Month: October 2012

  • And the recovery begins . . .

    The Parsonage on the Mountain has weathered Hurricane Sandy with little damage, save the loss of power (which is but an inconvenience in the grand scheme of things).

    We are praying for those who cannot say the same.

    If you would like to help those who have been more seriously harmed by this disaster, please join us in prayer.

    Please consider, as well, a donation to UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee On Relief.

    There are many highly respected relief organizations who will be able to use your money with integrity and wisdom, effectively and efficiently bringing services to those whose lives have been upended by the “superstorm.”  UMCOR is a rarity even among these excellent relief organizations, in that it does not use a penny of directed donations for any administrative or organizational costs.  A denomination-wide offering every year in March funds 100% of its administrative costs.  That means that wherever you designate your money to go, 100% of your contribution will go to “direct relief” (the stuff hurting people actually get) there.

    As someone who has always had to watch her pennies, I’ve always worried over charitable donations that I make.  When you’re giving ten or twenty million dollars, it doesn’t matter so much if 10% of it goes to advertizing and another 25% to overhead and so on.  You’re still giving millions of dollars in actual help to people who are actually hurting.

    But when you can only give ten or twenty dollars, you want every penny of it to go as far as it can possibly go to helping hurting people.

    I did not know anything about UMCOR until I became a United Methodist.  (They do very, very little advertizing.)  Now that I know about it, I’m proud to be a part of the organization that thought it up.

    What they’re doing so far.

    Give somewhere.  Help someone.  Do something.  Anything is better than nothing.  And if you’re not sure what to do or whom to help or where to give, please consider a donation to UMCOR.

  • Whadda Face . . .

    Amos, like his younger older brother, is a people person.  Anybody that smiles at him gets a return on the investment.  He gets passed around at church, and is ready to play with whoever gets him next.  He’s just very social.

    He loves–loves–looking at pictures of people.  So yesterday, I made a collection of a bunch of the face pictures I have and made it my screensaver.



    He loves–loves–watching those faces cycle through.

    Silly faces . . .

    Happy faces . . .

    Sad faces . . .

    Matchy faces . . .

    Familiar faces . . .

    Faces he doesn’t see so often . . .

    There are a lot of funny pictures of Theo in the mix.

    A lot.

    And some funny pictures of other people, too.

    Even his own beautiful face.

    A few weeks ago a blogger on HuffPost made a bit of a splash by encouraging moms to get in pictures with their children.

    (Miz Booshay had already encouraged moms to do that several years earlier.  But we’ll let Ms. Tate enjoy having written something that similarly resonated with people.)

    And it’s true.  Moms are often the ones behind the camera, or the ones saying, “Oh, no, please no pictures of me!”

    But everybody else needs to get in the picture, too.  The cute babies, and the darling older brothers, and the frumpy moms, and the awkward teens, and the wish-I-were-younger aunts, and the can-you-see-my-bald-spot uncles, and the gap-toothed school-agers, and . . . everybody.

    If you want to make sure you’re in Amos’s Favorite Faces folder, feel free to send me a picture of you!

  • Righteous Indignation?

    Once again, a trip to the local [big chain bookstore] got me in a tizzy.

    They have their Christmas stuff out already, which always grumpifies me.  I have, of course, given up on the idea that Christmas should be about Christ.  (Who even thinks that any more?)  So all the non-religious Christmas stuff doesn’t even make me take notice any more.

    But, I’ll admit, I still have a thing about Advent.

    You know, that season where the Church celebrates and anticipates and proclaims its longing for the coming of Jesus?  Of Jesus?

    Okay, yes, I’ve given up fighting against the secularization of Christmas, even though it actually mentions Jesus in its very name.

    Advent, though–even though it doesn’t have a particularly Jesusy name–I thought Advent was safe.  What possible secular use could Advent have?

    Oh, how wrong I was.

    Advent calendars have moved out of those kitschy Christian “Family” bookstores and into the secular marketplace.

    Advent calendars, after all, have to be bought a full month before Christmas presents have to be bought, so that’s a nice little pre-Christmas bonus for merchants.

    And if you make ‘em right, they require twenty-four to twenty-five little bits and bobs to put in the little drawers.  Sure, some people could fill them with little pieces of candy, or rolled up Bible verses (those are the same people that give out toothbrushes and evangelical tracts at Halloween), or little messages of love.

    But the smart retailer will convince people to buy whole new sets of twenty-four treats every year.  Or even a whole new Advent calendar.

    So.  Why on earth did I think Advent calendars would escape Legofication?

    Star Wars.  Lego.  Advent calendar.  Featuring Darth Fricking Maul.

    Now, I have a Playmobil nativity set that I like very much.  I was delighted to find it.  We have one nativity set that can be put in kiddie range, one nativity set about which I don’t have to say, “No, no! Don’t touch!”

    But the Playmobil Advent calendars at the [big chain bookstore] really, really pissed me off.

    There were six of them.  Princess, Santa, pirates, but no Jesus.  No Mary, no Joseph, no manger, no shepherds.

    Not one Jesus, in any Advent set sold in [big chain bookstore].

    “But Mommy!” Theo objected (possibly because of the stares I was getting during my hissy fit), “there’s an angel!”

    “That’s not the angel Gabriel!  It’s a princess with wings!  Does that look like somebody who needs to say, ‘Fear not!’ when he comes around?  Does it?!”


    Needless to say, I was annoyed.

    And then I got home and the Vosges Chocolate catalog was in the mailbox.

    And guess what it had.

    No, really. Guess.

    And suddenly Advent calendars with no Jesus in them didn’t seem quite so bad.

  • Project No More Cooking Product Reviews

    Project No More Cooking is officially over.  We were all miserable.  I got more written these last three weeks than in the last three years.  (Well, not exactly, but I was enormously productive.)

    But the cost was too great.  And I don’t mean the grocery bill.  We all came down with colds, and we can’t seem to shake them.  We’re all tired and sluggish.  Several tummies are protesting.  And the food tastes like crap.

    The announcement of the end of the Project was met with thunderous applause.

    It was good, though, in a way, to revisit convenience and industrial foods.  First of all, it helped remind us just how revolting some of it is.  It helped remind us that decent food costs something–either time or money.  And I did find some things that had changed in the fifteen or so years since I’d quit buying most industrial foods.

    So, some product reviews to share:

    * “Gourmet” boxed soup: inedible.  I found one brand over in the “natural foods” section that was merely unpalatable, but even that one prompted Stephen to text me several complaints.  And so ridiculously priced!  If we could choke down as much of the boxed stuff as we eat when I make soup, it would cost ten dollars to feed us all!  Add a loaf of bakery bread (on which more below), and we may as well order pizza!
    * Frozen meatballs: yuck.
    * Jarred spaghetti sauce: edible, but not enjoyable.  All of them contain sugar, and too many contain HFCS.  The ones with HFCS are truly horrid.  The upscale ones are something I might buy and leave in the cupboard for days Stephen or Isaac has to get dinner on the table with no time to spare.  Maybe.  (Isaac’s future spouse: I have taught him to make a proper homemade sauce.)
    * Pre-shredded cabbage: fairly helpful, actually.  It goes bad very quickly, though–if I don’t use it within a day or two of getting it home, I have to cook it.
    * Jarred mayonnaise: passable.  Well, it’s useful for getting stuff done a little faster.  And it’s definitely cheaper than my gourmet olive oil homemade mayo.  But it’s not very tasty.  And I can’t find a single brand up here in PA that doesn’t have sugar or HFCS in it.
    * Bagged kale, collards, and chard: pleasant surprise!  Decent quality, not exorbitantly priced, and definitely a time-saver.  You do have to spend some time picking out stems, especially if you’re not planning to boil them to death.
    * Diced starchy veggies: also a pleasant surprise!  One store is now carrying diced fresh sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and rutabagas in the produce section; another is carrying chunked acorn or butternut squash.  They go bad more quickly than I’d like.  But the diced kinds are perfect for a roast-veggie side dish, and the chunked varieties are good for things where they’ll be pureed.  (The chunks aren’t all the same size–a little tough for preparations where cooking time matters.)  They’re also a little pricey, compared to the plain version.  These are some of the cheapest veggies around, but the packaged versions are definitely less cheap.
    * Diced aromatics (onions, celery, “mirepoix,” etc.) : revolting.
    * Bread: UGH.  The bagged shelf bread is disgusting.  Even the “whole grain” stuff.  I used to be able to find one or two brands with no sweeteners in them, but now it’s quite impossible.  I can get bread with no sweeteners, and not too many other gross things, in the bakery section, but it’s ridiculously expensive.  I mean, it costs maybe four dollars if I make a batch of really decadent stuff, with cheese or olives or organic whole wheat or something, and “a batch” means three to four loaves of bread.  Minimally acceptable bread from the bakery section is four or five dollars a loaf!  Yeesh.  Wegman’s bakery is pretty good, though.  If I had unlimited funds, I wouldn’t mind giving up homemade bread for theirs.
    * Bagged salad: Depends.  The nice mesclun mixes in the large clamshell boxes are a decent alternative to having a garden.  They go bad very quickly, though, and we absolutely can’t eat it without washing it.  (I’ll leave you to imagine the problem with unwashed salad greens.)  The smaller bags are barely enough for a tiny side-salad, are usually extremely poor quality, and are ridiculously overpriced.  Far, far better to buy a head of lettuce and wash and tear it yourself.
    * Jarred salad dressing: not my favorite, but a convenience.  Hard to find a brand with no sweeteners.
    * Sliced mushrooms: fine, but they go bad very quickly compared to whole mushrooms.  Canned are disgusting.
    * Ready-to-use infant formula: my favorite thing on the planet.  Ridiculously expensive, even for formula, and even with the best coupons out there.  But very happy-making.
    * Concentrated infant formula: more convenient than powdered, but pretty much the same price as ready-to-use.  I’d just go with the ready-to-use.

    There you are.  My wisdom from three unhappy weeks back on the industrial food supply.  Blech.

  • WIP Wednesday

    I started two new sock projects recently.  But I can’t find one of them.

    I hate when I do that.

    This one is for Theo.  Maybe he hid the other one, so that I’d be more likely to finish this one.

    Well, I have a full-day-long clergy tax training seminar tomorrow.

    It’s going to take eight hours or more to learn how to do our taxes.  The ones I’ve been doing for eighteen years now.

    I mean, yes, I did have a Tax Guy that did them one or two of those years.  So maybe it’s only sixteen.  But I’m totally counting the years we were in Paris, because the tax attorney that did our taxes made mistakes that I caught and corrected.  (And he agreed that I was right.)

    But, anyway, my point: I’m going to have plenty of time to knit tomorrow.  Theo may even have a finished pair of socks to show for it.  If so, they’ll forever be known as “The Tax Seminar Socks.”

  • Project No More Cooking Update

    Well, Project No More Cooking has had an interesting course over the last week.

    There was more than one day that Isaac had to step in and finish dinner, or make it entirely, because I ran out of time.

    And, I have to say, jarred spaghetti sauce, canned soup, frozen vegetables, etc., taste worse when you’ve gone without them for so long.

    One night, I ran out of time . . .

    . . . so I turned to Isaac and said, “Isaac, you can take over and finish this, or I can pitch it and we’ll all have cereal.”
    I’m sure that he would have chosen the cereal if it had been, say, veggie stir-fry or spinach soup or something.

    But it was steak sandwiches and french fries, so he persevered, at great cost to himself.

    Poor Amos doesn’t even know how bad he has it.


  • Never Let a Theologian Out of the Library

    I got really, really annoyed yesterday at the [mega-chain bookstore].

    Something in the kids’ section caught my eye.  It was in the Religion section, and that, too, caught my eye, because it had gotten so much larger.

    It used to be two smallish shelves, right under the kids’ cookbooks and art books.

    Now, it takes up an entire bookcase, all to itself.  And it’s filled with . . . well, I get ahead of myself.

    So, the reason I stopped in front of the bookshelf at all was this book.
    I understand why Catholic families don’t just pick up Bibles without checking to see whether they follow the Catholic or the Protestant canon.  I’m not sure the texts that are different between the two would really make much difference in a children’s Bible.  But I was somewhat startled by the relative size of the words.  With most other children’s Bibles, the word Bible is the largest word on the cover, or it is the same size as several other words.
    Here, this is a Big Book of CATHOLIC Bible stories.
    I found that amusing enough to make me stop and look.

    But [mega-chain bookstore] had so many more delights in store for me that day!

    Because right next to the Big Book of CATHOLIC Bible stories was this:

    I swear, my jaw dropped to the floor, and I had a hard time getting it back up with the rest of my face.  (At least “Bible” is still the largest word on the cover.)

    I have a hard enough time with the whole Daddy’s Little Princess motif in parenting circles.  Now God gets to play along.  Whee.

    Two Bibles down was this glittering monstrosity:

    And right next to that?

    With “Full color ‘Princess’ presentation section.”
    Oh, thank goodness.  Because otherwise, some princess out there might not realize this Bible was for her.

    But this wasn’t the section that made me spit my latte out my nose.

    This was:

    Oh.  Because Curious Kittens need Jesus, too, right?
    Thank goodness it’s an NIV.  We want to make sure those Curious Kittens become evangelicals.

    I didn’t realize the publishing industry had fallen on such hard times that it needed to expand the stupid designer Bible market into the kids section.

    Or is it the church that has fallen on such hard times that even the standard dumbed-down kiddie version of the Bible isn’t enough to bribe kids into caring?  Is it the church that is so desperate that it must put a princess tiara on its kiddie Bibles?

  • Feeding Time

    “Mommy, I like feeding Brother.”

    “But sometimes it’s hard to get him to open his mouth.  He doesn’t always cooperate.”
    “That’s true, dear.  Sometimes children don’t.”

  • Pause

    After only one day of Project No More Cooking, the [our last name] men were happy to have a reprieve.

    Friday night was pizza night.

    This met with a great deal more enthusiasm than “gourmet” canned soup.

    “How do you boys feel about Mom’s cooking now?”


    It also occurred to me that I’ve never really timed how much cooking I do in a day.  A normal day, that is–not lamb shanks and birthday pie or whatever.

    So I checked.  Friday I made oatmeal for breakfast, packed a lunch for Theo and myself, and made pizza, carrot salad, and some little things for Amos.  I tried to do it all quickly and efficiently.

    A little over an hour.

    Saturday, toast for breakfast and we all just grabbed leftovers for lunch.  Burgers, coleslaw (pre-shredded cabbage), and fries for dinner.

    So, on a relatively easy day, forty-five minutes to an hour in the kitchen.  My fifteen minute limit is only gaining me half an hour against easy days.

    Of course, we probably only did those easy days two or three times a week.  Much more frequent were the homemade-bread-homemade-ice-cream-homemade-spaghetti-sauce-with-homemade-meatballs days.  I’ll have to time the cooking I do the month after the diss is done.

    I’m sure there will be some serious cooking then.