Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pretty Girls Have Inner Beauty, Too!

I have a friend who is prettier than most. She's sort of exceptional-looking, dark hair and eyes, a taste for flattering clothes, musician's hands - but it's her skin that makes her stand out most of all. Her skin is nothing like my own; no sign of weather-damage or neglect, no blotchy-red response to sudden cold or heat. Instead it glows with just the right amount of inner-light, it seems forever well-tended, and looks softly made-up even freshly scrubbed clean. I covet the easy perfection of her skin; all the same, I've never wanted to look just like her, I'd rather look like myself - perfected.

My friend's beauty inspires me to try for my own best look. She reminds me, just by being herself, that caring for the whole body is a holy act. A way of blessing the people we love, ourselves, and the world around us. Because beauty is a gift meant to be shared.

Not everyone is interested in receiving that gift, however, and physical beauty has as many - or more - naysayers within the Church as architectural beauty. So many faithful Catholics want to leave behind the grand, rich, artful buildings and make their holy places streamlined, conference-centers housing a toned-down tabernacle; and many more - especially women - fight beauty in the bodily temple. They want to know why we bother with make-up at all, why we work to make our bodies living canvases for the Beauty of the Divine Love.

living canvas
It's not that I believe that people who are less than pretty are out of God's favor, or that the ridiculously good-looking are holy simply because of their looks. I don't insist on - or even necessarily encourage following the trends of the day - molding our bodies to the ever-shifting standards of perfection. What I do believe is that my body is a temple to the Holy Spirit, and that it is not enough to merely sweep the temple clean and wash the windows. The effort taken to dress and decorate the altar, to hang lights, and fill the walls with Icons and images is a holy effort - it glorifies God and gladdens His heart.

 I'm sad when I hear women denigrate someone like my lovely friend, calling into question her 'inner beauty' because she finds it worthwhile to nurture the outer beauty as well - not, as some would assume, to seduce or distract the husbands of other women, nor to make those women jealous and miserable; but to delight God with the care she gives his temple, to delight her husband and to live out the vow "with this body, I thee worship", and to make a fitting home for her own beautiful soul. Because, believing in our own inner-beauty requires us to let it show, doesn't it? Either with Byzantine Churches - the abundant old-style I prefer; or else in country chapels - white-washed and gleaming, but beautifully tended, however we house it. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Meditations on The Tarot: The Emperor IV

"Freedom is the true throne of God and His cross at the same time. Freedom is the key to comprehension of the role of God in history..the God of Love and the God-King, without the sacrilege of making Him a tyrant and without the blasphemy of doubting His power.."

I like the Emperor in this card, he is a peaceful ruler - no sword, no retinue, just calm authority. He rules alone, like God..without needing the trappings of a court to give him power. Alone under the sky, we can see his authority - even unacknowledged, needs no force to defend it. He simply is The Emperor.."he has made a place in himself for the Divine Name" - and because of that self-established emptiness, he can receive authority. 

"Nature has a horror of emptiness..the spirit has a horror of fullness."

I think about this as I look at the things I would like my life to be full of..good things, beautiful things, a life full-to-brimming; where is the Spirit in such a life? Does He get lost among the crowd? Do I mistake Him for something else, something easily replaceable? It is better to have lonely places in my heart - little rooms that I would have filled with all the blessings of life; tiny beds to rest in as He waits for me to hear His voice.

Friday, February 21, 2014

(My dearest husband had an idea..He'll explain it below, I'm giving him occasional free-rein here to post the delicious drinks he makes for us at home all the time..I know I'm lucky, but you can say it again. Enjoy!)


            Welcome to the Bartender’s Corner; a place to indulge in completely nerd-inspired drinks and… well okay, that’s pretty much it. But isn’t that enough? I mean, what goes together better than fandom and alcohol?Anyway, enough with the excuses...

Starting off a long run of Firefly inspired cocktails we have the “Shiny”, an eminently drinkable mixture in honor of Kaylee and her “inter-engine fermentation device.” And strawberries. Everyone loves strawberries.

Six gerstlers crammed under every cooling drive so that you strain your primary atery function and you end up having to recycle secondary exhaust through a bypass system just so's you don't end up pumpin' it through the main atmofeed and asphyxiating the entire crew. Now that's junk.”
                                                                                                                             -Kaywinnit Lee Frye


Rose (does anyone know how to do that little accent thingy over the 'e'?) wine, chilled
4 or 5 strawberries
1 lime for zest and juice

Chop all but one of the berries into your glass; then toss in a pinch of lime zest and about 1/4 tablespoon of lime juice. 
With lime zest. I know you're not stupid, I just had so many pretty pictures...
Chopped berries.

Next, fill glass about half full of wine and add a splash or two of seltzer...

 ... garnish with the last berry and enjoy!

Yeah, I had no skewers available so I used an iced tea spoon - I suppose a wrench would also be appropriate.

Book Review: St. George and The Dragon - Retold by Margaret Hodges & Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Book Cover
    "In the day when monster and giants and fairy folk lived in England, a noble knight was riding across a plain."

Trina Schart Hyman illustration of St. George
St. George and The Dragon is a book for children, and a book for adults who love fairy-beauty and well-told tales. My husband had a copy of his own when we were college-chums; my daughter treasures her's for the picture of the knight "sleeping in the water." She carries it 'round the house, playing St. George and kissing his Icon from the altar with almost as much affection as she gives St. Nikolas. The story has captivated her, thanks in part to Ms. Hyman's rich illustrations. The images themselves are breath-taking, and each page of text embellished with boarders of detail-work and illumination.
Trina Schart Hyman illustration of St. George
 My image of St. George is from the east - the dragonslayer who saved Lizaveta, instead of the English Una. He defends horses and livestock and husbands. This St. George of Merry England is delightfully similar: fine, heroic, kind, and more than a touch magical. His tale, as Magaret Hodges tells it, is so full of sacramental images and the magic of a land redeemed. 
Trina Schart Hyman illustration of St. George and the Dragon
Read it with mugs of cocoa, on grey days or sunlit winter afternoons, either aloud to a child or else quietly, in the tub - with toy figures to act out the exciting parts. Or, more piously, read with tea, mediating on the parallels between St. George's falls and Christ's as He carried His cross, the healing water, the healing tree, and the virtues of the Red Cross Knight.

Trina Schart Hyman illustration of St. George and Una

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Paperwine Refreshed

 We've been hanging out in the snow a lot recently..there's a lot to enjoy. Piles and Piles of it. And the constant intrusion of weather onto our plans has given Seth a chance to rest, relax, and create! He's loaded more cards onto Paperwine:






Woodland cards..I'm very fond of them.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


I'm updating..

 Not just the blogs, which have been feeling a little tired recently, but the house as well.
Not a lot..just a few little changes: more fabrics, lanterns, and flowers..

In my mind the updates are huge - I have journals devoted to cut out inspirations, and I'm eating up my computer time on Pinterest. But right now, the house is just shifting slightly..it's neater, fresher-looking, and more inspiring - or maybe I just feel more inspired because Seth is on vacation until March. I love having him home. Yarrow adores having him home - to paint and play and work with..he makes the whole house brighter.

Plus, when he is home, I have more time to work on things..I may even manage some of those thoughtful posts I promised back in January..Until then, what do you think of Cyganeria's s new look?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Harry Potter Book Club: 11-12

Expecto Patronum- Harry Potter Funny ! WIN

 I spent most of last night online - huddled in my car at the end of the road, chatting with Jenna and Christie about all the delights of life and Harry Potter. I promised to load my post today..and, since we're expecting another patch of 'heavy' snow today, I'll have plenty of time to write.  Oh winter..It's Christmas at Hogwarts, I don't know what Harry does with all his time in the nearly deserted castle at Christmas.  I mean, he has an invisibility cloak - why hasn't he discovered more of the castle's secrets for himself? Is playing 'exploding snap' or stuffing his face with Ron in the dining hall really so absorbing? 

(of course, I'm the one who just wasted about 20% of my battery-life looking at Potter memes on Pinterest..most of which are SPOILERS, so I can't share them yet.)

Hipster Potter!
Expecto Patronum is a pretty awesome spell...but let's admit it, an app would make everything easier...unless you don't have a smart phone, then you're doomed. So maybe it's better to focus on hope - as Jenna writes when she reminds us that we need more than memories to fight off the dark things, we need hope, with all it's 'astonishing resilience and strength.' to persist in our hearts, to fight off the terrors and demons that rush upon us. Hope, after all is something stronger than memory..and it wins over evil everytime.

If you'd like to practice your own Patronus spell, you can create a delightfully alcoholic dementor of your own to work with by looshing  a shot of Absinthe with very cold water until it is a cloudy, pearly green; and stirring in a dash (and just a dash will suffice, Longbottom..don't go drowning it!) of vodka. Clear vodka will give you a very manageable dementor, while black vodka (if you can find it - check the very back of the potion's cupboard, Snape's a hoarder) will have you fighting off a Dementor's Kiss. Serve it with a slab of chocolate for quick recovery.

* * * *  * * * * 

Hipster Draco. 'I hated Potter before it was cool.'

 Jenna mentioned the Christmas dinner at Hogwarts and I agree..they're a crazy collection of Holiday stereotypes.. I would love to see what staff meeting look like at the castle. McGonagall  loathes Trelawney, hates Snape, is continually frustrated by Hagrid, worships Dumbledore, and dismisses Flitwick..Snape hates everyone and is too full of resentment to work well with anyone.. It's too bad Rowling never gave us a sneak peek into the staffroom: Snape sipping bad coffee (no cream) and glaring at Lupin - remembering every wrong do to him; Lupin avoiding conversations that might lead to awkward werewolf issues; McGonagall drinking some sort of smokey, peaty tea (with milk and a biscuit), writing lesson plans and ignoring everyone..tension and unspoken arguments everywhere. Dumbledore couldn't have picked a less cohesive staff if he tried.

:P Haha Snape

Friday, February 7, 2014

Harry Potter Book Club: Social Hazards

There is a certain hazard in reaching out to people, particularly to people you care about deeply. In this chapter, Professor Lupin is walking a fine line with Harry. He is, in this book alone, Rowling's best attempt at a father-figure for Harry; and it's clear he steps into the role unwillingly. Maybe he knows that reaching out to Harry will eventually require him to confront all the losses and missed-opportunities in his past. He seems so terribly full of regrets in his conversation with Harry after class, so afraid to care too much; but reluctant as he is, Lupin agrees to help. It's a scene that promises so many good things to come.

**** ****

The Marauder's Map follows quickly after Harry's interview with Lupin, and the contrast is interesting: responsible Harry, seeking knowledge that will protect him and make him stronger against the things haunting his waking life, getting direction from the most fatherly figure in his life right now; while reckless Harry seeks a different sort of knowledge, the sort to distract him from those haunting things, but put him at risk from them as well..and, as for the person or persons responsible for each source of knowledge, SPOILERs are lurking there, so we'll wait. But Jenna has some interesting questions about the map:

                     How did Fred and George ever figure out how to work it? (I like to imagine they wrote things that Filch would have found threatening on the paper and activated the spell that way, later switching to speaking the spell to save time.)  
                   Did Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs use the exact same phrasing? (I doubt it, the map seems very aware...maybe it recognizes kindred spirits in how they attempt to figure out what it does. Maybe they just said 'map' and 'done' - Fred and George like to be showy.)

**** ****

I'm not sure how I feel about the concept of a spell of concealment within a 'single, living soul' it's an interesting concept, but why couldn't James himself have been the 'secret keeper' - then there would have been no trouble. He could reveal it to those he trusted, and he'd be certain not to betray himself or his family? Why not? Anybody know? But I'm with Jenna..I'm determined "not to question the believability of a scene in which the Minister of Magic and Professor McGonagall gossip wiht Hagrid and a barmaid." Didn't the Minister throw Hagrid in prison with no evidence just last year? Sometimes it's good to hold a bit of a grudge, Hagrid. Challenge the Minister to change his ways before you'll be willing to drink and laugh with him at bars!