Sunday, June 29, 2008

Disturbingly exciting:

New Project Runway
Starts July 16!!
and it's at 9 instead of 10!

As we all know, I don't get many chances to sew anymore, or pick up a Vogue, and I rarely wear anything other than a v-neck tshirt, hoop earrings, dark jeans and sandals. But a TV show about sewing! Clear my schedule!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Worship Wars, part 7,948,349,002

Feel free to ignore this, unless you've come over from the RevGal site. This started as a comment on a post there, and it grew so verbose and overbearing that it...could only be a blog entry.

RevGal is a site for women clergy and our sympathizers. They have a regular feature called Ask the Matriarch, where experienced pastors offer insight. This week's question was about contemporary and traditional worship music, and the congregants who hate it. The post and the comments are quite helpful. And I wanted to say this:

We are going though something related in our church (we're an independent church founded in the 80s, so, as you can guess, upbeat contemporary music has been the rule for our whole life. Other background - suburban, a few hundred people, multi-multi-mutli denominational plus unchurched.)

Recently, we decided that music (styles, skill levels, song choices) weren't the issue - we're digging into the dirt of Sundays, saying 'what is a large weekly gathering FOR anyway? What does it do well? What can be done better in homes and neighborhoods? What should the role of the gathering be in the life of the community? What words and actions are consistent with that, and what are muddying the waters for people?'

And what can you get from being wholly part of this community that you can't get anywhere else?

(That sounds like a marketing question, but it's not - it's just recognizing that people where we live have complete access to practically everything in the world 24 hours a day, endless choices, endless support for the religions of Consumerism and Individualism. And frankly, our church has told them, at least sometimes, that there's nothing terribly wrong with Individualism as a guiding philosophy, that it's not altogether incompatiable with following Christ.)

Some of the answers will seem obvious to you (clergywomen of RevGal), of course, and some are unbreakably rooted in the history and polity of denominations. But we have no denomination to reign us in - we have all of scripture, church history, and opinion to sift through. It's been a LONG time since we sat down and thought systematically about this question. The answers we choose could lead to new music, new liturgy, new ways of speaking, a new format (or some very old format...) and different people being involved.

Me, I am very wary about rushing to the finish line, and settling on something that feels 'safe' or logical and 'solves the problem'. That would be a huge relief, but I think God brought us out here for a reason, and I don't want to miss this chance to be really radically God's, instead of leaning on my own understanding.

We're getting very close to the edge of the cliff. Several times a day, I remind myself that it takes trust and a lot of discipline to fly.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

CSA week 4: Love Me or Leaf Me

red and yellow chard
3 kinds of lettuce

plus I gave our partner family a bonus, a big bunch of basil from our pots out front.

In addition to beets, I am totally digging chard. It's just like spinach. Why is spinach totally dominant and chard barely heard of? Is it this guy?

I have cooked nothing interesting all week, though I did trade collards technique tips with the Godfather of the Emerging Church.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Baby Tiger Poo Video

I found this delightful.

I think that means there is something wrong with me.

Be nice to me.

Um, no kidding.

"Mothers and toddlers were arguing on average between 20-25 times an hour..." write Lehigh University's Deborah Laible, PhD, and colleagues.

Why thanks, CBS News!

Oh, wait! What's that you say, Boston Globe? You have some thing to add to this conversation?
Oh - you say it's really not directly related, it happened to remind you that Nearly half of all pregnancies are accidents.

Yeah, okay, thanks for mentioning.

(Oh, piss off. He's the Most. Awesome. Accident. EVER.)
(Plus - he's above average!)

New Sermon

I delivered another sermon this morning.

The audio's on the web now; I imagine the video will be available tomorrow. (same link.) (It's really short.)

I had an unpleasant realization this week, because I was preaching today and I'm leading kid's church next week. That's like two sermons! In a row! OMG Help me!

And then I realized (this is actually the unpleasant part) that PRACTICALLY EVERY MINISTER IN THE WORLD prepares and delivers a sermon EVERY WEEK. In addition to counseling and hospital visits and creating discipleship cirriculum and dealing with budget and whatever else.

I am (again) humbled by the very idea of vocational ministry.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

CSA Take 3: Guess what's coming to dinner?

Right. More leaves.
Also beets, but we gave them all to our partner family, as we had just had some great beets a couple of days before. Sharin' the beet love. (Have I mentioned that I am in love with beets? Yes, I believe I have.)

Rainbow lettuce, green cabbage, chard (a couple kinds), collards, spinach, and I swear that's bok choy.

What we lack in variety, we are beginning to make up in quantity, as the season gets into fuller swing.

I know it sounds like I'm disappointed with the continuing Festival of Leaves, and I'm actually not. They're not terribly glamorous (not in their just-picked state, and certainly not when I'm done cooking them) and I'm a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of greens, but it has definitely made for a healthier, more varied summer already. Plus, with the ups and downs of being an entrepreneurial household, and the COMPLETE INSANITY of food prices lately, there is something cozy about knowing that we've got a ton of nutritious groceries already paid for - through Thanksgiving.

Today was a non-sucky Saturday. (Yeah. Mark your calendars.) We pulled out the inflatable baby pool (truly a baby pool, not more than a couple of gallons, warms up fast) and put it in the shade, and I sat in a camp chair and soaked my feet, and Ian sat on them, and poured water from a pail into the pool for hours. HOURS. It was very relaxing.

We had a moment of excitement - our own little nature show. One of the skinks that lives in our flowerbed was out parading around, showing off for Ian and I. All his posing attracted the attention of some little bird, and so we got to see a life and death struggle. It ended happily for the skink, who escaped into the tallish grass and lived to eat more ants and nestle among the dead leaves another day. We were very happy, and made up a song and dance for the skink:

that the bird didn't EEEEEAT MEEEEEEEE
(but I think I'll just HIIIDE here, just in case.)"

One of many, many excellent photos by
Herschel Raney at his RNA site.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Remembering the Future

Communion, not just about Christ's death
but every aspect:
incarnation and humble things
humanness and hunger
all the meals
all the miracles
all the talking

the 'last' supper
and the one after that

the breakfast on the beach
the feast that's waiting in heaven
(think of the guest list!)

not to mention the things before
(the old covenant
the first world
before the flood
before the fall)


Think about that the next time you say "no thanks, I'll just eat at my desk."
Think about that the next time you say "oh, no, drive-through's fine."

whenever you eat this
whenever you drink this
whenever you do this
its me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Two recipes for today:

1. Orange Bread Barbados (or: Breakfast in Bread! Ha!)
from Al Dente -
I made a couple loaves of this before dinner - one for us, one for the neighbors who just had a baby. It's delicious - light, subtle, with a gorgeous fluffy texture inside and a crispy crust. (The recipe says it comes out "dense", which mine didn't, but I agree that it's "buttery, citrusy" and "fresh".)

I made it precisely per the recipe (!) but I think it would work fine with more zest, a little lemon juice and zest added in, some chopped dried cranberries or cherries, or even my current ingredient crush, mashed banana.

I think the subtlety might be due, in part, to the fact that I used low acid/no pulp orange juice.

But it's perfectly lovely, fast, and made of stuff we had lying around the kitchen. Hard to beat that. (That photo's not of mine, btw. It's from SmittenKitchen, where it illustrates a really good post about bread baking. Go read it.)

2. shrimp and spaghetti in coconut broth from June's Rachel Ray magazine
I didn't actually follow the recipe (because it make 3 meals worth and calls for FOUR POUNDS OF SHRIMP, are you kidding me?)
but instead improvised something similar with smaller quantities of everything. Well, not everything - cilantro does not cross our threshold under any circumstances, and I was sadly lacking fish sauce. But it was still good - fast, easy, delicious, pleasantly messy, and the shrimp did not have time to get rubbery (my pet peeve.) The broth is a lot like tom ka gai, which is my favorite soup and high on my list of favorite foods.

Next time I make this, I will have that, and use less of this stuff:

because I think I have been abusing my husband with it.
(He's very nice about it.)

This, by the way, is both cooking and food blogging as procrastination. Sunday's sermon does not appear to be writing itself. As Paul says, others are merely amateur crastinors, but I am a pro.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

street art melbourne

Even if you weren't interested in worship tricks or emerging church stuff, you'd really like Jonny Baker's photos.

CSA Take Two: The Festival of Leaves continues.

Alternate title: Beets Me!

So we got another pile of leaves last week, and I have been very uncreative about what to do with them. BUT tonight I made a great salad:

various mystery greens
(big bowlful, torn up, split between 2 plates)

3 large beets, roasted last night, chopped up
corn cut from 1 cob, leftover from last night
2 or so green onions, chopped

Piece of salmon filet, broiled with soy sauce, honey and chili-garlic sauce. halved. (This is great because it only takes like 5 minutes.)

I bought some beets at the supermarket yesterday, and I roasted them (like this except I forgot to put foil on the pan - it just takes a little longer). As the page suggests, I made a vinegrette with orange juice, ginger, olive oil and red wine vinegar, chopped the beets into large messy chunks, combined beets and dressing and put it all in the fridge overnight.

For dinner: plate some greens, plop chunks of chilled beets around the outside, drop a portion of salmon in the center, sprinkle chilled corn and green onions all over, drizzle on the red liquid left in the beet bowl. A little sea salt.

This turned out to be a great combination of warm and cold, acidic and sweet, crusty and juicy, fresh and salty. It was also completely gorgeous - brilliant red, pale yellow, shades of green. I really recommend this.

Popsicle of the day: Raspberry yogurt, frozen blueberries! Very good.

Customer Service Success Story of the Day: West Bend
(who made my popsicle molds, under the brand name Back to Basics) is sending me more popsicle molds! Now we can have, like, a popsicle dinner party! Go buy yourself some of these. They're at Target, with the snow cone syrups and ice shavers.

latte art

latte art
Originally uploaded by jonnybaker

Monday, June 16, 2008

Two Food things:

1. Totally rockin' new blog I found, which I want to read every day:
I love everything about this, from the title, to the NYCness of it, to the fact that someone else has a snack jail in their house. Dig it.

2. We bought these popsicle molds, the cheepies from the Target seasonal endcap. We have been in frozen treat heaven for days - green tea with a little lemon, blueberries in lemonade, sliced strawberries in orange juice, banana and strawberry with a little peach yogurt to hold it together. This last one was especially bliss - I don't even like bananas that much, but they make one brilliant popsicle. I really like the design of the molds, too - just 4 little molds, a couple of ounces each, with a nice little drip-catcher built into the stick.

Anyway, I was planning a new blog feature - Popsicle of the Day! - with photos! - but today I broke one of the damned little plastic sticks! And do you think I can find the manufacturer of these things? I have looked at every retail home ice mold on the entire internet. I certainly think that the company will mail me a stupid replacement stick...if I can track them down. Apparently this will involved a trip to Target where I will have to brandish the broken stick and then (when that gets me nothin') probably have to stand around copying down the manufacturer's info off the package.

YES I am too cheap to buy another $3.49 set. Worse, it would be wasteful! I don't need a new set, I need one new stick.

Because I have decided that we must have homemade popsicles every day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

revgal friday 5 - beside the seaside

1. Ocean rocks, lake limps? Vice versa? Or "it's all beautiful in its own way"?
Really, seriously, lakes aren't the beach. Lakes don't have waves. Lakes are for canoeing. That's getting dangerously close to camping, in my opinion. A beach trip needs waves, a boardwalk, a photo booth, and a really expensive fancy restaurant that you can go into in a wet bathing suit.

2. Year round beach living: Heaven...or the Other Place?
I've always thought about know, a place where you could get around town with an unlocked coaster bike, a place to write my novel on an old kitchen table on a screen porch stroll the dunes in a big Irish sweater. But honestly, I think I'd die of boredom. Or worse, take on some ill-considered business venture - opening a wine bar, a catering company, maybe a boutique. That way lies madness, and probably bankruptcy. Living in a major metropolis has ruined me for everyplace else, I think.

3. Any beach plans for this summer?
All my summer plans are up in the air.

4. Best beach memory ever?
Here's an excerpt from my mommyblog -July 28, 2008
.....And, of course, it was emotional for me, seeing Ian take to it the way he did, and seeing Eric be such a dad. It made me think about how the beach has kind of 'been there for me', from babyhood through college and singlehood and wife-hood, and now with a beach baby of our own.

It's like a flipbook of snapshots - there's me and mom in matching sundresses at Avalon, there's dad throwing Sandy over the waves; there's me in my red white and blue racing suit in 1972; there's my mom after the stroke; me and Paul and Chuck; me and Dorney and Chuck and Larry..there are all the pictures of me that Eric has taken, holding up a rubber frog at Funland, shading my eyes by the jetty. There are even pictures from our pregnant trip, 2 years ago, when it rained the whole time and never got about 70. I'm obviously lost - huge, uncomfortable, already tired of waiting but mentally paralyzed, completely unable to think about what I'm waiting for. The rain pounded the dunes, and I stood out in it, shooting video of the whipping grass.

And now Ian, running in and out like a sandpiper, dropping handfuls of sand after the receding wave, showing the ocean who's boss.

5. Fantasy beach trip?
One that is open-ended?
One with a babysitter in tow?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Corny as Kansas in August.

Here's a charming bit of Mitchell family arcana. We're watching Great Performances; a concert setting of South Pacific, taped in 2005 at Carnegie Hall. The orchestra's great; Brian Stokes Mitchell's accent is clearly very hard work. I guess Reba McIntyre is an obvious choice for Nelly, but her vocal habits are already on my nerves, and we're only 2 songs in.)

But that's because of Mary Martin. I have a soft spot for South Pacific, though I've never worked on a production. My mother had the Broadway cast album - along with Oklahoma, Carousel, Guys and Dolls and of course my very most favorite musical: Kiss Me, Kate.

My mother became a newspaper editor in 1950. At some point after that, she decided that she needed to get serious about improving her two-index-finger typing. And so my mother, a single woman in her mid-20s, a business owner, living in a boarding house across the street from the newspaper office, spent her evenings sitting in front of the hifi, typing and typing - taking dictation from Mary Martin and Enzio Pinza. So my mom's cast albums all had these homemade liner notes. Not without typos.

So when I hear "Some Enchanted Evening" or "Nothin' Like a Dame", what I see in my head is sheets of soft, yellowing newsprint. I see lines of typing - occasionally corrected in soft pencil marks - with the dot on the i punching all the way through the paper.

And today, for the first time in at least 30 years, I wonder where those albums are, with their handtyped lyric sheets carefully slid in beside the paper liner, inside the cardboard foldout.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Friday, June 06, 2008

I made collard greens!

(or: "Everything's Better with Bacon and Beer")

Hello, Beer People!
My brother, the beer writer, has suggested on his blog that there must be a better beer to use making collards, and has put out a call for suggestions. I just want to make sure I'm on record as saying DUH, absolutely, I'm sure there is. I threw in some of the beer I was drinking. I feel that perhaps my brother is having a laugh at my expense, suggesting that I am not a beer connoisseur. I am more than willing to own up. I AM NOT A BEER CONNOISSEUR.

I am a banana bread connoisseur.

Back to the post:

2 strips bacon
big spoonful of chopped garlic
bottle of beer (I had a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat)
and a small bunch of ridiculously gigantic greens.

Honestly, I had no idea what these things were. But our farm - the people who grew this stuff - helpfully provide a web page entitled "Name the Vegetable!" to help you identify what's staring you down.

These things looked like the broadleaf weeds that grew in the yard of my childhood home, magnified. The leaves are thick and leathery and huge.

Oddly enough, instead of doing something normal like looking at the internet, or at The Joy of Cooking, (actually, the really normal thing for me to do would be to think it and re-think it and research it until long after the greens had rotted in the crisper...) I looked at this big mess of leaves and decided to just...make something up.

I got the clever idea to start with bacon - how far wrong can you go, really, with bacon? I keep some bacon in the freezer - we use so little, I think this half-pound will cover us for the year.

Anyway, I heated up a frying pan and broke up two slices of frozen bacon, and cooked them for several minutes, until the pieces were starting to cook but not crispy yet. I added the garlic and cooked that, over medium heat, while I washed each leaf and removed the stems. I 'chiffonade-ed' them - rolled the leaves tightly and sliced them into thin ribbons.

I threw the greens in the pan, where they wilted very slowly.
This began a fairly long hands-on process: letting the greens cook, throwing in a splash of water, covering them, uncovering them, lather, rinse, repeat. I was drinking a beer at the time (along with reheating pizza, talking on the phone and cleaning out the fridge) and at some point I threw a big splash of beer into the pan.

Which gave me two exactly simultaneous thoughts -
"Uh oh, I think I just rendered this inedible"
"hey, that smells pretty awesome."

After that, I spent about 20 more minutes splashing in beer and cooking it down, splashing in beer and cooking it down. When I decided it was finished, the greens still (unbelievably) had a little crunch to them. It was delicious. I ate it all.

If I do this again, I'll add a some water with the greens and cook them covered for a good long while. Then I'd let the water cook off, add some beer and let that reduce. The sweetness of that particular beer gave the dish something like carmelization, which I'd like more of. I'd also use some onions (I've run out.) And it would have been fine with just one strip of bacon.

All in all, not a company dinner, but good wholesome fresh food that I enjoyed cooking and eating. Nothing to sneeze at.

CSA Take One - Wide World of Leaves

For weeks, I have been anticipating this first week in June, because it's the start of our 6 months of produce! We were able to split a farm share from the nearest CSA, and so, through NOVEMBER if you can believe it, we'll be having farm roulette, getting a share of whatever's ripe and spiffy.

With dirt still clinging to it.

We've split a share with a super-cool family down the street. They're about to have their first child - pretty much any minute now! - and they picked up the veges this week, and strolled down our little street, cuddled together under a big black umbrella, to bring us our half.

"It's all, like leafy." said tiny L, laying a couple of bags on the kitchen counter. "You go down a row of bins, and pick out one of each thing, and then I split each head. Oh! But we got two boxes of strawberries! So we each get a whole box!"

I looked at the strawberries a little skeptically. It was one of those tiny boxes - a pint, I guess.


If you had bought a pint of strawberries at the supermarket, at least one-third of them would be sour and green, and at least a couple of them would be overripe and starting to dissolve.

In this tiny box, every strawberry was perfectly ripe, juicy, and beautiful - no big chewy tasteless white core. The leaves pop right off, and leave you nothing by deliciousness.

I was so sold on local strawberries that I ran by the farmer's market yesterday and got a big box - haven't tried them yet - and some asparagus.

For the record, we got:
red chard
collard greens
romaine lettuce
and some kind of lettuce with purple leaves and a mild taste.

And some other kind of lettucy thing, which I cannot describe because we ate it already.

Last night's dinner:
A huge salad featuring
some spinach
some romaine
some of the purple stuff
and all of the other lettucy stuff
small chunks of blanched asparagus
a piece of string cheese, cut into tiny rounds
and some pine nuts

with this dressing which I love.

Eric ate a metric ton, but then said the dressing was too spicy.
Ian would not eat anything but the pine nuts. (His did not have spicy dressing.)
I want to make it again tonight, except I have to figure out what to do with a crisper full of collard greens.