February 2007 Archives

Oh, yes!


When I am attacked by gloomy thoughts, nothing helps me so much as running to my books. They quickly absorb me and banish the clouds from my mind.

----------Michel de Montaigne

Hat-tip to Semicolon.

Oh my goodness!


If you want to suffer from a case of serious craft studio envy, just go here and look at this designer's studio. Oh my, oh my!

Spring Reading Challenge


What with this being the last day of February, it's time to wrap up the Winter Reading Challenge and begin anew. And boy, do I feel a need to begin anew! The Winter Reading Challenge was a complete bust for me--other than my book group books, I read NOTHING that was on the list. I have no good reason for this. Looking back, they all seem to be perfectly lovely books, and it's not like I didn't read any other books. But it was just not a season of reading a list. Maybe it was because I so many other lists of things to do!

But my stacks of unread books still call to me, and I know that they must be tackled. I suppose it is impossible to continue to buy books but never read them. Isn't it? Zman even remarked, "Mom, sometime soon you've got to sit down and start reading and quit buying." If even he has noticed, I think I've got to do something!

So, I made another deal with myself not to buy another book for myself until June. Three months of spring, three months of reading completely off my shelves. A sort of "spring cleaning" start to the "to be read" piles.

Here's the plan for spring:

First, my two book group books (I've already read the April book):

The Cave by Jose Saramago
The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin

Then, from the massive stacks, a hodge podge of books, but with an emphasis on the nostalgic and fun:

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brien
Venetia by Georgette Heyer
Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (a re-read from my teen years, found at the library sale)
Forever Odd by Dean Koontz
Grand Opening by Jon Hassler (one of my favorite writers!)
Rockspring by R. G. Vliet (because I like the occasional Western, and this one was published by SMU Press)
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz (the first of his Cairo trilogy)
Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough (a nonfiction book about the youth and young adult years of Teddy Roosevelt)

So, there it is. And I promise (imagine me holding up my hand) that I will not darken the doors of 1/2 Price Books until June. And I won't go to the Book Rack. Or Barnes and Nobles. Or cruise Amazon with credit card in hand. At least until June.

Now, how many days is that?

Oscar fashion coverage


You knew we had to say something about the dresses for the Oscars, didn't you? Well, here's what we're saying:

Mostly blah.

Lots of expensive gowns, few of which did their wearers justice.

Here's one tip. Lay off the satin. It looks terrible after you sit down in it (like in the limo!) even one time, and if you have even a soupcon of extra flesh, that shiny fabric just accentuates it.

Penelope, put the feathers down and get a dress where the top matches the bottom. J Lo, I think you're gorgeous, but that dress, while beautiful in concept, made you look heavy for some reason. Meryl--what can we say? We know you dress to please yourself, but this is ridiculous. Nicole? Eat something, darling. Cameron? You're wearing a folded napkin? Anne Hathaway? Loved you in The Devil...., but that bow? Eeeuw. Jada Pinkett Smith? I normally think you are aces on the red carpet, but this one didn't do it for me.

Who came in with thumbs up from MamaT? Not many, but these two led the pack:


Helen Mirren, who is absolutely stunning, and is not trying to look like something other than the age she is. I admire a woman who makes herself look fab, but does not try to compete with 21 year olds. This dress is beautiful, and it makes her look like a million bucks.

But the absolute winner of the night?


Abigail Breslin, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her turn in Little Miss Sunshine. This dress is pretty, dressy, and completely appropriate for her age. Kudos to young Miss Breslin and to her mom, for keeping her the child that she is, but giving her a princess dress to wear. Lovely.

That's all.

gabby yelling to smockmomma...


...who was getting dressed this morning as the smocktwins poured a brand new box of lucky charms all over the floor: hurry, momma! the babies are attacking the living room!

Friday nights in lent.....

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....are something I look forward to in our parish. We have stations of the cross at 6:30, a meatless potluck supper at 7:00, some sort of a short program (about 30 minutes) at 8:00, followed by benediction at 8:30. It is a good time to sit and visit with church friends over a deviled egg or a bowl of potato soup--a part of what makes a small parish great--the ability to do things like that.

This year's program is a 6 part series on the Catechism--an interview with now Cardinal Schonbern (spelling?) about the process of compiling that massive work, and the contents thereof. This Friday's section was interesting, because I didn't know how it was written. After the selected bishops wrote there parts, and Schonbern put them all together and they were edited (like four times!), a copy was sent out to every bishop in the world asking for response and comments.

They got 25,000 proposed changes! And someone (someones?) had to read them all, delete the repeats, and then put into consideration all the others.

Wow. I'm surprised it ever got done at all!

But what I started to talk about in this post was Stations. Over the years, our priest has collected many versions of readings for the Stations. He uses a different one every week, so you really get something different to think about. This week, the thing that hit me was at the station where Jesus dies on the cross. OK, so that station always hits me in one way or another, but this time the reflection said, "I must remember that Jesus died for me. Not mankind in general. Me in particular."

Now, isn't that the hardest thing to think about? I don't have a problem with thinking that Jesus died for you in particular. But me? That makes me cry. Me? The king of the universe died for me? Me? Me the rotten? Me the selfish? Me the sinner? Me?

Incomprehensible, that.

Fine Art Friday - The Bow WOW! Edition

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I am a dog person. Period. Cats are nice, but I'm allergic to 'em, and even if I weren't, I'd still like dogs better. I like all kinds of dogs. When my mom and I watch the dog shows on television, we keep saying, "Now, there's a nice dog. I'd like to have that one." Well, it's hard, when you'd like to have one of each.

We have three dogs here at CasaS, each one a mutt. Each one with a sad story to tell--that's how they got here. LuckyDog is the white dog hair generator--the one who keeps me in shape sweeping. Maggie is a black and grey schnauzer mix, and the neediest dog on the planet. She also has the saddest eyes. Nyx is a big dog, a mix of who knows what. The vet said, "Lady, that's a nice lookin' dog." I asked, "Yeah, but what is she?" "Dunno. Wild dog, I guess." Well, there you go. Nyx is the lover of McKid, and a true pack animal. If the others are outside and she is on the porch? She stands at the screen and whines for them to come in. Big baby.

Last week, Bill Luse had some great links to dog hero stories. I love 'em. I'm a fool for those stories, and they always make me cry. I just love dogs.

So what better thing to celebrate on this lovely final Friday of February? Let's look at DOGS!

Here's the simplest picture of a dog that I could find. Don't you love it? Could you draw a dog with basically one line?

The Dog
Pablo Picasso

Next we'll move on to a beautiful image. Isn't this restful? I love the color, I love the composition. I love the quiet. This is very reminiscent of my LuckyDog, though she's not so big.

Ides of March
Andrew Wyeth

The next artist painted many, many pictures with dogs in them. I only picked one, but I could do a whole Fine Art Friday on this artist and dogs. If you love dogs, then you know there's nothing cuter than puppies:

Pride of Parenthood
Norman Rockwell

This next image is the doggiest of the pictures--the most traditional. I love all the hunting/sporting dogs, from big to small. We had a pointer when I was growing up, and she was the funniest dog we ever had.

Edward Smythe

There are roughly a billion pictures of children and dogs. This is not the image that I was looking for, but I couldn't find the one I had in mind by this same artist. This is from one of those women painters/illustrators whose work graced the covers of so many magazines and children's books. These pictures have hung on innumerable nursery walls over the years:

The Reward
Bessie Pease Gutman

Next, something completely different, here's a lovely entry into the dog art show. I wish I had a picture of my three dogs that looked something like this one:

Ron Burns

If all the dogs so far have been too literal for your taste, how about this one? I'm surprised that I like it, but I do. Maybe it's because when I try to draw a dog, it looks about like this. But I'm not doing it on purpose. I assume Miro is.

Characters and Birds with a Dog
Joan Miro

Then we have a lovely image that reminds me of Nyx and Maggie together. They often stand like this, with Nyx resting her head on Maggie's back. This would look fabulous hanging in my kitchen.

Purple and Orange Dogs
Daniel Kessler

Next we have maybe the most famous image of a dog ever. I know it turned into an advertising icon, but I just love this painting:

His Master's Voice
Francis Barraud

And now for the bonus image for this Friday. Can you guess what it is?

Are you sure?

I wouldn't really put that picture on here would I?

Am I really that classless?

Oh, you bet I am!


Friend in Need
Cassius Coolidge

Happy Friday, all! Woof, woof!

Aprons- Y/N- Only when I paint. But I think that's fixin' to change. I have an idea (and I hope it's true!) that my sisterfriend is making me aprons for my belated birthday.

Baking-- Favorite thing to bake: Cookies, for myself. I make a killer pound cake that is my dad's all time favorite birthday cake.

Clothesline- Y/N-- Nope. But I wish I had one. A friend just sent me a link to one I can order from Montgomery Wards.

Donuts-- I have never made a donut in my life. We'll not go into how many donuts I've eaten in my life.

One homemaking thing you do every day-- That's my downfall. Now, especially with the Zman so grown, I don't do anything every day, not even cook. But I'd say I cook 90% of the days.

Freezer-- Do you have a separate deep freeze? Yes, I'm a bargain hunter from way back. When I decided to leave my career and become a SAHM, I had to find ways to economize. Sale shopping is the biggest of them.

Garbage Disposal-- Y/N? Yes, but it's an old one and we don't run much down it. I keep forgetting what PapaC tells me can go down. Eggs? Yes? No? It's easier to just put them in the trash.

Handbook-- What is your favorite homemaking resource? My sisterfriend who can make do with less than anyone I know. She also bucks me up when I think I'm a terrible homemaker. I also love, love, love my Good Housekeeping Cook Book. It is fabulous, and if you need a good cookbook (or a good wedding gift!) I recommend it with all thumbs, fingers, and toes up.

Ironing--Love it or hate it? HATE IT, and I am terrible at it. I have economized further on food so that I can send PapaC's 5 shirts per week to the cheap laundry where they do a fab job of starching and ironing them.

Junk drawer--Y/N? Where is it? In my kitchen. And there might be more than one!

Kitchen: Design and decorating? Apple green kitchen with white half-height panelling around the whole thing. No counter space, really, and my base cabinets are too low. It's a plan to change them out, but college tuition and books are standing in the way of that at the moment. My only eating area is in the kitchen. Basic appliances. On my kitchen window sill sits a votive candle that burns all the time--which one it is changes as my mood changes. Right now it is St. Martha. Last week it was JPII. The week before that it was St. Michael. Next week it will probably be El Nino de Atocha. I buy 'em by the dozen at the Mexican market not far from me. You can also get 'em at Wal Mart, but Elrod's has the best selection.

Love: What is your favorite part of homemaking? Putting a meal on the table for my family. I love it when we all sit down and eat. I also like to grocery shop (I play savings games with myself).

Mop Y/N -- It's supposed to be Zman's job. My floor is pretty disgusting at the moment.

Nylons-- What does this have to do with homemaking? If the question is do I do homemaking with nylons and pumps on like Donna Reed, the answer is a resounding NO!!!

Oven-- Do you use the window or open the door to check? I am an inveterate oven opener. That's why I'll never be able to souffle!

Pizza-- What do you put on yours? Pepperoni! Pepperoni! More pepperoni! If I wanted green stuff, I'd order a salad.

Quiet-- What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment? Take a nap, if it's a long enough quiet moment. Read every other moment I get.

Recipe Card Box Y/N? No. I have a folder full of clipped recipes that I dip into from time to time. Then I have a large notebook with page protectors called The Southard Family Cookbook. Any recipe good enough to keep goes in there. When the Zman gets married, I'm going to make him a copy. I culled out my other cookbooks a couple of years ago. I have my church cookbook, my aunt's old church cookbook, my Better Homes and Gardens red plaid cookbook I got when I got married, and that cookbook I told you about earlier. With the internet, you don't need many!

Style of house-- Plain, very square, small house. Every room is painted a different color. I love it.

Tablecloths and napkins? Usually placemats. Most nights paper napkins, but sometimes cloth.

Under the kitchen sink-- organized or toxic wasteland? Organized. Not much there. Bon Ami, plastic scrubbies, trash bags, dish rack.

Vacuum-- how many times per week? I have hardwood floors--no vacuuming. But I sweep all the time (I pick up a broom every time the phone rings and sweep while talking--it's like a salivating dog trick, and my husband laughs at me), and I'm STILL covered in white dog hair. Thanks, Lucky Dog!

Wash-- How many loads of laundry do you do in a week? Only three of us here, and I don't do the Zman's personal laundry. So, I do 7 or so loads a week. I prefer to do it all on one day and get it over with, but I couldn't do that if I had lots of kids.

X's-- Do you keep a daily list of things to do and cross them off?-- Now, this is the crazy thing. The instant I make a list of things to do, I immediately refuse to do any of them. Now why is that? I think I'm psychotic about lists.

Yard-- Who does what? Hub and son, but not often enough. We probably have the worst yard on the block. I'm ashamed to say that, but it's true.

Zzz's--Right before bed I check the doors, move the dog beds into the bedroom, feed the fish and take my calcium.

Anyone else can play that wants! Look how long it took me before I could do it!

as part of my everlasting smocklove of all things bacon, i offer you smocksbaconfaves item #12... uncle oinker's savory bacon mints!


each one of these mints tastes like a delicious slice of crispy bacon with just a hint of mint flavor to give it that extra punch! it may sound weird but once you taste it, you'll see that mint and bacon is a match made in china.

buy your bacon mints here!***

*** i do not advocate the purchase of or chewing of these coolmoe mints on ash wednesday or on fridays during lent. thank you. ~the smock


Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Books 3-7 of 2007 finished!

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It's been a while since I reported on books finished. So, here's a recap:

#3: Excellent Women by Barbara Pym: This is the story of Mildred Lathbury, a clergyman's daughter, and a spinster in 1950's England. Spinster seems a hard word, for she is certainly not past marrying age, but she arrived a marriageable age at a time when many of the "best and brightest" were off at war--and I think her spinsterhood was more a result of the diminuition of the pool of marriageable men. I have a dear friend who is British, and she often talks of the large numbers of unmarried women--all her aunts but one remained unmarried.

Mildred is one of the "Excellent Women" of the title--those women who do rafts of good works, involved in charities and church. Not as the "pretty people", but as the worker bees who make things go. Mildred can't quite help being drawn into other peoples' lives, working first here and then there to make things work, to smooth things over, to facilitate things happening. Pym draws a sharp contrast between the "queen bees" and the "worker bees", and the sympathy is all on the worker bee side. We come to see that a life without a significant romantic relationship can still be a good life, a full life, a life very much worth living.

At some points, this book was hard for me to read, because I identified so strongly with Mildred. It is very much what my life without my precious PapaC would look like.

#4: Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl. Ruth Reichl is the restaurant critic for the NY Times (or at least she was when this book was written--I haven't looked to see if she still is). This is her memoir of growing up around food. It starts with life with her mom (who, we later come to see, is bipolar) who is an erratic cook and a scattered hostess of parties. She also has a weird idea of what is OK to use in recipes--making young Ruth feel it necessary to protect the guests she particularly likes from her mother's food. After parties, her mom routinely fielded calls, saying "No, everyone here is fine, and we ate everything!"

Told in short chapters, we see how food was important, and how it is tied to the various characters of her life. Recipes at the ends of chapters. Thoroughly enjoyable. This is my book club book for April. We're going to make recipes from the book to bring to the meeting. If you like to read about food and/or eccentric characters--this is the book for you!

#5: A Miracle for St. Cecilia's by Katherine Valentine. An obvious attempt at a Catholic Mitford series. Sweet--really, too sweet. It is the story of St. Cecilia's, a parish in the northeast that is scheduled to be closed after its Easter services. It has a group of parishioners who are mostly poor, mostly old, but all holy. Parts of the story are funny--like the Marian "apparition" which first appears to a non-Catholic heating repairman--but it ties up way too neatly. The one death even has a good outcome. Everything comes out exactly right, too many easy coincidences.

Those things don't necessarily throw me off--I like a happy ending better than any one I know. And coincidences happen, and things turn out well. I don't know. People complain about the Mitford series, too. But there's something there that is not here. I wouldn't be averse to reading another of Valentine's books to see how they progress. But I wouldn't specifically look for another.

#6: Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. OK, here's my dirty little secret--though not much of a secret since I've spilled it here before. I am at least a "semi" fan of horror novels. Horror is one of the few genres that still assumes there is something that is really evil out there. It seems far less cynical, even in its bloodier forms, than a lot of modern writing. Stephen King has written some books that I adored (Salem's Lot, The Shining, Cujo, The Stand (love me some apocalyptic literature!), Pet Sematary, and Misery come immediately to mind) and a bunch of books that I don't like at all (the Dark Tower series for one). But Dean Koontz can write with the best of 'em, at least some of the time. Character is his forte, and even when the plot comes crashing down with a thud, there are still characters that resonate with you, long after you are finished with the book. Watchers, the first Dean Koontz book I ever read, still stays in my head 20 years later. While Odd Thomas doesn't rise to that level for me as a whole, the lead character in the book is one that I liked very much.

Odd Thomas is the story of, well, Odd Thomas, a twenty year old fry cook who happens to be able to talk to the dead and see malevolent spirits. He is a simple guy, living in Pico Mundo, California, on the Mojave desert. The book starts with Odd seing a little girl, and finding out that one of his friends from high school was, in fact, the man who murdered her. Odd is not physically large, but he has a gift, and a destiny, that he must follow. Soon after rounding up the girl's murderer, he notices malevolent spirits showing up--a harbinger of something awful to come for his little town.

Koontz's great gift is character. From Terri, the owner of the restaurant Odd cooks in, who mourns her dead husband and learns about Elvis, to Terrible Chester the peeing cat, to Stormy Llewellyn, Odd's girlfriend and soulmate, we meet a host of characters that we care about.

And it's a story about gift and the cost of those gifts. Of honor and perseverance in the face of danger. And the unending-ness of love.

Not a terribly gory book. Worth a read if you like suspense/horror. But read it for the characters, more than for the plot.

#7: Possession by A. S. Byatt. Our February book club book. Unfortunately, I missed the discussion on this one because of PapaC's trip to the hospital!

I'm really of two minds about this book. I haven't been so divided about something since I saw Pulp Fiction when it came out. No, Possession isn't anything like Pulp Fiction in plot line or yuck factor or anything. But both were cases where I could see that the creators had talent to burn--and used it in the service of storylines that, in the end, I didn't like.

Byatt has talent. Talent oozing out of her pores and pen. This book has it all--poetry, Victorian correspondence, a modern day story wrapping around the old one. A host of characters, artsy and academic, that often are given too short a shrift in the juggling of so many. This author had so much to say and she tried to say it all in one book. The book was so dense that it took forever to read--again, not a fatal flaw, necessarily, in my eyes, but it made it exactly the wrong book for our book group. I probably would have liked the book a little better had I not been reading it toward a deadline.

But, in the end, I looked back at the plot--the affair between the Victorian poets--and thought "How is this different from, say, The Bridges of Madison County?" Oh, it's a thousand (maybe a million?) times better written, but it is still the story of "star-crossed lovers, soulmates, who just happen to be married to someone else, but, oh well, let's throw that aside and have a brief, intense affair that will tide us over for the rest of our lives." That those others to whom faithfulness had been sworn have problems? Well, that just lends justification for the characters do. Or at least it's supposed to. Look, I'm not looking for a book with perfect people in it (see reviews above), because that just makes a silly book. But I am tired of books (and movies) that glamorize the sin of adultery. "Oh, isn't it romantice how they had their affair and went back to their previous lives." Well, no, in my eyes it isn't. I have no patience for this--see my rants in the past on Wuthering Heights both book and movie.

But I know I'm in the minority here. The book spent a zillion weeks on best-seller lists of all types. Not sorry I read it, but it just wasn't for me what it was for the friend who recommended it so breathlessly--"the best book I've read." Nope. Well written? Oh, yeah. Worth reading? The jury is out.

. . .you have the amazing ability to shed your innate sex appeal and make your audience melt into your performance as the very stoic, very proper, very british hm queen elizabeth ii, and convince this viewer at any rate, that she is watching a documentary unfold, not a fictionalized version of the public relations nightmare that unfolded around the royal family after the death of princess diana in the queen.

would it be too obvious to say that mirren is the gem in the queen's crown? it's no secret that the smock's favorite films are true character studies, and i promise that the queen is just that. a very keen, sometimes scathing, study of human behavior, and proper manners in particular.


the opening scene shows the queen posing for a royal portrait. this scene tells it all. to fulfill her obligation, she must sit ... and sit still. when the painter asks her how she would vote, were she allowed to ... she gives a very telling answer.

duty. honor. valor. you would be hard pressed to find many audience members under the age of, oh let's be generous and say thirty-five, who could even define these terms, much less point them out as virtues. which is what makes this movie so poignant. poor queen elizabeth, her entire life devoted to standing in persona britannia, faces the awesome conundrum of being an individual, a lone human being, in the eyes of her subjects while remaining faithful to centuries of protocol.

to our surprise, the hero of the film turns out to be none other than the mister tony blair (played by michael sheen). who knew the man was so in touch with political correctness and fashionable display of feelings? i mean, the man came off as a "care bear" in a suit and tie. as the flowers and letters of sympathy (and in some cases bile aimed at the royals) pile up outside the palace gates, it's up to the brand-spanking-new prime minister to save the day by convincing the queen that the death of diana -- if not handled with politically correct gloves -- could be the death of the monarchy itself.


there are surprisingly few moments in the film when we are allowed to glimpse the queen's frailty, the photo above depicting one of them, but enough to make kleenex a necessity. of course, there are also moments when the film turns a dash cheeky old bloke, taking more than a few digs at prince phillip and the queen mum; but all in all, i'm happy to report that the film remains respectful of the queen and blair. mamaT and smock both agree it's a must see film. and helen mirren's performance is, in a word, regal.

Well, I was going to post my Fine Art Friday entry for this week on Valentine's Day--but I was otherwise occupied (see entries below). Never one to miss an opportunity to look at art, I'm just going to do it late.

I searched on art.com with the search term "valentine" and here are some of the things that came up:

I don't exactly understand why this first one came up, other than the color. But I am a fool for Matisse, so I'm going to put it first in the show:

Spacious Red Interior
Henri Matisse

Much to my sorrow, I do not have a red room in my house. I have flirted with painting my kitchen/dining room red, but I am still enjoying the apple green it is painted now. One day, maybe......

Then we'll move on to something in the abstract vein:

Abstract Heart II
Alfred Gockel

Is is just me, or can you see a crucifix in this one?

Next up is something still more abstract--at least with regards to the theme. I don't really see this as a valentine, but I love the colors (though they're much more muted than I am usually drawn to) and I find the structure pleasing and calming. Maybe that's it! I could use a little calm! At any rate, I wish someone I knew were an artist so he could paint me something lovely like this for Valentine's. Wouldn't that be tres romantic?

Thinking of You II
Ronald Sweeney

I'm still not convinced that Warhol was an actual "artist". Maybe I think he's a "graphic artist", but I'm trying to work out in my mind exactly what the difference would be. I must admit that I tend to be dismissive of him, yet in almost every Fine Art Friday entry lately I have found an image of his work that I really like. So, here's another one for today, one that I think the Smock needs to own, frame and hang in her office!

Andy Warhol

Next, a little something from Picasso. Back in the day, I had a smock with a patch with a take off on this piece of art, with the logo "War is not good for children and other living things" going all around it. Ahem. I suppose that says something about my age, huh? I still like the picture--we'll leave the political discussion until later:

Evening Flowers
Pablo Picasso

Here is another of those artists that I am not sure of. When I see his work I think "cute" and they make me smile, but I don't know that they are anything lasting. But I think this one definitely belongs in the Valentine's Day lineup:

Keith Haring

Here's an image that I would definitely hang in the Zbaby's room, if he were still a Zbaby and not about to turn 21! Plus, I like hugs on Valentine's!


Almost, but not quite last, here is a painting so reminiscent of PapaC and me, that it just had to be a part of Fine Art Friday:

Be My Valentine
Anton Arkhipov

And last, but not least, is the bonus fun image for today's Fine Art Friday. As I've said before, I'm a fool for advertising art. And the Smock and I are femme fatales at heart. So here's something from Coca Cola advertising with a Valentine's theme:


I don't think she just wants a Coke, do you?

Anyway, happy belated Valentine's Day! Smooch your sweetie and count your blessings. I am.

We're home!

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....With a renewed sense of what is important in life and gratitude in our hearts that it was not another heart attack. Hurray! The down side is that we don't know what actually caused all the pain. Could be something as simple as a viral infection of some sort. But, all is well for the moment, praise be to God.

There is nothing like spending a night alone in your bed at home to make you so, so, so grateful when that beloved other comes home and sleeps next to you. I truly understand, after the past 5-6 years of health issues with my dear PapaC, how the Church can maintain that we are no longer two, but one.

A frightening Valentine's Day, but it's all better now.

And I told PapaC: If next year you've forgotten to send me flowers for Valentine's Day? It's a lot cheaper to just 'fess up. Those deductibles are a killer!

Thank you for all your prayers.

please pray

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mamaT spent Valentine's Day in the ER and hospital with PapaC. she took him to the ER at four o'clock yesterday morning because he was complaining of chest pains...eleven hours later, with no sign of a heart attack, his doctors admitted him for more tests and observation. as it stands, no news is good news, so please just mention them in your intentions, if you will. thank y'all!

...thus retaining the element of surprise.
hope it was a happy one, mamaT.
i love you,
swak from smock

Another movie list!

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I published, just a couple of days ago, the Christianity Today list of the "Ten Most Redeeming Films" of 2006, plus the "ones that got away.

Every year, they publish that first--the good movies with redeeming story lines, with little that would offend sensibilities.

Then, a week later, they publish their "Critics' Choice Awards", which is the list of the top movies of the year--with no redemption requirement. Their list usually tracks the more secular press lists, but there are always a few surprises thrown in. They catch a lot of flack for their choices from their readership--some of whom are appalled by some of the subject matter. I usually think they're pretty on the mark. If you want to read the capsule reviews of each film, and why they chose it, you can read the whole article here.

So, here's the Christianity Today Critics' Choice List:

10. Little Children
9. Tsotsi
8. Little Miss Sunshine
7. Casino Royale
6. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
5. The Queen
4. United 93
3. The New World
2. L'Enfant
1. Children of Men

And then the list of "The Ones That Got Away":

Charlotte's Web
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont
Pan's Labyrinth
The Proposition
Thank You for Smoking
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

And I didn't know until I was reading the reviews of the movies listed that Steven Greydanus of Decent Films Guide was one of their reviewers!

The Mamas very much agree with their rating on Little Miss Sunshine, which we both liked. We also give four thumbs up the The Queen, which we took a field trip to see last week. I'm still waiting for Micki to do a review, because she does movie reviews so much better than I.

Smock loved The Three Burials, and keeps trying to talk me into seeing it. Maybe I'll break down. And I loved Casino Royale, and tried to talk Smock into seeing it, but I don't know if she ever did.

The rest? More fodder for the Netflix queue. Do you think there's a limit of how many things can be in there?

Another entry for Fine Art Friday. My, time flies, doesn't it?

I've decided to do another couple of "special editions", before I go back to just regular old Fine Art Friday. I don't want to bore you with too much art every Friday. But it's been so fun to look at lots of different things based on one idea.

Today's idea? BIRTHDAY!. Why? Because Monday is my birthday, that's why!

There's an awful lot of very sentimental art out there about birthdays. Now, me? I like it. I love the women artists who painted too pretty to be real babies and too cute to be actual scenes. I know they're not everyone's cup of tea. I've spotlighted Margaret Tarrant on the blog before. She's maybe the least sentimental, but I think of her as a "woman's artist." And I don't think that's a knock. I think it means that she paints things that resonate more strongly with women than with men.

Anyway, that's a long way 'round saying that there may be less to like for folks like Eric, and more to like for folks like me, in this week's edition.

A Birthday Picnic
Arthur Hughes

What? No cake? And not even many smiles? It makes me wonder what else was going on in their lives. It is very restrained, but I like it. Next is one of those "sentimental" pictures I was talking about, but this one wasn't painted by a woman:

Mother's Birthday
Frederick Morgan

Love it, love it, love it. Love the soft washiness of it, the two babies, just everything. Too sweet, but still lovely. Another of the sentimental pictures, and one that we just had to showcase on a Catholic blog:

The Priest's Birthday
V. Chevilliard

Nothing probably ever looked that way, but I wish it had. Maybe I wish it still did! On to something different:

Birthday Feast of Nubien, King of Armenia
from "L'Conte de Meliacin" by Gerardin D'Amiens

I love to look at old art, first because it's beautiful in its own right, but also because it shows us how far things changed in technique, perspective, etc. Here's one I like very much:

Birthday Boquet
Marita McVeigh

These colors are lovely. This, of all the things I'm showing you, is the one that I would love to have on my office wall above my computer. Now for something completely different, if you like your birthday in the abstract:

Happy Birthday
Alfred Gockel

I'm not sure what that says about birthdays, but I still like it. Now on to someone whose work I am drawn to, but that I don't understand one little bit:

Marc Chagall

I suppose this represents how PapaC feels about being married to me after all these years, huh? Floating in air, still? Don't know, you'd have to ask him. The final entry for today is not really art, but I always like to end with something different. One of the things I love is silly and/or retro postcards. So, here's a classic for you:

Alligator Chorus

All singing Happy Birthday to me (on Monday!). Doesn't this make you wonder? What was someone thinking? "Yeah, let's have a bunch of singing alligators! Won't that be GREAT?"

And yeah, it kinda is!

Happy Friday, ya'll!

You know how I love lists!

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Every year, Christianity Today picks a list of the "Ten Most Redeeming Movies" from the prior year.

Here's the list for 2006, in reverse order:

10. Children of Men
9. Akeelah and the Bee
8. The Three Burials of Mequiades Estrada
7. Tsotsi
6. Charlotte's Web
5. The Second Chance
4. Joyeux Noel
3. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
2. The New World
1. The Nativity Story

They also give readers a chance to name films that they think should have made the above list, but didn't. Here's "The Ones That Got Away" list:

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
The Fountain
Half Nelson
A Prairie Home Companion
The Pursuit of Happyness
Superman Returns
We Are Marshall

I must say that I have seen very few of these films, since I usually wait until they come out on video, and even then it takes awhile to see them.

The one movie that I have seen was Superman Returns which, contrary to popular opinion (and Steven Greydanus at the Decent Films Guide, whom I normally trust implicitly) I thought was absolutely one of the worst movies I have seen in many, many years. I looooooooove me some comic book movies, but this one was just yuck. Too many things that made absolutely no sense, and characters acting in ways that I thought were completely unbelievable. I love Superman, but I hated this movie.

Other than that, these lists gave me something to add to my Netlix queue--like that was necessary!

Interesting article


....can be found here, on how Christians ought to respond to ill-informed attacks by the nonreligious. While the essay is built around something written about fundamentalists, the thought process works for us all.

The upshot? Respond, but only briefly. Then get on about the business of preaching (and living) the Gospel.

These days I am often by myself at lunchtime--which is a novelty for me after 11 years of homeschooling, and the addition of the McKid to our lives. But she is in preschool, and the Zman often has class or other activities taking up his time. So, it's a new-ish kind of thing. I know, I know that we are supposed to "focus on enjoying our food and not distract ourselves with other things--eat mindfully!" but I can't help reading while I'm eating.

That was a long lead in to tell you why I happened to be reading the March 6th issue of Woman's Day magazine. The article that jumped out at me was "Quiet, Please! Finding Peace in a Surround Sound World", and the gist of the article was that the noise surrounding us, whether of our own choosing (MP3 players, radios, books on tape, tv, etc) or not (phones, other peoples conversations, other noises) are stressful to us, and keep us from thinking as well as we might. It also distracts us from any time at introspection.

So, it made me start thinking: when was my life ever quiet? Do I turn on "background noise" when I am home alone, or when my guys are sleeping and I'm up? How much noise is there in my life?

The answer? A LOT.

I know some of you with small kids are thinking, "Oh, please. I'm never going to have a silent moment for the next 18 years! Who is she kidding?" And I've been there! But I still think the question remains. Are there times when we could relish the quiet and have been so programmed with sound that we don't? Do we always exercise with the MP3 player glued in our ears? Do we work with the radio on? Do we read with the tv on in the background? Do we brush our teeth to the beat of talk radio? Do we surf the internet with the background of some internet music?

Where is the quiet? You surely can't get it at the grocery store, or in an elevator, or at the gym. Do your ears ever feel assaulted by all the sound?

If God speaks in a still, small voice, how will I ever hear him?

So, I did a radical thing. I turned off the radio while I ate my lunch, and opened my patio door and heard: birds chirping and squirrels chattering. A far off child's laugh, soft on the breeze. And silence.

And time stretched out a little.

Without the "every three minute change of song" on the radio, time wasn't measured the same way. Fifteen minutes of no added noise seemed much longer.

It's exactly like the nights we don't watch television. The time seems (blissfully) longer somehow.

Is there a place in your life you've been filling up with sound? Maybe you should see if you could empty it a little. I'm going to try again today.

I'll let you know.

Looking forward, but maybe too much?

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It always happens this time in February--the stirring of "what will we do for Lent" hits the Catholic blogs. I am, of course, one of those people who is beginning the thought process about how to approach Lent. What to do. What to read. What additional act of discipline will I bring to my life. Some folks contemplate a blog-fast. (I am not one of them.) Others think of physical fasting, and that is something that is prominent in my mind and heart this year. I think it might be my calling to actually do more strenuous fasting than I have in the past. We'll see. Discernment is everything.

This is a topic we have discussed in our Bible study many times. How many people look forward to Ash Wednesday and the rest of Lent. Our parish secretary will field literally hundreds of telephone calls asking about imposition of ashes in the three or four days before Ash Wednesday. And I think it speaks volumes about our culture. We know we are drowning in excess. And it feels good to consciously prune that excess back, even if only a little bit.

So, read the following comments with the understanding that I take Lent very seriously indeed.

One of the things that the Feasts of Judaism scripture study says is this:

Many religious people assume that fasting and self-denial is more virtuous than feasting and celebrating. But Judaism teaches, especially in the feast of Sukkot, that the appreciation and enjoyment of material goods and worldly pleasures are an essential religious concern. For the Jew, joy is a sacred gift to be relished and treasured. In fact the rabbis taught that, in the world to come, everyone will have to stand in judgment for every legitimate pleasure in this life that they rejected and failed to enjoy (Jerusalem Talmud, Kiddushin 4:12). The religious path to God includes enjoying good food, choice wine, nice clothes, loving sexual relations, and joyous moments with family and friends.

It exactly goes along with what our parish priest has told us many times: We know how to fast. We look forward to it. We feel holier when we do. We do not know how to feast and be joyful. We have no experience of true feasting, so we overdo it with material giving at Christmas, trying to reach some high point.

I happen to think he is right. Other than a meal at Easter, what will your family do to celebrate the great Feast? Yes, go to mass. Celebrate the liturgy (my favorite liturgies of the year are Holy Week ones). But how will you be bringing it home as celebration? The most wonderful thing in the world has happened! Do you look like it? Do you act like it? Could people tell?

So, yes, spend time in these last days before Lent preparing for the fast.

But spend some time during Lent preparing for the feast.

And rejoice!

Very cool

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LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Thanks to Ellyn over at Oblique House, who is truly 1 in a million, or 1 in 300 million, give or take.

I've been meaning to tell ya'll this.....


....but life being what it is, it got pushed aside.

I run a Bible study on Sunday mornings at my parish. Look, I just mean I'm in charge of ordering the books--I'm certainly no Bible scholar. It's a group effort--everyone reads what we're studying, everyone thinks about it, everyone contributes. I'm just another member of the group.

We've used a few of the Little Rock Scripture studies, and they were OK. We've very successfully and happily used the Loyola Press "Six Weeks With...." series. We've not done any of their themed studies--we've mostly concentrated on various books of the Bible.

We've found that six weeks is a good amount of time to spend on a topic. We started out using Catholic Exchange's in depth studies, but "Thirty Six Weeks on Genesis" became hard--not because it wasn't interesting and well done--it was, it definitely was. But that's a long time committment to a group. We found that people who might have been interested in trying out the study group didn't want to start "in the middle". Using shorter studies allowed people to flow in and out of group as their time and interests allowed. And since we have several folks with bunches of young kids, they can skip the winter session (when all the kids are sick one right after another) and pick up in the spring when they are back to well again.

So, I highly recommend the Loyola product.

That said, we were kind of casting about for something a little different (we've been doing the group for about 4 years now). We came across 23rd Publications, and series of themed studies, with the series name of Threshold Bible Studies . written by Stephen Binz. The books looked interesting, so we took a deep breath and ordered the set on The Feasts of Judaism. Well, the results have been so good. The book is interesting. The daily reading committment is small. We've had very good discussions. We've liked it so much, that we've ordered another of the TBS books for our next study: People of the Passion, which focuses on Christ's passion through the eyes of different people: Peter, Mary, Simon of Cyrene, Veronica, the women of Jerusalem. I hope it's as good as the first one we did.

An odd note. After we had already ordered our first Binz-authored study, one of our members attended the Lay Ministries workshop held by the Diocese (something that I try to avoid at all costs--in the past it has been dreadful!). My friend said he thought there was a much better program put on this year, and he attended a workshop taught by Mr. Binz! Mr. Binz says one of his dreams is a world in which no Catholic would have to leave his own parish to attend a Bible study. A worthy goal.

Anyway, if you're involved in a Bible Study, you might want to take a look at the Thresdhold Bible Study books.

Fine Art Friday - the color edition

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Okay, last week was so fun, looking at things with one subject, that I decided to do a riff on that, by looking at things that had a certain color in either the title or in the work itself. And what, you are thinking to yourself, could that color possibly be? Aaaaah, you guessed it!


Let's cruise through some pink things!

First, here's a beautiful thing:

Water Lily Pond--Pink Harmony
Claude Monet

Beautiful, but maybe not enough pink! Let's look at this one:

Pink Orchard, 1888
Vincent Van Gogh

I like that one, and it doesn't really remind me of other Van Goghs much. It was a surprise to me. On to another artist:

Two Pink Shells
Georgia O'Keeffe

I had not seen these before--I'm more familiar with her southwestern and flower paintings. I would not have guessed they were by her. Moving on, we get to:

Pink Nude
Henri Matisse

Well, she certainly is, isn't she? Here's something I like very much, though:

Still Life in PInk
Jae Dougall

But dearer still to my heart:

Pink Flamingo
John Audubon

I have a book with exactly that picture on its cover, sitting on the shelves of my flamingo shrine here in my office! Pink is exciting, so let's go on to:

Daisy (Crimson and Pink)
Andy Warhol

But if you like your Warhol a little odder, you might like this one:

Beethoven, Pink Book
Andy Warhol

PInk is also tres romantic, as the Smock would say, so here's a romantic pink picture:

Lady in Pink
Childe Hassam

Well, I would say it looks just like me, except for it doesn't. On to the most Summa pink art I found in all my search:

Pink Carnation Floral Stiletto
Elena Feliciano

That artist actually has a whole series of pink floral stiletto prints. They are all us! Pink can also just be silly, though:

Pink Pastures
Mary Anne Nagy

I'm the one on the left. Pink is also bold and dramatic:

Pink Hibiscus
Sofia Dentiste

And if you are a certain age (ahem, like moi), you might think that pink is rockin':


Do you think that's why we homeschooled? "Teachers, leave those kids alone!" Nah, me either. But finally, the Summa Mamas love pink because we know, above all else, that pink is simply the epitome of cool:


Happy (Pink!) Friday, ya'll!

Yep, we're having what I consider the very worst weather. Cold and rainy. Yuck. Cold and clear? Can be beautiful. Cold and snowy? I'm sure a pain, but down here we have an excuse for not getting out and about--"Can't you see it's snowing? I can't drive in this!" But cold and just rain? You've gotta get out and do your normal stuff, all the while brandishing a largely ineffective umbrella (my pants' legs still get wet) or wearing a raincoat, which I cannot stand and makes me feel HOT, even when it's cold. And let's not talk about my wet socks. Let's just don't.

Besides, it's depressing looking a dull grey skies some more. Even the Zman came out and said, "Well, I'm starting to understand why people who live in Seattle kill themselves." And then he went back into his cave.

I just want to sleep, sleep, sleep. Which, of course, I can't because I have to go to the post office, the gas station, the drug store, etc. At least I went to the grocery store earlier.

Yes, I'm being a whiner.

But I know, I just know that I would be so much happier, so much happier if I could just have these to slosh through puddles with:


Think PapaC'll go for it?

Me neither.



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