Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Sunday, February 7, 2021
. . . and other birds for that matter.
It's no secret that we love our birds around here. In the summer we have a Hummingbird feeder at the edge of the patio. We also have several bird houses placed around the property that were intended to be homes for Blue Birds, but are usually occupied by House Wrens and Sparrows. We don't mind since the Wrens frequently serenade us with their beautiful and joyful songs.
In the winter, seed and suet on the patio draws in birds of every kind. We laugh at them as there definitely seems to be a pecking order in who gets to eat what. Woodpeckers rule the roost but the Junkos are great at finding every last seed when it looks like there is none left.
The birds provide me with what I often term my personal air show. They make me smile. They amuse me. And, given the time we spend at home these days, that is much needed and appreciated.
Next weekend, February 12th-15th, The Cornell Lab and the Audubon Society are once again sponsoring the Great Backyard Bird Count. People from all over the world will spend a little time recording what birds visit their area. Click on the link for more information.
Last year I counted fourteen distinct species. I am curious as to what I will see this year. My guess it will be even more.
|Carolina Wren & Downy Woodpecker|
|Red Shouldered Hawk|
The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father
- Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton
Wednesday, February 3, 2021
Last year I seemed to have found plenty of time for reading, as the over one hundred and fifty books on my GoodReads 2020 list will attest. But writing, not so much. I think there were things I wanted to write, but not ones I wanted to publish. It's a weird world that we are living in now. It seems like a good time to jump back into the blogsphere and books seem to be a good, and safe, place to start.
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Back in May, I read Joseph Pearce's article about Dean Koontz. While Pearce is not a fan of current fiction, and that is what I prefer, I did agree whole heartedly with his attitude about what we read in general.
Odd Thomas is not only the name of the book, but also is the main character's real name. How he came to be named Odd is up for debate, but he does manage to live up to it. Odd is a short-order cook in a small dessert town, Pico Mundo, from which he has never traveled very far. He also sees spirits. They don't talk to him, but still manage to engage his help. When a stranger comes to town, he is accompanied by dark, hyena shaped shadows, which seem to feed off of fear and evil. Odd races against time to thwart an evil that threatens his small town.
Dean Koontz's has an engaging and challenging writing style which sent me to the dictionary on more than one occasion. His Catholic faith is quietly present in the story.
I am an optimist about our species. I assume God is, too, for otherwise He would have scrubbed us off the planet a long time ago and would have started over.
A wonderful poet, now all but forgotten because modern universities teach nothing but self-esteem and toe-sucking.
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
In The Life I Dreamed by Kari Burke, Emmy O’Brien is stressed out. Stay at home mother to four young children, she is overwhelmed by hours chores, child raising, and trying to manage a meager household budget. When her husband insists on helping a sixteen year old young women in their church's youth group, she is at her breaking point. Grudgingly she helps and finds her heart changed as a result.
In A Channel of Your Peace Erin Rafferty thought she knew how her life was going to go. Engaged to her fiancé for a number of years, she figured a wedding was in her future. That is until he came home one day to tell her that he was in love with someone else and that he was leaving her. Devastated, she returns to her parents house to pick up the pieces. A chance encounter with Mark is the start of a friendship that could lead to something more. Both Erin and Mark, though, have pasts that they must deal with in order to build a future. This was an enjoyable and captivating read which has me hoping that author Veronica Smallhorn has more books in her writing future.
Monday, March 16, 2020
I had so many plans. A vacation to Florida. The local GK Chesterton conference. Training for work out in Washington state. Events at church and the start of baseball season. Dinner out with a friend. March was going to be busy.
People say it is only temporary, however I think some of these changes will be lasting. After all, we gave a little bit of our freedom away after 9/11 in the name of security. What will we sacrifice this time?
Sunday, February 9, 2020
I was too chicken to order the frog legs or Escargot, but Tim had both and said that they were delicious. I decided to start with the French Onion soup, and when I placed my order I asked the waiter if they used beef or veal broth. The look on his face was one of horror. I was told that they made their soup the traditional way, with water. I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that was the best, by far, French Onion soup that I ever had.
When I decided to try my hand at making it, I searched for a long time to find a traditional recipe. You know how many "traditional" French Onion soups use beef broth? Most of them. It wasn't until I came across Michael Ruhlman's version that I finally found what I was looking for.
I made a couple of changes this last time I made it and it turned out terrific. I didn't have sherry or an open bottle of wine, so I skipped both and just used red wine vinegar instead. I hate fighting with a bowl size piece of bread in my soup, so I put made large croutons and used those along with the cheese I had on hand, an Irish cheddar. Yum!
The big secret to this soup, though, is time. To get the dark, sweet caramelization of the onions, it is going to a couple of hours of slow cooking.
Freshly ground black pepper
Red wine vinegar
1/2 to 3/4 pound grated
In a large pot over medium heat melt the butter. Add the onions, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt, cover, and cook until the onions have heated through and started to steam. Uncover, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally. Season with several grinds of pepper.
When the onions have completely cooked down, the water has cooked off, and the onions have turned amber, add 6 cups of water. Raise the heat to high and bring the soup to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. If the soup is too sweet, add some vinegar.
Portion the soup into bowls, float the bread on top, cover with the cheese, and broil/grill until the cheese is melted and nicely browned. Serve immediately.
Friday, February 7, 2020
I had seen her just after Christmas and we chatted about my niece, her kids, and the sorrow we both felt at losing our dogs during the previous year. I had no idea that she was ill. A couple weeks later she was admitted to the hospital and never left. Liver failure claimed her life.
The stories and testaments to her life flooded Facebook. Her greatest joy was her children. She reveled in their accomplishments, suffered with them in their pain, and sought to teach them to be responsible, caring individuals. When the neighbor's dog died, she sent one of the boys over with a shovel to help lay the animal to rest. During his homily, the pastor joked that Denise believed in child labor. It was never more evident when she was in charge of the church's Christmas Giving Tree. They collected over two thousand gifts to be distributed to various families and organizations in the area. All these had to be sorted and wrapped and she had six "volunteers" at the ready.
She was known as Mama B to her kids' friends and her hugs were famous. She made sure no-one ever left her house hungry. She grew up in an Italian household and food was love. When the neighbors returned from an extended vacation, they come home to find their refrigerator stocked so that grocery shopping wasn't a chore that they had to worry about right away.
Father also spoke of the demons Denise faced, in particular, alcoholism. It was something she couldn't conquer and ultimately destroyed her health. He reminded her children, though, that however much she was troubled by this, God was there through it all. He was there for her and He would continue to be there for them.
After the funeral, as we were driving home, Tim and I talked about how beautiful this Mass was. I was surprised, though, by the open acknowledgment of her alcoholism. I never saw it and thought the talk of it was just nasty rumors to disparage her during her divorce from my cousin. That talk had angered me. I had only been privy to the good.
As we talked, I came to realize that Denise lived big. She lived big in her love for her family and friends and in her generosity to others. But she also lived big in her vices. She had a lot of addictions - alcohol, food, Facebook. Even her eldest son joked about that last one during his eulogy.
I still don't know what to make of it. Sometimes I wonder if she could have lived and loved bigly without the vices or did it have to be both. But that is a false choice. It is not both or none. It can be one or the other. With no bigger love than God's, we can use his graces to fight our demons and work to live and love greatly.
Eternal Rest Eternal rest, grant unto her O Lord
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
The Year of Less by Cait Flanders is the story of the author's year of not buying anything other than consumables - groceries, toiletries, and gas for her car. She was inspired to attempt this when, after getting herself out of consumer debt of over $30,000, she was returning to the same bad habits that got her there in the first place. Her story explores her use of shopping, alcohol and food to deal with emotionally difficult situations.
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
In his homily this morning, Fr. Pat spoke of New Year's Day as a time that has a certain feeling. On New Year's Eve we count down. Five, four, three, two, one. Happy New Year! And then comes the "now what?" It's a new year. It leaves you wondering what is ahead.
What's your 2020 vision?