Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Grape American Road Trip Wine Dinner

The Grape American Road Trip

Ovvio Osteria

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 from 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm

2727 Merrilee Drive FairfaxVA 22031

The Mosaic District

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
6:30pm Reception 7:00pm Dinner

Cozy up with Ovvio in welcoming Andrew Stover of Siema Wines
in our first wine dinner of 2015, featuring 
wines from emerging American wine regions and 
delicious paired delicacies from the creative mind of Chef Richard Ketzler

McPherson Cellars Sparkling Wine, Lubbuck, Texas

The mushroom sliders were outstanding and of the two I had a clear preference for them. The wine, made from 87% riesling and 13% vermentino grapes, reminded me of prosecco and was a nice complement. 

Saffron Poached New York State Apple, Baby Arugula, Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Shindig Vidal Blanc, Finger Lakes, New York

Shindig is a delicious wine. I liked the presentation of the salad more than the taste.

Olive Oil Poached Blue Fish, Pine Nut Pesto, Pickled Cabbage
Bedell 'Taste White' Sauvignon Blanc/Albarino, North Fork of Long Island, New York

I liked the label of this wine more than the wine itself. I really enjoyed the Chef's explanation of this dish. He poached the Blue Fish in olive oil to remove some of the gamey flavors, and then added the cabbage to restore some crunch. 

Dry Rubbed Leg of Lamb, Stone Ground Grits, Green Chili Puree, Tequila Agave Drizzle
Arizona Stronghold 'Mangus' Sangiovese/Cabernet/Merlot Blend, Cochise County, Arizona

This was my favorite dish and my favorite food and wine combination, with the dessert combination a close second. The wine is a full-bodied complement to the flavorful lamb. I thought the lamb was done to perfection, but what really blew my taste buds away was the grits under the lamb. The green chili puree really tied the flavors together. Fantastic!  

Smoked Venison Ravioli, Mushroom Puree, Red Pepper Coulis
Stone Hill Estate Norton, Hermann, Missouri

I enjoyed the story about this wine. The Norton grape is one which was developed in Richmond Virginia. German immigrants settled Hermann, Missouri in the mid-1800's and established many breweries and vineyards in the familiar-looking hills. Hermann is still an important center of German culture and tradition.    

Queso Flan, Orange Pound Cake, Blackberry Compote
Duchman Family Orange Muscat, High Plains, Texas

I had never been served flan on pound cake before, but I really enjoyed this and will seek it out again. The orange zest in the pound cake and the orange blossoms in the sweet muscat wine were spectacular together.

I had a great time at this event. I recommend the venue wholeheartedly. The Chef did a fantastic job with the food menu. Everything I tasted was creative and distinctive. For the most part, the wine pairings were successful and the Sommelier explained them with clarity and panache.

The heart is like...

Banksy's "Balloon Girl"

The heart is like a balloon. 
Its lightness comes 
from being full. 

--Mark Nepo

Sunday, January 25, 2015

To All My Fellow Scotsmen, Happy Rabbie Burns Day!

Robert Burns, born 25 January 1759

Rabbie Burns Day falls on a Sunday this year, so I thought it apropos to prepare by participating in a special Saturday Scots Ale tasting event at UnWined. Six beers were on offer, including one on draft from their brand new 6-tap growler filling station. I arrived late and consequently missed out on the Innis & Gunn which sold out quickly owing to its incredible awesomeness rather than a lack of foresight on the organizers' behalf. They'll get more! 

The quintessential Scots Ale

Brings new meaning to the word, viscosity

Pointing to Arbroath on the east coast of Scotland

An American take on the style with more smoke and hops--my favorite of the mix

Offerings included Founders Dirty Bastard on tap at the growler filling station

Finished the set with an orange-spiced ginger beer

I also enjoyed reading "The Cotter's Saturday Night" over dinner. I did not find a haggis, but I did enjoy a dish that included sausage of questionable provenance and decided to call it good. The poem I picked is pasted below for your convenience! I especially liked the line that an honest man's the noblest work of God.

I suppose we are all a wee bit Scottish on Rabbie Burns Day. (English friends may take mild exception.) So to all my fellow smart, arrogant, chivalrous, brilliant, radical Scotsmen, here's mud in your eye! Now, pour yourself a wee dram of The Balvenie single malt Scotch and revel in the selected poem! [Note: a Cotter is poor laborer who lives in his landlord's cottage.]

The Cotter's Saturday Night

My lov'd, much honour'd, much respected friend!
No mercenary bard his homage pays;
With honest pride, I scorn each selfish end,
My dearest meed, a friend's esteem and praise:
To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays,
The lowly train in life's sequester'd scene;
The native feelings strong, the guileless ways;
What Aiken in a cottage would have been;
Ah! tho his worth unknown, far happier there I ween!

November chill blaws loud wi angry sugh;
The short'ning winter-day is near a close;
The miry beasts retreating frae the pleugh;
The black'ning trains o craws to their repose:
The toil-worn Cotter frae his labor goes,
This night his weekly moil is at an end,
Collects his spades, his mattocks, and his hoes,
Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
And weary, o'er the moor, his course does hameward bend.

At length his lonely cot appears in view,
Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;
Th' expectant wee-things, toddlin, stacher through
To meet their dad, wi flichterin noise and glee.
His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonilie,
His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie's smile,
The lisping infant, prattling on his knee,
Does a' his weary kiaugh and care beguile,
An makes him quite forget his labor and his toil.

Belyve, the elder bairns come drapping in,
At service out, amang the farmers roun;
Some ca' the pleugh, some herd, some tentie rin
A cannie errand to a neebor town:
Their eldest hope, their Jenny, woman grown,
In youthfu bloom, love sparkling in her e'e,
Comes hame; perhaps, to show a braw new gown,
Or deposits her sair-won penny-fee,
To help her parents dear, if they in hardship be.

With joy unfeign'd, brothers and sisters meet,
And each for other's welfare kindly spiers:
The social hours, swift-wing'd, unnotic'd fleet;
Each tells the uncos that he sees or hears.
The parents partial eye their hopeful years;
Anticipation forward points the view;
The mother, wi her needle and her sheers
Gars auld claes look amaist as weel's the new;
The father mixes a' wi admonition due.

Their master's and their mistress's command,
The younkers a' are warned to obey;
And mind their labors wi an eydent hand,
And ne'er tho out of sight, to jauk or play;
'And O! be sure to fear the Lord alway,
And mind your duty, duly, morn and night;
Lest in temptation's path ye gang astray,
Implore His counsel and assisting might:
They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright.'

But hark! a rap comes gently to the door;
Jenny, wha kens the meaning o the same;
Tells how a neebor lad came o'er the moor,
To do some errands, and convoy her hame.
The wily mother sees the conscious flame
Sparkle in Jenny's e'e, and flush her cheek;
With heart-struck anxious care, inquires his name,
While Jenny hafflins is afraid to speak;
Weel-pleas'd the mother hears, it's nae wild, worthless rake.

Wi kindly welcome, Jenny brings him ben;
A strappin youth, he takes the mother's eye;
Blythe Jenny sees the visit's no ill taen;
The father cracks of horses, pleughs, and kye.
The youngster's artless heart o'erflows wi joy,
But blate an laithfu, scarce can weel behave;
The mother, wi a woman's wiles, can spy
What makes the youth sae bashful and sae grave;
Weel-pleas'd to think her bairn's respected like the lave.

O happy love! where love like this is found:
O heart-felt raptures! bliss beyond compare!
I've paced much this weary, mortal round,
And sage experience bids me this declare,
'If Heaven a draught of heavenly pleasure spare,
One cordial in this melancholy vale,
'Tis when a youthful, loving, modest pair
In other's arms, breathe out the tender tale,
Beneath the milk-white thorn that scents the ev'ning gale.'

Is there, in human form, that bears a heart,
A wretch! a villain! lost to love and truth!
That can, with studied, sly, ensnaring art,
Betray sweet Jenny's unsuspecting youth?
Curse on his perjur'd arts! dissembling, smooth!
Are honor, virtue, conscience, all exil'd?
Is there no pity, no relenting ruth,
Points to the parents fondling o'er their child?
Then paints the ruin'd maid, and their distraction wild?

But now the supper crowns their simple board,
The halesome parritch, chief o Scotia's food;
The soupe their only hawkie does afford,
That, 'yont the hallan snugly chows her cood:
The dame brings forth, in complimental mood,
To grace the lad, her weel-hain'd kebbuck, fell;
And aft he's prest, and aft he ca's it guid:
The frugal wifie, garrulous, will tell,
How 'twas a towmond auld, sin lint was i' the bell.

The chearfu supper done, wi serious face,
They, round the ingle, form a circle wide;
The sire turns o'er, wi patriarchal grace,
The big ha'-Bible, ance his father's pride.
His bonnet rev'rently is laid aside,
His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare;
Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,
He wales a portion with judicious care;
And 'Let us worship God!' he says with solemn air.

They chant their artless notes in simple guise,
They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim;
Perhaps Dundee's wild-warbling measures rise,
Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name;
Or noble Elgin beets the heavenward flame,
The sweetest far of Scotia's holy lays:
Compar'd with these, Italian trills are tame;
The tickl'd ears no heart-felt raptures raise;
Nae unison hae they, with our Creator's praise.

The priest-like father reads the sacred page,
How Abram was the friend of God on high;
Or, Moses bade eternal warfare wage
With Amalek's ungracious progeny;
Or, how the royal Bard did groaning lie
Beneath the stroke of Heaven's avenging ire;
Or Job's pathetic plaint, and wailing cry;
Or rapt Isaiah's wild, seraphic fire;
Or other holy Seers that tune the sacred lyre.

Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme:
How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;
How He, who bore in Heaven the second name,
Had not on earth whereon to lay His head;
How His first followers and servants sped;
The precepts sage they wrote to many a land:
How he, who lone in Patmos banished,
Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand,
And heard great Bab'lon's doom pronounc'd by Heaven's command.

Then kneeling down to Heaven's Eternal King,
The saint, the father, and the husband prays:
Hope 'springs exulting on triumphant wing.'
That thus they all shall meet in future days,
There, ever bask in uncreated rays,
No more to sigh or shed the bitter tear,
Together hymning their Creator's praise,
In such society, yet still more dear;
While circling Time moves round in an eternal sphere.

Compar'd with this, how poor Religion's pride,
In all the pomp of method, and of art;
When men display to congregations wide
Devotion's ev'ry grace, except the heart,
The Power, incens'd, the pageant will desert,
The pompous strain, the sacerdotal stole;
But haply, in some cottage far apart,
May hear, well-pleas'd, the language of the soul;
And in His Book of Life the inmates poor enroll.

Then homeward all take off their sev'ral way,
The youngling cottagers retire to rest:
The parent-pair their secret homage pay,
And proffer up to Heaven the warm request,
That he who stills the raven's clam'rous nest,
And decks the lily fair in flow'ry pride,
Would, in the way His wisdom sees the best,
For them and for their little ones provide;
But, chiefly, in their hearts with Grace Divine preside.

From scenes like these, old Scotia's grandeur springs
That makes her lov'd at home, rever'd abroad:
Princes and lords are but the breath of kings,
'An honest man's the noblest work of God';
And certes, in fair Virtue's heavenly road,
The cottage leaves the palace far behind;
What is a lordling's pomp? a cumbrous load,
Disguising oft the wretch of human kind,
Studied in arts of Hell, in wickedness refin'd!

O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent!
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content!
And O! may Heaven their simple lives prevent
From Luxury's contagion, weak and vile!
Then, howe'er crowns and coronets be rent,
A virtuous populace may rise the while,
And stand a wall of fire around their much-lov'd Isle.

O Thou! who pour'd the patriotic tide,
That stream'd thro Wallace's undaunted heart,
Who dar'd to, nobly, stem tyrannic pride,
Or nobly die, the second glorious part:
[The patriot's God, peculiarly Thou art,
His friend, inspirer, guardian, and reward!]
O never, never Scotia's realm desert;
But still the patriot, and the patriot-bard

In bright succession raise, her ornament and guard!

One of my previous Odes to Bard of Ayrshire is available HERE. Thanks for reading. Comments are always welcome. How did you celebrate Robert Burns, Scottish heritage, or Scottish food and drink this year? 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The First Day of Christmas? Part IV

Welcome to Part IV, the final installment in the series about the First Day of Christmas.

What, Christmas on January 11th, you say? I deliberately waited until the third Sunday after Christmas to post this final installment inspired by the song, Twelve Days of Christmas. This series of posts has been my stab at a definitive answer to these four perennial questions:

  • What is the first day of Christmas? December 26
  • What do we mean by the Christmas Season? Let's call it Dec 6 through January 6
  • Thinking about the song and all the gifts on each of those days, how many presents arrive in all? A whopping 364! 
  • And speaking of gifts, is there any significance behind the seemingly random gift choices? 

  • We tackled the third question in Part III of the series. Missed it? Get caught up HERE.

    And now, 
    wrapping things up 
    with Part IV:

    You know the famous song and have sung (or heard it sung) it many times at Christmas.

    On the twelfth day of Christmas
    my true love gave to me:
    Twelve Drummers Drumming
    Eleven Pipers Piping
    Ten Lords a-Leaping
    Nine Ladies Dancing
    Eight Maids a-Milking
    Seven Swans a-Swimming
    Six Geese a-Laying
    Five Golden Rings
    Four Calling Birds
    Three French Hens
    Two Turtle Doves and
    a Partridge in a Pear Tree

    Read more: HERE

    Where did all these wacky gift ideas come from? I mean, if I wanted to demonstrate my true love in the same way, my lady would need a barn for all the cows, swans, geese, birds, hens, doves, and partridges. (Some sources state that the five rings are not jewelry but ring-necked birds, such as the Ring-necked Pheasant. Great--even more birds!) Not to mention a very large house and food budget for all the drummers, pipers, lords, ladies, and maids. Why not sweaters, pajamas, and music CDs?

    Perhaps you have heard the popular explanation that the gifts are actually part of a shadow catechism--that parents used the song to teach their children about the Bible during a time of religious persecution. A common version of that story looks like this:
    The songs gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person.
    The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
    2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
    3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
    4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
    5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
    6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
    7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
    8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
    9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
    10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
    11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
    12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed
    We do not know the author of the interpretation, nor do we know if the story comes before the lyric or after. Read more HERE
    There may be a bit of truth to the idea that this song is a shadow catechism. Jews, Masons, slaves and spies have all devised ways of sending hidden messages in plain sight of persecutors. Christians have not been persecuted in Europe since the end of the Roman Empire. There were no practical reasons for Christians to use a shadow catechism after the Edict of Milan in 313. That said, the idea of linking each of the twelve gifts to the Bible has a precedent.

    The song as we know it today appeared in its earliest known printed version in the 1780 children's book Mirth Without Mischief. The song is apparently much older than this printed version, but we do not currently know how much older. What we do know is that the structure of the song is similar to one called A New Dial.

    Again, from Snopes
    It is possible that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" has been confused with (or is a transformation of) a song called "A New Dial" (also known as "In Those Twelve Days"), which dates to at least 1625 and assigns religious meanings to each of the twelve days of Christmas (but not for the purposes of teaching a catechism).
    Snopes denies that the lyrics to A New Dial were intended to teach a catechism, but that is a matter of opinion, not fact. I think it's entirely possible that A New Dial was indeed used to teach the Bible. Furthermore, it is remotely possible that the structure of twelve things recited in a question-and-answer format goes all the way back to a time when Christians were persecuted. We simply don't know.

    Here is a snippet of A New Dial. It sounds like a catechism to me.

      What are they that are but one?
      We have one God alone
      In heaven above sits on His throne.

      What are they which are but two?
      Two testaments, the old and new,
      We do acknowledge to be true.

      What are they which are but three?
      Three persons in the Trinity
      Which make one God in unity.
    ... and so on, through the number twelve. Read more HERE or in the Table below. 

    My side-by-side comparison of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with its apparent predecessor, "A New Dial" reveals some similarities and some differences. Note that half (5 of 12) of the items are the same (=) and the other half (7 of 12) are different (X). 

    "A New Dial" (also known as "In Those Twelve Days"), which dates to at least 1625 and assigns religious meanings to each of the twelve days of Christmas."The Twelve Days of Christmas" was presented in its earliest known printed version in the 1780 children's book, Mirth Without Mischief. It seems similar to the much older verse.
    What are they that are but one? The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 
    We have one God alone x
    In heaven above sits on His throne. 
    What are they which are but two? 2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments 
    Two testaments, the old and new, =
    We do acknowledge to be true. 
    What are they which are but three? 3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues 
    Three persons in the Trinity x
    Which make one God in unity. 
    What are they which are but four 4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists 
    Four sweet Evangelists there are, =
    Christ's birth, life, death which do declare. 
    What are they which are but five? 5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace. 
    Five senses, like five kings, maintain x
    In every man a several reign. 
    What are they which are but six? 6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation 
    Six days to labor is not wrong, =
    For God himself did work so long.
    What are they which are but seven? 7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments 
    Seven liberal arts hath God sent down x
    With divine skill man's soul to crown. 
    What are they which are but eight? 8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes 
    Eight Beatitudes are there given =
    Use them right and go to heaven. 
    What are they which are but nine? 9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit 
    Nine Muses, like the heaven's nine spheres, x
    With sacred tunes entice our ears. 
    What are they which are but ten? 10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments 
    Ten statutes God to Moses gave =
    Which, kept or broke, do spill or save. 
    What are they which are but eleven? 11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles 
    Eleven thousand virgins did partake x
    And suffered death for Jesus' sake. 
    What are they which are but twelve? 12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed
    Twelve are attending on God's son; x
    Twelve make our creed. The Dial's done.

    After looking at a side-by-side comparison of "A New Dial" and "The Twelve Days of Christmas," I see some similarities but still have a lot of questions. Let's just say that Christians at some point in history for whatever motive simply wanted to have a verse to talk or sing about the Bible. And let's just say that the structure of call and response with twelve items was popular enough to be passed along orally for years and years. We still don't know:

    • When was the descriptive interpretation of The Twelve Days of Christmas written (i.e., 10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments)? Was the description really a contemporary sub-text to the lyric? Or was it written much later? If later, as I suspect, then idea that the song was a shadow catechism collapses.
    • If A New Dial is truly the predecessor of The Twelve Days of Christmas, why do the "stories" differ in detail over 50% of the time? 
    • Even if we accept the premise that a shadow catechism dating from before the Edict of Milan morphed from A New Dial to The Twelve Days of Christmas, and further accept that 10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments, we still have no explanation--no clue whatsoever--for Lords A-leaping. Why Lords A-leaping? Why not nice sweaters? We simply do not know.  
    Let's chalk it up to creative license!

    Speaking of gift ideas that seem strange to us today, did you ever wonder why the magi gave Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh? These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. Read more HERE

    This brings us to the end of our four-part exploration into the First Day of Christmas. I hope you have enjoyed this series. 

    • December 26 is the First Day of Christmas. The Twelve Days of Christmas conclude on Epiphany.  
    • The "Official" Christmas Season for shopping and decorating purposes begins on Saint Nicholas Day and ends on Epiphany. I propose the term Christmastide, be modified to include the period of Advent, Christmas Day, and the Liturgical Christmas Season 
    • The total number of gifts given by the singer's true love is 364--enough gifts for one per day from the first day of Christmas on December 26th to the following Christmas Eve.  
    • The gifts have no hidden meaning relating to the catechism and rumors to that effect are unsubstantiated. The gifts seem random but they are no more bizarre than the original gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 
    I hope that you will remember the main ideas from these four posts when Christmas comes around again. When will you start thinking about Christmas? When will those thought be put into action? How will you build anticipation for the day of Jesus' birth? How will you celebrate the occasion? How will you taper off from that high point and carry the lessons forward, sharing them with others?

    Wednesday, January 7, 2015

    On Being Human

    What a rare privilege it is to occupy a human form, if only briefly...

    “Whenever you feel hopeless, all you need to do is go outside and realize that you have been molded into human form for some reason. You are somewhere you may never be again. Your actions, no matter how inconsequential you think they may be, have been essential.” 
    Brianna Wiest, The Truth About Everything

    Tuesday, January 6, 2015

    On This Most Auspicious Date and Time, 1.6 18:03...

    Today, January 6th, 2015, is a momentous day for me. And, I am willing to bet that by the time you read today's post, you will also have a few reasons to respect and revere January 6th.

    Faith, Art, and Love

    Confidence in things unseen

    Today is important because of Faith. Today is Epiphany, the day Christians believe the 3 Magi found the Christ-child Jesus, after responding to an Angel's instructions and following a bright star which led them to the manger in Bethlehem. The Magi worshiped the infant as their King, and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. To this day, approximately 2015 years later, Christians still celebrate this day, the Twelfth day of the Christmas Season, with gifts and special food and drink with loved ones.

    Firmness, commodity, and delight

    Today is also important because of Art. January 6th at 6:03 pm can be written as 1/6 18:03, and this series of numbers (more specifically 1.61803)  has been a very significant number in art and architecture since the time of ancient Greece. As a student of Architecture, I learned about the "ideal proportion" of 1.61803 to 1. This proportion has been called the Golden Ratio, the Golden Section, and the Golden Mean.

    The Golden Ratio is often symbolized using the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet, phi, a circle with a vertical slash. The letter is similar to theta, a circle with an horizontal slash. Our words for Philosophy (philo-sophy or love of wisdom) and Theology (theo-logy or the study of God) come from Greek. People often use the Greek letters phi and theta to represent the subjects of Philosophy and Theology. If you look closely, you will probably find a letter phi on this page. It's part of my blog's name!

    Love conquers all

    Finally, today is important because of Love. January 6th, 2015 marks the one month anniversary of my brother's death. I miss him very much--so much so, that my emotions are still very close to the surface. My grief and sense of loss has been compounded by the holiday season and the expectation of Joy, Hope, Peace, and Love that crash hard against the stark reality of loves lost.

    The great Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis remarked in the journal he wrote as he cared for his dying wife, A Grief Observed, that love is a form of torture for humans. He finally found the love of his life, only to have her taken away by a fatal disease. The depth of his profound grief was a testament to the heights of his magical love. He got a glimmer of ideal love, only to have it snatched away. December 2014 was rough like that for me, too.

    Of course, our human attempts at the perfect love often fall short of ideal, even short of the proxy described by C.S. Lewis. We are casual when we should be closer, and we cling when we should give slack. Jealousy and disappointment occur when our egos get involved. Ideally, love transcends these human limitations. And by "ideally," I mean both the ideal we can imagine in our dreams, and the ideal that actually exists beyond human comprehension.

    I do not see perfect love as a mutually exclusive, one-or-the-other, all-or-nothing deal. I am not threatened or diminished if the people who love me also love others--even if they love the others more than they love me. Similarly, I do not expect to find only one target for all of my expressions of love. When we are in a state of perfect love (i.e., when I see Todd again, as I promised him I would every time we said goodbye) I do not imagine there will be any quibbling or petty jealousy. Now that Todd is gone from this earth I will not see him again until I meet him in perfect love.

    Lean into the mystery

    Until then, the task of the living is to lean into each moment with openness to the possibilities and awareness of the eternal and universal power of Faith, Art, and Love. Dear reader, may you find that blend of Philosophy and Special Effects that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary--and having found it, may you hold it, if only briefly, and having held it may you treasure it.

    And so may we all.

    January 6th, at 1803 (6:03 pm) is a most auspicious moment. Thank you for sharing it with me and helping me keep it sacred.

    If you enjoyed this, please have a look at these related posts:
    Comments are always welcome. 

    Putting the Phi in PhilosFX

    A quick sketch about the Golden Ratio

    Even the most casual readers of PhilosFX will notice the Greek letter, phi, in the blog's masthead. Phi, the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet, is the first letter in our word, phi-losophy, and it is also the symbol associated with one of the most powerful and intriguing ratios known to man: the Golden Ratio.

    If you cut a string into two unequal segments, such that the ratio of the length of the short segment to the length of the long segment is equal to the ratio of the long segment to the original, then you will have cut the string according to the Golden Ratio, which is expressed in digits as 1.61803.

    This ancient proportioning system is powerful because the result is innately pleasing to the human eye. Our concept of beauty in nature and in the designs of art and architecture is heavily influenced by the effect this ratio has on our perceptions. The ancient Greeks used phi to design sculptures and temples. Renaissance artists and architects revived the ancient code and embedded it in countless examples of idealized beauty which survive to this day. Modern designers still use phi because the resulting proportions practically guarantee a pleasing effect.    

    Why am I posting this today, January 6th? It's about numbers. Some folks celebrate the importance of pi (3.14) on March 14th. I like to call attention to phi (1.6) on January 6th. I have not decided how to celebrate the Fibonacci Sequence yet. Any suggestions? Please add them to the comments!  

    To learn more about the Golden Ratio, lease enjoy this outstanding website, and consider signing up for updates from the Phi Guy! 

    The First Day of Christmas? Part III

    The First Day of Christmas? Part III of IV

    Welcome to Part III of the First Day of Christmas, my stab at a definitive answer to these four perennial questions:

  • What is the first day of Christmas? In other words, on what day did the original singer's first present of a partridge in a pear tree arrive? (Answered in Part I.) 
  • What do we mean by the Christmas Season? I see that phrase interpreted so many ways. Does it have any definitive, commonly understood meaning? (Answered in Part II.) 
  • Thinking about the song and all the gifts on each of those days, how many presents arrive in all? Think about it for a second. Five golden rings on days 5 through 12 amounts to 40 rings!  
  • And speaking of gifts, is there any significance behind the seemingly random gift choices? This will be the subject of Part IV.

  • We tackled the second question in Part II of the series. Missed it? Get caught up HERE.

    And now, 
    tallying up the gifts 
    with Part III:

    If you read the lyric literally, the giver gives his true love lots of presents. On the first day, a partridge in a pear tree. On the second day. two turtle doves AND a partridge in a pear tree. So that is three things on day two and the cumulative total is two turtle doves and TWO partridges in pear trees.

    Now. let's review the shipment of gifts that arrives on the twelfth and final day:

    On the twelfth day of Christmas
    my true love gave to me:
    Twelve Drummers Drumming
    Eleven Pipers Piping
    Ten Lords a-Leaping
    Nine Ladies Dancing
    Eight Maids a-Milking
    Seven Swans a-Swimming
    Six Geese a-Laying
    Five Golden Rings
    Four Calling Birds
    Three French Hens
    Two Turtle Doves and
    a Partridge in a Pear Tree

    Read more: HERE

    The total on day 12 is a whopping 12+11+10+9+8+7+6+5+4+3+2+1=78 things! Is that surprising? Did you ever picture all that commotion when you sang the song? And where are all the "gifts" from days one through eleven? This is a strange love, indeed, is it not?

    I mean, if I wanted to demonstrate my true love in the same way, my lady would need a barn for all the cows, swans, geese, birds, hens, doves, and partridges! Not to mention a very large house and food budget for all the drummers, pipers, lords, ladies, and maids.... 

    If you do the math, as I have done, you will discover something else quite remarkable. Have a gander at the table below. 

    The total number of gifts given over twelve days is enough for one gift, be it a calling bird or a maid a-miking, per day for 364 days. Said another way, that's a gift per day from December 26th, the first day of Christmas, to December 24th of the following year--and the only day when there is not a gift is Christmas Day itself, the day God became flesh.

                                          And now you know...

    the rest of the story! 

    The First Day of Christmas? Part II

    Welcome to Part II of the First Day of Christmas, definitive answers to these four perennial questions inspired by the classic song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas:"

  • What is the first day of Christmas? In other words, on what day did the original singer's first present of a partridge in a pear tree arrive? Answer: December 26th!
  • What do we mean by the Christmas Season? I see that phrase interpreted so many ways. Does it have any definitive, commonly understood meaning? Or is it just a broad, sweepingly indistinct term? Is there value in defining the season, or should we let it be open to interpretation? 
  • Thinking about the song and all the gifts on each of those days, how many presents arrive in all? Think about it for a second. Five golden rings on days 5 through 12 amounts to 40 rings!  Coming soon in Part III
  • And speaking of gifts, is there any significance behind the seemingly random gift choices?  Coming soon in Part IV

  • We tackled the first question in Part I of the series. Missed it? Get caught up HERE.

    And now, 
    Onward and Upward 
    with Part II

    What, exactly, do we mean by the Christmas Season? I know the answer (smile), but before I reveal it, let's discuss why there is even a question. Opinions vary, as they say. To understand the over-arching Christmas Season question a bit more deeply, let's list and define some distinct periods of time that take place within the season:
    • Advent: Interpreted on the liturgical calendar as 4 Sundays and weekdays before Christmas Eve. Each of the four weeks are often represented by a colored candle representing Advent themes of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace, respectively. These colored candles surround a pure white Christ candle. Messages of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace are discussed and celebrated in successive Sundays of Advent, and the Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve. 
      • In 2014, the Advent Season was November 30 through December 24, or 25 days, inclusive. Advent can range from 22 to 28 days in length. 
      • However, if you buy an Advent Calendar, you'll see it usually includes the first 24 days of December, counting down the days to Christmas and, with treats of chocolate, building anticipation for the birth of the Savior. 
      • Of course, there is the coincidental fact that 24 is also the number of beers in a case of beer. and 24 different winter beers would make a wonderful adult Advent calendar!  
      • But, I digress...
    • Christmas Season
      • According to the liturgical calendar, Christmas Season begins after Advent, i.e., at midnight on Christmas Day, and continues for 3 Sundays and weekdays after. So for 2014, the Christmas Season is Thursday December 25 through Sunday January 11, 2015.
      • Some others say the Christmas Season begins with Black Friday sales on the day after Thanksgiving and ends when the last of the wrapping paper is wadded up in the trash, 
      • This year, for the first time, I saw Christmas decorations up in stores before Hallowe'en. Personally, I find that the crass commercialization of Christmas reflects poorly on our National values, but to each his own. Ayn Rand would say that the commercialization of Christmas reflects perfectly on our crass National values. 
      • But again, I digress.... Ayn Rand is the subject of a different blog post.
      • And can we please recycle the wrapping paper?
    • Christmas Octave: 8 days from December 25 to January 1, inclusive. I do not hear this one mentioned much except among musicians. (That was a joke.) Seriously, this is an archaic term, except without it we would never understand the next term... 
    • Octave of Epiphany: The period of time from Epiphany to the 3rd Sunday after Christmas, inclusive, is a period of about 8 (actually anywhere from 3 to 9) days depending on which day of the week Christmas lands on. The only reason the liturgical Christmas season runs past Epiphany is so that Advent plus Christmas Day plus Christmas Season gets us to 40-ish days (actually 43 days, regardless of which day of the week Christmas lands on. Of course 40-ish days is parallel to the 40-ish days of Lent and the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness.
    • Christmastide. Adding to confusion about the meaning and duration of the Christmas Season, we have a new term with even more variation around it. The dictionary compounds confusion with two different definitions of Christmastide
      • the festival season from Christmas to after New Year's Day. Note that this is the same period of time that has already been called the Christmas Octave.
      • the 14-day period from Christmas Eve to Epiphany, especially in England.
      • don't forget the so-called Twelve Days of Christmas which ends on Epiphany and so must begin on December 26
    • My birthday falls between Christmas and New Years Day. Growing up, I always felt that my birthday got lost in the seasonal sauce, There is a season of quiet reflection in the week between holidays. I call it Happy New Christmirthday Year.    

    To see this image full size, click HERE

    All of these different terms have meaning and value, even if they overlap or cause confusion. Here is the bottom line for me. Tradition. I celebrate Thanksgiving. Then a break in time happens and maybe a subtle hint of the Advent is detected. I finally get into the cookie-baking, package wrapping, tinsel-hanging, card-writing Christmas spirit with Saint Nick on December 6th. The anticipation builds until midnight between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, or whenever the Christ Candle is lit, or whenever the baby Jesus is placed in the manger of the Nativity scene at home, or whenever the youngest person in the household places the Angel atop the Christmas tree. Christmas Day is quiet and holy with presents for everyone and plenty to eat. Then, the Twelve Days of Christmas begin on the 26th, but unlike the song we do not continue with gifts. Instead, the season of Christmas is extended past birthday and New Years to Epiphany with reflection about the year passed and plans for the year ahead. The fact that the season extends past Epiphany is usually lost on me. In Casa del Foam, my humble abode, the Christmas Season is the 32-day period from December 6th through January 6th, inclusive. 

    By tradition in my household, it is bad form to decorate for Christmas before December 6 or after January 6. I am fine with Advent calendars and of course Advent-themed worship services before December 6th. In fact, I am pretty much fine with the idea of celebrating Christmas and Christian ideals year-round. It's just that Christmas music and some of the decorations and list-making and shopping should begin no earlier than December 6th. This gives space around Thanksgiving, acknowledges the original "St Nick," and includes the celebration of Epiphany which is when the wise men following a celestial compass finally found the Christ child and offered Him gifts, according to the Gospel of Matthew (2:11).

    If I send or receive a Christmas card a few days after Christmas, I don't think it's "late." But a Christmas card before Dec 6 seems in poor form, even if Advent has already begun. The only Christmas cards I got before Dec 6 this year were from businesses and universities hoping to catch me in a giving mood. The timing caused the opposite reaction! And a card sent or received after Jan 6 reflects poorly on the management skills of the sender. For these reasons, I believe the world would be a better place if everyone Christmas year-round, but only decorated between Dec 6 and Jan 6.

    Recapping Parts I & II:
    • December 26 is the First Day of Christmas. The Twelve Days of Christmas conclude on Epiphany 
    • The "Official" Christmas Season begins on Saint Nicholas Day and ends on Epiphany. This 32-day period of time exists inside the 43-day liturgical events of Advent, Christmas Day, and the Christmas Season. But only a Cretin would send a Christmas Card before Dec 6 or after Jan 6! 
    Feel free to comment or share how your traditions are different!