Recent Conference Paper

I just presented a paper at this year’s Patristics, Medieval, and Renaissance conference at Villanova. This conference is one of the main academic conferences for theologians and so far it’s been really amazing. The key note speaker tonight, Susan Ashbrook Harvey gave a phenomenal presentation on Syriac Christian hymnody and women’s voices. It reminded me of why I want to learn (and am currently suffering through classes where I am drowning in syntax) Syriac so badly. 

My own paper was on a completely different topic. I wrote about a fifteenth century pilgrimage narrative by a Swiss monk, Felix Faber and the somatic way in which he interacted with relics on his journey. I made liberal comparisons with the 4th century pilgrimage account of Egeria. I’ve uploaded it to my profile here for those of you interested. 

I’m looking forward to the panels tomorrow. There are so many great presentations here.


Thoughts on Cooking…

So I like to cook. Specifically I like to bake and since i’m having a friend over this weekend, I have been baking and cooking up a storm. (I quite often make dinner and when my back doesn’t hurt — i have severe chronic pain–i bake a lot too). I posted some recipes on facebook and got into a conversation with a fb friend, a father who is trying to teach his daughter how to be comfortable in a kitchen. Chatting with him and others and sharing recipes spurred me to put together a few of my thoughts on must know things to survive learning to cook.

LOL. I never thought about some of these until talking to people about cooking and hearing their mishaps and sharing my own. Feel free to add your own here. I’d love to see what ‘basics’ folks would suggest. I really wish home-ec were still taught for boys and girls. It would be nice to know that kids are graduating high school knowing how to budget, cook, and run their own households. Anyway, here are my suggestions for things to know getting started in the kitchen:

1. wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat or egg shells. (Salmonella). Wash any and all surfaces the meat has touched.

2. Clean as you go. LOL. it’s much, much easier.

3. There are measuring cups and measuring spoons and scoops (that go all the way up to a cup, maybe higher). The measuring cups, the glass cups that have a little spout…those are for liquids. the spoons and scoops…those are for dry ingredients. They are not interchangeable. They are really really not.

4. While one can often eyeball measurements with meals, baking is pure chemistry. follow the recipe. Unless you fully understand the process behind it, the equation, don’t shift or eyeball amounts. follow the recipe. lol. (I sometimes experiment but only with things i understand fully).

5. you can combine cooking lessons with history lessons. lol. For instance, i like to read jane austen books. So i also looked up regency era food, and experimented with some things. and when I found some neat southern recipes, i looked up the history of them. For instance, when I made that vinegar pie i talked about, i thought ‘why the fuck would you put vinegar in a pie?”. weeeeell, a little bit of google and it turns out it’s a poor man’s fruit pie. The vinegar was added to the filling to provide a bit of tartness, to mimic the taste of fruit. I first read about vinegar pie in the LIttle House on the Prairie series and it’s only as an adult that i realize how much food is central to those books. The author was writing pastiches based on events from her childhood and as an adult, I realize how much starvation and near starvation played a role in the presence of food in her novels. it’s also a good way to explore ancestor work. My lithuanian ancestors love it when I cook the lithuanian recipes i got from my dad. 🙂 Food is life and history and lineage and love.

6. oh yeah, when adding flour to bread, it’s not exact. many things can affect how a dough will set, including weather, altitude, etc. use the flour amounts as a guide but go by feel.

7. Sometimes shit will go wrong, not turn out, be ghastly, etc. Make the best of it. Don’t eat gross food. LOL.

8. you can avoid waste by adding left over potatoes, meat, and most vegetables to omelettes the next morning.

9. A stick of butter will fix many, many things. Do not use fake butter. Just don’t. (i don’t care what anyone else says, don’t do it).

10. Invest in quality materials esp. a really good, large knife. I do most of my cutting, chopping, peeling, etc. with a butcher knife and i keep it very sharp. It’s worth the investment.

11. I strongly suggest getting a crock pot (and I recommend the book “Make it Fast, Cook it Slow”. It’s all good crock pot recipes and for someone starting out learning to cook, these are practical, tasty, they build confidence because they’re easy) and a rice cooker.

Yes, it’s cheating, but it helps so much.

Here’s the recipe that I shared earlier, one that put my husband in a sugar coma. heh.

Three Cuppa Cobbler
Take whatever fruit you have on hand. Boil it down (i add a cup of water, half a stick of butter, and some sugar) until you have a nice fruit in syrup mixture. (Tonight i used oranges and dried cranberries and i added a bit of honey).

In a bowl mix one cup of self rising flour (I don’t buy this. I looked up how to make it and to get one cup of self rising flour, mix one cup all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 1/2 tsp baking soda), one cup milk, one cup flour, one stick of butter melted (8 tablespoons). I added a tablespoon of orange extract because the fruit I was using was oranges and dried cranberries. I’d probably add vanilla or maybe lemon extract with any other fruit.

Pour that into a 9×9 pan. Drop dollops of the fruit mixture on top. dust with cinnamon. Bake in a preheated 400 degree farenheit oven for 35-40 mins. Serve with whipped cream.

While i made the recipe as is, i believe one can cut the amount of sugar involved. lol.

I always seem to cook and bake more as I’m going into the autumn. What are some of your favorite recipes? 🙂

Evviva ‘il Coltello

hollow throated marvels
sharp as a keen knife’s edge

immortality bearing blade
washed in crimson sweetness
with the promise of forever

exploding fire on the stage
each shard a voice
each voice a wonder
and I am caught
in this spider’s web
to be burned.

my heart, knowing well the blade
I give to them
in praise
to sate a hunger
that binds us both.

Their voices a labyrinth
sharper than the knife that made them
sharper than this heart that bleeds
brighter than glory.

(by G. Krasskova)

Another Trip to the Met

I spent Saturday at the Metropolitan Museum (in NYC) with two friends. I’d gone there specifically to see and study this painting, the “Crowning of Apollo.” It depicts the castrato Marc’antonio Pasqualini (one of the foremost singers of his day) being crowned with laurel by the God of music Apollo, with Marsyas the satyr bound in the background. I’ve written about this before, analyzing the story of Marsyas and Apollo and that whole piece is largely a visual representation of that article.

apollo crowning

The singer depicted, M. Pasqualini was a member of the Sistine Chapel Choir, a composer in his own right, and the leading singer in numerous operas. Andrea Sacchi was a baroque painter of some note who received regular patronage from the Vatican. He had a flourishing school and his style was noted for its exuberance.

I wanted to see this painting in person for two reasons. Firstly, I honor the castrati as a group in my own ancestor practices and secondly, I wanted to study the painting as an artist.

It’s a huge painting, and quite dramatic. Pasqualini stands looking directly at the viewer, his hand resting lightly on a harpsichord (decorated with an image of Daphne turning into a Laurel and another bound satyr). Apollo is radiant, standing naked save for a crimson wrap and caught in the act of placing the laurel crown of the victor atop Pasqualini’s head. Marsyas writhes in the background, a testament to the sacrifices necessary to achieve excellence in one’s art. Apollo’s virility shines through in His pose, His image, and His very prominent phallus whereas the castrato’s virility is given over and through to his music completely and through that sacrifice he has been elevated to the attentions of this God. It’s a stunning piece and a powerful story.

Usually it’s difficult to see actual brush strokes in this style of painting. It simply wasn’t the norm, as one of my artist friends recently commented, for painters to betray their craft in that fashion. Here though, there are a couple of places where the brush strokes are apparent:

castrato's skirt

Pasqualini is robed in a leopard skin, linking him symbolically with the God Dionysos. At the bottom of that skin, one can see the masterful brush strokes hinting at a lace pattern of his robe.

apollos foot

Then there is the blue lacing on Apollo’s slipper. Blue is the rarest color in nature and is often used in art of this time to convey some connection to the Heavens, to the Holy, to God or in this case Gods.

I rather like the cold defiance in Pasqualini’s eyes as he stares down the viewer. Castrati were revered for their phenomenal voices, elevated to the status of rock stars at certain points in history, and yet condemned for the very physical mutilation that made those voices possible. They were mocked for being less than fully men yet apparently, this castrato at least was man enough to win the accolades of a God.

Memorial Day: We Remember the Fallen


For the Fallen
by R.L. Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.




(image: “Doughboy” by G. Krasskova)

A Visit to Boston for Botticelli

This weekend my husband and I took a mini-vacation. We went to Boston, MA to see the Botticelli exhibit currently ongoing at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. It’s a different experience looking at a painting when you paint yourself. A couple of months ago I made my first visit to the Metropolitan in NYC since I became a painter. It was rather mind-blowing. Suddenly the brush strokes seemed alive and engaging visually was a completely new experience. This made me all the more eager to see the Botticelli exhibit as he’s one of my favorite painters. Sadly, I was rather disappointed.

The exhibit is small and the day we visited the museum was sweltering. Apparently, the air conditioning was off or broken (a store clerk told me it must be broken) and it was hot enough that it nearly made me ill. That alone would have been enough to ruin the experience for me – if you care about your patrons (not to mention the art –heat isn’t good for paintings), you don’t subject them to this level of discomfort. It was quite nauseating. More to the point though, the exhibit itself was poorly done. There are a number of paintings by Botticelli’s teacher Lippi, and several from some of his students. That was a positive as it allowed the viewer to see the continuity from generation to generation. However, and there are two significant howevers, the Botticelli paintings chosen were not his best. They tended toward his later period, and with the exception of his Venus, boti benuswere largely uninspired. More importantly, the commentary at the exhibit ignores completely the impact the insane Christian Savanarola had both on Florentine art in general and Botticelli in particular. He’s mentioned in passing, but what isn’t mentioned is that Botticelli burned some of his artwork and afterwards, turned away from classical subjects and his lush style. His work post Savanarola is quite simply dreary and uninspired. It really marked a step back for the painter. I don’t usually come down on the side of setting people on fire, but with Savanarola, I’d be first in line to light the match.

That being said, there were other things in the museum that caught my eye and made the trip more than worthwhile. They had a full room, for instance, dedicated to Dionysos. It had all sorts of figurines, vases, wine cups and items related to Symposium. We spent a great deal of time in that room.

Hyacinthus and Zephyrus

This ^ is perhaps one of my favorite attic vases ever. It shows Hyakinthus in the erotic embrace of Zephyrus, mid flight. 

There was quite a lovely collection of Roman statuary, including this Eros statue.

winged eros

Many of the items were quite quirky, at least I found them so.

Venus with a snap

(Venus with a snap)

They even had a few interesting Madonna with child images.


This Jesus is fabulous. (I love the expressiveness of Mary’s face here)

baby jesus will fuck you up

This ^ one will mess you up. Lol.

I haven’t processed all the photos that I took, but over the next week, I’ll try to do so and post some more here.

We also hit up two bookstores, Brattle bookshop and Commonwealth books, which I absolutely recommend. Check out our book haul. ^__^.


There’s a lot to do in Boston and I’ve really enjoyed my last couple of visits. I think next time, I want to come up when it’s a bit cooler and visit all the historical sites. So far, I’ve not had time to do so and it’s a city with such a rich history.

We stayed at the Langham. It’s a lovely hotel. I know some people don’t care about their hotels, figuring that when on vacation one doesn’t spend much time there, but for me, it’s an important part of the travel experience. I stayed here years and years ago with my adopted mom and it was every bit as nice as I remembered. (My only complaint, both times I’ve stayed, is that their in house massage therapists are just awful. I think the worst massage I’ve ever had was on this visit. The hotel I rate four stars, the massage negative four. I can’t help but wonder if there’s a local school turning them out. I get massage per doctor’s orders at least three times a month and have for years. Of my top three worst massages ever, two were at the Langham so stay at the hotel, enjoy it, but for the love of the Gods, skip the spa).


(all photos mine unless otherwise noted. Please do not use without my express written permission).