Monday, December 31, 2007

sustanance for the new year

Today, I cooked.

Made something sort of like this, except a tiny little roast and half a bottle of $15 wine, instead of the clearly insane amounts in the linked recipe. (Serves 8? 8 what? Lions? Prides of lions? Dinosaurs?)

Incidentally, I'm drinking a glass right now, and it is my considered opinion that $15 Spanish wine is more than 100% better than $8 American wine. This is delicious.

Note to self: buy this again


I made the tiny roast for a couple of friends - Eric had a gig, and I had asked a family over for dinner, but this morning the woman was feeling poorly and begged off. I volunteered to bring some dinner over, an offer she could not refuse. So I made the roast and carved it in half, and Ian and I took half over to their house, along with gravy and rice and asparagas and the pie below, plus a bottle of sparkling apple juice for a toast, and party hats left over from Ian's birthday. Yes, we're a party, wherever we go.

I had made this awesome pie, which is delicious and super-easy. (It's tart, though. You'll want to pick up some ice cream. Or whipped cream. That way, you can squirt some into your kids' mouth. Where did he learn that? All I know is, he saw the can of whipped cream as I was putting away the groceries, and followed me around, open mouth upturned like a baby bird, until I obliged him.) Back to the pie - I was so pleased with the way it came out that I stopped at the store on the way home and got another bag of apples and bag of cranberries and refrigerator-case pie dough, and I just made 2 more. Ian rode around the store in a prismatic party hat, saying "Happy New Year. Hey! HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOOOOOU!" to strangers.

It's so strange - he's so TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE and then so damned exceptionally perfect in the space of a couple of hours. Like everyone else, I guess.

The roast came out quite good - I know, because we ate about half of our remaining half when we got home. Ian, who never likes anything, LOVED the roast and ate a ton of it.

When I got Ian ready for bed, I found that he had hidden a ballpoint pen and a raw cranberry in his diaper at some point during the afternoon. This explained two things - the 5 times he walked up to me this afternoon and said "Tummy hurts. Kiss it!" (because the point was drawing on him) and also the hilarity that resulted when I thought that the store was out of cranberries. Oh, Lord, did he think that was funny. We went through the aisles doing a little "Nooooo cranberries" call and response and giggling...only to find that we had at least one cranberry with us at all times. He's really perfect.

2006 was pretty close to the worst year of my life.

2007 has been pretty much the best.

I said to Ian as I wheeled him through the supermarket: "We're going to have so much fun in the new year!" He, of course, looked at me very seriously and said "No, no fun."

"You've gotta be kidding! Are you kidding me? You only think you know what fun is, buddy. By the end of 2008, I predict that you will say to me "I thought I was having fun before, but I had no idea! I didn't even know what fun was!"

So, hey, Happy New Year to Yoooooouuuu.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I preached today; Patsy, who was scheduled to preach and with whom I had been planning an unusual service, was sick and hoarse, and after a series of brief conversations yesterday, I agreed to write and present a sermon, along with the communion/contemplative/liturgical elements we had been working on.

Edited to add: It's up on the Cedar Ridge site. Click here and it's at the top of the page.

I've been joking about how stressful it is, but here's my super-secret confession in the relative anonymity of cyberwhatsis - it was fun. I liked doing it. Of course I was nervous, and of course I worked hard at it and worried about it. But I also really enjoyed it - both writing it, and speaking it.

Here's what made it easier -
1. My husband, who not only contributed ideas and advice but agreed to be interviewed as part of the message (the theme was fresh starts, and of course he's been immersed in a fresh start for the last 11 months, so it seemed sensible; plus he's funny; plus how great is it to be able to have someone standing beside you while you do this? Pretty great. Is the answer.)
2. Jack B, who took over all the booth stuff I am usually doing;
3. Harp 46, consummate professionals who basically did exactly what I asked them too perfectly
4. Tony, who, when I called, said (as he always does) 'just tell me what you need'.
plus Christie and Gail and all the other people who help all the time. Plus Jim, who did not kill me for double-booking him and another sound operator, but instead went out and bought me coffee. Plus, of course, Matthew and Patsy, who each thought of 12 different ways to say 'you'll do a good job."

My husband also added a special visual to the new years liturgy that I had concocted - people wrote down the stuff they were leaving behind, and I had planned a 'ceremony' where we would take those pieces of paper and remove them as we prayed. Eric, of course, had a more striking idea, and stood behind me. And as I prayed to have God transform our old lives into some something new and beautiful, Eric magically transformed the paper into sparking fluttering 'snow'.


Excuse me, I have to go kiss his feet.


He hates it, but I just can't be stopped.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hey, if you want to feel a warm, yet sophisticated, sense of well-being and hope, go to Youtube and watch all 4 parts of this documentary short. My friend Robyn, the matriarch of a big family of artists, sent me the link to encourage me, and it really did.

H&R Block - the tax people - built a new building in Kansas City, and they commissioned literally truckloads of art for it - exceptional in volume, variety, quality and accessibility. And then they shot interviews with the artists, and footage of the pieces being created and installed, and it's just a really nice solid down-to-earth picture of hope and hard work. Heart work.

(to find the other sections, see this on the YouTube page, then click on "More from Leopold Gallery" and find "Art on the Block 2", and 3 and 4. It's worth your time, really.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My Awesome Christmas by Betsy

I have had an absolutely awesome day - a few days, actually. Bullet Points [EDIT: I started to do bullet points but I can't seem to be concise. So, no bullet points, but a rather detailed synopsis:)

Christmas eve services at church went smoothly, and this advent has been by far the lowest-stress holiday ever. We've been doing the same Christmas eve service as long as I can remember - a presentational service of scripture and and carols, always featuring some high-quality 'special' element and always highlighting some very spectacular technical snafu. The guest artists (and, unrelatedly, whatever I happen to screw up) are different every year, but it's always readers, candles, short sermon, no communion, Silent Night.

Every year I say, without much hope, "We should do something different. We should go outside! We should have, like, a bonfire!" I know it's hopeless, and annually I am humored that it's a fine idea, really, such an interesting and creative thing to suggest, but in the light of these 50 insurmountable issues, we really can't pursue it. And I sigh and nod, and work on creative ways to tweak the traditional plan, and quietly daydream about my hopeless Christmas bonfires.

So last night, as I stood beside my Christmas bonfire, holding a candle and singing Silent Night, I was pretty happy.

I'm sure I'll write more about it later - I'm scared that I'll seem pleased with myself, which is not the case. I am thrilled with our staff, our congregation, our volunteers, the events, even the weather and the phase of the moon. I'm pleased because the way I imagined it was sort of the way it turned out. Sort of.

Now, some actual bullet points:
  • best turkey ever ! My brother and his wife volunteered to do all the Christmas dinner cooking. Honestly, I would have been happy just to have someone other than me throw a pizza on the table, but as it turns out, we had ACTUAL FUN and ended up with a totally delicious dinner. AND it only took 2 hours! (In the oven. It took many more hours to spatchcock it, brine it, chop herbs, plus that whole 'toasting the fennel seeds' thing.) THIS
    is a great recipe. Make this turkey! Or better yet, have your brother make this turkey!
  • plus, cleanest kitchen ever. I have no idea what possessed him, but my brother - having spent the whole day cooking - then washed a mountain of dishes and cleaned my kitchen. As we all know, anytime anyone cleans anything in my house, it's a Christmas miracle. So that was awesome.
  • A lovely day with the grandparents.
  • My child has done many charming things over the last couple of days, including:
  • wildly dancing in a circle in the living room, shouting 'Merry Christmas!' over and over, to the sound of the Russian Dance from the Nutcracker.
  • On Sunday, we went out to the stable to meet the live nativity animal guest stars - 2 pygmy goats, a donkey and a couple of deceptively sweet-looking alpacas. After hanging out with the for a while, I was packing Ian into the car, and he CRIED! Actual TEARS! And cried out of the car window, "Bye, animals! Sniff!"
  • However, on Monday night, the animals were not the main attraction. Eric and Ian were shepherds, looking very cute in their homemade tunics and curtain-tieback belts.
  • Eric to Ian (excitedly): "Come on! We have to lead people to the Baby Jesus!"
  • Ian: (so excited that his teeth are clenched; shouting at the top of his lungs:)SANTA CLAUS!! IS!! COMING TO TOWN!!!!!!!!"
  • Eric: No, not Santa, Baby Jesus!
  • Ian: (practically swooning): SANTA!!!!! CLAUS!!!Of course this took place in front of about one-third of my congregation. Not me, of course - I was bringing up the rear. I cannot believe I missed it.
  • Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    Christmas–even on the wrong day, even with the wrong stories surrounding it, even with a lot of pagan ritual attached to it–celebrates the entering into the world of the person who changed the world forever. From that time forward religion turned inward. Everything we could know about God was revealed in its entirety within us, not within a temple or on a mountaintop. It took us a long time to understand this. St. Augustine tried to explain it, and he got most of it right, and then others carried it deeper, and then we got to the 21st century and most of the ways that Jesus turned the world upside down had become . . . commonplace, not attributed to Jesus at all.

    Perhaps that is how he builds the kingdom, by effacing himself as the builder.

    I don't know if I agree with this completely ('revealed in its entirety within us'? I know the rationale, but it still makes me a little itchy) but it's thought-provoking and well-put.

    Joe Bob Briggs in the Door.

    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Do you know what I have to do? What I have to start doing?

    What I have to (ugh, shudder) DISCIPLINE myself to do regularly?

    I have to start sleeping. I have to start sleeping more, and more regular hours, or I am going to lose my mind.

    No amount of vitamins or good wholesome homecooked food or drinking sufficient water or even journaling is going for prevent it - any of those could forestall it, some briefly, some for longer.

    A few weeks ago, husband and I (YES I blame my husband, please shut up) started staying up. Just long enough to post; oh, just let me finish this contract. Oh, let me knit just a few more rows. Oh, look, it's one o'clock.

    (And of course, this is another way in which being a parent has broken me, along with my broken internal thermostat and various feminine/hormonal areas of discussion, plus this weird dowager's hump which has misplaced itself to my damn FRONT, above my belt, thanks a lot...

    one o'clock used to be a good time to go out. Or move from one bar/party/venue of some sort that was seeming a little tired to a cooler one.

    Oh, just picture me, running down Charles, tipsy, working the bi-level haircut, wearing navy shorts, a couple of tank tops, flats, numerous chandelier earrings, and a gigantic men's white dinner jacket with a shawl collar. Occasionally, tatted lace gloves. A small, rotating cloud of fabulous gay boyfriends in tow.

    Yeah, your friends don't dance, and if they don't dance, well they're no friends of mine.

    Well, snap out of your revery, friends, here's what 20 years will get you: black sweat pants, white socks, singing songs from the Jungle Book at the top of your lungs, as you pull out of the Chik-Fil-A in your hybrid and head for the Wal-Mart. You pray that, if you can jolly up your kid sufficiently, he won't throw a Defcon 3 tantrum when you try to slide his little legs into the shopping cart.

    For this, you need your sleep.

    (There aren't actually very many songs in the Jungle Book. It's kind of half-assed, as a musical.)

    BUT speaking of musicals, the kid arose from his nap yesterday to find me watching On The Town, and he was RAPT, utterly RAPT with EVERY MINUTE. He literally stood motionless staring at the screen for 15 minutes. He doesn't do that with Elmo. (Most musicals do not keep up the insane breakneck pace of On The Town, which is more like an operetta/dance recital than a regular MGM musical. High Society, for example, did not sustain his interest. Although, when Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly sang True Love, he did stand close to the screen and say
    "SINGING?????!!?? Is SINGING??? People SINGING??" Yes, baby. A movie about people singing.

    It seems he cannot believe his good luck, to get born into a world where you can watch movies about people singing.

    And I know just how he feels.

    Wednesday, December 05, 2007

    living in the past

    Jethro Tull_04
    Originally uploaded by nikorimages
    I am very sorry to have not taken this picture - we saw Tull on Monday night, a very good show after a very good Thai dinner in Rockville.

    The boys played beautifully. I had quibbles (a few) with the staging and aesthetic choices, but the playing, the sound and the hall were all excellent.

    Old Ian voice was quite grim for the first hour, and to the sound ops credit, it wasn't prettied up by processing. He was exerting tremendous effort to squeak out his vocals - up on his toes, tension visible in his arms and hands as well as his neck. A little subtle Joe Cocker action.

    His voice warmed up quite a bit in the second hour. His flute playing was terrific, and he's massively energetic, never laying back for a moment. (Is it good, to be putting out so much, or bad, to be hogging the spotlight every second? Whatever - no one can accuse him of taking it easy, either way.) Martin Barr was exactly perfect, as always - a tiny bit antiseptic for my taste, but I can only imagine that Old Ian requires exceptional dependability from the rest of the band so he can show off.

    I suspect he's kind of an ass, Old Ian.

    We did not hang around to tell him we had named our son after him.

    (Not exactly. But kind of.)

    ( Yes, I am serious. Ian is, in a roundabout way, named after Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. It's actually a pretty good story. Short, too. )

    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    from this lovely blog
    via jen lemen

    Sunday, December 02, 2007

    via Ravelry.

    Ecclesiastes 10:19

    having survived Advent One (only just barely) we're having church part 2 - watching, yes, I admit it - EXtreme Makeover, Home edition. No kidding - we are members of the Church of Ty. (Yeah, so the reverend's been in a little trouble lately, which I think is a minimum qualification these days.)

    I am disgusted with this trend in TV (old hat by now) to shower expert help and material goods on 'deserving' broke people - they took in a houseful of foster kids! He coaches the underfunded team and tutors his players! She started a literacy program! Lets....give them stuff! They'll probably cry! It'll be great TV! Think of the goodwill! (Plus our sponsors will GIVE us all the stuff as promo, so it won't even cost anything.)

    Even Queer Eye fell into this icky pattern in the last season or so. Oprah does it, and Extreme Home Makeover is the worst. And kind of the best.

    We are powerless to resist its pull. It was Eric who started referred to it as church, but we both get some weird cathartic effect from watching it. Tears are hardly uncommon. There's a fairly formal liturgy - tale of the family, meet the family, demolish the old way of life (watch the family mourn and celebrate the demo in the same moment), gather the helpers, assemble the new life, conceal and then reveal certain bits of information...welcome home.

    There are ritual phrases and actions. There is vile commercialism. There is the shameless promotion of the Disney corporation. It's the worst sort of appeal to sentimentality. It's gross.

    And in one way - pretty much exactly one way - it's beautiful. There is a lavishness - a ridiculousness - to the giving. They give a sick kid medical treatment - and a new home. And in the new home, the sick kid has her own room. And the room has a huge professional mural. And a custom-designed, hand-built bed. And a library full of books. And a store's worth of toys. And some new clothes. Maybe a flatscreen. Teenagers routinely get musical instruments, multimedia setups, Joe Montana's helmet. And maybe a pickup truck. Maybe tuition.

    My uptight northeastern Protestant-ness is a little weirded out by the lavishness, toys, the x-wing fighter bed, the TVs. Tuition? Mortgage payments? Medical treatments? All those things are great uses of Disney's money - they're things that will really make a difference, change the course of a family's future.

    The themed bedrooms, though, seem wasteful and wrong. This is a needy family - does this little girl really need a princess bed?

    Well, she doesn't. Nobody does. Nobody needs a flatscreen, or a whole new wardrobe, or more than one guitar, or all those toys.

    But how beautiful is it - how precious - to keep on giving? Past the need? To completely bury the need under a pile of delight and color and silliness and music and giggling? To tie a hundred balloons to it and drape it in a bright orange mink coat?

    There's a story I read somewhere, and I'm sad that I can't remember it properly - it's about a man in medieval Europe who gave ridiculous, lavish gifts to the poor. Warm clothes, and oh by the way some emeralds. Not just basic nutrition, but exotic gourmet feasts. Art. Bags of gold.

    When people chided him about his ridiculous - even stupid - generosity, he would smile at them and say "Won't you be embarrassed when you get to Heaven, and see Jesus wearing your worn-out castoff boots? Your charity?"

    Not that Jesus won't love you anyway, or let you in.

    But that's what I think about. During church.

    A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything.

    Saturday, December 01, 2007

    I am freaking out just a little about tomorrow's service.

    Because, when I was in the office on Friday, I put things (props, media etc) in places where I wouldn't lose them. And today, since I am at home instead of at church (physically, at least - I don't think there's been a moment in the last 10 years when at least part of my brain, a few neurons, haven't been at church) I cannot picture precisely where each of those valuable, irreplacable items is, cannot picture the cd with the speech on it nestled lovingly in the slot where logic would dictate that it indeed is.... Urrgrggh.

    Get me a benidryl and a tumbler of gin. I'm going to bed.