Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Away For A Few

Tomorrow I am on my way to the Left Coast for a few days.

Chris is already at a conference in SF, CA and I am going to join her for some fun.

On Friday I have lunch reservations at Chez Panisse. This is Alice Waters’ restaurant in Berkley, CA that she began 35 years ago. Waters advocates eating locally produced foods that are in season, because she believes that the international shipment of mass-produced food is both harmful to the environment and provides an inferior product for consumers.

It’s all part of the Slow Food Movement.

The Slow Food Movement was started to combat fast food and to preserve the cultural cuisine and the associated food, plants and seeds, domestic animals, and farming within an eco-region. Check out the link in the title above for more info.


We will be back in town to vote on November 7th. Ohio is going to be a swing state this election in a way that the GOP could not have imagined in 2004.

Like a pendulum Ohio is going to swing back to the center. The GOP corruption (Bob Ney and Tom Noe) and election tampering (Blackwell) in the state for the last four years looms too large for even ardent Republicans to ignore.

The big issues in this Ohio election are that the Republicans want to bring Slot Machine Gambling to the state (Issue 3) and want a state constitutional amendment to allow smoking everywhere and nullify all previous state and local smoking bans (Issue 4).

These are their answers to Ohio’s problems?

Well, I say stop the madness!

Just vote to stop it.

Meanwhile Iraq has become another Vietnam. Let’s clear the air and just say it.

We are again stuck in someone else’s country and Americans are getting killed every day because some guys in Washington - who never had to kill or be shot at - say we have to be there to stop terrorism because if we don’t stop it there it will come here.

Sounds exactly like what “they” said about the spread of communism and Vietnam 46 years ago. We are in such quicksand right now.

Take our country back.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Breaking of Bread

I just realized this morning that I spend a lot of time talking about food on this blog…

One of the reasons is that in the division of labor around our house I am the primary food preparer.

I do the shopping and the food prep. I cook 4 - 5 nights a week with one night usually foraging on our own because of meetings or appointments and a couple of nights of either eating out or take out.

I love cooking from our pantry. I try to keep some protein in the freezer (chops, fish, shrimp, and steak) and then keep our pantry well stocked. I buy vegetables each week as I need them for specific meals so that they are fresh. I keep some frozen veggies for soups and stock.

I always make enough spaghetti sauce and soup to freeze a quart or two so that I have some to thaw for a quick meal.

I go to two markets every couple of weeks. Four days a week the Cleveland Westside Market sells fresh produce and also has a number of meat, cheese and bread stands.

I also visit the Farmer’s Market at Crocker Park for fresh eggs, chickens, apples and mushrooms. These folks are local farmers that provide great products and give me a way to support local agriculture. I am trying to be a Localvore.

The best meals I have ever eaten have been meals shared with friends - the fellowship of friends around my table – eating and laughing and enjoying each other’s company in the breaking of bread - there is something sacred about it.

I know Jesus understood the connection. I love the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

While two disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus, Jesus appears to them and begins interacting with them. When they reach the village of Emmaus, the disciples ask Jesus to stay with them to eat as he seemed willing to walk on.

After he prays and breaks the bread, they recognize him, and he disappears.

Not until he breaks the bread with them do they recognize him. There is something in the breaking of bread with people that we let down our guard and experience the kind of fellowship that comes with sharing food.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I love breakfast places…

Breakfast is my favorite meal, hands down.

I like all the breakfast foods: eggs fixed any way you like, bacon, sausage (patties or links - doesn’t matter), French toast, pancakes, waffles, omelets, eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine, grits, homefries, smoked salmon, fried mush, oatmeal, fresh fruit, all cereals and toast including wholegrain, wheat, white and rye!

I love all the breakfast chains. Bob Evans (though I think their quality is slipping) Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, Perkin’s Pancakes, The Original Pancake House, IHOP and I am anxious to try this new place called First Watch.

My usual haunt is, of course, Sammy’s. His French toast is wonderful and his Corned Beef hash is killer. I judge most breakfast places by their CB hash. If it comes from a can – then they go down a couple of notches.

I am always on a quest to find great tasting sausage and bacon.

Being from southern Ohio I was raised on Bob Evans sausage and it is hard not to consider it the best – Going to a county fair in my youth always included a Bob Evans sausage sandwich on a CWB with yellow mustard.

But I also like the smoky flavor of Cracker Barrel patty sausage. Not too over powering - just enough smoke to influence the flavor not dominate it.

My favorite bacon of all time is McKenzie’s slab bacon – not the prepackaged McKenzie. It’s only available in New England and so it is part of what makes going to Vermont each year special.

The smell of McKenzie bacon wafting through the cabin in the morning is such a comfort smell for me. I know I am in a good place.

And coffee…I love coffee with breakfast.

So there you have it…if terrorists want all my secrets they can deny me breakfast and I will tell them everything. I will sing like a birdie for breakfast!

“Two eeeegggs, puhleeese!”

For a great breakfast place where you live - check out the link above...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Time Waits For No One

It is the last full week of October already.

As I type it is spitting snow outside my window. I love the fall. I spent a number of years in the northeast and came to experience the season in only a way that New England can show you.

It was there that I came to love McCouns. It is a crisp apple with a nice balance between sweet and tart and a very thin skin – making it excellent for eating.

Bolton Orchards in MA is my source. I still order McCouns from them each year. They are a rare find in Ohio.

I spent the day on Saturday raking leaves, blowing leaves, mulching leaves and piling leaves on the tree lawn - just another part of the experience of fall.

Growing up we used to have a chili supper at our church each fall. Everyone would meet at someone’s farm and there would be a big fire with a kettle full of chili over it. Someone would constantly stir the chili to keep it from scorching.

There would be hay wagon rides, apple bobbing and games of “Tag you’re it!” played until dark when we would finally slow down and roast marshmallows over the coals of the once great fire.

I love those memories of fall and this one is almost a memory too.

What are your memories of fall?

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday at Sammy's Grill

This morning at Sammy’s was so much fun…

Amid the smell of bacon, hot cakes and home fries - there was singing, lots of quotes from The Princess Bride and Blazing Saddles, and of course the crossword puzzle.

I hung out longer than normal and helped lift some spirits on a rainy Friday morning.

I had heard some Gospel singing on the radio while I was parking the car and so I still had “Jesus will work it out!” on my brain when I walked in the door.

I climbed onto “my” stool and started reading the paper and soon Ted, Maureen, Nancy, Virginia, Pat and David – all regulars - joined me.

It got started with reading quotes from a debate from Thursday night…

Soon I was singing “Jesus will work it out!” as a refrain to each politician’s response.

Then came the quotes from The Princess Bride between bites of French toast and sips of coffee.

We manage to make some laughs from most of the headlines and from Maureen Dowd’s column.

Pretty soon everyone was feeling like better about the rainy Friday morning and we turned to the real challenge… the crossword puzzle.

Ted reads the clues aloud and all of us help with the answers. Pasteur developed the first vaccine for which disease? R _ _ _ E _ .

Just your typical Friday morning at Sammy’s…

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Best Laid Schemes O’ Mice An’ Men…

I had my weekend all planned out.

I made a list of things to do (I make lists and check them off) and started early Saturday morning. I cleaned off my work bench in the garage and then went in the house to take the air conditioners out of the windows. As I was raising a window up – I did it too forcefully and broke the glass with the heel of my hand.

Now there’s an unexpected twist. So I had to remove the window from the frame, take the window out to the garage and carefully remove the old glass and glazing.

Run to the hardware get a new piece of glass, window points and caulking. Install the new glass w/points and caulk it into place. Then haul the window back upstairs and re-attach the window weights and work it back into the frame. Put the frame back together and “Voila!”

But now it was 4:30 on Saturday afternoon and my list was shot. Kaput!

I was reminded that while we may make plans to do this or that - life happens.

On Sunday afternoon I was fixing dinner for my in-laws and the electricity went out… So the roast was shuffled to the grill and I used matches to light the stovetop and we had Sunday dinner by the light of the fading day. It turned out fine.

That’s not to say there weren’t a few choice words when the power failed.

When I fail to take into account both time and chance I set myself up for disappointment and or a big headache.

Sometimes the best laid plans get thwarted by…time and chance.

Sometimes the power fails. Or the guy in front of you gets the last two “Buy One Get One Free” items. Or sometimes you break a window and end up spending the rest of your well planned day doing something you had not planned.

Time and chance.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Perchance To Dream

You cannot downplay the importance of having a dream. Dreams inspire us and keep us motivated.

For some folks the dream is for financial security, for others it is planning the next vacation and for still others it is an early retirement. There are all kinds of dreams out there. Some people want to be folk singers, others want to run clinics, and some want to let time pass on a beach.

When I was a kid it was my job to bring the horses in from the pasture. As I walked out into the field looking for the horses I spent a lot of time thinking/dreaming about the future and what I would be doing as an adult. I always dreamed of having a farm and being a farmer. Those dreams kept me going long after we sold the farm and moved into town.

As an adult I spend less and less time imagining my future. I don't think that is necessarily a good thing.

It is important to keep our minds open to new possibilities and dream about our futures. It can help to keep us alive and help us to maintain hope.

Henry Thoreau said, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Hundreds of years of self denial have trained them to respond this way. Hundreds of years of piety. Significant training and self awareness.

Over the weekend the Amish community and individuals responded to the killing of their little girls in a manner befitting followers of Christ.

They hugged the father of the killer. They supported the families of the victims, all the while taking up an offering for the family of the murderer.

Rather than shun the shooter’s family and lash out with condemnation, the Amish in the community have embraced the shooter’s wife and three children.

Instead of allowing bitterness to overwhelm them, they have chosen forgiveness.

When faced with perhaps one of their darkest hours…they reverted to what they knew best…the image of God.

How many people could have done the same?

Over the weekend Charles Roberts was laid to rest in his wife's family plot- not far from the Amish school. More than half the mourners at Robert’s funeral were Amish.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Of Lambs and Human Nature

When I was 8 or 9 a relative gave my sister and I each a pet lamb. I chose a white faced lamb with a long tail and my sister chose a black faced one.

We kept them in the barn during the day and when I got home from school it was my job to stake them out on the lawn to graze. This helped to ensure that first, the yard was mowed and that second, the yard was fertilized.

They loved to graze on the green grass. When I would lead then from the barn to the front lawn they would quite literally drag me as I held onto their collars.

Once we had crossed the barnyard and had reached the green grass of the lawn they would come to a dead stop, lower their heads and start munching. I would then have to pull them with all my strength to the place they were supposed to graze that evening.

Now these were not underfed animals. They were fat, greedy lambs that just wanted more food.

One minute stubbornly pulling me and the next minute having to be pulled stubbornly.

Both actions driven by a base instinct to eat (consume) as much as possible.


It has always been intriguing to me that humans were created in the image of God – and yet - when we “revert” we end up going in the opposite direction one would expect of something created in the image of God.

Faced with a difficult choice, a work related stress, a moral dilemma, or a significant sacrifice – we sometimes revert to our base human instinct of survival and grab all that we can while we can.

Here’s the intriguing part – why don’t we revert to the image of God?

Is it just the nature of created beings to revert to survival instincts?

Or were we so damaged by sin’s entrance into the world that we no longer have the capacity to naturally revert to the image of God without significant training and self awareness?

Why are we so like the animals?

I don’t have a neat paragraph to answer these questions or even sum this up. However, I do think it is related to Paul of Tarsus’ statement, “…for when I am weak then I am strong.”

More later.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What Happens When Life Flies up in Your Faith?

For me faith is a struggle. It is never easy. I struggle with my control over my life verses God’s.

But to know that the mystery of faith lies with God rather than in me is critically important.

We can be a believer – and thus please God and be saved – in spite of our all-too-flawed behavior.

It’s no excuse. Our failures and sins are still wrong. They still bring unpleasant and sometimes lasting consequences. Nor we can be cavalier about righteousness and stop struggling against sin.

But the overarching importance of the Biblical narrative in both the Old and New Testaments rests not on virtuous lives lived but on God’s faithfulness.

Abraham’s experience in Egypt is a very real story of time and place. Peter’s denial experience before the crucifixion is the same.

Both examples reflect the reality of one person’s faith waxing and waning.

They remind us that believers sometimes fail tests of their faith by taking things into their own hands, doing what seems to be “natural” to them and leading with their fears rather than their faith.

So let us endure. Sometimes we learn from our failures; sometimes we don’t.

We just need to keep walking.