Thursday, December 21, 2006

More birds at the birdfeeder

I'll post them a little smaller this time, because I realized the larger-than-life pictures in my first birdfeeder post had a Hitchcock vibe. (Don't look now, but THE CHICKADEES ARE COMING TO GET YOU!!! BIRDS! BIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRRDDS!!!)

The titmouse isn't coming to get you, but he's thinking about it.

The nuthatch is too hungry to go after you.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Phil's birthday

You might wonder why I go to DC so often. It seems to have become the gravitational center of Justin's group of friends. Several of his good friends live there, and another is trying to get a job there. We might end up there eventually, although the street system and I are going to have to work out a few issues first.

So Saturday night we celebrated Phil's birthday in Dupont at Buffalo Billiards. It was a surprise. And it's a testament to the generally oblivious nature of guys that we did not ruin the surprise, despite the fact that we are not a group of people very good at keeping secrets. And by "we," I mean Justin.

Phil was surprised to see Zeke, who was supposed to be in Florida.

And Danny, who was supposed to be...wait, he lives in DC.

And he was surprised to see Justin, and his ever-rampant beard.

Jen, Phil's betrothed, planned the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas cards

One of the small pleasures of this time of year is replacing last year's Christmas card photos on the refrigerator with new ones as they come in. (We will contribute to all your refrigerators one day, I promise. As soon as we start having kids.)

I just want to tell everyone who's sent a card - and you know who you are - this year's pictures are really beautiful. Everyone looks better at thirty than they did at twenty. The expectant moms are cute pregnant ladies. The next generation is looking less like toddlers and more like kids. And everyone looks truly joyful. You guys are awesome.

Monday, December 18, 2006

What's up with this?

Again, I apologize to my Seattle friends for having much better weather than you. But really, how can I even think about baking Christmas cookies under such circumstances?

[ducks as friends from Seattle throw food that spoiled because the power was out too long]

I really like living in Virginia in the winter. It might snow. It might be seventy degrees. What it will not do is rain for weeks on end.

Around Capitol Hill

We were in DC this weekend for our friend Phil's birthday party. I just brought my little point-and-shoot camera this time, but I got some nice pictures. It's been unseasonably warm and sunny here. Sorry, Seattle friends.

Monday, December 11, 2006


When I was in elementary school, I was really interested in birds. I knew every species of bird that could conceivably appear in a suburban Northwestern backyard and did a science project on birds. Now I'm in a new place with different birds and decided it was time to get into birdwatching again.

(Aren't birdfeeders interesting? What an odd intervention in the cycle of nature, that we would feed birds for no other purpose than to look at them.)

The first bird I saw on the patio taking advantage of ambient scattered birdseed was a song sparrow. The first bird I saw actually using the feeder was a downy woodpecker.

The first birds I photographed were these house finches:

There are only two perches, so another finch was waiting to get a piece of the action.

And naturally, someone else showed up.

The squirrel tried all sorts of angles to get at the feeder but couldn't find one that worked. I felt sorry for it, so I put out some cornbread. Not that this cornbread turned out very well, so maybe I'm not doing it any favors.

The cats love the birdfeeder. I'm not sure they understand that if they stand right by the window drooling, it intimidates the birds. The squirrel doesn't care, though.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Blogroll additions

I've been slowly adding to my blogroll, in no systematic fashion, but I wanted to mention two blogs in particular. I recently discovered that the senior and associate pastors who were at my old home church, Bethany Community Church, back when I lived in Seattle, both have blogs. They are not your ordinary evangelical pastors. Richard Dahlstrom at Rain City Pastor recently wrote about evangelicals who are breaking out of their one-party identity. Scott Becker has moved on from Bethany to work on a PhD in Christian ethics and is blogging about his struggle with cancer. His most recent post is on health care as a moral issue. I'm reminded of how blessed I was to know these two extraordinary people during my last few years in Seattle, and I'm glad I'm able to keep learning from them from all the way across the country.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The AAR: Religion and the 2006 elections

I'm finally reviewing my notes from a session at the AAR on The Role of Scripture in the 2006 Elections. (Actually, it was an SBL session, if I recall correctly, and it was more on religion in general in the 2006 elections, but you get the idea.) The panel, consisting of Anna Greenberg, Terry Eastland, John Podesta, Missy Daniel, and Shaun Casey, said a lot of substantive things, and I'll just mention what I found most interesting and memorable.

  • The panelists agreed, as most people have agreed, that the 2006 elections didn't indicate a fundamental shift to the left on the part of the electorate, but rather a combination of disenchantment with the Republicans and the Democrats' success at targeting candidates to specific races without the expectation that they'll meet all the usual criteria of the party platform.

  • A number of Democratic candidates, such as Heath Shuler and Ted Strickland, were able to convey their religious convictions in an authentic and persuasive way and were clearly comfortable speaking religious language, in contrast to most Democratic candidates in recent years. (There's Obama, too.)

  • Shaun Casey (whom I liked a lot) made a few good points: that evangelical youth culture is more pliable and less focused on wedge issues than their parents; the hope for swinging the electorate is in the middle (yay!) (rather than invigorating the base, I guess); Republicans overreached on immigration and lost ground to Democrats (true, especially given that Catholics are the swing vote and we tend to be pro-immigration and other social justice-y things); and the concept of framing according to George Lakoff (whom he refused to name) has a "highly frustrating and demeaning" view of religion, but fortunately that moment seems to be past.

  • John Podesta noted than when Kerry was asked in the 2004 debates about how his religion would inform his public service, he gave exactly the same sort of answer that Kennedy did, i.e. he tried to play down the influence of his Catholicism on his political action. Except that, oops, it's not 1960 anymore. That is, now nobody's worried a Catholic candidate will be too Catholic, but not Catholic enough. (Although it remains to be seen whether the same holds true for a Mormon candidate.)

  • Terry Eastland noted there aren't any obvious evangelical candidates on the right. He named Frist (who's decided since then not to run) and Brownback (who evidently is) as outlying possibilities. John Podesta was the first and I think only person to mention Giuliani (whom Justin likes), but seemed convinced that he's too out of step with the religious right to get the nomination and might cause a third-party break. (Which, if it's a centrist party, is fine with me. But I think McCain's more likely than Giuliani to run as a third-party candidate if he doesn't get the nomination and a very conservative Republican does.)

I went to another panel on religion and politics called "Progressive Politics and Religion: Has the Left 'Gotten It'?" (an allusion to panelist Jim Wallis' book God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, which I'm just beginning to read), but I don't feel like talking about it at the moment because 1. what the heck am I doing anyway? it's past midnight, 2. my notes are much more fragmentary, and 3. I was alternately very intrigued and very frustrated, probably because, you know, I'm not really a progressive. But I'm on their email list now, so I'll see where that gets me.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Why I celebrate Christmas on December 25

Yes, I know Mithras' birthday is December 25. Yes, I know about the winter solstice. Yes, I know about the Saturnalia. I got the memo. Thanks. In fact, I minored in Obscure Greco-Roman Religious Cults for my MA, so I knew about it all even before you sent the memo.


It's Advent. The nights are getting longer, the days shorter and colder. I had to take in my rosemary last night because it was so cold. I forget every year how early the evening comes, how easy it is to wander out to do a few errands and come back in the dark.

This leads to a sense of urgency and anticipation: How much longer do we have to wait until the days lengthen again?

And then, on the darkest night of the year, a star brightens the sky; a child is born, the most joyous of human miracles in any circumstances, and all the more because that child is God made flesh, who will suffer when he reaches adulthood but for now, for one glorious moment, is suspended in that moment of beauty and wonder at tiny hands, tiny feet, born to a girl who did nothing special but to assent to the angel who burst in on her ordinary life and announced how, in nine months, her world and the entire world would change.

Somehow it just doesn't seem the same to celebrate all that in April.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


I finally posted a recipe at De Re Coquinaria, the long-neglected recipe blog I started last year in anticipation of having a real kitchen again and then forgot about when I finally did have a kitchen (Deanna's been more faithful). Last Christmas I got several cookie recipes from Justin's Aunt Ann, all passed down from her grandmother, Grama Graves, but it seemed kind of silly to post Christmas cookie recipes right after Christmas, so I saved them until this year. Not that it has to be Christmas to bake cookies. But there is something really nice about putting some Christmas music on the stereo and baking cookies, especially if one's husband, who barely tolerates Christmas music, goes to Washington DC and leaves one stranded without a car and nothing to do except clean the kitchen and bake things in it.

When I was in college, I made my first batch of chocolate chip cookies from scratch, which turned out so not as horrible as I expected that I kept on baking them. (My apologies to anyone who was afflicted with the infamous Yellow Chocolate Chip Cookies.) My mom never really baked things, so I'm not sure where I got that from. Justin's family bakes, though. His dad makes these marvelous crescent rolls (also a Grama Graves recipe), and the first Christmas I was in Chapel Hill, I helped Gomma and Gompa, Justin's paternal grandparents, make stollen. (That's why we never baked growing up; I'm not the teeniest bit Scandinavian.) They also gave us my beloved stand mixer, without which I do not know how I survived all these cookie-baking years. I didn't even have a hand mixer until a few years ago. I don't know what I was thinking.

Anyway, this is why I want to have kids: so they can grow up and have kids, and we can all gather together in the especially fabulous kitchen I'm going to have by then and bake things and eat them. That is the true meaning of Christmas. Well, actually, it's not, but I'm sure if Grama Graves had been a wise man, she would have brought the baby Jesus chocolate krinkle puffs, and there would have been plenty left over for the shepherds, too.