Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Pumpkin

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Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o'er Nineveh's prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain.
On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden
Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden;
And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold
Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold;
Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North,
On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth,
Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines,
And the sun of September melts down on his vines.
Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South come the pilgrim and guest,
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?
Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin,--our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam,
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!
Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E'er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o'er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own pumpkin pie!
By John Greenleaf Whittier (Via Recta Ratio)
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Franklin and the Turkey

From Slate:
Franklin’s lament of the choice of bald eagle comes from a letter he wrote in 1784. He was remarking upon the medal of the Society of the Cincinnati, which representatives of the new nation were taking to France to bestow upon those who had helped in the American Revolution. The medals depicted a bald eagle that some people thought looked more like a turkey. The suggestion sent Franklin into a thorough drubbing of the eagle’s merits as a symbol. He called it “a Bird of bad moral Character” that “does not get his Living honestly.”
You may have seen him perch’d on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk [Osprey]; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.
Sick burn, Franklin! Stealing food out of a baby’s mouth! Got anything else?
Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District.
Bam! Franklin is being pretty selective with his facts, though. While, yes, bald eagles will steal food from ospreys and eat carrion, they’re excellent fishermen. Additionally, birds of prey—including hawks and owls—are constantly being harassed by smaller birds. In fact, birders know to follow the sound of scolding birds in order to find these larger birds.
What about turkeys, Ben?
For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. He is besides, tho’ a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.
(Read more.)
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Thanksgiving Dinner: Using Our Best Holiday Manners

A reader once asked for some posts on etiquette for the up-coming holidays and holy days. All the theology in the world, all the lovely traditions and the most ethereal spirituality, are nothing if not accompanied by charity towards our neighbor. Love is expressed in thoughtfulness and consideration, in small kindnesses and courtesies, which is what good manners should be. It has occurred to me over the last few years that many people mistake gentleness and courtesy for weakness, just as they mistake brutality and rudeness for strength. No, it requires strength and discipline, as well as fortitude and courage, to be kind to everyone, to greet people who are obnoxious, to show love to everyone. Neither is it being obsequious or condescending to be polite to the rude, which does not, of course, mean being a doormat to bullies. They need to be handled, kindly but firmly.

Here is a practical, contemporary guide from Bon Appétit:
➤ Invite at least one non-family member to ensure that everyone is on their best behavior, help temper tensions, and extend the bread and salt of welcome to neighbors and friends. It’s especially fun to ask those, like the British, for whom Thanksgiving is a curious novelty.

➤ There must be music: a music-less house is missing something. Selections should be unobtrusive, fitting, and as far from a “holiday” or “dinner party” soundtrack as possible....

No scented candles! Roasting turkey and stuffing should be the only aromas.

Clean, tidy, clean again. Pay extra attention to your bathrooms, which should be well stocked and absolutely spotless.

Organize your home so there is room for coats, a place for children to play, and somewhere for the adults to escape. (It’s perfectly acceptable to pile all of your junk into one room and declare it out of bounds.)

➤ Skip the flowers and decorate your table with seasonal finds from the garden (or farmers’ market). Twigs, pinecones, gourds, leaves: anything autumnal, unscented, and low enough to allow sight lines across the table.

➤ The ideal schedule allows adequate time for prepping and cooking and lets you eat early enough to avoid indigestion but late enough to end the day on a congenial note. (If the meal wraps up at 4 p.m., you are both stuffed and starving by 8 p.m.)

➤ In communicating timing, be sneaky. Don’t say when the meal is to be served, or your guests will arrive at the last moment.

➤ Ask some close friends or good conversationalists to come early and be the first guests. This deflects the awkward early phase and allows you to get on with prep.

➤ On Thanksgiving, your sartorial efforts should match the exertions of the cook. Make the dress code smart and let guests interpret that as they see fit.

➤ Guests should be prompt but never early. It matters not if you’ve flown around the world or braved the elements—wait in your car, or stroll round the block, until the appointed hour. Remember: The unexpected early guest is a pest.

➤ If invited to a Thanksgiving where you won’t know many people, do some recon on your fellow guests to help break the ice. (Read more.)
More HERE. Share

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Harvest Decorations

From Victoria:
A cache of well-hunted finds—from rustic Americana to polished Old-World antiquities—captures the sentiment of gracious entertaining so often attributed to the season. The gracefully distressed pine hutch, showcases a medley of English blue-and-white transferware collected by way of many treks to Texas’s famed Round Top Antiques Fair. (Read more.)
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Zeugma’s Mosaics

Ancient Roman mosaics are found in southern Turkey. From Archaeology:
It wasn’t good policy that saved ancient Zeugma. It was a good story. In 2000, the construction of the massive Birecik Dam on the Euphrates River, less than a mile from the site, began to flood the entire area in southern Turkey. Immediately, a ticking time-bomb narrative of the waters, which were rising an average of four inches per day for six months, brought Zeugma and its plight global fame. The water, which soon would engulf the archaeological remains, also brought increasing urgency to salvage efforts and emergency excavations that had already been taking place at the site, located about 500 miles from Istanbul, for almost a year. The media attention Zeugma received attracted generous aid from both private and government sources. Of particular concern was the removal of Zeugma’s mosaics, some of the most extraordinary examples to survive from the ancient world. Soon the world’s top restorers arrived from Italy to rescue them from the floodwaters. The focus on Zeugma also brought great numbers of international tourists—and even more money—a trend that continues today with the opening in September 2011 of the ultramodern $30 million Zeugma Mosaic Museum in the nearby city of Gaziantep. 

But Zeugma’s story begins millennia before the dam was constructed. In the third century b.c., Seleucus I Nicator (“the Victor”), one of Alexander the Great’s commanders, established a settlement he called Seleucia, probably a katoikia, or military colony, on the western side of the river. On its eastern bank, he founded another town he called Apamea after his Persian-born wife. The two cities were physically connected by a pontoon bridge, but it is not known whether they were administered by separate municipal governments, and nothing of ancient Apamea, nor the bridge, survives. In 64 b.c., the Romans conquered Seleucia, renaming the town Zeugma, which means “bridge” or “crossing” in ancient Greek. After the collapse of the Seleucid Empire, the Romans added Zeugma to the lands of Antiochus I Theos of Commagene as a reward for his support of General Pompey during the conquest.  (Read more.)

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Place Settings

 Some great ideas from Southern Living.





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On the Radio with Dorothy Pilarski

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by author and radio host Dorothy Pilarski of Dynamic Women of Faith. To listen, click HERE.The interview was about my new novel The Paradise Tree, available on US and Canadian Amazon, as well as all the other Amazons.

Then I remembered that Goodreads has a page with recordings of some of my other talks, HERE. The talks are about Marie-Antoinette. Louis XVI and the French Revolution, as well as the sufferings of the Irish in the penal times. For more information about my novels, please visit my Amazon Author's page. Share

Changing Constellations

From The Atlantic:
Not only does Space Time reveal that in the 1800s B.C., when the Babylonians were first developing the star charts that the Greeks later adopted and passed down to us, the stars were in slightly different places. And when anatomically modern humans arose in the form of Homo sapiens 200,000 years ago, the stars were in vastly different places. Should we humans manage to not destroy ourselves in the coming 200,000 years, our ancestors will look up into the sky and see not a scorpion and a bear, but a totally different arrangement of stars. The constellations we see today (which already, if we’re honest, don’t actually look like bears or scorpions or any of those things) will be even harder to identify (Read more.)
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