Friday, December 25, 2009

The Reason for the Season

I wish a blessed and joyous Christmas to each and every one of you!
For thousands of years, God reached out to touch God's people. He brought the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt and tried to teach them His ways. He spoke to Moses. He gave us law and prophets. He sent floods and other catastrophes to try to get our attention. God has always been faithful to us, his often faithless people.
And then, two thousand years ago, God sent Jesus! This ultimate act of love was not without its pitfalls. Not everyone recognized this Jesus whose very name meant salvation. In a few months, we Christians will remember just how very wrong this act could be and, just days after that, how very good this act could be.
Today, in every gift, in each smiling face, we can see the face of a gracious and loving God who sent the tiny baby we celebrate. We can see the tiny baby who was sent to change our lives!
Have a Holy Day!

Friday, November 13, 2009

BloggerAid, Changing the Face of Famine Cookbook Available

At long last, the cookbook is now available! I was mistaken when I said it would be available from Instead, it is available from a subsidiary of Amazon, Create Space. The cost is $30 per copy and it would make a GREAT holiday gift!
As I have said in the past, the recipes represent a very wide range of cultures and countries and all the proceeds from sale of the cookbook will go to the U.N. World Food Programme School Lunch.
I'm working on setting up some signing sessions, but there are challenges involved. Create Space does not allow one to order books on speculation and return the unsold copies. Don't wait for a signing session, order your copies now for you and for gifts!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The latest on the Blogger Aid cookbook

I'm just too excited for words. The BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine cookbook with my Spinach-Mushroom Lasagna recipe (hint, hint) is in the final stages of development. Right now, we are deciding on a cover and the designs are wonderful. Even though we are donating all the proceeds from the cookbook to the WFP School Lunch Program, that doesn't eliminate printing costs. We can donate the recipes, the editing, the typesetting and such, but we do have to pay for the cost of printing.
The Cookbook People donated some software as a prize and they will donate $20 for each of us BloggerAid CtFF folks who mention The Cookbook People in our blog. If you've ever thought it might be nice to make up a cookbook of the family recipes, check out The Cookbook People. They offer software to create the cookbooks, binders and lovely recipe boxes. I have a dear niece who is forever calling me for a chicken recipe I made up for her a few years ago. Might be a good idea to create a cookbook for her.
By the way, the chicken recipe she keeps forgetting:
Saute chicken breasts in olive oil (may be a mix of olive oil and butter). When the chicken is browned and almost cooked through, add about 2 Tbs. fresh thyme and 1/4 c. decent white wine. When the chicken reaches appropriate doneness on a meat thermometer and the wine has reduced a bit, add 2 Tbs. of cream cheese (or neufachatel for lower calories). Salt and pepper to taste.

My niece has fallen into a habit of making this every time she cooks dinner for a new fellow, so I always know when there is a new semi-serious boyfriend because she calls me for the recipe.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Getting back to our new normal

I've been neglecting this blog lately. I apologize and promise that there is at least one great restaurant review coming and a cookbook to review as soon as I get back in the kitchen for real.
There is no small amount of personal irony that, while our elected representatives are deliberating over or obstructing health care reform, my husband and I have been learning just how many issues there are to be reformed in the health care arena. My husband has Stage 2 follicular b-cell lymphoma. It is amazing how many processes are involved in the diagnosis and staging process! And it is frightening how many places along the way that things can go wrong in terms of health insurance! There was a snafu or mis-communication or something that meant we had no referral to the surgeon who did the biopsies. We are still waiting to see if the insurance will cover both the in-office biopsies and the surgical biopsy.
Looking on the positive side, Robert's lymphoma is a relatively easy one. He has no sign of the disease either below the diaphragm or in the bone marrow. He will have 6 rounds of chemo, three weeks apart; a PET scan and at least two more doses of Rituxan (one of those miraculous new anti-body treatments"), before the next new normal of 4 weekly rounds of Rituxan every 6 months thereafter as a maintenance treatment.
Now that he has started chemo, there will be, we hope, fewer trips running from doctor to doctor and procedure to procedure and I will get back to blogging and cooking.
Thank you to those who have offered prayers and positive thoughts in this past couple of months.

Monday, September 14, 2009


One of the many marvelous things that came from our summer comparative religions series was a new friend, actually a family of new friends. Andrea Mikulin of the Mosaic Foundation was our hostess when we visited the mosque and her husband, Hasan, and their friend Ihsen, shepherded the guys through worship downstairs. Andrea and Hasan have turned into marvelous friends. Andrea faithfully prayed for my husband as he went through the diagnostic process and continues to pray and offer help as he begins his chemo process.
Last night, Andrea and Hasan hosted Iftar, the fast breaking meal of Ramadan, in their home. We met Christine, a sociology professor who is writing a book on second generation American Muslims. The daughter of a Pakistani father and an Italian-American mother, she knows a thing or two about her subject. There was the couple visiting from Turkey and their daughter and granddaughter and four people who are active at University Park Methodist. We were about as varied a group as you can imagine. Yet there were commonalities around that table. All of us love to travel and experience other cultures, all of us apparently like to eat (the food disappeared with oohs, aahs and yums) and all of us were very interested in learning about each other.
The Mosaic Foundation offers free cooking classes on Turkish cooking and I have every intention of being there when the next class is offered after Ramadan! I'll let you know all about it!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A New Favorite

We've been going to Mount Crested Butte for the week starting Labor Day weekend for more than ten years. While the stated purpose of our trip is the annual Consultants' Camp, the reality is the peace of Crested Butte. Even the year they raised the beams on what is now the Grand Lodge, even the year they demolished the old, old, old motel, even the year the World Music Fest folks were everywhere, we just relax there in a way we rarely relax elsewhere.
Consultants' Camp campers have some planned or traditional meals. Brian Lawrence takes pizza to a whole new level and Ron Thompson accompanies it with beer tasting. Alan and Judy Cox, owners of the Nordic Inn where we hold our camp, welcome us with an opening dinner and say farewell with a traditionally rainy barbecue. Many campers look forward to a fried chicken dinner at Slogar's. That still leaves a couple of free evenings for dining. Typically, we spend some time at Avalanche for basic bar and grill food. Frankly, interesting and adventuresome food has been a bit lacking other than Brian's pizza. There are some nice places down in the town, but the selection on Mount Crested Butte in the off season is tricky. This year I read several great reviews of a place called Django's and I corralled a group to walk half a block down the hill to the relatively new Mountaineer Square. The five of us had a great evening, a bit cool in the outdoor area but far from the heater, but we loved the food. I completely forgot the camera, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get pictures of the food. Another group wandered down to Django's on my recommendation. They brought down before and after pictures of what I imagine was Venison Loin, encrusted
with Grains of Paradise, Blackberry Whiskey sauce, and Parsnip pureé.

These were great pictures, but what I really wanted was to eat at Django's again, so, on Wednesday night when my spouse was off for chicken and mashed potatoes and all those down-home treats he loves, I rounded up a my friend, Ron Thompson, to eat with me at Django's.

If you can, go to Django's with a group so you can share many of the tasty morsels. That said, Ron and I managed to enjoy quite a number of wonderful dishes. We started with Peruvian Piquillo Peppers stuffed with creamy Mascarpone, Gorgonzola, Lemon zest, and Herb salt because they were out of the ingredients on my earlier visit.These were a lovely contrast in texture. There was no real crunch, but there was the slick texture and slightly piquant taste of the peppers against the creamy smoothness of the cheese. My slight criticism is that I would have served this dish just a tiny bit closer to room temperature so the full flavors would be readily available. Django's does not offer wines by the glass, but by the quartile (approximately 1/3 bottle). We shared a quartile of Pascual Toso Estate Bottled Torrontes Mendoza, 2007 Argentina as our first wine.
On my earlier visit, five of us shared the three little risotto cakes topped with fried quail eggs in an order of Arancini with Quail Eggs, not nearly enough to truly enjoy the lush risotto cakes and certainly not enough to appreciate the Idiazabal fondue and black garlic accompanying them. On my second trip, these were a must order! My friend enjoyed the chorizo on the dish and the two of us were amazed at the addition the black garlic made to the dish, something I had missed on my first visit.

I didn't realize how out of focus my picture was when I took it and that makes me feel bad, because they made an extra one just for my picture!
I am always nervous around Brussel sprouts because my mother used to murder them with an hour cooking in a pressure cooker, but the Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Fresh Apples, Crème Fraîche, Apple Cider reduction, and Pistachios dish was a true delight! The apples added a sweet contrast to the earthy and crispy Brussel sprouts. The apple cider reduction and pistachios continued the sweet-tart, crispy-smooth contrast going on in the dish. There was just a tiny touch of crème fraîche that left us wanting more.

We split a quartile of Fanetti Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva, 2003 Italy for our last courses. Just a tiny quarrel, we would have liked new plates at this point. After a few dishes, the plates are littered with the lovely tastes of the previous dishes and a clean plate would mean fewer carry over tastes. For my main dish, I repeated a favorite from my previous trip, a pecan-encrusted goat cheese with a delightful kumquat-cranberry compote to be eaten on lavosh.

The kumquat-cranberry combination was another contrast for the sweet pecan and goat cheese combination. I teased them a bit about using a California chevre when there are such lovely ones avialbel from Colorado cheesemakers, Haystack in Longmont and Jumping Good Goat just over Cottonwood Pass in Buena Vista. They pointed out that Buena Vista might as well be in another state in the winter when the pass is closed.
Ron told me the seared lamb carpaccio served with a salad of heirloom-cherry tomatoes and shaved manchego with a pomegranate gastrique was great. I trust his opinion. I can say the pomegranate gastrique was a lovely one with just a subtle difference from something like a balsalmic reduction which is so common these days.

There was a dessert special for 09/09/09, but not even two normally priced $7 desserts for $9 could tempt us to eat another bite. I do hope to meet up with the almond-pear tart someday, but on that particular evening, neither of us could indulge in more than a double espresso.

I don't know how we missed Django last year, but I know we won't miss it again!
Django, Mountaineer Square, at the base of Mt. Crested Butte. Small Plates $4-17. Wines $30-225 bottle, $9-52 quartile.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Personal Health Care Reform Plea

It is all so new that we do not yet know how it will all sort out, but my husband and I are perilously close to becoming poster children for health care reform.
We are both closer to retirement age than we are to the beginnings of our careers and we have worked very hard to overcome the vagueries of the financial market to build what we hope is an adequate retirement fund. We hope for a few more good working years for Robert and I am hoping to find a reasonable job with health insurance.
But now there is reason to think Robert has cancer and all our carefully laid plans seem futile. Robert's company offers Family and Medical leave of 12 weeks without pay and the disability insurance we never expected to need would not even cover our house payment let alone the cobra payments to continue our health insurance. If Robert needs chemo, what will happen if he cannot continue to work? More importantly, how will we afford the chemo if he is unable to work? How long will our retirement funds last?
These are the very real questions of people who have tried all their lives to be fiscally responsible. These are the very real questions that health care reform would answer by making sure that no one has to bankrupt themselves to stay alive, by making sure everyone has health insurance, by eliminating from our fear list those words "pre-existing condition." I wonder how many of those who are protesting health care reform and yelling at town hall meetings and distributing the negative emails would be in better shape confronted with the same situation my husband and I face.
Health care reform may well come too late for me and for Robert, but I pray it is not too late for you, gentle reader.

Sweet Freedom Cookbook Offers Treats for People Who Have to Watch Their Eats

One of the new perks of belonging to BloggerAid: Changing the Face of Famine (hereafter BACFF) is the new View and Review program where we get to review cookbooks and products. I just received my copy of Sweet Freedom: Desserts You'll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar by Ricki Heller. Ricki has a Toronto bakery specializing in offering sweet treats to people who have to avoid gluten, soy, sugar and/or dairy.
I haven't had a chance to bake anything yet, but I have been looking at the 100+ recipes in the book and planning my course of action. First, I need to find a few ingredients...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Long, Long History of Misinformation

As I watch the procession of Teddy Kennedy's body to the Kennedy Library and listen to the media folks discuss his heritage, I can't help but hear a bit of my mother's voice. My mother was scared, very scared of the Kennedy family. I remember her uncontrollable sobs the night John F. Kennedy was elected. She was convinced that the Pope would be taking over the United States with JFK as his mouthpiece and we would all be forced to become Catholics. It was a very real fear for her and one she never overcame, even later in life when she became (gasp) a Democrat. I carefully hid my Kennedy campaign buttons from her!
Mom had lots of these fears, including the fear so common at the time of the "niggers" who were going to take over the world and commit some unmentionable atrocities against innocent, unsuspecting white folks.
So, remembering Mom's fears, I have some familiarity with the fears we have heard expressed lately at the town hall meetings. Now Mom would never have expressed her views publicly, but times have changed and people seem to be willing to share all kinds of things publicly these days. I have no idea where she got her crazy ideas about Kennedy or, for that matter, blacks. In the case of blacks, I suspect she came by those fears almost genetically from her parents. As for the Kennedy's, I do not know. I suspect it was more fear of Catholicism than of the actual Kennedy family. And that may have been from her family as well.
At any rate, it all made me realize that fears, unreasonable and uninformed fears, are not unique to those who fear health care reform. There may be more ready access to misinformation that feeds the fears, but the fears themselves are ageless. The public way in which they are revealed and the screaming nature of their presentation are new, but the fears are "same old, same old" and they are as stubbornly resistant to facts and truth as they ever were.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Food Bloggers Compile Charity Cookbook to Benefit World Food Programme

Here is the latest information on the food blogger cookbook I have been telling about. I've been very involved in editing and proofreading lately and I assure you the recipes (about 50 of them) are spectacular. It is killing me not to make some of the recipes, but I am honor-bound to wait until you can make them too. It sounds like we may make it for November on amazon. com -- think holiday gifts!

This fall, a dedicated group of food bloggers will make their mark on global hunger and kitchens around the world when they release “The BloggerAid Cookbook." The proceeds from the sale of this cookbook will benefit United Nations' Friends of World Food Programme (WFP).

“Food bloggers can best relate to a cookbook,” explained Mary Berchard, who co-founded BloggerAid…Changing the Face of Famine. “It just seemed like the most natural way of being able to make a difference.”

BloggerAid…Changing the Face of Famine is an international network of food bloggers united behind the cause of ending global hunger. Members use their blogs as a platform for raising awareness about hunger in communities at home and abroad. A team of over two dozen volunteers is responsible for editing and formatting the cookbook, which will contain about 137 recipes contributed by BloggerAid members.

“Many of our members are from poor countries and have seen the work of WFP, so they relate to it very well,” said Berchard. “We chose Friends of WFP to receive funds from the cookbook because of the work it does, and because we felt it has touched the lives of our membership.”

The cookbook’s profits will benefit the United Nations World Food Program (WFP)’s school meals program, which reaches an average of 22 million children each year. School meals programs improve the capacity to learn, reduce child hunger and undernutrition and encourage parents to send their children to school each day.

“School meals are important on many levels – it’s not only about raising money, but also about raising awareness in younger generations so that they grow to be strong role models for their own children,” said Berchard. “Many of our bloggers have small children, and their involvement becomes much more personal when they can relate to the issue.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Returning to an Old Favorite

Ali Baba's on that tiny strip of Colorado Blvd. in Highlands Ranch has been a favorite middle eastern restaurant of mine almost from the time they opened. I was floored by their Baba Ganouj, which I think might be one of the best I've ever tasted. I made many meals off the appetizer page, but I sometimes wandered to the other pages of the menu to enjoy a vegetarian platter and a falafel plate.
About a year ago, two things conspired to come between me and Ali Baba. First, they hired a cook who was serviceable, but his dishes didn't make my tastebuds sing. Second, I got sick and found I just couldn't eat the way I did before.
After our trip to the Mosque last Friday, I had a hankering for baba ganouj and wandered in to my old favorite. The tables were new, but the waiter was my old friend Michael who welcomed me as if I had been there just the day before. He told me there was a new chef and there would be a new menu soon. I ordered the vegetarian platter and quickly realized there may be a new chef, but the baba ganouj was exactly how I remembered it. The stuffed grape leaves were a bit different and there were two small ones instead of the one larger one I used to get. In time, a serving of baklava magically appeared before me. "A treat from the chef," Michael told me. I told Michael I would come in after the new menu and take pictures and such for my blog.
In mere minutes, I met the new chef, Hasan, who brought me one of the new items on the menu, a spinach pie. We discussed the pros and cons of adding feta to the pie.
Yesterday, I returned with my husband to do a serious review of the restaurant. I had generous tastes of both hummus and baba ganouj. Michael swears the secret to the hummus is adding an ice cube to the blender when making it. I tried that after he told me that the first time, but I still can't match the texture.
The baba ganouj is on the left and the hummus on the right. The baba is almost creamy in taste and lacks the characteristic bite one expects from lesser versions. The hummus is unbelievably smooth. Even my little taster portions allowed me plenty for leftovers. The secret to keeping the leftovers of these dishes tasting good the next day is to lay plastic wrap directly on the surface to keep the air out.
Robert ordered a dinner which came with a similar sized portion of hummus and a substantial and classic salad of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers in an olive oil and lemon dressing.
His main course was chicken marinated in Dijon mustard and special spices that my new best friend Hasan would not reveal. The ample portion of three half breasts was accompanied by a huge portion of very fluffy white rice appropriately garnished with parsley and a sprinkle of spices. Also on the platter, a grilled whole tomato and a mysterious dollop of something that turned out to be garlic paste. Robert is not fond of grilled tomatoes and the dollop of garlic paste didn't seem to him to be needed, but he loved the flavor of the chicken and rice.

Fully half of the chicken and half of the rice made their way into a to-go box that provided a nice supper for the next evening.
My entry was, true to form, off the appetizer menu. I had two of the lovely spinach pies and found they were plenty of food for me. The crust is a nice bread that is very similar to a brioche in richness. the filling involves cooked spinach, generous application of garlic and perhaps some onion. There was a definite touch of lemon and, perhaps, a touch of olive oil. I was bemoaning the loss of two of my old favorites on the appetizer menu -- samusek and muhamara. Call me fickle, but the spinach pie has replaced them both.

If you loved the muhamara as I did and you eat chicken, there is an interesting dish you might want to try. It is described as pieces of chicken in a sauce of pomegranate and walnuts. I tried very hard to get Robert to try it, but it is not his kind of dish.
We made generous use of the to-go boxes because I was determined we would share a piece of the delightful baklava. We wound up not sharing, but the baklava was nearly what I remembered from the previous visit. It might have been just the tiniest bit under-cooked, but there was a nice balance of crust, nuts and honey and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
If you are hungry for Persian or Lebanese food, this is the place. There are ample options for vegetarians and maybe too many choices for meat eaters. Just be sure to leave room for the baklava!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Many Rooms

As I was talking about the summer adult education program at my church, someone told me they thought I needed to remember Jesus' words "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Lord except by Me." The implication was that none of the people we met in our summer explorations are going to Heaven.
My mother had that sort of view, bless her heart. Somehow, she was convinced that somewhere in the Bible one could find a verse that said "Thou Shalt Believe and be a Missouri Synod Lutheran or suffer the torment of eternal Hell." Note the King James language. There was a time she criticized a Biblical translation I was using by saying, "Why can't you just read the Bible the way God gave it to us?" In her mind, God uttered the words of the Bible in King James English. There were some battles just not worth fighting with my mother...
I'm not a Greek scholar and what little knowledge of Greek I used to have is rapidly leaving me, but what if Jesus' words (which were probably Aramaic anyway) had to do with I am showing you the way, the truth that leads to true life? The emphasis then becomes looking at the teachings of Jesus and the examples set in Jesus' life rather than the belief in Jesus that characterizes the Christian. I happen to believe that Jesus is both fully divine and fully human, but I rather like the idea that Jesus showed us how to live our faith in every day life.
I especially like this interpretation of the verse when I consider another verse, "In my Father's house, there are many rooms." If Jesus, the fully divine, became fully human to demonstrate for us a way of living, it means there may be other ways besides believing in Jesus as God to get to the end result -- the Father's house of the second verse. One of the things that has woven itself into our summer experiences of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam has been the universal seeking of enlightenment which some define as the God Within, some call Enlightenment, still others describe as walking with God or the still, small voice. Regardless of the terminology, all of us are seeking something beyond ourselves that I personally call God. I wonder if the many rooms are the many ways that people find God?
Our priest this morning talked about faith in God as the most elaborate, surprising, exotic meal -- beyond anything we could ever imagine that shocks and surprises us with each course to be treasured. He described this meal in terms of constantly revealing to us new aspects of our relationship to Jesus. Our summer of field trips has been just like that and, perhaps surprisingly, the experiences of the summer have strengthened our individual relationships with our Lord. Our Father's house has many rooms and we are constantly finding new ways to get to that glorious home!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Muslim Hospitality

This has been a most interesting summer for participants in our adult education program. We've been studying what one of our number calls "Pillars of Faith." That is actually the title of a good DVD about Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and some other faith traditions which we watched at the beginning of the summer, but I don't want to violate copyright.
At any rate, today was a day many of us have been looking forward to -- the day we attended Friday noon prayer at the Mosque. We were nervous in the way you always are when you are doing something you've never done before. The women in the group were more than a tiny bit worried about scarves. Four of us sat in the car watching for the rest of the group and for our hosts. A kind gentleman came up to the car to ask if we were looking for someone. He did not know our hosts, but he urged us to come in. Such a gracious person he was.
Eventually we got a bit more brave and wandered up to the front steps. Person after person greeted us, asked us if we needed help. They were the epitome of hospitality! Finally our hostess arrived, bringing with her the other hosts who had been waiting for us at the back door. The men went off their way and the women went up the stairs to the women's area. Andrea, our hostess and guide from the Mosaic Foundation, was gracious in explaining to us all aspects of the service and the men in our group said Hasan and Ishan were equally helpful. Not only were our assigned hosts helpful, but many other women came up to us before and after the prayers to answer our questions.
One thing that was apparent to me, sitting in the women's balcony, was the variety of cultures where Islam is practiced. Andrea is an American-born woman and in the minority. Some of the dresses reminded me very much of those worn by the Sudanese women who worship at our cathedral. Still others were distinctly Asian or Middle Eastern. The clothing and, especially the scarves, ranged from very conservative black robes to light and airy floral prints. Some of the scarves shimmered with metallic threads, others were elaborately embroidered and still others were very plain. The variety of nationalities was could be noted among the men, but it was amazingly beautiful among the women.
While none of our group understood the Arabic language, there was a beauty to the chant as it washed over us. Parts of the sermon were in English and similar messages might have been heard in many a Christian church on a Sunday morning. Much of the message was about the upcoming Ramadan with admonishments that Ramadan is a good time to quit smoking, a good time for women to adopt the practice of covering their heads, a time to give to charity -- not so very different than our priest urging us to adopt a discipline during Lent. In a very different setting than we were used to, the urging to adopt practices that bring us to a closer relationship with God was a very comfortable message. When a woman visiting from Dallas told us that whatever we needed to know, the answer was in the book (referring, of course to the Koran), it was not so different from someone telling a new convert to Christianity that the Bible is a good place to look for answers.
By the time we took a picture with our new friends, Andrea, Hasan and Ishan, we were almost comfortable in our scarves:

After the service, we browsed among the vendors who set up outside the Mosque with books, games, produce and such. Another woman, "call me Sam," invited us to partake of the post service meal in the fellowship hall.
If you have been following this blog at all, you'll know that the group jumped at the chance to share a meal.
My special order meal looked good:
but Mike's meal with the chicken probably looked even better:
Many of us will be attending a Ramadan event with the Mosaic Foundation on September 1, so expect to hear more about our new friends.

After five long years...

As I said recently, a dear and wise woman was recently installed at her new parish. A hearty bunch of us from her old parish made the trek to support her. After the service, we gathered for a picture. Organizing Episcopalians often resembles herding cats and our post-service picture clearly shows that!

Among those not facing the camera is a dark haired woman in a white robe -- that is our friend and the newly installed rector, Rev. Bonnie Sarah Spencer.
A second picture shows different people facing the camera. In fact, Bonnie is facing the camera, but not everyone had joined the group yet, or people had already left:

Rev. Canon Lou Blanchard preached a marvelous sermon around a theme from Henri Nouwen about the communion cup. First we hold the cup and in it we see our face reflected. In that reflection, we see the faces of those who have supported and shaped the life behind that face. Then we raise the cup, giving thanks and then we serve the cup. Those are not her exact words, but the idea of seeing in the communion cup the face, not just of the priest, but of all those who've been involved in the formation of that priest really had a power for me. I was in the back of the worship area, so this is not a great picture of Lou, but it reminds me of the sermon and how it touched me.


Some folks have been pointedly asking when I planned to write about our visit to Shabbat services. The simple answer is that I forgot I had not written about the excursion until I downloaded pictures today. The hard core 6 of us who went to the Hindu Temple and the Zen Center also went to Shabbat service. Shabbat is the service that spoke most directly to my heart. I'm an adopted kid whose biological parents came from Germany shortly after WW II. Their marriage did not survive the move. How odd that a marriage that survived an SS prison and who know what other challenges in the Hitler Germany, could not survive a move to the United States.
At any rate, Jewish services have always spoken to my heart. Maybe it is the sense that being Jewish is not just what you believe, but what you are.

Episcopalians are not the only ones who like to shake things up a bit in the summer. Jews, or at least the ones at the particular Temple we attend do the same. Our particular Friday included three counselors from Camp Swayder, the local Jewish camp sponsored bu that congregation. Two of the counselors were from the Tel Aviv area and one from the Golan. How interesting to hear these young people talk about learning Arabic in school, about their friends being Arab, about the expectation that they would do a tour of army duty. In fact, One of the counselors freely admitted that he gave little attention to the faith until a rough time during his Army stint when he inexplicably felt a need to do a Shabbat with his fellow soldiers in near darkness in a building where they were avoiding their enemies.
How similar that is to what I hear from my niece in Iraq -- how faith seems to take on a different perspective in a war situation.
One of the things that has become important to some of us is the fellowship of a meal before our experience of a different faith. Serioz fit our requirements of being reasonably close to the Temple, willing to take a reservation and willing to do separate checks. I was a terrible food blogger and forgot to take a picture of my wonderful veggie sandwich. I did, however, get a picture of the bunch eating.

From left to right, Mike Marfia, Sally Marfia, Judy Rogers, Marjorie Lell, Chris Hansen.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Twists and Turns

I'm going to watch an old friend be installed as Rector of a nearby parish this evening. Her past five years have mirrored the past five years in the Episcopal Church. She was a wonderful, wise leader at the church I attend. When she fell in love, she and her partner were most discreet, but they, like many people in love, wanted to make a public commitment to each other. They did so and things got crazy. She lost her chance to be Rector of a nearby parish, her sexual orientation was discussed in one of the local newspapers and she wound up moving back East to serve at a parish in a diocese where her sexuality was less of an issue.
Meanwhile, the priest who leaked the information about her relationship to the newspaper is no longer in the Episcopal Church, his financial misdeeds and activities discussed in local and national newspapers and in the courts. Our General Convention acknowledged that God calls a variety of people, including gays and lesbians, to ministry. Time has past and much has changed. God, however, has remained constant.
I'm going to watch an old friend be installed as Rector this evening. She will be a wonderful, wise leader at her new church, just as she was for us and just as God has always called her to be.

Monday, August 3, 2009

More Notes on Cheese

I went to another of those cheese pairing events done by Fromage to Yours a couple of weeks ago. Jackie and Paul Bonacquisti of Bonacquisti Wines paired Colorado cheeses (with one gorgonzola exception) with Colorado wines (specifically, Bonacquisti wines. In the course of the descriptions, Jackie mentioned that there were 6 major cheesemakers in Colorado, but she neglected to specify them. Next time I visited with Jackie, I asked her for the names of the companies and she listed Haystack, Rocking W, and Sunny Breeze as companies she currently carries. She is hoping to carry cheeses from Jumpin' Good Goat. She does not carry cheeses from MouCo, James Ranch and Windsor because she carries only vegetarian cheese. This led me to ask about vegetarian cheese. I mean, I understand that cheese is not in the equation for vegans, but I am basically ovo-lacto (I eat eggs and milk products), so why not all cheese. The answer has to do with rennet and that is quite the tale!
Jackie did not go into great detail, saying only that some cheesemakers use animal rennet, but the cheeses she carries are made with microbial enzymes. When I used those definitions in a general conversation, wouldn't you know that someone wanted to know where animal rennets came from. So here's the longer story:
Animal rennet relates to a natural complex of enzymes in mammalian stomachs to digest mother's milk. Traditionally, stomachs of young calves are dried, cleaned, diced and soaked in saltwater or whey with vinegar or wine. This is then strained and used to coagulate milk in cheesemaking. There are some modern alternatives with freeze-drying and such. As you might guess, there are too few stomachs for modern cheesemaking requirements. In fact, cheesemakers were already seeking alternatives in Homer's time when an extract of fig was used. There are other vegetable rennets, microbial enzymes (mostly from molds and with a bit of bitter taste) and genetically engineered enzymes, all of which are considered vegetarian acceptable and most of which are qualify for Kosher cheese. Cottage cheese, cream cheese, paneer and farmer's cheese are examples of cheese that use acid (generally citric acid) to coagulate the milk.
So now you know more than you ever thought to know about coagulating milk for cheese!

A Twist of Truth

I've written about it before -- the scare tactics of misinformation. I guess I didn't quite understand how it came to be and why it was so successful. Recently a friend sent me an email that was really a forward of something she got from her gynecologist. It detailed, by line and section for extra authority, horrible things in the health care reform bill.
I wandered around on the Internet until I found a bill that sort of matched up with the page numbers in the email and found that the doctor was probably looking at the Energy and Labor bill. Within the long list of complaints was "Page 42 --The 'Health Choices Commissioner' will choose your Healthcare Benefits for you. You have no choice." First of all, putting Health Choices Commissioner in parentheses is like sneering or making fun of the proposed title. The reality in the bill is the Commissioner is responsible for, among other things, establishing the health plan benefits standards. The particular reference in the doctor's analysis is to the responsibilities of the position. Later in the bill are the specifics that would provide for tiers of coverage with basics required and others available for purchase.
What the doctor, or his source, did was to slightly twist what was said to make it sound very threatening.
Another example from the doctor -- "Page 58 - Government will have real-time access to individual's finances and a National ID Healthcard will be issued." What the bill actually says:
(D) enable the real-time (or near real-time) determination of an individual’s financial responsibility at the point of service and, to the extent possible, prior to service, including whether the individual is eligible for a specific service with a specific physician at a specific facility, which may include utilization of a machine-readable health plan beneficiary identification card;
If you have had a medical procedure done at a hospital lately, the hospital may have pre-certified you with your insurance company. Recently, I had a procedure done at my local hospital where they checked with my insurance company and could tell me "Your insurance covers this procedure and your co-pay is $250 which you will need to be prepared to pay at the time of service." This is the same thing described in the bill with the addition of a machine-readable ID card that would allow the health care provider to scan rather than typing to get the information more quickly. Nothing in this says to me that the government would have real-time access to my financials. As for the Healthcare ID card, I have one already called a health insurance card. You probably do also if you are lucky enough to have health insurance. Again, there is twisting of information to make it all sound very scary and "socialist."
In another case, the doctor's information indicated "Page 59 lines 21-24- Government will have direct access to your bank fund accounts for electronic funds transfer." Yep, those lines talk about electronic funds transfer from the insurance provider to the healthcare provider. Nothing about direct access from a personal account. Either the doctor (or his source) did not read the entire section, or the doctor wanted to make it sound very scary.
I could go on and on as the doctor did listing 55 instances in the first half of the bill. But I will limit myself to just one more category of these misstatements, one that received a fair amount of media coverage in connection with the President's forum with AARP. All are contained in a section about Advanced Care Planning Consultation.
The doctor's information calls it a mandate that would require EVERYONE who is on Social Security to undergo a counseling session every 5 years with "end of life counseling." It goes on to say the government will instruct and consult regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney and it will be mandatory. The government will provide an approved list of end of life resources, guiding you in death. The government mandates program for end of life. The government has a say in how your life ends. He says an advanced care consultation may include an ORDER for end of life plans -- AN ORDER from the government. The government will specify which doctors can write an end of life order and the government will decide what level of treatment you will have at end of life. As this doctor's information describes, the government would take charge of an individual's end of life.
In reality, what the doctor describes could not be farther from the truth. The bill adds to medicare benefits periodic counseling on advanced directives. Thus, the government would pay for an individual to talk to his or her doctor or physician's assistant or nurse practitioner about how they want to be treated under different sets of conditions. The bill also provides for the doctor to write an order describing the individual's wishes and for that order to be enforceable throughout the country.
To understand the benefits of this legislation, one must understand the current situation. As things stand right now, an individual can have the necessary advanced directives to assure how they would be treated in conditions that are potentially life ending. Those directives, however, might not apply if you are in a different state from where they were written. Those directives would most certainly not be followed if the people where the accident or heart attack or whatever happens have no way of knowing that advanced directives even exist. This proposed legislation would provide consistency throughout the country that actually gives the individual more say over end of life issues.
These are just a few examples out of many in one particular email, but they are representative of a very sad story going on in our country as misinformation, distortions and outright lies are substituting for education. I am glad my friend sent me this email, but she is probably very sorry she sent it. I think she wanted to "educate" me about the terrible things our government supposedly wants to impose on me. What she got back from me was a lecture on educating herself, not taking as truth what someone else interprets for her. What I got was an up-close look at how the truth gets twisted and an education in how these things are manufactured to create propaganda.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Caught in the Middle

This has nothing to do with food. It may have to do with the politics of computer software companies and it may require theology to resolve. It is more a rant about what happens to the innocent end user when no tech support wants to accept responsibility.
I get my Internet service through Comcast. At the time I signed up, I transferred all my email to Comcast. I also have a gmail account because I often have trouble getting my comcast email. Today was one of those days. I got email this morning on my comcast account, but, this afternoon is a lost cause. I cleared my history because that is always the first thing tech support asks you to do. Still no email. Ultimate answer from lengthy exchange on Comcast Live Chat? It is a Foxfire problem. Use Internet Explorer because we have demonstrated you can get your email on Internet Explorer. Or contact Mozilla to fix their problem that prevents you accessing your email using their browser.
After a long wait for Firefox Live Chat and a brief, very unproductive interaction, the answer, contact Comcast because they have a problem.
Real end result? The end user has a problem. Use a browser you do not want to use or give up on all the folks who wanted to contact you.
Back in the day, companies would bend over backwards to help you get your work done because they realized you had alternatives. Now we have very little that passes for customer support and a lot of tech support that will blame anyone they can.
In a failing economy, perhaps this tech support experience is an indicator of an underlying problem. Companies exist to take your money, not to provide a service or even assurance that their product will function as advertised. The employees are insecure about their employment and unwilling to do anything beyond their minimum. End users get frustrated and rush to any alternative that promises a solution. In the end, companies lose customers and customers distrust companies. Could this be part of the reason companies are failing?
If you want to reach me by email, send it to my gmail account. It works!

Update: I have no idea what happened, but my Comcast email reappeared. The comments about customer service and the end user being caught in the middle stand.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What I Asked My Congressman

Here's the message I send my Congressman. Pity I started it the way I did, but I do doubt that anything I say will make a difference to my Congressman.
I realize you are a Republican and this email is probably a waste of my time. However, I am one of your constituents and I have definite opinions about health care. I'm a baby boomer and my husband is just a couple of years older than a baby boomer. Like most people our ages, we have been looking forward to retirement. Unfortunately, retirement looks to be almost impossible. I do not work outside the home and, with the economy, my job prospects are a bit skimpy! My husband can not retire because our health insurance is through him. Sure, he can buy health insurance unless the lump in his neck is cancer. Then we will both be in a position of being uninsurable because of pre-existing conditions.
Our health care situation is out of control. Insurance companies control what procedures doctors can order and what medications doctors can prescribe. Frankly, I don't think the government can be any worse. Did you know that there are two preparations for a colonoscopy, both cost the same amount, one forces the patient to drink a gallon of nasty tasting liquid but is covered under insurance, the other requires the patient to drink just 1/2 gallon of nasty liquid but costs the patient $50?
I am sure you know we have one of the most expensive health care systems in the world (considering all funding sources including private insurance) and that we rank 37th or worse in quality of health care. There is no reason we cannot have the best health care in the world and still save health care dollars, but it will require that everyone work together. What I see on the news and read in the Congressional Record (and yes, I read it) is one party trying very hard to improve this country and another party saying no. Please, Representative Coffman, say yes to your constituents who want health care reform; not tort reform, but real dollars in the pockets, health insurance cards in the wallets health care reform. Don't worry about the insurance companies, they will learn to compete or they will fail. Worry about the people who live in your district and want changes in how we do health care in this country!
Our high health care costs are not exclusively the result of lawsuits and making it harder to sue if your doctor commits malpractice will not help appreciably with health care costs. Somewhere, somehow, Republicans determined that the majority of the attorneys representing people in health care related law suits vote Democratic and they are determined that Democrat lawyers are the root of all evil. That is just not the solution.
My insurance company will spend thousands of dollars on people looking for ways to not cover my health care costs and raise my rates to cover unnecessary employees. My health care costs are higher because doctors have to hire people to push the insurance companies to pay for the things they say they cover. Those are far greater costs over time than lawsuits when a doctor tells a patient that a pain is all in his/her head and, when the patient gets a stage 4 cancer diagnosis, sues to recover some of the costs insurance did not cover. We need to look to France and Great Britain and even Canada where the health care costs are lower and the quality is as good or vastly better. The Republican line is an outdated look at Canadian health care before they got the bugs out of the system with scary stories about long delayed health care. Fact is, those scary stories exist everywhere and there are more of them in the U.S. than in most other countries, particularly if you consider the many working poor who have no health insurance at all.
Isn't it a pity that the scare tactics are working again?
Received an email from my congressman supposedly responding to my email. Clearly, given what I said in my email, it was a canned response including the following lovely response to my anti-insurance industry comment:
Government can play an important role in fostering the continued prosperity of the private health insurance market and the valuable services they provide. No doubt, government has a role to play in taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves by providing a safety net via the Medicare and Medicaid programs. I support tax incentives for individuals to purchase private health insurance. This would be equivalent to what a business receives for enrollment of their employees. By providing this relief, we can expand health insurance to more Americans while also protecting the free market's ability to compete over your business.

So glad I had some influence on my Congressman -- not! Let's promote and support the health insurance industry that has my family paying more than $600 in copays this month alone!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Perfect Mojito for Dianne

When she heard I was headed for an open house at a bartending school, Dianne Draper asked me to learn to make the perfect mojito. Here, Dianne, is the answer from Tom Lucas at Estrela.
Four good size lime wedges go into the mixing glass before you tear four or five leaves of mint. Tom says tearing the leaves is crucial. One visitor at the Estrela open house said she did not like mojitos, but was shocked at the difference when the mojito is made with fresh mint leaves.
Muddling squeezes the juice out of the limes and marries the juice with the mint.

The rum comes next.
Some simple syrup, Lots of ice, a spritz of soda water, garnish with mint and lime and you have a magnificent mojito!

Estrela Bartending School

I like a good mixed drink every now and then. I used to be a G&T kinda girl. I had a daiquiri flirtation for a while, but I just couldn't stop worrying about the calories. Robert's something of a margarita connoisseur, so I've shared quite a few of those in his quest for the best margarita in Colorado. My current mixed drink of choice is the gin martini and it is a hard thing to find. That said, it never occurred to me to wonder how the bartender learned his or her craft.
About a week ago, I got an email from a friend inviting me to an open house at his new bartending school. Tom Lucas was manager of the Cherry Creek Grill for a while and still lovingly describes some of the signature dishes there. I knew he loved food, but we'd never discussed mixology. Turns out Tom can mix a drop dead gin martini!

He did a respectable margarita for Robert.

Robert's comment was good, but not the equal of the Original Margarita. In Tom's defense, Robert didn't order an Original Margarita, the recipe for which is:

Margarita (1948 Original)
* 1 oz. Cointreau
* 2 oz. Tequila, white
* 1 oz. Lime Juice
The true authentic margarita invented by Margarita Sames in Aculpulco in 1948. Shake with ice and pour into a coupe glass with a lightly salted rim.
Estrela has two classrooms, one is a classic bar for the mixology classes.

The other has comfy couches, tables and such and will be used for wine appreciation classes, wine and food pairing instruction and other enrichment classes. And, none of my pictures did it justice. Sigh...
So, Estrela is going to be quite an interesting place with two general categories of instruction. The first, and main, purpose is preparing people in the art of mixology. Tom has an appreciation for the whole experience, the wood smoke that draws a diner into a restaurant, the fun antique game on the bar that attracts a patron to order a second drink while mastering the game, the well-told story (ask him about the Al Hirt poster in Jillian's office across from the bar). The second purpose for Estrella is enrichment -- Wine 101, food pairing, and such. These classes are a relatively inexpensive $50. I'll be signing up for the food and wine pairing very soon now!

Dinner before Zen

Some of us in the Adult Ed program have developed a delightful ritual of dining together before our experiences of various faith traditions. Before our visit to the Zen Center of Denver, we couldn't resist a restaurant in the wonderful Highlands neighborhood of Denver that is rapidly developing a reputation as a foodie mecca. We settled on Highland Pacific and we were not disappointed. I wish I had taken a picture of the Artisan Cheese Plate that my friend across the table ordered because it was just the epitome of cheese plate with the fruit and nuts garnishing the plate -- very rustic and appealing.
I wanted the Pasta Primavera

but I couldn't resist an order of carrot fritters served on a bed of apple cabbage slaw.
The pasta was classic with pea pods, asparagus, mushrooms and red peppers dressed in a light olive oil. The carrot fritters belew me away! The hint of cardamom was incredible and the spicy dipping sauce really turned this into a reason to drive half way across town! It is pretty much typical of me to enjoy a dish, then go home and replicate it with my own twist. Highlands Pacific Carrot Fritters are a dish I don't want to improve, I just want to eat again and again and again...
We were a large group, requiring two pictures to record:

From the Bells of Hindu to the Zen of Buddhism

After all the bell ringing and chanting of the Hindu Temple which so intrigued us a few days earlier, the Zen Center of Denver was, well, Zen. Lorraine Heth was a dream to work with as we prepared for the experience. She gave us valuable basics like what clothing to wear. Sensei Ken Morgareige embodies all the calm and tranquility one might expect of a Zen teacher. He gave us many insights about meditation positions as well as answering all our questions. One question he probably gets a lot was "How do you know what to think about in your meditation" The answer? "Most people count breaths."
It seems much of the enlightenment one associates with Zen Buddhism comes from consideration of a series of questions done in preparation for a meeting with one's teacher. Ken led us through the process as part of our tour. While we were developing some stiff muscels learning the positions of meditation in the Grand Zendo, some members of the Center were practicing a discipline of Zen in archery, a concept that intrigued several of us. We got to see some of that going on in the course of our tour.
The journey from our meal to the Zen Center always slows some of us down, but most of us gathered for a picture at the entry of the Zen Center.

The building's history is an interteresting story. Completed in 1927 for the Christian Scientists, it is rumored that Mary Baker Eddy was present for the building dedication.

Friday, July 17, 2009

RIP Walter Cronkite

America's Most Trusted Man told the news of my life -- JFK's assassination, Martin Luther King Junior's assassination, Bobby's murder, the space program, the Vietnam War. All the major stories of my youth were covered by Walter Cronkite who was a find journalist/anchor. Nothing ever happened until Walter Cronkite told us about it.

We didn't always have a TV, but, even when we didn't have a TV, I remember the entire neighborhood gathered around someone's black and white television absorbing the information that Walter Cronkite had to impart.
When I decided to go to journalism school, Walter Cronkite was my model. Not that I planned on a broadcast career, but he was, first and foremost, a journalist.
He informed a country of crucial information. He calmed a country torn to shreds by three successive assassinations in the mid to late 1960s -- two Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr. He soothed our fears through race riots and wars and threats of wars. He chronicled the space program.

R.I.P Walter Cronkite!

Upcoming Food and Beverage Events

Robert and I are heading off this evening for an open house at a new bartending school, Estrela. I admit I never considered how folks learned mixology, but now I have a chance to learn! I'll share my new knowledge soon!
Also, my friend, Jackie, has another one of her great cheese events coming up. Keepin' it Local (A Colorado Wine & Colorado Cheese Event) is scheduled for Tuesday, July 21st 5:30 – 8:00 p.m., at Embassy Suites Denver Tech Center, 10250 East Costilla Avenue, Centennial. Paul Bonacquisti of Bonacquisti Wine Company – a Denver winery – will walk us through several pairings of his creations with Colorado artisan cheeses. The cost is small -- $10 (and this includes a $5 donation to Food Bank of the Rockies!) Call Jackie at 720.220.3210 for more information and to reserve your seat.
I'm an active volunteer at Covenant Cupboard, a food pantry that is a coalition of three different churches -- Covenant Presbyterian, Good Shepherd Episcopal, and St. Peter Lutheran. We get food through the Food Bank of the Rockies, so I'm up for supporting them, especially when it involves wine and cheese!
A sneak peak! I heard from some 9Cares, Colorado Shares folks that there will be a pet related event coming up that may involved reduced cost vet services among other things and will follow the 9Cares, Colorado Shares model. I don't have details, but I will pass along info as I receive it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Episcopals Vote on Gay Ordination

Running a church is incredibly complex, particularly when the church does not march in lock-step. And no one ever described the Episcopal Church as marching in lock-step! I think the more common phrase has something to do with herding cats! That's always the risk when individual members are encouraged to consider Bible, tradition and reason. What might seem simple -- considering the Bible -- is not simple when the church includes literal interpreters, liberal interpreters and everything in between. Then comes tradition. My tradition? Your tradition? British tradition? American tradition of freedom? Native American tradition? And do we even want to think about the variations that can come up with the concept of reason?
The Episcopal Church is in the midst of our once every three years General Convention. Thousands of Episcopalians are gathered in Anaheim, California, to do the business of the church. Just like the U.S. Congress, much of what they debate and vote on are fairly minor details, but some are rather significant. This year, the deputies and Bishops are considering a significant change in how health insurance is organized. With Congress looking at an overhaul of health care across the nation, one might wonder why the Episcopalians are worrying about health insurance, but...
What always gets the coverage lately is the sex. Why does it seem that all major controversies have to do with sex? We are incredibly concerned about what happens behind the bedroom door or the consequences of what happens behind the bedroom door. We get all in a twit over the role of women in the church, a church's teachings about abortion and anything having to do with homosexuality. In this case, the Episcopal Church is a complexity of how gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are included in our church. Folks are picking and choosing segments of Deuteronomic law they feel must be part of the discussion, others are looking at the impact our canons have on the people in our pews (or not in our pews). And there are always considerations about the impact of the U.S. church on others in the Anglican Communion. The bulk of craziness on the matter seems to have begun in 2003 when a question of timing meant that New Hampshire's selection of a new Bishop had to be ratified in a vote at General Convention. Usually, when a diocese chooses a Bishop, that selection is ratified, or not, in a series of votes among the standing committee members. That was the case this year when northern Michigan's selection was rejected. It gets some note in church publications and such, but the general media rarely gives it much attention. If, however, a diocese chooses a new Bishop within a certain number of days before General Convention, the ratification gets thrown in with everything else at convention and might get more attention. As we learned in 2003, ratifying the election of a partnered openly gay man gets a real firestorm of media attention. There are those who think Gene Robinson would not be Bishop today if his election had gone through the usual process. Others think it was engineered to force the church into taking a stand. Whatever the case, we've been in a continuing state of controversy ever since. Inclusion of practicing homosexuals as full equals in our church in the United States apparently caused difficulties for others in the Anglican Communion, particularly for some of those in the Southern Cone -- South America, Africa, etc.
Leaders of other parts of the Anglican Communion demanded that the Episcopals be kicked out of the Communion. Meetings were held, tempers flared, poachers started interfering in U.S. churches. The U.S. church and the Canadian Church were pushed to undo the actions they had taken to be inclusive.
At the 2006 General Convention, the Episcopal Church offered a moratorium on gay bishops and same-gender blessings. This pleased almost no one with GLBT folks feeling they got the short end of the stick and the people we were trying to appease from other provinces of the Anglican Communion not appeased. And, to make matters worse for some in the Anglican Communion, we elected a female Presiding Bishop.
For the last three years, southern cone provinces have continued their interference in the Episcopal Church and LGBT folks have felt like second class citizens of our church. And now, the General Convention is again looking at a series of proposals regarding the role of GLBT folks in the church. At the moment, a measure to allow discernment and ordination of GLBT people is passing both houses. Other measures, including some that would allow blessings of same-gender relationships, are yet to come.
My personal take on the issue is rather simplistic -- my relationship with God is unimpaired by your relationship with God. God is a God of abundance with love and acceptance for all who want it. I have no patience with a God of scarcity whose love is so limited that your relationship with God might threaten my relationship with God. We sing about it all the time -- "Our God is an Awesome God," "Amazing Grace," "How Great Thou Art" -- our all-powerful, all-loving God has room for all and our churches should be the same.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Grilling a New Justice

I'm listening to Judge Sonia Sotomayor as she addresses the Senate Judicial Committee. I didn't hear every word of every Senator's speech leading up to her speech, but I did hear much of the speechifying. I heard more than a few references to activist judges and "making law from the bench." Ever the cynic, I could not help but think of the times the Supreme Court has chosen to rule on situations that really did not require their involvement as appliers of the Constitution -- how ballots should be counted in the state of Florida, whether a feeding tube should be reinserted or not. In each of those cases, I think the Supreme Court stepped outside of its Constitutional role to cast, if you will, a deciding vote in a matter that should never have involved them. You may know I've been reviewing the Supreme Court decisions of the past year. I'm not an attorney or a Constitutional scholar, but, to my ignorant mind, there were several times they made law rather than interpreting the Constitution.
Let's be honest here. The people talking about activist judges and making law are conservatives. Many of these same people had no problem asking the court to be activist in the Schaivo case or to make law in the 2000 election in Florida case. These are people who would love for the Supreme Court to make law limiting a woman's right to privacy in a way the Constitution never considered. To be frank, they have no problem with activist judges making law from the bench if the laws and action support their goals. These are supporters of the laws made this year by the Supreme Court because the laws benefit their largest campaign contributors. I'm really not much different. I want the Justices to interpret the Constitution the way I do and to make the decisions with which I agree. The difference, of course, is that I am not a US Senator elected to represent all the people in my state.
Most of the cases the Supreme Court hears have to do with fairly precise points of law. They are not exciting cases on abortion, voters' rights and such, they are plodding pedantic decisions on who can be heard in court, who has status under the law, etc. Actually, many of the decisions send things back to lower courts, telling those courts who must be included in the case or what points of law are applicable.
From my view, I want Supreme Court justices who are fair and impartial in their support of Constitutional principles. I sort of want the justices to apply a judicial version of the Episcopal three-legged stool of Biblical authority, tradition and reason. I want justices who apply the Constitution, understand the role of tradition and apply the reason to know the difference.
So now the speeches are over for the day. Judge Sotomayor's comments were so brief I might have missed them entirely while moving laundry from the washer to the dryer or using the toilet. She gave a very limited overview of her phenomenal resume, spending almost half the time of her speech recognizing her mother. She was humble and straightforward. After listening for hours to Senators polishing their personal egos and pushing their personal preferences, it was refreshing to hear the Judge give a simple and succinct statement of her history.
Tomorrow, we'll hear questions and answers. Certain Senators will push their personal agendas, perhaps even selectively quoting phrases of the constitution like Biblical literalists picking and choosing the words to put in Jesus' mouth. Tomorrow will start the parry and thrust of liberals and conservatives, some taking words out of context to make their points, others dancing in the limelight almost oblivious to their real roles.
It hasn't always been this way. For many years, Supreme Court nominees sat out in the hall until they were called in to answer specific questions. In most situations, they were not called in until they were confirmed. For many years, there was no immediacy of media. Reports of Congressional actions took weeks and months to spread throughout the country. For many years, the media and their cameras were kept outside the chambers and fed limited details until decisions were made. It is good that the workings of Congress are more accessible to U.S. citizens, but watching the pontifications of those elected to look out for us can rather turn one's stomach, can't they?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Friends, firetrucks and Hindus

In stereotypical Episcopal fashion, half the group was at Lagarto's early, hoping to hit the happy hour before dinner. We were quite the crowd with long-timers, newbies and everything in between. Some of us knew each other very well and others of us were just meeting for the first time. We settled in with our drinks, waited for a few stragglers, turned in our orders and... covered our ears! The fire alarm went off just after the last of us ordered our meal.
We never did find out what the problem was, but soon after the siren stopped, the firetrucks arrived!
Soon there was a pair of firemen in full gear wandering in and out of the kitchen.

The menu at Lagarto European Cafe, 10146 West San Juan Way, LIttleton, CO 80127, Phone: 303.973.6169 is varied. There were traditional Polish dishes, courtesy of the owner's mother, Mediterranean delights, pasta dishes and even nachos!

The hot pepper relish situated in the middle of the plate of Mediterranean Quesadilla was piquant, but lovely! The vegetables served with the Wiener Schnitzel looked interesting, but Robert had snarfed them down before I even got to ask for a bite! We had to leave before the music started.
Frontage roads can be tricky and the one for the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center on Wadsworth is no exception. It took a while for all of us to find a way onto the frontage road and into the parking lot. We had been led to believe we would probably be the only ones there except for our hosts, but we wound up dropping in on a monthly prayer service that we found fascinating, if very confusing to our uneducated minds. After the service, the High Priest took us aside to answer our questions and various men wandered through offering us fruits, a fruit salad eaten from our hands and bowls of rice, blessings from the service we had just observed. It was hard to understand what was happening in the service because we did not understand the language of the chants, but observing such a service was far more informative than simply reading about it or hearing about it. Several of us were struck by the elaborate sculptures of the gods displayed at the front of the worship area. The particular prayer we visited involved pouring juices, yogurt, milk, spices and such with arranging fresh fruit. The sculpture was then washed. A curtain gave privacy for that part of the service and then the sculpture was adorned with fresh flowers and again offered arrangements of fresh fruit. It was quite attractive and a far more organized ritual than one might think. I actually viewed the service as being somewhat like our liturgy.
Everyone was quite gracious to us. One member of the Temple is a convert from Christianity and he was able to offer us additional insights as he discussed his decision to become Hindu.