Saturday, December 31, 2011

Celebrate New Year's Eve the Ed Calkins Way

Yesterday's chat with Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara, was brief. While on vacation, he had caught a bad cold and could hardly speak, but he promised a follow-up in a day or two once the vocal pipes were back in shape.

His wife, by contrast, was jovial and laughing, so I've no doubt that, despite the ill health, they will celebrate a hearty New Year's Eve.

Now just what festivities will be part of their evening is anyone's guess, but if you'd like to keep the last day of the year as Ed might, check out the following link:

A blessed new year to you and yours!

Friday, December 30, 2011

"In Memoriam" (Ring out, wild bells) by Alfred Lord Tennyson

"In Memoriam" (Ring out, wild bells)
By Alfred Lord Tennyson (1849)

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

   The flying cloud, the frosty light:

   The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

   The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind

   For those that here we see no more;

   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,

Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,

   And ancient forms of party strife;

   Ring in the nobler modes of life,

With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,

   The faithless coldness of the times;

   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes

But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,

   The civic slander and the spite;

   Ring in the love of truth and right,

Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;

   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

   Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,

   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

   Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Of Diets Most Diabolical," by Sir Frederick Chook

Of Diets Most Diabolical
By Sir Frederick Chook

Sir Frederick Chook is a foppish, transcendentalistic historian and the author of FrillyShirt. He lives variously by his wits, hand to mouth, la vie bohème, and in MELBOURNE with his wife, Lady Tanah Merah. When not reading Milton and eating Stilton, he writes, ponders, models, delves into dusty archives, and gads about town. He has dabbled in student radio and in national politics, and is presently studying the ways of the shirt-sleeved archivist. He is a longhair, aspiring to one day be a greybeard. He has, once or twice, been described as “as mad as a bicycle.” Read his collected works at

For a number of years, I have been a practising vegetarian (a curious expression - a non-practising vegetarian would, I suppose, be one brought up in the faith, but who now only forgoes meat at Easter and Christmas.) Meatless diets have been proscribed throughout history, by different persons and with different reasons. The Shelleys condemned the eating of flesh as causing disease and madness, including the social maladies of crime and tyranny. Many religions advocate against, limit or forbid the consumption of meat, ranging from the absolute reverence of life held by Jains to the pre-Flood vegetarianism described in Genesis. H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, with its description of captured humans used as a sort of cattle by the technocratic Martians, caused some popular revulsion to meat-eating, though the author's intention was more a metaphor for Britain's colonial expansion - but then, the reading public is terribly sensitive about its food. Upton Sinclar had a similar experience when describing the meat industry in The Jungle, I believe.

Compared to these varied schools and creeds, my own motives for vegetarianism are... astonishingly poorly thought out. They are, in part, moral: the receiving end of an industrial process is no place for anything with a brain. They are partly ecological - a perception that an overall reduction in demand for meat would be a good thing for the planet. Partly, it's because I know that without an absolute restriction, I wouldn't have the willpower not to gobble down every deep-fried burger strudle which passed across my plate, particularly given that I wouldn't necessarily know where it had come from. And, of course, some of it is simply a groaningly literal matter of taste. Now, you may have noticed that at least three of these concerns could be allayed by restricting myself to meat which I had secured myself - by hunting, for example, or at a traditional farm. Quite right, which leaves only the personal side of the equation: my sentimental discomfort with feasting on some doe-eyed creature who never meant me a moment's harm.

Obviously, the problem is irrational, but the solution is rationality itself: I should eat only malicious animals! Creatures whose designs against me are even now being spun; who would themselves, given half a chance, serve me up as rissoles. Why, such a diet would not only be perfectly justifiable, but is practically essential for my continued self-preservation! The only trifling objection - scarecely worth mentioning, really - is that it's questionable whether any such animal actually exists. Indeed, the overlap between those species which A: are mentally capable of understanding right and wrong, B: could pose a threat to me, C: are not justly protected against predation, owing to dwindling numbers, habitat, etc., and D: are edible, let alone tasty, is likely incredibly slight. In the face of this, there's only one thing to be done: if no candidate creatures exist, then I shall eat creatures which do not exist. Thus, I outline: the principles of a mythitarian diet!

There is no shortage of mythical beings who bear us ill will; indeed, the very names "ghouls", "goblins" and "bogeymen" are synonymous with, well, ghouls, goblins and bogeymen. Not all of these are edible - banshees, for example, are famously hard to trap and harder still to hold (not least for the municipal noise pollution restrictions.) The stony skin of the troll is impenetrable to mortal cutlery, while tasting the flesh of the wendigo puts the diner at considerable risk of becoming a wendigo, which is why it is rarely seen served in the best restaurants. Despite these drawbacks, fantastical meat is in surprisingly common use; many readers, for instance, will likely have eaten a Cornish pasty made with the traditional filling of diced onion, swedes and spriggan, or even participated in the gathering, plucking and carving of jack-o'-lanterns for Halloween.

Mythmeat has a culture all of its own, which seemed daunting when I first made the transition away from mundane meat. Centaur and gremlin are stock fare, found on every table, but bunyip is emerging as an affordable meat with a range to please the gourmet, comparable to the rise of beef in the American diet in the 20th century. The inner cities have seen something of a fad for corner-stand breaded ogre cutlets, which are easy to eat on the go, but prices are rising as ogre feed (children, mostly) is proving hard to secure in quantity. Now, vampire - vampire is an unusual case. It was never to everyone's taste - no matter how much you cook it, it always comes out rare - but the animal-rights crowd don't like to eat anything which was recently a living, breathing creature, while the fresh-food crowd don't like anything which wasn't. It's not even remotely sustainable, but a boutique industry has sprung up providing vampires which have felt the chill of undeath just long enough to forget their last shreds of humanity, without yet being twisted into something foul and chewy.

Naturally, when discussing moral or political issues, one must cast up the usual caveats: unlike a teacher on exam day, I cannot pretend to have all the right answers, every generation sows the seeds of the next generation's rebellion, and so forth. Perhaps, one day, the image of a bucolic gnomeherd stomping through a field full of scampering gnomes, all waving tiny pitchforks and swearing like sailors, grabbing them up by their little red caps and stuffing them into his sack, will come to be seen as comically backward. We must live in the house of cards we're dealt, to mangle metaphors, and as things stand, the best source of nutrition for many communities - particularly where crops are poor and grazing land scant - is to knock a faerie on the head and get in the icebox before it turns to soot with the dawn. I'm not saying there isn't excess and waste - the number of sky-buffalo killed for their wings alone is an outrage - but the ecological cost is minimal, and the pixie dust produced as waste is easily treated and recycled for use by the medicinal and aeronautical industries.

Well, thank you for hearing out the ramblings of a chap with mermaid stains on his cuffs! Now, if you'll excuse me, my dessert has just disappeared, so I've got to go will it back into existence. I -do- believe in coulis, I -do-, I -do-!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

First Martyr Stephen and Witnessing to the Truth

Children in trouble often hear, "Now tell me the truth!" St. Paul in his letter to the the Philippians encourages believers to dwell on "whatever is true." On the other hand, Michael Caine in the movie The Prestige insists people want to be fooled, and Pontius Pilate asks Jesus, "What is truth?"

And while we, generally, insist we want "just the facts, ma'am," and even in court are exhorted to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," in truth, we often prefer to hear, and tell, a pretty half-lie ('cuz everyone know outright lies are wrong) than to deal with the repercussions of speaking and acting in complete truth, and that's even assuming we've taken the time to seek out only truth.

Of course, some people wield truth as a weapon, ("Hell, yeah! That dress makes you look fat!") while others flee from staring naked stark truth in the eye (perhaps for reasons of guilt, shame, etc.), even though Jesus tells us truth will set us free, since doing so often requires an uncomfortable "manning up" to meet a particular challenge, when a turning of the head or a closing of the eyes would be sooooooo much easier.

This is particularly evident in Bryony, where the Reverend Sandy D. Costa, in her forward, points out that Melissa "cannot look at her nocturnal friends out of her peripheral vision for then she sees them as they truly are," and that she "makes a solemn vow before she looks at John Simons from all angles." Even Henry admits its less riskier to live half a life, even if its beastly and predatory, than to assume the responsibility of being honestly dead.

Today, in the Eastern Christian churches (yesterday in the Western churches) we celebrate the feast day of protomartyr Stephen, one of the original seven deacons of the early church and one who much preferred to be stoned than compromise one word of the truth to which he had been entrusted.

Certainly, his courage at upholding the truth is commendable at worst and inspirational at best, especially during a time when hard news is often watered down and sprinkled with a reporter's opinions, rendering it viritually indistinguishable from a blog, opinion is flaunted as fact, and diversity (merely for diversity's sake and not in any quest for truth) in thinking is extolled.

"Truth, like gold, is to be obtained, not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold." Leo Tolstoy.

May we all be lovers, pursuers, doers, and hearers of truth...and may we all have the courage to remove prejudices from our minds and hearts to be open to truth and all the opportunities it brings.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bryony's 12-25-11 appearance on Radio Chicagoland

Yesterday, I had the honor and privilege of appearing on The Ray Hanania Show, which runs from 8 to 11 a.m. Sunday mornings on 1240 a.m. WSBC.

Ray is a veteran award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter (Daley to Daley 1976-1992), and columnist with Creators Syndicate. His columns address Chicagoland and American politics, and also Middle East politics. His shows focus on listener call-ins and discussions on major news topics, events, and issues.

Click on the link to hear the entire show. "Bryony" was scheduled at 9:30.

12-25-11 Radio Chicagoland

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Celebrating a Victorian Christmas in an Unusual Irish Setting

The idea set forth in these two links is so ingenious I won't expound much on them. I will say, however, that transforming a location historic for suffering into one that charms and educates the people of Christmas present is an interesting use of the present space.

What's your take?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Vampire Stories and More

Here is a site run by an Oregan community college teacher who offers two "Vampires in Literature" Courses.

On this site, there are several Christmas vampire stories, as well as classic literature, poetry, essays, cartoons, and links to festivals, clothing, etc.

If you're into vampires, then you'll want to check this out.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Good Samaritan Revisited: A Recipe for Building Fellowship in the World via Facebook

Last week, a most pressing engagement was unfortunately rescheduled in favor of a more pressing need: our water heater, just several months past its warranty expiration, had ceased functioning.

Now, I often unintentionally land in hot water, but when it’s unexpectedly dried up at its source with no tangible resources for quick replacement (especially when the dishes are stacked to the ceiling and a line is forming at the bathroom door for evening showers), it’s a miserable situation. So, fully trusting in God for wisdom and provision, I prayed and posted a double entendre on Facebook to amuse my family.

Someone I know only on Facebook responded with a silly comment, to which I added a one-sentence summary of our situation. She immediately messaged me and asked for a longer synopsis. I provided a brief sketch of our bleak financial situation and thanked her for the concern. In desperate moments, compassionate words are truly soothing. Rebekah proceeded to boil water for dishes and hair washings.

"I feel like Little House on the Prairie,” she said.

By next morning, this Facebook angel had located the lowest price for water heaters and solicited a family member to install it after he clocked out of work for the evening; would after six o’clock be convenient for us? When I offered to thank her in person, with a copy of Bryony in-hand, she postponed the suggestion  because she was fighting a virus.

As I emptied my scant savings, the bank teller, who knows of our situation, became a little chocked-up. I’m humming to the rendition of Winter Wonderland piping through the lobby’s speakers.

"It’s okay,” I told her. “It’s Christmas.”

The kind fellow who performed the installation, who had family at home waiting for him and who had to be on his feet again before dawn, stayed until ten o’clock, long enough to guarantee the glue had dried, nothing leaked, and that the new unit was properly heating water. Timothy connected well with him, so to speak, as he played both host and assistant while I hid in the attic and pounded out assignments.

With all the news stories about the dangers of the internet, online predators, identity robbers, and the like, as well the usual moaning of how texting and email have destroyed authentic communication, it’s heartening and humbling to know that social networking is just that, a means of connecting in a very rich and rewarding way with the other humans on this planet.

In this case, two people went out of their way to help me, at personal discomfort to themselves, not because they knew me or liked me, but because their characters are solid gold. I, for one, am humbled and grateful for their kindness and generosity, which made my world, not just my water, a little warmer.

Monday, December 19, 2011

One Weekend, Three Book Signings

On Friday, I dropped Rebekah and Daniel off at the warehouse to clean and await the arrival of inserts, while I had lunch with the "real" Julie Drake.

Julie is one Melissa's (Bryony's main character) Munsonville friends, but is also the name of a very nice local woman whom I met by phone quite by accident while working on a story. This is what happened.

One of the features I write for the Herald News is called An Extraordinary Life. These are memorial pieces on recently deceased, local people who lived interesting an/or inspiring lives. While interviewing one woman about her mother, the woman asked if I would also call her sister. I did and requested the phone number and name, which was "Julie Drake." Of course, I told her about Bryony.

We've kept in touch via email and phone over the last two years it took to bring Bryony to print, so it was wonderful to finally meet this very nice lady in person, who treated me to lunch, brought me a box of Fannie May pixies, and entertained me with verbal snapshots of her family while I signed books. We're hoping to release Visage late next year, so Julie's already suggesting we have a standard, traditional, pre-Christmas date. She's on!

On Saturday, I heard interesting speakers at the HS Healing and Wellness Center's second paranormal cafe and sold a few books. One man who bought a copy of Bryony is part of a large vampire role-laying community and, through his independent film studio, created a three-minute film based on his character for next month's international convention of this vampire community. He sent me the unreleased trailer last night. His work shows promise! I will definitely share that trailer once he officially uploads it onto YouTube.

Sunday at Aunt Nina's Sweets N Treats in Crest Hill was much slower, but I made some nice connections, so it really was a good day. One woman from the local writer's guild was soooo happy to finally have Bryony, she kept hugging it. The venue itself was particulary interesting. It's a 7500 square foot candy store with every type of candy you can buy, along with a full bakery, party room, and some of the best coffee you can buy.

Both places will have copies of Bryony for purchase. You may check them out at and

And, of course, Bryony is available on the website:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kline Creek Farm: Experience an 1890's Christmas

I had a blog post ready to go today, a modern rendition of the Good Samaritan parable, but while flipping through the Chicago Tribune this morning and waiting for my coffee to reheat, I stumbled upon this article and found it too good to pass up.

If you're within easy access of West Chicago this Christmas season, check out Kline Creek Farm and step back into Christmas as Bryony herself might have experienced it. From the traditional cookies baked there (you can take the recipe home with you) to the trees' decor (authentic, except for the candles), along with a few surprises (such as table tree fabricated from goose feathers), the tour seems to live up to its promise. I'm seriously considering tightening my already screaming tight wallet and schedule to indulge in nostaligic revelry, if only for an afternoon.

One point the article made I found interesting was the notion that people in the late 1890's were moaning over Christmas' commercialism. I wonder what Victorians would think if they popped into December 2011? Read the full story below.

Kline Creek Farm: Enjoy Christmases past — without Scrooge's guilt,0,6393796.story

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Return of Family Chores

Up until a couple of years ago, when I began hiring other people to roll my newspapers, everyone in my household rose at midnight, ate breakfast, packed a lunch, and then departed to the distribution center.

When you have six kids, it's a simple, although highly organized process, to get fifteen hundred newspapers out the door seven days (nights?) a week. So even as my children grew up, moved away, married, etc., younger ones readily filled the gaps, that is, until Timothy began college, and the work crew began to thin out.

For a long time, midnight at my house resembled the early morning rush at others. Dishes clattered; the vacuum hummed; I was shouting to make sure everyone had been through the bathroom so I could clean it; lunch coolers and coffee thermoses were packed; and litter boxes were scooped. If it was winter, the van was warming up.

Not only did we have to get out the door when the rest of the world had comforters pulled up tp their noses, we had to complete all household chores first, since writing deadlines and homeschool assignments would be awaiting our return. Besides, few things are more demoralizing than braving the elements to throw hundreds of newspapers only to arrive home to a dirty, messy house.

As schedules shifted, I became the only one still tumbling out of bed at midnight. Even though Ron now brought my bagged papers home, I kept the routine, just in case someone called off, and I'd have to come in.

Besides, with the world asleep, the witching hour was the perfect writing time, since I wasn't fielding phone calls and emails (although my publicist and I had some incredibly productive three-thirty a.m. phone chats). I did the chores alone, reveling in the blissful quiet and the jotting down of mental notes for whatever story was on the monitor at the time.

Lately though, that routine has once again begun to shift. The last paper cut (Get it? Paper cut? Knee slap and chuckle) forever altered our paper carrier ways. We no longer could afford to put two large vans on the road, and the few newspapers Ron still delivers hardly feels worth his effort, not compared to the money it takes to run them. Still, even Ron is rarely up at midnight, although I still enjoy many hours of silent darkness before the rest of the world greets the new day.

Between working as a banquet cook and negotiating a full schedule as a culinary arts student, Timothy is coming home later and later, and Rebekah will get a taste of this schedule for the Spring 2012 semester when she embarks upon a four-hour cookie class. The candlelight breakfasts and noon hour Bible studies over farm-style dinners have morphed into Bible study over lighter candelight dinners, with chores following.

Now I would rather do housework at the top of my day, even if it is two a.m., than at the end of it, when I'm uncaffeinated and dragging, yet the advantages of tackling it at this hour exceed my natural inclination to ignore the clutter and proceed to shower and bed, and this is why.

It gives us an opportunity, as new ones outside our home increasingly beckon, to move together as a unit for a common purpose, and to delight in each other's company and the conversation that naturally ensues when hands and feet are occupied. Yes, we have our fair share (and then some) of grumbling and arguing (which can be accompanied by loud and strong language), for our days our long, and we are weary.

But there's something invigorating with moving about each other's orbit for an hour or so, before we again pull back into our individual rooms for the night. We're able to greet the new day with the house in order, no undone work staring you in the face, and knowing it was the combined efforts of the people that dwell together under one roof that accomplished it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Candy Canes and Irish Vampires

Yes, Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara, dressed in an Old World Father Christmasy hat and carrying a bucket of candy canes, was already making his jolly rounds when I, huge mug of coffee in MY hand, arrived at the distribution center at one o'clock this morning.

It's been over a year since Ed last worked at this particular location and just several months since I've stopped delivering newspapers, yet the return was a joyful one for both, especially me, since I'm still in withdrawel. I have these moments, suppressed, of course, where I want to ride around at night--windows down and radio cranked up--throwing things (ideally newspapers) out of windows.

Ed and rival supervisor Dan resumed their plans to take over certain countries with insulting limericks, and one female carrier entered to the loud cry from Ed she (mistakenly) assumed she'd never hear again: "All, hail, Audrey the Magnificent!"

Of course, Ed showed the proper respect by virtue of his former nickname for me (Newspaper Goddess), by genuflecting, head bowed, to offer me a candy, the very pose assumed every day when he brought me my route book.

Now, having immortalized him and all, my nickname is Mistress of Immortality or MOM. Yes, I know it doesn't match, but Ed is horribly dyslexic, so it works for him. FYI: Any blog postings he sends are thoroughly edited by me, keeping in mind my copyediting skills are less than stellar.

Saturdays are a notoriously slow day. Carriers, the ones that still run on Saturdays, arrive late and leave late. Ed still had to drive an hour back to HIS distribution center to run a route. Still, I sold, and he signed, a few books. To catch the attention of sleepy carriers pushing grocery carts full of inserts back to their tables, Ed would stop them and point to his picture on page one hundred and ninety-three.

Periodically, he would stop, grinning, and excitedly say, "We're really doing this. Remember when we only talked about signing books at the center?" Before I could do more than smile and nod, Ed was showing a carrier where his name appeared in Bryony, then add the exhortation to look for the parade in his honor some thousand years hence.

I chatted to a couple of carriers who were a little envious--in a good way--of my having completed an entire book. One, a musician, is writing his autobiography, but got stuck one hundred and fifty-five pages into it. The other, a former Chicago teachers, has an idea for a screen play, but can't get the words out.

Both marveled how I, with homeschooled kids, other writing assignments, and throwing papers at night, managed to write an entire book. I told them my lap goes with me everywhere I go.

"Oh, so you wrote it all the computer?"

Well, yes, eventually. I also wrote bursts of inspiration on backs of old envelopes, margins of books, and myriads of tiny notebooks, really any form of paper within reach. I also had to utilize random bits of time, which is the way I really dislike to write, but when it's the only available time...well, that's when you have to stay true to your goals.

Ed then told me a story about how is granddaughter is beginning to not believe he is REALLY Santa Claus and wondering if his credibility will be shot if he tells her Santa is also a vampire.

"Especially the first Irish vampire," Ed said.

One of the supervisors, who is generally quiet and whom I did not expect to wander near our make-shift work station book "store," spent some time flipping through the Bryony, noting the research, and asking me how long it took me to compose it.

Even better, he made a couple allusions to the distribution center being "one of the seven levels of hell." Later, he referenced something back to "the library of Alexandria." Now my curious was piqued, and I hope an opportunity for conversation with him the next time I bring my teens down to stuff inserts. There's so much more to people than meets the eye, right?

And yes, he bought a book.

Ed took five back with him for family Christmas gifts this weekend and is coming back for twenty more next week. These will be a huge surprise, he said. Although he's told everyone in his large extended family that he is in a book, when you identify yourself as a ruthless dictator and create Celtic myths about yourself, your family tends to dismiss your other claims.

I jubilantly waved a book before him. "And now you have the proof."

He laughed. "Yes, now I have the proof!"

At three-thirty, Ed packed it up, worried about making HIS deadline, then paused.

"Can I hug you?" he asked.

LOL! Why, of course! Merry Christmas, O Ye Steward of Tara!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hymn to St. Nicholas, the lyrics

On Tuesday, the feast day of St. Nicholas, which our family has always celebrated with great joy, I posted the hymn Eastern Orthodox Christians and Byzantine Catholics sing in honor of this patron saint of children.

Today, especially if the tune is still lingering in your head, and you want to, perhaps listen again and sing along, I have posted the lyrics. For more things all St. Nicholas, visit

Hymn to St. Nicholas

O who loves Ni-cho-las the Saintly,
O who loves Nio-cho-las the Saintly.
Him will Nicholas receive,
and give help ini time of need.
Ni-cho-las, Ni-cho-las.

O who dwells in God's holy mansions;
Is our help on the land and oceans.
He will guard us from all ills,
keep us pure and free from sins,
Ni-cho-las, Ni-cho-las.

Ni-cho-las, tearfully we sinners,
Beseech you fervently in our prayers.
Help us in our tribulations,
comfort ev'ry Christian nation.
Ni-cho-las, Ni-cho-las.

Holy Saint, listen to our prayers.
Let not life lead us to despair;
All our efforts aren't in vain,
singing praises to your name;
Ni-cho-las, Ni-cho-las.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mary Todd Lincoln Cake

This is the cake First Lady Mary Todd (rumor has it) prepared for Abraham Lincoln while they were courting and when they lived in the White House.

Mary Todd Lincoln Cake:

1 cup almonds
1 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-1/3 cups milk
6 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease and flour two 9 inch round layer cake pans or one Bundt cake pan. Use a food processor to grind the almonds into a course flour. Cream the butter and sugar to mix them until fluffy. Sift the flour and baking powder to mix them together, then fold the dry flour mix into the creamed butter and sugar, alternating with milk, until well blended. Stir in the almond powder and mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add a pinch of salt for easier stiffening. Add vanilla extract. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the pan(s) and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for at least 15 minutes before flipping the cake out out of the pan, and allow it to completely cool before serving. If a layer cake was made, use a jam for filling. Sift confectioners? sugar on top for decoration.

Serves about 12 slices.

Friday, December 2, 2011

: "The Bride of Corinth" by: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"The Bride of Corinth," written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1797, is a difficult, but thoroughly enjoyable read about how a young man, uninformed that his betrothed is dead, receives a visit from the one he was to marry, except she is now a vampire.

I suggest reading the summary first ( and then the poem.

The Bride of Corinth

Once a stranger youth to Corinth came,
Who in Athens lived, but hoped that he
From a certain townsman there might claim,
As his father's friend, kind courtesy.

Son and daughter, they
Had been wont to say
Should thereafter bride and bridegroom be.
But can he that boon so highly prized,
Save tis dearly bought, now hope to get?
They are Christians and have been baptized,
He and all of his are heathens yet.

For a newborn creed,
Like some loathsome weed,
Love and truth to root out oft will threat.
Father, daughter, all had gone to rest,
And the mother only watches late;
She receives with courtesy the guest,
And conducts him to the room of state.

Wine and food are brought,
Ere by him besought;
Bidding him good night, she leaves him straight.
But he feels no relish now, in truth,
For the dainties so profusely spread;
Meat and drink forgets the wearied youth,
And, still dress'd, he lays him on the bed.

Scarce are closed his eyes,
When a form in-hies
Through the open door with silent tread.
By his glimmering lamp discerns he now
How, in veil and garment white array'd,
With a black and gold band round her brow,
Glides into the room a bashful maid.

But she, at his sight,
Lifts her hand so white,
And appears as though full sore afraid.
"Am I," cries she, "such a stranger here,
That the guest's approach they could not name?
Ah, they keep me in my cloister drear,
Well nigh feel I vanquish'd by my shame.

On thy soft couch now
Slumber calmly thou!
I'll return as swiftly as I came."
"Stay, thou fairest maiden!" cries the boy,
Starting from his couch with eager haste:
"Here are Ceres', Bacchus' gifts of joy;
Amor bringest thou, with beauty grac'd!

Thou art pale with fear!
Loved one let us here
Prove the raptures the Immortals taste."
"Draw not nigh, O Youth! afar remain!
Rapture now can never smile on me;
For the fatal step, alas! is ta'en,
Through my mother's sick-bed phantasy.

Cured, she made this oath:
'Youth and nature both
Shall henceforth to Heav'n devoted be.'
"From the house, so silent now, are driven
All the gods who reign'd supreme of yore;
One Invisible now rules in heaven,
On the cross a Saviour they adore.

Victims slay they here,
Neither lamb nor steer,
But the altars reek with human gore."
And he lists, and ev'ry word he weighs,
While his eager soul drinks in each sound:
"Can it be that now before my gaze
Stands my loved one on this silent ground?

Pledge to me thy troth!
Through our father's oath:
With Heav'ns blessing will our love be crown'd."
"Kindly youth, I never can be thine!
'Tis my sister they intend for thee.
When I in the silent cloister pine,
Ah, within her arms remember me!

Thee alone I love,
While love's pangs I prove;
Soon the earth will veil my misery."
"No! for by this glowing flame I swear,
Hymen hath himself propitious shown:
Let us to my fathers house repair,
And thoult find that joy is not yet flown,

Sweetest, here then stay,
And without delay
Hold we now our wedding feast alone!"
Then exchange they tokens of their truth;
She gives him a golden chain to wear,
And a silver chalice would the youth
Give her in return of beauty rare.

"That is not for me;
Yet I beg of thee,
One lock only give me of thy hair."
Now the ghostly hour of midnight knell'd,
And she seem'd right joyous at the sign;
To her pallid lips the cup she held,
But she drank of nought but blood-red wine.

For to taste the bread
There before them spread,
Nought he spoke could make the maid incline.
To the youth the goblet then she brought,--
He too quaff'd with eager joy the bowl.
Love to crown the silent feast he sought,
Ah! full love-sick was the stripling's soul.

From his prayer she shrinks,
Till at length he sinks
On the bed and weeps without control.
And she comes, and lays her near the boy:
"How I grieve to see thee sorrowing so!
If thou think'st to clasp my form with joy,
Thou must learn this secret sad to know;

Yes! the maid, whom thou
Call'st thy loved one now,
Is as cold as ice, though white as snow."
Then he clasps her madly in his arm,
While love's youthful might pervades his frame:
"Thou might'st hope, when with me, to grow warm,
E'en if from the grave thy spirit came!

Breath for breath, and kiss!
Overflow of bliss!
Dost not thou, like me, feel passion's flame?"
Love still closer rivets now their lips,
Tears they mingle with their rapture blest,
From his mouth the flame she wildly sips,
Each is with the other's thought possess'd.

His hot ardour's flood
Warms her chilly blood,
But no heart is beating in her breast.
In her care to see that nought went wrong,
Now the mother happen'd to draw near;
At the door long hearkens she, full long,
Wond'ring at the sounds that greet her ear.

Tones of joy and sadness,
And love's blissful madness,
As of bride and bridegroom they appear,
From the door she will not now remove
'Till she gains full certainty of this;
And with anger hears she vows of love,
Soft caressing words of mutual bliss.

"Hush! the cock's loud strain!
But thoult come again,
When the night returns!"--then kiss on kiss.
Then her wrath the mother cannot hold,
But unfastens straight the lock with ease
"In this house are girls become so bold,
As to seek e'en strangers' lusts to please?"

By her lamp's clear glow
Looks she in,--and oh!
Sight of horror!--'tis her child she sees.
Fain the youth would, in his first alarm,
With the veil that o'er her had been spread,
With the carpet, shield his love from harm;
But she casts them from her, void of dread,

And with spirit's strength,
In its spectre length,
Lifts her figure slowly from the bed.
"Mother! mother!"--Thus her wan lips say:
"May not I one night of rapture share?
From the warm couch am I chased away?
Do I waken only to despair?

It contents not thee
To have driven me
An untimely shroud of death to wear?
"But from out my coffin's prison-bounds
By a wond'rous fate I'm forced to rove,
While the blessings and the chaunting sounds
That your priests delight in, useless prove.

Water, salt, are vain
Fervent youth to chain,
Ah, e'en Earth can never cool down love!
"When that infant vow of love was spoken,
Venus' radiant temple smiled on both.
Mother! thou that promise since hast broken,
Fetter'd by a strange, deceitful oath.

Gods, though, hearken ne'er,
Should a mother swear
To deny her daughter's plighted troth.
From my grave to wander I am forc'd,
Still to seek The Good's long-sever'd link,
Still to love the bridegroom I have lost,
And the life-blood of his heart to drink;

When his race is run,
I must hasten on,
And the young must 'neath my vengeance sink,
"Beauteous youth! no longer mayst thou live;
Here must shrivel up thy form so fair;
Did not I to thee a token give,
Taking in return this lock of hair?

View it to thy sorrow!
Grey thoult be to-morrow,
Only to grow brown again when there.
"Mother, to this final prayer give ear!
Let a funeral pile be straightway dress'd;
Open then my cell so sad and drear,
That the flames may give the lovers rest!

When ascends the fire
From the glowing pyre,
To the gods of old we'll hasten, blest."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Savoy Biscuit

Tomorrow, my book designer Serena Diosa, author of Tinkey's Goldfish, and I are meeting to complete the formatting of the Bryony cookbook, Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony." Tonight, a new member of the Bryony team is giving a hard copy of that book a final check for copy and formatting errors.

Today, however, I found an interesting recipe, Savoy Biscuit, in the 1860's cookbook,
Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy.
This particular cookbook, reprinted by the University of Michigan University Library, has been a marvelous source of Victorian recipes for the Bryony cookbook, although Savoy Biscuit was not one I included.

If anyone prepares this at home, let me know how it turns out. I don't like eggs, so I won't be trying this one. I'm thinking you certainly bake them with all those eggs, but the recipes doesn't suggest a temperature or time.

Savoy Biscuit

6 eggs
1 pound sugar
1 lemon
3/4 pound flour

Beat eggs into sugar until white. Grate the outside of the lemon into it, mix in flour, and drop them onto buttered paper, a spoonful at a time.