15 July 2013

A Bowl of Cherries

It's July, which means Cherry Season!  This week, I finally bought myself a cherry-pitter.  Every year I buy a bag of cherries because in July they are just too hard to resist, but I rarely eat the entire bag because the task of pitting (or spitting) makes me tire of them before they rot. So, every year I vow to just go ahead and get myself a cherry-pitter, even if it is a uni-tasker, but then cherries are gone from the store just as quickly as they appeared, and I forget about the pitters until the next year.

Browned-Butter Cherry Bars: Before
Browned-Butter Cherry Bars: After
Few recipes for cherry desserts truly require the sweet dark cherries in your markets now.  They need the bright sour cherries I remember picking in Southwest Lower Michigan in the summers of my youth.  Sweet cherries are best eaten out of hand, but I really wanted to craft something with them.  This summer, I've purchased or been given three times as many cherries as I have ever purchased in summers past.  Mostly a sweet purple-fingered happy accident, but the shiny new cherry-pitter sure does justify the purchase.  Anyhow, as such, I have made a couple great cherry desserts in the past couple weeks.  First, roasted sweet cherries in an amaretto sauce1 which made for a fantastic fresh yogurt topping.  Next, a browned-butter cherry bar2, which was sort of a more accessible cherry clafouti, but was a much more sophisticated version of my favorite cake growing up, my mom/grandma's cherry surprise cake, made with canned cherry pie filling.  Side note: I could eat an entire can of that luscious red cherry goo in one sitting.  Seriously, it's one of my favorite foods on the planet, and I have no shame in saying that.

So, back to fresh cherries.  Our supermarket had them on sale again this week, so I bought myself about a pound.  They're definitely getting on in the season, because these don't look nearly as beautiful as the pound I bought just two weeks ago.  Seasonal eating is the joy of reappearance swiftly followed by the growing sadness that the season's close is coming.  Dramatic, perhaps, but it is a bigger metaphor.

Anyhow.  Cherries.

I had one frozen pie crust from a quiche adventure last week.  But only one.  Cherry pie is very nearly always a two-crust operation; lattice top at the very least.  And I was not in the mood for making my own pie crust.  Most days I don't have the patience to cut butter for pie crust.  It's the one thing in the kitchen (well, besides washing the dishes!) that holds virtually no appeal to me.  Besides, my pitted cherries were beginning to oxidize and I wanted to make quicker work of them than all that chilling and cutting and rolling was going to take.  So I switched gears to cherry cobblers and crumbles.  Fruit on the bottom, crustiness on top.  Fine, but I still had that pie crust in my freezer begging to be used.  Which means hybrid!

I took the filling from this two-crust pie recipe but punched up the almond extract, because almond extract.  Oops, as it's in the oven right now, I just realized I forgot the little scattered butter bits.  Oh well.

I plopped it in my frozen pie crust, and crowned it with half of this recipe's oat crumble topping.

Cherry CrumblePie: Before

Cherry CrumblePie: Before

And now, world, I present to you Cherry CrumblePie.  Which sounds charmingly like humble pie.  Probably tastes better.

Cherry CrumblePie: After.  I like how the crumble stayed in little pearl-pellety pieces, as opposed to flattening out across the top or else sitting like sawdust.  Maybe melted butter is the key.

I poked a fork into the liquid on the edge to make sure the cornstarch had adequately done what it was invited to do - success!  Also, tastes good and cherry-almondy!

Don't judge; the first piece out of the pan is always the ugliest.  Still tastes delicious!

1  I used lemon zest in place of orange and an Amaretto/water mixture in place of the wine. Marvelous!

2  The recipe I found, is actually an adaptation of this one, which is itself an adaptation of this one.  Which illustrates the evolution of a recipe as each cook puts his or her own signature on it.  So lovely to actually trace the etymology, as it were, which is so often lost.

Also makes me wonder, is molecular gastronomy the only truly new recipes we have right now?  Is most home cooking, as we know it now, just a series of adaptations?  I suppose one could argue that some of what the food physicists are doing isn't even new.

07 March 2013

Lent [Day 22]: Excerpts from the Notebook

Originally written Spring 2010. Perhaps just as relevant this Spring.

So, looking back in my collections of ephemeral notes today, I found this on a folded scrap of yellow legal paper:

"When do you realize that someone is going to change your life forever?"

Which is simultaneously deep and introspective and pithy Hallmark schlock.  Let's focus on the former.  It's sort of like the question of when life begins. (After all, relationship is very much a living being.  It also raises more questions than answers.)  Is it at conception?  Once the fetus is viable?  Upon its first breath of air?  When can you realize whether someone is going to make a profound impact on you?  When do you realize you have borne life into a relationship you've created?  At hello?  Later on, once you are clearly invested in relationship?  Is it even you who creates the relationship?  And when can you realize whether you are going to make a profound impact on someone else?  For me, that comes far earlier than the answer to the initial question.

In some Schrodinger fashion, we change each others' lives just by being in them.  Our presence changes the experiment.

I realized this morning, that I am embarking on some new relationships, and that these people will always be mine.  At some future date, they will move out of my immediate presence (or I theirs).  But even so, they will always be present in my life, in some form.  To quote an inappropriate Third Eye Blind song, "I guess I'll always be knowing you."  I don't think of relationships as necessarily having expiration dates.  They don't die, they just sort of go dormant in some form, like seeds in the Atacama that wait years for rain to coax them out to life.  So my recognition today that these relationships are, actually, going to be mine forever is more an acknowledgment than a revelation.  I think this acknowledgment has come earlier than it has in the past.  Or maybe I always somehow knew it, I'm just conscious of it earlier.  It's one of those things that is easy to pinpoint in hindsight than in the present.  It's easy to see evidence when you look back for it, even if the significance of a moment escapes you at that moment.  

21 February 2013

Lent [Day 9]: Of Bracelets and Space

Statue of St Peter, The Vatican

Several years ago, I discovered that my wrist had amassed a collection of hand-knotted friendship bracelets from some of my most cherished students.  It was a peculiar claiming of territory, of sorts - as if they'd written "Andy" on the bottom of my shoes.  I wore them constantly - they were tied onto me, after all - quite literally all across the planet, for about two years, by which time they had all fallen apart and even the tan lines they left had begun to fade.  I loved those damn bracelets, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little heartbroken when each of them finally broke.  A tangible reminder that extended their creators' physical presence long after they'd moved on.  The weight of which was perhaps too great for the tensile strength of embroidery floss and hemp cord to bear.
[Young people] seek out professors with whom to have relationships, and we seek them out in turn. Teaching, finally, is about relationships. It is mentorship, not instruction.  Socrates also says that the bond between teacher and student lasts a lifetime, even when the two are no longer together. And so it is. Student succeeds student, and I know that even the ones I'm closest to now will soon become names in my address book and then just distant memories. But the feelings we have for the teachers or students who have meant the most to us, like those we have for long-lost friends, never go away. They are part of us, and the briefest thought revives them, and we know that in some heaven we will all met again. (William Deresiewicz, "Love on Campus", The American Scholar, Summer 2007.)
All this presence and absence (physical or symbolic) naturally calls to mind Henri Nouwen and his writings on presence and absence of God, as well as and the presence and absence of each other in ministry.  All very timely in this Lenten season, as we are preparing, liturgically, for the absence of Jesus.
The great temptation of the ministry is to celebrate only the presence of Jesus while forgetting his absence.  Often the minister is most concerned to make people glad and to create an atmosphere of "I'm okay, you're okay." But in this way, everything gets filled up and there is no empty space left for the affirmation of our basic lack of fulfillment.  In this way the presence of Jesus is enforced without connection with his absence.  Almost inevitably this leads to artificial joy and superficial happiness.  It also leads to disillusionment because we forget that it is in memory that Jesus Christ is present. If we deny the pain of his absence we will not be able to taste his sustaining presence either.  (The Living Reminder)
Discipline is the mark of a disciple of Jesus. This doesn't mean, however, that you must make things difficult for yourself, but only that you make available the inner space where God can touch you with an all-transforming love.  We human beings are so faint-hearted that we have a lot of trouble leaving an empty space empty.  We like to fill it all up with ideas, plans, duties, tasks, and activities. (Letters to Marc About Jesus)
Having recently marked one year in a new job and a new home, I've been reflecting on what that year has taught me (other than how screamingly FAST a year can go), and, well, the meaning-junkie in me has been hard at work trying to ferret out the larger purposes in all the change.  A friend asked me this week about my job, and I commented to her about the amount of free space and time I have now.  Evenings and weekends that were over-capacity with grading and lesson-planning and - let's face it - a good amount of internet ministry, are now wide open.  And I fret about not filling the space suitably, now that I have it - that I might squander it.  I realize I needn't be so swift to fill the space, but that requires a practiced restraint.  The absence here is a gift, so I feel the responsibility to be a good steward of it.  I miss the classroom, the daily collision with students' lives.  I've made known my ability and willingness to pick up an adjunct-professorship in the evenings to satisfy that desire, and I haven't exactly canceled my daily teaching-job-search-agent emails.  But I'm not knocking down doors to rush back into it, either.  It will happen in the fullness of its own time.  Meanwhile, I live in a paradise that is lovely beyond belief, AND I've been given the gift of time and space to enjoy it.  What overwhelming divine generosity!  

Surely I was touched by Jesus's all-transforming love when my physical world was overflowing with people I had such great occasion to love and be loved by.  But presence necessitates absence.  And His all-transforming love can touch my heart in the absence of His holy messengers and recipients and tasks.  Ministry will still take place in and through me.  All I must do is be present with the absence.

20 February 2013

Lent [Day 8]: For Jess

Originally written July 2010

I sent one of my favorite people in the universe to San Francisco this week. We were quite a team, at school and elsewhere. Students called us Jesus and Peter. Truth and Love.  Swords and sheep.

People ask me what I'm going to do without my sidekick this year, and I joke that I'm not ready to be present with that. But the truth is, I've been present with it for a while. I knew when she started talking about California this spring that her departure would be sooner rather than later. And while I would love for her to stay, it's not part of the larger call on our lives and the lives of those who will enter our lives very soon. Sure, I get a twinge of sadness when I think ahead to upcoming events at school in which we would ordinarily be involved together. But one thing I've learned is that my imagination is incredibly limited, in comparison to the way my life has unfolded thus far. To say nothing of the ministry of absence, a necessary companion to presence.

So, today I send someone I love to a place I love to serve a God I love.

Time to make room for new favorites. Now accepting applications.

17 February 2013

Lent [Day 5]: Approach and Departure

Two-Six Left

A train yard's beaded chevron unravels, almost imperceptibly. An abandoned unbuilt neighborhood passes below. Bold weeds and unapologetic brush build the picket fence that encircles ghosts of dogs and two point five kids on streets with squandered names. Long forgotten are the artists' cheery renderings in glossy brochures. Further on, a kidney carved by an age-wrinkled river. Filaments of sea froth unwind across a lake, echoed a hundred feet above by a sparkling white thread of birds in low sun.

The countdown from one-hundred-ten reflexively begins as the gear drops - a test of a flight attendant's tension-easing small talk several trips ago. A fling of a mooring rope to land about the time that faith in fluid dynamics wanes. (One-hundred-twelve to a crooked touchdown - owing, perhaps, to an errant forty-six and inconsistent pacing. The human measurement of the mechanical.)

Ascent again. A loosely-collected town, no planning commission to sweep together the fragments and splinters. Color leaches from earth as a brilliant ribbon of atmosphere - trapping the terrestrial from the celestial - intensifies. Details obscure until glitter sharpens against velvet. Light cast and light swallowed and light cast again. A tangerine moon rises as if from within the earth. Drawn by its gravity, we yield to its pull home.

Originally written 1 January 2010

16 February 2013

Lent [Day 4]: All or Nothing

Originally written Spring 2008

Recently, I've rediscovered some older songs and albums to which I never paid too much attention before - Jars of Clay The Eleventh Hour, and Paul Simon's Boy in the Bubble and Wartime Prayers.  Wartime Prayers has a catchy chorus: 

Because you cannot walk with the holy / if you're just a halfway decent man /But I don't pretend that I'm a mastermind / with a genius marketing plan / I'm trying to tap into some wisdom / even a little drop will do / I want to rid my heart of envy / and clean my soul of rage before I'm through

And it's really just the first lines that I latched onto.  God calls us to be all-in or else it's meaningless.  There's the oft-cited Luke 10:27, Matthew 22:37, and Mark 12:30.  All.  All.  All.  Not halfway.  And beyond loving God completely, I struggle to give completely in serving Him.  I feel like I spent about a year living half in the past, half in the future, and not at all in the present.  I've come out of that, somewhat, and while one could easily construe that as wasting that year, I needed that year.  It's still being put into context, but I can sense the reason for it.  These are truly days of miracle and wonder.

15 February 2013

Lent [Day 3]: Granola

Draft originally begun April 2012 and inexplicably unpublished.  
Made another batch of this just today, with pecans, pictured.

So I've been eating yogurt virtually every day - not my own so often these days, but I have found a few favorites.  I had some leftover vanilla-almond granola from a bread project, which I sprinkled onto some vanilla yogurt, what a delight of textures!

Only thing is granola is crazy-expensive, and one box I bought smelled a lot like that weird vanilla scent of play-doh.  But I have a ton of oats at home, so why don't I make some?  Going to my standby, I found a Cooks Illustrated recipe for almond-fruit granola.  But of course I couldn't leave well enough alone.

I didn't have enough maple syrup, so I substituted honey, and replaced a tablespoon of brown sugar with maple sugar.  Swapped the almonds for macadamias, and chopped up some banana chips to blend with it.

It didn't need nearly 40 minutes - I took it out at 29.

1/3 c. brown sugar (minus 1 T.)
1 T. maple sugar
1/3 c. honey
1 1/2 T. vanilla
1/2 c. oil

4 1/4 c. rolled oats
3/4 c. wheat germ
2 c. chopped macadamia nuts
2 c. chopped banana chips

Whisk sugars, honey, vanilla together in a large bowl.  Whisk in oil.  Pour in oats, wheat germ, and macadamias, and stir to coat well.  

Pour into baking sheet (line with parchment if you don't have a nonstick sheet), then use a large spatula to press the granola into the pan.  

Bake at 325 degF for 30-40 min or until golden.  Don't overbake or it will taste scorched.  Cool on a wire rack for an hour, then break up the granola into chunks.  Stir in banana chips.  Store in an airtight container.  Enjoy over yogurt. :)

14 February 2013

Lent [Day 2]: A Sermon on Love

Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays.  The red and pink, the hearts, the flowers, the chocolate, the celebration of love in so many forms.  When I was teaching, I was able to indulge in a fair amount of Valentine silliness and frippery.  Science-themed valentines for all my students ("we attract like opposite charges" or "you're the net force that makes my heart accelerate") and heading up the rose and candy-gram fundraiser.  Teaching was a labor of love, and I like to believe most of my students experienced that love from me, whether manifest in my time spent tutoring them, encouraging comments on a test, my attendance at their events, or innumerable treats.

It's the romantic love, eros, that gets all the hype this time of year, but why should other forms get the short shrift?  Familial love admittedly gets some of its own days (e.g. Mother's Day, Father's Day), but what of friendship?  Of affection?  These are the loves that don't get the kind of attention from the floral and greeting-card industry, which is unfortunate.  Yes, the cynics may say that they don't need a specific day in which to tell their loved ones what they think.  And they're right, to an extent.  But, if we don't need the corporations reminding us to love generously on a mid-February day, why are we so stingy with our love the other 364 days?  What if we loved our coworkers, our neighbors, our students, our teachers, our friends, and strangers with such abandon and recklessness and extravagance every day?  

It is the greatest commandment, after all.  And an extremely lofty one.  It's scattered throughout the Gospel, but the translation that resonates right now is found in John 13.  "So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."

We are leading up to a celebration of the ultimate expression of the ultimate love.  The self-sacrificing love that God expressed - nay, that God is - in sending His own Son to atone for our transgressions.  And that is the model we are commanded to follow.  So let us, this Valentine's Day, be challenged to accept a love beyond measure, and to express a love that exceeds our own capabilities.  

Lent [Day 1]: Not Giving Up

Having spent a couple decades in the Catholic Church, I routinely gave something up this time of year.  It's been a while since I made a sacrifice during the Lenten season.  Lately, however, I find the idea of deliberately doing something during Lent - rather than choose something to not do - more appealing.  

A friend and I have groaned lately over the neglect of our blogs.  Scattered around my house, I have notebooks filled with scraps of writings, half-written verses on post-its, unfinished blog posts.

Since this is a season of contemplation, of sanctification, of meditation, of reflection, what better time for an exercise of discipline?  Here's a public vow to spend a portion of this Lent at the keyboard: as reader, as writer, as editor.

09 February 2013

Church and the Single Girl (or Guy)

I've come across several pieces of writing lately about how the church treats single people:


I will admit I don't directly have a dog in that fight; I've been married nearly 14 years.  But I have a lot of dear friends who are not married, who encounter this every single day. (pun sort-of intended)  But I don't look upon them as "my unmarried friends"... I see them simply as "friends".

A quick look around, and you'll see this attitude toward singlehood is hardly limited to the church.  I think that the issue cuts all the way to the core of human nature: how swift we are to apply labels, and the nature of those labels (e.g. unmarried friends, childless couple).  Nobody wants to be defined by what they don't have.

Of course, America's fix-it culture probably plays a significant role in this.  What if we treated singleness less as a problem that demands a solution?  Or childlessness, for that matter.  Or lack of anything.  No station in life is an automatic prescription for happiness.  

What if the church focused more on cultivating authentic joy and contentment in ALL circumstances - not just teaching people how to accept their circumstances now until they get married, have kids, graduate, get a different job, or buy a house. Come on, Church, we should be showing the rest of the culture how that looks.

11 August 2012

The Approach of the Approach of Splendor

We recently spent the better part of a week over on Maui.  Some highlights of the trip are a bit on-the-nose, like sunrise at the summit of a dormant volcano, or a lovely day spent lounging by the tranquil resort pool with smoothie service.  But my favorite moments of just about any trip are usually completely off the radar of anyone else.  Like the afternoon I spent roaming a Prague cemetery and took some of my most favorite photos.  You get some odd looks when you describe that your favorite moment of a four-country European vacation was a solitary sojurn, filled with ivy-covered gravestones.  

We took a hike to a spectacular waterfall, Pipwai Falls, way out in East Maui past Hana in the Kipahulu district of Haleakalā National Park.  A place that is simultaneously remote and yet well-touristed.  The hike was a 6-mile out-and-back along a stream we had to ford at one point, culminating at a small clearing surrounded on three sides by soaring vertical rock walls and a 400-foot-tall water cascade.  Stunning.  But it wasn't my favorite part of the hike, by far.  

No, it was this boardwalk section through a bamboo forest.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I love light.  A deeper metaphor, yes, but the photographer in me enjoys the changing nature of light, the play of light with objects, the qualities it possesses from one time and space to another.  It is fleeting and it is lovely and it is holy.  Anyhow, we stepped from jungly streamside forest into this other world.  The light filtering through the leafy canopy into the tall bamboo shafts.  The sound they made as the wind sifted through them - the largest bamboo wind chime on earth.  I lagged back from the group just to linger a while in it, to listen and to simply be.  I must have looked ridiculous, completely overjoyed to walk through a patch of overgrown grass, which wasn't even the hike's destination.

From Frederick Buechner's The Alphabet of Grace:
Two apple branches struck against each other with the limber clack of wood on wood.  That was all - a tick-tack rattle of branches - but then a fierce lurch of excitement at what was only daybreak, only the smell of summer coming, only starting back again for home, but oh Jesus, he thought, with a great lump is his throat and a crazy grin, it was an agony of gladness and beauty falling wild and soft like rain.  Just clack-clack, but praise him, he thought. Praise him.  Maybe all his journeying, he thought, had been only to bring him here to hear two branches hit each other twice like that, to see nothing cross the threshold but to see the threshold, to hear the dry clack-clack of the world's tongue at the approach of the approach of splendor.

And because the augenblick will not verweile, the return trip through the bamboo was completely different.  One, it was no longer a delightful surprise - it was now a known entity, the joy of discovery was finished.  Two, an hour later after a pause at the falls, and of course the light's angles had changed.  Others may keep their waterfall; I, however, will carry that bamboo around with me forever.  Clack clack.

Increasing My Internet Footprint

Though not the reason1 for my neglectfulness here, exactly, I have been dabbling in some other online outposts lately.

This, for sharing interesting links and readings and what not, which lost its venue when Google killed the best part of Reader (that would be the sharing/noting and was sacred among my circle and has since been merged into Google+, the health club of social media.  Everyone signs up, nobody goes.).

This, for updates on interesting things in and around the islands for our friends and family elsewhere.

It feels a little scattered, but I'll figure out my strategy as I go along, I suppose.

1 I don't know what this reason is, any more than you do!

29 April 2012

Motherhood of a Different Kind

I was sifting through one of my commonplace books this morning, and I came across this pearl from C.S. Lewis:

'She seems to be... well, a person of particular importance?'
'Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things...' 
'And who are all these young men and women on each side?' 
'They are her sons and daughters.' 
'She must have had a very large family, Sir.' 
'Every young man or boy that met her became her son - even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.' 
'Isn't that a bit hard on their own parents?' 
'No. There are those that steal other peoples' children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives. ... It is like when you throw a stone into a pool and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? ... But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.'

I am often asked about (not) having children of my own - it's usually one of the trifecta of small-talk topics when meeting people:  Where are you from?  What do you do?  Do you have any kids?  Especially after someone learns we've been married for more than a dozen years.  As a woman who runs in some evangelical Christian circles, it's assumed that I would have had them by now.  And that it's something I'm supposed to do, despite my body.  Frankly, I've never had a huge drive towards motherhood - I've looked at it more as merely the next logical milestone.  I'm not hostile toward the idea, either; I'm not militantly anti-children.  It just hasn't happened for us.  I choose to be satisfied either way - with or without.  We essentially gave the decision over to God; I never wanted to be so desperate that I would steamroll forth with my plan and overlook the one He has designed for us (and designed us for). A constant struggle that is hardly exclusive to child-bearing. 

One way I usually respond to the question - mostly to fill the conversation space that would have otherwise held a description of my family - is that as a high-school teacher and mentor, I've been busy shepherding others' children.  Which raises a question: Must I justify our lack of children with some substitution or place-holder?  Sometimes, yes, because I've been made to feel I am somehow less of a woman for it.  Comments from a doctor and also from some well-meaning friends in a position of spiritual authority.  Defense does spring back from that kind of thing.  Surely God demonstrates His love for us through parenting.  There are things about God's relationship with us you begin to understand once you have children of your own.  I get that.  But He also doesn't call everyone to live out the same story.  Creation and community do not support homogeneity as the rule.  He calls some to remain single all their lives.  He calls others to marriage late in life.  He calls others to be parents of one.  He calls others to be parents of many.  He calls others to be parents of none.  But He also demonstrates His love in ways too numerous to count.  

Flipping through the same book, I re-read Donald Miller's words: 
After all, the metaphors - love between a father and a son, between a man and a woman - didn't have to be exact.  They were only supposed to make a motion, to grunt toward the inexplicable.  And we don't all get to experience all the metaphors.  A person who never leaves China doesn't get to appreciate God's handiwork in Yosemite National Park, but he will have his own versions there in China.  This was important to me, because it meant that even though I didn't have a dad, I still knew about love, and from plenty of places.  So while all the metaphors weren't firing, some of them were.  I could still understand God was loving and kind, because I knew about love and kindness.

I don't need all the metaphors.  I have some.  And, in this lifetime, I'll barely scratch the surfaces of the ones I do have.  "Some" is still an embarrassing surplus of riches.

01 April 2012

A little Italy

No deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza around here?  Not a problem.

30 March 2012


That's right - it's a cookie, inside a cookie.  Because sometimes lilies just need gilding.

Admittedly, if I were to do this again1, I'd swap out half (or maybe all) the butter in the chocolate-chip-cookie recipe for shortening.  Because they spread a little too much.  Shortening would have prevented that.

1  next time I happen to have any leftover oreos from a cookies-and-cream ice cream project

23 February 2012

A Good Day

I had a great day!  Not for any big reason - it was just full of little delights.

My morning bus driver remembers that I grabbed a newspaper once last week and now always saves me one and hands it to me when I board.  I take for granted that I might be rememberable, but I suppose I can't help but stick out in the ethnic and age mix of Hawaii bus riders.  I always like to think I can blend into a crowd, but I think I'm just kidding myself sometimes.

I got downtown with enough time to pop in to a cafe/roaster downtown and get a latte.  And mine had a heart in it today.

After those two shots of espresso, I was totally wired.  I described myself to a friend as "barely containable"... and was only half joking.

I had a handful of appointments today, including an easy graduation audit, a double-major advising, and a degree plan and general advice.  Most appointments are solo - not much shadowing any more.  I routinely think that I'm not ready for the training wheels to come off just yet, but my mentor advisors think I am, and they let me take the lead.  I find myself pleasantly surprised with what I am capable of, more often than I am confronted by the things I don't know.  I don't know when, exactly, that ratio turned around, but I'm glad it did.

I'm so glad to be into advising now - it was so much of what I did on any given day that it's nice to make it my primary job description.  But recently I've been ... concerned about what I've been brought here to do.    I know it's still early - it hasn't even been two months at my job yet! - but most of my appointments have been very quick graduation audits.  I just make sure students, who are in their last semester, have completed their degree requirements - and it's not surprising that it's difficult (if not impossible) to forge relationships with them.  It's not the point, really.  I haven't yet had many degree-planning meetings with students, in which I will actually start to get to know them.  I understand that relationships need time to be cultivated.  But I've been concerned with the change in rhythm from teaching and the comparative ease with which I could speak into students' lives.  You can't help but forge those relationships when students barrel into your classroom on a daily basis. And how would that ever happen when I don't teach now?  But I also know that all I have to do is be available; ministry can't help but happen (1).  So I've been struggling with thoughts I know better than to dwell on - I just need to trust and be patient.

My last appointment of the day was counseling a student about finishing her undergrad degree, getting into education and teaching high school.  PERFECT.  She had a bundle of questions and was really personable.  She'll be back for several more appointments concerning graduation and her grad program.  It was exactly the glimpse of my career to come that was the exact antidote to all the prior concern.

Midway through the morning, an email arrived in my inbox, inviting me to this year's AP Reading!  And it's in the midwest, where I have family and friends.  I LOVED the reading I attended a couple years ago.  Completely unlike any conference I've ever attended (plus the stipend isn't shabby).  So, a nice professional-development opportunity, a good excuse to return to the mainland - even if briefly - this summer, and it might overlap with some of my former colleagues!

I had a lovely online conversation with a friend in which I quoted one of my favorite passages from one of my favorite books.  Last night, the very excerpt popped into my head while I was sorting laundry.  The Holy Spirit knew we'd need it the next day.

A midday appointment cancelled, so I decided to push lunch back so I could attend a weekly campus chapel service in the building next door.  We're still looking for a church home, still trying to figure out what the search should even look like (that deserves its own post later), so I thought a mid-week service on a college campus might be worthwhile.  Particularly since it's the beginning of the reflective Lenten season.  But lunch today, instead, brought a phone call from a dear friend, and I decided to stay at my desk and converse with him . I like to think I chose the better part.  I'll aim for chapel next week.

All these joys kept me in a great mood right up through closing time.  At the end of the day, I walked out to catch the bus, only to catch this rainbow first.  The rainy season weather has returned, with fresh trade winds and mauka showers that bring gentle rain and subsequent afternoon rainbows.  I can't believe I get to live here.

(1) Thank you, Frederick Buechner

21 February 2012

President's Day

Brian and I both had the day off today, which was good, because he managed to get tickets to a taping of "Live With Kelly" (formerly Regis & Kelly).  Yeah yeah, I know, a taping of a live show...?  But if they were to actually show it live from Hawaii, it would have to start at 4am.  Anyhow, it was at the new Disney resort over at Ko Olina, which we've driven past but never been to.  It was windy and sunny day - and I forgot the sunscreen I specifically put out on the kitchen counter... I don't seem too burned, at least yet.  The episode airs Wednesday, with Carrie-Ann Inaba, Patricia Heaton, and Carson Kressly.  And a couple who won a wedding here in Hawaii with 30 friends and family - and quite possibly the least enthused to have won such a prize.  Very curious.  Anyhow.

 Aulani resort
 Paddle dancers
 Kelly and Carrie-Ann
 With Patricia
With Carson

We got home and I did some cooking, including some Butter Mochi.  The reviews of a recipe suggested making it in cupcake pans because the outside part is the best part.  And so I made miniature mochi bites!   

Mochi requires rice flour like this Mochiko:

I took about half the mixture and blended a few spoonsful of cocoa for cocoa-haupia-style mochi.

Half the recipe made four pans of mini-muffin-shaped mochi bites. 

They're reasonably good - they have that unique mochi chewiness, but with the richness of eggs and butter. I've been told they will taste better on day 2.  So, I'll try to report back. :)

20 February 2012

Mint Chip Goodness

I've been enjoying a kitchen renaissance lately, with my luxurious free time.  Good for the soul, bad for the waistline...

Last week, I made some mint-chip cookies (sorry for the lame photo - I didn't take any until I only had one left. :) Forgive also the crummy photo quality - the kitchen's a wreck, and I want to get back into the habit of posting.)  Anyhow, it was everything I love about mint-chip ice cream, my favorite ice cream flavor, in cookie form!  Peppermint - not spearmint - flavor and green!  I skipped the rolling-pin and cookie-cutter step, opting to roll out balls of dough and flatten them with the bottom of a drinking glass.

I've been making Nutella ice cream that's simply a 1:1 ratio of Nutella and evaporated milk.  It. Is. Heavenly.  Especially straight out of the ice cream maker - sumptuous and silky, almost gelato-like.  So good.  Anyhow, I looked today for more recipes using evaporated milk, but found a ton that use sweetened condensed milk in place of the usual egg custard base.  And when I found a mint chip one, I couldn't resist.  My initial lick off the dasher was pretty good - we'll see how it freezes up.  I particularly love the stracciatella technique - drizzling melted chocolate into the ice cream maker in the last stage of freezing.  It produces softer chocolate flakes instead of hard chips.  If I did it again (and I likely will), I will use chocolate thinned out with some shortening to produce an even softer chocolate flake - aiming for the effect I've tasted in ice creams like Graeter's.  Meanwhile, I'll happily make quick work of this batch. :)

The cookie photo showcases one of my new set of dishes.  It had been almost 13 years since we got our last set of dishes (for our wedding), and they were starting to look a little dated.  Figured a big move would be a good excuse to get a new set, found a group at Pier 1 that I liked, in a variety of patterns, so they coordinate but aren't matchy-matchy.  We have small plates and bowls in the zebra pattern you see, plus plates and bowls in four other similar patterns.  They went on clearance last week, and living on an island, I've found it's important to gobble things up when I can - they might not be there later, and it's not like we can drive to many other stores...

19 February 2012

Hawaii Delights

Had a good grocery outing today.  I think I've become completely desensitized to Hawaii food prices.  The numbers that used to give me pause no longer do.  I passed up some local lilikoi butter - but I might wait until I make some headway on my apricot jam, with some scones I hope to make later this week.  I'd like to go to the Whole Foods here and see if they have double cream.  Maybe I should reserve judgment on grocery prices until I see what that stuff commands!

One thing I see in the store often is this stuff called Butter Mochi.  I have been tempted on the last few outings, but can't quite justify the price for something I'm not sure I'll like.  I think I will.  I like regular mochi, which some think has a wonky texture, so the addition of butter can't be much more than gilding the lily.  But, still.  Anyhow, the rice flour that's used to make mochi is not so pricey, so I bought a box and came home and researched some recipes.  Found one that I'm looking forward to trying this week!  I might make half as directed and the other half with a little cocoa blended in for a bit of a Ted's chocolate-haupia pie riff. I shall report back!

The rainy season seems to have returned.  Right after we arrived, it seemed like we had gentle rain showers every evening and morning, sometimes intermittently throughout the day. Rainbows too!  But that seemed to stop in January.  We've been getting more showers again in the evenings - including a heavy one right now.  Friday morning, I left the house in a dreary rain, and halfway on the way into town, the sun broke free of the clouds, as if summoned by the David Crowder song that was on my ipod at the time.  It was one of those mornings in which I just couldn't believe I get to live here.  Unspeakably beautiful.  And I get to experience it. Every. Day.  I am so incredibly grateful to get to be a part of it, even as merely a witness - to be a participant in the glory of God's creation here.  It would go on being spectacular, even if nobody is here to see it.  But surely it's all magnified somehow, by someone who notices it.  

And, you know, maybe that can be said of people, too.  Something is catalyzed when another takes notice of someone's magnificence.  May we all have such a catalyst, or else be that catalyst.

Peace and love, friends.

24 November 2011

Craftings: Tie Bracelets

So I had a ton of tie ends (the skinny tails), left over from making a tie skirt1 a couple years ago.  I figured I could put them to good use, and finally decided I could make little cuff bracelets out of them and some cute vintage buttons I inherited from my mom and grandmother's sewing collection.

I measured them on my wrist, folded over the not-pointy end and stiched it closed.  Matched a button to each tie, then sewed a buttonhole on the pointy end.  Boy, it's been a while since I machine-stitched (okay, any stitch) a buttonhole, and wow did I really suck at it.  This is one of the later (and better) ones.  Ugh.

On my wrist!

A fleet of them!  (I have three others that aren't pictured because I did them on an earlier night and they were already in my jewelry drawer)

I made a couple double-length ones that could be chokers, or doubled up on the wrist.  Doesn't this one look so academic? :)

1 Todd Oldham taught me how, in, like 1993.