Saturday, October 31, 2009

Before there was Amy Winehouse: Saturday Soundtrack

Ode to Ronnie Spector

This curve
this upward knowing curve
I once heard in my youth.
I heard it on her mouth.
I know
you won't
believe me,
it sings,
just that curve sings,
like sirens
it sings.
I shivered in those solitudes
when I heard
the voice of
that half-mocking smile.
From the single
speaker on the dashboard:
the petition sings.
The promise sings.
The command sings.

skin of summer camp girls
advancing on awe struck eyes
of summer camp boys
singing Ronnie's song.
Boys scream and
flee certain captivity.

From out of the dark depths
this curve sings.
The goal
not bubblegum,
and beautiful.
It sings and
I turn up the volume
in the big Cadillac,
driving down a white shell
Florida highway.
Between the palmettos,
air sticking to my skin,
under a torrid moon
I hear this curve.
The power of it over me.
I'll be your baby.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Book for Advent

Sometimes I feel kind of bummed that the Orthodox Church does not have a bunch of extra services during Advent like we do during Great Lent. But other times, like now, when I am thinking about all the activities I have planned for my children during Advent I am grateful that we don't have services every day.

Today I have been thinking about all the books we read aloud beginning on November 15. One of them, which we don't actually start until November 30 is the Gospel presented as 24 stories based on the pictures on Benjamin Bear's Advent Calendar.

Benjamin Bear was tucked in his warm bed, but he couldn't fall asleep.
"When will Christmas finally be here?" he asked Mother Bear.
"You have to be patient, Benjamin," said Mother. "But tomorrow you canopen the first door on your Advent Calendar, and we'll begin our journey to Bethlehem."
"How far is it to Bethlehem?" asked Benjamin.
Mother Bear smiled. "24 stories away!"
"And then it's really Christmas?"
Mother nodded and gave Benjamin a big kiss on the nose.
"Good night, now, little one."

The next night we read the story about the picture behind the first door in Benjamin Bear's Advent Calendar. You can read it, too. Here is where you can buy the book.


Two days a week Anselm Samuel is part of a home school enrichment program called Live Oak Academy (they also maintain all the paperwork Caesar requires). The program is housed in a local evangelical mega-church. The other day Anselm and I were walking by their main auditorium and looked in. I asked him, "how is this different from an Orthodox temple?" I expected him to say "It has no icons" or "it has pews" or "there are no crosses" or "they have no candles". Instead, going right to the heart of the matter, he said: "The altar is missing."

One of my mothers complaints about the worship in her denomination was that it was "too me-centered and not God-centered". Here is an article, by a Baptist, that talks about some of the same things.

"The Puritans made the mistake of not being consistent with their view of covenant theology when it came to their ideas concerning worship. As Ray Sutton has written, in every other area of theological concern they held to the hermeneutical principle that “Unless the New Testament changes it, do what the Old Testament commands.” However, when it came to worship, they became dispensationalists and said, basically, “If the New Testament does not command it, we cannot do it.”11 The present-day consequences of this narrowing of the Regulative Principle are asthmatic worship services that only have the one lung of the New Testament to breathe life into its services, rather than the two lungs of Old and New Testaments.

One cannot help but wonder if the typical evangelical fear of “forms”—of rituals, ceremonies, art—is due more to a reaction to all things Roman Catholic than to a desire to obey God. “If the Roman Catholics do it, then it is evil” quite often appears to be the working definition of the Regulative Principle! Do they use art? It must be a sin. Do they utilize ceremony? Ceremonies are evil. Do they light candles? Candles are of the devil." (Read the whole thing here.)


Interestingly, the author of the article, like the Orthodox, sees that worship on Earth is supposed to, at least, emulate worship in Heaven. I wonder how long he will remain a Protestant.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Up until the 1970's the Vice President of the United States (who is also the President of the Senate) had no staff in the Executive branch and usually none in the Congress. Now he has about 40 staff in the Senate and about that number working for him in the Executive branch. I don't see why he needs so many employees, but I kind of understand that he is a high level executive with important things to do (maybe) and he needs help doing them.

Today, the Michelle Obama, who has no official position in the government, who has no official responsibilities, who was not elected, or appointed to anything by anyone, who is merely the president's wife has the following staff:

1. $172,2000 - Sher, Susan (CHIEF OF STAFF)
6. $90,000 - Medina, David S. (DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE FIRST LADY)
7. $84,000 - Lelyveld, Catherine M. (DIRECTOR AND PRESS SECRETARY TO THE FIRST LADY)
20. $36,000 - Armbruster, Sally M. (STAFF ASSISTANT TO THE SOCIAL SECRETARY)
21. Bookey, Natalie (STAFF ASSISTANT)


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Egg Nog to Kill a Horse!

This has become a Christmas tradition in our house. Usually we make it for the 3rd Day of Christmas, which in the Orthodox Church is also the Feast of St. Stephen.

-12 eggs
-1 pound of confectioners sugar
-4 cups of bourbon
-2 cups of brandy
-2 quarts of heavy whipping cream
- whole nutmeg (fresh)
- ground cinnamon (fresh)

- large bowl (it will have to hold a little more than 1 gallon)
- 2 large mixing bowls
- spoon for stirring
- wire whisk for beating egg whites
- grater

Beat separately until light in color
12 egg yolks (save the whites for later)
Beat in gradually
1 pound of confectioner's sugar
Add very slowly, beating constantly
2 cups of bourbon
This forms the basis of the "nog".

Let mixture stand covered for 1 hour to dispel the "eggy" taste.

Add, beating constantly,
2 cups of bourbon
2 cups of brandy (I prefer Christian Brothers)
2 quarts whipping cream

Refrigerate covered for 3 hours.

Beat until stiff but not dry
8 to 12 egg whites

Fold egg whites lightly into the other ingredients. Serve sprinkled
with fresh grated nutmeg and cinnamon to taste.

Yield is about 1 gallon.

If you think the eggnog will be consumed quickly it is a nice touch to float a block of ice in it. But it melts and will make the nog watery, so only use ice if you have a large party or your friends are heavy drinkers. Watery egg nog is gross.

This is a very rich, high-cholesterol, high-octane eggnog.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bye Bye Blackbird- Saturday Soundtrack

I've read that when Ray Henderson and Mort Dixon wrote this song in 1926 they were telling the story of a prostitute leaving that sad life and returning home to her mother. In several versions of the song that idea really comes through, but not in the two versions I like the most. The first is by Miles Davis. I don't know when it was recorded but I like it more than his famous 1956 recording. This one is pitched a little higher and has a faster tempo, typical of Davis' later years.

Joe Cocker's version of the song, though famous for the electric guitar solo also has a trumpet connection. In one of those so weird it has to be true stories, Cocker used to own a burlesque theater in Canada with Phil Driscoll.

Here are the original lyrics.

Blackbird, blackbird singing the blues all day
Right outside of my door
Blackbird, blackbird who do you sit and say
There's no sunshine in store

All thru the winter you hung around
Now I begin to feel homeward bound
Blackbird, blackbird gotta be on my way
Where there's sunshine galore

Pack up all my care and woe
Here I go, singing low

Bye bye blackbird

Where somebody waits for me
Sugar's sweet, so is she

Bye bye blackbird

No one here can love and understand me
Oh, what hard luck stories they all hand me
Make my bed and light the light
I'll arrive late tonight

Blackbird, bye bye

Bluebird bluebird calling me far away
I've been longing for you
Bluebird bluebird what do I hear you say
Skies are turning to blue

I'm like a flower that's fading here
Where ev'ry hour is one long tear
Bluebird bluebird this is my lucky day
Now my dreams will come true

Pack up all my care and woe
Here I go, singing low

Bye bye blackbird

Where somebody waits for me
Sugar's sweet, so is she

Bye bye blackbird

No one here can love and understand me
Oh, what hard luck stories they all hand me
Make my bed and light the light
I'll arrive late tonight

Blackbird, bye bye

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Salmon Mousse

Usually, I make this for church. It is a crowd pleaser.

48 Oz of cream cheese (For Heaven's sake, do not even think of using low fat!)
32 Oz of smoked salmon (No skin. No bones. No brown. Only use the pink flesh of the fish.)
24 Oz of sour cream (You're not using low fat are you?)
1 large red onion (peeled)
About 1/2 cup fresh dill leaves
Three tablespoons fresh black peppercorns

Put all of the above ingredients (except for the black pepper) into a food processor and process them until them until smooth and light pink. There should be no chunks, rather everything should be smooth and well blended.

Line three bread pans with plastic wrap.

Cover the bottom of the pans with fresh cracked (a mini chopper works well for this) black pepper. (Other possible toppings: Capers, chopped red onions, dill.)

Spoon the mousse into the bread pans, and cover with plastic food wrap.

Set bread pans into a large container of ice and leave there for 4 hours before serving. Make sure water level is below the lip of the bread pans.

When ready to serve this is what you do: Uncover the mousse, set a pretty serving platter upside down on top of the mousse making sure no plastic wrap is between the mouse and the platter. Quickly turn over the mouse and platter so the mousse is on top of the now face-up. Carefully remove the bread pan and plastic wrap from the mouse. Garnish and serve with crackers, little toasts, or slices of sourdough bread.

Christmas Pudding w/ Brandy Sauce

This recipe is adapted by me from the recipe used by Mrs. Kinky Kincaid in the book "An Irish Country Christmas" by Patrick Taylor, M.D.

175g or 3/4 cup soft bread crumbs
400 ml or 1 3/4 cups whole milk
300g or 1 1/4 cups castor sugar
250g or 1 cup suet
175g or 3/4 cup white all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
175g or 3/4 cup grated carrot
250g or1 cup currants
250g or 1 cup raisins
175g or 3/4 cup mashed potato
75g or 1/4 cup candied peel
3 eggs, beaten
4 tsp treacle or molasses

Heat milk to boiling point and pour over crumbs in very large bowl. Add the sugar and leave to soak for 1/2 hour. Mix in all other ingredients, except eggs and treacle, mixing very well. Finally add the eggs and treacle, and beat very well. Put mixture into greased bowls, cover and steam for 4 hours. continue to add boiling water from time to time to ensure it does not boil dry. Makes one very large pudding or two small ones.
You can use special bowls with their own lids, or else cover the bowl with aluminum foil. I used grease proof paper, then brown paper,and I tie it on with a string. making a handle with the string. If you haven't got a doctor handy,you do need to be careful with the boiling water, so.

The pudding matures and tastes much better it you can remember to make it one year to six months before you need it.

(Addition from Matt: Feed with brandy, just a teaspoon or so, once a fortnight. To feed the pudding, open the top, and skewer the pudding three or four times, then sprinkle the brandy on to the pudding. Then cover and tie it up again. Oh, I do hope you are using a ceramic bowl. Over the course of a few months the brandy will eat through steel.)

Brandy Sauce
55g or 4 tbsp butter
55g or 4 1/4 cup white all-purpose flower
570 ml or 2 1/2 cups milk
55g or 1/4 cup castor sugar
1/4 cup brandy

Melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook 2 minutes and stir in the milk. Bring to a boil, stirring all the time. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Stir in the brandy and sugar, and serve with the Christmas pudding.

Garnish the pudding with a holly sprig.

Monday, October 19, 2009

With God All Things Are Possible

The Anglican seminary Nashota House and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary have entered into a "covenant". I don't know exactly what it means but it seems promising even if a mass conversion is unlikely. I mean, asking the whole traditionalist Anglican Church in North America to become Orthodox as a group seems like asking an awful lot. There are some huge obstacles, Calvinism and women priests and bishops are merely two of them. And are the Anglican's really wanting to be Orthodox? I'm not sure. To me it seems that they are reaching out to anyone who will support them in their stand against the Episcopalians.

If the "covenant" is the same thing as the "concordat" mentioned on the SVOTS website there might not be as much to be excited about as one might think, as all it does is record "both seminaries' commitment to preserving the historic record of the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue to date, and to continuing that dialogue on a theological level."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Diocesan Assembly

First, I want to say Protection of the Holy Theotokos Parish/St. Serephim Church did an amazing job hosting the Assembly. The food was almost too good to be true. I especially want to call attention to the dolmas, the the chocolate torte, the falafel, and the mussel,clam, and rice dish. They were all made from scratch in the church's kitchen and were amazing. There was much else: pork loin, chicken, a salad with, I think, candied walnuts, much wine, beer, first rate coffee, fresh fruit, olives, cheeses, and very yummy cookies. But what made it all so good, was not just the food. It was the hospitality. Real hospitality, not the kind you pay for at a fancy restaurant. Every bite said "I love you. I'm glad you are here." Our brothers and sisters in that parish found every need and made sure it was met.

The main building was beautiful. It is not often one gets to step into an artist's workshop and see sketches on the walls for the soon to be painted frescoes. Currently, only slightly more than half of the east wall (including all of the altar) and part of the west wall and two pillars are finished. All the rest is whitewashed concrete. One of the most beautiful things is the interior of the dome. It is still white concrete but all the icons have been sketched in sepia-tones. I can hardly wait to visit the church again in the future and see all the frescoes completed. Of all the icons that have been painted so far, I think the most moving might be that of St. John of Damascus. Something about it seems thankful.

The services were beautiful, as one wold expect with two bishops, 14 archpriests, three deacons, and two of the best trained and most experienced sub-deacons in the history of the Church (Yes, I mean Subdeacon Johann Morse and Subdeacon Dr. Dimitri Solodow) serving. Also I think I should mention the choir. It was small but perfect. Every voice did exactly what it was supposed to do, to the Glory of God. (This reminds me of something else about this temple I loved: Almost all the light was natural from the sun, from oil lamps, or from beeswax candles. Even the lights on the choir's music stands was candle light: There being 5 candles set in the right hand edge of each stand.

One of the services was changed by Bishop Benjamin. A vespers service had been planned but at the last minute he changed it to a Panikida (sp?) for two recently reposed priests and Mat. Barbara Sokolov. For this service a choir of priests was formed. The beauty of their voices beseeching Gods mercy on those three beloved members of our family was heart rending.

As for the business of the meeting, well, there wasn't much.
1. Bishop Benjamin said to his Priests, "Holy Unction is not just a prayer for the sick! It is a Sacrament! Confession before Holy Unction is required. So if you need to educate your people, do it."
2. We have some very poor parishes (It seems that some of our priestly families are living below the poverty line), and Bishop Benjamin would like the parishes with money to help those that don't have money. Toward that end he had some laymen introduce a bank that would be funded by Orthodox parishes and institutions that would loan money to parishes for capital improvements. I really liked the idea until I found out that the bank board would be self continuing and not appointed by the church. That will have to be looked at very closely. History shows that many institutions are formed for one purpose and wind up serving another. I mentioned Harvard University having been formed for the propagation of the Gospel but how it now does everything but that. My comment was well received by the Assembly. I think Bishop Benjamin might be worried about the same thing. Simple solution: Parishes with money just need to give to those that need it. We are one diocese, aren't we?
3. The diocesan budget is balanced and was approved (after some questions) by the Assembly.
4. Bishop Benjamin asked for the opinions of the members of the Assembly on many issues and we gave it. I was astounded by the unanimity of opinion. That my opinion on so many matters would be the same as that of an old woman ascetic, a very cosmopolitan priest from a big city, a fairly recent (three years) convert from L.A., a hipster chick (You should have seen the boots she was wearing!), matushkas young and old, a horde of priests, and a handful of nuns can only be ascribed to the Holy Spirit. Whether or not Bishop Benjamin and the rest of the Holy Synod follow our advice almost seems beside the point.
5. Robert Kondratick is still suing us and if he wins will bankrupt the Orthodox Church in America. So far, defending against the suit has cost $500,000. The bishops are unanimous that they will never reinstate him to the holy Priesthood, which is, I think, what he really wants. I am proud of our bishops.
6. We all had such a good time with each other that we asked Bishop Benjamin to schedule the next Diocesan Assembly in the summer so we can bring our families, or perhaps, have another meeting, where we can all get together.

Funny line. When discussing whether or not to do away with the Church Growth Department in the Metropolitan's chancery one woman said: "Church growth department? We have a church growth department? Would somebody please tell me, when did we become Protestants?" Pretty much, the Assembly recommended the elimination of all departments at the Metropolitan's Chancery except external affairs (it is required by the Holy Canons), clergy pensions, and the seminaries. Also, the church planting grants were deemed a worthy and successful program. Everyone seemed to think that program should stay at the Metropolitan's Chancery. Everything else should be done at the diocesan level with the following exceptions:
Christian education should be done only by the OCEC, big foreign charity works should be done only the IOCC, and foreign missions should only be done by the OCMC, all of which are agencies of the SCOBA. All we need the Metropolitan to do is provide links to these agencies on his website.

I was greatly honored to meet the woman who runs Martha and Mary House. Sometimes we encounter people we are not worthy to even look at, let alone converse with. She is one of those people.

Oh, one more very cool thing. I got to hear the new abbot from the St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco Monastery preach. WOW!!!!!

I hope I get to go to the next Diocesan Assembly.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I am told that this rain we have been experiencing since last night is the remnant of a typhoon. I and, I am sure, all California is glad for it. It has quenched a long and oppressive thirst.

Around noon Basil and I, wearing our yellow rain coats, walked up to the grocery store. Its about 1 1/2 blocks from out front door. I bout a tin of deviled ham and some crackers and milk. I thought the boys might like deviled ham. I was wrong. Oh, well. Live and learn.

On the way to the store Basil cleared any clogged storm drains he encountered. There were many where the water was being held back by piles of leaves. He used a stick to break up the dams and let the water flow. It was fun. On the way to the store the gutters were flooded and water was out in the streets and in some places up over the curb. On the way home all the water was flowing and the water was receding. Los Gatos Creek runs right by the grocer so we walked up to the bridge to see the water from the storm drains pouring into it. Basil was impressed by all the water. He had never seen the creek so high.

After Basil and I got home (Anselm was at home doing math problems while we went shopping) and after I discovered the boys hate deviled ham, I made them hamburgers. They liked those much more than deviled ham.

About an hour ago I saw that the parking lot here at the apartments was flooding. I dressed both the boys in rain gear, rolled up their pant legs and the three of us went out to set up the submersible pump. MUCH FUN!

Well, I have to get Basil down for a little nap, and Anselm has to get ready for a Cub Scout meeting tonight.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fruited Molassas Balls

My Aunt Nettie has been making these every Christmas since her son was five years old. He is 53 now. I make them every year now, too.

Matt's Aunt Nettie's Fruited Molasses Balls

1/2 cup Sugar
1 cup molassas
1 stick soft butter
2 large eggs
2 cups flower
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup raisins
24 oz. chopped dates
2 cups chopped nuts (I use pecans AND walnuts)

Cream butter, sugar, and eggs
Stir in the in the molassas
Add dry ingredients
Stir until no white flower is visible.

Pour dough into greased baking pan, bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes
Cool a little bit, but while still hot (this hurts, but what act of love doesn't?) pick up some of the dough (you've buttered your hands haven't you?) and roll it into a ball about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter. Let cool.
Sprinkle w/ powdered sugar.

Recipe can be doubled but you'll need a very large mixing bowl.

Mulled Wine

Weather is getting cool here. Already thinking about Advent and Nativity. I'll be posting some recipes as we get closser to the days. Here's a good recipe for Advent.

Nov 15-Dec 24 is a fast in the Orthodox Church. It is called by various names but the one I like is Advent. In general, during a fast no meat, poultry,fish dairy, oil, or wine is eaten, except on Sundays when wine and oil is blessed, and Major Feast days when fish might be on the calendar. But the days leading up to the Nativity of Jesus are such a joyous fast that wine is blessed for many many days during Advent. Thus, this recipe.

Mulled Wine (Serves 2)

1/2 of a 750ml bottle of full-bodied red wine. Most California Merlots and Cabernets seem to work. Sangiovese, not so much. Also, as much as I like Gallo Burgundy, it doesn't really work in this recipe.

Zest of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick crumbled by hand
2 tsp whole allspice
1/2 tsp whole cloves

Put above ingredients in a pan over medium heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat . Stir in 2 table spoons granulated sugar. Simmer 5 minutes. Add two table spoons brandy (Paul Mason is no good. Stick to Christian Bros.) Strain. Pour into mugs.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Th dearth of posts

I apologize to my regular readers. I know I have been posting little of interest lately. My time has been consumed with many mundane things. I think I might have bitten of more than I can chew with this M.A. program. The amount of reading is amazing. The amount of writing is daunting. I spend several hours every day on it. Then there is taking care of the boys and homeschooling them. Although today home schooling consisted of watching movies all day while I wrote an essay on the Progressive Historians. Oh, I also was dealing with exterminators, carpet cleaners, and plumbers today. In all, we had issues in 6 units that had to be dealt with today. Plus, I showed a vacant unit a couple of times. I think I am wearing out. Not getting enough sleep. Goodnight.

Oh! Wait! Wednesday was Basil's b-day. He is now four years old. It is hard to believe. I also took the boys fishing. I think that was on Monday. That remindsd me I am going duck and goose hinting with Basil's godmother's boyfriend in December. My forst time to hunt water fowl. Very excited. Thinking about buying a new 20 ga. shotgun for the event.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

All Around the World.

I'm not sure that this video has a point other than to be a tour of Orthodox architecture in various countries. I think the chanter is Fr. Apostolis Hill.

I think the picture in Paris is the courtyard of Holy Mother Maria's convent. The one where she rescued the Jewish Children during WWII.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Anselm has been selling Christmas wreaths to raise money for his Cub Scout Pack. So far, he is doing okay. He just has to sell a couple of more to reach his goal. The neatest thing is that he doesn't get discouraged when people say "no" but gets very excited when people say "yes". Instead of just going to the next door when some one buys a wreath he runs all the way home to tell me about it. The money raised will underwrite camping trips, the various medals and patches earned by members of the pack, and the cost of uniforms for new Cub Scouts.

A sad thing to me about selling Christmas Wreaths is that our one Jewish Cub Scout does not participate. Its especially sad because the decorating of the temple gates with wreaths on the first Chaunuckha is the origin of the Christmas Wreath (See 1 Maccabees 4:56-59, and 2 Maccabees 10:6-7). It seems to me that we could put blue ribbon on some of the wreaths and call them Chaunukha wreaths. (In the Christian context, I think, its especially important to see the wreath as a reminder to every Christian that his house is supposed to be a little temple where worship is conducted.)

Or, maybe, we could get the whole Pack together to make Chanukha Pretzel Wreaths.