Saturday, December 31, 2011

More End-Of-Year Photos

Lacamas Lake:

Random Birds:

Beacon Rock

Cannon Beach, Again

Happy New Year!

I wish for all my family and friends all the best for 2012.

And, since I can't sing myself, I'm letting Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt sing for me:

What are you doing/did you do on New Year's Eve? I wrote Christmas cards....Yes, again, I'm so late that I won't get them sent until early in 2012.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Fiction Friday, December 30, 2011: Ladybug Girl

Ladybug Girl is too young to read and too young to play with her big brother and his friends, but she can run around with her dog Bingo, a soulfully beautiful Bassett hound, exploring the world of her back yard.

In her ladybug costume, the girl doesn't perform any heroic acts, but she does move a big rock for some ants so they won't have to walk over the top of it any more, climb a tree, wade through a pond (even though there might be a shark in the deep part of it), build a fort, and walk along a fallen tree trunk. And she looks up at the sky and enjoys the world as it is.

Madame L loved this book, but the problem was that Madame L loved it more than the little girl she gave it to for Christmas.

Which, along with many other such instances, leads Madame L to ask who most children's books are written for: children, or the adults who choose books for children?

The answer of course is that they're written for the adults.

Which is not a totally bad thing, because the adults who love books and children pass along their love of books to the children, reading them aloud to the children, having the children read them aloud to the adults, and thus the love of reading is passed on to the next generation.

So, after Madame L read the book aloud to Soleil, she asked Soleil to read it to her, and Madame L saw that when Soleil read the book out loud herself, she paid more attention to the words and the pictures.

(The pictures, by the way, are lovely and evocative and do just what pictures in a picture-story-book are supposed to do: lead the reader to see even more than the words, help the reader imagine herself in the world of the book.)

Madame L got the book and doll set from for $11.55. (The book and doll are both smaller than they appear on the picture.)

Madame L sees that there are several sequels to "Ladybug Girl," all by Jacky Davis and David Soman, and all available at They all look as charming as the original.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

More Bocelli...For Christmas

Here he is again, singing one the greatest psalms of the New Testament, a prayer set to music:

The lyrics in the song version (the Schubert music):

Ave Maria
Gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Ave, ave dominus
Dominus tecum
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus
Et benedictus fructus ventris
Ventris tuae, Jesus.
Ave Maria

Ave Maria
Mater Dei
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus
Ora pro nobis
Ora, ora pro nobis peccatoribus
Nunc et in hora mortis
Et in hora mortis nostrae
Et in hora mortis nostrae
Et in hora mortis nostrae
Ave Maria

In the New Testament:

In Latin:
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.
    Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
    et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
    ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc,
    et in hora mortis nostrae.
The English translation:
"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
    blessed art thou amongst women,
    and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
    pray for us sinners now
    and at the hour of our death.

Here's some of the history of this prayer:

The Ave Maria is one of the oldest and most popular Catholic prayers, and is perhaps the most popular of all the Marian prayers, that is, prayers to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Also called the Ave, the Hail Mary, and the Angelic Salutation, the prayer is often used in private as well as in public devotions, e.g., in the rosary. The Ave Maria (Hail Mary) is of unknown origin; it was not officially incorporated into the liturgy (as part of the Rosary) until the 15th Century. It is composed of two distinct parts, a Scriptural part and an intercessory part.

The first part, the Scriptural part, is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke and joins together the words of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation (Luke 1:28) together with Elizabeth's greeting to Mary at the Visitation (Luke 1:42). The joining of these two passages can be found as early as the fifth, and perhaps even the fourth, century in the eastern liturgies of St. James of Antioch and St. Mark of Alexandria. It is also recorded in the ritual of St. Severus (538 AD). In the west it was in use in Rome by the 7th century for it is prescribed as an offertory antiphon for the feast of the Annunciation. The great popularity of the phrase by the 11th century is attested to in the writings of St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) and Hermann of Tournai (d.c. 1147). Later, probably by Pope Urban IV around the year 1262, Jesus' name was inserted at the end of the two passages.

The second half of the prayer (Holy Mary...) can be traced back to the 15th century where two endings are found. One ending, Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, is found in the writings of St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444 AD) and the Carthusians. A second ending, Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis nunc et in hora mortis nostrae, can be found in the writings of the Servites, in a Roman Breviary, and in some German Dioceses. The current form of the prayer became the standard form sometime in the 16th century and was included in the reformed Breviary promulgated by Pope St. Pius V in 1568.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Even Better Bocelli Song

The Lord's Prayer, with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fiction Friday, December 23, 2011: Racing in the Rain

It's not your standard Christmas story, which is one reason why Madame L wanted to read this book now, but guess what: It might make you cry like you do when you hear or read the best Christmas stories.

"Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog," by Garth Stein, is told from the point of view of a dog who has always felt almost human and who is preparing to die. He wants to protect his master, a race-car driver, from the pain that might come with a long painful death.

Is this because he is so close to being human or because he is a dog? --- Because as a dog he has a lot to teach all of us humans: about the joy of being around people who love you, about how to listen to what people are saying instead of constantly interrupting and turning their story around to fit your own ideas, about how to give comfort, and about how to deal with your limitations.

As a dog, he can't talk, can't hug people who need comfort, and can't get people to watch him long enough to understand what his body is saying. But he finds ways to deal with the messed-up humans who are trying to destroy his master's life.

Madame L hopes you'll read this book and pass it along. It's available in paperback from for  $6.99. It's not really a dog book, and it's not really about racing. It's about how to live a life as a human.

Madame L hopes all her Dear, Kind, Loving, and Sensitive Readers have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, in whatever form they're living now, and asks all of you to join her in praying for peace on Earth, good will toward all mankind and animalkind.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Maria's Flan for Christmas Eve

This is so easy to make, and so delicious. We usually have Mexican and Venezuelan foods for our dinner on Christmas Eve, with this flan for dessert.

Melt 2 tbsp sugar with a little water in a loaf pan until the sugar caramelizes. You can add some grated orange peel to make orange flan, or almond extract for almond flan, and so on.

Beat together:
4 eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla

Pour the beaten mixture into the sugar-coated loaf pan and put the pan in a large pan of water to bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

San Francisco Trip, Day 3

On Day 3, I went to the Dolores Mission. I was looking for the grave of an ancestor. I'll write more about that quest in another post, because what I've found in published and online genealogical records so far is confusing to me, and I want to sort it out before I write more about it.

So, for now, some photos of my wanderings that day:

First, walking through Union Square again, this time to get to the BART station where I would catch a train to Mission Dolores, I saw the plants, in place, the ones I'd seen in paper sacks the day before, waiting to be planted.

And of course the beautiful Christmas tree there, with its lights and ornaments.

At the mission, which is officially the Mision Dolores de San Francisco, and the oldest building in the city:

I also saw more feral parrots on this trip, right where someone had told me I would find another flock, in the date palms near the mission. I couldn't take any photos of them, though. They just won't pose for the camera!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Hanukkah! (And Potato Pancakes Update)

Today Jews all around the world will begin celebrating Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. (Jesus celebrated this holiday, as I mentioned earlier. And believing Jews know that miracles like that one in the re-dedicated Temple still happen.

Thanks for your comments, Jeff and Ellen (and "Anonymous").  I agree that these would taste great with onions, and I've seen a recipe for them with grated raw apples which looked good. However, I'm never going to make them with green Tabasco sauce. Eeew. I'll let you pour that stuff on for yourself.

I worked on my recipe during the week, realized that the egg and flour are there only to hold the potatoes together, so by Sunday morning I had some really good potato pancakes for my class, all of whom loved them.

Here's my recipe:

2 large eggs
1/3 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
One 20-ounce bag of already-peeled-and-grated potatoes (from the refrigerated section of our grocery store; I know it's way expensive, but it's so much easier this way!)

Beat the eggs lightly, add the flour and seasonings and then the potatoes, and mix well. Form into 3- or 4-inch flat pancakes, about 1/2-inch deep. In pictures on recipe websites the pancakes look rounder and more perfect than mine did, but I think it looks fine to have slightly irregular pancakes with bits of potato shreds hanging off the sides. Oh well. 

Fry in hot vegetable oil, about 2 or 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Transfer to paper-towel-covered plate and serve immediately or refrigerate and re-heat in oven or microwave later. (I know how some people hate microwaves, and I know that reheating some dishes in the microwave can turn them soggy and wilted, but these are pancakes, for Pete's sake. The kids loved them.)

Serve with sour cream (traditional) and/or salsa (my way).

Monday, December 19, 2011

San Francisco Trip: Day 2

Day 2: Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods and Sausalito, and the Golden Gate at night:

(But first of course we had to eat breakfast, and why not eat in a diner, sitting right next to a green Edsel? I mean, why not!)

And then, walking through Union Square to the day's meetings and back, I saw so many beautiful flowers and the starlings decked out in their winter finery, flowers in little sacks waiting to be replanted someplace in the square, a cable car (of course), a gigantic and beautiful Christmas tree, and so much more:

Then, the whole afternoon and evening, going to some places I remember from childhood. And guess what I found out: You know how when you go back to those places, they're disappointingly small? Well, this time, the redwoods and the whole of Muir Woods and the Golden Gate Bridge and all those things were NOT smaller or disappointing in any way, but incredibly beautiful. (And I'm guessing the redwood trees were actually much taller than the last time I'd seen them!)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Did Jesus Celebrate Hanukkah?

Why have I been making potato pancakes and planning to talk some more about Hanukkah to my Primary children the week before Christmas?

And why have I been writing about Hanukkah as Christmas approaches (see Jeff's potato pancake review and  my review of Isaac Bashevis Singer's book of Hanukkah stories).

Here's why: Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the miracle of eight days of oil for the lights of the Temple in Jerusalem, from one day's worth of oil. 

And it celebrates, of course, the victory of Judas Maccabeus over the Hellenistic ruler Antiochus who, 167 years before Jesus was born, had desecrated the Temple and outlawed Judaism. 

Antiochus proclaimed himself to be a god, erected an idol to Baal Shamen, the Canaanite version of Zeus, in the temple, and sacrificed a pig on that altar. He forbade circumcision and the observance of the Sabbath. 

The Maccabean revolt against the Antiochus troops began when an observant priest, Mattathias the Hasmonean, killed a soldier who was enforcing an order to worship a statue of Antiochus. The sons of Mattathias, led by Judah, nicknamed Makebet (The Hammer), continued the revolt for more than two years until they were able to re-dedicate the Temple. That was when the miracle of light occurred.

And, yes, to answer the rhetorical question above, Jesus DID celebrate Hanukkah. In fact, Jesus was in Jerusalem at that time specifically in order to celebrate Hanukkah. And, as John wrote in his Gospel, Jesus acknowledged during the celebration of Hanukkah that he was the true Savior of God's chosen people, the bringer of light (John 10:22-39). 

He couldn't acknowledge this directly, though. The Romans, trying to Romanize the Jews as the Greeks had tried to Hellenize them, were on constant lookout for rebellions. Here's a great summary of the situation the Romans and Jewish leaders were in, as Jesus was preaching:

"As He walked through Solomon's porch on the east side of the Temple enclosure, some Jews approached Him and asked Him point blank, "Are you the Messiah?" (10:24). Jesus had to be careful how He answered that question. During the festival, throngs of Jews caught up in the nationalistic fever, were visiting Jerusalem. The word "Messiah" might spark off riots because of its heavy nationalistic and political overtones.

"Roman intelligence, headquartered in the Antonia Fortress to the northwest of the Temple, was aware of a popular song entitled "A Psalm of Solomon, with Song, to the King." In this song, composed during the mid-first century BC by a Pharisee, the Lord was acknowledged as king and a Davidic ruler would reign forever. He describes how the latter Hasmonean rulers led the people away from the Torah and the people were punished by the Romans under the leadership of Pompey. He prays that the Lord will raise up a king, the Son of David, to rule over Israel. In so doing, this king would "destroy the unrighteous rulers," "purge Jerusalem from Gentiles , " "drive out the sinners," "smash the arrogance of sinners," and "destroy the unlawful nations'" All this would be done by their king, the Lord Messiah' (Psalms of Solomon 17). If Jesus answered the question "yes", the Roman authorities would have arrested Him on the spot for insurrection.

"Jesus does, however, answer the question in the affirmative, but not directly. When He answers, He is careful not to use the contemporary term and understanding. After pointing out the security which a believer in the Lord Jesus has because of faith in Him, He says "I and my Father are one'" (10:30). That statement had heavy religious overtones for the festival which they were presently celebrating. Those gathered on the Temple Mount recalled the events nearly 200 years before on the very mount where, Antiochus IV, a mere man, proclaimed himself god. Jesus, the LORD manifest in human flesh, made the same claim but His claim was true. The Jews picked up stones to stone Him for blasphemy because, in their thinking, He was a man who made Himself God (10:31-33). Jesus declared that He was the fulfillment of Hanukkah by saying the Father "sanctified" the Son of God and sent Him into the world (10:34-36), The Father was in Him and He in the Father (10:38). If the Greek word "sanctified" was translated into Hebrew, it would be "dedication" or Hanukkah.

John wrote his gospel primarily to a Jewish and Samaritan audience, One of the unique things about John's gospel is his emphasis on the Jewish and Samaritan festivals and his indication that Jesus was the fulfillment of these holidays. Hanukkah was the rededication of a defiled Temple. At the beginning of Jesus public ministry, He said, "'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then the Jews said, 'It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?' But He was speaking of the temple of His body" (2:19-21) Herod' s Temple had been defiled by a wicked and corrupt priesthood. The Lord Jesus was "sanctified" by His death, burial and resurrection and is the New Temple.

"The Apostle John selected "signs" (miracles) and events when he penned his gospel, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to convey two purposes (John 20:30,31). The first was to present the deity of the Lord Jesus. John skillfully selects the Hanukkah event because of the festival impact on the crowd. In contrast to the arrogant and blasphemous statement by Antiochus IV, Jesus truly is God manifest in human flesh. The second purpose was to challenge people to put their trust (believe) in the Lord Jesus Christ as the One who died for their sins and rose again from the dead. When they trust Him, God gives them the gift of eternal life, forgiveness of sins and a home in Heaven."

I add my testimony to that of Gordon Franz, the writer of the statements I've quoted here, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Light which gives life to all of us. 

Hanukkah this year (2011) will be celebrated by Jews throughout the world from Dec. 20 through Dec. 28.

I'll be celebrating, too, though not the same way, the birth of Christ, the Shepherd, One who fulfilled the promise of the Festival of Lights.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

San Francisco Trip: Day 1

Even though Jason had to attend meetings (and I did attend part of one press conference), I mostly explored the city and the areas round about.

Leaving PDX, in flight, and arriving SFO:

Day 1: Where can you see the Transamerica building from? Pretty much anywhere in San Francisco:

You can even see the Transamerica building from most places in Chinatown (above, right, and below, right, towering over a Wells Fargo branch building identified with Chinese characters as well as the English words).

But since I was in Chinatown, I had to take of photo of Grant Avenue itself, without the tall tower in the background.

See those little specks flying on the left? Those are feral parrots, as in the book "The Wild Parots of Telegraph Hill." (This photo was taken not too far from Telegraph Hill, but not all that close to it, either.) I also saw a flock of parrots near Jackson Square. So I asked someone about the parrots, and he said there are now flocks in several areas of the city.