No matter that it’s mid-winter by the calendar… outside where it counts, it’s early spring.
The bright sunny day has inspired me to all sorts of spring cleaning. I’ve mopped floors and scattered the dust off furniture. My bed linens are freshly washed and even now, a white coverlet hangs on the backyard gate soaking up sunshine and Oklahoma wind. Even our little Scottie dog hasn’t escaped my attention — freshly washed herself, Cosmo is driving poor Max to forget they’ve been ‘fixed’ to live squeaky-clean, G-rated lives.
The way I like clean-living, it’s easy to forget I wasn’t raised in a squeaky clean house. Housekeeping was never tops on Mom’s priorities. The only time we could count on a clean house was when company was coming. Even then, to make our house presentable, it took all hands on deck to cram two months of cleaning into one day.
In spite of her poor housekeeping, Mom enjoyed having company. Importantly, the reverse was true also: folks liked being Mother’s guests. Mom was a wonderful cook and she loved to play card games, but mostly, it was Mom’s lack of pretentiousness that caused guests to forget themselves and have a good time. My girls were never ready to leave — they would have moved in had Mom invited them.
Housekeeping regimens probably changed once my parents moved to Texas, as entertaining occurred less often, with guests usually staying over a long weekend. My parent’s entertaining base kept changing every couple of years, with the phone company transferring Dad to Austin, San Antonio, Kingsville, Corpus Christi and eventually to Lake Jackson. But all the changes in scenery offered guests a chance to soak up different parts of Texas culture.
It was Kingsville, in 1982, where mom first served beef fajitas. The girls were young — Kara 8 months old and Kate just four — when I took my family ‘home’ for Christmas. I’d never heard of fajitas and was a little hesitant about trying this new food. But it wasn’t long before we were all filling our tortillas like old hands… and thank goodness, soon finding them on menus at Oklahoma restaurants.
Fajitas are easy to prepare in advance, which is one secret of being a good host. But certainly there are other secrets, which raises the question of what good hospitality should look like. Margaret Guenther’s Holy Listening, provides answers by describing what happens when we offer hospitality:
“We invite someone into a space that offers safety and shelter and put our own needs aside, as everything is focused on the comfort and refreshment of the guest. For a little while at least, mi casa es tu casa, as the Spanish gracefully put in. There are provisions for cleansing, food and rest. Hospitality is an occasion for storytelling with both laughter and tears, and then the guest moves on, perhaps with some extra provisions or a roadmap for the next stage of the journey.”
Guenther shares a perfect recipe for hospitality. My mother followed it, my friend Bernice follows it, and Susan — my source for today’s recipe — follows it. “Make yourself at home.” They said these words in a way that their guests knew they meant them.
From the inside out is where it all counts: “Mi casa es tu casa. ” And in my mother’s casa, whether it was tidy or not.
De mi vada a tu’s — from my life to yours.
4 servings Preparation Time: 1 hour or less (excluding marinade time)
Serving Note: The fajitas can be made in advance and kept warm in a foil-lined ice chest.
Combine all ingredients except steak and mix well. Remove as much fat from meat as possible. Cut into 6-8 portions. Marinate meat in sauce in shallow dish 24 hours in refrigerators or 3-4 hours, covered, at room temperature. Drain and grill. Let meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing into strips.
Serve with flour tortillas, salsa, sour cream, black beans, lettuce and tomatoes — and like us, with caramelized onions and green peppers.
Inside Cooking Note: During the winter months, I sear the meat in an oven proof skillet and finish it off in the oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat oven proof skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Depending on size of your skillet, you may need 2 pans. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to hot pan and sear the steaks well, 2 minutes each side. Finish cooking in the preheated oven — 5 to 10 minutes, depending upon the level of doneness desired. Let steaks rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
We’re not at midwinter; according the old calender of the Celts(whose spirituality I tend to follow) we are almost at Imbolc, or Candlemas, which is the first day of true Spring, on 1st of February. This was the day when it was first possible to do the morning and evening milking without the need for candles or lamps.
Never mind that nothing seems to be stirring in the ground, the light is changing and the birds here are starting to tune up for spring.
I am more of your mother’s housekeeping kind, deciding years ago that it wasn’t worth worrying too much about it, and then continue to worry about what others may think of me….
I’ve never heard of a Celtic calendar, but I like the thought that we’re now nudging up to Spring — I’m charmed by the origin of the seasonal marker of Feb. 1st — as having enough light to milk a cow without candles.
I’ve been out looking at the ground this week, trying to see what might be stirring. In a much warmer zone than you must be (Zone 7), I already see tender daffodil shoots beginning to nudge up from the ground. What will become of these when winter’s cold descends once more?
I suppose the answer lies on next month’s calendar page!
Indeed, Alfred the Great dictated that after Candlemas, no candles were to be used in churches at all…but I doubt that was policed.
I must send you a copy of the Celtic Devotional by Caitlin Matthews, which seems to blend both Christian and pagan celtic mysticism quite pleasantly…I used it daily for a year or two before it, like everything, became stale to me.
The Celts had three seasons not four, spring summer and winter. Samhain, which is what we know as Hallow e’en was the last day of summer.
We have no so much as a snowdrop leaf visible in the woods; it’ll be months before they bloom, but I look with hope..
Alfred the Great — refresh my memory, was he the one defeated in 1066 by the French? I know more about the Tudor period than others. Well, regardless, Alfred the Great sounds ancient. And I stand amazed at your familiarity with this old great king.
I’ll see if I can take a look at the Celtic Devotional that you mentioned — my church does offer a Celtic worship service a couple of times a year (each spanning a couple of months), though I’ve never attended. Your comment, along with a recommendation of a friend, is causing me to think that maybe I should.
Now mysticism — there’s a familiar word of interest. I do need to get back to Evelyn Underhill’s great work — once all my spiritual direction coursework is put to bed. About that time, we should both be out working in our garden beds — enjoying Spring flowers.
Yummy! I love your stories about your family. We all love family stories don’t we? I also love fajitas, beef, chicken or shrimp. We are having taco salad tonight, and Bear and I made cookies today. I don’t keep my house all that clean. I am always drowning in laundry. Speaking of, better go fold some now.~~dee
No, this was fair bit earlier in our history; it was Harold who was defeated in 1066. Alfred is associated with a story about him burning some cakes, but the story is apocryphal.
Incidentally, should things go according to plan I may well have a trip for work in May to Normandy(the dukedom of William the Conqueror, who defeated Harold) and to see the Bayeux tapestry.
Alfred the Great (Old English: Ælfrēd, Ælfrǣd, “elf advice”; 849 – 26 October 899), was king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex from 871 to 899. Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English king to be given the epithet “the Great”. Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself “King of the Anglo-Saxons”. Details of his life are described in a work by the Welsh scholar and bishop, Asser. Alfred was a learned man who encouraged education and improved his kingdom’s legal system and military structure.
My father by some chance managed to trace my family tree almost to this point, but to France, to a gentleman in the 900s, called…*roll of drums* Fulke the Rude.
Alfred of course was much later than the Celtic period himself but things were slow to change then. The Celtic saints whom you may find of great interest include Hilda of Whitby, Cuthbert and Aiden of Lindisfarne and a few others. They were at crucial times in the Christian churches history when Rome became the greater force.
Oh, my goodness. If you haven’t bumped into my post “Lamb, Loom and Seed”, I think you’d enjoy it. I’m Irish on my mother’s side, and have traced back to County Down. I still have my great-great-grandfather Crowley’s fife which he may have carried in the Civil War, and my grandfather used to sing “Star of the County Down” to me. (http://shoreacres.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/lamb-loom-seed-touchstones-for-life/)
What really caught me first here was the housekeeping mention. When I was a child my mother was absolutely regimented. Monday was Laundry. Tuesday was Ironing. Wednesday was – well, whatever Wednesday was. You get the point. At some point, that all broke down. It’s possible that having a toddler running around started the process, and then the demands of grade school motherhood finished it off.
As for me – I once dated a guy who not only would write his name in the dust, but date it. That relationship never would have worked 😉
Stories are wonderful — I like the story of your day, making cookies with Bear for a supper of Taco Salad. Sounds lovely.
Your comment about laundry reminds me of one of favorite books of all-time — seems like it might be published by Paulist Press, though I can’t recall for sure — Kathleen Norris — The Quotidian Mysteries, Laundry Liturgy and Women’s Work.
Hope your Saturday family time is ripe with good memories.
I did very much enjoy your Celtic post — thanks for directing me that way.
Funny story about your dust-graffiti friend — we could have taken part in this activity at Mom’s most anytime — she had so many collections that it was never a simple matter to dust.
I’ve never been one for cleaning routines — though I sweep most days and always leave my kitchen and bathrooms clean. Dusting is usually once a week, unless we’re talking about high and lows — those ceiling fans and baseboards — or those dusterdly wood blinds. These lessers get the royal treatment during Lent when I’m thinking “I am dust — and to dust I shall return.”
I hope your trip works out for you. There is so much to see — and it is good to take advantage as we can. My husband is ready to travel and he keeps nudging me to get my passport renewed. Where would I go — back to Ireland again, which was amazing? Or to Italy again? Or should I finally go to Greece, where my grandfather was from? Truly, it’s hard to go wrong, isn’t it?
As soon as you began your recitation on Alfred, pieces of the history clicked into place. I love how you tell the story — you have a real passion for history, and Viv, you make it come alive with living color. “Elf Advice indeed! I love this resourceful king already.
As for the Celts, I’ve had time to check in at Amazon and found Matthew’s Devotional — thinking you had invested enough in my education with all your time this afternoon — I picked up a copy for the bargain price of $3.99! I glimpsed a few of the digital pages that were available — already I can tell the book will be a spiritual treasure.
I was telling Linda in her tribute post on the Celts (I encourage you to check out the link if you haven’t already) that it is my dream to live a spiritual life that is interwoven in my everyday — and vice versa — so that the two are seamless — an everyday spirituality and a Spirit-filled everyday. From my brief looking at Linda’s post along with the information you’ve provided today, I look forward to spending time with Mathew’s book. Thank you so much for your recommendation.
You enrich my life. And I am grateful.
Janell, I taught my daughter at home for 4 years so history was a big part of our learning; from ancient pre-history right the way through. She’s at the final year now of a history degree now so it was obviously catching. I also have to do a fairly massive amount of Horrible History recitation for the tours I give, hoping that real history will slip down easily along side the beheadings and the massacres that kids of all nations seem to like. I’m full of entetaining but ulitmately useless facts like Napoleon’s favourite soap, where Cromwell’s head is buried, the owl holes in the Saxon church tower which is the oldest building in Cambridge(built 1025) and other such delights..
I’m glad you found the book; I found it suited my stage of spiritual blending of paths very nicely until I began to feel restless. I’ve realised that I am irridescent, a person who shifts and changes colours constantly like oil on a puddle, and nothing stays the same very long. I aim to write about this later.
Blessings on you for you enrich me too!
Thanks for sharing your story of teaching history — I wonder how many — in addition to your daughter — were enraptured by your “useless” facts — the details that make life rich and make history come alive off the dusty pages of history books.
My husband loves history as well — and both my sons — the youngest had thought for a while that he might do a double major — professional writing and history. It sounds like his musing is the very stuff of which your everyday life is made.
“There is nothing new under the sun...” said that ancient biblical Wisdom teacher. Students of history, I imagine, know this truth better than most.
And to think that all of this rich discussion came out a post on Beef Fajitas!
You can invite me anytime for fajitas. They are always delicious.
And easy too, especially if the steak is pre-trimmed.