30 December 2005

Beyond the Headlights

It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
~ E. L. Doctorow

I would much rather have writer's cramp than writer's block. Unfortunately, the latter has been more in evidence than former for the past few days. Oh, I write every day ~ it is what one is supposed to do to keep the Muse around. But most of what I have put down on paper is drivel that isn't fit to be seen outside the house! And the headlights of my Muse only illuminate far enough for me to see that perhaps someday, some of it may be turned into something beautiful.

I confess I did compose two or three songs over the weekend. Two of the songs that I composed ~ both without titles at present ~ were inspired by the passing remarks of a friend of mine. Aside from the Lay of Life and Loss that I penned with my good friend Sullivan, most of my music is self-expression and melodic therapy, as some who have kindly and patiently listened to my "funeral dirges" will attest. (Mylanta! That was a really long sentence! Should I re-write it again?! No ~ my fingers are cramping up....)

It never ceases to amaze and thrill me what will inspire a song, a poem or a story. Here was my friend, ascending the staircase (literally) and telling me about how she feels when a certain gentleman friend dances. I "just happened" to be sitting at the piano and I laughed and said, "That sounds like a song!" So I wrote one.

Then last night, she was telling me something the same gentleman had said to her. I was again sitting at the piano (what can I say? Music is like breathing, so I sit there as often as life and time permit me) and again I was struck by the sound of the words and the emotion they expressed. I said to her, "That sounds like another song!" And she laughed, and knowing my penchant for "funeral dirges" said, "Yes, but a happy one!" I quickly scribbled the words down and then played around with a melody. Only two verses for both of them, but it is a start and I can work with something more than I can with nothing!
Did I tell you about my other song, Seven? No ~ it is not about the seven deadly sins or the seven Sacraments. But your eyes must be tired and I only have a few minutes left to wrap up, dry the quill, cap the inkwell and get thee to a nunnery ~ or in this case, Adoration and Benediction (I do hope it is in the Mother tongue!!). Ergo ~ I will tell you about Seven some other time. ;o)
Have a safe and blessed New Year's Eve weekend and may 2006 find you one step closer to fulfilling your dreams.

Oremus pro invicem,

23 December 2005

Lo, How a Rose 'Er Blooming

And the angel said unto them, "Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, Which shall be to all people. "For unto you is born this day in the city of David A Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, Lying in a manger.
Luke ii. 10-12

It has been a very hectic week between beginning a new job and trying to finish my Christmas shopping and baking. Thank goodness Christmas is not relegated to one day, but to twelve! And Epiphany ~ the first time Christmas presents were actually given ~ buys me some time to really finish the shopping. ;o)

As for baking, I will leave the bulk of that for when I arrive at home with the family. Making gingerbread, Grandma's famous fudge and our traditional boiled custard (surely God's gift to the culinary world!) is so much more fun and sweet to the heart when surrounded by loving family and a thousand twinkling memories.

Since I will be enjoying a peaceful Christmas in the country, I will be away from the snares of email and computers for a few days. I hope that your Christmas is a peaceful one ~ filled with faith, hope and love.

Veni, veni Emmanuel!

14 December 2005

Del Amado

I am my beloved's and my Beloved is mine.
~ Canticle 2:16

Today is the Feast of Saint John of the Cross, by far one of my favorite saints. His biography is incredible and his poetry breathtaking. Read the full text of The Spiritual Canticle.

Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.

Shepherds, you who go
up through the sheepfolds to the hill,
if by chance you see
him I love most,
tell him I am sick, I suffer, and I die.

Return, dove,
the wounded stag
is in sight on the hill,
cooled by the breeze of your flight.

Happy Feast Day!

Oremus pro invicem,

12 December 2005

Home is Where the Music Is

When a man’s home is born out of his heart and developed through his labor
and perfected through his sense of beauty, it is the very cornerstone of life.
~ Gustav Stickley

Home is a word that conjures many different images. More often than not, “home” is a sanctuary; a place of peace amidst the storms of life; a safe harbour even when those storms rage within, for there is an anchor that keeps one from drifting away. It is snow on the ground outside, a fire in the a fireplace, a big dog on the rug in front of it, a pot of tea on the stove, gingerbread baking in the oven, pen and paper in hand and meeting the loving gaze of one’s Beloved over the heads of children listening enraptured to yet another thrilling verbal enactment of Tolkien or Lewis.

On Saturday, another picture of home was added to the gallery: Studio A. Sitting at the piano, with my drummer and new guitarist (who is one talented player!) and housemate Di for moral support, I had a sense of belonging and homecoming. I was born to be here. I was at peace. And then Mike the engineer’s voice came over my headphones: “We’re rolling.”

I froze. My eyes get twice their normal size and I experienced fully what is meant by the phrase: ‘her heart leapt into her throat.’ I took a deep breath, flexed my fingers and began the opening notes. Halfway through I panicked for no good reason and played the wrong chords. On my own song. Groan. How incredibly stupid is that!? Luckily for all of us, technology came to the rescue and we just played that line over and punched it in.

Note to self: studio time is like God-time: two hours is like a second and a second is like an eternity. Bottom line: two hours is not enough time to walk away with a finished product. Which means going back in a month or two.

For now, I have a CD that I can play in my car. Which is a dream come true for me already.

Oremus pro invicem,

09 December 2005

Chocolate and Fingers

‘Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.
~ William Shakespeare

Flourless Chocolate Cake. The very words make the mouth water and the taste buds grab their forks. This is why God created tongues and the sense of taste. Think chocolate cake only denser. Richer. Darker.

If you are not reaching for your mixer and a jar of Ghirardelli bittersweet cocoa powder or at the least, grabbing your coat and heading to the nearest pastry shop, you either have never tasted a flourless chocolate cake (for which I pity you) or you are dead (and I will pray for you.) Flourless chocolate cake is synonym for decadence. Leisure. Comfort. Pleasure. I’ll stop there lest I scandalize any JQ readers. ;o)

December is the perfect time of year for adventures in baking and as I have been requested to make something chocolate for one the many Advent parties being hosted around these parts, I have decided to attempt to bake a flourless chocolate cake. Lucky reader! Thou shalt be privy to the highs and lows, triumphs and burned pieces of this grand endeavor.

Shall we begin? ;o)

Oremus pro invicem,

08 December 2005

Untainted Honey

MOTHER! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied;
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature's solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven's blue coast;
Thy Image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven the suppliant knee might bend,
As to a visible Power, in which did blend
All that was mixed and reconciled in Thee
Of mother's love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene!
~ William Wordsworth

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Being both the Quote Queen and the Dining Diva, what better way to celebrate this great Feast, than with food? :o)

I did some snooping around for recipes and menus applicable to the varying Feasts on the Gregorian Calendar and so far, I can only come up with one that is appropriate for today on a couple of levels: Ciastka Miodowe, or Honey Cakes. These cakes are traditionally served in Poland on the Feast of St. Nicholas, but given that I could not find a dish specifically for today and since Our Lady is considered as "sweet as honey" and my father is Polish, that is enough of a connection and an excuse for me to bake these. :o)

Let me know if you try them!

Oremus pro invicem,

This recipe is taken from the Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton & Helmut Ripperger. (David McKay Company, Inc., New York, ©1951 by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger)

Ciastka Miodowe (Honey Cakes)

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger

Warm the honey slightly and combine with the sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Sift the flour with the soda and spices and stir into the honey batter thoroughly. Let the dough rest overnight. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness; cut out with a cookie cutter. Brush with the slightly beaten white of an egg, press half a blanched almond into each cookie and bake at 375 degrees F. for about fifteen minutes.

07 December 2005

The Bend in the Road

When you encounter difficulties and contradictions,
do not try to break them,
but bend them with gentleness and time.
~ Saint Francis de Sales

Nothing happens by chance and there are no coincidences. "And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good." (Romans 8:28) Now, in light of losing my best and only guitar player to the stress of his workload and other considerations, I find my adherence to this motto wobbling! And to think I was only joking when I said yesterday that he was AWOL! Sigh.

Of course, now I am only half joking. Although it is a great disappointment and I find myself scrambling to find another guitarist, I know that in the end, the one who is sent instead will be sent for a very good reason. And having managed to pack more lives than a cat into a mere *cough* couple of decades, I can take comfort in the few traveling tips I've picked up along the journey:
  1. No matter what path you are on, there is always a bend in it, or an obstacle that forces you to take a different route.
  2. Sometimes it seems like you are heading in the opposite direction of your intended destination, when all of a sudden over the next hill, your quarry rises in front of you once more.
  3. Do not change direction or take a new path on impulse. More often than not, you fall headlong into disaster.
  4. Be silent and listen.

Now, if only He would send me another guitarist! One who can improv and is available in the next three days!

Oremus pro invicem,


06 December 2005

Butterfly Formation

It's all right to have butterflies in your stomache.
Just get them to fly in formation.
~ Robert Gilbert

Five days, one psyched up drummer, one AWOL guitarist, one tentative cellist and one very nervous, I mean, excited, pianist and singer.

You would think that nerves or stage fright would be a thing of the past. I am no stranger to piano competition, nor to the stage. Performing ~ on an actual stage ~ for a small social gathering last Friday night however, showed me that the nerves and shyness that cause my right leg to shake like Elvis has never gone away!

Why is this? When all was said and done, many in the audience Friday evening came up to me afterwards and congratulated me on my performance and expressed their great liking for the music. And yet, I cannot shake the almost paralyzing stage fright that grips my heart each time I play for people other than close friends. Nor the feeling of surprised happiness when people tell me they actually enjoy listening to my music.

Well, it really isn't mine anyhow ~ it belongs to the Lord. May it give Him glory!

Oremus pro invicem,

05 December 2005

Little Rubs & Disappointments

There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere,
and we are all apt to expect too much....
~ Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

Yesterday afternoon, Beth and I went to see the new Pride and Prejudice with much anticipation and not a little skepticism. Would it stand up to the A&E version? Could anyone really replace Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy?

I am glad we decided to see the matinee showing ~ spending $6 as opposed to $9.25 made it a little less painful once we left the theatre. I do not know (or care) what anyone else is saying in the industry, but for Beth and I, A&E is still the best rendition of Austen's classic and Colin Firth reigns supreme as the best portrayal of Mr. Darcy. Although I must say Matthew MacFadyen is exceedingly handsome ~ but then he's a Scotsman and I have never met or seen a Scotsman yet who was "ill-favored." ;)

In some ways, it is not the film's fault. Trying to do justice to such a beloved work of literature in 2 hours instead of A&E's brilliant 6 hours, resulted in much chopping, condensing and too many close ups of Keira Knightly's eyes ~ beautiful I'll grant you, but in a good film, I wouldn't "see" Keira Knightly ~ I'd see Elizabeth Bennet.

Overall, the characters acted very un-English and the timing and delivery of lines was a little off. What can I say? "Art isn't easy." And I spent most of the movie in a cold theatre and not in Elizabeth Bennet's shoes. It did not put me "in the zone." Having said all that, the soundtrack was beautiful (although not period) and certain shots of the English countryside were breathtaking.

In the end, though, Beth and I watched Tapes I and II to get our Colin Firth fix. ;)

In other news, I am looking forward to seeing Narnia this Friday. The previews promise much ~ we shall see if they deliver.

Oremus pro invicem,

01 December 2005

The Beauty of Order

Order is the shape upon which beauty depends.
~ Pearl S. Buck

I was searching online this afternoon for the letters of Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh (not to each other of course; two seperate searches) and I came across the lovielist thing ever: LibraryThing! Did I ever mention I was a bibliophile? Ah yes, well, I am. And LibraryThing? Well, as one user put it: "Introducing me to something like this is like setting an alcoholic adrift on a sea of vodka, in a leaky boat." Amen, brother! :o) Drink up!