Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like. . .

Here it is! The most wonderful time of the year kids! So get out your sleds, wrap up in scarves, sip some nog, deck your halls, bake the cookies, and hum some cheery tunes. I'll admit, I am an unabashed Christmas lover (bet you didn't guess that!). I get a bit glum about the gross commercialization and cheezification of certain aspects. . . but those little burrs in my saddle are pretty overwhelmed by my deep and abiding love for the magic of this time of year, the starlit snowy nights, the sweet carols, the being with loved ones, the smell of pine, the making of gifts, expressions of love, and most of all remembering the nativity. On my mission Christmas was the very best, I loved nothing more than spontaneous caroling on the doorstep, sharing Luke 2, and focusing on the birth of that blessed babe (I'm listening to Silent Night right now, I think its having its affect on my subject matter). I'm sure I'll have more musings, recipes, etc. to share on this little blog o' mine, but for now, a few little Christmas gems that came early:
1. When I was cleaning out my grandmother's house this summer, I came across this plastic bag filled with matchbooks/boxes from hotels all over the place. . .Switzerland, Mexico, Hawaii, Utah, England, etc. And on each matchbook in my dear grandmother's neat script is written the date they stayed there, who was there, who they were visiting, etc. A little portable travel log if you will. This is exactly the sort of thing my grandma is so good at, meticulous keeping track and documenting. The other day when lighting some candles I found this little gem I remember this trip so well. We went to San Francisco just before Christmas, and we got new Teddy Bears, saw the Nutcracker, and A Christmas Carol, went to China town, etc. Then we went to Monterey, where we visited the aquarium and where I got lost alone in a hall filled with tanks of octopi. Somehow seeing this little matchbook brought it all back to me, a little ghost of Christmas past.
2. A few weeks ago I was poking around in the basement of our old house, looking for plastic sheeting to put over the windows to save every bit of precious heat we can. I didn't find them. But I did find these lovely 'nativity in a wine glass' decorations. I can just see some beehived Relief Society sisters using liquor glasses for a whole new brand of holiday cheer.
3. On Monday a few friends and I had some Japanese food, and then took a walk down Center St. here in P-town looking at the annual display of
'candy windows'. Its a competition of sorts between the local merchants to make a window display that's sugar from start to finish. There were some pretty snazzy ones, pretty ingenious in some cases, and to top it all off the first big flakes began to flutter down as we strolled along surrounded by the light wrapped trees. How can you not love it?

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Precious

In the middle of rural Missouri, about three hours from my grandparents house, is a mecca of sorts, a mecca of oversized wobbly heads, of large weepy tear shaped eyes, and emotions that drip like corn syrup from them. Yup, you guessed it! The Precious Moments Chapel! Samuel J. Butcher, the genius behind those "beautiful and innocent Precious Moment messenger", was from Carthage, MO, so when he'd established his total world domination (particularly of Japan) through sappy figurines, he decided to give back to the town that gave so much to him (true story folks!). So he built a chapel "inspired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Rome" (he even spent two whole weeks toiling away on scaffolding, lying on his back, painting the ceiling, eat your heart out Michelangelo!), "as his way of sharing the joy of his faith with the world, and it has become his crowning work" (I'm quoting straight from the website, fount of truth). "The Chapel is so much more than just a building, touching the lives of those who enter its doors with a sense of peace (sedate horror), hope (for the apocolypse), and promise (that it can always be worse) since it opened in 1989."

Now, you may be asking yourself, how the crap does Zina know so much about it? Well friends, I've been there. Twice. Yup. Twice. How did I get so lucky? Well, like I mentioned, my grandparents live out that way, so whenever its family road trip over the river and through the woods, well, we make our pilgramage. The first time I was about 12 I think, young and full of hope for a bright future. After almost two days non-stop in our suburban packed with 9 people we pulled up to this bright shining ediface and staggered out- veritable children of Isreal who'd been wandering over many strange lands to find the promised land. We entered the large and spacious building, and were meet with a mix of Japanese tourists, life sized precious moments dolls, and elderly guides who looked like they should have tags that read "Elder" or "Sister" so and so.
We wandered past the multiple gift stores, stared in abject horrer at the documentary of ol' Sam, and then slowly, as though drawn by some unseen power, we shuffled dazed towards the chapel. We passed marble sculptures of precious moments (PM) cherubs lining the manicured gardens and fountains, following the tidy paths that lead to the large looming building with soft light gleaming from its stained glass windows. Upon entering we were all dumbstruck, dumbstruck that such a place existed, dumbstruck that people actually came to it (ourselves included), and totally floored that people paid thousands of dollars to get married there. The chapel is filled with murals (5,000 sq ft) all showing sloppily (oops did that slip out!) painted scenes from the Bible a la wobbly head, teary eyes! There's paintings on the ceiling, on the walls, stained glass, pews, triptychs, the whole nine yards. There's a side chapel for Sam's son who died, and just like all the cathedrals in Rome (and elsewere) there are relics. Oh yes, relics. Unfortunatly no fingerbones encased in a jewel encrusted case, but there are dolls, Sam's paint spattered shoes, memorabilia from fans, and a host of equally weird and creepy stuff.

After stuffing ourselves into a nausiated stupor, we scampered back through the village of gift stores, almost in a panic to find our car and leave. As I rushed out the door, a grandma lady dripping in doillies grabbed my arm and looking deep into my eyes said "have a precious evening dear". I'm not sure if it was a blessing or a cursing, but that old woman's words drew me back some 13 years later for another precious dose.
This second pilgramage met us with new features, the recently opened 'Angle fountain' and the new 'Wedding Island', both of which we skipped, feeling our 20 bucks a head could be better used at the World's Largest Jackalope farm on 1-70 in Kansas. We simply revisited the chapel, worshiped the relics, stifled our laughter and feigned respect for the sacred sacrin. I even went so far as to get my pic snapped with a life size PM clown. So kids, if you ever need a lift on your cross country road trip, I recommend a visit to the PM mecca. You'll never be dissapointed, I promise.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The saga of the Squash

About 2 months ago my mother gave me a squash, a happy present from the earth. This was no ordinary squash however, this was a squash of prodigious size and weight. It was so large that when I tried to put it under my shirt to pretend I was giving birth to a squash child it wouldn't entirely fit. Its impressive length and width made it a bit intimidating to fathom cooking. I had nighmarish visions of cutting it open and beginning to cook. .. and cook. . .and cook. . .and eat squash. . . and squash. .. and squash for the entire winter. However, last Saturday I mustered my courage, took the biggest knife in my kitchen, and pierced it's caulosed flesh, sealing my weekend fate to squashy endeavors and consumption. After cutting it into four very large hunks, I baked it with frequent bastings (bast: equal parts oil, & orange juice, seasoned with cinnemon, nutmeg, and a pinch of cardemon). It sizzled, and slowly softened, leaving in its wake an aromatic trail that filled the house with fallish sentiments. Once it was baked and cooled, the flesh was scooped and pureed with some sauted onions and garlic. I added to this (in my ultra glam large stock pot) enough chicken stock to get the consistency I wanted, a bunch of curry powder, tumeric, cracked pepper, coconut milk, coconut, and then some toasted black mustard and cumin seeds. After sufficient simmering it was slopped in a bowl, garnished with a drizzle of coconut milk and some chopped cilantro. So friends, give it a try, use that winter squash looming on your table, feed the world. Viva la calabasa!
Reuben shows off his new hair patches for the winter cold whilst lounging on my new flannel sheets, also for the winter cold.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Weather systems

This Halloween I was a cirrus cloud. I don't think anyone really got it spontaniously though. I thought the light blue pants and turtleneck festooned with whispy strips of cotton batting was a dead give away, but people kept guessing some kind of angel, cotton ball, and other ridiculous options. I guess the youth of today are just not as in touch with their cloud formations.
On a totally unrelated note I've decided I'm not a huge fan of apples, well at least I'm picky about which ones I like. And I prefer them with cheese.
I'm sad about Ashdown and happy about Rumsfeld.
Maybe it will snow today. Snow clouds. Time to make snowflakes for the window.