Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saturday's ironic activities

Last night I ate my mom's delicious oxtail stew. Oxtail is really rich and flavorful. The stew was accompanied by a tangy Asian cole slaw, crusty buttery croissants, and fresh fruit salad. For dessert there were chocolate cookies and chocolate-covered pretzels and a Tres Leches Cake I'd made. Pioneer Woman gives such detailed photos of the recipe that I won't bother; just imagine that my cake looked as pretty as hers. :) I liked the cake and it was a lot of fun to make-- pouring that rich milk mixture all over it... mmmm..... I chose to add half a teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon because I was afraid the cake would be bland, and I'm glad I did. It was still a little on the bland side, but with such sweet light moist goodness that I'm certainly not complaining.

So anyway, I ate really well yesterday. And what do you suppose I did after dessert? Read Pope Paul VI's apostolic constituition on penance and fasting and abstinence.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I won't, but... would change the whole tone of the blog, wouldn't it? :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

A teleportation device to deliver cookies to all my friends

That's what I asked for in the comments , and Vincenzo obliged! So I figured I'd stop off in the 23rd century with my cookies and try to succeed where Nurse Chapel failed. But should I be concerned that I'm wearing red? We all know the rule about that:

I guess I won't worry; no one in a miniskirt ever died on Star Trek. But I will have to be careful to avoid the even worse fate of romance with the womanizing Captain Kirk...

Update! I just remembered that there have been at least two green alien girls on Star Trek! This one had a affair with Kirk:

And this one got killed off... after having an affair with Kirk.

I'm really concerned now.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Nuns on Oprah

If you haven't seen it, now's your chance. :)

I thought it was good-- didn't go very deep, but you can't really do that in that format anyway. I'm glad Oprah chose to feature that for one of her last episodes (apparently she's retiring from the show at the end of the season.)

I'm a week late for Valentine's Day

But if you think that would derail my plans for heart-shaped cookies, you haven't been reading this blog very long. :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A strict bedtime

I rarely get enough sleep, but on those rare occasions when I am well-rested, I know I work better, pray better, and feel better. So I decided that during Lent it would be a nice idea to make myself get ready for bed at 9 pm every night unless there's some emergency. Theoretically I could implement that policy at any time, not just during Lent. But in practice, I haven't had the discipline to make myself do it any other time. When it's a sacrifice for Lent it's much more serious not to stick to it, and that gives me the extra motivation I need.

One of the prayers at Mass during Lent says, "Every year You give us this joyful season, when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with minds and hearts renewed...." It makes perfect sense. I feel like I have been given the gift of self-control, and I am pretty happy about it. My life became markedly more peaceful as soon as Ash Wednesday arrived.

One nice thing this bedtime does is make me less inclined to waste time through the rest of the day, knowing that I have a definitely limited number of hours to work with. Right now, for example, I'm going to finish this post in a hurry so I can try to decorate cookies and go jogging before 9 pm hits. Before Lent I'd have spent another hour easy, surfing the net and whatnot, and I'd have gone to bed at midnight and then I'd have gotten up late on Sunday, and I wouldn't have had time to pray before Mass-- and when I don't have my hour of prayer in the morning it usually doesn't happen at all, and then I'm out of sorts all day, doing nothing worthwhile because I'm too sleepy.... Going to bed late sets off a nasty little chain reaction. This way my whole day has a different feel to it.

But now that I'm getting a decent amount of sleep, something else has to give, and it's shaping up to be... blogging. Writing posts takes too darn long when I'm watching my hours, so there'll probably be fewer of them till Easter. If I didn't proofread there'd be no problem, but I can't stop myself from correcting and adding and subtracting and re-reading the darn thing for the tenth time.

And Jen does a better job anyway:

Life before modern technology was full of hard stops: the work day ended at sunset -- if you didn't finish laundry during the day there was no going back outside to the washboard at 9:00 at night; the work day began at dawn -- if you got breakfast on the table an hour late that was precious time cut out of you and your family's very finite workday; even finances had hard stops -- when you spent your last dollar there were no tempting "0% interest for six months!" credit card offers waiting in your mailbox. And with a life full of hard stops, even the most disorganized, scattered people must have been forced to have some kind of routine, and to limit their to-do lists. Even people as inept at time management as I am must have been gently reminded to get to a stopping point and wind down their projects each day as the sunlight began its slow retreat from the sky.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's so warm this February...

...that I had to change to my summer pajamas and sleep with my window open last night.

I'll consider giving up gloating for Lent. :)

Losing weight during Lent

Have any of you ever used Lent as motivation to go on a diet? It could be argued that you lose out on the spiritual merit of a fast if you're doing it to look good, because you have received your reward in full in this life.

But you know, that's still better than my method, which is to gain weight before Lent (three pounds this year) by telling myself I can eat whatever I please because the fast is around the corner!

Update: Rachel pointed me to this t-shirt. Obviously I'm not the only one to have had the idea!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nice one, Rachel

When I came home today and opened our front door, the scraggly little white dog of the previous post was there. She rushed right toward me, squealing and jumping up excitedly. "What is the mutt doing here?" I hollered to the rest of the house, and then I entered the family room to find my parents sitting with the mutt's owner, who was visiting to thank us for the dog-sitting.

"Such a sweet little creature," I hastily added for the owner's benefit, scratching her dog's back. "She greets me as if she'd never been away!"

I'm off to pry my foot out of my mouth now. :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday-- birthdays, Valentine's day, the neighbor's dog

Here's our lovely host Jen. I'm determined to keep my takes short this week:

1) I've learned to make iPod ad silhouette people. Can any of my real-life friends identify this person?

2) My German co-worker has hair like Sideshow Bob. Once at a party a friend's baby caught sight of him and cried until he covered his dreadlocks with a beanie. True story.

Also, unborn babies can tweet now.

3) How do you feel about birthdays? I always used to be a little sad; I remember turning sixteen and feeling sorry that fifteen was gone forever. But then I found a strategy to get the disappointment out of the way early. It goes like this: around the six-month mark between birthdays, I begin to think of myself as a year older than I am. Right now I'm telling myself I'm 32, though I don't actually turn 32 till June. It's just a silly mental trick, but it means there's no longer a single day when I suddenly think, "Oh no, my age just changed!" The only problem is that sometimes I forget whether I've added the extra year or not, and I find myself momentarily unsure of how old I am. At least once I actually had to recall my birth date and do the math.

4) How about Valentine's Day? Trufax: I've never had a date on Valentine's Day, and I've always enjoyed it. C'mon, people-- CANDY! What's not to like? I usually think people who hate V-Day are overreacting or too emotionally fragile or something. But I sat next to a girl on an airplane recently who said that one year in high school, she was really looking forward to what her boyfriend would do for Valentine's Day. She waited for him in the quad after school for a long, long time. And finally she saw him-- with another girl. He'd dumped her and moved on to someone else without even telling her.

So I can understand feeling a bit down on V-Day if you've got a memory like that.

5) Rain's gone. It's very warm again here in Southern California. My cousin (once removed) back East was actually stranded in snow on the freeway a few days ago, and she called both AAA and 911, but everyone said they couldn't come out and rescue her because the blizzard was so bad. She waited all night in the sub-zero weather, and if she'd run out of gas she'd have run out of heat. I can't imagine living like that!

Finally a snowplow came through the next morning. "We followed that plow like the Israelites followed the pillar of cloud," says she.

6) Heart-shaped cookies. I must make some.

7) We've been looking after the neighbor's dog for three weeks while the neighbor's on vacation, and today is supposed to be the last day. The dog's a tiny, scraggly, white-haired creature with a funny-looking underbite. She has loads of personality-- goes crazy greeting me when I get home each day-- but unfortunately she also poops on the family room rug with regularity in spite of being walked twice a day. Furthermore our cat is terrified of dogs, even dogs that weigh less than she does, and consequently she's afraid to go downstairs where the dog is and ask to be let out of the house. The result is that she's taken to peeing in my closet. Anyway, we'll all be glad when the dog goes home.

8) The family room rug is scheduled to be replaced a few days after the dog leaves. That timing is deliberate.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Do you guys realize that Lent is less than a week away?

I'm glad my mom gave me the traditional Valentine's Day gift of candy early this year. This way I've got it all eaten well before the penance starts. :)

Actually, perhaps I won't give up sweets at all. I could just take this advice:

I don't know who he is or if the book is good, but I like his ad. :)

In case you were thinking, "Gee, I'd like to read a whole bunch of stuff about Lent right now..."

Update: Not five minutes after I published this post, a friend happened to email me about the book, saying, "This is NOT to miss--I have one of the first photocopies and many of us have been waiting a long time. Please keep Br. Michael in your prayers--it says somewhere in there that he'll be ordained to the deaconate on May 1st." And why should you trust the opinion of my friend? Well, she's the one who gave me the recipe for deliciously evil pumpkin muffins. So... there you go. The book has a website too.

Update update: Another friend from church says: "I was lucky enough to get one of those drafts last year in time for Lent, so I made the retreat as my main Lenten observance. In fact, I dedicated one whole weekend to read and mediate on what was presented in the book. It was probably the most fruitful Lent I have ever had. The book really is that good."

Swiss Guards

I know they're 500 years out of style, but I think the uniforms are awesome. :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Things you can buy from vending machines

I saw this at the Burbank Airport in southern California. "Here, honey-- on my way home I got you something from the vending machine! I love you!"

The bouquets were $20 each.

And I wasn't even impressed, because I'd changed planes in Las Vegas and this is what they had at that airport (besides slot machines):

Yup, a Best Buy vending machine, where you could swipe a credit card and get a digital camera, an iPod, an iPhone, a portable video game player, and all sorts of other stuff to keep you amused on your flight. But it would all need to be charged up first....

A closeup of the goods. I wonder if sticking them in a vending machine makes them seem cheaper? "Oh, here, let me just swipe my card and grab an iPhone... it's not a big purchase, just a vending machine purchase..."

Peanuts are peanuts

Here are some packages of peanuts that Southwest Airlines gave me on a flight:

Here's a closeup of the back.

Does anyone spot anything sort of... odd?

Burn your candles

If you own candles, you should burn them. Use your perfume, wear your good clothes, peel your stickers off their pristine backing and stick them somewhere, eat your fancy chocolates, and in general, use up the stuff you have that's made to be used up and probably won't be worth as much to you in ten years if you don't use it.

Okay, the chocolate part of that exhortation probably wasn't necessary.

Mainly I just want to post some pictures in order to justify having bothered to take them. So I tried to burn this candle but it didn't fit in the little glass:

But when I set it alight anyway, look what happened-- the wax softened and the candle slid down after all.

Here's the final, completely liquid stage of burning:

And here's proof I take my own advice even for pretty painted candles. I had this apple on hand seven years ago when I bought my first digital camera:

The hula girl seemed kinda happy about her fate.

And here are the bird candles that served as Christmas decorations for many years before my mom proved she shares my philosophy by burning 'em.

I like candles, especially scented Yankee candles. Next I think I'll buy the Ocean Water scent.

Thus endeth my candle post.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Merry Happy Candlemas Groundhog Day! (Also, William Blake and Arthur Miller)

I posted about today a few days ago. Today's Office of Readings had this:

The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.

It was written by St. Sophronius, who died around A.D. 451, so the candlelight procession for this day is older than that. If you want to read the whole excerpt, someone posted it here.

I'm leaving town tomorrow and won't be back on the internet till Monday, so make sure nothing fun happens till then! I'm bummed about missing the rain that's predicted for this weekend. Now here's some randomness I simply must post before I go:

Last night my cat was all cuddled up to me as I lay in bed and I thought, "How comforting." Then this morning I read this!

Want to waste time on a site that's pointless and weird?

I always thought if given the chance I'd wish for more wishes.

You know the Shel Silverstein poem about Noah and the Ark? I think he must have read C.S. Lewis, because I was reading my Lewis poetry book yesterday and found a poem that uses the same idea in a completely different way. "I see one creature more / Belated and unmated there come knocking at the door..."

Incidentally it's ironic that the publisher chose an illustration by William Blake for the cover of Lewis' book, since another of Lewis' books, The Great Divorce, begins by taking him on:

Blake wrote The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. If I have written of their Divorce, this is not because I think myself a fit antagonist for so great a genius, nor even because I feel at all sure that I know what he meant.

But in some sense or other the attempt to make that marriage is perennial. The attempt is based on the belief that reality never presents us with an absolutely unavoidable "either-or"; that, granted skill and patience and time enough, some way of embracing both alternatives can always be found; that mere development or adjustment or refinement will somehow turn evil into good without our being called on for a final and total rejection of anything we should like to retain.

This belief I take to be a disastrous error. You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind.... If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.

So yeah, it's funny that the publisher uses Blake. But now I have to blather a bit about my first exposure to Blake when I was in college. We studied Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, and pretty soon I had a visceral dislike of his work and I didn't know why. His poems were interesting and evocative; I memorized several of them and I was glad we were learning them. But they seemed to be pushing a worldview antithetical to my own. It was nothing I could put my finger on... until we moved on to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. I didn't understand most of it, but at least one scene seemed pretty clear: the one where the bigoted angel explodes because he can't handle the truth uttered by the polite and intelligent demon from Hell. What was interesting to me was that I'd gotten that feeling all along from studying Blake's other work. I sensed that he was preaching something dangerously wrong, even though he was just talking about innocent little lambs and tigers burning bright. In retrospect, I think what I hated was that his Songs of Innocence were songs of ignorance. "So if all do their duty they need not fear harm," sings the little chimney-sweep who's in for a world of abuse. I think that was Blake's idea of Christianity-- either pie in the sky, or else an oppressive force, "binding with briars my joys and desires," and harmful either way. He probably cut sin from his vocabulary and substituted enlightenment. The 60's probably loved him; I'm sure it's no accident that he was relatively obscure in his own time but became very popular a century later.

Actually I also felt a visceral dislike of Arthur Miller after reading his plays (like A Streetcar Named Desire). When the news recently came out that he refused to live with his Down's Syndrome son and forced his wife to give up her child to an institution instead, I was unsurprised. "The man who could write Death of a Salesman is capable of anything," I thought. I'd had zero knowledge of Miller's personal life (except for something about Marilyn Monroe) and no basis for judging him. I was just certain that if he'd written those plays, he couldn't be a pleasant person. There's something so inhuman about Willy Loman and the rest of Miller's characters, like they're just shells of real people. Like Rex Mottram in Brideshead Revisited, but he was just one of Evelyn Waugh's characters, whereas Miller seems to write everybody that way.

Of course Blake and Miller were great writers. They'd never have gotten such a rise out of me if they weren't. I suppose there must be people who find themselves hating Lewis or Tolkien or other writings I find very congenial. Have any of you ever felt like that about an author or a book? You really disliked it even though you couldn't easily say why? Like you felt the author was wrong on some fundamental level?

Well, I can't ramble forever. See ya'll next week!

I'll have to turn my comments to the moderated setting for now because I get a lot of comment spam on this blog. Although some of the spam I delete is kinda fun. Almost poetic. "Good day, sun shines! There have were times of troubles when I felt unhappy missing knowledge about opportunities. I was a dump and downright stupid person. I have never thought that there weren't any need in large starting capital.
Now, I'm happy and lucky..."