Friday, May 29, 2009
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.
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
- Saute onions and garlic in pan until onion is translucent.
- In bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
- In another bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
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 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
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
We must not forget:
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003:
• 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
• 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
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...
Friday, May 22, 2009
*note: the link contains not only photos but Colin's CV of skills and experience as well
Thursday, May 21, 2009
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.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
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?"
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
Happy Victoria Day!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
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
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.
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?
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
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.
- 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)
- In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat.
- Add onion and garlic. Cook for approximately five minutes, until onions are nearly translucent.
- Add spices. Cook onions and spices for another few minutes stirring often.
- 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.
- Add beans, corn, and seitan (if using). Return to a simmer. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally for another 10-15 minutes.
- Serve with crispy tortilla strips*, grated cheese (optional), and fresh cilantro.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
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
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
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.