Tuesday, October 25

Casserole Czar!!

Today I have been in Casserole Czar mode.

Centenary United Methodist Church has entrusted their annual bazaar's frozen casserole sale to me for the second year in a row. I'm not sure that is because I did a great job last year...or perhaps nobody else volunteered. Either way - I'm getting excited!!

As you may have noticed...I love food. Love to cook it, love to eat it, love to talk about it. I read food magazines (my current fave is one called Cook's Illustrated which shares techniques as much as recipes) and can tell you what channel Food Network is on here, at my sister's house in Roanoke and even down in Duck! I just think that food is a common interest of all people. True, not everyone geeks out on it as much as me...

But each year one of the main components of the annual Fall Bazaar is our frozen food sale. In addition to some truly delicious Brunswick Stew that is made by our good friends at Pride of Virginia (thanks to CUMC member Jimmy Mays for cutting us a great deal!) we also take orders for several different frozen casseroles. Last year we made about 150 of them. This year I'm hoping to break 200!

We've been trying to fine-tune the offerings to a) make sure we are creating something that people want to buy and b) make sure that we aren't losing money! So we have tweaked and researched and now are in the test kitchen phase.

The #1 seller every year so far has been the Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Casserole. And we have that one down to a science. I know that you break 18 eggs into a 2 quart pitcher and then fill it with milk to make the egg mixture. I can tell you how many slices of white break get torn into each pan and could grab the correct scoop for the right amount of sausage. The only downside to that casserole is that it has the lowest investment-to-return ratio. But it is quick to make and I have directions so that any group can make 30 4-serving pans in about 2 hours. So we are keeping that one in!

We also have a very popular Pasta Casserole. Made up the recipe for that one in about 5 minutes while Mom was at Sam's Club. Spiral pasta (gives lots of place for the sauce to hide!), ground beef, a little sausage (because pork fat rules), tomato sauce and a couple cheeses. The only thing is that I only know how to make it in a 96 serving batch! Which works out fine, because that sucker sells great and has a good return.

We are on our third chicken-based casserole in three years. I THINK that this one is real winner. My test subject will need to report on it (I just put the test batch in the oven for dinner) after he tastes it. This one is a Chicken, Mushroom and Rice creation that is a melding of about 40 different recipes. The hardest part about it is shredding the chicken. Found boneless skinless breasts for 1.97/pound - but in a 5 pound package! So I spent about 45 minutes pulling chicken meat this afternoon. But it created about 14 cups of chicken!! As long as it passes the taste test, then this one is a shoe-in.

And that would usually be about it...except that this year's bazaar is the weekend before Thanksgiving...and so the bazaar director has requested that I offer some appropriate side dish offerings. Do you know how hard it is to find a corn pudding that freezes??? But I think we did it! Tonight Dad will not only be testing our Chicken and Rice, but will also be the judge of the freezer-friendly corn casserole AND a sweet potato casserole with a granola topping. Mom and I went ahead and froze the green bean casserole so that we could experiment with topping/defrosting issues. He'll have to eat that later this week.

Wish me luck - and don't forget to order!! The Bizarre - I mean Bazaar will be November 19th. And if you'd like to be a guinea pig...I've still got some testing to do!!

Wednesday, October 19

What I want to be is...

A lot of folks knew from a very young age what they wanted to be when they grew up. Sometimes I envy them. I went to high school with people that knew they wanted to be doctors or lawyers or teachers. And a lot of them have accomplished those goals.

And then there are friends that I have seen fall in love with a particular vocation and work hard to be the best in their field. I have one friend who is about to tape his 3rd or 4th (or 5th?) stint on One Life to Live. I knew when I saw him perform the first time that he had that special something that would propel him to success in the performing arts. I saw him in Deathtrap. I was the sound designer on that production. And even after watching a week of rehearsals and a half dozen performances...I had to stop whatever I was doing to watch one particular scene.

If you haven't seen the show (or the movie version with Christopher Reeve)...there is a scene where the older playwright threatens to burn the younger playwright's manuscript. Whenever Jamie delivered his line to halt the destruction...my blood just ran cold. It takes a lot to make a jaded technician (I think this was the third time I had worked on a production of this play) stop and take notice. Talent. That is what it takes.

My point is - to all those people who know what they want to be when they grow up - that is pretty cool. I still haven't figured that out for myself. At least not the vocation part. But here are a few things that I know that I want to be:

Intelligent...maybe even a little bit wise?
A good listener

So, whatever field I end up in next...teacher, minister, chef, manager, ditch-digger...that won't matter nearly as much as the person I end up being. I don't care about rich or thin or famous.

Navel gazed.

Hamster beaten.

Tuesday, October 11

Opus and Bill...something to smile at

I need inspiration...to find something completely random and amusing to blog about.

Where to go to find something pithy?

I don't know about you folks...but when I'm looking for random, amusing and pithy...my hero is Berke Breathed. That's pronounced Burk Breh-thd. Not a very good phonetic spelling, I admit. Regardless of the man's name...he created one of the all-time classic comic strips. I speak of none other than Bloom County.

Now, there are a lot of folks out there who have never heard of the strip...especially if you're reading my blog...because the Lynchburg paper didn't carry it. I learned about it from my pithy and amusing friends in theatre. Specifically, one uber-cool chick named Meredith.

Now there is a girl who walked to the beat of a different drummer. The fact that she was friends with a dork like me...still never ceases to amaze me... I met her at the Lynchburg Fine Arts Center (all will now bow their heads and offer a silent tribute to that sacred artistic ground - now a parking lot for CentraHealth). She was (and I'm sure still IS) a fireball. This incredible combination of technician, singer, actor...never saw her dance much...but she was her own version of triple threat. She laughed louder and cared deeper than anyone I had met before. And she came with a pretty terrific family, too. They were this little pocket of very old souls...interested in art, music, theology, stars, moon...deep folks.

Anyway - Meredith introduced me to Bloom County. And I've been friends with that wacky cast of characters ever since. Even when Berke decided to stop writing the strip - I still enjoy the reruns.

My favorites are Opus: a penguin with big nose and self-esteem issues; Bill the Cat: a cat with personal hygiene issues and wouldn't know self-esteem if it bit him in the butt (doesn't know, doesn't care what anybody thinks about him);

and Oliver Wendell Jones. He's a genius. I think I relate to each of them. Sometimes I'm Opus... sometimes Oliver...and a whole lot of Bill.

Go out to the web and look at some comics today...and laugh louder than anybody...

Thursday, October 6

Wisdom from Steve Jobs

It is funny to think that we once played solitaire with a deck of cards.

I remember the very first personal computer that I encountered. Oh sure, I remember the TRS80s in the computer lab in high school...I didn't take that class, but I remember being able to make my name repeat endlessly on a computer screen. That was the extent of my interaction with them for a long time.

And then I worked with things like word processors...I could find documents in DOS and print them. But I didn't see a need for a computer in a person's LIFE until I sat down at a friend's lumpy little Mac...and played Mahjongg.

Really - until then I thought that personal computers would be limited to stuff like recipe files, personal journals (like Doogie Howser!) and word games. (anybody else remember "Zork"? You typed in commands like "east" "get bolt" "climb tree"...and there was this whole adventure that you went on. I got stuck in an echo chamber...never did finish that game).

But that experience, with icons that told you what program you were running...and a mouse to choose things...was the first time that I thought "I might like to have one of these". Soon after, I played solitaire on a friend's PC (and enjoyed the starfield screen saver).

And then, it snowballed...there were more and more tasks you could DO with a computer! It wasn't just an oversized calculator, typewriter and card deck. And then when you could communicate via email with people and get immediate response... Eventually I got one.

Steve Jobs saw the potential of making a computer something that regular people could use. He envisioned a way to make it easy to interface with programs. And now I have a phone with more computing power than that first Mac and my first PC could dream of having.

And I've always liked the fact that he thought it important to think of the aesthetics - form, color, comfort.

Your genius was a part of a revolution of innovation, Mr. Jobs. Thank you for sharing it with the world. Save me a few minutes in heaven, I'd like to shake your hand.

Monday, October 3

Time of Darkness

I walked through some dark places last week.

Some of you know that I had a difficult situation arise. The situation isn't really the most important thing here...and I don't want to discuss that in this open forum. If you love me and want to know what is going on...feel free to ask in a private setting.

But the situation created a massive breakdown in the way that I valued myself. It caused a tremendous wave of self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness. And it didn't matter how often the friends and family around me said "you're so special" "you'll land on your feet" or "God has something better in store for you".

I felt like a horrible and failed person.

And that took me to some very dark places in my mind.

Several times during the week I thought about ending my pain in a very permanent way.

That will shock a lot of people. Because they believe I'm so strong and so confident. Yeah - I thought so, too.

But I found that I am capable of being shaken to my very core. To doubt my faith. To doubt my value. To believe it when I am told that I've done nothing positive - only failed.

So, I spent a few days when I was on my own mental ledge. And I wanted to jump. But I didn't.

So - why do I share this? I'm not looking for your pity - but your prayers. And I want everyone who has spent time in that dark place to know that you're not alone. And if I can ever help hold you back from jumping...know that I will do all I can...because I've walked a mile in those shoes. And I wouldn't want anyone to walk that mile alone.

thanks to those of you who held me...and may have told hold me again...

you are the light of God in my life.

Light just enough to take the next step.