Tuesday, November 10, 2009


My Beloved and I have been contemplating purchasing a deep freezer. On one hand, a small, apartment-sized, energy efficient freezer seems like a smart purchase, allowing us to make larger portions and freeze left-overs. On the other hand, such a purchase seems extravagent for spendthrifts like us. I mean, we live in Alberta. Couldn't we just use our balcony as a deep freezer for like eight months of the year?

Well, we ended up making the purchase. And once we got it home, where did my sweetheart wish to put our newest appliance? On the balcony!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ah, to have learned more math...

We have house guests staying with us. Here is a snippet of conversation we had tonight:

"Life would be boring if everyone got along." - Stuart.
"Would you actually learn anything?" - Jeannette.
"Sure, you'd just learn different things. You'd learn more math." - Craig

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Let me introduce you to Cassiopeia A.

Isn't she beautiful? Too bad, she's dead, eh? She is a supernova remnant, the remains of a star, very much like our sun, that died a dramatic death about 11,000 years ago (though we only received word of her passing in 1680).

Not only is she beautiful, she is is mysterious, too. She first flirted with occupants on our planet as she died about 330 years ago. She briefly flashed her light and caught the attention of English astronomer James Flamsteed, but then she coquettishly disappeared, hiding for centuries behind a veil of cosmic dust.

Then in 1999, NASA launched the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and we got to see the beauty behind the veil, since the x-rays she radiates can penetrate the cloak in which she had shrouded herself. The first Chandra image released to the public revealed Cas A's tremendous beauty, and further intrigued scientists with her enigmatic personality. She obviously didn't want to be fully known, and she refused to divulge secrets of the very nature of her being. Was she a neutron star? A black hole? Nobody could figure her out; she defied all expectations.

For ten years, she continued to tease, extending her enigmatic nature. She closely guarded the jewel at the center of her being, and remained taciturn when it came to revealing her secrets. Then in the summer of 2009, she allowed herself to be known as she permitted two brilliant scientists to unravel her mystery, and through various investigations, to uncover her identity as a recently deceased star, in a sarcophagus adorned with diamonds. (In other words, she's a young neutron star with a carbon atmosphere.)

I tell you of this rare, mysterious beauty because Cas A has been a guest in our lives for the past few months, and I feel as if I have gotten to know her quite well. You see, my Beloved is one of the two brilliant, young astronomers to whom Cas A has chosen to reveal herself. He and his collaborator have been studying her and trying to discern her seemingly impenetrable nature. And the revelations of Cas A's true nature have now been published in the journal Nature.

And now, my Beloved is a star. Not a dead one to be studied. But a living one, to be interviewed. He's on TV and the radio, in our local paper, and various media around the globe. It's been a fun week watching him shine.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

As I write this, it's not the Eurythmics song I have running through my head (though it's probably running through yours now, sorry). No, I am singing Patty Griffin's song "Forgiveness":

It's hard to give
It's hard to get
It's hard to give
But still I think it's the best bet
Hard to give
Never gonna forget
But everybody needs a little forgiveness

The other night I dreamed of forgiveness.

In my dream, I ran into my old college boyfriend in a hamburger joint in our college town. I have not idea why, in the land of dreams, we met up in that particular place; I don't think it's a restaurant we ever visited together during our year-long romance as it was a little too far from our university campus. And I don't think it's a place I'm likely to visit now, even when I head back there to visit friends when I am in Texas for the upcoming Christmas holidays, given that I am a pretty strict vegetarian these days. Still, in my dream, there we were, our contemporary selves, bumping into each other at Fuddruckers.

I saw him before he saw me, and I took a moment to take in his grow-up self. Somehow in my mind, whenever he crossed it, he had remained that angst-ridden, angry 20-year-old. But here he was, a self-assured grown man. He seemed shorter than I remembered him, though that's probably just because I had made him into such a huge monster over the years. This was one of those dreams filled with visceral emotion. My stomach knotted with nerves, fear, and dread. I didn't want to face him. I debated trying to hide from him as I had once done at a bookstore when I nearly ran into him a few years after college. But I didn't. In my dream, I did what I have not done since the nasty break-up that lasted longer than the relationship. In the dream, I faced him. I called his name - first and last - trying to sound as light and carefree as possible. He looked up, and as dawning recognition came upon him, I could see his mind taking in the adjustment of what 15+ years have done to me, just as I took in the growth in him. His response was something along the lines of, "Well, wow. If it isn't Rachel Rev."

We spent a few minutes catching up. What was he doing? What was I doing? Specifically, what was I doing there? I assume he told me about his life, though I can recall nothing of what he said (probably because in real life, I have no clue). I told him I was living in Canada, recently hitched, and that we (I nodded to Craig over at our table with my friends) were "home" visiting for the holidays. When I told him what Craig does professionally, he made some comment/joke about me and my scientists, and I thought (or maybe said) that, no, he and Craig were the only scientists I had ever dated. The conversation then went a little deeper. Was he happy? Yes. Was I happy? Yes, indeed.

Then I saw the sadness in his eyes. And he brought up the messiness and nastiness and hurt and rage and sorrow in our shared past. Again, that trepidation and worry gripped my gut. This was why I had been tempted to sneak out without approaching him. Ow, I really didn't want to go there. But I acknowledged that yes, it was there, in our past. "I am so sorry," he said. I am sorry. Words which I had never heard from him. Words which, in my memory, had never come across his lips. Most likely, they were words uttered at one point or another, but never accepted by me, since I did not wish to forgive him. I wanted to hate him. I wanted to create him in the image of a villain - an unfeeling, uncaring, heartless bad guy. You know, memory is funny that way.

But there they were: "I am sorry." It was hard to hear them. Even in my dream, it was difficult. Because accepting those words would mean acknowledging the pain, walking through it again, even if just briefly, and then, finally, letting it go. I was tempted to laugh it off, to say no apologies were necessary, to say, "You know what, I am who I am today because of all that we went through. And I really like where I am. It hasn't always been easy, but I'm a better person because of it, so no worries. No apology needed."

Yes, there is truth in such a statement - the choices I have made have led me to my current place in life and the heartaches I have endured have helped to shape me into the woman I have become. Yet despite those truths, apologies were necessary. And not just his. I also needed to own up to my faults, to the hurt I brought to him. I needed to face my shadow side and acknowledge that I had was not a passive victim in our turbulent romance. I had said hateful words to him. I had employed volatile mood swings to manipulate him. And I had schemed and connived to bring out the rage in him. Not exactly behaviours I am proud of. Definitely not the me I would want revealed on a job interview or first date. It's a side of myself I have rarely revealed to my closest friends or even my life partner. Only this man has ever really known that version of me. This was exactly why my apology was necessary, not only his. (You know, I think my apology was harder for me to accept than his apology, since it meant accepting the part of myself I have kept under lock and key for so long.)

In the dream, I was tempted to laugh off his apology, stating it wasn't necessary. And instead, I accepted it. "Thank you," I replied, "I am sorry, too." He thanked me. And he forgave me. I forgave him. And then he went his way. And I went mine. Back to my table where my Beloved inquired, "Who was that?". I replied softly, "A guy from college. I'll tell you later."

I dreamed of forgiveness. The man in my dreams was a boy I had loved, a fiend I had hated, and now a man I had forgiven. Had I actually forgiven him? Had he forgiven me?

When I awoke, I felt forgiven. But I didn't feel all light and free. I woke up feeling as if I had been crying for hours, that type of crying that sucks the life and breath out of you, leaves you gasping and dry-heaving with puffy eyes and blotchy skin. Only no tears had been shed. No, I didn't feel light and free. I felt raw. Like my heart had been scoured and boiled, scrubbed on an old-fashioned washboard, and slapped against the rocks, then twisted and squeezed and wrung out, and then strung up on a line. Clean, but whipped. Forgiveness is really hard work, even in dreams, I guess.

As I reflected on this dream, I was surprised that I had dreamed it at all. You see, I thought I had "dealt" with all of this years ago. I thought I had dealt with the pain, the anger, the heartache of that tumult. To a large extent, I had. I mean, I've developed the capacity to be in healthy, life-giving relationships. I am able to communicate like a grown-up (on most days). I have stopped blaming this man for my commitment issues and have instead recognized that perhaps my fear of commitment, concerns with the institution of marriage, and ambivalence about having children were all contributing factors in the mayhem of our love. So, yeah, I had really "dealt" with it.

But I don't believe I have ever forgiven him. Or if I have ever forgiven myself. And I know that I have never said, "I am sorry" to him.

The other night, in my dream, I did. I heard his apology. I offered my own. I forgave him. And I forgave myself. It was only a dream. But as I awoke to the new dawn, I knew I had finally forgiven him. And while I may never know if he has forgiven me, I have finally forgiven myself. And in that, I experience absolution and release.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


For nearly a decade, I have been interested in intentional community. For a little over a year, I had the opportunity to live in community at Bowers House in Chicago. Day to day living in Bowers caused me to shed my rose-coloured glasses and see that living in community is not the utopian, resource-sharing, hand-holding, Kum-Ba-Yah-singing, isn't-it-great-we-all-get-along? ideal I must confess I held. Managing chores, debating the benefits of composting, fighting over lentils, and arguing about somebody using too much bandwidth are just as much a part of life together as planting gardens, working side by side, lending a helping hand, and sharing in communal meals. But while I may have lost a bit of my romanticism, I remain even more passionately committed to intentional community.

I am particularly drawn to co-housing a form of intentional community comprised of private homes for individual households sharing common spaces (larger kitchens, children's playrooms, gardens, music rooms, libraries, guest rooms, et al). Before and since moving to Edmonton, I sought out co-housing opportunities, but nothing existed here. Until now.

Last night, Craig and I attended a Co-Housing Meet-Up where we met other people who are interested in co-housing, particularly in developing a co-housing community close Edmonton's city core. Developing a community takes time. We are still likely 3-5 years from move-in. But we are ecstatic that such a plan is beginning to emerge. We are delighted to find others who share our values and commitments to community and sustainable living. And we are thrilled to be in on this project from the very beginning.

yea!! Co-housing!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

radical hospitality

Here is the welcoming statement from the front of the bulletin at Robertson-Wesley church:

In response to God's call, we, the congregation of Robertson-Wesley United Church, declare our commitment to opening our hearts and our church family to all people in our community, regardless of sexual orientation, age, gender, differing abilities, ethnicity, or economic circumstance. We recognize that many people's lives continue to be devastated by hatred, prejudice, and inequality, therefore, as a compassionate and caring spiritual community we will stand with those who are adversely affected by injustice, alienation and oppression.
Now, having served as Co-Leader for the Open & Affirming Ministry Team of my denomination, I have seen many powerful statements of welcome and inclusion. One thing these statements all have in common is naming who is included in welcome, naming groups that have often been excluded from communion and ministry within the church. What makes this statement particularly strong is that it acknowledges that just because RWUC welcomes all people does not mean that justice prevails. Instead it says that there is still much work to be done, both within the church and in the outside world, and this community is committed to doing that work.

Understand why I feel so comfortable there?

a place for my soul to rest

In the past three years, I have moved as many times, crossing state or national borders each time. This last move was especially hard because I did not have a supportive faith community. My denomination does exist here, but it is not the same denomination I came from in the States. And most often I do not feel as if there is a place for me (a liberal, heretical, WOMAN pastor) here within my church.

This has caused much grief and sorrow as my denomination was one I CHOSE as an adult, one that allowed and encouraged me to bring my questions and my doubts, one that didn't require me to check my brain at the door, one that nurtured me and sustained me through my education and first decade of ministry. And now, I fear I may have to leave.

In many ways, the Unitarian Universalist Church would be an obvious fit for me. 1) On days when I profess a belief in god, I am more unitarian than trinitarian, and 2) If I consider the possibility of heaven, I would have to put myself into the universalist understanding of salvation. Unitarian? Check. Universalist? Check. And the UUs are so lefty and liberal. I love their commitment to social justice and to peace and the environment. And my Beloved is UU. So it should be a perfect fit. Except...

I am christian. At least, I am culturally christian. I may not take the stories in the christian scriptures to be literal truth, but they are my stories, the ones I grew up with, and the ones that resonate with metaphorical truth within my soul. Some of the christian stories I adore. And many I abhor. But they are the stories I know. I appreciate the sacred stories of other traditions, and I can find truth and meaning within them. But they are not my stories. They are not the ones which quiet the storms in my life or sing to my soul.

And I love christian liturgy, the hymns, the candles, the smells and bells, the familiar words, the stand-up-here-sit-down-there. There is a rhythm to it, and it matches the rhythm of my life. It's what I know.

When I visit the UU churches with Craig, I love the engaging conversations. I love the passionate commitment to serving on behalf of the others and the world. I love the diversity of thoughts, opinions, and perspectives (though not too diverse, not many conservative attend UU churches). But I miss the liturgy. And while the conversations are challenging and engaging, they are not engaging my stories.

What I really want is the intellectually rigorous sermons I heard preached in the churches of my denomination back in the States. What I want is to hear somebody wrestle with my stories, really wrestle with them: to explore the historical and cultural context in which the texts were written, to examine the original languages and see what might have been lost in translation, to ask whether there is meaning in these ancient texts for contemporary followers, and to empower listeners (i.e. me) to respond.

From my apartment, I can see the steeples of two churches just blocks from where I love (when asked about my religious views, I should give this answer sometime). One of these churches is Robertson-Wesley United Church. Earlier this spring, I knew I wanted liturgy for the first Sunday of Lent, so walked down the block, through the park, and through an alleyway, and slipped into the pews for a wonderful reflection (by both ministers!) on the idea of "journey". In the bulletin, I saw an announcement for a bible study which I attended several times in cognito. I have worshipped there on several other occasions since.

I was initially disappointed on Pentecost (my favorite liturgical holiday) when instead of the Pentecost story, the minister began a series on, of all things, the doctrine of the trinity! But the sermon was fascinating - giving the history of the doctrine, acknowledging the lack of biblical support for the concept of a three-for-one, I mean three-in-one god. It was challenging, inspiring, uncomfortable, and I LOVED it. I may not be a trinitarian christian, but I can certainly appreciate how many people find meaning in understanding divine revelation in three different ways. I personally think the number three is limiting, but I get that others appreciate it. And this is pretty much what was said from the pulpit at Robertson-Wesley!!! "We don't need to chuck the whole thing out, but let's understand why people, why our tradition, thinks this is important, and you can decide for yourself if this is meaningful for you."

Yes, this is a place where my soul can rest. After these many years and many moves, this is what my soul is needing. And I think I may have found some companions for the journey.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Banff (in photos)

Lake Louise:

Yoho National Park (BC):

Johnston Canyon & Falls:

wildlife in Banff:

"artistic" shots from around Banff:

from Tunnel Mountain:

Epicurious... in Banff

While in Banff for our anniversary weekend, Craig and I did our fair share of picnicking, feasting on the breads, cheeses, olives, fruit and granola we either brought or purchased at the market. However, on three occasions, we did dine out, and here is what we thought of our (limited) exposure to the Banff dining scene (I'll be listing them in reverse chronological order):

Our final morning in Banff, we went to Wild Flour, "Banff's Artisan Bakery Cafe" for brunch. I ordered breakfast, and Craig ordered lunch, so it truly was brunch. The place is tucked away off Banff's main street, but easily accessible (as is everything in this tiny mountain town). A dog-friendly venue, many of the people on the patio had their pups along with them. We managed to snag an outdoor table among the pooches before heading inside to order. I ordered the toasted breakfast sandwich and a latte. Craig got the half panini and the daily soup, a promising chipotle tomato. I found the breakfast sandwich to be very bland, and I understood why it was served with ketchup; even though I dislike ketchup on eggs, it would have been a vast improvement. The latte however was perfect. Craig's soup tasted like Campell's tomato soup with a bit of picante sauce added, and I could detect absolutely no hint of the smoky flavour indicative of chipotle. Just when I was thinking that Wild Flour is not so good with the food, I tasted Craig's panini, which was spectacular. When we return to Banff, I may head back to Wild Flour as I appreciate their eco commitments (plant-based "plastic" lids, composting, recycling, etc.) and the coffee was darn good. But I will still with the paninis. And their baked good looked mighty tasty...

On Sunday night, our anniversary dinner was at a most disappointing Chinese restaurant, The Silver Dragon. The menu seemed promising, with several authentic items listed. The view from the patio was spectacular. And the salt&pepper tofu appetizer was quite good. But the entrees were incredibly bland, atrociously so. My noodle dish was mushy, and the veggies in Craig's hot pot were obviously from a frozen "stir-fry" blend. I have had better food at Chinese buffets in strip malls in suburban Indianapolis. Do not go to Silver Dragon. It was the worst meal we have had in Canada 9thought the company was great and the dinner did not ruin our anniversary celebration).

However, on our first night in Banff, we had what was probably our best meal in Canada, at Nourish, a tiny vegetarian bistro tucked away on the top floor of a shopping mall off Banff Ave. Walking into Nourish, you immediately forget your are in a mall, as the funky, hippy decor (Batik fabrics, eclectic lighting, bold colors on the walls, etc.) transport you from a world of dreary consumerism to a land of culinary delights. When we saw the menu, we had a hard time deciding what to order. In most restaurants, it's easy, we order the one or two vegetarian items and that's it. But when the whole menu is veg, it's no easy decision. Ultimately, Craig opted for the shepherd's pie and I got the portobello burger. Both items had the most unusually delicious textures and explosions of flavour: the burger had brie, artichoke, and "wasabi ginger aioli" (OMG, yum!!!), and the pie was rich ans savory with nuts, lentils, carrots, coconut and a "strawberry pineapple puree". I also had one of Nourish's specially blended roibois teas, and Craig had a delightful mango peace frosty. We finished the meal with a spectacular bread pudding. Nourish may just be our new favourite restaurant in Alberta, indeed Canada...

Monday, June 15, 2009


On June 14, 2008, my Beloved and I hitched our lives together in a lovely and lively Covenant Ceremony. During the celebration, our presiding minister, Sandhya, gave a wonderful children's sermon, in which she defined the term "covenant" and told of the rainbow as being an ancient and biblical sign of "covenant" and promise. During the ceremony, she passed around rainbow colored ribbons and had the kids "cover [us] with the rainbow". Which they did. It was a lot of fun.

Here we are, covered by the rainbow:

On June 14, 2009, my Beloved and I celebrated the anniversary of our union with a weekend trip to Banff in the Canadian Rockies. While we were at dinner on the night of our anniversary, there was rainstorm on the mountain, creating a most beautiful, vibrant rainbow, a fitting symbol of our covenant and promises.

Here we are, once again, covered by the rainbow:

Saturday, June 13, 2009


We have learned that if you want good Mexican food in Edmonton (especially decent vegetarian options), you had better make it yourself. So, thankfully, Sarah and Kevin hosted a Mexican potluck dinner last night. Craig made his delicious guacamole. And I prepared Mom's famous green enchiladas and my own delectable chipotle beans. We had salsa, tamales, empinadas (more Salvadoran, but still), burritos, and quinoa and corn (more Incan, but still). And I cannot forget the margaritas. Sarah certainly provided the "top shelf" spirits. And John and I mixed up some tasty drinks. (I fear that, for some, the 'ritas were a little too tasty.)

It was a perfect evening. Good food. Good friends. Babies. Dogs. My two regrets from the evening were that I didn't think to get a piñata until way too late yesterday afternoon; not only is good Mexican food hard to come by in E-town, but so are piñatas. I also wish I hadn't forgotten my camera. Alas, no photos to prove summer has officially arrived in Edmonton.

Friday, June 12, 2009

(non-)wedded bliss

This weekend will mark the one year anniversary of our Covenant Ceremony (or non-wedding thingy). It's hard to believe it's already been a year. And it's hard to believe it's only been a year. What a year it has been. And I look forward to many more with my Beloved.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

bustin' my @$$

Oh, wow. I am so sore. My whole body aches. But the good news is that I know I could never have survived Tuesday's work out a mere two weeks ago. I am getting stronger.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Some belated thoughts on Dr. Tiller's murder

The murder of Dr. George Tiller has evoked a strong emotional response within me. First of all, I feel anger and outrage that anyone who is "pro-life" could murder in cold blood. I also feel such sorrow and sadness for this man's family, both biological and ecclesial. I cannot imagine the grief and trauma they could be experiencing now.

But I also feel wildly compelled to correct the malicious lies misinformation about late term terminations being propagated by the so-called "pro-lifers" who oppose such procedures, casting women who make such a "choice" as wanton harlots who cannot be burdened by a pesky little thing such as a living baby. But this is not truth. This is not reality. At least not the reality I know.

My reality involves holding the hands of grieving parents who have made agonizing decisions to terminated longed for pregnancies. My reality has been reaching into incubators and offered blessings/prayers/baptism to dying babies born with myriad fetal anomalies. My reality is comforting grieving husbands whose wives has just died due to complications from their pregnancies.

But my reality isn't what is being told. And my reality isn't what necessarily needs to be told. My reality is one step removed from the real stories of grief, anguish, and heartache.

Obviously, the protesters outside the Tiller's Kansas clinic have no idea the reality of the "choices" these patients make. How anyone can know the heartbreaking truth and still cast these women as sinners is beyond me. But then again, how anyone can call themselves "Christian" and "pro-life" and then murder a doctor in his church is also beyond me.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Epicurious in Edmonton 7

I realized that I have been remiss in recording our exploration of the Edmonton epicurean scene when we made plans to return to Langano Skies tomorrow night, and I had had yet to report on our visit there several weeks ago.

Three weeks ago, my friends Sarah and Kevin organized an outing to try an Ethiopian restaurant down on Whyte Ave., Langano Skies. Now I LOVE Ethiopian food, having had some fantastic dining experiences in DC and NYC, and Ethiopian is fabulous if done well. But I have also had some really bland Ethiopian cuisine, so I realize it can be hit or miss. Langano Skies was a definite hit.

First, let me comment on the service... we were a large group: Sarah and Kevin (sans little Colin, since Grandma was babysitting), Rachel and Piyush, Natasha and Semyon and Anya, and John (sans Julie). But the staff at LS took it all in stride, even the rambunctious toddler Anya exploring the entirety of the restaurant. Perhaps the most exceptional aspect of our service was our waiter. When the first two people ordered, she asked them why they had chosen the particular dishes they had. When they answered, she recommended other dishes. "If you want the curry, I would go with this, and if you were desiring the ginger, then this is a better choice." She said that while all the food was good, the particular dishes they had ordered did not have the rave reviews from previous diners as the ones she had suggested. When it was John's turn to order, he said, "Bring me your best vegetarian dish." Others also followed suit. The recommendations of our server proved to be fantastic. Which brings me to...

The food. It was delicious. The Shiro Wot, her recommended dish, was superb. As was the Atakilt Aletcha Wot. What am I saying, it was all good. The injera was warm and spongy. And the blend of flavours from the various wots was delectable. I only tried the vegetarian dishes, but the omnivores in our group raved about the meat dishes as well. I think I have found a favourite restaurant in Edmonton.


A few days after Langano Skies, we went out to dinner with Julie (sans John, they had taken turns leaving town). We decided to try a new Indian restaurant that opened within walking distance of both of our homes. The Curry House, Indian Fusion opened in April to good reviews, and as Craig walks by there on his way to work, he has been eager to visit the new establishment. The restaurant is very cozy, only six tables or so, with elaborate decor of lush fabrics. We were the first customers there, arriving for dinner at 6pm, but the place soon filled more. Btu even with other customers, the owner/manager and wait staff were very attentive and offered good suggestions for food and drink. I was impressed that they serve a plain lassi, as most places only have the mango variety (or gasp, strawberry). I adore the plain, and this one was delicious. After our meal, I learned that they also have a savory lassi. Craig hates the savory ones, but I love them. So next time, I will be ordering that. Alas, I do not remember what we ordered (the problem with waiting so long to blog about a meal). But it was tasty. Not the best Indian ever (I have discriminating tastes, having enjoyed many, many delicious meals on Devon St. in Chicago), but yummy and satisfying and some of the better Indian I have had in Edmonton. I am concerned though, as the owner was saying they would soon be offering dishes with "low fat butter" and Splenda to "prove Indian food doesn't have to be unhealthy". If they change their menu to include these "healthy" options, we probably won't return. Even despite the promise of savory lassis. However, if they keep serving the quality of food we had this time, we will definitely walk that way again.

faux boeuf - my recipe for "beefy" seitan

Several folks have asked for the recipe for my vegetarian BBQ brisket. So, here is a recipe for fake beef (faux boeuf) seitan I adapted from several others I have. It makes a wonderful "beefy" seitan that looks surprisingly (and scarily) like actual beef and tastes yummy, though I can't say if it tastes like beef since it's been years since I have had beef. I have used the "beef" in a stir-fry, in fajitas, and my brisket, and all dishes were fantastic. Anyway, here 'tis...



  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups vital wheat gluten
  • 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup warm vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp. Marmite (Craig was horrified when I bought this!)
  • 2 Tbsp. tahini
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
  • 2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet (or other gravy browner)

Cooking broth:

  • vegetable broth (amount depends on cooking method. For baking, 4 cups. For simmering, 6-8 cups)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup tomato juice
  • 2 Tbsp. Marmite
  • 1 Tbsp. Kitchen Bouquet
  • 1 Tbsp. Liquid Smoke


  1. a. If using the simmering method, combine the broth ingredients and bring them to a low boil over med-high heat.
    b. If baking, preheat oven to 325.
  2. Saute onions and garlic in pan until onion is translucent.
  3. In bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.
  5. Combine onion-garlic mixture, gluten mixture, and liquid mixture in food processor. Run/pulse for several minutes until ingredients are mixed well and it forms a ball. (If you do not have a food processor, you can mix by hand, in which case, be sure to chop the onions finely before sauteing them. A food processor make the process much, much easier, but it can be done without one, though, honestly, I personally don't have the time for that.)
  6. Divide gluten pieces into a dozen or so sections. Knead each section and stretch into a flat "cutlet". For a brisket, use one larger piece of gluten to fit inside your baking dish. Let gluten pieces stand on a flat service for five minutes.
  7. a. If simmering, reduce heat of broth to med. low. Put gluten pieces into broth and simmer for an hour. Do not boil.
    b. If baking, put gluten pieces in a casserole dish, cover with broth, and bake at 325 for an hour.
  8. Serve however you wish. Cut into slivers for stir-fry or fajitas. Slice thinly for a Philly cheese-fake sandwich. Barbecue entire "cutlets" or brisket. Seitan will keep for about a week or so in the refrigerator and can also be frozen.


Please leave a comment and let me know if you try this recipe.

making tortillas


This morning, I had flurries of white swirling around me as I walked into work. But the flurries weren't snow. They were flower blossoms.

It looks like Spring may actually be here. Finally.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


On Tuesday, I began working out with a personal fitness trainer at gym in the hospital where I work. Oh boy, am I ever feeling the "ow" now. She is going to kick my rear end and whip me into shape.

I have been to trainers before. But always at health clubs and never at a health care facility. This gal is good - her assessment unlike any I have ever experienced (she was able to ask me about old injuries before I told her, just from watching me move and seeing how my body compensated). And she is tough.

These next six weeks will be excruciating. But, let me tell you, I am looking forward to it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I found out today that my friend Gilbert, who has been missing for over a month, is dead.

I did not know Gilbert long (though we were introduced in September, making him one of the first people I met in Edmonton). And I did not know him all that well, having only gotten together with him a handful of times. But Gilbert was one of those individuals for whom small talk was impossible, so the few gathering we had (two Sunday brunches in the weeks before he died) involved long discussion on morality and ethics, religion and atheism, art and culture, politics and justice, you get the idea. Gilbert went deep - immediately. And as a chaplain (one who spends all day everyday nudging folks, encouraging depth, and supporting openness), I appreciated this quality in Gilbert. Conversation with him was engaging and didn't require "work".

That Gilbert suffered with depression was something unknown to me until I read the article about his disappearance in the paper. How easy it was for me with training in this area not to pick up on the signs. And how well his warm laugh and welcoming personality masked his inner despair.

I did not know him long. And I did not know him well. But Gilbert was a man I had hoped and planned to get to know better. And I mourn both his death and the death of our friendship in its earliest blossoming stages.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Courts uphold Prop. 8

It's a tragic day for California, as today the state Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which bans same sex marriage. Sadly, the Court upheld the ban.

However, I am reminded of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's words, "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

I trust that justice will eventually prevail in California, just as it has in Massachusettes, Iowa, Maine and Vermont (and will soon happen in New York and New Hampshire). I believe that Californians will work together to overturn Prop. 8, and I hope this will happen in just a few years.

Justice will prevail. It always does.

You say it's your birthday...It's my birthday, too!

Twenty-three years ago today, was my brother Ben's fifth birthday. As you may know, five is a pretty important milestone. You've had enough birthdays that you can remember, and you have been to enough parties of your friends, to know what to expect. And in our household, we did birthdays up right, with extended family coming for the celebration and a special meal of the birthday boy's choosing. Well, naturally, Ben was excited. And he told us so.

My older sister, Hilary, asked him why he was so excited. "It's my birthday," he exclaimed.

"No, it's not. It's Rachel's birthday. We switched your birthdays. Isn't that right, Rachel" (my birthday was the next birthday in our family, exactly one month after Ben's)

"Oh, yeah, that's right. We switched."

"But those presents are for me," Ben protested.

"No," Hilary replied, "they're for Rachel. Didn't Mom tell you?"

No. Mom hadn't told him. Ben protested a little, but not as much as we had expected. And when he took off. we figured he was going to ask Mom. And we braced ourselves for the wrath of Mom for teasing that sweet boy like that - on his birthday.

But Ben hadn't gone to ask Mom. He trusted us. And if the decision had been made that he and I had switched birthdays, then it must have been for a good reason. Ben felt bad. Partially because he had been so excited about his own birthday and now he wouldn't get to celebrate. But he also felt terrible because nobody had told him it was now my birthday, and he hadn't gotten me a present. He looked around his room and found a ceramic heart on a ribbon, given to the students in his Montessori class by their teacher. He wrapped up that necklace and made a card for me, wishing me a happy birthday.

Oh man, was Ben ever surprised when he found out it was, indeed, still his birthday. But confused, what was he to do with my present? Oh man, was I ever convicted with guilt and shame when Ben gave it to me anyway. What a kind, loving brother I had! (and oh man, was Mom ever pissed when she found out what we had done).

That ceramic heart remains with me to this day. I have always hung it from my vanity mirror, reminding me of my sweet brother and his love for me.

Ben and I continue to wish each other a happy birthday on our own birthdays, and sometimes we exchange small gifts. I have no doubt that at some point today, I will get an email, card, or phone call from Ben today, wishing me a happy birthday, despite the gifts and presents clearly marked for him on this his birthday.

But I already got the best present I could get when on May 26, 1981, Ben interrupted my softball game and made his entrance into this world as my baby brother.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I wish we didn't have a reason for Memorial Day to exist. But, alas, it does.

We must not forget:


Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003:

In Iraq
• 4,296 U.S. troops killed*
• 31,256 U.S. troops injured*
• 182 U.S. military suicides*
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed
• 100,361 to 1.2 million civilians
• $670.7 billion cost of war

In Afganistan
• 685 U.S. troops killed*
• 2,828 U.S. troops injured*
• $188.2 billion cost of war

* through May 18, 2009; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** sources: icasualties.org, defenselink.mil
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.1 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)

When will it end?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

You can take the girl out of Texas...

It's Memorial Day weekend back in the States. Which means one thing...BBQ!!! And in Texas, BBQ means one thing...brisket!

What's a Texas gal to do when she's got a hankerin' for some BBQ beef brisket, but she lives far from the Lone Star State, and more importantly, she's a committed vegetarian?

Well, she improvises. And being an experimental cook, she comes up with a kick-a#! vegetarian BBQ brisket. Here are photos of tonight's dinner...

BBQ Brisket (seitan)

brisket, mac & cheese, coleslaw, and asparagus*

Let me know if you want the recipe...

*The asparagus isn't traditional BBQ fare, I know, but it's in season here and SO yummy!

Friday, May 22, 2009


I have a question. When it is appropriate to set two people up? I have this friend, Colin, who is handsome, sweet, and very smart (see for yourself*). And I would love to introduce him to my niece Eloise. Now, I know, Eloise is not even a day old, and she has a lot of adjusting to do: meeting Trooper (her dog), becoming a pooper, letting her parents get some sleep, etc. But I know she is a very swift learner, having already learned to breastfeed - not all babies do that easily. So, I am not talking about setting them up to meet like next week or anything hasty like that. But I just think they could hit it off, and I don't want an opportunity for them to meet to pass by. Now, I know, the fact that Colin is an older fella (having been around more than 100x longer than Eloise and with lots more experience) might worry Eloise's parents, especially Papa Chris. But Auntie Rachel will vouch for Colin, and I can say that he comes from a very good family (mom is a journalist, dad a physicist), and he is a very good boy. My original question: When is it appropriate to set two people up?

*note: the link contains not only photos but Colin's CV of skills and experience as well

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Eloise Anne

My niece, Eloise Anne, was born this afternoon. Isn't she beautiful?

When my nephew Will was born, almost nine years ago, I remember being overwhelmed with how much love I felt for him. I didn't know it was possible to love someone I had never even met so much. I am again amazed at how my heart is bursting with love for this little girl.

Auntie Rachel

I will be an Aunt again today. My sister-in-love, Katie, is in labor. My brother Chris sent the text message this morning that my new niece or nephew is on the way. I am not too productive at work, as a keep checking my cell phone and email for more updates.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Twilight (halfway through)

I am halfway through the book, Twilight, and many times I have felt the urge to throw it across the room. At the halfway point, this book offends my feminist sensibility and romanticizes controlling behaviors that, in my line of work, I have been trained to see as red flags for abuse in relationships. This books makes me so angry. And I am horrified that so many young girls LOVE this book and see the vampire protagonist, Edward, as "dreamy", an ideal boyfriend. Ugh!! I am so tempted to toss it out all together.

The thing that keeps me from doing this is that is that the book belongs to my friends Juli and John. And it's not that I want to take care of things I have borrowed (which I do), but because I have such respect for Juli and John as intelligent, thoughtful, reflective, and feminist people. And they loved the book. And so many other people I know, love, and respect, absolutely LOVE this book, indeed the whole series. My college friend Becky, a feminist and a children's librarian, claims that this is one of the few series she has ever reread. What am I missing here? I am committing myself to finishing the book to answer that very question.

In the meantime, I am wrestling with the intense response this book has provoked in me. Part of my response is cerebral. But much, much more is emotional and personal. And while it is tempting to keep all of that at a distance, to strictly write a rational, feminist evaluation, if I am going to honestly critique this book, without having even finished it, then at least I need to acknowledge the emotional component of my response up front.

So, where to begin? Stephenie Meyer certainly does know her audience. She writes to teenage girls, in the voice of a teenage girl. And she skillfully and exquisitely captures the angst and insecurity, vulnerability and turmoil of adolescence and young love. Her female protagonist, Bella, doubts her abilities, lacks confidence, and sees herself as clumsy, dumpy, and ordinary. Just like I did. Didn't you? And Bella becomes infatuated with beautiful, brilliant, strong, and mysterious Edward, who happens to be a vampire. Talk about the ultimate bad boy. But Edward doesn't always play like the bad boy. He's becomes Bella's knight in shining armor, her savior. Again and again, he saves her life, proving that he is really a good guy, despite that pesky little thirst for human blood thing. And Edward doesn't want to be bad. He struggles with his own nature. He's a tortured soul, who longs for human contact and he turns to Bella, who is the only person who can truly know him and who can save him from himself. He sees beyond her perceived ordinariness to the exception wisdom, beauty, and mystery she possesses.

A perfect romance, eh? The beautiful, tortured boy saves the plain, ordinary girls from great evil (and mundane living), and she in turns saves him from his a loneliness and through her love, helps him to find himself. It's what every teenage girl dreams, right? I know I did. Bella becomes hopelessly weak and reckless in her infatuation. And she doesn't show the strength or backbone I would want her to show. She gets all ga-ga and stupid. But every girl does that. As my friend Jen states, "Weren't we all a little dysfunctional at seventeen?"

But this book, at least the first half, goes beyond the "normal" dysfunction of teenage girls in love. Edward's behavior is consistent with that of an abuser. He professes his desire to keep Bella safe, from danger in the world and from his own nature. On one hand he tells her that she is amazing and strong, and all the while he undermines her confidence. He claims that she is so special and unique that she needs to be protected. Never mind that Bella has done a fine job taking care of herself for seventeen years with absent parents. Suddenly, she is "delicate" and needs the protection only he can offer. And Edward casts everyone around her is a threat to her, even her friends and himself. And so he begins to manipulate her to mistrust her friends and to lie to those around her. Classic abuser behavior. He constantly does this come-closer-pull-away trick, to keep her uncertain of their relationship. Remember, she no longer has friends she can confide in the help her discern what is happening between her and Edward. He is extremely jealous of any attention given to her by other boys or any attention she may show to them, even as friends. Edward constantly tells Bella that he just cannot resist her, that she has such power over him. And he's a stalker. He follows her. He watches her sleeping. He eavesdrops on conversations.

And when Bella finds out, she thinks it's romantic. "Ah, he likes me."

And when teenage girls read this, they think it's romantic. "Ah, he likes her."

And when teenage boys treat teenage girls like this, they think it's romantic. "Ah, he likes me."

But it's not romantic. It's sketchy. It's creepy. It's controlling. It's manipulative. And it's abusive.

My friend Amy, a leader of the Women's Center on our seminary campus, has told me to "hang in there", that Bella develops a backbone and matures as the story progresses. I hope she's right. And I hope that when Stephenie Meyer smartens Bella up, that she will call out Edward's controlling, manipulative behaviors and name them unacceptable. Otherwise she does a great disservice to her readers by framing romance in the terms of these abusive behaviors.

I am continuing to read. And if I feel the need to throw the book while reading it, I will just conjure up any of the Edwards I have known (and loved) in my life and throw the book at them.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Perpetual Winter

I feel betrayed. These past weeks, Spring has been toying with me and my emotions. My heart beat faster at the sight of tiny buds on the trees. The warm breezes caressing my face elevated my mood. After months and months of icy chill, I finally began to let down my guard, to hope with abandon for the pleasure of Spring's warm embrace, to trust and believe in the truth of Spring's thaw. And then it snowed. Again. On the May long weekend.

Happy Victoria Day!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Life Before Death

I face death each and every day. This morning, my day began with stroking the hair of a woman who was dying all alone, unresponsive to words but able to be soothed by human touch. Later, I gathered with a large, boisterous family as they laughed and told stories of their loved one, who left life amidst the merriment and celebration of his many years. I held the hand of a young bride as she gave the word to "go ahead" and withdraw the machine that were no longer supporting her new husband's life but prolonging his death.

You ask me how I can do my job, with death and dying confronting me all day long. You may assume it's a heavy burden. Grief is heavy. Pain and suffering, they can be tremendous burdens. But death, in and of itself, is not such a heavy load.

Death is very real. It's all around us. It's the only certainty we have in life - we will die. Denying this reality, I imagine that could be a laborious task. But I can't do that. Mortality is all to present for me, as I hold the hand of a dying patient as she takes her last breath,or embrace a grieving loved one in my arms.

As I watch people die, I realize that, in many cases, we die as we have lived. If we live life in fear, we die fearful. If we live life in anger, we die angry. If we live life in meaningful relationships and connected to loved ones, we end life loved.

You ask if I believe in life after death. I know for many people, the hope of an afterlife, the idea that somehow, in someway, they continue (or that they will be reunited with loved ones) gives them comfort and peace. I also see that for others, the threat of eternal damnation means they spend their lives afraid.

You ask if I believe in life after death. I am avoiding your questions, I know. [we chaplains are trained to deflect]

You ask if I believe in life after death. Well, no. But I don't necessarily disbelieve it. I just don't think it really matters for me.

You ask if I hope that there is more than this life. Well, no. This life, lived well, is all I could ask for. And it is my desire and my calling and my hope to live the best life I can: to be in healthy relationships, to care for others, to work for peace, to create beauty, to make love, to learn, to grow, to laugh, to live...

You ask what I do believe in. And that's easy. I believe in life. Maybe not life after death. But certainly life before death. What about you?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

National Day of Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer in the US. In honor of this day (which I feel pushes the boundaries of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution), Unreasonable Faith published this quote by a "Founding Father".
When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ‘tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.
—Benjamin Franklin


More on Torture

CNN reports that the more religious a person is, the more likely s/he supports torture:

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

As one who opposes the use of torture, I find this disturbing. Why are the religious faithful more willing to suport torture than the "godless, immoral heathens"? What does this say about religious faith? Is anyone else troubled by this?


I began working in hospital ministry in 2000. At that time, like now, we had to wash our hands before and after every patient visit to prohibit the spread of germs from patient to patient. The difference between then and now was that in 2000, we had to walk to a physical sink on the unit, stop, plunge our hands under a stream of hot water, and scrub. Now, we push a lever on one of the ubiquitous hand sanitizer pumps and get handful of cleansing foam which we rub into our hands as we move to the next patient.

While I appreciate the efficiency of the hand sanitizer pumps, I miss the old way of going to the sink. I know, I know, I sound like an old fuddy-duddy, "Back in my day...". But the pumps take something away. I felt this something missing when I first returned to hospital ministry in 2007. But it took me almost a year to figure out that what I was lacking was the ritualistic element of stopping after each patient, cleansing my hands, and then returning to my work without carrying anything from the previous visit into the next. And it's more than just germs I am talking about. Standing at the sink and scrubbing my hands gave me a chance to breathe deeply, to pause and reflect on my previous visit, and to release the emotional weight of that visit before I went into another room and another visit.

The sanitizing foam kills the germs on my hands, but it doesn't actually remove anything from me. Instead it just builds up. After several visit, I notice that my hands have become sticky; the foam, coating all of those dead germs, is still there, getting thicker and thicker and making my hands feel yucky.

My heart feels much the same way when I don't pause and release the emotional weight of each visit before moving onto the next. I understand how burnout happens. And I understand how the visits themselves build up and get all sticky and yucky if I don't take a moment for cleansing and renewal.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tortilla Soup

Today is Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday that commemorates the Mexican victory over the French army in 1862. In my native Texas, Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican heritage, culture and pride. And we celebrate in style: mariachi music, ballet folklorico, and food, food, food. Growing up, Cinco de Mayo was a favorite holiday. Imagine my surprise when I learned from my native Mexican friends that it's not really a big deal in Mexico. In Pueblo, my friend Abelardo's hometown, they celebrate it. But for the rest of Mexico, it's a minor holiday. But I still like to celebrate it.

So how does a Texan celebrate a minor Mexican holiday in Canada? Going out is not really an option since Mexican food is tough to find here (and vegetarian Mexican is nearly impossible). So I made it myself. I didn't have the energy for making mom's amazingly delicious green enchiladas, so I opted for my "famous" tortilla soup. The recipe is surprisingly easy. And the results are so yummy. We have even served this for company. Without them knowing how easy it was.

Tortilla Soup


  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped (I like bite-sized pieces)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 2 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. ground coriander
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • ¼ t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ q. vegetable broth
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 t salt
  • cilantro leaves (1/4 cup fresh or 3 T dried)
  • one corn tortilla cut into thin strips (this will get all mushy in the soup and help give it it's yummy flavor)
  • 1 14 oz. can beans (red kidney is what I used
  • 1 14 oz. can whole kernel corn
  • 1 c. shredded seitan or other fake meat (optional)
  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and garlic. Cook for approximately five minutes, until onions are nearly translucent.
  3. Add spices. Cook onions and spices for another few minutes stirring often.
  4. Add broth, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, cilantro, and tortilla strips. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add beans, corn, and seitan (if using). Return to a simmer. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally for another 10-15 minutes.
  6. Serve with crispy tortilla strips*, grated cheese (optional), and fresh cilantro.
* to make my low(er) fat crispy strips, cut corn tortilla in thin strips, mist with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then bake at 200º F until crispy.

Please leave a comment and let me know if you try this recipe.

Monday, May 4, 2009


I walked home today without a jacket. Is spring arriving in Edmonton? I am beginning to see hints of green...

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Natasha, Semyon, and their daughter Anna arrived in Edmonton this weekend. They are friends of our from Chicago who have come here for Natasha to join the Physics Department (and to share an office with Craig!). Yes, it's a small world.

As we were helping them put together their furniture from IKEA, I couldn't help but to think that we just weren't building chairs, dressers, and a dining room table, but we were building community. We have wonderful friends here, both new friends we have made in the past year, and now old friends who have joined us. What a gift that is.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Religious, But Not Spiritual

For a while, I tried to think of myself as "spiritual but not religious". I think what I was trying to say was that I had a sense of wonder and awe, but I felt that religious institutions could be destructive and harmful.

But recently, I have started to think of myself as "religious, but not spiritual". In this, I am saying that I think being in community with people who share my values is important. And I think ritual is meaningful and significant in my life. But I don't hold belief in any specific deity any longer. Oh, I have a sense of wonder. I have a profound sense of the sacred. And I believe there are higher powers than myself (love, justice, to name two) at work in the world. But god? I don't disbelieve. But I have enough doubt to keep questioning. (I used to say that my faith was in my questions. I don't know what that means anymore.)

Having said that, I do feel that religious belief, specifically belief in God, CAN give people much meaning, strength, and hope. I see it every day in my job as a chaplain. And it can be a great motivating force to work for justice and peace in the world. I also know that participating in ritual, even if I don't believe that ritual creates an ontological change in the world or myself, can help to connect me to something bigger than myself, namely community.

I still think that religious institutions can extremely damaging and hurtful, both to individuals (I count myself among the wounded) and to communities and societies. And religious belief can give people and peoples justification for perpetuating injustice and oppression. But I also know it can be a positive and healing force in our world. And while I may not personally have a spiritual connection with any deity, I do feel as if my religious connections provide me with strength, support, nourishment, and hope.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Epicurious in Edmonton 6

Last Friday, I had a stressful meeting, so my Beloved took me out for a romantic dinner to lift my spirits. :) We decided to try out Murrieta's West Coast Grill on Whyte Ave. The place is named for the legendary bandit/hero (depending on one's point of view), Joaquin Murrieta, which led to a stimulating conversation/debate (depending on one's point of view) about how our culture glorifies outlaws, scoundrels, and the like. One thing Craig and I did agree on was that the dark wood paneling, vaulted ceilings, posh decor, extensive wine list, live jazz piano, and eclectic menu were not consistent with the bandito/revolutionary image of Murrieta. They did, however, create a delightful epicurean experience for us.

We started with the the baked brie appetizer, moved on to the grilled vegetable flat bread, followed by the jumbo ravioli, and finished up with the bread pudding. Everything we had was delicious (though the bread pudding is not the very best in Edmonton - see below), and the service was impeccable. Murrieta's is an ideal place for a romantic dinner or night out with a visiting scholar. I expect we'll return.

Earlier this week, we returned to a favorite place of ours, Da-De-O, with our friends John and Juli, who had never visited the cajun diner before. Tuesday is Po-Boy night, which made it a good excuse to try their po-boys. Usually, we just stick to the vegetarian jambalaya or the BBQ beans and rice. Craig, Juli, and I all decided to break from our vegetarianism and opted for seafood while John held fast to his veggie principles. My calamari po-boy was overflowing with crispy, spicy perfection. I got the potato hash as the side instead of the famous sweet potato fries. But I swiped some of the fries from Craig's plate. I also sampled his blackened catfish - not bad. We finished the night sharing key lime pie and bread pudding. The pie was not so great, especially after last week's excursion to Vi's, but the bread pudding was phenomenal. It could very well be the best we've had in Edmonton, though I think a taste test between Da-De-O and Highlevel Diner might just be in order.

Monday, April 27, 2009


So, it would seem as if I have lost my cell phone - again. This is the third time I have ever lost a cell phone in my life. And it's also the third time I have lost my cell phone in three months. And this time, I think it's gone for good. So, for the next week or so, I will be sans phone until I can get a new one mailed to me.

I wonder why I have been so forgetful lately...

books, books, books

I received this meme from my friend Amber, who wrote, "I don't usually do these things, but as this is about books, I couldn't resist." I echo Amber's thoughts...

1) Which book has been on your shelves the longest? Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I bought it in 4th Grade with the bookstore gift certificate I received as my prize for winning the book writing contest at Silbernagel Elementary.

2) What is your current read, your last read and the book you’ll read next?
Last read: Object Relations Therapy, by Sheldon Cashton.
Current read: The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman.
Next read: Probably Twilight, since I borrowed it from John and Juli and need to return it.

3) What book did everyone like and you hated?
I have known several people who have LOVED Ayn Rand. I have tried reading several of her books - Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead, and We the Living - and I found them all incredibly boring. Her characters had no depth or believability, merely mouthpieces for her objectivist philosophy. I found her dialogue stilted. I could not finish a one of her books.

4) Which book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?
The Idiot's Guide to Organizing Your Life. I actually have the book on my shelf. Seriously.

5) Which book are you saving for “retirement?”
Why would I put off reading a good book? If it's worth reading, it's worth reading now. Or at least when I finish the one I reading now.

6) Last page: read it first or wait til the end?
Once, when I was about seven, I happened upon the birthday present my sister had gotten for me (okay, I was snooping in her room - but I was not snooping for my present) and it was so disappointing, not because it wasn't a rad gift (it was - a multicolored notepad with each piece of paper on the last at just a slight angle so it made a funky swirling spiral) but because I didn't have the surprise to look forward to anymore (and I had to fake being surprised later on). So I would NEVER read the last page first. If it's a really good book, I will sometimes actually slow my reading down so I can savor the remaining time the book and I have together.

7) Acknowledgments: waste of ink and paper or interesting aside?
Depends. Some authors can make these almost as much fun as the book itself.

8) Which book character would you switch places with?
Probably Ista in Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold.

9) Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time)?
I read Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver when I was living in Nicaragua. Part of the book takes place in Nica. It was fun to read about places and think, "I was just there...". I have read that book a couple of times since returning, mostly because it has the capacity to take me back.

10) Name a book you acquired in some interesting way.
I have inherited the theological libraries of two ministers when they retired. I was pretty pleased to acquire Tillich's volumes of Systematic Theology from my pastor who had taken Systematic Theology from Paul Tillich. It has his notes from the class in the margins.

11) Have you ever given away a book for a special reason to a special person?
I "loaned" a copy of Deep River by Shusaku Endo to my friend Jason when he went to India. the book takes place in Varanasi, India, and Jason read it in Varanasi. So he didn't want to give it back. In fact, he refused. He was a dear friend, and I could see that the book (which is amazing) was obviously quite meaningful to him (see #9). Finally, I convinced him to let me "borrow" the book back for a while, so I could transfer my notes in the margins to a new copy of the book. He sheepinshly agreed. When I had it back, I saw that he had even scratched out my name and written his own.

12) Which book has been with you to the most places?
I guess that would be the Bible, since I have carried at least one copy of it back and forth to camp, college, seminary, and all of the myriad places I have lived.

13) Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad ten years later?
I actually enjoyed all of our assigned readings. Some are still among my favorite books of all time (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, Grapes of Wrath, etc.). I am looking forward to rereading Canterbury Tales this summer in preparation to my upcoming trip to Canterbury.

14) What is the strangest item you’ve ever found in a book?
I like finding receipts from used bookstores from across the country from the used bookstore where I purchased the book. It's fun to imagine the stories the book could tell if it weren't so busy telling the story the author wrote in it.

15) Used or brand new?
Used. Or borrowed. Every time I move to a new place, I have a library card within a week.

16) Stephen King: Literary genius or opiate of the masses?
I honestly haven't read too much, and I have no strong feelings about him either way.

17) Have you ever seen a movie you liked better than the book?
Some. But they were usually not great books to begin with. Forest Gump, The Horse Whisperer, to name a few.

18) Conversely, which book should NEVER have been introduced to celluloid?
Oh, there are lots, too many to name. A couple I am worried about a few coming out this year are The Time Traveler's Wife and American Pastoral, both books I loved.

19) Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?
I would have to say Craig. Because he is in the unique position of being able to stack the books he recommends on my night stand. Eventually, I'll get to them.

Making Yogurt - Take 2


Friday, April 24, 2009

Epicurious in Edmonton 5

It's an unassuming storefront, simply signed "Cafe", so easy to miss as you pass by on Stony Plain Road. But Vi's for Pies is not one to be missed. I had heard about this place from Jodi, a social worker at the hospital, and my friend Lorenza, who lived in Edmonton for a while, confirmed Jodi's recommendation. So on Wednesday, Craig and I went decided to check it out with our friends Juli and John. And wow, are we glad we did!! When we first walked in, we were greeted by the sight of nearly 20 different pies on the counter. They obviously want you to see what's on the menu for the day and to save room for dessert.

Vi's has a decent vegetarian menu, and between the four of us, we were able to order four different vegetarian entrees. I ordered the quiche (remember, I have been on a quiche kick), and it was sublime - light and fluffy, better than my own. Craig got the veggie lasagna which scrumptious, not quite as flavorful as mine, but more saucy (and Craig liking it so much made me realize that he prefers as saucy lasagna; I will have to sauce mine up a bit). It was the spanakopita for John. The spinach was quite tasty, though the crust not as crispy as I would like . It seemed like it was baked earlier and then reheated. Still the flavors were excellent. Juli had soup and salad - fresh and light.

Then we got the pies. After another trip to the front to view the pies, and we settled in for dessert. John's key lime pie was the best I have had outside of Florida. Juli's strawberry shortcake was nice, though the biscuit was hard. Craig's pecan, caramel, banana, and chocolate cheesecake was OH MY GOD delicious. And my raspberry and lemon cream pie was light and tart and absolutely perfect. Yum. We will definitely go back!

It was hard to follow such a delicious dinner with a lunch out the following day. But our department had decided to take Lindsay out for lunch to celebrate her ministry with us as she prepares to move on the Winnipeg. We headed down the street from the hospital to a new noodle house, Thanh Thanh. I pass Thanh Thanh when I am lazy and/or running late and take the bus instead of walking into work. The place has caught my eye on a number of occasions (I love noodle houses), so I have wanted to check it out.

I would be interested in returning with a smaller group since our preordering and then arriving late during the busy lunch hour seemed to throw the staff off and the service was not ideal. The food was delicious (I had the lemongrass chili tofu), though it did make me a bit gassy. :]


In case you have missed the news all a-twitter around the blogosphere, Sean Hannity, conservative windbag (in my opinion) and advocate of torture, has volunteered to be waterboarded - for charity. Such an offer came about in this way...

Charles Grodin, political commentator and actor (The Great Muppet Caper), appeared on Hannity's Fox News show on Wednesday. After some teasing and banter, Grodin brought up the subject of torture, which Hannity supports.

Grodin: You're for torture.
Hannity: I am for enhanced interrogation.
Grodin: You don't believe it's torture. Have you ever been waterboarded?
Hannity: No, but Ollie North has.
Grodin: Would you consent to be waterboarded? We can waterboard you?
Hannity: Sure.
Grodin: Are you busy on Sunday?
Hannity: I'll do it for charity. I'll let you do it. I'll do it for the troops' families.

This exchange is disturbing to me on so many levels. I believe torture is wrong. I believe it's wrong to use torture as a means of protecting "national security" (I don't think it's effective and I feel it's a violation of basic human rights). And I believe torture is wrong if it's done for charity to raise money for a good cause. I feel that even suggesting willingly submitting oneself to waterboarding somehow reduces torture, the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering to punish or intimidate or coerce. To waterboard Sean Hannity for charity diminishes the severity this act of torture to the level of harmless prank, to reality television, and you know, this is not what torture is.

I am so disappointed with my fellow liberals, most of whom have advocated AGAINST torture, who seem to have jumped on the waterboarding Hannity bandwagon. "Woohoo! let's waterboard Hannity!! It's about time!!" And why do they want to waterboard Hannity? Because they don't agree with his politics? Because he's a jackass? The prisoners in Guantanamo have political opinions which differ from those of their torturers. And many of them are beyond the level of jackass and are downright nasty people. Why do we think "torturing" Hannity would be okay? Doesn't this undermine our very opposition to torture? I believe that we are finally getting close to having our nation acknowledge the criminality and evil of our recent acts, and I believe allowing Hannity to go through with this sanctions this type of behavior and feeds right into the line that it "really isn't torture anyway."

For a much more coherent discussion on this topic, check out:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Now that I have my new passport...

...perhaps I shall go here.

I do believe that this is the best tourism promotional video series I have ever seen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

the world is mine...

My new passport arrived today. My old one expires in May, so I learned just how ridiculously hard it is to expedite a passport renewal while living in another country, and I had it renewed.

It's a little sad to give up my old passport. It's been in my back pocket on transatlantic flights and flights across North America. It's the passport issued just before I took off for Central America in 1999. It's been to Mexico a time or two. And it's got all of the stamps from going back and forth between Canada and the US many, many times. There are stamps from our honeymoon, both Belgium and Spain. And while it wasn't stamped in Israel, there is an Israeli security sticker on the back. That passport holds so many memories of so many adventures. And the picture was just so darned cute.

This new one won't be able to stay in the back pocket of my jeans. It's new, stiff cover protects the special electronic features. The photo is not nearly as adorable. But the blank pages invite me to more treks and travels.

Interesting that it arrived the very same day as the invitation to Tania and James' wedding at Canterbury Cathedral this summer...

Two Mushroom Risotto (crock pot style - 2 hours)

Risotto is usually such a pain in the butt since you have to stand near the stove and stir and stir and stir and stir. But this recipe, found in Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker solves that problem by transferring the cooking to the crock pot. I love my crock pot. This allowed Craig and I to play Starfarers of Catan while dinner was cooking. (he won)

I goofed when making this, though, and didn't turn the crock pot to "high" until one hour into the cooking time. The dish was still done in two hours, and I feel, that with my crock pot, cooking for a full two hours on high would have burned the dish.

Here is the recipe with my tweaks:

  • ¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1¼ c. arborio rice
  • 2 c. crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2½ c. vegetable stock
  • 1/8 c. dry sherry
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme (or 2 tsp. fresh)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ c. freshly grated parmesan cheese (or soy parm, for a vegan option)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Soak the porcini mushrooms in boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving soaking liquid. Chop mushrooms and set aside.
  • In skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook about a minute or two, until slightly softened.
  • Transfer onion mixture to crock pot. Add rice, stirring to coat rice with oil. Stir in both muchrooms, the reserved soaking liquid, stock, sherry, thyme, and salt. Cover, and cook on high until all liquid is absorbed (watch this the first time to discern the exact timing on your slow cooker).
  • Stir in cheese and season with pepper.

Serve hot and enjoy.

Please leave a comment and let me know if you try this recipe.