Monday, November 23, 2015

Greatest mushroom soup evah!

You guys seriously have to try this one.


1/2 onion, chopped
5 cloves fresh garlic, minced fine
1/2 peeled green apple, chopped
big lump of butter
1-2 potatoes sliced
2 cups of diced pumpkin
2-3 cups sliced mushrooms
handful of rubbed basil
1 porcini mushroom soup cube
2 cups milk

In a large pot over a medium heat saute the onion, garlic, basil, soup cube, mushrooms and apple in the butter until they're soft. Add potatoes (I don't peel) and pumpkin and enough water to cover. Reduce heat and simmer until the spuds are soft. This should be about 20 mins. Make sure the water level doesn't go down too far. Add more if needed.

While this is doing up, cut up some more mushrooms into nice bite-size chunks and sautee them in a pan with more butter and then set aside.

Take another pot or a big bowl and blend the hot soup together with the milk in portions, letting it go long enough to make it really smooth and frothy. If you've got it, try heavy cream instead of milk.

Transfer the blended soup into the new pot and put it back on a very low heat to warm up. Add the mushroom bits.

Eat with fresh bread and butter.

Oh! Best one ever!


Sunday, November 22, 2015


From now on, I'm just going to be using these gifs everywhere the Twitter or FB thread has become so tedious that I want to punch someone.

Gonna ask myself, WWTD?

"Oh, sorry... were you still talking?"

"Oh, no no. I didn't actually want to know."

(Yes, I didn't see these movies, but thanks to my glorious high speed innnernet and a certain surfeit of  time on my hands, I've become a screaming Thranduil fan-girl. Where's my pointy nerd-ears?)


Saturday, November 21, 2015

How the world ended

Minoan art; all happy and nature-y and dolphins! But then the sea turned out not to be our friend.

Here’s a thought experiment: what do you think would happen if China suddenly found that no one in the West were in a position any longer to buy their export goods? Just not enough money, too much debt. What if the lending institutions, credit card companies and international global financial institutions that hold national and individual debts, were one day to find themselves insolvent and demand immediate repayment? What if they just disappeared? Swallowed, perhaps, by a titanic tsunami hitting the Eastern Seaboard? (We’ve all seen that movie.)

Next, what if enormous numbers of fighting-age single men from a culture accustomed to violence, with sharply divergent assumptions about morality and social responsibility, with no jobs, no money and no family ties, were suddenly imported into countries already suffering chronic economic, social and moral instability after a century of devastating wars? What if this all happened right at the moment when these countries had severely cut back their military budgets? What if at that very moment, global “food security” were suddenly severely tested by ongoing environmental challenges? Drought, in a word.

Would this create some kind of vast instability? Could there be some kind of collapse? There have been a lot of people throwing around terms like “civilisational collapse” and “world war three” lately. But what does it take to actually bring down such an entity? Has it happened in the past?

What if I were to tell you that most of this had already happened in another remote time in history? And that the result was the near-annihilation of a hugely successful, cosmopolitan, multi-national civilization, in many ways like our own?

The opening paragraphs of a ridiculously long piece I finally finished last night for the Remnant. Mike said he's going to put it in the print edition, and then in a couple of months online.

Earlier in November it was ancient history documentary week at Hilaryhouse after a friend of mine with a degree in classics came to stay for a couple of days and, to my great relief, didn't want to talk about Francis or the Church. We had a bang-up time going over the sudden horrifying collapse of the Minoan civilization after the Theran Explosion and all its many far reaching after effects. In brief, a whole island in the Aegean - that just happened to be the major port trading centre of the Minoan empire, like the Hong Kong of the ancient Aegean, more or less just turned instantly to dust and ash and launched into the atmosphere, followed by what they think was one of the biggest tsunamis in human history - killed 80 per cent of their population in half an hour and destroyed nearly all their cities and infrastructure and reduced them from the greatest sea-traders in the ancient world to beggars in the space of a day.

Being a life-long sci fi fan, I've been fascinated with the idea of The Big Collapse. What would we do if suddenly there were no longer available the social framework to support us that we're used to? I was astonished and fascinated to discover that precisely this has already happened, though a very long time ago.

[This guy is kind of annoying, and not-funny, but he does summarize the whole thing pretty well.}

A big part of the Late Bronze Age Collapse, according to the Egyptian and some of the Hittite and Ugaritic records was this group who have been labelled "the Sea People" who came out of nowhere one day like a horde of proto-Vikings and started pillaging the crap out of everybody. It is all tied up with the rise of the New Kingdom in Egypt, the Theran explosion causing 150 years or so of recurring drought in the Nile breadbasket, and the cessation of 100 years of war between the Egyptians and the Hittites - suddenly there was a massive group of young, unattached, unemployed single men who got laid off from the two armies after the wars ended who had nothing to do and decided to go into business for themselves as raiders.

The city states, kingdoms and empires had been weakened by the economic effects of drought and had reduced their military budgets and were left more or less helpless. Chaos followed and as the cities burned behind them, people literally just grabbed the kids and a few goats and tools, and ran for it to the hills where they stayed. What followed was 300 years of the Greek Dark Ages where no one knew about writing or history or music or art. And no one ever went back to those cities again, which were later just buried and forgotten. They had to start all over again.

What I thought was most fascinating was what happened to the Minoans toward the end. They had had their civilization completely decimated. Literally; only about one in ten survived. What was left was a pathetic vestige, and within about 80 years of the tsunami they had been brought very low, losing their whole culture, essentially forgetting who they were and what they were about. The evidence shows that they ultimately started doing child sacrifice and possibly cannibalism - something almost unheard of in the ancient Aegean societies. It was just as they reached this lowest-low that the Sea Peoples showed up - possibly a group of proto-Greeks whose fleet had been sheltered from the wave and ended up being the only sea power left - and put the Minoan survivors mercifully to the sword.

Anyway... You can guess that this article comparing all this to our time has taken much of my attention lately. I finished it and sent it last night after Vespers over a couple of glasses of wine. 3700-odd words and not a single one of them was either "pope" or "Francis".

I'm hoping to make it a trend.

There's a fantastic story about the Valnerina and Norcia and St. Benedict and 700 Syrian hermit monks that needs a wider audience.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

I have just found the perfect television show

The final television show. The ultimate fulfilment - the Thomistic perfection - of all television shows. After this, there will be no need to watch any other television show, ever again.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "But Hilary, everyone knows that the perfect television show was Firefly. That was the peak. After Firefly there was simply no point in watching television again." And you would be right... except for one thing. Oh come on, it's the obvious thing. 14 episodes. Ugh. Firefly was not the greatest television show of all time. It was the greatest television tease of all time. I hate Firefly for that. Hate it.

So now you're thinking, "OK, OK, maybe not Firefly then. We've all felt the pain. But what about Fringe, Hilary? What. About. Fringe?"

OK, you may have something there. Fringe, after all, had Walter Bishop, the greatest mad scientist of all time, complex relationships and parallel universes AND Buckaroo Banzai. Of course it's up there. Of course we want to buy it all on DVD. Of course we need a Fringe movie franchise. All these are a given.

But were there pies? Was the whole show all about pies and death and resurrection?

And did it have Lee Pace?

This guy? (Yes, yes I know. We all want to lynch Peter Jackson for his bloated Hobbit desecration, but seriously, who wouldn't give just about anything to meet Thranduil IRL?)

I give you... (wait for it!)

Pushing Daisies

You're welcome.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Head for the hills!

I can't believe I stayed up til three am watching a guy go camping.

I've started watching "bushcrafting" videos. How to start fires in the rain with just a stick and no matches, how to catch fish with yer bare manly hands and whatnot. They're really great. Surprisingly relaxing.

This one that I watched last night was in equal parts peaceful and fascinating, and really had surprisingly beautiful photography for a home-vid kind of thing, and decent editing. One guy showed how to make quite a nice looking basket out of wild clematis vines, and I might try it. He knew all sorts of useful things about plants too.

If some day y'all don't hear from me again, It'll most likely be because I've made myself a bullrush basket to carry the kitties in, and gone off into the woods and hills never to be seen again.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A long stretch

Wow, that was a while, sorry.

There was something cosmically correct about getting a ferocious bout of the flu immediately after that horrifying debacle in Rome, don't you think? As though my immune system just couldn't take any more and forced my brain to shut down for a week.

Some friends fled up here from Rome after it was all over to try to regain some mental equillibrium and we did have a splendid time. Much beer and sausages, long, cool, sunny walks in the Marcite, leaves turning and falling, wild boar frisking about and bunnies hopping all over, birds and butterflies flapping, walnuts, pears, apples and rose hips ready for collecting.

The garden needs work, and I have many plans.


Had a little adventure last night. Not really completely recovered, but yesterday was going to be day eight cooped up in the house-o, so I was just about ready to burst. Every day here has been more gorgeous than the last, with cool foggy mornings and splendid warm sunny afternoons. Yesterday was so warm - had to be at least 25 - I couldn't stand it any more, and wheezing and coughing I went out for an 'easy' walk. Took the bike down the hill and parked it in a field and had a stroll about 3:30 in the afternoon (remembering that it's full dark now by 5:30.)

When I first started walking in the Marcite, one of the first things I'd noticed was the large areas of turf that had obviously been rooted up by some digging animal. The damaged areas were sometimes as much as 30 or 40 feet in diameter, so I didn't think it could possibly be rabbits or other small furry woodland creatures. I wondered if goats would do that, since there were always a few mixed in with the sheep flocks that were pastured down there. But as far as I know they only eat leaves and grasses, and don't dig for stuff underground. I remained puzzled, until I read about cinghiale - wild boar.

Pigs root, and the only reason it hadn't occurred to me was that I never would have thought that wild boar would come so close to where people are. But the more I walked about those fertile grassy, marshy lowlands, the more I saw signs of them. The rooted-up parts were always near the water courses, and were often muddy, so their cloven hoof marks were often still visible. Then I started seeing their trails. Wild animals will often create little highways where they cross open land single file, always taking the same path to known food sources from their dens. So I have been able to follow some of the trails they make, all clearly from the hills on the opposite side of the valley.

I knew they were nocturnal feeders, so wasn't worried about actually meeting any down there, but was mindful that it would be quite a bad plan to go to the water meadows after dark. So, yesterday, I had only intended to go for an hour, the last hour of daylight, and stick to the wide paths and farm tracks... and it's a good thing I did.

I was heading back towards the town gate along the old rocky farm road that skirts the base of Norcia's small hill, when I looked over at a commotion about 30 feet away in the bullrushes below. I was up fairly high above the marsh, about 2 or 3 meters and the road is elevated on a ridge that creates a kind of back wall. I thought it was ducks at first, but where ducks are a burst and then you see them flying off, this went on for a while and then subsided. I saw the rushes and other plants obviously being moved around violently.

It became clear that it was a large animal of some kind. Expecting a dog, since it was still mostly daylight, I stopped and looked with my little field glasses, and it was four wild boar, a mother and three babies. I stood still and watched them for a bit. They obviously hadn't seen me and were just rooting about. Then I must have moved or perhaps the breeze brought my scent over to them, and they all jumped at once and took off.

For a brief moment I had a bit of a turn when I wondered if they might be coming my way, but they know all about the town, and from the motion of the underbrush it was clear that they had tooken off the opposite way back towards the hills. I figured I was pretty safe where I was, since there was no easy way for them to get to me, but still, it gave me a bit of a turn! And it crossed my mind that it might have been quite different, since I had been considering walking back the short way along the marsh path, but had decided it would be easier on the farm road and with the bike.

It will make me more cautious from now on about the time. The sun "sets" early here because of the mountains and the valley was completely in shade, but there was still light on the eastern slopes and on the town, and it was certainly light enough to see them easily with the field glasses. But shade, apparently, is sufficient for them.


I know, no pics. Sorry. I have a good camera, but one day the little window that keeps the battery in fell open while I wasn't looking, and the damn battery isn't the kind you can buy at the shop. It has to be ordered, and we are still waiting. When it comes, I will be sure to secure it with a sturdy piece of duct tape.

But this video shows exactly where I was, and has lots of lovely pics of the local area.

At exactly 7:08 there is an arial shot of the lower end of Norcia and the farm road is clearly visible, hugging the base of the hill.