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Posts from January 2010

An envelope full of smiles

Philipsfotoman “I bring an envelope full of smiles from Phillps” (the tag-line at the bottom of the envelope) / New Jersey / from a June 1976 package of photos

Do you remember the Philips Foto man? In the pre-digital age, you loaded your camera with film, and when the roll was complete, sent it off in the bright red and yellow envelope (including your hand-lettered self-addressed delivery label) to Elmsford, NY. A week later a thick package and the Philips Foto Co. man would arrive at your doorstep. There was not the instant-gratification that we have today with digital cameras — instead there was the excitement of a package full of kodachrome images printed on glossy or matte paper, with or without borders.

War cake for peace

WarcakeforpeaceCinnamon, Cloves, Allspice, Nutmeg, and save the big walnut pieces to decorate the top / New Jersey / Jan. 2010

Yesterday was the day of baking the War Cake to feel more peaceful inside.

(Grandmom's War Cake recipe calls for no eggs since they were in short supply during WWII. It is densely packed with raisins and spices. Three hours after I had taken the cake out of the oven it was still warm.)

Amidst the blues

Bvm_blues Mary in blue, amidst the blues, watches over; she emerged in all her glory from Paulo's cardboard box of treasures / New Jersey / Jan. 2010

“I am a wistful troubadour
Beneath high heaven's wall,
Watching for my Lady
Till from her casement tall,
Like a shaft of sunlight,
She lets her fair glance fall.”

~ an excerpt from Festival by Sr. Mary Philip, C.S.C.

Wrought in the stitches

Glorycloakknitting My “glory cloak” in-progress; regular increases and decreases form the triangulating pattern / New Jersey / Jan. 2010

“There are many ancient stories of knitting, and there are even some that tell of knitting as a magic charm — spells that can be wrought in the stitches of sweaters, blankets, and socks for purposes known only to the knitter.” 

~ Stephanie Pearl-McPhee in At Knit's End

The youness of you

Wintersnap Pondering 'youness' and on the lookout for the brightening veils ... / New Jersey / Jan. 2010

“The essence of a thing is always elusive and hidden. The dream of art and prayer is to come nearer, even to slip through to dwell for a while in the vicinity of the essence. Daily life is blurred. We live between endless layers of darkening and occasionally brightening veils, but for the most part we remain outside the walls of what Kant affectionately called: 'the thing in itself.' We manage merely to live in the neighbourhood of things. Their essence is beyond our reach. The essence of a person is even more elusive. The medieval mind used the word 'ineffable' to suggest the essence of individuality. Your essence is the utter 'isness', the utter 'youness' of you.”

~ John O'Donohue, The Beauty of the Flaw from Beauty, The Invisible Embrace

Pirate stronghold and imperial city

Rabat Paulo arrived with a cardboard box of treasures from another time and place. When I saw the color and pattern of the ceramic (it took a minute to register that it was an ashtray; oh how times have changed), I thought Morocco! Spelled out along the rim of the tray were the words "Hotel" "Rabat" "Tour-Hassan" / presumably abducted from Rabat, once known as a pirate stronghold and an imperial city, now the capital of Morocco / Jan. 2010

The newscast says that they've reached a compromise on taxing health care plans and that an individual paying $8,500 a year has a “gold-plated” health insurance policy. Excuse me? Since when is there a correlation between what health insurance costs and the benefits that you get? Not in any of the plans that are available to me. I am only $868 away from that number — and I'll probably be there next year. OK. I just read a story about this at the NYTimes. It mentions “employer-sponsored” insurance plans. Does that mean it doesn't include me since I pay for it all myself? Just like everything else in this health care bill nothing is clear and: “Congressional leaders have been careful to stress that nothing is agreed on in the health care talks until everything is agreed on.” Great. Maybe I should take up smoking and imagine myself sitting under the Moorish arches and tile work on the patio cafe at the La Tour Hassan Hotel. Perhaps that will calm my nerves?

Necessity being the mother of invention

Legwarmers Lightweight but warm my last-minute legwarmers took less than a minute to make (luckily I already had a felted sweater in the closet) / New Jersey / Dec. 2009

How to Make a Great Pair of Legwarmers

  1. Take an old wool sweater, with long sleeves, and wash it in hot water to felt it so the ends won't fray.
  2. Cut the sleeves off at the shoulders.
  3. Slide the sleeves onto your legs (I slid them on so that the smaller cuff part was around my ankle). Done!

They can be worn over stockings (kept my legs extremely warm as I walked through a blizzard), over pants like a pair of gaiters (were great when the snow was almost two feet high), or under pants to keep the cold air from blowing up your legs (if they slouch down too much on bare legs, wear the cuff at the top).

Iron chef

Iron_chef Lovely green curly-leaved kale, rich in iron / New Jersey / Jan. 2010

Several years ago my doctor told me that my iron was low. I should buy some iron pills and take one every day. I bought the pills and the bottle sat unopened on the top of the refrigerator where I could see it. I never opened the bottle. Each time I went to the doctor he would mention the low iron and ask about the pills. I would artfully dodge his questions (I'm not sure exactly why I wouldn't take them except that I hate taking any kind of pill). About 18 months ago I joined an organic food co-op. Every two weeks I get 15 pounds of fresh produce. This bonanza sitting on the counter greatly increased my intake of fruits and vegetables. Even when I couldn't get to the supermarket I was usually able to cobble a meal together out of the produce (an added incentive was that I felt guilty if it spoiled before I could use it). On my last visit to the doctor he asked about my taking the iron pills. I hemmed and hawed as usual, “Well, I don't take them regularly.” He tried to pin me down: in an average month how many would I take? “Well, in some months none at all” (how's that for an artful dodge?). [Disclaimer: I don't want to lie to my doctor, but I also don't want to admit to being irresponsible; was I being irresponsible by not taking the pills?] A week later I got a phone message from the doctor that my saturated iron was 29% which is good (my stored iron was still a little low, 23%). What??? Had the produce done the trick? When he first mentioned the low iron I asked about eating more red meat, would that help? No, he said, you'd have to eat an awful lot of meat. I hadn't asked if eating more fruit and vegetables would help. Had I been rescued by that beautiful curly-leaved kale?

Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar

Three_kings Three kings in the manger that Pap built; during Advent, each time we did a good deed we could take some straw "hay" out of a jar and put it in the manger to insure a comfortable setting for the baby / New Jersey / Dec. 2006

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany that celebrates the visit of the Three Wise Men to the infant Jesus. As children, we would take the wise men from the manger scene in the living room and put them somewhere else in the house. Each day during the four weeks of Advent we would advance them (and maybe a camel, too) toward the manger scene and, hopefully, we got them all there on time and in one piece (the ones we had as kids were bigger, made of ceramic, and had more detailed features than the ones here; I recall one being knocked off the stairs and some broken bits). I was always intrigued by the names of the wise men — Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar (and their multi-cultural appearance) and the We Three Kings carol with its E minor sound, both mournful and joyous:

We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star

With a flick of the wrist

Ano2010 To the new year and fashioning the ropes that will hold us / New Jersey / Jan 2010

To make us say: yes, oui, si.
“Even asleep we partake in the becoming of the world.”
Endurance comes only from enduring.
With a flick of the wrist I fashioned an invisible rope,
And climbed it and it held me.

~ an excerpt from A Magic Mountain by Czeslaw Milosz