Monthly Archives: October 2009

“The Quest for God”

I never get over how hardcore and useful the Ann Arbor Dominicans’ children’s shows are. Their TV series, Truth in the Heart, has different weekdays set aside for different ages of kids; but every age group is taught challenging material in an approachable but not syrupy way.

Today, I happened to channel surf onto the show, and they were talking about prayer. Apparently they’ve been running a prayer unit for the last few shows. They had previously defined five kinds of prayer (adoration, praise, thanksgiving, petition, intercession) and three methods of prayer (vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplation). Today was their show on meditation.

They treated the subject not as something recondite, but as a perfectly normal thing for anyone to do. (Which it is.) Explaining it as “a quest for God”, they then explained how to do it, covering a wide range of orthodox approaches in very simple language, and then demonstrating how you could do it. Being Dominicans, of course they chose to meditate on a Scriptural passage with the kids. (Lectio divina!) The part I liked was that Sister advocated that the kids not regard it as something they do themselves, or as a job that has to be completed. They were to ask God why a passage stuck out, what it meant, what they were supposed to learn. And the whole prayer period was spent trying to concentrate, that was fine; and that also gave you an opportunity to ask God to help you concentrate.

All of this followed on talk earlier in the episode (by way of a long passage from a saint’s writings, which I enjoyed) about how everything you did in a day counted as “praying without ceasing”, so long as you did it with an intention to praise God (or rather, so long as you made the intention and then didn’t consciously go back on it or do anything bad). So this made it very easy for the kids to understand that trying to pray and meditate is prayer. You don’t have to succeed; you do have to show up.

This sort of sensible catechetical material provides kids with a toolbox for their whole life of faith. It’s representative of the quality presentation of every other topic touched on Faith in the Heart, whether it be of faith or morals.

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Shony On, Harvest Moon

You get a great deal of nonsense talked in this country about how pagan All Hallows’ Eve is, and how every single thing we do is an occult reference to some pagan god. (Even if the custom is proved to have started in 1952.)

This bright and cheerful school of interpretation has been popular in various times and places. One was Lewis, out in the Hebrides. Lewis had been Christian for over a thousand years by the time these particular interpreters showed up, but they Knew Better.

The inhabitants of Lewis should have been dream parishioners for any clergy. They were full of pious Christian customs, treating going to church on Sundays with all the solemnity of a pilgrimage, and even falling to their knees and saying an Our Father as soon as a church came into sight over the horizon. They were just as courteous even with chapels long-abandoned, on islands where nobody lived anymore, when they went there to hunt — being sure to pray there morning and evening. But this sort of piety would not do. It must be stamped out.

Hallowtide customs were no exception. It must have been perfectly well-known to most people involved that “Seonaidh”, pronounced Shoney, is a common Irish/Scottish version of the name “Johnny”. (“Ian” and “Sean/Shane” are John.) St. John the Evangelist was one of the most popular saints in Christendom, often associated with fishing matters because of his original profession. He also was associated with alcoholic beverages and snakes, because legend says he once survived an attempt at poisoning his wine by saying grace, at which the poison turned into a serpent and slithered away. (All of which was used as a story illustrating the verse about Christians surviving poisons and not getting bit by snakes.) In Germany and many other places, it’s thought fitting to ask St. John’s blessing on wine, and wine is made to be drunk on his day.

But Mr. Martin Martin, a gentleman of Scotland, tells the story in 1703, in his famous work used by Johnson as a travel guide, A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland:

“The inhabitants of this island [Lewis] had an ancient custom to sacrifice to a Sea God call’d Shony at Hallowtide, in the manner following: The Inhabitants round the Island came to the church of St. Mulvay, having each Man his Provision along with him; every Family furnish’d a Peck of Malt, and this was brew’d into Ale; one of their number was pickt out to wade into the Sea up to the middle, and carrying a Cup of Ale in his Hand, standing still in that posture, cry’d out with a loud Voice saying. Shony, I give you this Cup of Ale, hoping that you’ll be so kind as to send us plenty of Sea-ware, for inriching our Ground the ensuing Year; and so threw the Cup of Ale into the Sea. This was perform’d in the Night-time; at his return to Land, they all went to Church, where there was a Candle burning upon the Altar; and then standing silent for a little time, one of them gave a Signal, at which the Candle was put out, and immediately all of them went to the Fields, where they fell a drinking their Ale, and spent the remainder of the Night in Dancing, and Singing, &c.

“THE next Morning they all return’d home, being well satisfy’d that they had punctually observ’d this Solemn Anniversary, which they believ’d to be a powerful means to procure a plentiful Crop. Mr. Daniel, and Mr. Kenneth Morison, Ministers in Lewis, told me they spent several Years, before they could perswade the vulgar Natives to abandon this ridiculous piece of Superstition, which is quite abolish’d for these 32 Years past.”

Sea-ware is Scots for seaweed, which is indeed the only fertilizer these people could afford. (They needed to eat or sell the fish.) It was an incredibly hardscrabble life, and they were praying for survival when they prayed for seaweed.

It’s fairly clear that what used to happen was that they’d make a quick holiday ale (not terribly alcoholic!), stand St. John to a cup of it and ask his intercession (especially for their new ale, and for seaweed, which looks snakey), and then go into church at midnight and hear the first possible All Saints’ Day mass. Then they’d break their fast, have a big party, and go home in the morning. In short, a perfectly normal Catholic church festival. Unusual to have it at night; but then, it gets dark pretty early that time of year when you’re that far north. They probably needed all the daylight for work.

After the Reformation, the priests and the monasteries were driven out of the Hebrides and the Orkneys as everywhere else. But there were no rich “livings” in these remote places. So they were not replaced, except in the larger islands, with Church of Scotland or Presbyterian ministers — and certainly not with the same amount of coverage. For the most part, people had to gather on Sunday for prayer services all by themselves; and yet they did. They kept up their faith, and the pious customs too, on their own initiative. In fact, it took Christian ministers to stamp out these ancient Christian customs.

So the next time somebody tells you everything is all pagan, you remember how easy it is to paint an Apostle and Gospel-writer as a Lovecraftian Celtic sea god, and an innocent holiday ale and ceilidh as a horrible pagan propitiation ceremony. Sadly, many anti-Halloween arguments are really anti-Catholic arguments, dressed in anti-pagan clothes. Catholics, and any Christians who believe in the communion of saints, need to watch out for this.

The restaurant chain “Shoney’s” is named after the nickname of its founder, one Alex Schoenbaum. Therefore, nobody need worry that Big Boy is a Sea God.

Some online sites talk about this Lewis figure as “Shorrey”, but that’s an obvious scanning error for Shony.


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Barmbrack for Halloween!

If you want to do something your Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestors did at Halloween, make some barmbrack.

(Oooooh, sounds scary….)

It’s a rich cake-y bread made with fruit inside (making it speckled, or “breac”). The more “correct” pronunciation is barnbrack (from “bairin breac”), but this is how I know it. Traditionally, it was a soda bread; and in fact, many Americans think soda bread is always a fruit bread, not the plain soda bread of tradition! (Barmbrack is probably an easier sell at festivals and at home on the table, which is probably why this idea spread.) Many people use yeast, also.

You are supposed to bake various trinkets inside the bread/cake, which “predict” the finder’s future in the next year. Like most harvest games, this is most interested in the ring, predicting that the person will get married in the next year. (And yes, if this sounds like King Cake or King of the Bean or other baking games… well, obviously there were Martha Stewarts back in medieval times, too.)

If that sounds too complicated, you can peel apples, throw the peeling over your shoulder, and then try to read names and words in the peelings. (And your siblings will probably try to make the peelings spell something for you….) πŸ™‚ This sort of thing is all about cheap laughs, so the funnier the better.

Bobbing for apples is another cheap, fun harvest-time game played at Halloween in Wales, Scotland, et al. (Apparently some people hang an apple from the ceiling by a string, which doesn’t make it any easier to bite without hands. This is called “Snap Apple”.)

Besides apples, another old-time Halloween treat was freshly harvested nuts. The Irish also like to eat colcannon, a very tasty potato/cabbage dish. (Freshly harvested potatoes, of course. You can see a theme here.)

Bonfires are a big part of the Irish Halloween, and torchlight parades, paper lantern-light parades, and turnip lantern-light parades were other fun, cheap things to do all over Europe. (And Japan, and….)

Often, before all holy days, kids would traipse around collecting alms for the poor, the dead, and themselves; or playing traveling songsters for the day (thus meriting some cash which they could spend for holiday treats). None of this stuff is pagan. (Though some of it is pretty universal –humans will always like cheap games, food, and fire.)

Most holidays were associated with various kissing games, dances, and other romantic fare, because there were only so many times a year when marriageable young people could take a lot of time off to court or meet other marriageable young people. This tends to be lost in modern Halloweens. (But we’re adept at making every holiday all about bawdiness, except less fun than that.)

But spooooooky stories were always part of Halloween, too. (Especially since ghosts were usually poor souls begging for Masses to get them out of Purgatory, or souls of the damned being wicked or being a warning.) So the European Christians of yore wouldn’t be surprised by people dressing up as ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggity beasties. They’d be surprised we’re not doing it at Carnival time, that’s all. (Which would at least make the racier costumes make more sense, because sometimes things did get wild before Lent.)

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Don’t Mess with the Prima Donna!

Via the comment box at Holy Whapping, an epic tale of operatic derring-do _off_ the stage.

Somewhere in San Francisco, there’s a mugger who may have reconsidered his chosen profession.

The consequences of that act of all-out, totally committed self-defense are a bit scary, though. With two broken bones in less than a week, it’s fairly clear that she will be sucking down calcium like it’s going out of style — and she can’t really take it in dairy product form on the nights she’s singing Ernani. She’ll be dragging around a cast, which is also tiring, and dealing with the pain on both her pegs. She can’t take too much pain reliever, or she’ll lose voice control. At the same time, she can’t let her body’s unhappiness affect her voice; she will have to strive to be relaxed in every muscle. And when she’s done with Ernani, she is no doubt scheduled for many, many gigs that also can’t be skipped. She can’t just go home and veg, unless she wants to be poor; and she has to keep practicing for hours every day, no matter what happens.

On the bright side, this sort of thing would distract you from every other worry. Your brain could hardly spare the energy for stage fright. πŸ™‚

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More Stuff Gaijin Fans Don’t Get.

I’ve been feeling pretty proud of myself lately, what with catching pretty much every historical reference people threw at me in the animes. Ah, well, nothing like learning humility….

Tonight I was reading yet another title in the excellent Judge Ooka and Seikei mysteries by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. (They’re short YA/kids novels, but they won the Edgar for good reason.) This one revolved around a puppet theater — the kind with the almost-lifesized puppets manipulated by three puppeteers dressed in black. I was familiar with this “manipulative entertainment”, and I always enjoy it when it shows up in anime.

But then, the story told me something I didn’t know, or had heard and did not remember.

The puppeteers in classical bunraku don’t voice the characters. A single “narrator” voices all the characters, aided and abetted by his samisen-playing partner providing the background music.

Well. I guess that explains a lot about anime’s love affair with bunraku and puppeteers. The thing they never come out and say is that the “narrator” is the archetypal Japanese voice actor. Somewhere in their heads, they are in competition with that classical school as well as with all live-action actors.

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Slow Pitch Softball in Erie

Bishop Trautman, over in Erie, is a worthy shepherd in many ways and on many topics. God bless and keep him. But he’s got this bug in his ear about dynamic translation, and how the new translation is toooooo harrrrrrd for Bob and Mary Catholic to understannnnnd. Anyway, he gave a big lecture over at CUA (in DC) about this.

The amusing bit is that he said, “Did Jesus ever speak to the people of his day in words beyond their comprehension? Did Jesus ever use terms or expressions beyond his hearer’s understanding?”

Well, aside from the fact that Synagogue was probably all in Hebrew, not Aramaic or Greek, and Temple worship was surely in Hebrew… the Gospels say this about Jesus’ expressions:

Kid Jesus talking to Mary and Joseph, in Luke 2:50 — “But they did not understand what he was saying to them.”

Parable of the Sower, Luke 8:10, 18 — “β€œThe knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, β€˜though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’… Therefore, take heed how you listen. Whoever has [understanding] will be given more; whoever does not have it, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”

Luke 9:45 — “But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.”

Luke 18:34 — “But the disciples did not understand any of these things. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.”

Matthew 16:6-9 — “Jesus said to them: ‘Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘We took no bread.’ Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, ‘You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand?'”

Mark 9:32 — “But they did not understand his saying, and they were afraid to ask him.”

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Preparing to Be Annoyed

Mercedes Lackey is one of the more popular fantasy writers. Not Rowling or Tolkien popular, but pretty darned popular. Compulsively readable. Prolific. Hence, influential.

Apparently, she’s decided to do a Mists of Avalon type of King Arthur story, all about Guenevere. Of course, my heart sunk. There was plenty of total crud written about Arthur before Mists of Avalon, but after? Shudder. This is what happens when you let a compulsively readable author like Bradley into the feminist canon, especially with a book where her usual display of issues becomes a technicolor all-song-and-dance musical revue of issues.

(Astonishingly, Bradley’s books deal with every injustice in the world against feminism, except for totally ignoring pedophilia. While she was living with a pedophilic husband who was one of the big NAMBLA guys, and who was abusing her kids and her friends’ kids in her own house. One of the most astoundingly sustained possessors of cognitive dissonance in all literary history, was Marion Zimmer Bradley.)

So anyway, I’m not really looking forward to reading this Lackey book; but I guess I have to, in order to keep up with what the little kiddies will be thinking about early Christianity and Welsh history. I’m not encouraged by the reviewer who says it’s all about a civilization having both cultures of goddess worship and worship of the White Christ.

First off, “the white Christ” is a Norse term. Maybe Saxon characters would call Him this, but Welsh or Briton ones?

Second, the Welsh culture was full of gods as well as goddesses. If you read carefully, you’ll see that the goddesses are fairly downtrodden by the patriarchal Welsh. Mostly, the women who symbolize sovereignty are getting kidnapped EVERY FIVE MINUTES for Deep Symbolic Reasons, and twice as often if their names include the particle “Gwen”. The virginal goddesses get raped a lot and conceal pregnancies a lot and live in fortresses away from men a lot. (Wonder why, given term one.)

So if the Goddess worship culture was so important in early Briton society, it wasn’t a very empowering influence for women, I’m thinking. Not going by the surviving legends.

Welsh women saints, on the other hand, at least get to kick butt before they get martyred, if they get martyred at all. If they get kidnapped, they get rescued (while converting everyone in reach). If they have kids, it ends happily.

So apparently, converting to Christianity was very empowering for women. If you go by the stories, anyway.

So yeah… I’m not exactly holding my breath that Lackey’s newest will be a scholarly exploration of Romano-Celtic religion and its interactions with Celtic Christianity (which was a lot cheerier religion when the Empire was leaving your butt to hang in the wind), or of the long fight of Christianity to free slaves and improve human dignity (especially that of women). I seriously doubt that anyone will say, “We fought to get out from under Rome’s heel so we could start burning people in wicker baskets again and knocking them on the head after hanging them so we could throw them in the bog for the gods? Um, I’ll just be over here, worshipping that God who insisted on sacrificing Himself to Himself, instead of demanding us.”

But of course, I could be wrong. I’d love it if I were.


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Um. Well. That Could Have Gone Better.

LATER UPDATE: Yep, all is well. Yay!

UPDATE: Hmm. It’s looking more and more like this stuff really wasn’t renewed on time, for whatever reason, and that it’s in the public domain just like the PD sites said. At any rate, the US copyright database doesn’t seem to know anything about it, although the paper records may possibly have other info. I’ve also found out that the government records are full of horrible typos, things that would never be allowed to pass in my work in the private sector. (Hurray for my taxpayer dollars at work.) So I’m breathing a lot more freely. Please keep everyone involved in your prayers, however!

I appear to have inadvertently brought to light a possible significant error or discrepancy in the copyright records database. Unfortunately, I didn’t do this by careful research, but rather by inadvertently bringing the matter of a certain work’s apparent public domain status to the attention of the possible copyright holder.

This could get messy, despite the fact that everyone involved has apparently acted in good faith. If you could pray for a peaceable, non-lawsuit, non-money resolution for everyone, I would reeeeeally appreciate it.

St. Thomas More, pray for us!

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It’s Not Chesterton’s Fault

Sigh. Not everybody gets the same stuff out of their favorite books, but still… this is a bit odd.

BBC 7 has a show where they interview famous people and find out their great literary inspiration in life, and then talk about the author and book they chose. Well and good.

They chose some guy who apparently was big in finishing off Thatcher in the name of getting into the EU. Well, not my choice, but not my show, either.

But he claims as his great literary and philosophical inspiration… G.K. Chesterton?! Anti-big everything guy?! And EU guy picks out the book… The Napoleon of Notting Hill?????? The epic of patriotism and local sovereignty????

Apparently, he thinks of himself as a local Welsh patriot, and getting in the EU was a way to weaken the UK and thus get more local autonomy. Yeah. Well, I guess when everyone is ruled out of Brussels on everything from soup to nuts, the fact that you’re not ruled more lightly from London will be a great consolation.

And yes, I know Ireland dealt with some very dodgy people to try to get their freedom, but it was also pretty straightforward about the fact that said dodgy people were supposed to go away and leave them alone afterward. I’m fairly sure that Gruffyd would have agreed that you weren’t supposed to trade one bunch of foreigners for another. And the only time Welsh legend is in favor of the Roman Empire, was when local girl Elen was empress.

Well, I’m sure Chesterton has better things to do than roll over in his grave, and he never would have been surprised at anything coming from a UK politician, because he had no great opinion of them. But honestly, wouldn’t it be easier to admit, “I had different opinions when I was young, and my mind has changed during my career”? This kind of fandom is no great favor.

Anyway, though, it has some very nice sound-seeing about Notting Hill and a lot of good Chesterton stuff. It’s also very instructive about cognitive dissonance and politicians.

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Victory over Pirates!

They had the kids doing saint timelines up at the parochial school. I saw one on the wall for St. Vincent de Paul’s life.

And what do you know? It actually included the part about him being captured by pirates! I was so proud!

I’m telling you, there really is hope for the younger generation.

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Deo Gratias!

Big news on the ecumenical front with the Anglicans/Episcopalians today. Check out Creative Minority Report for the exact wording, and Damian Thompson for the short summary and interpretation.

Let bells be rung and Te Deums be sung!

More later, when I can find out more of what’s going on. I’ll try and find some Anglican/Episcopalian reaction, as well as reaction from former Anglicans/Episcopalians who’ve already crossed the Tiber. As others have pointed out, this is a great gift to send right before the upcoming papal visit to the UK, and the beatification of Ven. Cardinal Newman.

On the other reunification front, it’ll be interesting to see how the SSPX guys react. If Anglicans can get such substantial goodies by playing nice and coming home, clearly this is not the time for the SSPX to hold out. The goodies are there for the asking, under this pope. So now is the acceptable time, as they say….

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Springerle Video! (with blogged commentary)

Christmas is coming! And you want to eat anise cookies for Christmas, don’t you? Of course you do! All right-minded people love springerle! Look at the Holy Father!

(If you don’t like the taste of anise, fennel, black licorice, and associated flavors, you can always make springerle with some other flavoring in the dough. Sigh. It isn’t right, mind you, but it will still taste pretty good.)

Anyway, these nice people who sell springerle molds also have made a nice springerle video, to instruct you in how to make these suckers. Not the same as my family’s methods, but probably fully acceptable. Being a busybody, I must blog some comments on it as I watch. πŸ˜›

I have to say, our springerle rise more than that. It may be a hartshorn thing. (This recipe uses it. I don’t know if I’m that Jane Austen-y. By the time our recipe came over from Germany, our family was using baking powder.) No hartshorn in ours, so no cream or milk in ours. (Man, I’m thinking this lady’s cookies could actually spoil. Scary, scary.) And this whole concept of the hartshorn making the cookie dough inedible until baked… well, we don’t do inedible springerle dough in my family. Nooooo.

Let’s put it this way. Our family recipe makes 90-100 springerle. I don’t think we’ve ever gotten more than 70 to the baking stage, given that the cookies have to sit out overnight in a cool place while they rise. Hartshorn is not likely to happen. Ever.

This lady’s recipe also uses butter, which probably also is a significant gloomph factor. How the heck can you have puffy springy springerle if you’re practically making shortbread!!!? I guess the hartshorn must partially compensate, but… no. Not gonna happen here.

Also, this lady beats the eggs for twenty freakin’ minutes. Again… not a feature of any springerle recipe in our family. We aren’t making meringue, so we only beat ’em for ten minutes. No six eggs, either. We use four.

It’s the pound of sugar that holds the pound of flour together, really. πŸ™‚ Which makes it really scary that this lady doesn’t use 2 cups of granulated sugar, but 6 cups of confectioner’s sugar. Crimony, how sweet of a cookie is this woman making!!?? I guess the extra sugar compensates for the unnecessary butter.

It’s not that I’m against salt. It’s just that I don’t see why an anise cookie would want any. No salt in our recipe….

Okay, she’s using 2 pounds of (cake) flour, so I guess 6 cups of sugar isn’t quite as bad as all that. I just don’t see how her beaters are going to be able to be strong enough, that’s all. One pound of flour and one pound of sugar is unbelievably stiff. But then, in proportion to this, six eggs is actually fewer eggs than we use. Huh. But we just use regular flour, not cake flour; so it really wouldn’t need as much strength… I don’t know about cakey cookies, though. Doesn’t sound very springerle-ish. Maybe the butter keeps the cake flour more under control, or something.

I can see right now that her dough isn’t as stiff when it’s done. We don’t have to work as hard with flouring the dough, either. You pretty much roll that sucker up with some flour like that, but she’s working a lot harder to stop the dough being sticky because it’s not as stiff. Heh.

You can roll that dough fairly thin with our recipe and molds, which is how you get ninety-some cookies out of a pound of flour. The thin cookies are going to rise and become thicker!

Our mold isn’t fine enough to worry about brushing flour onto it, though I can see how you’d get a good result with that. Our method is to make a little flour area and press the mold into it. Knock the extraneous flour out of the mold, press it into the dough, pull it back out, hit the flour again. Easy peasey.

Oh, man, that cutting technique with the shaper is cheating! But I don’t think it would work too well, really. You’d have to be so careful pulling each cookie out of the mass of dough. What you want is a sharp knife, and you don’t cut with it until after you’ve pressed the whole dough as full of cookie shapes as you can. Then you can fill up a cookie sheet to go out in that cool dry place (like the garage) without your nearest and dearest eating every cookie before the cookie sheet can be filled up, which is what would happen if I used a cutting shape like that. (I can see where the hartshorn/inedibility thing allows a certain bakerish freedom from worry about the chowdown factor, though….)

I’ve never used parchment to bake cookies in my life. But I guess it wouldn’t make much difference, unless the cooling/rising is affected beforehand. Awful lot of paper you’d use up, though. You don’t need to grease the cookie sheet, either, which is just as well since the cookies are going to sit out all night before baking. Sheesh, it’d get rancid.

Re: distortion of mold design — well, we have rectangular molds. Frankly, it’s not a problem if you know what you’re doing, and it’s not making the cookie look any less pretty if you do make a mistake and warp some lines.

The bird and the flowers actually look very reminiscent of our molds. No deer, though. πŸ™‚

She’s working a little too hard with the pressing, I think. Must be the different dough consistency and greater thickness. You don’t really want to press so hard that the mold cuts through the flour and starts to pull on the actual dough, or you’ll be cleaning out molds a lot sooner than the end of the batch.

The pizza/pastry cutter idea is pretty cool.

The cookies should sit out allllll night. Seriously. Not kidding. At least ten or twelve hours. We usually finish about 9 or 10 PM and bake after breakfast, so you do the math. And don’t eat too many uncooked ones, or they’ll rise in your stomach and You’ll Be Sorry. (Not very sorry, but some.)

You can bake as many trays of cookies as fit in your oven, which is to say, generally two. There’s not really any difference, when you’re using our molds. These are not being baked at any high temperature or for very long.

She’s right about the cooling rack, but a lot of your cookies won’t get that far. They are good right out of the oven, and fully anise-y.

Whatever cookies have survived the Darwinist trial of rising/drying overnight and the trip to the cooling rack should indeed be packed into a tin, but not in rows with wax paper or anything. We always use round tins, and we pretty much just shove ’em in. The important thing is to put a piece of bread on top, which will transfer moisture to the cookies as they start to harden up. Otherwise, you will have to soften up the cookies before you can eat them. If you remember to keep replacing the bread, they keep very well. They won’t, because people will eat them first unless threats or locks are used; but this is definitely the kind of cookie you could mail somebody without worrying if it would be stale when it got there.

So now, you have two different recipes and methods for making springerles, and I have spent hours blogging a ten-minute cookie video. πŸ™‚

UPDATE: Another recipe from a very fun cook! She’s going with the lemon/anise version. She’s got 2 eggs, 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, but only 2 cups normal flour. She’s also got a dough hook, so I’m really jealous. Interestingly, she cools the dough before she rolls it out. I guess that might help with the sticky of all that sugar with half the flour. I’m curious as to why the anise seeds don’t burn…. Her dough is much more like ours than the mold company lady’s, but they end up a liiiiiittle too flat. Probably the proportion differences.

So now you have three different ways to make them!


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Ooh! Carthusians and Horsies, Part II

Apparently, there was a big Spanish pageant/dressage show in 2009 called Equus Noster, showing off the history of the Andalusian horse as it entwines with the history of Spain. And holy moly, do they have Carthusians out the wahoo!

(Okay, it’s Carthusian cosplay. But still. I’ve seen cowboys, caballeros, Native American, and cavalry of various nations used for rider costumes, but never Carthusians before. And you have to love when the announcer roars: “Caballos de Dios! Caballos de Espana!!!”)

Los Cartujos. The French invade.

But since I shouldn’t put the Cartujos before the horse, here’s the rest of Equus Noster:


Roman Spain

The end of Visigoth Spain

Muslim Spain — Al-Andalus.

Medieval Combats.

The Reconquest.

The Catholic Kings: Ferdinand and Isabella. (in English.)

Spain’s anthem and flag.

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In Which We Wait for the Central Heating

Every year, we have a lot of fun (dubious) waiting for my apartment building’s owners to decide it’s time to turn on the heat. It saves them a lot of money if they can manage to wait until November 1, but it almost always turns cold around the middle of the month. Then it warms up a little around Halloween and the beginning of November. This makes turning on the heat seem something of a waste. They may turn on the heat to the professional office area of the building, but not to the apartments.

This has been the occasion of much controversy, on occasion. Generally we’re okay with this, as it helps keep rent down and it doesn’t get really cold. Who cares if it’s 65? But the year when it did get really cold and we had the one guy fighting cancer (still with us, happily), people got really irate and they did turn it on. (We also got a rent increase later, but that would have happened anyway.)

The thing is, every year it takes me a while to remember to do something about the chill. πŸ™‚ This year, since the daytime was relatively warm until very late in the week, I kept forgetting to use my alternate heating sources before bedtime or break out the extra blankets. So of course I didn’t sleep well, and felt sluggish all day. (Especially since it’s been very sinus-y weather.) But today I remembered, and now my apartment is toasty. Also, I remembered where I stored the sweaters and extra blankets. Much nicer.

They’ll soon be putting covers on the air conditioners outside, and starting up the radiators inside. So I’d like to get this place really clean, since the maintenance guys will be in here. πŸ™‚ I’ll also have to make another “radiator reflector’/inside cover for the air conditioner vents. I did that last year, with cardboard and bubble wrap covered in aluminum foil. It made a big difference when it came to keeping the cold out and the heat in. (And the big windstorm out, too. For once, my over-engineering paranoia came in handy!) I decided to wait to do it this year, since it’s been so much warmer until now. I may change my mind.

The thing is, it’s a lot easier for me to put it up before the heat comes on. But it makes the maintenance guys a lot more nervous. (Nobody wants a fire.) I was very careful last year to make absolutely sure that nothing fell on the hot water coils, and radiator reflectors are highly recommended; but I don’t like to make the maintenance guys nervous. I want to stay on good terms with them.

Anyway, I spent most of the day alternating watching TV and doing chores, with the exception of some walks outside and shopping. It was pleasant, and I think I got a lot done.

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