Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Because the Neo-Citran isn't working

I've been sick for a few days now. I thought it was a cold at first, but now I'm getting flu-like symptoms. Which is really annoying, because I got a flu shot earlier this fall. (My arm still hurts! I'm gonna guess that's not normal.) I can't sleep at night, which means that I don't get much done during the day, except for tutoring my daughter, as she sits on the edge of my bed, and blogging, and listening to Jordan Peterson vids and podcasts. 

Posted on FB by a friend... and it's so true!

Time for some serious therapy:

Is there a subtext here?

 I saw this book and play kit at Costco recently, and was rather disturbed that there is no figurine of the Prince. Just the Beast.  Belle falls in love with the Beast, and he remains a beast. There is no transformation scene at the end of the book. Which is sad and a little creepy. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

It didn't bubble, and it didn't squeak

And it was just about the most awful-looking thing I've ever cooked. Bubble and Squeak is a traditional British dish that you can make to use up leftovers. Its principle ingredients are potatoes and cabbage, and this is what it's supposed to look like:

I think my downfall was using purple (red) cabbage. Which is quite lovely when eaten raw in a cole slaw or salad. But cooking, not so much.

Not even a "golden" filter helped:

Oddly enough, it was delicious. But I'm never cooking red cabbage again.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday fun

On the one hand, I'm thinking, this is very funny, but why do some people 'waste' their time doing stuff like this? On the other hand, the Bad Lip Reading folks have 6.5 million subscribers. Allow me to repeat: 6.5 MILLION. On the whole, not a bad way to pick up some pocket change. And besides, it beats 98% of what passes for entertainment on TV these days.

Be forewarned: the tune is very catchy.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

That awkward moment when the Avett Brothers sum up your entire existence

In one lyric. To wit:

And the person I am, and the person I'll be
Refuse to meet

From their wondrous album The Second Gleam. I love the Avetts because the Avetts are artists. They are flawed human beings (what ho! aren't we all), but they are true artists. Their music is amazing (even the early, raw, rough-edged, shouty songs). Some of the tunes are just crazy and fun, but some are deep and introspective. And like all good art, it leads me, one way or another, towards God. I'll explain this further at some point. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The fitness files: husband-wife Christmas presents

My hubby and I bought snowshoes for each other for Christmas. We did this for a few reasons: 
  • both of us (and I in particular) need to be in better physical condition
  • we wanted to spend more couple-time together (and how better to get a man committed than make him invest some money in the scheme? Mind you, we bought the kits at Costco)
  • we wanted an incentive to get out and do some winter exercise and enjoy all that sunshine and crisp fresh air
  • snowshoeing seems safer than most other winter sports, and it's something we can continue into our retirement years. A few years back, I fell and dislocated my thumb by (wait for it) cross-country skiing--the Nordic kind!  So I need something fairly fool- and klutz-proof.

I envisioned that we'd be doing this come December 26: 

The fantasy

And yet, here we are January 17:

The reality

The snowshoe kits have not moved more than four feet from the Christmas tree. Maybe the latter part of January will be kinder to us--and I mean that literally. No one can have "fun" with outdoor winter sports when the wind chill is -37 C.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The S word

Thou art jist as stoopid. Do not be thus. 

Post-modern society has become so politically correct and easily offended that I actually hesitated the other day to use the word "stupid" in my blog post. The S-word is so taboo these days that you can get busted in Kindergarten for using it. (But then again, you can also get busted in Kindergarten for drawing a gun, or declaring you have a best friend, or even for using the wrong gender pronoun, so what does that prove...)

Monday, January 15, 2018

You can't make this up

The same people who told us to "Let it all hang out" and "Everybody's doing it" in the 60s and 70s are now issuing "Hugging Guidelines" and forcing employees to spy and report on each other for "inappropriate" relationships, whatever that means. No more eye contact at the water cooler? Hester Prynne, call your office pillory.

(HT Dr JB Peterson on FB)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday fun

I still don't understand a lot about YouTube, or just, well...the internet in general (for example, I have yet to be convinced that Twitter is good for anything, but I remain open to learning). It amazes me how many funny and creative people are out there, creating content and basically building entertainment empires from the ground up. The Bad Lip Reading folks are a case in point. Their Star Wars music videos are hilarious.

Some of the more famous YouTubers are worth millions, which is kind of mind-boggling, especially since many of them started out with a laptop webcam, sitting on their sofas. But it's a different world than the one in which I grew up (one TV channel, I kid you not). And now I have zero--TV channels, that is. We've given up on the major networks entirely. And why not, since so much of what they do seems intent on destroying the foundations of Western Civ.

Whereas this is just funny. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

It is necessary to introduce a new category at DOH

Random internet photo: NOT the author's parking abilities.

The acronym for this category is YJAS. It stands for "Yer Jist As Stoopid" and of course, there is a story behind it.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Facebook is good for something

I "like" a page on FB called Hillbilly Cast Iron Cooking (I also love cast iron), and that is where I got the idea to make chicken pot pie in my cast iron frying pan. (I am so obtuse, it has never occurred to me in my whole life to bake something in my frying pan.) But does it ever work well! I fried up the chicken pieces (you can't say "sautéed" in relation to cast iron; it's too snooty) and onion in the pan while I steamed cubed carrots and potatoes in another pot. I made the gravy in the frying pan, right over top the chicken and onion, dumped in the potatoes and carrots, and threw in a cup of frozen peas. Then I topped it with a purchased pie crust--because I was lazy, and it was music lesson day, thus, I got home late. (They were on clearance sale at the grocery store, which was a bonus.)

I baked it for about 30 min at 375 F, just until the crust browned. My husband loves pie, so of course he was pleased with the meal. And this is funny: I felt a bit guilty about making it a single (top-only) crust pie, since he loves the pie crust. But since you had to scoop it out of the pan with a spoon, it showed up on the plate as a big pile of chicken stew with broken pastry on top. And he actually didn't notice that there was no bottom crust. 

It was very tasty and a fast way to make savoury pie. Thanks, Facebook Hillbillies!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Poor January gets such a bad rap

Rightly or wrongly? Most people I know hate January--at least the ones who live in the Northern Hemisphere. It's cold, dark, and post-Christmas depressive. I don't know about you, but come January, I usually find myself 10 pounds heavier, lots of dollars poorer, still tired from the holidays (moms don't usually "rest" much over Christmas, even though we do enjoy it, so don't feel guilty, kids!), still wondering where the previous 12 months (or 45 years) went, and feeling just a bit overwhelmed about starting a new year (it's depressing when you get depressed over having no Resolutions, because ultimately you know that they'll end up where the Resolutions from the last 50+ years went).

But you know what? The sun is rising earlier; life is pretty much what you make it, and God is watching over all of it, and willing to hold our hands if we let him. Just don't forget that he's there. One good thing about time going quickly is that January is 32.258064516% over. That's about one-third. The inspirational quotation below seems to be for Jan. 1, but really, you can use it any day of the year. Because, Behold, God makes all things new.

PS,  you are less likely to have a good year if you spend January like this, so make a different plan:

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"Drive forth, O Lord, all darksome things"

Image: St. Peter's Church, Toronto
This is why we need poetry in our lives. Isn't that one of the best lines you've ever read? It comes from the opening hymn from Morning Prayer (Liturgy of the Hours). If you do not pray the LOTH, you should seriously consider it, because it's the next most legit thing to attending daily Mass. (Yes, it's even "better" than the daily rosary, and that is saying a LOT.) If you don't know what it is, or where to begin, read this book. Available in ebook format, so you can start within the next 10 minutes if you want. I can't overstate how important this form of prayer is in my life.

We all have suffering and darkness in our lives, and we want God to take it away. Sometimes, the only prayer we can muster is, "God, help me; I can't deal with this crap."  But if we're going to pray that prayer, we might as well use beautiful language--not because God needs to hear it (he knows all the words, even the bad ones), but because we do.  God is everything that is true, good and beautiful. And good Art is the same thing. True Art leads us to God.

The LOTH is based on the Psalms, which contain some of the most beautiful words in the Bible.

The Bible also has a lot of cool metaphors. This one came from the Reading from Midmorning Prayer today: (1 Peter 1:13-14): "Gird the loins of your understanding..." Ha, I love that! In other words, 'Get it together, man!' Know what you believe; know why you believe it, and be ready to explain/defend it when asked/challenged.

By the way, I don't usually pray so many of the hours, so don't think I'm some kind of saint. In fact I was kind of cheating and listening to the LOTH audio while I tidied my bedroom this morning. It had become rather messy over the holidays. (You know it's bad when you get all the way through the podcasts of Morning Prayer, Office of Readings AND Midmorning Prayer, and you only cleaned half the room.) Disorganization, laziness and clutter: just a few more those darksome things that need to be driven forth from my life. Pray for me; I'll pray for you.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The joy of children

This is a short conversation I had with my teens the other day. 

Mom (plaintively): When I wake up in the morning, I look like Rex Murphy. [They didn't know who he was, so I showed them his picture online.]

Monday, January 8, 2018

Waiting for dawn

The houseplants near my kitchen patio door, waiting for sunrise. 
Christmas is almost officially over, as Ordinary Time begins tomorrow.  I hope you had a nice Christmas; our family certainly did. It's always sad at the end of the holidays to see the adult and college-age children going back to their jobs and studies.  This January is more poignant than usual, since Daughter #5 is leaving home, and there are various other changes afoot, some of which I did not anticipate. As they say, "Change is the only Constant" (actually, "they" is the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus, which I just discovered this very moment. Isn't Google useful sometimes?)

Despite the various challenges of life, my spirits are lifted because: 1) God; 2) we are POST-SOLSTICE: more hours of daylight--yay! I have trouble getting up early in the morning at the best of times, but winter is even less fun. When one of our daughters was little, she called everything between midnight and sunrise "Dark Morning," and the label is apropos, literally as well as metaphorically. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Wise men still seek Him

Happy solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord!

I thought I would jot down a few notes inspired by Mass today. Here is the Opening Prayer:

“O God, who on this day revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, grant in your mercy that we who know you already by faith may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory.”

It's funny (or sad) how sometimes the words of the prayers and readings of Mass go in one ear and out the other, without even pausing to register. And then other days, a sentence, or phrase, or word will jump out at you and sear itself into your brain, and inspire you to go home and meditate on it for a while. This phrase from the Opening Prayer caught my imagination this morning:

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Happy Christmas Eve

To our Ukrainian and Orthodox friends!

Here is a lovely article about the traditions of Ukrainian Christmas. Being of Slavic descent, and having been gifted with a beautiful volume of Russian folk and fairy tales in the early 70's (thanks, big sisters!), and having been introduced to Catherine Doherty's writings at young age (thanks, Dad!) I have a great love for Eastern Christian art, spirituality, rituals, architecture, culture and so forth. (How did I not mention food in that list?) I have never experienced a Ukrainian Christmas Eve feast, but someday I would love to.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Is it a stretch to suggest St. Irenaeus would approve of vintage Tupperware?

Well, why not?

I read this quite long ago in the Office of Readings (emphasis added):

From the treatise Against Heresies 
by Saint Irenaeus, bishop

From the beginning God created man out of his own generosity. [Here follows a section wherein St. Irenaeus lists some material goods that God gave to his chosen people...] In so many ways he was training the human race to take part in the harmonious song of salvation.
He himself needs none of these things. He is always filled with all that is good. Even before Moses existed he had within himself every fragrance of all that is pleasing. Yet he sought to teach his people, always ready though they were to return to their idols. Through many acts of indulgence he tried to prepare them for perseverance in his service. He kept calling them to what was primary by means of what was secondary, that is, through foreshadowings to the reality, through things of time to the things of eternity, through things of the flesh to the things of the spirit, through earthly things to the heavenly things. As he said to Moses: You will fashion all things according to the pattern that you saw on the mountain.
For forty days Moses was engaged in remembering the words of God, the heavenly patterns, the spiritual images, the foreshadowings of what was to come. Saint Paul says: They drank from the rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. After speaking of the things that are in the law he continues: All these things happened to them as symbols: they were written to instruct us, on whom the end of the ages has come.
Through foreshadowings of the future they were learning reverence for God and perseverance in his service. The law was therefore a school of instruction for them, and a prophecy of what was to come.
So the moral of the story is: enjoy beauty, and make your homes and your lives beautiful, and if vintage Tupperware does that for you, then go for it! But remember where true beauty truly (in our souls and our relationships), and cultivate it first and foremost there. Our wonderful and beautiful stuff should ultimately point to God, not become gods themselves. 

Here is a sad consequence of worshipping false idols (h/t Peter Rosengren, FB)
Let us end with Psalm 84:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord, God of hosts.

My soul is longing and yearning,
is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my soul ring out their joy
to God, the living God.

The sparrow herself finds a home
and the swallow a nest for her brood;
she lays her young by your altars,
Lord of hosts, my king and my God.

Happy fifth day of 2018. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

I came for the Mystery; I stayed for the Style

I love the British Poirot series, created/adapted by Clive Exton (who also did a smashing job of Jeeves and Wooster) and starring the wonderful David Suchet. Someday, I want to own the entire DVD series, because the day is coming when there will be nothing to watch on TV. 

We have already given up on all network TV and no longer have satellite service. And now Netflix has dropped some seasons of Poirot, so what good are they? (Netflix, that is.) And besides, our internet service is terrible (Xplornet, our provider is ranked 20th out of 20 providers, and alas and alack, we still have an entire year on our contract!). So DVDs it is. 

But the style! When I watch this series, I'm always geeking out over the Art Deco furniture, architecture and the 1930s clothing. I especially love Miss Lemon. I would like to dress like her when I grow up. 

Her secretarial togs: 

Her glamorous side: 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Lord, Denny...

"Fetch me a glass of wine..."

...and if you know the line of dialogue that follows, then you'll know what I'm about to lament. And it started before the Christmas feasting. Last spring and summer, I lost 22 lb, but since fall, I've gained 11 of it back. Time to get back on the Healthy Lifestyle wagon. 

And yet, one must always maintain perspective: health is good, but obsession with body image and weight loss is not. Just for fun, here is one of my old columns written for the Australian Catholic newspaper The Report (the link below is the original title, and leads to the archived column on The Report's website.)

Were I a cartoonist, I might have attempted an action-hero comic strip this week. Alas, we must await another day (or decade) for my rendition of ‘St Paul vs the Abdomeniser.’
Once a pejorative term, ‘navel gazing’ is now a vocation, and one that’s practised on numerous levels. Philippians 3:18-19 speaks of many “whose god is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame…”. Other sources translate ‘belly’ as ‘stomach’ but the word may also represent certain organs several centimetres south of that.
Biblical exegetes interpret this passage to mean indulging (and revelling) in one’s physical appetites and lusts, whether these be gluttonous, inebriating or sexual in nature.
Though we may serve our bellies, most of us hate them. North Americans employ various epithets for that midsection flab (doubtless Aussies could add a few colourful ones): pooch, chub, spare tyre, jelly rolls, love handles, muffin top, beer belly, baby belly, Buddha gut – to name just a few.
I know few terms for toned abdominal muscles—‘washboard stomach’ and ‘six pack’ come to mind—but most of us want them. The bodybuilding, weight loss and fitness industries demonstrate that the desire to eliminate one’s belly can also become a false god. If only I had a dollar (or lost a centimetre off my waist) for every time I’ve seen this ad teaser pop up online: “Reduce belly fat with this one weird old tip”.
I confess I’ve clicked more than once: the weird old tip invariably involves buying a weight loss program; it may require eating products I can’t pronounce; sometimes I don’t know what it involves other than a droning pseudo-doctor narrating an interminable video that I don’t have time to watch.
The first three definitions of “weird” are (in order): “odd”, “supernatural”, “of fate”. Many weight loss strategies surely fall into the “odd” category. Few are really fateful, in that no-one’s life is changed forever (though tragically, some people suffer permanent physical damage or even death because of zany diet-related drugs and stunts).
Ideally, fitness should contain a supernatural element, because most of us can’t achieve it (or anything, really) without God’s help. It’s that whole John 15:5 thing.
But man will never stop trusting in his own devices, and some of them are hilarious indeed. Just Google “Ab Machines” and prepare yourself for a belly laugh. My teen daughters and I sometimes watch late-night infomercials, and have seen these things in action (Lord help us, we are easily amused and don’t get out much):
“This machine helped me meet my wife!” (He doesn’t get out much either.)
“Stores under your bed!” (And that’s where it will stay, gathering dust, till the next garage sale.)
“The belt creates heat and sweats off the inches! That’s why people in tropical countries are so slim!” (No, many people in tropical countries are ‘slim’ because they are hungry, the tragi-irony of which is lost on hucksters and gluttons alike.)
Even the names are silly: ‘Abdomeniser’ (sounds as though it might have been invented by Vlad the Impaler), ‘Ab Crunch Bench’ (makes me crave sugary cereal), ‘Ab Rocket Trainer’, ‘Ab Circle Pro’ (funny to watch, once you get beyond the initial horror), AB Doer Twist (makes me crave big, soft pretzels), “Total Core 2” Ab Machine (version 1 must have been only Partial Core, hence the design upgrade), Ab Wheel (which need never be re-invented, for obvious reasons), Hula Chair (or as I like to call it: Malfunctioning Office Chair Possessed by Satan), Ab Flyer, Ab Glider, Ab Roller, Ab Coaster (heaven help us if those last two companies merge) , Yogima Massage Abdominal Exerciser, which is (wait for it) a hula hoop—with special sports-grade knobs on it, Only $70, Ab Flex Belt (“stimulates” your muscles with electrical impulses). This could also be called the Unicorn Fairy Pixie-dust Ab Belt, because it operates on the same principle.
You cannot get fit with batteries, Velcro, and wishful thinking. I even discovered an “Aussie Abs” exercise machine, which begs the question: how are Aussie abs different from Canadian abs?
Are the muscle groups in reverse order, due to their relative position to the equator?
The Aussie Abs ad reads: “This exercise equipment works very much like a pogo stick, except you are sitting down when using it.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t even imagine that. Not even after three cups of coffee.
You want a weird old tip? Try this on for size: regular prayer, proper nutrition, self-restraint, an active lifestyle, charity toward the needy, and not obsessing about your belly.
Old, yes; weird, not so much, except that so few people try it these days.
St Paul ostensibly approved of athletics, since he uses them as a positive metaphor for the spiritual life. Being healthy and strong is an objective good.
It only becomes disordered when we remove an “o”, so to speak, and turn a “good” into a “god”.
So crunch away (on your abs and your celery), but remember your life’s true goal and Whom it is you serve. 
Copyright 2013 Mariette Ulrich and The Report

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

So why haven't I been posting much?

Because life throws you curve balls. Once in a while you connect; often you swing and miss; and sometimes the ball hits you in the head and knocks you unconscious, and you lie there for years, wondering about your place in the universe.

If you want a different metaphor, perhaps one that Dr.Jordan B. Peterson might use (WATCH HIS VIDEOS--any of them, all of them) would suffice: in the last five years (maybe more like seven), I have spent a great deal of the time in the Underworld, with occasional side trips to hell. In that time, I have unfortunately discovered that I am about 90% deadwood. And I've been spending a lot of time  and prayer trying to figure out how to salvage and use the remaining 10% for which there may (or may not) be potential.

Yeah, yeah, everyone has problems. Suffering is a core component of Being (Dr. Peterson... I'm going to be quoting him a lot from now on, because like thousands of other people all over the globe, I've kind of taken him on as a shrink and mentor). But thanks be to God, it feels as though I am emerging back into the sunlight once more. I believe 2018 is going to be a great year, because I'm going to do my best to make it so. Life is full of choices, and every one we make "tilts the world a little bit, either towards heaven or hell". (Dr. Peterson again, but he's just repeating basic Christian theology.)

Happy January 2. May God richly bless you this coming year.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy January First: Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

One of Bourguereau's lovely paintings.

Happy New Year! This is not going to be a long post, because it's still holiday time, and I'm spending it with my family. Did 2017 go by as quickly for you as it did for me? I can't believe how time is flying. You'd almost think I'm getting old or something. 

But stop for a minute (at least) and think about this--even if you're not Catholic: God chose to have a mom. You know, GOD, creator of the universe, who existed before and outside all time and space. That should tell us something about how important it is to be a mom. It's the most important job in the world. And Mary did hers to perfection (everything she did pointed to her Son). That is why we honour her.