, or melt them down for parts. 

You are not a machine. You are more like a garden. You need different things on different days, a little more sun today, a little less water tomorrow. You have fallow and fruitful seasons. This is not a design flaw; it is wiser than perpetual sameness. 

...What does your garden need today? This morning mine needed solitude and enough sleep....People call this self-care, but I think there's something more. "Self-care" implies that I, my "self", am capable of caring for myself. ...But there's also something else. When I pause to take care of myself, I acknowledge implicitly that the world will go on without me. That my "self" cannot do everything. That I am not God. ...When you rest, you tell the truth about the world.

Forgetting you have a body is not heroism; it is hubris."

Thursday, March 3, 2022

a weight

Remembering Ukraine. That situation hangs like a weight over everything we all do, all day, every moment, doesn't it? The other night I wasn't sleepy for some reason; but I wondered if anyone in Kyiv was able to sleep at all anymore.


A co-worker of mine worked her last day today at the library - she was with us for twenty three years. There was a nice party yesterday, but someone thought we should show up at eight o'clock tonight  to give her a final send-off, if possible, since only three people work till closing. So, a few of us came with cupcakes and a balloon. She was touched, but she's not a sentimental person, and glad to be retiring. It's strange when they go, and another one will be leaving too, moving to Florida soon. There's a lot of that going on, it seems.


Annie purring on the bed


O great Physician of the soul
To whom the helpless pray,
We come to you to make us whole;
Oh, cast us not away.


Sunday, February 27, 2022

 The first reading at Mass today:

When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one's faults when one speaks. As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just. The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does one's speech disclose the bent of one's mind. Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 27: 4-7




Saturday, February 26, 2022

the breakdown

 All right, it took a while but we got Dolly's DNA results back. She has a less exciting, shall we say, bloodline than Annie, but they both have a common ancestor which I find a wonder.

I originally sent for Annie's because she has an exotic quality and we thought she might be part Burmese, and then there are always some folks who see a gray cat and think "Russian Blue". 

So, this was Annie's result:

  • 41% American Domestic
  • 13% Maine Coon
  • 12% Norwegian Forest Cat
  • 11% European Domestic
  • 10% Scottish Fold
  • 10% Sphynx
  • 2% Highlander
  • 1% British Shorthair
At first, my brother found it hard to understand why I had bothered. But after getting the results, and talking about how she looks like none of these breeds, realizing that appearances don't seem to mean anything, we both thought we might as well do Dolly. So, we did. 

Dolly's result:
  • 60% American Domestic
  • 13% Maine Coon
  • 13% Norwegian Forest Cat
  • 9% British Shorthair
  • 5% Scottish Fold
Our cats are both one quarter a large, very furry cat - Dolly one percent more than Annie - and I'm referring to the Maine Coon and the Norwegian Forest. So why don't either of them look like it? A mystery. Although I will say this: if you've been around here a while, you may remember Yogi, Dianne's beautiful (or I thought so) cat who was killed by a car a few years ago. You can see him in this post. Dianne (I think I've been spelling her name wrong all this time) has three or four cats, very thick fur with neck ruffs and long noses, like Yogi here. They are normal size, but otherwise always make me think of the Norwegians, who often have this long nose, which gives them a beautiful appearance. We know Dolly's mother (Candace) looked quite like Dolly, but who was the father? Maybe one of these, or their ancestor. As for the Orphan, though, since she just appeared out of nowhere, her origins are unknown to us. But it's all very intriguing, isn't it?

Friday, February 25, 2022

sleeping in and catching up


 It was sixty-five degrees on Wednesday; today we have snow, and it was intense enough and icy enough this morning to close Town offices, and that includes the library. February this year has seemed an awful lot like March, with so many spring-like days. I definitely have spring fever. Meanwhile, I am making use of this extra day to catch up on undone things. 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

paczki before Lent

 My brother came home for lunch, and I heard him say, You'll never guess what I brought home. 


I think these are paczki; they always sell them at the store right before Lent. Like a jelly doughnut. The Polish lady brought them - she made them! He said she was upset - her home town is very near the Ukrainian border. It's horrifying. May God have mercy on the Ukrainian people.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

a day set apart

 I'm halfway through The Joy of the Snow, but no mention of her favorite author, yet. 

"...nearly everyone did go to church and Sunday was a day set apart, entirely different from other days, with a different flavour to it.

In town and city alike one awoke to a sense of serenity and quietness, unbroken until the bell-ringers got going in every tower and steeple in the land. But it was not noise they made, it was music. In the country the wind carried the sound of the bells over the fields from one village to the other, and in the towns there seemed to be bell-song at every street's end.

To what extent God himself mattered to each one only that one could have told you. But for the many I do believe that faith in God was deep and strong, and so his law as they conceived it was important, and sin mattered, and the discipline of their moral code was as binding as their faith and gave strength to the nation....I believe they had paradoxically a basic happiness that we have largely lost today because we no longer have their discipline."

                                          -  Elizabeth Goudge

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

making a plan and not sticking to it

 I've been planning the menus for the entire month, and even though it takes a while, I find it very freeing. It came during a podcast, and when it was mentioned, I had one of those "aha" or click moments, when I felt this was something I should try. Like I said, it takes time to view the whole month together, planning a balanced array of meals, but knowing at all times what I'm going to cook makes me feel a lot more organized. I love it! The time it takes to plan it is worth it to me, and I rather enjoy looking at the recipes in my monthly magazines and that I've collected, anyway.

And I only need to make three meals per week, since leftovers are what we rely on the rest of the days; I try to think seasonally and take into consideration any holidays, guests or any other things out of the ordinary. And I can change my mind, even at the last minute, and have done so several times, like yesterday. 

Yesterday I was planning to make a chicken puttanesca, although I have previously avoided anything called "puttanesca". A story: years ago, as a teenager, I was a nurses' aide. There was an old Sicilian lady named Maria who had dementia and was bedridden. We had to wash her at bedtime, and she would fight us off, calling us "putana!" Actually, I thought she was saying "butana", but I asked my father what the word meant. He looked at me sharply and said, "Who called you that?" I told him, and he said, "a prostitute". Poor woman! She didn't understand what we were doing to her.

Anyway, yesterday. I cut out more recipes from an old magazine and there was a mac and cheese with smoked salmon. It caught my fancy, but I had only canned salmon  -  and smoked paprika! Smoked something is still smoked something. I put dijon mustard in it, and a bit of leftover spaghetti sauce with half the can of salmon, because it is quite salty. It came out very well! A nice diversion from the plan. And the plan is still there, with all the ingredients in the pantry.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

thirty degrees colder


 We had two days of blissful fifty-something, and now it's going back to cold. It could have been late March. The weatherman was predicting a Sunday morning light snowfall - a dusting to an inch, as they were warning us of all week.


They were entirely wrong; we awoke to a steady snow, and Accuweather had changed their tune. It's now going to be three to six inches worth, and last until 6 a.m. tomorrow. How could they be so wrong?

We are wired to respond to atmosphere, heard from a podcast episode. Even though yesterday I was dreaming of spring, I will always love a snowy atmosphere.


One of the things on the reading challenge is a book by your favorite author's favorite author. Well, I hadn't thought about it, but Elizabeth Goudge would be a good candidate for mine. So I'm reading her autobiography to find out who was her own favorite - I hope she mentions someone! 

Annie was in a chair the other day, hanging upside down as is her wont - she has no qualms about falling on her head - and I actually saw her washing her face in that position. As if it were entirely normal. Well, she obviously doesn't have sinus problems - I could never do that.

My brother had to go to the pet store last night to get cans of cat food, since our local supermarkets don't seem to ever have it. He thought to ask them why this might be an issue, and the cashier said she heard it was the cans - they're hard to get. That doesn't seem likely to us - canned vegetables and soup aren't scarce. 



Thursday, February 10, 2022

such a jocund company

I almost had spring fever today. Outside, it looked like March - mud here and there, the grass that blah not-green color, everything ugly. I opened up the Wordsworth at the bookmark, and looked for something to speak to me.  I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils. 

I am liking his poems, for the most part, even though they're rather flowery. But I guess that was the way it was in his day? I picked up my British Country Living, to the bookmark.


Ten thousand saw I at a glance. An article on daffodil growers. Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

I looked outside again. It was a beautiful day. Spring is coming.


Monday, February 7, 2022

room in the Inn

 "The inn is the Church, which receives travelers who are tired with their journey through the world and oppressed with the load of their sins, where the wearied traveler discarding the burden of his sins is relieved, and after being refreshed is restored with wholesome food. And this is what is said here. For outside the Inn is everything that is conflicting, hurtful, and evil, while within the Inn is contained all rest and health."

                                      -  St John Chrysostom, from Homilies on Luke (10:34-35)*


*from Magnificat, February, 2022

Saturday, February 5, 2022

ice, but not ice cream

 


There is ice on the clothesline, and the thermometer outside my window is stuck on 34 degrees because ice got inside it. It would be nice to have temps in the 30s, but it's colder; we left work early yesterday because it was getting icy.

Inside, today was Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, but I didn't plan ahead, and there wasn't any in the house. No cream, either, so I couldn't make any. I usually have it with pancakes, so I made them anyway, and pretended. 


I stacked them up with butter and then scooped some of my plain yogurt on top. With maple syrup. It looks enough like ice cream, and it was good. 

The supermarket shelves are showing empty spaces and there was no cornstarch, and no baking powder I wanted to buy, just the one with aluminum. I will have to try the substitutions I've seen online. Apparently baking powder is just a construct, a convenience, and not a "real thing". It would be good to know how to do without it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

the brightest light that ever did shine

 Today we remembered the Lord's presentation in the temple. 


The bright lights of Christmas are shining with joy
From the heart of the city to the lonely confines
A lone Christmas candle in the window does shine
Welcoming Mary to come to our home.

O come to us Mary and bless our lives
There's a welcome and lodgings for you and your child
Banish all hatred and scorn from our minds
And fill with your love our hearts that are blind.

The moon and the stars illumine the skies
And the serene peace of Christmas is felt on all sides
The rich and the poor are all of one mind
Welcoming Jesus into their lives.

May the lights shining brightly clear the path that we roam
And let you, O Jesus, be our guide at all times
For the brightest light that ever did shine
Was your coming, O Jesus, into our lives.

translation of the Irish carol, Soillse Na Nollag


And thus ends the season of Epiphany, and the greater Christmas season.



Friday, January 28, 2022

snow storm coming

 When I left work this afternoon, I heard a wren trilling. I wonder how the little birds will fare tomorrow, in the big snowstorm that's on the way. From around midnight to around midnight, it's going to snow, and quite a lot - blizzard conditions in part of the state. We'll try to make it enjoyable.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

making perfect yogurt

 I like to make my yogurt in the evenings, and I intended to last night but at the end of the day I didn't want to do one more thing, so I didn't. But while I was at work today I thought about it, and really the Instant Pot does it all - it's just a matter of keeping on top of when the milk is heated up sufficiently and when it's cooled enough. And I thought I might give it a go when I got home, even though it would be in between dinner stuff and laundry stuff and the rest of it. 


I have made yogurt on and off over the years, never sticking to it for too long, but I've made it on the stove and in the crockpot. And then strained it, as most people these days like it thick. Then I bought an Instant Pot. I had heard they are the best way to make yogurt. It's true. 

It's a big one - an eight quart, and I keep it in the spare room down the hall. So I brought it to the kitchen, plugged it in, set it to "saute" and poured in a half gallon of pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) milk. Then I went off to get changed, feed the cats, etc., etc. I know enough now to watch for the milk to steam, and then to start to become frothy - by then it's getting up to 185 F. I take the liner containing the hot milk and put it somewhere to cool. It has to get down to around 115 F, and that takes somewhere between twenty and twenty-five minutes. I add only one quarter cup of my previous yogurt, stir a bit, put the lid on securely and set it on "yogurt". It will keep it at the perfect temperature until I'm up in the morning, which tomorrow will be about thirteen hours later. I will take out the liner and put it in the basement fridge. And when I get home I can ladle it into jars. 

This will be the fourth time I've made it in the Instant Pot, and I can tell you it is the thickest I've ever made. Not as thick as Greek yogurt, but thick enough for me to feel I don't have to bother straining it. Which is great, because there's no waste. I get a half gallon of yogurt when I'm done! For less than three dollars. I'm not terrific at flavoring it; I have it with my granola. The Instant Pot is big and takes up a lot of room, but it makes perfect yogurt. I just need to remember to learn to use it for other things.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

hidden things

 I like to observe holidays; they exist for a reason. It may amount to a cloth on the table, some dessert, a day of less housework. Sunday is also in this category - it's different from the other days of the week. 

From the first reading at Mass: 

   Today is holy to the Lord, your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep.... Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. 

                                                              -Nehemiah 8:9

"If we take for ourselves no other model than those who are world-famous, this will hurt us a great deal and result in a lifetime of striving to be somebody. But if we follow the model of a Redeemer who for thirty years lived in obscurity, it should not distress us to be ignored. There are very few people of worldly importance; far in the majority are the multitudes of ordinary people whose path to heaven is unexciting and unromantic. How very kind of God to show us by his long, hidden life that his plan of redemption includes everyone, even those whose lives are so unremarkable that the world does not notice at all!"

                                                                - Sister Mary Jean Dorcy, O.P., from Magnificat, January 2022






Thursday, January 20, 2022

warmth in numbers

 When I came up the basement stairs into the kitchen I could see out the window to the bird feeder; there were three dark gray juncos and a brown wren. The juncos prefer eating on the ground, but it was snowing. I've discovered a new podcast called BirdNote - it's very short, two minutes usually, and today they were talking about what some birds do when it's cold. Apparently, Eurasian Wrens, who are common in the UK, have been found 40 in a nest box! And over here, the winter wren was found over thirty together. Bluebirds huddle together, too. 

So now we have a little snow again, and when it gets down in the twenties tomorrow I can think of the little birds warming each other with some companionship.




Monday, January 17, 2022

scones for hermits

 It's the feast of St. Anthony, the hermit. Why didn't I think to make hermits? But it's getting late, the butter is in the freezer and there is bread in the oven. I've got to start on the soup. Oh, blast! But I did make scones earlier, and they are spiced and homey - they'll have to do.

O raise your voices! Wake the world!
And let your songs of praise be heard!
For both in town and desert waste
God's glory finds a dwelling place.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

not even one percent

 When Orphan Annie finally had her check-up, she was found to weigh eleven and a half pounds. Ahem. This would be our fault, of course. Dr. P. said it can't continue.

So she hasn't eaten one piece of dry food since, and she does not get food every time she cries, and she cries very pitifully, like all cute cats know how to do.

But we also found out what kind of cat she is. And she's not a Burmese, not even one percent! Here's the lowdown:  

  • 41% American domestic and 11% European domestic
  • 13% Maine Coon and 12% Norwegian Forest cat (my favorite cat!!) 
  • 10% Sphynx (really???)
  • 2% Highlander 
That was the Western section. There is a Persian section which says she's 10% Scottish Fold and 1% British Shorthair. So, the British Shorthair is a Persian? And the Scottish Fold, too? Interesting.

Ten percent Sphynx - you know these cats are hairless, right? And she's twenty five percent very hairy cat (the Maine Coon and Forest Cat, which I think are related from way back, along with the Siberian cat: very large, fluffy cats). I had to look up the Highlander, which has ears that seem to curl forward, as opposed to the Scottish Fold, whose ears curve back. What a confusing family line. 

According to something I read, Burmese cats know how to play fetch, and they have a very silky coat and are heavier than they seem. They are good natured, rather like a dog in some ways. Annie is all those things, but it's not enough to make her Burmese. :D It's very cool to me that she's part Norwegian Forest Cat, but that doesn't make her look like one. And, what is the difference between the American Domestic and the European Domestic? I never heard of either. She is a tiny bit British Shorthair, but not American Shorthair. Aren't all regular cats in this country American shorthairs? 

the little imposter


You know that Dolly is next, right?

Friday, January 14, 2022

to sleep, or not to sleep

 I returned Yeats to the library; now I have Wordsworth. 

This evening I hankered for a hot cocoa, so I had one, but I wonder if the caffeine will disturb my sleep.


TO SLEEP

A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by,
One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,
Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky;
I have thought of all by turns, and yet do lie
Sleepless! and soon the small birds' melodies
Must hear, first uttered from my orchard trees;
And the first cuckoo's melancholy cry.
Even thus last night, and two nights more, I lay
And could not win thee, Sleep! by any stealth:
So do not let me wear tonight away:
Without thee what is all the morning's wealth?
Come, blessed barrier between day and day,
Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!

- William Wordsworth

Monday, January 10, 2022

winter night

 "There is something at once magnificent and terrible about moonlight on the snow during these cold, white January nights. 
 If one is outside, and cold, the landscape has a profoundly lonely look, underlined by shadows. Only in a warm house, surrounded by people and the pattern of busy living, is this loneliness abated. Even then it is awesome and beautiful."

                                                  - Rachel Peden, A Farmwife's Almanac of Country Living




Saturday, January 8, 2022

the profound stillness

 I think I happened upon an answer to my question from yesterday:

"Why do people always get so still when they watch the snow, murmured Carol at the kitchen window, as if they could see it better that way?
  It is because the beginning of snow is, itself, a profound stillness in which the listener hears the thoughts of his own secret heart."

                                           -  from A Farmwife's Almanac of Country Living, by Rachel Peden




Friday, January 7, 2022

unexpected

 We knew it would snow overnight, only two to five inches, and over a fifteen-hour period. 

early morning

But it came faster, and heavier, and I got an email first thing that said the Town offices were closing, and that included the library. A snow day!


What is it about a snowfall that compels you to feel quiet inside, even while you are joyfully going about finishing up what you didn't do the day before.

deep, dark afternoon sky

Thursday, January 6, 2022

when I have time

 


What I'm reading at present. Jane Eyre is more fantastic than I remembered. Highly Irregular was a Christmas present - it's about many quirks of the English language. The young woman who wrote it is smart as a whip. (now, I wonder what she'd make of that saying?) The reason I've got The Mind of the Middle Ages, well - I read The Year of Our Lord, 1943, and in it, Alan Jacobs mentioned something about the Romanesque period as having a different way of thinking than previously or later - anyway, it caught my curiosity enough that I hope this book may shed some light. It's rather like a textbook but interesting all the same. May it continue that way! I have nothing to say yet about The Apostles and Their Times. 

I also pick up A Literary Christmas now and then - it has a pretty cover


And today, being Epiphany, ended the daily Advent (and later) meditations in Malcolm Guite's Waiting on the Word. I can't say enough about it - if it sounds good to you, buy it.




I rise in the dawn, and I kneel and blow
Till the seed of the fire flicker and glow;
And then I must scrub and bake and sweep
Till stars are beginning to blink and peep;
And the young lie long and dream in their bed
Of the matching of ribbons for bosom and head,
And their day goes over in idleness,
And they sigh if the wind but lift a tress;
While I must work because I am old,
And the seed of the fire gets feeble and cold.

- The Song of the Old Mother, by W. B. Yeats