Friday Five

Friday Five: Holiday Redux Edition

Candlemelt As posted by the highly organized kathrynzj at RevGalBlogPals:

A couple of staff members and I sat down today and wrote down what worked and didn't work during the Advent and Christmas season. There are quite a few things bearing down on us at the moment so it was a discipline to do it, but ten and a half months from now Future Me is going to LOVE that we made the effort.

And so partly to give us all a record and partly to give us all a chance to reflect on the 2010 Holiday Season now that we are out of it, I ask you this:

1) What food item was one of your favorites this year – a definite keeper?

I was visiting a friend and ate the most delicious cookies ever: Chocolate Cornflake Meringues. I know it sounds funny, but they have a fabulous combination of crunch and melt-in-your-mouth. Can't wait to make them myself!

2) Was there a meal or party or a gathering that stands out in your mind from this most recent holiday season?
A church family invited us to dinner between the two Christmas Eve services. After the meal, we sat in the family room while the children were going to bed above us. It's an old house, and the 7-year-old spoke these words to us through the floor vent, invisible but dearly, sweetly audible:
"Roses are red, violets are blue. Merry Christmas to all…especially you!!!"

3) Were you involved in a jaw-dropper gift? Were you the giver or recipient or an on-looker?
I knew about my first jaw-dropper gift in advance, since Snowman took me to the Boston Pops on December 20. But it was a spectacular moment when he opened an envelope from #1 Son to see a pair of tickets to John Adams' "Nixon in China" at the Metropolitan Opera in February. Snowman asked, "Did you get this idea because I told you I was taking Mom to the Pops?" And his older brother could say, "No, I had the idea the day before you told me about that." 
And later that morning, I opened a package from the Domestic Goddess to find a $20 bill tucked in with a card that said "Puppy Fund." That one made me cry, for all kinds of reasons.

4) Was there at least one moment where you experienced true worship?
I don't think I'll ever forget the late Christmas Eve service of 2010, when I heard LP sing "Of the Father's Love Begotten," and Snowman play Handel, and later I stood in the midst of a circle of candle-holding worshipers to give the Benediction at exactly midnight. Everything felt right. Then we went out into a cold, clear night, stars spread out on a purple-black sky, and I felt the wonder of the wanderers who found Jesus. So sweet.

5) What is at least one thing you want to make sure you do next year?
Celebrate Second Christmas again. (Especially since Christmas will be a Sunday.)

BONUS: What is something you absolutely must remember to do differently… or not at all!
We never put any ornaments on the tree this year, except for a few that were gifts this year. I didn't miss them, exactly, but next year  – well, this year — I hope to be in a better frame of mind, one in which I will enjoy handling them and hanging them and even putting them away, as I usually do.

Christmas, Friday Five

Friday Five: December Survival Guide Edition

Charlie-brown-christmas-tree As posted by kathrynzj at RevGalBlogPals:

Whether a RevGal or a Pal most of us in this cyber community have enhanced responsibilities during this time of year. We also have traditions – religious and secular – that mark the season for us in a more personal way.

For this Friday Five please let us know five of the things that mark the season for you.


1) Lighting the Advent Wreath — I grew up Baptist, and I never had an Advent wreath, but I remember reading about the wreath Maria made for the Von Trapp children in "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers." My mother read the book aloud to me when I was about five, and the image of that family gathered around a wreath spoke to me. I've told the story before that we used to do one at home, but I found it harder to keep that going after I began serving a church. Most famously we once forgot to snuff out the candles on it before leaving for church on Christmas Eve. Thank goodness I remembered!!! The Father of My Children raced to our nearby home and put them out before disaster occurred.
2) A Real Christmas Tree — I like one that takes up space. We don't have a good house for it, and we've tried numerous positions. This year it's going in the sunroom, where big windows will make it visible to our neighbors and where we can enjoy it both from the dining room and the living room. We put it in there once before, when Sam was a puppy, mostly to keep it away from him. I'll miss wondering if he will treat a tree with respect, so to speak.
3) Things My Mother Made — I love opening the boxes of ornaments and decorations, and one of my favorite things is finding the Christmas tree skirt she made for me many years ago. It's white felt, with felt cut-outs of our house in Jane Austen's Village and the church of my childhood and even a grey cat, just like the two we loved many years ago. My mother also sat in once at a stocking making session of the Mother's Group at Large Church. This was long enough ago that I had only one child, but when we sold the stockings at the Church Fair I bought an extra. After Snowman was born, my mother took all four of our stockings and added names and additional decorations to them. When LP came along, after my mother died, a sister-in-law helped me make a similar stocking for her. 
Sufjan 4) Sufjan Stevens — This is new in the past few years. I do not seem to tire of listening to his "Songs for Christmas." (Also available as an mp3 download.)
Thank goodness the child in my car most of the time agrees. So far. 
5) "O Come, All Ye Faithful" — Sung at the beginning of the service on Christmas Eve, it brings back childhood memories and marks the arrival of Christmas for me. (The more verses, the better.)
And the bonus? Tell us one thing that does absolutely nothing for you.
Oh, dear. Here's the truth. I'm a decoration snob. I can't help it. I grew up in the long, dark shadow of Colonial Williamsburg, indoctrinated into the belief that anything other than a single, tasteful candle at each window would be mortifyingly tacky.
So, I don't like the blow-up things in people's yards.

Well, sometimes they amuse me. (But don't tell anybody.)


Friday Five

Friday Five: Pie-ola!!!

Maple pumpkin pie As posted by yours truly at RevGalBlogPals

We had three pies planned for a six-person Thanksgiving dinner, and there was some anxiety on my part about the need one had for gluten-free crusts. I worried, you see, that we would have pies no one liked, or run out of the one "good" pie (you know, with gluten). There was a last-minute trip to buy more pie crust that failed (sold out!). Then early on Thanksgiving morning, the phone rang. It was my neighbor, saying she wanted to bring something over. It was a beautiful maple pumpkin pie!

Now we were all set.

Later in the day, the doorbell rang unexpectedly. Someone said, "It's a pie delivery!"

And sure enough, it was a relative stopping by, and he had a pecan pie for us. Pie-ola!!!

Please answer these five questions about pie:

1) Are pies an important part of a holiday meal?

They are essential to Thanksgiving. I grew up with pies at Christmas, too, but I confess to being more open-minded about Christmas desserts. Pecan was the favorite pie of the adults in my childhood, and I was excited when that was the pie that appeared on my doorstep yesterday. Delicious! And as my son pointed out, we ended up with .83 pies per person, which was perhaps more than absolutely required, but delightful, nonetheless.

2) Men prefer pie; women prefer cake. Discuss. 

I ask this because it's a common belief in my family. I do love cake, and my menfolk have loved pie. For me, I guess it depends on the kind of pie in question.

3) Cherries–do they belong in a pie? 

One of the offerings at our Thanksgiving was a cherry pie made with cherries grown in the pie maker's backyard. That's okay. But those scary super-red cherries in the syrupy stuff? Ick.

4) Meringue–if you have to choose, is it best on lemon or chocolate?

Chocolate pie is one of those things that almost always sounds like a better idea than it actually turns out to be, at least in my experience. Meringue puzzles me. It breaks away from the thing it's on so easily. I guess this goes back to the pie/cake debate. I like a topping that stays ON. But on the whole, I like meringue better on lemon than chocolate.

5) In a chicken pie, what are the most compatible vegetables? Anything you don't like to find in a chicken pie?

I love carrots in a chicken pie, and potatoes, too. After living for many years with various people who were pea-phobic, I recently ate a chicken pot pie with peas, and I found I enjoyed them. 

I hope everyone who reads this got to eat the pie of her or his dreams! We had three different kinds of pumpkin pie, but the best was the one in the graham cracker crust (my preference).

Our pies:

Thanksgiving 032


Friday Five

Friday Five: It is well with my soul

As posted by kathrynzj at RevGalBlogPals: 

Pulpit mug There are many perks in my life for which I give thanks and then there are some that make everything right in the world during the moment I am enjoying them. I'm wondering what a few of those things – five to be specific – are for you.

Hmmm. I'm currently reviewing the perks in my life and paring them down, as I really don't have a choice. Yet I realize I'm still privileged compared to most people in the world, and even in the United States. So I'll try this.

1) In my new pastorate, I get Continuing Education time and funds, and that will allow me to go on the Big Event 4 in a few months. Being with old friends and meeting new ones means a lot each year, and feels especially important this time. 

2) I've been divorced from The Father of My Children for many years, almost 14, and we have managed to practice co-parenting very effectively. My ability to do things like go on a cruise or volunteer in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina has been in large measure due to that cooperation we have cultivated. I'm grateful that even though we didn't live together well, we can manage our two-household family kindly and generously together. 

3) On a micro level, I like my coffee maker! I drank really good coffee at home this morning, out of the same mug in the picture.

4) I've been very blessed to have a consistent helper at home for many years now, who I refer to on my blog as the Domestic Goddess. She comes for four hours every other week and does a quick brush-up in an hour the other weeks. I hope that's a perk I can manage to maintain. It's a boon on many levels, particularly the way she presses the "Reset" button on LP's room every Friday. 

5) I live in a small city that has the cultural amenities of a larger one, is on the coast and in view of beautiful mountains. Our city is full of well-maintained parks and trails (for people and dogs). I live on a lovely, dead end street, with an esplanade of maples. I bought my house before the market surged in the late 1990s. I couldn't ask for a better location…if only some of my friends lived closer. 

Friday Five

Friday Five: The Perfect Blendship

With jo(e) If you're ever in a jam, here I am.
If you're ever in a mess, S.O.S.
If you're so happy, you land in jail. I'm your bail.
It's friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.
When other friendships are soon forgot, ours will still be hot.

I'm thinking a lot about friends these days, the ones who rush to you in times of trouble, with a casserole or a socket wrench or an invitation for coffee or lunch or a trip to the foot sanctuary. We meet friends in school or on the playground or at church or in the workplace and even on the Internet. Even as blogging has experienced some decline, the community here has been strong.

For today's Friday Five, some questions about friendship.

1) Who is the first friend you remember from childhood? I remember my little group of friends from Jane Austen's Village, Ruby and her little sister, especially, and my pastor's children, too.

2) Have you ever received an unexpected gift from a friend? Yes, recently several friends have done kind things for me. A local friend (Hi, M!) took me to Soak, the foot sanctuary linked above, and Mary Beth also sent me a gift card to use there, which LP and I put to use back in August. These gestures of kindness remind me to care for myself

3) Is there an old friend you wish you could find again? Or have you found one via social media or the Internet? All those old friends in #1 have come back into my life, to one extent or another, through the Internet. Ruby found my newspaper columns and contacted me. My pastor's son and I connected on Facebook, and his sister recently emailed me after a friend saw a mention of her in a blog post.

4) Do you like to get your good friends together in a group, or do you prefer your friends one on one? My daughter laughs about how I keep my friends apart! But one of the things I've loved about the friends I've met through blogging is getting together with them in groups. It's fun to see them with skin on and to watch them interact with each other. And I must say one of the great joys of my life is my weekly preacher group, because all the members are also my friends. (That's a picture of jo(e) and me up above, taken in 2007.)

5) Does the idea of Jesus as a friend resonate with you? At times in my life, very strongly. At other times, I forget, and focus on Jesus as teacher or Savior or even (gasp!! I'm a Congregationalist with a relatively low Christology!!) God. But right now I could use that friend, and I'm grateful for that personal sense of Jesus taught to me when I was a very little girl, playing with those friends from #1.

Friday Five

Friday Five: Storms of Life Edition

Tropical Storm Earl As posted by yours truly, many hours ago, at RevGalBlogPals:

I'm listening this morning for word of Hurricane Earl. Is he coming to visit, or will he bypass my part of Maine and move further Downeast, or veer toward Nova Scotia? Should I buy those bottles of water, just in case wind brings branches and power lines down? And how many times will the tracking map change today?

Herewith, a Friday Five about the storms of life:

1) What's the most common kind of storm in your neck of the woods?

I live in Maine, the home of the Nor'Easter. This can be a snowstorm or a wind-and-rain-storm. Either way, it's likely to knock down trees and branches and lead to Question 2.

2) When was the last time you dealt with a significant power outage?

In December of 2008 we had an ice storm, not so huge as the famous one ten years before, but bad enough that our power was out for 8 hours, a sharp reminder that we are spoiled and were unprepared in the extreme. My husband went out early and got batteries for our radio. We were very cold, because the power went out before dawn and therefore before our thermostat kicked back up from the day. So it was only 60 in the house when it started dropping. Brrr….. We went out to breakfast hoping it would be back when we returned, but it still took more time. Luckily, we had heat and light again before it got dark. 

3) Are you prepared for the next one?

Yes. I have jugs of water, and I know where to find flashlights, and they and the radio do have batteries. And I have a nearly full tank of gas, but at this point, it doesn't sound like this particular storm will be so bad for us.

4) What's the weather forecast where you are this weekend?

We are watching Earl, whose profile has diminished since this morning. I expect tomorrow will be rainy and windy, but not as bad as we might have thought earlier. Sunday is supposed to be cool and nice, so after the storm, our weather, which was a heat wave Sunday through Thursday, should improve.

5) How do you calm your personal storms?

I talk to my friends, and I write. I seem to need a combination of the two. I'm grateful for the dear people who will listen, and I'm glad to have an outlet that works without a companion, too.

I hope the skies are calm wherever you are this weekend!

Friday Five

Friday Five: Dorm Life Edition

This end up  As posted by your truly at RevGalBlogPals:

Yesterday I returned my middle child for his second year of college. He's an experienced dorm resident, having spent two years at a boarding high school. In the lounge at the end of his floor I found a suite of This End Up furniture that took me back to my years in the Theta house at William and Mary. I remember polishing that furniture with my sorority sisters every spring, just before we headed off for Beach Week at Nags Head.

(That's me on the right, overdressed for housework.0

Mindful that many others are heading off to further schooling or delivering their loved ones to the institutions that provide it, here are five questions about dorm life.

1) What was the hardest thing to leave behind when you went away to school for the first time?

The phone! What a shock to have to share the hall phone. I know it was possible to have a private phone in our rooms, but that year I didn't have one. I still have dreams occasionally of being in Williamsburg and not being able to get in touch with my friends. 

2) We live in the era of helicopter parents. How much fuss did your parents make when you first left home?

Since I only went across town, not much. I used to take my laundry to my dad's office (he was Dean of the Law School); he would take it home to my mother. Actually, that's what she eventually made a fuss about…so that ended when I moved to a dorm the next year that had more convenient laundry facilities.

3) Share a favorite memory of living with schoolmates, whether in a dorm or other shared housing.

Sophomore year I lived in a dorm that was also an academic honors program called Project Plus. Sort of by accident I ended up living on a hall with girls who were also in the sorority I had joined at the end of freshman year, and they became my closest friends for the rest of college, along with some of the boys who lived on the other side of the stairwell. I learned to play bridge that year, received the confidence of the first (not the last) of boys I liked who turned out to be gay, and it's possible there was some petty larceny of traffic cones collected as a tribute to our friend Connie, otherwise known as Cone, for Connie Conehead of SNL fame. Those cones traveled in my Ford Pinto, formed a line in the hall outside Connie's room, and even rested for a time in my parents' garage. Yes, the purloined cones hid out at the Deanery, as my friends called my parents' house, site of numerous bridge tournaments and one pre-Pledge Dance party where someone set the couch on fire, though I swear that was one of my little brother's friends. (He was a freshman then.) My story was doubted until my father discovered my brother's friend had been implicated in a trashcan fire at their dorm. Anyway, I loved my Project Plus friends, and I'm happy to know some of them on Facebook again.

4) What absolute necessity of college life in your day would seem hilariously out-of-date now?

That's easy. The landline. I got one for #1 Son his first semester at Wesleyan, hoping he could avoid my experience, only to discover all the calls he needed to make were long-distance, because we live in a 10-digit world. I got him a cell phone as soon as possible.

5) What innovation of today do you wish had been part of your life in college?

I've already talked enough about phones, so I'm going to say laptop computers. Oh, how I labored over my papers! I was an English and History double major. I typed and hand-wrote a LOT of papers. How much easier would it have been to use a computer!!!

Bonus question for those whose college days feel like a long time ago: Share a rule or regulation that will seem funny now. Did you really follow it then?

William and Mary had maintained some visitation rules almost up to the time I got there in 1978 as an innocent, barely 17-year-old,but by then each dorm took a vote about whether to have 24/7 visitation, and I can't remember one that didn't allow it. It was after college that I lived in a women's residence in New York called The Roberts House, run by the Ladies' Christian Union, and that place had rules! They maintained a "beau parlor," and no men were allowed any further in than those two front rooms, and only up to a certain hour in the evening (10? 11? I cannot remember). All this meant was that girls maintained an address there while living with their boyfriends. Not me, of course, but some of them did. They've since closed the Roberts House, but the organization still exists to give housing grants to young women pursuing higher education in New York City