How Not to Build a Wood Oven in Your Backyard

This is how I built my wood-fired bread oven in my (rental- shh!) backyard.  Now I just have to wait for my forearm splint to heal (thanks to being unaccustomed to doing masonry) before I can build a metal birdcage and use some actual cement to put the top back on.  At least the bread that was meant to be baked in there turned out well enough in the electric oven that I’ll be able to eat for the next few weeks!

Mum: Sticking to this diet for a month will get the doctor off your back.

Pumpkin: And it’s hard to dance with a doctor on your back.

Monastic Extravagance

Q. Which of these is not valued by monasticism:

A) prayer and work;

B) community and service; or

C) luxury and leisure?


Uh…. C) luxury and leather!

Who needs a manicure anyway?

I was aghast at the decrepit state of my fingernails- the effect of continual slamming on the ivories (no tickling here) so I lamented to my brothers in general, “Just look at my fingernails.”

Junior (6) came right up and put his arms around me.  A little surprised, I asked him why he had done that- I had wanted him to look at my nails.

“Oh.” he said. “I thought you said ‘hugs for females.”

Send me the answer to this one…

Junior, while drawing a variety of weapons and artillery, asked me how to spell ‘missile.’  Not having seen the artwork he was doing, I had to check which kind of missal/missile he was referring to.  Then I pointed out to him that both words came from the same origin- the Latin mittere– to send.  The projectile’s relationship with the word is obvious enough; the name of the book comes from the Latin name of the Mass, Missa, which in turn comes from the priest’s words at the end, “Ite missa est,” roughly translated as “This is the sending.”

When I had got done explaining this, he asked if there was a similar connection between the words cannon and canon.  Alas, I have failed to find this one!

What kind of spider would that be?

A conversation overheard between Junior and Pumpkin:

“Have you ever kissed a spider?”


“I did.”

“What kind was it?”

“A crab spider. C-R-A-B. I kissed a C-R-A-B spider.”

“Do you like them?”

“No. I hate them.”


“Because they’re evil, vicious, terrifying. I hate them with the passion of a thousand million tera-suns.””


Some Liturgical Lightheadedness

I told this joke at the dinner table. It was followed by the ensuing conversation.

The bishop was coming to certain parish, so the pastor pulled out all the stops in his effort to impress the prelate.  In the middle of the Mass a liturgical dancer whirled up the center aisle as the bishop sat in the presider’s chair.  After the show the priest leaned over and whispered to him,

“Well, what did you think?”  The bishop replied,

“If she asked for your head on a platter she’d have it.”


“Liturgical dancing isn’t liturgical.”

“What about what Africans do?”

“That’s not dancing. It’s bouncing when they walk because they’re African.”

“That’s not liturgical dancing.  That’s called liturgical bouncing.”

“Liturgical bouncing is what ushers do.”


I was out in the garden picking strawberries and the little boys had come along.  I think it really had been their original intention to help pick, but the job was boring and the insects much more enticing.  Junior had a tent caterpillar and a gypsy moth caterpillar, which he was keeping for the purpose of racing.  In the meantime he was playing make-believe.

“Pretend this caterpillar is an alien.” (I had never thought of that. I guess if there were aliens they might look very much like ordinary caterpillars.)

“It comes from Alienland, which is like a different country except that it’s not in this world.”

That was a few weeks ago.  Two days ago I was picking gooseberries and once again accompanied by Junior, who had come along to help but quit after a few scratches from the thorn bush.  I discovered a tiny snail on a berry and gave it to him.  A few minutes (and questions) later I found a big one, with all its parts tucked in.  I gave it to him, and was rewarded with a detailed report of its emergence.  And then…

“Pretend this snail is an alien.”

Cat Bath

For some time, Shamus had been telling me that the cat needed a bath.  I told him it could not be done.  Little did I know.

The other evening I looked out the window, and saw him gently but firmly petting the cat, keeping it where it was with one hand, and pouring handfuls of water on it with the other.  When he poured the water over it, it would strain and try to get away, but he calmly and firmly petted it down so that it would give up and stay.

A few minutes later I caught Pumpkin trying to smuggle the family hairbrushes outside. “Oh no, you don’t,” I said, interrupting his mission, “Those are for people only.”

He put the brushes away and ended up bringing out an old toothbrush from the stash we keep for cleaning.  A few minutes later he walked past again, this time with a fistful of toothbrushes (all no-longer-in-use ones, thank goodness!) I went outside to see the operation, and found three boys brushing a wet cat with toothbrushes in each hand.  And now I know that it can indeed be done.

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