Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Help to have Gooder Grammar and the Goodest Writing Style

1. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

2. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

3. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

4. The Passive Voice is to be avoided.

5. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.

6. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

7. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, Etc........

8. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

9. Who needs rhetorical questions?

10. Parenthetical comments when appropriate should be enclosed in commas.

11. Go around the barn at high noon to eliminate Colloquialisms.

12. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

13. Be more or less specific.

14. Don't use no double negatives.

15. Puns are for children not for groan readers.

16. Avoid quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One Sided Identification - Advent 4

For part 3 click here, for part 2, click here and for part 1 click here

I have a tendency when reading books or watching movies to identify with the good guys, in fact I think a good story is crafted in such away to help emotionally attach you to the heroes. We find ourselves in their plight, their struggles are our struggles, their victories are ours. We have a cathartic reaction, the story on the screen helps us access parts of ourselves. Sometimes we all need a good cry, and a good movie or book can get us there.

The problem is our identification tends to be one sided, it's natural to do so. We identify with the hero because we want to be the hero.

When I read scripture I put myself in the 'heroes' shoes too.

I am the Israelites fleeing oppression.
I am the crowds cheering Jesus on Palm Sunday
I am the Shepherds kneeling at the Manger
I am the Wise Men following a star
(but I remove the whole 'Astrology' part because that is suspect)
I am the Prodigal Son who returns home.

Finding ourselves in scripture is a great thing, it brings the narratives alive to us. But we need to be willing to find ourselves in all the characters not just some.

I am the Egyptians oppressing people for my own ends.
I am the Pharisees who view Jesus as a threat.
I am King Herod who orders all male children 2 and under to be killed.
I am the older brother who is disgusted at the amount of grace shown to his sibling.

When I identify with the Hero it helps bring those traits in me more fully into the light, I have the opportunity to become more noble, loving, compassionate, forgiving etc.

When I identify with the Villain it helps bring my shadows into the light where I can honestly identify them and offer them to God for healing.

I read the Magnificat again this morning

And Mary said:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers."

Today I wondered:

Where am I Proud? Where in my life do I need to be scattered to get some humility? I can be rather arrogant with my opinions sometimes, I mistake my way, for the way.

What 'thrones' do I need to be dragged off of? Where am I defiantly declaring I know best, while all around me the kingdom of my life crumbles into ruins.

Where am I rich? Where have I taken God's abundance in my life and made it into a sense of entitlement?

Tough questions.

Maybe their toughness is why I chose to find myself in the heroes rather than the villains. But for me to become all that God desires for me to be, they are questions that need to be asked.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Finishing the Christmas Cake

I posted a couple of weeks ago about making Christmas cake. Click Here
It is something we would have every year, it almost takes the status of an edible Christmas Decoration - every home has one, you may not particularly like the taste, but Christmas somehow feels diminished without its presence.

Well I took mine out of the pantry on Saturday to ice it and was immediately overwhelmed with the aroma of brandy - hardly surprising giving how much I poured into it!

Now all I had to do was ice it.

First step, turn the cake upside down! It gives you a nice flat surface to decorate and you can hide any flaws at the bottom with icing (sneaky I know)

A traditional English Christmas cake is always double covered. First it has a layer of Marzipan - an almond and sugar paste that was surprisingly difficult to track down. Strange because you can pick up bricks of it all over the U.K. at Christmas.

You cover the top and sides of the cake with warm Apricot Jelly to help the marzipan stick, and then cover.
Not bad for my first attempt since I was 17. After smoothing the top and the sides down I moved on to the next step. When I was growing up we used Royal Icing for this - a mixture of Egg Whites and Confectioners sugar which is notoriously difficult to work with as it dries so quickly. I always wanted to create a nice smooth finish but would always give up in frustration and covering the cake with a stipple effect to hide all the imperfections.

Enter ready made fondant!
So easy to roll and work with, it was glorious! Just stick it to the marzipan by wetting the marzipan slightly.
The cake looked great, although as you can see the bottom edge was a bit ragged because the cake rose unevenly (and it's upside down remember)

Traditionally in the U.K. we would tie a large ribbon around the cake, but I didn't have one handy. I was trying to decide what to do when I glanced at the box that the fondant came in. The cake on the box was surrounded by white fondant balls, perfect for hiding uneven bottoms!!!

I then rolled out some colored fondant and decided to hand carve some holly leaves, always a good festive touch, and relatively easy with a sharp knife.

Emboldened by my success with the fondant I decided to try and construct a rosette (as the instructions were also on the box.

Here is the cake with the pieces of the rosette in front drying.
And here is the finished cake. All ready to be consumed over the Christmas holidays - and probably well on into the New Year!!!

It's Jelly Time - WARNING!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently took time out from my busy rehearsal schedule to meet British Celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson.



Well I was browsing through her new Christmas Cookbook when I saw a recipe for Chile Jam (Jelly for all the American Readers). Now I had tasted Jalapeno Jelly a couple of years previously, served over cream cheese with crackers, and it was awesome, so I decided to make some Chile Jam of my own.

Here is Nigella's Recipe, along with some stern warnings!!!

1 cup seeded and roughly chopped Chiles
(I used Jalapeno the first time and Red Serrano the second time)

1 cup cored, seeded and roughly chopped bell pepper
(Same color as the peppers)

5 cups of sugar

1 box (1.75 oz) powdered fruit pectin
(normally with the canning supplies, in my store near the saran wrap and foil!)

Small 8oz sealable jars -the recipe makes 5-6 cups worth
(I normally run these through the dishwasher on hot to sterilize them!)

2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

A few drops of gel food coloring the same color as the peppers.




Put the chopped up chiles in the food processor and then pulse until they are finely diced.

Add the chunks of bell pepper and pulse until you have a finely chopped bowl full.

Dissolve the sugar and the pectin in the vinegar in a LARGE, I repeat LARGE pan over low heat.

Scrape the chile pepper mixture out of the bowl and into the pan. Bring to a boil and leave it at full rollicking boil for 15 minutes. DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK ON IT OR TAKE YOUR EYES OFF IT!!!!!

Take the pan off the heat and stir in a few drops of food coloring to get the desired color. Leave for about 40 minutes to cool.

After 40 minutes give it a stir and then ladle it into jars - a jelly funnel is really helpful here if you have one :)

So why all the stern warnings??? Well as you can see from the picture below, even though the amount of jelly before it boils looks rather feeble in the bottom of the pan, it increases in volume rapidly.

The first time I was making the jelly I was making a double amount in a pan that size, which at first glance seemed plenty big enough - bad mistake. I turned my back and walked away from the stove. From the other side of the kitchen I saw hot bubbling Jam, overflow the pan, flow over the oven, down the kitchen counters and onto the tile floor. I couldn't reach the burner to turn it off straight away as I was barefoot and didn't want to get burns on the soles of my feet. If you make this please be very careful, it is hot and sticky, so if it gets on your skin it burns and is tricky to wash off.

I had to wait until the jelly cooled down and then take the stove top apart and clean EVERYTHING.

Well here are the two jellies I made, sorry about the dim lighting. One is a very festive green (made from Jalapeno) and the other is a christmassy red (made from Red Serrano).

The jalapeno has a gentle warmth, whereas the Serrano has some fire to it!!!

The second time I made the Jelly it actually was a very simple process, although the fumes from the Serrano peppers both while seeding and then while cooking were very very potent - open some windows and turn the vents on!!!

The jellies look festive and they taste great with cold ham.

Irritating, but mildly addictive :)



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-5ar30_tgg

Saturday, December 19, 2009

NOT the Christmas Cake Recipe I used :)

A Christmas Cake

Ingredients:

* 2 cups flour
* 1 stick butter
* 1 cup of water
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 cup of sugar
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 cup of brown sugar
* Lemon juice
* 4 large eggs
* Nuts
* 1 bottle Brandy
* 2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the brandy to check quality.

Take a large bowl, check the brandy again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.

Repeat.

Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again.

At this point it's best to make sure the brandy is still OK. Try another cup... Just in case.

Turn off the mixer thingy.

Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit up off floor.

Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the brandy to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift two cups of salt, or something.

Check the brandy.

Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table.

Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you can find.

Greash the oven.

Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

Don't forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the brandy and wipe counter with the cat.

Bingle Jells!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pax Deus? - Advent Part 3

For part 1 click here, for part 2 click here.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:13-14

The Shepherds on the hillside knew about peace, they were living under the Pax Romana that ran from 27 B.C. to 180 A.D. But the peace they experienced was bought at a price - Roman Occupation. It was a peace created through Oppression, Subjugation, and Conformity. There was no room for dissent or difference of opinion. Conflict was dealt with swiftly and brutally. You kept quiet and paid your taxes, just keep your head down and do what is required and everything will be fine.

It is into this Peace that the angels speak a Declaration of God's Peace. Why settle for Pax Romana when you can have the Pax Deus?

The Pax Romana worked, it produced results as satirized brilliantly by the Monty Python gang in the 'The Life of Brian'.

What have the Romans ever done for us?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExWfh6sGyso

Pax Deus may be better, but it is also unknown. God's peace is messy, it is extended on people on whom God's favor rests, and God in his grace extends his favor to everyone. God's favor, God's blessing is the great leveler. Mary sang in Luke 1

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid;
for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty,
hath done great things to me;
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto generations,
to them that fear him.
He hath shewed might in his arm:
he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant,
being mindful of his mercy:
As he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his seed for ever.

The careful order of the Pax Romana is gone. Hierarchy is abolished there is no longer any preference into experiencing the Peace of God. We are all God's chosen people. That is wonderful news, but a burden if you were expecting preferential treatment because of Class, Race, Gender, Economic Privilege, Sexual Orientation or any another possible distinguishing feature you can think of.

And there's the problem, Grace. We Christians like our Hierachy, we like to say who is In and who is Out. It seems that the peace our churches offer more resembles the Pax Romana than the Pax Deus. We get caught up in making sure that the correct people are included and the wrong sort excluded. We may even 'tolerate' some of the wrong sort, but we expect them to keep quiet and pretend to conform.

Where we exclude, God includes.
Where we tolerate, God embraces.

I wish I was more like God, I can be very harsh and judgmental at times. When someone judges me I want to respond back in kind. I find myself wanting to 'Scatter the proud', 'Put down the Mighty' and 'Send the Rich away empty'.

God, let me experience Your peace this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Some things must die....

I don't remember when I stopped believing in Santa. We never did presents from Santa as a child, everything was neatly labeled with the giver and the recipient. I know at some point I gave up old St. Nick and entered into the deeper mysteries of Christmas. Giving up childish things didn't diminish my Christmas experience, it just refocused it.

In Re-Enchanting Christianity Dave Tomlinson writes:


'The ancient Hopi people of North America have a fascinating rite of passage for their children as they move into young adulthood. Throughout their life these children have been familiar with the Kachinas, the tribe's masked holy men, who bless the corn harvest and bring toys and gifts for the children like Santa Claus. But one night as the children are brought into the sacred circle, something different occurs: on this occasion, instead of giving them gifts, the Kachinas simply remove their masks, revealing the fact that these figures whom the children thought were gods are actually their family and neighbors - people whom they see every day. It is a moment of sacred disenchantment, when childish naivety gives way to grown up reality.'
(Image taken from this website here)

I'm not exactly sure when I stopped believing in the Christianity of my childhood (strongly Fundamentalist, Conservative and Evangelical). All I know was that I went through a long period of doubt and depression where Atheism seemed very attractive. The Fundamentalism that I embraced did not embrace me back. My inner landscape seemed so different from everyone else that believing no longer seemed an option.

Fortunately the Grace of God is so much larger than I believed. God is far more liberal with his grace than I ever could have imagined. Even though wandering away from Fundamentalism felt like wandering into Apostasy, some beliefs need to die. - When I was a child I spoke as a child I understood as a child I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things. 1 Cor 13:11 But nobody ever gave me a road map for dying. As Dave Tomlinson goes on to say:

'Sadly, the church offers no equivalent of the Hopi ritual; there is no 'Service of Disenchantment' to help us figure out what are the 'childish things' about Christianity that should be left behind, and what are the things we need to hold on to. Indeed, paradoxically, experiencing disenchantment with the christian faith is actually fundamental to growing as a christian. It is the reality check that brings into question all that we have simply taken for granted, the acid bath that purges naive assumptions, false religious pretensions and unthinking conformity.'

Working for a church means Christmas comes early- I was composing new christmas carols while everyone else was celebrating Labor Day. It feels like I don't celebrate Christmas, I just facilitate it for others. It can be difficult to enter into the 'Spirit of the Season' (whatever that means), when you are running from planning meeting to worship service, from Children's Musical to Choir rehearsal. The final push to Christmas Day is upon me and I'm feeling a bit indifferent to the whole thing, I've not become Scrooge of the Grinch, but my main focus is on my January vacation. The only Christmas decoration up at the house is a wreath on the door, even my beloved Veggie Tales Nativity set still languishes in its box.

It seems that even my Christmas Celebration is in the process of dying and being transformed into something new. I've made Christmas Cake for the first time since I was 17. Some traditions are being revived, others are up for review and are found lacking in substance. I"m not sure what will emerge the other end, but as the 'death of Santa' led me to a deeper experience of Christmas and the 'death of fundamentalism' led me to a deeper experience of the divine mystery of God I'm finally learning to trust the work that happens in my inner life.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Good News - Advent 2

For Advent 1 click here

We were discussing the Angels announcement to the Shepherds. 'Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people'. It was a phrase I'd heard so many times that I wasn't totally paying attention. Someone in the group asked the question 'What is the good news that you need to hear to bring you great joy?'

The answer that came to mind was immediate and flippant, it was only through excessive use of my filter that I didn't say it out loud. 'Good news? Congratulations Peter, you have just won free liposuction.'

I smiled to myself and then froze.

Sometimes my brain takes me to places I wish it didn't.

"Peter, what is it about your body image that causes you to make jokes like that? What does that kind of joking do for you?"

Earlier this week I'd been reflecting on my need to always have something about me to hate. The object of that hate has shifted over the years, but even though I'm getting emotionally healthier all the time it seems that I still need something to hate to make me feel o.k. Somehow all those sermons about self-denial transformed into thoughts of self-hatred. It's the old tape that still plays in the back of my mind, if I can just hate [blank] enough, then I can use the energy of that hate to change it.

I know that doesn't work. I've written here before about how Hate cannot fuel the engine of Change. But still I keep hating. I see the problem, but I do nothing to change the status quo, nothing to reach toward the solution. If I stop hating my body what will I hate instead? I think that is the fear behind the hatred for me....I need to remember that Perfect Love casts out Fear.

It is easier to cling to self destructive behaviors than reach for healing. Lies always seem so much more enticing than the truth. It is easy for me to convince myself to do nothing.

"Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11

The message of a Savior is one that I still need, even after all these years that I have walked this pilgrim journey. It seems that the Spiritual Life consists of identifying more and more areas that I need saving from. I need good news of great joy. I need Jesus to remind me that I don't need to hate myself to be loved by Him.

'What is the good news that you need to hear to bring you great joy?'

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Meeting Heros

I've posted a lot about my love for Nigella Lawson and her cookbooks. (You can read and see her Jumbleberry Crumble here, and it was her Christmas cake I made last week) Well she has a new cookbook just out that is all Christmas recipes and I was fortunate enough to meet her at a book signing this evening!

She had been talking and signing books for an 90 minutes by the time I went through the line, and she was still wonderfully energetic and polite - I'm glad I got to meet her :)

Friday, December 04, 2009

If in doubt, add more brandy!

I did some reflecting this week to help with the Advent retreat I led on Thursday. One of the questions was around what aspects of Christmas Past poured life into you. When I looked at them, there were 3 broad categories. Food, Weather and Community. I can't do much about the weather I decided but I could do something about the other 2 and in that moment the insane desire to make English Christmas Cake was born!

A couple of years ago I blogged here about my Mum's Christmas cake and the wonderful kitsch decorations. I haven't made Christmas Cake since I was 17.

I sat down in front of the fire a few days ago curled up with 2 different Nigella Lawson cookbooks and eventually worked out what I was going to make. I made a few interpretive decisions in terms of ingredients (adding cranberries!) , but I'm so excited about how it's going to taste.
Here is my big batch of mixed dried fruits after they have been soaking all night in a cup of brandy - Nigella recommended 1/2 a cup, but that was barely enough to get them moist. I reasoned that a cup of brandy would also counteract the tartness of the cranberries. Christmas Cake in my family was always liberally doused in alcohol, I think it was partly to disguise the taste.


The cake itself always requires a bit of 'Blue Peter' fiddliness (though without the sticky-backed plastic). First line the sides of the cake tin with parchment coming up about 4 inches above the height of the pan. Then line the inside bottom of the pan with parchment too. Then wrap the outside of the pan in brown paper, also rising about 4 inches above the rim of the pan. The cake cooks for 3 hours in a 300F oven. I believe the paper helps funnel the heat in some way. I've no real answer for why, but Nigella's cookbook told me to do it so it must be important!

Here is the yummy fruit cake batter carefully placed inside all that paper and ready for the oven. You should have seen me trying to hold the brown paper together and tie a one handed knot!
It baked for 3 hours, filling the house with a glorious fruit cake aroma. As soon as it's time was up I took it out of the oven, poured yet more brandy all over it and then wrapped the entire cake and pan in foil. It stays like that until cold, the foil traps the steam and helps keep the top of the cake soft and moist while it cools.

It will now live in an airtight container in the pantry for 3 weeks and then comes the icing.

The completed fruit cake will be covered in Apricot Preserve. On top of that goes a layer of Marzipan and covering all of that is a layer of White fondant or Royal Icing. I'm opting for the fondant icing this year for ease of decoration! Put some ornaments on top, tie a ribbon around it and voila English Christmas descends.

And the best bit of all was that the weather decided to get in the Christmas spirit too.

I had the fireplace roaring away and John Rutter Christmas Carols playing on the ipod. Sometimes I am such a cliche!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

World Aids Day

This is a re-post from Dec 1st last year, but it seemed an important memory to share, especially as I read this morning that the number of new cases of hiv has risen for the first time in years and is spreading primarily through heterosexual relations.

Today is World AIDS Day. I was reading an article about whether the Global AIDS crisis is overblown. It's an interesting thought provoking article, but one line just made me smile -

"Everybody talks about AIDS at cocktail parties," Oldfield said. "But nobody wants to hear about diarrhea."

Ewww!

Back in the 90s Churches in the U.K. did special services on World Aids Day, today it just seems to slip by almost unnoticed. I remember attending a service in Nottingham - I attended because a friend of mine was speaking. I recall sitting there and being aware that some of the people who were sitting across the aisle from me were living with AIDS. It was the first time I'd seen someone with the disease. It put a face to something I'd just heard talk about. Suddenly AIDS became much more real to me.

After the sermon they played the song 'Empty Chairs at Empty Tables' from the musical Les Miserables, they played it in memory of people who had died from the disease.



As the song echoed around the church I began to see people sobbing over friends, colleagues and partners they had lost. I did not know anyone who had died from the disease, but the grief was so palpable I began to weep too.

It was at that point that AIDS ceased to be a 'homosexual problem' or a 'third world problem' instead it was simply a 'Human Problem'.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

From Mountain to Manger - Advent Week 1

Random thoughts for Sunday's Contemplative Service

Advent arrives too early. We have barely recovered from the joys and excesses of celebrating Thanksgiving when Advent comes knocking on the door like an unexpected guest. We open the door and welcome him in and then stand around not exactly knowing what we should do. At least when Lent, Advent's older brother arrives, we know how to behave. We greet Lent by giving up something, but Advent tells us to wait and prepare without giving us any explicit instructions.


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
(Luke 2:8-15)

If Thanksgiving is the angelic party on the mountainside and Christmas is the encounter at the manger then Advent is the long walk down the mountain in the dark. The Shepherds leave the place where heavenly worship spilled over onto the earth and begin a journey. They begin as worship spectators and end as worship participants, but first comes a narrow dangerous path. A path that looks very different than when they walk it in daylight. And as they journey they leave their sheep, their only source of income, behind. The hope of a Savior drives them toward the manger, and the memory of Angels gives them comfort, but after seeing heavenly light the mountain seems especially dark.

I seem to spend most of my life on that path. I have had moments when Heaven's joy seems to fill my heart, and other times where I know exactly where the manger is and in which direction I should walk. But often my Christian life is a stumble down a dark mountainside. My lips may be singing 'Walking, walking in the light, in the shining light of heaven above' but that is more of a statement of faith than experience, of hope than reality.

I have experienced God, and I will experience God. The Hope of Advent is that no matter how dark the path, I will reach the manger. Christ will be born, not just in a stable, but in our lives. As we journey towards God, He, through some divine mystery, journeys towards us. The father runs towards the Prodigal Son as he sees him cross the horizon.

And there is another mystery.

None of us journey alone. We may tell ourselves that we do. We may keep other people at a distance because of what we fear they would see. But none of us walk down the mountain alone. Our companions may not be who would we choose, but they are who we have. And, if we have eyes to see clearly, that person is the embodiment of God for us.

As we journey towards Jesus, not only does Jesus journey towards us, but he journeys with us as well.

As we begin this journey of Advent, where are you right now? Basking in the light of Angels? Close to the light of the stable? Wandering down the mountain in the dark? It's not enough to know where we are going, we also need to know where we are.

Who is journeying with you? Who will you allow to be Jesus for you this Advent Season?


Sunday, November 22, 2009

BGG Con Activity Breakdown

Total Number of Games played: 24
Number of Different Games: 22
Number of New Games: 17
Games Purchased: 2 (Court of the Medici and Chopstick Dexterity Mega Challenge 3000)
Games I want to purchase: INFINITE

Here is the Play by Play Day Account:



Thursday

Die Aufsteiger - I love this game. There wasn't a copy in the library so I brought mine with me and got to introduce it to some new people.

Waz Baraz - A clever little deduction game. I found it tough to play in a noisy room as I couldn't remember what conclusions I'd already made. I'd play it again though.

Tobago - Most people said it to rhyme with Cargo, but I always though it rhymed with Day-glo. Anyway, it was fun. I might purchase this one.

Neu Heimat - another game I brought from home, but this one was in the library. A tough economic auction game.

Zertz - a fun abstract

Opera - a big letdown for me. I so wanted to like this game of building opera halls all over Europe. It was rather dry and tedious. It went from 'Purchase Unseen' to 'Never play again' very quickly. At least I saved some money.

Monkey Lab - it was o.k. I'm not totally sure what all the fuss was about over this game.

Breakfast: Buc-ee's Burritos
Dinner: Scary Indian Buffet which caused post-meal intestinal problems
Time to bed: 2:30am


Friday

A La Carte - So cute and with great components! Competing chefs racing to cook dishes whilst being careful not to over season. It is so much fun to sabotage your opponents. I want this.

Dixit - Has a core mechanic similar to Apples to Apples, but requires more creativity on the part of the player. I would play this again and my purchase it.

You Robot - This game needs the right crowd or the right alcohol. Basically you make gestures and point at a card to get your partner to assume a pre-designated position. It was more frustrating than silly.

Basket Boss - Managing a Basket Ball team. I only found it mildly interesting and have no real desire to play it again, though I wouldn't run away screaming if I was forced.

Polizei-Alarm - Fun with magnets. A clever little children's game where one player is a thief and the other the police trying to apprehend them.

Die Aufstieger - Yeah! I got to teach it again :)

Ad Astra - Probably my favorite new game of the convention. Settlers trading and building combined with Wallenstein/Shogun programing mechanic and using a scoring system similar to Masons.

Sticheln - A great trick taking game that took some mind wrapping to work out the best play. I was poised in a great position to win this game, but the lateness of the hour befuddled my brain and I went wrong in the final round. This was fun!

Breakfast: Dennys
Dinner: Ali Baba Mediterranean
Time to bed: 2:45am

Saturday

Scripts and Scribes - an excellent little card game that is difficult to track down. I would like a copy of this.

Elk Fest - a silly dexterity game we played at lunch. The only game of the Convention that I actually won!

Railroad Dice 1 - thanks for teaching this Judson! Another game I would play again that is difficult to obtain in the U.S.

Lost Cities the Board Game - This game was a lot better once we used all the cards. Oops! Slightly more complex than the original Lost Cities, but it plays more than 2 which is a bonus.

Crokinole - Late night dexterity fun!

Also played in the BGG Game show - A version of Family Feud played with approximately 15 teams of 4. We finished in the middle of the pack.

Also played 'If you wanna....I'd rather...' A very silly way to waste time!

Lunch: Chilis with my good friends Rich and Ginger (and their son Jack). Good times!!!
Dinner: Light snacking on chips and apples at the hotel.
Time to bed: 1:30 am

Sunday

Court of the Medici - an interesting 2 player card game that I purchased. We played twice and I can see that it needs more plays to grasp strategic possibilities.

Atlantis - Leo Colvini re themes Cartagena and adds some other elements to make it less frustrating. I see no desire to own this but I wouldn't refuse to play it.

Pack and Stack - I was curious about this game so I was reading the rules when the Mayfair Rep came across and offered to teach it to me. He explained one rule and I pointed out that the published rules said different. He'd been teaching it wrong all weekend! It's a game about packing luggage crates in pickup trucks. I don't need to own it, but it was o.k.

Breakfast: Dennys again
Dinner: I'll fix something here
Time to bed: Still unknown, but I was snoozing in the car!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Let the Games Begin!

I'm off to leave for my boardgame convention early in the morning.

It's been 2 years since I made it to this convention so I'm really excited about seeing some old friends again and playing lots of new games!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Turkey Turkey Turkey

Just in case you missed it last year, here is my handy dandy blog post dedicated to the art of roasting the ultimate Turkey. It's how I cook my turkey and it tastes great :)

Just Click Here

Trust me, if you are cooking Thanksgiving, you will be glad you did!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chipotle Sloppy Joes - for Eric

Here's one of my quick standbys. I originally got this from cooking light and I love the way it sits on the taste buds.

2 1/2 cups vidalia or other sweet onion - thinly sliced
1 can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 lb ground sirloin
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
8 oz can no salt added tomato sauce
Hamburger buns

Heat a small nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray. Add the onion and cover. Cook for 8 minutes stirring frequently until golden brown. Remove from heat.

Remove one adobo chili from the can and chop finely. Set it aside with approx 1 teaspoon of sauce. I normally bag up the rest of the chilies in individual mini bags with a little sauce and freeze them.

In a large nonstick pan coated with a little spray cook the ground sirloin until brown. Add the green bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the chipotle chili, adobo sauce, tomato paste, salt, cumin and tomato sauce. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spoon 1/2 cup of beef over the bottom of half a bun, and then top evenly with some onions and the rest of the bun. Some people like grated cheddar added on top too.

It's quick, it's yummy and spicy and it's relatively low fat, what's not to love!!!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We will remember them...

A poem by British War Poet Wilfred Owen in honor of Veterans Day (Armistice Day in the U.K.)

This is one of the few poems I remember studying at High School and it made a huge impact on me at the time. I am thankful for all those who served, who witnessed atrocities and made the ultimate sacrifice.



Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.



('Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori' translates as 'How sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country')

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Board Games I want to try at BGG.Con this year!

This list has been growing for sometime, here it is in no particular order!

Finca - It was nominated for some decent awards this year. It's all about Harvesting fruit on the island of Mallorca and it uses a Rondel mechanism and I don't have a game that uses that.

Cyclades - a new game by 2 designers that I like. Buying the favor of the Gods and building cities, interesting.

At The Gates of Loyang - the latest from Uwe Roswenberg. I enjoyed Agricola, (though it felt a bit long and does need a lot of table space) I've played Le Havre, but it felt a bit too dry for me. Maybe his new creation will hit the sweet spot?

Alcazar - I can't remember how this made the list. Competing to build castles and villas in limited space. It's a re theme and redesign of the game Big Boss which was inspired by the game Acquire which I do enjoy playing, but do not own, so maybe that was the reason.

Dungeon Lords - the hot new game from Czech designer Vlaada Chvatil. In Dungeon lords, you are an evil dungeon lord who is trying to build the best dungeon out there. You hire monsters, build rooms, buy traps and the other usual stuff. I've enjoyed his other 2 games that I have played. Galaxy Trucker and Space Alert. I do wonder if I"ll be able to get a copy from the library though as it is such a hot item.

Monkey Lab - it's light and silly. My Nephew loves monkeys so I'm wondering whether this will be a suitable game for him to play with his parents.

Opera - a game about mounting opera productions? Sign me up!

Revolution! - Steve Jackson games tend to be rather hit or miss with me, but I saw this game being played at Gen Con and was intrigued. It looks like a glorified reworking of 'Rock Paper Scissors' but it could be fun.

Thunderstone - I saw a post somewhere comparing it to Dominion, which is the game I have played the most times this year.

Abandon Ship - another game I saw at Gen Con by the same publisher as Monkey Lab. You are competing gangs of rats trying to get off the ship before it sinks.

...Aber Bitte Mit Sahne - probably gets the award for the strangest name. It translates as '...but please, with whipped cream.' It is a game about sharing cakes. Normally one person cuts and the other person chooses. This is an entire game based on that simple action but the addition of whipped cream can create chaos. It's a food game, how can I not give it a try?

Arcana - I have no idea how this game made it on the list!

Cities - another game that was an SDJ nominee this year. A tile laying game all about designing the best city that you can.

Nefertiti - an auction game where you are seeking out gifts for queen Nefertiti. Again, I'm not sure how this made it on the list.

Caylus Magna Carta - we played this game's bigger brother Caylus quite a few times when it first came out. I originally thought this was just a re theme (add some chrome and get some new sales in) but it looks like a distilling of the original ideas into a compact card game. I'll give it a go.

Blox - another SDJ nominee. This time it's tower building with forklift trucks!

Railroad Dice - this is a game that came out in 2003. It was a creative and different use for dice, it's kind of hard to find though so I'm not too bothered if I don't get to play it. I'd hate to really like it and then not be able to locate a copy.

Timber Tom - another hot ticket game that keeps having all its U.S. shipments sell out. Its all about being the best mountain hiker.

Carson City - A game that was interesting enough to get added to the list, but not interesting enough for me to remember what interested me in the first place.

Ants! - There is quite a lot of buzz around this game, well there was when I first read about it. Competing ant colonies in a suburban park. Do you play it safe and gather food or fight the other colonies for victory?

Stronghold - one player is trying to defend the castle being besieged by the other.

A La Carte - an older game that has been re released with a few rule modifications. The players are semi-psychotic cooks attempting to hone their culinary skills. Still recipes, attempt to cook them, and try not to over spice!

Tobago - Yet another 'hot' game. Each player gets a different part of a treasure map for the island and so it's a 'deduce where the treasure is and race to it before the other player' game. I have the 2 player Discovery Island on the shelf. This one plays up to 4 players and has some really cool looking components :)

Atlantis -the designer of Atlantis, Leo Colvini is another designer who is hit or miss with me. I really enjoy his game Masons, and Clans is o.k. but Carolus Magnus felt rather dry to me. Atlantis is a reworking of the mechanic from Cartagena with some other goals added. Players are trying to flee the sinking city of Atlantis with as much treasure as possible.

Well that's the list! If any more games catch my eye I'll update - and I give a big shout out to anyone who was brave enough to read all the way to the end!

Prodigal Poetry

I posted these back in 2007, but in going through an old computer folder I discovered them and thought I would repost.


2 Poems inspired by the Parable of the Prodigal Son

I worked hard and then gave it away
The sweat of my brow
The toil of my hands

Gave it away with no conditions
No guidelines for usage
No rules for compliance

This is no condition to live your life
Watching him hurt
Watching him leave

Living your life saying goodbyes
Goodbye to my son
Goodbye to my savings

Saying goodbyes to the boy I once was
When I was young, would I have run?
Did I once take without thought?

The boy I once was became the man that I am
Taking became giving
Leaving became loving

I loved hard and then gave it away
I and the son are one
I and the father are one

Both Prodigals.







Old cartilage and fragile bones run
Self care forgotten as calloused feet kick up dust
A dirty cloud of celebration
Muscle-stretching jubilation
Embracing the dirt
Kissing the stench
Ignoring the lie on the lips
Hearing the unspoken desperation
And, as fatherly sweat mingles with son’s
Whispering “Welcome home”

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Boardgames and Weight Update

Because of my vacation I'm only just getting around to posting this. :(

We won't talk about my weight - I'm still substantially lower than I was at the beginning of this year...but my weight has been creeping up for a while now. It's tougher for me to get the motivation to exercise as it makes my legs hurt. I have these nodules that have formed on both achillies tendons. I've been seeing a doctor and I'm going to have them removed, but we opted to do it in the New Year as I'm doing a fair amount of traveling before then which would have been inconvenienced by me having to have my foot in a boot.

Of course I really can exercise even though it does hurt some, and in reality the stretching exercises are good for the nodules, but it has become an excuse that is a little too convenient. I will do better this month!

Anyway, on to the games.

October was a surprising month for games. 45 Games were played in total of 25 different games. And 2 games came from nowhere to take the top 2 spots on the list. The reason for this was of course my English vacation and playing games with the rest of the family!

What was the top game of October?

Alhambra (6 plays) - is a great tile laying game. You are purchasing different buildings to make your own Alhambra. My brother and his wife really like this one so we played 6 times on the vacation. I think the final scores were Janet 2, Steve 2, Peter 2, Bugs 0, but I could be mistaken.

Uno (5 Plays) - a surprise entry played in a surprising variant. My nephew Tommy has difficulty holding all the cards and so we played their family variant where everybody's cards are placed face up in front of them in a tableaux. It completely changes the game and causes you to do a lot more strategizing about your plays!

Some other games of note this past month.

Carcasonne (3 plays) - this is one of the top 'gateway' games for introducing people into modern board gaming. I haven't played it that much and so I was a little dubious of its power, but I took it on the Chapelwoods Mens Retreat and was amazed at the response. I've never viewed board gaming as a spectator sport, but we must have had about 8 guys all watching us play this. I taught other groups the rules and their were quite a few heated battles and I know that some of the men have since purchased this for their families. I opted to use the original European Scoring as opposed to the American Scoring as I think it is a) Easier to learn and b) Makes for a better game.

Endeavor (2 plays) - this is one of the 'hot games' right now. I remember really liking it, but we played before the vacation so it's kind of slipped my mind right now! I'm sure it will make it to the table again soon.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Thought for the day

The journey into deeper faith is a journey into greater doubt rather than greater certainty.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Lazy Beauty

(Random thoughts for Sunday's Contemplative Service)

How have you spent this week? I've spent time working, in conversations, cooking, playing boardgames, watching t.v. I've sat at desks, pianos and computers. I've prayed, reflected, laughed, sung. I've acted from the most noble of impulses, and also from the most selfish. I've sought God and I've ignored Him.

In a meeting this week someone asked 'What have you done to be spiritual this week?'. My first response was 'not enough'.

On further reflection though I don't think that's true. I could repeat my opening paragraph of how I've spent this week (working, conversations, cooking, playing boardgames etc) all as an answer to that question. There is no compartment in my life called 'Spirituality'. In God I live and move and have my being. Trying to become 'more spiritual' is like trying to become 'more human', it isn't possible. I am trying to become what I already am.

Like the Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, I fail to see that I already am what I'm desiring, so I walk down the 'Yellow Brick Road' of Spiritual Growth thinking that if I can just learn from this 'Spiritual Wizard' or master that Spiritual Discipline that I will become Spiritual.

The road cannot make me any more spiritual, but, as I become intentional about my journey, it helps me become aware of God's presence within me.

And as I journey, I start to worry. Am I travelling in the right direction? Am I praying in the right way? Am I growing fast enough? Am I really hearing God's voice? To help assure myself, I set myself goals. Concrete measures of growth. For example:

  • I will have a quiet time every day.

  • I will master Breath Prayer, Lectio Divina, the Examen, Encircling Prayer etc

  • I will read the entire bible through in a year (or a month)

  • I will give a fixed percentage of my income away

And suddenly bible reading becomes about the amount read rather than getting to know the Author. Prayer becomes a technique to be mastered rather than a conversation to be entered into. Giving becomes self-imposed taxation rather than an expression of the heart. Spirituality becomes a 'To Do' list.

I frantically 'labor and spin' to become spiritually beautiful, forgetting the lilies of the field.

'See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.'

Jesus offers a Lazy Beauty, a beauty that does not require effort on our part, just a surrender and a trust of what God is growing inside of us. It sounds to good to be true. A lily does not strive for beauty, it grows naturally. We feel we have to work to be as beautiful as Solomon. We create an artificial 'Spiritual Beauty' that we can strive for. An unrealistic ideal of Spirituality as false as the image of physical beauty we see portrayed in the media.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYfwIAWWH6M


Lazy Beauty feels wrong.

I can feel myself recoiling at my use of that word, even though that was the phrase the came to mind whilst I listening to the passage last Sunday. I can hear my inner critic saying 'Use a different word, call it Natural Beauty. Lazy suggests just sitting there. It's passive. What about Striving, what about being sold out for God?'

See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. They do not work or toil. They are Lazy.

But to be lazy I have to surrender my Spiritual To Do List. I have to see what Jesus is growing in me rather than try to force growth through my own efforts.

What has crept onto your Spiritual To Do list right now?

What is Jesus growing in you?

Where can you see A Lazy Beauty?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Caring for the Choir Robes

I'm fortunate to get to sing in the Chancel Choir at Chapelwood UMC. We have a wonderful bunch of people who sing well together and are highly organized (most of the time GRIN)

To help the new people who have just joined, the Robing Chairperson did a brief announcement about care for our Choir Robes and the best way to hang them in the choir room to make sure they stay clean and wrinkle free. The entire choir room is fitted with wooden hangers for our robes, they have a wider top and help prevent hanger bumps forming when the robe has been hung up for too long.

The wooden hangers are important.

The only problem was, while he was explaining their neccessity, all I could think of was this.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Stuck in my head

I woke up with this song in my brain this morning. The video is a bit cheesey by today's standards, but I do like the lyrics and the melody.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hi Ho Hi Ho It's off to work we go

According to a study by the National Sleep Association the average American works a 46 hour work week. I've seen other studies giving other figures, but this seems to be slightly low in my estimation.
When I started work in the U.K. at age 19. My required work week was a 35 hour week. I was also on a flex time system, I had to be at work from 10-12 and 2-4 but apart from that it was up to me. At the end of each month I could be up to 10 hours over or under the required total, and, if I had 7 hours over I could use those hours to take a vacation time.

And talking about vacation time, when I started I had 20 days vacation a year, plus the 12 potential 'flex days' plus national holidays (8 by my calculations).

So at age 19 I worked a 35 hour work week and could get 40 days off a year!

Compare that with the average American of 46+ hours a week, 10-15 days off a year plus national holidays.

Moving to the U.S. was a shock for me.

People here seem to be defined by their 'work' a lot more than I was used to in the U.K.

One other piece of data that is alarming:
There is a massive spike in Suicide among males in the U.S. when they reach retirement age. I don't think the American work ethic is a cause, but the statistical correlation is disturbing.
Here are the U.K. figures.

A much lower suicide rate among Males. So, are the Brits lazy or the U.S. work obsessed???

Thoughts anyone???

How I spent the weekend

2 movies down - 1 more to go :)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Words to Ponder

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

Thomas Jefferson

Friday, October 02, 2009

Boardgames and Weight Update

Again this month their is no weight update as I'm still in a 'holding pattern'. There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon though. Work has started a weight loss exercise program that runs for three months where you can access to a personal trainer etc. I've signed up to do that so maybe it will re-energize me again :)

Onto the games!

September had 31 plays of 27 different games. There was no game that dominated the rankings though there were some new appearances.

Palastgefluster - this is an Adlung Spiel game, and they always seem to pack a fun complex game into a tiny box. This one is no exception to their range. It involves political intrigue in the King's Court and is easy to learn but has some surprising strategies. You also get to control turn order which is fun. It's a game that is relatively difficult to obtain here in the U.S. so I expect it to hit the table again soon.

Werewolf - I really enjoy getting to play this game, but normally we don't have enough people or I end up moderating. Don't get me wrong I enjoy running the game, but it is fun to play. There's a lot of lying and manipulation in this game, it really helps to either be a great Orator or a keen Observer. I successfully spotted someone in a lie which helped the good guys win the game woohoo!

Snow Tails Is a game of racing Husky Dogs down a frozen track complete with avalanches and trees. I don't play that many race games, and this is a fun one so it was nice to have it hit the table again.

Imperial This is one of those longer more complex games that I tend to shy away from. Well, it's more that although I can grasp the mechanics of the game I'm not that sure about the strategy. I did surprisingly well this last play though and came in a very close second.

Also this month we had a special gaming session with Peggy and Shelley who wanted to learn some new card games.

Die Seiben Siegel (or as we usually call it 'Die Steven Segal!') is an interesting spin on spades. Not only do you have to bid how many tricks you are going to take, but you also have to say what suits you are going to take them in. This makes the bidding extra fraught with difficulty. To compound that it is also possible for somebody to play as a Saboteur and instead of trying to take tricks they are trying to screw up your plans. Fun!

Flaschenteufel is a trick taking game based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is interesting in that cards that were trumps at the start of the round will revert to normal cards as the round progresses. Consequently you are forced to use trumps early, but their is a catch. Whoever played the highest trump in a trick obtains the Bottle Imp, and if the round ends with the bottle still in your possession....well let's just say it's not good. It's a fun little game and works really well with three players which is normally hard to do with a trick taking game.

Poison is a classic Reiner Knizia game. You are adding different ingredients into three different cauldrons, but you don't want to be the person who causes the cauldron to boil over. It's now available as an iphone application :)

Well that's selected highlights from September's Gaming. I don't foresee any game knocking Dominion off it's top slot by the end of the year, but there is a tight race forming for second place, with 9 games all vying for second place.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The 'What' and the 'Why'

Abba Anthony the Great said this, 'If he is able to, a monk ought to tell his elders confidently how many steps he takes and how many drops of water he drinks in his cell, in case he is in error about it.'

from 'The Sayings of the Desert Fathers' ~ Benedicta Ward, SLG

I mentioned in a previous post that I was working my way through this book, and when I read it this morning the above quote stuck with me.

I don't think Abba Anthony is suggesting that true monks should all go out and purchase Pedometers or keep careful records of their consumption of Dihydromonoxide (after all, how big is a 'drop'?). What I heard in this was an increased level of Awareness. I know their have been times when I've sat down to read a book with a packet of cookies and 20 minutes later I suddenly notice that all the cookies have gone and I have no recollection of consuming them.

The act of being aware changes our behavior. I did an experiment today and I decided to write down everything I ate. Suddenly I was conscious of walking past the goodies at the Receptionist's Desk at work, I noticed how many refills I wanted at Boudreaux's at lunchtime. I ate and drank less today for the sole reason that I was writing it down and was therefore aware of it.

Socrates said 'The Unexamined Life is not worth living' - I'm not sure if I'd go quite that far, as their have definitely been moments in my life where I would have much rather have been numb and clueless to what was going on inside. But Socrates and Abba Anthony are just saying what so many other writers have said, we need to be 'Aware'.

I try to avoid a lot of political debate, but when I do get into discussion, I try to be more interested in the 'Why' rather than the 'What'. People are often very good at articulating what they believe, but not so much the why. 'Why' asks us to take a look inside, to examine ourselves, the good and the bad.

If I start counting the steps I take and the water I drink I might become aware that I am walking in the wrong direction or consuming the wrong things. The 'What' leads to the 'Why'. Suddenly I notice my internal drives and compulsions, and in doing so I am awakened.

So, how many steps did you take today? How much water did you drink?

Why?

Going on vacation?

Very hilarious!

Check out the rest of the fun at www.phdcomics.com

Monday, September 21, 2009

Vampire Worship?

(random thoughts from a non-theologian)

Vampires are apparently a big thing at the moment. I say apparently, because, as I'm not a teenage girl I've not read any of the 'Twilight' books or watched any of 'Trueblood' or any other of the various vampire shows around right now. It just seems that nearly every issue of Entertainment Weekly (my source of world news) has a mention somewhere about these bloodsucking creatures.

It seems they've even made it into church.

I was at worship this weekend and the band led us in a song that was new to me, that featured the lyric 'From His wounds we drink salvation'. All I could think of was 'ewww'. Couldn't the songwriter have used a different word than 'drink'? I get what the lyricist is trying to say, but the image of lapping blood from the Crucified Christ is not one that moves me, the lyric became a hindrance rather than an aid to worship.

There is a whole thread of christian lyrics where almost magical power is ascribed to the actual blood of Jesus, as if somehow Jesus' blood was different from the rest of humanity's.

There is a fountain filled with blood.
Jesus blood never failed me yet.
It's your blood that cleanses me.
There is Power in the blood.

At times it seems we are in danger of venerating the 'symbol', rather than what the symbol represents. In Bruge, Belgium there is even an alleged phial of Jesus blood contained in the Basillica of the Holy Blood But as my friend Matt once said to me, Jesus' blood is not special, what it accomplished is. When we take Communion, we worship Christ, not the Wafer or the Welch's grape juice. When we remember the Crucifixion shouldn't we do the same?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nostalgia in the Oven ~ Jumbleberry Crumble

A really good cookbook should assault the senses. Just reading the recipes should be enough to stimulate the taste buds. And then the glorious pictures amount to food porn, calling, tempting, promising indescribable pleasures if you just cook the recipe depicted.

Nigella Lawson is well versed in the art of the Seductive Cookbook...

...and I made the mistake of browsing through one of her tomes this morning over my breakfast cup of tea.

My fate was sealed when I saw the picture on page 182

Jumbleberry Crumble

No matter that I didn't have the over sized teacup for serving, or the cheery table mat, one glance was enough and I knew that you had to be mine. I could already taste the glorious cool of the ice cream, the sweet crunch of the topping and the tart zing of the warm berries.

Fruit crumbles, normally apple, or raspberry were a part of my childhood. Admittedly my mother's were generally overcooked, burnt on top and soggy on the bottom, but even that has a familiarity to it that the picture evoked in me. O.k. so it didn't go with the Enchilada Casserole that was bubbling away in the crock pot, but no matter, I wanted it.

The recipe is simplicity itself.

For the crumble Topping:

2/3 cup of flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes

3 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark)

Blitz all of the together in a food processor (or rub together by hand) to make a mixture that resembles sand.

You'll also need:

Frozen summer fruits

cornstarch

sugar

vanilla extract


Put the frozen berries in an oven proof container (for one serving I used a 2 cup ramekin)

Put in some frozen berries to just below the top.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 2 teaspoons sugar and a drop of vanilla extract on top.
Top with crumble topping.


Put in the oven at 425F for 15-20 mins until cooked.


Serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream!

The recipe actually makes too much topping, but the beauty is you can store the topping and the berries in the freezer and assemble the entire dessert from frozen quicker than it takes to heat up the oven.

Glorious!