Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Five Favorites

I've been working on several posts lately, but I've not published any of them here, so I'll join Hallie Lord's fun link-up at Moxie Wife.

1. Buckskin Bill Black

I grew up watching Buckskin Bill's television show every weekday morning on WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.   He told stories, talked to his puppet named "What'sYourName?" (if you wrote a letter and asked, he would say his name was yours for the day), showed cartoons, and taught children to turn Monday into a Fun Day by doing the Monday Morning March.   Mama loved to tell people how cute I was, marching around our living room as I did the March along with Buckskin Bill.   Before my time, he decided Baton Rouge needed a zoo and worked to make it happen.   Then, he led a penny drive so the children of the area could contribute enough pennies to purchase two elephants for the zoo.   I love this man and I'm so happy he was a part of my childhood.   It's worth a watch.   It's really a peak into another era when childhood was valued a bit more than now.

2.  Soy Butter at Wal-Mart

I found soy butter at our Wal-Mart for just $3.78 a jar!!!!   Our eldest daughter is allergic to all nuts, so we use this peanut butter alternative in our house.   I usually pay over $5 per jar at another store because I've never found it cheaper.   A few days ago, I did.   Happy.

3.  Apple Peels

Some messes make you tired; they push you to exasperation.   But, a pile of apple peels?   For me, that's a mess that just makes me happy to the core.   Get it?!   Peeling apples is therapy for me.   I have no desire for gadgets.   Give me a simple paring knife and leave me alone to peel my apples.   It's like a Calgon moment for me.  

Before the Pie: there's a beauty to the rings and squared cores.

4.  Cherry sandals

If you don't smile when you just look at these darling shoes, there might be something seriously wrong with you.   And they were on Clearance!   Perfect for my Clare!

Cherry sandals, cherry dress, all for a cutie pie:)

5. Chopped

We haven't had cable television for two years now.   It's been great, although I do miss Eastenders and a few favorites from Food TV.   This week, I decided to do the month free trial of Amazon Prime.   Oh, joy: the Instant Videos!   I can watch Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa and Chopped.   I loved watching Chopped, the show where chefs are challenged to make a three course meal using an odd assortment of ingredients.   Each course has to be made in only twenty minutes.   I am in awe of the creativity and talent of the chefs.   I have enjoyed catching up on new episodes with the whole family.   And I don't have to wait until after commercials to find out "who's been chopped..."

Check out more Five Favorites over at Moxie Wife!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Easter 2013

It's still the Easter season, so these are not late!   Happy Easter to all.   The children made it through another Easter Vigil Mass.   The fire at the beginning and the candlelight as we entered the sanctuary were highlights for them.   As always, it brought back memories of my baptism and welcome into the Catholic Church.   My 16h Anniversary as a Catholic was Good Friday.   Easter Sunday was a beautiful day of an extraordinary amount of chocolate and time spent together with dear friends.   And desserts.   Lots of delicious desserts!   The children's lunches reflected the joy of the Octave with one of Joey's homemade coconut cupcakes every day.

I realized I haven't taken outdoor Easter pictures in their Easter finery for the past two years.   Who takes indoor Easter pictures at home?!

Very excited over stuffed bunnies.   We don't have that many stuffed animals in our house.
New matching gown set for doll and cute little girl

He LOVES his soccer ball.   LOVES.

Another matching gown set, another cute little girl

Easter morning: my first Cadbury Creme Egg of the season.   Finally.
How adorable are all these children?   Ready to hunt eggs!

Desserts!   The centerpiece was Megan's beautiful lamb cake.   She uses the same cake pan passed down in her family.   It's a beautiful tradition and it was a delicious cake!

My Easter table: Mama's vases filled with beautiful tulips

New place mats after waiting for 2 years to find a great deal!   And I love burlap.

Mama painted these.

Darcy, Don Draper and the Great Struggles

I don't feel the popular appeal of Pride and Prejudice as a love story.    I totally understand the reaction to Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen on-screen as Mr. Darcy (boy, do I get that), but that's unrelated to the story for me.   Yes, I love the romantic story within the larger story, but it always annoys me to levels quite abnormal when Pride and Prejudice is seen simply as a love story.   It's so much more complicated than that.  My biggest criticism of the feature-length film from 2005, starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley is that it distilled the whole novel into just a love story.   The first time I watched the movie was under miserable circumstances, but after viewing it under more pleasant ones, I can now find things to compliment.  The great success of the 1995 BBC television adaptation of the novel, besides showcasing Colin Firth, was that it included some key elements of the novel.    In the novel, we see Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy grow as individuals before they become a couple.   They observe others more keenly, gaining insight about relationships and behaviours.   They adjust preconceived notions as they are placed in circumstances outside their normal ones.   Most importantly to me, they are engaged in a great moral struggle.   It's the struggle that is a human effort, whether consciously or not,  to grasp what is divine.   It's finding one's bearings by the great moral compass of the divine truths imprinted upon our souls.   It's the pull--the allure--of Pride and Prejudice for me.   It's what always keeps me reading or watching the latest book, film, or television series I've begun.

I am most engaged, most emotionally invested in Pride and Prejudice, when the plot turns to the great scandal of Lydia Bennet and George Wickham.   Oh, that Wickham!   Would that he never entered into their lives!   But Wickham has already been a part of Mr. Darcy's life.   Mr. Darcy knows things.  Elizabeth learns these same things.   And they don't tell.   They don't mete out judgement upon Wickham.   They don't seek personal satisfaction in exposing him for all he has truly been.  Worldly wisdom tells us that Wickham deserved to be exposed as a fraud and a scoundrel.  Instead, Mr. Darcy takes cautious and deliberate care to fix as much damage as can be corrected and to put Wickham and Lydia in as good a position as possible to leave their mistakes behind and start anew. 

Every single time I read the novel, I am amazed.   Honestly, I also always wonder, "Would I have done the same?"   Would I have had the same moral fortitude?   It's part of the timeless appeal of the novel.   The personal temptations for satisfaction, revenge, or just the interior outrage that exists when we see others successfully passing themselves off as something quite different from the hidden actions of which we are aware: these have existed in humans since the Fall.   No matter the time period, these battles have raged in our hearts and minds.

My thoughts have turned often to Darcy and Pride and Prejudice after viewing Season 5 of Mad Men on Netflix last week.   No cable or satellite, so I'm always at least a year behind on a cable series.   The main character, Don Draper, reminds me of Mr. Darcy in several ways.   No, really, stick with me for this.   It's what endears him to me--what makes me root for him to turn it all around-- in spite of his past mistakes.

Mad Men, a series created by Matthew Weiner, tells the story of characters centered around a fictional advertising agency in New York City during the 1960s.   It tells the story of America during those turbulent times whilst the equally stormy lives of the central characters unfold.    The series has been justly awarded with recognition for its writing, acting, production, and design of both sets and costumes.   The characters are complicated and well-developed.   The plot twists are unexpected, but in subtle, realistic ways, for the most part.   We see characters of different ages adjusting to their lives and seeking stability at the same time the culture is going through such chaos.   It is intelligent, beautiful and engaging television.   And, in all honesty, I love that one of the female lead characters is curvy and Marilyn-esque instead of the prized willowy physique we usually see on-screen.

Don Draper, a gifted advertising executive who becomes a partner in a newcomer firm, is the central character of the show.   Not only does the show's plot revolve around him, but for many of the characters he becomes some sort of nucleus for their lives.   He is beyond merely attractive, in impeccably tailored suits and hats which only serve to accentuate his beautiful features.   He is charming in a very learned way.   His great gift that makes him such a power player in the advertising business is his ability to read people and figure out what makes them tick.   He is a man with a dark past, as viewers see in slight glimpses of flashback.   We know his childhood was not normal and that it was so terrible he left it behind.   He appears to be the American ideal of the Self-Made Man.   We seek the cracks, however, and we see all that "having it all" really lacks.

Unlike Mr. Darcy, who was raised and trained to be a man of his position, Don Draper has to piece his life together on his own.    He was not raised with any faith or any compass beyond instincts of survival.   He fails miserably in his marriage and fares little better in his role as a father to his three children.   He seems to only find certainty in the world of work and later in the world he seeks to create when he begins a new marriage.   He genuinely wants to be a good man, I think.   The character of Roger Sterling, a partner in the same firm and the man who gave Don his first break in advertising, serves the role of being a contrast to Don, as Roger has no desire to be good, but only wants to enjoy every base pleasure he desires.

Throughout the series, we see glimpses of the nobility of character hidden deep within Don.   He knows things about the other characters.   Big, scandalous things which could ruin people's reputations and lives.   And he doesn't tell.   Like Darcy, he helps people privately and attempts to give them the best chance to move on he possibly can.   Also, like Darcy, he expects nothing in return.   Nothing.   He shrugs it off.   We understand that part of his motivation must be his own murky past.   Unlike Darcy, who has been trained in a system of nobility and justice, Don seems motivated by his own mistakes.   He seems to recognize himself in his fellow sinners and draw from second chances he was given.   It's no small act to know things that you could use for satisfaction and to choose to keep them hidden.   It's an even bigger act to show mercy to those same people and help them in the best way you are able so they can take a different path, especially when your own attempts at the right way have been so troubled.

Whatever their backgrounds or motivations, Don Draper and Fitzwilliam Darcy both face choices.   They both face inner demons and their sinful natures.   They both make deliberate decisions to forgive, show mercy, and help others find a new way.   It's the kernel of goodness that makes them leading men for whom I cheer inside as I read and watch.    They are both engaged in the moral struggles that make life so hard, so messy, but so interesting.   I know how Pride and Prejudice turns out, but I still have two seasons of Mad Men to which I look forward.   There were scenes that broke my heart from Season five because they were portrayed as truly tragic.  I hope Don can find the good path for which he seems to really long.    Real love and forgiveness, like that which he shares with some, but finds so hard to communicate in marriage and fatherhood.   It's what keeps me re-reading Austen's novel and watching television like Mad Men.   It's what keeps me examining my own conscience. Good can exist.   Hope can exist.   Because God exists, whether we acknowledge Him or not.  

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Defiant Requiem

Last night, I watched a beautiful documentary on PBS, Defiant Requiem.   It is the true story of a 1944 performance of Verdi's beautiful Requiem Mass in Terezín, a Nazi concentration camp.   The performance was arranged by inmate and conductor, Rafael Schächter.   It was performed by a chorus of his fellow prisoners, many of whom would be shipped out to face death following the performance.

The link above is for a great article by Jason Apuzzo, of The Huffington Post.

"Know before whom you stand."  A wall of the secret synagogue at Terezin.

There's not much to add to Apuzzo's article, other than:

1. My favorite quote, amongst many:

Survivor Edgar Krasa says of the Requiem, "It was a prayer that overcame hunger ... you were there [singing] in that cellar and you were a different person." Another survivor who sang in the chorus, Marianka May, agrees: "My stomach stopped growling when I was singing. I think when you are more a soul than a person, I don't think the soul has to be nourished by anything but heavenly music." 

"...when you are more a soul than a person..."   The very knowledge that should have prevented the Holocaust--and all the ugliness we do to others--in the first place.

Danny and Rafi Krasa lift their father Edgar Krasa, who was Raphael Schachter's roommate and a choir member during their time in Terezin.

2.  Schächter chose the Requiem because he and the inmates could tell their Nazi captors of the judgement which awaited them and they could cry openly to God for their liberation.   The inmates who survived speak of the beauty of the piece and the power they found in the Latin words.   They memorized it without any books or papers.   It nourished them, connected them to God, to each other, and to hope.

It seemed a contrast to those few Catholics who nearly spit with anger when they discuss why the mass should only be in Latin.   I wonder what is their motivation because surely if the Latin mass affected them as it did the prisoners of Terezin, they would speak with more love and seek their own ways to convince others--with beauty and art-- all in the name of He who is Love and Hope.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Five Favorites

This week's link-up with Hallie Lord at Moxie Wife: British, kitchen, and flowers

It's BACK on PBS Masterpiece for Season 2.   I've avoided spoilers from the UK as much as I can since the episodes have already aired there.   I love the characters, every last one of them, especially Jenny Lee, Chummy, and Sister Monica Joan.    It's just a simple, but beautiful story of life--and the search for real love in all its forms-- in the East End of London in the 1950s.   It's is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth and it is narrated by the older Nurse Jenny Lee.   She recounts leaving her sheltered life to live in a convent clinic where she works as a newly certified midwife.   The show is not what we might expect in the US, where such a title might denote an anti-doctor, anti-hospital message.   It shows the NHS (National Health Service) bringing trained midwives (also certified nurses), under the supervision of doctors, to women who had no professional health care before.   Jenny learns to look past the exterior and surroundings to see real, complicated people.   It is beautifully filmed and written.   The actors are superb.   I'm looking forward to Episode 2 of Season 2 this Sunday night.   Season 1 is available on Netflix and the first episode of Season 2 is on the PBS website.

2. theKitchn 

No, that's not misspelled.   It's one of my favorite Food websites.   I love the tours of REAL people's REAL kitchens.  These are places where people actually cook and gather with family and friends; they are not showplaces.  The recipes are varied, fresh, and fabulous.  It also offers practical organization and food budgeting advice.  It's just original and a happy place to spend a few clicks of the mouse.   This week, I'm especially loving the vintage print on a tea towel (on the right in picture below) featured in a happy simple apartment kitchen tour (see, REAL places) and an incredibly delicious-sounding recipe for a BAKED RICOTTA appetizer.   Yum!

3. BBC Radio 4

Almost a British theme going here!   I usually have this station playing on my iPhone or laptop throughout the day.   I love the quality dramas, news programs and interviews with fascinating people.   I like listening to the coverage of Parliament and weather (because I'm weird like that) and I think it's nice to have a different perspective on happenings in the world, although there are many Americans on the programs.   It's where I got most of my election news last fall.   It's where I find out about interesting new books, also.

4. Fresh Flowers

I don't buy fresh flowers as often as I should.   I bought these beautiful tulips for our Easter table and they are still brightening our days of the Octave of Easter.   The vases belonged to Mama.

5. Key Lime Pie

I only make this for special people or special occasions because it's a little time-consuming.   Easter deserves a pie that takes extra time and work.   I love the fresh, vibrant tartness and color.   Here are my two favorite recipes from my pie blog for this delicious slice of refreshment.

A Blessed Easter to you and yours and check out more Five Favorites at (this week taken over by Jen Fulwiler)!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Recent Must-Reads and a Must-Watch

I did not give up Facebook for Lent, but I ended up nearly abandoning it during Holy Week.   I only glanced at notifications and "liked" all the beautiful family Easter photos that I found on my news feed late Sunday evening.   This evening, I found a notification that Marc at BadCatholic on the Patheos Catholic Channel had finally gotten back to writing.   And what a return!   It seems there's constantly a post churning in the back of my mind about what drew me to the Catholic Church, despite my anti-Catholic upbringing.   I loved novels set amongst devout Jewish families, with their calendar centered around festivals that even dictated the use of their time and foodstuffs.   Why had that disappeared with Christianity?   Liturgy?   And then I attended my first mass and felt the draw and the first pull for me to find that which my heart so desperately sought.   Now, I've read this, though, and I don't know what else I could write.   This is beautiful.   This is what drew me to the Eternal Word, whom I now know where to seek in the Eucharist until I reside in Eternity with Him.

An excerpt from Ritual, Evidence of Eternity:

'Eternity demands repetition, a ritual of again-and-again played out by those seeking to kiss it, we whose limited physicality cannot handle the Unlimited, whose ending, fading bodies cannot wrap themselves around the unending and never-fading. If you are looking for Eternity, look where you find ritual. Ritual is repetition that seeks Eternity in the thing repeated.'

Ritual is repetition that seeks eternity in the thing repeated, and the Church overflows with ritual. I genuflect every time I enter a Catholic Church, because no number of genuflections could fully satisfy the desire I have to honor the presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. I dip my finger in the holy water and stripe myself with the sign of the cross, because no amount of baptismal water could ever be enough to allow me to fully grasp the ever-depth of what it means to be an adopted son of God. The priest chants his Dominus vobiscum and I my et cum spiritu tuo, and we’ll be chanting it nunc et semper, in saecula saeculorum because no number of repetitions will allow me to comprehend the mystery of Christ truly present in his apostle, the priest. The feasts, the fasts, the holy days of obligations — the Calendar is enshrined repetition, the embrace of an everlasting life, which we cannot conceive of living once and for all, a life we can only live again and again. (This may only mean something to a few, but have it nonetheless: Nietzsche’s Eternal Return is fulfilled in the Julian and Roman Calendars.)

The Church survives her parodies. She calls them heresies and dances forward. She is unchanging, not because she is stuck in the mud, but because the mud cannot stick to her. I know that the incense will rise, the bells will ring, the people will bow, and I will consume the Body and Blood of Christ again and again, not to attain Eternity — how can I in the shadowlands? — but to pant after Eternity, to become Eternity, to dive into the ever-deeper Evermore, to sink my hands and teeth and heart into the Almighty God, tearing Him from Heaven into myself, by the grace that He does the same to me, again and again, until the veil of finitude is in tatters and I see Him — Goodness, Truth and Beauty Himself — face to ever-eager face.   
Now, go read it in its entirety.   Then, re-read.   Savor.   Repeat.

I look forward to King's pictures, like this one, captioned "Let's have coffee!"

Where to begin with Heather King's blog, Shirt of Flame?   Print out every post, tape them to a wall and just start throwing darts.   Trust me, you'll hit greatness every time.   This was a particularly powerful post for me to read as I headed into Holy Week.   It dovetails well with the radical example of our newly elected Pope Francis.   It was a much-needed kick in the rear.

(and no, she doesn't want women to be priests)

...Because “those people” are us: the people, the only people, suffering, struggling humans. Because if we’re going to be inviting people to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience, we sure as hell better be inviting each other into our homes, our tables, our hemorrhaging, conflicted hearts.
If you're afraid all that is going to "lower your standards," you're very much mistaken. There's no lower standard than self-righteous fear...
 ...You’ll realize: I actually let that guy who cut me off in traffic yesterday off the hook. I actually felt a stab of what felt suspiciously like affection toward my mother-in-law, my junkie son, my sex-worker neighbor, the Marine Corps soldier, the bleeding-heart liberal (depending on your stance, one of these is sure to be difficult), my boss (bonus points if you're self-employed), the young girl who, from a one-night-stand, is having a baby…
You’ll realize: Oh. THIS is what Christ meant! I don’t have to be boiled in oil or have my eyes gouged out. This is laying down my life: this sharing, this exchange, this richness, this mercy, this mystery.

You’ll realize that love is a way more tender--and way more exacting Master--than fear.

Again, read, savor, repeat.   This is how we are called to lay ourselves down and it's not easy.   Check out the comments on her post, also.   Then, hang out and read more of her blog.

Then, there was this treasure from the CBS Evening News.   I have never seen the anchor of a major news program cry like this.   Steve Pelley could not control the emotion any more than I could as he was in the presence of the beautiful witness of this Newtown family and the state trooper who has now become a member of their family.   This is faith in action and it is difficult to watch, but it is beautiful.   A glimpse of beauty in ugliness.   A part of the answer to those who ask "Where was God?"

Please take a moment to watch in its entirety.   A transcript is included in the link:

I just knew it. Mother's instinct, call it what you want. My belief is that God just wrapped me up and -- and held me tight knowing that what was to unfold in the coming hours and the coming days was just going to be horrific.
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