Saturday, December 25, 2010

How to Open a Pomegranate

I've always loved pomegranates as decorative items in Christmas vignettes
but never knew what to do with them as food. Now I do!
 Blake (and a helpful little grocery-store pamphlet) showed me how:
With a sharp knife, cut away the top about a half inch from the crown.

You'll see sections separated by a white membrane.
 Score the sections along the membrane and separate them.

Over a bowl of water, loosen the "arils" (red fleshy seeds) and drop them into the bowl.

The arils sink to the bottom and the white membrane floats to the top.
 Scoop away the white pieces with a spoon.

Strain and and place the arils in a dish.

Try a spoonful.
Enjoy them as a super healthy snack.
 Or get creative and add them to salads, appetizers, entrees, and desserts.
They're loaded with antioxidants, Vitamin C and K.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Nativity of Our Lord

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7
painting by Meister von Hohenfurth, ca. 1350

painting by Georges de La Tour, ca. 1644

il presepio, Charterhouse of Trisulti, Italia, 2010

Linda at Seven Hills sent me her photograph of the Italian cave crib located in the monastery complex near her home. Check out her post for the complete story.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Canapes, Abbey Style

My new cooking mentor is a Benedictine monk
who teaches me from the pages of his book, The Pure Joy of Monastery Cooking.

 Last year, I followed the recipes in Brother Victor-Antoine's 12 Months of Monastery Soup book.
Now I'm into his vegetable side dishes and appetizers--just in time for the holidays.
It's all about using ingredients fresh from a seasonal garden,

slicing bread that comes in round forms,
and keeping kitchen tools simple.
+   +   +
His Asparagus Canapes recipe calls for whole wheat bread but I substituted with an artisan bread--a small, round loaf of multi-grain boule for its rustic texture, look, and taste.

It's pure joy in the making--simple, easy, and quick:
 Parsley buttered bread slices topped with tenderly cooked asparagus spears and grated Gruyere, laid on a buttered cookie sheet, and heated in a 250-degree oven.
Made in minutes...
Tasty and satisfying!

For a book of your own, click on the cover image on my sidebar.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A French Carol for Advent

People , look east. The time is near of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east, and sing today--Love, the Guest, is on the way.

Angels announce with shouts of mirth him who brings new life to earth.
Set ev'ry peak and valley humming with the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east, and sing today--Love, the Lord, is on the way.
                                                                     Text: Eleanor Farjeon, 1881-1965

Monday, December 6, 2010

Split-Personality Decorating

I'm torn between two decorating worlds--
one that practices simplicity and minimalism
and the other a stylist's world requiring many objects of affection.

Blogging presented me with a similar conflict.
Do I go with the ancient/modern aesthetic I like so much
 or go with the flow of the beach while living in Florida?
I resolved it with two blogs, one for each of me...

When it comes to Christmas decorating, the style question pops up every year...
do I go simple, pure, and worshipful
 or Florida quaint and quirky?

The solution? A house we acquired during the fix-and-flip era...
one we can't sell, thanks to the real estate fiasco. It's now a seasonal rental for Canadians
 January- March and a guest house for family during the holidays.
 This year, I'm rolling with a Florida beach attittude over there.

At our house, I'll keep the faith with simplicity--
white candles and Narcissus only--but a goodly number of them.

 What's your Christmas decorating style?
I'd really love to know :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Walking in the Dark

My body (and house of my spirit) has a mind of its own.
 Like clockwork, it rouses me from sleep at 5 a.m. every day.
It wants to walk in the dark.

 Somewhere between sleep and awakening, I argue the reasons for staying abed--the warmth of the blankets, soft comforts of the mattress, the scent of the sweet one sleeping next to me...wouldn't you
 rather (I say to my other self) loll around in the sheets anticipating the day and dreaming a little longer?
I rarely win.
By 5:30, my legs carry me out the door
 and into the wonders of the night.

The splendid solitude of the dark comes with quiet companions.
The moon, for one, lends mystery and magic to aerobics and the art of night strolling. Waxing or waning, occasionally disappearing behind a mist of clouds or disappearing altogether, it can be counted on for a friendly crescent smile, a full-blown circle of light, or a moonbeam kiss for keeping it company.
For another, my long black shadow, defined by streetlights, leads me down the very center of the shell-crush, traffic-free street--a death-defying feat if done by day. The cats who live on the corner of Orange Street and San Marco sit stoically on their paver driveway as I pass by--except for the black one whose padded feet always scurry across my path.

Lanterns of all sorts light the way. Lightposts, security lights, and streetlights prevent stumbling and, as Christmas draws near, more houses wear garlands of light that wink and glitter from rooftops. Single LED candles greet travelers from Amanda's windows and, although it's the first of December and she's hung a wreath on the door, two jack-o-lanterns still wickedly grin from Margaret's walkway. Year round, the elusive glow of television coming from houses of resident night owls always mark my route.

 The silent night composes a quirky nocturnal song.
It's done with the whispers of sprinklers furtively watering lawns against water-use rules, the sloshing of wet clothes in the washing machine parked in old Mr. Soderholm's carport, and the 6 o'clock chime of the hallway clock at 525 Glen Oak Road. On Larchwood, monk parakeets chatter and squabble from their nest in a Canary Island palm and, once a week, a mysterious moving vehicle creates rhythmic slaps on the concrete with rolled-up newspapers tossed from its window.

+   +   +

Walking in the dark requires no sunscreen, the gulf-coast air moisturizing my skin.
 Breathing in and breathing out, my pace slows after three miles.
  My body's feeling fine, my spirit lifted up.
 As I turn a corner near the lake district, an elusive potpourri drifts by--
is that sea salt, fireplace smoke, and jasmine blooming on the vine?
It must be the magic hour--just before the sun slips over the edge of the earth.
A new day is about to happen.

 As I turn toward home, school children, talking on cell phones and waiting for the bus,
 huddle together at the corner of Bal Harbour and Jacaranda.
 Four doors from my house, the man with three kids, a carpet-cleaning truck and
 five bicycles runs on the treadmill in his opened garage.
A dog walker, plastic bag in hand, emerges with the family hound and,
 next door, Carmen's kitchen light is on.
Everything's as it should be.

 Mr. Softie's up--
the smell of coffee greets me as I step inside my door.
6:30 and all's well with the world.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Like Water for Sharing

Village fountain high in the Swiss Alps. Murren, Switzerland.

Water is the only drink for a wise man.
-Henry David Thoreau

Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.
- Mark Twain

I never drink water. I'm afraid it will be habit-forming.
- W. C. Fields

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


A wondrous kind of quiet comes with feathery layers of new snow and goose down. Falling softly in fat, hypnotizing flakes, the season's first blanket of snow settles lightly over the landscape without interruption, covering earth's dark and dusty leaf layer with a white and airy comforter.
Concrete streets and sidewalks, still hoarding heat from the summer sun, melt the snowfall on their surfaces, leaving manicured patches of white lawn and field between them.

Photograph: Brother Stan

Deck chairs and golf carts, not yet returned to winter storage, gather layers of snowflakes on their backs and bottoms, inviting wonderland sitting with softly contoured snow pads and pillows. In a few hours, the snow muffles the sounds of the expressway nearby, and, under the snow, garden flowers and bare buds snuggle into winter's white dress.

By evening, down comforters come out of storage for winter cocoons. Little is needed for a good winter's nap--a sack of white feathers, a pillow, and a fitted sheet. If ultimate luxury is the heart's desire, a feather bed laid over the mattress lures a sleeper
 into a naturally plumped-up nest.
+   +   +
Ah, sweet night and down under.
 Count the layers of warmth in the house--the soft sounds of  late-night television in the next room,
 the giggle of children recently tucked into beds,
 the white-noise of the refrigerator humming in the kitchen.
Slipping between icy layers, you wait for body heat to warm your winter's bed.
In a minute, your limbs relax to their natural length and soon the old seducer, sleep,
comes to sail you over the long, dark landscape to the other side of the moon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

12th Century Abbey in America?

I have to hand it to William Randolph Hearst.
+  +  +
My pilgrimage to the monastery in North Miami
unearthed a surprising backstory.
+ 1133-1144 A. D. The Monastery of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels was built in Segovia, Spain.
 Upon the canonization of Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian monk,
 the monastery was renamed in his honor and
 Cistercian monks occupied the monastery for nearly 700 years.
+ 1835 A.D. Due to a social revolution in the area, the Cloisters were seized, sold,
and converted into a granary and stable.
A stable? Really?
(Originally, the cloisters had no flooring.)
+ 1925 A. D. Newspaper mogul and antiquities collector Hearst purchased the Cloisters.
 Dismantled stone by stone and bound with protective hay, the structures were packed in 11,000 crates, numbered for identification and shipped to the United States.
 About that time, hoof and mouth disease broke out in Segovia.
 The U. S. Dept. of Agriculture quarantined the shipment, broke open the crates and burned the hay, fearing it was a possible carrier of the disease.
Unfortunately, the workmen failed to replace the stones in the same numbered boxes
 before moving them to a warehouse.
 As soon as the shipment arrived, Hearst's financial problems forced
most of his collection to be sold at auction.
 The stones remained in a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York for 26 years.
+ 1953 A. D. One year after Hearst's death, Messrs. W. Edgemon and R. Moss
purchased the stones for use as a tourist attraction.
It took 19 months and $1.5 million dollars to put the monastery back together.
+ 1964 A.D. Bishop Henry Louttit purchased the property for the
Diocese of Central, Southeast and Southwest Florida.
 Shortly thereafter, the monastery was put up for sale.
 Col. Robert Pentland, Jr. a multimillionaire banker, philanthropist and benefactor of many Episcopal churches, purchased the Cloisters and presented them to the parish of
St. Bernard de Clairvaux in North Miami, Florida.
Today, the Cloisters are a popular setting for weddings, fashion photography, tourist sightseeing,
 and masses held in the chapel (once the monks' dining hall).
Here, kitty-kitty...
The cloisters make a comfortable home for six cats
who live on the grounds and in the gardens.
The cat lady comes to feed them every day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pouring Wine, Abbey Style

I love an excuse to pour a glass of wine.

When it's the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,
it's time to taste the new wine--An ancient European feast day, Martinmas  marked
 the end of field work and the beginning of winter. It was (and is) celebrated in various ways.

I like Portugal's simple celebration:
Associated with the maturation of the year's wine,
 St. Martin's is the first day for tasting it.
 Around a bonfire, chestnuts roast under the embers
while a local light alcoholic beverage called "foot water" is poured.
 A little ditty goes:

It is St. Martin's Day,
we'll eat chestnuts, we'll taste the wine.

+   +   +
In the United States of America, 11/11 is celebrated as Veterans' Day.
at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,
 I drink a toast to those who so valiantly served.

Pax vobiscum.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cathedral Ceilings

If I were more like my sister Solveig, I could tell you this German cathedral's name
 and give you a quick rundown on its history.
 But, alas, my brain doesn't retain. It doesn't inquire. Or register a back story.
It's my heart that requests. An image, please. A photo to save and savor the memory of this space.
 A portal to revisit the emotional power of its soaring ceiling.
 To remember the lines, colors, and shapes of
yet another gateway to heaven.
+   +   +
It's no wonder cathedral ceilings are adapted for homes.
They feel  better than standard 8' ceilings.
 Volume lets the spirit soar. The imagination's free to fly.
And the crystal lights of chandeliers glitter like the stars!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TABLE GRACE: October Centerpiece

Pumpkins, pure and simple.
White pumpkins...signs of the ghostly season.
A seashell or two.
Asparagus fern that's going to seed.
Roasted pumpkin seeds, pistachios, and white-covered raisins.
+ + +
Shafts of late afternoon light shift across the room as the sun goes down.
The table is ready.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Birds of Paradise

Upon our return to Florida, we are surprised to see these blooms in our "jungle garden."
I never understood why these flowers are called "birds of paradise" but I think I see it now.
Bluish heads with sharp beaks are showing off their colorful headresses of orange and purple.
I continue to learn from this tropical landscape with its subtle seasonal changes,
glitzy look at Christmas, and easygoing charms.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


He smiles up at me from his playtime saucer, amused.
 Shyly, I sing to him, buoyed by the music from a compact-disc player nearby and, as I float along on a blissful flute melody, his eyes light up and his expression changes to something resembling rapture--
a wondrous look I've not seen on his face before.
Suddenly, I'm overwhelmed by the beauty of his baby face and
gratitude for his glowing appreciation for my simple song.
 "Oh, you're so beautiful!" I say and, suddenly, great tears of joy well up from my heart, filling the space between my ears. I hide my reddening, ugly-cry face behind my hands.
Puzzled, he follows me with his eyes to learn what gives.
But I'm unable to mask my turned-down mouth with a goofy smile, and, in a moment, his chin begins to tremble with empathy and his tiny lips turn downward to match mine.
 Sobbing, he reaches his arms upward and I pull him to me in embrace.

We hold together, connected heart to heart, his chubby arms wrapped about my neck.
 At first, we sob loudly to let go of the urge to cry. Then our heartbeats, steady and sure, bring calm. Soon only a few, quiet sobs of air bobbling in his lungs are left. I hum softly behind his ear and we sway side-to-side with the music. For a minute longer, we hold together, fascinated by the mystery and wonder of this strange moment of connection, this kiss from God so alive with love.
 Then we turn to the mantel mirror to look at our tear-stained faces and smile again.

+      +      +

Down-to-earth souls we are, connecting by way of the senses--touching, tasting, seeing, hearing, and smelling our ways into each other's worlds. At times, we touch upon the pleasures of a sixth sense--the mysterious ability to know love in larger forms.

+ William Shakeseare
If music be the food of love, play on...

Monday, September 13, 2010

State Fair Prizewinner

A lovely lady, garmented in light
From her own beauty.
+ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dog Days

It's that time of year again...
the sweltering heat

means a big bowl of water is a treasure.
Sometimes generous restaurants offer water at their doors
for doggie customers walking the streets.

Flopping on cool concrete can be a necessity--
unless the concrete blisters from the heat of the sun.

A tongue for air conditioning,

a dog's best friend,

and a cuddle now and then gets us through these doggie days of summer.
Autumn, when are you coming?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Walking on Water

Pedestrian Bridge along the Des Moines RiverWalk, Des Moines, Iowa

Biciclyists welcome.
Night lights, directed at the sweeping architecture of the bridge, add to walking-on-water delights.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Silent City

Every now and then,
I visit the stone houses inside the gates of Woodland Cemetery
 where quiet residents speak softly of long ago and far away.

I always pause in front of this lovely gravestone guardian
and wonder whose stone house she's guarding.
A cherished grandpa, a lovely mother, an infant daughter?

Her youthful face,
so beautiful with age and weather,
slips from the grasp of my camera.

I can't capture her mystery...
only the stone from which she's carved.

I read sweet epitaphs dedicated to beloved ones...

...admire old soldiers,

...grieve for young heroes,

...and regret the loss of lives cut short.

In a little while, the silence seems deafening and
I wish for the cacaphony of life again--
to sing songs,
listen to the news,
blog, chat and tweet,
 and hold a sweet boy
who smiles and gurgles with baby talk.
My sun is still shining.
I can still smell the flowers,
taste life's bread and wine,
and celebrate
glorious days of
family, friends, and health.

I leave the quiet ones to their rest...

...until I return another day
to admire, remember, and  circle the sleeping city once more.
+   +   +