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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Insert Irreverence Here

My craving for dinner tonight was for sushi at Miyako, but when the wait for a to-go order was going to be about a half-an-hour, I went home and settled for a bowl of frosted mini-wheats and a Stella Artois. I can't remember the last time I actually cooked a hot meal for myself. Such a shame...but no time!

I'm booked solid for the next two weeks with visits from out-of-town friends, mission trip meetings, training sessions at the Rescue Mission, a wedding shower, Book Club, dogsitting the Puppa, and even dinner with a dear, old high school friend I haven't seen in *ahem* ten years. Oh, and did I mention that I hold a 7 to 4 as well?

I'll be lucky to get some pool time and fireworks in during this favorite holiday weekend of mine. Only if I had a man and a grill... But at least I'll have my single girlfriends, and if I'm lucky, maybe a hot dog at the Sonic.

My wine class ended last Wednesday night. Perfect timing, really. We spent our last class creating our own blended wines. We were given three white wines and three red wines and told to mix them for an original concoction. My group won the white wine category, and I was really proud of that. I think I even did jazz hands when my instructor announced the winner. Don't tell anyone. I love to win.

SBC was, well, S.B.C. Some of you are privileged to know how I've been referring to the event, and it certainly didn't fall short of my expectations. Let's put it this way.... On the way up to Louisville last Friday, I fell downwind of a truck shuttling horses at 30 mph on a ten-mile stretch of 65N. The parallel? Both were a whole 'lotta ass.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fringe Benefits

My interest in my sorry excuse for a freelance career is waning as I get busier and the market dries up. One publication that I wrote for semi-regularly is on its way to folding. But the premiere issue of Fringe Magazine released earlier this week, and my article on up and coming songwriter, Jaclyn James, is on page 39, right beside Mr. Dave Barnes. Ch-ch-check it out. I won't lie...I'm kind of pumped, and just slightly motivated.

Last night was my mid-week vino break at Fido. Several of the wines we sampled were meant to be illustrative, rather than enjoyed. For example, we sampled a fortified wine from South Africa, called Weltevrede Golden Muscat. The wine is meant to be served during the dessert course, but I hated it--as it is cloyingly sweet. Imagine fermenting yellow raisins and candied orange peel, and you come out with something similar to cough syrup. But, it was nice to at least try the wine and gain some knowledge about fortified wines.

My favorites?

Cassone La Florencia Chardonnay from Mendoza, Argentina
This lighly oaked white had a perfect balance of sweetness, with a creamy hint of vanilla. It was delightful. And that's all I have to say about that.

Vinedo de los Vinedos Tannat from Atlantida, Uruguay
My wine instructor chose this wine to teach us about tannins, plant polyphenols that cause a dry and puckery feeling in the mouth following consumption of a red wine or unripened fruit. For instance, when you drink either iced or hot tea, the last few sips are dry and bitter, as the tannins have settled to the bottom. In wine, tannins come from the grape skins. A tannat grape is one of the best examples of a wine rich in tannins. My instructor illustrated the effect of this wine as a "fat tongue."

Dierberg Syrah from Santa Ynez, California
This wine is ranked in the top ten of American Syrah in 2009 by three different publications: Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, and Wine Enthusiast. As with most Syrah varieties that I love, this wine was dry, smooth, and overflowing with dark cacao, coffee and sweet spices.

Our Menu:

Grilled Peaches with Caramel Dressing, garnished with parmesan, mint and basil
Local Zucchini and Squash, stuffed with Kentucky Gouda and Fennel
Chorizo, Beef and Veggie Burger with Fig and Artichoke Mayonnaise on house-made Poppyseed Sourdough Roll
Home Fries with Sea Salt and fresh Garlic
Gingerbread Tea Cake filled with Lemon Curd, drizzled with Balsamic Reduction

I leave tomorrow for Louisville, for my annual author signing stint at the Southern Baptist Convention. I'm sure it will be a jolly good time, replete of three-piece suits, beards, and good ol' fashioned conservativism. I will have a lot of time to blog, but not a lot to blog about. Afterall, it is Louisville...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Worship 101

It's no lie...I'm a dummy when it comes to the world of praise and worship music. I've been a Christian for 21 years, was raised in the church, live with three women who are fiercely loyal to the praise tracks on their iPods, and work in corporate marketing for one of the largest Christian retailers in the United States. Yet still, I am clueless.

I grew up listening to secular music, and garnering a great understanding and appreciation of an eclectic variety of artists and albums throughout the ages. Some of my happiest memories are tagged to songs that define my current life stage. And who expresses emotion and the circumstances of life better than the poetic artists writing these songs? My iTunes library currently holds 32.1 GB of music in the form of 663 albums/23.5 days. I estimate that only about five percent is composed of religious content. And that's probably a generous guess.

In the church, I cut my teeth on Baptist hymns. They will always be my first choice when it comes to praising my Savior through song. If you experience the unfortunate event of standing next to me in church during A Mighty Fortress is Our God, you might not be able to hear yourself sing because of my loud soprano. I can't get enough.

I have an issue with praise and worship music. A large portion of the songs are (in my humble opinion) incredibly cheesetastic, and quite frankly, they annoy me. And I tire of singing a chorus ten times in four minutes, as is indicative of many praise songs.

I want to learn. I want some praise and worship to call my own. Half the battle is knowing where to start. Will you please help? I have a $25 iTunes giftcard burning a hole in my pocket. Can you suggest artists, songs, choirs, albums, etc? Teach me, o wise ones.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Heavenly Lightning

Lovely Friday to you. Yesterday was a much better day for me, and I anticipate a good weekend ahead. I'm supposed to go to the Nashville Sounds game tonight with my Mom and Dad, unless it rains. I really want to eat a hot dog and see the post-game fireworks. And I'd love some pool time tomorrow, followed-up by Hadley's birthday party at Arrington Vineyards.

It stormed a big one last night, with tons of rain and lightning. I love storms. I know they're dangerous and frighten most, but I really do love them. It occurred to me this morning that I'd like for God to host lightning shows when I get to Heaven. It's obvious from the Bible that lightning is a tool of the Lord, and that He holds it in ultimate control. Can you imagine the Creator of the Universe putting on a show like that?

I didn't anticipate this blog post moving in this direction, but... What would you like to see in Heaven? My pastor, Mike Glenn, commented the other night about the Bible's description of Heaven, and how we sell it short. For instance, when we think of the pearly gates, we think of hundreds of pearls, all linked together. Instead, the Bible says that each gate is a single pearl, the (forgive the pun) mother of all pearls. And streets of gold conjure up images of the yellow brick road. But no, the gold is so pure that it's as transparent as glass. It's going to be the most glorious sight I've ever laid eyes.

The Bible does a great job to establish Heaven's brilliance, but also inspires me to wonder what else awaits at my final destination. I know there will be great feasts. But will it be food that I've tasted and loved on earth, or yet-to-be-discovered delicacies, reserved only for heavenly beings. And, what about animals? I'd love to lounge around with a big, beastly lion without fear of getting my head bitten off. Just sayin.

Moving on.... Wednesday evening, I attended my weekly vino class. Kind of like my art class used to be, my wine class has become my mid-week distraction from the sometimes harsh realities of life. Our main topic of study was communication of the art of wine, and we learned how to describe wine as you would describe a personality, build a basic wine vocab, and use different flavor concepts to define a wine's character.

Our menu for the evening:

Cucumber-Melon Gazpacho
Tuna Tartare with Hazlenuts and Avocado
Sesame Marinated Coconut Shrimp
Pork Loin stuffed with Goat Cheese, Cherries and Walnuts
Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes

In addition to dinner, we were given fruit pairings that matched up with each of the wines sampled. Of the eight wines, I had several favorites:

Eradus Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand
This unique Sav-Blanc was very creamy, not typical of the variety. We were given a slice of grapefruit to help us identify the flavor in the wine. This wine was also served alongside our Tuna Tartare, as it pairs well with sushi.

Austin's Pino Noir from Geelong, Australia
Our instructor taught us the proper wine swirling method, and to seek flavor topnotes just from the wine's aroma. It's gonna sound odd, but I detected a salty bacon hint from this wine. I was right...salty meats smells are often detected on dark red wines. And at the same the flavor was very cherry. This wine would pair nicely with a hearty steak and potatoes meal.

Baguala Torrontes from Valles Calchaquies, Argentina
The Torrontes grape was a lost variety from Portugal, that made it's way over the years to Argentina. The minute this wine hit my glass, it smelled sugary--but in a floral way. It's essence of pear and pineapple shone through, making it a very sweet wine. I envision a cool, late summer night on the front porch with friends, and this chilled beauty.

Syan Shiraz from Pyrenees, Australia
My instructor compared a Shiraz to a kid with ADD. You never know what you're gonna get, and it changes every time you take a sip. This blackberry-blueberry noted Shiraz was dry and chocolately, and by far, my favorite of the evening. No surprise there.

Broc Cellars Petite Sirah from Paso Robles, California
The Petite Sirah is actually a the lovechild of a Durif grape and a Syrah. We were served this last wine alongside our Mexican Chocolate Cupcake. It matched the hot and spicy quality of the confection, and sent me along that evening with a nice finish.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Scheduling Bananas

Do you ever have one of those "I'm about to flip out" moments, during a really inopportune time? I feel that way right now, at work. I can feel the horomones and emotions bubbling just under the surface, and I feel like I could break down into screams and sobs right now. But to the outside world, I look cool, calm, even bored. WRONG.

No time for a freak out though. I'm getting my hair cut tonight, and it's off to Kairos after that. I'll have to save it for bedtime.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Free Horse to Good Home

I acquired a stray pet recently. His name is Charley, and he's a horse. While we were in Florida, I was sleeping peacefully one night. Around 3 a.m., I awoke with an amazing shooting pain in my left calf. I had no earthly idea what was going on. My leg seized up, and I sat up in bed and started crying because it hurt so bad. I couldn't flex my foot, and I just laid there and whimpered. The next morning, I told the gals about my experience, and they laughed and said that I had a Charley Horse.

Now, I know it may seem surprising, but I've never had a CH before. When I played soccer in high school, I would have Achilles flare-ups, but never anything like this. Charley was sore the week following, and I've noticed him rearing his head the past couple of days. I'm ready for Charley to find a new home.

Last night was my third Wine 101 class at Fido. I'm beginning to make some casual-acquaintance friends, even though I probably won't ever see most of them again. Our focus of the evening was "the winery," and we discussed topics including vintage, harvesting methods and seasons, fermentation differences in whites versus reds, malolactic fermentation, oak barrels versus stainless steel tanks, and wine balance in regard to fruit, acid, sugar, tannin and oak. The food was extraordinary, but the wine was only so-so, even though we tasted nine. My two favorites:

Huarpe Lancatay Malbec from Argentina
We were shown images of Malbec grapes, and they're the loveliest color of blue. Almost a periwinkle, or a Carolina blue. The skins are slightly transparent, and the grapes are large, round red pulps that shine through the skin. This wine was made from late-harvest Malbec grapes, and the wine was heavily bodied with a high alcohol content. It was incredibly fragrant, and pleasantly, but not overwhelmingly, sweet.

Three Saints Cabernet from Synez Valley, California
By far, the winner of the evening. This cab spent it's entire pre-bottle time aging in an oak barrel, bringing out a strong smoky flavor. It was incredibly smooth, yet strong, and it tasted expensive. And, it is, retailing at $25 a bottle.

Our Menu:

Coconut Chicken Rice Cakes with Lime Sour Cream and Chow Chow
Grilled Shrimp Tostada with Rhubarb BBQ Sauce and Mango Hot
Trio of Handmade Pizzas--
Classic Margherita
Lemon Mayo with Feta, Spinach and Figs
Chorizo with Tomato Pesto and Golden Raisins
Local Organic Pulled Pork on Handmade Buns with Cider BBQ Sauce and Slaw

I received some news today that upset me, although it is probably not upsetting to most of the free world. Camerin Courtney, author and columnist of the Christian Singles Today Newsletter, has been axed by Christianity Today due to the flailing economy. For the past five years, I've read Camerin's columns on a weekly basis, comforted by her straightforward honesty about life as a Christian singleton. I've read her books, and felt as though she was a wise friend, sharing her own struggles and learned lessons. Not only am I disappointed that the newsletter is folding, but I'm also struck with a pang of sadness at her words:

"This isn't how I thought goodbye would look. Our goodbye, single friends. I thought there would be a great guy ushering me into a new season of life. I thought saying goodbye to you readers would coincide with saying hello to married life or to some other new ministry or vocational pursuit. Instead, our parent company Christianity Today International has recently made the very difficult decision to discontinue ChristianSinglesToday.com. And this is our last newsletter."

I, too, thought Camerin's exit from the Singles newsletter would be the end of her singleness. I not only mourn the loss of her job, but I ache for her continued aloneness---the way I ache for my own aloneness.

Spiritually, I'm having a tough time right now hearing God and believing what I know to be true. I admit, I'm a little (okay, more than a little) irritated at Him right now. Life doesn't look like I want it to look. And because of that, I haven't wanted to read my Bible, pray, or even think about holiness. I know I'm acting like a rebellious teenager, and I'm pushing buttons in my anger. I know this can't last...shouldn't last...won't last.

I do take great comfort and humility in remembering that He knows me better than I know myself. And even during this period of heartache and defiance, I know He hasn't left me.

Psalm 139: 1-12
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Made in China

At my local Chinese take-out restaurant, you can purchase Kung Pao chicken, egg roll, Moo Goo Gai Pan, chow mein, fortune cookies, and fine jewelry.

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