Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Blog tinkering

I've changed the header picture here to include our newest addition. I was a bit torn between the one I've put up, which shows all of us, and this one of just the children, which I also like
Maybe I'll change the header from time to time. I've seen a blog which has a photo header which changes every time the page is refreshed. I wonder if Blogger allows for something like that. Anyone know?

(Edited to add: Here's the old header which was taken just after Honor was born. And another one taken then of all the children together. What a difference two years makes!)

Overheard in the kitchen

Dominic; " I can speak a bit of Italian"
Brendan: "Dominic. You cannot speak Italian"
Dominic: " Yes I can, I said I can say a bit"
Brendan: " Go on then. Say something in Italian.
Dominic; "yhcehvehf eie eoifefri hirf i  h gi fifhvwj ehf;g"
Brendan: What does that mean?
Dominic: " It means, Do you want to play hide and seek?"
Brendan: " Well you'll be ordering our steaks in the restaurant then"

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The feast of the Chair of Peter

Get this. I've been to Rome, but didn't bother with the Vatican. We drove past and it looked busy so we didn't go in.
 Sometimes I find myself fascinating, but in a "huh?" way rather than a "wow!" way.
Next time I won't be so silly.
Anyway, because of this gap in my cultural education, I've never seen the Vatican and it's treasures up close, so I Googled images of the Chair of Peter and this one seems to come up quite alot.

Um, pardon my ignorance, but is that a  chair?

Then there's this one:

Which does look more chair like, but not especially majestic.So which one is it?
I don't suppose it matters since after all, the feast day isn't  celebrating a chair as such, but rather the authority that the chair represents. Rather like the seat of Moses.
Which I also Googled:

Clearly comfort wasn't high on the agenda. 
I went on another Google wander and fell down Alice in Wonderlands rabbit hole, as I am wont to do when I go Googling late at night. But I did find some interesting articles, such as this one by Steve Ray, who quotes St Cyrian of Carthage:

“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He
says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this
rock I will build my Church, and the gates
of hell will not overcome it. And to you I
will give the keys of the kingdom of
heaven: and whatever things you bind on
earth shall be bound also in heaven, and
whatever you loose on earth, they shall be
loosed also in heaven.’ And again He says
to him after His resurrection: ‘Feed my
sheep.’ On him He builds the Church, and
to him He gives the command to feed the
sheep; and although He assigns a like
power to all the Apostles, yet He founded
a single chair, and He established by His
own authority a source and an intrinsic
reason for that unity. Indeed, the others
were that also which Peter was; but a
primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is
made clear that there is but one Church
and one chair. So too, all are shepherds,
and the flock is shown to be one, fed by
all the Apostles in single-minded accord.
If someone does not hold fast to this unity
of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds
the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter
upon whom the Church was built, can he
still be confident that he is in the
Church?” (Cyprian of Carthage, 251)

Steve Ray also explains that highly ornate "chair" at the top of this post.

The chair of St Peter stands in St Peters Basilica in Rome, which I most certainly will visit next time I'm in the area!

Matthew 16:18

"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Carnival of Meatless meals

I've been meaning to post my delicious broccoli ancovy pasta recipe for a while now, but when Milehimama announced that she was hosting this years meatless meals carnival for lent I decided I could delay sharing it with you no longer!
Having the word "delicious" and "anchovy" in the same sentence would ordinarily be oxymoronic, because I hate anchovies, both the look of them and the taste of them . Or at least I thought I did. I hate whitebait too. I think its the wholeness of the fish that gets me. The idea of eating the little fishy head complete with the little fishy eyeballs makes me beg for a cheese sandwich. I'm a little sensitive like that. If my food was once a living, breathing, reproducing creature, then I'm happier if it comes to me in completely unrecognisable form. This is why, back in the day when I didn't know about the mercury contaminant issues, I preferred tinned tuna to tinned salmon. Why does the former come in nice clean lumps of tuna flesh and the latter always come complete with bones and black scaly skin?

However, when I was introduced to the dish I share with you now, the taste was so, um, indefinably "something", not especially fishy, but richly er "yum".  Sorry, that's the best I can do with culinary adjectives. But trust me. This is one of the simplest, most delicious dishes you can prepare, . And it's frugal too. And there's not an eyeball in sight.
Oh, and if that's not enough to persuade you to give them a try, did you know that anchovies are really very good for you? Rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and omegas. Also they are ( because of their short life span apparently)  low in mercury, PCBs and other contaminants.
A Jolly good all round little fish.

Alrighty. Here's what you need:

A head of broccoli
A jar of anchovies in oil
A packet of spaghetti
Olive oil.

Optional extras:
Dried chili flakes.

Here's what you do:

Dump the jar of anchovies in their oil into a fairly capacious cooking receptacle. I use a large flat bottomed wok type pan that has sufficient room for me to add the pasta later. I like to be able to serve straight from the pan and I detest using more dishes than is strictly necessary.

Heat the anchovies, giving them an occasional stir. At this point  you may want to add some garlic and chili. When I  watched my Italian cheffy friend cooking this she just had the simple anchovies on their own, but I quite like the addition of garlic and chili and it's hardly any more effort.

While this is on the heat, prep the broccoli. I use the whole broccoli, stem and all and just cut the whole lot fairly small ( it all breaks down and becomes a bit 'saucy' with the addition of extra oil ) so although broccoli florets might work well too if you want them like that, that's not the way I've cooked them for this dish.

Give the anchovies the odd stir while you're chopping the broccoli. Add some olive oil if you need it. By the time the broccoli is all chopped, the anchovies will have been broken down in the hot oil and rendered reassuringly unrecognisable as having been anything that was once a living thing happily besporting itself in it's briny home.
It's now just a lumpy oily sauce.

Throw in the bits of broccoli and stir. Add oil if it looks like it needs it.

Cook the pack of spaghetti.

When the spaghetti is cooked, dump the whole lot into the sizzly broccoli/anchovy sauce . Mix it all up well.

Bon appetit!

On the basis of the following very rough pricing:
Anchovies £2.00
Spaghetti £1.00
Broccoli £2.00
I estimate that this recipe feeds my entire family for a fiver, although we'd usually have a salad of some sort on the side too, but it's still a pretty frugal meatless meal.

Check out other meatless meals over at Milehimamas.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday


Last week I started to write a post about Haiti and then deleted it. I had heard a "good news" story on the radio about a two year old called Mia Charlotte who had been rescued and reunited with her mother. It just made me feel more anguished.  All I could think about was the many other little ones, presently alive who were dying alone and uncomforted, no one to cuddle them  or even give them a drink of water. Alive now and scared, but hidden, unreachable and dying alone. I thought of my own little two year old, and  how scared and panicked she had been last week when she caught her foot in her little dolls buggy and found herself momentarily trapped and unable to free herself.
(  Oh dear God,  send those babies a ministering angel!  )                                                                                                                                                                  When I re read what I had half written, my pained musings sounded self indulgent and mawkish to me. Besides, thinking about it just plain hurt and I couldn't stand it. I can't be a rescue worker making a difference on the ground, and my tears here in London aren't going to help the trapped and the terrified and the grief stricken. I avoided reading the news about it because it tears at my heart to know about so much suffering and not be able to do anything but send money or pray. Dammit I want to lift rocks  and get the babies out and into their mamas arms, and if I can't do that then let me send my money, look at God with blank incomprehension...and then turn away.                                                                                                 


   I've been thinking lately about how the abortion issue seems to have become pigeonholed as a niche religious concern. Did that happen with the anti slavery campaigners? I suppose back then more people identified themselves as Christians anyway so perhaps not. But it bugs me that the human rights issue of abortion hasn't, it seems to me, made a dent in the secular consciousness. It's just a non issue, something that some 'religious folk', mostly elderly catholics are 'against'. It's made me think that perhaps pro life Christians ought to more careful about how they frame the argument. Bringing God into it makes perfect sense to us, but not  to a non believer for whom appeals to God are irrelevant and alienating.

With these thoughts bouncing around in my head I was really pleased to stumble across this blog.

Nate is not a Christian, he is a gay man and he is pro life. He writes about the experience of being pro life but outside the mainstream pro life world of evangelical Christians and Catholics. Personally it gives me a lot to think about, and I'm really happy to know that there are people like him who turn up to rallys to champion the cause of the most defenseless little human beings. Abortion, like slavery and bride burning, is unambiguously wrong.  You don't need to be a signed up churchnik to be clear about that.
Here's a snip of Nate:
First of all, I love the people who put on the Portland Roe vs. Wade rally, and so I have nothing against them. They simply organize the event. I was grumpy well before I got there.
I was first-and-foremost annoyed that I did not take my beloved sign to the rally–the one that said, “It Doesn’t Require Christianity or Heterosexuality to be Pro-Life”. While the reasons for not doing so are somewhat personal, let’s just say that it was enough to make me not want to go there at all. I show up, and it’s rainy (Oregon, right?) and they are singing “praise” music, which doesn’t annoy me but, of course, at the same time annoyed me. I said hi to a bunch of friends.
One of the things that is always powerful is the pro-choice protesters’ reaction to our memorial. We ring a low, loud bell for each million kids aborted–that was 51 tolls this year. The pro-choicers decided to cheer after each toll of the bell…
Read the rest here.


I'm confused and on the fence about vaccines. I acknowledge the world changing, epic contribution that they have made in eradicating some of the most feared, lethal and devastating communicable diseases. But do we really need to be vaccinated against the panoply of bogies that are in the ever growing line up of the bloated vaccine programmes?
Instinctively it feels wrong to challenge a small babies immune system with such an overwhelming cocktail. I'm also cynical about the powerful hand of big pharma. And the latest brouhaha about the HPV vaccine and it's aggressive marketing campaign has moved me further into the cynic camp. Ditto the swine flu "crisis" and the vaccine panic buying. Some men in suits must be looking forward to big bonuses this year.
Here's Dr Mercola on "Why we need a fearless conversation on vaccines"


Gabriels Godmother Kate writes poetry. Last week she sent this one for Marie-Aibhlinn. It feels quite a privilege to have a bespoke poem, rather like the Queen having an appointed Poet Laureate to write for special royal occasions. This one is lovely:
For Marie Aibhlinn

Longed for child, a garden of blessing

Born beloved, prized so tight
your breath is fashioned for the light
finger tips like pearly beads
are counting Aves in your sleep

The clock upon the nursery wall
The angels stationed for your call
Are watching too, are nursing close
Your budding heart into a rose

Kate blogs here.


Speaking earlier of Haiti, I subscribe to an organic 'box scheme' called Farmaround.
On their homepage recently they have had this announcement:

Sign up today and we will donate
4 organic cotton 'T' shirts to the people of Haiti

Organic cotton t shirts? Am I wrong in finding this bizarre? Am I missing something? How is that an incentive to sign up? I realise that perhaps, once they have been  dug out of their ghastly tombs the traumatised Haitians will need clothing among other things, but won't packages of "organic cotton tee shirts" just be another thing to manage? I imagine packages from concerned groups might just clog up the works.

Shortly after the disaster I heard someone from a charity explaining how they were sending colouring pencils to Haiti for the children. Colouring pencils.
I totally get the need to feel like you are sending something personal to those that need help and money is, well, impersonal and feels detatched and a bit like a cop out. But since most of us can't get over there and dig with our bare hands, much as we long to, surely we need to send first money. and then money  and then more money. Let the charities on the ground buy the t shirts.


Confession. The wondrousness of the sacrament of reconciliation was totally lost on me until I returned to the Catholic church. I look on my old self with fascinated befuddlement that I just didn't get it. The past is indeed another country, they do things differently there.

Here are some posts that I wanted to save to read again, so I'll share them with you dear reader.
Saint Francis de Sales on the sacrament of penance. And some tips from Fr Z on making a good confession.


Ending on a frivolous note, I have a weakness for really good bed linen.
I have a couple of really lovely old French linen sheets that I bought on eBay. One has lovely delicate ladderwork and the other a  very grand, deep red, hand embroidered monogramme. The one with the delicate ladderwork is starting to get a bit holey and fragile so I've been casting around for an alternative that will be up to the wear and tear of umpteen in a bed and the slash and burn stain removal tactics required to zap dear little miss babys mustard coloured nightime nappy leakages.( I do wonder if breast fed baby poo ever served as a fabric dye in the ancient world? Surely it must have, that stuff doesn't wash off!)

Anyway, I found this fabulous website  that sells Frette sheets at a great price. And even though it's a UK site, shipping is free worldwide. My sheet arrived very quickly and it is worth alot more than I paid for it. So if you want a little hotel lux when you hit the sack without breaking the bank, I can really recommend them.

(For more quick takes, visit Jen at Conversion Diary.)