Tag Archives: Sara

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Gelert the Brave

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When I was looking for a story to share on social media for October, I needed something decidedly Welsh, and also a wee bit macabre (Halloween and all).

Enter the story of Gelert the Brave.  It might not be a macabre story on it’s own, but it IS a little grim.  It may or may not be a true story, but there IS a grave, marking where Llewellyn Fawr may have buried Gelert.

The story is straight-forward.  Gelert was a favourite wolfhound of Llewellyn Fawr but one day did not appear for hunting.  He saves the baby (left inexplicably unattended in the castle) when everyone is gone, from a wolf (also inexplicable why the wolf was alone and in the castle, but work with me here).  Llewellyn Fawr comes back from hunting, sees the over-turned cradle and Gelert with blood on his muzzle and runs Gelert through with his sword.  THEN he sees the baby safe in the blankets, and the dead wolf and feels bad.

To be fair, I didn’t like this scene in Lady and the Tramp either, although Lady was punished, not killed.  And while I am glad Llewellyn Fawr was remorseful, it made me wonder how much of the world goes on around us that we don’t see.

We’ve been seeing and hearing nature a little more than usual because in Victoria at least, people have slowed down an awful lot. Would we notice the usual silence in the room when we returned?  Would we have smelled the fight and result?  What is the poignant reason for this story at its root? 

Dogs are amazing. They will forgive us nearly anything, and Llewellyn Fawr’s remorse and resulting action in the story, shows a sliver of that deep and loyal love.  Gelert would have forgiven Llewellyn Fawr, most certainly.  And maybe the monument stands as a reminder, not only of a deeply loyal dog, but of the price of jumping to conclusions and the power of remorse.

Or it could just be a story.  Up to you!

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Scandinavian Almond Cake

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  • 1 1/4c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick (116g) melted butter


Beat sugar, egg, extract and milk together well. Then add flour and baking powder, blend together Add melted butter and stir. Butter and dust 9″/23cm cake pan generously with flour. Pour batter into pan. Bake at 350F/175C for 40-50 minutes or until edges are golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean.


I reduce sugar by nearly half.

I also use 1 1/4 C self-raising flour in lieu of flour and baking powder.

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Nature neighbours

Category:Creation,Sara,Uncategorized Tags : 

The other night, I woke at about 3am and it was nearly silent.  We like to sleep with the windows open and usually there are night noises; local traffic, trams,  traffic on the M1, construction not overly far away, the bells for the pedestrian crossing of the train tracks five blocks away.  But those were all absent as I lay in bed, marvelling at the HUGE moon and listening to the magpie snore.

Yes, there was a snoring magpie somewhere in the neighbourhood.  And I could hear it.  Breathe in, little song, breathe out.  I would have said it was talking in its sleep, except the song didn’t change at all, except when another maggie would say the avian equivalent of, “Stop it.”  It was adorable. 

I will miss it when the hustle and bustle fires back up again.  It isn’t that the sounds of nature are getting louder or more persistent, but we’re slowing down, and being quieter, and so we hear these noises.  A magpie pie snoring, what could be weirder than that?

How about annoyed killer whales?  “From the Straits of Gibraltar to Galicia, orcas have been harassing yachts, damaging vessels and injuring crew.”  They’re breaking rudders, ramming boats ten or fifteen times, driving them back into ports.  “Scientists are baffled.”  I’m not.  “GO HOME!” is the message I hear, loud and clear.  Seems like they’ve also gotten used to our quieter, less messy, less invasive habits of 2020.  

I go into church every Wednesday to film the Sunday service with Siôn and Bubba.  The past few Wednesdays, I’ve also gone around Melbourne and picked up ballots of US citizens who want to vote, but are not comfortable, or able to drive into the US Consulate on St. Kilda Road.  Since I can do that, and have permission to be outside of my 5km bubble, AND I believe ‘if you can, you should; if you’re the only one who can, you must” I go and get these ballots.  It means on Wednesdays I am out of the house, at all, and have been out pretty much all day the last few Wednesdays.  This past Wednesday, when I got home, Luci, my sweet kitty who shares a birthday with me, gave me The Business.  She yelled at me for being gone, she followed me around, when I sat down, she sat down.  She was highly irritated at the amount of time that I had been gone and was quite clear that was what she was communicating to me. 

Our world is so interesting, diverse and dynamic.  There are so many neighbours (some of whom snore) that we simply have overlooked or ignored. How do we hold onto that (aside from staying in quarantine/lock-down for another year because we can’t behave)?    

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Mexican Hot Chocolate Shortbread

Category:Cooking chat,Food,Uncategorized Tags : 

These cookies taste like a mug of rich hot chocolate. The deep mocha-flavor is followed by a kick of cayenne pepper. Don’t let the heat put you off; it only enhances the flavor. 


  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 cup almond flour 
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder or finely ground coffee 
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips 
  • About 1/4 cup granulated sugar for dusting

Special Equipment: Cookie stamp (optional)


Line two cookie sheets with parchment.

Whisk the flours together in a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter, vanilla, and almond extract until the mixture is pale in color, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the speed down to low, add the brown sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, espresso, salt, and cayenne pepper, and continue to mix until the mixture is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture in thirds until just combined. With the mixer running, sprinkle in the chocolate chips, mixing until just combined.

Transfer the dough to another bowl and finish mixing by hand to make sure no bits of flour or butter are hiding on the bottom of the bowl and the dough is thoroughly mixed.

Use a small ice cream scoop to form the cookies, about 1 rounded tablespoon each, and place on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving 1 inch between the cookies to allow for spreading.

Flatten each cookie with a cookie stamp dusted with granulated sugar, or gently flatten each cookie with the palm of your hand and then dust the tops with sugar. They will have little cracks in the top. Refrigerate the cookies for at least 1 hour, or up to 5 hours. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time for even doneness (see Tip). Cool the cookies completely on wire racks. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature.

Tip: It is really difficult to tell when dark chocolate cookies are done. Pull them out when they are firm to the touch on the edges and the sweet smell of chocolate has begun to fill your kitchen. 

Sweet Note: I love stamping designs in the tops of our shortbread cookies. I use cookie stamps, which are available in a variety of designs, but I have also used the bottom of a decorative vintage glass in a pinch. To use, simply spray the stamp (or glass) lightly with cooking spray and dip into a plate of sugar, then lightly press into the cookie to emboss the design. You may have to reapply the cooking spray occasionally if the stamp starts to stick to the dough. 

This was originally found and is exactly what I have printed out, at https://www.splendidtable.org/story/2013/12/03/mexican-hot-chocolate-shortbread

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I’m Jealous of Noah

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The Saint of Zookeepers

I’m a little jealous of Noah. No, I am a LOT jealous of Noah. 

He and his family were the Irwins of the Bible; one family running a zoo.  On WATER.  In the rain.  There’s so much going on in this story and I, as usual, only see the animals.

I know that this this story is not LITERAL (for a whole slew of reasons, starting with physics and engineering and going on to hydrology and geometry), it is wonderful fodder for fiction.  I remember reading Biblical archaeology books where they find it, alien interference with it, all kinds of fun.  There are all kinds of flood myths, across cultures from China to the edge of Europe.

But that is not why I’m jealous of Noah.

I used to work at a zoo.  It was one of the few times in my life where I woke up EARLY in the morning, happily. One of my most favourite times was that time just after the keepers arrived, the animals had been woken up and moved to their enclosures.  In the zoo I was in, the lions were at the bottom of the hill and would roar their salute to the sun, which is a build up, a crescendo that will make your liver vibrate if you are in line of the sound (take a listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OS0pZDPZWc8 or here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rf4LGT_GMg ) .  The howler monkeys would pick up the calls (you can hear that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYar0dkZ6v8 ), and and on up the hill.  The last animals, at the top of hill, by the main road was the New Guinea Singing Dog : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwxV1wbBrfU.   It was glorious, and occurred an hour or so before any humans (besides keepers, and truly they’re not entirely human) entered the grounds. 

That wasn’t my most favourite time though.  It moved me to tears of joy to park as far away from the big cats, at the bottom of the hill, and walk through the early morning nautical twilight, particularly in the rain, mist, or fog.  It was so silent, except for the animals who were already out, just beginning to move around.  The absolute one-ness of that moment in time is what I imagine it would have been like for Noah and his family – suspended in the centre of God’s created beings, one of them, with them, all connected. 

Here’s the theological twist. 
We are all Noah and his family. 

All of us.

We are responsible for caring for the creation around us, not just humans. 

We need to care for them with what we plant around us, so the native birds, animals and insects have habitat and food.  We need to support conservation, contain our cats, be their voices because in a world filled with the cacophony of human voices, they have no one to speak for them, no one to scoop them up and take them away to safety.

Support your local animal shelter, make a donation to your local zoo; they’re hurting right now with volunteers and visitors curtailed.  If you do pictures with wildlife, make it from an ethical organisation, that works hard for conservation and habitat both.  And enjoy your neighbours, they’re fascinating.

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Jonah and the deep

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Jonah and the Whale …

…  or big fish, or Kraken, your choice of HUGE underwater beast that can swallow a man whole.  I’ve heard this story described as a fish story, one of those exaggerated catch, “It was a meter if it was an inch!” kind of things.  And it might need, irony, humour and laughter are just as important for our understanding of God as awe and miracles.

I grew up with a little stained-glass blue whale, with a man sitting in his belly, hanging in the back window, no more than 10cm long.  When my parents moved, Jonah went too and hangs in the kitchen window now. He’s always been there, reminding me of … well, whatever it was that I needed reminding of when it came to life, faith, and journeys.  My mother provided the image for Friday’s clue.  She cross-stitched one of her favourite images of Jonah and the whale for my ordination because I tried to run away from God’s call to ministry.  See, I don’t think I am very good at it – I lack patience, and understanding, and will NEVER know as much as some do about the Bible.  She joked that she had to hurry to Nineveh because I ended up finishing seminary two years earlier than anticipated, so she stitched in the car, and every spare second she had to get it done in time. 

Jonah is complicated.  It’s a delightful story in and of itself.  It uses irony and allegory, it has symbolism of birth and death, there’s faith and questioning, miracles and moaning, humour and horror – the open sea, and the deep depths, and what is in it, is a fear I share with the folk of the 5th or 4th century BC.  I am delighted every time I hear Jonah complain to God that OF COURSE God forgave Nineveh, so why did he have to go through all that he went through in the first place?  I hear that is so many different tones, the snarky sarcasm being my favourite.


One scholar writes that he “sees Jonah as a thoughtful prophet who comes to religion out of a search for theological truth and is constantly disappointed by those who come to religion to provide mere comfort in the face of adversity inherent to the human condition. “If religion is only a blanket to provide warmth from the cold, harsh realities of life,” David Bashevkin imagines Jonah asking, “did concerns of theological truth and creed even matter?”[i] The lesson taught by the episode of the tree at the end of the book is that comfort is a deep human need that religion provides, but this need not obscure the role of God.

And so for me, Jonah is a companion.  God is always present, haranguing me, harassing me, humouring me.  I do occasionally miss the presence of God, overlooking it or getting so wrapped up in myself that I simply forget to look up, but it doesn’t matter.  Like that little stained-glass in the window, God simple IS present, for all of us, a constant.

[i] Bashevkin, Dovid. “Jonah and the Varieties of Religious Motivation.” Archived 2016-10-12 at the Wayback Machine Lehrhaus. 9 October 2016. 2 October 2017.

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Library books

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One of the things that I rattle on about, besides living in right relationship, is diversity and adaptation.  This sounds very scientific and academic, but it applies across the board.  See, I am not a literalist when it comes to … literally anything!   And so when it comes to reading the Bible, I’ve been taught to look at it in a diverse number of ways, and be open to other ways that I am not used to, or are new to me.

A close up of a piece of paper
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This has come up in our Bible Study recently, because we’re reading Esther.  And Esther is … well, religious fiction.  A fairy tale.  As we were reading it carefully, we realized that there were cartoonishly large sterotypes, and over-the-top descriptions, and more than one stranger-than-fiction coincidence.  It is gorgeously structured, as a piece of literature, and was probably told as a story to children before the celebration of Purim before it was written down.  And this idea that Jesus sat at the feet of his mother or father or uncle or aunt to hear this story of beginnings, literally sat and listened, came home to me during this  Bible fellowship.  But when we look at the Bible as a library of many different kinds of literature, we realize that we don’t read everything in the same way.  We read letters differently than we read poetry, and we read that differently than we read science fiction/fantasy, and we adapt our filters whether we realize we are doing it or not.  However, all of these different kinds of reading, inform our understanding of (wait for it) living in right relationship with God, ourselves, and others. 

Saw that coming, didn’t you?

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Pentecost Party

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Did you know it’s Pentecost this weekend? In the Presbyterian tradition it almost seems that Pentecost is the forgotten cousin of the major days. You know the one that lives up in the hills in a small house in the middle of nowhere and only when Christmas and Easter are together having fun at the party does someone say, “Oh where’s Pentecost?” And another cousin says, “We forgot it again!! Oh well, next year.” 

And yet, in terms of actual importance to us, as Christians, it’s arguable the second most important day after Easter. It marks the birth of the Church and, like all the major days, has some amazing miracles and stories surrounding it. Just read Acts chapter 2 to get an idea of what happened. (Press here to read it.)

This year, with working very differently due to the virus, I’ve had time to reflect on the importance of Pentecost and why we are prone to forget it. 

One of the main reasons we forget it, I think, is that it’s boring compared to its brighter, more jazzy cousins. It’s a bit drab and we don’t get anything from it. There are no presents or chocolate eggs, no big feasts or huge parties. Pentecost hasn’t been hijacked by mainstream society and had massive amounts of commercialisation thrown at it. It’s still the poor cousin living in the sticks and only remember by some crazy old Aunts like the Anglicans. And so we have no real reason to remember it. We remember Christmas because we get presents and a few days off; we remember Easter because we get chocolate eggs and a few days off; we forget Pentecost because we don’t get anything special and no days off!! It’s a shame really, a few days off are always good. 

It wasn’t always like that. Pentecost used to live in a really nice house over the road from its cousins, Christmas and Easter. It used to come to all the parties and it even threw a huge one once a year where everyone was invited. I’ve seen pictures of Pentecost events with 1000’s of people at them. 

There used to be a day off for Whitsun but it seems to have been forgotten. There always used to be big parades and churches would walk together around the cities and towns to celebrate their unity and the birth of the Church. We’ve even got a banner here at the Melbourne Welsh Church that the Sunday School used during those parades; but Whitsun became less popular and its parties grew smaller. Eventually only a few people came and so Pentecost moved out to the country and was, like other long lost cousins, forgotten and only remembered by some eccentric people. 

And yet it should be a really important day, it should be up there with it’s better known relations, Christmas and Easter. It marks a hugely important day in the history of the Church – the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church of Christ. 

There should be parties and cakes and songs and dancing and streamers and Holy Ghost shaped balloons – it’s that important, it’s that special. So this Sunday, at church and at coffee chat, we are remembering Pentecost. We WILL have cake and songs, we’ll invite Pentecost down from its little house out there is the back of beyond and we’ll have a church party and remember all the good things about the day. 

So happy Pentecost everyone and happy birthday to the Church throughout the world!!!