Tuesday, May 31, 2011

in which kale becomes your friend

Most people think kale must be awful and hard and bitter. I don't know why, although I once thought this too (before I tried it). Perhaps it's the dark green, crazy-curl leaves. Maybe it's the fact that we also use it for ornamental planting (thus eating it is like eating your Christmas tree or a cactus). Maybe it's just the sound of the name. Kale sounds like shale, which is a rock, and it begins with a very hard "k." But many beloved foods have similar names. We don't scoff at cake, or ale, which share sounds in common. Haddock and smelt are perfectly well-accepted even if they sound like the punchline to potty jokes. Oh kale, why art thou reviled so grievously?

Kale, if you have not tried it, tastes kind of like broccoli. It's milder than Brussels sprouts and springier (but NOT tougher) than lettuce. It can be eaten raw or cooked. It's easy to grow around here. It is lovely.

I concocted this simple warm kale salad last night, and loved it so much that I cooked it again tonight. I served it up with some baked yam cubes. These are seasoned with a bit of olive oil and Montreal chicken spice then baked for about half an hour at 400 on a cookie sheet. Cookie. Now that has two hard "k" sounds but we don't think of cookies as tough or bitter. Perhaps it's because they rhyme with nookie, so we think they must be equally delightful.

Warm Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seeds and Feta

about 1/2 cup of sliced or chopped red onion
about 1/2 cup of chopped red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 big leaves of kale washed and ripped into chunks (about 6 cups loose measure)
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup toasted unsalted pumpkin seed kernels
olive oil

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet or wok. Saute the onion and pepper for a minute. Add the kale and garlic. Saute 2 or 3 minutes longer, until kale brightens in colour and looks shiny and cooked (just). Toss in the pumpkin seed kernels and mix through.

Serve garnished with feta cheese.
Serves 2 people for supper, 4 as a side dish.

Cook that, eat it up, and tell me that kale is anything less than wonderful. You will love it so much you might even name your first born child Kale (if it's a boy) or Kaley (if it's a girl).

question: do you like kale?

mompoet - please try it before you decide

Monday, May 30, 2011

making space

Our nephew Lukas will come to live with us in the fall, so he can attend university near where we live. It's kind of nice that Lukas will arrive around the same time that Fiona will leave - daughter out, nephew in, somehow preserving the balance of things.

We are preparing a room for Lukas. It's in our basement, with nice access to the rec room which has a couch, tv, dvd, video games etc. Alex hangs out there a lot of the time now, so we picture the two cousins down there when they want to relax. It's big enough to invite a couple of friends over, even.

The room that will be Lukas's bedroom has been used for storage since we bought our house 20 years ago. We are now in the process of getting everything out of there, so we can move in a bed, dresser etc. Andrew and I tackled this project first on Friday evening. I pulled stuff out of the room, and Andrew took some of it to the dumpster that was in the complex for garage sale weekend. More stuff was labeled and taken to the carport for Saturday's sale. The stuff we want to keep will have to find new storage space around our house.

Storage displacement area #1 is the attic, so next I climbed into the attic and Andrew stood outside. I passed him boxes of stuff to take out of the house, either for dumping or for sale. A couple of boxes he decided to keep, so we re-atticed them or he took them somewhere else (not sure where). I managed to clear enough space to put the camping gear into the attic.

My next projects are the carport shed, the furnace room and the laundry room. All of those spaces contain things that we can give or throw away, thus making space for the rest of the stuff to come out of Lukas's room. Everything we need to keep will find a space, and we'll get rid of some junk and make better organized piles of the rest of it.

I wonder now if it would have been more efficient to start with the displacement areas (clearing the attic, shed, laundry room etc first) then tackle the room in the basement, moving things from there directly to their new spots? On the other hand, exploding the basement bedroom first started us on an un-pausable trajectory, because everything is a big mess right now and we want to get it finished. Working back to front might have given us greater opportunity for procrastination. Also, working the way we did, we managed to make best use of the dumpsters while they were here, and given our time available to work.

The room looks pretty awful right now, just half-cleared, really dusty, horrible curtains and the wires coming in from outside the house for our phone, internet and cable tv. Andrew has plans for making that work. I'll get on the curtains and we'll do a clean sweep and wash down once everything is out. We've offered to let Lukas choose the paint colour and help with painting if he likes. We have a bed and a dresser and there's already a nice closet in there.

Soon we will forget it was ever a storage room. We're excited to have Lukas coming and pretty pleased to know we actually have space in our house to make a new bedroom for him. Our whole home will be a bit lighter and cleaner too, for the effort. At least temporarily.

question: have you done any spring cleaning?

mompoet - amazed at what we keep

Sunday, May 29, 2011

a poem for sunday

I wrote this poem for church today. It's a response to today's scripture reading: Exodus Chapter 17, verses 1-7 (the story of Moses finding water from a stone).

water from a stone

in days of dust and longing
feet cracked and dry
from miles of desert
weeks of walking, trusting, carrying a load
of who knows what to who knows where

in nights of restless turning
craving rest, craving peace, craving answers
pondering in the long blank stretches of
pulled taut as skin near breaking
could it really have been so bad?
are these promises
once robust with rightness
now only hollow dust-shimmer illusions?

heart quarrels
doubt rumbles
replays of story fragments
endings lost in endless re-telling
reason not evident
regret everywhere
regret echoing
feet cracked and dry, accusing
you chose this path
tell us, what now?

heart hardens like sand granules
vision blurs
faith tested
this desert too long and dry to admit hope
heart thirsts for proof of love

* * *

in the pale soft hour of waking
dust of days, agony of nights
cast off like rumpled bedding
dawn touches these feet
tired and cracked with days of walking
God whispers assurance
green fields
fat cattle
children smiling
heart splits again
this time with sweet remembering
a coin in a pocket
a favourite song
the name of an old friend

in days of dry despair
I will be closest to you
heart's quarrels will not displace me
when you push away with all your might
I will hold you most near

tired feet find freshness of the bank
river runs where no river ran before
where rivers have always run

heart and promise reunited
dust of the desert
sluices from between tired toes
tells again the story of love

question: how is the journey going for you?

mompoet - reminded of the river

Friday, May 27, 2011

stretch birthday

Last night, at long last, we celebrated Alex's 21st birthday together as a family. Alex turned 21 on May 6, and chose that night to go with friends to see Thor at the new AVX theatre in the cinema complex where he works. That same night, Fiona baked him a delicious chocolate cake and we sang happy birthday to him when he came home after the movie.

We then began searching for a night on which we, along with Grandma and Grandpa and cousin Maia could all sit down together for supper in Alex's honour. It was not easy to find a date, but we finally came up with May 26, almost 3 weeks later. Before that date, Alex's work, Fiona's lessons, Andy's work, my meetings and work and other complications and distractions prevailed. After setting and confirming the date with everyone involved, I promptly forgot!

So on May 25, Fiona asked me, "What are we doing for Alex's family supper tomorrow?" Yikes! I also forgot that I had made a commitment weeks earlier to cover the late shift at work that night. I wouldn't be finished until 8pm. Also, on the weekend, my Dad cracked a rib, and was still in significant pain and probably not fit to go out for the evening with us. I apologized to Alex and we tentatively rescheduled to a week later on June 2 (still not quite a month after his birthday). Alex and Fiona made plans to see a movie together in the evening. I apologized. Alex was very gracious.

Thursday arrived, and as the day progressed, my Dad discovered he was feeling better and I found out I could get off work at 7 instead of 8. I phoned and texted everyone in the family and confirmed that dinner was back on. We strategized rides to the restaurant. I phoned in a reservation. At 7:15 I picked up a cake a Dairy Queen (also known as "baking in my car"). At 7:20 we picked up Mom, Dad and Maia. Just after 7:30 we were seated at Capitol Hill Szechuan, and actually celebrating Alex's birthday.

Supper was great. Cake was yummy. Alex is 21 + 3 weeks. Life is good.


question: did you ever have trouble finding time?

mompoet - Happy Family Birthday Alex

Thursday, May 26, 2011

the raptor

Fiona has corrected my misunderstanding. I thought we were expecting the rapture on May 21, when, in fact, we were expecting the raptor.

According to Fiona, the raptor is in two parts: on May 21, raptors lay eggs all around the world, then on October 21, the eggs hatch. This explains the revised prediction of the end of the world to October 21.

I have been looking for raptor eggs. Fiona advised me also that they are not smooth and oval like chickens' eggs. They might look like yams, she says. I found a few raptor eggs today.

question: have you seen any raptor eggs?

mompoet - tell me if you see one

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

the holidays of spring and summer

Monday was Victoria Day, in which we celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday. Queen Victoria was born May 24, 1819. However, we conveniently celebrate her birthday on the Monday before her birthday (or on her birthday proper whenever the 24th happens to be a Monday) so that we may have a long weekend and avoid a disruption mid-week.

The holiday before Queen Victoria's birthday is also an odd date holiday, but for another reason. Easter is a Christian Church holiday that is cause for a day or two off work or school for most Canadians. Easter is timed to the moon. It's the first Sunday after the full moon after the Spring Equinox, so it can happen in March or April, early or late, depending on the moon. According to the internet, it is called a "moveable feast" although we can't move it really, only the moon can move it. When I was little, I thought a moveable feast was a picnic. So much for what I knew. When I was little, Spring Break from school was always attached to Easter, so depending on the moon, the teachers had to wait a short time or a long time after Christmas to have a break from us kids. Nowadays, Spring Break is always the second or third (or both) week(s) in March and Easter happens when it happens.

This got me to thinking about how some holidays are moveable and how some are stuck wherever they fall.

Moveable: Easter, Victoria Day, BC Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving (all are set for various dates each year, depending on the moon, in Easter's case, and on Mondays in the case of all of the other days).

Stuck on their Dates: New Year's Day, Canada Day, Remembrance Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day (these fall on the same numerical date every year).

I wonder why Queen Victoria's birthday is moved around for our convenience, but Jesus's birthday is fixed. I know that Jesus is more important in the grand scheme of things (at least to us Christians) than Queen Victoria is. But still, Jesus's birthday is an approximation, not an actual calendar date that we know from history, and Queen Vic's at least we know for sure it was that day.

Easter is tied to Passover which is ancient, and so we respect and connect it to the moon phases, thus the moveability of this feast day. The other non-religious holidays are really about celebration rather than about a certain sacred day of the year, so moveability makes sense (for most of them, at least). Remembrance Day is justifiably stuck at the 11th day of the 11th month and we do stop everything at the 11th hour. That is cool. Come to think of it, wouldn't it be cool if we fine tuned a couple more of our holidays to a particular hour - like the actual time of day Queen Victoria was born, we could all let out a big whoop and say "IT'S A GIRL!" What? you don't actually celebrate Queen Victoria's birth on Victoria Day? Well, neither do I, really.

BC Day and Canada Day are the other secular (moveable) holidays on which we actually celebrate the reason the holiday has been called. I think this has a lot to do with government making it so. Lots of effort and money goes in to celebrating our provincial and national days. Also, it's something just about everyone in the country and the province can celebrate equally. "I am here. I am glad I am here." That is a good thing to be able to celebrate. What if you lived in a miserable horrible place where you couldn't wait to escape to freedom and safety in another country? What kind of national holiday would you have? Grim, to say the least. We don't know how good we have it, barbeques, fireworks and street festivals being the least of our blessings.

A side note: BC Day is moveable. Canada Day is stuck. Ponder that.

The whole thinking about holidays thing popped into my mind last night because I brought work home with me. I sat on the couch and watched the second half of the hockey game (HOLY COW! HOCKEY SHOULD HAVE ITS OWN HOLIDAY!) and programmed my Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 classes for work. I had to be aware of moveable and stuck holidays so I could plan around them. Fiona looked up Easter 2012 for me. It's in April, so I don't have to plan around it until I'm working on my Spring and Summer 2012 programs, which are probably due next week, deadlines being moveable.

I am thinking ahead now to the mostly happily moveable non-religious holidays of summer, which are about relaxation, celebration of the place we love, celebration of going back to work at the end of the summer, celebration of people, the funny, awkward, random blessings that we are.

question: what is your favourite holiday? does it move?

mompoet - happy holidays!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I think I've blogged previously about my ongoing battle with the oven. A year or two ago we took our friend Tom's fridge and stove. Tom was renovating, and had a barely used stove and a sparely used fridge. Our appliances, on the other hand, were worn out.

The fridge is great. It does what fridges do. It is cold on the inside and not cold on the outside. When you open the door, a light turns on. Good fridge.

The stove was not so great. The cook top worked fine, but the oven was an incinerator. It did not understand that the job of an oven is to achieve the specified temperature, then to stay as close as possible to that temperature until requested otherwise. The oven would get hot, then stop heating, then GET HOT!!! If you happened to have something in the oven when it went into "GET HOT!!!" mode, well, I hope you like your food very brown with black around the edges.

We learned to work with this amazingly awful oven. There were several tricks. For example, if I had a cake that needed to be baked for 35 minutes at 350, I would turn the oven on to preheat to 400. When it reached that temperature (or at least when it stopped heating), I would turn the temperature control down to 350, put the cake in and watch, listen and smell. This required coming into the kitchen at least every five minutes to check for flames licking out from the door of the oven, because the elements would periodically turn to red hot top and bottom and frizzle the poor cake. If the elements came on, I would notch the temperature control down to 325, 300, 275 (which was actually probably still 1000 degrees), to induce the element to turn off again to spare my poor cake. If - I mean when - the element came on again after that, I'd take the cake out, put it on top of the stove for a few minutes and repeat the procedure of preheating to 400, turning down to 350, putting the cake back in, etc. This usually worked except sometimes the oven would shut off altogether. I think it must have had a safety thermostat that would turn it off whenever it reached temperatures higher than those found on the surface of Mercury. In that case, I would leave the cake inside to bake with what heat remained, stand by and check to find out when the oven had cooled sufficiently to turn itself back on, then start all over again with the preheat procedure. Sometimes I could bake a cake in 35 minutes. Other times it took 1 hour due to the in/out on/off procedures. Other times it took 5 minutes, which was okay if it's a chocolate cake because they are black and brown by nature, and also if you don't mind your cake crunchy on the outside and wet on the inside.

Other defensive measures included putting a baking sheet on the lower rack as a heat deflector, and placing the cake pan on the upper rack in the middle of the oven. I'm sure I could have contacted NASA for some surplus heat shield material to make a canopy to put over top of the cake, but a piece of aluminum foil worked adequately.

I haven't mentioned yet that the outside of the oven would get just as hot as the inside. In the winter, it functioned much like a rustic wood stove in an old time cabin. In the summer, it functioned much like a rustic wood stove in an old time cabin.

Andy and Fiona learned defensive baking along with me. Alex decided that he will never bake.

So last week, our neighbours Dave and Doris finished their kitchen reno by purchasing an awesome black stove. Andy noticed that their old (well, fairly new) white stove was in their carport. He had a chat with Dave and the stove is ours. Andy and Alex surprised Fiona and me with it. We came home one night to find the old incinerator in our carport, and a lovely wonderful stove in our kitchen. Even better, our dear friends the Hyskas owned Dave and Doris's house before they moved to Newport. So we have the Hyskas' old stove. It has a flat cooktop and a wonderful oven. On Saturday morning I baked blueberry muffins and it took forever because I was so cautious with the temperature. I'll have to just go for it now. I baked yams last night and they turned out great. Fiona was a bit nostalgic about the old oven when she made herself a quesadilla. She said she kind of missed its super-speedy cooking of food. I think it's kind of like letting go of a dysfunctional relationship, but we'll get used to this kinder, gentler stove.

So all is well in the McIntyre house. Old incinerator is up for grabs for free at the neighbourhood garage sale on Saturday. We'll be honest about its shortcomings.

By the way, new stove is hot on the inside and cool on the outside. I think I will introduce it to fridge. I think they will get along together just great.

question: do you struggle with appliances?

mompoet - cooking with a smile

Monday, May 23, 2011

a spring of strange and new things

This is the coldest, wettest spring we have had in a long time. I have not yet eaten breakfast outdoors on the deck, and my summer clothing is all still in the attic. It has been rainy and chilly and drab almost every day.

This spring, we are getting ready for Fiona's graduation from high school and her move to college at the end of the summer. She'll go to New Jersey to study musical theatre at Montclair State University. It's wonderful and strange and hard to understand, all at the same time.

As Fiona leaves, our nephew Lukas will be coming to live with us while he attends university near our home, so we'll still have a full house. It's funny, these two cousins were born on the same day. One is leaving and one is arriving. Feels like a fair arrangement to me, but strange.

I don't feel like I'm any different from who I was this time last year, but I know that I am changing in response to all of these changes. Our life will change significantly very soon. It's all for the good, but it's a bit unnerving, because I don't really know what it will look like, feel like, or who I'll be when the dust settles. Still me, for sure, but me with a new emphasis and focus.

I'm grateful that Alex and Andy aren't going through transitions, although they too are adjusting to the change that our family is experiencing. So I guess, in a way, they are too.

My feelings aren't cold and gloomy like the weather, but they are unpredictable and somewhat unseasonable. I'm looking forward to warm days outdoors, the end of the recitals/awards/prom season and the more relaxed pace of summer. It will be a different summer from the ones before it, but a good one, I am sure.

question: what is changing for you?

mompoet - to everything there is a season

Saturday, May 21, 2011

the rapture

My son Alex told me today that the last time we had a serious prediction about the end of the world (if there is such a thing) was in 1994. He concluded that every time the Vancouver Canucks have a chance of winning the Stanley Cup, the world threatens to come to an end.

My understanding of the story of the rapture is that all good believers are lifted off of this miserable earth just ahead of a sea of fire and destruction that will liquefy all those who do not deserve to be lifted. My imaginary painting has people with halos smiling in delight and surprise (like they just won a gigantic prize) jolting off the ground and ascending a sunbeam to heaven, which is in the sky of course. This being my imagination, it is a fantasy, and not my actual belief or understanding of things.

I am a Christian. I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I don't believe in the rapture or many other literal interpretations of the stories in the Bible. The God I know just wouldn't do that. The God I know doesn't live in the sky, either. Nor does is this God diametrically opposed to science or the truths of the natural world. The God I know is more like a marinade than a gold crown, more of an organizing principle and unifying experience than a puppet master, exalter of some, destroyer of others. Many Christians would read this and say that means I'm not Christian. That's okay with me. If that's their definition, then maybe I'm not. I think I am, however, and conclude this from my own learning, experience and faith.

I think everyone needs a way (or ways) to understand the world, life, him or herself in relation to it all. I think that some people honestly and truly believe in the rapture as God's will and the way that the world's problems will be resolved. I don't subscribe to that thinking. But neither do I refute God, nor do I believe in intelligent design. I think that science and faith and God and evolution all exist, and that the explanation for how they all do is part of the mystery that we ponder in our own hearts every day. If there was an easy answer, we'd have found it and found a way to agree on it by now. Like everything big and real and important, it's complicated.

When I said God was a marinade, I didn't mean to belittle God or the idea of God. I meant to say that God is someone or something inside of us, just like DNA is inside of us, except that most people recognize and agree that DNA is real, and not everyone feels the same way about God. I also think that heaven is here and now. It's not in the sky. It's everywhere. When we die, if we go to heaven, we might not even notice the difference. Heaven is ours during our living days as well as beyond them. It's our own creation and ours to care for or damage, not just physically. Just like we can wreck the earth with pollution and over-use, we can wreck heaven by pouring out every bad thought and feeling into it, denying ourselves enjoyment of it, being jealous of others' enjoyment of it, hogging the good seats and failing to notice that it is here in the first place.

So like most atheists (which I am not), I was not surprised when the rapture failed to happen at 6pm this evening. But like many Christians and many more believers-in-something-or-more-than-one-thing, I think that there are great truths to be known, and felt, and shared. Life and life beyond life is mysterious and wonderful, and real - not a comic book, not an action movie, just ordinary days with extra-ordinary meaning trickling through the cracks and joining us all together.

I am glad to be here, and glad that everyone else (who I know, anyway) is also still here. I am glad that God and Jesus and Darwin are here and right, simultaneously.

question: so, what do you think?

mompoet - yup, I'm back all right

out of hibernation

I have been hiding out, not posting much, not writing much, not playing much, being more of an introvert than I usually am. It has been the right thing to do for the past little while. I am glad for it. I have turned my energy and focus at least partially away from the outside world of friends, causes, entertainment, and general gallivanting. This doesn't mean I've been a hermit, just significantly less of a gabber, gadabout and getter-done of things apart from my closest circle and myself.

Most of what I have been doing is not my story to tell, so I will not go into details. Suffice to say, all is well, I am well, the people who I love are well. Many great things have happened during this quieter, more inward phase for me and the people about whom I care most. It has been a good investment of time and energy and love. I think it has changed me some. I understand now that the world will turn whether I spin it or not, that I can rest and not let everyone down, and that just being in one place can be the kindest and most generous choice available.

Crawling out of hibernation, I think I will take life a bit more generously and slowly, and enjoy things a bit more. That's not to say I won't multi-task or be generally more energetic than your average bear. I'm still me. I've just re-set my own inner gauges to be a bit more curious, observant and caringly responsive, and I like how that feels.

I've got lots of updates on life to share in my upcoming blog posts. You'll guess from a few of those where some of my energy and love has been going. I hope you are still checking in and reading, and that you haven't been discouraged by the scarcity of posts in recent months.

I am back. I missed the blog. I missed the happy blah blah. But it has been, and continues to be well worth it.

question: are you there?

mompoet - I am here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

me in pictures (more words soon)

question: whose table is it?

mompoet - oh, the difference an imaginary apostrophe makes