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Leek and Mushroom Grilled Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for grilled cheese
  • 1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • 3 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup of grated Gouda cheese
  • Bread of choice

via Leek and Mushroom Grilled Cheese

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Leek and Mushroom Grilled Cheese

Let this leek and mushroom grilled cheese literally melt in your mouth. More at PBS Food.

Source: Leek and Mushroom Grilled Cheese

Christmas Married To A Pagan Feast

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[ABL photo]

“The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”

~ Clement Clarke Moore

 

The first serious snow is falling. Outdoor Christmas lights across the street melt through a cover of snow – a sight I particularly enjoy.  So, I’ll reprint this – albeit edited – from a few years ago. Maybe it will become a tradition.

Christmas is a fake that has taken root like the holly, and it survives tenaciously. It has become a goodies grab fest, and helps keep our commercial society stable. Perhaps reason enough to exist.

The wily Christians conquered the outnumbered Celts, and supplanted their winter festival with the birth of their God. The wily pagans live on in the numerous traditions the Christians stole, so perhaps it is a fair trade. And no doubt those wily pagans chuckle over their cups o’mead, noting that this celebration of reverence has become a surfeit of greed.

I have been no fan of Christmas for decades, but its mixed legacy encourages me not to abandon it. My Christian background enhances my enjoyment of the music and traditions. Most commercial intrusions can be muted or turned off. I do have some personal traditions I follow religiously.

I do not even rail against Santa Claus. I heard his sleigh bells one Christmas Eve, when I was four. I saw his sleigh runner tracks in the snow a couple of years later.

I have even been mistaken for Santa a couple of times. Once, in the line-up in a bank near Christmas, a two-year old pointed at me. Unfortunately, my presence terrified him, and he started to scream and cry. I was wise enough not to go Ho Ho Ho. Another time – but this happened in early fall – a family approached me as I walked in a park. A boy, who looked to be six or seven, stopped in his tracks, then ran back to his parents. “Santa Claus!”  He pointed. Happily he did not cry. They walked past me in silence.

Also, for decades, I lived close to a residence where one of the very first recitations of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas happened. The author of that stirring piece, Clement Moore, who wrote it in 1822, sent a copy to his godfather, the Rev Johnathan O’Dell, of Fredericton New Brunswick. However, the poem was not published until 1837.

To be fair to myself, I’m not a total Scrooge, as I have written some Christmas tales.  Here is a wee segment from The Elephant Talks To God:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I want to see you,” said the elephant, and the words raced from his mouth. “I don’t have to see you, you know that. I’ve believed even before you talked to me. But I want to see you, it would mean so much. I wasn’t around for the Baby, but cows and sheep and things got to see Him. I can’t explain but it would … ”

“Go home,” said the cloud.

“You’re not angry with me?” said the elephant.

“No.” The cloud started moving away. “It’s an honest request.” The rain stopped falling. “Thank you for coming.”

“You’re welcome,” said the elephant.

“Sing some carols,” the voice was distant. “I like them.”

The elephant turned and started through the woods. He ignored the tasty leaves within easy reach and the tall grass near the brook. He wanted to get home as quickly as possible so he could join the singing he knew was happening later in the evening.

He turned along the trail, snapping a branch here and there in his haste, when he noticed the stillness, the hush which had overtaken the forest. He slowed down and the stopped in his tracks. He turned his head, his small eyes squinting into the brush. There was movement coming toward him, and when the trees parted, he went to his knees with a gasp. Tears rolled from his eyes, and a golden trunk gently wiped them away.*

*Last line edited from an error in the book.

 

Is My Past Tying Up Loose Ends?

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I was in the City Market, looking at produce. From the corner of my eye, with my back turned, something familiar twigged about a person passing. It was a woman with long, shock-white hair.
In this day-and-age it is unwise to start trailing a woman shouting “Hey, you.” Plus, this lady did not look the type to appreciate any unusual approach. As she was moving at quite a clip, I also wondered how wise it might be to give any sort of obvious chase.
However, she popped into a craft shop. With this delay, I thought I could take at least a further look. As it was, I was staring through a window just as she was staring out. Her brow did indeed furrow, and her facial expression was more of annoyance than curiosity. But, then, her face did change, and I saw recognition at about the same time I confirmed to myself who it was.
I believe it has to be twenty years since I last saw her.  As we were saying the usual “I thought you looked familiar” type of thing, a young woman appeared at her side. I – who never remembers names – recognised her daughter, and even called her by her name.
They were in town for a family funeral. In fact, the interment had been that very morning. They were heading to the airport in an hour or so. The last she knew of my whereabouts was when I lived in a different city. We only had a few minutes of chat – nothing about writing, other than that she asked if I was still writing. I admitted I was now down to five days a week, and not daily. Then they were away.
It has been a strange year for the old times popping up.
One friend (whom I haven’t seen for six years) was in town for a family reunion. Another friend, (whom I hadn’t seen for three years) drove in for an afternoon.
I went to a Memorial for a colleague with whom I had no dealings for nearly thirty years. And I went to a cousin’s Funeral Parlour visitation (whom I had not seen for eighteen years).
However, from the Funeral Parlour experience, emerged a more-than-unusual episode for my latest novel, where I am following the exploits of Alison Alexandra.
It almost seems as if my past is tying up some loose ends.

Re-Writing The Bible Luke 7 36-50

luke-7-by-reubens

 

Almost always, when I have cause to talk about Starbucks (which happened yesterday) this incident comes to mind.  Something to eventually place under the heading “The Life Of An Author”.

Some time ago I had an odd request – a very odd request, come to think of it – to re-write a portion of the New Testament. It is Luke 7 36-50, where Jesus is Anointed by a Sinful Woman. I was asked to write it from the woman’s point of view.

I met the man who made the commission at a Starbucks (his suggestion). He is a successful business man and owns and runs a professional corporation. He gave me the verses he wanted done and asked if I thought I would be able to do so. I said yes. I have the ability and the project intrigued me.  It would hold my interest.

He was not garrulous or forthcoming, and I refrained from asking him why he wanted this done. However, I did query the direction he might want the story to take. he was vague about that, also. A woman’s point of view. A woman of the times. I felt I pressed that issue strongly enough, even if I did not get an answer.

We discussed price. I told him what I thought such a project was worth. I explained it as an issue of time expended (even I wasn’t sure how much effort it would be). He agreed to an hourly price.

The end result was that he did not pay me. he disliked the finished story. I include the work and our email exchange at the end of the adventure. I wish he would have been as detailed in telling me what he wanted before the fact, instead of after.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Luke 7: 36-50

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman
36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,
38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
 41 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[d] and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.
46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.
47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
I would like to see this story told from the sinner lady point of view.
****************************************
What I did.
The woman was a sinner. Everyone in the village knew this and everyone treated her accordingly. She would sleep with men for money, and thus was shunned. Except by those men who used her and paid her. But when they were done with her, they shunned her, too. Men are like that, selfish and deceitful. She has earned her money. They have earned her contempt.
The woman had reasons for being a sinner. Her parents were old when she was born and she was a chore to them. Not only a chore perhaps, but their affection was watered down. Their interest in her was always coloured with annoyance. She did not do what they wanted. She did not think as they thought. She had desires which had left them years before, so they did not think them important. And she was a girl – good only as bait for a man to marry. She was a burden.
However, she had a life to live. Her parents said she should thank them for her life. She said that instead she would blame them. She would look after herself if that was the way it had to be. She would use the tools that God gave her, just like a carpenter uses his tools to build. If there is no help from her parents; if her village looks down on her; if a man won’t marry her; well, she’ll set out on her own.
And she did.
It was not difficult to become a success at what she did. When with a man all she had to do was move her body and tell them lies. Praise them. Make those sounds they want to hear. Make then happy and she had a repeat customer. Keep the foolish secrets they seemed to insist telling her to herself. They trusted her as they used her. She used their stories for her own good. Learned where to purchase the best goods. Learned who to avoid. Make a bit of money on speculation. Even the cheapest grave digger when the time came for each of her parents. Be able to keep her parents house and even put some money away. What was a reputation compared to this?
It was from her clients that she first heard of Jesus. Yet another desert prophet full of crazy talk. The rabble seemed to love him. The Pharisees warned against him. He talked as if his words were the words of God. He seemed to give strange interpretations of the stories in the Bible. He seemed to think that more than just the rich were important. The men she was with laughed at that, but it was nervous laughter. There was something about this Jesus which troubled them, but also interested them. It was not usual that her client’s talk included references to God.
It was also from one of her clients – a Pharisee who liked to brag – that she learned Jesus was going to visit her village. The Pharisees were not happy with Jesus. They did not like what he was preaching. People are not equal. People need their leaders. Give people such ideas and they will be harder to control. So one of the Pharisees was going to invite Jesus to dine at his home.
The sinful woman decided she would attend the dinner. It was enough of a public event that she doubted she would be turned away. She wanted to hear what this Jesus had to say. See what he looked like. She knew about men and she was certain she could tell if he was to be trusted. And, men being men, she would bring him a gift. Nothing suggestive, just a jar of perfume to sooth him after his journey. She would present it to him if what she was hearing about him turned out to be true.
When she arrived at the house, and heard what Jesus had to say, she understood why the rich and powerful feared him. She knew the truth when men spoke it, because she heard it little enough. Jesus offered her comfort and asked for no favours in return.
She approached Jesus and kneeled at his feet, weeping. She was so affected by his compassion that her tears caused streaks through the dust on his feet. She wiped away at the tears with her hair, sobbing all the while. She then began to pour the perfume on his feet, rubbing the scented oils into his skin to relieve the ache of his walking.
Although the woman did not look up, she heard the condemnation coming from the Pharisee. She cowered lower beside Jesus’ feet and was prepared to be mocked and told to know her place. Forced from the house. Instead, Jesus remained seated and told a story. He asked who would love a moneylender more, one who had a huge debt cancelled, or one who had a small debt cancelled? The Pharisee replied that the one with the larger debt would have more love. Jesus agreed.
Then Jesus looked at the woman and smiled. He spoke to the Pharisee, and took the time to detail the actions of the woman since he arrived. He compared what the woman had done to the neglect of his host. She had paid attention to him, kissed his feet again and again, soothed him with perfumed oil after his walk, took the time to make him comfortable. The Pharisee had done nothing to put him at his ease. So if the woman was a sinner, then she deserved to have all of her sins forgiven, for she had done much for him. Her love was the greater, for she had overcome the greater sins, whereas the Pharisee, regardless of his fewer sins, had done nothing.
Jesus then forgave the sins of the woman, and told her to go in peace. And although this outraged the Pharisee and his guests, and made them question the authority of Jesus, the woman left the house cleansed.

*************************************************

Email Exchange Re: Bible Story

Hi, *****:
Let me know what you think of the story.
Dale
Did you receive the Bible story?
Dale
I’m starting to wonder if I have the correct email address, though nothing is bumped back. Did you receive the story? I am wondering what your reaction is.
Dale
I’ll try this address and hope to get a response
Dale
Hi Mr. Dale,
I expected the story to shed the light on the values and habits of Jewish community at the time of Jesus. I would elaborate on the social rejection to the sinners who does not conform with the social rules. I would not picture her as a community defiant person. I would highlight her struggle with her temptations & her religious and community values. I would illustrate how the teachings of jesus to invite the sinners to repent made a difference to her. I would imply how her humplness made the difference between her and Simon.
I do not think that the story delivered the massage that we discussed.

Remembrance Day / Armistice Day / Veterans Day

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One Remembrance Day, I went to the ceremonies in Halifax, NS. The main cenotaph, in The Grand Parade downtown. It is a huge place, nearly a half a city block long and wide. A towering flag-mast is near one end, as befits a sea-faring city.

The city bus, which would normally be nearly empty during a mid-morning holiday run, was nearly full. And part way along, a grouping of twenty uniformed military personnel got on. All Navy. Spit-and-polish. I noted their shoes. I approved.

I arrived nearly an hour before 11:00 o’clock, but there were already hundreds present. The Grand Parade was awash with people, so much so that they were asked to keep on the grass, so the parade itself could manoeuver when it arrived. There was a tent where actual World War Two veterans sat. It was chill and cloudy, but no rain nor snow arrived.

Pipes and drums and a military band made themselves known in the distance. A flag carrying, colour-party of veterans marched in,  followed by ranks of modern military and red-uniformed RCMP. Followed by veterans and cadets and children and organizations. In, and around, and back they marched, to finally face the cenotaph itself. Crisp orders. Boots solid on the stones. Music. Hundreds of spectators.

The ceremony follows a set routine, of course. Much is squeezed into the eleven minutes around the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. A too-brief portion of God Save The Queen. Oh Canada. The Last Post. Booming artillery from high up Citadel Hill. A military helicopter clattering over us. The minute of silence. The chaplains with their words. And God’s.

There were two new (new to me, at any rate) events, and one occurrence that was impressive indeed.

Three flags – one of Canada and two smaller military – were lowered to half-staff during the ceremony. It was quite a distance to descend, and their wires screeched.

Six white doves were released. I doubt they were so-trained, but they flew into the distance and then came right back over the crowd before leaving.

And, the last note of the trumpet ended at the exact second the steeple bells began to chime its eleven times.

There is really no time to cheer during this sombre ceremony, but sometimes it is tempting so to do.

(photo)https://i.cbc.ca/1.4398936.1510415846!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/halifax-grand-parade-remembrance-day-2017.jpg

The Savages Are Within The Gates And Taking Over

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For those who think our North American culture has progressed  over the last fifty years, I offer this conversation I heard on a city bus mere hours ago.

This is between two gentlemen sliding out of their sixth decade. One was even wearing the garb, and affecting the  pony-tailed hair, of the actual Sixties of the last century. The other had a sports coat and neat pants, and was carrying a number of books.

Sports Coat (to bus driver): Do you go past the New Library?

Bus Driver: No, but I go past the end of the street. A ten minute walk.

SC: OK – I can do that.

Pony Tail: You taking books back?

SC: Yup. My Sunday chore. I’ll get others.

PT: There’s a closer library – right along here.

SC: Jeez – I can’t go there.

PT: Why?

SC: Loud as hell.

PT: What?

SC: The kids. They run the place.

PT: You mean after school?

SC: All the time I’m ever in there.

PT: They can be loud.

SC: They’re savages taking over.

PT: They’re just young.

SC: In my day, kids showed some respect.

PT: It’s a small library. Things sound louder.

SC: The librarian would shut us down.

PT: It isn’t that bad.

SC: She’d tell us to shut up, and that would be it.

 

He never – it is true – used the phrase: To Hell in a Handcart.

(image)i.huffpost.com/gen/1640210/images/o-LIBRARY-UNIVERSITY-facebook.jpg

 

 

 

A True Ghost Story In The Dead Of The Night

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A true story for All Hallows’ Eve, although it did not happen on Halloween.
I was visiting the Bay of Fundy island of Grand Manan. I had booked a room in a bed and breakfast and arrived mid-evening. I went elsewhere for a meal, but did meet the owners, and noted there were a couple of others staying there. I returned around eleven, chatted to the owners and one guest, then went up to bed.
 
The room was top of the stairs and across a landing. Comfortably rustic with a radio. The bed was fine and I was not long getting to sleep. In the dead of the dark (no streetlights here) I was awakened by the touch of hands on me. I was sleeping on my left side. One hand was over my groin and the other on my chest. There was also the weight of a body next to me and the pressure of an arm across my side. I was initially surprised and confused but not frightened. Time probably stretched but it seems to me I lay like this for ten or fifteen seconds.
Then, the very first coherent thought which came to me was that someone laying behind me could not have both arms over my body. There could not be two hands placed on the front of my body. I got out of bed very quickly and did indeed experience fear. I turned on the overhead light but saw nothing. I heard nothing. The temperature was not unusual. I was frightened and certainly uncomfortable, but I can’t say that aura was present.
I went to the bathroom across the landing. The house was silent. I returned to the bedroom, thinking both of leaving the light on and turning on the radio. But then I thought that was just giving into fear, and might encourage the fear instead of ease it, so I did neither.
I did not seem to take very long to get to sleep.
The next morning I went downstairs for breakfast. I heard the owner talking to two other guests as I approached the kitchen. Just as I entered she interrupted her conversation and turned to me. She said: “Let’s ask him. He’s the one sleeping in the haunted room.”
I don’t know if they had been talking about ghosts or if something else had happened in the night. I relayed my experience and the owner then told the story of the house. As with many buildings on the island, it had once been a farm house, with the owners also fishing. It was a century or more old and left to a daughter.
When she herself got old and could not look after it, her family forced her to leave, something she fought against.
The present owners then bought the building and started taking in guests. However, whenever they attempted renovations, they were discouraged by having paint cans overturned, new wallpaper peeled from the wall, ladders moved, hammers and such hidden.
The new owners’ daughter lived next door, and looked after the house when her parents went away (trips to Florida in the winter). She inevitably had to come over to the house and close doors, turn off lights, put furniture back in place.
The old woman who was forced to leave had the reputation of being a mean and unpleasant person. I don’t know if she was taking a liking to me or not.

Are You Scared Of Halloween? Don’t Come Up The Stairs!

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I like Halloween, though I am more prone to appreciate its origins and the additions imposed by those wily Christians, than either on its own. This blend with the new, upstart religion actually keeps alive the foundation of the old. Druids became priests and all’s well with the world. Amen and pass the hollow turnip.

I once had an apartment at the top of a darkened, high-ceiling flight of stairs. Even people who knew me, and came to call, commented that the entrance could make them a tad nervous. It was perfect as an entrance for those trick-or-treaters who dared to try.

As the gates between death and life nudged open a bit, I replaced the usual light bulb with a black light. I spaced a few candles from midway up the steps. I had a prominent jack o’ lantern sitting on a chair at the top landing. I placed a speaker  in the vicinity of the grinning pumpkin and favoured loud Satie, Night On Bald Mountain, Gregorian Chants, and like-minded music. I also had a nice bowl of treats at the top of the stairs, and all who reached it were welcome to take what they wanted.

I had few takers.

One year, when the weather was warm enough to leave the top door open, I sat and listened to the passing traffic of costumed trick-or-treaters. At one point four or so teens clustered at the bottom door. They were in conversation.

“OK. That’s spooky.”

“What’s that music?”

“Are there any other lights in the window?” [Actually there were – candles.]

“You going up?”

You go up!”

“I don’t think so.”

“Hell, no.”

And they didn’t.

(image)schoolofthinking.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/stairway_to_manhattan.jpg

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