Saturday, March 28, 2015

Besitos de naranja

Hello, everyone.

It's spring Bake Sale time again (also known as Fish Fry Season) and so I was fooling around with ideas for the bake sale.

I thought about Miracle Whip cake--but it is somewhat difficult to manage when it's a carry-in item. (Gooey cake, as it's always pretty moist for me, and the favored topping is whipped cream. Which also is kind of iffy for transport in my car.)

I thought about oatmeal cookies--but I did that last week, and wanted to do something different.

In this mood, I was walking through my local WalMart and saw the Easter baking display. Eureka! Various colors of "velvet cake" mixes! (Sorry, the mix with a pink layer and a yellow layer isn't online.) I bought the box with both pink and yellow inside--two packets--and made a marble velvet cake with it. It needed something, though. I knew there would be cream cheese frosting on top--almost can't lose with that--but I though we'd need more "stuff" for the table.

My eye fell on a container of 6 egg whites in the fridge. Aha. Kisses! But I didn't want to repeat the experiment of using the spring colored chocolate chips. Too many people thought the yellow ones looked like corn. So I ground up some pecans. And pulled the bag of unsweetened coconut out of the pantry.

In the end it looked like this:
Spring marble velvet cake and Besitas de naranja

Besitas with the flavoring: Licor de Naranja
I used: 8 egg whites, about 7/8 cup of white sugar, about a quarter teaspoon--scant--of cream of tartar to help the meringue, 2 1/2 tablespoons of the orange liqueur, half a cup of finely chopped pecans, probably 2/3 cup of unsweetened coconut. Whipped the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy with the whisk blade in my Kitchenaid, added the sugar in portions, except the last 1/4 cup, put in 2 1/2 tablespoons of the orange liquor, added the last bit of sugar slowly while whipping, and when the eggs were mostly-stiff and still a bit glossy, folded in the nuts and coconut.
Dropped by big spoonfuls onto silicone-covered baking sheets and baked at about 300F for 35 minutes or so. Turned off the oven for a few minutes while frosting the cooled cake. Then took out the cookies to cool.

These were actually surprisingly chewy in the end, with a good, light flavor. We sold them as garnishes to the cake pieces and the ones that were extra and didn't go to the bake sale were a hit with DH.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Walking at Hike and Bike

Hello, everyone.

Today after Mass we went for a little walk at the Hike n Bike: about 6 miles round trip, in about 2 hours.

We saw: 6 roadrunners, 3 green jays, a couple tree ducks sitting in the grass and looking at us, and an anhinga (type of wild cormorant) on the water. Also plenty of snails.

The little dark thing on the trail up ahead is a roadrunner. We saw a lot of them, and some of them we saw twice.

Flower report: Prickly poppies in white, orange, and yellow--mostly yellow. Primroses in both the whtie/pink variety and a yellow variety that wasn't growing in clumps. Sand verbenas in two colors and also vervains. Huisache tree blossoms--golden-orange little balls that smell very sweet. A mamillaria cactus with flower buds--actually there were two. These tend to grow in clumps but were growing solo here.

While you can't tell from these pictures, the Hike n Bike was fairly busy. Lots of families and pairs bike riding, and a number of solo runners. One fellow was bike riding with his little dog in a basket on the handlebars.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Crucifixes and a monastery

Hello, everyone.

I looked at the crucifix in my parish church the other day and realized that, since we toured the monastery Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales in Madrid, I look at them differently.

How many crosses can you find on the monastery building?

Crucifixes are not all identical, you see. Some have three nails, and some have four. (Depends on how the feet are placed.) Some depict Christ alive, and looking up to heaven, beseeching His Father for mercy on us. Some depict Him alive, and looking at His mother, Mary.
Crucifix in Pamplona, Spain
Crucifix in Leon, Spain. Blessed Virgin on left,
St. John on right, both dressed in
clothing approximating the Middle Ages style of dress.

Crucifix in Cathedral of Pamplona, Spain

Crucifix in Pamplona, Spain--Christ looking up to heaven--centerpiece of an elaborate retablo.
Crucifix is an integral part of the painting behind it.

Crucifix in St. Paul's Church  in Mission, Texas. (Photo by Shane James Photography)
Note there are 4 nails, and Christ is looking at His mother. The figure on our right is the apostle St. John.
Clothing approximates ancient clothing styles of the 1st century.

Some depict Him after His death, with slumped head and sagging body.

This leaves aside the “Christ Triumphant” variety, showing Him with royal robes (and crown?) suspended in front of the Cross.

These differences were pointed out to us on the tour of the monastery. The tour guide was very informative. (Tour is in Spanish only, but it’s very worth it to go!) She not only told us about the beautiful artworks hanging on the walls, but also the various frescoes, which dated to before the building was donated for a monastery, and showed us one of the very first Nativities in Spain. She also told us about the difference between Mexican depictions of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Spanish ones.

The guide also told us a little bit about the cloistered nuns that live in the convent. They have opened major areas of their house to the public for tours, which supports their living and allows many people to be edified by the art, even though it inconveniences their life to be staying out of the way of the tours. This monastery is very old. Many ladies who came here were from noble families, already educated at home, and a large proportion of the abbesses of Spain were sisters who had begun their religious life in this monastery.

This is one of the few exhibitions we saw in Spain which was really serious about the no-cameras rule. Thus we didn't take any photos of the tapestries, paintings, carvings, and frescoes inside the building. (It's simply courteous to abide by their rules!)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ha Ha Tonka

Hello, everyone.

I was trolling through pictures today, wondering what might be a topic for a post, and I encountered our pictures from Ha Ha Tonka State Park, in Missouri.

We stopped at Ha Ha Tonka when we were driving north after DD2's college drop-off a couple of years ago. It was just a sign on the highway, but it looked like something fun so we stopped.

Ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Closer look at the ruins
This is one of the minor state parks of Missouri. There is an old, broken-down house that was built by a wealthy family early in the last century, or late in the 1800's, and a really big spring, and a small walking trail. There is some post-Civil War historical connection--a counterfeiting setup was found there that had been used at one time to make fake money--and the remains of an old mill.

There are rickety stairs, too--not collapsing or anything, but wooden ones out in the weather. Elevation change is something like a couple of hundred feet, in 6 to 15 step increments.

This sinkhole is where the spring is. It has a really BIG streamflow of beautiful, crystalline water.
The stairs take a visitor down into the sinkhole for viewing the cave the water comes from and the fish swimming in the water.

This was a lovely break in a day of driving. If you are in the area, I recommend it. Bring a picnic lunch if you wish to eat as there is no concession that we could see.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Stations of the Cross

Hello, everyone.

In my last post, I showed some sculptures of the Stations of the Cross at Mission San Luis Rey. It occurs to me that some of my readers may be wondering what in the misty hills are Stations of the Cross.

The Stations grew out of another ancient Catholic Christian custom, the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. (Pilgrims to Jerusalem and the Holy Land became known as “palmeros” for the souvenir palms they picked up.)  While the pilgrims were in Jerusalem, especially if it was Holy Week,  devout pilgrims would walk the path of Jesus’ route to the Cross and His death. They would stop and pray at various points along the way.

Over time, the set of stopping points became a list of fourteen events that ends with Christ’s death on the Cross at Golgotha. And, over time, the custom became well-known. As the Church had declared that there were great spiritual benefits from accompanying Christ in spirit during His Passion, it became apparent that only people with the wherewithal and time to go to the Holy Land and travel about could do this. Beginning (I think) with the Franciscans, the people began going in heart to the Holy Land and accompanying Christ on his walk to the Cross in their own churches. Since this is a spiritual journey to begin with, crossing time back to the first century AD, crossing space as well as time doesn’t matter.  

Catholic churches almost always have a set of Stations for the faithful to spiritually follow Christ to Golgotha. There are a number of published books of meditations for a person to use, as well, such as the ones by St. Alphonsus of Liguria. These days one can not only get them on a Kindle, one can go to either indoor ones or outdoor ones in various places.

From Rome, Jesus is taken down from the Cross

From Mission San Luis Rey, Simon is conscripted to help Jesus carry His cross

From Pamplona, Spain, another view of Simon's conscription to help Jesus carry the Cross

From Madrid, Jesus is nailed to the Cross

From St. Paul's in Mission, Texas, some of the Stations. Left, Jesus is crucified, showing also the Blessed Virgin and St. John and one other figure at the foot of the Cross.
As you can see, over the centuries, different artists have approached the depictions differently. In future, as opportunity comes, I will collect more pictures of the Stations (in various settings) to share with you all.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mission San Luis Rey

Hello, everyone.

Today I thought I'd write about a lovely place in California, Mission San Luis Rey.

This is an old mission from the days when California was a Spanish colonial expansion. The cemetary is still in use, at least for interring ashes anyway. I have some relatives who are buried there. They have a sweet, little gift shop, the only place I have been that has medals of King St. Louis of France (patron of the mission) for sale.

Parking lot and cemetery entrance. (Old church building off to left, monastery grounds off to right)

An example of the niches in the cemetery. (These are from the older part. There are newer parts, too.)

Explanatory sign in historic garden area--this is behind the photographer in the top picture.

View of the historic gardens

One of the Stations of the Cross on the grounds
Another one of the Stations

Beautiful blooming tree on the grounds (in early September)--I think it's a eucalyptus.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

More about Miami

Hello, everyone.

I was looking at pictures today and realized that there were some things more to be said about Miami.

The greenery is unbelievable. Most of these were taken in the Bayfront Park area.
The things you see on the outside of the tree grew down and enveloped whatever is under it. Is this the thing called "strangler fig"?

Ferns growing on a branch--these were a little burned by the chilly weather.

A bromeliad in its natural habitat: a tree branch

This astounding small tree was growing in a planted bed on Brickell Key. The leaflets grow in a spiral at the end of the branches. And check out the fruit shape!
I am told that a number of the cities in Florida have hike trails nearby, like the Hike N Bike in Mission, Texas. Perhaps if we make a family trip to the area we will pack our hiking shoes and check them out. I really, really miss the walking we did on the trail last summer. Even though a 3 mile walk isn't anything like being on the pilgrimage trail, I'm interested.

And we're still wanting to go back to Europe and walk again. Possibly the trail to Rome, or taking a different route to Santiago. There is the Via de la Plata, which goes through Salamanca and Zavala, and there is the Camino Portugues, which goes through all of Portugal. That latter one could also include Fatima, if one picked the right branch instead of the left branch on about the second or third day if I read the information correctly. I'd like to walk to Fatima.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The season is turning

Hello, everyone.

As we all know, this winter was late. For folks living in the northern half of the US, it's been a snowy, blizzardy sort of winter. I shudder to think of what the spring flood season will be like for people living near the Missouri and Ohio and Missippi rivers.

Be that as it may, down here in south Texas the season changing means the end of cool-season gardening is coming up on us.

My arugula plants all flowered while I was on baby duty. Likewise the gai-lan (mini broccoli) plants. I look out now and see great big fat rows of creamy blossoms and white blossoms. The Portuguese kale hasn't bloomed--yet--but it's pretty bit and it's been trying to head up like a cabbage. Note that I said "trying."
Kale leaves being cored. This stack turned into 2 quarts of frozen leaf pieces.

In the center, a good look at the "heads" the kale was making.
I'm not sure what to do with most of it--I have the one sausage and kale soup recipe, but not much else. I might blanch the trimmed leaves and wrap them around balls of sausage and rice. (the redneck equivalent of grape leaves?)

The plants are still in the garden, with their tops cut off, and they might make some more leaves for me.Perhaps I should get more serious about freezing produce.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Miami, in part

Hello, everyone.

I saw a little bit of Miami while I was gone.

The apartment had a view of the Freedom Tower, where all the Cubans fleeing the Communist revolution went to get their papers. This building is lighted with red at night.

Miami's Freedom Tower, in the daylight
My hotel room had a view of a very old, very beautiful church, the Gesu.
Gesu is the rose colored plaster building caty-cornered from the parking lot.

Side altar: St. Joseph (see the flowering staff), with Eucharistic pelicans above in the blue bit

Main altar area. Note the beautifully carved picture under the Tabernacle.
As they had a Mass starting soon after the previous one, I couldn't go through the nave photographing every single thing.
There was a sculpture garden on the waterfront area. (This is the bay, not the open ocean.) I saw some amazing hanging plant arrangements on the porch of the art museum in the midst of the sculpture garden.
Some of the hanging plant sculptures

One of the tropical lizards that has expanded its range into Florida, hiding in the leaves. This was near Brickell Key.

The hospital that DGS was born in has two great big ponds in front. (Scenery? Runoff management?) There were a lot of water birds there: ducks, egrets, geese. I saw my first Ibis, hunting in the grass.
SIL captured this ibis for me with his phone
But the best photos of all look a lot like this one: