Friday, September 26, 2014

Away Down to Lamorna


If there's something worth listening to, that something would have to be folk music. Folk music is just wonderful at telling stories and portraying emotions. But you know what takes the cake? British folk music (because a British accent makes everything better, and also because British folk ran over into most folk music of the English language. You really think we came up with She's Like the Swallow by our lonesome? Obs they were British Newfoundlanders. Scratch that, all Newfoundlanders used to be British.), more particularly West Country folk music.
First of all, in Devonshire they've got the best accents. It's a verry rownd sound from a verry rownd contry full of sheep and coows and hilllls and applles. A better example being in this song:

                       

Or in War Horse where, "We're all Devon boys." Except, of course, for Hiddles and Ben C.

          

To the point. Inspired by this information of the awesome Devon accent, I picked up a little booklet called Favourite Devonshire Recipes, wherein the first recipe is for Devon Apple Cake.

Devon Apple Cake


Ingredients

2 cups self-rising flour (it says that one ought to use one cup of white flour and one cup of whole-wheat flour, but, poor me, I only had white. Oh, trial!)
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of mixed spice**
1 cup caster sugar (hadn't any of this, either, and used grainy brown, which is far less delicate)
1 cup of butter
2 large apples that are good for cooking (haven't the foggiest what the name of the ones I used is; they were brought over by the Matushka of my mum's church, who didn't say. They were delicious.), peeled, cored, and diced 
1 medium egg

You Will Need

Parchment or wax paper
8-inch round cake pan
Pastry blender

Set the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease and line your cake pan. Mix together all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and rub in (cut in) the butter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Stir in the diced apples and the egg, and mix well. Pour the mixture into the tin. Bake for 30-40 minutes (on a side note, I baked it for 30 and the edges were slightly burnt, but my oven is rather finicky- just keep an eye on it), until risen, firm, and golden in colour (it does become more firm as it cools, so it shouldn't be a problem if it's a bit squishy when it first comes out of the oven). It is meant to be served warm with clotted cream, though vanilla ice-cream might actually be better. It's so rich that you really only need a small sliver mashed in with the ice-cream. I drizzled some of the leftover butterscotch syrup from the butterbeer  on top.

**I had never before heard of 'mixed spice', and assume that it must be a British thing. A quick internet search revealed that it is a blend of 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of allspice, 1 tablespoon of nutmeg, 2 teaspoons of mace, 1 teaspoon of cloves, 1 teaspoon of coriander, and 1 teaspoon of ginger. Pumpkin-pie spice is similar and could probably substitute.


So, that's it. Carbs, calories, incredibly rich- what is there not to like?

Happy autumn!! 

Grace

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Catholic Feminism 101: Safe From What? (the Great Deception of Contraception, Part II)

I am about to go against everything my culture has ever tried to teach me. But here goes.
'Safe sex' is a lie.
There is no such thing. As aforementioned, contraception fails, and often, and people do end up pregnant or with a sexually transmitted infection, after having made a decision that they thought would have absolutely no long-term consequences. Jason Evert tells of a man who was promiscuous before marrying. He had contracted HPV without knowing it, and gave it to his wife. His unborn baby daughter contracted it from the mother in the womb, and developed genital warts on the inside of her throat. Now the couple had to be tested every year, as well as the little girl having to have the warts burned off of her throat regularly, as there is no cure. But even if one's meaningless hookup leaves both parties without a baby or a disease, it still isn't safe. 
It is not safe from slurs, or the ruination of a reputation. Walk into any public high-school, and you're sure to hear about such-and-such a girl being a, "slut", "whore", "hooker", or, "floozy". No, it is not right to make such comments about anyone, and we never should. But this person could have avoided the nasty gossip by simply not sleeping around. She wouldn't have been the victim of vicious she-wasps, and would have a reputation that she would not be ashamed of.
It is not safe from drama. You know what would not be a fun way for a teenage girl to spend her free Saturday morning? Crying, because the boy she thought she had gotten the interest of walked out without so much as a goodbye, much less a proclamation of affection or a definition of their relationship. Yet, being able to have the girl without feeling responsible for what happens afterward means that he is entitled by our contraceptive culture to walk out of her life after their fling, because the girl was never really anything to him. He never had a reason to stop and think about who she was, and she merely became a tool to use for his own pleasure.



It is not safe from bonding. No matter how much time is spent the morning-after-the-night-before, explaining about how that slight union of mind and body meant absolutely nothing, and how, even though you two were passionately kissing and 'expressing yourselves' in several other ways, you're still just friends and have no romantic feelings for one another WHATSOEVER... your brain thinks otherwise. When sexually aroused, the brain releases different neurochemicals, one of which is oxytocin. Oxytocin, though released more in the female brain than it is in the male brain, goes both ways, and physically and emotionally bonds the two participants. While the male brain may produce less of this hormone, it is the male brain that, after being sexually active, releases a second hormone that makes the lad feel responsible for his actions (if it also makes him feel guilty, that's probably because he won't feel responsible for his actions without it): Oh, is she pregnant? Am I going to get a disease? What if her parents find out? Am I ready to be a father? 
However, I realize that the people using contraception are not all unmarried or promiscuous. But... the lack of safety still doesn't end.
It is not safe from stress, fear, and worry. People seem to be under the impression that once they're using contraception, everything will be just fine and dandy, and all the worries and stress about the possibility of becoming parents in the near future will evaporate... except that doesn't happen. Presumably, with the impressive rates of birth control failure, most users of contraception will still feel some residue of worry or fear. This actually makes the sexual aspect of romantic attachment less enjoyable for women, as the more a woman's worried amygdala is active, the less she can enjoy sexual experiences. How worried might a woman become if she realizes the possibility of contraception failing, yet is in an arrangement where 'safety' is her duty? Remind me how pro-woman this is...?


It is not safe from the many unpleasant side-effects. But we'll get to that in the third installment...

Love,
Grace

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Catholic Feminism 101: Unmatched Lists (the Great Deception of Contraception, Part I)

Good day, m'lovelies! I hope you've all been well of late.
So we've previously established that there is good reason for an all-male priesthood. Obviously, the next base to cover on the Church's cruel oppression of the fair sex is the question of contraception. Because, when the Church isn't dropping baby girls off at convents to grow into neurotic, repressed virgins, they have to make life harder for the married ones by telling them to crank out as many kiddos as possible until their health is utterly destroyed and their Christmas photos look like they were dug up from the archives of nineteenth-century polygamists... right?
Ha. Hahaha. No. Let's take a closer look at the question of the Great Contraception Deception and find out who really cares about the woman.
Can I point out something? Okay, here it is: fertility is not a disease. The cultures of Ye Olden Days seemed to realize this, despite the fact that they also had methods of birth control (on a side note, here's a history of birth control if you were curious). The Celtic wedding colour was red to symbolize fertility. When an acquaintance of mine married, her old-fashioned Chinese mother-in-law gave her a 'fertility egg' to put in their house and hopefully give them more children. Most old superstitions include some plant or action or word that will grant the believer a baby. Now, I definitely am not suggesting that we go hang hawthorn branches over our doors so that pregnancy will automatically occur on the eve of a full moon, while the woodland creatures gather outside a la The Lion King, but I do suggest that we hearken to the underlying message of our forebears: that fertility is not, as modern society would like us to believe, some inconvenient sickness to cure with sterilizations and patches and pills, but something valuable; and that marriage, more especially the sexual aspect, naturally leads to children. In fact, the root of the word 'matrimony', the Latin 'matrimonium', comes from 'matron' or 'mother'. So there you have it- marriage means the making of a mother.
One of the main problems of artificial contraception is that it treats fertility, and usually the woman's fertility in particular, like a problem. Do you know what's a problem? When we detach a portion of a person from the rest of them. Reproductive organs are just as much a part of a person as their long legs or their sharp wit or their athletic prowess or their mad chess skills. People would be rightfully outraged if a man asked his girlfriend to play dumb so that he could be pleasured by dominating their relationship, yet nobody bats an eye when girls everywhere try to shut off their unique ability to co-create another human being, because their partners, while all too ready to take their bodies, time, and energy, are evidently unprepared to take responsibility for their own actions. Newsflash: sex naturally results in another human being, so if you aren't fine with the idea of finding out that you're going to be a parent next month, don't have sex. Why? Because contraception often fails. Jennifer Fulwiler has this to say about the Great Contraception Deception:
Every society must create two critical moral lists: conditions under which it's acceptable to have sex, and conditions under which it's acceptable to have a baby. And in almost every culture from the beginning of time, the two lists were identical. The details of what rules the lists contained may have varies according to social customs, but the one thing almost every civilization had in common was that its two lists matched. When contraception became widely used, it caused an unprecedented upheaval in which, for one of the first times in human history, the lists no longer matched. Women ... had effectively been told: "Having a baby right now would ruin your life? Go ahead and participate in the act that creates babies anyway." 
She goes on to say that each of her friends who had ended up in abortion clinics had been using contraception when they conceived. According the Guttmacher Institute, more than half of the women who had abortions in the early 2000s had been using contraception at the time of conception, and also estimated that 'a woman using birth-control with a 1% risk of failure over a ten-year period has a 70% chance of experiencing an unexpected pregnancy'.  Barrier methods also do nothing whatsoever to protect a person from certain sexually-transmitted diseases, namely Human Papillomavirus (for which there is no cure), which are transmitted merely through skin-to-skin contact. The largest deception of the contraceptive culture is that contraception is actually reliable, which, as has just been pointed out, is a lie. People advocating for contraception- doctors, nurses, magazines, etcetera- often recommend that, in addition to hormonal birth control, a barrier method is used at the same time. 'cause, you know, each is completely reliable and makes sexual activity 'safe'. But safe from what?

I need a glass of water, and this is to be continued.

Love,
Grace




Sunday, September 21, 2014

Conversion Story III: The Weirdos in the Church

*This post sounds very complaining, but I didn't mean it that way. 

Riverdance Church (yes, I realize that isn't the most polite renaming I could have done, but it's pretty close to the real name- literally- and I'm sure that if the administrators had thought of a service involving traditional Irish dance, they would've been totally in favour) was a megachurch attended by a great number of people from our new public school (when I say 'public' I mean that we went to a non-private Christian school). My parents that it wouldn't be healthy for their children to miss any more fellowship with other Christians, even though they, personally, strongly disliked Riverdance. My mother, raised strict-and-straight-laced-high-brow-tightly-wound Baptist thought it was too liberal, and so worked most Sundays rather than going, so it was my father that took us most weeks.
It was apparent from the first that this was a completely different proposition from what we were used to. For one, this church was enormous, and completely lacking in stained glass, vestments, or incense (we also never had Communion in all the years we attended- which were few, but still. Was it a once-a-decade thing? Maybe only at weddings and funerals?). 
The children also appeared to have been raised differently, much like my new elementary classmates, which was soon made apparent to myself and my older brother, Petrovich. We belonged to a family of six kids, were low-income, and did things like paint walls with dandelions and drink from the garden hose. It also transpired that my appetite was rather larger than the other girls'- or the boys', for that matter. In the third grade, it became something of a carnival attraction to scoot your little plastic chair over and watch Grace eat her lunch, followed by, "Wow, she eats so fast". Naturally, I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me because I ate more and faster than the others, so I stopped bringing my lunch to school, and merely ate more food when I got home, which wasn't the most brilliant idea I ever had. It was then that it really began to sink in that we did not fit into the cookie-cutter family mold of Riverdance and the school (which will henceforth be referred to as CMS for brevity and protection's sake- I sure hope that isn't the abbreviation of a rare disease; if it is, my sincere apologies). From my speed-eating trauma onward, it became more and more obvious to me that we were weirding everybody out. What I had thought was normal behavior wasn't actually acceptable behavior, and what I had believed happened in every home was actually what people called 'unstable' and 'neglectful' and 'abusive'. Thankfully, I had very close friends whom I loved, so getting through school was easier than getting through church.
Church was confusing. Where was the reverence? Where was the tradition? Some of the things we were taught in Sunday school didn't make much sense at all to me. Would God really have a computer? If we were supposed to read our Bibles everyday, wouldn't it make sense to actually hear the Bible at church? I wasn't convinced. 
On top of this, we were expected to be extroverts. We had to participate in numerous group discussions in Sunday school- meaning we all had to talk about our private lives- and were made to feel guilty or abnormal for not sharing; actually going into deep subjects, or pursuing a further knowledge of any given spiritual topic, was not encouraged; we were also not told about advancing in holiness, the focus being more on hopefully avoiding breaking the Ten Commandments while swaying meaningfully to catchy music. Emotion was the guiding factor, and how unfeeling it was to not cry or be in ecstasies! Having a few close friends as opposed to myriads of less-close ones, or studying on one's own, was practically unheard of. At CMS, quiet-time was actually a punishment, as was having individual desks in rows rather than pods of desks facing each other. 
It was this feeling of nonacceptance, of being the weird one, because I was quiet and didn't swallow everything the Sunday school director fed me, that I felt like a bad Christian. I wasn't comfortable crying- I didn't see much to cry about, frankly. Did that mean I wasn't as good a Christian as the next person? I liked having my own desk, so obviously I was a bad student, antisocial, and too shy for life, which would greatly impair my future (or so I was told). I went out of my way to participate in class discussion, raising my hand for almost every non-mathematical question asked, and talking incessantly to escape being branded as shy and weak. As the years went by, I not only became more introverted, but my conviction that I could not be a good Christian while being me deepened. Pretending to be emotional when I wasn't was terribly exhausting, but even more was the less-intense version of the Prosperity Gospel taught in school and church. I wasn't happy all the time. I was depressed. My family members were depressed. Therefore, we were failing as Christians, but it was all good at the most basic level because we were 'saved'; not by virtue of Baptism, striving for holiness, or even Faith, but because I signed a small slip of paper saying that Jesus was in my heart. 
Yup, I was in a fine state of theological confusion. So I did what I did best: ignored my nagging terror of going to Hell, the things going on at my home that weren't acceptable, and my call to something deeper, because I was sure that I was a bad Christian and beyond rescue from the Slough of Despond. 

So, we stopped going to Riverdance, beginning our second period of churchlessness. At which point will theological stability finally be found? And was this a commercial for Susan Cain? Stay tuned for when it gets really complicated ("Perfect, yeah, thank you, 'cause I'm weirded out already") ...

In Christ,

Grace


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Love Moves Slow

You've drawn so close
that it's hard to see You.
And You speak so softly
that it's hard to hear You. 

And I guess that's what I get
for inviting You in, because
You took me at my word...
and now I know:

Faith is not a fire,
as much as it's a glow.
A quiet, lovely burning
underneath the snow.
And it's not too much;
it's just enough to get me home,
'cause Love moves slow.
Love moves slow. 

You run so deep 
that it's hard to miss You,

and You come so near

that it's hard to feel You.


Oh, and I guess that's how it is

when I let you move,

because you take me at my word...

Oh, and now I know:



That Faith is not a fire,
as much as it's a glow.
A steady, humble lamplight
in the window;
and it's not too much,
it's just enough to get me home,
'cause Love moves slow.
Love moves slow.



I heard that Faith moves mountains;
I know it moves my feet
to follow You.
And maybe I'm a mountain,
because it's moving me
to follow You.



My Faith is not a fire,
as much as it's a glow.
A little burning ember
in my weary soul.
And it's not too much;
It's just enough to get me home,
because Your Love moves slow-
yeah, Your Love moves slow


So I move slow,
because You move slow;
Love moves slow...

Let's move slow.

-Audrey Assad-


                               

I've been loving this song lately, and I hope that you like it, as well. A beautiful night of Adoration and ice-cream this has been. Now, how are you?

Cheers,

Grace

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lord, I Need You {of porch-step conversion and celestial penguins}

In many Christian circles, there is talk of the 'genuine conversion experience'- that moment, that day, that slice of time that changed your life, and made you decide to convert to Christianity. Never heard of one? Just attend any kind of retreat, conference, or event where testimonies will be shared. In fact, just ask around, because there are 'genuine conversion experiences' in almost every religious family and circle of friends.
I think we all pay attention to, even if we don't necessarily enjoy, drama. Not pre-teen, gloppy-makeup drama, or even how-on-earth-did-this-soap-opera-even-air-the-acting-is-so-bad-I-just-don't-even drama; but a little panache to make life a tad more interesting. One likes finding ice-cream in the back of the freezer that nobody else knows is there. One likes receiving flowers from one's significant others for no particular reason. One likes the answer to, "How did you two meet? What was your relationship like?" to be at least a little exciting ("Confetti-spouting penguins from Heaven did a tap-dance 'round our dinner table on the first date!").
Or something like that (okay, okay, it was a bit much. But, you know, something with at least a module of style.).
In much the same way, conversion stories are much more fascinating if they include the whole nine yards of once-in-a-lifetime experiences that make one's story seem more intense (and by intense, I mean 'credible'). Not that Charismatic Gifts or visions are bad, and a lot of really holy, beautiful people have been gifted with them, which is just fine. But they aren't necessary, or even helpful, to others. God gives us things according to what we need, not what He's already given to other people.
I thought about all of this for the first time on the front porch of my house. I felt the water pooling on the wooden steps, slowly soaking into my slacks and biting my thighs with slippery coldness. Raindrops softly thudded on the thick material of my hoodie, splatting across skin, turning the sand on my rubbers into grimy streaks of mud. In this position, verging on drenched and turning over the events of the day, I tried to block out the world. I closed my eyes, letting raindrops tickle my eyelids, and thought back, trying to pinpoint my 'genuine conversion experience'.
So I started humming, then quietly singing, 'Lord, I Need You' by Matt Maher. And it struck me like a runaway rhinocerous:
This is my genuine conversion experience.
No speaking in tongues. No writhing in ecstasy. Not that those things aren't beautiful ways some people have of meeting with Our Lord, but for me, it was just sitting on the steps in the rain, singing a song, honestly assessing my priorities, the lyrics bringing all of my pride and selfishness into the light. Turning over my life into the hands of Love all over again, with the words, "I need You."
Conversion ain't a one-time thing. Conversion is a daily decision. Conversion is every Examination of Conscience, every Mass, every prayer, every choice. I can't give exact dates for my conversion, I can't describe one exact moment when I decided, because I still have to decide- we all do, every moment of our lives. So, now that I think about it, I have a lot of conversion experiences, one of the most memorable being having to wipe Chrism out of my nostril after it dribbled through my eyebrows and slyly migrated down the bridge of my nose, in that balsam-scented film of oil imparting the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (be honest with me: who else really didn't want to wash their face after Confirmation?)
We don't need one certain experience to validate our beliefs. I'm happy for those who have been given such things, of course, but we, all of us, must be converted each day in our hearts. It could take just a moment, or a routine of prayer, but we can have our 'genuine conversion experiences' every day. We must.
And our Love Story, of Bride and Bridegroom, certainly isn't boring. It's anything but. Even if shockingly devoid of penguins.

Lots of love and prayers,

Grace





Saturday, September 13, 2014

All Hands on Deck, Granger {Butterbeer}

Good day, my dears! Hope life is going well for you!
As a fan of Harry Potter ("You should have said something, we had no idea." "Hang on, I think I remember him saying something about it once-" "Or twice-" "A minute-" "All summer-"), I thought I'd celebrate the coming of delicious autumn by making butterbeer.
Sounds gross, right? Like someone poured some melted margarine into a glass of Guinness, or something equally horrifying. No, no, no; butterbeer is a nonalcoholic drink for kids, presumably somewhat fizzy and butterscotchy-for-the-Scotch (JK Rowling, upon being asked what it ought to taste like, said, "I imagine it to taste a little bit like less sickly butterscotch"). Not to say that there is any scotch in it (on a side note, there should be an alcoholic drink called welsh so that one could use butterwelsh for the same little wordplay... where were we?).
Anyway, almost every recipe I found on the interweb looked entirely disgusting, and on the same level of sickliness as actual butterscotch. I was just about to throw in the Quidditch robe and write Ms Rowling an infuriated letter to ask just why she hadn't included a recipe manual in the back pages of Goblet of Fire, when lo and behold! I found a recipe that actually looked palatable.
This recipe is from Working Class Foodies, and requires more work than the average recipe one can find online ('mix cream-soda with butterscotch syrup'? I hardly think Madame Rosmerta would approve.). The bonus is that it's pretty easy, not very expensive, and is homemade, much like I imagine Madame Rosmerta to favour. Just to warn you, it's extremely rich. As in, the richest thing I've ever drunk. As in, this is like a heart-attack in a cup. However, once a year, a little richness is worth it.



The Three Broomsticks' Butterbeer

Ingredients

3/4 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of water

5 tablespoons of slightly-softened butter
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup of heavy cream
1 liter of seltzer water

You Will Need
a saucepan
a candy thermometer
a spatula
a seltzer-water machine (optional, should you want to go all home-made)

Place the brown sugar and water in your saucepan and melt together over medium-high heat, stirring as it melts (between stirs, put your spatula or spoon into a cup of water so that the sugar doesn't become a sticky crust). When it comes to a boil, stop stirring, and put in your candy thermometer; the desired temperature is 240 degrees Fahrenheit (keep an eye on it- it heats fast, man).
Meanwhile, mix together the butter, lemon juice, salt, and vanilla, breaking up the butter so that it will melt faster. When your brown sugar and water gets to 240 degrees, remove from the heat, and stir in the butter mixture. Then pour in the heavy cream. Stir it all together, and let it cool just a little bit.
Pour two to three tablespoons of the warm syrup into your mug (five points to your House if it happens to be an impressive-looking medievalish pint), and top up with a cup of seltzer water, and give it a little stir (now, the lady from Working Class Foodies adds a shot of bourbon, but I'm not really into alcohol/making it for a bunch of minors/this is supposed to a be a drink that only house-elves can get drunk on).
If you try, you can even get Hermione's foam-moustache from the Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince film.


Which is, at least, classier than Harry's pumpkin-juice faux pas...


Or Ron's awkward tank-top modesty.

Yeah, Ron, your hand-knitted nightshirt custom made by your mother is so revealing.  Get a life.

How have you been celebrating autumn?

Lots of love,
Grace


Previous Rambles