Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Cookies for Show-and-Eat

The new favorite cookie this year was Salted Toffee. This was a happy accident sort of thing. We had come by a bag of mini Heath Bars, not something we normally would buy, and I didn't want to end up eating them one-by-one, so after we ate a few I thought I would make cookies with the rest.

I'd seen recipes online for Heath Bar cookies, and I used one of them that didn't have nuts. My version had a little less Heath ingredient, since we had snacked it down. The specialness I added was to combine some large-crystal sugar (Demerara) and coarse sea salt and roll the tops of the cookie-dough balls in that before baking.

Everyone loved these cookies. If that bird were real, he would have eaten the whole cookie by now. But he is painted on a pretty tray that May gave me for Christmas.

Soldier's Joy brought the darlingest delicious thumbprint cookies that were filled with strawberry and rhubarb, and some chocolate-dipped dried apricots that combined to add to the visual appeal of the cookie platters.

Those bright-white round cookies are our only store-bought item, Pffernusse from Trader Joe's that Mr. Glad wanted to try in memory of the cookies his German grandmother used to make.

The coconut-y balls are Date Delights, for which I'll give you the recipe here. They are another chewy toffee-ish experience we have been creating ever since my grandma gave our family a tin full of them one Christmas past.

Date Delights

1 cube butter
1 cup cut-up pitted dates
1 beaten egg
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups Rice Crispies
sweetened coconut flakes, about 7 oz.

In a 9x12 baking pan mix the walnuts and Rice Crispies. Set aside. In another bowl put the coconut flakes. 

In a saucepan melt the butter, and add the dates, egg and sugar. Stir all together in the saucepan and boil over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and beat in the vanilla, and immediately pour the candy mixture over the walnuts and cereal. Stir well. As soon as the mixture is cool enough to handle, form into balls and roll them in the coconut flakes. Cool.

The red squares in the foreground are Cranberry Jellies. I adapted a recipe from a past Sunset Magazine to make a treat that Pippin and I especially like. It's refreshingly lacking in any fat except for walnuts, and is a nice chewy way to get your cranberry fix and add color to the display.

Cranberry Jellies

3 cups Trader Joe's Cranberry-Orange Relish (2-16 oz. tubs)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
13 envelopes plain gelatin
3 cups chopped walnuts

Combine the first three ingredients in a bowl (I used a stand mixer) and while the paddle is turning, gradually add the gelatin. When thoroughly mixed transfer to a saucepan and heat just until the gelatin is dissolved. Stir in the walnuts and pour the mixture into a 9x12 pan. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into small pieces and dust lightly with cornstarch. I don't refrigerate them after this point.

Many times I've told myself that I must make fewer cookies at Christmas, but this year I realized that it's one of my favorite things to do. I have so much fun thinking of the collage of different flavors and forms of the little sweets that I don't even feel the need to eat them. It was long after Christmas Day that I even tried one of the new Peppermint Cream Cheese cookies I made this year.

But now by what is the Seventh Day of Christmas, as I finish up this post, and also New Year's Eve, I've expanded the festive feelings by eating lots of cookies, too! They all taste as good as they look, or better. The last red plateful will go out of here this evening -- I wish I could bring one to your house when I say Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 30, 2012

What animal is hiding here?

 Can you spot me? A Leopard conceals herself in vegetation at the base of a tree in Kruger National Park, Transvaal, South Africa

Just one of many beautiful photographs from an article featuring the work of Art Wolfe. I could not see many of the animals until I read the caption telling me what to look for.

Friday, December 28, 2012

It's still Christmas in San Francisco.

At Union Square

On the way to the airport to send Kate and her boyfriend back to Washington DC yesterday, we drove around San Francisco and saw that people are still enjoying a Christmas spirit. It made me very happy, because I'm certainly not ready to take down my lights or stop eating cookies.

Present Site of Former Sutro Baths

While daylight still shined we drove to Ocean Beach where just to the north you can see the site of the Sutro Baths that were built in the 1890's and burned down in 1966, late enough that I might have had the chance to swim in them had my grandmother taken me across the bridge from Berkeley where I visited her.

Six of the seven indoor pools of varying temperatures contained sea water that during high tide flowed directly in from the ocean, and even at low tide pumps recycled all the salt water within five hours.

The famous Cliff House is still nearby and can be seen in the background of this postcard. That picture shows its Victorian shape, one of many different forms it has been built into over more than a century. If you click here you can see a slide show of its architectural history.

Evidently the operating costs of the baths were too high to keep them going, and they had been closed not long before a fire destroyed the building. I wonder what it was like to swim there -- certainly more pleasant than the frigid water outside, where a wetsuit is needed nowadays. When you see photos of people of the past on the beach they are always in multiple layers of long skirts or pants with hats.

Market Street from Twin Peaks summit

After our group ate dinner we still had some light left, and we drove up the Twin Peaks where the views are wonderful. The moon was just coming up at that point, but we stayed long enough to get this picture including the bright stripe of Market Street.

Then it was a quick drive over to Union Square and the parking garage that is directly underneath. Here I basked under the lights of tall storefronts and the Christmas tree in the middle of the square, and even palm trees with strings of lights.

Street musicians played at various spots around the square. This duo was surprisingly good for their limited equipment, and the drummer even did a fire-drumming-and-eating trick after dousing his sticks with lighter fluid.

An ice rink is set up during the winter months and it was very popular this night, even though 90 minutes will cost you $10. It appears to me everyone is having a magical experience out there on the ice, wearing their scarves and hats and gliding around under the giant Christmas tree. But if I did it, my feet would get all my attention feeling like blocks of ice themselves.

It's good I got this extra boost of holiday cheer, because I don't want to miss any of the joy between now and Theophany (Epiphany or Three Kings Day to some of you), and also I have more Christmasy things to write about, and I've run out of time and space. More on cookies and grandchildren and such like soon to come.

More Merry Christmas to you all!

Union Square

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Glow from Brief Light

Sally Thomas's book of poems was published just in time for me to get a copy and read it during Advent. The title is Brief Light: Sonnets and Other Small Poems, and these poems are so illuminating, they fit right in with this season when the Light of the World first shined upon us.

Various sorts of light, or the lack of it, are an important aspect of many of the selections. The title brings to mind wintry light that is brief and thin - and there are several poems for this darker season of the year we have entered, with titles and subjects including Christmas, New Year's, Advent, frost and snow.

I like the "small poem" aspect of the collection, seeing as I am eternally poetry-challenged and usually put off by the ones with very many stanzas. "Snow Weather" is the shortest in the book, and manages, and partly through its very brevity, to capture a dramatic moment that grabs at my own heart.

Snow Weather

A falcon on a wire
Against the laden sky
Scanned his brown empire
With a black-ice eye.

Nothing beneath him stirred
In that sunless instant,
But my heart, for a keen-eyed bird
Blind to me, or indifferent.
The light that Thomas shines on this event reveals something in her own soul, and searches out even the falcon's impulses.

Birds abound in the poems: a wren in "Tornado Watch," and the "Mourning Dove" whose being she "felt in the small of my back/The soft clattering updraft of wings." But the starlings in "Poem in Advent" are the most glorious. This is the first poem I've read about the birds that she so aptly describes in couplets beginning with these:
At twilight the poplars, upright and naked,
Wear starlings like restless leaves. Unafflicted

By the cold, they come and go in noisy shifts,
Filling the trees, free-falling into updrafts....
And going on to relate how the starling flock, though "harbinger of every nightfall," is not only unafflicted by the cold but is a hopeful reminder to us of where we have come from, and "never mournful."

This reminds me of the prayer read at every Orthodox Vespers, "Thou appointest the darkness and there was the night." It was after years of hearing this line that it began to sink into my being that God Himself fills the night that He created, and is to us like the black night into which Thomas's starlings settle. "Darkness, careful, cups them in its hand."

The subject matter of the collection ranges far and wide and shows how rich a life is lived by this woman interested in everything. Many poems about children and family, her motherly concerns -- and marriage, and depression, boats, a snake, depression. But all with a ray of light revealing the transcendent quality of our existence, the interconnectedness of everything.

This is the first time I've been so bold as to review a book of poetry, and I don't know that I've read many such reviews, either. I don't know where to stop, when most of the poems are a pleasure from the first reading and also promise a greater reward if I will spend more time with them.

But let me mention another one or two: "Introvert" is chilling in its description of forced narcissus, "all sweetness, winter-white" alongside a man's desire to break into his woman's inwardness, even to "prise her open, bone from hinging bone...." And "Lamplight" is a favorite of mine so far, in which the poet shares the simple event and startling perspective of looking in instead of out at her bedroom window one night, where 
...the room shone privately
As with a happiness, a mystery to me.
I stood outside and wondered at that glow.
There is plenty of wisdom shining from the poems in Brief Light, gifts that will go on giving. I am soaking up the glow.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Here is all alright.

My house is full with babies and their parents who were my own babies not long ago. I am having a great time reading Frog and Toad, walking down to the creek with Scout to clip sprays of berries and branches of redwood greenery, dandling the littlest ones on my knee....don't know when or if I will get those blinds dusted because there is still grocery shopping to do....wonder if I could squeeze in a service at church this morning while the others are out hiking in the mud....After all, I made the pies last night and they are in the freezer, all white and stiff and not giving a hint as to their glory soon to be revealed.
It's the day of the eve of the Feast, and I am weary, yes. It seems to be a fitting state of body and even of mind and heart, to be at least a tiny bit poor in spirit, in order to receive the Lord and the Joy of the Lord.

I want to be sure to wish all of my friends in Blogland a Very Merry Christmas! I pray that in whatever state you are, you can know something of what it means that all is alright. God is with us.
A Christmas Carol

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all alright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,

And all the stars looked down.

-- G.K. Chesterton


Thursday, December 20, 2012

This joy repairs.

The Nativity of Christ

Behold the father is his daughter's son,
The bird that built the nest is hatched therein,
The old of years an hour hath not outrun,
Eternal life to live doth now begin,
The Word is dumb, the mirth of heaven doth weep,
Might feeble is, and force doth faintly creep.

O dying souls, behold your living spring;
O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace;
Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring;
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace.
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs
This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs.

Gift better than himself God doth not know;
Gift better than his God no man can see.
This gift doth here the giver given bestow;
Gift to this gift let each receiver be.
God is my gift, himself he freely gave me;
God's gift am I, and none but God shall have me.

Man altered was by sin from man to beast;
Beast's food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh.
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay, the brutest sinner to refresh.
O happy field wherein that fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.

--Robert Southwell - 16th century

Grotto of the Nativity - Bethlehem

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

If all the world a single body shared --


The Antidote

If all the world a single body shared --
One heart, one breath, one blood, one flesh, one life --
Then sin has not one cell, one atom spared
The poison of shared wickedness and strife.

What wickedness, what strife, you well may ask,
Oblivious that you yourself are sick,
That fallen nature’s health is but a mask
And trust in this world just a devil’s trick.

We are one body, and our body died
The day we sinned, the days we sinned anew,
The walking-dead until the Crucified
By dying killed our sin to make life true.

And so, live well, ye merry gentlemen:
Sin's antidote was born in Bethlehem.

--Fr. Louis Tarsitano

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Athanasius - All the disciples despise death.

On this Sunday in the Orthodox Church we remember the Holy Forefathers, the faithful ancestors of Christ, many of whom are named in a long list in the services yesterday and today, men and women like David, Jael, Daniel, Rachel, Moses and Ruth....

The Land of the Living Icon at Chora

And the hymns sing of how they all, long since passed from this earthly existence, are even now "in the Land of the Living." Thomas Hopko in The Winter Pascha mentions a church near Constantinople where a huge mosaic of Christ is named: "The Land of the Living. "I found a photo of it (above).

I learned in the short account of the life of Athanasius at the beginning of his On the Incarnation that the last and worst persecution of Christians ended in Egypt in 311 A.D., when Athanasius was about fourteen. From the age of five he had lived with the constant threat of death, and with the ever-present reality of persecution of his friends and family. The behavior of the ungodly is irrational and inhuman, and tends to cause great pain and suffering, often unto death, not only of the innocent but also of the most Christ-like. As an adult the scenes and events of his childhood seem to be fresh in his mind when he writes:
A very strong proof of this destruction of death and its conquest by the cross is supplied by the present fact, namely this. All the disciples of Christ despise death; they take the offensive against it and instead of fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as on something dead. Before the divine sojourn of the Saviour, even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Saviour has raised his body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection. But that devil who of old wickedly exulted in death, now that the pains of death are loosed, he alone it is who remains truly dead.
I started composing this post about death and the saint's childhood before the horrific murders at a Connecticut school last week. I found the description Athanasius gives, of people bravely and even joyfully facing death daily, foreign to my 21st-century suburban self. But the topic turns out to be pertinent, and the recent stories of gutsy teachers in our own country inspiring -- especially when taken with the letter from our Archbishop Tikhon after that event:
"Concerning those who have fallen asleep, Saint Paul exhorts us not to "grieve even as others who have no hope" [1 Thessalonians 4:13]. And yet, herein he does not forbid us from grieving. Now is the time for us to weep, but we must weep with the firm hope that comes from our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. "Shed tears, but remain calm; weep modestly, and with fear of God," writes Saint John Chrysostom. And following this example, each of us must strive to transform our sorrow into prayer.
Just this week I was asked to tell one of my favorite Bible verses, one that readily comes to mind without effort. It is always this one, that speaks of our complete dependence on the Lord as our LIFE, whether living or dying. Our leaves will not wither, because Christ Himself is The Land of the Living.

But I am like a green olive tree 
in the house of God:
I trust in the mercy of God
for ever and ever. 

Psalm 52:8

Friday, December 14, 2012

Athanasius - Christ cleansed the air.

From On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius:
 ...the air is the sphere of the devil, and the enemy of our race, who, having fallen from heaven, endeavors with the other evil spirits who shared in his disobedience both to keep souls from the truth and to hinder the progress of those who are trying to follow it. The apostle refers to this when he says, "According to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience." But the Lord came to overthrow the devil and to purify the air and to make "a way" for us up to heaven, as the apostle says, "through the veil, that is to say, His flesh." This had to be done through death, and by what other kind of death could it be done, save by a death in the air, that is, on the cross? Here, again, you see how right and natural it was that the Lord should suffer thus; for being thus "lifted up," He cleansed the air from all the evil influences of the enemy. "I beheld Satan as lightning falling," He says; and thus he re-opened the road to heaven, saying again, "Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

These two fought bravely.

Two important people in my life died on this day. I didn't know either of them personally, but both have contributed hugely to the presence of true and living Orthodox faith in America, that Church in which I've found the fullness of Him Who fills all in all. Every year that we come to this date finds me more thankful.

Saint Herman of Alaska, whose feast we commemorate today, arrived in Alaska in 1794 and died there in 1837. On the occasion of his canonization in 1969 Bishop Dimitri spoke:
The Church on earth lives in a loving fellowship with the saints who have already run their race, who have fought the good fight, and have received their crowns (2 Timothy 4:7) (James 1:12). This is what the Apostle means when he says that we are compassed about or surrounded by the witness-martyrs or saints. We are assured both of their presence and their interest in us. In fact, they are concerned about the whole world and its salvation, for "there is joy in heaven over the repentance of one sinner" (Luke 15:7). 

Father Schmemann was born in 1921 into a family of Russian emigres, and came to the United States in 1951 to join the faculty of St. Vladimir's Seminary, where two of my own parish priests sat under his teaching. He reposed in the Lord in 1983. Not only has my life been enriched broadly by his contributions to the whole of Orthodoxy in America, but by my reading directly what he wrote, especially For the Life of the World, and his journals.

I'm so thankful, too, that I can commune with that cloud of witnesses in church this morning. So as to not be late, I'll just finish by copying here what I posted last year on this happy day. And it is another cold one!
It seems fitting that we commemorate St. Herman of Alaska on this date, when winter is making itself felt. I've written before here and here about Father Herman, how he spurned the cold, befriended the animals, and interceded between the Aleuts and the powerful people who would exploit them.
His is a good example in the Advent season, of how to keep our hearts and activities focused on the Kingdom of God in the face of distractions. And if we have a church service to attend where we can share in the Life of Christ together with Saint Herman and all the Cloud of Witnesses, we are very blessed!

I just learned (and am adding this paragraph to my original post) that today is also the anniversary of the repose of Father Alexander Schmemann, another shining star in our church family. This note about both men leads to further inspiration from and about Fr. Alexander, who rests firmly in the tradition of Saint Herman. I'm ever so thankful to have this coinciding of the celebration of two of my favorites.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Athanasius - Designs have been foiled.

Here Athanasius himself writes of a phenomenon I don't know anything about, "what happens when great king enters a large city." But the example from ancient times, in On the Incarnation, is so eloquently given that its light shines right through any culture barrier and reveals a truth of the Incarnation in a new and bright aspect.
Christ Pantocrator - Gould
You know how it is when some great king enters a large city and dwells in one of its houses; because of his dwelling in that single house, the whole city is honored, and enemies and robbers cease to molest it. Even so is it with the King of all; He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against mankind have been foiled, and the corruption of death, which formerly held them in its power, has simply ceased to be. For the human race would have perished utterly had not the Lord and Saviour of all, the Son of God, come among us and put an end to death.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Athanasius - God in sensible things

A young woman we know is trying to love people in San Francisco for the sake of Christ. In a recent prayer letter she wrote:
San Francisco downtown
The hardest part of doing ministry in San Francisco is the cost of living factor. My rent is $1975 for my two bedroom apartment, which many in the city will tell you is a good deal. Because of the high cost of living most pastors and missionaries don't live here. The problem is that you can't relate to the people and become effective at reaching the city for Christ if you don't really live among them.
People think that if they just have some fancy strategy they will see people come to Christ. These programs become like the welfare system; people just learn how to work the system, and there are so many that the homeless get to pick what they want at different meals.
They get used to sitting and allowing the word of God to come in one ear and out the other...rarely do you see any lives change. The old fashioned way of living among the people is gone from many Christians' concept of what a missionary does. The majority of pastors live outside the city because it is cheaper. They then drive into the city where they have a reserved parking place and never spend time out in the community.
But this woman meets people on the bus and the playground, and they get to know and trust her as their lives interweave with hers. The words of her letter came back to me as I was reading On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius:
The Saviour of us all, the Word of God, in His great love took to Himself a body and moved as Man among men, meeting their senses, so to speak, half way. He became Himself an object for the senses, so that those who were seeking God in sensible things might apprehend the Father through the works which He, the Word of God, did in the body. Human and human-minded as men were, therefore, to whichever side they looked in the sensible world they found themselves taught the truth....For this reason was He both born and manifested as Man, for this he died and rose, in order that, eclipsing by His works all other human deeds, He might recall men from all the paths of error to Know the Father. As He says Himself, "I came to seek and to save that which was lost."
Christ heals the lepers.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Athanasius - the heart sings

I must have read C.S. Lewis's introduction to St. Athanasius's On the Incarnation twice before in an attempt on the whole book, without getting much beyond it, but on this third try I have kept going. It seemed a fitting little paperback to read during Advent.

In the introduction we have an instance of Lewis's exhorting us to read more of the Old Books, like this one from the 4th century, though we are timid: "The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator."

And Lewis also writes here about devotional vs. doctrinal works, On the Incarnation being one of the latter, that he finds the doctrinal books often "more helpful in devotion" than the expressly devotional ones. I can relate to his description of people who "find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand."

Actually I don't know about the pipe in the teeth, but I always have a pencil in my hand as I lie in bed with my book of theology or literature or whatever. And I marked some passages from St. Athanasius to share in this season when we focus on God With Us.
You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form. He has not assumed a body as proper to his own nature, far from it, for as the Word He is without body. He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men. We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation; for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Can consumers be saved?

In trying to understand ourselves, people have worked out different ways to analyze aspects of the human person. Are we spirit-soul-body or mind-emotions? Is it body-and-intellect, or heart vs. head? It's too bad we have to be always chopped up into warring interests. God intended for us to be unified creatures, as the Holy Trinity is a Unity, but only by God's grace can we begin to know some of that intended wholeness.

What is the heart? Surely it's not just the emotions, as many moderns seem to think. The Orthodox Church understands the heart very differently and more deeply than this. The Greek word nous, the fathers tell us, is not easily translated into English. But some current writers have been able to get through my dullness and give a little more clarity.

One of these is Fr. Stephen Freeman, and his recent blog post "Shopping for God" contains a lot of nourishment that will take me some time to soak up thoroughly. My title is a question posed at the end of his article written on Black Friday Eve.

I haven't finished my Christmas shopping, but even when I come to the end of that I know there will be other anxiety-producing prompts to and from my false self, so I appreciate Fr. Stephen's reminder of my inheritance in Christ, and His Kingdom within.

Here are some excerpts:
Shoppers desire beauty, acceptance, self-confidence, power, intelligence, pleasure, excitement, a host of intangible needs. They are not natural needs, but the passions of the spiritually disordered. Our unnatural existence is centered in the false self -- the sense of identity generated within our memory, thoughts and emotions. It is burdened with uncertainty. Comparing, judging, measuring, revising are constant activities of the mind in its role of the false self.
Christ at the well
The human life was created to be centered in the heart, the spiritual seat of our existence. The heart is not subject to the passions, not driven by desire and necessity. It is not the same thing as the mind. It does not compare or judge, measure or spin tales of its own existence. It simply is. It is in the heart that we know God (truly know). Its aesthetic is true beauty, found within the most ordinary of objects as well as in the greatest efforts of man. The heart is content.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

St. Nicholas most simply put

The feast of St. Nicholas begins with a vigil service this evening and continues with liturgy in the morning. Happy Feast Day! I read the following in The Winter Pascha by Thomas Hopko:
The extraordinary thing about the image of St. Nicholas in the Church is that he is not known for anything extraordinary. He was not a theologian and never wrote a word, yet he is famous in the memory of believers as a zealot for orthodoxy, allegedly accosting the heretic Arius at the first ecumenical council in Nicaea for denying the divinity of God's son. He was not an ascetic and did no outstanding feats of fasting and vigils, yet he is praised for his possession of the "fruit of the Holy, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23). He was not a mystic in our present meaning of the term but he lived daily with the Lord and was godly in all his words and deeds. He was not a prophet in the technical sense, yet he proclaimed the Word of God, exposed the sins of the wicked, defended the rights of the oppressed and afflicted, and battled against every form of injustice with supernatural compassion and mercy. In a word, he was a good pastor, father, and bishop to his flock, known especially for his love and care for the poor. Most simply put, he was a divinely good person.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jello is so refreshing.

When I was a child, a leafy-green salad was prepared almost every evening of the year, including on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our custom was to eat our salad after the main course, but on many holidays the healthy bowlful was discovered too late, waiting forgotten on the kitchen counter, long after anyone had any appetite left.

GJ preparing heavy dishes
My husband's family introduced me to the tradition of jello at Thanksgiving. My mother-in-law had a nice strawberry jello salad that our whole family came to appreciate because it was one item on the heavy-laden table that wasn't calorie-dense and fat-heavy.

Over the decades since then we've had a variety of lighter dishes on our table for these feasts, including Korean Kale Salad and other salads that may seem odd to the typical palate but keep us feeling like our usual happy Glad folk. For many years we let the jello custom lapse, probably because it was too sweet, and we didn't need another item that seemed to belong in the dessert category.

When half my life was past I discovered that I did love grapefruit after all, and I experimented with creating a gelatin salad recipe that would be less sweet, and would feature the refreshingly bitter-sour tang of grapefruit. I love grapefruit even more after having lived in Turkey briefly, where they spell it greypfrut. But I didn't eat any jello there, so that is just name-dropping -- even though as you can see the Turks did not drop the name when they were changing the spelling.

Here now is the current version of my gelatin salad. I have played around with it over the years, using coconut milk and pineapple juice at times, making a smaller batch, and adding fresh peeled orange sections when I had them. So it is definitely flexible  -- try it with your own preferred flavors or handy ingredients.

Grapefruit Gelatin Salad

64 oz. Ocean Spray Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice Drink
7 envelopes unflavored gelatin granules
1 qt. L&A or any pineapple-coconut juice
1 cup sugar
peeled fresh orange sections or a large can crushed pineapple

Put about 6 cups of the Ruby Red in a pot and whisk in the gelatin. Heat these together until the gelatin is dissolved. Add and dissolve the sugar, remove from heat and add the remainder of the Ruby Red along with the pineapple-coconut juice.

Refrigerate the gelatin until partly jelled. Stir in the fruit and refrigerate again until firm. I think next time I will put some sweetened flaked coconut on the top.

About the size of the pan: The one I use holds more than 3 quarts, and this salad after the fruit is added comes right to the top. It would be easier and maybe prettier to use a jello mold or fluted pan(s); then when the fruit has been mixed in I could prepare the pans by putting some shredded coconut and even a few maraschino cherries before adding the gelatin-fruit mixture.
I'd very much like to hear from any of you who also have favorite salad or vegetable dishes that lighten up your holiday menus. Leave a comment or link me to your blog. Thanks in advance! Oh, and if you just have jello stories, as I do, please tell me those, too.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Turn aside like Moses.

This is the season of Light, and also, I'm afraid, the season of hurry. One dear friend just exhorted me to slow. down. Buy the field, the whole field.


I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the burning bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

~ R. S. Thomas (1913-2000), Welsh poet