I have officially gone DIS-nuts.

As I lay my sweet, precious, incredibly inquisitive and intelligent two and a half year old down to bed last night for the tenth time, she proved 100% why I am currently a total Disney nut. She looked up at me, the pale green glow of her nightlight reflecting in her cute little eyes, and said (for the eighth time): “Daddy, sing me the Tiki Tiki Tiki Room song one more time before I go to sleep.” So I did. (See the clip below if you don’t know what I’m talking about)

It’s kind of funny how the once “tourist attractions are no good for me” haughty traveler has turned into the “DREAM BIG, PRINCESS” daddy of today. It probably started at about the same time we started letting babyPrimate watch TV. Just a show here, a clip there, etc. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is one of the most kid-accessible TV shows I’ve ever seen. And I don’t even mind watching it, because she LOVES it, she learns from it, and seriously, who doesn’t love Mickey? mommyPrimate put together the absolute best two-year-old’s birthday party on the planet with a Minnie’s Bow-Tique theme. So when our Christmas plans to meet family in New Orleans fell through, and the suggested replacement was a week in Orlando in March we jumped on that faster than a fat kid on a cupcake.

The morning we left, mommyPrimate and I packed up the car very quietly, and when we were ready to go we opened babyPrimate’s bedroom door and she jumped up SUPER fast and said “WE’RE GOING AT DISNEYWORLD.” That was the first super magic moment Disney brought me since I was a 5 year old, AND THEY DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO DO ANY OF IT. So we drove to Orlando. No drama from the little mama in the car.

The trip to Disney World itself was magical. When you go as an adult with just another adult, it’s a WHOLE lot of fun. You kinda feel like a kid again. When you go with your own kid, and everything is real to them, well, it’s kinda real to you, too. For example, when she met Minnie Mouse, she met Minnie Mouse. It was real to her. As real as anything. And because of the joy that just overflowed from her in the biggest way, I’ve turned into a Disney nut. I’m just not going to miss something that might make my babyPrimate that happy again.

…when you hide a Mickey in your kid's cinnamon roll…

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So things like this keep happening. Hidden Mickeys keep appearing around the house. We talk about princesses all the time (especially the badass feminist ones like Moana.) We’ve planted tons of flowers out of inspiration from Epcot, and I’m keeping the fridge stocked with Schöfferhofer. I. Love. It.

 

Masterpieces of Light and Space: St. Dominic’s Church (Igreja de São Domingos), Macau, China

I really don’t know what I expected out of our visit to Macau, other than to eat a pork chop bun, see (but perhaps not gamble in) casinos, and be visiting a place I had always wanted to go that was also featured as a finals destination for America’s Next Top Model. I do know that I didn’t expect to find myself walking with my beautiful bride-to-be from Church to Church and sitting and pondering the meaning of life in each one, being thankful to be in a place that felt somewhat Western after spending two years in East Asia.

Macau

So we arrive in Macau by ferry from Hong Kong, get out of the bus that takes you downtown, walk across the plaza and into this church. St. Dominic’s. Hard to miss as it’s canary yellow. It seemed kinda old, but I just googled it to get its name and basic facts (I have photos from 5 years ago and basically no notes…) and would you believe it was founded in 1587? It’s going on 500 years old.

Macau

So you walk into St. Dominic’s and it’s BRIGHT white. I imagine it’s kinda the shade of white that the Portuguese could find to make paint with when they arrived that most reminded them of churches at home. It reminded me a bit of the old Spanish missions here in South Texas that came with the Conquistadores around the same time period, however the imagery is just a little different. It’s like the images of Mary and Christ that you see as more realistic in the Spanish churches were a bit more stylized so as not to be “graven” images by the Portuguese. I don’t think that’s the real explanation, but there is a difference in style.

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For example, this wood carving.

Macau

The whole church is wooden, I guess due to the lack of marble available on the island. I found the construction to be very straight, too. There’s lots of ornamentation on the surface, but it seems to be mostly appliqué.

Macau

I’m not sure, but I’m guessing this is St. Dominic himself. I think the art style I’m referring to has to do with the high contrast of his facial features and low contrast of his robes. I just asked a Catholic friend if this was him. She thinks maybe. The one finger is a little weird, he’s missing his full iconography, but he’s in a dominican habit.

Macau

Once again, I think the art style is kinda high contrast around the face, low contrast everywhere else. Putting the unimportant parts in a manmade bokeh.

Macau

This chancel is baroque AF. Can you not imagine that in this church you are in Baroque Europe, not in China? I could. The whole day in Macau I felt connected to my Western roots. The food, the language on the signs (where I live it would be Spanish, but dude, Spain and Portugal share a few similarities, amirite?)

Macau

The man himself.

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Once again guessing St. Dominic.

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Immaculate Heart of Mary imagery, “looking Portuguese” according to my Catholic friend who is helping me with this post.

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Maybe Mary, Queen of Heaven. Heaven knows.

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JC.

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Then back to the real world. Macau was amazing because it was almost like being at home. I grew up around Spanish language, Spanish colonial churches, and the sort. These Portuguese churches, the Portuguese language…it hit close to home. But then unmistakably you realize that you’re in a unique pocket of China, thousands of miles from the Western culture you grew up in. And you’re happy because not many people (even though millions upon millions) will ever go to such a unique place.

Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Brioche, because this is the bread to bake if you have to wake up super early on a day off.

Brioche, buttery delicious brioche. The bread that seems to have a perfect use for everything. Good toasted, good plain, divine straight out of the oven. Easy to make, rich, always a crowd pleaser. Except that the first rise goes overnight, and the second rise takes 2-3 friggin hours so unless you’re planning on breakfast at like 10am the point of this joyous bouquet of flours is lost. The last time I made one of these I intended it to be for breakie, but we ended up snacking on it before lunch. But something has changed.

I joined U.S. Masters Swimming and I go to swim practice at 4:45 in the morning Monday through Friday. I took today off. I get home around 6:15 from swim practice and my baby girl wakes up at 9. BRIOCHE FOR BREAKFAST. So last night I made the dough in the mixer. If you have a nice stand mixer, this is a super great dough to make because it really latches onto the dough hook and spanks the inside of the bowl with gratifying thuds. For a LONG time. I think I let it knead for at least 10 minutes. It’s also super fun because once you add the butter the dough dissolves and comes back together as a much looser mass.

So after swimming, I walked straight into the kitchen, still in a freezing cold wet bathing suit, and hand kneaded the dough into little balls, set them in a pan, and went about my morning. About 30 minutes  before “go time” for the day I put it in a 375F oven and let it bake. It. Is. Delicious. Love me a brioche.

Also, there is something really cathartic about kneading bread, more so early in the morning. I felt like if this was my occupation I’d be okay with that. Making bread is noble. Bakers fulfill a necessary role in society. I wish I fulfilled such a necessary role. But dollars talk in America and if you want your kid to grow up with tons of opportunities you do what you’ve got to do. Maybe in retirement.

 

Masterpieces of Light and Space: St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy – Part IV: The Art

So there’s probably close to a billion historically significant works of art in St. Peter’s Basilica, mostly by Italian renaissance artists who later lent their names to a ragtag group of martial arts knowing turtles. The former (unqualified) art history professor in me wants to show you some of the highlights, but I don’t really know in most cases who made what, nor do I feel like looking it all up on wikipedia and pretending I knew all along.

Unlike my previous posts, my comments about the art will appear above the photo. As if we’re on a tour and I’m speaking before you get a chance to look.

Here’s perhaps the most famous piece, Pieta by one Michaelangelo Buonarroti.

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The Baldachino by Bernini…

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One of the Apostles, who appears to have just hurled something at you.

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Followed by another Apostle, who perhaps caught what the first had hurled.

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Another Apostle (I’m crossing my fingers now hoping I photographed all four…)

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Myriad statues popping their heads out and looking around. It’s like a whole city of the biblically famous frozen in marble…

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Throne of St. Peter:

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I guess I didn’t get a photo of the fourth apostle at the dome, so we will have to travel back to Rome one day. However, upon exiting St. Peter’s you run headlong into Swiss Guard with their Halberds. Their uniforms are artful AF, aren’t they?

Rome, Italy

So this will conclude my 4 part series on St. Peter’s Basilica. I think that anyone regardless of faith would enjoy a walk around in this church. There’s literally so much to see. If you attend a mainline Christian church, you will appreciate it from a heritage viewpoint. If not, there are all sorts of curiosities to indulge your brain. Plus the scale is just overwhelming altogether. I’d say St. Peter’s Basilica is not to be missed.

Masterpieces of Light and Space: St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy: Part III – The Relics

As I’ve mentioned in my posts about the Abbey of St. Victor in Marseille, Barcelona Cathedral, the Basilique de Notre Dame de la Garde, St. Cecilia, just up the river from St. Peter’s and other churches we have visited, one of the things that REALLY fascinates me about Catholic churches is the presence of holy relics. You know, pieces of cloth or bits of wood that touched someone significant from the bible or the sainthood. Or parts of a saint. Really like, patellas and elbows, hands and fingers, etc. Macabre reminders that the history of the church actually happened outside of the confines of a book. Well, St. Peter’s has some breathtaking relics. The ones that stood out to me the most were the relics of so many Popes from years ago.

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Pope John the 23rd.

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I think Pope Gregory is in that sarcophogus.

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I’m not 100% sure, but I think St. Peter might be in this reliquary.

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Pope Clement XIII.

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Pope Alexander VI (maybe). Otherwise known as Rodrigo Borgia. He was the Pope in 1492 when Spain sent one Christopher Columbus to the new world.

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Pope Innocent XI. Cast in pewter it looks like.

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St. Pius X. There’s literally a catholic school a few miles from my house with the same name. But here he is!

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Perhaps the most attended of the papal relics that I observed was this one, and I’m pretty sure I know why. Pope John Paul II was the pope when I was born. He always seemed so kind, so pure of heart, and like he was actually interested in making the world a better place. I had no idea that I would ever get this close to him. Of course, he’s a Saint now, so perhaps these people were asking for him to intercede for them.

So it’s a bit macabre. That’s the only word I can think of to describe how I feel about holy relics like this. I think they do add something to the church. It took me a few minutes in St. Peter’s to realize that these were sarcophagi, not just altars. Once I realized that, I’ll admit I was a little freaked out to be standing in the midst of not just so many spiritual leaders, but world leaders from the time the Papal States were their own nation. It’s absolutely nuts to think that all that separates you from someone as revered as a pope is a few inches of marble.

 

 

Masterpieces of Light and Space: St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy – Interior

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If you feel small standing in St. Peter’s Square, you’re only going to feel smaller as you get closer to the entrance of the basilica itself. As you get close to the many, many doors, you notice that the relief carvings on the doors themselves are as big as you are. Maybe bigger.

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Once you’ve used half of your camera’s memory card on the door frames, you step inside and immediately start clearing space so that you have plenty of pictures remaining. I think perhaps this building is 4 dimensional, in the sense that it certainly seems like it is bigger on the inside than on the outside. My favorite view is this one, looking straight up the Nave towards the transept, with the many domes and windows gushing in light.

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Once your glasses change from dark to clear (OMG I’m SUCH a dad!) you notice the myriad details. Saints and apostles leaning out from the wall to speak with you. Frescoes so high they might as well be actual images of heaven. Beautiful Latin text that you kinda understand but not totally lining the walls in gold. Windows and trimmings as far as the eye can see.

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Clearly when the interior designer was consulted on St. Peter’s, they didn’t go for a minimalist look.

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Frescoes from renaissance masters are overhead throughout the Basilica. I would imagine the density of art works from famous artists in St. Peter’s would rival the population density of Kowloon Walled City in the middle of the 20th century.

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The baldachin doesn’t actually have the high chancel of the church in it, because that is farther back at the end of the longitudinal axis of the cross on the throne of St. Peter. Apparently the baldachin, directly under the dome (not like the Stephen King story) sits atop the burial place of St. Peter himself.

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I think St. Peter is in that gold box!

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The main dome is massive. Much bigger than the Duomo in Florence. I believe you can donate a few Euros to climb up, but we didn’t do it. It was the end of the day and stairs probably weren’t happening.

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St. Peter’s “Throne” – where the high chancel of the church is. Totally looks like the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones to me. Quite an amazing piece of sculpture.

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I love this view of the transept – it gives you some idea of the scale of St. Peter’s Basilica. I’m pretty sure you could take off, circle, and land a small plane in this amount of space. This is one reason I titled this blog series “Masterpieces of Light and Space.” Sometimes the negative space where nothing hangs but air (and the holy spirit) is the most powerful part of a church’s design.

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Those frescoes, tho.

My goal with this post was to capture the size and general effect of the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica. I hope the images I’ve chosen have done that to some degree for you. In future posts I will explore the art and the relics that I encountered on my visit to St. Peter’s, and if you didn’t read the first part of my St. Peter’s story, you can see my thoughts on the exterior here.

Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Battenburg Cake

Baby is in bed, wife is out on the town with “the girls” and a sense of dread has settled over the country after inaugurating a reality tv host to be our president. What’s a man to do? Bake! FRIDAY NIGHT! And what kind of baking do you do at 9:00 pm? Cakes (which never seem to work out well) that require homemade marzipan (never done that before!) and toasted rice to be ground with a coffee grinder (WHAT?).

I’ve been wanting to make a Battenburg Cake for quite a while, but you know, when you have a toddler sometimes it’s a little bit difficult to get around to doing something a little more complex than normal when there’s absolutely no reason to do so. I mean, a Battenburg requires you to bake a cake, let it cool, cut it into strips, slather with jam, and wrap in homemade marzipan. Not things you can do effectively with a toddler “helping.”

Well, not terrible. Tastes good. #baking

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I used the recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, and I think it would have worked better had I a 7″ square cake tin. As it turns out we only had a 9″, so I think the batter was spread a bit too thin, resulting in more of a flattenburg cake than a Battenburg, but it still came out kinda pretty and tasted ok.

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I think the most impressive bit is how easy it was to make Marzipan. It just takes a ton of sugar and a couple eggs and ground almonds. WHO KNEW? (Mary Berry). So anyhow, I will get a smaller pan and my next one won’t be as flat, but I’m going to go ahead and call this a success right here.

BOOM!