Adventures in Refrigeration: or, Less Orthodox Ways to Cool Off

If this title seems familiar to you, it’s because you have a very good memory for a similar post from October 2012, wherein I shivered in a chilly house, got bundled up, and listed somewhat peculiar ways to get warmer.  But, it being July, the present circumstances present quite the opposite problem: what do you do when it’s too hot to carry on with life?  What do you do when the ancient Greek word of the day, κακοθερής (kakotherēs), unfitted to endure summer heat, describes you all too well?

Again, I present a handy, if unconventional list:

1. Look at your life; look at your clothing choices.  Hot weather’s the worst since you can only take off so much clothing before you’re breaking certain laws of decency. Take a leaf out of Archie Aymslowe’s book – you know, the wizard in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire interested in the “healthy breeze” that attended wearing a Muggle dress?  Ladies can go for any light dress or skirt they like; men might try a sport kilt for maximum ventilation.  Cotton or linen fabrics will breathe the most.

If you refuse to invest in a sport kilt for the sake of summertime comfort, try getting your clothes a bit damp and stick them in the freezer for ten or twenty minutes.

Changing into fresh clothes (frozen or not) will give you a brief respite.

2. Jump in a lake.  Or whatever cold water’s closest. Take a cold shower, sit in an icy bath, spray yourself with a fan-sprayer or SuperSoaker, dash through a sprinkler, jump in a pool. It’s not 2014 but you could still do an ice bucket challenge.  If convenient, wade into one of the Great Lakes (most recommended) or the ocean.  If inconvenient…

3Drink it in.  Lake Superior might be hundreds of miles away, so the next best thing is to imbibe some beverage or other that echoes the chill of the Gitche Gumee: water, perhaps with a bit of lemon, cucumber, mint, or ice; pop; iced tea; Gatorade; or whatever comes to hand. Stay hydrated!

4. Eat it. This could mean chewing minty gum; it could mean meals of salad or gazpacho or sashimi so as to steer clear of the stove; it could mean a steady supply of frozen grapes, freezer pops, fro-yo, kulfi, or sorbet.  Whatever works.  If you’re sweating a lot, bear in mind that you have to replenish your salt/electrolytes on top of staying hydrated!  Get some salt in or you will have a Bad Time.

5. Cool from the skin in. If you didn’t freeze your boxers, you could still strap on an ice pack, wrapped dry ice, or frozen teething ring – Thalia recommends getting several, for a “full constellation” if you’re going to try it – or put on some aloe vera gel.  Sit next to a fan for a stronger effect.

NB that the ice pack is most helpful when trying to sleep in places that have no air conditioner.  Setting it on your back, neck, or stomach will (in my experience) allay the misery of the heat enough to help you get to sleep.

6.  Utilize the power of film suggestion. Watch, for example, The Day After Tomorrow.  As a film it’s rather rubbish, BUT it does get one into a kind of sympathetic mindset of expecting cold things (or appreciating being warm).  If you have kept this from your DVD or Blu-Ray player or Netflix queue, mayhaps go for the Hoth section of The Empire Strikes Back.  Even The Holiday or The Shining or other snowy movies might help.

7.  Go downstairs. Steer clear of attics and higher floors, which are crowded with heat demons, and head for a basement or storm cellar.  There might be different demons and bogeys in the basement, but at least they aren’t the warm variety.

8.  Get out of dodge. If your home is fundamentally unsuited to hot weather, hit the grocery store’s freezer section, the mall, the movie theater, the library, or another space that’s got corporate A/C behind it.  If that’s not part of the general infrastructure, head for the closest lake, the Antipodes, or (in extreme cases) the closest polar region.

9.  If all else fails, sit quietly for a while and ponder man’s ingratitude until your heart is quite chilled. The rest of your body will follow suit presently.

Good luck!  Share any other ideas you may have to beat the heat!

5000 Catholic Items Your Faith Life Definitely Needs

The other day, my law firm received a catalog of Catholic items addressed to a former employee.  My boss and I idly flipped through it, and were bemused by page 8’s Crown of Thorns – not so much because of the crown itself, but because of the breathless legend “Imported directly from Jerusalem” and the even bolder “Customer Favorite!”

I brought it home to share with my roommate.  The following is a partial transcription.

Cecilia:  I could get you ashes.  “Serves 500 people!”

Cecilia:  I could get you a coffee mug that says “Serve with a heart like Jesus.”
Joy:  Does the other side say “Wash my feet”?  …“100% Catholic” mug?  What does that even mean?
Cecilia:  I’m 50% Catholic and 50% Druid.

Cecilia:  I could get you a mug that says “To get through today, I’m gonna need a bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus!”
Joy:  That just makes it sound like I’m hogging all the Communion hosts.  Gobbling them like a hobbit.

Cecilia:  I could get you a cross pendant that my 12-year-old self thought was so cool.
Joy:  Honestly, that’s a better recommendation than most other things from this catalog are getting.

Cecilia:  Do you want a St. Peregrin medal?
Joy:  Does he wander?  He’d better wander.

Joy:  Hey, Cecilia.  Do you want a Proverbs 31 tote bag?  And wallet?  And mug?  I’m sure you need them.
Cecilia:  Hey, Joy.  Do you want a “In Christ, all things are possible” tote bag?
Joy:  “So jot that down…”

Cecilia:  I could get you a modern chapel veil.
Joy:  What’s modern about it?
Cecilia:  Looks like it’s shorter.  Do you want a statue Therese of the Holy Face?
Joy:  Wait, is Therese of the Holy Face different from –
Cecilia:  That’s Therese of the Child Jesus.
Joy:  Oh, okay.  ….wait, is Therese of Lisieux –
Cecilia:  Therese of Jesus is Therese of Avila.  Therese of the Child Jesus is Therese of Lisieux.  Edith Stein is Theresa Benedicta of the Cross.
Joy:  That was nice of her, to mix it up a bit.

Cecilia:  I could get you a St. Benedict fancy pendant, zinc alloy.  I don’t have any other argument for it, but it’s fancy!
Joy:  That is an argument for ketchup.

Cecilia:  I can get you a sleeping St. Joseph statue.  I know that’s what you’ve always wanted.

Cecilia:  I could get you rosary pliers.
Joy:  What the actual.
Cecilia:  Would you like a St. Jude rosary?
Joy:  What are you trying to say.
Cecilia:  Would you like a tiger’s eye rosary?
Joy:  Honestly, I used to collect tiger’s eyes, so like.  If you *must.*
Cecilia:  A men’s hematite rosary.  But there’s no women’s hematite rosary….!!

Cecilia:  I could get you the Catholic Book of Facts.
Joy:  How many pages is it?  Wouldn’t that include, like, the entire Summa Theologica?
Cecilia:  …98 pages.

Cecilia:  “Dead Savior statue.”
Joy:  Umm.  Excuse me?!
Cecilia: “Risen and Crucified Christ”?  I’m sure that’s heretical.  Alright, this is the crucifix section.  This better not piss me off.  …a luminous wall crucifix?
Joy:  “Luminous”?
Cecilia:  I think that means it glows in the dark.  Ooh, I could get you the wall plaque that says “This is a Catholic home!”

Cecilia:  Why is St. Stephen wearing modern deacon’s garb?
Joy:  Probably so you know it’s St. Stephen.

Cecilia:  Would you like to spend the low, low price of $695 on a statue of St. Michael for me?
Joy:  …is that a thing you want?
Cecilia:  No, but maybe I could use a flower stand.  Oooh, candle stands!  They’re only $129.95.  Candle not included.  “Cemetery holy water pot travel kit.”  Pastoral call set… “Host sold separately.”  Mass kit replacement items…
Joy:  Does that include the host?
Cecilia:  No.  Where do I get the hosts from?  Ooh, let’s get a reliquary.  Joy, let’s get altar bells!  There’s a lot of variety.
Joy:  Those were surprisingly expensive!
Cecilia:  This one’s only $50.  We could get a censor!  And a censor stand.
Joy:  Wait, that’s different from a thurible, right?

Cecilia:  I can’t find hosts and I can’t find Paschal candles; what use is this to me?!  …… I FOUND THE HOSTS.  “Save 25% with these exclusive, top quality hosts.  …Sealed to ensure freshness, untouched by human hands.”  Who baked them?  Angels?  Cats?

Cecilia: “Self-fitting albs.”
Joy:  Are those from Madame Malkin?!  Or Gladrags?
Cecilia:  The model for the front-wrap alb is a little attractive.  Let’s turn the page.

Cecilia:  You could get a funeral pall!  Never know when you might need one!   Hmm.  These robes are for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, but they mostly just look like Harry Potter capes.

Cecilia:  YES.  THE BEST PART.  “Children of the world” tapestry stoles.

Cecilia:  Who would put these banners up in church?  Are these for Catholics or non-denominational Protestants?

Cecilia:  This guy just reminds me of Buddy Jesus.


ALL THAT BEING SAID.  If you’ve ever wanted, say, a St. Dymphna statue, a rosary auto decal, or a stretchy candy cross bracelet, and had no idea where to purchase them?  These folks have you covered.

Rock the Guac!

As a person who has made guacamole for a number of years, to general delight if not outright acclamation, I was surprised to discover something new about preparing it.

I’ve spent years dicing red onion, tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro, peeling my garlic, and juicing my limes before finally opening, scooping, and smashing up my avocados (to minimize oxidation time).  I’ve experimented with adding anything from kosher salt to additional dried onion and garlic to cumin to parsley to cayenne.  I knew I didn’t want it to be brown, bland, or overly creamy: it’s best with a few chunks of avocado still recognizable.

Recently, the pantry held a number of properly ripe avocados, perhaps 4, and one rather under-ripe specimen.  I was in a hurry and wanted to use them all, so each half of the under-ripe one was scored horizontally and vertically, then scooped into the bowl with the rest.guacamole ingredients

What follows is alchemy.

Long have I held that the lime juice constitutes a bit of alchemy: it transforms mere mashed avocado into guacamole, transmutes this green lipid into delight.

Cubes of less-ripe, sturdier avocado do something of the same thing, but require less caution to avoid over-mixing.  They prevent utter homogeneity, so that every bite is different in structure and flavor: this one saltier, this one limier, this one hotter, that one with more bite of onion and tang of tomato.  The flavorful spaces contrast with the unflavored avocado itself.  Those chunks are rests, the silences between the power chords of all the other ingredients.

To those of you about to rock some guac, we salute you!guacamole

doggerel, occasioned by cocoa butter

If you aren’t brand new here, you know that I’ve got mild depression, which gets a bit less mild when the weather turns colder and the days shorter.

Thalia has long commended cocoa butter to my use, for days when ye olde brain chemicals are not leaping to attention as they should be, and promised to send me some back in September to sample.  “Maybe you won’t love it?  Maybe it won’t be worth your while, in which case you would REALLY hate spending $16-30 on a pound of it.  But maybe you’ll put it in your coffee and it will make you want to SING!”

I have been advised that this parcel is now in the mail, and shall reach me next week!

It’s certainly too early for Christmas carols, and a skosh too early for Advent hymns, but…now is the acceptable time for this silly rhyme:

Come, O long-expected cocoa,
Fashioned to aid our minds as we

bear the pangs of Eve’s transgression,
mood swings that join her legacy – 
You, O therobroma unguent,
You, O moisturizer sweet,
Come and allay our gloom and sadness,
In our coffee, or as we eat!

cocoa butter

On the Reading of Books in the Bath

Back when I did that series of Why I Haven’t Read that Book YetThalia submitted that she might leave a book unfinished because she had dropped it in the bath.

I noted that my fear of getting a book wet had dissuaded me from ever trying to read a book in the bath, and for the most part, this remains the case.

However.  It would be remiss of me not to share this image with those of you who would love nothing more than to take a book and read it amid the delight and bubbles of outrageous bathtime:

Bath book trick


My beloved Mark Forsyth noted last January that he has two tsundoku (“a pile of books you’ve bought and haven’t got round to reading yet”).

I have something like that.

First, I have The Pile of Books I’ve Read, But Want to Review Before Returning to the Library:


Then, the Pile of Shavian Poetry (thankfully Luci’s, not George Bernard’s):


Then, the Pile of Apple Books – i.e., the books I took one bite of, and then put down to take a bite of something else.  If I’m not careful I shall have to make a bucket of applesauce.  So to speak.


All that said, since I took these pictures, I’ve managed to remove a couple books from each pile.  Hurrah!

What’s in your tsundoku?

Uncut 2015 Christmas Letter

Hello, people-I-swear-to-write-but-never-do, relatives, and/or those who have filled me with a sense of obligation by mailing me something first!  Greetings of a seasonal variety to you!  May your Christmas season be full of love, hope, peace, and other fruits of the Spirit.

What follows is my attempt to sum up my year, despite the fact that you probably have learned most of this information via Facebook and, moreover, don’t expect changes of any great magnitude, because there weren’t any.  Unless you count starting on an antidepressant, in which case: there was one change of some magnitude in the past few months, and it is somewhat obvious if I forget it.   …pardon me a moment, I just realized I forgot something…

Right, so.  Life!  And the aspects thereof.  Well.  First off, there’s my…

Job: Yeaaah, I’m still at the law office.  I’ve now spent half a year as secretary for two attorneys, without more salary to show for it. Awesome.  Also awesome: doing anything with the court of appeals for the first time; we are all of us flailing about and consulting the court rules every 5 minutes.

Housing:  You may recall me living in a rental house with 3 other ladies.  As one of my erstwhile roommates got married and remained with her spouse in the house, Cecilia and I moved a whopping .8 miles north and east across Washtenaw.  This is close enough to walk between them, but far enough that anything you sent to my old address will miss me.  Except that I eventually put my mail on forward.  I meant to send you a tidy little handwritten note with my new address, but that just didn’t happen.  Sorry.

Romantic Relationships: Hahahaha, psych!  There’s been nothing of the sort for the last eight years at least.  This year, I went on 3 mediocre dates and 1 decent one, followed by some uninspired texts and no calls.  Friends have suggested I broaden my field of search to include more states, or at least the Fort Wayne seminary.  I may yet do so.

But! I am not without commitments: I have bought two new bookshelves this year and, by virtue of having a roommate who did the actual acquisition, acquired two kittens.  I’ve also become an official member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, having decided after 1.5 years in their choir that I wouldn’t just run off somewhere else.  Except for the weekends when I’m off attending weddings, when I will run most anywhere given sufficient notice.  There were three such weddings this year – those of my erstwhile housemate Hannah G. W., my other erstwhile housemate Liz C. N., and my concert-going, somewhat-indie music-supplying, lemon-jousting drinking buddy Hannah M. K., whose Astoria wedding was a delight to witness and stand up in.  I also attended my friend Zach’s ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood, which is basically like a wedding, except without a 300% markup on the celebratory cake.

There is now another wedding on the horizon, as my brother Paul is engaged to one of my dearest friends, Michelle; I am quite pleased for them (mostly because I am not the one currently dealing with obscene markups for nuptial celebration paraphernalia)(but also because I love them both dearly and, you know, hope they will carry on in delight together &c)(that said, Paul could be a bit less nauseating in his effusions of loving feeling)(someone get me a bucket).

I'm not even an engineer. Just label me "Exhausted" or "Envious" or something.

I’m not even an engineer. Just label me “Exhausted.”

Other celebrations: 12th Night (complete with Shakespeare, almond cake, and crowns); my first Feuerzangenbowle (complete with fiery sugar and carol-singing); Michaelmas (complete with more Milton than I’ve ever read in one sitting before); St. Crispin‘s Day (complete with yelling the Henry V speech to passersby on Mackinac Island); and birthday celebrations of several people, including me (complete with playing two games of Boggle at once!  Or eating Moroccan food/bowling/drinking Greek wine/reading Evelyn Waugh/however we celebrated birthdays).

I also basked in the reflected glory of my brother John competing on Jeopardy! in January, and his return for the Tournament of Champions in November.  My own knowledge of trivia has not been sufficient to get me past the online Jeopardy! test, but it HAS won me a few rounds on  Aw yiss.  So much less of a timesink than either TriviaCrack or JetPunk, addictions which I have overcome!   …Sadly I have not overcome my addiction to Sherlock fanfiction; please pray for my soul and/or recommend a support group.

No one can tell this deer is wearing jeans anyway.

No one can tell this deer is wearing jeans anyway.

On the bright side, I have profited greatly from reading both The Joy of Less and, not that you can necessarily tell by looking at my work desk or my bedroom.  But I’ve managed to dispose of some papers that had lingered for the last year or six, and got rid of some brown pants just in time to miss them at Halloween.

Other consumables:  Continuing my tradition of checking things out of the library for as long as possible, I’ve had a couple books by Milosz out for 2 years now. It’s like grad school library privileges without needing to be in grad school.  Books I actually read include some volumes on orthography, a couple intriguing books by Neil Postman, and I, Robot; generally my reading material has been more poetic, word-loving, critical, depressed, and mildly feminist.

Viewing-wise, this has been the year of my finally watching Die Hard, The Room (via RiffTrax Live), Zoolander, and White Christmas for the very first time.  National Theatre Live brought Coriolanus and Hamlet within my purview, for which I both bless and curse them.  2015 also involved an Iron Man marathon (which, lest you be deceived, involves no physical activity) and more watching of The Decoy Bride / Not Another Happy Ending than is strictly advisable.  Not to mention The Mindy Project, Inspector Lewis, and odds and ends from Parks and Rec.

I remain a member of the UMS Choral Union, which performed Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Handel’s Messiah; as mentioned above, I’m part of my church choir as well.  Occasionally I pinch-hit as an alto because we are as poor in altos as we are rich in sopranos.  Shocking, I know.

This year’s culinary adventuring included the eating of Moroccan bistilla (would recommend) and the cooking of meringues, gluten-free pizza, and gluten-free fried chicken.  There were also a fair allotment of cocktails: lots of G&Ts and a fair sampling of Drinking with the Saints.

Also wik:  I read with some alacrity the epic saga of Brother Orange; I learned more of the geography of John and Elizabeth’s neighborhood whilst dogsitting, when I accidentally walked their dog Hektor 5 miles longer than necessary;  and I did the most Pinterest-y project of my life, namely, using twine and clothespins to hang a bunch of stuff, mostly calligraphy, on my bedroom wall.


There you have it: a far longer summary of a year than you might want or need.  Merry freaking Christmas, y’all.  See you all in 2016, unless I don’t actually.

Much love,
(really, I promise)

Onward, majestic Frog Steed!

Onward, majestic Frog Steed!  Onward to 2016!

All About Those As


Hi, my name is Melpomene, and I am a pop addict.

I love pop music. Happy, peppy, boppy, poppy pop music. But only the ones that have a hint of old fashioned swing rhythms. (Eliza Doolittle, anyone?)

And my most recent earworm is a chipper, confidant, swaggering number by the rising British pop singer Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”. It explores the omnipulchritude of all people, reaffirming the age old concern over the beauty of cures and confidence. It is absurd. And delightful.

And listening to it during one fateful grading session, I was struck with an inspiration: this song would make a great Teacher Anthem.

So I made the thing. I (and my sweet teacher friend Katey) parodied the lyrics, and now we give you, “All About Those As”. Turn on the video, and scroll down to read the lyrics with the music.


“All About Those As”

Because you know
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, it ain’t no easy A,
‘cause I can grade it, grade it
Like I’m supposed to do
But I got those good grades that all the kids chase
And all the red pens in all the right places

I see the homework fakin’, workin’ sparknotes
We know that it ain’t real
C’mon now, make it stop
If you got questions, answers, just raise ’em up
‘Cause every one of you’s engaged
From the back row to the front

Yeah, your mama she told you to be in bed at nine
She says, “you can’t play video games on a school night .”
You know I won’t be too easy, don’t even bother to cry.
But if that’s what you’re into then just go ahead and try.

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

We’re bringing brainy back
Go ahead and tell the common core that.
No we’re not playing. I know you can do it
So I’m here to make sure
Every one of you’s engaged from the back row to the front.

Yeah, your mama she told you to be in bed at nine
She says, “you will not play video games on a school night .”
You know I won’t be too easy, don’t even bother to cry.
But if that’s what you’re into please just go ahead and try.

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As

Because you know I’m
All about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As, no trouble
I’m all about those As
‘Bout those As
‘Bout those As, ’bout those As
Hey, hey, ooh
You know you like this A


My teacher friends and I want to make a video of this, but we are unsure of how. Does anyone have recommendations on how to make a video?