Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An epic sendoff

Yesterday, the mister and I attended the funeral of our dear friend and marriage sponsor Eileen.

I don't actually remember when or how I met Eileen and her husband Larry. I'm the accompanist for the morning choir at my church, and my best guess is that Larry came up to me after Mass one day to compliment me on my playing - because that's the type of person he is. I DO remember very clearly that even before I met the mister, they told me several times, "When your time comes, we will do your marriage prep." 

You see, the Catholic church requires every engaged couple to go through some form of marriage preparation before they get married. At many churches, this takes the form of a class spanning a few weeks, or one weekend retreat with a group of other couples. The course takes you through topics such as family, communication, conflict resolution, and intimacy.

At our church, Eileen and Larry have been running the marriage prep program. Fortunately, our wonderful community has so many volunteer couples that they are able to match up engaged couples with volunteer couples to go through the course on a 2-on-2 basis. We got to know them well during our sessions and they became wonderful role models to us of a married couple whose love continued to grow until death parted them.

Anyway, mister and I were also honoured to do the music for the funeral. As the closing hymn, Larry requested The Holy City, which apparently is a party favourite among them and their friends. Their friends sang it with gusto - it was like having a choir of 200 voices - and it was a wonderful sendoff. Eileen, I hope we did you proud!

Last night I lay asleeping, there came a dream so fair,
I stood in old Jerusalem beside the temple there.
I heard the children singing, and ever as they sang,
Methought the voice of Angels from Heav'n in answer rang;
Methought the voice of Angels from Heav'n in answer rang.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Lift up your gates and sing,
Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to your King!

And then methought my dream was chang'd, the streets no longer rang,
Hush'd were the glad Hosannas the little children sang.
The sun grew dark with mystery, the morn was cold and chill,
As the shadow of a cross arose upon a lonely hill,
As the shadow of a cross arose upon a lonely hill.

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Hark! How the Angels sing,
Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to your King!

And once again the scene was chang'd, new earth there seem'd to be,
I saw the Holy City beside the tideless sea;
The light of God was on its streets, the gates were open wide,
And all who would might enter, and no one was denied.
No need of moon or stars by night, or sun to shine by day,
It was the new Jerusalem that would not pass away,
It was the new Jerusalem that would not pass away!

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!
Sing for the night is o'er!
Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna for evermore!
Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna for evermore!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Baked: Banana Muffins

My mom scribbled down this recipe from a friend's book and made these regularly when I was a kid. When I got to university, I made them so often that I eventually memorized the recipe. I made a lot of friends with these muffins. They are super moist and fluffy and make a wonderful breakfast. I zap the leftover muffins in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds each to make them taste just as good as freshly baked.

Depending on my mood, I may or may not add chocolate chips - fantastic either way. This time, I did half a batch of each. :)


  • 3 large bananas - the riper, the better
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
  • chocolate chips, chopped walnuts (optional)
  1. Mash the bananas.
  2. Add the sugar & egg, mix.
  3. Add the melted butter/oil, mix.
  4. Add the dry ingredients, mix.
  5. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Microwave potato chips... who knew?

Last night the mister made these potato chips in the microwave. They were delicious. And not fried!

  • A potato, sliced thinly
  • Vegetable or olive oil
  • Salt or seasoning
  1. Pour the oil into a bag or container. Add the potato slices. Shake to coat.
  2. Coat a large dinner plate with oil or cooking spray. (I think he lined the plate with parchment paper or a paper towel.) Arrange the potato slices in a single layer on the plate.
  3. Microwave for 3-7 minutes until lightly browned. In my microwave, they take somewhere between 5 and 6 minutes. Watch carefully because if they burn, they'll be bitter. I'd suggest trying 4 or 5 minutes at first and then doing short bursts of 15-20 seconds until you get them the way you want.
  4. Toss them with a little salt or whatever other seasoning you like.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Ah, Christmas & Handel's Messiah. They go together like ketchup and eggs (in that they don't really, but a lot of people think they do).

Full disclosure: I love ketchup with my eggs.

We performed in Messiah this past Sunday in Richmond Hill with Vocal Horizons and Voices. My favourite part of performing Messiah is always when the audience stands up for the Hallelujah Chorus. It is said that at the first London performance of Messiah at the Covent Garden Theatre, King George II, who was in attendance, stood up for the duration of the number. Since it was protocol to stand when the king was standing, the entire audience also stood for the whole chorus, and the tradition remains to this day.

It's not exactly known why the king stood. Perhaps he was moved by the performance, or wanted to pay tribute to God as the King of Kings. Personally, I prefer the explanation that he had dozed off and was startled to his feet. :)

Anyway, just for fun, here's a recording of a different performance that I was also in, a couple of years ago, at the Newman Centre.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Baked: Chocolate Chip Muffins

I'm craving something sweet and cakey for breakfast, and I do have a box of Tastykakes sitting around... but I couldn't very well eat just Tastykakes for breakfast. (Could I?) Anyway, I've been in a cooking and baking funk lately so I thought I'd break out of it by making myself a batch of muffins.

The basic (chip-less) recipe is once again from my trusty BHG Baking Book. It's not a complicated recipe by any means, but that's what I love about it. I had everything on hand and it took no time to whip these up. They're nice and light, not too sweet or rich. But really, these are all about the chocolate chips. There are also lots of other variations at the end of this post.


1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil (I have been known to substitute melted butter in the past)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Grease twelve 2-1/2 inch muffin cups or line with paper baking cups; set aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the centre of dry mixture; set aside.
3. In another mixing bowl, combine egg, milk, and oil. Add the egg mixture all at once to the dry mixture. Stir just until moistened; batter should be lumpy. Fold in the chocolate chips.
4. Spoon batter in prepared muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake in a 400F oven about 20 minutes or until golden. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm.

(These obviously don't include chocolate chips)

Buttermilk muffins: add 1/4 tsp baking soda to dry mixture and substitute buttermilk or sour milk for the milk.

Cheese muffins: stir 1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese into dry mixture.

Cranberry muffins: combine 1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries and 2 tbsp additional sugar. Fold into batter.

Oatmeal muffins: reduce flour to 1-1/3 cups and add 3/4 cup rolled oats to dry mixture.

Poppy seed muffins: increase sugar to 1/2 cup and add 1 tbsp poppy seed to dry mixture.

This recipe also lists a variation to make banana muffins, but I have an even better banana muffin recipe which I will post some other time.