Saturday, August 30, 2008

Get me to the church on time - a late RevGals Friday 5

On the Labor Day theme:
1. Tell us about the worst job you ever had.
Himmmph, tough call. I've had a number of jobs that started out okay and got really, really bad - partly because I worked as a temp. Why do companies need temps? Yeah, occasionally to cover for maternity leaves or sudden workload changes, but mostly BECAUSE SOMEONE IS A FREAKIN' NUT AND THE PEOPLE WHO WORK UNDER THEM KEEP QUITTING, and eventually they give up on filling the position and just start revolving temps.

I spent a very unhappy couple of months at the postal service headquarters in DC, with the people who manage the development and deployment of complicated machines. The people HATED one another and hated their work. And were paid way, way too much to quit. Even I was, as a temp. That tension makes highly-paid work a real trap, I think. (Ha, not to worry - I doubt I will ever strain against that particular tension again.)

I had one terrible theatre job, creating props for a nationally known regional theatre. I was 20; I was just coming out of a debilitating depression - I really had no business taking the job at all. In a perfect world, I would have spent that summer going to therapy, fine-tuning medications, taking long walks and sitting by a pool. Instead, I took an allegedly prestigious intern position in a fairly high-stress company. I was crap at it. Truly. And I had a boss who always said every single thing that came into her head immediately.

And I had one fairly terrible job at a non-profit, where people said things like "we're like a family!" and "Of course we all work a lot of hours, but no one minds! Because it's such fun, and we all love each other!" What they actually meant: "If you have any interests outside of this office, you're not really a team player." And "If you don't care for how we do things, it just shows that you've never really fit in." It was a little like The Stepford Office. I felt like a horrible failure when I quit after 11 months. I later learned that 11 months was the tenure of my 3 predecessors combined.

I've also had a ton of super-fun jobs, in theatre, retail (yes! It's true!), non-profits and on Capitol Hill. On balance, I think I've lucked out.

2. Tell us about the best job you ever had.
3. Tell us what you would do if you could do absolutely anything (employment related) with no financial or other restrictions.
Don't barf. The job I have now is by far the best job I've ever had, and it's what I would be doing (mostly) if I could be doing anything. All my other ideas for perfect jobs - radio DJ, gallery curator, humor columnist, restaurant critic - pale in comparison.

Actually, I bet a lot of the RevGals and Pals say that.

4. Did you get a break from labor this summer? If so, what was it and if not, what are you gonna do about it?
I had a week with a friend in Ohio, and that was wonderful. I'd like more, of course, but I think, for moms of almost-three-year-olds, a break from labor may be a relative term.

5. What will change regarding your work as summer morphs into fall? Are you anticipating or dreading?
I am excited! I'll post a whole post about why. Plus I always love fall, regardless of what's going on.

Bonus question: For the gals who are mothers, do you have an interesting story about labor and delivery (LOL)?

I was too large to go into labor.

My darling zygote was accompanied by more than 3 times the necessary amniotic fluid, and so when I say I was as big as a Volkswagon, I am not being hyperbolic. I actually frightened some of my friends when I turned in profile.

I really wasn't aware of how big I was - I was round before, and those pants, they're, you know,..stretchy! - until I saw a photo from my shower, 3 weeks before delivery. ("Holy *^$%!" I believe I said, when my husband handed me the print.)

My due date was Jan 4. When the doc said that I would not be making it to January, I made a plan to work through our Christmas Eve service, and drive to the hospital the next morning. Or perhaps the one after that.

My brother, having seen an episode of Malcolm in the Middle where the always-ignored child had to suffer the indignity of sharing his birthday with a new baby, called and begged me not to have my kid on Dec 21. Um, at this point, it may not be up to me, exactly, I explained, but I'll do my level best.

Well, yes to my brother, no to the baby Jesus. My scheduled c-section went flawlessly on Dec 22. I spent my 15 minutes in the delivery room encouraging the anesthesiologist to come to our church on Christmas eve. I stayed in the (nearly deserted) hospital 'til almost New Years Eve.

Monitoring indicated, surprisingly, that I actually had begun having contractions in time for my delivery...but my belly was so enormous that they could not have gotten organized enough to hurt, let alone push anybody out.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Recipe: Accidentally Thai Orzo salad.

I made this up off the top of my head the other day, and it ended up being DELICIOUS!

Put a large pot of water on to boil

In a skillet, heat some garlic and minced shallots in olive oil.

Seed, slice into tiny bits, and add to pan 3-4 of the hot red peppers that the guy who works on you car gave you. Add those to the skillet. Cook until garlic is golden and shallots are soft.

Shred some napa cabbage, and throw it into the skillet – as much as will fit. Add a splash of the hot water from the pasta pan. Cover and cook until it wilts.

Once the cabbage has shrunk down enough so that the pan’s contents are almost stir-able, uncover and let the water boil off, stirring occasionally.

About this time, the water should be boiling in the pasta pan. Add some orzo (I used about 1/3 of the small box, so a couple of ounces) and cook uncovered until done (about 9 minutes.)

Turning your attention back to the skillet - Once the water from the skillet has boiled off, throw in a decent glug of seasoned rice vinegar, and let that cook until the super-acidic smell has dissipated. (You're reducing it, but it’s hard to know when it’s reduced, because the cabbage is throwing off a little water. You have to do it by smell.)

When that seems done, take it off the heat. Transfer to a storage or serving dish, to cool.

When the orzo is done, drain it (REALLY WELL – shake the colander) and add it to the dish. Toss to combine.

Taste and adjust seasoning. I went a little astray at this point - Perhaps I got a pepper seed on my tongue, because when I tasted it at this stage, I had the impression that this dish was abusively spicy - like it might be entirely too hot to eat. This did not turn out to be true.

Chop one cucumber and half a red bell pepper, and drain them on a paper towel. You might even squeeze them a little. I was really worried about the dish turning out watery, so I tried to squish every drop out of the orzo and the fresh vegetables. As it turns out, It wasn't watery in the least. Was that because I was extra-vigilant? Or was it a dumb thing to be worried about? Who knows? Anyway, add the chopped vegs to the salad and toss to combine.

Refrigerate. Serve with a squeeze of lime juice.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


perverse lightswitch
Originally uploaded by Simon Davison
this, of course, is what happens when you go searching for Creative Commons art on Flickr.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Somebody throw me a party

Yesterday was my 5-year Blogiversary.

I did not bake, or eat, this unbelievable gorgeous cupcake,
which I fell for on this woman's Flickr photostream.

I am still pondering how to mark this auspicious occasion.
I think I should buy myself something from here. Like this.

so if any of you would like to send me a medium-sized box of money, I can get right on that. 'Kaythanxbye.

Awesome Dinner for a cooler evening: Pot Roast and squash

Preheat oven to 400.

Heat a cast-iron dutch over on the stovetop.
When it's hot, drop is some olive oil and some butter. (It will sizzle. You will wonder if it is possible to fry butter.)
Use that to brown a big chunk of london broil; you can salt and pepper it while you brown it.
Once it's pretty crusty on all sides, pour in a half a bottle of sweet beer (I used Blue Moon, which I have in the fridge because it takes me 8 months to drink 6 beers.) Quarter an onion or two (mine were Vidalias) and drop them in, cover the pan and stuff it in the oven for an hour.

During the hour (no hurry) slice up some yellow squash - no need to peel, just trim off the ends - and some zucchini - I peeled some strips and left some, and discarded the ends of this too.

Overlap the little rounds in a layer in a buttered glass pie pan. (If you have recently watched Ratitouille, you'll know exactly what I mean.) Sprinkle with fine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers until you run out of room, or squash. End with cheese.

Beat 2 eggs with some milk - 2 generous splashes - and some melted butter. Pour this custard mixture slowly and gently over the squash layers, not disturbing the arrangement but giving it time to flow into the air spaces between the vegetables and soak into the bread crumbs.

When the one-hour buzzer goes off, lower the oven temp to 350, and slide the pie pan onto the center rack of the oven. Open the dutch oven and throw in some potatoes. Cover it, return it to the oven, and set the timer for another hour.

At the end of the second hour: The squash casserole should be bubbly on the edges, just barely puffy in the middle, and the cheese will be crispy brown. If you were to stab this with a fork, there would still be a little tender resistance from the squash slices. Ahhhh, that's the stuff.

Take the dutch oven out, place it on the stovetop, and turn the burner on high. Fish out the beef and the potatoes, and set them aside. Pour in the rest of the beer, deglaze the pan, and reduce it, to make a glazey/gravy-ish fluid. Some things you might add to taste:
salt and pepper
garlic powder
Worcestershire sauce
soy sauce
hot chili sauce

or maybe one or two drops of fish sauce.

No kidding. This stuff - and I have the nastiest, most super-American supermarket version - made of anchovies, smells like rot and tastes a little like...I don't know, caramel Parmesan soy sauce? Something thoroughly disgusting and yet kind of intriguing. Lick a little off your finger, in other words, and right after you say 'ewwww' you find yourself thinking 'hmmm....'

(Here's the surprising sort of thing you can learn on the web: foodblogger Andrea Nguyen conducted a fish sauce taste-off (!!) over at Viet World Kitchen!)

Anyway, I could swear (though I can find no proof) that I heard my heroine recommend this on her radio show as a way to make gravy more delicious, with depth and meaty umami-ness....

And she's right. This was insipid before the fish sauce, and awesome afterward. I recommend.

No more than a couple of drops, though. And don't leave the cap off for long.

Anyway; once you're happy with the flavor of the gravy, slide or shred the meat (mine came out dry, though not overcooked) and stir it in. Serve the meat on top of the potatoes; serve the squash side dish in triangular slices, like pie.

Serve on the back porch, under the Christmas lights, with a crying toddler reclining between your knees.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

In which I spring to my own defense.

Wow, it's really interesting what motivates people to comment.

So, to clarify: I'm not really afraid of Presbyterians. Not all Presbyterians. (Though, as 1-4 Grace points out in her comment, a team of needle-wielding Reformed dentists would freak me out, I'm pretty sure.) I'm a little uneasy about some specific individual ones.

This unease started because of an old friend who once worked at a Pres megachurch, and regaled us with tales of his old boss. I would have to say: I'd be afraid of his former senior pastor, if I ever met him. Being privy to the normal amount of megachurch industry gossip (!!) I hear that that senior has had a big influence on another notable pastor, who I know a little, and with whom I disagree on nearly everything. (But, oddly, of whom I am not particularly afraid.) So that information led to a mild disagreeable feeling. Dumb, eh?

And then this happened: (background, if you're just tuning in: I'm the liturgist at an independent church.) The music pastor I worked with was asked to speak at a Pres congregation about the role of the arts, and he (not wanting to do it) punted to me.

And I found myself up nights wondering - were these PCUSAs, or another kind? And which kind was the progressive kind? I used to know... Not that I wouldn't want to talk to people who identify as conservative (God knows, I married one) - but would they want to listen to me? Would they take one look at me and... Do they disapprove of women in the pastorate? Will they ask a lot of questions I can't answer?

Well, the event got canceled, so I was off the hook for figuring out what brand of Presbyterians these were.

But the larger question - how do I manage the expectation of people who expect a "normal" pastor (around here, that's a man, around 60, with a bible college degree and wire-frame aviators) and get, um, me - that continues to evolve.

So I guess I'm not afraid of Presbyterians. It was shallow of me to say for, reaching for a cheap laugh, and I apologize.

Instead, it seems that I'm actually afraid of the disapproval of strangers. Is that true? Good Lord, I hope not.

But that would seem a logical conclusion.

But you know...if, as Grace claims, they really are a whole denomination of good cooks, then at least we would have interests in common.

Interestingly, to answer FugueState's comment question - I have never had anything but affection for Catholics. I know!! Utterly illogical! I have no defense, really.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

I have used up all my inspiration on, you know, PASTORING...

so I am meme-ing.
Over at the Frog Blog, 1-4 Grace said:
1. List these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog.

1. I just bleached my bangs. The fumes made me short of breath.

2. I had my first 'lost child' incident yesterday (or rather, was on the parental side of the incident for the first time. As a kid, I was constantly wandering away.) I was buying yarn, Ian wandered off, sales associates collected him within about 90 seconds....nonetheless, I cannot help but feel bad, like the badness of my parenting has been revealed.

3. I realized something about myself today. It is too private to post on the internet, and at the same time too cleverly quippy and thought-provoking to keep to myself. Hmmm.

4. I am afraid of Presbyterians.

5. I listened to the Foo Fighter's song Times Like These at least 15 times today. I kept it on repeat in my car.

6. I am squeamish about needles, but really freaked out by dentistry.

7. I have had at least 6 concussions...Hmmm -that averages out to be only one every seven or so years. That doesn't sound as bad as it initially did.