The M&M Easter Story

9 Apr

Continuing on with my church shopping experience…

Did you know that M&Ms are a symbol of Easter? Well, at least that’s what I learned from the “Conversation with our Young People” portion of Easter worship.

An aside: Is “Conversation with our Young People” better than “Children’s Sermon” or “Children’s Time”? I’d think kids could relate to being children, and “conversation” is a pretty long word. It is PC though, I’ll give you that. Kids, do you care about that?

Anyway, a woman who wasn’t the pastor gave the children’s sermon, and bless her heart, she came up with this story of M&Ms and what the M stands for. Now, I kind of tuned out when the talk started with the traditional, “Did the Easter Bunny come visit you today?” But when she got into what the printed M on the M&M stands for, I perked up.

The “m” is for “mercy,” which God gives to us. Turn the piece of candy 90º and you’ve got a “3,” which reminds us of the three days after Jesus died before rising from the dead. Now, turn it 180º, and you’ve got the “E” for “Easter.” Finally turn it so you see a “w,” and that’s for “worthy” because we’re worthy of God’s love. As you eat your springtime M&Ms, keep this Easter promise in mind.

As the Boy said after he wrapped his brain around this story, mad props to this woman for trying to be creative. I give that to her, and I know she told this with the best intentions–for all I know, she spent Saturday night swearing about having no ideas for the conversation time, was stress-eating M&Ms and got this lightning bolt. Yet, even the best intentions have a way with playing with kids’ minds. Who knows which one of them will think about this every time they eat M&Ms. Or apply for a job there because they feel the company really speaks to their beliefs? Or experience extreme disappointment when they learn the true meaning of the m? Who knows–maybe I’m going overboard–I’ve still got crazy camp songs going through my brain. Nope, nothing could toy with young people’s minds at all.

Easter: A Time for Church Shopping?

8 Apr

There’s an old pastor’s joke that goes something like this: A pastor is greeting congregants after a Sunday service, and one man says to him, “You know, Pastor, I really like coming here, but you only ever preach about two things: Jesus’ birth and Jesus’ death.”

I’m starting to become that joke. My regular attendance at church has a lot of ebbs and flows, and right now it’s really ebbing. There are many reasons for this, but one is because I haven’t quite found the church for me in Massachusetts. The one I started going to after we moved here ended up merging with another, and although the new church is fine, it’s what I call a “Power Point church”: It has a screen at the front where they project various things throughout the service. No need for a bulletin if you didn’t get one–you can just keep your eyes on the screen. I’m pretty old-fashioned when it comes to church, and I like a nice high service: Music, three hymns, some responsive readings, scriptures, a sermon and an offering. No screens. No contemporary service (which I refer to as a “drum set church” that is “clappy hands” — though if I went to a church with a gospel choir, I would expect clappy hands and potentially a drum set as well. I’m really talking about your average megachurch contemporary worship stuff).

The Power Point was a big turnoff–I don’t go to church to look at a screen–so my attendance floundered. I also couldn’t participate in the bell choir due to scheduling issues, so I just stopped going. Now that we’ve moved, it takes a little effort to get to that church, and I’m contemplating whether I want to keep going there or look elsewhere.

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The 200-lb. (or Maybe 20 lb.) Ham

7 Apr

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When planning a big meal, I’m not the best judge of how much food to actually buy. Case in point, this year’s Easter ham. We had ten people over–which is a lot for us–and when you figure in that our friends really like the Boy’s ham recipe (this is an understatement), leftovers for everyone, and the weight of a bone, we definitely needed a ham that was over ten pounds. This, of course, set off the stressful situation of exactly what size ham to buy when I went to the store. Do I go with the 13-lb. ham that doesn’t mention any of the features the Boy asked for (fully cooked, bone in, etc.)? Or do I go to the 20-lb. ham that’s exactly what we want? And why don’t I feel like asking the guy at the meat counter if they’ve got another size? I just asked him about casing, for crying out loud!

Well, the Boy is a man, and he gets a kick out of cooking a massive pile of meat. We also have this enormous stock pot (known to us as the “Ham Pot”) that’s so big, it only fits in one tall cupboard in our kitchen, and it’s a point of pride to be able to cook a ham so big that it needs a restaurant-sized stock pot for the boiling phase. A twenty pound challenge? Bring it!

The Boy was happy, the Ham Pot got used, the ham was delicious. However, what complicated things is that we also made five pounds of kielbasa, which essentially competed with the ham for share of stomach. This contributed to a ton of leftovers, and suddenly it seemed like our 20-lb. ham had yielded way more than 20 pounds. Our leftover happy friends should’ve managed to clean up nicely, but for some reason, everyone was a bit skittish and now we have a couple of bags of ham in our fridge and freezer.

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The Lamb Part of Ham Day

6 Apr

We celebrate Easter in our household, although several of our friends don’t call it “Easter,” they call it “Ham Day” because it’s the one guaranteed day a year that the Boy will make his infamous ham recipe. This stuff is delicious–I never liked ham growing up, but the Boy’s ham tastes amazing (perhaps because it’s not a Krakus ham-in-a-can baked in ginger ale), so we go all out for the day. This year was an exceptional event–meaning, it’s worth several posts, so strap on your shoes.

First up: Lamb. We don’t serve lamb meat on Easter, but we do have lamb in other forms. First, there’s the butter:

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I have two lamb molds, probably neither of which are supposed to be for making butter lambs, but whatever. The 3-D lamb is regular butter, and I’m guessing I use a chocolate mold for it. The second is an herbed butter made in what’s probably supposed to be a cake tin.

Then came the appetizers. I wish I could take credit for these–they’re something so cute that you’d totally find on Pinterest–but one of our friends brought them. Cheese ball sheep, covered with shredded cheese for wool, Ears and head are olives. The eyes are more cheese, cut with a drinking straw, and the pupils are carefully placed poppy seeds. Adorable (and delicious)! She brought them grazing in a field of arugula, balanced on a wheat cracker.

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Finally, we had the lamb cake. The lamb cake is always an exercise in holding your breath and hoping it comes out (though I have been known to trash a lamb cake a couple of hours before dinner and make a new one). I made this one on Saturday and let it cool overnight. On Sunday I cut it out of the mold, and its head and nose remained intact. Frosted it up, dusted a little coconut on the frosting and then dyed more coconut so it was sitting in grass. And, for some strange reason, the lamb also needs to have a lot of jelly beans nearby.

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We usually end dinner with some sort of lamb beheading–how are you going to eat the cake otherwise? This year…well…it got a little violent.

More Easter fun to come, including:

  • Was the ham 20 lbs. or 200 lbs?
  • Should one church shop on Easter?
  • What do Easter M&Ms have to do with Jesus?
  • The “Hallelujah Chorus” that wasn’t.
  • Stupid campfire song earworms!

The Mystery on the Counter: Evidence

3 Apr

Continuing on in my new role as a neighborhood Nancy Drew, I present evidence in the case of The Mystery on the Counter:

Exhibit A:wpid-img_20150401_205123662.jpg

See? There’s lotion on the prep counter…and a Bhudda statue. This is also new to the setting, though maybe it’s taken from the little shrine that’s located down and to the right as you look at this picture. I’ll have to go back and see who normally sits in the shrine.

Exhibit B:

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The prep counter again, from a different angle. You can clearly see that this is a kitchen prep area, and the bottle of lotion is sitting behind the metal container. It’s Aveeno. What do we learn from this? Well, either the user bought it from a store that didn’t give them much choice, the local dollar store has good brands at cheap prices, or they truly care about the brand of lotion they put on their skin.

Ned Nickerson (aka The Boy) theorizes that the lotion might be for the Bhudda. “Bhudda needs to moisturize, yo. You can’t have that big belly and get stretch marks.”

[Nancy Drew fans: I don’t ever remember Ned talking like this. What has the 21st century done to him?]

Is the lotion for Bhudda? Is it for dry hands? Why did it replace the jar of peanut butter? The mystery continues…

Goal Achieved?

1 Apr

I’ll get to the point: I disappointed myself in March. 12.34 miles short of my monthly goal. I have no idea how this happened–after all, I thought I ended up having to walk a lot this past month. To the bus, from the bus multiple times during the month, which is about a mile each way, plus other walking and running in between and a great 5K run.

Obviously though, I regularly cut corners and figured I’d make up the distance later. Unfortunately, I realized far too late just how bad the situation had gotten.

This shouldn’t have happened–I use a tracking app while I’m out, and I also have a training journal. But using them and using them are two different things. I didn’t check in weekly to see how things were going and make sure I was staying on track. If I had, I wouldn’t have backed myself into such a corner.

While I lick a tiny wound from having to learn a lesson, the calendar still turns. It’s onto another month, one that’s a blank grid ready to fill with accomplishment. I can turn it around and get back on track–no try, no perhaps. Can. Besides, it’s National Walking Day, so what better way to get started?

The Mystery on the Counter

31 Mar

There’s a hole-in-the-wall Chinese take out joint near us that Captain Food Safety (the Boy) and his First Mate (me) don’t patronize mostly because the layout of the place is such that the big windows to the outside look right into the kitchen, which allows passersby to see the magic happen.

I’m not necessarily saying that this place isn’t sanitary–for all we know, it’s up to code–but the counter and entryway are kind of dark and grungy, and let’s face it, the focus seems to be on cooking food and getting it out the door quickly. It’s not particularly our kind of place.

Usually this place would just be one we’d pass by without noticing, but for a few weeks there was a jar of Skippy peanut butter on the main prep counter of the kitchen. This peaked our curiosity, and we’d joke that the owners/workers would say to each other, “Hey, do you want some cashew chicken?”

“Nah, I’ll just a have a PB and J.”

Our other favorite answer was if they had any dishes with peanut sauce, Skippy might factor into the recipe. We couldn’t even tell if it was there for the little shrine they have set up in the front corner of the kitchen. It has a statue and some incense sticks and usually an orange. Maybe the peanut butter is for it as well.

Today though–this very morning–I ran by the restaurant and noticed that the jar of Skippy had been replaced by a tube of Aveeno hand lotion.

I am beyond mesmerized by this. Hand lotion in the kitchen? Why? I get the prep sink and soap, and I get that maybe you’re washing your hands a lot, so lotion would be some nice relief every now and then. But I’ve never seen that in a kitchen before, and the sink isn’t even on this side of the kitchen–it’s sitting on a table with some bowls. Maybe the statue needs a little lotion too?

The mystery continues.

Damn Resolutions

30 Mar

With three days to go in the month, I decided to count up the mileage I’ve logged outside and see where I was in terms of meeting my 100 miles/month goal.

Apparently I thought March had about 35 days in it because I was 21.98 miles short.

Uh oh.

Time to implement a two-a-days plan andget that mileage logged. Then learn that maybe I should check in with my progress weekly and make sure I’m on track. The days of “oh, I can make that up later this week/next week” must end. If I managed to meet my  goal in February, there’s no excuse to not accomplishing it in March.

And speaking of excuses, it’s time to get outside and run. Those miles aren’t going to log themselves.

Postcard from The Region

27 Mar

With the title of today’s post, one might think I’m in a no man’s zone or some sort of apocalyptic area of the world, but really, I’m in Northwest Indiana.

Then again, with all of the news about Indiana’s esteemed governor promoting discrimination, that might be an apt description of this place.

Having grown up in this area of the world, I was used to it being called the Calumet Region, but when I got to college downstate, I quickly learned that I was a Region Rat from “The Region.” Region Rats were different, they weren’t from the rest of Indiana, which is true. Chicago radio, television and politics. Central time. Many more professional sports teams. The steel industry and oil refineries. Fewer farms. When I was in college, most of the state didn’t observe Daylight Savings Time, so I constantly had to remember whether my 10:00PM was their 10:00PM, because I could (and should) phone home after then, since that’s when long distance prices went down.

Needless to say, being the “and Northwest Indiana” part of “Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana” (a phrase heard in many a commercial) also meant that we really didn’t belong to Chicago either. We were good enough for cheap gas and cigarettes, but come Sunday, you stay in Illinois to buy booze (when I first moved to Chicago, the concept of buying liquor on Sundays was amazing….though by the time I moved to Massachusetts, I found it constraining to make me wait until midday to buy it).

It’s kind of funny to come back to The Region every now and then. It’s familiar, but every time I’m back, there’s something different about the place–usually a new strip mall and more traffic. And the longer I’m away, the less I’ve ever belonged. When you’re talking about no longer belonging to a place that also doesn’t belong, it’s a strange, strange feeling.

At any rate, I’m here to celebrate my annual college girls’ weekend, where a couple of buddies from college and I hang out for the weekend and don’t do much of anything beyond talking, eating and drinking. We have a nice rental house to enjoy, and I’m looking forward to our traditional marvelous weekend of being lazy. Though we’re somewhat separated by geography (I’m in Massachusetts; they’re in different parts of Indiana), being with them is one of the places where I do belong.

Postcard from Seat 10A

26 Mar

I never really unpacked my suitcase from last weekend’s trip because I’m back on a plane today. I have a window seat in a row with no window. The woman next to me has limited mobility, so I’ve had to gingerly crawl over her to get to my seat.

Now I’ve realized that I forgot to print out my bus ticket, the one I bought online in order to save some time and hopefully make the bus that leaves soon after I land. But looking at my current situation, I won’t be making that bus anyway.

The Boy has reminded me to try and use my spy skills to get it printed out on the other side so that I don’t have to cash out another $28 for a ticket. That will probably work; however, I can’t quite help but think that for all the traveling I do, sometimes I’m not a good traveler.

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