Art Days 01: Egyptian Archaeology

Recently, my family and I had the opportunity to see the underwater archaeological exhibit, Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds. The exhibit, which is self-paced, featured a number of artifacts recovered from the bottom of the Mediterranean, off the coast of the Nile Delta, in a city comparable to the mythology of Atlantis.

Private album

This stele is an example of one of the treasures recovered and holds a rich history behind those hieroglyphs which reveals that this lost city, Heracleion, was a major port in Ancient Egypt, both for trade, for taxes, and as a religious center. The exhibit had an optional film (1 hour) which was a wonderful overview of the excavation process by Franck Goddio and his team in Aboukir Bay, Egypt.

One of my favorite pieces from the collection was this statue:

Private album

Nudity, or partial nudity, seemed to be a unifying factor amongst multiple statues in the exhibit, showing the exemplary idealization of the feminine form, but what I found particularly fascinating about this statue is the artistic mastery of depicting sheer fabric out of the stone. This strategy, a particular favorite of mine, can be seen elsewhere in ancient art, i.e. Giovanni Strazza’s The Veiled Virgin.

If you have the chance to visit any of the current or upcoming cities already slated to host this exhibit, I do recommend it.

Upcoming Tour Dates:

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds
March 25, 2018–September 9, 2018
Saint Louis Art Museum
St. Louis, Missouri

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds
November 4, 2018–April 14, 2019
Minneapolis Institute of Art
Minneapolis, Minnesota

St. Louis was the first North American city to host this exhibit so keep an eye out for upcoming cities later in 2019 and beyond.


Make Some Version of Your Dreams a Reality

​Life is too short to be limited by ‘pie in the sky’ dreams. Do what you can to make some version of those dreams a reality.

I may never compose poetry while walking through a protected English or Irish bluebell woodland, but I can, and have, trekked through the muddy Missouri river bottoms to see the first Virginia bluebells blossom on the ravines (see featured post photo).

I may never make it to Thailand, but yesterday I bought tickets for my first floating lantern festival and now a version of that magical dream will hopefully become a reality this fall (weather permitting).

I may never stroll through lavender fields at dawn somewhere in Provence, but I could make plans to drive 2-3 hours from where I live and tour a local(ish) lavender farm.

I may never attend the Kentucky Derby in a frilly hat, but I could spend a day down at the local track and bet on my favorites. And yes, wear a silly hat if I wanted to.

The list goes on…

How can you embrace your dreams and make some version of them a reality? I’m beginning to think that at the end of my life, I’d rather have #ExperiencesNotStuff

Browsing the Stacks: Hygge at Home

In a time of growing instability and a vastly mobile, technology-driven society, I think a lot can be learned by the current public fascination with hygge. Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is a Danish term with no exact English translation, but when you look at the sum of its parts, it conveys the warm, bright, cozy atmosphere that can almost, on a psychological level, be mistaken for love and being present in the moment.

Hygge may appeal to two separate camps, the first being a selection of people who desire the external trappings of a homey feel without the essentials, and these will flit from one self-help/home design trend to the next, like a hummingbird flitting from flower to flower, but never returning home. The second group will be those who already have the fundamentals (love, stability) but don’t know how to add those little touches to round out home life — perhaps, because they never had experienced it themselves. It is to the latter group that I address this post.

I’ve read a number of books about hygge over the last year, and wanted to take a few moments today to share two reads on the subject that are representative of the feeling of hygge, and a sampling of what you might find between the covers (yes, that’s a cozy blanket pun). 

Tasting Hygge: Joyful Recipes For Cozy Days and Nights by Leela Cyd (2017, The Countryman Press, a division of W,W, Norton & Company).

This title has a lovely gold foil title and author font against a blue toile backdrop and in the foreground, aged silver with wildflowers, and “Swedish Selmor with Almonds and Cream”. Amongst a dozen books, this immediately stood out as something worth flipping through for the photography alone, even if you’re not a cook (Cyd is a photographer and cookbook author).

The recipes are divided into sections: warm, spiced, smooth, calm, bright, and hygge to go, and the recipes are accompanied by anecodes from the author’s background, interweaving hygge as a lifestyle behind the food and drink presented, and beautifully photographed. 

The first entry, “Dad’s Golden Biscuits and Quickie Jam wiith Warmed Stones”, describes the charming, foreign (to me) practice of heating stones to keep biscuits warm, to encourage diners to linger longer at the table. I’ve never tried warming stones, and I don’t know anyone who ever has, and this sounds both wonderful and confusing. Do people not use microwaves? How do you handle hot stones and not burn yourself? The author mentions that stones can explode in the oven — how do you choose the right ones? Speaking as if this is common practice (perhaps it is), so far removed from the culture, I can only read on and wonder at this hint of a people and a practice of hygge.

Other “warm” recipes included were shirred eggs, buckwheat crepes (and toppings!), dark chocolate disc cookies, and brioche with chocolate streusel. There are a good ten or so recipes in each of the following sections, but for space, I’ll only mention my few favorites in each category, to whet your appetite, and leave you to find a copy of the book and explore the rest for yourself.

In the “spiced” category, Cyd leads off with spiced glogg, a traditional Danish mulled wine made with a dry red wine, brandy, golden raisins, almonds, cardamon and cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, and some added citrus. The result sounds festive and heavenly, doesn’t it? Other recipes that caught my notice included the gingerbread waffles and and the braised lentils with apricots and olives on yogurt toast.

“Smooth”, a curious sensation that I normally wouldn’t attribute to hygge, takes its roots in the sensation of feeling cared for, and the treats one got as a child, think ice cream, puddings and the like. I was excited by the earl grey pot de creme, and the campfire banana boats, which made me almost want to be an outdoorsy, overnight person, just to try this recipe over a fire some morning.

“Calm” recipes encourage doing things at a slower, unhurried pace, like the slow-stirring of pistachio milk, or the making of rice porridge with cranberries and rose. In my own home, oatmeal with toppings is a common favorite for a winter morning — there’s nothing quite like facing the bracing cold with a warm belly full of oatmeal or another grain.

Hygge isn’t hygge without an element of light, and “bright” takes this to another level, adding the idea of the zing of a lemon, or the tartness in a pickled vegetable.  Recently, I had the opportunity of trying some urban farm dining and tried a delicious strawberry compote, so now I love all things compote. Cyd has a recipe for a plum compote (lemon seeds, plums, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest) that I may want to revisit someday if I get the courage to try cooking/baking at home.The strawberry thyme switchel (apple cider vinegar, syrup, herbs and ginger) did not sound appealing, but the colorful drinks look fresh and ready for a bridal party or other special occasion.

Finally, in “hygge to go”, Cyd gives instructions on how to blend teas, preserve lemons, and perform magic with honeys and salts that seems too technical for a novice, but may make some nice gifts to give for the holiday season.

The Hygge Life: Embracing the Nordic Art of Coziness Through Recipes, Entertaining, Decorating, Simple Rituals, and Family Traditons by Gunnar Karl Gislason and Jody Eddy (2017, Ten Speed Press).

This title captivates with a front cover with copper foil and layers of sheepskin that you want to sink your toes in while sitting beside a well-stoked, lit fireplace. This was another of those titles that leapt out at me and I had to bring home (lucky for my wallet, I work at a library!). This book covers much of the same terrain as the other, although the recipes are broken down into categories based on the meal type or excursion: “Starting the Day”, “Caring For Yourself”, “Staying In”, “Easy Gatherings and Holidays” and “Getting Out”. Recipes are by Icelandic chef, Gunnar Karl Gislason.

As you can gather, “Starting the Day” includes breakfast means like kleinur, a type of Icelandic beignet; fritters, pancakes and rice porridge. I see a theme of hearty fare with fresh fruits.

“Caring For Yourself” has a recipe for homemade bath salts.

If your plan is “Staying In”, you’ll find recipes for creature comforts like hot chocolate and stove-top popcorn, and bravel fare like fennel salad, or fried fish with almonds and capers, or braised pork tenderloin with oyster mushrooms and parsnips.

For “Easy Gatherings and Holdays”, the authors recommend a number of delightful-looking desserts and bitters, to compliment some sturdy haunches of mea, like braised lamb shanks with bok choy and sweet-and-sour dill oil; or baked cod with celeriac puree, chorizo, and carmelized onions; or a lamb stew.

Finally, for those occasions where you’re “Getting Out” and about, perhaps you’ll be in the mood for marinated herring on rye bread with eggs in shallott; or open-faced sandwiches with pork, pickled cabbage and horseradish mayonaise.

Eddy includes in each chapter insights into the hygge way of life that is sure to add something new to your routine, whether it’s a discussion on brewing coffee and tea, and taking turkaffe (a coffee break while hiking);  creating a cozy reading nook; practicing self-care; or finding a way to embrace hygge during a stressful plane ride.

This is one of those titles I’ll be coming back to (and probably adding to my list of ebook purchases down the road). There’s a wealth of books about incorporating hygge in the home with top 10 lists and the philosophy behind the practice, so if you’re interested in learning more about hygge, there’s a lot out there. I hope you enjoyed taking a peek at these two titles I brought home this week, and if you have any recommendations for other hygge titles, please leave a comment and share below.

A Formula for Epiphany

20 + C + M + B + 18

It sounds like a mathematical equation, doesn’t it? In fact, this is a house blessing, one of many traditions in the Catholic Church, and one of the earliest memories I have of my family. I remember early trips to see my grandparents and arriving to their door and in stark white chalk, these symbols (the numbers were different) blazed against the dark wood grain of their front door. But for the uninitiated, like I once was, what does it actually mean?

Saturday, January 6th 2018 marked the Feast Day of the Epiphany, the time in the Church when we celebrate the arrival of the Three Magi to the manger, and their gifts for Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. The feast day, also known as Twelfth Night, was observed on Sunday and marks the close of the Christmas season and the return to Ordinary Time in the Church. This is why, for many Catholics (or for folks behind schedule), you may see the decorations and holiday lights lingering after the New Year.

The 20 and the 18 reference the current year (next year, it’ll be 20 + C+M+ B + 19) and the three letters represent the names of the three wise men: Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior.

It seems almost counterintuitive that the Bible, which condemns astrology and all forms of divination, would remember and honor these foreign sages who believed that the Nativity Star was a sign in the heavens of the birth of a great ruler, and they came bearing gifts. But there is no question that the manner of gifts they brought was divinely inspired. Gold, a symbol of His kingship, and which I like to think was what Mary and Joseph used to supplement their income during their time in Egypt; frankincense, a symbol of His status as our High Priest; and myrrh, a symbol of His eventual death.

On the feast day of Epiphany, my husband and I received a piece of blessed chalk (now in fun, bold colors!) and said a prayer of blessing over our home (provided by our parish) that God would help us in this new year to remember the gift of His Light, Jesus, and nurture the gifts that He’s bestowed on each of us, to bring glory to His name, and to reach out to a hurting world.

As we struggle to find our way in the midst of the darkness and the Storm, may God’s light shine in our hearts and through us, the watchmen on the hill, so that we may be ready for His sudden coming.