Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Five: Holy Week Favorites

Today's Friday Five is all about our favorite parts of Holy Week, specifically the things that are truly worshipful in spite of the responsibilities of leading. Holy Week is a tough one for me because it's not ever been nearly as big a deal in my life and history as in some. There are very few "givens" in my Holy Week from year to year. In spite of that, I do have some very special memories of "once in a lifetime" holy week experiences, so that's what I want to share.

1. Palm Sunday 2002 in New York City - When I was growing up, the North Alabama Conference of the UMC used to take a trip to NYC every year during spring break for high school juniors and seniors focused on social issues. I went in the spring of 2002, so the focus for our trip was (pretty obviously) terrorism, international relations, and religious pluralism. We were gone over Holy Week and attended the Palm Sunday service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. While there, a lady showed us how to weave our palms into crosses. I couldn't do it, but thankfully one of our group members did mine for me. After I got home I framed it up with other mementos from that trip and it hung in my room forever. I still have it and want to re-frame it to look a little bit nicer.

2. Stations of the Cross around the Lake - Once or twice that I can remember growing up, my home church had a big Easter picnic/egg hunt at the home of some members who had a ton of property that included a lake with a trail around it. While the kids got to play, the adults were able to walk the stations of the cross that were set up around the lake with a "leader" at each station reading a devotion or prayer. I never got to participate in walking the stations because I always got tapped to be a station "leader" but I loved the peace and quiet of sitting between the groups to think and pray in the beauty of nature.

3. Holy Thursday Service - This is the one "special" service I lead each year and it's one of my favorites. I sort of combine the Thursday and Friday services, and after communion I re-tell the story of the crucifixion. It's a dark, quiet, reflective service which is the kind that I really love. In spite of leading, the pace makes it so that I can stop and reflect as well.

4. Making RCIA Candles - Before my step-mom was my step-mom, she was a good friend of my family's. She taught RCIA classes for her Catholic church, and always made the RCIA candles for the Easter Vigil. The year before my mom died, Catherine brought over all her stuff and my mom and I helped her make the candles. It was a lot of fun to sit and talk while we made the candles, and it's a really special memory that I have of two very special women in my life.

5. Easter Egg Hunt - This has been the one "constant" of the churches I have worked at, and they never fail to be a ton of fun. Anything involving little kids hyped up on sugar seems to exemplify "celebration" to me!

Bonus: What piece of music "is" Holy Week? - The first one that jumps to mind is "Were You There?" I first learned that one during my NYC trip so it's always been special to me for that reason. I think because I was older when I learned it and I was able to connect it with a special experience I've never taken it for granted.

My second one is "Via Dolorosa" sung by my friend Daniel. Nobody does it as well as he does (at least in my mind!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Week 64

I'm kind of surprised by how much progress I've made on this list! It's nice being able to cross some things off!

15 - completed! I took my first yoga class last week and I really enjoyed it. It was much harder than I thought it would be, but it was fun. I'm digging my class.

19 - I've been working on this. My new journal is awesome. I love it!

32 - We're getting closer to this but it's tough. Even one full week will be a huge victory for us!

34 - I'm taking a cooking class on Saturday with my step-mom. Stay tuned for details on that!

58 - completed! I decided to surprise Jeff and do this on Monday night. It was the first time I'd ever used my grandmother's good china and we ate chicken tamale pie on it!

69 - I should get my last sermon on Easter!

So there you have it! Progress is a good thing!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Easter, Part 1

I have been a big slacker about blogging lately. Mostly it's because there isn't a whole heck of a lot going on to blog about. Because of spring break I have been home more and that has meant cooking some more, but nothing really new or innovative. A lot of it has been grilling because the weather has been so fabulous. We got a great box of goodies from Omaha Steaks as a Christmas gift so we're finally getting around to using them. Most of it is really good, but that's another post for another day.

Jeff decided we should offer to host Easter lunch for his family. It's always been a much bigger deal for his family than mine, and the first big family function of his that I attended was an Easter lunch a few months after we started dating. Well, since I have to do church first, the priority has been to do as much make ahead food as possible. Plus, it's really warm and so we don't need a ton of hot, heavy sides. So here is my menu.

Spiced Nuts - This is an attempt at crossing a recipe for some spiced nuts made in the crock pot and my fabulous rosemary cashews. If this works the way I hope it will, I will be able to make gallons of these (and eat them just as quickly!)
Cheese Ball - Inspired by an idea from Pinterest
Pickles & Olives - A tradition with Jeff's family. I have a recipe for citrus marinated olives I got from my former CPE supervisor, and we've still got a very few jars of homemade pickles, but it will be supplemented with some purchased goodies like Wickles.

Ham and Turkey Breast - both from Honey Baked Ham. I'm all for shortcuts, and I really do love their ham. I'm very excited about leftovers!
Hashbrown Casserole - I've made this before.
Green Beans - nothing fancy. We'll probably use some we have frozen from the garden last year. If you don't have any left from a garden, my little trick for making canned green beans not taste like a can is to drain out all the can juice and cook them in a can of chicken stock with a little bit of sliced onion and maybe even a tiny bit of garlic.
Broccoli Salad - I think this is one of those classics that has made the rounds hundreds of times, but the specific recipe I have came from my confirmation mentor, Ms. Jennie.
Congealed Salad - My variation on a recipe from Jeff's grandmother in their family cookbook.
Greek Onions - Another family recipe, this one from Jeff's Aunt Linda, but with a few twists of my own.
Deviled Eggs - Jeff's mother is bringing these! I can make deviled eggs, they're just so time consuming! She wanted to bring something so I let her do this for me!
Macaroni & Cheese - Thanks to my step-mother, Catherine. Hers is always so much better than mine!
Rolls - Sister Schubert's Rolls to be exact. I love that she (and thus, the company) are from Alabama and it brings back lots of happy memories of my family.

Coconut Cream Pies - I'm going the "no bake pie" route again, because I seem to do these well. I'm doing little individual pies and putting a few jelly beans on top so they'll look like tiny bird nests. I'm a sucker for cuteness
Strawberry Cakes - I got a great little mini cake pan from my cousins for Christmas and since I'm not much of a baker I really haven't had a chance to use it yet, but I figured this would be a good opportunity!
Candies - I got a cute little Easter candy mold so I'm going to make some little mints and chocolates.

It does seem like a lot when you look at the big list, but since most items are "mix and chill" it won't be bad. Even the casserole can be put together ahead of time so on Easter all we'll have to do is heat and serve! Once it's over, I'll post specifics about particular recipes, and I'll try to remember to link them back here, but just keep an eye out for them.

Of course there are other, non-food related preparations being made, but I will post more about them later.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Yoga For Beginners

When I wrote up my 101 things list, my number 15 was originally to take a dance class, but I pretty quickly decided that I would be happy with yoga, too. I just wanted something to get me moving again.

My first attempt at a yoga class was on our cruise last April. On the one hand I was glad that nobody else showed up because it meant that I didn't have to embarrass myself in front of total strangers (can you tell I'm a little self-conscious about the fact that I've never done this before?!) but that also meant that there was no class. I had a great time talking to the instructor, but I didn't have the guts to ask him to teach me something anyway so it still didn't scratch that itch.

Almost a year passed and I still didn't get to take my class. I know there are plenty of "drop in" classes all over the place, but that's not what I'm after or comfortable with. I want something that has a distinct beginning. That's just who I am and how I like to learn. I can't stand the idea of missing the first day of school and not having that foundation! So it was starting to look like either I'd have to find a series with a distinct start and end date, or take private lessons. I found out about a woman who does private yoga classes, but it was a lot more expensive than what I was willing to spend just to try it out.

Finally, I discovered Villager Yoga and the beginner's class. One of the things I liked best about their classes was that, after I took the beginner class, there were lots of options for other classes (like Yoga and Wine!) or other series that I could take if I wanted to. But because they run in 6 week-ish sessions, if I have to miss a few in a series, I can just wait until the next session and take it then!

I am always tempted to go a little overboard when I first try something new. This time, I decided to restrain myself. I didn't need any new clothes, and I decided to wait on buying a yoga mat. I figured if I like it and am going to take any other classes, I can buy one then. That being said, I have already scouted a cute mat and bag set

Tomorrow is my first class. I'm very excited! Stay tuned to find out how this little adventure ends up!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Five - Late

Today's Friday Five was a little bit later than usual, and asks us to consider our tardy tendencies. This is an interesting thing for me to think about because, on the one hand, I'm very grateful for the "lateness" of this today since I was tied up most of today so I feel like I'm still kind of on top of things and get to play. I am usually quite thankful for the times when other people are running late. On the other hand, I HATE to be late. In fact, I hate to be anything less than five minutes early. Whenever I think about being late, I always think about my little friend from Alice in Wonderland, because everything I do feels like "a very important date!"

1. Church - Although I am rarely "technically" late, I am almost always later than I want to be. I generally like to have at least 10 minutes of quiet alone time to get myself situated before others start showing up. That rarely happens, especially when my darling husband is doing the driving, but it's been a good learning experience for me!

2. Home - I'm having a hard time thinking of a specific instances when I was late for something at home, but I am a lot less anxious about this than anything else. I guess it goes to my ideas about hospitality and being a good hostess because I want to make people as comfortable as I can. At least when it comes to someone being at my house I can tell them how to get inside, even if I'm not there so they aren't having to sit in the car and wait (although the front porch swing isn't the worst place to be, either!)

3. Work - Tutoring has been a new and good learning experience for me to change the way I think about being "late" because the attitude is kind of "whenever you get here!" The notion of grace in relationship to punctuality has been hard for me to receive but very welcome!

4. Friends - I'm sure I've stood up my friends a time or two, but I can't think of any specific instances. I will tell on my hubby and the fact that he was late for our first date! At least he called!

5. Other - Any time I have any sort of appointment, I make it a point to be early. Recently, my counselor moved to a new office where the front doors are locked from the outside after "normal" business hours. My first appointment at the new building was scheduled for 6 pm so I had instructions to call my counselor when I arrived so he could walk down to let me in. Thanks to traffic, I arrived only 3 minutes before my scheduled appointment time (rather than my usual 10) and got a somewhat frantic phone call from my counselor because he was worried about me since I was "less early than normal!"

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Week 62

I've really been slacking on updating this list, but there hasn't been a ton to update on. However, the fact that the number of weeks I have left keeps getting smaller and smaller means that I have to get with it!

3. Put money into savings - this is still going well, and it has led to some other changes to our household finances. That is another post for another day.

11. Buy a china cabinet - wasn't expecting it, but I got to cross this one off the list! There is a furniture store near us going out of business (Stack's Furniture Outlet in Pelham) so we went and found a nice one that fits our dining room perfectly for less than $1000! Score! I also got a chair for my new "office" upstairs, so I can sit somewhere other than the floor now!

15. Dance or yoga class - I signed up for a six week "yoga for beginners" class at Villager Yoga. (I'm doing the Wednesday night class if anyone wants to come do it with me!)

19. Prayer/devotional journal - I'm loving my new coloring journal so keeping up with this one should be no problem. The problem will be keeping it up once I have filled in this book, but the way it's done is so open-ended that I would have no problem using the same one again and again!

34. Cooking class - I am taking my class on the 31st with my step-mom! Stay tuned for tasty French treats that I learn about.

35. Painted Pottery - I got a groupon for Painted By U so I'm looking forward to using that! I'm still trying to convince Jeff that he needs to come do something with me.

88. This one may not actually make the deadline, but I'm determined to go see the Nutcracker this year!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Five - Women

Today's Friday Five invites us to reflect on the women in our life (or who influence our life). I've never breezed through one of these so quickly, but since I'm kind of in a rush today I figure that's a good thing. The picture is the result of a google search when I typed in "circle of women" and it seemed absolutely appropriate for this!

1. Name a woman author you very much love to read: Jan Karon. I assume the whole world has read the Mitford books, but if you haven't do yourself a favor and borrow them from me!

2. Name a woman from the Bible with whom you would like to enjoy a nice long coffee talk: I couldn't help myself and had to pick two. From the OT it's Esther, and from the NT it's Mary Magdalene.

3. Name a famous woman from history with whom you would like to have lunch: Susanna Wesley

4. Name a living famous or infamous woman with whom you would like to go out to dinner: Lauren Winner. You can see the why here.

5. If you could be a superwoman what three special powers would you like to have: The ability to fly, The ability to speak and understand all languages, and the ability to change my physical form into anything.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The gift of "Still"

Early in February, RevGals posted about a giveaway of a new book, "Still" by Lauren Winner. And somehow, I didn't see the post. Thankfully, I noticed a "reminder" on facebook and was able to get in just under the wire and get a copy of the book. I'm all about new books, especially free books so I was super-excited. I figured this would be a nice addition to my lenten observation.

I got my book on Friday the 24th. It wasn't until I had the physical book in my hand that I saw, under the author's name, "author of Girl Meets God" and I literally did a little happy dance in my kitchen! That was definitely one of my favorite books in college (I think i got it within a week of its release) and I fell in love with the book and the author because I felt such a kinship with Lauren. In fact, it was because of reading Girl Meets God that I decided that I needed to read the Mitford books by Jan Karon (which also became favorites!)

As I went to Vanderbilt I sort of forgot about Girl Meets God and my imagined friendship with the amazing Lauren Winner, but not about important parts of what I read. Every single lent, I think about how she gave up books one year, and how I keep thinking one day I'll be able to make that stretch but I haven't been able to do it yet. In spite of my "forgetting" there's always been a little part of my brain and my soul that felt that, even though our backgrounds and experiences were different, there was someone somewhere who understood me and my story! After we renovated our basement and I got to unpacking lots of my books, I found my copy of Girl Meets God and it was a much-needed reminder of all of these things.

Anywho, back to Still ... I got the book and was doing my little happy dance. I actually almost cried when I saw the note that came in the envelope with the book. It was drawn with a sharpie on copy paper and looked exactly like something I would do. It said, very simply, "Thank you for your ministry and your interest in Still." That was it, but just that simple "thank you" was incredibly nourishing to me. I needed that right now. The book sat on my kitchen table for the whole weekend because of Jeff's birthday and the fact that we were gone. I finally sat down with it on Sunday night.

I started to not write in it - my name or notes or lines or anything, but as soon as I turned the page and saw that it was autographed, I knew it wasn't going anywhere and picked up my pen. I started underlining in the preface, and when I got to the end I found myself not just making a note, but journaling a paragraph IN MY BOOK! That's not anything I normally do, but I did it this time. This is what I wrote...
I want to skip ahead to section three. So much of me knows, instinctively, the first two because they are my story up until recently. In many ways, they are like a wound I know has begun to heal (and heal well) but which I am still afraid to fce. But face it I must. So here goes. I'm ripping off the bandage and taking a peek...

That first night, I read the entire first section. I was engaged and in love. Yet, after an hour and forty-five minutes of reading and absorbing and reflecting, I was utterly exhausted. Monday I read some more. Again, as much as I loved it, it was exhausting and after an hour I needed a nap. As much as I would love to fly through this book, and as amazing as it is, it isn't really a "fly through" kind of book. Maybe this is just my opinion, but if you can and do fly through it, you are missing something pretty major. I'm still working on it, and I'm looking forward to the experiences and understandings that I know are yet to come.

One of these days I want to meet the amazing Ms. Winner. As much as I would like to eloquently thank her for her books and what they have meant to me, I know deep down I would probably only babble like a star-struck idiot or burst into tears and hug her (or a horribly embarrassing combination of the two!)

But yeah, "Still" is an amazing book and you should read it! I would say you could borrow my copy, but it may be a while...