Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Water Park Whirlwind Weekend

Since the Wild Mango Queens were slated to meet at Geauga Lake's Wildwater Kingdom and my Aunt Jeanie adores water parks beyond reason, she planned to come up for the weekend so she could attend that and my Aunt Anne's 50th birthday bash, too. She arrived Friday evening and we whisked her off, at her request, to the Winking Lizard for dinner on the patio. The two of us had strawberry daiquiris (which were supposed to be margaritas but oh, well) while J had her usual beer. We shared an order of Phred's Preferred Phries (cheesy & bacony) and Jeanie had a tomato/mozzarella/basil salad, as well. Then, J chose the buffalo chicken salad (all crisp and delicious & jealousy-inducing), I had the Bo-Man's Buffalo chicken sandwich (which was really much hotter than I'd expected) and Jeanie had one of the specials, a pulled chicken BBQ sandwich. Jeanie and I both got mac & cheese with our meals and regretted it. I don't understand how mac & cheese can be so bland, but it was. It was like a mouthful of starch, like the cheese, rather than extra-sharp cheddar, was extra-flavor-removing. Just blah! We enjoyed the evening & didn't even get too eaten up by mosquitoes.

Saturday morning, J arose early and went in to work, hoping to join us at the water park later. Jeanie and I were the only Mango Queens willing to publicly humiliate ourselves by donning swimsuits, so I was glad she came up! It would have been lonesome at the park all by myself. We started out by finding suitable chairs, then went for a few rounds in the lazy river. We spent a little time riding the waves in the wave pool, then found lunch. It was rather unappetizing. Jeanie's first burger was raw and cold, the second not much better, albeit safer. My club sandwich was a much wiser choice, although the bread was absurdly dry. I few the crusts to a collection of sparrows who'd gathered around. When we'd eaten, we took our chairs into the water and enjoyed the splash of the waves as we read. She was bold enough to take the library's Sue Grafton novel into the pool! I have developed my own collection of "pool books" expressly set aside for the purpose. This one was chick lit, the best genre for pool reading, in my opinion. When we'd soaked the pages sufficiently, we indulged in some poolside treats, a strawberry daiquiri for her and the world's largest, I am certain, blue snow cone. I dripped blue everywhere and could only manage to eat about a quarter of it. I am normally quite decent at finishing snow cones, but I'd've been quite ill had I finished this one. I somewhat doubt that anyone of sound mind has ever finished one of theirs. Not only is there a ton of shaved ice, but it's surprisingly syrup-heavy. Delicious, but way too big! After we'd finished those, we noticed the time and realized that we'd be late for Anne's party if we didn't skedaddle. Since Jeanie had been almost 2 hours late for the last party we went to with Anne (and had been rather castigated for that), we were determined to be on time!

We stopped at the house to get changed and pick up J, who was napping after spending the afternoon averting an oil catastrophe at the plant. One of the guys had managed to knock several way-high-up barrels of oil askew, putting them in serious danger of spilling all over the floor and creating a colossal mess. With no small amount of derring-do, the problem was solved and she was able to head home. I felt bad dragging her out of bed, but we had such a good time at Anne's party that it was well worth it. The party was at a bar called Petey's Filling Station, decorated with all kinds of old gas pumps and advertising signs. I had the very worst margarita of my life, very much like flat Mountain Dew with tequila added, and resolved to stick to the Coke in pitchers that was flowing abundantly (although not as frequently as the beer!). It was fun to see Anne's family and Jazzbo & Anne's collection of friends, who we have seen over all these years at various celebrations. The food was delicious, really good pizza, hot wings and BBQ wings. It sat winking at us throughout the night and I was glad when they'd boxed it up so I no longer had to resist the siren call. Anne's cake was perfectly delicious, too. She won't actually be 50 until this coming weekend & kept remarking on how weird it was to celebrate a week early, but her oldest brother is in the Merchant Marines and was in town, so the timing was worked around his visit. I hadn't seen him in over 10 years and had to giggle when he introduced his 20-year-old daughter, Mavis, to us. She had actually been one of the folks who helped us move into this place! Mindful of church in the morning and J's long day, we left at a reasonable hour and hit the sack at home.

In the morning, Jeanie headed off for a visit with my second-grandma & her family while J and I went to worship at my new church. I've accepted a Director of Christian Ed position at a great little church on the East Side. The pastor had told them about me at the congregational meeting that morning, so everyone was very welcoming and excited. I was happy to have several familiar faces from my previous visits. The service was really nice and Gerald's sermon was spectacular and brave, stepping right up and naming homosexuals as "other sheep" that are part of Jesus' flock. We worshipped with the African-American Baptist congregation that shares the building & coffee hour, so I got to meet their pastor, too. He seems great. The picnic was a great deal of fun, under the big old trees out front. We had plenty of congenial company and got to laugh a lot. I was especially pleased when one of the teenage girls asked how long J and I have been together. It will be nice to be at a church that is truly open and affirming, rather than just thinking they are.

After much hilarity and good food, we left so that we could have our U date. I'd meant for us to go to a U-Pick farm and gather peaches or berries or something and then bake a pie together, but everyone seems to be between crops right now. I had located a farm that had beans to pick, just in case. In light of the lack of fruit crops, though, and the extreme heat, I gave J the option that we could make our U date be "underwater" instead and hit the water park. However, we decided that it would take us too long to get there. So, I came up with Unusual Food for our theme instead and we stopped at Whole Foods on the way home, with the goal of each picking at least one unusual food to try. I won hands-down with the Vosges Mo's Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar. I'd been reading about it in all my usual foodie magazines and knew it was their best-selling chocolate bar. I couldn't even fathom how that could not be revolting, but when I saw it, I knew it was my choice. We tried it last night and, while not totally sickening, it's not anything I'd really eat on purpose. I can only imagine that it's their bestseller because of curious folks like me. Here's a link, in case you're curious, too: http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/product/bacon_exotic_candy_bar/candy_bars_chocolate_chips
If, however, you'd like to eat Vosges chocolate that's actually good, I can vouch for both their Barcelona and Fire bars. My other unusual food was gooseberries, which I'd never had, aside from canned (which were abysmal). J had fond memories of gooseberries from when she was a kid, so I chose those over currants, which I've also never had fresh. I like the gooseberry flavor quite a bit, but the texture is a little squoogy for me so I might see about making a little batch of jam with them. J's unusual food was a kind of cheese we'd never tried, from Holland. We will probably snack on it tonight.

Once we arrived home, we discovered that our Roadrunner was again down. It's been working intermittantly all summer and I had someone out last week who purportedly fixed it, but it's still spotty. Stupid Time-Warner. J had wanted to see if there was any live music or anything fun to do at night. Lacking internet, though, I decided we'd do cocktails & snacks on the porch. I cut up an heirloom tomato, put out a bowl of tiny fresh mozzarella balls, a handful of basil, some olive oil and balsamic glaze and a baguette for our noshing pleasure. Then, I mixed up a batch of Latin Lovers for myself while J tried a Mike's Hard Pink Lemonade. We sat on the porch and enjoyed the summer, moving from eating and drinking to bubble-blowing and chalk drawing. It was a delightful evening. I'd marinated some top round steak for bistec de palomilla while we relaxed and put on the full Cuban dog for dinner. We watched Aslan be sacrified and resurrected while we ate, a lovely cap to a fun-filled weekend!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Rainy Saturday with the Boy

I was just poking around Elizabeth Berg's website (www.elizabeth-berg.net) and really enjoying the whole feel of it, the writing, the thoughts of how good her latest book, Home Safe, is and memories of meeting her several years ago. She is by far one of my very favorite writers and reading her blog made me want to write on my own, right now!

I have a little free time from the family while J and Boot watch the latest "The Fast and the Furious," which one of J's employees loaned her for the weekend. Boot says the movie is "for people with penises" so I am happily excused from joining them in the living room for it. Whew! If they were watching Transformers, which Pie picked for us and which my friend Michael worships, I would gladly go. Ditto the Eddie Izzard DVD that I put on our queue. As it is, I am happy as a clam away from all that.

I woke up today with no idea what we'd be doing. Generally, weekend planning, particularly visitation weekends, belongs to J. Of course, I drag her to church with me...and will do so tomorrow, too, but I mostly leave the decisions about what to do the rest of the weekend up to the one who works 12-14 hours most days lately. So, we hung out in bed with coffee, hers in a bright green Jiminy Cricket mug I brought her from Disney this spring and mine in the purple Tink mug that was under the tree for me last Christmas until the decadent hour of 10:30. Quite a switch from popping up at 5 most mornings! It was starting to rain and we decided fairly quickly against going to Cedar Point, which is just as well, since Pie wanted to play video games all day and Boot wouldn't have enjoyed riding everything alone. I do wish it'd been a good water park day, but we had fun nonetheless. J made egg sandwiches for all of us and then we hit the road for a video game buyback store. I planned to wait in the car with a book on Christianity and pop culture, but Boot came out to retrieve me shortly, saying "It's really cool in there. I think you might actually like it." It was a huge store and I quickly found a small stack of things to buy. I'd been hoping for the Dead Milkmen's Big Lizard in My Backyard or Beelzebubba, but they didn't have a copy of either, so I chose Michelle Shocked's Arkansas Traveler, a Dead Kennedys CD containing both Plastic Surgery Disasters and In God We Trust Inc., and a Celia Cruz CD. J picked up Ani DiFranco's Not So Soft.

After we'd indulged in CDs and Boot had gotten $123 for his old video games and PSP, we went to Crocker Park so he could buy some clothes. It was just raining a bit when we left the parking garage, but by the time we returned to the car, it had made up its mind to be a real rainy day. Boot and I split a huge sandwich from Karl's Corned Beef and ate it in Barnes & Noble while J had more coffee. While she was in line, I asked Boot what his top 3 comfort foods are. Without hesitation, he answered, "Pizza, wings and some kind of dessert. Like cake. But not birthday cake. Homemade cake." And he even asked me my top 3. Mashed potatoes, mac & cheese & popcorn with butter & nutritional yeast, if you're wondering. I refrained from splurging on any more magazines or books, but was sorely tempted by a magazine featuring the studios of women artists. Of course the magazines I love are all upwards of $7. I'd like to get a copy of either Altered Couture or Belle Armoire for Marie. She's never seen them and I know she'd love them! She has a fun idea for a Wild Mango Queens get-together sometime---decorate pajamas! Wouldn't that be fun? I would sew some kind of cool bead fringe like the one on my "Pink" art journal to the bottoms of the legs. Boot got a white leather belt at American Eagle, a couple of t-shirts & a new pair of jeans at Hollister (where I sat in a velvet chair and watched people pass by in the rain outside the front door) and finally returned to AE for a pair of, of all things, clogs! What on earth? Who is this and where did he put my Nike-wearing, manly man son? We then went to pick out Rit dye so he and J can do some tie-dying tomorrow. I think there is some kind of weird rip in the seam of the universe. This tie-dyeing thing was his idea! I stuck to lipstick and computer cleaner, but did get some cute little stickers for my toenails next time I paint them. I saw a woman in the post office last week with princess fingernails, all sparkly and wondrous. She'd gotten them done for her daughter's wedding and I said to myself then, "I need some toenail bling!" Since the Mangoes (or possible just me and my aunt Jeanie) are going to the water park next Saturday, what better time?

We dropped Boot off at home before going to the grocery. We had a successful shopping trip and when we arrived home, J started making chicken parmesan for our supper. Boot and I ate Chips Ahoy dunked in milk at the kitchen table. Pie was finally awake again (he is nearly entirely nocturnal these days) and he joined us for dinner, then rinsed his dishes and returned to his cave. With as cool as Boot's been today, I'd be perfectly happy for him to get kicked out of his dad's house (which he is certain will happen any day now) and have him back with us. If he would be like this all the time. Which he wouldn't, but it sure was a fun day!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

T is For Touch & Taste

Friday night, when J got home from work (at 8:30, meaning a 15-hour day-she has GOT to hire a new supervisor!), she suggested that instead of having dinner at home, we hit the bar she discovered while I was in Wisconsin. She'd been wanting to take me ever since I got home the previous Saturday night, but kids & work barred that. So, we popped over to Lady Z's. I was extremely skeptical when I saw the neighborhood (largely industrial) and was pretty damn sure I wasn't going to like this place. I am a boring lesbian, as it is, preferring lovely restaurants to the bar scene at almost all times, no matter how cool the bar. I am simply not a bar girl, much to J's chagrin, even though I gave every indication of it the first night we went out dancing. I am infinitely more comfortable in church and feel fidgety and awkward most of the time when I do the bar scene. J, on the other hand, loves the people-watching & the loud jukebox, especially when she can inflict Ani DiFranco or Tom Waits on unsuspecting patrons. At least, she assumes it's affliction. I don't know why she assumes they don't like it. Could be the rapid feeding of money into the machine by baby dykes while her songs are playing, a quick remedy of the situation with some Lady Ga-Ga or Kanye West.

Anyway, I was expecting to feel awkward & uncomfortable & want to go home immediately. J was expecting me to, as well, saying on the way over, "Let's just go home. You don't have to pretend you want to go. You hate bars." I continued to pretend because I don't think it's fair for my lack of interest in the bar scene to keep her from getting to enjoy it with me sometimes. And I'm glad I did. It was surprisingly large and pleasant inside, with friendly bartenders and a decent bar menu. We sat at the bar and chatted, looked at Billie's (one of the bartenders) family pictures (her baby niece), played J's usuals plus my eclectic song selections going from George Strait to the Sex Pistols in the blink of an eye, had a couple drinks and some dinner. The pierogies were great, made by a couple of ancient Polish women, according to the owner's wife. Before we knew it, the time was after 11 and J had to get up early for work the next day. So, we made our way home to bed. It's funny to think that just 8 years ago, on that first night together, we probably didn't even get to the bar until midnight. Now, it's "Cinderella, your pumpkin awaits" if it gets much past 10:30.

I did get up and make coffee, although 5:30 was awfully early and I crashed back into bed after J left. I slept quite late and J was ready to come home right when I was about to head for the farmer's market. I knew I'd miss the eggs, being that late, but there's still plenty of good things to be had there later. J met me at the market and we happily prowled the stalls looking for the yummiest deals. We got a huge green pepper strictly for munching, a yellow squash for last night's confetti burgers, a fat tomato for same, a basket of peaches (mmm), fingerling potatoes (the Amish guy who always helps us gave us extras on the sly), a scrumptious-smelling melon and, at the last minute after a heavenly sample that took J right back to her dad's garden, some gorgeous green beans. She told the guy that she used to eat about as many as she'd pick when she was helping. He laughed and murmured, "Strawberries." I can just picture him, a tiny boy in a big hat, walking along behind his elder brother with a berry-stained mouth and not-full-enough basket! J also indulged in a little vial of lavender oil from our favorite purveyors of soap and shampoo. I love their products and they have very good energy. The oil was shockingly cheap, too. Yippee! She intends to wear it on work days, taking a big sniff every time she starts feeling waxed out. Good plan.

After the market, we did our usual Trader Joe's and regular grocery time. I love grocery shopping! Bar? Nah. Grocery store? Oh, yeah! Boy. I should feel old or stodgy because of this, but I just don't. When we got home, we had some chicken salad sandwiches and J laid down for a nap. That nap extended several hours. She'd planned to arise at 6 so we could have dinner and then hit the bar again, this time for some live music on the patio. That, frankly, sounded okay to me. But, she was so tired. I took a bitty nap, but spent the bulk of the time reading and writing. I didn't wake her until 7:45, when supper was ready. Then, I suggested that I bring her dinner in bed. So, we ate our Italian sausage & spinach pie, Caesar salad & chocolate cake (Ruth Reichl's fabulous "last-minute" cake with both coffee and orange liqueur) on Lenore-trays in bed (recipes at www.lunacooks.blogspot.com). We spent the remainder of the evening watching house porn on HGTV and Style Channel. I am positively drooling for a "spa-like" bathroom. Maybe we'll get a parsonage with just that. Ha!

In the morning, J was rested enough to go to church with me. Alas, the problem she had with her back when I was in Disney last year has recurred, so she was not very comfortable. She started the service slightly disgruntled at being there. She ended the service in a towering rage when they announced that they've chosen a new youth leader and he is not me. Of course, we basically knew I wouldn't get the job (and, truly, I'd rather work with the pastor who's going to be my boss, even if the job is much further and pays much less---he is a perfect mentor, someone I respect immensely, and the folks there are splendid), but it still hurt. J is positive that I wasn't chosen because I'm gay and because I don't have a penis. That may be a factor, but I think the main reason is that they are afraid (and probably rightly so) that if I am offered a pastor position, I will bail. Still, it hurts. To add insult to injury, this guy has a BS! No theological background at all, education-wise, and not even a BA. I obsessed on it all day, ridiculously. I checked out the website of the church where he's been serving as interim youth director (should I apply there?) and pondered why he would leave that position. I also am rather puzzled as to why they would choose a Presbyterian rather than a UCC youth leader. Not that there's anything wrong with Presbyterians, but he's not even UCC! Rant, rant! I found myself hoping the kids didn't like him, his A/V presentations sucked, the youth group dwindled even further and so on. Very immature of me, and certainly unChristian. Of course, what I really want is for these kids I love so much to have a fabulous youth group experience and for the spiritually-ossifying church to be revitalized by his presence. But I am jealous. And spiteful. Sigh. Fallen nature rearing its ugly head for sure. I think I just might believe in original sin, if not in the sense Augustine meant it. I surely evidence it far too often. The good news about going to church was the hug from Lori, the excited greeting of Angie, the CDs of my sermons Marjorie gave me so I can send them out to churches who are interested.

Brooding all through it, I served J some leftover spinach pie for brunch and we formulated our T date plan. J suggested we trade in the books a Freecycler had no-showed on to Half-Price Books and get ourselves new books. She said that since we weren't going to the Science Center, we were saving $9 each and therefore had $9 for books. I predicted that we'd get 50 cents for the books we took in. J came up to me after getting her offer & said, "You were way off. We got $1." Hee hee! She got a couple of fantasy novels, I chose Nigella's "How To Eat," a book on Christianity and pop culture and a Violent Femmes CD, which we listened to all the way to the beach. We'd never been to this particular beach before and it was just perfect, aside from the water warning. The perils of Lake Erie. We hadn't planned to swim, anyway, in fact weren't even so sure the weather would hold for our picnic. Since the theme was Touch & Taste, we did plenty of both, starting in the amazingly grogeous rose garden. Did some sniffing, too. We spread out our blanket and enjoyed some snacky things while listening to the waves come in, looking at the lighthouse and reading our books. J's back hurt too much if she laid down, so we didn't laze about as long as we might have, but it was wonderfully relaxing nonetheless.

After we'd put up our things, we went to the concession stand for ice cream. A tough-looking black guy in Harley gear cracked up at J's "No One Knows I'm A Lesbian" t-shirt and said, "Right on! I like your shirt!" I love people. You never know who they will turn out to be. We got vanilla cones (I should've got a Popsicle-the cones were entirely too buttery for me) and sat on a wall enjoying them while baby-watching and dreaming about a possible Lucie-girl someday. A seagull perched on a nearby lamp post and watched us avariciously until J gave him some of her cone. She's as bad with the gulls on the beach as she is with the dog at home! Then, we strolled by the water's edge holding hands until we came to the steps back to our car. I took the long route home, wanting to take in the summer landscape and feel the breeze in my hair. J was remarkably calm about the extra time in the car. Having her nose in a book for part of it probably helped. The long ride in the car just about knocked me out! I was simply wiped by the time we got home and collapsed on the couch in front of an Eddie Izzard DVD. It was hilarious, but I found it hard to keep my eyes open toward the end. Finally, it ended and I got on dinner, a rather bland rendition of bacon & basil pasta that I won't be making again. Ah, well, you never know unless you try it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Q is for Quiche, Queens and Questions

Friday afternoon, I baked some chocolate orange shortbread and we took it to our church's discussion group. The topic was prayer in schools. I thought that was pretty much a no-brainer, but apparently not. It was a good time, though. Saturday, we went to the farmer's market and ran a few other errands in the morning. Then, I attended a memorial service for a sweet man from our church. It was a lovely memorial service, with a lot of nature references befitting his 30+ years of horticultural experience. Afterward, I slipped out before the lunch to prepare for our first Wild Mango Queens gathering, a getting-to-know-you potluck. We had a little housecleaning and a lot of cooking to do!

It turned out to be an absolutely smashing time! I made a couple of quiches, one asparagus and one ham & scallion. We set out some olives and roasted garlic, hummus, sun-dried tomato feta spread, pita triangles, Boursin cheese, sun-dried tomato focaccia, almonds (cocoa ones & regular roasted ones), a darling little angel food cake, sugared raspberries, mango chunks and a bunch of things to go with the chocolate fondue I made-shortbread cookies, pretzel rods, bananas, apple slices. I made my favorite punch and also had some orange-mango juice, mango nectar and a bottle of Riesling available. The wife of a seminary friend came (they recently moved to the area so he can work for the national body of my denomination), bringing a friend who also works for National and with whom I share friends, and our former Associate Pastor came. I'd issued invites with rather short notice, so we were a small but mighty group. Our AP brought guacamole salsa, spinach & artichoke dip, blue corn chips and chocolate-dipped strawberries. The others brought a nice wedge of brie, which they baked & then topped with berries, raisins & mangoes. Yum! We talked & talked, then had our show & tell, with a nice collection of items-J read some of her poetry, I showed my recipe binders & my monthly dinner plan, two women had their grandmothers' rings and one brought a little ornament that says "Hope." Once it got to be 10, we started winding down and sent everyone home with a goodie bag containing dried mangoes dipped in dark chocolate and dusted with chile powder, a pineapple-mango candle, champagne streamer poppers & colorful beads. It was so much fun and I'm so glad I started it!

Sunday morning, we shared a quiche & coffee breakfast before heading our separate ways. J had some work to finish up at the plant and I was invited to a teacher appreciation breakfast at church, where I had dessert of fruit & monkey bread, as well as some good catching up time with friends there. Then, I attended worship and coffee hour before heading home. When J got home, we went on our Q date, which was Questions. I took her to Buffalo Wild Wings to play trivia and have a bite to eat and a couple of drinks. Then, we came home & spent the evening just relaxing. It was a great weekend!

Monday, May 11, 2009

I Got A Harley!

While J picked up the boys Friday, I was busy making dry rub ribs & dulce de leche cheesecake. Pie arrived with big hugs, which was lovely. Boot was just his usual helpful self. We just hung out around home Friday night. Saturday morning, Boot joined us for our trip to the farmer's market (where I indulged in some morels and a whoopie pie while J got beautiful asparagus and Boot chose a mini loaf of pumpkin bread and some salsa) and grocery. We swung by the library to pick up the copy of "New Moon" J had requested. Then, we headed to the Animal Protective League, where we just planned to look. However, we left with a dog.

When we met Harley, I knew that if we were going to have to have a dog (I am decidedly a cat person. I like other peoples' dogs, you know, the ones I can leave responsibility for to their owners. J has been angling for a dog since we met and I decided to bend my "NO DOGS!" rule when I considered how I would feel if she instituted a similar ruling on cats), Harley would be a good choice. She's 6 years old, half Rottweiler and half Doberman. She is about the sweetest, most mellow dog ever, with a hilarious bark more akin to a duck sound than a dog sound. She is incredibly well-mannered. She lived with one family until a week ago, when they were forced to give her up because they lost their home. The only times we've heard her bark since we got her have been when she needs to go out & once, when Boot went out to the car for something, she stood at the door waiting for him & barked a couple times. She has playfully chased after the cats twice when they've gotten close (and instantly stopped when we told her "No") but mostly just ignores them. Fred has gotten within a foot of her & been ignored. When I took her for her walk yesterday, she thoroughly ignored another dog on the path. We expect that she'll get a little more active once she fully recovers from spaying (which was done Thursday), but we think she'll be mostly just relaxed. She does have a little arthritis, so that will probably cut back on her desire to be wild, as well. Pie said when he first saw her, he was scared she was going to rip his throat out since she looks fierce, but that he loves her now.

So, of course, we spent the bulk of Saturday afternoon & evening just sitting around gazing at Harley and petting her. J & I ventured out to get her some supplies & toys, but we mostly just hung out with Harley. Pie even brought his t.v. and game system up from his video cave to be with her. J made lasagna for dinner and Harley was very polite about staying in the living room (albeit just over the line) while we ate. She has clearly been well-trained. The boys opted to stay downstairs with Harley overnight. We are trying to have her sleep downstairs for a couple of reasons. One is that we are simply not strong enough to carry her upstairs every night should her arthritis get to the point where they become difficult for her to manage on her own. The second is that we want the cats to have a Harley-free zone. They're getting less freaked out and more venturesome, but have mostly sequestered themselves upstairs. Storm was sitting on a chair in the living room when Harley first arrived and arched her back mightily while puffing up to twice her normal size. Harley swung by the chair for a sniff and Storm gave her a swift paw to the snout. Harley's response was to amble on over to the middle of the room & lie down.

I visited a church where I have applied for a part-time Christian Ed director position Sunday morning. The adult ed class was populated with impressively knowledgeable and friendly people. The worship service was great, with inclusive language used for both humans and God and a sermon about the conversion of the eunuch being a reminder that the church is not supposed to be normal and fit in with society. The pastor was on my ordination committee and is the one who suggested I apply for the job. I don't know if he's gay, but he has an HRC bumper sticker on his car and is unmarried & childless. He talked a lot about how oddball it is in our society for someone to choose to be childless. It was a very interesting sermon, especially for Mother's Day. The church just voted in December to be Open & Affirming, the UCC designation for a church that has chosen to actively include a statement of welcome for LGBT people, and they had P-FLAG flyers in the narthex. They also share the building with an African-American congregation in an interesting way. Instead of being totally separate & just happening to share the building, as many building-sharing congregations do, they share a coffee hour between the two services. It's very cool! I had a few great conversations, some with folks I am pretty sure are on the personnel committee and were checking me out. One man has a gay son and the son and his partner are both members of the New York City Ballet. The man told me he & his wife don't want to be members of any church where their son and his partner aren't fully welcomed. I also got into an interesting conversation about the (too seldom mentioned) feminine divine with a couple of women, one of whom handles women's issues for the national body of the church. It was a great, rejuvenating morning. The personnel committee will be meeting this week and looking over my info together, then will call me for a formal interview. Fingers are crossed.

Once we were all home (J and Pie had gone to the Star Trek movie, then J & Boot went out to fetch lunch), we sat down & ate cheeseburgers & fries from Five Guys, which was what J wanted for her Mother's Day lunch. They are great! Harley was again very mannerly. Definitely interested, but maintaining a polite distance. J said her gift from the kids was Harley, but Boot had made us a card, too. I gave J a couple new figures from the Schleich toy collection of elves, wizards, dragons & such that she collects. If you haven't seen them, they are very cool and fully playable-with. They can go in the tub, to the beach, whatever...anywhere Barbies can go. J gave me a really funny card and Pie had chosen a darling sweet one with a mama cat bathing a kitten on it. J had asked him if he wanted to find a step-mom card, but he was happy with just a mom one for me. Boot inserted "2nd" in front of "mom" when he signed, but Pie saw no need even for that. Sweet. He also chose my gift. He was in the Sci Fi section of Borders and J kept trying to steer him to another section. He was insistent & chose a book I've never read by one of my very favorite authors, Terry Pratchett. Yippee! Sparkly jewelry is all well & good, but Terry Pratchett is marvelous! Jeff really likes him, too. My closet reader. J got him a philosophy of Star Trek book and he loves it! I looked and it's full of references to Kant, Derrida, Lyotard. It's not just a joke book at all, but serious, hard-hitting philosophy with Star Trek woven in. And he actually gets a lot of it! Wow! On the way home, Boot fell asleep within 10 minutes, only awakening every now & then to ask them to keep the station on a country song he likes. I guess Pie & J talked philosophy & Sci Fi the whole way back to their dad's (where their father, very uncharacteristically, came out in the driveway & waved at J-weird!). He said he's a "closet geek" and said how uncool it is to like reading, Sci Fi and, for that matter, thinking where they live but that's who he is.

While J returned them, I dropped off a bunch of minestrone for tonight's church dinner, took Harley to the nature park and watched chick flicks. Well, a chick flick and a half. I finished "Rumor Has It" and was watching "Music & Lyrics" when J got home. After a good phone chat with my mom (who seems to have a new cat...he wandered in & their cat really likes him), I made some chicken breasts with Moroccan spices with rice on the side and fried up my morels. I had actually found another, hand-sized morel right in our yard, too! They were scrumptious! I think the only way to eat morels is to soak them in salt water for 24 hours, drain them well, dip them in egg, dredge them in Saltine crumbs and fry them in butter. Heaven on a plate!

Monday, May 04, 2009

P is for Prime Rib (and Plenty of Prayer)

Friday night, we were both pretty wiped out from being out the door by 5 to get to Erie for a 7 a.m. school conference! J had had a busy day at work and I'd been to a very long interview for a management position I'm pretty sure I don't want. When I got to the interview, I was told that the position might be eliminated, after all. Fine by me. No one there seemed particularly happy to be there and there was maybe one item in the whole store that I'd want. It was funny because you could probably pick up the whole store and drop it into Rave in 1985 and it would fit right in. Funny how trends come back around. So, I was happy to have a simple dinner planned. I made spaghetti, which was perfect for the cool, rainy evening. We watched a little t.v. and went to bed fairly early.

Saturday morning, we both had to get out the door early, J headed for an Adoption 101 workshop and me to the UCC Association spring meeting. The host church made a hot breakfast for us and I got to visit with one of their members, the Association treasurer and the publisher for the United Church Press and Pilgrim Press. It was great conversation about holding on to faith in rough times and about working with other denominations and faiths for common goals. At the end of breakfast, I was approached by the head of the Search Committee for a church where I have a resume in for a Christian Ed Director position. She would like me to visit a worship service to get a feel for their program, then schedule an interview after that. Sounds exciting to me! So, I'll be going there next weekend.

After breakfast, we had a fabulously energizing and spirit-filled worship service. The host church is an Afro-centric congregation and we had some wonderful, get-on-your-feet gospel music and an energetic and fantastic sermon by their pastor, who is a black woman who is about my age. It was all about how our lives should be evidence of God and God's goodness and how our love and care for our neighbors provides that evidence. After worship, we had the business meeting and somee time to check out the displays. I did want to see them, but I got into a great conversation with a gay man who works for National and attends a church that will be looking for a pastor soon. Then, a pastor for another church approached me to introduce herself and see if I'd been interested in preaching at her church on Pentecost. She'd heard good things about me from my pastor. She was also a lot of fun to talk to. Interestingly enough, she's Japanese-American but speaks little Japanese, just like me with Spanish! Instead, she speaks fluent Spanish...maybe she can help me bone up on mine.

We all went to various workshops after that. I chose the one on the Emerging Church. I'd hoped for some practical ideas on how to create a postmodern church service when the congregation is still pretty modern, but it was strictly the basics, all of which were covered in my seminary. So, I was a little disappointed in that. Oh, well. I also got to meet, in that workshop, the pastor of the church where I caused such a stir in December by mentioning gay marriage. She was very warm and friendly and gave me an update. She decided, after reading the sermon I preached, to make copies and post them on the bulletin board so the people who'd missed the ruckus could actually see what was said. Apparently, things calmed down. Yay.

I spent lunch talking about my church search and about interfaith issues and universal salvation with a pastor who was on the ordination committee. He and I share a deep respect for other faiths and want to figure out the best way to go about interacting in a respectful and affirming manner with folks from other faiths, and to help our congregations do the same. J and I got home at about the same time and shared stories of our mornings. She was the oldest person at the adoption workshop and was the only one who was gay. She said the social workers were just great. She was able to get a much clearer picture of how this whole adoption thing works. It sounds as though fostering to adopt will be the very best approach. So, we're going to continue looking at that. She'd been to the West Side Market on the way home and picked up some gorgeous fruits & veggies, as well as a prime rib for our P date. Since we were so busy over the weekend, she thought it would be best to have a very simple P date, so she made a prime rib with baked potatoes and asparagus for our dinner. It was fabulous! But, before dinner, we got to have a nap, which was also great!

Sunday morning, we went to the church that's going to be looking for a pastor soon. It's an urban church that does a lot of work with recovery and even turned their parsonage into a 3/4-way house for women. It's very racially diverse, which is wonderfully refreshing, and uses inclusive language for God and for people. Moreover, we were greeted with enormous hugs. We had visited last summer and felt very welcome then, too. The service itself was amazing. It was a jazz service, featuring the band of the guy who's in charge of events for National. He's a really dynamic preacher, with a knack for storytelling and a really laid-back vibe. His "Free Play on the Word" (AKA sermon) featured a reenactment of the story of the itsy bitsy spider, with the message that even when we're getting knocked down the spout by the rain, God is with us. God is also with us when we decide to climb back up again to check out that amazing light at the top. The music was top-notch, too, just so spirit-filled and nourishing. We spent some time at coffee hour, then headed out to the grocery.

After picking up the week's groceries, we headed home. J watched "Alien" while I puttered around online and looked at magazines. I'm not much into those movies, but I am very happy to just sit with my baby while she watches! Dinner was a selection of cheeses (Belletoile, a sharp Canadian cheddar and locally-produced Lake Erie Chevre) with leftover prime rib (cold), baguette, crackers and grapes. Wonderful! We were in bed by 9:30, although I stayed awake reading well past then!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sketching and Talent-Appreciating

Friday, J went to pick up the boys while I was at work. I savored the quiet time in the house to catch up on "American Idol." Poor Pie was simply horrified to arrive and discover me watching it. He said, "Daria, why are you watching this? Don't tell me you actually watch this!" I told him it was my aunt's fault while J told him, "It's not true! She has free will!" Boot doesn't dig the show, but he sat down for a few minutes, then said, "This is awful." I said, "Yeah, disco week. Woohoo!" He & J went to the grocery while I finished watching and Pie went to his video cave. When they returned, we made spaghetti. Pie was so cute, asking about what the kind of pasta we used was called. He's not interested in culinary school anymore, but he still has some curiosity about different foods. Whew! Both boys want to be cops, this week. I think either one of them would be really good at it, the good guy cops, but I'm not sure Pie would enjoy it. I think either that or being an attorney would be a great choice for Boot. It'll be interesting to see which careers they do choose.

Anyway, while we were making dinner, I managed to burn the crap out of 3 fingers on my left hand. I didn't know one of the burners had been turned on and I grabbed it to get something that had fallen into the burner pan. Yow! Boot and J immediately went into action prepping a bag of ice for me. Boot was amazed that I wasn't all tough about it. He had thought I was impervious to pain or something. He was so sweet, offering to make the key lime pie I'd been planning to make. He hung out with me while I made it, ready to jump in on anything I couldn't manage one-handed. I did manage it, though, even separating eggs one-handed! Not an easy task! But it was fun to have him to chat with while I cooked. When I finished & went to join J in bed, Boot also turned in for the night. I think Pie stayed up all night playing video games.

Saturday, I arose bright & early to go to my Art Gang get-together while J and Pie headed out video game shopping and Boot slept in. I hadn't been to a meeting since our December tea, so I was excited about seeing everyone and doing some art. The drive there, an hour out in the country, was refreshing in itself. I wasn't sure how much I'd be able to do with one hand, but it turned out we were sketching. We visited around a table on the porch for awhile, then moved our chairs over by the potting shed to sketch some pots, a butterfly house, some big jugs, the shed itself. I have never really sketched anything before, aside from a few feeble attempts when I was dating an artist, who told me not to try and draw the object, but just the lines I saw. I really have no patience for serious sketching and so much less experience with any kind of art than the rest of the women there, who are mostly older than me and have breathed art for years. Some of them even do art for a living and are featured in magazines like Somerset Studio. So, I often feel like my efforts look like a kindergartener's. But, it's so much fun and they are nice about my attempts. We sat & chatted & drew while Jan's husband made a fire for our luncheon weenie roast. I'd finished my sketch by the time we moved back to the fire to roast our dogs. We had some great dishes: an orzo and sundried tomato pesto dish, potato salad, a bright, lemony couscous dish, a gorgeous trifle, fat-free "Polynesian" pudding with fruit, my key lime pie and a luscious strawberry pie. After lunch, we returned to our sketching posts. It was fun to see everyone's different takes on the same scene! Some had used watercolors or watercolor pencils, some charcoal, some regular drawing pencils. I used Crayola colored pencils! I ended up loving the bright, cheery spring colors of mine, even if the rendition wasn't so hot.

After the day in the sun, I found myself pretty dozy by the time I got home. J and Boot were watching "American Gangster" while Pie explored his new games. I didn't want to jump into the movie halfway through, so after visiting with J and Boot (and having Boot nearly burn the house down when he randomly lit a paper on the fridge, which turned out to be a poem my mom wrote, on fire---WTF??? You don't just randomly light stuff on fire, especially when it's hanging on the fridge with a bunch of other papers! I was furious! And there was NO consequence at all-ugh!), I headed upstairs for a little nap under the swiftly-turning fan. It was a nice nap, after I got over the nasty appearance of dip in the toilet on my way to bed. Boot is not supposed to even bring dip with him to our house. Of course, he swears it wasn't his, but who else's would it be? Neither of us dip and I'm almost positive Pie doesn't. Plus, Pie only uses the downstairs bathroom. Personally, I think we should do a bag check to make sure they're not bringing anything we don't allow while we're still in the driveway at their house, but that will never happen.

Kitties joined me and I dozed until J woke me when it was time to start grilling dinner. She & Boot (now in responsible mode again-what a roller coaster) made burgers, hot dogs, baked beans & mac & cheese for dinner. It was some interesting dinner conversation. Pie talked to us about his new game and whether he should be a blacksmith or a craftsman in it. He also told us about how the Nazis' victims weren't just Jewish people, but also gypsies, artists, gay people and others the government didn't like. Meanwhile, Boot was doing a running monologue about peeing on a bonfire and getting paid $22 to roll down a hill and all kinds of stuff like that. Oy. It's like he has deliberately decided to be as anti-intellectual as possible. Probably because allowing his smarts to show also makes him vulnerable. He was giving us advice about being invulnerable, telling us just to stuff our emotions until we found someone to take them out on. Just keep them inside all the time, he recommended. Pie told him that if he keeps doing that, his internal injury is going to cause him to bleed out. Interesting insight from Pie. All we can do is try to steer him in the right direction by word and example. I hate feeling so helpless. We tell him that decisions he makes now will affect him far into the future, but I don't think he believes it. Or he simply doesn't care. Sigh. After those conversations, the talk moved on to Pie's new girlfriend, with Boot trying really hard to annoy or embarrass his brother, while Pie simply put on his selective deafness. She sounds like a nice girl and I think Pie will talk more to us about her when his brother isn't around to ask inane questions. She's his first girlfriend.

Sunday, I went to church while J immersed herself in "Elvenbane" and the boys slept in. Yes, Pie finally slept! After church, I went to the sloppy joe luncheon and stayed for the talent show. That was great fun! It was MCed by one of the youth and he told great bad jokes between the acts. My favorite was "Why shouldn't you take a shower with Pokemon in the room? Because they'll Pikachu!" There were several acts: a small brother & sister doing "Yankee Doodle" on piano & recorder, a fiesty senior doing a series of jokes, a trio of sibs---one twin boy somersaulting, the other singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and the older sister singing a song about Peter Rabbit, the boyfriend of one of the college girls singing a Boyz 2 Men song and beat-boxing, a middle schooler playing Metallica quite well on his electric guitar, a dad doing magic tricks and a group of gals who call themselves "The Sisters" (who dressed up as nuns last year) getting all garbed out in 70s attire and singing "We Are Family." It was lots of fun and very funny and cute.

After church, I cleaned the kitchen and hung out with J watching Sci Fi while the boys slept (Boot had arisen to go to KFC with J, but Pie slept right through lunch). We roused the boys shortly before it was time to go. Since J was kind enough to do the driving, I read to her from "Elvenbane" and the boys didn't even complain once. Boot wanted me to listen to his newest favorite Enrique Iglesias song (he is always wanting me to taste his new soda flavors, listen to his music, etc...a lot of our tastes are the same) and Pie wanted to tell us about some of the stuff in his video game. It was fun. It was not so fun when Boot got bored and started trying to aggravate Pie. Lots of "Mom, Brother's touching me"s from the backseat. Poor Pie. He finally pulled his shirt over his face, put his feet on my armrest for petting & went to sleep. It must be exhausting for him to be around Boot's high energy prodding all the time. On the way home, J started to feel bad, so I made a quick breakfast for dinner and we went to bed. She'd hoped to sleep off the beginnings of a migraine, but ended up having to call in sick today. Poor baby. I am lucky I don't get them!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

O is for Olfactory

Friday night, we just relaxed at home with a fruit & cheese dinner. Nothing too fiddly, but very nice. I laid out Comte, Belle Etoile and smoked Gouda cheeses with some Pinot Noir salami on one board, a loaf of Tuscan bread on another and some Pink Lady apples on a third. I added a tarte d'Alsace from Trader Joe's and some deviled eggs with capers & ham. Dessert came from our Easter baskets. We were in bed fairly early and I arose early Saturday to get started with our O date.

I'd seriously considered O foods under the open sky and orangutans, but ended up using my aunt's suggestion for an olfactory date. I chose highly scented breakfast foods-vanilla coffee, fresh-squeezed tangerine juice and gorilla bread (which is monkey bread with cream cheese in the middle). We had breakfast in bed and J told me the gorilla bread was the best thing she'd ever eaten in her life. She said, "This is a food group all its own and it is elevated above all other food groups!" This made me giggle! Friday night, we just relaxed at home with a fruit & cheese dinner. Nothing too fiddly, but very nice. I laid out Comte, Belle Etoile and smoked Gouda cheeses with some Pinot Noir salami on one board, a loaf of Tuscan bread on another and some Pink Lady apples on a third. I added a tarte d'Alsace from Trader Joe's and some deviled eggs with capers & ham. Dessert came from our Easter baskets. We were in bed fairly early and I arose early Saturday to get started with our O date. I'd seriously considered O foods under the open sky and orangutans, but ended up using my aunt's suggestion for an olfactory date. I chose highly scented breakfast foods-vanilla coffee, fresh-squeezed tangerine juice and gorilla bread (which is monkey bread with cream cheese in the middle). We had breakfast in bed and Jeannene told me the gorilla bread was the best thing she'd ever eaten in her life. She said, "This is a food group all its own and it is elevated above all other food groups!" This made me giggle!
After Phase 1 was complete, we moved on to the first day of the Farmer's Market! Yippee! We saw sheep being shorn (and got to pet them), got close to sweet-looking alpacas, ran into our former Associate Pastor and heard some great live music. Then, we strolled around the local outdoor mall. My first official stop was L'Occitane, to smell their goodies. Our hands-down favorite is verbena. Mmm! Then, we stopped in at 87W, a new wine bar, for a snack and a drink. We had a small plate called chorizo and chevre hanky pankies. They're like little tea sandwiches and are quite tasty. I enjoyed a glass of Riesling while Jeannene had a beer. We sat and people-watched as we ate. The wall-sized windows were wide open and the weather was just perfect for being outside! Our next stop was Rocky Mountain Chocolate for a whiff of their sweetly-scented air and a couple of chocolate-dipped strawberries. Our final stop for Phase 2 was the greenhouse, where we took in the smells of potting soil and hyacinths and feasted our eyes on all the spring flowers! Finally, we headed home for Phase 3 of our O date. I ran Jeannene an aromatherapy bath and let her read and soak for awhile while I planned our first Wild Mango Queens event for next month. Then, I returned to wash her back. When she was done, she had a little nap while I took my aromatherapy bath. It was a wonderful O date and a perfect day, all for under $25. We did some grocery shopping and some t.v. watching Saturday evening. Sunday morning, we went to church and then headed to the library so I could show Jeannene some children's picture books I'd just discovered & loved. Then, we had some potato cheese soup with ham before doing another grocery run. Most of the afternoon was spent simply lazing about. I put on a roast about 4 while Jeannene napped and read her "Elvenbane" book. After dinner, we got to bed early to accomodate Jeannene's 5 a.m. Monday wake-up.

After Phase 1 was complete, we moved on to the first day of the Farmer's Market! Yippee! We saw sheep being shorn (and got to pet them), got close to sweet-looking alpacas, ran into our former Associate Pastor and heard some great live music. Then, we strolled around the local outdoor mall. My first official stop was L'Occitane, to smell their goodies. Our hands-down favorite is verbena. Mmm! Then, we stopped in at 87W, a new wine bar, for a snack and a drink. We had a small plate called chorizo and chevre hanky pankies. They're like little tea sandwiches and are quite tasty. I enjoyed a glass of Riesling while J had a beer. We sat and people-watched as we ate. The wall-sized windows were wide open and the weather was just perfect for being outside! Our next stop was Rocky Mountain Chocolate for a whiff of their sweetly-scented air and a couple of chocolate-dipped strawberries. Our final stop for Phase 2 was the greenhouse, where we took in the smells of potting soil and hyacinths and feasted our eyes on all the spring flowers!

Finally, we headed home for Phase 3 of our O date. I ran J an aromatherapy bath rich with lavender and chamomile and let her read and soak for awhile while I planned our first Wild Mango Queens event for next month. Then, I returned to wash her back. When she was done, she had a little nap while I took my aromatherapy bath. It was a wonderful O date and a perfect day, all for under $25. We did some grocery shopping and some t.v. watching Saturday evening.

Sunday morning, we went to church and then headed to the library so I could show J some children's picture books I'd just discovered & loved. Then, we had some potato cheese soup with ham before doing another grocery run. Most of the afternoon was spent simply lazing about. I put on a roast about 4 while J napped and read her "Elvenbane" book. After dinner, we got to bed early to accomodate J's 5 a.m. Monday wake-up.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Fun

The weekend started early, with J's plant actually being shut down for Good Friday. What a delight! We started the morning with a cup of Starbucks courtesy of a gift card as we waited for a table at First Watch. Then, a great brunch (J had a superb waffle while I chose a breakfast burrito) followed by grocery shopping and a trip to Michael's to look at their spring flags. Then, we headed home to do some housecleaning before picking up the boys. When we did so, we discovered that Boot still has an enormous knot on his head from more than two weeks ago, thanks to his brilliant "fight club" idea. I swear if this child makes it to 30, it will only be because of hard work on the part of his guardian angel! Apparently, the other boy has a matching knot. That's some bonding activity! Once home, J made an andouille and Monterey Jack pizza for supper. Then, she and I colored eggs while the boys did their thing-Boot went to bed early while Pie entered his video game cave, not to emerge again until he was hungry for a brownie.

Saturday, J made biscuits and gravy for breakfast. We all spent some time doing our own thing-Boot and J were immersed in t.v., Pie in video games, me online and on the phone with my mama. Then, J and I hit the library and grocery before coming home to hang out. She found an Anne Geddes book for a dollar in the book nook, where discarded books are sold. She also picked up a Cleveland jigsaw puzzle and a mystery novel, while I found a Martha Beck book and a book on creating a women's spirituality circle and a couple other books. All that for $5! I love cheap indulgences. Even cooler was finding books I wanted on the free shelf. I've been curious about Jennifer Crusie romances because she worked at the same bookstore I did, just a year or two before I started there. However, I haven't been able to commit to buying one or even checking one out from the library because they're romances. Silly, I know. I also found Gustavo Gutierrez's classic volume on liberation theology on the free shelf! We spent the rest of the day just relaxing. J made a delicious chicken pot pie for dinner and we even had an extra to share with our neighbor. When I took it down to her, I invited her to Easter dinner but she was planning to cook a dinner herownself and hang out with her Vizslas. She was very surprised and pleased with both the pie and the invite, though.

Sunday morning, I got up and put together J's Easter basket and then put on my Easter bonnet and headed to the church brunch, leaving her to handle the other baskets and the cooking. After the brunch, I visited with one of the youth group members for awhile before the service started. It was nice to catch up with him. Senior year has left him with very little time to attend church, so it's been nice to see him there the past couple of worships. He sings beautifully and has helped to bulk up the choir. The service was a lovely cantata. It was so good to hear the music, see all the people dressed in their Easter best (especially the little girls in their pretty dresses), smell the hyacinths and lilies and reflect on God's nature as pure love and cause for hope. After church, we roused the boys and did Easter baskets. J found a bunch of fun little stuff for me (coloring books, crayons, colored pencils, a couple of rubber stamps, a Hello Kitty puppet, a Tinkerbell egg filled with stickers and candy butterflies, stuff like that). What fun! Then, we had our Easter dinner. J made a ham (which she found on sale for $7!), potatoes au gratin, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes and rolls. She also went pie-mad, baking an apple pie Friday night and making a peanut butter pie in an Oreo crust and a lemon icebox pie Saturday. I'd been planning to do either cut-out cookies or a lamb cake, but that seemed thoroughly unnecessary! After eating, Boot retired to his room for a nap while I joined J and Boot in the living room where they were watching t.v. I spent the afternoon coloring in my new Disney Princesses book. Pie was kind enough to pull up a picture of Aurora online for me so that I could make sure I got the hair color right. LOL. Before we knew it, it was time to take the boys home. I drove there (and greatly enjoyed Boot's acting as a tour guide through current music for me-"Boot, who's singing?" probably came out of my mouth 15 times in the course of the trip) and J drove back. I spent the 2 hours back reading Jill Conner Browne's hilarious new Sweet Potato Queens book aloud to her. Then, we settled in for a dinner of crustless quiche (bacon & feta, from Trader Joe's-delicious!), bacon, English muffins (mine with lemon curd, hers with strawberry preserves) and oranges. Yum! We watched "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" before retiring for the night.

Monday, March 09, 2009

M is for Middle Earth

Friday night, we just had a very quiet night in. We'd planned to go to a new women's discussion group at the LGBT center, but when we got there, none of the doors were unlocked. We went to 4 doors and every single one was utterly impregnable, despite the "come in" signs on them! I grumbled and griped about that all the way through the trip to the gay store we made on the way home, but then we had a really nice night in. J made Cajun andouille pizza for dinner using one of her plant's new sauces, we watched t.v. and went to bed fairly early, since J had to work Saturday. Luckily, she didn't have to go in super-early, so we had some snuggle time & I read to her from a Sark book before she went to work.

While she was gone, I worked on a presentation I had to give last night. A friend of mine was supposed to guest teach a confirmation class at a UCC in a neighboring town but realized at the last minute that her flight wouldn't be back in time. So, when she asked me to step in, I was happy to. She was supposed to present on the history of the denomination. So, I brushed up on my history and started work on a power point. This is the second time I've filled in for her for a youth-related event. The first time was a presentation on Facebook & youth ministry at our national headquarters. It's fun to sub for her. I also got to have a nice long phone conversation with my mom. What fun!

When J got home around 4 on Saturday, we went to the library to get the Lord of the Rings trilogy on DVD for our M date. I'd originally planned to take us to Miss Molly's Tea Room for our M date, then I considered Michigan for a good M, a little day trip over to Ann Arbor to check out my aunt's restaurant. But, with her working Saturday & my presenting on Sunday, those just weren't good options. So I planned a Middle Earth Marathon instead. After the library, we did our weekly grocery shopping, then returned home and did some house-cleaning. By the time our Middle Earth dinner (shepherd's pie) was ready and we started the first movie, it was almost 9, so we ended up watching only one of the movies Saturday night.

J must have really needed to catch up on sleep because she slept until about 1:30 Sunday. I got up earlier, but didn't make it to church (we'd forgotten to spring forward) and started work on finishing my presentation prep. I spent the afternoon engaged in that while J watched t.v. (and probably wished I'd not agreed to sub!). I had lunch with the kids from the confirmation class and watched them play a game, then did my presentation. It went fairly well, but the discussion part was like pulling teeth. I somehow drew the thoroughly untalkative bunch, the girls. The boys got into some pretty deep theological discussion and the table of three kids who didn't seem to fit in with the others seemed to be fairly intent, as well, but the silences and awkwardness at my table were excruciating. I did get them to talk a little bit, but not much. I was thinking, "Oh, man, why am I here? I'm not doing any good."

But then, when we had wrapped up and I was gathering my things, the girl at the table of three approached me to ask about what seminary was like. She had really stood out among the other kids as being much more mature than the others and very intelligent. She reminded me of myself at 14, actually. She seemed quite self-assured and was really interested in issues of social justice. I'd heard her say she didn't want to get stuck with the girls' table for the game they played and she advocated really hard for their table of three to be a team unto themselves. Anyway, this 14 y.o. girl told me that she's feeling called to ministry. I explained how the process works. She seemed disappointed that she couldn't start seminary right away. My advice was to read as much as she can now, study religion in undergrad and then head to seminary, if she is still feeling called by then. In the meantime, she can always be really active in the opportunities for youth involvement in denominational things. I suggested she approach her pastor, too, about this feeling of calling.

We got into talking about world religions and how much we have to learn from them. I mentioned having to leave the Presbyterian Church because they wouldn't ordain me because I'm gay. She said she is, too, which really surprised me. I am so impressed with teenagers these days who are so brave and out so young. I cannot imagine what 8th grade for an out lesbian must be like. I didn't realize I was gay until I was in my 20s and 8th grade was rough anyway. Anyhow, we kept talking and I finally offered her my phone number in case she has any more questions about ministry or whatever. I felt like she was looking for a resource or mentor or something like that. She asked if she could also have my e-mail address & we exchanged those. I hope I can be a source of hope for her.

After she walked away, the youth leader came over and asked me how open she'd been with me. I told him and he said he was so glad I took the time to talk to her. Apparently, she came out at school this year & it's been a hard time for her. He seemed kind of at a loss for how to really be helpful to her, so he was glad I gave her my number. I've been an adult sponsor for two queer teen groups, so I do have some experience. And if she is already feeling a call to ministry, I certainly want to support that. The whole thing kind of gave me goosebumps. I'd been feeling kind of cranky and as though there was no reason for me to be there and then all of a sudden, it was like God said, "This is why I wanted you here." When I got home, I made a pineapple angel food cake and some chicken, bacon & blue cheese panini for dinner. We watched the final "L-Word" episode (which was most dissatisfying) and then went to bed right afterward.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sweet Valentines

We started the weekend picking up the boys (yes, both of them for a change). I had some trepidation about how it would go to have Boot around again. In fact, my chest got progressively tighter as we drove toward their home. It was certainly different than weekends with Pie only, but he was very nice to be around and we didn't even have to contend with them fighting all weekend. I wasn't too keen on his conversation in the car the whole way home, all about his aspirations to join the mafia or the military, his plans for bootlegging whiskey (he tells us he has a still now, which I actually believe but can do absolutely nothing about but pray that it breaks before producing anything or blowing the house up with my babies inside), etc. He elicited several "That's nice, Brother" comments from Pie, which cracked us up. He said it in such an offhandedly calm yet thoroughly condescending manner. Boot cracked us up by telling us how amazing "ladies" are & that we don't even realize we're amazing. He said, "A lady could get me to do a lot of things" and I responded, "Well, we certainly haven't managed to!" Pie said, "Oh, burned, Brother!" to that.

Once we got home, Pie descended to his cave to play X-Box Live while Boot climbed up to his room to fall sound asleep. He'd been at a slumber party (Pie's term-Boot says, "It's not a slumber party when it's men! It's a sleepover!) the night before and had only gotten 2 hours of sleep. So J and I ate some of her plant's amazingly good bean soup and settled in with recipes (me) and a jigsaw puzzle (J). I also got to talk to my dad about our upcoming visit. He is encouraging us to check out Key West while we're down there. I think we shall, although it will have to be a down & back trip in one day because the room rates are exorbitant this time of year. 6 and a half hours on the road for a day and sunset in Key West somehow seems quite reasonable to me after doing nearly 4 on Tuesdays and Thursdays just for classes for the past 2 and a half years.

Saturday morning, J brought my gift to bed, in a beautiful bag with lovely tissue that had hearts cut out from it. She gave me a sweet collection of gifts: a book on the Beats, a "Bee Mine" bear, Valentine-themed stickers, a Dragonfly tin that's designed to hold a mini pen and paper, a deck of slumber party activity cards, a mini heart box of chocolates, a bouquet of heart candies, some conversation hearts, a packet of Hershey Kisses that says "You go, Social Girl" (although Boot, helping pick it, wanted to get the Sporty Girl ones. LOL!). I hadn't got hers finished yet, so after a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit and a trip to the grocery with my love, I dropped her off and went to the bookstore for the rest of Valentine's (I gave her an "I love you to the moon and back" mug and a booklet of love coupons that I hope she'll actually redeem) and for her birthday, which is tomorrow.

Pie played his games most of the afternoon, emerging for homemade pizza, and Boot hung out with J while she worked on her puzzle. I spent much of the afternoon researching new recipes. It was such a grand luxury to have the time to do that and not feel guilty for playing when I should be doing something productive. I made Alice B. Toklas' gypsy goulash for dinner. Pie was not hungry (could it have been all the brownies & cupcakes?) and Boot found it was not to his liking, so J heated up some alfredo sauce for him to have over his noodles. Then, the boys went to bed and we watched a little t.v. and sipped some Framboise.

Sunday morning, I got up and taught Sunday school (K-2, which was really fun) while the slugabeds dreamed away. By the time I got home after church, only J was up. She made grilled chocolate sandwiches for us and wondered whether she should wake the boys and make them spend some time with us. While I would've liked to see more of them Sunday, I also feel like they don't get much chance just to relax and be teenage boys at home. So, I suggested just letting them sleep in. We did rouse them for another homemade pizza before leaving for their father's, but otherwise let them sleep while J worked on her puzzle and I looked at magazines. Very relaxing Sunday. Until, that is, Pie decided to play his techno music so loud through his headphones all the way home that I wanted to bang my head against the steering wheel. J could hardly hear it, but it was loud & clear to Boot and me. Neither of us particularly likes techno, but we just had to put up with it. I wanted to play the audio book I'm listening to (Isabel Allende's The Sum of Our Days) but since I knew no one else wanted to hear it, I just gritted my teeth and listened to the same exact damn beat for almost 2 hours. Ugh! Toward the end of the trip, Boot got thoroughly irritated and said, "Okay, if you're going to play that game, I'll play, too" and turned on his country music blessedly loud, drowning out the incessant dance beats. Really, as annoying teenager traits go, listening to techno too loud is hardly on the scale. It may have driven me batshit, but it's tame & we're lucky.

After the boys were deposited back at home, we drove home and I made our real Valentine's dinner. I went bistro-style, with croques monsieurs, pommes frites and steamed artichokes with lemon butter and garlic dijon aioli for dipping. It was all amazing and we had a good time remembering our first artichoke together at Tarpy's Roadhouse near Monterey and the croques monsieurs we had at Mon Ami Gabi in Las Vegas. That Tarpy's artichoke was J's first ever and she has loved them since. I was introduced to them as a small child when visiting a family friend in Toronto and I adore them, too.

Monday, February 09, 2009

L is For Live Blues, Library Book Sale and Lebanese Food

Friday afternoon, I had coffee with a young man who attends our church & went on the mission trip last summer with me. He is bright & funny & really seemed to need someone to talk to. We visited for 3 hours, then I headed home, arriving about half an hour before J. When she got home, we commenced our L date weekend with an evening out at the local blues club for live music (and some of the very worst BBQ ribs I have ever eaten in my life).

Saturday, we relaxed with coffee & chocolate croissants before heading out for the second leg of our L date weekend, the library book sale. After gorging ourselves on books, we sat in the sunny library cafe and read for awhile. Then, it was time for her to run a few errands and me to meet the woman who was interested in having me tutor her kids. She turned out to be very nice, someone I'd hang out with on purpose, and the kids seem very sweet. She agreed to my price and I agreed to her terms and I walked out of her house gainfully employed. When I got home, I practiced my sermon a couple of times before we headed out for L date part 3, Lebanese food at Aladdin's. She thought of everything! Dinner was marvelous (we started with falafel and sfiya, moved on to a Lebanese salata and then I had an arayiss rolled pita and J had the Jasmine's special with tuna steak-menu at www.aladdinseatery.com). After dinner, we poked around the bookstore a bit and stopped by the outdoor fireplace on the way back to our car. Then, we lounged on the couch & loveseat with books until bedtime.

Sunday morning, I preached at both services in church, then we visited with folks at coffee hour. After church, J made us grilled cheese sandwiches before we went out to poke around Half-Price Books, T.J. Maxx and Lowe's. We capped off the afternoon with an early dinner and trivia-playing at Buffalo Wild Wings. Then, J spent the evening playing with her new watercolor set while I hung out and played online. She'd never tried painting before because her brother is supposedly the artist in the family. However, she turns out to be quite good! What fun! We went to bed early with books so that she could get up at early thirty for work.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Super Bowl? What's That?

Friday, J went to pick up Pie while I awaited the arrival of my mom & auntie with my things from my grandparents' house. I'd brought some of it up with me earlier in the week, but there were some larger boxes & some furniture (like a jelly cabinet made by my mom's partner-yippee!) that wouldn't fit in my car. So, I baked banana nut bread and when they arrived, the house smelled all nice & cozy. I gave them a tour & then we unloaded. My aunt was exhausted, so she headed on over to my aunt & uncle's house. We followed a little while later, joining them for Chinese food and a good visit, complete with lots of happy Golden Retriever panting. Meanwhile, J took the boys out to dinner in their town. Then, she dropped Boot off at his friend's, where he was spending the night before their wrestling tournament. J has consistently given the boys the choice to stay in town & participate in wrestling matches or come with us for weekend visitation since the season started. Boot has consistently chosen wrestling and says parents are a distraction at tournaments. Because of work obligations, we haven't been able to stay in town anyway. But we don't want to keep either of them from participating in sports. Pie has consistently chosen to come hang out with us for the weekend. Right after dinner, I got a phone call from J & Pie. He got on the phone with me, my mom & my aunt, telling us he loved us in a really funny voice, making us laugh. When we returned from my uncle's, they were home & we had a nice visit. Pie showed my mom his video game. He is such a delight on these solo weekends. It's amazing how different the dynamic is when it's only him. He is so laidback and affable that it's really easy to be around him.

Saturday morning, we made a nice hot breakfast for my mom and did some visiting. Then, she was headed home all too soon. J and I went to the grocery & library, then came home for lunch with our boy. She made peanut soup and sandwiches. Pie didn't try the soup, but happily munched on sandwiches & hung out with us. Then, we watched a video of animals playing and started "Finding Nemo." Sadly, the disc was all scratched up & I didn't even get to see my favorite part, the seagulls. Oh, well. For dinner, J made a spiral ham she'd found on deep discount. It was delicious with au gratin potatoes, salad and baked beans. She made a cherry pie for dessert, but we were all three stuffed to the gills. We did some reading, t.v. watching & video game playing and had a fairly early bedtime. I ended up staying awake longer than I intended to because I was trying to finish the Rita Mae & Sneaky Pie Brown mystery in which I was immersed.

Sunday morning, while Pie relaxed at home (something I suspect he doesn't get to do a lot of at his father's), I went to teach the pre-school kids about baptism at church while J went in to finish up some things at work. She made a good lunch when she returned home, then it was about time for Pie to pack up & be taken home. We stopped to get him a meatball sub on the way home, then dropped him off. We played games in the car all the way home, then J turned on the big game when we got home. Disgusted with the score, she turned on the Puppy Bowl instead & we ate our soup while we rooted for the adorable pup who curled up & went to sleep on the field. We liked the German Shepherd, too, who hung out around the edges of the action.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

K is for Kid Inside

Friday, I had a most unsettling e-mail from a pastor where I guest preached last month. Members of her congregation had been very upset by my (fairly innocuous) sermon. Turns out I was simply bearing the brunt of a lot of angst at the church, but the whole thing just made me question whether I really want to be a pastor at all. As Brendan says, "You never see the landmines until you step on them" and I wasn't sure I was up for all that. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, as well as some wearing of sackcloth & ashes, I really felt drained. I was seriously considering a career in life coaching or motivational speaking by the time J arrived home. She had stopped to get me a bouquet of roses and a big bottle of Framboise, along with a sweet card. I am so very blessed to have her. She offered to make me anything for dinner or take me anywhere I wanted. I opted for Indian food, one of my comfort food defaults, and we headed over to India Garden in Lakewood for some chicken tikka masala and some awesomely good gulab jamun.

In the morning, the idea of rising early after the rough night and a week of early mornings just did not appeal. So, when the alarm went off to summon us to arise for a fun day of art with my Art Gang buddies, I simply shut it off and snugged in deeper. I was disappointed to miss the camaraderie & the instruction in felting, but I just hate getting up early & making an hour-long drive for it. If it ran from 2 to 6 instead of 10 to 2, I would probably make it much more often than I do. If it was nearby, even more likelihood of that. I am such a wuss about mornings. Once we'd gotten ourselves up & fed & ready to go, we commenced our K date. Our first stop was the library, where I instructed J that we would each pick out two kids' movies because our K date was having a day just for the kids inside us. Movies successfully checked out, we moved on to stop #2, Big Fun on Coventry in Cleveland Heights. It's like a big toy store for grown folks. I don't think I'm sarcastic and jaded enough to enjoy it as fully as some other folks might, but it was fun and I would go back. J got some good bumper stickers, but overall I think it was more fun to look than to buy. I had more fun looking at Mac's Backs-Books on Coventry (which carries both Parabola and Found Magazine), City Buddha (where I picked up a very cool gift for my mom) and Coventry Cats (where we got catnip & toys for our 4). We also nabbed a bite to eat at Tommy's, which has the largest selection of choices for vegetarians & vegans I've ever seen. It was cold inside and our waitress was, too, but the food was good. I had a falafel sandwich and J got a meat pie. Mmm. I want to go back when it's warmer & try one of their malts. They look yum.

I had intended for us to split a grilled peanut butter & banana sandwich for dessert at Melt (www.meltbarandgrilled.com) on the way home & we were definitely hungry again after all that shopping. Alas, we had arrived too late in the evening and the crowd had already descended. Melt is a truly fabulous place, but just stopping by at anything like normal dining hours will net you an hour and a half wait, especially on the weekend. I don't know what I was thinking. So, we went on home with our tails between our legs for dinner and cupcakes I'd already made. I made cheeseburger sloppy joes (recipe at www.lunacooks.blogspot.com), tater tots and canned pears for an appropriately kiddish dinner. Then we watched "Nanny McPhee" and "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and loved them both. I was especially keen on Spiderwick & now want to read the books.

Sunday morning, I again had trouble motivating myself out of bed, especially since I was feeling a smidge disgruntled with the whole church thing and certainly didn't want to get into dress clothes and venture out into the cold & snow. Some pastor I'm going to make. But, I figure I have very few Sundays I can opt to sleep in and skip church left to me before I embark on my pastoring career. So, we did get up, but I made lemon poppyseed scones instead of getting dressed for church and we settled in on the couch with the rest of our kid movies for the day. We watched "The Aristocats" and "Bridge to Terebithia" (which made us both cry and which J was not happy with me for choosing, even though we both really liked it). Then, we went to the grocery. I let J go in, since I had chosen to spend the entire day in sweatpants and I do not go out in public in sweatpants, and read in the car while she shopped. When we got home, she made Paula Deen's chicken boudine for our dinner. We went to bed fairly early because she had to go in to work early and I had to drive down to Dayton to help get my grandparents' house emptied of their things in preparation for my cousin's move-in date of February first. I was so happy to unexpectedly get to see my mom!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter Weekend with the Boys

Friday evening, we picked up the boys at their dad's and drove down to Dayton for the weekend. We arrived at my aunt's house about midnight, after stopping for (not very good) dinner at Eat 'N' Park, listening to lots of country music and seeing a very bad wreck in Columbus. The trip down was so pleasant, with no bickering, no complaining, nothing. J sat in the back with Pie much of the ride so that he could show her his new video game. They watched a couple of movies, too. That made it so that Boot and I got to listen to as much country music as we wanted, as well as talking quite a bit. It was nice to have him so calm and laid back. Maybe one of us should ride in the back seat more often! After greeting by the mini Dachshunds and a brief visit with my aunt, we went to bed. In the morning, J and I took care of some business while Pie played his game and Boot helped my aunt with some things around the house. Then went to lunch at Young's Dairy before heading down to J's dad's nursing home for a visit. He was so happy to see us. It was our first visit since J's mom's funeral & it was weird for her not to be in the room. The boys are always so good with him. After our visit, we returned to my aunt's, where Boot promptly fell sound asleep for the night and Pie dived back into his game world. We couldn't wake Boot & figured he needed the sleep, so we left him & Pie while we went to dinner. We noticed a Dollar Tree right by the BW-3 and my aunt said, "Let's go in and each pick one thing, only one thing, and then we can have a contest to see whose is coolest!" We ended up each winning in a different category. I won for "Most Practical" for my pick of a bunch of matches. I can use the little boxes for art & the matches for candles. I also got J a Prince Charming frog towel, the funny little kind that is a tiny round thing and becomes a towel in water. We haven't tried it yet, but my aunt & I were both curious. My aunt won for "Cutest" for her Hello Kitty valentines. J won for "Most Mysterious" because she got me a "girl grab bag" which turned out to contain a watch with different decorations you can put on it, Silly Putty, a pencil and a bunch of Tinkerbell & Spiderman stickers. She also got snacks & drinks for the boys. After our shopping spree, we had dinner & won at trivia at BW-3. We took dinner home to the boys. Pie ate his with great gusto, but Boot continued sleeping and ended up having his for breakfast. Hot wings for breakfast! That kid has an iron stomach! Once we'd gotten the car all loaded, we opened Christmas gifts from my aunt & cousin (and heard an amusing story about her oldest dog opening Christmas presents). After Boot's hot wing breakfast, he wasn't hungry when we all went out for brunch. Pie was exhausted (from staying up too late playing video games) and ended up nodding off at the table. It was hilarious & adorable! He did wake up enough to eat a burger, but then the head bobbing started again. If we'd had a video camera, we could definitely have won $10,000! We hit the road, listening to "Duma Key" much of the way home. We had to turn it off when the roads got slick & I had to really focus on keeping us safe, but it was a great accompaniment to the drive. Pie slept the whole way back to Pennsylvania and Boot alternated between listening to his Ipod and talking to us. After we dropped them off with many thanks for being such good company over the weekend, we made our way slowly home. We were glad to get closer to home & have the roads clear up! I wasn't feeling like cooking, so we ordered Chinese food delivered and watched the tail end of the inauguration festivities, then moved on to "House." I don't know why J insists on watching such gross shows while we're eating! I am considering re-instituting a "dinner only at the table" policy!

Monday, January 12, 2009

J is for Jewelry (and Junk T.V.)

We've got scads of snow on the ground here in Northern Ohio and we took full advantage of the snow to be extraordinarily lazy over the weekend! Friday night, I had to attend a dessert & coffee meeting to plan for our church discussion group's next meeting. We're discussing the separation of church and state, which promises to be interesting & which I am disappointed to miss. However, J and I are already scheduled to take the boys down to see her dad and there's no way we'll be back in time. I was glad not to be driving Friday night, as the roads were pretty snowy. I was not glad to be out & about when I could be home with J, though. The meeting could easily have been handled by e-mail and definitely did not have to last until 10 p.m.! When I have a church of my own, there will be no Friday night meetings! We had a late dinner of pastelon (a traditional Camaguey chicken & corn casserole-like recipe-my version of which got terribly dried out due to being cooked before my meeting and left to wait on us being ready to eat), black beans & rice and tostones with garlic lime aioli. We were up really late, J working on her jigsaw puzzle and me working on a crossword. Not terribly exciting, but cozy and fun.

We were shockingly lazy Saturday. I got up & made scones and coffee, chatting with my mom & Graham all the while, but we ended up lazing about in bed watching trash television for hours. At 3, we finally turned off the Kardashians and went to Max and Erma's for lunch. We took a deck of cards and ordered appetizers to split over a game of rummy. On the way home, we stopped by the pottery place to pick up the things we painted last week and by a local bakery for morning doughnuts. J got so involved in her puzzle that she never got around to dinner, so it was a grab it & growl night. I made myself a bowl of popcorn and a mug of tea and pronounced it good.

Sunday morning, we didn't fight the elements to get to church. We probably should have, since we won't be there next weekend, but we slept in. Then, J made the fajitas she'd planned to make for Saturday dinner. They made a much more pleasing brunch. Yum! After brunch, we got out the beading supplies and each made an eyeglasses holder, the kind people who only have to wear reading glasses get to use. They will be gifts. It was a delight to make them! J had planned to have us make jam for our J date, but finding the supplies hard to obtain at this time of year, she switched to jewelry-making. We spent some time grocery shopping after that. J spent her evening engaged in soup-making for the folks at work while I watched the Golden Globes.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I is for Inn

A couple of months ago, I was asked by the pastor of a church in Amish country to substitute preach for her while she had a vacation. Since the weekend of the preaching gig (my first paying one! How exciting!) fell between my graduation and our 7 year wedding anniversary, I took the liberty of booking an inn room nearby. The drive is about an hour from our house and I certainly didn't want to drive it that Sunday morning. The deacon who was my liaison with the church recommended the Red Maple Inn so I booked there.

Friday night, we arrived around 6 and took immediate advantage of their hors d'oeuvres hour, drinking hot tea and wine by the fire as we munched on cheese, crackers and grapes. J got comfy in their massage chair, too, while I curled up in a cozy wingback and read the sequel to Chocolat, which is called The Girl with No Shadow and is great. We finally made our way to our room with our luggage. It was a very nice size, with a little balcony looking out over fields and with a very generously-sized tub fitted with Jacuzzi jets. Ahh. We popped out for dinner at Cogan's Village (Idiot) Eatery. It was plastered with all kinds of interesting posters, signs, license plates and such, like a more authentic version of what TGIF is trying to do. They advertised lousy food & bad service (or was it vice versa?) but we found that not to be true. Okay, the French onion soup kind of sucked, but J's New England clam chowder was tasty and our main courses were good. J had liver and onions for the second time in December while I chose one of the daily specials, a big dish of kielbasa, potatoes and peppers all fried up together. We were both drooping from colds and the comfort food was perfect. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing in the room, J oohing and aahing as she sank into a deep hot tub of bubbles.

In the morning, we went down to the dining room for the "delicious" and "amazing" breakfast we'd read so many comments about in the room's guest book. I was, quite frankly, disappointed in the selection and quality. It was not even on a par with the Comfort Inn where we stay when we go to Cross Lanes, WV. Comfort Inn! I don't understand why the breakfast (or the bed) got rave reviews. When I am paying as much as I did for a room with breakfast, I expect the breakfast to be higher quality than a decidedly non-luxury motel chain's continental breakfast. Ah, well, the fireplace, hors d'oeuvres hour and tub made up for it. Besides, we were in for more good food than we realized that day.

After breakfast, we first drove over to the church, to make sure we could find it come Sunday. It was really fun because we kept seeing Amish folks in buggies & wagons or walking along the road with covered dishes in wagons they pulled behind them. Neither of us had ever been in Amish country before, for any period of time and it was exciting to see that kind of community. It was cool to see the clothes flapping on the lines & the enormous and stunning draft horses in fields, too. After we found the (quite old and very picturesque) church, we drove back to Burton and poked around the town square a bit. J got a cafe au lait and I fell in love with prayer bowls at a shop featuring hand-crafted items and art. I picked up a darling Christmas bear in a robe and nightcap for dirt-cheap and we got some locally produced maple syrup and maple sugar candy at the sugar house located in the log cabin in the middle of the square.

When we'd seen the whole square (and I'd fallen in love with a huge birthday cake of a house), we plugged in J's new GPS and let it guide us to Chardon, where we had reservations for afternoon tea at 2. There didn't seem to be much in the way of shops in the main square area, although we did find a cool antique shop where J picked up a 1950 lesbian-themed pulp and I got several black and white photos to add to our collection, as well as a delightful brown velvet hat from Marshall Fields, complete with gorgeous hat pins. Again, for a song. We also located a drug store & picked up some cold meds. We seem to have bad luck with December getaway weekends-the year we went to Oglebay for our anniversary, J had a raging head cold, too. This one was milder, luckily.

When we arrived for tea at Rosepointe Cottage, we had to wait for our table. The entire front room was dripping with bridal shower guests. It was fun to watch them having fun with one another. We waited in the cute little upstairs shop (the tea room is in an old house) and I got to leaf through some books about Emma Lea and her adventures with tea. Then, it was time for tea. There was only one other table in the back room, filled with a family of women. We guessed two sisters and the 40-something daughters of one of the sisters. One of the daughters was wearing a wonderful hat and reminded me of my dear friend Suzanne, who has delicious adventures and lives in a house worthy of feature in Martha Stewart Living. I wanted to go up to her and say, "Will you be my friend?" Another sister reminded me a good deal of Ina Garten. They were fun to observe.

We were too busy enjoying our tea and hatching plots to have a monthly girl gathering to observe too closely, though. J got some kind of tangerine tea while I chose Earl Grey, my perennial favorite. We each got a cup of the amazing corn & pumpkin chowder, perfect for two sick girls like us. Then, the tea commenced with plates of scrumptious tea sandwiches. There was cucumber and ham salad and cream cheese on date bread and chicken salad in a mini croissant. I think there was another-should have taken notes! Next came a scone for each of us, served with plenty of clotted cream and jam. Finally, a plate of "tea fancies" that was not terribly appealing due to the facts that A. we were already quite full and B. they were still a smidge frozen. Tsk, tsk, tsk. No matter because the rest of the food and the whole atmosphere were so refreshingly delicious. J decided that she likes taking tea so much that she wants us to do it once a month. I have no objection whatsoever! Lady food, pretty dishes and a room overflowing with estrogen? I'm there! I've already done some research about others in our area. I definitely want to take her to Miss Molly's in Medina, where our art group had such a fun Christmas tea. I wish J had been able to attend the tea, but we can at least go back.

After tea, we went driving out to Middlefield to check out the cheese factory. We picked up some dill butter cheese, some sharp cheddar spread and some colby-jack there (as well as some more maple candy for my sweet tooth). Then, we checked out this very odd gift shop with a ton of beads, Indian stuff and hokey gift items. Really cheesy stuff mixed in with really neat stuff. I found some glass earrings for my ma, a non-fakey dreamcatcher to replace my beloved one that got smashed in the closet door (don't ask) and one for my cousin, Leah, who I'd already gotten a tiara for, but who had expressed a desire for a dream catcher, too. We drove back to the inn as dusk came on, marveling at the buggies and spirited horses that we passed. We even saw a teenage girl in a cloak just turning up her long lane.

Back at the inn, we again enjoyed wine & cheese by the fire, chatting with the couple we'd met the night before and both using the massage chair. Then, we headed out for our anniversary dinner at the Welshfield Inn, which we chose due to their unpretentious menu and history. It used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. How cool is that? It was utterly lovely outside and in, with a gracious porch and big trees in front and low dark-wood ceilings inside. Somehow, we managed to score a table right by the fire, which was so cozy and perfect. Our waitress was so on the ball, but not at all overbearing. We started with their amazing rolls, one variety savory with seeds and salt sprinkled on top, the other a handmade cinnamon roll that was tops. J ordered pan-seared scallops with asparagus and peppers in a lovely cream sauce made with chardonnay, lemon and lobster. I had a salad of mesclun with Granny Smith matchsticks, grapes, blueberries, toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola tossed with a hint of raspberry vinaigrette. Both were immensely pleasurable to eat. We both chose specials for our main courses. J had a splendid halibut dish, again with a light cream sauce, with all kinds of sprightly veggies and a side of wild rice pilaf. Mine was a plate of gorgeously braised short ribs with a red wine reduction, plated with well-made mashed potatoes and perfectly-cooked, vividly green beans. It was a shame that we had no room for dessert because I have no doubt it would have been as stellar as the dinner.

After dinner, it was my turn in the tub. It was so lush and relaxing. I miss the one in the apartment we first shared, where we would take our Monday bubble bath with the YSO blues show after the kids went to bed. I miss the skylight, too. We would make love and hear the rain hitting the skylight. Sigh. I hope we can have those things, and a fireplace, again sometime. But in a bigger place. With room for a library & a studio. With a front porch and back deck like the ones we enjoy here. With a gourmet kitchen. Dreaming never hurts!

I awoke Sunday morning feeling entirely too wretched for words, all snotty and coughing like a tubercular ward full of patients, as well as with a churning stomach. I don't know if the stomach was nerves, but it did feel much better after the service, so I assume it was. Damned inconvenient! The service itself went great. I got incredibly nervous once I started sussing out the congregation, but I left the gay stuff in the sermon and they seemed to like it all just fine. I had a number of people come up to me with specific compliments, instead of just "Good sermon" and a handshake. Actually, there was no hand shaking because I didn't want to pass on whatever vile bug I'd picked up. I hope they didn't find that too weird for words. I also got a swarm of older women gathered around me telling me the most wonderful stories about the history of the church, the area, the women's suffrage advocates there in the 1870s...it was great fun for an extroverted history buff like me. I'd've gone to lunch with them in a heartbeat just to hear more stories. It's a very small congregation (I heard they worshipped 45 Christmas Eve) and many are descended from the founding families, so it was just fascinating.

I also heard from the man who served as liturgist (who, incidentally, joined the church in 1935!) that they'd been on the verge of a vote to leave the denomination over the marriage equality resolution. In that very meeting, a man who was descended from the founding families stood up & said that he hoped that he could someday marry his partner in that church. And that, my friends, ended talk of leaving. Like magic! He also told me about the funeral of one of the church saints, an African-American man who was very well-respected by everyone. At his funeral, his son's partner stood up and spoke with great beauty and great love about "the man who would have been his father-in-law." That, too, helped the congregation see more clearly how Jesus would have them act toward gay people. Finally, he told me about another church in the area that did leave over the issue. The pastor made anti-gay stuff "his holy grail" and ended up losing several valuable members to the church where I preached. I'd no idea of any of this backstory when I chose to preach with an inclusion of LGBT issues and honesty about my own life. I'm glad it worked out. I am more convinced than ever that it is crucial for anyone in the LGBT community who can afford to come out (meaning, won't lose job, home, kids or anything crucial like that) to do so. I think it's one of the key factors in increasing acceptance.

After church, we decided to meander our way home on backroads, through Little Italy and other enticing as-yet-unexplored parts of the city. Had we both felt better, I imagine we'd've stopped somewhere like Guarino's for lunch. As it was, we dragged ourselves into The Pub for goat cheese dip and a split roast beef sandwich. Then, we took our sick butts home to bed, with tea, by 4 p.m.