Saturday, December 9, 2017

Guest post

Ha ha, not really. But I'm phoning it in this morning (i.e., not really writing the content of this post). I'm heading off to Mass, and then my hubby and I are doing a bit of shopping and checking in on his folks.

My guest blogger this morning is the Prophet Isaiah, and his contribution comes to us from the Reading of Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. (Isaiah 11:1-5). It is one of my favourite Advent readings; part of it is inscribed on our family's Jesse Tree poster. (Which sadly, my children have 'outgrown.') If you have not read any Scripture yet today, here you go! Two birds with one stone, so to speak:

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;

And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Drunken Garlic Pot Roast...a No Fail Hit

There's not much here to indicate scale, but the pan above is a large turkey roaster, and those are three four-pound beef blade roasts, immersed in beef stock and beer. Why was I cooking 12 pounds of beef, you may ask? Because a family member on Mr. P's side was celebrating a milestone wedding anniversary, and it was a potluck, and I was asked to bring a meat dish. And this one is great. I've made it three or four times since last summer, and it's always a hit.

The original recipe is here at Genius Kitchen, so I will not need to repeat it. However, I will tell you that I have never followed this recipe to the letter (sorry!). The reason is that I've always made it in large quantities for large crowds, and the original recipe calls for something like 2.5 pounds of beef. Which is not so very remarkable but the 24 cloves of garlic is. You read that correctly.

So, say you wanted to triple the recipe, which I did the first time I made it. I didn't have 72 cloves of garlic on hand, and if I had, I wouldn't have wanted to peel them. But I did have 40, so that's what I used. And it turned out great. I think we did 60 cloves in the above recipe, and those were all hand-peeled too (thanks, Celeste and Adam!). Next time I make a recipe this large, I'll probably use the minced garlic in a jar--although there will always be purists who say it just isn't the same. I know it isn't the same; it can never be the same as fresh. But it takes a long time to peel 60 or more cloves of garlic.

Oh, and I usually brown AND cook my roasts in my 7-quart cast iron pot. (I loooooooove cast iron--our great-grannies knew their stuff! I'm happy to see it regaining popularity year by year.) But as large as my pot is, it would not accommodate 12lb of beef, so I seared each roast in the CI pot, and slow-cooked them in the turkey roaster. This recipe (Genius Kitchen) is for a slow cooker, but I have always cooked mine in the oven at 325 degrees F, and they are usually done in a couple of hours.

The fun part about this recipe is that the taste changes every time, depending on what type of beer or ale you use. So far, I've used everything from non-alcoholic types, to Molson Canadian and Budweiser, to these:

I like that the liquor store sells many of these imported beers by the can, so that if a brew is not to your taste, you don't have a whole case on your hands. I'm looking forward to trying this recipe with Guinness. Bon Appétit!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Urgency of Advent

Today, I offer our dear readers some used goods (slightly edited from the original). But I hope the message still resonates. This column was originally published during Advent 2012, in The Record, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Perth, Australia. Once upon a time, I was their "Mom Columnist." The paper is no longer in print (alas, a victim of the digital age) but they still publish online. 

“URGENT!” I texted my sixteen year old daughter, “What key is "O Tannenbaum" in?” The reason for the urgency: I was at a church twenty miles away with my youngest children (10 and 8), the younger of whom was about to perform her first-ever vocal solo in public. My teen would know the answer because she had spent weeks accompanying her little sister on the piano at home.

This was my theory, anyway.

But for this anecdote to make complete sense, we need to backtrack a few hours. We had just finished lunch at home, and were about to leave for the event at which my daughters were scheduled to sing.

Me: “Do you girls need to bring any of your music with you?”
Girls: “Naww.”

Fast-forward. I am approached by the girls’ vocal teacher. “Does Sophia have her music with her?”
Me (sheepishly): “No.”  Then like any self-respecting mother, I quickly blamed my children for this state of events.
“It’s OK,” the teacher replied, “I have the song in another music book, but I need to know what key we rehearsed it in.” She was accompanying my tot on a digital piano, and could transpose with the press of a button. (Sometimes, technology is not evil, I will admit.)

I texted the question to my teen and breathlessly awaited a reply. Sophia was due to perform at any moment. The response came back: “A Major.” Unfortunately, the reply came about ten minutes after my eight-year old had finished her song. (Incidentally, I’m not sure how that works. When teens are texting their buddies, they seem to be able to manage about ten messages to the minute. When Mom is on the line, somehow ‘urgent’ seems to take on a slightly different meaning.)

Sophia sang like a little trooper, even though her teacher quickly discovered—to her dismay, but too late to adjust it—that the piano had been mistakenly set (by someone else) several keys below the range in which Sophia is used to singing. (For the non-musical out there, yes, it really does make a difference.) The happy conclusion is that the performance went well regardless; no one noticed anything was amiss.

There is, of course, a lesson to be gleaned.

It’s Advent: do you understand the urgency?  I have surely felt urgency, but probably not the kind the Lord intends (and I don’t wait for Advent; I start fretting in mid-October). Advent ought to be a time of waiting, reflection, preparation, anticipation, excitement, joy. Waiting? Oh dear, yes: in long, long line-ups at the till, or for that gift order to arrive from Amazon. Reflection? Only a blurry one as I dash past the big department store windows (gosh, it’s time for a new winter coat; this old one makes me look fat and frumpy). Preparation? Oh yes: baking, cooking, cleaning, driving, shopping, wrapping, hiding stuff. Anticipation? As in, I can’t wait for this to be over, so life can resume a slightly less frenetic pace? Excitement? Does feeling like you’re going to die of stress count? Joy? Not on the radar—call me in January, when this is all over.

When one is forced to stop and think awhile, it’s amazing what God can do. Thank heaven for Mass, good priests and homilies, and even, occasionally, editors.

My prayer for you this Advent is that you do not fall into the trap that I so often do. I neglect things like quiet prayer time, because I think I’m too busy. I forget that this season is a time to contemplate Christ’s Second Coming (and my own demise, which will likely happen much sooner). Am I ready? Have I seen to my eternal spiritual welfare? (Is sacramental confession near the top of my long Advent ‘To Do’ list?)

Do I get the urgency? 

Advent is not all Armageddon and Judgement Day, by the way: just re-read St. Luke’s Gospel (Chapter 21) from the First Sunday of Advent: “Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!” If that doesn’t fill you with joyful hope, I don’t know what does.

We need to be a bit more like Sophia: relax, go with the flow. Stop creating your own false urgency (it’s often pointless: your Christmas guests want to visit you, not your gluten-free gingerbread cathedral).

Sing in the key you’re given, because it may just be where God wants you, even if you didn’t quite plan it that way.

Out of the mouths of babes. Even when they’re singing "O Tannenbaum," in the wrong key.

Copyright 2012, The Record and Mariette Ulrich
Kindly contact me at for reprint/quotation permission

Those interested in reading some of my other work for The Record may visit here. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

I have Transphoniaphobia

This is my idea of a phone.
This isn't.
I'm transitioning from an old cell phone that's not working so great anymore (Google Nexus) to a newer phone (Samsung Galaxy S7) that I hope will work better, but you know what? I am old. I'm still learning how to use the Nexus (I've only had it for I dunno, 8 years, which is brand-new in normal-people years, but excruciatingly ancient and obsolete according to the younger techie-folk). We are also switching providers from Virgin Mobile to Koodo, which is complicating the process even more.  

And I'm suffering. I like learning new things if it has to to with music, art, literature (even grammar), philosophy, theology, psychology, ballroom dance, sewing, or even cooking. I do not like learning anything that has to do banking, mechanics, math or any form of technology. As I said, I still don't know how to use all the features on my old phone, and now I have to abandon it, and that leaves me with a feeling of having left something undone (and you'd think I'd be used to that feeling by now, but it still niggles). 

And yet I can't abandon my old phone, because that's still how I'm using the Messenger app (I can't start using that app on my new phone until I can find where I wrote down my Facebook passwords, which I've forgotten), and I'm still using my old phone to read my Kindle books, and browse the internet and watch YouTube videos and check email. I can phone people on my new phone, but I can't access my voice mails, because when I try, a new voice (the no-nonsense schoolmarm Koodo voice, not the saucy Aussie Virgin Mobile voice) tells me that my call cannot be completed as dialed. My hubby printed out 5 pages of instructions for how to rectify this. (As if I'm going to read them without being forced.)

I'm also still using the camera on my old phone, because when I tried to take a picture with my new phone, it started asking me a bunch of questions, and I thought: Really? I have to answer a questionnaire before I can take a picture of this giant teddy bear at Costco? And so I walked away without taking the picture. You'll have to take my word for it that Costco is selling a nine-foot tall teddy bear--and how do you get that thing into your car? And how big would your toyroom have to be to store it? Prediction: there will be half a dozen giant teddy bears donated to Value Village within six months. But I digress. 

The moral of the story is that my life is even more complicated, now that I have to haul TWO phones all over the house with me. (We have no land line, which is another story altogether.) And if you phone me, don't bother leaving a message. I'll just call you back. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Things ladies like

Well, some ladies anway. Ladies who like perfume, pearls, vintage mirrors, antique furniture, and adult colouring books (I really don't like the sound of that--I'm going to call it a "grown-up" colouring book).

And yes, OF COURSE the above photo is "curated". The flat surfaces in my house are usually buried under two feet of assorted, cascading clutter. Dealing with that will be one of my projects for 2018...

Marie Kondo's philosophy is to keep only the things that "spark joy." The problem is, for us hoarders, a LOT of stupid stuff sparks joy. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

"Let new and nobler life begin"

Happy New Liturgical Year! It's Advent, and thus the beginning of a new cycle in the Christian liturgical calendar. Every year, I try not to be overwhelmed by busy-ness, but instead try to focus on the spiritual meaning of the pre-Christmas season. This year I did what I have never done before at this time of year: attend an Advent retreat. And what a great idea that was. I hope to do something like this every year from now on.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

An interview so remarkable

That I was tempted to change the name of our blog to "Sane Women Doing Sane Things." Seriously, I can't believe there are living, breathing North American university professors who openly say such things (and I mean that in a GOOD way). Strange times, indeed.  Professor Paglia sees the death of Western Civ looming (don't we all), but I'd like to hope that if a few more of us have the courage to speak up and denounce the lunacy of post-modernism, there is still a chance to keep barbarism and totalitarianism at bay. Thank you, Dr Peterson, for all you continue to do. It has been life-changing for so many of us.

This video (like all his others) is worth every minute*, I assure you.

*Some may ask: "Where do you find the time to watch a video that long?" You may as well ask how a football fan finds time to watch a game, or how a chick finds time to watch a chick-flick, or how an epicure finds time to enjoy a dinner at his favourite restaurant.

PS Apologies for the sporadic blogging. I'd really meant to do better, but September decided to be a rather insane month.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Avett Love, continued.

What makes them tick? asks the filmmaker.  Hint: "Love one another" is a good place to begin. I can't wait to see this movie.

This remains one of the most exquisitely crafted songs ever written:

Saturday, September 2, 2017

It's not every day that the word "Lust" is printed on my birthday presents

But then, it's not every day that my birthday presents are in German. I had to do a double take when I saw this label. 

But fear not, it has an innocent meaning (though I'm sure that some of the eloquence must be lost in translation):

And when we're talking Römertopf  (Deutsch for “Roman pot”), "delight" is surely the operative word! I received a lovely 6 qt clay roaster for my birthday. It happened one or two years ago, but I'm only getting round to blogging about it now. (Procrastination is an ongoing issue; I'll deal with it someday.)

Contrary to what many might assume (that I received it from my daughter who speaks German and spent time working in Germany), it was given to me by my sister, Mrs. Doris Rose Jones, and she bought it in Saskatoon. But it was made in Germany, as all genuine Römertopf  products are. 

A friend once told me that she didn't collect things like this because she was not a gourmet, and to that I must respond by saying I DO collect things like this for exactly the same reason. 

I don't love Römertopf (or clay bakers in general) because I am a gourmet, but because such cookery is absolutely, positively idiot-proof​, and thus entirely suited to my culinary skill level. I quote from the (1970s era, thus the goofy title) Romertopf Cooking is Fun (why did everything have to be fun back then? I guess it was better than everything being an unconscious-bias microagression) cookbook my SIL gave me:

"Overdone" and "burnt" are words which are competely unknown in the Romertopf kitchen. Once a dish is in the oven nothing can go wrong(bolds mine)

What's not to love about that? Especially for cooks like me, who can vanquish even the simplest "No Fail" recipes. 

The baker is made of (mostly) unglazed and porous clay; you soak it in water for 15 minutes before patting it dry and putting the food in. The moisture given off during cooking prevents the food from drying out. Thus the clay baker is not so much a vessel as a process; it really can't be compared to glass or metal (even cast iron, which would probably give similar results, given the heaviness of the lid). Clay bakery produces the most succulent roast chicken and beef/bison/pork roasts we've ever eaten. Plus the heavy clay keeps the food warm for much longer than most other roasters (and if you like 'rustic', it's pretty enough to go straight to the table.) 

Fresh herbs make every chef appear Pinterest-worthy!

Das ist mir Wurst!

Translation: "That is my sausage/It's all sausage to me/I don't care"
(it's apparently an idiom, not just a declarative sentence.)

Friday, September 1, 2017

The world can end now (the Rhubarb Files)

Because I finally found a rhubarb cookie recipe that I like.

Rhubarb and I go way back. (It probably began because Auntie Anselma, God rest her soul, did not put enough sugar in her rhubarb pie. For that matter, neither did Mom, but she used more than Aunt Anselma).

I have never, ever understood rhubarb. I think it is one of the mysteries of the food universe, like tofu. I'm not alone: even the Wizard of Id made regular fun of rhubarb.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

I'm ready to have my maternal senses soothed.

I just love antique architecture, not least because back then, they knew how to design homes for families, and they didn't mess around with ridiculously large Master suites that take up half the second floor. I really love Colonial, but this 1920s design is fabulous too. Third floor attic playroom for the kids/grandchildren? Yes, please! 

This comes from the 1920's brochure describing the design: 
"All mothers should be free from those things which disturb and distress. [Amen, brother!] They should at all times feel a sense of restfulness, serenity, peace and poise. Conditions for such a state of mind cannot be found in crowded districts, but rather in ideal private homes, in the The Winchester class, where only those influences are permitted which tend to satisfy and soothe the maternal senses."
This was back in the days when "poise" meant grace, elegance, composure and dignity, not incontinence pads.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

You pray for humility...

Image found at
And you hope that God is going to answer your prayer by giving you a calm and gentle spirit that will amaze and inspire everyone around you. Instead, you wake up one day with a flaming, pulsing, hideous cold sore on your nose. And no--I'm not going to post a picture. This isn't Instagram. But here, for your edification, is Mother Teresa's 'Humility List.' (I guess as a blogger, I'm already breaking rule number one, but it does say "Speak" not "Write".)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Day of Gratitude

So it's one of the last days of summer holidays. I slept in this morning. I convinced myself I deserved it, because the last 36 hours ten years or so have been plagued by insomnia.

I berated myself for sleeping in, and indulged in guilty feelings and other useless negative emotions. But then I decided to adjust my attitude and make good use of the hours that were left to me. 

I made the sign of the cross before I got out of bed. That was my quick morning prayer. I spoke the name of my God, who is a Holy Trinity, and I traced the lines of the Christian symbol of suffering on my body. Because life is (mostly) suffering.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Something Else Writers Love


As in, on January 7, you have the effrontery to call yourself a "writer" AND THEN YOU DONT WRITE ANYTHING FOR THE NEXT EIGHT MONTHS.

Well, that's not entirely true; I have been writing in my journals, but I'm not sure that counts, since they are never likely to be published (especially if I burn them before I die, or ask Mrs Beazly to do so aferwards, providing she outlives me).

I took a hiatus from all my column writing jobs in mid 2014, and co-authored a book in 2015, which was supposed to be published in 2016, but that didn't happen for reasons too numerous to list here. And now, here we are in the latter half of 2017. How does this happen? Is life going this fast for everyone else?

Anyhow, did you ever see the movie Amadeus? At one point, someone asks Mozart how he is prorgressing on a composition he'd commissioned. Mozart has nothing to show on paper, but assures the client that it's entirely written... in his head. I'm not remotely like Mozart in any way, but I can still relate to that sentiment. That's where I've been blogging (and column and novel and non-fiction writing) for the last 7.8 months: in my head. I did not intend to take all this time off. It just kind of happened. I thought of lots of blog posts, but somehow they were never written. Maybe they still will be (though the one from the fourth Sunday of Lent, "Better Laetare Than Never," might be a bit outdated by now).

 But as the new school year rolls around, maybe it's time for a fresh start. Lots has been happening in my life; perhaps it's time to share with the five or six DOH readers who aren't related to us by blood or marriage. Please stay tuned.

Like that guy said in that Monty Python movie, "I'm not dead yet."

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Things writers love

A clean desk, some fun pens, a coffee (tea, mulled wine, or Hot Toddy) mug, a retro lamp, and a BIG FAT THICK STACK OF CLEAN FOOLSCAP! Do you remember foolscap? Do they still make foolscap? Maybe. I don't know, but if they do, it's called something else. Because the word "fool" (when used as a noun) is probably some kind of micro-aggressive, unsafe-space, hate speech.

This is cool, and I did not know it. I always thought perhaps foolscap got its name because it made the best dunce caps.

Friday, January 6, 2017

It's about zippers

But it could just as easily have been an emancipatory cry of Victorian women who were sick of riding bikes and horses (to say nothing of playing Battledore and Shuttlecock!) while wearing long heavy dresses. Except that they didn't say "swell" in Victorian times, unless they were talking about bruises and such. 

But don't you just love vintage ads? I do. I thought this was so funny. Not least because zippers were called (by this company at least) "talon fasteners". Napoleon Dynamite would approve. 

Technically swimwear, but at least they were onto something...

Retro Cookie Charm

Yes, by golly, it's the vintage Tupperware cookie cutters! Did you have these as a child? (In other words, did your mom or grandmother?) Our mom did, and my sisters and I grew up baking with them. So much fun (but I never understood the pig. Why a pig? What holiday has a pig for an emblem? I found only National Pig Day, but that's a bit of a stretch, especially since the holiday only seems to date from 1972! Something to do with Ireland was the best I could come up with, but there is clearly no shamrock associated with the Tupperware piggy.)

Many twenty years ago or so, I was at a garage sale, and I found two of them: the Santa and the gingerbread boy. I was so excited, I bought them right away. But the entire set eluded me (eBay, of course, was not invented back then) Then last year (Christmas 2015), I received this set from the Beazly household. As I vaguely recall, I squealed in a most unladylike fashion when I opened the box and saw them all there. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

It's not a raging wildfire.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.