As Notre Dame Burned

The burning of Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday was a unifying moment for the Western world. We all watched mesmerized, stunned, horrified as the flames tore through the building, and as the orange glowing spire fell. As when the Towers fell, I was glued to the images, too far away to make another pilgrimage, but unable to turn aside to a Hallmark movie.

I found myself remembering my senior year in college when I took a course in decorative arts. I loved that course even though it was at 8am. There was no one professor; each time period was taught by the department specialist. The section on Gothic-inspired furniture (which was not very attractive actually) required us to understand Gothic architecture – and so we studied cathedrals, including, of course, Notre Dame de Paris.

If you’ve never been to a European medieval Gothic cathedral, you’ve really missed something amazing. The high, high vaulted ceilings reaching up to God. Intricate carvings. Gargoyles. Fabulous art work. Flying buttresses to support those impossibly high walls to keep them from falling.


The north rose window of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, an example of Rayonnant architecture, and the row of figures in stained glass below.

And the windows. Oh, the windows. Stained glass in deep rich colors set into lead, glowing high in the nave, telling Bible stories and the lives of saints in pictures, a kind of Bible picture book for the illiterate medieval Christians who built the cathedrals and worshipped there.

Huge Rose Windows, round windows of incredible glass and stone tracery, are a hallmark of cathedrals. And Notre Dame had three of them. These windows dominate the space and the glory of intricate color and design just overwhelm us with beauty and the point to the glory of God, for whom they were made. As of tonight, the Notre Dame Rose Windows are safe, but we’ll have to see if the heat from the raging fire caused damage we can’t see.

I’m grateful I was able to go to Notre Dame twice in my life, and to other cathedrals on my travels. They can start to look alike after awhile – all amazing, all huge, all powerful, all crowded with tourists even as they function as living churches. But Notre Dame was, is, one of a kind.

Obsessed with Jon and Kate Even Though I Don’t Like Them

Jon and Kate Plus Eight (image from TLC)I have become obsessed with Jon and Kate Plus Eight, and not in a good way.  It’s a show I knew was on TLC but didn’t really watch because, well, watching 8 small children with stressed out parents just isn’t my idea of fun, even if the kids are adorable.  Every once in a while I’d catch a glimpse when nothing else was on or I was waiting for another show that I did watch.  Last weekend there was a marathon of what must have been every show, gearing up the season premier of these wounded, angry, bitter adults with children who need to be enjoying their lives without cameras in their faces every minute.

Every tabloid at the grocery store (which is the only place I see them because they’re not things I seek out) had a picture of Kate on there somewhere, and even papers as reputable as the NY Times have had articles about the show and the unraveling of a family.  There’s even a Gosselins Without Pity blog with armloads of comments from outraged viewers.  The consensus there is that Kate is a witch, Jon is abused but not without responsibility, and the kids need to have the cameras stop now so they don’t have to have wall-to-wall coverage of the dissolution of their family.

I don’t know why this has hooked me.  I don’t have children and don’t want any other than my kitty.  Watching candid reality shows is not on my list of fun things to do.  Watching people of any age or sex be picked on and belittled pushes buttons inside and my heart hurts for them – so it’s not something I voluntarily do.  I don’t have any plans to watch any other episodes of the show (I broke down and watched the premier but it was awful and I don’t want to support the show in any way).  I even wrote to TLC to tell them what I thought, which is something I rarely do.

But yet I do care about the kids and in a train-wreck way, want to know what happens.  I’m not proud of it but will probably do Google searches (or just look at tabloid covers) to keep up with the story.  Let’s hope something more distracting comes along soon.

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In other news, I spent part of the weekend decluttering, inspired by Lori’s success.  I lugged a bag of clothes and some books to Goodwill but this is a particularly congested time there with students moving out of apartments following local college graduations.  I have other things in mind to take down when it’s a bit easier to get a parking space.  I also figured out that the way to get bill paying done more efficiently was to download Quicken to the laptop and move the whole operation to the dining table.  Going to the study to use the old desktop, which is usually turned off, just wasn’t happening.  I’m caught up on reconciling statements and paying bills which isn’t a sexy thing to do but definitely necessary and I like the tidiness of knowing everything is in order.

My parents are coming to visit at the end of June and I’m also debating whether to hire a maid service to do a thorough cleaning.  I hate to clean and somehow need to have things very clean and everything in place when the parents come.  Cat hair will, of course, still adorn everything but perhaps not in a thick layer.  They haven’t met their grandkitty yet so we want the first impressions to be good ones.  Let’s hope she doesn’t hide under the bed the whole time!

I Want to be Queen Latifah When I Grow Up

Last HolidayI just finished watching Queen Latifah in Last Holiday.  She plays a sales clerk from New Orleans who loves to cook and has a Book of Possibilities but never really lives out the things she wants.  When she gets diagnosed with a fast-moving disease that gives her weeks to live, she quits her job, cashes in her 401K and goes to Europe where she grabs life with both hands.

Queen Latifah is a gorgeous woman.  She has that wonderful voice, incredible skin, a beautiful smile, and a voluptuous body, and she has not been afraid to take risks, moving from rap to Chicago to musical standards  and acting.  She’s accomplished in all that she does and carries herself with style and confidence.

Georgia, her character in the movie, simply blossoms and glows as she does things she has only dreamed of, living with honest exhuberance as though there is no tomorrow.  She stops worrying about dieting and dresses herself in beautiful clothes that fit her curvy body.  She bungee jumps and snowboards, goes to the spa and gambles – and cooks with someone who is her idol.  It brought such a smile to my face and my heart to watch her stand up for herself and her dreams and make them happen.

If there is a lesson – and there were many – it’s that life is not about regrets; go out and fulfill your dreams and enjoy the life you have, because any day could be your last.

The Right Chef Won

Yayyyyy! Stephanie is the winner of Top Chef Season 4! And Lisa didn’t win! Sulky, pouty, bitchy Lisa who I have disliked for weeks and weeks and had no business being in the finale at all.

But enough about her. Richard and Stephanie have cooked circles around everyone else from the beginning. Dale is obviously a great chef and Antonia cooks food I would adore trying, so I was really really pissed, er, upset when Lisa got to the finale instead.

Richard is Mr. Molecular Gastronomy, with playful and innovative food (he gave an unplanned mini liquid nitrogen cooking lesson in the kitchen during the finale). Stephanie’s food is creative, clean and well-balanced, showcasing interesting combos of ingredients and including lots of fruit. Lisa specializes in Asian food. It’s what she likes to eat and likes to cook.

I actually would have liked to have tried most of the food that the three prepared for the final, knowing of course that Stephanie’s would be the ones I’d like the best. Richard had trouble keeping his concentration up and it showed in some of his dishes. Lisa was just annoying by being there, though she was rock-solid calm, which made for a change of pace.

Stephanie won because her total package of the meal was the best of the three. She was the top chef in this season, a leader in the kitchen and well liked and respected by the other cheftestants, and of course with excellent food. I’m thrilled and now I’m watching the repeat again, just in case, you know, I missed something while yawning last night waiting for the commercials to end and the final verdict to be given.

You go, girl. I’d eat in your restaurant any time.