Sunday, April 13, 2014

Real Love?

I get Christianity Today magazine and read an intriguing article towards the end of the April issue last week. Here's the first line: "The report is in, and the eulogy has been delivered. Romantic comedies are dead. I say that's good news." I was hooked. What could the writer possibly mean?

The writer described Hollywood's typical romantic comedy and argued that a new batch of movies and TV shows seem to be getting at a different message. Many of these recent offerings are either portraying the challenges of romantic relationships or are featuring relationships beyond the romantic as central to the plot. The writer described scenes from several recent movies and TV shows to support her point, including an example from Frozen, my new favorite animated movie. Instead of the act of true love being a true love's kiss in Frozen (a hinge point in so many romantic comedies), the act is a young woman sacrificing her life for her sister.

After citing examples, the writer gets down to the real reason the death of romantic comedies is a good thing. She writes: "Against all odds, Hollywood seems to be discovering that when we make romance the highest form of love, we're missing what love is all about...More important, we forget that love is not just for people in romantic relationships. Real love occupies our whole lives."

This article hits close to home and crystallized some thoughts I'd been turning over in my mind. As I get ready to turn 25 on Tuesday, my thoughts have inevitably turned to broader questions about my life and about life as a whole. Am I happy to be where I am in life? Am I okay with being single at a quarter century?

On Saturday, some dear friends of mine--a dad, two daughters, and one daughter's son--picked me up for an afternoon together. We had lunch at Rancho Chico and then went to visit their aunt, who lives near by. The big occasion for visiting was so the aunt could meet my friend's four-month-old son. The aunt lives alone, so we sat in her plain living room, drank peach tea with organic honey, and listened to her talk about various subjects--doctors, church, her son, organic food, and marriage all being among the topics.

One of the daughters is just 10 days older than me, so she had turned 25 the week before. The aunt asked her how old she was, and my friend answered.

"Twenty five!" The aunt said. "We have got to get you married. We have to find some nice man to snatch you up. We can't let you be an old maid."

Why not? I thought, rather peevishly. What's so bad about being an old maid? It's not a death sentence.

I've heard people express sentiments like this before, and though I'm still young enough to revel in my independence without regret, I always wonder what they dread will happen if I'm not paired up with someone post haste. It's not that these people are mean-spirited. On the contrary, it's not likely romance is even what they're hoping for when they wish for a spouse for a single person. Rather, they know that romantic love can give way to a life time of companionship and deep joy. I can understand that desire. I even wish it for myself often.

But, in the meantime, here I am. Single. Unattached. An old maid (depending on your standards). What's a girl to do? As the article says: "Romance is not the only kind of love that makes life worth living." Even in my limited experience of life, about to swell with another year, I've found this to be true. I've got a blessed number of friends and family and a God whose definition of love is constantly shattering the molds we squeeze it into. I have a feeling this year is going to be a wild ride. Hang onto your hats!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Menu-Planning Mojo

In the coming two weeks, I'm gonna need all the cooking mojo I can muster. I usually just cook two to three meals a week and eat the leftovers for lunch and dinner. It's easy; I only cater to my own whims. But I often find cooking for myself boring, which is why I like to try new recipes and new techniques and to play with new ingredients. For instance, a friend gave me some culinary lavender on Friday, and I spent a good bit of time researching recipes that evening (while watching Frozen). I've already made lavender ice cream and 16 lavender scones. I baked three scones and ate them with lemon curd and froze the others unbaked, so I can pull them out and bake them anytime.

I hope my success with my lavender treats has got me on a good foot for all the meals I have to make in the coming weeks. The first is a pancake breakfast for my company--Olive Tree--to celebrate a big software update that our development team has been working on for more than a year. We also invited the folks at Partners to breakfast since we're using their space to cook and eat. I'm guessing we'll be cooking for 35-40 people. The seven managers are cooking, but I'm in charge of planning the menu, buying ingredients, and giving orders on Wednesday morning. Despite the sometimes-harried nature of these events, I always like adding another event like this to my cooking resume. You never know when it will come in handy. The menu is has a lot of moving pieces, though: pancakes, waffles, crepes, fruit, baked egg dishes, sausage, and drinks. Wish me luck!

On Monday night, I'm hosting around 10 people at my house for our monthly children's ministry committee meeting. We used to have almost more food limitations in this group than I could count: vegetarian, doctor-ordered low-carb diet, gluten-intolerant, and a slight dairy-intolerance. While the gluten intolerant people are no longer in the group, I still try to be creative when I cook for this group, so the menu is as follows: Spring Risotto with asparagus and peas, deviled eggs, and cut veggies with homemade ranch dressing. I was planning to make a pavlova for dessert with baked meringues, a triple-berry compote, and whipped cream, but I was informed at church today that the dessert would be brought by my friend Karen. I have to admit I was disappointed, but as the reason for this dessert switch-up is my birthday the next day, I'm inclined to give in. :)

I have a reprieve on my birthday and will be enjoying milkshakes with a group of friends at the Milk Bottle, a classic Spokane joint. On Wednesday, I'll prep a meal with my friend Gerry for my church's monthly family night. In light of Easter the following Sunday, we decided on a simple menu of ham, green salad, sliced bread with butter, colored hard-boiled eggs, and Oreo Rice Crispy treats. Piece of cake!

The next day, my parents come into town until the day after Easter. We'll celebrate my 25th birthday and my dad's 60th birthday, both big milestones! I love planning the menu when my parents visit because they are so easily pleased. :) Thursday night, we'll have one-pot Arroz con Pollo. Friday, we're having Lemon Brioche Baked French Toast for breakfast. Lunch will be at a restaurant in town. Dinner will be Alaskan salmon and a wild rice casserole. A friend of mine gave me three filets of salmon and one filet of halibut several weeks ago that her husband caught himself in Alaska. I was so amazed at her generosity! I feel like I have pure (food) gold in my freezer.

Breakfast and lunch on Saturday are yet to be determined, but we'll likely need picnic food that day. The evening will feature broiled New York strip steaks and popovers filled with creamed asparagus. Dessert will be lemon ice cream and homemade shortbread. Yum! Easter is still up in the air, though I'm guessing my pavlovas will be on the menu for dessert. I've also spent this weekend filling my freezer with granola, vanilla frozen yogurt, and lavender scones and ice cream, so whatever else we are, we won't be hungry.

I found all my menu planning ironic after the sermon at my church today on Jesus' statement "I am the bread of life." Hunger is not what I'm feeling right now, but there was still something in the sermon for my food-filled brain. "In one of the most crucial points of Jesus' life," my pastor said, "he proclaimed that 'Man does not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God.' We still live on the Word of God, the Word made flesh, the Bread of Life." I'll keep this in mind as I eat and prepare meals in the coming weeks. God's grace is abundance. It's filet mignon once a day with peanut butter chocolate cheesecake for dessert. It's good to feel hunger, like the self-imposed hunger of Lent, but it's right to celebrate, too. And what better to time to celebrate than Easter?