Sunday, March 29, 2009

belated blogging

These past few weeks have been so very full. I have started many blog entries, yet not posted any of them. Even the ones that I completed, I did not post; I seem to have acquired a weird obsession with chronology with this blog.

Anyway, here are the last few weeks, all in one swoop...

Seitan Adobo (crock pot style)

Most luau foods are not so vegetarian-friendly. So I had to make them so.

Adobo is the Filipino national dish, and a favorite among the people of Hawaii. Usually it is made with chicken and/or pork. Here is my adaptation of adobo, using seitan (or wheat meat). I also used a slow-cooker for my own convenience. (All of the recipes I found called for meat to be marinated for several hours then cooked on the stove.)

Seitan Adobo

  • 2 lbs. seitan (can be bought at most supermarkets, though I make my own)
  • 1/2 c. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 c. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • cut/rip seitan into bite-size pieces
  • whisk together all other ingredients
  • combine all ingredients in 4 qt. slow cooker
  • cook on low for 6 hours, stirring occasionally
Serve over rice.

Enjoy your vegetarian luau.

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


I'm actually surprised that this was my first time. I have always wanted to do it, but have never had the opportunity until last night. Finally, I had my chance.

I donned my grass skirt, carried my new ukulele and my crock-pot full of "chicken" adobo, and headed to a murder-mystery luau (Craig carried the blended and the fixin's for pina coladas).

I love being in costume. I love playing games. I love performing. So a murder mystery dinner is just my thing.

(Mom thought it amusing that a bunch of chaplains gathered for a murder-mystery night. But you know, our work is so intense, and it's good for us to connect with each other outside of that environment. And being surrounded by the seriousness of death and dying all week long, it's good to be able to inject a little "gallows humour" into our lives.)

I didn't solve the murder (Craig did). But I did look smashing in my fabulous grass skirt.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Blogs I Read

So RevGalBlogPals wants to know what blogs I read regularly. And I am supposed to limit it to only five. Yikes! I have over 30 subscriptions in my Google Reader alone.

So I'll start by saying that I read the blogs of many of my friends, check out their recipes and cute pictures of their babies. I read what's in their hearts and on their minds (and in Lisa's case, in her fridge). But I won't list those blogs among my five though these friends often do challenge me, inspire me, and make me laugh.

That said, these are the blogs (by people other than my friends) I regularly read:

Reason, Skepticism, Atheism:
As a person with a complicated relationship with organized religion (at times, I have hope and believe that religion can be a positive and healing force in our world and in the lives of individuals, but I have also seen how, too often, religion and faith can be so destructive to people, to communities, and to societies at large), I am drawn to writers who engage me on an intellectual level, challenge my religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and force me to wrestle with my understandings of self and systems and the world. I am especially interested in the discussions around ethics and morality from a non-religious perspective. First of all, I think the dialogue around ethics gets much more interesting and complex when you move beyond "'Cause the Bible tells me so." Secondly, I am discovering that without a god to blame or a god to forgive, people are challenged to articulate and to live into their ethical values in more integrated and consistent ways. My favorite blogs skeptic/atheist blogs are Unreasonable Faith and Pharyngula.

News and Politics:
I am a political junkie. The US election is over, but still I check DailyKos everyday. Sometimes several times a day. And recently, in my desire to learn about the Canadian political scene (I do reside here in the Great White North) despite my inability to vote here, I have begun to read InformedVote. I may even start writing for them!!

Friends' Health:
I have several friends recovering from injury or illness. Last year, when working at the Children's Hospital, I discovered the CaringBridge website which allows families and patients to update their friends and loved ones about their status. It's a great service they provide, so I am happy to plug their site. I do check in on my friends Grant and Anna everyday.

So I must confess my guilty pleasure: laughing at these photos of cats and dogs and silly captions (with horrible spelling and grammar). I was pleased to learn that I was not alone in this addiction to the adorable LOLcats.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Epicurious in Edmonton 3

We've done a lot of hanging out with our friend Juli this past. Which is great, because Juli is amazing. She and her husband John are both the kind of people who are wonderful to be around since they are both brilliant and interesting, well-informed on a variety of subjects, and so comfortable in their own minds. And I am not just saying this because I know that John occasionally reads my blog.

John and Juli moved to Edmonton around the same time we did (from Chicago!). As fellow vegetarians, they have been great friends with whom we have explored the culinary delights of Edmonton's dining scene.

Last Friday, John was out of town. Craig and I were exhausted, having survived intense on-call shifts (me) and the Chandra proposal deadline (Craig). We wanted to go out, but nothing too taxing. So we decided on pizza. Fortunately, the best pizza in town is just a few blocks from our place: Famoso Neopolitan Pizza (apparently, they are a franchise - I just learned this going to get the link - but at this time, the only franchise is the one in our neighborhood. I guess they are seeking to build a franchise). We have been to Famoso before with Juli and John, so it was a known entity, known to be spectacular. However, we had only been to Famoso on a weeknight, never a Friday night. And as someone who prefers lazy, non-taxing Friday evenings, I don't imagien we will go back on a Friday again. At Famoso, you wait to be seated, then you go to the counter and put in your order. As your order is ready, they bring it out to you. On Friday nights, the place is so packed, you can't even see the sign which tells you to please wait to be seated. So upon walking into the restaurant, one cannot tell if people are waiting for tables of waiting at the counter to order. This led to some people inadvertantly cutting in front of a whole line of people and snatching a table as soon as it was vacated. Though I didn't want the role, I became "line enforcer" - ugh! After about 45 minutes, we were seated. We then enjoyed a scrumptious gorgonzola, walnut salad and a gorgeous quattro fromaggi (with roasted mushroom) pizza. The food was fabulous, as it had been previously, but I think I'll stick to weeknights for Famoso.

Yesterday, Juli called and invited us to head to Don Antonio's Mexican Food, Ltd. I called Craig to see if he was up for dinner with our friends, only to learn that he had John, who had returned home from his trip, in his office asking him the same thing. Apparently, they had launched a coordinated, bi-directional invitation. We could hardly refuse. Don Antonio's is another restaurant a few blocks from our place (have I mentioned that we live in a fantastic neighborhood?). As a Texan, I was raised on good Mexican. Being a vegetarian living in Canada, I know good Mexican is hard to come by. And Don Antonio's is actually surprisingly good. Homemade chips, salsa, and guac put it a step above most restaurants in the states. And while the menu is not necessarily vegetarian friendly, the kitchen staff is quite accomodating and they will prepare most dishes without meat upon request. (We didn't want to ask about lard, but I get the impression it is not so common in Canada). The chilis relenos has unique, delicious, sweet flavor, unlike any I have had before. The tamal was quite bland, but the enchilada, while not as spectacular as mine, was tasty. Perhaps someday I will open "Raquelita's Cucina Vegetariana", but until then, I'll return to Don Antonio's when I get a craving for the comfort food of my youth.

So were our epicurian adventures (w/ Juli) this past week.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

traveling through Mordor

Today, I journeyed east of Edmonton, past the land of Mordor, to the the hamlet of suburbia that is Sherwood Park. The object of my quest was a baritone ukulele I had found online. Little did I realize that obtaining the music maker would entail such adventure.

Edmonton is an oil town. To the east are the refineries. From our 19th-floor apartment, with it's east facing windows, we can see the flames of the refineries burning through the night. Craig was the one who first suggested that the land to our east was Mordor; for me, it just looked like home, having grown up as close to the petroleum refineries in Texas City as I now live to the ones here in Edmonton. We look out over Mordor at night, and occasionally, we created fantasies about our adventures to/through Mordor (yeah, we are total geeks). But today, I actually went out there...

I had not been east of town since we drove in on the Yellowhead Highway back in July, when we first moved to Edmonton. I had heard of this mythical land, Sherwood Park, from colleagues and patients alike, but never was this locale a destination of mine. But I aspired to own the uke, so I braved the rush-hour traffic, and headed east, right through the heart or Mordor.

And actually, Mordor felt quite familiar. In addition to bringing to mind the childhood trips past the refineries in Texas City when Hilary and I used to hold our breath so not to inhale the sulfuric fumes (of death!), the bleak, industrial landscape also made me think of my many drives through Gary, Indiana as I made my way to and from my Chicago. Mordor stirs nostalgia within me. Hmmm...

The real adventure came in getting lost in suburbia, between the universal Home Depots, Michaels, and McDonalds and their Canadian counterparts, Canadian Tire, HomeSense, and Tim Hortons. These landmarks are so ubiquitous throughout North America, they are hardly signposts to point one in the right direction any longer. "Turn right at the Wendy's," I was told. Which Wendy's???

It was the towers of Mordor which brought me out of Sherwood Park. I could see the flames burning into the setting sun. I knew that if the towers were once again to my east, I would be nearing my home. So I headed back through Mordor. This time with a stringless uke in my possession. And I made it home safe and sound.

Monday, March 23, 2009


So, despite the six inches of snow we got yesterday, it's officially spring here. And what that means is that we have temps above freezing during the day, which melts some of the snow, and temps dipping below freezing at night, which refreezes the water on the walkways and roads, creating what is known as ice (for my Texan friends, this is the same stuff you put in your tea, only much more of it. And you have to walk/drive on it, instead of letting it melt in your drink, which is very hard to do).

The other thing about Edmonton spring is the mud. See, in Edmonton, all winter long, they have been putting sand on the roads to keep them from getting too slick. Every once in a while, a snowplow would come through and push the sand/snow mixture to the sides of the roads where it would pile up, obscuring the curbs and eliminating entire lanes of roads.

Commuting in Edmonton in springtime does not involve flowers and sunshine, but rather, having to make the split-second decision whether to run into the snowbank or risk having a deluge of muddy water sprayed upon you by the passing bus. It also means going out of your way to cross streets earlier, even getting off the bus three blocks early, in order to avoid that puddle. Some muddles are so big, I swear they have tides.

In summary:

Edmonton in summer - the city is garbed in lush green. Festivals every weekend, the sun never sets. Glorious. You should come.

Edmonton in autumn - the city is crowned in leafy gold. The river valley is spectacular, hiking and biking are fantastic. Glorious. You should come.

Edmonton in the winter - the city is robed in glistening white. It's really, really cold. But the people are hardy, and the city is alive with music and theatre (and shopping, I confess). Glorious. You should come. Just wear layers.

Edmonton in spring time - you are drenched in muddy brown. Stay away. Better yet, can I come stay with you?

root veggie gratin

Yesterday, my Beloved made a most delectable dinner, utilizing the wonderful array of root veggies purchased at the Old Strathcona Farmer's Market. He has made this recipe before (it's based upon a recipe for a Vegetable Gratin-Soufflé from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone), but his variations (and perhaps my mistake?*) this time made the dish even more spectacular. Here's the recipe as Craig prepared it (sans my "mistake")...

Root Vegetable Gratin


  • butter for dish
  • 4 cups root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes)
  • 1/2 c. fresh bread crumbs
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1/2 c. grated Gruyère cheese
  • 2 eggs, separated*
  • salt a7 freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of grated nutmeg


  • preheat oven to 375
  • lightly butter 8x10-inch gratin dish
  • steam or parboil veggies until barely tender. drain and rinse under cold water. chop veggies
  • lightly brown bread crumbs in 2 Tbsp. of butter in small saucepan. stir in milk. when it's hot to touch, turn off heat.
  • meanwhile, cook onion until translucent in remaining butter in small skillet over medium heat (about 3 minutes). combine onion, vegetables, and bread crumb mixture in bowl. stir in cheese and egg yolks. season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg (the recipe says, "to taste", but I would advise against tasting raw egg)
  • beat egg whites until stiff*. fold whites into veggie mixture.
  • pour into prepared dish and bake until puffed* and browned, about 30-35 minutes.
  • serve immediately
  • expect great praise from your significant other, who may even blog about how amazing you are

*Okay, so I was sous-chef for this one. And one of my assignments was to separate the eggs. I have enough experience in the kitchen that I know that I should separate the eggs one at a time. But I forgot. We only had two eggs, and the yolk of one broke into the whites of both. So alas, this was not a soufflé. But perhaps this is why I liked it so much. I wonder if the denser texture concentrated the yummy flavors. I don't know. You can try it both ways and see what you think.

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

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Eggplant Turnovers

Once again, Simple Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin pulls through. (This cookbook has yet to miss for us.) Last night I made this yummy appetizer to take over to Sharon and Eric's house.

Eggplant Turnovers

  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced into no more than 1/3-inch-thick slices (skin left on)
  • 1/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 c. seasoned bread crumbs
  • 5 oz. soft goat cheese (mild)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp. finely diced roasted red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • preheat boiler
  • make an assembly line of eggplant slices, mayonnaise, and bread crumbs
  • with pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of eggplant slices with mayonnaise
  • press slices into bread crumbs, coating evenly
  • place on baking sheet, in a single layer
  • broil until golden brown on each side
  • let eggplant cool to room temperature (do not attempt to fill when warm!!)
  • combine remaining ingredients in a bowl
  • when eggplant is cool, spread a thin layer of filling on each slice
  • fold slices over to make turnovers
  • arrange on platter
  • serve at room temperature

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

no monopoly on morality

A few years ago, I declared that I despised the game Monopoly and refused to play it ever again. I sited its obsessive capitalistic leanings as the reason, saying I didn't approve of the value (of fanatical financial acquisition) the game promoted. In reality, it's just a crappy game. Very little strategy is needed to win. In fact, you can play as perfect a game as your rolls allow, and still lose. Badly. As was the case the last time I played Monopoly and swore I would never play again. I hadn't fully realized that my hatred of this game stems from lack of interesting game-play (because the game really does promote a rampant, capitalistic behavior which I have long despised - though only recently has it become popular to despise) until I had to confront my own inconsistency when I was introduced to the game Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is a brilliantly designed game, which holds your interest with a fantastic balance of strategy and chance and player interaction. It's a truly fabulous game, with only one catch: the little pieces you acquire who represent the people who come to Puerto Rico to work your plantations. The game calls them "settlers". In reality, they are slaves. And slavery is not a value of mine. But the game is really good. Or at least, the game play is superb.

So, what do I do? I must confess I did a decent amount of moralizing against Monopoly in the past few years (sorry Ree!). I think this will just be the case where I name things for what they are, including my own inconsistency. I will admit that Monopoly does promote a value-system that is not my own, but that the reason I dislike the game is because it's a poorly designed game. And I will say that Puerto Rico does not promote my values, but I will admit that the game is fun to play.

And I did have fun playing the game last night over at Sharon and Eric's house.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rachel Weeps

Working as a hospital chaplain, I see much pain and suffering. But these past two weeks have been especially hard. It seems that in the past two weeks, I have had a disproportionate number of deaths of babies and young mothers than would be expected for my clinical assignment. I have held several dead or dying babies in my arms - blessed them, prayed over them, baptized them, and/or named them. And I have held the hands of women my age and younger as they have taken their last breath and left us. And I am a little surprised at the intensity of cumulative emotions I am feeling around these deaths.

Last year, I worked in a children's hospital. I saw many more babies die. But I also held healthy babies. And I was able to see hope as health improved and many babies went home. This year, since my assignment is not the neo-natal ICU nor Labour & Delivery, I don't have the opportunity to balance the deaths by celebrating the lives of healthy children. This have given me a skewed sense of what is normal and it has stirred fears in me for my friends and sister-in-love who are currently pregnant.

In addition, as Craig and I embark on our journey of covenanted life together, the topic of children has arisen. So these sad deaths of babies and mothers fills me with doubts and fears for myself.

But whatever the rationales for my reacting internally the way I have, I need to acknowledge the emotions I am feeling. And the primary emotion I feel is sorrow. Yes, I feel fear, and anxiety, and anger, and rage. But mostly, I just feel sorrow. Sorrow for these babies who will never get to grow up. Sorrow for these mothers who will never get to bring her child to her breast.

And in my sorrow I weep. This Rachel is weeping for her children...for they are no more. (Matthew 2:18)

lucky leprechauns

I wanted to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a traditional Irish feast. Alas, this has been an exhausting week (and it's only Tuesday) for both Craig and me, so Irish Potato Soup or any traditional dish was out of the question.

But I did whip up a lovely leprechaun linguine w/ a shamrock pesto. Actually, it was a spinach linguine and the pesto was traditional basil pesto mixed with spinach and a little silken tofu.

I realized later that I has served this with a baguette and that I was drinking orange juice (while Craig had a beer). So the three elements of my meal made the colors of the Irish flag. I wish I had realized that and taken a photo before my leprechaun linguine was gone.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

compassion fatigue

I was "on-call" all weekend. And unlike previous hospitals where I was employed, at my current workplace, we don't get compensation time or recovery time after working a 24-hour or 48-hour shift. See, they don't "require" that we stay in the hospital when we are on-call. We are only "required" to respond to all urgent calls within a a certain amount of time. Since it's possible that we could end up spending the entire night in our own beds, getting a full-night's sleep, we are expected to work our next shift.

My weekend wasn't hard. Until Monday morning, when my pager went off at 1:30 am, 4:30 am, and again at 7:00 am. I didn't get much rest. And I was expected to work. If we "really need" the time to recover, we can take it. But then we are often grilled on whether we "really need" it. And always being in a defensive posture is draining in and of itself.

Yeah, I am bitter. And I am on-call again in two days. So I have anticipatory bitterness, too.

I am also beginning to recognize symptoms of compassion fatigue. Which causes me to question my vocation - even more than I have already been questioning. Sure, I can still provide care, as required by my job description. And I can surprise myself in providing good care, as evidenced by the tokens of gratitude I receive from patients and family members. But I lack joy. And I lack hope. And I lack a genuine desire to be with people in pain and to help ease their suffering. These are kind of essential to my work.

So what do I do? Honestly, I am too tired to even think of doing anything else, much less look for or apply for jobs. So I am stuck.

I realize that this insane, god-awful week will soon be over. And I trust that soon I'll be seeing life through a different lens. But right now, I am exhausted. I am tired. And I am burnt-out.

Question: why is it that so much of our training tells us to practice self-care, to prevent this type of burn-out and fatigues, yet no institution (church/hospital/school) make self-care so dang hard? I have just about given up all hope in having any institution (especially church) care for me, but do they have to make it so difficult for me to care for myself?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Epicurious in Edmonton 2

So, another week of yummy eats in our fair city of Edmonton.

On Wednesday, I went out with a bunch of astronomers to a favorite joint of the university crowd, the Highlevel Diner. It's a great place for Craig and I to meet up as it's in Strathcona, close to his work, and I can take the #9 bus door-to-door from my office to the diner. They have a decently wide selection of veggie items from which to choose, though, sadly, Craig and I did not choose so well this time. Craig got the nachos, which both sounded and were fun and yummy. But then he realized that his entire meal consisted of chips. And that didn't sit so well in his tummy. I got the black bean chili, which is delicious, but then my entire meal consisted of beans. And that didn't sit so well with my tummy. I would have preferred it the chili portion was half the size and served with a small side salad. But alas, 'twas not the case. I also ordered the dessert special, rice pudding. Their bread pudding is exquisite, so I had high hopes for the rice pudding. But such hopes were dashed when I got the dry, bitter (as opposed to creamy and rich) rice concoction. I don't imagine that "special" will ever be featured again. I left only having eaten two or three bites. All that said, we will undoubtedly go back to Highlevel. We'll just stick to our standby favorites: the spinach enchilada, the veggie burger, the spinach pie, and the bread pudding.

Friday was an entirely different epicurean experience. We went to my absolute favorite restaurant in Edmonton, Padmanadi. Padmanadi is a chain of vegetarian restaurants. It is the only location of this chain outside of Indonesia. They serve scrumptious faux meats in luxurious and compelling sauces. Once a month, Padmanadi has a buffet. And people will line up outside (in Edmonton winter!) to get a seat at this spectacular feast. On Friday, Craig and I headed to Padmanadi with my friend Lindsay and her friend (another Texan vegetarian up for the weekend) to brave the cold and stand in line for the March buffet. Lucky for us, the staff emerged from the restaurant every 15 minutes or so, bringing yummy appetizers for those still in line. Finally, we had a table and were soon gazing upon (and feasting upon) the magnificent spread. As always, the food was delightful and delicious, especially the barbecue "pork", which I think may be my new favorite dish there (previously, it was the spicy eggplant). However, I realized that having been to the buffet twice, now, I really prefer ordering off the menu.

That's the extent of our epicurian adventures in Edmonton last week.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mid-Lent Check-In

Sophia at RevGalBlogPals comments that "halfway through the season we have often found it very challenging to live up to our original plans" and thus issues the invitation to "check-in" on our Lenten goals or hopes with these five questions.

1. Did you give up, or take on, anything special for Lent this year?
I gave up Facebook for Lent, only allowing myself to "feast" for one-hour on the weekends. In addition, I "took up" blogging again. I have only blogged sporadically for the past year or so, and I have missed it.

2. Have you been able to stay with your original plans, or has life gotten in the way?
I have stuck with it, though at times I have really missed connecting with people through Facebook.

3. Has God had any surprising blessings for you during this Lent?
At this point, I am not too comfortable ascribing to "God" any actions with regard to my life or journey. That said, I have experienced self-awareness, learning, and, yes, blessings during this season of Lent. I realize how much time I wasted (and continue to waste) online and how Facebook can be a tool to communicate only on a superficial level. I also have discovered that the social networking site does allow me to keep in touch with a wide breadth of people from various chapters of my life, and how I can and do use the site to maintain depth in relationships. I imagine when I return to FB after this season of fasting from it, I will do so with more intentionality in my interactions with folks.

4. What is on your inner and/or outer agenda for the remainder of Lent and Holy Week?
I plan to continue to blog. I hope to make better use of email and telephone to keep in touch with loved ones far away. And I will be returning to the pulpit for three sermons during Holy Week.

5. Where do you most long to see resurrection, in your life and/or in the world, this Easter?
I long to see new life springing forth from the ground. After months of snow, a blade of grass would be worthy of sonnets and arias. On another level, I long to find a sense of renewal in my vocation. Or maybe not renewal, since I don't know that I want to return to a former calling. Perhaps I need "newal" in my sense of vocation. Also, if I am thinking about Easter in it's pre-Christian form, then I have some hopes and desires along those lines, too, with my new niece or nephew entering the world very soon. Finally, I continue to hope for and work for peace and renewal of right relations in our world.

So, what about you? How would you answer these questions?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

trouble in winter wonderland

Walking home from an astronomy dinner last night, I realized one of the things I most dislike about winter: when walking with Craig, I am not able to hold his hand. Gloves and mittens prohibit hand holding. And when I put my hand in the crook of his arm, I got a handful of downy and woolen layers. Walking in winter is not so wonder-filled if you can't hold tight to your Beloved.

So I think they should make mittens like this:
What do you think?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

in cognito

So I am going to a bible study at the church across the park from our place. I happened to visit the church a few Sundays back, on a day when I was too lazy to get up in time to make it across town to a church of my denomination, but not so lazy that I slept in. When I visited, I saw in the bulletin that they were starting a new study from the Living the Questions series, a series I have read about but hadn't had the opportunity to experience. So I decided to attend.

I called Nancy, the woman leading the study, whose number was listed in the bulletin, and she informed me that the class was not full and they would be delighted for me to attend.

"I want to ask you," she began, "have you ever done any bible studies before?"

"Oh, yes. I have."

"Oh, good. Well, are you familiar with the LTQ series?"

"Yes. That is what attracted me to the class in the first place."

"Oh, good, so you know how it works."

Actually, I didn't - exactly. But I really appreciate how Nancy wanted to make a newcomer feel welcomed. And I can understand what a baffling situation I put her in; it is not a usual occurrence to have a visitor to the church (this was only my second time to come - in eight months) want to attend a bible study. In my decade of church work that happened exactly zero times.

I assured Nancy that I wanted to come and that my level of interest was high and my ability to keep up with the class was adequate.

I did not tell her that I have a seminary degree nor that I am an ordained minister. I decided to go in cognito.

I went to engage in theological discussion with thinking people without having everyone in the room turn to me for answers. And I know that once I am out as a minister, I am doomed. I won't get to be a part of a community of questioners without people questioning me. So I kept silent about my education and vocation.

Which has not been so easy. I have so far avoided the "what do you do?" aspect of my story by telling what people really want to know: where the "y'all" is from (Texas) and what on earth brought me to Edmonton ("my partner is at the University"). And I have tried to stay quiet, to listen and to learn without adding my two cents here and there. But I am a loquacious gal, and despite vague attempts to dodge the professional question, my familiarity and grasp of the topics at hand have been evident. On Monday, our second class, Nancy called on me, "Now Rachel, this is obviously not new to you..." and continued asking me what I had gotten from the first session.

I replied that, yes, I had some previous exposure to the liberal theological ideas espoused in the series, so the thoughts weren't new or paradigm-shifting for me (anymore). And I continued to say that what I was taking from the course was the discourse around the room and the input, thoughts, and experiences shared by the people in the course. So another successful dodge.

I am enjoying the course. I really love the dialogue. And while it is somewhat exhausting to evade, I find it energizing to be able to be just "Rachel" and not "Rachel Rev", to ask questions in a circle without having to come up with answers, to let people teach me, and to learn what people really say when they think their ministers aren't listening.


Interestingly, at one point last night, one gal asked if I was a professional musician because I wore socks with music notes on them. Actually, the socks prompted the question about my interest in music, to which I responded saying that I sing and accompany myself badly on piano and guitar. I never once mentioned that I have my undergraduate degree in vocal performance. So I am a bit surprised that my musical socks outed me as a trained musician while theological discourse has not outed me as a trained theologian. Perhaps I am not as learned as I had thought. :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Daylight Savings, II

Another thing, isn't it supposed to be "Spring Forward"? It's not even remotely spring, as we are still nearly two weeks away from the vernal equinox.

Tell me, does this look like spring to you?

High today was -24c (-11f) and the low was -34c (-30f).

Daylight Savings

Oh boy, I could have used the extra hour this morning.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spicy Polenta w/ Tomato-Garlic Sauce on a Bed of Cooked Greens

This is one of our favorite recipes, which I have adapted from a favorite cookbook, Simple Vegetarian Pleasures, by Jeanne Lemlin (the only cookbook I have ever reviewed on Amazon). It makes a stunning presentation (I wish I had taken a photo), and the taste is even better than the look. It's a perfect dish to serve for guests. Last night, we put our friends John and Juli to work grating cheese and whisking the polenta. This helped our friends to see just how easy this dish is to make; you don't want to intimidate your guests.


bunch of kale, torn into small pieces (other greens work well, too, but here in Canada, kale is the best bet)
2 c. veggie broth
1 onion - chopped fine
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 Roma tomato, chopped
other seasonings as you like
  1. boil broth.
  2. add all ingredients
  3. simmer greens until tender, while you cook sauce and polenta
  4. season to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil
9 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red peppers flakes
1 28 oz. canned tomatoes, diced, in juice
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  1. heat oil in skillet (large) over medium heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes. Cook about a minute.
  2. stir in all other ingredients.
  3. simmer until the juices thicken (while you cook polenta)
3 c. veggie broth
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. corn meal
1 tbsp. butter or margarine (but watch out for trans fats)
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 c. pepper jack cheese, grated
  1. bring broth, salt, and garlic to a boil in sauce pan. reduce heat to simmer.
  2. slowly drizzle in corn meal, whisking all the while with a wire whisk
  3. whisk continually until polenta is the consistency of mashed potatoes (several minutes)
  4. whisk in butter and cheeses.
Make bed of greens on each plate.
Spoon polenta into the center of each bed.
Finally, spoon some sauce into the center of polenta.
(It looks really pretty!)

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

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Epicurious in Edmonton

Thursday was a city-wide fundraiser for the Lois Hole Hospital for Women, participating restaurants gave 30% of their total food sales for the day (the money, not the food) to the hospital. So I ate out. Twice.

Lindsay, Shauna, and I headed to That's Aroma! A Garlic Restaurant for lunch. That's a Piece of Garlic (as Lindsay calls it) is a terrific site for a work day lunch as it is connected via tunnels to our place of work. This means we don't have to get our coats. And it's especially helpful if one or the other of us is on-call. The food is consistently good, though not spectacular, and always a welcomed break from the food court fare, our only other option when buying and not wanting to bundle up. Today, I had the lunch portion of the angel hair pasta with fresh tomato and brie. Tasty, but next time, I intend to go back to the grilled mushroom salad.

For dinner, I met Sharon at Blue Plate Diner. This is a cute little place downtown, with bright colors, funky fixtures, and mismatched furniture giving it a homey, eclectic feel. I had been to Blue Plate previously, but only for brunch (with the atheist panel from the UU church). This was my first time for dinner, and this veggie friendly spot did not disappoint. I had the yummy lentil and nut loaf with a miso gravy - tender, moist, and delicious, better by far than the dry tofu loaf at Cafe Mosaic. Sharon had the stuffed pepper with curried bean ragout and the bite I had ensured that I would be ordering that next time.

Friday night, Craig and I took a walk down Whyte Ave. (the E-town equivalent of 6th Street, circa 1992). Tired of fighting the cold and getting hungry, we ducked into the Tokyo Noodle Shop. The place was packed (it is an inexpensive eatery on the main drag close to the University campus), so we had to wait a bit, but the food was worth it. From the spinach miso soup, through the tofu udon, to the red bean ice cream, every bite was yummy and warmed my tummy.

After so much dining out, we'll be staying in for a while. Tonight, we have John and Juli coming over to play games. Which means I better get busy helping Craig clean up the place.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I have always envisioned the wilderness of Lent as a desert with shifting sands. But after my commute into work this morning, I am certain it is the streets of Edmonton, with shifting snows.

Temperatures dropped over 20 degrees (that's Celsius - about a 36 degree drop in Fahrenheit) last night. And it snowed. Actual snow fall was probably only a few inches, but the wind caused snowdrifts, covering sidewalks and pathways.

Normally, my walk to work takes about 40 minutes. Today, it was an hour. It wasn't just snow I was battling, but wind and slick sheets of ice under the foot of new snow.

And my route was changed. The landscape had shifted. I was thrown off-course by thigh-high piles of snow (courtesy of the snowploughs) blocking sidewalks. And paths that existed yesterday just aren't there any longer. (the photo is the exact same park I pictured yesterday, sans pathway through)

It was quite a trek. But finally, I arrived. Face chapped. Legs sore. Breathless and exhausted. And drenched with sweat.

But, at the same time, I felt empowered, triumphant, and invincible.

You see, I realized that if I can make my way. Even as familiar paths disappear and obstacles block my path, I can find my way through this wilderness. I always do.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

safe and secure

Three years ago, I embarked on a journey of discovery and wonder, leaving behind security and relative vocational comfort (i.e. a rut) to venture into the unknown streets of Chicago and attempt to create a new faith community in Chicago's South Loop. I had no salary. I had a teeny-tiny bit of institutional support. I had very little - except hope, a vision and some amazing friends and colleagues. As Carrie Newcomer sings, I was "filled with hope and good intentions, bare to the bone."

Just prior to this endeavor, I had come through a season of great loss - a colleague died, a relationship ended, my ministry of 4+ years was cut for budgetary reasons, and my dream job had fallen through because of lack of funding. I remember feeling crushed and overwhelmed by all the pain. But I also remember feeling surprising strong and amazingly free. I often quoted Janis Joplin, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." In that time, it seemed like so much of the pain I was experiencing was caused by the other people's fear. And I became determined not to live my life in fear. "You either lose your fear or spend your life with one foot in the grave, " sings Over the Rhine. I didn't want my life to be dictated by fear, mine or anyone else's. So, I bravely stepped into the unknown, feeling fearless and feeling free. At the same time, I felt more like myself than I had in years. I realized that fearless and free was who I am.

It is no wonder that I met my life partner in this fearless, free, authentic, self-aware season of my life. Craig and I met upon my first arriving in Chicago. And as I was falling in love with the Windy City, I was growing in love with this man. Ultimately, my love for the fella that took me away from the beloved city. And eventually brought us here to Edmonton. (yeah, this Texan gal had been thinking Chicago was cold, and didn't have a clue what the northernmost major city in North America would hold).

Now, I am enjoying Edmonton. It's no Chi, but it's a nice city. And I love the community of friends Craig and I are building up around us. I truly delight in being in a covenanted, lifetime relationship with my Beloved. But right now, vocationally, I am in a funk.

It's more than just a matter of not knowing what I want to be when I grow up (the answer to that is still the same as it has always been - a world famous singer, of course). But the questions nagging at me go deeper: who am I? who (not what) do I want to be? what am I called to do?

I know, without a doubt, that I am called to be in relationship with Craig. As much as I have ever felt "called" to any ministry in the past and even more so, I feel called to this man. But beyond that, who am I? who do I want to be? what am I called to do?

Right now, I am serving as a hospital chaplain. And I like to work, for the most part. And I know that I am good at what I do. But I am not sure I feel up to doing this for much longer. I am not sure if this is the ministry to which I am "called". And see, the real issue here is that I am not sure I feel "called" to "ministry". Period.

But if I am not a minister, who am I? and what am I supposed to do? My training is all in either vocational ministry or vocal performance. I know I have myriad skills that are transferable to other fields. But my only "credentials" are in the ministry racket.

At present, ministry for me feels like a safety net. It's what I know. Its what's comfortable. But I don't like having a safety net. I feel I am my best self when I am fearless and free. I long to soar through the air on the flying trapeze or walk the high wire. But right now, I feel stuck, tangled up in this darn net. Scared to cut myself out. And scared of what that would mean if I did.

Monday, March 2, 2009

I Got Shoes!!

Well, boots actually. Yea!! This photo was taken this morning at the beginning of my 3.5k commute to work. Ah, it was good to be back to walking...

These past few months, I have been taking the bus as I commute to work instead of walking. And yeah, it's freaking cold here, but that's not why I stopped walking. I know how to layer to deal with the cold. No, I stopped in part because it was so dark with the sun rising well after my 8:00 am workday began and setting long before I set foot outside the hospital at 4:30 pm. And also because I didn't have the boots.

See, in Edmonton, they don't always usually shovel the snow. So my commute involves walking on 4-6 cm of ice and packed snow. Quite treacherous. So I needed shoes with tread that can handle the slick terrain. And having flat feet, I need good arch supports. And with these frigid temps, I need warmth. None of the shoes I owned had that trifecta of tread, support, and warmth. But these do! :)

At church yesterday, the minister was talking about preparing for journeys, both literal treks and figurative pilgrimages. He talked about having the right shoes before starting out on a long sojourn.

I am not sure where my shoes will take me. But I sure do like the feel of them on my feet.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

makings of a perfect weekend

I do believe that a perfect Saturday involves:
  • sleeping in

  • late brunch with good friends

  • trip to the farmer's market

  • game night

I could have done without the congested head (knocked my equilibrium out of whack), but over all, it was pretty fantastic. The Urban Diner (blocks away from our home) lived up to the rave reviews. And I totally rocked at Wise and Otherwise.