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 App├ętit!

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.