Contemplations in the season of Advent

I have no thesis or overarching idea. Here are the thought-drabs.

1) Adam starts a new job tomorrow
He’s heading to work at a company that’s LITERALLY across the street from his old company. We’ve performed a massive defrag on our gaming group. There used to be six of us in four careers working at six companies. There are now six of us in two careers working at three companies. We converted two of our non-coders to coders, then aggregated all the dudes into one company. That company now has tremendous coding expertise, as well as some battle-hardened dice-wielders if there’s ever an emergency need for a FATE game.

2) We had the first snowfall of the year
It was tremendously scenic, and perfectly timed. It snowed all day Saturday, just enough to have fun playing in and to be gone by the end of the week.

3) We’re getting ready for the attic project
I spent that entire day Saturday reducing our number of bookcases by 1.5 by committing ruthless triage on our book collection. Now is an excellent time to visit the Book Oasis if you’re interested in: religion, Medieval Sociology, fantasy novels from the ’90s that didn’t stand the test of time (looking at you Stephen R. Lawhead), the collected “Wheel of Time” (I am NEVER rereading that) or a large collection of young adult novels in Spanish. Adam worked on clearing out the attic all week between jobs. There’s still a ton of stuff up there to be dealt with. Theoretically work begins in mid January. We can’t get too destructive until after the Christmas holidays, since we have guests over that period.

4) I may never finish writing my Christmas cards.

5) My laundry is folded all wrong
But it was washed and folded by my eldest son, and not based on any dire threats or massive punishments. Because he discovered doing laundry is the only way in this household to get a “watch crappy tv without guilt” card. And now he’s doing laundry. My youngest son does dishes. I’m enjoying the brief moment of smug feeling.

6) We took the kids to a party where they didn’t know anyone
And they made friends and talked for three hours with some other kids in the corner, looking very intense. Holy hand grenades! They’ve reached the talking phase of friend development!

7) In cleaning the attic, I found an unaccounted for Puppy.
I thought I had them all tracked. The only missing one went missing in a hotel room in Canada. Where the heck does this Puppy come from? I’m contemplating confessing to Thane about the true nature of Puppies – namely that he’s on Puppy #5. (I thought it was #4, but there are two in a drawer (with various not-so-attached body parts) and #3 is missing in Canada. So there must be an extra one in there somewhere.) Thane has started waxing rhapsodic on the nature of Puppies and Puppyworld, a utopian place. I hope he never outgrows his Puppies (who are actually bunny rabbits, FYI).

8) There are currently a LOOOOOOOT of cookies in this house.
Om nom nom.

9) It turns out Christmas is two weeks away

10) I got an award at work last week, for the Diversity & Inclusion and community building work I do
They don’t tell you who nominated you, so it feels a little like having a secret admirer. You find yourself looking at people and wondering who turned you in, and how you can thank them. Warm fuzzy feelings there!

11) We had all new toilets installed
The one downstairs, that I was talked into by a plumber in a moment of duress, prevented the door from opening and had a mysterious duel-flush mechanism that guests could rarely work out without consternation. This is no good in a powder room. The one upstairs, despite having its inner workings gutted by both my husband and I approximately one bajillion times, had a tendency to run. I had phantom toilet-running episodes, where I’d wake up in the middle of the night and have to check. I still find it hard to develop opinions regarding toilets, but doors not opening and running are definitely on my naughty list.

12) For those not following along on Facebook, I finally had to refuel my car
It was almost a full three months, and about 1500 miles. The gas light hadn’t come on, but a snow storm was coming. I added an additive to prevent the gas from freezing, since it might be spring by the time I have to refill it again. It turns out the gas tank is pressurized (probably to prevent water from coming in) and I had to Google how to open the gas tank on a car I’ve owned since it was hot out. With the real charging station, the electric costs have also come way down, to about $20 a month.

What’s going on with you?


Sermon – Calling Our Pastor

I gave the sermon in church this week, and it went pretty well I think! I definitely don’t have mental capacity to write two long form essays this weekend, so I’m giving you my sermon instead.

For those who prefer watching and hearing to reading, this sermon is on Youtube.

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Samuel Anoints David
16 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”

5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

When I started my journey on the Pastor Nominating Committee, I looked to the book of Samuel for guidance. In Samuel, the Israelites are going through a crisis of leadership. It starts immediately. Eli, one of the Judges whose family has guided the national of Israel since Moses, has sons who are not living up to God’s expectations. That prophecy we remember a young Samuel giving, “Here I am, Lord, is it I?” That prophecy is to tell Eli that his sons will not succeed him.

After giving this bad news to Eli (who takes it surprisingly well), Samuel grows up finds and anoints the first King of Israel, Saul. But Saul’s commitment to trusting God is shaky. Saul gets murderously jealous, clinging to power. And Samuel risks his life to trust God’s word and find a new King who will stick closer to God’s will. In the passage we read, Samuel goes through a long line of hopeful brothers – looking for Israel’s new King.

Our search didn’t exactly go the way I expected, either. Rod retired on April 27 of 2014 – a week after Easter. Our interim arrived that summer, and we began the work of that interim period, figuring out who we were without our leader of 36 years. In Fall of 2015 we finished our intensive Mission Study work, using the New Beginning process. But as that year wound down, it became clear that Pastor Mike was not well. His last sermon in our pulpit was Christmas Eve of 2015. He was diagnosed the next week. By Lent of 2016, he was dead of the brain tumor that robbed us all of his guidance and presence.

Those who were here at that point remember what a crazy, mad scramble it was. We had several weeks where we weren’t really sure who would be preaching, or what would happen next. My brother kindly filled in for us several weeks, and then Presbytery sent Trina to us. It took us a while to get our feet back under us, and resume our pastor-calling process. But by October of 2016, we were ready to start our search for our next pastor in earnest.

The work of the Pastor Nominating Committee was very heavy. There were seven of us who served. I hope you all take a moment this December to thank them for their incredible efforts. We spent the balance of 2016 writing our Mission Information Form – basically a job description for pastors. Early on, Trina let me know she was not going to apply then, so we were starting from scratch. We spent a vast amount of time thinking of the skills and attributes that would be needed to help us become the church we hope to be. There were many finer points, but in the end our “must have” list was pretty short:
They must be Presbyterian, because we are a uniquely Presbyterian Church. This is the common element we all share.
We wanted a pastor who would be willing and able to be our pastor for at least 10 years. That’s actually a long time for a pastor in this day and age, but a third of the “average” pastorship in our church’s history. We understand there’s no guarantee that the pastor we hired WOULD be with us that long, but we at least wanted it as a possibility.
There are three “big buckets” of skills for pastors: worship, pastoral care (of the sick and those who need God’s human touch) and administration (like fundraising or paperwork). Knowing that it’s very difficult to find all three, we focused on worship and pastoral care.

For several months, the PNC met almost every Sunday after church. First, we wrote our MIF together. Then once it had been submitted, we read applications together. Each application from a pastor is between 6 – 10 pages long. And each of us needed to read all of them – we couldn’t delegate. We’d get a batch of about 30 and read them carefully and prayerfully. We took off their names and replace them with numbers, so we would be as unbiased as possible about gender or ethnic origin. We’d make notes on the candidates, and then come together to talk about who we wanted to invite to a conversation. All told, we read 131 applications.

Once we had the list of candidates we wanted to talk to, we asked them to join us in a video call. We pretty quickly figured out that Monday nights were the best time for this. We’d do three half-hour interviews back to back to back – starting at 7 pm and often not finishing until 9:30 at night. (We always gave ourselves 15 minutes extra, in case they went long or the technology went wrong.) We called in from various homes and couches. We held interviews over 23 times this way. When we had a good short conversation with a candidate, we’d then move to a longer, hour-long video call. We’d briefly worship with the candidates, share our stories (we learned a lot about each other’s faith journeys and lives!) and listen carefully to what the candidates were seeking in their life and call.

Three times, Spring, Summer and Fall, we then invited the best of the candidates to be with us in person. These were full weekend affairs. We’d start with lunch, to get to know each other. We’d interview them for an hour or two on Saturday, and then show them around the church. I’d drive them from Stoneham up to Lowell to show them just what it meant that we are a regional church. Then we’d have dinner at Brad’s house – the two of us who were session members – to answer any questions about church politics, history, finances or concerns they might have.

The next morning, the whole PNC would get up bright and early to go to a strange church and listen to our candidate preach. We worshipped in unfamiliar pews, and listened to different music and tried to find the way to bathrooms in new churches. Finally, our candidate would meet with the Presbytery Committee on Ministry, who would then report back to us on whether they thought the candidate was acceptable or not.

By the end of the second day, we were all past exhausted!

Talking and thinking about our church so much, though, we ended up learning a lot about who we are and what makes us special. I wanted to pause for a few minutes to let you know what it is that is remarkable about our church – what impressed our candidates very much when we talked about Burlington Presbyterian.

1 – Our patience with each other
When learning how long we’d been without an installed pastor, the candidates would often ask about how restless the church was. “Are they giving you a hard time?” I’m sure that you have been restless sometimes in this journey. I know I have been. But not once did a single one of you ever give me a hard time, or the rough end of your tongue, for how long this was all taking. That is actually remarkable, and speaks to the kindness and patience with which we treat each other. Heck, the Deniers brought us cookies for every single meeting. These are not remarkable things in our church – it’s just the way we are. But it’s a precious thing about our congregation.

2 – How we hold together
There has been a lot of stress put on our congregation in the last four years. Our long long time pastor left. Our next pastor died suddenly. We have changed our music program. We have invited a new congregation to worship in our building. And the long waiting time. Many things have happened which were opportunities for discord and dissention. We had lots of chances to schism, or blow up at each other, or fall away. And we haven’t. Through it all, we have stayed together and loved each other. Even when we may not have agreed, or when there were very hard times, we have been on this journey together. Again, that is both rare and precious.

3 – We are together without being the same
Every single pastor we spoke to was amazed at our diversity. Our congregation comes from many countries in many continents. We speak many languages. We are not one culture, or two. We are a great feast of cultures. We don’t all share the exact same political viewpoints. Even here in Massachusetts, we come from many different communities, and from many very different backgrounds. Every time we worship together, it feels like a small Pentecost with our great richness of language and living. This is incredibly rare. Many churches are a lot more homogenous – the same – than we are. The ones who are diverse usually have TWO cultures. Not ten. The equality that we share in our church mirrors the equality we have before God in a wonderful and unusual way.

4 – Finally, we are very authentic together
We show up as who we really are, and we love each other the same way. We don’t pretend (much) to be perfect, or holier-than-thou. We don’t gossip (much) about each other, and when we do it is never unkind. We are a part of each other’s daily lives, not just on Sunday mornings but on Friday nights or Thursday mornings. Our kids show up to worship dirty from the soccer fields. Our babies cry during the sermon. The tags stick up on the back of our shirts, and our back-pew neighbor gently tucks it in. We are accepted and loved just the way we are. I hope it is the same for you, but when I come to worship I don’t feel like I’m faking it, or putting on an act. I feel like I am welcome here as myself.

These things are remarkable and unusual – both in churches and in groups of people in general. These are things about our congregation that are worth treasuring, and preserving.

Coming back to the book of 1 Samuel, the next King that God directed Samuel to anoint was one that hadn’t even been one of the candidates when Samuel begin his search. It required great waiting – remember that they did not even sit while they looked for David. David was out taking care of sheep – not really even eligible in the beginning of the process. It was an unexpected choice, driven by God’s will, and Samuel’s obedience to listening to God’s will.

I feel the hand of God present in our search, too.

It was actually a hard thing for me, to see our year of heavy labor end up with us exactly where we started. I wondered what the point was of having worked so hard and looked so long. This wasn’t how I imagined our journey would go. Our choice to call Trina was not one that we made easily, lightly, or without a tremendous amount of information. It turns out that Trina is phenomenal. In the time she’s been with us, we’ve both grown and changed. We’ve grown together. And together, I can clearly see us fulfilling the call to mission we spent so long discerning. A new phase in our life together beckons – filled with mission, outreach, music and new energy, but built on the authentic love that has preserved us so long.

Thanks be to God.

We have found our new pastor

This project has been an all-consuming one for me this year. It’s not 100% done (see also the next steps) but I’m thrilled at the conclusion we’ve come to. It’s been a tremendous, and tiring, journey, and I’m glad to see home at the end of it!

Burlington Presbyterian Church

Brothers, Sisters and Friends of Burlington Presbyterian Church,

It was almost exactly a year ago that your Pastor Nominating Committee was formed. Seven of us were tapped for service: Chuck Anderson, Judy Brunner, Kim Oey-Rosenthal, Brad Morrison, Ferdinand Akombe, Brenda Flynn and Caitlin Rivet. We spent our first few months working diligently on our Mission Information Form ( We carefully crafted our call out to pastors, and in February we were reading our first applications. We read a lot of applications. By my count, the committee has carefully read 131 applications. We’ve met as a committee over 50 times. We interviewed candidates with a video call 23 times. A handful of those candidates, we invited to hour-long conversations. And three times we’ve dedicated a full weekend to really getting to know a pastor – eating with them, interviewing them, driving them from Stoneham to Lowell, and listening to them preach…

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Mocksgiving Prep: version 18

This is the 18th time I’ve prepared to host my friends for the Mocksgiving meal. I’m perilously close to having had as many years of life with Mocksgiving as without it. Adam and I were married in August of 2000, and moved into a cute little apartment in Roslindale, which I saw for the first time in the 5 hour layover between returning from our wedding in Washington and leaving for our honeymoon in Greece. I worked from home that first year of married life, and I got really bored. Bored enough, it turns out, to try to learn how to cook. Adam’s family had lately been going to restaurants for Thanksgiving. I decided to give them the treat of a “real homecooked meal” instead… just as soon as I learned how to cook.

I was young, but I was no fool. So two weeks before Thanksgiving, I decided to give it a trial run. So I did a “mock” Thanksgiving. But I knew that two people couldn’t eat a turkey (not and repeat the performance a scant few weeks later!) so I invited some of our best friends (and all of our wedding party). That year 13 of us sat around a table and shared a meal and it was FANTASTIC. Also, that year, it just didn’t work out with the inlaws and Thanksgiving. We had such a good time that I repeated the performance the next year. And the next. The Mocksgiving that was most likely to not happen was the one that happened a scant two and a half weeks after Thane was born. But that one happened too, although I barely remember it.

Just as a caveat, I always feel somewhat self-conscious about Mocksgiving. We have long since hit the physical limit of how many people it’s possible to invite. I can say with relative confidence that no more than 30 adults can be seated simultaneously. Even though my circle of friends and welcome faces has continued to grow, my dining room as not. So I cannot invite many people I would wish to invite. If you’re feeling a little wistful about not being able to come, I likely feel a little wistful about not being able to invite you. Please don’t use this as a litmus test of friendship!

Anyway, one of the things about this particular day in my year is that I always spend it talking to you in my head. I’m not sure why. I think there’s something about the continuity. On this day I practice skills and revive recipes that go back in time. My bread recipe, for example, is a simple one. But my mother used to make it as both a therapy for her aching carpal tunnel hands, and as our primary source of bread. My grandmother made it, and served it in neat slices at lunch. My great grandmother, sharp blue eyes and wry smile, made it before her. I can see generations of capable hands making the same mysterious, practiced gestures. As my hands gnarl out of their childish softness, long having left maiden behind and well into matron (on my way to crone), I see the hands of my maternal line. And these recipes are really throwbacks. Adam’s bread, which he makes year round and which is our “normal” bread, is a healthy, whole-wheat, no-knead recipe he’s improved over years. My bread bears all the hallmarks of the fifties – white flour, butter (or margarine, as the recipe calls for) and the Crisco which lays unused in every other recipe but my high holy day recipes.

So, with no further ado, here are the notes I’ve saved for you so far. I’ll likely continue to add as breaks in cooking allow!

Step 1: Get the kids out of the house

There’s pretty much never school on my prep day, due to Veteran’s Day. Mocksgiving and Veteran’s day almost always line up. I probably could do this with them home. It actually would probably be great if I taught them in this long line of heritage. But man, that sounds exhausting. I find it very relaxing and centering to just do this one thing – readying everything – on Mocksgiving day. This year I found out a few days too late that their regular afterschool and vacation program, the Boys and Girls Club, actually had an offering. Oh well, enjoy your LARP lads!

One of the great quests of Mocksgiving is the procurement of the turkey. It falls *right around* the time that stores start getting their fresh turkeys, or rather usually a day or two before. That’s what makes it exciting. I’ve noticed even the fresh turkeys tend to be rather frozenish for Mocksgiving. I went to Wegman’s first (figuring that any place that has an open bin of oyster mushrooms would have, you know, turkey). I was wrong, so then I went to Stop and Shop which had just gotten their shipment. I selected the largest turkey I could find, clocking in at 24 pounds. I once got an artesenal farm-raised, locally grown and ethically sourced turkey. It was terrible. It turns out that places like Butterball inject brine into the birds. I’m here to tell you that’s what makes them DELICIOUS. So I cheerfully buy Butterball turkeys and they always turn out amazing. Unfortunately this year, the Butterballs were all still frozen, so I went with an organic turkey that was marked as fresh. (Although is still rather suspiciously rock-like.) I trust that brine is organic, and I won’t miss out on any deliciousness due to upgrading.

My first task of tomorrow morning is almost always chiseling out the gizzards & neck of the frozen bird, while swearing that next year I’m going to find a turkey that is ACTUALLY not frozen, not one that just claims to not be frozen.

If June Cleaver played D&D

Aprons are most critical when you’re doing stuff that involves a lot of flour. Both making the bread and rolling out pies have this unfortunate tendency to enflour your midriff if you don’t wear an apron. So I wear an apron. I also have learned to seriously sequester my hair while baking.

Checking to see if the yeast is alive

The first step of my ancestral bread recipe is to make sure the yeast is alive. You add the sugar, salt, hot water and yeast and then go clean up the kitchen a bit. If you see this bubbling, your yeast is fine. If you don’t, you might as well stop now or you’ll get unleavened bread. This yeast was particularly vibrant.

Molten dough-flow

I actually really don’t like my KitchenAid mixer, which I know makes me weird. I miss my Sunbeam mixer, but I got one of the “after bankruptcy” models that was poorly manufactured. I find it hard to add ingredients with the KitchenAid, and I can never mix in enough flour. I have to finish off getting the flour in by hand on the kneading table. The dough is warm, and moves like a slow lava-flow. I think the kneading is one of the spots where you need to know what it “should” be like, and where practice makes a big difference. I added almost 3 cups of flour more than the recipe called for to get the bread to the right consistency.

The bread goes through three rises. It doubles in the bowl twice, and then it rises in the loaf pans. While the bread is rising, I clean up the kitchen and get started on the pie starter. I should’ve made it last night, but I was lazy.

Vegetarian pie starter

Once upon a time, I had a perfect pie starter made out of Crisco. Then Crisco took the trans fats out of their shortening. I’ve been complaining about this for like 5 years, and I may complain about it for the rest of my life. Anyway, they’ve improved the recipe, but I still find that the all Crisco recipe doesn’t taste as good as it used to. I really like working with a lard crust. It’s super forgiving. But it’s not vegetarian (which many of my guests are), and the taste also isn’t perfect. The mixed butter-Crisco crust is pretty hard to work (I use a vodka-water mix to help compensate), but has the best taste/flakiness quotient.

It’s possible I have strong pie crust opinions. By my reckoning, I’ve made about 200 pies in my life.

Big crumbs – increases the chance I’ll have to roll out the crust twice which makes it less flaky

I still hate cutting in shortening. I often make Adam do this, but he’s working and I didn’t delegate early enough. The crumb on this isn’t quite small enough (eg the shortening bits should be smaller), but I’m a little lazy and this is good enough for me to work with. Its in the freezer now, getting super cold so I can work it.

Second rise

As I mentioned, my yeast this time was super active. I think it cut nearly an hour off the regular rise time on the bread. (I’ve also learned on particularly cold days – like today – to prewarm my ceramic bowl by filling it with hot water.) This is the second rise on my dough.

Formed and ready for their last rise

My mom does a set of loaf-shaping activities I’ve never quite mastered. I suspect that if you plan on entering your bread in the State Fair they’re an important step. But so far no one at Mocksgiving has complained. I really like forming the loaves – you get to slap the bread with a satisfying “thwack!” that brings me back to being a little girl. I suspect there’s about a half cup of Crisco that ends up in the recipe, from how much I slather my hands with to make the forming possible.

Single crust for lemon meringue

Here’s another task I should’ve done last night – the lone crust for my favorite pie, lemon meringue. Fun fact: I can’t spell meringue. I’m now at the point in the day where I’m watching the clock about when I need to pick up the kids. I still have three pies + the most difficult pie filling to go before I can rest. Maybe four. I saved some rhubarb this summer and I’m pondering whether I can make a pie of it. (I always think about the “extra pie”. I never make the “extra pie”.)

Why a pastry cloth is a must

All the pie crust recipes I use are high-shortening and hard to work. There’s a few things I keep in mind: all ingredients must be COLD. Handle the dough as little as possible (an opposite from the lovingly worked bread dough). But I don’t know how you’d be able to get the crust in the pan if you used a board instead of a cloth. I fold it with the cloth. Sometimes with a particularly difficult roll, I’ll even drag it over on the cloth. Then I can gently unfold it. I still end up having to reroll after this step half the time.

No reroll this time – possibly because it got stuck and I already had to reroll. That makes it tougher but easier to work.

I usually make lemon meringue, blueberry from farmshare blueberries set aside over the summer, peach ditto, and two pecan pies (which are SO EASY compared to all the rest). I didn’t make peach pie this year because, um, I’m lazy. I was really busy when the peaches were in season. It’s a pity because peach pie is my favorite. My mom can make the dough actually round when she rolls it out. I can’t. Also, my edge-crinkling skills have improved, but they’re not up to her standards.

Lone pie crust

This pie crust gives me fits every year. It always schlumps on me, regardless of crust recipe. I’ve tried different pie pans. My mom pricks the bottom like three times. As you can see, no inch goes unpricked. There’s actually specific gadgets you can get for this, although I’ve never tried it. So I take that as validation my schlumping issue isn’t incompetence. This year it came out ok. My mom’s looks way better. It’ll taste great with lemon meringue in it though!

Meanwhile, the bread’s out of the oven just in time to put the crust in.

Baked bread – the sheen comes from the last use of Crisco in my Mocksgiving prep
First offering on the porch

I like how the bread and the wood of the porch are the same color. I keep all my baking on the porch because my cats are jerks. Ask me about the year that some feline stepped right in the middle of my pie and I had to eat it all by myself. Tragic. The lone crust goes in right after the bread comes out.

The schlump. This one is within acceptable tolerances, so I won’t try again.

It’s amazing how interrupting it is picking up the boys. An hour gone, with nothing in the oven! Dark is falling, and I’m not nearly done! I came back and got started on the two pecan pies. The kitchen is a major disaster area – once I get the blueberry prepped I’ll need to clean it again. Then the last pie of the day is my lemon meringue. I should probably make that before I clean up, but I’ll need the mixer bowl cleaned.

I’m pretty sure there’s other stuff I should be doing too, but I’m momentarily forgetting it.

Pecan pie – sometimes I just dump the pecans in. Sometimes I carefully arrange them. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter.
Two pecan pies

I should really make just over 3 pecan pies in Pi plates for perfect geekery. I tried to trace a pie in pecans on one of them, but I think you’d have to be staring pretty hard to make it out.

I’m starting to flag, energy wise. Now’s the hard part.

5:30 pm –
It occurs to me I should’ve been time stamping this all along. Sorry.

Luscious farm share blueberries

I’m in the home stretch now. The blueberry pie is in the oven. The pecan pies are cooling. I still need to make the lemon meringue filler before I collapse, but that’s not so bad. It could also THEORETICALLY happen tomorrow, but that’s not a good idea. I also made a sad discovery with regard to one of my favorite pie plates. It was a gift from a friend, oh, ten years ago. It’s my “go to” for blueberry pies. Lately it’s been a little porous and leaky. But it has now developed a fatal crack. Farewell favorite pie plate. Sniff sniff.

The crack doesn’t look that bad until you look closely

On the plus side, the pecan pies are looking excellent.

You can see the bubbling

8:51 pm –
It’s done. The last pie has come out of the oven. The meringue came out very nicely this time! I could eat that filling by the spoonful. I’m a little nervous about putting on the porch. The temperature out there is currently 34 degrees, and I don’t think the meringue should freeze. There’s no room in the fridge (I moved the turkey from the front porch to the fridge, because the front porch was too cold to help thaw it). So that leaves the oven. (It doesn’t need to be chilled.) But the real question is … will I remember to remove the pie before I preheat the oven for the turkey?

Tomorrow morning – turkey, stuffing, potatoes & butternut squash! And table settings, cleaning house, and other preparing.

It’s electric

Days before my birthday on September 23rd, I came home with a “new-to-me” Hybrid-Electric car dubbed Minerva. Those first few weeks we classily stuck the charger that came with the car through a window to an inside socket to charge it. Ah, solutions that only work in September! But I knew that at some point the fantastic weather would cease (although you wouldn’t know it from this amazing 70 degree November day) and we’d need to, you know, close the window.

So I attempted to find someone in the area who had actually installed an electric car charging station before. I put a note on the local Facebook group. I emailed a work mailing list… crickets. I finally had to (heh) Google it. Sylvester Electric responded to one of those “Fill out this form to hear from a technician!” sites and sent out a technician who had actually installed one of these before.

There was a hilarious moment when I asked about using a charging station hardware setup that I got discounted through work. The installer asked if it was rated for outdoor use. I had this brain moment where I was very dismissive and confused. My thought process was something like, “Why wouldn’t they all be? What, you think people are going to drive their cars INSIDE THE HOUSE and park them there? How ridiculous?!” …. “Oh, right. Garages. Those are a thing.”

Anyway, he’s about the fourth electrician we’ve brought out for a big project (like the AC installation) where we’ve been afraid we’d need a new panel and he’s all “Nah, there’s enough room! Probably your next project.” Which is true – the next project is the attic. Between the steam shower, the upgraded electric and the heated floor I’d be deeply surprised if we got away with the electric we have now!

The cost of installation, including the 240v all-weather charging station, was just over $1400. The car cost (used, same model year, with 1300 miles on it) just about $21,000. I have gotten our first month’s energy bill with charging to car, and it looks to me to be about $60/$70 higher (although the year-over-year is made messier by having the AC installed, and it actually ran last month some days).

We’ve put nearly a thousand miles on the car since we got it, driving it practically every day for short distances. And I still have more than half a tank of the full tank the car came with – a predicted range of over 300 miles. We pulled the charging station window operation out of use last week (it got cold and it felt like a safety risk when we were gone for the weekend). We’re on track to fill the tank like once every quarter, for normal commuting use. Plus, apparently the “real” charger will use less energy than the “window-stringing” 110v version.

So financially-fuel-wise, at great gas prices it’s about a wash. Any increase in gas prices and we start saving money. The really big difference though is where the propel comes from. There are a bunch of ways to generate electricity – hydro, solar, wind, geothermal etc. There’s only one way to get gas, and that is both a limited resource (you do remember that part – right?) and one that moves historically sequestered carbon from inside the earth to into our atmosphere.

I do wonder if the car charger adds or detracts from the house value. I suspect that it might add a few hundred in calculations, but for the right buyer it would be a huge plus. For not the right buyer, it would be a neutral to a negative. Good thing I have no plans on selling, well, really kind of ever. Maybe when we have flying cars…

Final note – I just got this shaming letter from my electric company. Our family, pre air conditioning, was often “better than average” and sometimes the full smiley face. Now we’re clearly in the bucket of shame. I know that this is and environmentally friendly choice on our part, but it does kind of crack me up how bad it looks in this graph!

Bad Energy User – no cookie for you!

The Wild Hunt

The wild hunt flung itself through the nearly 400 year old streets of Stoneham last night. On sleepy Chestnut, in the shadow of Nobility Hill, the winds started with the dark. The rain came as I tucked my children into bed. I put my youngest not in his own nursery room, but rather at the side of my bed. The dark crag of a dead tree shadows his room, and I feared that it would not stand the night.

Adam and I watched the first episode of Stranger Things II with old friends. They were staying with us in those awkward in-between times, when you’ve sold one home and not yet closed on your new one. Their moving van was parked across the street, well away from the oak with its spreading limbs.

We turned off the lights and I laid in bed listening to the breathing of my son and husband, until the wild wailing of winds and roaring of waters drowned them out. I listened a long time before I fell asleep.

At 4 in the morning, still very dark, a horn sounded. Not once, but continuously. Adam got our friends up in case it was the rental truck (sort of thing a rental truck would do!) but it wasn’t. The lashing rains were abating, but far from gone. It was our neighbors down the street, whose car had just up and decided to honk without ceasing.

We’d just settled in after that when Tiberius began setting up an awful yowl. He moaned at our door, scratching, begging, persistent. Twenty minutes of trying to pretend I couldn’t hear him, and I got up and locked him in the bathroom.

I’d just drifted off when Thane bolted upright on the floor and flung himself out of the room. Adam called after him. “I had a nightmare. It was about cannibals.” I snuggled my little boy as the winds calmed down.

Then the horn went off again. The storm being over, I moved to my son’s room to attempt to get an hour’s more sleep before the day started.

It was like this for the whole street. Another neighbor’s smoke detectors went off in the middle of the night for no reason. A tree dropped on the car of a neighbor further down the street. The entire region seemed blanketed in every last leaf, small branch or needle that could be wrested from a tree. Throughout my commute rotting wood had been dashed to the ground.

All Hallow’s Eve is Tuesday. But the spirits will be quiet – they already had their ride last night. And that old dead tree, overlooking my son’s bedroom, is still standing with a red X now painted on its heart.