Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pot au Feu

Pot-au-Feu, "Pot on the Fire," is one of those classic dishes in world cuisine that takes many forms with regional variations. This is winter food that reminds you of home and hearth. Essentially, it's just the French way to do a basic beef stew. Usually it's made with cheap cuts of meat like oxtail. This is a relatively easy recipe, but like all good stews and soups it takes time to develop and simmer.


from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
(thanks Meg and Seb)

1 lb. paleron of beef or "chicken steak" or brisket
6 pieces of oxtail, cut 1 1/2 inches thick
6 beef short ribs*
1 veal shank**
8 whole cloves
2 Onions, cut in half
6 leeks, white part only
2 small celery roots (celeriac), cut into quarters
4 carrots, cut into 4-inch lengths
1 bouquet garni
salt and pepper
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 head of cabbage, cored and cut into 6 to 8 wedges
1/2 lb cornichons
1 Cup large-grained sea salt
1 Cup hot prepared mustard

a really big pot
3 medium ramekins
marrow spoon (you can use the back end of an iced-tea spoon)
serving platter (a bloody big one)
soup terrine

Serves 6***

In the huge pot, combine the steak, oxtail, short ribs, and veal shank and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and as soon as the water comes to a boil, remove from the heat. Set the meats aside and throw out the water. Clean the pot. Seriously, do it. Then put the meat right back inside. Push 2 cloves into each onion half and add the onions to the pot, along with the leeks, celery roots, carrots, and bouquet garni. Season with salt and pepper and cover with cold water.

Bring the pot to a slow simmer, gradually, and let cook over medium-low heat for around 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Skim the cooking liquid with a ladle periodically to remove scum and foam. Add the potatoes and cabbage and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until soft. You want to maintain the structural integrity of the meat and vegetables. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

Put the cornichons, sea salt, and mustard in the ramekins and set on the table. Remove the chicken seat (or brisket) from the pot and cut into 6 pieces. Remove the veal shank from the pot and cut the meat off the bone, again into 6 to 8 pieces. Using the marrow spoon, dig out all that lovely marrow from the inside of the veal bone. Arrange the oxtails, the meats, the marrow, and the vegetables in an attractively disheveled fashion on the serving platter and spoon some of the cooking liquid over and around it. Serve the rest of the liquid is a soup terrine.

Alternatively, you can arrange the meats uncarved, with the vegetables around them, swimming in broth in a big, beautiful pile in a deep serving platter, and let your friends just tear at it like the savage animals they are. (I'm getting hungry just writing this recipe.)

Tay's Notes
Bourdain call this "comfort food for socialists"--I understand why. This is home-food. You can easily imagine a winter home where the only heat is the kitchen stove with a pot continuously boiling. Like I said, a relatively easy recipe to make. Nice for a dinner party since most of the work is front-loaded. Once you have everything stewing in the pot you can either focus on other dishes or simply be entertaining your guests.

I served this with Gratin Dauphinois, which is a nice creamy potato gratin. I rounded out the meat-and-starch by serving a leek vinaigrette salad course (Blanched the leeks, then plated and drizzled on a generous helping of sauce gribiche.) I paired all of it with a Pinot Noir. We had our guests bring dessert, but if that was my responsibility I would have probably gone for Crème brûlée. You make it the day before and just do the caramelized-sugar topping before you serve. In fact, you could even do this at the table with a propane torch if you want to delight your guests. BTW, if you are trying to make an impression, why not use a full-size plumbers torch instead of one of those little "kitchen torches"?

Consider serving this with a crusty french bread to sop up some of that goodness.

If you serve this with plates, it's not clear what to do with that terrine of soup. Peter Hertzmann says that the broth was served, traditionally, as a separate soup course before the meat and veggies, and that makes a lot of sense to me, especially if you allow the broth to cook down some more after you remove the meat and vegetables (perhaps keeping them warm in the over).

* For short ribs, I used 6 short rib pieces, rather than 6 actual short ribs.

** The the Veal Shank is lovely. An Ossobuco cut is fine, too.

***6 Guests? Baloney, Tony! This recipe just about filled my 12 quart pot, so I would say it easily feeds 8 to 12 guests! Seriously. Especially if you are serving it with side dishes.

This is an adaptable recipe. If you have a good relationship with a butcher you can work something out and use more morrow bones and scrap cuts, etc. Stews forgive many sins!

If you want more on the history of this dish, I suggest the excellent article on Peter Hertzmann's blog.

Next on my list of canonical french dishes to try--cassoulet!



All of a sudden, I'm feeling incredibly stressed out. A situation has arisen--the kind that arises frequently in my profession--the sort that I can't talk about. It has me pretty stressed out as I'm not entirely sure what to do about it. Last night we had had friends over and cooked up a nice feast, and that was a nice distraction. The only problem was that cooking a nice meal on a Friday meant that we had a hard time getting the house ship-shape and ready for company and the food ready. In the end we managed it, but not without some stressful moments.

Ah... stress... my old friend.... There is a very interesting line of connection between chronic stress and clinical depression. So chronic stress is probably not a sustainable state. Duh! And yet it seems difficult to avoid in leadership where the leader becomes the point of intersection between what is and what could be. There are many different responses to this dilemma. One is to cultivate a kind of detachment, but I'm afraid that will be misconstrued as as a lack of care.

In my fantasies I have more help--especially for the little details that seem like they are not the best use of my time. For example, we've had a problem with the internet in the church. It works fine in the office (except when it rains, but that's Bell's fault), but hasn't been reaching the daycare. So Friday I spent some time troubleshooting it. I think I fixed it, but that was about two hours of time that would be been better spent reading, writing, or even meeting with people.

The alternative, in this case, would have been to hire someone to come and fix it. We have done this in the past, but it's expensive. There are one or two members of the congregation with the technical expertise to fix a problem like this, but they are busy people, too. This is how it is with many things in a pastoral-sized church trying to grow.

Ah... stress!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tay PA - Round 2

Last night I "racked" five gallons of homebrew beer. "Racking" is just the brewing term for bottling. Five gallons yielded about 30 bottles. The specific gravity (a measure of a liquid's density) was on target, meaning that the sugars had all been converted into alcohol as expected. The taste was fine--it will be a lot better after a few weeks of aging. It's a nice, big-hearted IPA.

Brewing this batch was far easier than the first batch I made. I invested in a few odds and ends, equipment wise, that made a big difference. Even something as simple as a "bottle tree" made the step of sanitizing all the bottles much easier and faster. I also switched from using a diluted bleach solution to a product called "Star San," which is an industrial food equipment sanitizer. One of the beautiful things about this product is that you don't have to rinse the equipment once you soak it, just air dry. Also, you can reuse the product--so once you have a bucket going you can just use it over and over again until the PH rises to 3. (Which reminds me, I need to get some PH test strips.)

In truth, the set-up for brewing is more hassle than anything else about it, so I feel that in the future I should maybe do double batches and realize the increased return per work effort. It's like canning that way--the bigger the batches the less effort it takes per item.

Anyway, I think I'm in for another batch of good beer in three or four weeks!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Appreciative Inquiry in the Diocese of Toronto

Here is a quick video from last week's training session in Appreciative Inquiry...


Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Few Breakthroughs

I mentioned previously that I spent three days at the SSJD Convent Receiving the Appreciative Inquiry Training offered by the Clergy Leadership Institute. The instructor was Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle. Rob is psychologist with a great deal of clinical experience, as well an executive coach and even a former Cathedral Dean. He is an interesting guy whose life purpose is to be "Helpful, healing, and humorous."

Registration was limited to be about 25 people, and mostly that was composed of Senior Diocesan Leadership plus a dozen or so parish priests like myself. That made for an interesting dynamic, as when I was paired with Bishop Yu to do an interview designed to discover the deepest, most compelling personal motivations of the subject!

The "Appreciative Inquiry" framework has a lot to offer, and I've already had two opportunities to apply it. Last night I hosted a Stewardship Committee meeting in my home. We are prepared our fall Stewardship Campaign and are facing a substantial deficit as we do so. Raising the giving in the parish by about 30% would fix it and get us back to a balanced budget, but raising giving by that kind of level is going to take some real excellent leadership from everyone involved in the campaign.

So I started the meeting by asking people to go around the room and tell us about something they really, really enjoy doing. When they finished sharing, I explained that this was an easy way to get toward an understanding of people's core values and passions. Knowing that makes moving forward on a group project far easier because it means you can put the builders in charge of building and the deal makers in charge of deal making, etc. The meeting went on and accomplished many things, though not without a few moments that really challenged my skillfulness as a small-group leader. As they left, people said they felt encouraged and enthusiastic about the work ahead, which is great sign.

The second application of Appreciative Inquiry techniques happened in a one-on-one pastoral care situation. Obviously, I can't share much about that, but I will say I was able to resolve a long-standing stuck-ness that had defied several other interventions. One of the things I noticed right away was a large degree of consonance between the method I was employing and the parishioner's therapeutic instincts. In other words, it felt like the right approach to both of us. The energy of the whole dynamic shifted noticeably and I'm really happy about that.

So, there you have it, my endorsement of Appreciative Inquiry. It works, simple as that.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Chicken Slaughter

Very few people choose to think about the way their meat gets killed. Probably they believe that knowledge of what happens in butcher houses would make it difficult for them to enjoy meat, and they may be right. I think most people are pretty sheltered from this part of life, to tell the truth.

But it is a very big deal, ethically, to consider the massive amount of animal death and suffering that occurs so that we can eat meat. And so for those of us who still choose to eat meat, I think we owe to the animals to at least minimize the suffering involved.

There is a whole fascinating story about how Temple Grandin, revolutionized the practices around the slaughter of cows. Before her, the sort of people that love animals, as she does, simply couldn't talk with people who make a living turning them into food. But Temple was able able to do tremendous good by showing hard-nosed business-first types that being compassionate and humane to animals is simply the best way to do things.

So now chickens may be next. The New York Times reports that two large poultry producers, Bell & Evans of Pennsylvania and Mary's Chickens in California, are preparing to switch slaughter methods to one that appears much more humane. Instead of simply hanging the chickens upside down and slitting their throats, they are going to "gently" put them to sleep with Carbon Dioxide first.
Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a prominent livestock expert, consulted with Bell & Evans as the company worked with Anglia to design its system. She said it was better because the chickens were not aware of what was happening to them. “Birds don’t like being hung upside down,” Dr. Grandin said. “They get really stressed out by that.” (source)

Now they are trying to figure out how to market this concept. "Humanely Handled" seems like the best euphemism I've heard so far! Anyway, I see this as a sort of progress...


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Comings and Goings

What is Tay up to? Tay is pushing himself hard to get as much done as humanly possible on many simultaneous fronts. That means I am violating the very important spiritual principle of Sabbath (or, in Benedictine terms, "Holy Leisure"). It's not at all sustainable, but this seems like such a critical time in the life of my parish that I simply can't bear to let the opportunities pass.

On my mind: Natural Church Development. Our church did an NCD survey a few weeks ago to get a snapshot of the congregational dynamic. The parish's NCD leadership team got the first view of the results, and I have been processing that. The congregation will get to see the full results in a few weeks, in the mean time I've been studying and thinking about the profile. The biggest surprise so far, my people don't know how to relate the bible to their 6-day-a-week faith. So that gives me something to work on! Incarnating faith.

This past Saturday I went to the parish work day. Once upon a time, before I came to Messiah, they had a hard time getting volunteers to take care of the grounds around the church. Now we organize half-day work events two or three times a year. The main objective of this last weekend was to get the place ready for winter. I took charge of making sure the burned-out light bulbs were replaced.

A word about light bulbs for all you church nerds out there. You are far better off getting your light bulbs from the sort of place that sells to electricians and contractors than from a place meant for consumers like Rona or Home Depot or Canadian Tire. Electrical supply places have a much better selection and are much more informed about the products. I went ahead and replaced our "Par 38" Incandescents with the same, but I also got a CFL version to experiment with. But what I really have my eye on is an LED bulb. These are expensive, but last a long, long time. And after you've been on top of our mega-tall forty-foot ladder you begin to see the wisdom of LED! LED lighting is definitely the future.

In truth, I find the interior of my church too dark, especially at night, and I look forward to getting better lighting someday. It's right up there with getting the interior repainted.

Anyway, back to the work day. I was pleased by the turnout. We had lots of people and therefore made fast work out of everything we tackled. We were finished on time to have lunch at noon and then I did my usual services.

We did not have high hopes for Sunday. The Toronto Marathon was this Sunday and the route surrounds the church on three sides, making access very, very difficult. So we were pleasantly surprised that our attendance was relatively good. First time visitors made the difference, and I can't wait to see if they come back!

Indeed, the service had a great vibe. People have settled into the square layout nicely and it was used to full advantage. I even did an impromptu dramatized Gospel Reading to start my sermon that worked very, very well. (Yep, I'm already thinking of ways to deal with the scripture-relevance issue). Circumambulating around the altar as I preach feels natural, and I love the way the community sounds me for the Eucharist. Just brilliant.

The next challenge is to adapt this for the upcoming Holocaust Education Week event on November 7th. We won't be celebrating the Eucharist as part of the main service that day in deference to our Jewish guests (last year we had the disconcerting experience of seeing half of them leave at the Peace!). So having the altar in the centre just doesn't make a lot of sense. Instead we are doing Morning Prayer, adapted. Hmm.

I felt that my sermon was strong and all the other pieces, including the music, were just great. Thumbs up all around.

Monday I was running around doing church stuff most of the day, even though it is my day off. For instance, I bought a bunch of stuff at Home Depot to organize the maintenance closet at the church. Peg board, hangers, a tool box, etc. I know this seems like a strange thing for the Rector to be concerned with, but it's precisely this kind of detail that populates the positive edge of the bell curve of ministry excellence. That closet has been a mess for three years--enough with that!

Today (Monday) I got up early to head up to the SSJD Convent for training in Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry is a process for organizational development that fits into parish work and pastoral care quite well. Basically,
it gives practitioners a paradigm to structure dialogue in a way most conducive to the desired outcomes. Perhaps after I'm finished with the training (Thursday afternoon) I'll have time to write more about it.

So another day-and-a-half of training to go. Then back-to-back meetings on Friday. At least I was smart enough not to schedule myself to preach this Sunday!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Snapshot of Racing on the Pegrine

Our sailing season is over, but here is a quick video snapshot of what it look like on night where the winds were alternating between strong and "meh." Note how wet my shoes around two minutes into the video.

My thanks to skipper Dave the crew--we had a fun season.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sailing Anarchists

Here is an example of the sort of thing that makes me love sailing. True wildness and wanderlust are still possible in this world...

Hold Fast from Moxie Marlinspike on Vimeo.

I think my favourite moment is probably when they stun the Mahi Mahi fish with the winch handle against the floor of the cockpit.

BTW, Moxie, the author, is also a well-known "white-hat" hacker. Meaning, he uses his uber computer skills for good, rather than evil. But that also means that he can make plenty of cash in his day job. I am not saying that he does make money, necessarily, I'm just saying he could make lots of money. This lifestyle is a kind of asceticism--a deliberately chosen discipline, not the harsh result of fickle fortune. He would probably frame it in terms that relate to ethics or eco-justice, but I see it as a secular form of apostolic poverty. Poverty-as-ethical-choice is a really interesting and ancient tradition practiced by many ascetics. It's an admirable witness, and quite an interesting phenomenon for to those of looking for how God manifests in a post-Christian society.


Monday, October 11, 2010

The Japanese Tea Ceremony and the Holy Eucharist

I've been teaching priest-craft to two seminarians this semester. I'm covering a lot of ground, but that is no excuse for skipping important detail of the sort they won't learn in class. I'm talking about deep body knowledge. There is a way to hold your body as a priest or deacon, a way to move through a space. A way to sit with parishioners and sip coffee. Craft is truth, too.

So when teaching a student how to prepare the gifts on the altar I start with the empty table and invite them to appreciate the emptiness that is there. Then, as they begin to make gesture of prayer through movement in that space, I mention the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Move with purity of purpose, unrushed, focused, calm.

I know, for a fact, that I am not the first person to notice a connection between the Japanese Tea Ceremony and the "manual acts" made by priests and deacons during the Holy Eucharist. Both, afterall, are formalized rituals of hospitality.

As a kid I used to watch an obscure, sub-titled Japanese docudrama series about the life of Oda Nobunaga produced by the national television network of Japan. Nobunaga is a very intriguing figure from Japanese feudal history (we're talking 16th Century) and was the principle force behind the unification of the country under a strong Shogun. He also was very interested in European Culture and was a patron of the Jesuit missionaries to his country. He even let them built the first church in Japan in Kyoto in 1576. Nobunaga was a great patron of the arts, as well, and popularized the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Each episode of this series would start with a narrative historical preamble. One of these compared the traditional gesture of wiping the tea cup in the Tea Ceremony with a similar gesture made at the end of the Eucharist during the ablutions. The narrator then claimed that the Christians picked up this gesture from the Jesuit missionaries to Japan, who learned it by observing the Tea Ceremony. That claim sounds dubious to me, but I do think it makes sense that both ceremonies would arrive at similar gestures through independent evolutions.

It also follows that a priest looking to master the rituals of the Holy Table could learn much from the Japanese Tea Ceremony (and perhaps vice-versa). The aesthetic of the Tea Ceremony will be recognizable to anyone who has studied liturgy. The Japanese sought to embody harmony, respect, purity, and tranquillity.

Every gesture--an expression of some truth. There is something true and worthy of our attention that happens when we prepare to celebrate the Eucharist. Whether we chose to do this in a very simple fashion or a complex one, we should do it with intention and meaning. This take years of diligent practice to master, and the effort to do so can inform any other priestly skill from pastoral counselling to preaching to volunteer management.

Here is a video of part of a Tea Ceremony. Enjoy!


Thursday, October 7, 2010

RIP Mrs. Patel

On Dupont Street, just a few blocks from the church and my home, there is a well-known Restaurant called "The Indian Rice Factory." Betsy and I have only been there once, but man did it make an impression! Some of the best Indian Food I ever had. Turns out the chef/owner, known as Mrs. Patel, is famous for basically introducing the city of Toronto to good Indian Food back in the 1960's and 70's. James Chatto has a wonderful telling of the story that he also related in his book, The Man Who Ate Toronto:
There were only two Indian restaurants in Toronto in 1967 (India House and Rajput) when Mrs. Patel arrived in Canada, a young nurse from Bombay. One afternoon, she decided to have lunch at the Inn on the Park hotel, at Eglinton and Leslie. The hotel’s restaurant, Café de 1’Auberge, was famous for sophisticated French cuisine, but it was the buffet of the day that aroused her curiosity – a culinary event entitled “From the Chafing Dishes of India.” In those dishes were examples of the curious travesty of Moghlai cooking that European chefs were trained to prepare: chicken, shrimp, or beef in a sort of bechamel sauce coloured with curry powder. Mrs. Patel called the manager and gently tried to explain that this was a little less than authentic.

When the conversation moved into the kitchen, executive chef Georges Chaignet listened politely and then invited Mrs. Patel to come back next day and cook him a meal. She obliged; he was stunned. As Stratford Chefs School instructor Jacques Marie, then Chaignet’s sous-chef, recalled: “She showed us what curry is really about. It was a new world to me.”

To the kitchen’s eternal credit, Mrs. Patel was hired to teach the team all that she knew. After a year, she moved on, first to Julie’s Mansion on Jarvis, working her magic in the casual upstairs dining room called the Bombay Bicycle Club, more famous in those days for the lissom beauty of its sari-clad waitresses than its buffet, and then to the Hyatt Regency.

In 1970 she opened her own place on Dupont Street, called Indian Rice Factory. The tiny room would be considered avant-garde even today. It seated barely a dozen customers who sat around an open cooking station, choosing from a short and frequently changing list of dishes on a blackboard tied to the back of the fridge. Slender, beautiful and always elegantly dressed, Mrs. Patel radiated a soft-spoken confidence as she worked, preparing many items à la minute, and explaining her recipes to anyone who asked. (Source)

By all accounts, she was a major force in the development of the Toronto Restaurant scene. She was generous with her time and recipes and something of an institution. You can find some of her recipes on the Indian Rice Factory's website.

It's telling that the website for the restaurant discusses the spiritual implications of Indian Cuisine. She had deep knowledge that craft to those places of art and truth. "Cooking is an art we savour and a ritual that we take seriously."

She died in August after a long battle with breast cancer. She had been the owner and chef of the Indian Rice Factory for 40 years. Her son had become increasingly involved over the years and now is taking her place.

A few days ago we had the planning team for the Music that Makes Community Conference at Church of The Messiah. I invited them over to the rectory, but had no intention of cooking for nine people on short notice, so I suggested that we order out. Many of the group were from San Francisco and complained that they can't find good Indian Food there.

I realized, then, that I didn't actually have any Indian takeout menus, so I googled the problem while Betsy got them drinks. As soon as I saw a reference to the Indian Rice Factory I knew it would be perfect, but it is not the kind of place that usually does delivery.

I called them, and they said they would make an exception since it was a relatively large order (9 people) and since the owner happened to be there with a car. The host helped me through the menu and made helpful suggestions about things that were particularly fresh or good that night. In the end, he also through in a few free dishes compliments of the house.

Forty-five minutes later or so Mrs. Patel's son, Aman, came to my door with a truly memorable meal. Our guests from San Francisco were impressed. Aman gave me a "Namaste" kind of bow after I thanked him profusely and complimented his restaurant. I didn't realize, yet, that his mother has passed on. I think I should send him a note saying that the meal we had was a great tribute to his mother.

I'll end this little obituary with one her recipes:

Butter Chicken in Three Easy Steps:

The Chicken

2 lbs boneless and skinless chicken

12 cloves garlic
2 inches ginger
2 tsp coriander powder
Lime juice – 2 limes
4 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp cumin whole or ground
½ cup yogurt
1 tbsp red chili powder
Salt to taste

— all Marinade ingredients except the salt into blender and puree. Add salt to taste such that Marinade has a salty tinge. Put chicken in bowl, add Marinade, mix to coat thoroughly and refrigerate for 4 hours.

2 tsp ghee
1 tsp dry fenugreek leaves
1 tsp dried mango or lime powder
1 tsp roasted black cumin powder
Salt to taste

Pinch of Garam Masala
½ fresh lime

— mix all ingredients together and have basting brush ready
— Prepare the marinated chicken either by grilling, broiling (cover with foil so as not to burn) or baking in a hot oven (350°F) until done. Baste regularly with Basting. Once done, set aside and garnish with sprinkle of Garam Masala and light drizzle of fresh lime juice.

The Butter Sauce

Butter Sauce
3 oz unsalted butter
2 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp fresh lime juice
4 green chilies – slit
6 tomatoes – cut into wedges
2 tbsp whipping cream – unwhipped
— in a pot, melt butter and sugar over a medium-high to high heat until brown (not burnt); add lime juice (watch out for splutters and splashes!!) and quickly follow with green chilies and let cook for a minute, add tomatoes and reduce to medium heat and cook until tomatoes break down, add cream and reduce to a slow simmer. Set aside.

The Chicken Goes Into the Butter Sauce

2 oz unsalted butter
1 tsp red chili powder
4-6 green chilies – fine cut
6 firm tomatoes – quartered
2 inches ginger – grated
— in a pot, melt butter over medium-high heat, add red chili powder and Butter Sauce, bring to boil, reduce to medium heat, add the chicken, tomatoes green chilies and ginger. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
— Remove to a serving dish, add small specks of butter, pinches of roasted cumin powder and finely chopped coriander as garnish.

Serve with plain Basmati rice or Naan (or both). (source)


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bath Time for Henry

Betsy and I both love giving our Henry a bath. We used to do this with a little plastic baby bathtub, but lately we've switched to using a full-size tub. In fact, I often take a bath with Henry, which is great fun. The little guy just loves the bubbles and toys we give him. Johnson's "Baby Bubble Bath & Wash" is awesome stuff. Works well on grownups, too! Tonight I even shaved in the tub while Henry played by my feet with some toys.

One of my favourite things to do is lie down in the the bath and put Henry on my chest, facing me. He likes to push up and arch his back so he can look around. Such a cuttie. Holding your baby like this makes it hard to think about anything else. It just makes everything right, you know?

Since we switched the full-sized tub he has a lot more room to move around and explore. Baths are lasting a lot longer.

After his bath Henry typically gets some skin lotion and then PJ's (with feet, of coure) and then milk and then bed. Sometimes he gets a story or I sing him Compline. Last night he slept for a whopping 12 hours! Go Henry!


Monday, October 4, 2010

Splitting Wood

A busy Monday. I tackled a couple of projects around the house--the most ambitious being to split and stack a bunch of wood left over from a tree that fell last year. It has been drying for the last year by the side the house since our landlord and his son-in-law cut up with a chainsaw. The landlord has been suggesting (for months and months) that I should split it up and use it for our fireplace. But, honestly, I've split wood by hand before, and it's one of those jobs that is best done with your shirt off to impress the Mrs. If your real purpose is to get wood ready for winter, than you ought to simply rent on buy a hydraulic wood splitter (IMHO).

The weather is turning in Ontario. Time to start packing up the deck furniture and get ready for the snow. If that wood is going to get split, I decided, it was doing to be me that does it! So I bit the bullet.

First stop, Canadian Tire. There I picked up a little 4-Ton Log Splitter. I don't think they sell many of these downtown in Toronto, but they managed to find one in the back! I took it home and was pleased with the performance--it had no trouble splitting everything I through at it. It has a little 1.74HP Electric Motor that runs a hydraulic pump that moves the ram. Bigger models are probably faster and can handle even bigger pieces, but this little guy is perfect for home use. But even with this little beauty it still took me about 3.5 hours to split the pile and stack it on the back deck. Ah, well.

I was inspired to tweet some Haiku:
A new power tool
Splitting wood in Autumn Air
Fall in Ontario

There is something very distinct about Fall in Ontario. I really need to get going on getting some apple cider fermenting in the basement. I also want to make some more apple sauce--I'm just using up the last of last year's batch and boy is it good stuff. And easy, too!

After I picked up Henry at the Daycare I got some take-out from my favourite Thai place: Flip Toss and Thai. Those of you living near the University should know about this place--terrific Thai food at a cheap price. The folks that work there are clearly a family, and enjoyed see Henry with me.


Tailgate Eucharist

The Rev'd Canon Dan Webster from the Diocese of Maryland has started doing a Eucharist in the parking lot before Ravens (NFL Football) games.

Our prayers follow the form on pages 400-401 of The Book of Common Prayer. It is similar to a Eucharist you might experience at an Episcopal camp but without the music. There was plenty of music coming from the stage at the Ravenswalk. Some of that music seemed to be particularly meaningful to those faithful gathered in the rain to break bread and pray before kickoff. ...

We weren't the only religious folks there that day. A local Chabad House of Lubavitcher Jews was celebrating Sukkot, the Feast of Booths. They had rented a pickup truck and built a sukkah in the truck bed. They asked people at random if they were Jewish and if so then invited them into the sukkah to pray. (Source)

When this went out on e-mail among some clergy types, one of the bishops said that this be a great idea for Argos (CFL Football) games--perhaps we could get season tickets on the Diocesan Dime (not likely).

This is actually a great idea. Talk about putting the church into the world! I like the way it claims the festival, food-drenched atmosphere of tailgating and plants our sacred meal firmly in that ground. Reminds me a lot of battlefield Eucharists done by military chaplains.


Friday, October 1, 2010

RIP Greg Giraldo

Greg Giraldo, a well-known Comedian, died of an accidental prescription drug overdose a few days ago. Here is a clip in which he discusses, among other things, God and Gay Marriage. He was in Canada for this. Probably not safe for work or young ears, but very funny.

As a comic, one of the things to notice about Greg was that he was very disciplined in his delivery. The content is sharp and bit transgressive, but carefully honed. It seems like an improved rant, but it's not. Notice how carefully he controls his timing and rhythm.

Some other facts about Greg:
  • He was a graduate of Harvard Law, but only did one year of practice before becoming a stand up comic
  • Greg was married with three children
  • Greg gave up drinking in 2005

After he was found in a hotel room he was rushed to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He died four days later. I did my CPE Chaplaincy Summer Internship at that Hospital.