Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Day Late

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. "Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris." (Remember human, you are dust and to dust you will return.") —Genesis 3:19

Wikipedia got it right in the following link:

I decided that I would not give up chocolate for Lent, because I knew that I wouldn't stick to it. I have removed the Pathwords application from my Facebook profile until Lent is over and I will find the links to the Gregorian chant sites online so that I can listen to the chant for Lent. I should probably give up NCIS for Lent. Maybe I'd get more done in the evenings, but I like the characters too much to give them up.

Mostly, life is lentish enough all year round here, so I am not worrying too much about it. I think that I should focus on the postive and see what if anything I can do to be useful. (Giving up watching the news might not be a bad thing.)

Writing to the President's special assistant on disability about changes that we need is one thing I must do. (Friends and family who are reading this, you have, as my late father used to say, "A license to nag". Comments, emails, remarks on what you think needs to be done, and along the line of, "So have you written the letter yet?" will be greatly appreciated.)

The Clinton administration made strides toward making it more possible for someone with a disability to earn more and not be cut off from access to health care. I believe that leveling the playing field and making only one standard instead of the current two in SSA would be a big step forward. Instead of SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity) allowing people to work half time at whatever is the usual and customary amount for the kind of work they do in the area in which they live would make sense. Ah, yes, making the government make sense---

I hope for a Lent of rain. The rain that was supposed to come yesterday and continue today never materialized. We need water so desperately! So I will pray for rain. Please join me.

My St Patrick's design's are ready on my cafepress website--link to the right.

A good although not very bloggish week.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hurray for More Rain!

It is either raining or about to rain. (I can't tell for I am sitting with headset on and the radio tuned to my favorite classical station, KDFC.) (Reaching over for the remote that operates the blind behind my computer desk shows there is just enough light still to see that it is not raining yet.) The countdown is on and I am looking forward to more rain.

While a rain barrel would not have fit into this year's budget, I definitely hope to have one or two next year. Every resource that can help in the quest for self-sufficiency and self-sustainability is worth exploring in my estimation and I first heard about rain barrels from a young friend in Santa Barbara who is a scientist, sailor, cook and gardener. Next they were discussed recently and briefly on my neighborhood email list, which has been a source of amazing information over the past decade.

Even though it hasn't started to rain yet, today has been a rainy day mode day. (Or a day spent in rainy day mode.) I puttered at exactly puttering paces with household chores that threaten to multiply before they are done. It feels good to see some spaces emerge, to know that the laundry is progressing and will be done by Monday night, that the black markers I need to cross my name and address out of a large quantity of books in a humongous box in the front hall are now where I can find them. It was serendipitous that they appeared before I really began searching for them.

My computer needs a bailout. Last night it burped in a way that I have never experienced before, shutting down before it had booted. I restarted it and diverted into the bios where I copied everything down and was puzzled by what I found. The puzzlement is not only that I do not fully comprehend the bios, but that I think the drive boot order is mixed up and then there is the problem that most of the time lately it doesn't recognize the cd-rom drive. Sigh, oh sigh. Maybe it needs this. No maybe it wants that. I am hoping that a new cmos battery will solve part of the problem; am planning for a new motherboard, because I do not like the one I have.

Wishing I were a great deal more geeky, but grateful for the coming rain and for my blessings.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The amaryllis has indeed bloomed red. It is gorgeous and stunning and huge! A most magnificent flower and the bulb is producing four flowers. Here is one of them, captured against a white backdrop. I took the picture Monday with the help of a friend.

I cannot say enough about the beauty of these breathtaking flowers. The bloom stalk grows about 30", which makes them much bigger than any other flower that I have ever grown. They are native to Chile and Peru and in the language of flowers they mean splendid beauty or proud beauty or pride. Stately is another word that comes to mind to describe them.

Outside, daffodils are blooming and more bulbs are poking up through the soil in their pots. I am eager to see them bloom, but grateful too for the rain which we have gotten.

A rain barrel would have been a good investment, I think and I will be planning to install one, or perhaps even two next year, if all goes well. The drought in California is serious, even though we have had this luxurious rainfall. We needed about six previous ones and four more to follow to get us out of the deficit.

The economy doesn't seem to be turning around either, but that is a different post. For now I will feel gratitude for the glory of the amaryllis and all that it signifies. Spring will come and we can hope that things will get better.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rainy Day Projects

Rain has changed from plinking on the roof and the kitchen stove fan to actual, steady pouring. Water has pooled in the depressions in my patio concrete forming puddles and we are receiving a rainfall that will finally be measurable. Hurrah. It is a good time to be indoors and to do indoor projects.

Friday I made chocolate cupcakes for Valentine's Day using my oldest, old time favorite chocolate cake recipe, Hershey's Chocolatetown Special Cake. It makes two layers or twenty-four cupcakes. The recipe used to be printed on the side of the cocoa container, but isn't there now. It can be found on the web though and when I googled I found a number of links.

Only when I went to put the cupcake liners into the tins did I discover that I had no paper liners. Since I can't just run out to the store, I had to be creative. I had a can of non-stick spray a friend had passed on to me so liberally sprayed the tins and put in the batter. The cupcakes are good, released well from the pans, but I think the flavor is negatively impacted by the vegetable spray and the spray left an oily film where it hit the pans in between the muffin cups. Here is a picture of cupcakes before frosting.

Today I finally frosted the cupcakes which I had not already eaten as shown in the photo.

Here is one cupcake looking almost photogenic.

Wish I could share them with everyone. I have a long way to go as a food photographer, but I think that this is one time in my life that I will not buy a book to teach me how to do it better! Too many books already, way too little time.

Today the mystery of the last Amaryllis finally revealed itself. It is definitely red. Definitely gorgeous too and difficult to photograph because it is above my head!

I would love to know why blogger always puts the photo above the text and not below it. Below seems so much more logical to me, since we write text from the top down.

I am grateful for the rain, which is truly a benediction in our lives today and for the cupcakes and the flowers, including the daffodils which are looking chilled and lonely outside today.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cold and Thursday

It feels cold enough to snow and snow is actually being predicted as part of the new storm brewing our way. We should see measurable precipitation this weekend and I am rejoicing, even if I am also shivering.

I took this picture of the last amaryllis this afternoon

I can hardly wait to see it open because it is so much redder than the others have been. I hope that it doesn't simply fall over, because it seems taller and more top heavy than any of its earlier counterparts. It doesn't seem to like being cold any more than I do!

With Valentine's Day only two days away, I want to bake chocolate cupcakes. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. It is a lot of work and time, the kitchen is cold and then there will be a lot of cupcakes--I think the recipe makes two dozen. It may be easier to daydream about them and find something else to do to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Last night I heard rain on the roof and decided to go to bed early to read figuring that the rain would be so soothing. By the time I had settled down to reading the rain had stopped. More to look forward to.

I am grateful tonight that there will be more rain, that I have heat and electricity and that the bills are paid for this month. Praise God.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

I see by the links that today is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. I remember as a child being fascinated by the apparition stories. Bernadette was a heroine of sorts and the movie made in the 1940's, "The Song of Bernadette" is one of the loveliest movies ever made, in my opinion.

People asked my mother why my parents didn't take me to Lourdes for the healing shrine was being written about and was known all over the world. I think the answer was quite simple. Although my mother certainly had enough faith, we did not have the money to take the family--even though we were only four--on such a long and expensive journey. Mama probably spoke sufficient French to make the trip work, if there had been that money. On the other hand, I can't imagine the disappointment if the "miracle" had not worked!

All of my life I have been interested in sacred or charismatic healing though, even though I have not experienced it in so dramatic or complete a way. Prayer for healing has been part of my life in other ways, smaller than being able to hang the crutches on the shrine wall and walk away. The tradition of healing continues at Lourdes, at Knock, at the church of St. Jean Baptist in New York, where the statue of St. Ann has been ascribed healing powers and at Beaupre, Canada where another statue of St. Anne also resides. I have a small, cast iron St. Anne figure that my mother brought back from Beaupre when she made a trip there at some time in the 1930's. (I've incorporated it into a design on my cafepress shop. Here it is on the tote bag.)

You can find it under a section "For All the Saints" if you click on the link to my shop in the links to the right.

The statue is one of my most loved possessions for its connection to Mama and because of the ease and familiarity that she had in praying to St. Ann, almost as though St. Ann was right there in the kitchen and would hear and take heart. That kind of Catholic familiarity with the saints is part of the legacy I have from my Mama.

For the next week, I will be thinking of Mama most particularly for this is the week of the anniversary of her death. She "coded" on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, fitting for she loved Mary under all of her titles. Mama's heart did not stop beating until February 19, though, so that is her official death date.

Late on in my journey, I read Victor Turner's book on pilgrimage and was struck particularly by the chapter on healing shrines in Ireland, where people left crutches, rosaries and pieces of cloth tied to tree limbs or "clooties" as they were known, to mark a miracle, a victory of the liminal over physical illness or injury.

I am grateful for this heritage, this feast day and the opportunity to share it with you. If you want to know more specifically of the story of Lourdes, please click on the link to the right--better yet, watch the movie.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday February 8, 2009

Cold and damp and I wish it would really rain. My space heater is warming me and makes me think of the role the fireplace had in the lives of our ancestors. I can be glad that I don't have to haul and chop the wood. Just point the remote and push the button and after a while, I quit shivering.

We are supposed to have rain all week and that is wonderful! It will be a great week for cleaning and doing laundry and baking. Yummy warmth filling the kitchen always makes me glad to be indoors. It always makes the time fly by, too and, of course, pumpkin muffins are a nice variation to have for breakfast.

The daffodils blooming are like bright lights against the gloomy sky and the new bulbs are pushing up in their pots a little further each week. Back indoors the first amaryllis bulb completes its cycle and the flowers shrivel. I have never had a bulb produce two flower stalks before--total flower for just this one bulb--ten! Amazing. Or as Papa used to say, "amazmarating". The new bulb, a Christmas gift, is leaping ahead to catch up, but will have only one bloom stalk. I can hardly wait to see if it will be red as the label indicated.

Here is another view of the first Iris to bloom outside.

I love the variation of textures and shades of color in this flower--in all flowers really--as well as their ephemeral beauty, which I keep trying to capture with my camera. The camera sees far more than I do now, for my eyesight is failing. (I wish that modern medicine would do more about this.) Earlier this evening I watched part of a PBS program on some of the great photographers. The stunning black and white images are amazing, breathtaking, inspiring and humbling all at the same time.

I am grateful for warmth and the technology of the digital camera that allows me to bypass developing and printing and directly share the pictures that I take. I wonder though what is lost in bypassing these older, chemical processes. How much can I emulate the results with my digital tools? Good question to pursue on a cold night in winter.

It is also a good night for knitting, so will the needles or the computer win? A good week to everyone reading this.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Feast of St. Blaise

Today, the day after Candlemas, is the Feast of St. Blaise, who is the patron of protection against sore throats. When I was growing up it was the custom to go to church and have our throats blessed. The priest carried two blessed candles that had never been used and were not lighted, one in each hand. He made his way down the the communion rail crossing the candles around the throat of each person and saying the blessing.

As I began to write this, I realized how often we knelt at that communion rail; kneeling first, of course, to receive Holy Communion and then to be confirmed (once in a lifetime) and then every year to have our throats blessed and to receive Ashes on Ash Wednesday. The communion rails were torn out a long time ago and in many churches today there are no kneelers at the pews. Everything that we used to receive kneeling, we now stand for. We are required to pray either standing or sitting. I am not sure this is a good thing. After all, many of the same churches that first lost their communion rails demarcating, as they did, sacred space, for the sanctuary lay on the other side, are now gone themselves, torn down to make way for other things.

The church of my childhood was a church of mystery and of saints who were just on the other side of that threshold that Victor Turner called "liminal"--the other side of our physical world, known in some other way and touched through ritual, liturgy, tradition and sacred space. We have lost so much!

Still I am grateful to remember these things today and to invoke St Blaise for his intercession. I hope that we will all weather the winter without colds and the flu and come to spring healthy and with a little bit more prosperity than we have now.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Today is the Feast of Candlemas, or the Presentation of the Lord also known as the Purification. It commemorates the Presentation of the Child Jesus by His parents, Joseph and Mary at the Temple. St. Simeon, who received the child and the gifts they brought, said, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace According to Thy word! For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation Which Thou has prepared before the face of all peoples To be a light to the Gentiles, And to be the glory of Thy people, Israel."

It is sung every night as part of Compline and was set to Polyphony by Orlando Gibbons. The St. Ann Choir sang this as part of the Requiem Masses for both of my parents, Helen Rose Manor and Frederick James Manor. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of music that I have ever sung or heard.

The Nunc Dimittis was also featured as voice over music in the BBC production of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor trying to tape record it from the television when it was first on. Not a very successful enterprise. I see now, via another blog, Desperate Irish Housewife, that it is up on YouTube (of course). For her link, go here

The Feast itself brings back memories of singing a glorious liturgy with a candlelight procession at Stanford Memorial Church in the mid-seventies. The chant for this feast is especially beautiful. It was the experience with this liturgy and this choir that led me to graduate school at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Now I feel that technology has brought my life full circle as I blog about these experiences and post these links. I am grateful and only regret that I cannot participate tonight in the Mass the choir is singing at another church than Mem Chu. I wish they would make Podcasts.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

St Brigid of Kildare

Although she isn't showing up in the Saints of the Day feed to the right, today, February 1 is the feast of St. Brigid of Kildare, one of the patron saints of Ireland.
She and St Patrick complement one another, I think.
For more about her there is a Wikipedia article here

Her vision of heaven is that there will be a "great lake of ale...and every drop a prayer". Quoted at I have seen and heard this quotation in many places. St. Brigid was known for miracles that involved keeping her community constantly supplied with ale.

February 1 is also the first day of Spring in Ireland.

Fisheaters, a traditional Catholic website with a wealth of information, has directions for making a St. Brigid's Cross, something that I have been meaning to do for years. Here is the link Now all I need is the material for making one.

Happy St. Brigid's Day to all of you, especially those who share Irish heritage. I am grateful for this heritage and this saint today.