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!

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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!

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Upcoming Episodes; and Sunday Shrine

 

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

UPCOMING POSTS

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

MEYER LEMON MUG CAKE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 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

DIRECTIONS:

  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.

 

After long silence…

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Christ “The Good Silence” – Spas Blagoe Molchanie Special thanks to original uploader Nesusvet at ru.wikipedia

Never liked the book, but the title is haunting and beautiful. The icon above is also known as “The Holy Silence”… Which is better than what I got.  🙂

And, I can relate.  It has been hard to focus on anything, let alone write something every day about something. I didn’t discuss my husband’s illness and death or what came after, because that’s a different blog. I haven’t written on that one since, either.  After pouring so much hope into it, I couldn’t bear to return.

I have no excuses.. nor even good explanations.

It’s been hard to think past survival mode.

I’ve moved, I’ve lost my husband of seven years, and best friend of fourteen years, but I am not alone. I have a dear friend who is more than a friend. It’s not something I can define in public yet, but  it suffices to say that casual intimacy is not my style.

It is still surreal to think of myself as a widow.

At any rate, I hope to have some varied, Margot flavored fun posted here in the future. This blog is not over yet.

Firstly, I have a project in the works that I’ll be posting about soon. I’m using this blog as a motivation for getting it done, so here’s hoping it works. I’ll give two hints.  One: it’s about books. 😉  Two: the initials RSH are involved, and it’s not a computer reference for once.

Second, Margot’s Whino Night is scheduled to return, (prayers, please!)  as well as the Sunday Shrine.  This will include pictures: even those taken by me.

I will continue to give varying reviews, and if any fiction should pass my fingertips, I’ll post that, too.

Stay tuned!

One last plea…if you happen to be on MeWe, or are looking for a reason to help FB pass into deserved isolation, I am Margot St Aubin on MeWe.  Post here to let me know you have joined.

 

Nihlism

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Just because the Greeks are old,  does not mean they are without value. I have found that the birth of philosophy has more relevance to modern life than much of what counts as philosophy today.

 

I want to talk about nihilism. Because it is the one framework I believe to be truly evil in itself, and one must relinquish to evil in the soul to foster and follow it with anything more than a useful idiot’s 3 second attention.

It’s main attraction is that, while it is horrific, it looks true.  Because it rejects everything human and comfortable, it takes a very special someone to fully embrace it. One who is brave, but needs no other contribution or qualifier other than to stare into the darkness without flinching. Combine that with habit void of self reflection, and you have a lethal brew. I’ve seen this ideology destroy men, even drive them to to suicide.  What I’m talking is a total destruction, an unwillingness to live so extreme that suicide is too much effort.

To speak it in spiritual terms, A black hole is your God. But you must be truly Godlike to accept it. Your sense of reality will self destruct real soon now.

Seemingly unrelated, this was first Easter without my husband. When you see that much chaos and entropy up close is when Nihilism becomes the most tempting. After all, death seemed to win before my eyes, everything I’d built over a period of 7 years washed away in what was the worst week of the worst year of my life. Matt’s heart stopped, he stopped breathing. Pale, waxy and starved, he lay as an indictment to everything I believe in.  His body reminded me of nothing more than the lifeless corpus hanging up in every church I attend.

If that weren’t enough, our house and most of my belongings were torn away less than a month later. I lived for months on the charity of a few random people I met off the internet.

 [Ok, they weren’t exactly random as it was Christian charity, or just plain good neighbor charity in more than a few cases. Thank you all, by the way. ]  I have some breathing space, but that will soon be gone like the rest.

If everything is meaningless, than there is no reason not to grasp what you want. But if you think about it, why should you bother? If my situation isn’t really real, why should I even respond to it? It’s a summation of every depressive episode ever.

IF there is no real, there is no reason not to be a force for good– because  at the end of this tortured logic, the only good is to degrade and debase what most call real. In this fun-house mirror, the only real act is to destroy what you see, to shatter the “delusions” of others.  You declare the entire universe built of deluded fools, because your secret master will devour them all in the end. It is the Elder gods without a face, and every face will be smashed.  Except, wait, it’s not real. So explain to me why being deluded is a sin, again?

And this is how a man can in his heart delight in evil, yet not violate the laws of fiction. The Hebrews who wrote the old testament were old travel companions of nihilism. It is no more new than man’s first Covenant. We just had longer, more circuitous names for it, because philosophy used to be categorized on understanding if, what and why anything was real at all. The city of chaos that is philosophy has built so many flying buttresses on the air it has forgotten the foundations that support it.  It seems that it only remembers them to have something to deride. (there are exceptions, like Edward Fesser. But there are too few, and too far between. I’m not really smart enough to understand most of what he’s written, but what I do understand I happen to like.)

It is an inversion of what all Christians worship, whether we understand that or not. We have our small flawed pieties that analogically speak to The God That Is. But no conception we could contain in our minds is reflective of what must be Most Real. All that is real in that sense is what God tells us to do, which is the start of Catholic liturgical traditions, but I won’t go into that here.  Just remember that God frequently spoke in parables, and parables are fun stories that burn analogy as fuel. It may not be a perfect reflection of what is Most Real, but it points to what is in a real way.

It seems to me that too many of the philosophical moderns have attempted to discredit the real until it is irrelevant to rid themselves of analogical thinking, or perhaps for some other reason. Trouble is, once you do that, nothing is real.

Christianity is wise to keep philosophers around to keep us honest.  It is also wise to keep reality around to keep philosophers honest. And mystics close the circle of balance, because they remind both of what is beyond our rational borders is not always a sham.  When it’s real, it’s what keeps us alive.

A life without good and evil is more profoundly empty than a life without reality, or truly, a life without God. But the trifecta of Nihilism is the dark siren song of prematurely banking on the wrong side in victory. It is an endless darkness that devours all potential. The only reason it works is because most people still run on the base assumption that what they see is a real thing. Shock value is as timeless and relentless as tyranny.

And about twice as banal.

Only a belief that the Good is more important than suffering can get one through the night. Note I did not say belief in God.

For me there isn’t much difference.

 

 

Margot Reviews The Prisoner, Take 2: Why ruin a perfectly good Caviezel?

Margot Reviews “ThePrisoner”, ca. 2009

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So… This happened.

Really, it sounds perfect. Patrick McGoohan’s classic reformatted with Jim Caviezel in the original six episodes that Patrick really wanted? Looks so perfect and tailor made for the fans, doesn’t it?

It’s not.  Really, it’s not. In fact, I say to you that his current and soon to be over project, Person of Interest, is actually closer to what The [Original] Prisoner was about than this one.

Imagine M. Night Shyamalan trying to be David Lynch– and failing miserably. The directing was so horrible that you could come away with the idea that Caviezel can’t act.

I mean, it was nice to know that he has a vocal range past a whisper, but he still seemed stilted and generally lifeless.  Bad directors can do that to just about anybody. I even saw it happen to Vincent D’Onofrio, but that’s another show.

The music was produced by a tone deaf knock off of Aphex Twin. Or at least that’s what it sounded like.  I saw those episodes and realized… I just didn’t care about any of these people. The writers were too clever, and revealed so little of what was actually happening that you simply didn’t feel like investing in, or trusting the rest of it. I might have seen a few more episodes out of morbid curiosity (really, how do they end this mess?) but the natives (the people I was watching it with) were threatening to rebel.

Then I read the Wikipedia summary of the plot.

I’m glad they spared me. Seriously, these writers had NO CLUE what the original was about or what it was trying to say. I get the feeling they were trying to unmake the original from the inside– and it came off the same flaws as bad Shyamalan, a one trick pony that tries sooooo hard to EXPLAIN itself.  Ultimately, it has no sense of humor about itself or even what it’s trying to tear down. The driving principle was, “If you can’t blind them with your brilliance, baffle them with your BS.”

While I appreciated the side message about the best laid plans, the structure of the show did little to hold up to the original.  It comes across as more dated (at 2009 that ages fast!) and far less coherent than the original.  You knew exactly where things started with McGoohan’s opus, but even where the beginning was in the story turned out to be a moving target.

By the time that I could see what they were trying to do, they got families involved, further muddying everything up.

So…what was good about it? Anything?

Okay, it was very pretty to watch. Jim Caviesel is great eye candy. And the sets were visually interesting, too. I also liked the intro– It gave me a lot of hope. But it went downhill — and quickly– from there.

But I’d need a lot more drugs or something to keep me interested for the story itself. Especially since it was just another attempt at raping my college experience. I suppose I should be glad it wasn’t  my childhood… again.

Margot Reviews The A TEAM

The copyright belongs to @2010 Twentieth Century Fox.  FAIR USE claim. Please don't sue.  Not much blood in this stone.

The copyright belongs to @2010 Twentieth Century Fox. FAIR USE claim. Please don’t sue. Not much blood in this stone.

Margot Reviews The A TEAM

 

This is a movie I proudly avoided when it hit the theaters. I was convinced they’d find a way to ruin my deeply held guilty pleasure of my tweens and early teens. Okay, I never felt THAT guilty that I enjoyed this series, but when you are of a certain age, the fact that nobody ever runs out of ammo and the villains don’t hit anything while spraying firestorms of lead can get to you after a while.

I made a terrible mistake. I should have taken my fear out to the woodshed and left it a smear on the gravel. Because this movie was fracking awesome.

Imagine if the original series had a wild fling with The Unit, add a dash of Mission: Impossible, then add more explosions and update the action a tad, and holy pocky sticks you have a creation made of pure fun.

I seriously loved every minute of this movie. It was the best action film I’d seen in a very long while.  Okay, maybe it’s not Die Hard, but it was as close as an action film could get.

Yes there was fan service– in more subtler forms than I’m used to. Original actors (hint: the ones that could act, and were still alive) put in cameos in humorous places. There were jokes and even subplots that lovingly lamp-shaded the original series, but was a noogie not a slap to the face.  BA’s haircut and his weird experiment with peacenik in prison were done perfectly. And central casting was actually brilliant, though it took a while to adapt to Hannibal’s new jawline.

They get props for one of the most crazy helicopter dogfights in the history of film.  And proof positive that helio pilots are their own special brand of crazy.

So was it perfection? Did I see anything that I didn’t like?

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This image was found in the Press Packet. It still belongs to @2010 Twentieth Century Fox

Actually yes.  It also took me a while to get used to the short cropped, almost choppy scenes that went by so quick you weren’t always sure what happened. I appreciate that combat can be like that, but I missed having time to know how the good guys got away in the opening sequence.  I did manage to follow the helo dogfight,  but just barely. I’m glad they slowed that shit down for the resolution of the finale. That could be just me, I was able to follow the rest of the movie.

The shell game had a nice twist, with plenty of action and explosions worthy of a Michael Bay movie, but there was character development, hilarious rescue scenes, bow-tied up with the light hearted fun you remember from the show.

The fact that the villain identity twist was a a tired and reused trope to the point I won’t reveal it. You’ll figure it out. Its not the destination but the journey that makes this movie fun.

But they remembered to count bullets, and people actually got hurt. But, nobody got preachy about it. It’s hard to think enough high praise to fill into this movie. No, Virginia, the summer blockbuster is not dead.

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^^^The saddest thing about this film is that THIS IMAGE is as close as they get to an action still for the press packet.

 

In our next issue, we can discuss rumors about rebooting the TV series!