A New Home and the Ice Storm

In January I said good-bye to my mother --- she passed away after a long struggle with dementia.  She was living with my sister in Turkey.

We are living in strange times. I learned my mother's passing on Facebook as my sister could not reach me on the phone.  Facebook also became a refuge --- many friends poured their love and support over me and James.

February marked our move to the south. A new home with James' mom... a new culture... we are back in a bigger city with lots of people and traffic... What new experiences are awaiting; what opportunities God is preparing --- I am waiting with hope...

The past two days the weather surprised us with an ice storm.  The last ice storm was in 1994. Life came to a halt yesterday and moved with a slow pace today. Despite all the inconvenience, the storm dressed the nature with such beauty.  The trees were formed into shining crystal sculptures.  As the sun shone today they sparkled with light... Everything was filled with such tranquility it was almost heartbreaking to disturb the calm...

Ice storm feb 2015Tomorrow another season of Lent will be welcomed by the Church.  As the trees were covered with the beauty of God's gentle light may we use this Lent to open ourselves deeper to the Light who wants to shine brighter in each of us.


This Year's Food Journey

Julia Child said, "Just like becoming an expert in wine–you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford–you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simply or luxurious. Then you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.”

I love food, cooking and experimenting with simple ingredients.  Growing up with a mom who was a wizard in the kitchen gave me many opportunities for tasting scrumptious dishes. As a teenager I adored my mother's afternoon tea gatherings.  There would be pastries, cakes, salads --- a sophisticated array of Turkish dishes served on fine linen and her best china... and of course tea in crystal glasses.  I am blessed to have a heritage in great flavor and taste.

My mother is suffering with advanced dementia.  I miss her voice and her kitchen.  I have decided to honor her this year in my culinary adventures by cooking and adapting Turkish cuisine with everyday ingredients. 

While specialty stores carry Turkish food, it is difficult to find ingredients like yufka (Turkish phyllo pastry) even at Wegmans.  Of course there is Amazon... still fresh is always the best...

The year began with two good fortune dishes -- an appetizer and pastry:  Stuffed sausage with feta cheese and herbs topped with mozzarella and thyme... Rolled phyllo pastry with spinach, ricotta and herbs...

Stuffed sausage 5

The recipe is adapted from http://www.writekolik.com/sosis-dolmasi-tarifi.

I used large size German frankfurters.  They were cut in the middle and stuffed with a mixture of feta cheese and dill topped with slices of mozarrella. After a few minutes under the broiler they were topped with chopped thyme and cooked until cheese is golden.

Rolled spinach pastry 3
A version of spanakopita! Three layers of phyllo pastry (used local Wegmans brand) filled with a mixture of wilted fresh spinach, ricotta, feta and pecorino cheeses rolled and shaped into a swirl... brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with nigella seeds... baked at 350 until brown and crispy.

Tonight I tried my hands on easy manti. My husband James calls them "little ghost people."  Usually one Sunday a month my mother would make the dough and ground beef filling.  We would gather around the table as she rolled out the dough and cut it. We would then fill the cut pieces with the mince meat mixture. Once ready they went into the boiling water and cooked until tender.  She served them with tomato paste in melted butter and yogurt.

Manti -- Turkish Ravioli 4

My easy version is made with potsticker wrappers folded in half filled with a mixture of ground beef, onion, sriracha sauce, salt and pepper. They are dropped in rapidly boiling salted water and cooked until floating... served with tomato paste in melted butter and Greek yogurt with minced garlic... Yummmm....

I am looking forward to great adventures in Turkish cuisine.  I pray I will continue to honor the gifts my mother imparted to me.


Prayer Flags

One of the names of God in the Scripture is Yahweh Nissi meaning “The Lord is my banner.” This name is a symbol of God’s over-arching presence in everything.

As people of the Jesus way, we proclaim God’s sovereignty and providence, not only in our lives, but in all creation. God’s love, grace and mercy extends through the universe as God’s Spirit moves, saves, touches, shapes, nurtures, beckons, blesses one and all reminding us the wise words of Christoph Blumhardt… “Everyone must concede that the kingdom of God comes not through logical concepts but through surprises.”

The Scripture calls us in Ephesians 6:18 to “pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.”

Prayer flags are a wonderful way to engage in prayer for our neighborhood, community and ultimately the whole world.

They may help us visually focus our intercessions and God’s intentions for the world. The Psalmist declares, “May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions. (Psalm 20:5)” Raising flags with our intercessions covers the whole earth with God’s banner of love, grace and mercy...

Traditionally a prayer flag is a colorful panel of rectangular cloth, often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas. The prayers displayed on the flags are believed to be carried by the wind across the countryside with the intention of blessings, peace, compassion, strength and wisdom to all on the breath of nature.

Prayer flags come in sets of five colors representing the basic elements: Blue symbolizes sky/space, white symbolizes air/wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth.

People continually mount new flags as the present ones are deteriorated in an effort  to recognize that life moves on and there is always new life.  In the act of renewing the flags, people acknowledge that they are also a part of the ongoing cycle of life.

Prayerflag2

There are many ways one could delve into making prayer flags.   The prayer flag pictured above uses a faux batik method.  Here are some suggestions for the process:

  • Spend some time with the Scripture. In prayerful silence, ask the Holy Spirit what prayers and blessings God wants you to offer on behalf of others.
  • Select words and symbols which resonate with your prayers. I find one of the great ways to have an image overdose is to google the word or phrase about which I am thinking.  Try it and it will really inspire you.
  • Cut a piece of cloth about 12"x12" from white muslin.  I have discovered white muslin allows me to be free with my own colors as the Spirit guides my prayer.
  • Write or paint your prayer on the flag. You may choose a simple word, maybe the name of your neighborhood, verses from the Scripture...
  • After you complete the prayer flag, hang it by folding and gluing or sewing in place the side of the cloth through which a rope will run. Pull the rope through your flags. 

As you fly your flags remember to raise God’s banner in prayer.

Faux Batik method is easy: As the resist, instead of wax, you use  a liquid mixture of flour, alum, and water to draw a design onto muslin. 

Mix in a bowl or blender 1/2 cup water, 2 teaspoons alum powder, and 1/2 cup flour.  Mix thoroughly to remove any lumps. You can double this recipe.  Pour contents into a plastic squeeze bottle.  Lay out wax paper on your workspace with your cloth on top.

Draw your prayers by squeezing the alum mixture onto the cloth in thick lines. Make sure your lines are not too heavy with the mixture.  I used my hair dryer to help speed up the drying process of the flour mixture after the drawing is complete.

Once dry I painted with acrylic.  You could use fabric or tempera paint as well. And don't worry going over where the mixture has dried it will resist the paint. After the paint has dried, thoroughly rinse the cloth removing the mixture and the excess paint. Either hang the flags to dry or put them in a dryer to heat-set the paint.

Blessed prayers to all....

Joy of Zentangling

I love doodling -- any form, any type, any ... you name it! My husband James insists swirls are my signature doodle type.

A year ago or so I was introduced to Zentangle.  According to zentangle.com, it is defined as "a way of creating beautiful images from repetitive patterns. It is fun and relaxing. Almost anyone can use it to create beautiful images. It increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well being."

One of the places I like to frequent is Milliande Art Community. The following video is a very relaxing play with zentangle patterns...

  

I really enjoy doodling in repetitive patterns.  It helps my mind and spirit to work in harmony as I am drawing. I have begun learning different patterns several of the zentangle enthusiasts have come up with... below is my play with the Allium pattern.

Zentangle1

This next zentangle was a creation in the car in January on our return from visiting family in TN.

Zentangle2
Zentangle is movement in joy... It is a dance of the spirit... As I reflect on God's universe it is no surprise that zentangle is the new medium which gives voice to our joy, to harmony and to the dance of the spirit... God said, "I am the Lord of the Dance", what a rejoicing.  Keep on zentangling...

Artist of God

For many years, I subscribed to Books and Culture magazine. In one of the issues there was an ad for a creative writing program at Seattle Pacific University that I had kept in my notes.

The ad began with these words: "Great writing grows out of a respect for mystery, for the ambiguities that haunt the edges of experience."

I think this is also true for making art. As we nourish the depths of our soul, we are more attuned with the Divine Mystery who speaks to us the words which we give shape...

Recently I came across these words at Marly Youmans blog.  She is an American novelist, poet and short story writer:

"I've been reading portions of saints Athanasius, Augustine, and Maximus the Confessor--have found much of it interesting, very different from our own day. The early church was a bit too busy with persecution and heresy to focus on art, though Augustine has wonderful things to say about the act of creation by God and about gifts and the perception of the beautiful.

The lovely thing that he says about the nature of creation is that it comes from God's abundance. Once creation exists, it needs--human beings need--to move closer to the fount of things, to "the Fountain of Life" in order to be filled with light and "given perfection, splendour, and bliss." To draw close to the light and fragrance and beauty of the creator is to "cry out in joy, confessing your glory, like a man exultant at a feast." A greater abundance gives rise to our abundance.

And isn't that what we feel about art--the best of our art, if it is not some dreary, tweedling thing of pretension and faux intellection and rejection of beauty--that it comes from a great spill of feeling, a waterfall of light that flashes right through us? Creation is a gift, born in abundance and the desire to make."

Below is a poem written by Marly Youmans in memory of Fae Malania, author of the Quantity of a Hazelnut. I have had this poem for years. I continue to marvel at the surprises it brings everytime I read it:

The Artist of God

The litter of fallen leaves is ankle-deep
And all my words are black ants on the page.
What can I say that's worthy of a life?

Your tower of private dreaming is no more.
Your mouth stops open like a chorister's,
The mirrors go veiled, the window's propped ajar.

"Ineffable," my dictionary sings
As starlight gilds the larches of paradise.
You drink from a shining cup and are made whole.

No, your isle of blessings is not like that.
It is beyond all our imaginings.
The words pour through me and are lost in mist.

The world in time's a dark and thirsty place.
Dear friend, from Paradise-the-blest, will you
Fetch me one drop to cool my burning tongue?

Food, Blessings and Therapy

There is something magical in cutting vegetables: The knife moves rhythmically through the onions, celery, carrots, peppers on the cutting board... the aroma fills the air and the mind begins to focus on how all the flavors will meld into the dish being created to be consumed soon...

For the past several years I have been an avid Top Chef fan! It is your basic reality kitchen show. Every week contestants are challenged with a new culinary adventure and at the end of the show one chef gets eliminated. I know I am not a professionally trained chef, but some of the dishes created on this show by those who define the culinary arts for us are quite disappointing.

Blog picUsually every season a Quick Fire Challenge is dedicated to creating an incredible dish using basic pantry staples, canned food, macaroni and cheese in a box, canned tuna/salmon, bread, etc... everyday food! The results... Well, not so impressive!

What strikes me is not the lack of imagination and creativity in using these staples but the disdain the chefs have for what most of us eat and could afford to feed the whole family.

I love gourmet food, but I do not like how gourmet is defined in our current culinary culture. In its traditional understanding gourmet refers to people and practices with refined taste and passion. Who, then, does decide what refined taste and passion is?

I can direct you to the path of an eight year old who can easily tell the difference between good and bad Brie (Yes, it is cheese!)... Or to the path of a ten year old who will take chicken nuggets, chips, ranch dressing, dip and turn them into a culinary adventure where yummm becomes the passion. I have discovered that one can take canned cheese soup and create a great cheese fondue. I wonder if our top chefs will be able to tell the difference!

For me gourmet defines food cooked with passion and love that has the potential for weaving together the abundance of God's gifts with one's palate giving rise to sheer joy. Such a dish may be created using simple ingredients as well as the most expensive stuff in the market. Using expensive, not-easy-to-find ingredients, however, does neither make one's food refined nor passionate. Yes, I would agree that many items in our pantries are not healthy and full of chemicals, but let us not throw the baby out with the bath water!

I believe God gave us food to enjoy and create community. From Genesis to Revelation, the Scripture gives account after account of celebrations, festivals, and gatherings revolving around the gifts of the earth. The greatest gift of God is the Table of the Lord where we feast with the whole community sharing one meal in thanksgiving for God's love and sacrifice.

Whether we eat gourmet or not, our food needs to nourish not only our bodies but also our souls. If our meals are just another burdensome task to be completed and brushed aside then we will miss the joy and abundance of fellowship with one another. If we view our whole culinary experience as an adventure with God, we will be filled with such creativity, imagination, and enthusiasm that even an ordinary 99-cent-box of macaroni and cheese would become truffles in wine sauce!

Let us not be intimidated to adventure into the unknown within our pantries!


Transitions, Blessings and the Coming of Advent

It is November already! The air is full of that familiar smell of fall-breaking-in and winter-on-the-way. This is truly my favorite time of the year... New beginnings, letting-gos, God's mystery to celebrate...

My husband James and I have begun practicing the art of transitional ministry (interim ministry as most of us call it!) for the past month and so... We love it... Not only being with our current church but also God's creative force in the way we are led, inspired, challenged, nurtured,...

It is amazing to discover daily how God connects the dots moving us further into the depths of the Spirit. There is such joy in being in places where we experience the sacred threads being woven into the beautiful tapestry called the Kingdom of God.

This year, like the past few years, I will begin my Advent with the Eastern/Orthodox Christians all around the world on November 15. In the weeks leading up to Christmas—Nativity of Jesus, Eastern Churches as well as Orthodox Churches, follow a time of waiting, preparation and fasting. It traditionally begins the day after the Feast of Phillip the Apostle, which falls on November 15.

Since these past few months have been filled with such change for us, I am looking forward to these 40 days of exploration, prayer and reflection.

May the power of Eternity fill the hearts and the minds of all seekers...

 

O vis Aeternitatis

Power of Eternity
you who ordered all things in your heart,
through your Word all things are created just as you willed,
and your very Word
calls forth flesh
in the shape
which was drawn from Adam.
Power of Eternity
Power of Eternity.