Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Menu ideas for St. Brigid's Feast Day

I am not one for adventure cooking.  Because our family likes to eat dinner together, I prefer simple meals that do not involve much forethought.   This time of year, you’ll find such standards as meatloaf, chilli, taco salad, spaghetti, baked pork chops and various soups and salads on the rotating menu.   When it comes to the fancy stuff, I leave that to my husband whose fondest hobby is trying assorted recipes for everything from cornish game hens to guacamole.

Imagine his (and our kids) surprise when he arrived at the dinner table recently to find Boxty Pancakes and Beacán Bruithe (stuffed mushrooms) created by yours truly.  I found the traditional Irish recipes in a  book given to me by my mom titled, Celtic Teas With Friends by Elizabeth Knight and illustrated by Hugh Harrison.  It's a colorful and entertaining little book with rich illustrations and brief commentary that includes bits of history, folklore, recipes and common teatime traditions enjoyed in Wales, Cornwall, Ireland and Scotland.

The recipes were listed in conjunction with a tea for St. Brigid’s Feast Day which is coming up soon on February 1st.  As St. Brigid is my patron saint of course the menu for this particular tea piqued my curiosity and I decided to try a few.    I surprised myself ...I enjoyed making these dishes just as much as eating them!    The boxty pancakes combined mashed potatoes with raw grated potatoes, buttermilk, flour and baking soda and were especially good served up hot out of my cast iron skillet.   My husband went on so about the scrumptious dishes that I think I’ll have to do a little more adventure cooking this year.    I believe I can sense my Nanny's (my late paternal grandmother) smile even as I type that.

With whatever foods you decide to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday, St. Brigid’s Day, may God bless your table with plenty.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

This movie came out in  2007 and although I didn’t catch it on the big screen, I finally rented it several months ago.  Since hubby & I recently watched David Starkey’s History Channel documentary on Queen Elizabeth, I’m thinking of this lady who so captures my imagination. 

Elizabeth I is one of my heroes, one of those people from history that I am continually intrigued with.  That may sound strange coming from an Orthodox Christian who might easily identify with the Catholic struggle under this Protestant Queen, and yet it is her restraint, her firm resolve to avert the bloodbath that her half-sister Mary had ordained, that fosters my admiration.

Elizabeth:  The Golden Age, starring Cate Blanchett, is the sequel to the 1998 film, Elizabeth, which tells the story, albeit loosely, of the beginning of her reign in 1559.  The Golden Age picks up in the middle of her 45 year reign as the tensions with Roman Catholic Spain were at an all-time high and war was on the horizon.    

I thought the Golden Age was an artistic achievement with rich costumes, authentic sets and ethereal scenes that would make for excellent oils.  In this way, The Golden Age directed by Shekhar Kapur, is superior to its prequel.   And Cate Blanchett simply IS Elizabeth I.  I cannot think of anyone more suitable for the role.    However, that’s about the extent of my praise.

I kept waiting to be awed by this film, by explosive and intelligent speeches, by scenes created to flesh out Elizabeth’s mastery of multiple languages and political finese, but they simply didn’t materialize.   I was left pondering several scenes, wondering if Hollywood had gone too far in manipulating the truth in order to dazzle. Ugh.  The truth of her life is much more dazzling than the scene created of an (erroneous) youthful Elizabeth riding out on a great steed to deliver a powerful speech to encourage her troops to defeat the Spanish Armada.

The personal anguish that Elizabeth must have battled, the realities of being a woman and also a Queen, forever in danger of assassination attempts and plots to overthrow her, is played out well in the film, even if artistic license is taken here as well. 

This personal battle is also why she is a woman I most admire.  Elizabeth made difficult choices and always in the interest of her country, in securing England’s place in the world, in protecting her from the Inquisition.  She ruled during the fire of the Protestant Reformation and showed wisdom when she said, “I have no desire to make windows into mens souls”  as she tolerated Catholicism in her Protestant land.  Although she removed icons as idolatrous, I tend to view her as carrying out her father's desires and standing firm against a corrupt papacy.

All in all, I’d give Elizabeth: The Golden Age a C+ because it’s a beautiful recreation of one of my favorite periods in history but it’s too much symbolism over substance to warrant a hearty applause.

If you’re a fan of Queen Elizabeth I, I’d recommend the History Channel’s  4 part documentary by David Starkey; we found this series at our local library.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Best Wishes

 Congratulations President Obama.
May God grant you health, guidance and wisdom in your service to this great nation.

President Bush,
Thank you for serving the United States of America 
and making decisions
based upon your convictions rather than popular opinion.
THANK YOU for keeping my family safe in the post 9/11 world.
May God bless you and keep you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hats off to the Steelers!

What an amazing game last night!  I hope to see the Steelers go all the way to Super Bowl victory =-)  Troy Polamalu made an impressive showing on the field against the Ravens, but did you know he is also an Orthodox Christian?  In an age where we have more news stories about star athletes serving time for  lawless behaviour, it was refreshing to find a Yahoo! Sports interview with Mr. Polamalu at Mind in the Heart blog.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Snapshot ~ Friday afternoon

I am reading:   Esther de Waal's,  Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality

I am listening to:  Live Ireland Radio

I am seeing: orders & tasks on my desk to complete

I am thankful for:  a warm house when it’s 11 degrees outside!

I am smelling:  Fred Soll's pinon (desert pine) incense

I am praying for family

I have discovered:  that I am slowly grasping what true hospitality means

I am thinking: that holidays and feast days are fully enjoyed when I stop worrying about details and focus on the essence of the celebration

One of my favorite things: coffee friends - those few that know me best and love me anyway!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mere Consumers?

“Have pity on us for the look of things,

When blank denial stares us in the face.

Although the serpent mask have lied before

It fascinates the bird.”  George MacDonald

The obstinate illusion before us each day is that which shields an honest view of ourselves.  We create masks, those images we want people to see and quietly sweep the ugly stuff under the rug.  Our addictions remain, our justifications all the same...tomorrow we will conquer the clutter in our lives ...tomorrow.   

Fr. Andrew delivered a powerful sermon on Sunday reminding us that our nation sees society as mere consumers, but what does that really say about us as human beings?  Do we live in a disposable world where every material item is easily replaced?  Are we so absorbed by instant gratification that we’re missing what’s real...what’s pure?

From his sermon:

“What are the fruits of this endless appetite for something else to eat, something else to consume, something new and interesting? For one thing, we are often bored. We spend so much of our time voraciously consuming the latest bit of entertainment, gossip, information, politics, and possessions that when we encounter things like beauty, permanence, or—dare I say it?—eternity, our response is “I’m bored.” As consumers, our attention spans get more and more childish.

Our appetite as consumers is such that we don’t just use up entertainment and information, but we also use up people. We see other people primarily in terms of what they can provide us rather than for who they are and the communion we can have with them. This corrupts not only friendships, but also marriages and families. “

Fr. Andrew has posted his full sermon, "Consumption and the Dignity of Man", here.

Praise God for illuminating our darkened hearts and minds, praise the Father of Lights for granting us grace to cast off the mask!

*Painting is by John William Waterhouse, "The Crystal Ball"

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Frankincense: Gift of the Magi

When the Magi visit the Christ child, we are told in St. Matthew 2 that they found him in his house, not the cave where the shepherds worshipped him. Theirs was a long and arduous journey in order to worship a King they had never met. Holy Scripture does not say there were three, yet we assume so because of the number of gifts offered.
“And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense and myrrh.” St. Matthew 2:11
Frankincense has an ancient history, being used in ceremonial and religious rites for more than 5,000 years. It comes from the resin in the bark of the Boswellia tree in areas of the Middle East and I find it interesting to note that it’s such a scraggly yet hardy tree. It has been known to grow amongst solid rock, sinking deep roots about the crevasses in order to survive the harsh wind and sun. Frankincense is harvested by scraping the bark and allowing the resin to bleed forth and harden, forming droplets or ‘tears’. These tears are then used in a variety of ways, some of which we can glean from Holy Scripture.

The Lord gives to Moses in Exodus 30:34-36, a very specific recipe for making incense that He deems holy, which includes sweet spices, onycha, sweet galbanum and pure frankincense. There are several references to frankincense in Isaiah, such as in chapter 60 which speaks of the assembling of the Church from many corners of the earth, turning their eyes to the glory of the Lord and bringing gifts, such as gold and frankincense to “proclaim the good news of the Lord’s salvation”. In Song of Songs, we see this sweet resin used in powders to scent the body and in Revelation 8, we learn that incense is present in heaven, the smoke rising along with the prayers of the saints before God from the angel’s hand. What a magnificent image!

The healing properties of frankincense have made its use common in medicaments and have proven very valuable in the treatment of respiratory ailments; no wonder it has been used for centuries to clarify temples and aid meditation.

How fitting and symbolic that the Magi brought such a kingly gift to our Saviour. One that is created through the wounding of a tree in order to give praise and honor to the One who came to heal us by His wounds...Isaiah 53
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