Distant Sun

I’m headed out very shortly to grab some Thai food but wanted to post something before I go. For the second time, the song in my head when I awoke was a Crowded House tune. I guess I’ve been listening to my Crowded House channel on Pandora too much lately.

I guess this is actually the third time I had Crowded House in my head upon waking. For the last two mornings in a row, “Distant Sun” has been the tune in my noggin’. I like it. It’s a very hopeful song to me. Hope you enjoy it. I have to run.

Gravity

I know you’ve all been missing the regular blog updates, especially the Song in My Head updates.  It isn’t that I’ve forgotten to update. I just haven’t had a recognizable song in my head for a few days.

Okay, that’s not necessarily so. I think Monday’s song was “Kinky” by whatever Perry Ferrel’s band is these days. I felt that posting it would certainly have marked me out as tainted in some way.  The title alone would’ve suggested some Freudian subtext.

Yesterday, I woke up with a church tune, “Glory to God”. So there. It all balances out nicely.

This morning, we’re back to a song by the band Intercept. I already have one of their songs, “Home”, as a Song in My Head. In my previous posting, I linked to their website and, whilst spying my site logs, noticed an incoming visit from their site logs. Apparently I’ve sent them some traffic and they have repaid the favor.

Because of that, I’ll again link to their website and tell you the song ringing through mi cabeza this morning was “Gravity”. It’ll be the song playing when you click through the landing screen and, if you like it, you can download it for free on the “Secrets” page.

Maddeningly, none of their stuff seems to be available on YouTube, except for the video I embedded last time and the video below showing the story behind the band. The intro music is from “Gravity”, so I leave it to you. I have nothing else to offer.

I Made Butter

I was talking to a friend of mine the other night about the importance of setting goals in life. Setting goals and trying to reach them is how we grow in life and how we keep from stagnating. We talked about how important it is to continue to learn things just so we can keep moving forward.

One of my goals for this year is to learn how to make things. Mostly the things I want to learn to make are food or kitchen related.  I don’t know why, exactly. I’ve never been the picture of the domestic in the kitchen. I can cook if pressed and will do so if I have someone for whom I can cook. If it’s just me feeding myself, my philosophy has largely been to put it in a bowl, pour milk over it and consume. It’s quick, it’s easy and I’m perfectly happy with it. My roots in the kitchen run deep, though.

My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother have always been at home in the kitchen.  My family has never been rich but recipes and cooking skills have been handed down with pride from one generation to the next. To hear the stories told, the matriarch of the previous generation was always more accomplished when it came to cooking. I regret that I can’t have Grandmamma (that’s “grand maw maw”) Harris’ biscuits. Apparently they were heavenly. My grandmother, Mamma (“maw maw”), made great biscuits but always claimed her mother’s were better. She herself made great meringue pies that my mother claims she can’t duplicate. Mom makes things like peanut brittle and pear honey and has written a cookbook with all the “family” recipes. I think she’s gotten more active in the kitchen since her retirement.

My father also isn’t too bad in the kitchen. He tells stories of his Grandmother Holloway and her icebox rolls and talks of how he would compete with his cousin to see who could eat more of them in one sitting. His own cooking is always a bit of an experiment, however. You never really know what you are going to end up with when he fires up a burner.  We like to tell the tale of when my father took canned tuna and married it to canned fruit cocktail and presented it as a meal. I personally don’t remember it but the story is told on a fairly regular basis whenever the family gathers. Rumor has it that it was as gross as it sounds.

I do remember muffins made with pistachio pudding mix and a particularly patriotic red, white and blue cake.  There was fresh made snow cream and grape syrup made from melted Smuckers.  He made us milkshakes that were basically colored milk with a little sugar in it. Most of Pop’s magic was accomplished with a generous dash of food coloring, now that I think of it.  But he was always cooking up something new.

Given that history, I feel like I’ve been letting down the side when it comes to the kitchen. I feel that it’s incumbent upon me to learn what I can in the kitchen in order to preserve the heritage and so that I can leave the same to my own children one day, God willing that I ever have any of my own. So I set a goal to learn how to make things

Tonight, I made butter. I have always had an appreciation for homemade foods, whether it be beer or bread or whatever. They seem to satisfy the palette as well as the soul. There’s little better than real butter on a fresh piece of bread and I know my brother has made butter in the the past. I figured it couldn’t be too difficult. Certainly the instructions for making butter make it seem relatively straightforward. “Put whipping cream in a jar. Shake like mad.”

Shake like mad? This I can do.

I made a run to Trader Joe’s today in preparation for the assault on Mt. Butter. Two half-pints of whipping cream, a strainer and  a Mason jar. That was the plan anyway. Unfortunately, there were no Mason jars to be had at either of the two locations I tried. I settled on a plastic bottle that doubles as a measuring cup and bore a “shaker” label.

This becomes a crucial piece of information a little later in the story. A plastic shaker is not the equivalent of a Mason jar.

Anyway, I get home and launch into a full scale cleaning of the kitchen. It seems improper to make anything in a disorganized kitchen. Maybe this was my OCD coming out or maybe it was just a delay tactic. I don’t know. I had to wait for the whipping cream to reach room temperature so I couldn’t get an immediate start anyway.

I cleaned my refrigerator, washing all the shelves and organizing my condiments by size and type.  I reorganized my pots and pans.  I unloaded the dishwasher. I took out the garbage. Twice.  I threw out no less then 7 two year-old bottles of salad dressing.

This last bit is odd as I do not eat salad, ever. Why I had 7 bottles of the stuff, I’ll never know. I think it’s because I’m a bachelor and bachelors are required, by law, to have a refrigerator full of condiments and beer.  I have three bottles of mayonnaise, six things of mustard (various types and flavors), two jars of pickles, four things of strawberry jam, four bottles of lime juice, three bottles of lemon juice, two unopened containers of maraschino cherries and two equally pristine containers of salsa. Somehow these things accumulate. I suspect them of multiplying through secret condiment carnality whenever the refrigerator door is closed.

I also have one metric ton of butter. Literally. The last thing I need is butter. The picture below is all the butter that was already in my fridge.

The butter that was already in my refrigerator.
The butter that was already in my refrigerator.

Why do I want to make butter, for crying out loud? I might as well make my own mustard.

***

Having appeased the obsessive compulsive voices in my head, I was ready to proceed. I poured the now lukewarm whipping cream into my shaker, pressed down the lid and started to shake. The instructions I’ve read called for anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes of vigorous agitation and, being me, I assumed 45 was more appropriate than 15. I settled in for three-quarters of an hour of vicious and aggressive palsy.

45 minutes is a long time to shake anything. I quickly decided I was going to have to find something I could do with my unoccupied hand…k. Let me stop right there. I know some of you and I know where your minds are right now. Stop it. “Master butterer” jokes are just too easy at this point.

*Ahem*. As I was saying, I quickly decided I was going to have to find an alternate task I could accomplish whilst continuing to churn my butter. Updating my Facebook status happened to be the first thing that came to me,  as I felt it necessary for the entire world to know that, yes, I was following up on my promise to make butter.

This is when I took my eye off the ball. We’ve already established that a plastic shaker does not a Mason jar make. Whereas a Mason jar has a nicely threaded lid that can be screwed on tightly, a plastic shaker has a lid that snaps shut. Given this, it is possible for the lid to be removed by the simple application of repeated vertical force.

I found this out the hard way.

Five minutes later, carpets once again free of whipping cream and string of swear words fading into echos, I resumed my activity with one finger firmly atop the container. For the next half-an-hour, I churned.

Eventually, I began to feel the thumping of something more than whipping cream in the jar.  I opened the container and poured the whole mess into a strainer. I probably got two or three teaspoons of buttermilk but, by and large, the contents of the shaker were solid. I wanted to be sure, however, so I scooped it all back into the jar and shook it for another five minutes. Can’t be to sure about these things, right?

Straining the buttery goodness.
Straining the buttery goodness.

I also drank the buttermilk, by the way. It was a lot sweeter than the buttermilk from the store. The one time I remember being given buttermilk, it was really disgusting. This wasn’t bad at all. I kinda’ wish there’d been more.

Anyway, I strained it all out again, put it all back and started mixing in cold water to wash out the remaining cream. Leaving in the cream causes the butter to turn rancid faster, so I’ve read. Being a tad bit on the cautious side, I repeated this step for something like 15 minutes. There shall be no rancifying cream in my butter if I have anything to do about it.

Lastly, I strained out all the water, created a container from some aluminum foil, packed the butter in and dumped it in the fridge to solidify. I have to say, it turned out really well. I made myself some toast and eggs and the butter tasted really fresh. It actually tasted like butter too. This was something of a relief and a surprise to me. I was pretty sure I’d failed.

Eggs over-easy, toast with fresh butter.
Eggs over-easy, toast with fresh butter.

Except for the minor catastrophe involving the flying lid, it was a fairly satisfying endeavor. I’m sure I’ll repeat the experiment some time in the future. Hopefully this is just the beginning of my activity in the kitchen. One of these days, I’d like to make my own bread to go with the butter. If I ever make that happen, I’m sure you’ll read about it here.

Until then, I raise my glass to those that have gone before me. To my mother and father, to my grandmother and my great-grandmothers, I honor you for the legacy you have passed down to me and I will strive to keep it alive for the next generation of Staffords, Holloways, Harris’ and Wrights.  So help me God.

Weeks Go By Like Days

You thought I was going to forget, didn’t you? It’s almost the end of the day and I have yet to post the song in my head to this blog.

Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten. Nor have I decided to stop posting the songs with which I awake. I’m sure many of you are looking for more substantive posts but those take time and effort and, well, something worthwhile to talk about. I probably have plenty of time but have precious little to say and little energy with which to say it some days.

So you get the song in my head. Keep coming back, though. I promise I’ll post something more worthwhile eventually.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll like the song, become huge fan, go to a show and get to meet the band backstage.

It could happen.

This morning’s song was a bit of a stumper. Once again, I knew neither the song title nor the band. I had to listen to Pandora for almost an hour before the sang came up. The song is “Weeks Go By Like Days” by My Morning Jacket. It doesn’t happen to be on YouTube. You can, however, find it on Last.fm. Go give a listen.

The World Where You Live

For the first time, I was able to recognize three separate songs before full wakefulness. The first was a Bruce Springsteen song. I’m not a huge fan of Bruce so I’m not sure how he got in there. Maybe he impressed himself in my mind when he jammed his crotch into the camera during the Super Bowl half-time show.

I don’t know the name of the song but could find it if I took the time. I’m just glad it wasn’t accompanied by visions of his crotch-tacular acrobatics.

The second song was “The World Where You Live” by Crowded House. The video is below. Check out how young those guys are. I think the song is from way back in 1987. Weren’t they still Split Enz that far back? I guess not.

The last song was “Walk On the Ocean” by Toad the Wet Sprocket. Love that song. It makes me think of my buddy, Icehole, for some reason. We used to live together back in the early 1990s and I probably heard that song a great deal around the house.  I love that band.

I’m not posting them, though, as their song really only joined the chorus of voices in my head as I rose for the day. I don’t think it counts. What do you think?

Quick, of what does this song remind you?

Chris Isaak, The Banshee In My Mind

So pleeeeeeeeaaaase return the love you took from me. Or pleeeeeeeeaaaase, let me know if it can’t be me…” – Chris Isaak, “Somebody’s Crying”

This is what I awoke with this morning, the sweet strains of Chris Isaak’s voice wailing in my head. I’ve awoken in more pleasant ways, I suspect. What about you guys? Does anyone else wake up with a different song in their head every morning? I can’t possibly be the only one. Let’s hear some chatter, folks.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that hearing songs in your head when you wake up is a sign of a highly involved intelligence.I’m just speaking from my own personal experience, however. Your experience may be wholly different than my own.

Specifically, does anyone else wake up to the ghostly red-shift of Chris Isaak’s voice in their mind? I would be much comforted if that were the case.

Bac’n

Just came across this and haven’t updated the bacon category in a while so I thought I’d share. It’s true that there’s good bacon and excellent bacon. The site below is dedicated to selling only excellent bacon.

Anyone else hungry?

Mmmm. Bac’n.

Elusive Song

I am not posting my morning song this evening as I could not identify it. It’s interesting because I woke up an hour earlier than normal this morning and was surprised to find no tune running through my head. I was a little disappointed, actually. It’s been fun to keep track of these things.

I went back to sleep because, you know, why get up any earlier than I must? When I awoke again, there were faint strains of song in the background but I could not identify the artist or the song. I did get some lyrics but it wasn’t enough to find the thing in Google. I thought at first that it was Magnolia Electric Co. but decided against it.

Could’ve possibly been My Morning Jacket or Band of Horses.

I know you’re all disappointed so here’s something by Band of Horses just to keep you happy.

Poppa Says

I thought I would post my father’s reply to last night’s post. The question was whether or not apostates who denied Christ during a period of persecution could return to Christ and have his sacrifice be efficacious a second time. The Donatist said no, the Catholic church said yes. Dad says:

One strong point now. Peter himself denied Christ three times yet he was restored and became a great leader in the church. Where could the story of his denial have come from , except from Peter himself as all the other disciples had forsaken Christ. It says something about the great forgiveness of God and sends a great message to those, who in the face of persecution denied Jesus and were later restored.

The command to forgive seventy times seven is not literal, but limitless, and if we be commanded to do so, how unlimited must be the forgiveness of God? I go with greatness of he Grace of God.

For those of you who do not know, Dad is a retired Methodist minister who has taught religion and ethics for many years. He is no typist, however, so I did some light editing for him. Thanks for sharing, Pop.

Wikipedia “Confessions”

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

I got exactly one paragraph into St. Augustine’s “Confessions” before I came across tonight’s Wikipedia entry.

The edition that I’m reading starts with a timeline outlining “the world of Augustine and the Confessions”, beginning in 313 A.D.

Emperors Constantine and Licinius agree on a policy of religious freedom for the whole Roman Empire: The Edict of Milan marks the end of the period of intermittent state persecution of Christians. In Africa, there is growing schism between Christians who continue to identify strongly with the tradition of the martyrs, and those who take a less heroic view of how the church should henceforth define itself. The hardliners, as followers of Donatus, bishop of  Carthage, will be known as Donatists.

Reading this got me geeked up in the extreme and I had to run off to Wikipedia to find out more.  I give you a sample:

The primary disagreement between Donatists and the rest of the early Christian church was over the treatment of those who renounced their faith during the persecution of Roman emperor Diocletian (303–305), a disagreement that had implications both for the Church’s understanding of the Sacrament of Penance and of the other sacraments in general.

The rest of the Church was far more forgiving of these people than the Donatists were. The Donatists refused to accept the sacraments and spiritual authority of the priests and bishops who had fallen away from the faith during the persecution.

On the surface of it, my sympathies lie with the Donatist. I don’t know why exactly. It may be that I have not always been fond of the theology of the Catholic church. It may be that I rebel against the hierarchical nature of the Catholic church. Maybe I just like underdogs and heretics. I dunno.

The Donatist sentiment does seem to jibe well with at least one passage in Hebrews 10, which deals specifically with apostasy.

26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.

28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.”

31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings,

33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated.

34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.

35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

37 For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.

38 But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.

39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

Reading the above passage, it seems that it proscribes falling away due to persecution and denies the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice for those who had accepted and then denied it. I can certainly see the point of the Donatists in this light.

However, I’m a believer in big Grace. We all fall away from God time and again, through our own wilfullness and disobedience, even after we’ve accepted Christ’s sacrifice as payment.

In this light, we all trample Christ underfoot and woe to us all if his sacrifice be insufficient to cover multitudes of sin. I’m more likely to accept the Catholic position that righteousness comes from God no matter the state of man. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Anyway, it seems that the Donatist were not of God but were of man and faded away under the onslaught of the Muslims. It’s an interesting line of inquiry though and one I’ll probably spend more time with in the coming days. Maybe I’ll share additional thoughts here.

Pop, if you’re out there, I’d love to get your input via the comment section. What do you think? Can you shed a little philosophical light on this debate?

Until then, I’m off to read the second paragraph of “Confessions”. At this rate, the blog will be full of Wikipedia commentary by the end of chapter one.