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Breathe

Teacher spoke softly saying 
Breathe in
Through your nose
Breathe out
Through your mouth
Breathing in deeply
Helps me to center myself
Thoughts come and go
Like the clouds above
The urn, when breathing
Breathe, when praying
Pray, when looking
See, the birds 
Engraved on the urn
There too triangles
Circles and straight lines
Signs that are read 
Top to bottom
Bottom to top 
In the distance
Out the window
Old buildings
In need of repair 
Alludes to the thought
The Church can never be completed
Always, like us, in need
Of breath, of repair
We see a peacock
We know from our art 
History classes
It can be easy to ignore
Birds and peacocks 
As symbols or art
But writing stems 
From the pictorial
The peacock became a symbol of immortality in Christian art
The peacock serves as a reminder of the Resurrection and eternal life
The peacock is symbolic of re-growth and rejuvenation,
Royalty, respect, honor, and integrity
The peacock is also a symbol of beauty, love, and passion
In Egypt the peacock was linked to the worship of the sun god, Amon-Ra and associated with the all-seeing eye of Horus. To the Hindus, the peacock was associated with Hindra, the god of thunder who became a peacock endowed with one hundred eyes that enabled him to watch out for the demon Ravana
Peacocks are also symbolic in the Buddhist religion
Symbolic because they display their feathers by opening their tails they are associated with openness and purity, and their feathers are even used in Buddhist purification rituals
Breathe in
Breathe out
Teacher softly speaks 
This advice from Swami Buaji
Be kind
Be peaceful
Be tolerant
Begin the day with Love
Spend the day with Love
End the day with Love
This is the way to Source
Breathe

Susan’s Birthday

The sunrise Sunday morning shined brightly, the day of Susan’s birthday, January Eight.

On the kitchen table was a birthday card I made for her. One of my photos, sunrise at the park down the street from where we live, and a poem.

“Did you write this,” she asked.

“I did.”

“It’s beautiful.”

This is the day
You are sacred
This the day
You are guided by love
This is the day
You embrace truth
This is the day
Truth is beauty
Beauty truth
You are beauty
You are truth
This is the day
To say Happy Birthday

The day began with bacon, toast, and scrambled eggs. And coffee, of course!

I then made her a birthday cake, based on a recipe from a recently published and fabulous cookbook, a work of art, “Gateau: The Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes,” by Aleksandra Crapanzano, a recipient of the James Beard Foundation M.F.K. Fisher Award for Distinguished Writing. It was a Yogurt Lemon Tarragon Raspberry Cake. And it was delicious!

For our appetizer I made Steamed Shrimp Dumplings in a Bamboo Steamer served with a spicy vinegar dipping sauce. These were based on a recipe from Rasa Malaysia, a great recipe website.

And for our dinner I made a Glazed Spiral Ham, based on a recipe from Michael Symon. The glaze consisted of maple syrup, dark molasses, grain mustard, apple cider, curry paste and garlic. Gosh was it delicious! Served with roasted green beans and mushrooms. And I love the plate, too!

We are blessed. And blessings to you. Cheers!

The Four Days Of Christmas

Here it is Monday, January 2, 2023, another holiday and I have not yet shared with you our Four Days of Christmas.

First things first.

Because the usual federal holiday of New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday, some Americans get the following day, 2 January, as holiday. It wouldn’t make sense to give government workers a day off on a Sunday when few would be working anyway. Generally, institutions like schools, banks, businesses and the US stock market are closed for federal holidays.

Supermarkets and grocery stores are, however, open–as many were on New Year’s Day. Department stores and malls are open–stores filled with merchandise from China and half-empty malls filled with closed stores, massage chairs and eyebrow threading kiosks.

Back to The Four Days of Christmas.

Friday, December 23. The First Day of Christmas. A Christmas family celebration at my ex-wife’s house. She and her husband have been hosting a family get-together for a number of years. In attendance: Betsy and her husband, John; Besty’s sister, Jane; our daughter, Danielle and her husband, Mike and their children, Emily and Matthew; our son, Daryl and his girlfriend, Julia, now his fiancé, home from Colorado for one week; Julia’s parents, Kim and Joe; and me and Susan. Betsy made a Pork Roast. Susan made Blue Cheese and Walnut Crackers, and a Blue Cheese Spread. I made a Pasta and Roasted Pepper dish.

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Here are a few photos (Clicking on the photos makes them larger.) from this First Day of Christmas (Yes, it snowed.):

Pictured above left to right: Danielle holding a Christmas gift from Susan and I (a soccer mom car ornament); Danielle and Mike; Daryl and Julia; Daryl, Julia, Emily; Emily and Julia; Kim, Susan, Mike; Matthew holding a Christmas gift from Susan and me (a baseball glove ornament); Matthew; my Christmas pasta; star of wonder.

Saturday, December 24, Christmas Eve. The Second Day of Christmas. A Christmas family tradition from Susan’s family. For years it was hosted at her mom’s home but as she aged Susan took it over years ago and people came to our home. For years we had a few dozen people over; aunts and uncles and the children but as people have passed on, children getting older, covid, less people have come over. Infact, we were not going to have the celebration this year but Daryl pleaded with us to continue the celebration. And we did.

I made two appetizers: Bang Bang Shrimp and Beef Tenderloin and Blue Cheese Crostini (Susan made the bread); a gift from Daryl, a Billy Cobham album; my famous fruitcake; Julie and Daryl looking at a gift from Susan and me, a picture book of their trip to Italy, where they got engaged; a gift from Daryl, Kacey Musgraves new album; our manger; Susan, me and Freddy; our wine; a Christmas Cake Susan made.

Sunday, December 25. Christmas. The Third Day of Christmas. This celebration was held at Danielle and Mike’s house. Many were in attendance: Mike and Danielle and Emily and Matthew, of course; Mike’s parents, Jim and Robbin, and his sister, Kim; Robbin’s mom, Nancy; Betsy and John; my brother Dennis and his wife, Debbie; Daryl and Julia. It was a wonderful day–great food and company. The pictures say much (I think my favorite is Dennis tuning Emily’s guitar.)

A ballet shoes ornament, a gift Susan and I gave to Emily; Susan made sourdough bread; Danielle’s soccer mom ornament; a beautiful table set and Christmas tree; Debbie and Dennis looking at Daryl and Julia’s Italy picture book; Dennis tuning Emily’s guitar; a doctor’s ornament, a gift from Susan and me; Emily playing the guitar; Matthew’s baseball glove ornament; Susan and Danielle.

Tuesday, December 27. The Fourth Day of Christmas. Daryl and Julia before they head home to Colorado have always come back over to our house from a special dinner. I made Chicken Piccata and Susan made a Cherry Christmas Cake. A few photographs of our time together and our home:

Chicken Piccata; a Christmas tree in the corner of our kitchen; Daryl and Julia; Christmas ornaments and a book of photos from the past year which I gave to Susan; Freddy; cookbooks with Christmas decorations; Daryl and Julia and Freddy; Julia and Freddy; Christmas village; gifts from Susan–two great books (The Sermon on The Mount by Emmet Fox, essays and Pray a Word a Day–so happy to receive these!); Christmas cards; Susan, Julia, Freddy, Daryl; Christmas decorations; a small Christmas tree in our sitting room; wine; Christmas Cherry Cake.

Peace. Love. Light. And Laughter be with You!

Good Advice

In the January/February issue of Poets & Writers the award-winning playwright, poet, and essayist, Sarah Ruhl, shares her reasons to keep writing.

“Sometimes I forget why I should keep writing. I hope you make a list of your own. Here is mine:

  • Write for God. The cave. The envelope.
  • Write for your mother. Your father. Your friend who is sick.
  • Write for the future. Write for the past. Write for the present, but sideways.
  • Write for the child who saw cruelty, and for those dispossessed, but sidways.
  • Write for your daughter. Write for your sone. If they don’t exist, write for the dream of them.
  • Write for your uncle to weep, for your aunt to laugh. For your babysitter to cover her face with recognition.
  • Write for the church you walked past with a sign that read: THEATER AT SACRAMENT. And you misread it as: THEATER AS SACRAMENT.
  • Write for the accountants whose eyes are too tired at night for numbers. For the farmers who grow your corn.
  • Write for your teachers. Write for every single hour they left off writing their own sentences so that they could read yours.
  • Write to thank the books you love.
  • Write for yourself.
  • Write for God. The cave. The envelope.

Sarah Ruhl teaches at the Yale School of Drama, and her most recent projects are the memoir Smile (Simon & Schuster, 2021), Love Poems in Quarantine (Copper Canyon, 2022); and a production of Becky Nurse of Salem by Lincoln Center Theater.

The featured photo I took this morning, January 1, 2023. Sunrise.

Thanksgiving and Overnight Pumpkin Spice French Toast

A family Thanksgiving tradition: we host our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren for breakfast, gift-giving, watching the Macy’s Parade and the dog show.

In Thanksgiving days past I have made Sushi, Mushroom Spinach Quiche, and Croque Monsieur Breakfast Casserole.

This year we enjoyed Overnight Pumpkin Spice French Toast. YUM!

Reading from The New York Times:

“You only need a few everyday ingredients like milk, bread and eggs — plus a heavy dose of your favorite pumpkin spice blend — to make this warming breakfast for a crowd. The whole thing is assembled the night before, so all you need to do when you wake up is a few finishing touches before you pop it in the oven. If you don’t have a favorite pumpkin spice blend, there is one at the bottom of this recipe for you to try. Don’t forget the maple syrup — and potentially some toasted nuts or fruit — to serve.”

Ingredients

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

~3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus more for greasing the pan
~2 cups/480 milliliters whole milk
~4 large eggs
~¼ (packed) cup/50 grams light brown sugar
~4 teaspoons store-bought or homemade pumpkin spice blend (see Tip)
~1 teaspoon vanilla extract
~½ teaspoon fine salt
~1-pound enriched bread loaf, like challah or brioche, cut into ¾-inch-thick slices (We used Multigrain Bread from Costco.)
~Maple syrup
~Chopped toasted walnuts or pecans or fresh berries (optional)

Preparation

  1. Butter a 9-by-13-inch metal, glass or ceramic baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, pumpkin spice blend, vanilla and salt.
  3. Dip each piece of bread in the milk mixture, then lay it in the prepared pan in slightly overlapping layers. Pour the remaining milk mixture over the top. Gently press the bread into the custard, then cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  4. When you are ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees, uncover the dish, and gently flip each piece of bread, one at a time, so the side that is more saturated with custard is on the top. Rearrange the slices decoratively, as needed, so the rounded edges of the slices are exposed. Dot the top with the 3 tablespoons butter and cover with foil.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake until lightly browned, slightly puffy in the center, and cooked through, 15 to 20 more minutes. Tent with foil if the top is browning too quickly.
  6. Let cool slightly before serving with maple syrup, and nuts or fruit, if desired. I put some homemade Granola on mine!

Tip

  • Make your own pumpkin spice blend by combining 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, ½ teaspoon ground allspice and ¼ teaspoon ground cloves. Makes about ¼ cup.

Photos from our celebration:

Thanksgiving Cheers; Prosecco and Chambord. Danielle and Bella. Emily practicing for The Nutcracker. Emily trying on her new dress. Freddy keeping his eye on me–making sure I am not drinking from the Prosecco bottle! Susan and Freddy. Matthew. Our Thanksgiving Dinner; Shetland Salmon with White wine, Lemon, Fennel and Endive, Mashed Potatoes with Fennel and Horseradish, Green Beans and Mushrooms. Me.

My Sous Chef Sue Serves Brunch

From baking to soap-making there is very little my Sous Chef Sue, my wife, cannot do.

Teacher. Reader. Giver. Lover. Designer. Gardener.

I am usually the cook in our home, busy in the kitchen making breakfast, lunch and dinner–or outside grilling salmon or steak or hamburgers, and she is the baker. (This thought reminds me of the song “Baking” by Aztec Two-Step (Their Homepage here.), who I saw perform at The Main Point (Other acts seen there listed below.) in Bryn Mawr, PA when I was a freshman at Villanova University. I was studying to be a teacher. I would have been a great teacher, or so I have been told, but I fell in love with Art History. My degree is in Art History and English from Manhattanville College. I have also been told I would have been a good minister, this after speaking frequently in church, but that story is for another time.)

My Sous Chef Sue made Chive Buttermilk Biscuits

Tarragon Chicken Salad

and Berry Cobbler

The first two from this great cookbook (Look for it and buy it; you won’t regret it.):

And the Cobbler from another great gardening and cookbook:

Here are the original recipes:

Bon Appetit!

Other artists seen at The Main Point include: Cat Stevens, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Bromberg, Livingston Taylor, and others. And larger acts at The Electric Factory–Dr. John, John Mayall, Savoy Brown, Johnny Winter and Procol Harum. I think I saw Black Sabbath–but it’s long ago and now a cloudy memory. And an even bigger venue–The Spectrum: Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Chicago.

The Photographer Stood Up The Bride

When I worked as a wedding photographer, I would often get personal notes from the brides:

“Thanks you so much for being a part of the wedding. You were a great addition to the night! You were a big hit.  We had a few people comment on how sweet and Professional you were. “

“I want to have another wedding just so I can have you take the pictures. There is triple magic in your photos because they reflect all that is best and beautiful in people and the earth. Your vision/gift is priceless.”

“I am still viewing your photos every day with all of the awe and appreciation I’ve ever had.  Thank you so much for bringing so much beauty into my life.”

My wife and my delivery person, we’ll call her Sarah, cannot write such a note.

Why?

The photographer stood her up.

She repeatedly asked for a contract but was never given one. And all-of-a-sudden her wedding day came. And the photographer stood her up.

Buyer Bride Beware. We get contracts for home renovations, automobiles and so many other things. Always get a contract–or another photographer.

Here’s a sample contract I used:

Bruce Barone, Fine Art Wedding Photography
Contract for April and Matthew

Your August 18th wedding day is one of the most important days of your life, and enjoying yourself should be a big part of that day. My philosophy is simple: I follow my heart and if I enjoy what I do, then you will be able to relax and enjoy yourself as well! Having fun brings out the best in people, and I work each minute to capture those "once in a lifetime" moments that will make your wedding special and memorable! 

In order to provide the best documentation of your day, I will spend time beforehand learning about you and your wedding plans. When photographing your wedding, my goal is to create a beautiful record of your wedding day, telling your story from beginning to end, including preparations, getting ready, portraits, the ceremony and reception, rehearsal and day-after events.

After the wedding, I will work with you to create an original Photo Essay Book/Album that tells the story of your wedding from start to finish. 

Your Wedding Package includes: 

~Two photographers for the entire wedding day
~A proof portfolio of your images 
~A private web site of your images available for friends and family to view and order prints
~A high resolution DVD of images 
~Free wallet photos
~Free Membership in my Lifetime Portrait Club (no sitting fee—ever!)
 
Cost: $4,500 (50% payable within one week of contract date) now, 50% payable on/or before August 18.

Please sign below. I will sign and return a copy to you upon receipt of your deposit.

_________________________    ______________________

Thank You.
Bruce Barone

My mission is to connect with people, inspire people and build community. See and share beauty.

Here are a few of my photos, including the one above.

Spicy Pork Stir Fry with Bok Choy

On a recent Sunday, I made a Pork Roast Smothered with Sauerkraut.

A few days later, I made Spicy Pork Fry with the leftover pork. So delicious.

Ingredients

-1 pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), thinly sliced across the grain into 2-inch-long strips (I used the leftovers from a 3 pound pork roast; photo below.)
-1½ teaspoons cornstarch
-½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
-Kosher salt
-3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
-2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
-2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine) or dry sherry (I used Mirin.)
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
-6 scallions, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
-1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced crosswise
-8 small or 4 large heads baby bok choy, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, or 1 head larger bok choy, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
-1 cup sliced mushrooms (My addition.)
-Steamed white rice, chopped toasted cashews or peanuts, sesame seeds, and/or thinly sliced fresh chiles (for serving; optional)

Directions

Step 1

Toss pork, cornstarch, red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, and 1 Tbsp. soy sauce in a medium bowl. Stir vinegar, wine, and remaining 2 Tbsp. soy sauce in a small bowl. Have all your other ingredients prepped and ready to go (once you start cooking, there isn’t a stopping point and you’ll need them handy).

Step 2

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet (not nonstick) over high. When oil is shimmering and slides quickly across surface of pan, add scallions and ginger and cook, tossing, until scallions are browned and softened, about 2 minutes. Add bok choy and a pinch of salt and cook, tossing often, until leaves are bright green and wilted and white parts are crisp-tender, 4–6 minutes. Transfer bok choy mixture to another medium bowl.

Step 3

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in same skillet over high. When oil is shimmering again, add pork mixture and arrange pieces in a single layer in skillet. Cook, undisturbed, until pork is browned and caramelized on first side, about 1 minute. Toss and continue to cook until pork is no longer pink and is cooked through, about a minute or two longer. Pour in wine mixture and bok choy mixture and cook, tossing briskly, until sauce is thickened and all ingredients are coated, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and taste, then season with more salt, if desired. (Note: Because I used the leftover pork I quickly stir-fried it wok till crisp and then added bok choy and the other ingredients to wok.)

Step 4

Divide stir-fry among plates. Serve with rice alongside, if using. Sprinkle with desired toppings.

~ Based on a recipe from Bon Appetit.

I’m So Glad

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

~L.M. Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery was a Canadian author, best known for a series of novels beginning with Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908.

Montgomery was born at Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Nov. 30, 1874. She came to live at Leaskdale, north of Uxbridge Ontario, after her wedding with Rev. Ewen Macdonald on July 11, 1911. She had three children and wrote close to a dozen books while she was living in the Leaskdale Manse before the family moved to Norval, Ontario in 1926. She died in Toronto April 24, 1942 and was buried at Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.

I’m so glad. I’m glad I’m glad I’m glad.