Monday, July 29, 2013

West Coast Adventure

We just got back from a week in the San Jose area of California.  We headed west to meet our son's fiancee's family who live in San Jose.  Our son and his fiancee live in Los Angeles but they also took most of the week off to head north.  They wanted all of us to tour their wedding venue in Carmel.

We had a wonderful time meeting the family, and I think the feeling was mutual.  They went out of their way to be sure that we enjoyed ourselves.   My husband and I stayed at a very comfortable hotel about 5 minutes from their house and we spent our days playing tourist and most of our evenings sharing great Vietnamese food at their home.  Our first night however, we met V's parents (without the kids!) and we went to Santana Row in San Jose for dinner

Our biggest adventure was our trip into San Francisco the first day.  Although I'd been to SF once before, my husband had never been so he wanted to see a few of the major sights.  Unfortunately, it was pretty foggy all day, so he didn't get the great view of the Golden Gate that we'd hoped for.

 We drove across the bridge, stopped at the park, and then drove back.  We had a slight problem ---- there's a toll on the return trip, but you have to have a toll plate/transponder, which we didn't!  And there's no place to stop and pay cash.  So we can expect a bill in the mail evidently.  The car rental company told us not to worry.

Afterwards we drove to Union Square and found parking under it.  We hopped on a double decker bus and took a tour of the city.  It was a very cool day, but I appreciated the refreshment after the 90°F plus days we'd left behind.  We had a slight adventure as we started the wrong way down a one way street on our way back to San Jose, but fortunately traffic was VERY light.

One of the places my husband wanted to go was to Castroville, the world's artichoke capital.  Artichokes are one of his favorite veggies.  So off we went.

We ate fried artichokes and tacos from a food truck at Pezzini Farms, also in Castroville.

And we saw lots of fields filled with artichokes and strawberries:

We bought a half flat of strawberries at a ridiculously inexpensive price at least as far as East Coast prices go!

On Wednesday, the combined families headed to Carmel where the wedding will be held next year.  They've chosen a venue called The Holly Farm.  It's a lovely, very private space - about 6 acres which will be all theirs for the event.    We had a tour and sipped some lovely wine.

And of course we went visited the beach in Carmel and we drove the 17 Mile Drive in Monterey.

                                                             (The engaged couple!)

We were in Gilroy on Friday for the start of the 3 day Garlic Festival, another highlight of the trip.  Talk about perfumed air!!  This was a lot of fun!

Of course we tried the garlic ice cream which was delicious!

We tried on garlic hats

I ate garlic calamari accompanied by garlic bread.

We made another trip to Monterey to visit the aquarium, and spent an evening at a neighborhood block party.   The engaged couple had a street artist make a portrait of them.

On the last day of our visit, we went to V's parent's house for a pig roast.  Pig roasts are a tradition to celebrate events like engagements.

 This was a lot of fun, and we met dozens of  V's family members.  We ate LOTS of Vietnamese food, most of which I can't pronounce.  One of my favorite dishes (beside the homemade pho) was a noodle dish.  A flat "pancake" of rice noodles was rolled up with minced chives/green onions that had been sauted in oil. Then a yummy garlic fish sauce was trickled over them.  I didn't get a picture, and I need to find out what type of noodles they were because I would love making them.  I also don't know what they're called!

We had to leave the party while it was in full swing so that we could catch our red-eye flight home.  It was a great week, and I've decided that I'd consider moving to the area for retirement!  The weather was beautiful, and there were lots of areas that were not too-congested.  The more I visit California, the more I think I'd live there!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Five - Church Libraries

From RevGalBlogPals:

Church libraries seem to be diminishing and even disappearing in some churches. Our church is full of scholarly books that no one looks at, and how should it change, be developed, or continue? As the de-facto chairperson of the library, I need ideas and suggestions about church libraries in this day and age. Please help!

1. Does your church have a library? What is it like?
My church does have a library.  It contains 2 or 3 UCC confirmation curricula, several sets of commentary, a Biblical dictionary or two, a meditation resource "Imaging the Word,", copies of books we've done as book studies, some Sunday school curricula, and various assorted works of fiction including Jan Karon's series, the James Herriot "All Things Bright and Beautiful" series, some Catherine Marshall, and a few other "wholesome" offerings.  It's not used much, so the shelves are usually neat and organized.

2. Has this church library changed in recent years?

The library has changed very little over the 30+years I've been a member.  I think the last additions to the  library was a confirmation curriculum purchased in 2004 and the Imaging the Word books.

3. Does your church library serve as space for other activities, such as meetings or as a multi-purpose room?

The library consists of 2 floor to almost ceiling built in bookshelves framing a double a window on the back wall of our church parlor.  Our parlor is used all the time for committee meetings, fellowship, community group meetings, Sunday school worship and classes, and our council meetings.  There's also the worship supply closet in it (seasonal antipendia, communion trays, etc) and a small kitchenette.  

4. Is a church library necessary? What does a library need?

A few church members have been talking about our library lately.  We've been wondering about these exact questions.  As it's presently constituted, it serves very little purpose other than a a place to shelve books few, if any, people are using.  Our discussion started when a parishioner suggested putting a shelf in our narthex for folks to share current "spiritual" reading.  He purchases new books frequently and was cleaning out his shelves.  Despite the fact that he'd been a member of the church for over 10 years, he wasn't aware that we had a library!  Our library is so underused and so out of date, that the bookshelves had become furniture that wasn't noticed.

One of the discussion points is the lack of relevant material available.      I think that a library is helpful and that it should be a resource for those folks interested in exploring theology, faith practices, and as a resource for Bible study.  It should have some current commentaries, a number of various Biblical translations, some dictionaries, and current publications from the denomination.  It should also have current writing accessible to lay readers ---  Marcus Borg, Diana Butler-Bass, Sarah Miles, etc.  I'd also love to have some DVD's along the lines of  Living the Questions which we watched a few years back.  

It needs to have worship resources too for both personal and corporate use, as well as resources for personal prayer, meditation, and challenge.  We frequently have lay-led services so it would be helpful to have resources for us to use when we are planning services. 

It should have some resources about other religions and religious practices and some religious history.  During some prayer group meetings a few years ago, some questions arose that we had a hard time finding answers to because there was nothing available.

It should have copies of books that are used in a book study group, and copies of current faith formation programs.

We also need a librarian - someone to weed out outdated material, choose new material, keep track of what we have or would like to have.  Somebody to  periodically pose these questions and review our needs/desires.

 5.  Imagine the library your church would use and describe it.

My ideal library would contain things I've described above.  I'd love to have a library where I could borrow a new book - my local library rarely is able to get me new publications unless they are also popular secular type spiritual books.  (Gratitude, for example). I'd be able to find some resources for guiding personal meditation or devotions.  We'd have a shelf or 2 where folks could share their books with others, with perhaps some sort of recommendation or comment log.

Bonus: Any suggestions or ideas about church libraries that you'd like to offer!

This was an interesting prompt, especially since we are beginning this discussion in my church!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thinking about Church

I've been thinking, reflecting, and above all, praying about church lately.  For a variety of reasons which I don't feel I can go into in this somewhat public space, I've been taking what I'm calling a sabbatical from church.  I resigned my position as church moderator in April after much prayer, and with the exception of a funeral, I haven't gone to a service at my church since March.  I am seriously wrestling with the idea that perhaps I need to find a new congregation to which to belong.  But before I make that decision, I need to figure out what it is I'm looking for.  So I've been attempting to define what it means for me to "go to church," and what I think I need to find in a church.

Here's what I know I need in order to be faithful in attendance, service, (and financial support) to a specific congregation.

  • A congregation infused with the Spirit led by a pastor similarly infused
  • A progressive theology that includes all 
  • Inclusive worship experiences - newcomers, life-long members, children, teens, young adults, middle aged adults, seniors, LGTB, seekers both churched and unchurched . . . .I want anyone who enters the building to feel as though there is a place for her/him - not just "at the table" everywhere else too.
  • A pastor who preaches what we really need to hear -- the pastor's words must make me squirm in my pew and force me to wrestle with the scripture throughout the week (maybe not every Sunday, but most of the time). I don't want constant "feel good" sermons. I don't think that I should feel comfortable and satisfied when I leave church.  I should feel "fed" and nourished, I should feel excitement and empowerment, but not complacency.  I'm also someone who honestly believes that church AND politics have to be integrated.  How can a Christian not have a stand on hunger, poverty, abuse of power, war, etc?  How is that not political?  Obviously I am not suggesting that a pastor tell me for whom to vote, but a pastor should be forcing me to think about which candidates/laws/policies further God's kin-dom.
  • Music that enhances the worship experience --- while I can't say that I would be super excited by a rock band led service and projection screens,  I am open to many music genres and instruments.  I want the music to be intentional, helping to open me up to hearing and experiencing God.
  • Leadership (both pastoral and lay) which is open to challenge and change, and that can support those in a congregation who aren't "on board" with everything
  • Opportunities to serve - but without the sense of obligation, guilt if you can't or don't want to.
  • Opportunities to grow in faith through Bible study, book study, service work, classes, prayer groups, etc. 
  • A congregation attuned to the needs of the local community.
  • Leadership (both pastoral and lay) that plans with intention, that looks beyond the moment

My present church possesses several of these qualities, but it's missing some too.  So now the question for me is to determine which qualities are "non-negotiable." What would it take to change the missing ingredients, and are those things that can be changed?   

Meanwhile, it's a strange experience to be intentionally not going to church.  For 59 years I've been within the walls of a church on Sunday mornings.  (My mom used to carry me in an infant carrier to Sunday school where she, her sister and mother taught, starting at 6 weeks old!) Even in college, in the 70's, I regularly attended church.  I also have to admit that I've been in the same denomination all my life too --- Congregational, and then UCC when it was born.   I am not ready to explore other churches, yet.  Perhaps I will be led back to my present congregation where I've been a member for over 30 years.  Perhaps God is leading me somewhere else.  But for now . ..  

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Friday Five

I haven't done a Friday Five from  RevGalBlogPals  in a very long time.  Finally circumstances have converged to give me time to do one, and this one is fun!

Here's the prompt:

From  revjkarla
Because I am feeling silly, or perhaps, just out there, our FF is dedicated to creating silly sentences.  We all need a little meaningless creativity and humour, right?

Use these five words (in any tense) in a sentence:

1. pulpit, puppy, wrench, word, mouse.
2. weep, love, prayer, bassoon, chair
3. heart, shutter, wish, turtle, walk
4. howl, worry, window, story, trust
5. garden, hat, shepherd, laugh, sigh.

Here's my offering:

1.  Without a word, I rushed up to the pulpit and wrenched the mouse from the worship leader's hand when she started to project cute puppy videos up on the hymn screen during the silent prayer.

2.  Despite the fact that I love music, the sound of the off-key bassoon playing during the meditation prayer made me weep in agony, while other parishioners fidgeted uncomfortably in their chairs.

3.  I wished for a different outcome as I watched the solitary turtle walk across the porch in front of the now-shuttered door, stop, and withdraw deep into the heart of its shell.

4.  As Grandpa finished his spooky story, the howling of the wolves through the open window worried me, but I trusted that he would keep me safe.

5.  I laughed, and then sighed, at the spectacle of the silly hat perched on the head of the shepherd statue in the middle of the garden.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Very Slow . . .Progress in Teeny Increments

The house construction is moving at a snail's pace, and every time we take a step forward, we seem to end up going back 2 spaces!

The tiling is still underway in both bathrooms.  The first delay was waiting for the shower shelves, the soap dish, and the grab bars to arrive.  They came in yesterday.  Now we are waiting on the vanity countertops to arrive.

The kitchen is still in transition.  There was a major error by the contractor (who is no longer working for us) and the measurements were off by 3 inches for the cabinets.  That meant we had to re-order 2 cabinets and then wait for them to be installed.  Meanwhile all the appliances arrived.  The final cabinets were installed yesterday, but the installers discovered a crack in one of the previously installed cabinets (another contractor goof).  Now we need to figure out the best solution for that.

Meanwhile the painting is almost finished.  There's a ton of trim to complete and then some final touchups.  Other tasks to be completed before we can think about moving in include:

template and install the granite kitchen counters
installing the toe kicks and crown molding on the cabinets
install the gas cooktop and downdraft in the island
install the rest of the appliances
install the plumbing fixtures (toilets and faucets)
install the central AC unit
get railings put up on the deck so that no one falls off (required for occupance permit)
finish choosing cabinet and vanity hardware and getting that installed
finish choosing lighting fixtures
installing the closet shelving in master closet, coat closet, and pantry

There are some other items that need finishing but don't HAVE to be done before move in -- installing the overhead garage doors, and finish getting the garage taped, mudded, and painted.

Oh and did I mention a plumbing leak in the basement that is now fixed, but the sheetrock got wet and mold started to grow?  That is also a solved problem, but just another wrinkle.

The original plan was to be MOVING in this month and getting settled before school started.  Oh, such foolish and naive dreams!

I did buy some new furniture for the living area however.  Fortunately we needed a new couch and chair anyway.  We've been suffering with a couch and chair we bought on the very cheap 12 years ago,  knowing that we wouldn't get much wear out of them.  I fell in love with this beauty in February and then spent a lot of time looking for a compatible reclining chair.  And then I waited for the store's summer sale!

Both are leather, and they are super comfortable for both of us.  Once the appliances get installed, I can have the furniture delivered.

We will be able to furnish the rest of the house with what we have . . . maybe slightly repurposed.

So, that's the scoop on the new house.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Salad for Hot Humid Weather

My husband is not a fan of quinoa, but I like it.  I keep trying new quinoa recipes, but so far no luck as far as enticing him.  So this recipe is mostly for me --- and there's enough to keep me in lunch all week.  And maybe, just maybe, he'll tolerate this one.

My Asian-Inspired Quinoa Salad

1 cup uncooked quinoa
pinch of salt
1 small onion diced (use more or less, depending on what you have, and your taste)
1 carrot diced
1 red pepper chopped
2 garlic scapes (or you could use green onions) chopped
1 cup of celery diced
1/2-1 serrano chili, diced (according to your taste)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro  (or more if you wish)

Prepare quinoa per package directions.  (2 parts liquid to 1 cup grain).  I added a pinch of salt to the cooking water, but after making the dressing, I think I will eliminate it another time.  You can do this ahead of time.

Chop and dice all the other ingredients and toss with the cooked quinoa.


1/4 cup peanut butter
1 TBS honey
1 TBS lime juice (can add more to taste)
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 TBS sesame oil
1 TBS olive oil
3 TBS soy sauce

Put all the dressing ingredients in a microwavable container and heat for about 20 seconds.  Remove from microwave and whisk until smooth.  Adjust with extra lime juice or oil if needed.  You can add some black pepper too.

I couldn't find my sesame oil, and then realized I'd used it all, so I just used more olive oil.

Pour dressing over salad and mix well.  Eat immediately or chill.

This is a very forgiving salad --- add other veggies as  you desire, and adjust quantities of veggies as you desire.  Most of the Asian quinoa salads I've seen use red cabbage, but I didn't have any so I used the celery instead.  My celery was on its last legs, so I just sliced off all the bad tops  and used the bottom 4 inches of the head.  Lots of crunch!