Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gloria in Excelsis!

Who can know what angels think?
        Pure thought.
        Pure obedience.
        Pure delight.
        Pure worship.
We can but touch these for a moment –
        or rather, imagine that we have.

We marvel that God came to us,
        that Jesus was born;
        and marvel it was and is!

They saw their Lord and Creator leave them,
        saw Him go to Earth to become a man,
        a little lower than angels.

What could this mean?

What wondrous Love they saw when
        Love came down at Christmas; and
What could they do but what they did?
        Fill the whole sky – all the Heavens –
        with their song of worship, praise, and wonder.

Monday, December 16, 2013

RIP Peter O'Toole

Actor Peter O'Toole has died at the age of 81 (who would have thought he'd make it that long?).

This means 2014 won't likely be My Favourite Year.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Periphery

That’s where the Inn at Bethlehem really stands.
Rather, that’s where the Innkeeper stands:
     We find him never in the Bible, but
     always in our pageants.
It’s there, with him, that we can stay and watch.
Not quite taking part, but
     unable to leave such a scene – such a tale.
We, like the Innkeeper, watch and wonder:

     Who has come to stay with us?
     How are we to greet Him?

The One who made us now joins us:
He lives with us
     to die for us
     to live in us
     that we might live.

That visitor, that Child, that Savior, that King

Calls us away from the periphery.
Calls us to Himself.
Calls us to be loved, to live, to love.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Clown in Spite of Himself

Oh dear.
We've been going to productions at Wayne State's Hilberry for many years, but this season has been a bit disappointing thus far.
Big Love was a fairly poor update of Aeschylus (The Suppliant Women). Parts were OK, but in general it stood as evidence of why one ought simply to perform the classics rather than try to "fix" them.
Ah, but it seems quite good in light of the clownish disaster of the "translation" of Moliere's A Doctor in Spite of Himself.
Good grief. Moliere wasn't a clown. Frankly, his comedies are right there with Shakespeare's. No one would ever have thought that after seeing this production.
Here's hoping some of the plays yet to come will redeem the season.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

It Was Quite Appropriate for Hallowe'en

I hadn't really thought of that when I made the purchase, but thinking back, I probably should have done.

At any rate, Jim Beam Devil's Cut is crazy delicious. Smooth, flavourful, and powerful.

Highly recommended to any of appropriate age and inclination.

Please enjoy it responsibly - don't add anything. Good bourbon is meant to be taken neat.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Carnage du Jour - 23 October 2013

Leg of Lamb.
No, not the elf from Lord of the Rings, that's Legolas. Legolamb was his doppelganger in Bored of the Rings. Sorry for the digression. (OK, not really.)

Anyway, we have this wonderful old vertical rotisserie which was rescued from the 60s or so, and it's just the right size for a boneless lamb roast ... or a whole chicken ... or a pork loin roast ... or lots of other stuff.

So, the text came from Heidi - what seasonings would you use on that lamb roast?
I replied with cumin, white pepper, and savory (the salt was understood, don't you know).

Well, I got home earlier than anticipated, and got to do the job myself. Heidi did mention that she was surprised I didn't say herbes de provence, and I toyed with the idea of switching, but decided to go with my gut, as it were, and use the stuff from my text.

Good grief but it was good.

The ~2.5lb roast cooked in about 40 minutes, and we finished up the accompaniments as it rested - a lovely gratin of broccoli and cauliflower (with bacon), and some egg noodles with mushrooms.

At any rate, we each ate more than was right, but it couldn't be helped. As I cut the last bits of leftover meat into the last bit of leftover pasta, I handed Christian a bit of the crust (despite his protestations), and he headed off to bed where he planned to "cry myself to sleep from happiness."

Give that blend a try. Delicious is only the beginning of it all.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Guinness Red Harvest Stout

Yes, Guinness Red Harvest Stout.

Drink it. It's spectacularly delicious.

Enough said.

Go buy some and drink it.

Hurry up - I'm serious.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Carnage du Jour - 20 August 2013

Smoker bags are wonderful things. If one doesn't have a smoker, whether an outdoor model or a stove/oven type (and I do not), one can still do a fine job of smoking smaller items in the oven with these little gems.

It really came down to what to smoke that day, and - in the end - a pork tenderloin won out. I have to say I'm quite happy that it did.

I cleaned the silver skin off the tenderloin, then added a bit of a rub of white pepper, beau monde, and cumin all around. The meat was popped in the bag along with a nice selection of fresh herbs - rosemary, thyme, and sage - and then the bag was sealed and popped into the preheated oven (about 475F as I recall).

After about 25 minutes, the bag came out, the meat was tested for doneness (it was), and the sides finished up - egg noodles with a creme fraiche and parmesan sauce, and lima beans with butter.

All in all, it was a delicious meal. The meat had just the right amount of smoke to it, and was as tender and juicy as ever a pork tenderloin has been.

Try it, you'll like it. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Where Were You Ten Years Ago?

If you're anywhere near me, you were probably in the dark.

Yep. Ten years ago today was that spectacular blackout across vast tracts of Eastern North America. (Thanks, Ohio.)

I actually have vaguely fond memories of using a bunch of food from the refrigerator on the grill, along with breaking out the camping equipment and the corded telephones.
Yes - we actually have some phones that work from the power in the phone line alone; no need to plug those guys in just to connect with someone else.

It feels a bit odd to be nostalgic about a power outage, but it was an almost-fun time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Next Time You're in Fairbanks

be sure to visit the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

We had a wonderful time - actually times - there.
  • Once we visited the Museum of the North. This is an excellent museum of Natural History, culture, and art all rolled into one. Extremely well done and highly recommended.
  • Next we visited the experimental farm and botanical gardens. What a cool place! Who knew that by being clever about how to irrigate and warm the soil, Alaskans can grow all kinds of crops - including giant cabbages weighing hundreds of pounds, and still worth eating?!
  • Finally we visited the LARS - the Large Animal Research Station - to see their herds of caribou, reindeer, and muskox. Again, fascinating stuff that you won't see anywhere else as far as I know.
 Alaska is an amazing state with beautiful scenery, friendly people, great parks and museums (musea?), and excellent beer. I believe we'll make the trip up there again one day.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Everyone Loves a Mystery

(at least I'm hoping a fair number of people do!)

So ...
what do the following have in common?
Joseph of Arimathea, Perceval, Holger Dansk, Harald Bluetooth, the Ardennes forest, the Varangian Guard, the Battle of Hastings, Leifr Ericksson, dog sleds, Louis Riel, Montreal and Winnipeg, and Jerry Lombard.

I'll take out a bit of the mystery by telling you something that ties together these people, places, things, and events. They were all involved in the moving and protection of the Holy Grail and the Spear of Longinus.

Ah, but the mystery remains - how were they involved in that epic task? (and what about those pesky Templars that H2 is always on about?)
Those questions - and many more! - are answered in A Rune With A View, a novel set in the here and now, but spanning centuries.
Go ahead and read it; I dare you!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Coinage du Jour - 05 August 13

pregurgitate (v)

The act of swallowing something before one is actually prepared to swallow.

"You ever had a hard candy in your mouth, and you accidentally swallowed it before it was really small enough? Yep, that's pregurgitation, and it can hurt."

that is all

Friday, August 02, 2013

Carnage du Jour - 01 August 13 (A Taste of Alaska)

Yes, a taste of Alaska. After all, we've been home so long that it was definitely time to remind ourselves just how good the food was there.

Well well well, no halibut, eh? I suppose a nice bit of wild-caught sockeye salmon will have to do. And quite nicely it did!

With fish that fresh and flavourful, there's really not much reason to season much, so all it got was a bit of salt and freshly-ground pepper along with a nice chop of lemon thyme from the driveway.
Into the hot skillet to sear, then back on its skin and then covered with a bit of vermouth (bianco) to give it a little more herbaceous moistness.

Oh dear, it was quite wonderful, along with the roasted poblano mac and cheese and a salad of fresh greens and such.

Quite a nice reminder of Alaska, but now I have to find a source for halibut.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Suggested Reading List - Round One

I know, this took far too long, and it's not even as complete as promised. I will endeavour to put some context around each of these books in the coming days, but at the very least I owed it to my readers to get something other than a recipe up here. (Still, go back and get that swordfish recipe - it really was that delicious!)

At any rate, here is the initial batch of books for your Summer Reading consideration:
That's it for now, but I really do intend to get back here and put some commentary around these books.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Carnage du Jour - 27 June 2013

I blame the Olive Garden commercial - or perhaps rather I ought to give it some credit.

Let me explain.
We were doing some research on YouTube (hey, I'm not kidding here) when an Olive Garden commercial played, showing me this wonderful dish of shrimp and asparagus.
I said to Patrick, "Man, I hope I have some shrimp at home; that looks really good. At least I know I have some asparagus."

Well, I didn't have any shrimp, but I did have a nice swordfish steak waiting to be cooked. Oh, and I did have the asparagus, so we're well on the way.

But how to cook the swordfish?
How about a blast from the past, adapted to a different protein? Swordfish Liègeois!

This is based on a recipe from the 60 Minute Gourmet cookbook that I've had for nearly thirty years now. Originally a pork chop dish with a nice smear on top made of egg yolk, Dijon mustard, and shredded cheese, it would seem a natural for even another white meat. And so it was.

Good grief this was delicious.
In my grill pan I got nice marks (at 85 degrees apart or so) on each side, after brushing the fish with a bit of oil and sprinkling on a few poppy seeds.
As the second side's second marks were being made, I smeared on my mixture of an egg yolk, a couple tablespoons of Dijon, a teaspoon or so of white wine vinegar, some summer savory, and a few tablespoons of shredded Asiago cheese.
Then under the broiler it went until it got a beautiful brown crust across most of it.

While that was happening, I had simply reheated some leftover asparagus from a couple nights before, and made a big of pasta that got sauced with some lemon, some diced tomatoes with olive oil and garlic, and a bit of blue cheese dressing for creaminess and even more tang.

Again, this was a delicious repast, and I both blame and thank the Olive Garden for how much we ended up eating.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

RIP Slim Whitman

It's hard to believe, but if it weren't for the wonders of recorded sound, we'd be sitting ducks for a Martian invasion.
Yes, Slim Whitman, he of "Rosemarie" fame, has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Despite the mockery of comments such as "he's very popular in Europe," Slim Whitman actually had a few big hits Stateside, and his unique style will be missed.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Reading Really Is Fundamental

Yes, I know I neglected to capitalize the U and the N, but that's because I really want to make the point that it's more than fun, it really is fundamental to education and thinking in general.

I received this email in the last few days from the Trinity Forum on the subject, and it really does capture a lot of my thinking on the subject.

Sure, I'm hoping you all read my blog posts, but I'd much rather you read my books, or even some real classics. Go grab a book that's long, and that will make you work at it a bit. See if you can stretch your attention span (even better, stretch your concentration span!) to what they were pre-Sesame Street.

Need some suggestions? Watch this space in the next few days; I'll be compiling my suggested reading lists from past posts, and I'll put them here, along with some comments as to why they might deserve your time and attention.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Classic Post Reposted: How to Cook Bratwurst

(This post is a repeat from May 13, 2011. It has proved to be the most popular single post ever on this blog, and based on my experience, it has every right to be.)

As promised, I'm going to expose the secrets to perfect brats. First, though, let me take you, if I may, on a journey - a journey back to how I first learned the basics of this highly-favoured endeavour.

Perhaps you already know that my wife and her family hail originally from Wisconsin. Moving from Sheboygan, Wisconsin - sausage capital of the US - to the Detroit area meant some significant lifestyle changes, not least of which was the basic lack of what they had come to know and love as bratwurst. What to do?
Well, my ever-resourceful then-future father-in-law found a way to have real Sheboygan brats flown into Detroit, and massive quantities were received each year to the delight of all and sundry.

When the time came for me to ask him for his daughter's hand, I had already been introduced to the glories of properly-prepared bratwurst. He and I sat down in the living room, where I told him that I had an important question for him. "I was wondering," I asked, "where you get the brats?" The cool thing is, he told me the whole story about getting them flown in via a perhaps-then-illegal interstate meat transaction. With that out of the way, I told him that I wanted to marry his daughter, and he averred that he thought that was a good idea.

Sadly, the Sheboygan Sausage Company of Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin is no more, but the recipe was (supposedly) purchased by the Johnsonville company, and that is now the brat of choice.
(An interesting side note here: we did find what we considered to be vastly superior brats on a trip through Sheboygan at the Miesfeld's Triangle Market - several times State Champions, in fact - but the cost of shipping so far outweighed the cost of the sausage that it will remain a "when we pass through we're buying a bunch" kind of thing. But I digress.)
It was at a family reunion here in town that I learned at the elbow of my father-in-law just how it was done. (Note the past tense there, it actually gets better!) The brats must be boiled a bit in a mix of beer and water before going on the grill. This lets them release some of their fat before hitting the fire, the which can be an exciting event.
A squirt bottle of water was the tool of the day for keeping down the flare-ups that did arise, although the beer held in the other hand would do quite nicely as well. Care should be taken to avoid stirring up too many ashes - they can stick to the brats and make for a grittier-than-desirable experience (and yes, that does mean that charcoal is the preferred heat source).
There you have the basics of brat grilling. Condiments and bunnage are best left to the individual's taste, but mustard, onions, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut make up my starting point.

Now to reveal the secret to my enhanced bratwurst cooking process.
Into the pot of beer and water (I generally use Molson Canadian) I add an onion cut into wedges, and a healthy dose of nutmeg. These additions add just the right notes to the already-delicious flavour of the brats, and the kitchen smells glorious all the while too.

Now please, go and enjoy your bratwurst, but enjoy them responsibly.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Catching up with the times

I just thought I'd join the parade before it passes me by, and move into the era of smartphones and qr codes.


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

RIP Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen, the man who made skeletons move and fight against Jason, trying to prevent his taking of the golden fleece, has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Here's a rather nice tribute, along with a link to that spectacular fight scene:

In spite of the fact that Argos suck, both the movie and those skeletons were amazing!

His artistry was an inspiration to many other filmmakers, and he will be missed.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Summer is nearly upon us

That means it's nearly Summer reading time, so why not take a quick tour of my Amazon page?

Charlie van Becelaere's Amazon Author Page

There are delightful books there for your consideration, and who knows? perhaps you'll do a bit more shopping on Amazon once you're there. I know it's a terrible temptation for me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Carnage du Jour - 27 Apr 2013

Another beautiful day in the neighbourhood, so back to the grill, eh?

We had a nice porterhouse steak waiting for the flames, but what should accompany it?
Well, there were a couple sweet potatoes in the cellar, and a nice head of radicchio in the fridge, so out they came.

While the fire got ready for cooking, I peeled the sweet potatoes gave them a bit of a head start in the microwave. They were halved lengthwise to present a nice surface for some flame-induced caramelization. Oh, fear not, I didn't leave them on their own in this endeavour - I created a nice maple chipotle butter as a glaze.
As to the radicchio, I simply halved the head and let it drink in a bit of nice Italian dressing as they waited their turn on the fire.

Everything actually finished at the same time (thanks to my microwave head-start trick), and one of nicest comments I can imagine was Heidi's "I can't decide which of the three I like the best."
In fact, I found myself in much the same quandary - and if I'm going to be in a quandary, that's one of the nicest ones I can imagine.

Yes, maple chipotle butter: highly recommended.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What to Read Next - 25 April 2013

Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany

It's been a long time since I had read this book, and the last time I didn't actually make it all the way through it.
I almost didn't make it through this time, but I really don't like giving up, so I pressed on, and I'm pretty sure that I'm glad I did.

Delany is never a quick, breezy kind of read, and Dhalgren is about as dense as anything of his that I've read (I'll leave the Tales of Neveryon aside - that's been reviewed separately below.). When I hit the part at the end with multiple streams of narrative on the page, I wondered how long I could keep at it, but it did settle down to a readable amount.

Anyway, I really hadn't realized just how much this book had influenced my writing in A Rune With A View (2012, Grand Teuton Press). Much of the mysterious aspect of  how Jerry doesn't really know what's going on around him - while his companions seem to have a bit more of a clue - is at least atmospherically related to the way Kid drifts around Bellona in Dhalgren.

Still, unlike Delany, at least I let everyone in on what had been going on by the time the book ended; and the climactic scene in my book owes much more to Charles Williams than to Delany. In fact, it was that scene, and its very conscious debt to Williams, that was the whole point of writing the rest of the book.

But, back to Dhalgren:
I'm not sure I can recommend the book to other readers (there are simply too many bizarre and quite disturbing scenes and actions in there), but if you've read others of his books, but not this one, then you really ought to add it to your reading list.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Can anyone explain to me

why the Federal government is involved in the M1 Rail project?

Here's a 3.3 mile loop of streetcar rail along Woodward that doesn't even cross a city's boundaries, let alone any State borders.

Why does the federal government have anything to do with a 3 mile bit of rail that goes from one part of town to another and back?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Carnage du Jour - 17 April 2013

It was inevitable, really. The main question is why it took so long for this to happen.


Let me back up and bring you in closer to the beginning.
I am, as most regular readers here would know, a fan of the meatloaf.
In fact, I consider myself a veritable meatloaf maestro, what with all the varieties and styles that I've made over the years.
Still, every now and again, a new meatloaf comes into being that is simply what always should have been.
A few examples:
  • the bacon-cheddar meatloaf
  • the mashed-potato-frosted two-layer meatloaf
  • the spinach and mashed potato jelly-roll style meatloaf
The list is nearly endless, and yet, a new meatloaf - a true Detroit classic in the making - was ushered into this world on the 17th: the Coney Island Meatloaf.

How it came to me was fairly simple. I was casting about for meatloaf ingredients when I noticed a can of chili in the pantry. "Oh," thought I, "I should get some hot dogs when I go to the market so we can have some coneys." In that moment I could imagine a cartoon light bulb standing over my head as I realised: "I can put chili and hot dogs inside my meatloaf!"

The loaf itself was a fairly standard model; I simply split the raw mixture into two parts, hollowing out the bottom half and loading in a couple dogs and chili, then covering the whole with the rest of the meat. Pinching it together to avoid leakage, I tossed it into the oven for its 350F ride.

Tasty? You bet. Delicious doesn't even begin to describe.

Highly recommended.

Carnage du Jour - 05 April 2013

At Last!
The weather had decided that it was time for me to break out the Weber grill. I hesitated not one bit, because this also meant I could try my new chimney-type charcoal lighter!

I grabbed some nice multi-grain buns and got the other ingredients out of the refrigerator.
For the burgers I mixed 2 pounds of ground chuck, a few tablespoons of extra hot horseradish, and a teaspoon or so of sesame oil.
Before making up the patties, and while the fire got started, I let the mixture sit in the bowl so all those flavours could meld together.

mm mm good. No, that's not just for soup anymore.

As to the chimney-type charcoal starter: well, now that I know how it works, it's going to be great.
I was waiting for the flames to die down before dumping out the flaming charcoal - just as I would have waited for the flames to die down a bit before putting the meat on the grill.
It turns out that the flames are pretty much the indicator that it's time to dump it and let the fire settle in the grill.
A lesson learned.

Friday, April 12, 2013

R.I.P. Jonathan Winters

One of the funniest men of all time has shuffled off this mortal coil.

Jonathan Winters, premiere improv artist and all-around comedian, has passed on at age 87.
He and his humor will be greatly missed.

Monday, April 08, 2013

R.I.P. Margaret Thatcher

She was a principled leader at the right time in Britain.

Perhaps some will realise what they've abandoned, now that she's gone.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Carnage du Jour - 20 March 2013

Oh, please don't leave, I was talking about the spice mixture, not you! You know that lovely Jamaican stuff with some heat in it, right?

Anyway, we had a beautiful piece of salmon just begging for the Caribbean treatment, so who was I to deny it?
I took a few tablespoons of jerk seasoning, made a paste with a tablespoon or so of canola oil, and rubbed it all over the salmon, letting it sit a bit to get the flavour really packed in there.
A quick sear on that spiced side first, then a flip to skin-side down and the pan hit the preheated oven.

Ah, but what to have with it? Why, coconut rice, of course.
I had a bottle of coconut extract in the pantry, and a jar of a great rice mixture, so that was what we did. The Royal Blend rice mixture (white, brown, red, and wild rices) is a quick-cooking product, so into the 2C of water I added a heaping 1/4 t of coconut extract and about a T of butter along with 1C of rice. Once it hit the boil, it simmered - loosely covered - until done. That's about 5 minutes at a guess.
I did add an extra 1/4 t of coconut extract and a scant 1/4 t of vanilla to the rice as it finished - there just wasn't quite enough of the coconut scent for my liking.
I added a pile of blanched peas and some diced cocktail onions to the rice as it finished as well. After all, one can't simply have protein and starch, right?

At any rate, the rice was delicious (it wanted a bit of acid, so a squeeze of lime juice is highly recommended), and the salmon was excellent as well.

It was like eating in Kingston, mon! (OK, I don't really know if it was like Kingston, Jamaica. The only Kingston I recall visiting is in Ontario. It's a very nice place, but I doubt that coconut rice and jerk salmon are high on the list of the local cuisine.)

Enjoy! (we did)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Carnage du Jour - 10 March 2013

What could be better on a sunny Sunday morning that a big pot of chili? OK, maybe you shouldn't answer that.

At any rate, that's what was being served after church - a cadre of crock pots lined up in the great hall for the fellowship hour sent great gusts of savoury scents congregation-ward.

So, what was in my pot?
As usual, I had a blend of beef and lamb, a variety of beans (sorry, Texas, that's the way I roll), sautéed onions and celery, a couple cans of spiced tomatoes, a can of green chiles, a bottle of Guinness, and a variety of spices to be named later.

Here is a brief synopsis of the preparation:
  • 1# of stewing beef was diced and browned - ah, but before hitting the oil, the meat was coated in a mixture of cornmeal and cocoa powder, and it smelled wonderful as it cooked.
  • 1# of ground lamb was browned in the now-flavoured oil, along with the diced onions and celery.
  • Into the mix went a can of diced tomatoes with chipotle, and another can with green chiles, one can each of black beans, kidney beans, and black-eyed peas, and a can of green chiles. Oh, and a bottle of Guinness stout.
  • Somewhere around a teaspoon of chipotle powder went in, along with a couple tablespoons of freshly roasted garlic, and another teaspoon of some home-grown chile powder (cayennes and other peppers, dried and powdered in our very own blender!).
  • The final touches were some a bit of cider vinegar (it was too dark a flavour, it wanted a bit of brightening), a bit of Cholula hot sauce, just because it's delicious, and some cinnamon (probably only half a teaspoon, but I wasn't really measuring).
The whole thing worked for well over 12 hours from stove to crock pot, and the result was delicious. I'm sorry there wasn't more left for home use.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

RIP - Stompin Tom Connors

Yes, the singer of that good old hockey game song and the one about tomatoes from Leamington has passed on to the great stage in the sky.

Stompin Tom was one of a kind; he will be missed, but now he's really been everywhere, man.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Carnage du Jour - 04 March 2013

Pork Tenderloin. That's almost enough to make one hungry, isn't it?

Well, even better than just the words was the actual meal.
The tenderloin was seasoned with Beau Monde, White Pepper, and Nutmeg, then seared in a hot roasting pan with a bit of canola oil.
Out came the meat to wait a bit while a head of shredded purple cabbage was sauteed a bit in that now-flavorful oil, then popped into a 375F oven for 15 or 20 minutes.

The cabbage got a good stir, along with the addition of 1/2 C or so of chicken stock, and the meat was placed on top to roast again for another 15 or 20 minutes. (It may have actually taken a bit longer than that, but not a lot, really.)

Once the pork was done, it was time to serve up with a side of some reheated quinoa, chickpeas, and green peas.

A classic combination, made just that much easier by the roasting of the cabbage, rather than having to stand at the stove, stirring it all the time.

Oh, and it was delicious.

Monday, March 04, 2013

For Grandpa

I wrote this poem on the death of my grandpa, Adiel J. van Becelaere (yep, he had a lower case V until some point in school when the nuns made him capitalize it).
I included it in my novel, A Rune With A View, as a poem written by the protagonist, but it was recently used in a memorial service by some of my friends, so I thought I would share it a bit more widely.

For Grandpa

Suddenly we are without you:
Without your life and laughter.
And yet; we are not less,
The world is not less:
Where, then, is the loss?

Deep within us all,
At the core of each of us,
In the hearts of those you love, and who love you,
There is still your laughter, your life, your light:
Where, then, is the loss?

We weep for ourselves,
For our family and friends who feel a loss;
At times we think we weep for you.
But you are with God, with Christ:
Where, then, is the loss?

What is lost has yet to come:
The beauty and the wonder we'll long to share with you,
The children who'll not hear your laugh, not see your light.
But through our lives, our love, and laughter, they'll know yours:
Where, then, is the loss?

We weep at our pain,
At our bewilderment at your death.
And yet with you, for you, we must rejoice!
You have left pain behind, and fear and longing as well.
Where, then, is the loss?

What is lost is the easy affection we thought would never leave.
What is lost is your smiling face each evening, each morning.
What is lost is myriad things we wouldn't believe could go.
But realizing this much, we realize more:
There is no loss - there is only Love.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Ear Worms

I'm not sure why, but the other day I pulled out my CD from the early '80s musical, Pump Boys and Dinettes.

We had seen the touring company (including Tom Chapin!) in Detroit way back then, and really enjoyed the show. Frankly, the original cast recording was a bit of a disappointment, but I think most recordings are, when compared to the live experience.

Anyway, there are some memorable songs, and some not-so-memorable ones in the show, but there are two that are stuck in my head right now; real ear worm material.

The Night Dolly Part Was Almost Mine is a really fun tune, as is Farmer Tan.
OK, really fun tune is the positive part - ear worm is the negative.
I've got to find something else to displace them, now, as they're taking turns running through my head.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Little-known New Orleans Flemish Mardi Gras Traditions

The following is purported to have been translated and excerpted without permission from Flemish Life in the New World, by Anke Vandermeersch  published in Ghent, 1893

Mik van de Koningen

The large Flemish community in New Orleans has a centuries-long tradition at Vette Dinsdag (or Mardi Gras) of which far too few “outsiders” are aware. This tradition, parts of which were copied by the French Acadian refugees (also called Cajuns) when they arrived here in the deep South, is that of the festive Mik van de Koningen, now called in French the Miche des Rois (sometimes altered to Galette des Rois – the King Cake).

At the end of Epiphany, each Flemish household would endeavour to rid itself of all the soon-to-be-outlawed items, such as fat and flesh. Unlike their French neighbours, the Flemish – reputedly a somewhat “thrifty” or “frugal” race – were seldom overstocked in the fat area, but rather in that of meat: hence the Mik van de Koningen, the Loaf of the Kings.

The loaf traditionally consists of a mixture of ground beef, oatmeal, crushed tomatoes, and eggs. Typical additions would include diced onions or other aromatics, salt, pepper, possibly nutmeg, and a sauce known to Latin America as salsa inglesa - the venerable Worcestershire Sauce.

No Flemish Vette Dinsdag celebration is complete without the round loaf, festively decorated in the three colours of the kings – Purple for justice, Gold for power, and Green for faith. Adding even more to the anticipation is the hope each celebrant harbours of finding the tiny, hidden representation of the Christ Child in his or her piece of the loaf. Tradition dictates that the finder of the child, if of suitable and legal age, must host the party the next year, and provide the loaf or the beer – a sometimes difficult choice to make in that zymurgic culture!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What to Read Next - 26 Feb 2013

Doc Sidhe, by Aaron Allston

If' you've followed my posted reading, you'll have noticed that I've read this book several times, and usually rated it a 3.5 - above average, but nothing spectacular.

Why, then, do I keep going back to it when I need another book to read?

Frankly, the story is pretty good, but the writing is what brings me back.Allston manages to make most of the characters pretty real, even the ones who have no business being real at all. Further, the in medias res opening isn't just a toss-away scene to get things going, it's something that actually matters to the plot, and to the protagonist.

I haven't read them, but I've been told that Allston's contributions to the Star Wars universe are top-notch as well. Based on this book, I'm not surprised.

Now I need to find the sequel to Doc Sidhe and see what happens next.

Carnage du Jour - 23 Feb 2013

Chicken breasts. What to do with chicken breasts. Again.

Lemon chicken is pretty much always a winner ... aha! let's grab some artichoke hearts and capers and lemon ... chicken piccata sounds like a plan.

Oh. There are no artichokes. Ah, but there are fire roasted green chilis. Time for a modification.

Into a bit of cornmeal, I added the zest of a lemon and a teaspoon or so of minced garlic. That's going to become a crust, and some diced onion is needed as well.

One side of each breast got smeared with the lemon crusting, and into a pan of fairly hot canola oil they went. Once they were well browned on that side, and the crust wasn't going to stick to the pan, they got flipped, the onions added, and the juice of the zested lemon was squeezed in around the meat. A nice pour of Vermouth Bianco and a lid made for a nice, juicy piece of meat.

While the chicken finished, some chopped spinach was added to leftover rice as the side, and it all came together in a very tasty dish.

Give it a shot - it's not hard, and it's delicious.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion (again)

A new version of my great-great-grandfather's book is now available on Amazon.

An Adventure with Guerrillas is the same third edition text that had been available, but sourced through a new manufacturer, which means we've been able to drop the price.
A lot.
From $9.95 to $5.95.

Now is your chance to read a wonderful memoir of adventure, danger, friendship, and faith from the US Civil war.

Check my author's page on Amazon for this and my other books.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Carnage du Jour - 28 January 2013

Leftover pulled pork (pork shoulder in the crock pot for a full day or more - wow!).
Leftover stock from a batch of Swiss chard and a rib steak.
Royal Rice blend (white, brown, red, and wild rices).
Sautéed celery and crimini mushrooms.

That's the survey of the main ingredients.
The rice was cooked in the stock (1C stock, 2C water to the 1C rice in the microwave - believe me, it's the only way to cook rice).
While the rice cooked, the pork was pulled and chopped a bit, and the celery and mushrooms were sautéed in a bit of olive oil.
The pork was added to the sauté pan for a nice heating, then about 2/3 of the rice went in.

When it was all nicely mixed and melded and all that happy kind of thing, a head of lettuce was grabbed, and a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce lined the bowls.
The rice and pork mixture was spooned atop the rice, and the results were delicious.

Try it, you'll like it.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Etymology du Jour - 21 January 2013

Acoustic (adj.)

A, meaning not or without and
cous, meaning grain (witness couscous, the grain dish)

Thus an a-coustic space is one without grain.
Originally this referred to granaries or barns which had been emptied to make space for barn dances (and hootenannies!).
These impromptu musical venues lent their name over the years to the general idea of spaces for music, and the study of the properties thereof.

Now you know.

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's Time for a Visit to the Commonwealth

... the Commonwealth of Letters, that is.
"What's that?" you ask. Ah, it's the conceit of one incredibly fun novel: Silverlock, by John Myers Myers. (The author so nice, they named him twice?)


This is one of the greatest picaresque novels you'll ever read, bar none.  It's a romp through of the "Commonwealth" - the land where all the great characters of literature live.
The protagonist, A. Clarence Shandon journeys from our own dull world (he has a business degree from the University of Wisconsin, if you can believe it) to Greek myth (Circe) through Teutonic and English legend (Beowulf and Robin Hood) to places I'd rather not mention, so I don't spoil the read for you.  See how many of the folks he encounters you can recognize - this book will send you back to re-reading the classics, or inspire you to read them for the first time.


Really, I mean every word.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Vegage du Jour - 08 January 2013

I know I've posted about roasting asparagus here before, possibly more than once, but this one was worth an extra note.

As always, the roasting takes place in a fairly hot oven (375F this time), but rather than dropping the spears in a baking dish, this time it was in a skillet.

First, I got the skillet - non-stick with no oil or spray or anything - nice and hot.
While it heated, I cleaned and trimmed a small bunch of scallions and dried them with a paper towel.
Directly into the hot skillet went the scallions, being turned now and again to get a nice brown heading to a char on each side.
Once they were nicely coloured, they were moved aside, and the asparagus was added to the pan.
A drizzle of olive oil and a few good-sized pinches of Herbs de Leelanau went on the spears, and then the scallions were draped over them as well.

The skillet went into the oven where everything roasted away until done, and my goodness but it was tasty!

Highly recommended,

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Belgians and Buffaloes

Well, after decades of painstaking research, the mystery of why Belgians are called Buffaloes may have been solved.
It seems that back around the turn of the century (from the 19th to the 20th), Buffalo Bill Cody took his Wild West Show to Belgium (among other European countries), where the people of Ghent took to him in a big way.
The football team there - K.A.A. Gent - took as its nickname the Buffaloes, and their logo is an Indian chief in profile.
It seems that many of the Belgians moving to the Detroit area came from that part of Flanders, and brought their team affiliation with them.
A mystery neatly solved.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Don't miss this book

No, this time I'm not plugging one of my own.
I'm recommending A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller, Jr.

This is one of the most important works of Science Fiction I've ever read.  It's all there: Good, Evil, Art, Faith, Technology, Science, Politics, Life, Death, Redemption.
Don't miss this book; it's simply too good not to be read.

Spanning centuries during which we pass from post-nuclear holocaust Dark Ages through another Renaissance, another "Enlightenment", and eventually to the brink of another nuclear war, this novel examines human history from the viewpoint of a small religious community - and from the general viewpoint of the Church.
As stated above, don't miss this book; it's simply too good not to be read.

Friday, January 04, 2013

This cat can play

If you haven't read A Rune With A View yet (and for what are you waiting?), you probably don't know that Jerry Lombard is quite a fan of Eric Johnson. Well, so am I; so am I.

If you enjoy stunning guitar work, this is your guy - check him out via Pandora, or maybe just drop a few bucks at Amazon and get his CDs or MP3 downloads. You won't regret it.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Roast Doesn't Disappoint

Michael Symon's Roast in Detroit has done it again.

We took Christian - home on leave from the Army in Alaska - for dinner last night, and his experience was the same as ours had been the first time we went there: it was simply the best food any of us had ever had at a restaurant.

Ambience, Service, Food, they've got it all. Oh - the Book Cadillac is a beautiful building too.

Highly recommended to all.