Sixth Anniversary of Pope Francis

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Click to visit an article on Pope Francis’ coat of arms and motto. He kept both coat of arms and motto from his time as Cardinal with the addition of papal symbols. MISERANDO ATQUE ELIGENDO translates to “he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him” from a writing of St. Bede. All Rights Reserved, Vatican and Pope Francis. (c)2019

Jorge Mario Bergolio was chosen as the 266th Pope after Pope Benedict XVI resigned his position of Pope in 2013. Jorge was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1936 to Mario and Maria Bergolio. He had four siblings: two brothers, and two sisters. 
Cardinal Bergolio chose Francis as his papal name after St. Francis of Assisi, indicating his concern for and his commitment to the poor. His focus is towards the poor, and the church meeting its people where they are as well as encouraging mercy by and for Catholics worldwide.

Pope Francis is also a pope of many firsts: he is the first Pope who is a Jesuit; he is the first from the Americas as well as the first from the Southern Hemisphere. He is also the first pope from outside of Europe since the 8th century.

You can find Pope Francis on Twitter and on the Vatican website, where you can read all of his writings (as well as other Popes) and homilies. I’m currently in the middle of reading Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad; an Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness.) The website is a fascinating virtual pilgrimage of its own.

He was inaugurated as Pope in 2013, on March 19. That was nearly exactly one year since I had been visiting and praying at my church.

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Everything is Fodder for Writing

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Including arguing about whether the writiing is relevant to the non-writing and whether the argument about whether the writing is relevant to the non-writing is relevant fodder for a third party’s writing. Or none of those things.. 

This, posted at 6:17pm EST on the 15th of February, 2019 was the tweet heard ’round the world. At least the world of food blogs everywhere. Before historian Kevin M. Kruse tweeted this, innocence had hung over the Twitter world, that global place for the polite exchange of ideas, but after… after, the cacophony that some wanted to laugh at while others were weeping shook even the most innocent of bystanders.

I don’t know who I’m making fun of, although I include myself in that. Never have I felt the both sides of an issue as I did with this tweet and the responses that followed.

Having “enjoyed” Twitter since 2009, I laughed at the original tweet. Not a haha good one laugh, but a what have you done FTLOG laugh. I could see what was next a mile away and it didn’t take long for my foreknowledge to be realized.

I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of it was mostly how fucking dare you?!?!

I saw this storm form quickly as the clouds darkened and the winds gathered. As I said, I can see both sides because I am both sides.

I’m a writer. I want people to read my writing and with most writing, every word has its place, its function. I want it all read.

I also blog about food, share recipes, and post food pics here and on Instagram. It’s one of my, let’s call it niches. 

I also search for recipes online.

There are days, like last week. In the middle of cooking dinner, our oven broke. I needed to finish baking the cornbread. I searched online and when I found a microwave recipe, I skipped over everything to get to the very end of the directions for how long to microwave it. It took a little longer than stated because our microwave is older and smaller than the average microwave available today.

Other times I read the narrative to get clues as to taste and texture; what needs to be followed perfectly; what can be tweaked.

And there are times when I post a recipe that I post a narrative alongside it. Some kind of how I discovered this or my daughter came up with this or some other family story or anecdote that I find relevant.

For Christmas, in fact, I wrote a ten recipe cookbook for my church’s food pantry/Christmas basket program. One of the most often compliments that I’ve received about the booklets was about the accompanying narrative that I included for some of the recipes. These included origins, where some were adapted from, links. Next time, I’ll add photos, but the narrative was received just as well as the recipe itself. In fact, one of the gentlemen who I’ve always thought of as dour, smiled, thanked me, and informed me that he sent copies to his two daughters. This was high praise indeed.

So while it would have been easy to be pulled into a Twitter fight between (favorite) historian and a band of incensed food bloggers, I stayed far away, but still checking in to see how both sides held up and where the argument would end. I mean, it is Twitter after all. I did leave one tweet, and I’m sure that I didn’t help anyone on either side.

Are Libraries Still Essential?

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Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism. – Neil Gaiman


I originally saved the Vox link, thinking that this was a fluff piece; a ridiculous headline that they easily debunked in the article. I hadn’t realized that someone had actually written in favor of getting rid of libraries in favor of Amazon bookstores/coffee shops.

I need to preface this by saying that I happen to love bookstore-slash-coffee shops. Whenever my family goes to Barnes & Noble, I find a comfortable space in the cafe and read or write. I frequently (before Howard Schultz began running for President) went to Starbucks with the specific intention to get something to eat and drink and to write. There is a comic book store that is also a coffee shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that is on my list of places to visit. I love bookstores and coffee shops, together or apart.

However, I don’t confuse them with libraries. Libraries have a whole different feel to them. They also have a different necessity to them. In fact, I’ve just come from my local library. I meet a group of people there once a month for a writing group. We’ve been getting together for about seven years, although they had been meeting prior to my joining them. I woujldn’t have met them if not for the memoir workshop that I began to attend, which not only gave me a wonderful learning environment but was also one of the important things that led me out of the darkness of my depression.

I returned two of my daughter’s books that she had finished reading, and I collected the forms to file my taxes.

In summer, I bring my kids for special programs as well as their summer reading program that includes prizes and a special celebration at the end of the summer. My older son attended a Harry Potter evening in costume and my younger kids met therapy dogs and learned some cooking techniques during two separate events. We’ve attended Olympics activities and Halloween parades. All of these activities were either free or for a nominal activity – one or two dollars.

I almost always see people using the computers, checking their email, searching for jobs, and whatever else they’re doing that they can’t do at home, either because they don’t have access to the internet or because it isn’t safe to (domestic abuse victims and the homeless).

There are several daily newspapers and hundreds of magazine subscriptions.

On my Kindle, I will often have the maximum loan of four library books. I am currently reading Timothy Egan’s The Immortal Irishman. I can hold books and sign up for programs through my Kindle.

Libraries often have local art exhibits, both from local artists working in several different mediums and school kids showing off their artistic talents from art class in school in all grade levels.

I’ve attended concerts and lectures, and will be attending a storytelling event on the first of March.

Last year, one local library had a comic book convention with activities, free items, and displays both to see and/or for sale.

I remember being a kid growing up in NYC and having the bookmobile come. What a special day that always was.

Every community needs a library.

If you don’t believe me, listen to Neil Gaiman; or to librarians.]

What was your favorite thing to do at your local library?

What was your favorite book?​

Susan B. Anthony: Suffrage and Equality, and How Far We Still Need To Go

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​One hundred ninety-nine years ago today, Susan B. Anthony was born into a Quaker family in Adams, Massachusetts. Her activism began early at her family’s hearth as the entire clan was involved in the anti-slavery movement as well as temperance movements all throughout their lives.

Her birth year of 1820 was coincidentally one hundred years before the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was ratified.

In 1868, she, and her longtime close friend and women’s rights collaborator Elizabeth Cady Stanton published a weekly newspaper called The Revolution, focusing on women’s rights and calling for women’s suffrage as well as highlighting other opinion and discussion pieces in relation to suffrage as well as politics and finance. It’s motto was: “Men, their rights and nothing more: women, their rights and nothing less.”

I think we’re seeing a resurgence of this attitude if not the outright message. Coming to a head in 2017 with the #metoo movement, women are finding their voices and speaking out when they feel ignored or condescended to, which happens in all walks of personal and professional life.

When the 15th Amendment was proposed and ratified (giving former male slaves the right to vote), Anthony was firmly against it, feeling that African Americans and women should receive voting rights simultaneously rather than continue to give men, regardless of race more rights than women.

In 1872, she brought her Declaration of Rights for Women to the nation’s centennial in Philadelphia, wanting to share it at the official celebrations. Permission was denied, but Susan B. Anthony, leading a group of five women interrupted the speaker and handed the Declaration to the him. Leaving, she handed out copies to the crowd, and then found a public space nearby and read it to the crowd that had formed around her.

1872 was also the year in which Susan B. Anthony cast her vote. In doing so, she was arrested and brought to trial. Prior to the trial, she went around the county doing speaking engagements. Her speech was titled, “Is it a crime for a US citizen to vote?” At her trial, she was found guilty and ordered to pay a fine. She refused. Instead of the judge holding her in contempt, he declined any further action, and the fine has never been paid.

‘Failure is impossible’ quickly became the watchword for the women’s movement” according to her Wikipedia article. Those three words were taken from comments made by Susan B. Anthony at her eighty-sixth birthday celebration a few weeks before her death:

“There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause — I wish I could name every one — but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!”

She and Stanton were the first to lead the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the organization’s name was changed to the League of Women Voters, still a formidable voice for voting rights.

In addition to her house in Rochester, NY named as an historic landmark and her gravesite visited on many Election Days, most especially in 2016 when Democrat Hillary Clinton ran as the first woman nominated by a major party, she was also commemorated on a US postal stamp in 1936 and is the first woman to have her likeness on a US coin when her image was depicted on the dollar coin, first minted and released in 1979.

Commemorative Stamp 1936, US Postal Service. Public Domain. (c)2019

Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin, 1979. Public Domain. (c)2019

In reading the title of her speech: Is it a crime for a US citizen to vote? it made me realize that as far as we’ve come, we still haven’t come all that far. We saw in 2016, an amount of voter suppression that many didn’t recognize in prior years. Some of it was so obvious as to be racist and sexist that it boggles my mind that it was allowed by officials and ignored by the media. The questions asked of Secretary Clinton, and the ridiculously higher expectations and almost impossible to meet standards expected of her in relation to her male opponents was embarrassing. 

Even more embarrassing is the way the media is currently treating the four women candidates for the Democratic nomination. I hear about Sherrod Brown’s ties to working class families, and reflection on Joe Biden’s status as elder statesman, and they haven’t even decided if they are running for 2020. However, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobucher are being lambasted for listening to rap music, eating fried chicken, mocked for family lore, and treatment of her subordinates instead of where they stand on the issues. Is the idea that Amy Klobucher expects her staff to live up to her expectations more problematic than a President who lies constantly about everything, even the insignificant? Bill Clinton played the saxophone on television, Mitt Romney has a car elevator in one of his houses, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is in jail for sexual misconduct, but no, let’s find out if Amy raises her voice trying to get things done. Journalism is in a tailspin, and I thought we were, if not past this sexism then at least pretending to be fair in public.

Also standing out significantly is the Georgia governor’s race in 2018, the Voter ID laws that disproportionately affected the Native American population in North Dakota, also in 2018, closing polling places, shortening voting times, which thereby increased lines and eliminated the working class who can’t afford to leave work early or go in late. Deciding that polling places didn’t meet accessibility requirements for the general election even though there were no problems during the primaries, and those polling places that didn’t meet the requirements were in primarily African-American districts (in Georgia, where the Secretary of State who is in charge of those things was also running for governor. He won. Big surprise there.) There is still a congressional seat in North Carolina that has not been certified because of blatant fraud.

So, how do we combat this?

Should Election Day be a national holiday so more people can vote without losing time and money from work? Why do certain segments of political partisanship want less people to vote, not more despite their being eligible and wanting to vote?

Should we have a standard set of questions to address to each office-seeker when they’re being introduced as a presidential candidate?

Why do we continue to allow the Senate Majority Leader to lie about what the American people want (as shown in poll after poll), and allow him to not bring bills to the floor that have passed the House?

Why do we allow the White House and the President’s enablers in Congress to block investigations into the Russian interference in the 2016 and 2018 elections? I would hope that no one wants a foreign power controlling our votes and who is elected to our national offices, but it seems that some of those politicians blocking access and investigatory avenues are dominated by their monetary reliance on that same foreign power. This is wrong. When will they come to their senses? When will their patriotism extend to real American sovereignty and equal rights instead of their false flag patriotism?

How do we also encourage voting participation?

Why do some from one side think it should be harder to vote, whether because of economics or transportation or accessibility?

This needs to be addressed before the 2020 election. 2020 will celebrate the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. We should come together for a comprehensive overhaul of the registration and voting process to make it accessible to all eligible voters. If we wait much longer, we won’t have anything worth voting for.

National Tea Month (Jan) – Masala Chai

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​Masala Chai is a black tea brewed with a variety of spices, and varies depending on the person making and drinking the chai. The word chai is simply the Chinese word for tea, although Western tea drinkers will often refer to this drink as Chai Tea or Chai Tea Latte, which is more than a little redundant.

Masala chai is originally from India and its surrounding environs.

There is no standard recipe for masala chai although all have four basic ingredients:

  • milk
  • sugar
  • cardamom
  • ginger

The recipe I used was adapted from this DIY Chai Spice Mix recipe and in addition to milk, sugar, cardamom, and ginger listed above, I also included allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper.

I put all of the fresh, whole spices into a blender and once they were blended and mixed, I added any powdered spices that I had. I followed the ratios of the recipe above.

My brewing recipe was as follows:

2 cups of milk, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the masala chai mix, 3 black tea tea bags (you can also use loose tea, whatever your preference). I set the saucepan to medium and brought it slowly to a boil, stirring occasionally. One word of advice would be to cut off the strings from the tea bag. This may let the tea loose, but I found some bits of string slightly caramelized with the sugar, so I would avoid that next time.

Once the tea was boiling, I poured it into a Pyrex measuring cup and poured it through a tea strainer into a mug. There was a lot of sediment between the spices and the loose tea, but the strainer did its job and it was a delicious, warm cup of spicy tea for a cold, winter morning.

Masala Chai: Top, L-R: 1. Homemade chai spice mixture, 2. Putting all the ingredients in the saucepan on medium, 3. Just after boiling; Bottom, L-R: 4. Pouring into the Pyrex, 5. Pouring through tea strainer into the mug, 6. The final look in the mug. Mmm, delicious. (c)2019


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A second method of brewing would be to make your tea as usual. Steep your tea bag, and add 1/2 tsp (or your preferred amount) of chai masala powder with any sweetener you like (or leave out the sweetener). Stir well and I would still pour through a strainer.

Tea Time Tuesday – Travel Tea Tin

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My travel tea tin with the tea items I travel with. (c)2019

I bring tea (in bags) with me.

Everywhere.

I bring it on retreat (where they have a wide variety of tea to choose from).

I bring it to church breakfasts (where they have tea selections).

I bring it to school functions.

I bring it to use with the McDonald’s hot water in the drive thru.

I bring it when I travel.

I bring it everywhere.

The only place I didn’t bring my travel tea was when my family visited the United Kingdom and Ireland because, well, it’s the UK and Ireland.

In the photo, there are various sugar substitutes. I don’t normally carry those with me, but I’m trying out different ones to see what I like best since being told I need to stop adding sugar (since being diagnosed with diabetes). I haven’t found one I like yet, so I’ve simply cut back on the amount of sugar that I add.

The container I use for my travel tea is a small square https://www.lushusa.com container. My daughter wanted to visit a Lush store, and while we were browsing (great customer service there by the way), I saw this container and immediately knew it would be perfect for my traveling tea.

St. Brigid of Ireland

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St. Brigid in stained glass from the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Macon, Georgia. Image in the public domain. (c)2019

May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell
Bless every fireside every wall and door
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy
Bless every foot that walks its portals through
May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.

St. Brigid’s Cross. My collection. (c)2017-2019