Tuesday, February 28, 2006

new addition

new addition
Originally uploaded by sanfranfamily.
We have added a new member to our family! Her name is Cordelia, and she is a sweet, affectionate tabby that we brought home from the Oregon Humane Society today. She is just fitting right in and doesn't even seem to be scared or need any away time from us hiding out--she's just been right there with the kids loving them and letting them love her. I'm still ready for a sleepless night, though.

Zac on his 9th birthday

Zac on his 9th birthday
Originally uploaded by sanfranfamily.
Here is Zac, just after everyone went home from his party. He is nibbling on a bit of leftover cake. He said this was a fun party, but he was tired out by it and was glad when everyone went home!

art pizza 2

art pizza 2
Originally uploaded by sanfranfamily.

art pizza 1

art pizza 1
Originally uploaded by sanfranfamily.
Here are the "pizzas" that the kids made at Zac's party on Sunday. They're so creative! Paul said the funnest part for him was the incredulous "we can smash this up and glue it on??? We can do this however we want???"

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Zachary is 9!

We just finished another successful birthday party.....successful meaning "without having remembered to take pictures." :-P I had the camera all charged up; does that count for anything?

We did a "make-your-own-pizza party" where the kids got to roll out their own dough and top it with various toppings. Then Paul did an art project with them--it was pizza art, where they decorated a board like pizza, but using lots of "junk" items found at SCRAP, an interesting Portland place where lots of stuff gets donated--stuff that if it was floating around my house, I'd call it "trash" and throw it out. SCRAP's goal is to re-use in creative ways. And we did! They could make their own pizza slice with re-used stuff, and/or contribute to the corporate pizza, with a white-painted bike tube "crust." I'll post pictures of that later....I'm too pooped tonight.

Most importantly, Zac had fun, and so did the other kids. A great day!

Friday, February 24, 2006


I like this guy's work.

Warning to vegans and vegetarians: he does paintings of non-veg things. But I still like it.


We had what I'm calling our "travel section" getaway....you know, the kind that they write about in the travel section of the Sunday newspaper, where everything is just perfect, and you spend time doing things that are wonderful and not any time wandering around looking for something to do in vain? That kind.

I found the Columbia Hotel online and I thought it looked cool. I worried beforehand because I couldn't find much info about it--did it have a coffeemaker? Did it have a microwave? But when we got there we found just old-world charm, and nothing to mar that (like a microwave). They serve coffee in the lobby. Usually when we go away for several days we try to get a room with a kitchen, to spare expense and because it's often hard to find vegetarian and vegan food. But this hotel room was so reasonably priced ($79 winter rates) and there were so many yummy restaurant options that we had no problem with eating out for all our meals.

We had meant to do lots of walking around, but we really stayed within a two-block radius of the hotel, because there was so much right there. Our first evening we found good kale/white bean soup, risotto fritters, and a cheese/fruit/bread plate (a nice light dinner) at the Ashland Springs Hotel restaurant, called Larks. We also found a great little bookstore just four doors down from our hotel, and bought some vacation books. The kids found some spy handbooks (they are really into spying) and Paul found a book about an Orthodox family living in India (can't remember the name of it just now). I found _The Patron Saint of Liars_ by Ann Patchett, and have thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'll have to carve out time to finish it now that I'm home and have real-world stuff to deal with, not to mention Zac's birthday coming up on Sunday. =:-O

Next morning, we went out to find somewhere to eat, and saw that the bookstore had a coffee shop upstairs. They had wonderful breakfast breads, bagels, and quiches. Coffee was excellent, and outside the bookstore we found the San Francisco Chronicle for sale. Yay! What a great way to spend breakfast. Of course, we had to look at books again after that. Then we walked across the street to the Alchemy Botanicals shop, a cool little place that sells all kinds of things related to herbs. Paul bought some bath salts that smelled wonderful and a new journal, as the one we gave him on his birthday is filled up. Then we went to the art gallery next door and saw lots of local art. Then to a locally-made clothing store. We ate lunch at Pasta Piatti, where we had absolutely amazing fare. Paul had a tomato/basil soup, with a big crouton in it, that left me wondering where in the world they get such tasty tomatoes in winter. I had a squash ravioli with sage brown butter and biscotti crumbs. MMM! We had leftovers, which we saved and ate for dinner.

Finally, we got into the car (!) and drove to the Dagoba Chocolate factory and sampled chocolate, and then to Weisinger's vineyard to sample wine. Yum!

Back to the hotel for a rest before a quick dinner and a play. Paul used his bath salts and thoroughly enjoyed the old-fashioned (and just plain old) claw-foot tub. We ate leftovers, then went to the site where _The Diary of Anne Frank_ would be shown. We went to the gift shop and enjoyed looking around there, then went to the theater. What an absolutely wonderful play. So well-casted. So well-acted. So moving. I had tears streaming down my face at the end. I don't think I ever knew exactly how the end of life in the Annex happened, and I don't know if they have this version from Otto Frank or not, but it was different from how we'd have imagined it. As Paul said, we kept waiting for the officers to come storming in, but that's not what happened in the play. You see life with two families and a single man as it would, of course, be, being so cramped together. But finally they have worked out some kind of peace and are enjoying a moment together--the adults downstairs, eating a few strawberries (we haven't seen a strawberry in two years!) and the teenagers up in the attic eating a bucket full. We are caught up in the teens' joy, enjoying life together, when the officers creep up the stairs silently. They first silently get the adults into line. There is the hope that they won't realize there are more upstairs. But then loud laughter is heard from the attic, and of course that hope is banished. It was heart-rending. So much more terrifying than how we'd imagined it.

The woman who played Anne did such a good job with showing the whole range of Anne's emotions, and she perfectly epitomized the playfulness of an adolescent trying to turn woman. Very powerful. Paul and I looked at each other in the middle of Anne's obstinacy, and said "that's Hibi!" I think they definitely have resemblance.

Next day, with just a few precious hours left in Ashland, we ate at a great little coffee shop that had vegan biscuits and gravy (which Hibi enjoyed while trying to fend off our forks), coffee, scones, and a breakfast burrito. Then it was over to the music shop, which we'd been to the day before to look at guitars for Hibi. She's interested in learning to play and up to now has struggled with Paul's full-sized one. But we bought her a 3/4 size which I think is just right for her, and it's not a bad guitar, either. Now that everyone has an instrument in my family except me, I am starting to think of taking up violin again (I played from 4th to 9th grade). I gave away my violin to a family in need a couple of years ago, so I'm beginning to look on Craigslist. I did pick one up in the shop and played it. While it wasn't exactly pretty, I was a bit surprised at how much I still know, like how far apart to finger the strings to get certain notes.

Then over to a used bookstore where we found the new translation of Diary of Anne Frank and a book of Maya Angelou's poetry, then to a cool toy shop, then back to the herbal place to have a pot of flower pearl tea (I bought some to bring home, too, along with a beautiful mug). Then into the car to come home, reluctantly. We sure had a great time, and can't wait to go back!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Our "stance"

Ah, the life of a parish priest's family. Sometimes things begin to take a life of their own.

When people in the parish have asked me, in passing, about whether I've watched this TV show or that one, I've told them, in passing, that we don't watch TV on our TV. We only watch DVDs and videos, and our TV isn't hooked up to cable or even a simple antenna, so we can't really get TV. This is a personal choice of ours, and we've liberalized it throughout our marriage--when we first got married, we didn't have a television at all.

Paul told me that he was having a conversation with a parishioner about what television shows people like to watch--namely, our bishop's admitted liking for the show Desperate Housewives--and then the conversation turned to...."so, Father, what led you to your stance on television?" Paul was highly interested to find out that he had a stance! Seems that we also have a stance on meat-eating--we've never said that anyone else shouldn't eat meat--again, it's a personal choice. We'll share the reasons why we don't eat meat with anyone who asks, but we don't think that people should be preached to.

On the road again

We're off today for a trip to Ashland. We like to do a pre-Lenten getaway every year, since Lent is SO busy. We're going to see Diary of Anne Frank, and bum around Ashland. The Shakespeare Festival is just opening, as of last weekend, so we'll be among the first to see this play in Ashland.

I'm hoping for some wine-tasting, too.

I'll report back on Friday!

Friday, February 17, 2006


How is it that a love so deep that he carried her up their apartment stairs every day when she had lyme disease, could now betray her so thoroughly? A love that brought her to live in a place that made her physically ill, for him, has now been trashed? A love that lasted through 16 years of marriage, four children, countless stresses and joys, now for nothing? How could the man who insisted she give him her phone number the first time they met, even after she said "no" repeatedly, now want a separate listing? A stabilizing force that was the only thing that kept him sane, now gone?

"There but for the Grace of God"....but do I have more grace than you? I don't think so.

As we read Psalm 50 at Paraklesis on Wednesday evening, I thought of you.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Movie Review

We saw the movie The Real Dirt on Farmer John tonight. Hibi now wants to be a struggling family farmer when she grows up. :-P She's reading this over my shoulder and saying, no I don't. I think it's the struggling part that she doesn't want!

What a cool movie. It showed the evolution of how family farms were back in the day, when most people had connections to a farm, to the 80s when most farmers lost their farms, and then to the present, where family farms are having a (small) resurgence. Organic farms are coming into vogue, and more than that, people are craving the real experience of knowing where their food is coming from.

Farmer John, after many starts and stops, tries and mishaps, and the rumor mill going on and on because he did things "differently", a couple from Chicago called him up and asked him if he'd start a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture--I blogged about it on July 24). At first, he was not interested at all. But eventually he came around and came to see that CSA is farming as it should be--people having a connection with their food, the land, and their farmer. The people of his CSA actually bought the land that was for sale next door to him that was slated to be developed, and leased it to him as farmland.

One very interesting thing about farm land turning into housing developments: in this movie, they interviewed folks from the area, other real farmers who weren't "wacky" like Farmer John. And they got teary when they talked about the houses going in, and taking away all that good farm land, that black soil that those houses are sitting on. They wondered where people thought they were going to get their food.

So, I enjoyed the movie a lot, and I want to go live there. :-) There was a bit of nudity....not what you'd expect in a movie about farming, I know. :-) Farmer John is not exactly your typical farmer. I think this movie could be very educational for folks who don't have a connection to their food sources.

Friday, February 10, 2006

You've gotta be kidding!

I ran a ton of errands today and one was grocery shopping. Now, Portland is a pretty liberal place, and the food co-ops are even more so, in my opinion. At Alberta Co-op I bought, among other things, some French lentils. When I got home and was scanning my receipt, I spotted the lentils listed. But they were called "freedom lentils!" Geez! I'm trying to figure out if this is a joke, which I kind of assume it is.

We also went to Food Fight! the vegan grocery store in SE Portland. I did find vegan spring roll wrappers, which I was asking about on Jennifer Shmoo's blog. Yippee! And they were frozen, so I don't even have to use them up any time soon.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Our Day

Hibi's Invisibility Cloak
Originally uploaded by sanfranfamily.
Today was Paul's day off. We slept in way late and had apple pankuchen for breakfast. Then we decided to go for a hike at Portland's Forest Hill. It's this huge park that's been left natural, right inside the city limits. It's got lots of hiking trails, and Paul's parents bought a book describing all it's trails and left it with us. So, we chose a managable 1 1/2 mile hike and really enjoyed it. Lots of ferns! Growing up the trees and on the bottom of bridges. We heard lots of birds, and the creaking of trees rubbing together in the wind, and had a great view of Mt. Hood. It hasn't rained (!) and the sun has been shining (!!) all week, so it wasn't too muddy.

Then we went to Laughing Planet for lunch. The kids and I had been for a snack earlier this week, and really liked it. We saw one on our way to the park so we stopped there on on the way back. Yum, yum. Paul got a Che Guevaro burrito with sweet potatoes and plantains in it.

Home, and then I got to use my new sewing machine for the first time! I'm not really a sewer, but I do like having a machine around for repairs and for my speciality, kids' cloaks. We bought the fabric for Hibi's invisibility cloak over a year ago, and I finally sewed it today. I don't know why I agreed to sew with this stuff....but it is cool looking. The material is very sheer and it has glimmering stars on it.

While I was sewing, Paul was trying to clear up an IRS glitch. That sure put him in a bad mood. Then I made pizza with the leftover dough from when Mimi and Dawn were here, and as when they were here, it got all smoky in the house which made the family gripe and put me into a bad mood. So, here I am, blogging, trying to get back into a better mood. Maybe if anyone here has any suggestions for how to use a pizza stone without the house getting all smoky?

When the kids and I went to Laughing Planet on Belmont earlier in the week, we saw a house on fire very near where we were going. We walked over to see the show--lots of firemen, a police car blocking the street, all the neighbors out watching it. The firefighters were on the roof as we could see flames jumping up out of the house. It didn't look too safe to us.

Last night we were told that one of the members of Capella Romana, a Byzantine choral group that gives concerts and has recordings, died in a house fire. In this morning's paper, it told of a man who was visiting a friend and making brandy with him in a house near Belmont. Something happened with the alcohol--maybe it exploded--and it caught him on fire. He was rushed to the hospital, but died early the next morning. I had no idea while I was watching this fire that anyone was, in fact, hurt, and that I was connected to this person. I never met him---at least I don't remember meeting him--but I have seen Capella Romana in concert and have CDs of theirs. It was, once again, one of those reminders that it will happen to all of us--whether in a fire at only 53 years old, or in another way at another age.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Steven the Vegan

This gets more funny the more times you watch it. With thanks to Jennifer Shmoo!
Steven the Vegan

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Lenten Fasting: for Laurie

Laurie asked about Orthodox Lenten fasting. I thought I'd post an answer here. First off, she's referring to the 40 day fast before Holy Week, the preparation for the time when we commemorate Jesus' death and resurrection. The fast started off as a preparation for those who were preparing to be received into the church as new Christians. Traditionally, they would fast and pray for the forty days and then were baptized on Lazarus Saturday--the day before Palm Sunday. In time, the rest of the church adopted this preparation as it was good for getting ready for Holy Week, to remember the most somber time of the year and the most joyous time of the year.

I am usually quite reticent to recommend an Orthodox style fast for anyone who's not Orthodox. The fasting goes along with prayer and almsgiving--not that you can't do those outside the Orthodox church, but the prayer includes special Lenten services where we come together as Orthodox Christians and are prepared to continue the fast with special hymns and fortified with Holy Communion.

But I know that Laurie and her husband and daughter are in Iran studying and working for peace. They are doing a very important work that makes the word "almsgiving" seem like a drop in the bucket. Perhaps that can make up for the fact that they have no Christian community (as I understand it) and no one with whom to partake of preparation for Holy Week and the Resurrection. So, with these caveats, I will describe the Orthodox style of fasting during Lent.

Another caveat is that each person decides in him/herself and with a spiritual father what is the correct fast for the individual to be following. And it is not a sin to not fast. Fasting is simply something that is good for us, for our souls, to be prepared. I will describe the strict fast.

Basically, the fast is that you eat any foods other than flesh meat (any meat--beef, chicken, pork, etc.), milk, eggs. Most of Lent we do not eat fish (some days it is prescribed), wine, or oil. Any day of Lent it is fine to eat shellfish--this is because in the time it was created, shellfish was the common person's food, instead of the delicacy it is today. On weekends, to celebrate the Resurrection, we mitigate our fast and have wine and oil. And on special feast days--namely, the Annunciation (the day that the Archangel appeared to Mary), March 25 (9 months before Christmas) and Palm Sunday, fish is allowed.

You can see how tied in with church life this fast is, which is one reason why I don't usually recommend it for non-Orthodox Christians.

When I'm fasting, I try to remember that I am simplifying to make room for Christ in my life. I try to see myself as I am without the excess. And another reason we have added recently is for identification with the disenfranchised.

As I wrote this I thought of a dream I had a couple of years ago. It is still very vivid in my mind--it was a vivid dream, and very gruesome. I dreamed that a friend (I don't know this "friend" in real life) was working with the poor in a third world country, and decided that, in order to live in solidarity with the maimed that she worked with, she would cut off her leg. I had decided to do it too in order to support her in this, but at the last minute backed out.

I've had a couple of years after this dream occurred to continue to think about it, and what it meant. I've thought that such an act was surely misguided, and yet. What are we really willing to do in order to be in solidarity with "the least of these"? What am I willing to do in theory but not in practice?

I think this is tied in with what we are thinking about during Lent. We are identifying ourselves with Christ and with his sacrifice. Yet we do not offer ourselves up on the cross. What are we willing to do instead for the good of the world?

Friday, February 3, 2006

Feast of Meeting/Groundhog Day

So, how many others watched the movie Groundhog Day yesterday? We did, and I think we watched it last year, too. We'd just rediscovered it and the kids much enjoyed it as well. I should have put Groundhog Day as a movie I could watch over and over because we have watched it many times. What a fascinating concept! A day lived over and over. It has advantages and disadvantages: on the pro side each day you could learn as much as you want, you get to start over, you can do whatever you want with no consequences. On the downside: each day you start back with whatever reputation you had--whatever you did to better your relationships with people means nothing each morning, as in the movie. He was known to be a grump and primadonna and each morning, even though he did a lot to change that, he was known as just that. But somehow he overcame, somehow he remade himself so believably that he was able to eventually win people over during that one day. I was thinking last night that if this happened to me, I'd hope that I hadn't left a bunch of stuff undone--like a very messy house, so that I'd have to do all that work before it was liveable, or else live each day in a mess. I suppose it was an emotional mess that Phil was living in, that he had to clean up every day.

Yesterday we Orthodox also celebrated the Feast of Meeting, which is when Mary and Joseph took the 40 day old Jesus to the temple for the first time. Anna and Symeon recognized him for who he was--the Messiah and said they could die satisfied now. I've always loved the words of Symeon: "Now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen my salvation, the light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people, Israel."

There was a brunch after liturgy, but unfortunately I got sick during the service and had to go right home afterward. I thought I'd gotten the flu, because it came on so suddenly. I felt like a truck had run over me. I went straight to bed and spent most of the rest of the day in bed, only emerging when I was sick of being in bed and dragged myself out. I even missed part of the movie because I was not feeling well enough to sit and watch it. But today, wonder of wonders, I'm mostly better.

On another note: the other day the kids and I went to the Portland Art Museum. I was very impressed! So impressed was I that I bought a membership. We didn't see nearly all of it--I'd say we could probably go back five times before we've walked through everything. They had a special exhibit going--the Hesse dynasty art. I liked the way they tied in other things that are going on in that period--like talking about things happening at the same time as Martin Luther was starting the reformation, and there's a special Brothers' Grimm storytelling session because the Hesse dynasty commissioned them to write their stories. I loved Tsarina Alexandra's tiara--it was shaped like laurel leaves and encrusted with diamonds. (And I'm not a jewelery person!) But she only wore it for 8 months before she died of tuberculosis. There was another set of romantic paintings that really caught my eye--I thought they were really beautiful. They portrayed peasants and pilgrims in a beautiful landscape, quite fantastical but not in an impossible way. The artist died at age 22, though; he drowned while swimming with friends. I can't remember his name or I'd put it here.

Anyway! I've been thinking of posting a list of things we like to do in Portland, like I did for San Francisco, but of course we haven't seen too much yet. Perhaps it could be a work in progress.