Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops & Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage for Dinner

We're too boring on New Year's Eve for my daughter so she's taking off to spend it with her friends.  This was my last night to cook for her.  She doesn't eat much meat at college.  The pork chops I made for her tonight should be enough meat for a month.

I'm really impressed with folks I know publishing their own books.  I think I'm going to publish a cookbook. I've already got a lot of recipes I've posted here.   So you will probably see more recipes here as I start putting them together.  Here's tonight's dinner.

I usually marinate pork chops in white wine but I didn't have any.  Then I saw the bourbon.  What a great idea.  I started with two thick Iowa Chops that I don't believe you can get outside of Iowa.   And if you could you'd have to sell your first-born to afford them.

Mix a dry rub of kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder and brown sugar and rub both sides of the pork chops with it.  Then pour a cup of bourbon over them.  Let them marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.  Turn them over every once in a while.

Sweet & Sour Red Cabbage

1/4 stick butter
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 granny smith apple, peeled and sliced
1/2 red cabbage, sliced.
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 Cup water
1/4 Cup brown sugar

Heat the pan to medium, melt the butter and cook the onions until translucent.  Add the apples and cook for a few minutes, then add the balsamic vinegar and cook for a few minutes.  Add the sugar and stir.  Add the cabbage, cider vinegar and water.  Turn up heat until it boils, then turn down to a low summer and cook for about 20 minutes until cabbage is tender.   You could add some bacon to this too. 

You should get a George Foreman grill.  Those things are great for cooking chops and steaks.  Heat up the grill.  Put the chops on the grill and pour the marinade in a sauce pan, add about 1/4 cup brown sugar and cook down until it is syrupy.   When the chops get some color on them brush them with the bourbon glaze every time you turn them, every 5 minutes or so.  They will cook on this grill in little over a half an hour.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Disrespect for Young People

One summer at a family reunion I sat across from cousin in law and listened to her diss her teenaged son right in front of him.  He was lazy.  He never listened.  He  had no common sense.  Expected her to pick up after him.    As we drove home my kids and I talked about how unkind that was to talk about him like that in front of him.  And my daughter said "If he's like that, whose fault is that?"

The first time I saw these "rules" going around facebook (they first showed up without the chalkboard") I disagreed with rule #1.  I never have believed in telling children "Life is unfair.  Get used to it"  I'm not saying I never said it because we all get tired of hearing that whine "That's not FAIR!" from our kids.  But what I hope I taught my children was, "Yes life is NOT get used to it.  Never get used to it.  Work to make the world more fair"

But as I see this being shared more and more around facebook it's not just the "life isn't fair"  It's the whole arrogant "Aren't  young people lazy and stupid and aren't we so much better than them?" attitude that bothers me so.  I leave comments disagreeing on every single one of them and nobody seems to appreciate it.  In fact one person called me intolerant.  

I mean seriously look at the world we have created.  Why should young people pay any attention to any "rules" we might impose on them?

Young people are different than we are.   Some of that difference is a good thing.  Some isn't.  Some kids are lazy and feel entitled.  Some kids have been overprotected by their parents.  Many many young people have been neglected and abandoned by the adults in their life.  If we despair that young people do not seem to act like "adults", why is that?  How much time to children actually spend with adults?  Very very little.  Why should they know how to be adults when we've paid so little attention to them?

I've been reading Hurt 2.0, Inside the World of Today's Teenagers  and it is an eye opener.   Young people have pretty much been abandoned and neglected by the adults in their lives.  I think that is why I have such visceral reaction when I see that STUPID picture going around.  I see so much selfishness and disregard for children going on among adults.  How dare we get all self-righteous and smug about what is wrong with young people?  How about we pull out that plank in our own eyes first? 

I am, at heart an optimist. I have faith in the new generation.  They will figure it out.  Just like we rebelled against some of the flaws of the generation before us, they will push the pendulum that has swung too far in this generation.  They will figure out what doesn't work and survive.  And they will push the world a little too far in a direction and will be annoyed when the generation that follows them pushes back.  And so it goes.  

But if you are my facebook friend and you post that picture, be prepared for a rant from me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pajamas in Church? Just Say No.

So apparently a number of churches had a "Wear Your Pajamas to Church" service on Christmas.  It was to "promote a sense of intimacy."

It seems people are just too darn lazy to put on some clothes when they get out of bed and if we promise them they don't need to make that effort maybe please God they'll come to church.

I'm sorry but I think the practice of people over the age of two putting on clean clothes and maybe even washing their face before they leave the house is a good one.  

I confess I already have a bad taste in my mouth about this public wearing of bed clothes from when my daughter was in high school and they had pajama days.  Really?  I'm already fighting the skimpy dress code and trying to keep the boys off my daughter and now they are ENCOURAGING them to dress like they all are going to one big  co-ed slumber party????

"Well we just want to encourage people to come as they are.  That everyone is welcome." 

Well then, why don't we just all come butt-naked?   I say for the same reason we don't come to church naked, we don't wear our bed clothes.  A little modesty.  To show that coming to church and worshiping God and being with fellow Christians IS worth the effort it takes to put on a clean pair of clothes?

Don't have a pair of clean clothes?  Well then let's buy you a washing machine and give some  nice clothes and work for a world wear you can have clean clothes.  Isn't that better than saying - "oh fine just wear whatever you sleep in." 

I hear some pastors even showed up at these things in bathrobes over their clothes.  That's just stupid.  They haven't come as they are, they've put on a costume.  So now bathrobes replace church vestments? 

Not to mention it takes the focus off of Christ and it becomes all about "Look how clever and funny we are - we are wearing PJs to church!"

"It's for children."  Well I still think teaching children that we put our clothes on when we get out of bed is a good habit to encourage.  Even on Christmas. 

Please.  Next year.  Just say no to Pajamas Sunday.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Why yes, I DO have an elephant in my nativity set

My husband and I bought a Fontanini Nativity Set for our first Christmas.  

I was already pregnant by then and mostly we liked it because the figures were unbreakable.  They were very popular at the time and you could find them in every Hallmark store.  

They are not as available anymore though you see them here and there.  What I grew to like about them was all the unusual characters you could buy.  Including women and girls.  And every character has a story.  And animals.  Every year we would buy one or two figures.  

As you can imagine, 24 years later, I have quite a collection.  I need two tables to set them all up


One year  we saw this elephant.  

I fell in love with the elephant.  It was $30.00.  This was when I got paid barely the salary of a seminary graduate and my husband took care of our young children.  $30 dollars for a nativity figure was out of the question.  I reluctantly put the elephant I had been longingly stroking back on the shelf.

No doubt you've figured out the end of the story.  That Christmas eve, that was the gift my husband had bought me.

It is surely my favorite.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Lefse is a Norweigian Flatbread made with potatoes.   

My husband made good lefse and even made his own lefse stick for turning them.  My daughter and I made them a few years ago and she decided she wanted to make them again so that's what we did this afternoon.  It's time consuming and tricky.  

Most people make them on electric griddles but I used an old fashioned cast iron skillet.  Worked fine, but did result in brown spots which WE like but purists would frown upon.

This is the recipe we used:

5 lbs potatoes, peeled, cooked and riced.  

The ricing is the hardest part as far as I'm concerned.  I had some old ladies try to tell me I could use potato flakes but I don't eat that stuff, why would I cook with it?

I made two batches - this makes 1 batch:

4 cups riced potatoes
1/4 Cup melted butter
1/2 Cup whipping cream
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 Cup flour

Mix and then form patties.  This is tricky because you don't want to work it too much or it will taste rubbery, but you do need to work it enough to make sure there are not cracks on the edge, so that it will roll out nice and round.

Pastry is not my thing.  I cannot roll.  
I can barely roll out sugar cookies.  Sarah was a very good roller.  You want these to be pretty thin.  A lefse roller has grooves in it to prevent air pockets.  Look how nicely she rolled that out!

Then you slip the stick underneath in the middle and roll it over into the pan.  This takes some practice.  This is why you rice 5 pounds of potatoes.  Some lefse will go into the trash.

It will bubble like this when it is time to turn it.  Again you use the stick to turn it.

And you use the stick to take it out of the pan.  Stack them up about ten at a time, and then fold them into fours.  

Ours are pretty small because we make them on cast iron skillets.  If you make them on a lefse griddle you can make them much larger.  Of course then rolling and handling the stick is even more challenging.

We have lefse sticks and we know how to use them!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Katie's Last Years

Today is the commemoration of Katherine Von Bora Luther, Martin Luther's famous "Katie".

Okay so we all know the story of her escape in the pickle cart.  (Although Father Anonymous is such a spoil sport about these stories he probably will refute them). I personally love the way she refused all the husbands Luther tried to throw her way and said she'd only have him.  

It's kind of a love story in a more real sense.  No great romance at the start, Luther married her more to set an example than anything else.  But they grew to love each other and faced life together, she bore six children, one died at birth and a daughter died at aged 13.  They also raised four orphans.  She cooked and cleaned, gardened, brewed beer and held her own against Luther himself.

But her last years are really sad.  When Luther died in 1546 she was left with no income and asked to move out of the abbey they lived in while she still had children at home.  Although she refused, she ended up having to flee the Smacaldic war.  When she was able to return her properties were ruined by the war and she and her children lived in poverty.  Then when the plague broke out she had to move again.  She was badly injured when a horse was injured in the move.  She died a few months later at the age of 53 on December 20, 1552.  Because of the war she could not even be buried by her husband in Wittenberg and was buried far away in Torgau.

I'm but a stranger here,
Heav'n is my home;
Earth is a desert dread,
Heav'n is my home.
Danger and sorrow stand
Round me on every hand;
Heav'n is my fatherland,
Heav'n is my home.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gaudete Sunday and that Pesky Pink Candle

I've spent most of my advent career arguing with ushers about the pink candle on the Advent wreath. 

 It has been my joy and pleasure to have been the only pastor who ever told them that we light the pink candle on the THIRD, not the fourth Sunday in Advent.  Or so they tell me. All the while knowing I would undoubtedly be followed by a pastor who didn't give a flying fig what candle they lit.

I thought I had made progress and settled into the pew to enjoy the Children's Christmas Program which was all about decorating the church for Christmas.  Imagine my dismay as a little 9 year old girl reads from her script about how the pink candle is lit on the fourth Sunday in Advent.   

Originally Advent was a time of fasting and preparation, similar to Lent and purple in color like Lent.  

The Third Sunday, with its readings emphasizing joy, became a break in the fast.  "Gaudete" meaning "Rejoice" was the first word of the introit for the Mass that day. Rose colored vestments were used for that day and still are in the Catholic church and some Lutheran churches that still have some regard for tradition.

I can't find any reference to it online or where I read it but I swear I read somewhere that when we moved from purple to blue, we made the whole rose colored "Gaudete Sunday" irrelevant.  

The change to blue for Advent signified a change in mood for somber repentance to subdued hope.  

Nobody got that memo though and once when we needed to order new candles for the advent wreath I tried to avoid the whole pink candle conundrum by ordering 4 blue candles.  That was not an option at Augsburg-Fortress.  

I wonder how much of our congregational liturgical practice is really dictated to us by our publishing house?

Silly me to think that being part of a liturgical tradition means we actually FOLLOW liturgical traditions, not make up our own or do whatever we please.  I don't know why it matters to me, but it does. 

Ah well.  It will still be Christmas.  The baby will be born.  The angels will sing.  The shepherds will rise up and follow.  

And all will be well. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Real Miracle of Mary's Faith

I guess this is an offensive picture to some people.  St. Matthews in the City in New Zealand posted this on a billboard .  guess it shows Mary a little "too far from perfect".

They put the picture up to get people to think and it makes me think.

 It makes me think how Mary could have reacted in such a situation.  Even with single motherhood so common today, it's still a frightening prospect to consider having a child on your own.  I was raised by a single mom and swore I would not do that to my kids.  Some things just aren't in your control.

But this is in a part of the world where to this day, women are imprisoned for being raped, and stoned for adultery.  How interesting that God chose to challenge this obsession with the purity of women by coming into this world this way and the church ended up using Mary to reinforce that purity obsession.

Anyway this is where some of my thoughts about this picture took me for my sermon...

Mary is not particularly amazed or shocked at the news that she will bear the son of God.  She is more confused by the fact that she is going to have a child at all.  She may be young but she knows where babies come from and since this baby is apparently not coming the way most babies to, she wants to know how this is going to happen.  The angels accepts it and she accepts it.

She accepts it all.  She accepts that she is going to have a son that will not just be her baby but will belong to the world.  She accepts that God will use her to bring a Savior to the world.  She accepts that she will be unmarried and pregnant.  She accepts that God will take care of her and that this is all good news!

To me the miracle of Mary's faith is not that she believed she would conceive a child without a father.  

Faith is more than believing in miracles.  

In fact I think you can believe in miracles and not have real faith and I think you can doubt miracles and have faith.  

True faith is trusting God and believing that it will all work out for the good.  

And the true test of faith is believing that when it doesn't look as though things will turn out well at all.  If Mary was perfect it was in that complete trust.    She trusted that God would take care of her.

And God did.  Not that she had an easy life.  She had to give up her son.  She had to accept that he was not just her little boy, but that he belonged to the world.  

You hear about mothers having a hard time giving up their sons to their wives - imagine giving your son up to the world!  And kneeling at the cross watching the life you carried in your womb and nursed from your breasts, whose scraped knees you kissed dying before your eyes.  

And still we read of her in the upper room praying with the disciples after her baby boy rose from the dead.  If we had that kind of faith, we would not stress out over a picture of her with a pregnancy test, or get all upset that someone's blog claimed she was far from perfect.  We would know what God could do with someone who is far from perfect.

Monday, December 12, 2011

We Don't Need the Immaculate Conception and neither does Jesus.

"The Annunciation" Brigid Marlin

My friend and former secretary, Anita wrote this wonderful meditation about Mary, Mary: Less is More.  And a couple of comments got hung up on her opening statement that she was "far from perfect".  Okay, I can understand Roman Catholics and Orthodox not liking that perspective.  But the name of the blog is "Living Lutheran"  And surprise - we Lutherans see things differently!  

I agree that Lutherans need to reclaim some appreciation for Mary but Mary being perfect and sinless?  Um, no.   In fact, I think the whole idea of the Immaculate Conception, that Mary HAD to be conceived without sin in order for her womb to be worthy to hold Christ kind of chips away at the whole idea of the Incarnation and God entering this messy sinful  world.  And it begins with entering the womb of a young girl who was, like the rest of us, far from perfect.  Mary doesn't need to be perfect to hold Jesus.  And neither do we.  

And don't even get me started at how this image of a virgin mother totally messed up expectations of being the perfect woman.  

I have to quote Jen Vannette's comment because she expresses it well:

I get tired of focusing on "perfect, sinless" Mary. She really can't teach me anything. I loved this reflection, Anita, because you are right. From today's perspective (and even from Mary's own time perspective), she wasn't the ideal choice.
The Mary that hesitates, I can relate to. I can learn from her faith. The Mary that was a ridiculously strong women when you really consider what she went through: public ridicule for getting knocked-up and at first without Joseph's protection until he wised up and got on board with the plan (which I can also relate to and learn from), the mere idea of riding a donkey while in labor (I barely handled a car ride while in labor!), giving birth, unattended in a barn?! This is one strong woman! I can learn from that Mary.
But, perfect, unassuming, Mary? Not much she can offer me. I'm not perfect, gentle, quiet, or immediately willing to follow God. I may have my moments, but on a whole, not so much. Yet, God used Mary so wonderfully. I loved your line, Anita, "We, too, have received the Holy Spirit through our baptism. Imagine it! What has God conceived — in us?" What, indeed? Praise God! Amen. 

Legend of the Tabby

It was cold in the Manger and Baby Jesus was shivering and fussing.  

Mary asked the stable animals to move in closer to provide more warmth.  A tabby cat jumped into the manger and curled up beside the Baby Jesus who settled down and fell asleep.  

In gratitude Mary bestowed her initial M on the tabby's forehead.  

To this day every Tabby cat has a notable M on their forehead. 

This is a true story, I don't care what Father Anonymous says.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 6, St. Nicolas

This is what I said two years ago and I can't think of anything better to say:

Somewhere, hidden in all the legends and pagan myths, there is a real person. A kindly, humble, Christian soul with whom the poor and children identified, who exemplified Jesus words that the Kingdom of God was “for the least of these” Christians need not ban Santa from our celebration of Christ’s birth among us. But let’s emphasize who he really is. He is not the Great Judge who determines who is “naughty or nice” He is not the Great Provider who gives us whatever we want. He is an example to us of remember the poor and needy—a reminder that Christmas is a time of giving. During this holiday season, instead of letting Santa do our giving for us, let him be an example for us so that we can be Santa for the children and poor of the world

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent is a Gift, not a Law

Here we go with the Advent Wars.  A lot of church people just don't get Advent.  "Why can't we sing Christmas carols?"  The newest lament is that children don't sing them in school so they don't learn them because we don't sing them enough in church.  My comeback, is "yea but then when will they learn Advent hymns?"  Plus I schedule Christmas hymns well into Epiphany.

And forget about holding off the Christmas decorations.  A few churches I've been able to save one or two Sundays for Advent only.  And usually people find the stark simplicity quite moving.  As long as they can have the tree up by Sunday School Program which has to be schedule in the middle of December because is out of town for Christmas.

And now the pastors are arguing about it.  Pastors are so competitive and so defensive.  If you aren't doing what I'm doing, you must be wrong.  Which really means, I may be wrong so I better tell you how wrong you are before you figure how wrong I really am. 

So you have the pastors who have been able to keep a pure Advent.  Of course they think that's all because they are such good pastors and able to whip their church into shape (no credit goes to the congregation at all or the context)  And they make the pastors who compromise feel defensive.

But now there is pushback and there are pastors who have decided in order to get the church to relate to the culture and be hip and all that - we need to just throw out Advent and get with the program.  Bring out the tree,  sing all the Christmas carols.  All in the name of being relevant to the culture.  No pastor ever just says "You know, I just got tired of fighting  and so I gave up"   And now pastors who are hanging on to Advent are on the defensive and must justify themselves.

Advent is a gift.  It is not a law.  And even if it were a law as Lutherans we are not justified by how pure we keep Advent, nor by being hip and "brave" enough to toss it out.

I'm still in the hang on to Advent camp, but I'm all for compromise.  If singing a few Christmas songs and putting up the tree early will help people experience the gift of Advent, by all means be "impure".  Lord knows Jesus broke a lot of purity laws.  One of my churches has all the decorations up.  But I took baby Jesus out of the manger and told them I was going to hide him until Christmas.   So they could have something to look forward to.  

It's a gift, people.  Don't fight over it.

Famly Advent Wreath

I bought this little advent candle holder many years ago when the kids were still small.  It's a ring of children from around the world holding banners that say Joy, Peace and Hope.  

The years have been hard on what was not exactly meant to be a family heirloom. 

I wonder if it was even meant to hold real burning candles as part of one girl's head has been burned off by hot wax.

A few years ago I thought it was time to throw it away.  "NO!" my high school aged kids protested.  

It held special memories for them as we would light a new candle every week in Advent during dinner.  

When my college senior daughter was home for thanksgiving she reminded me to be sure to bring it out for Advent.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday FIve - Gifts

From the RevGalBlogPals:
Following on from Thanksgiving, and picking up the "Black Friday" theme of boycotting the Christmas rush for bargains I thought it would be good to set a simple Friday Five yet one to get you thinking. I am sure that you'll agree that some of the best gifts we receive do not come in fancy wrapping paper but might be the gift of an unexpected afternoon with a friend or coming across a long forgotten photograph, or- well the list is endless.
 So take a bit of time to think back over the last year and ponder the gifts it has offered to you, then list five of those gifts, in no particular order- there is only one rule- all of these gifts must have been free, neither you nor anyone else should have spent money on them!

Okay.  Well first I want to say that I do not believe in boycotting Black Friday.  I just didn't go today because there's nothing I want, my daughter wanted to relax this weekend and I have no money.   I just don't see anything wrong shopping for bargains.   I don't see anything wrong with shopping.  It's like eating.  Some people misuse eating.  It doesn't mean eating is bad. Although seeing the news today about the bad behavior of shoppers makes me think it was wise to stay home. 

But I can certainly think of the free gifts I received this year. Although I'm probably NOT going to follow the rule of no money spent.  Because I don't think money is evil.  And I received gifts that involved money and I don't believe they should be shunned or discounted or disrespected.

The gift of living in this parsonage in the country for a year.  I've had deer and skunks in my backyard, a fledgling hawk on my front porch, cows in the pasture I could see from the kitchen window (and in my front yard when they got out) and I got to watch a full season of soybeans grow right out my window.  I always enjoy watching the seasons --it is the only thing that makes winter bearable for me but this was especially a gift.  

I love all my kitties Tommy is my oldest.  He's such a good kitty.  He used to love to run outside with the kids when they were playing outside at VBS.  He would let little children pat him and pull his tail. I don't know how old he is, I thought maybe he was a a couple of years old when I found him 11 years ago but the vet thinks he probably is older than that.  He was a fighting Tom when I found  him but any cat I brought into the house he accepted calmly as a member of his family.  All that fighting though had a price and he has FIV.  Which is not a death sentence at all but between that and his old age, I consider all the time I have with him a gift.

    The gift of the celebration of my 25th anniversary of ordination.  That took a little money but the real gift was a parish that was willing to do this for their interim pastor

    A roadtrip from California to Iowa with my sister.   I was able to do this because my parish gave me a gift of money for the trip when my mother died. Gifts of money can be very meaningful.  

    My kids, of course!

      Thursday, November 24, 2011

      Wednesday, November 23, 2011

      Pie (or more specifically Pie Crust)

      I made a pie crust from scratch this morning.  Seems like a simple enough thing but this is a skill that has eluded me for years.   I had tried several times, several recipes and most of the time the dough ended up being thrown in the trash in a very tantrum like gesture.  People would give me recipes assuring me it was foolproof.  And give this really helpful advice "The trick to so not work the dough so much"  Yea but THAT was the problem, I could not get the dough to roll out enough for a pie.  It would come apart, it would stick, it would take so much handling it became worthless.

      One of the things I brought home from my mom was a large good quality food processor.  And armed with that and Melissa D'Arabian's recipe, I finally successfully made a pie crust.  The trick is definitely the food processor and cold butter, adding a little ice water at a time and wallah! You have the dough exactly the consistency you want.  Yes I know Grandma never had a food processor.  Maybe you can make dough without one.  I'm happy to have one.  I'm happy to make food that's less processed and has more pure ingredients.  The pre-rolled stuff tasted fine but this is better.

      I'm 54 years old and I've learned to make pie crust.  This summer I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time.  There's a lot more for me to learn and see in this world.  Just one more thing to be thankful for.

      Oh and I made pumpkin pie.  The secret to my pie is that I use sweetened condensed milk.  I think it makes a creamier pie.

      Tuesday, November 22, 2011

      As if it were up to us to *keep* Christ in Christmas

      I know it's not even Thanksgiving - but I love this Poster from The Fat pastor