Saturday, December 05, 2009

Oh How I Love Pumpkins

Yes, Halloween and Thanksgiving are over, but the pumpkin is still here!  As I eye the sweet little row of sugar pumpkins on the windowsill in the kitchen, I rejoice!  3-4 months of amazing pumpkin treats are still in our future.

I'm turning 29 next month, and winter squash are brand new to me this year!  I had no idea they're so versatile and so goooood.  Clay and I originally stocked up on sugar pumpkins, acorn squash and delicata (peanut) squash before our CSA at Garden Treasures ended.  Our hope was that by stockpiling squash, we'd reduce the amount of imported vegetables we'd consume this winter...and we'd get to enjoy fresh veggies in the winter months!  (Because winter squash keep for several months as long as they're kept cool, dry, and intact.)  We were foraying into uncharted territory, having never really eaten a winter squash before, apart from a few spaghetti squash here and there and one attempt at butternut squash soup last year.  We have been amazingly surprised by how much we love squash, no matter which way we prepare it or which variety we try.

Yesterday morning was my first attempt at bringing squash to the breakfast table.  I was in the mood for pancakes, and our abundance of squash led me to mmm...pumpkin pancakes.  So I worked up this little recipe, using 3/4 c. steamed pumpkin with the water squeezed out.  Served it with maple syrup, cinnamon whipped cream, and enjoyed the last few days of fall!  (Note: when making this recipe again, I'll ditch the chocolate...really good, but overpowers the pumpkin.)

Also, if you're in the mood for a challenge this Christmas, find yourself a sugar (pie) pumpkin, and whip up a pumpkin pie from scratch.  Here's the recipe I used to make this beauty for Thanksgiving.

Inviting more winter squash into my life has been a great addition to the fall menu...a cheap and easy way to keep fresh veggies on the table when it's cold outside, and a fun challenge for nightly creativity.  Fear not!  You are not doomed to months of canned tomatoes and green beans: put some squash on the table tonight.

Happy December!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Daily Bread

As it turns out, I'm becoming passionate about food.

Sometimes I forget.

I forget mostly when there's no time to plan meals or cook. When we're running weekend after weekend and there is no available time in which to contemplate soaking beans overnight or throwing some ingredients in the bread maker.

Thanksgiving has reminded me that I have a passion I have forgotten about during a hectic last few months. In preparation for Thursday, when I will make some cornbread stuffing and pumpkin pie, I have been scouring my archives and the internet in search of recipes that embody the things that I value: natural ingredients, whole foods, locally grown ingredients. So my pumpkin pie will use an actual pumpkin that was grown a mile from my house. The flour to bake the bread to make the stuffing was ground just 45 miles away in Bellingham. There will be no sign of Crisco or canned, pre-packaged anything in the ingredients for these dishes.

It's not ever an easy choice to buy natural and buy local when there's a sea of cheaper, artificial foods from all over the globe staring at us in the grocery aisles. It's not easier to bake a pumpkin pie from scratch or bake the bread that will later be transformed into stuffing. There's nothing easy or quick about it. It's slow food. And now, two hours after returning home from our Thanksgiving shopping trip, I sit at the computer exhausted, but satisfied, that creations have been made in my kitchen tonight. I meditate on how Jesus asks us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," as tomorrow's bread bakes in the oven. I know I am reliant on the Lord for the flour, water, yeast and oil he provided to make my daily bread.

My creation continually connects me to my Creator. I think that's part of why I'm so passionate about whole foods. You can't look at a pumpkin without knowing it came from the ground, and without further thinking, as you wipe away the dirt, that a divine creator must have gifted you this very pumpkin. He must have set the circumstances in place for it to grow. He must have specially designed the taste to be appealing to us, and furthermore, he must have designed this appealing-tasting food to be nourishing to us. And then I think, "Man, our Creator must really love us to create fuel for us that's incredible to taste. Our Creator must really love us if he wants us to experience pleasure when we're refueling."

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for something very simple...something that God was probably thanked for at the very first Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for the gift of food. I'm thankful that God loves us so much that our food isn't brown and's orange and round with a little bow on's small and red and bounces when you drop it on the counter. Sometimes we forget that the very food we eat is an amazing, incredible gift.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Reflections from a newly birthed locavore.

For the first time in many months, I was actually inspired to write a blog.  It's unfortunate that I just now seized the opportunity, because I've missed an entire summer that I could have shared with you the amazing benefits of belonging to a CSA and the joys of discovering mashed kohlrabi, stuffed zucchini, baked oatmeal, and plenty of other good things you can create if you have Simply in Season and read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

The journey of food this summer has been a return to something more ethereal than I'd really experienced since I spent 12-15 hours a week practicing ballet.  It connected me to the Creator, and it allowed me to experience how connected we are to the earth.  Every Thursday, as I'd rinse the fresh soil off our zucchini, or carefully pluck the basil leaves from the stems, I reflected on how the Creator loves us so much he wanted us to enjoy the very things we put in our bodies to give us nutrients.  I reflected on how much easier it is to be separated from the Creator when we're so far removed from the food he gave to us...when we subsist on frozen pizza, Doritos and cola, we think that capitalism and retail are the providers rather than the Provider. 

My husband has been an eager partner on this journey, delighting in his discovery of the doughnut peaches (which cannot be consumed without a gutteral moan escaping one's chest from the sheer pleasure of eating such a succulent piece of fruit).  This evening, much to my surprise, he even jumped at the chance to make ceviche from scratch, so while I picked up a few pounds of fresh red snapper on sale, he picked up 1/4 lb. of fresh shrimp meat.  When we arrived home, making due with what we had on hand,  he added the shrimp to some salsa (which he strained and rinsed because I wanted to save this week's amazing heirloom tomato for some caprese salad or ratatouille later in the week), added lime juice, salt, and his favorite: a tiny zucchini and fresh organic chili peppers from this week's CSA share.  As he inhaled the ceviche, along with our red snapper tacos (accented by a zucchini/scallion slaw he made as well as shredded radishes), he said, "Wife, I'm so glad we got this veggie and fruit share.  Thanks."  I said, "You're welcome.  I feel like we love food more than we did before."  

Right now, in our tiny apartment, we think about what we could grow in a garden of our own, and we speculate about how we would keep our neighborly raccoons and feral cats away.  (Clay's solution to this problem is singular: air-soft gun.  I always squeal in horror and say, "No...animal control.")  But for now we're too lazy to kill the coons and/or call animal control, which is fine, because September isn't the best month for launching a vegetable garden anyways.  

But as a I look with dread to Thanksgiving, in which we celebrate the harvest but say goodbye to our CSA for 6 months, I pine for a cupboard full of jars of my own tomatoes, a freezer full of zucchini, and an arbor of braided garlic adorning the entrance to the kitchen.  I fortunately have a few jars of peaches and apricots, along with some jams and chutneys, all of which I canned myself.  I also have a few bags of beans in the freezer, as well as the blueberries that made me fall in love with fruit and blackberries we picked in our backyard.  I will mostly likely ration and savor each serving over a long winter and spring as a reminder of the summer when food stopped tasting as it always had and began tasting like something much better.

Sometimes I reflect on how we've been eating and look around to my friends and worry we're a part of some Gen-Y, Seattle liberal, neo-hippie fad.  Other times I see the cover story on last week's Time and think we're on the verge of an urban-to-rural migration, back to the farm, back to the garden, where people in mass reject 2 generations of processed food that was marketed to our parents and grandparents by the food companies who'd refitted their factories for WWII and needed to find a way to market it to a post-war America.  (I heard this great interview with this historian talking about this, and now I can't find it, so I promise to cite it as soon as I can.)

Regardless of the neo-hippieness of our personal agrarian journey, I'm loving life more as a result of being introduced to the world of farm-fresh fruits and veggies.  If you find yourself loving food and willing to experiment, I promise a wonderful world awaits...and yes, it's a world full of dinners that can be ready in 30 minutes or less.  Bon appetit.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Coming Soon...

So friends, this blog has generally, over the last two years descended into lameness...such is the fate of oh-so-many blogs out there.

And pretty much the only things I'm still interested in blogging about are things I knit or foods I cook. Our adventure into buying food directly from the farm is an adventure in and of itself, so methinks the blog should head in that direction...I mean seriously, how many people do we know that go to a farm every Thursday to pick up their weekly supply of vegetables and fruit? Not too many...but we do.

And actually, Clay and I have become more interested in the last few months in really cultivating a creative life, so maybe that's a good blog: "Cultivating Creativity." I'm going to sit on that...anyways...I'm still here, and my blog has reduced to twitter. So, you can follow me there until I figure out what to do with this.



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Glee: Don't Stop Believin'

Every once in awhile Hollywood produces something that reminds me a little bit of my life, but mostly not. Usually, when people in Hollywood get together and try to make something about smalltown midwestern life, it's just a little bit off. Tthe weather's a bit too "sunny all the time," the people are a little bit too pretty and skinny, and the towns are a little bit too fake. I used to watch "Ed," which took place in Stuckyville, Ohio, and I'd constantly complain that no Ohio smalltown had that many beautiful single people in it. I'd also complain that there's no way you could make a fool of yourself in a restaurant without knowing at least one person in that restaurant. In Hollywood smalltowns, people don't run into people they know enough, and the general populace's skin is way too clear.

But last night as I was watching "Glee," I was pretty much glued in from the moment they zoomed in on the Ohio license plate and declared the setting as "William McKinley High School." I say to Clay, "There's a McKinley High School in Canton." Then later in the show when the guy mentions his "long-distance girlfriend in Cleveland," I laugh, saying, "Those towns are only an hour away from each other. hahaha."

Pretty much, there was so much about "Glee" that was reminiscent of my High School Show Choir days. I realized that the only people I know, for the most part, who've been in Show Choir, are other people from Ohio. It make me excitedly speculate that Ohio is the Show Choir capital of the world. I even complained that the show is called "Glee," because we all called it "Show Choir." To which Clay pointed out, "Glee," is a much better name for a show than, "The S.C." True dat.

Anyways, in our high school show choir, we constantly looked up to the "amazing" choirs: St. Clairsville, Marysville, Medina. And we gloated about how we were one of the few groups that still sang in 4-8 parts instead of 1-2.

And being in Show Choir didn't make us cool at all, but we loved it. Loved it.

While certainly the students at William McKinley High are way more talented and stereotyped than any of my "Essence" buddies, I could see enough of us in them to feel like Hollywood finally made a show for me. I laughed a lot. One year we even recruited a few football players to join, and they dropped out two weeks into rehearsal...we got super angry that they couldn't make show choir rehearsals a priority. We got super frustrated that in our high school, everything seemed to revolve around football and cheerleading and no one seemed to give a rip about the music department. This show is so not made up.

After the show, Clay and I turned on "Big River," jumped up on the couch/raft with our poles in hand and sang (Clay as Jim, Me as Huck Finn). Glee definitely increased the level of glee in my life. This morning I listened to "Seasons of Love" on the way to work, remembering how much I loved playing the piano parts for our love set, which included Seasons of Love (Rent), Everlasting Love (Gloria Estafan), Where is Love (Oliver)...

Watch Glee next fall. It's the happiest thing on TV.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Things I'm Learning

  1. How to do a capital campaign. (Plan, Plan, Plan, Ask, Follow Up.)
  2. How to make mayonnaise from scratch. (egg yolk, other stuff, start blender, drizzle oil...slowly)
  3. How empathy evokes love and grace. (it just does. put yourself in someone else's shoes, see life through their eyes, and there's so much compassion to be had.)
  4. How to negotiate with printing companies for good deals. (easy during recession. they ask for chances to outbid other guy.)
  5. How to wake up before 8am. (inevitable when sun is up at 6am.)
  6. How to gross out a teenager. (talk about their parents kissing.)
  7. How to keep a plant alive. (Try, pray, fail, move plant, try again.)
  8. How to make your bed everyday. (Hire a bed-maker.)
  9. How to eat well. (buy only things that grow on farms, not things that were created in labs.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Oh yeah! I'm going to be published

I keep forgetting to mention that in a few months, an essay I wrote is going to be published in a real book. It's an essay I wrote called the "Journey Towards Ordination," about the social pressure I experienced in my growing up to become an ordained pastor. The essay is going to be released in an anthology Jesus Girls, which was edited and compiled by my friend and bridesmaid, Hannah.

You can read one of the essays here. As I read Sara's essay, I was like, "Woah...this is way more beautiful than mine." But then I remembered, "Wait, she's been nominated for a national book award. Isn't it awesome you get to be in the same book as her?" and it is.

So stay tuned, and I'll let you know when you can go online and get your copy and be inspired.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Third Day v. Radiohead

Seriously? Are you serious? I just read some criticism that U2 ripped off it's newest album cover, but I don't see the relevance as much because it's a rather popular form of Zenlike abstract art...they attribute it to the artwork of Hiroshi Sugimoto, but it reminded me a lot of Mark Rothko. So, it's abstract, simple, Zenlike...easy to replicate...and in all instances it's good...

But Third Day ripping off a Radiohead album cover? I'm not okay with this. Check it out:

Radiohead's Hail to the Thief
Third Day's Revelation
Apparently the Third Day album is attributed to an artist named Leonard Knight who does art called "Salvation Mountain." But regardless, for music's sake, it's uncanny and irritating. Radiohead and Third Day don't exist in the same stratosphere. Geesh...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lifestyle Changes

I've decided not to go back to Seminary next quarter, mostly because it was cutting into my knitting time.

It was only a few weeks into this quarter when I realized, "This isn't working. I don't care how much aptitude I have to think critically about theological issues, I want to knit and do yoga. I want to spend Friday afternoons going to the Record Store with my husband, and I want to have space in my life to plan meals and buy groceries."

I realized a long time ago that the things I was good at didn't necessarily correlate to things I was energized by. I remember the first week of Junior Year of High School when I sat down with the Guidance Counselors, telling them that I didn't care how much aptitude I had in Advanced Biology, I hated it. They let me switch into Philosophy and Psychology under the auspices that I would be prevented from being valedictorian due to the heavy weighting the sciences received in determining class rank. But Philosophy class introduced me to writing, and the written word turned out to be a more integral part of my life than the dissection of fetal pigs was ever bound to be. For so many reasons, that was a good decision.

It's taken me just 6 months of taking classes to realize what I couldn't in 7 years of speculating about Grad School: it's not what I want right now. It's so weird, too, because I'm good at school. I can do school well...but I don't like who I become when I'm in school. I get bogged down by the pressure of the deadlines, and there is no space in my life to be the kind of person I want to be: creative, loving, and full of life.

Clay and I were just talking last night and realized that we've allowed our schedule to grow to the point that between the two of us, we have early morning commitments 5 days a week and evening commitments 6 days a week... Some of those are meetings, some of those are church commitments, some of those are weekly scheduled "fun time" with friends or students... Regardless, our schedule is running us, and there's little space for spontaneity. We want this to change, and step one is definitely me stepping out of school for the time being. Step two, three and four are TBA.

I feel like as American Christians we have to constantly traverse against the tide of busyness and clutter towards contemplation and space. In Clay and I's pursuit of the Lord, we need more space in our lives to be filled by Him. We need more space to walk through life together. Thus we move towards it.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Move Aside Celine.

Clay and I are sitting here on the couch, and I've experienced a bit of a resurgence of musical appreciation, something that's apparently and unfortunately diminished over the last many months of commuting and listening to NPR for about an hour everyday. (Although I'm now very well informed about things like, the architectural design of the Denver Art Museum, the call of Sandpiper, and the cost of weatherizing your house, all of which is very good information to have.)

Anyways, my musical renaissance was inspired, most ironically, last night by Allison Iraheta's knock-me-out-of-my-chair performance of amazingness on American Idol, with a cover of Heart's Alone: Watch it. Tonight, I downloaded it, and the original, and like, every cover version I could find...and I'm like, "How have I never loved this song before?" Like, I've missed out on 20 years of loving this song. No more. No more missing out.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Space for Creativity

Recently, Pilgrim at Lake Michigan wrote a blog that's stuck with me, about taking your creativity on a date.

I've been wanting a creative space of my own, pretty much forever--a space that would foster creative energy. In Fall 2005, when I found myself with a 2-bedroom apartment all to myself, I had this dream of making the 2nd bedroom into "The Studio," my creative space for knitting, songwriting, journaling, bookmaking, etc. It never really happened.

Sometime that year, SuzPT gave me a copy of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, where Woolf expands on her premise, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Again, I found myself longing for a room just for writing.

Lately, with work, marriage, school, and church, I find myself wedging out both exercise and creativity, and because of this, I feel spiritually and emotionally drained a lot. I have no space in my current life for creative pursuits. When I think of Eden, I think of how the Lord gave us a place designed for exploration and creativity.

Lord, I long for Eden...I long for a holy space...I long for a place of my own--where there is quiet and where there is space for creativity.

What's gotta give to make that happen?

Friday, January 30, 2009

28 Memories from 28 Years

I just celebrated my 28th birthday last week, and in honor of that, here are 28 great memories.

1.   The time I met my future husband on a bridge in Austin, Texas.
3.   The time my brother and I drove across the country and went to the Spam Museum, the Corn Palace, Mount Rushmore, and the Devil's Tower.
4.   The time Suzanne, Renee and I drove my blue Sunfire to Florida and back for Spring Break, writing haikus, going bowling, and singing a lot of bad country songs.
5.   The time we played spoons (the card game) as a family and Sandy kept insisting on going everywhere dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
6.   The time we played football on Thanksgiving and made the Casey Cup out of crap we found in the attic.
7.   The time we did a talent show in the midst of the Annual TU New Year's Extravaganza.
8.  The time Havaleh, Syvisoi and I went to Youth Jam and we sat in the hallway of the hotel charging a toll to walk down the hall.  I think we made $1.20.  I also think I was embarrassed when this guy Chris asked me to dance.
9.   The time Hannah, Andy, Levi, Ruth, Christine and I stayed at that really cool hotel in Watamu, Kenya with the balcony, and we ran into the Fulbright Scholar Butterfly scientist while out for samosas one night.
10. The time Paul, Joel, Drew, Sheila and Ruth dumped 10 gallons of water on me in honor of my 21st birthday.
11.  The time after Beth and Noah's wedding, when I was trying to help clean up the church and kept running around frantically saying, "Does anyone know how to dispose of the body and blood of Christ?"
12.  The time Clay, Sarah, Dan, DeJon, and I drove up to Austin to see the Old 97's, and we accidentally got to see Billy Harvey open the show.
13.  The time Sean and I wandered around Vegas together in the middle of the night, taking random photographs and singing Kenny Rogers songs.
14.  All the times I had parties during Senior Year of High School and kept accidentally inviting like, 50 people.  Oh yeah, and the incredible skittle wars.
15.  The time my friends threw me a Bridal Shower that included making Play-Doh sculptures and finger painting under the auspices of the theme, "Play with Clay."
16.  The time that the whole wedding party broke out into choreographed dance at Chris and Janelle's wedding reception.
17.  The time Danara, Don King, and I got free tacos and red-pepper name badges from "Brian" at the Taco Bell/KFC in North Webster, Indiana.
18.  The time Renee came out to visit Washington on a 1-day's notice.
19.  The time Pam, Renee and I surprised Beth with a Bridal Shower and caught it all on videotape, which we almost recorded overtop of Beth's Senior Recital.
20.  The time I sent flowers to Beth in the hospital after she had Lily, and the card on the flowers read, "Love Angie Heather," instead of "Love Auntie Heather."  
21.  All the times that Hannah, Andy, Levi and I used to hang out with Dr Bennett and Justin and Imani in Nairobi.
22.  All the times I used to go to record shows with Dad and sit under the tables while he wheeled and dealed.
23.  The time Mom, Dad, Sean and I were at the Scott Antique Show and discovered a Beatles' Record Player marked down to 1/4 its value.
24.  The time I got crowned the "King of Janelle's Heart" during a mystery kisser game at her Bridal Shower.  (After 5 people, including her fiance, kissed her on the cheek, she had to guess which one was Chris, and she guessed me!)
25.  All the times Lynn and I used to sit in the galleria together, stalking "Mr. Inconspicuous" every MWF during Spring Semester 2001.
26.  All the times Renee and I used to pass notes back and forth while pretending to study in the student union.
27.  The time we visited Tulalip in honor of Clay's birthday and Stuart jumped in the fountain.
28.  The time Sean, Rachael and I saw the zombies march down the streets of Vancouver.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Great Flood 2009!

I felt very much like a pioneer on my way to work this morning. My normal route, taking State Route 531 to Interstate 5 was closed because the mighty Stillaguamish had overtaken it...once again inching towards the O'Brien Turkey House.

Ah-ha! I thought... I'll take State Route 9 north and sneak around a back road to cross the river. No success, because before I reached my "shortcut," the river stopped me. It was crossing State Route 9. All the minivans were lined up on the side of the road watching the monster trucks ford through it. I paused and recounted my days of crossing rivers on the Oregon Trail, debating, "Do I attempt to ford the river?"

And then I remembered how devastated I always was on the Oregon Trail when I forded the river, but we were swept downstream and lost 4 boxes of ammunition, 8 sets of clothes, and 100 pounds of food. So...watching all the big trucks from my much-lower vantage point in my Pontiac Sunfire Coupe SE, I did the wisest thing I could think of: turn around.

This involved driving about 5 miles out of my way to the Smokey Point exit, south of Arlington...then of course, I headed north again, this time "safely" on Interstate 5. When I arrived at Exit 208 (my normal route), the on-ramp was swamped and the river was ever-so-gently giving the interstate a hug. (Not surprising though, there was still a brave line of people waiting to buy cigarettes at the Stilly Smoke Shop.)

I successfully completed my drive, thankful that the northern roads have cleared up enough that hydroplaning is no longer an ever-present risk.

Happy Flood 2009! (There's a great photo of Haller Park in Arlington at the Seattle Times.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Late Night Reflections on Learnings...

I started class #2 at Fuller: Medieval and Reformation History!  Woohoo!  Tonight we were talking about evangelizing the barbarians of the 8th century.  Argh...  During class, I contemplated whether or not it's okay to consider naming our first son Merovingian.  It seems like a good rugged manly name, and apparently bears a connotation with a "long-haired king."  (Why, hello Aragorn.)  

Tonight in class, I discovered that it's difficult to listen to your professor talk about the Benedictines when you're simultaneously watching updates on the final minutes of the Fiesta Bowl on your computer.  (It helped that there were a few Texas fans in the room to pass secret scowls and cheers to in the midst of the lecture...but it was hard to focus on the part of the lecture I was most interested in when I was also waiting to see if Texas had scored a touchdown with :16 on the clock.  Gah!)  

Lately, unrelated to class, Clay and I have been reading The Emotionally Healthy Church.  Clay recommended we read this book together after we had a conversation about wanting to be connected on a deeper emotional level. (A shout out to Duane and DeJon for introducing it to him!)  While it might seem odd to read a book about creating a healthy church in order to improve marital's actually not.  Why?  Because the health of our church is a symptom of the health of the people in the church.  So--this book is pretty much all about things you can ask yourself in a quest to become a more healthy person--and thus able to serve God better in ministry.

Clay and I often question our value based on how we're feeling that particular day about our effectiveness and involvement in our ministries.  To now step back and evaluate ourselves not by the external measurables, but about the health of our own hearts, is pretty radical.  When we actually stop to examine every single defense mechanism, coping strategy and crazy neurosis we do to get through our day, it's pretty incredible to see what hurting and broken people we really are--and how that holds us back from really loving others as well as we could.

The book revealed to me that my biggest area of growth is needed in living in more brokenness and vulnerability.  The funny part is that if I had read through the list before taking the helpful little survey, I would have picked it out of the bunch.  The book is allowing me to take a candle to the dark caverns of my heart and begin to sweep out the cobwebs.  Lately, I've been able hear that extra snap in my voice, to hear that burst to want to insert my two cents into the dialogue, to quickly step up and correct someone for mispronouncing a word..and I think, "Wow...I'm so, so afraid of appearing weak...what is going on in my heart that's led me to this place?"  

I'm claimed 2009 as the year of health.  Emotional health, spiritual health, physical health.  I don't want to go anywhere special or do anything grand...I just want to be more healthy...less afraid of my own shortcomings...more authentic about my own brokenness...more able to recognize where I've failed.    

I pray that 2009 has good and wonderful things in store for you as well!