Saturday, December 26, 2009

Brining the Bird, or, as it turned out:

My goose was cooked.

Well, this was a new experience for me and one that will go down in the annals of holiday memories that REALLY STAND OUT.

This fall, I read an article about a process called brining, wherein you boil up a heavily salted liquid concoction that contains many different flavorings and variables, and proceed to soak the turkey in said concoction overnight.

This brine will turn that dry bird into a juicy, aromatic, savory turkey and make the cook achieve rock star status in the minds of her guests. Mind you, the article did not promise any of this, but I could read between the lines. The dirty little secret among homemakers is that we crave fame and honor now among family, our children's friends, and the neighborhood in general, and after death, we wish to become legends. We will search high and low for some esoteric ingredient, stay up till all hours of the night, spend way too much money on sewing and crafting supplies, and put ourselves through rigors that would cause a Navy Seal to ask for a desk job, all to achieve a bit of praise now, and to ensure that years after we are gone someone will be reminiscing about the wonderful way we cooked this, or baked that, or did things this way and it was the best way.

Usually these efforts backfire, at least for me, and often people end up remembering something else, something that makes them laugh out loud. Like when my formerly widowed father brought his new wife to my house for Easter dinner, and after preparing a repast fit for royalty, making the house presentable and the children looking adorable, all my new stepmother could remember was that at 3 pm when they rang the bell, I answered the door in my pajamas.

Oh come on, what about the glorious ham, the homemade manicotti? Long forgotten, I assure you. She laughs every time she tells that story, which is quite often.

So when I read about this brining technique, I thought about it, and about how a 22 pound turkey is not the easiest thing to maneuver around, and how it would require extra steps and extra work on top of a whole lot of work already, and in spite of that, or probably because of that, I decided to GO FOR IT!

I will spare you the details of how it happened, but suffice it to say that a couple of hours later, in attempting to reposition the baking bag holding the 22 lb. bird and two gallons of salty, sugary, fruit-floating liquid, the turkey and the broken bag ended up in my lap, and from my waist down to my shoes, and over the river and through the woods and under the refrigerator, went the brine.

Well, things could have been worse, and almost were. I ran into the bathroom and took off my jeans (now pickled pants), leaving me presentable from the front because I was wearing a bib apron, but quite an unwelcome sight from the back. Which is the part that was facing my adult son's bedroom door. And he was in there. And thank God, I realized it before he opened the door to the sight of the ol' harvest moon clad in tighty whities, rising there in the doorway. He never would have gotten over that, and I am not sure what the trauma would have done to him.

Now a sensible person would dissolve into tears, leave the whole mess, get tidied up and go Christmas shopping, but not me. I did tidy up, but went straight back at it, finally getting bird, brine, fruit et al into a 20 quart stock pot, and even made it fit into the fridge, and you know what? That was some tasty turkey. And this story, well, it may just be the stuff (or stuffing) of legends.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Well, Papa has been with us for almost two weeks, and I have yet to finish wrapping and maybe even need to do more shopping, but I have been baking the last two days. I have made so far:

4 batches dark fruit cake
regular rice krispie treats
peanut butter rice krispie treats
peppermint meltaway cookies
chocolate rum balls
Christmas cutout sugar cookies

I would like to make pignoli (pine nut cookies made with almond paste), pumpkin pie (a request from one of our sons), and Buche De Noel (which is the traditional French yule log cake). Also, once again, I would like to make this special Christmas Eve pastry that was particular to the local area where my grandmother grew up (Alvignana, Italy). I have never been able to duplicate it yet, but will give it another go, Lord willing. It must be eaten up on Christmas Eve because it is only really wonderful when it is freshly made.

Jr. gave his dad the early Christmas present of, you guessed it, a new recliner chair. He is very happy, and even happy with my rearranging the family room (taking the ugly, L-shaped couch out and putting a single white one in there instead).

The turkey for Christmas Day is thawing in a cooler on the front porch, the baccala is soaking for Christmas Eve, and I think I will not need to get any thing else from the grocery store.

The house cleaning, however, must be attacked with a vengeance tomorrow.

It is frosty cold here, thank you Lord! And I hope to get some pics up with the help of my youngest, who likes to take a lot of pictures, and knows how to load em up on here. Time to get under the snuggly covers, say my prayers and think about frost, frosting, and other lovely things.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Solace of Silence

I am up in my room, and outside my windows the night is a gentle, velvet, midnight blue. There is peace on this night in December, and I begin to feel a calm, recollected quietness building within me. This is the time of Advent, where we wait and watch for the Lord. In order to do this we must be silent, so that we may not miss what He is saying to us, or what He is trying to show us. The frenzy of the world may continue 24 hours a day, but we must regularly retreat from it, in order to ponder important things.

Why do we fear this so? We have become so accustomed to living with the ever-present electronic din that to do without it invites discomfort and disorientation. To take the time to come away from it is to endure the strangeness of being with ourselves, and maybe listening to our heart speak to us of its anguish or its secret hopes, or face the truth of our lives as they are at present. In silence, then, we must listen, because if we will not face ourselves, we can never be whole.

And in silence, and in the still, small voice, God seeks to speak life and guidance to us. Jesus said to his disciples on that night in the garden, "Could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation."

The world is hurtling fast toward it destiny. We must not be lost in its convulsive busyness, lest we share in that destiny. Instead, let's deliberately soothe our frayed nerves and restless minds with silence and solitude on a regular basis.

In doing so, we become companions of Our Lady, who at this time perhaps gazed up to sky each evening, aware of the movement of that special, guiding star in the heavens, just as she felt the stirring of that holy life within her blessed womb. As she kept a recollected anticipation of the marvelous event that would soon occur, the birth of God's only Son, her own precious child, Jesus, we can only imagine how she used her time of silence to fully prepare her entire being for His coming.

As we feel the cold stillness of these December nights, may we come to a fuller knowledge of who this Holy child is, and of how much He loves us and delights to be with us. May we find solace in the silence, and realize that it is a gift to us, from Heaven itself.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Revolt, Part 2

Oh what have I done? Forgive me, Lord, if I am beginning to think like those Israelites in the desert who longed for the bonds of Egypt just so they could eat cucumbers. If you have read the foregoing two posts, you will know that I have been desperate to escape from the overwhelming burden of stuff (because the people and animals can not be dispensed with, perish the thought!) that is tucked into every space in my house. I have filled and given away about 14 large bags of clothes and a box or two of household items. I had the trash man pick up the broken microwave, and assorted trash from the garage and also had them take the, the, the...............
ratty old recliner that my husband lives in. He is currently out of town, getting his father ready to come stay with us for a couple of weeks, and somehow the thought of incorporating Grandpa AND the Christmas tree into the middle of things caused me to go straight over the edge and ditch the chair!

Worse yet, because I have inherited a rather comfortable white sofa from one of my sons, I am itching to get rid of this too-large and rather uncomfortable L-shaped couch that currently hogs space in the family room. There is an old couple from church whose home sustained such water damage from the November nor'easter that they lost all their downstairs furniture. Folks are trying to help them and the call went out for furniture for them. So I am waiting to hear whether this thing can fit in their house. And I am praying that I can do the deed before hubby gets back. Then move the white couch and the Christmas tree in, and then of course, Grandpa.

Now my oldest son and I have planned all along to get a new recliner for the man of the house, but yesterday I realized that I might not be able to actually procure one and get it in here before he gets home, or by Christmas or within the next month. I will be going out with the next load of trash if that is the case. Junior says he doesn't want to be here, either. In fact, we will probably leave the state.

Photo courtesy of

Friday, December 04, 2009


Nobody said that war is pretty.

Have you ever felt that your home looks more like this place (a thrift store) than a home? Have you ever tried to find clothes to try on at a thrift store? Say you want a nice, slightly out of style but modest dress for church. So of course you can find the rack of dresses, but can you easily find your size, or type without wading through them all and taking wild guesses at whether the ones you pick will fit? If you are like me, you will feel a little frustrated at this point. But perhaps you are starting to feel that way at your own house.

When you need to find an important piece of paper or a phone number at home, or the nail clippers or whatever, and you find yourself having to run from room to room, looking high and low, you are in a bad place, and I don't mean the mall.

Or you may have this dilemma: you are not one of those naturally organized people, but through trial and mostly error, through the grace of God and pure determination, you have managed to gain some measure of control over your household. Then somebody you know and up to this point loved, decides to make you the benefactor of their cherished stuff. Or you find out you are going to have a baby and ten wonderful people unload all their baby things upon thy hearth and home.

Or people move in with you. Or your spouse and you are diametrically opposed on the issues concerning what to keep and what to get rid of. Or your beloved likes lots of noise, wires and late hours in front of a blaring television, and you would rather read Wordsworth by the fire while listening to the old clock tick in a quiet room.

Or you can be like me and all the foregoing horror pertains to you!!!!! Well, except the baby part. But that did happen to me, five times.

But to continue on from the last post, I have decided that life is too short to be in a constant state of confusion and feeling overwhelmed. Its time to do surgery on this place and actually on my life. You know, most of the time surgery is necessary and is ultimately good for you. But in the short term, it elicits some fear and trepidation, and usually it is painful. Just like taking control of your life and domain.

So this week, I gathered up nine huge bags of giveaway clothes, and honey, I am just getting started. I also got rid of a twin bed frame and the mattress and box spring.
Today I called the sanitation department and scheduled a special pick-up. In our city we are very fortunate that if we have large items, old appliances or the like, we can arrange for the city to pick it up at the curb on our regular trash day. So on trash day, out goes the old microwave, a lot of bulky cardboard from new appliances, a broken computer chair, hopefully a busted motor scooter and whatever else I can scrounge up.

Now when I say "hopefully" the old motor scooter, that means I have to convince my husband to let go of the old rusted thing. I plan on convincing him about a few other items, too. But in some other matters, I am sorry, I have made an executive decision that clothes one has not been able to fit into for the last eight years or so, have got to go. Along with ugly clothes. And old, dead, primitive cell phones and cameras. And shoes that are composting in the closets.

Next, I have no choice but to attack the under eave storage, wherein is buried my Christmas wrapping paper, supplies and goodness knows what other Christmas stuff. Right now it all lies barricaded behind things my daughter threw in there when she moved back in. I envision adding to that giveaway pile. And dispensing with approximately, and you may not believe this, 28 years of receipts and tax-related papers. They are all in there, in boxes and large envelopes. Well, I wanted to be prepared in case we ever got audited. So yeah, I'll keep the last seven years of stuff, and maybe even pare that down after the new year. And maybe have a Christmas bonfire with the papery discards.

A recent study showed that people who are immersed in cluttered living conditions feel more stress, agitation and depression than those whose surroundings are orderly. The eye needs to be able to rest on some open space and symmetry. Which is why I feel so crazy right now and rather humbuggy about the holidays this year. I am a Christmas maniac, which only surpasses my zeal for harvest decorations, but this year, less will definitely be more. Because right now, I do not know where we can even put the tree. Remember the wall lined with computers? That is where we used to put the tree. I have six people in this house and most days seven (one son actually rents a place down the street but spends most of his free time and meal times here), not including friends of the kids who are here quite often. And don't forget about that little beagle boy of mine and those four ridiculous, eccentric, but beloved cats.

So to load up any remaining space with Santas, sleighs, toy houses and elves and holly would be suicide, I believe. Maybe this year I will put up one nativity set instead of four. And forget about putting cotton snow on EVERYTHING. I am telling you, my dear mother would be beyond appalled at the Broadway production I have been making out of Christmas. And my life. I can just hear her now.

You know the saying, "What would Jesus do?" Well, I am blessed to be able to draw from her example and say, "What would Mom do?" This will help me as I attempt to make some sense out of all this disorder. She knew what she could handle, and unlike me, felt happy enough with herself and her modest possessions, without having to go overboard.

Maybe that is it. Maybe contentment in one's interior life translates into harmony in one's surroundings. Let's ruminate on that one for a bit.....

Thursday, December 03, 2009


A copy of this painting, Sugaring Off, by Grandma Moses, hung in our living room back home from the time I was a child until the old homestead was sold off in 1996. My mother, who was born in Connecticut and raised in Vermont, was a true New Englander in her tastes and her thrifty ways, and she got this painting for free, somehow. I don't remember if it was some kind of prize she earned on one of her forays into selling Avon or Stanley Home products, but nevertheless, this print became one of my mother's favorite possessions. So presiding over the drama and the comedy of our family life was the cheery scene of everyday people of a bygone day, making maple syrup.

Like I said, Mom was a true New Englander. She loved simple maple furniture and unpretentious decorating, and was a fan of pastoral themes and snow scenes. You could not pay her enough to have a painting on her wall of a seascape. She said that scenes of the ocean seemed lonely and depressing. Although her parents came straight from Italy, she never appreciated the more typically Mediterranean style of using bold colors, ornate furnishings, statuary, or window treatments and bedding made of rich fabrics. She liked pastels and understatement.

I must admit that she imprinted her aesthetics on me, but unlike her, I have been unable to just say no to a lot of things that are currently in my home which do not please me, and actually make my nerves all a-jangle.

My problem, or at least one of them, is that I do not possess that wonderful sense of proportion that my mother had, at least not consistently, and so when I think something is good, I sometimes think that having more of that good thing is even better. This is not a wise or accurate way to think; after all poison is in the dose.

For instance, when my youngest child was three and half years old, I thought that it might now be a good time to get a cat. (I never had animals when my children were babies, and that is a subject for another, perhaps lengthy post.) So we got a cat. And now I have four. And a dog. And expensive vet bills, prescription cat food, dog food, licenses, etc. Without the financial means, nowadays, to take all this in stride.

I don't mean to pick on the poor animals, whom I love dearly. There are so many other examples of my trying to grab all the gusto I could, or else not setting limits on others' gusto-grabbing.

What kinds of things am I talking about? Well, here is where it gets interesting, because our modern way of living has pushed much of this on me, and not just me.

I grew up in a cozy cottage that was less than half the size of my current home. We had one bath tub, two toilets, and three sinks. I now have three bath tubs, three toilets, and seven sinks. They had one television until about the last ten years of my mother's life, when they got a small TV for their bedroom. On this Christmas day, we will have five running, three of which are the larger, big screen types. We have four computers here. And thousands of dollars worth of video game systems and video games. We also have enough Christmas decorations indoors and out, to open our own store. Thankfully, common sense combined with laziness has prevailed this year and we are not decorating outside, and I am not going to put all my inside-the-house stuff out either.

Now granted, we recently had two of our adult children move back in with us, so there are six people living here currently. They brought a lot of their stuff, so we do have more than a small family would, but my point is that we do not need all of this, and in fact, it is a liability, at least to my mental health. I know I am not alone in all this, because everybody it seems, lives in bigger houses than than their parents did, and they have more stuff, and do more stuff. Are they feeling as crazy and out of control as I am?

Even though I inherited, and didn't buy at least half of these, I have way too much furniture, knick knacks, books, wall hangings, and heaven knows what else. Oh yes, I know what else: food.

Guess what? We cannot afford all this. And I cannot keep up with keeping it all clean and orderly. I am ready to revolt. More about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

December Diary

More often than not, I tend to not get started on tasks when I say I will, hence my December diary starts on December 3rd., rather than the 1st. For example the season of Advent began on Sunday, which is when I should have started the readings and meditations for each day, but I didn't get started with that until today.

On a positive holiday note, I started making fruitcake today. My first batch came out really lovely, and I plan to make three more. Believe it or not, a lot of people like my fruitcake, which is dark and chewy. So I need to send some to Grandma Sallie, Bob's sister Sharon, my cousin Marcie, and cousin Merridy's pastor (the latest fan of the fruitcake).

I also pulled out all the indoor Christmas decorations, cleaned downstairs and began to deck the halls. I have way too many decorations and I think that this year I should perhaps find ways not instead of hanging up and setting out every last thing.

My Yankee candles were all lit today, and the Christmas music was on, and so it was a very good December day. Back to fruitcake tomorrow, the decorations, my music lesson, and a trip to the Home Depot with hubby and our friends, JoAnn and Paul, to look at trees. I am hoping to make my Advent wreath before this coming Sunday and also to get crackin' at those Christmas cards.

Hope everyone is finding a way to enjoy this busy season, despite the fatigue. The best thing about these December days are the long December nights!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I pray you will all have a blessed and happy day! I remember many a Thanksgiving long ago, when we would make the ninety mile trip from our home in Schenectady, NY up to my grandparents in Rutland, Vermont. My mother would always sing this song to us, as we indeed made our way over the river and through the woods!

Over the river and thru the wood,
To grandfather's house we go;
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh,
Thru the white and drifted snow, oh!
Over the river and thru the wood,
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes,
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and thru the wood,
To have a first-rate play;
Oh, hear the bell ring,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day-ay!
Over the river and thru the wood,
Trot fast my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground,
Like a hunting hound!
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Quite often, we would have a white Thanksgiving. How precious are those memories to me this day as I baste the bird in balmy Virginia Beach. But in my mind and in my heart, I shall travel those old roads and bridges again, and stand in Grandma's kitchen with my loved ones all around me. And be thankful for them, and for those who surround me this day. I love you all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I will be cooking up a storm today. The first thing is to clean the bird and get it soaking in some brine. Make the stock, then the stuffing, then start making the crust for my pies. The pies will be apple, pumpkin, and buttermilk (which is like a custard with a hint of lemon). I am also going to try Aunt Ruthie's recipe for another pumpkin dessert.

Then on to assembling the sweet potato casserole, the green bean, and the creamed onions. I will serve two small pie pumpkins that have been de-seeded and baked whole with butter, spices, and maple syrup. Oh yes, will try to get the cranberry orange relish made as well. More cleaning, ironing the linens, setting the table and covering it over with a sheet. And if those cats try anything funny with the table, they will be in danger of getting cooked up too!!!!

The little beagle boy better stay out of my way, and just bide his time on the sidelines for when something edible gets dropped on the floor.

I may just assemble the relish tray today, as well as the fruit bowl. Stuff the celery tomorrow. I will also serve corn, rolls, and of course mashed potatoes and gravy. The master will be mashing (and peeling, too, if I get my way). Maybe get a couple of them youngins to be my sou chefs.

Choir practice tonight, ugh!!!! Hope he doesn't keep us long, as I know my voice will be worn thin by then, ha, ha. But we have to practice our Christmas stuff, which is an odd collection of very pretty, but complex and sometimes weird harmonies.

Speaking of weird harmony, the entire clan will be here this year, and perhaps a friend or two. JoAnn will want me to roll (literally by then) over across the street tomorrow tonight for more dessert and a visit.

So now you know that I will be staying out of trouble for the next couple of days.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Troubling Effects of Ignorance

I would also like to add another point about ignorance. Here are some things that even the Harvard grad seems to have missed in his education:

Lust is a bad thing. Lust means wanting something really badly, and deliberately subjugating any regard for the consequences to you, other people, and society if you go out and grab such thing. It is the opposite of love, which denies one's own selfish desires for the sake of the well-being of the beloved.

Lust is a destroyer of lives, virtue, innocence and civilization.
Lust does not think, it just consumes victims and perpetrators alike. Just look at all the famous, otherwise gifted and talented men who have been put to public shame and have lost their positions in society because they gave full vent to their sexual lust. And what does that do to their families?

How about the government sanctioned lust for material goods and other people's wealth? Virtually all but the eldest among us have not been taught that buying on credit for all but emergencies is immoral.

When you whip out the plastic you are saying that you lack the sufficiency within your own means to obtain that product or service (a fancy way of saying you can't afford it) and so must borrow other people's money, in effect, to attain these things. You borrow against your own future, which is rather presumptuous at best, and you exhibit an immaturity and lack of self-control when you simply must have that something right now, instead of doing without it or saving up for it.

The situation is made exponentially worse when one goes out and "buys" a house that he knows he is not financially qualified to own, just because bankers have become ninnies and are willing to throw money at anybody. Remember how the wretched twin Ignorance (see previous post) had the word Doom written on his forehead? Who would have thought we could doom this economy so quickly by lending and borrowing money all over the place with no regard for how it might be paid back? A person with knowledge and the wisdom to apply that knowledge would have known that and restrained himself.

Of course there are the situations where the washing machine dies two days before Christmas. Ideally, we would have money saved against such emergencies, but with inflated prices (which has a lot to do with families becoming double-income households) and deflated paychecks I think using the credit card to replace the machine is understandable. Or if there is a sudden death or family emergency, then it is a mercy that we have access to quick credit. But I am talking here about everything else, from venti anything to big screen tv's.

My point in all this consists in the way modern man has forgotten that prudence, self-control and self-sacrifice are virtues, and that what we have been encouraged to do (from the halls of leadership on down to the Walmart) these last several years is to satisfy our lusts by accumulating that which does not belong to us. Accumulating that which does not belong to us, for you academic elites, is called stealing, or theft, and is actually criminal. This also applies to many government entitlements and those that are in the planning stages now.

There is an old-fashioned term for what we have engaged in and what looks to be our undoing. It is called the love of the world.

"For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." I John 2:16

Beware the love of the world, for if you love the world, then the Father is not in you, so says the Apostle. He also adds,"And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

Sunday, November 22, 2009


(image from Richards Williams' Academy Award winning animated short, "A Christmas Carol" from 1971)

In Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", the Ghost of Christmas Present commands Scrooge to look well at the two hideous creatures skulking at the spirit's feet. Scrooge tries not to look at the forms of the two ghastly children, but the spirit insists. He says:

"This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased."

Dickens was intensely interested in the plight of the poor of his day, and most especially the miserable lives of children growing up in grinding poverty. He knew well that a nation that tolerated either ignorance or structured itself in such a way that "want" would find no opportunity to break it's chains, would inevitably be consumed by them.

His solution was not government reform, much as our modern sensibilities might advocate, but rather that each one of us become our brother's keeper, and that we must as individuals do our part to end human suffering.

Are we far beyond all this in present day America? I'm not so sure. Just as we seemed to have cornered the market on wealth, prestige, knowledge and wisdom, things began to fall apart.

For one thing, today's young men who grow up in weak family structures, sometimes in decaying neighborhoods, sometimes in better ones, are the ones who join gangs. They are overwhelmingly drawn to the sense of identity and community that a gang offers - in other words, the gang becomes a family to them. And now we have to contend with the frightening reality that many in American prisons are now being radicalized into becoming Jihadists for much the same reason - the group is the family, the hierarchical, authoritative organization within which the individual is taught to structure his own life, and by which the he is promised hope for something better than the nothingness of now.

I believe today we are, as a people, in decline. The worst ignorance is willful ignorance. I believe we have made ourselves ignorant of our past, our heritage, and of right and wrong. We have become too lazy to care about all those things. These also get in the way of us taking our pleasure where we will. This sloth of spirit and slackening of right living now surely is leading to actual physical want. The bible warns us in Proverbs 24,

"I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, [and] nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
Then I saw, [and] considered [it] well: I looked upon [it, and] received instruction.
[Yet] a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
So shall thy poverty come [as] one that travelleth (as a robber); and thy want as an armed man. "

We need to, and soon, heed this admonishment from Scripture:

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
Jeremiah 6:16

Let's find those old paths before it gets too dark, for the lights are surely going out in the West.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Last Wednesday was a lovely fall day here in the Confederate States of America. The sun was shining in that autumnal, muted way, the air held a trace of warmth in it, and it was simply, as always, a good day to be alive. A die-hard holiday purist, I refuse to ditch the harvest theme till after Thanksgiving. These two pumpkins remind me of my friend JoAnn and I. In these last years, we have become quite the fundamentalists when it comes to certain verses of Scripture. Particularly the admonition to "delight thyself in fatness". Back when it was written, fatness would be a sign of blessedness, since there was no such thing as food security, pickings were slim, and most folks would be pretty lean.

Well, we have taken that verse to heart, and run with it, almost to the point of heresy. Heresy is when you take a biblical truth and emphasize it to the neglect of other, balancing points.


When we go shopping for clothes, we look for size Fat and size Fatter. We now go by those nicknames (but we are the only ones allowed to use them on ourselves, mind you). Fat and Fatter. That is why those pumpkins out there on the bench glorifying God in their plump, cheery way remind me of JoAnn and me.

Plump, cheery, and usually hanging out together. That's me on the left.

Big Bob was outside mowing the lawn while simultaneously sucking up leaves with the ol' mulching mower. I use all that for compost - ain't life great? Big Bob was originally called "Big" because our son Bobby Jr., was necessarily Little Bob. But times have changed and Big Bob, apparently also a fundamentalist, has grown into his name. Let's just follow him around a bit and watch him work.

Nice job. Good man.

Meanwhile, inside the house, I was trying to make the best of things. I pride myself in always trying to look on the bright side and making the best of things, whether it concerns people who still haven't learned their lesson, or being content with whatever circumstances I'm in, or aging fruit.

Stop thinking about those pumpkins; I'm moving on to apples and pears here.

So yeah, I decided that I would like to take the last of the New York apples and a couple of past-their-prime pears and make some sauce out of them. Thanks to my young friend, Madelyn (one of those nice young people who often have a lot of time on their hands), our day was documented by her picture-taking talent. Great job, Maddie, much thanks.

Here we go.

I really do not know what I am doing here. Looks like I am adjusting my halo. The crucifix in the kitchen typifies my favorite decorating style: 1950's Convent.

So yes, indeed, the following pics demonstrate me chopping apples and the unhappy pears, followed by pics of other ingredients, and me putting it all together.

I really want to stop and talk about this photo, which to me says tons about real life. If you look past my "not ready for tv commercial hands" chopping the apples, you will notice an iron which was used recently to iron starched doilies (they are lovely things), but the iron should have been put away by now. Then you see the Folgers coffee can, which unbeknownst to you, holds vegetable scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds soon to meet their friends, the leaves and grass clippings, in ye olde compost pile. Now look into the background and you will see why friend Madelyn had time to take pics. Her friend, Michael was engrossed in something on the Internet, probably that Youtube video of the legendary Mexican devil-dog, the Chucacabra, haunting the Sangre de Cristo mountains or some such place.

Michael needs to get a job.

Notice that there is more than one computer in the family room, and a whole lot of wires. My oldest son is home from the Air Force, and these belong to him. It seems little Bob has a BIG fascination with computers and wires. Thanks for that, Bobby. It's just those little touches like that, that make me want to.....

Since the family room has been altered somewhat, I decided to give in to the chaos and throw a poster on the wall which is a copy of a painting I saw in Ireland. I loved it, so I bought the poster online at It was a much LARGER poster than I thought it would be. But anyway, there it is, in all its romantic, melancholy loveliness.

After I bought it and put it up, I discovered that the story it depicts is much sadder than I had planned on, so I am in the process of inventing a new story for it in my mind.

Back to the applesauce. I do not really measure anything out when I make stuff like this. I added a little water, sugar, about a tablespoon of butter, a few drops of apple cider vinegar, a pinch of salt, and of course cinnamon.

Then I cooked it all down, stirring occasionally.

Here is a nice photo of the apples and a pot of wonderful chicken soup I was cooking.

And here, after I ran it through the food processor, is the finished product:

So this was a very nice day. And this is me, looking rather smug when I'm in my own element. And behind me on the fridge, are decorations that my children made when they were small. And the reason I do all this is not to necessarily brag to you about my life or the way I operate. I just want to explain WHY I cook and bake and wear aprons, and have cheery colors and sweet things around me and pretty pictures, and my children's artwork from long ago. And why I give young people a chance to do something they love while keeping them out of trouble. I am trying to make lovely applesauce out of this life. I am taking what I have and making the most (well, not always, but often) of everything and every day and every minute I have on this earth. I want my family and those who spend time in my home to feel safe and happy and to know that God loves them. And to know that if things aren't so good sometimes, we can simply get busy and do something. And just like for those poor pears, life is full of second chances and we always have the opportunity to change our minds and reinvent ourselves if we don't like how our lives are going.

I hope you enjoyed your visit with us. So have a nice day, and now we must get ready for the mother of all cooking days, Thanksgiving.

To be continued, one hopes.

P.S. I have friends who read this blog but do not leave comments here, because they say they do not see how to do it. Simply click on the word "comments" you see below the post, and well, comment. Thank you!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The leaves are falling all over the place now. I have these two bushes in the front of the house, aptly called "burning bushes". They are absolutely gorgeous at this time of year, but the nor'easter kind of made them hurry up the show. Well, here is the one that still has some of its glory. I would have had my picture taken with it but I didn't want you to confuse me with Moses.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


"...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Psalm 30:5

Well, we knew it would, but during the last four days, it sure felt like we would be stuck in this doom and gloom forever.

On the home front, we managed to get through this fairly unscathed, with just a few roof shingles coming off. Praise the Lord on that one. This morning, Sunday, I got up and sat down at the kitchen table across from my husband. Through groggy eyes, I struggled to see what he was pointing at on the table. He is a funny guy whom you'd really have to meet to appreciate, but anyway, he was excitedly pointing to the table and doing this little mime face of great excitement.

"What?" I said, annoyed to be playing games on a day where I had gotten up late (choir warm-up was in 40 minutes) because I hadn't been able to go to sleep until about 4 a.m. (a long story, always a long story). Well, finally I saw it. A skinny bar of sunlight stretching across the table through almost closed kitchen curtains.

"Ah, sunlight! Yay, hooray!!!!!"

It doesn't take much, after all, to engender a mood swing in me. This was the first sunlight we had seen since last Tuesday, so yes, thank you dear Lord, for restoring your cheery sunlight to our gloominess.

Rahm Emmanuel never likes to see a good crisis go to waste, and I never like to miss out on a metaphor. So yeah, what I am taking away from this storm is that things might seem like judgment day, but the only thing that is the end of the world, is the end of the world. That hasn't happened yet, God is still on the throne, I will new light shining on what may seem on any given day to be insurmountable problems, and so will you.

Now it is time to SERIOUSLY think about Thanksgiving, that profound, round, wonderful opportunity we get to ponder with gratitude. Then eat with fatitude.

And sing "Over the river and through the woods...", and smell the smells, and feel connected to family and tradition and ancestors and our great beloved country, and well, yes, watch football I suppose. And then make that special turkey sandwich at night with the mayo and lettuce and realize how exhausted you are and then realize that tomorrow IT begins with a vengeance, and you know what I mean by IT.

But oh, we are so blessed, are we not?

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Nor'easter, by Harold Kirby, see website

Funny how a thing can seem to be settling down, then somehow get blown all out of proportion and take on a life of it's own. No, I am not talking about rumors and gossip though that is the kind of mess that reminds me of our current plight.

There once was a hurricane, arriving rather late in the season, but like an irksome, uninvited guest, there she was, knocking at the door of the gulf coast. Hurricane Ida proved to be less formidable than she had threatened to be, however, and soon turned into a modest little tropical storm. Or so it was thought.

It seems Miss Ida was not done stirring up trouble as she gracefully but forcefully slid ashore, throwing open doors to corridors which led her through the states and changed her as she went. Just like getting angry can change you physically, here she came, huffing, puffing, and splattering her way up the southeastern interior of the U.S. Yesterday she started wailing and flailing her way up our streets, deciding that our town would be ground zero for her fury.

Now because the guardian spirits of the North put up a high pressure system which blocked this witchy busybody from entering their realm, she has not taken it too well, but has pitched a fit and her stormy tent right here, screeching, twisting, turning and spewing torrents of rain upon our heads.

Miss Ida has reinvented herself, spinning into the sickly swirls of a true nor'easter! Her anger she has vented lo, this last day and a half, flinging shingles and siding, flooding streets and homes, throwing down trees and power lines, her tantrum continuing on with frightening power, no visible end in sight.

Since I started this post a few minutes ago, inky darkness has fallen all in a heap outside my rain-lashed window. It is suddenly dark as pine pitch. All I can see of outside is the wan glow of a street light half-hidden behind the trees.

They say our afternoon tide, aided by the moon in its current phase, may reach historic highs, causing much beach erosion, property loss and human misery.

I am praying for all of us, and certainly for three of my children, who are out in this tonight. As the old folks used to say when I was a child and there was a blizzard, "'Taint a fit night out for man nor beast".

To be continued...........

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Swine Flu Redux and One Woman's (that would be me) Crusade to Vanquish Illness

So the 21 year old started feeling ill last Friday with a sore throat and general feeling of malaise. By Saturday morning he was weak and tired. He lives down at the beach, but quickly sought refuge here at the ol' homestead.

This is what I did: I immediately started feeding him Roman egg soup, which is a gelatinous chicken broth cooked with much garlic, some spinach, an egg beat up into the boiling broth, some orzo and a generous topping of grated Italian cheese (I use loccatelli romano, from sheep's milk).

Along with good wholesome food and pure water, I had him drink numerous cups of herbal tea, including a blend specifically concocted for throat ailments. He slept a lot, and basically hung out with the family.

The only medicine he got was some pseudofed, and some Robitussin with codeine.

I was really concerned about him going into pneumonia like the 16 year old did, but by yesterday he was much improved. He is home now, with my cellphone(!), and I will call him this morning to make sure he isn't relapsing or spiking a fever.

I am going to start feeding everyone cod liver oil capsules today, but please don't tell them that is what they are taking. I am not showing them the bottle, just calling it winter tonic!

Along with the above measures, I always wash towels, linens, underwear, cleaning cloths and anything else that can tolerate it in very hot water, sometimes with bleach, and dry everything in a hot dryer. Call me extravagant, but since I am very frugal in other aspects of my life, I feel I can splurge with hot water.

I also try to air out the house, reveling in the fact that fresh air and sunshine are free. The lack of Vitamin D has been discovered to push people into illness, and guess what, when sunshine hits your skin it makes vitamin D, FOR FREE, and only in amounts your body needs so yeah, we can all benefit from going outdoors for a few minutes a day.

The flu vaccines are controversial, and just not too available, so for now, I am doing what I can for myself and my family. I cannot stress enough the importance of not getting over-tired and otherwise run-down, so of course I have been nagging about people getting good amounts of quality sleep. Quality sleep, it has been proven in experiments, is when you get in bed early in a very dark room and stay there for at least seven hours. Depending upon one's own particular needs, the healthy range for sleep time is seven to nine and a half hours. And Ben Franklin was right about the early to bed, early to rise thing.

I post this in the hopes that everyone will stay healthy and enjoy the most fantastical time of year, the holiday season!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811–1879). The County Election, 1852. Oil on canvas. 38 x 52 in. (96.5 x 132.1 cm). Gift of Bank of America.


We have arrived at the day each year when it is our solemn duty and sovereign right to choose those who would represent us in government. May we have God's ear as we pray that our choices may be just and prudent. May we have His mercy if they aren't.

Election Day also calls for us to fly the flag, so fly it proudly.

Here in Virginia, the national media is making no small to-do about our race for governor. It it supposed to be a litmus test for Obama's popularity. Since Virginia went democrat in the last gubernatorial and presidential election, contrary to its typical rock-rib Republican stance, it seems to be a stereotypical feather in, well, one of those hats.

So the conventional thinking suggests that a return to republican leadership in the Commonwealth equals a rejection of Obama and his policies. I really don't think so, and I hope I am right, because I like to think that Virginians have a little more depth to their thinking than that. The seeming (and we shall find out when the polls close) lead for the republican candidate is coming from our having taken the measure of each man, as best we can. And our feeling that McDonnell is more competent to run the state than Deeds. I think their policy objectives run parallel to each other in many instances, so it isn't even a question of liberal versus conservative. Its just that McDonnell seems more confident and professional than Deeds.

If McDonnell does win, then may he have deserved it, I pray. May he be an honorable gentleman to Lady Virginia and a cautious conservator of her wealth.

What happens in the rest of the country, especially in the case of the U.S. House races, is more important, in my view, for our country has been undergoing extreme changes, and these folks are key players in that change.

I have an old U.S. Flag with only 48 states on it. It is our nation's most enduring flag, having flown from 1912 to 1959. Both World Wars were fought and bled for, under its reign. I contend it was the last flag to fly under a truly free America.

No disrespect intended towards Alaska and Hawaii, but I may start flying it, as it represents for me all that has been lost since it once was the flag of the land, and all that is being destroyed right now.

Mater dolorosa, ora pro nobis.

Monday, November 02, 2009


November 2nd is observed in the Catholic Church as the Feast of All Souls, a day on which we solemnly pay tribute to all whom we trust have died in Christ. We pray for them and we believe they pray for us. For we who still walk the earth, we take the time to remember our loved ones and ancestors who have gone before us, and we reflect upon our own mortality and the hope of heaven.

There has been so much death and mayhem in the last month, that I was especially eager to get to mass this morning and to rest in the comforting arms of holy mother church. The weather today could have been sent from a Hollywood casting agency: the sky was dark, the wind was blowing dead leaves about, and the threat of rain hung like a funeral pall over the scene, as I made my way up the path to the church.

Our pastor wore a vestment of black with some white and gold in it. I thought this was an especially appropriate symbol of our relationship with death. The black, to me, represents the harsh reality of the sin which caused and still causes the corruption and decay of life. The sting of death, the separation and the fear of passing through its dark portals paints a dark picture indeed.

Black says its final,
you may not peek through it,
it is a lack of, an absence of,
light and life.

It is supposed to hurt, to be sad, for it was not the Father's original plan, but the natural consequence of a fallen world.

The white in the vestment, however, posits the counterpoint to death: life will come from death, it is indeed not final, in all things Christ will triumph! He is the light of the world, He came to bring life and life abundant, He is the beginning and the end, and just as white light contains all the colors in the spectrum within itself, so Christ will redeem all creation and keep us in the fellowship of the blessed, forever!

The gold is just another way for us to see Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, who shines on and lights the way for all eternity. Gold reminds us of the richness of our faith, and the Glory of the world to come.

"Death is swallowed up in life. O death, where is thy victory, O death, where is thy sting?"

As for we who plod on today, let us take time to remember all the souls who have left this earthly plane, and also offer up this prayer for all those, whom time and obscurity have forgotten:

A Prayer for the Forgotten Dead (taken from

O merciful God,
take pity on those souls
who have no particular friends and intercessors
to recommend them to Thee, who,
either through the negligence of those who are alive,
or through length of time are forgotten
by their friends and by all.
Spare them, O Lord,
and remember Thine own mercy,
when others forget to appeal to it.
Let not the souls which Thou hast created
be parted from thee, their Creator.

May the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


(image from