Sunday Shrine– Sort of.

The Dome in St Barbara’s Chapel in St Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna

By Uoaei1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Uoaei1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 St Barbara is a warrior saint, who was beheaded by a sword to preserve her virginity. Like St. Michael, she protects policemen and firefighters, and soldiers, with a special love for heavy artillery. She withstood every kind of torture and isolation for her faith…  and in the end, her torturers were killed by strikes of lightening.

You need an arc light prayer, she’s the woman to call.  And they  say that Christianity is unfriendly to strong women!  Her feast day is December 4th.

St Stephen is the first Christian martyr, who was stoned to death for speaking the gospel in public.  He was a deacon, who took care of widows and the poor. He also spoke very well, and brought many to the faith.  His Feast Day is December 26.

NEW! Declan Finn’s Latest Marco and Amanda Book is OUT!


Ok, this is so new… I need to dig out my old review of this.

But I’m offering you a smack and a promise for the full review.

But this one is even better than the first. Read it and enjoy!

Until my full expose, I’ll give you my quickie Amazon Review, and

a link to where you can get the goods.

‘“Unwarranted?” Amanda asked. “Marco’s territory—my territory—had been invaded, and constantly under siege. Marco attacked any large gathering of less than savory vampires that might be in contact with Mikhail and his people.”’

This is the second chapter of the rip roaring saga of Marco and Amanda. The action starts literally the same minute the first book ended, and takes off from there. We go into the consequences of the first book, as well as looking at a sinister new villain who’s otherworldly charms are quite deadly, even for vampires.

But even beyond that, he is called to parts unknown and foggy, where the sun barely shines, even during the day. San Francisco is a great place to hunt, and lick your wounds. Too bad both Marco and the enemy know this…

We delve more deeply into the politics of New York as well as the wider world. For those of you who want to see more Merle Kraft, you won’t be disappointed. We get a little luck of the Irish a long the way, too. 😉 Marco continues his trajectory by training a group of San Franciscans to defend themselves against the denizens of the night… and gets more attention than he bargains for, in more ways than one. It tantalizes the mind and twists the heart, all the way to the very end.

A worthy sequel, and the continuation of a fantastic series. Highly recommended!


Upcoming Episodes; and Sunday Shrine



St Aubin Church in Treves. By Rensi at German Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Soon we are going to do something that we haven’t done in a long time…  A Margot’s Wino Night. Instead of babbling about wine I’ve had in the privacy of my own humble abode, I actually went to a Winery in that place that isn’t The Hamptons.  I went to a great place, with wines I both liked and didn’t.  Stay tuned…


St Aubin Church in Treves.

I’m also going to be reviewing the second in Declan Finn’s  “Codename” Series, Codename: Unsub.  But that might take me a week or so. I’m in the middle of other reading projects that are taking a lot longer than expected.

I also have a GF recipe that I want to try out… it partially comes from a mix, so we’ll see.   Hint: It’s a dessert, and it’s not pumpkin pie spice related. But it is a good representative of the essence of Fall, so be not afraid.  IT will be seasonal.

St Aubin Church in Treves.

St Aubin Church in Treves.

Today I cheated with the Sunday Shrine.  The pictures are from Nortre Dame church in St Aubin’s, or L’église Notre-Dame à Cunault. The Church dates from the 12th Century.  To put that in perspective, Thomas Aquinas might have known about this church.


St Aubin Church in Treves.

Also, I’m looking for suggestions. I figure I have about three people reading me at this point.  If there’s something you want to see here, please post.

Comments? Please? Hell, I wouldn’t mind tomatoes thrown at this point.

No canned tomatoes, however. I have to draw the line somewhere.


Sunday Shrine Delayed: St Patricks Cathedral, Chapel of the BVM

This is my favorite part of St Patrick’s. But first, a lovely pic of the cathedral I found on Wikimedia.[below]
Here’s another. They did much better at photographing the building in place. [below]

Here’s an image that shows you roughly where the chapel is. It’s on the right, where the blue light is flooding in.  It was far more vivid in real life. [below]

Here’s a closeup of those gorgeous windows. I like the arabesque tracery dominated by that gorgeous cobalt blue.
Here’s the main event– the chapel we’ve all been waiting for. [below]
Here’s a closeup of the chapel altar. It’s magnificent, as appropriate.
Seriously, look at this floor. Here’s a reason to be humble and stare at the floor during mass.
This wasn’t inside the Marian Chapel but was near by. So I leave you with the Pieta in honor of the day before All Saint’s Day.

Inspiration: Random

Random Art– Trees :: Random Thoughts– Hill Top Bakery

art_natura_ladislav_kopunec_univerzon_0086578_art_works_nature_20-08-2016This looks like a shot from an apple orchard.  It reminds me of the apple orchards near a town named Sparta, which is primarily comprised of apple orchards, and the Hill Top Bakery, run by a family with six kids, and who made the best bread in the world.

The house was a narrow green cape cod at the top of a hill, like the name.  There were toys in the yard, but not sloppy like, just to let you know there were kids around. The kids were always smiling and bouncing.

Theirs was better than my mom’s home made bread, and that’s saying something. Mom had the knack for making bread– yes, even whole grain. She could even make bran muffins kids wanted to eat, because she managed to turn “bran” into “carrot cake”.

She admitted defeat in this case, though, having lost fair and square. Their whole wheat was incredible. Wooly, light and nutty, with tooth but not too fibery or chewy. It had flavor, like toasted whole wheat, and buttery germ, not like whipped cardboard you get from the grocery.   Say nothing of the cinnamon swirl raisin bread, which was the last thing I enjoyed eating that had raisins at all. That was almost as rich as coffee cake, except it still managed to be bread, and sturdy enough for sandwich making. Most of the time,  warm, lightly toasted and a scrim of butter was more than enough.

They put such a light glaze on the exterior of the loaf you could see right through it. It delivered just enough sweetness without weighing the bread down. The crust managed to be crisp and the bread was properly soft, but with enough structure to carry the swirls into sandwich territory. The pieces hardly ever fell apart. It was the platonic ideal of cinnamon raisin bread.

Mom always timed it so we got the bread when it was still warm from the oven. The only issue was you had to leave the bags open to vent steam until they reached room temperature. The entire van filled with the smell of warm bread on the drive home.  These were not small loaves, and one would inevitably be eaten before we got back home to deliver the goods.  Trust me. On bread days, we were always welcome wherever we went.

Ha! Next time I’ll tell you about the way my brother and I turned unripened apples into war.

Sunday Shrine– St Patrick’s Cathedral

This place has so much beauty, it is difficult to decide what pictures to post.  On my delightful tour of Down Town NYC, the highlight of my  trip was seeing Dagger John’s gift to God, Man and posterity.


St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Photo Credit: Margot St. Aubin :: I release this with a FDL.

After having shamelessly used other artist’s work for years on end, I present my own humble examples. Most of these are taken with my cell phone, so the quality isn’t quite up to my standard.

However, the subject matter is so wonderful I’m going to use it anyway.  If you don’t mind, I may use several Sundays to cover the best highlights. Remember, guys, the com box is there for a reason!

[above] The Cathedral is situated right downtown, next to office buildings and several malls– in the middle of everything.   Really should have brought the wide angled lens for this shot.



St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Photo Credit: Margot St. Aubin :: I release this with a FDL.

[above] It’s not quite as integrated with the surrounding area as St Peter’s in Chicago. Then again, St Peters of the Loop is built into a slab like building along the row, so it would be hard to build a church to look more at home with a bunch of rectangular glass buildings.
Here, the surroundings have had to blend in to St Pat’s than the other way around. When St Patrick’s was first built, this was the outskirts of Town.


St Patrick’s Cathedral, Right Portcullis Door, New York Photo Credit: Margot St. Aubin :: I release this with a FDL.

[above] This is for scale. When I first saw the church in place, I thought it looked a bit on the small side… until I saw people in context with the building. Ah, yes, now THAT is a cathedral.





St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Photo Credit: Margot St. Aubin :: I release this  FDL.


[left] Some exterior details, plus [ right] a wonderful floor mosaic with the  coat of arms of the first Archbishop of New York. Click on the image to see more detail.



St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Photo Credit: Margot St. Aubin :: I release this  FDL.

[above] This is a view of the sanctuary from the front door, angled in favor of showing off the magnificent French High Gothic ceiling. The golden structure in the distance is the Holy of Holies, where the altar and tabernacle reside. The dark T shaped structure on the right is the ambo, an elevated shelter where the priest stands to give his homily. These were used in the days before microphones to project the priest’s voice so everybody in a large space could hear. Contrary to popular opinion, people cared about the congregation getting something out of the mass well before Vatican II came about.


St Patrick’s Cathedral, Sanctuary shot.New York Photo Credit: Margot St. Aubin :: I release this with a FDL.

[above] This is a clearer picture of the sanctuary itself. Clearly, mass is being said, which limits my options in terms of approach and angle.


Photo:: Declan Finn Released into Public Domain

[above] Here’s a closeup of the ambo.  The candelabra is really gorgeous, too.



Photo: Declan Finn License: PPD

[above] Here’s a side view of the altar. Green fabric, the gold framework, and the candles…  Also is a nice canopy shot. Look at the filigree in both the wood and the gold.  You can see how it ties into the Celtic knotwork in [#1b below], too.


Photo:: Declan Finn License:: Public Domain



Photo:: Declan Finn License:: Public Domain



Photo:: Declan Finn License:: Public Domain

[above, #3a]  Another view from the altar, to the rose window, where the organ is. The beautiful blue window cascaded blue light over us.

[above, #3b] Now we turn our attention to the floor. I wish I could have asked everyone else to leave so I could have better displayed how gorgeous the floors are in here. This is a sample near the altar. Uh, I think it was built by and for the Irish… but I’m not sure… 😛

[above, #3b] I found this in the photo compilation of my companion on our trip here. I don’t remember him taking this one, probably because I was “high on architecture.”  Yep, that is an official architecture rush.


Photo credit: Declan Finn ; License Public Domain


[above] The church was full of gorgeous detail to admire for those paying attention. Stuff like this doesn’t need to be there, but it certainly points to the devotion and artistry of those who designed and built this place.

There are a lot of beautiful churches that make a nice facade that otherwise are not reinforced by robust construction and layered attention to detail in their function.  This is a church that will be admired and looked to for thousands of years for “how you build a structure dedicated to a purpose.”

People keep telling me how elitist it is to have beautiful churches.

I say, “No. This was built for everyone, not the just the church. For most people throughout history, this was the only palatial structure that a person of any station could just walk into and take a rest, pray, and ask for a priest. Yes, even in the middle of the night.”  For hundreds if not thousands of years, the official position was that a church never locked it’s doors. Period.

And that is how it should be. Our hard and modern hearts make allowances for locks and whatnot today, but even in eras more dangerous than our own, it was the last refuge for the lost.


Ramon Casas i Carbó [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Shrine Bumped to Monday


Photo credit:: Declan Finn License: PPD :Margot Gawking…

This is a preview for the really awesome Sunday Shrine post that will be coming to you… tomorrow. Because it’s late, and I’m tired, and Sunday Shrine deserves to be done well.

Take a wild guess what site I’m going to post about.
Hint: Many of the photos I took live. Others were contributed by a fond admirer who is clearly a better shot than I am.

At any rate, I promise pretty pictures.

Soon. Very soon.

The Crucifix and the Cross: Questions Answered

Cristo_crucificadoThere have been a lot of articles about banning crosses lately. Bridging the differences between east and west, we see people on two continents strive to get rid of them. On pretty much every article in question, I see at least one Facebook comment, “People should note the difference between a cross and a crucifix.”

I am not certain if the problem lies in the fact that no reporter bothers to investigate the difference, or if that the commentariat wishes that the difference be expressed in the  banning.

I’m inclined to believe in the former. The latter is too depressing to think about.

Just in case, I aim at both ideas.

First, the crucifix depicts Christ on the cross. (see painting above) There are many styles, from the dramatic, bloody, and starving, where suffering is plainly evident. There are stylized crucifixes, which suggest a shadow of a body to an almost generic figure. Others show a more loving aspect to our Lord while pinned to the cross, thus speaking plainly the closeness of the Resurrection to his suffering and death. These are almost exclusively Catholic. There may still be high church Anglicans that carry the crucifix, but they are swimming cross the Tiber by the day, as their own church, drunk on letting it all hang out, lose their flock to the howling wilderness.

By Dmitry Ivanov (Own work) [Public domain or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dmitry Ivanov (Own work) [Public domain or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Orthodox among us have the twin cross which might carry the corpus. (That’s what a representation of Christ on a cross is actually called.)

Even they are a bit more temperate than those Catholics at showing off the corpus. Catholics seem almost mad over it.

A plain old cross is, just that. Two planks of wood tethered together, used to describe almost every other flavor of Christianity other than Catholicism. There are an almost infinite number of ways to describe two sticks tied together, two planks of a tree, two rods of iron that intersect, welded unbreakably together.

By Kehlmann Studio Archive (Kehlmann Studio Archive) [CC BY 1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Kehlmann Studio Archive (Kehlmann Studio Archive) [CC BY 1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

So I must point out…

If both the crucifix and the cross both refer to Christianity, you will never convince a Marxist that there is any difference. To a bourgeois, you could argue that a cross without a corpus is a kinder and gentler thing. If he already believes that Catholics are harmful but another sort of Christian is benign, he will sleepily go along with what you say. But never, ever will a Marxist or any form of communist see the difference. If it points to God, he will destroy it, no matter how kind or benign the object. He will destroy the Easter bunny rabbit, along with the empty tomb.

You must understand that the Marxist revels in that which shocks, that which marvels and that which makes one uncomfortable. Inhumanity to man is the mark of his faith. Man’s inhumanity to God might make God plausible, and that must be eradicated first of all.

For Christ’s crime was not that he was kind, not that he was a wise teacher, that he healed the sick, or that he banished demons, that he sang or ate on the Sabbath day. It was not even that he raised his friends from the dead, or broke us free from the bonds of sin. It is that he is God and we are not. That is the full stated crime of Christ Jesus. And for that He must suffer for all of our sins.

I argue that a crucifix speaks this truth more eloquently, but a cross points to the same truth with a more general sort of point. An empty cross is a stage, a sentence without an object. A crucifix points to the lengths God would go to love his children.

A cross states there is room on his Throne for everybody. Think carefully, and tell me again which message is more gentle.


Recipe Highlights… GF microwave cake (again!)

[Ed: I was going through my Drafts folder and found this one. Sure, it’s a bit light on the photographs, but you get the idea. So here’s something to get your party-for-two started. Enjoy!]

No, I did not give up eating for more than a year. My lenten fast from baking just got out of hand.  These days, I fall back on quick eats that aren’t fun to write about. Also, my hot cereal options are pretty boring. I mean, it’s hard to screw up quinoa flakes. My alternate is buckwheat grits, and those are pretty fool proof, too.

So I decided to share my new favorite microwave cake.

First, don’t be afraid of that whole low carb thing. This is a fantastically tasty dish. Second, don’t think it’s too high falutin for you. They don’t NEED to be Meyer Lemons. I mean, it helps, but it’s not critical.  Heck, my first time with this recipe, I didn’t have no stinkin’ lemons. At all. Not even one.  And, stuck without a car, I had to search my pantry for something that would work.  Turns out, I had one lovely Ruby Red Texas Grapefruit.  These things are DELICIOUS all on their own. But I thought, “Why doesn’t anybody make grapefruit cake?”

Please Rachel, don’t kill me, but I’m going to reproduce the original recipe here, just for reference.



  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • 2 tbsp erythritol
  • Zest of one Meyer Lemon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Juice of one Meyer Lemon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Lightly sweetened whipped cream for garnish


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk almond flour, erythritol, lemon zest, baking powder and salt.
  2. Add lemon juice, melted butter and egg, and stir until well combined.
  3. Divide mixture between two microwave-safe mugs and microwave each separately for 1 minute and 20 seconds.
  4. Remove and top with whipped cream.


For this particular recipe, I start with a fresh grapefruit instead of lemons, because, why would you do anything else?

First step– I stripped the thing of it’s rind. I took all of it. Yes, I’m crazy that way. Next step, I had to find out how much juice 1 whole lemon gives you. Grapefruits and lemons are in no way equivalent– size wise any way.  So I looked it up and discovered that the average lemon exudes two tablespoons of juice. I wrote that down and continued in my quest.

Also, if the recipe lists quantity it by fruit, then obviously the amount is a bit flexible.  As for Mr. Grapefruit, he wasn’t the size of a tomello, but close. This big monster gave me 2 tbs of grapefruit zest.  Thus I dubbed the rather naked looking fruit “Mt. Baldy”.  But I also needed juice. 2 whole tablespoons, as per my research.

Next question:How do you juice a grapefruit?  It’s actually harder than you think.

Part of the reason why most store bought Grapefruit Juice sucks, is because they squeeze it like an orange. If you treat a grapefruit like an orange, you get a  massive bitterness  many grapefruit fans don’t like.  It is a part of the fruit’s piquant personality, but we don’t want too much, right?  I decided to get away from the bitter pith as much as possible.  This cake was going to be sweet indulgence.

So I… peeled the grapefruit. This can be tough to get started, as the peel is thick, and even more spongy than my nemesis, the Navel Orange. But, once you get your fingers into that teeny little air gap between the pith and the petals of juicy wonderfulness, you are home free.  The picture above shows it well. Here, it’s a bit off center.

You can find it on the end that’s pointier, underneath the bud end dead center. From the other side,  it’s just above the ends of the fruit sections.  So you are in effect, pulling out the bud end from between the section cluster.  Once you do that, can peel the skin away from the sections with impunity. Start removing the skin and pith with the convenient pull tab you created earlier.   Make sure all the pith is removed. It sometimes comes off in layers. Try not to squeeze the spongy pith too much– or at least, don’t let it drip where you will put your juice! When done, you wind up with about 12 big fleshy sections, that are pinkish and plump with juice.


Er… now what?  How do you juice a section?

Get a spoon. Get a sieve. The right shape of a wooden spoon, sort of wide and shallow curved, is ideal. Non metal would be better, because it’s easier on the sieve. Note: I did not use a non-metallic spoon, and I did not die. But it was a relatively wide and flat sort of spoon, so the curve did not cut against the curve of the mesh in the sieve. Also, bigger means you can crush more at once and don’t have to work forever squishing grapefruit fronds.

Step two in juicing a section- mush the bits of grapefruit flesh against the sieve wall, squeezing out all the juice. It’s a more gruesome version of  massage therapy.  This fruit was mighty juicy. There were a few seeds, but they were easy to dump off into a separate bowl. You want to do that because they are slippery and can jump into your juice catching bowl, while you coax out as much juice as you possibly can. Now rescue a few bits of that nice pulp, if you desire. I love everything grapefruity so I put some in. Just make sure you don’t get any pith or even section skin into the mix. That is where the bitter resides.

So I measured 2 tbs (and maybe a drip or two more) of grapefruit juice, which turned out to be about 1.5 sections on my buddha belly sized grapefruit.

From here on out, you can just follow the recipe. And lo, you have… not just one, but TWO grapefruit cakes!  They were so delicious I ate both of them without remembering to photograph the results. That happens a lot with this recipe.

Next time, I might want to make a meringue and torch it in place, to give it a “Baked Alaska” sort of look. This time, I just melted some coconut butter and made a sauce in lieu of whipped cream. If you really want dairy free whipped cream, you can freeze a can of coconut milk for a few hours to overnight, then whip the solid parts with a mixer or stick blender. That’s a bit more work and forethought than I usually do when making this recipe.

The only reason why people don’t make grapefruit cake is because they don’t know how awesome it is!

EDIT: I also made this with a regular lemon just recently. I ran out of Erythro sweetener, so I subbed in coconut sugar, the kind that looks like brown sugar.  It did not blend the best– it had freckles. Husband, who is a normal person, and likes normal cake,  thought it was delicious, if a tad under sweetened.

Because I can leave nothing alone, my latest experiment was adding one packet of Real Lemon to the lemon recipe. I am sure it would have been just fine without. My inner lemon head would not be denied.

Further note: yes, you can use coconut fat to replace the butter. If you must do that, I suggest adding at least a pinch of salt, some vanilla or butter flavor to make up the lack.  Butter adds something  fantastic that’s difficult to put your finger on.  I used Kerrygold butter in this recipe. That made a difference– even from regular butter. It added more yellow color, and  extra richness in both flavor and texture.