What Are You Baking?

This is a short one.  Today I’m thankful for choices in food.

Today was another visit to the older gal I help with housekeeping.  She is endlessly entertaining.  As I left she asked if I needed to do anything else.  I replied that I still had to bake.  She is a marvelous baker and so inquired if it was anything special for Christmas.  I told her that I need to bake my tofu.  Her expression was immediate, and very funny.  She looked like she’d swallowed a lemon slice.  She loves stir fried vegetables, and acknowledges the convenience of tofu as a food, but she would rather eat almost anything else.  I feel similarly about mushrooms.  I truly enjoy spending time with her.

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Namárië

This is a little more personal than I’ve gone thus far and a great deal nerdier.  Don’t judge me.  Today I’m thankful for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth legendarium.

I’m a bigger Tolkien nerd than I generally care to admit in person.  I don’t speak Elvish or wear costumes (some lines will never be crossed) but I did attend midnight openings with university friends, and I know why Fëanor’s sons are important.  I think I was ten the first time I read The Hobbit.  Gollum frightened me so thoroughly that I couldn’t reread those parts of the book for several years.  I finished Lord of the Rings (the first time) somewhere around thirteen.  I don’t know why specifically, but his works struck a chord and have been important to me for a long time.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in South Africa and fought in WWI, surviving the Battle of the Somme.  He became a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University.  He was great friends with a number of famous contemporary writers, including C.S. Lewis.  He produced several well-regarded translations of Old English epics.  The man was an enormous lover of languages, which is one of my favorite things about him.

Fangorn Forest is my favorite section of LOTR.  I’ve also read many of the extended works.  The Silmarillion is breathtaking.  Tolkien’s concept of creation as a divine piece of music was deeply appealing to me.  I think I’ve made my love of music transparent.  As a student of geography I find the depth of fantastic history and culture he created awe-inspiring.  He knew where his peoples originated, and how they developed.  This is the story that stuck most with me from the Silmarillion.

Night Lights

Today I’m thankful for twinkle lights.

I don’t decorate for Christmas.  I never have.  I don’t have anywhere to store decorations and everything I put up, I have to take back down.

I changed my mind this year.  I’m honestly not sure why.  Whether because it’s been a shitty year for the world, or I’m done being contrary about this particular thing, or something else entirely I really don’t know.  What I’ve done is minimal and very much in keeping with the rest of my fairly spartan home but it looks nice.  I even bought a timer for the lights so they’ll turn off if I forget to unplug them in the morning.

When I was growing up we’d drive around to see how different neighborhoods decorated.  There was generally an even split between white and multicolor lights.  I’ve always preferred the colourful version, so that’s what I bought for myself.  I hope you enjoy them even if you don’t decorate.

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The Love Of A Good Tofu

This is another one about my grandmother.  Today I’m thankful for tofurkey.

We had a family do recently.  I asked my grandmother if she’d be willing to make a few vegetarian things.  I offered to bring a couple if was easier for her.  (I have to eat carefully because of an autoimmune issue.  I don’t do it to be difficult, and I really try to be flexible-eggs, dairy and honey.)  My people are “meat and taters” folks from way back so I stand out a bit.  She said she’d do just fine.

Wouldn’t you know it, but everything (except the giant ham) was vegan.  My grandmother outdid herself and I was gobsmacked.  There were six of us, including me, and she’d bought a ham that weighed about 5 kilos (roughly 11 pounds).  It was bigger than my head.  She kept teasing my grandfather that it wasn’t properly carved but he pointed out that he was satisfied getting it to the table in one piece.  They found a tofu loaf for me.  It was pretty tasty.  I felt very loved.

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Playing For The B Team

Today I’m thankful for silly cinema.

I’m a fan of “B” movies.  I like goofy 1950s sci fi films, interminable 1980s schlock, and most things in between.  Robot Monster is one of my favorites – the “monster” is a man in a gorilla costume with a diving helmet.  I was only able to get through Manos: Hands Of Fate by watching the Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) version.  I’ve seen a good number of them by watching the MST3K episode, and then seeking out the movie in its own right.

I do have favorites, but I most enjoy the unintentional silliness of the films, usually because the crew involved weren’t entirely sure how to make a movie.  Sometimes it seems they were so excited about being given a budget that they didn’t think anything else through.  I’ve got a good sense of the absurd.  Living in this crazy world makes me appreciate it more by the day.  Videos are property of the respective creators.

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Salty Goodness

Today I’m thankful for olives.

I don’t remember seeing this happen but my sister swears it’s true and I have no reason to doubt her.  Neither of us is fond of olives.  Our mother almost inhales them, she enjoys so much.  While the two of us were growing up she’d always have a jar of them in the refrigerator.  I always gave them a wide berth.  My sister would lick the salt from them and replace the olives in the jar.  She says she thought the salt was the only reason a well-balanced person would purchase olives.  She told this to our mother about a year ago.  Our mother responded that she’d always wondered why her olives were so bland.

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Will Love Be There?

Today I’m thankful for “Shine.”

I don’t remember how old I was the first time I heard the song.  I’ve loved it since.  It’s one of the few songs I recognize immediately, by the bass riff.  The lyrics are challenging but hopeful.  It’s in my vocal sweet spot so I belt along whenever I hear it.  It’s one of my top three favorite songs.  One of the others is “Cliffs Of Dover”, which I’ve posted about previously.  The third is embarrassing and I don’t feel like admitting it just now.

Anyone For A Curry?

Today I’m thankful for Red Dwarf.

I’ve loved this show for years.  It used to come on late Friday nights and I’d watch it with my dad.  The humor is sharp-edged but exceedingly funny.  I think you’re probably meant to most identify with Lister, but I’ve got middling-to-large bits of Kryten and Rimmer in my make up.  Know thyself and all that.

I couldn’t pick a favorite moment but this one is close.  For context, Lister is missing Rimmer after he’s gone to save the universe.  Kryten, aware that Lister is being selective in what he remembers, creates a virtual museum to remind the crew exactly how smeggy Rimmer was.  There’s a song.

Pot De What?

Today I’m thankful for fancy French desserts.

After choir rehearsal most weeks a group goes to a local French restaurant.  I can’t often go as I wake ludicrously early for work, and I just get home too late if I go with them.  This week I was finally able to join them.  The restaurant has an extensive selection of alcohol so most of my fellow singers ask for lager or wine.  I don’t consume alcohol but I don’t want to sit and appear bored.  I’ve learned that desserts are a workable option.  They’re small, relatively inexpensive and can be nursed for as long it takes the rest of our party to finish their wine.

This week the option was chocolate pot de crème.  It was wonderful.  The custardy bit (I’m not fluent in culinary French so am probably not using the correct terms) was dense and just a little bitter to balance out the cream.  It was deliciously rich so the small portion was more than enough.  I enjoyed making my mouth happy while spending time with people I like.  It was a pleasant evening.

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A Stein Of Awesome

Today I’m thankful for Edith Stein.

I’ve mentioned that I’m not religious.  I am culturally Anglican (the musical church, bar none) but that’s really all.  Why then, did I choose a saint for this day?  I could make a long list of reasons but I’ll stick with the two that speak to me.  First, Edith Stein was a bad ass.  Second, her writings make me examine my own life and try to make it a better one.

The short version is that Edith was born into a Polish Jewish family.  She studied philosophy, became an atheist, converted to Roman Catholicism, was denied an academic job because of her Jewish heritage under Nazi laws, and finally became a cloistered Carmelite nun.  She and her sister died at Auschwitz in 1942.  She was only 50 when she was murdered but did more with her time than some people do with 80 years.  I’m aware that the conversion narrative can be problematic – I’m more interested in her as a person.  I am not making any religious statements.

She was a bad ass on a couple of levels.  She studied, and was successful in, philosophy at a time when women were still fighting simply to be admitted as full university students.  She specialized in phenomenology.  She butted heads with Martin Heidegger, who later joined the Nazi party.  She wasn’t a feminist, being more of a complementarian in the Catholic tradition, but she wrote extensively about the need of women for equality in education.

Her major works deal with human empathy.  I don’t think anyone can deny that we could all be more empathetic.  Her writing gives practical advice about being more patient and understanding in one’s own life.  I have a short temper on the best of days.  Remembering that everyone has a story, and trying to get outside of my head, help me rein it in.  I have Edith Stein to thank for that perspective.

Here’s another source with some more information.  I once got her confused with Gertrude Stein.  That hasn’t happened again.

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See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons