Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve Rhyme: 2009

Hark! the welkin's ring is sounding
As the New Year in is bounding.
Good riddance we say to 2009
Let's hope 2010 is much more fine.

QG sends out greetings for the New Year
To all the Gentle Readers here.
To RevGals, Presbybloggers and lurkers all
Wishes for many blessings to y'all.

As the Old Year fades away
Lift your glass and salute the day.
As the night spreads across the sky
We'll happily bid 2009 good-bye.

We don't know what 2010 will bring
And yet our praises we will sing
To God on High whose sovereign power
Spreads over all each and every hour.

May God take our fears, our stress, our woe,
And show us how His blessings flow
Over each of us, because God knows our needs
And sends grace to save us despite our deeds.

So let us on with joyful feet
As tomorrow New Year's Day we'll greet.
Our confidence not in men, but God,
Our hope, our stay, our guiding rod.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of the Blogs: Online Minister Moms

I don't always call attention to the Best of the Blogs articles that I write for the PCUSA's denominational magazine, Presbyterians Today, but I do always link them on my sidebar.

But I think many of my Gentle Readers will be interested in reading the most recent article "Online Minister Moms" because it features four members of the RevGalBlogPals webring, three of whom are also PresbyBloggers: Jan Edmiston of A Church for Starving Artists, Carol Howard Merrit of Tribal Church, Melissa DeRosia of Sacred Screaming and UCC pastor Martha Hoverson (a/k/a Songbird) of Reflectionary.

The theme of the January/February issue of Presbyterians Today is ministers who are also mothers, so you may want to check out the other articles posted online here.

My thanks to each of them for taking the time to answer my questions for the article!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book Review: La's Orchestra Saves The World

Babs, Portia and I are all big Alexander McCall Smith fans, so I was excited to receive his latest book from Babs as a Christmas present. Late Christmas Day I came down with a bad cold, so I spent the next couple of days on the couch, covered in Kleenex, forcing fluids and reading La's Orchestra Saves the World.

Unlike his well-known mystery series featuring Precious Ramotswe and Isabelle Dalhousie, this is a stand-alone novel and there is not much mystery in it. Lavender ("La") Stone is a young widow living in the English countryside (Suffolk) when WWII breaks out.

La spends the duration of the war in Suffolk doing her bit to help by volunteering to help an arthritic farmer with his hens and organizing an amateur orchestra of musicians from the village and the near-by air force base. An injured Polish airman provides some romantic interest for La, but the relationship remains stuck in the "interest" stage during his time in Suffolk. There's a bit of mystery about a neighbor's son and a supposed theft of the arthritic farmer's savings--but not much.

The novel has very little plot and not much more character development. Some of the characters are little more than stock figures. La and her Polish airman are sympathetically drawn. McCall Smith is not known for dramatic plots, but he is a master at evoking the spirit of a time and place. He does not disappoint his fans in that regard here. La's Orchestra Saves The World draws the reader into wartime and post-war Britain with a gentle, diffident British touch.

I'd recommend this book for Alexander McCall Smith fans and for anyone who would enjoy a slow-paced, gentle excursion into the that era of British history.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lessons and Carols: Past, Present and Future

All Saint's Chapel, University of the South
Sewanee, Tennessee


I'm sitting in my kitchen this morning with El Jefe, basking in the bright sunshine outside, drinking coffee and listening to The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge. Beatrice and Olivia are peacefully napping in the corner.

Many years ago when El Jefe was a graduate student there, he had the privilege of reading the Second Lesson: "The Lord told the faithful Abraham that in his seed would all the nations of the world be blessed."

When Portia and Babs were babies and we attended First Presbyterian Church in Houston, I was a member of the choir and was tapped to do the chorister's reading at the midnight service. El Jefe stayed home with the, supposedly, sleeping children.

A few years later we had moved to Sugar Land and a brand-new church. I organized a Lessons and Carols service there using the middle and high school youth as readers and the adult choir leading the singing.

Lessons and Carols services are not really a Presbyterian tradition, so the next one we attended was at the University of the South when Babs was a senior in the university's chapel (which looks like a Cantabridgian cathedral, by the way). That was the most memorable Lessons and Carols for me. The gorgeous stained glass rose window at the front of the chapel was illuminated from outside by a large spotlight which brought a heavenly light into the sanctuary.

This year we attended a very nice Lessons and Carols at the Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Houston. Their children's choirs also participated and it was quite touching.

I hope someday to attend the King's College service in person.

Here's to Lessons and Carols--past, present and future--and a blessed Christmas Eve to all of you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Christmas Can-Can

Here's a bit of fun to take the stress off Christmas Eve Eve.

No Herald Angels Singing?


Mark Roberts is doing an interesting series on his blog about the history of different Christmas Carols. Today and tomorrow his subject is "Hark the Herald Angels Sing: The Carol That Shouldn't Exist."

This is one of my favorite carols so I chose that melody for this year's Sappy Christmas Song contest. Check it out!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Book Review: Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

I just finished reading Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller and found it an exceedingly appropriate book for the Advent Season. The subtitle of the book explains why: "The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power and the Only Hope That Matters."

Those of us who grew up going to Sunday School learned that the "false gods" and "idols" worshipped by the Cannaanites, Hittites, Jebusites and Other-ites of the Old Testament and the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians of the New Testament are the modern equivalent of devotion to money, success, materialism and pleasure. Keller takes this one step farther by showing WHY we abandon worship of the one true God in favor of these modern-day "counterfeit gods".

And his answer is that the common mistake people make when they hear about the biblical concept of idolatry" is that we think it is because idols are bad things. But the problem of idolatry is much more subtle and deep than that. We make idols out of good things because we believe they will satisfy our deepest needs and desires.

"Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the best things in life," Keller observes. Financial stability or prosperity, love and committed relationships, success in work and personal life, which are all good things, become idols when they absorb your heart more than God, and you believe these good things will give you only what God can give.

Counterfeit Gods is filled with references to current events, writers as disparate as De Tocqueville and Tolkien, and personal stories all grounded and framed in scripture as Keller makes a compelling case for his thesis. Keller is a great story-teller and he offers fresh interpretations of the stories of Abraham and Issac, Jonah, Esau and Jacob, and Zaccheaus as illustrations of different aspects of idolatry.

This is a good book for discussion by a Sunday School class or a small group. I found it thought-provoking and convicting. I read it first on my Kindle, then ordered a hard copy because it will be a helpful commentary on future Bible studies or other adult study situations.



Monday, December 21, 2009

Fourth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest: The Awards

The QG Gentle Readers' Choice voting is now closed and the winner is....REV KIM!

~applause, applause~

Congratulations Rev Kim! Please email me (jody dot harrington at gmail dot com) and with your mailing address and I will ship your ornament to you (and Rev Dave).

Very Honorable Mention Awards go to Presbyterian Gal and Mac, who tied for second place.

The Creative Genius Award goes to Presbyterian Gal for her ability to submit the stanzas that began and ended our unforgettable sentimental song this year. However does she do it?

The Country Music Wannabe Award goes to Mac, who managed to send in lyrics that mentioned killing pets, prison, Bubba, pardons, Momma and a train in the same stanza! We are not worthy of such talent.

The Most Prolific Lyricist Award goes to Reformed Catholic who was really on a roll this year! Save some for next year's contest, RC.

The Best British Humorist Award goes to our newest contributor, NIK, who sent her entry all the way from Scotland! Welcome, NIK, I hope you join us again next year.

The Brevity is the Soul of Wit Award goes to ceemac, who sent in two lines that inspired Reformed Catholic to finish yet another entry! Thanks for supporting the contest, ceemac.

Let's hear it for all our contestants!

~frantic applause~

May your Christmas be merry, bright and NOT sappy
And may your New Year be blessed, prosperous and happy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fourth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest: Readers' Choice Award


This year I'm going to award a real prize to the blogger who wins the QG Readers' Choice Award. It's the lovely Wedgwood Christmas Ornament above!

The voting begins NOW and will remain open through the weekend. I'll announce the winner on Monday and virtual prizes will be awarded to all the participants!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fourth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest: the Podcast

I have a special surprise and thank you for all my Gentle Readers. I made a podcast of our 2009 Sappy Christmas Song which you can listen to by going here.

You can follow along by reading the lyrics;

~tune of Hark the Herald Angels Sing~

Mark and Gerald Engel sing
"Gosh almighty! It's Christmas time again"
Time to wear the suit of red
at least that's what our mall boss said
Stain resistant Santa pants
"Gimme", "Gimme" children chants
With the parents loud proclaim
"I wanna take the picture again!!!"
Mark and Gerald Engel sing
"Gosh almighty! It's Christmas time again"

--Presbyterian Gal

Mark’s the Chairman of the Board;
Gerry was VP at Ford.
Now to retail quick they come.
Will the season be a bomb?
Putting stuff where all can see
For sale with trusty Master C.
Barbie, Legos stuff from Dell!
Having stuff is really swell.
Buy a watch or buy a ring--
Commerce is this season’s King!

--Mac

Santa's mall village looks so fine,
The children begin to fall in line.
To ask for what their heart's desire;
Toys and games of which they'll soon tire.
Gerry smoothes her freshly coifed hair;
Mark takes his place in Santa's chair.
Seeing in line the first little girl,
Mark thinks that he's going to hurl.
For Susie with no shoes and cough;
This morning, her parents Mark laid-off.

--Rev. Kim

Mark killed puppies, squirrels and kitties.
Into prison he was sent.
There he met his best friend, Bubba,
Who took him for his last red cent.
Oh, the woe and tragedy,
Now the Guv has set him free.
No job, so Momma’s is his flop.
But Gerry wants a home to mop.
This Santa gig is his last hope,
So on a train they can elope.

--Mac

Mark's still sitting on the chair
All these kids, its starting to wear.
Gerry ushers to and fro
Kid to mom says, "I have to go"
Mom (on line for over an hour):
"you can wait .. Look its Santa's tower"
Up on the chair little Sammy goes,
over Santa's pants, poor Sammy flows.
Mark the mops will soon be here,
Time to feed those tiny raindeer.

--Reformed Catholic

And for something new this year
they've produced some real 'rain'deer.
But the blighters are quite randy:
kiddies shocked in mall ain't dandy.
Tabloid press are all outraged,
meanwhile reindeer get engaged.
Lawsuits flying everywhere
and some kid's nicked Santa's hair.

--Nik

Sales are down, the stores lament,
Shoppers moan, my money's spent.
Mark and Gerry save their earnings
Credit card use they are spurning.
Looking toward that Christmas Day,
Spending time with family,
In the meantime Mark still sits
and kids still fuss, and cry, throw fits.
Mark the line is almost done,
Time to pack up and head for home

-Reformed Catholic

Outside the mall a dachsie dog
Thrown from a car like it was a log,
Was crying so piteously
Mark hastened to the parking lot to see.
Several people gathered round
To try to help the little hound
Mark knelt down and patted its head
He saw it was needing to be fed
"Pup, you're coming home with me,
You'll be the kids' gift under the tree."

--QG

Upon arrival that dachsie dog
Headed for a swim in the egg nog
--ceemac
Mark laughed, "least its non-alcoholic"
"better the nog, then him having colic"!
"I'm going out to the Petco store,
and get him some toys to chase and gnaw.
How about some antler's and a red nose?
The kids will love that dog's raindeer pose."
"Mark, better not forget the food,
He's already chewed your Italian shoes !!

--Reformed Catholic

Mark went off to buy dog food,
then to the mall to get some shoes.
Came back home to another surprise,
a kitten that Gerry found outside.
"Poor thing was meowing proudly,
outside the neighbor's front door, and loudly.
Neighbor said she's allergic to cats,
Temps dropping fast, he'll freeze in that.
Mark, I had to bring him in,
he'll get along fine with dachie & kin.

--Reformed Catholic

Mark then noticed the dachsie's girth,
Holy cow, soon she's going to give birth!
Must prepare for this coming litter,
How 'bout some bling, they'll really glitter!
Through the din, a knock at the door,
There stood shoeless Susie, so poor!
"Sir, can you help my family and me,
We have naught, not even a tree.
Needy children without, and puppies a'coming within;
Mark wondered, is there room at my inn?

--Rev Kim

Then the heavens opened wide
As Herald Angels flew inside
“Fear not, mall Santas,” the angels sing
“Do not worry about anything.
God will provide for all your needs,
You’re saved by faith and not by deeds.
Needy children, dachsie dogs
Sleeping kitties by the fireside’s logs
Will all rejoice on Christmas day,
Hail Jesus’ won’drous birth we say!”

--QG--

Now Mark and Gerald Engel sing
Glory to this "animal" thing
Let's give Susie the Italian shoes,
Cause her feet are singin' the blues
No more Santa pants to wear
soaked by kids from here to there
Another season we've survived
Lucky to still just be alive
We, Mark and Gerald Engel sing,
Glory to the whole darned thing!!!!

--Presbyterian Gal

Check in tomorrow when you will have the chance to vote for your favorite contributor! This year there will be a REAL prize in addition to the virtual ones....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fourth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest Now Closed

QG now declares that the Fourth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest is now officially CLOSED.

Check in tomorrow to read the completed sentimental opus AND a very special surprise....

Christmas Noshies

Aren't these the cutest? One of my dear church friends made these for a luncheon last week and I couldn't resist trying them myself. I don't know if they have a name, so I've dubbed them Christmas Noshies.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put tiny pretzels on your baking sheet (I lined it with a Silpat but you can also use foil). You want the smallest pretzels, which I could only find bagged up in snack bags.

Place one Hershey's Hugs Kiss on each pretzel.

Pop in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes. You want the Hugs to soften but not melt all over the place!

Top each softened Noshie with a red or green M&M. Cool and serve! They'll keep really well so the Christmas Noshies will make good gifts or pretty treats to keep around your house.

And while we're on the subject of Christmas candy, anyone else noticed that the easiest recipe in the world for creamy delicious fudge is MIA? It used to be printed on the Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk cans. If you still have a can with this recipe, check the expiration date--betcha you need to throw it out. Here's the recipe--nothing could be simpler and more deliciosio.

**************************************************
There's still time to enter the 2009 Sappy Christmas Song Contest! Post your entry in the comments on the post below!
The final version will be posted tomorrow and my Gentle Readers will then get a chance to vote on the winners.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fourth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest: Third Update

The 4th Annual Sappy Christmas Song is shaping up into quite the sentimental saga! Our heroes, Mark and Gerry now have a houseful: an abandoned dachsie dog and her new litter of puppies; a lost kitty; a shoeless needy child begging for Christmas aid for her family and their own children. Presbyterian Gal has contributed the perfect last stanza--but we're not there yet! What wonderous Christmas surprise awaits Mark and Gerry and the rest of the gang on this bitter winter night? You know what to do--put it in the comments.


~tune of Hark the Herald Angels Sing~


Mark and Gerald Engel sing
"Gosh almighty! It's Christmas time again"
Time to wear the suit of red
at least that's what our mall boss said
Stain resistant Santa pants
"Gimme", "Gimme" children chants
With the parents loud proclaim
"I wanna take the picture again!!!"
Mark and Gerald Engel sing
"Gosh almighty! It's Christmas time again"

--Presbyterian Gal

Mark’s the Chairman of the Board;
Gerry was VP at Ford.
Now to retail quick they come.
Will the season be a bomb?
Putting stuff where all can see
For sale with trusty Master C.
Barbie, Legos stuff from Dell!
Having stuff is really swell.
Buy a watch or buy a ring--
Commerce is this season’s King!

--Mac

Santa's mall village looks so fine,
The children begin to fall in line.
To ask for what their heart's desire;
Toys and games of which they'll soon tire.
Gerry smoothes her freshly coifed hair;
Mark takes his place in Santa's chair.
Seeing in line the first little girl,
Mark thinks that he's going to hurl.
For Susie with no shoes and cough;
This morning, her parents Mark laid-off.

--Rev. Kim

Mark killed puppies, squirrels and kitties.
Into prison he was sent.
There he met his best friend, Bubba,
Who took him for his last red cent.
Oh, the woe and tragedy,
Now the Guv has set him free.
No job, so Momma’s is his flop.
But Gerry wants a home to mop.
This Santa gig is his last hope,
So on a train they can elope.

--Mac

Mark's still sitting on the chair
All these kids, its starting to wear.
Gerry ushers to and fro
Kid to mom says, "I have to go"
Mom (on line for over an hour):
"you can wait .. Look its Santa's tower"
Up on the chair little Sammy goes,
over Santa's pants, poor Sammy flows.
Mark the mops will soon be here,
Time to feed those tiny raindeer.

--Reformed Catholic

And for something new this year
they've produced some real 'rain'deer.
But the blighters are quite randy:
kiddies shocked in mall ain't dandy.
Tabloid press are all outraged,
meanwhile reindeer get engaged.
Lawsuits flying everywhere
and some kid's nicked Santa's hair.

--Nik

Sales are down, the stores lament,
Shoppers moan, my money's spent.
Mark and Gerry save their earnings
Credit card use they are spurning.
Looking toward that Christmas Day,
Spending time with family,
In the meantime Mark still sits
and kids still fuss, and cry, throw fits.
Mark the line is almost done,
Time to pack up and head for home

-Reformed Catholic

Outside the mall a dachsie dog
Thrown from a car like it was a log,
Was crying so piteously
Mark hastened to the parking lot to see.
Several people gathered round
To try to help the little hound
Mark knelt down and patted its head
He saw it was needing to be fed
"Pup, you're coming home with me,
You'll be the kids' gift under the tree."

--QG

Upon arrival that dachsie dog
Headed for a swim in the egg nog

--ceemac
Mark laughed, "least its non-alcoholic"
"better the nog, then him having colic"!
"I'm going out to the Petco store,
and get him some toys to chase and gnaw.
How about some antler's and a red nose?
The kids will love that dog's raindeer pose."

"Mark, better not forget the food,
He's already chewed your Italian shoes !!


--Reformed Catholic

Mark went off to buy dog food,
then to the mall to get some shoes.

Came back home to another surprise,

a kitten that Gerry found outside.

"Poor thing was meowing proudly,

outside the neighbor's front door, and loudly.

Neighbor said she's allergic to cats,

Temps dropping fast, he'll freeze in that.

Mark, I had to bring him in,
he'll get along fine with dachie & kin.


--Reformed Catholic

Mark then noticed the dachsie's girth,
Holy cow, soon she's going to give birth!

Must prepare for this coming litter,
How 'bout some bling, they'll really glitter!

Through the din, a knock at the door,
There stood shoeless Susie, so poor!

"Sir, can you help my family and me,

We have naught, not even a tree.

Needy children without, and puppies a'coming within;

Mark wondered, is there room at my inn?

--Rev Kim

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fourth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest: Second Update

Welcome to our first international Sappy Christmas Song contestant--NIK! She is pursuing ordination in the Mother Church of Presbyterianism -- the Church of Scotland, and lives in Edinburgh. Her entry, below, is quite creative. Nik blogs at A Pilgrims Process.

~applause, applause!~

I couldn't resist adding a verse of my own...below.

You don't have to write a complete stanza if your Muse is not with you. You can contribute a few lines and challenge others to complete it!

And here's our second update:

~tune of Hark the Herald Angels Sing~


Mark and Gerald Engel sing
"Gosh almighty! It's Christmas time again"
Time to wear the suit of red
at least that's what our mall boss said
Stain resistant Santa pants
"Gimme", "Gimme" children chants
With the parents loud proclaim
"I wanna take the picture again!!!"
Mark and Gerald Engel sing
"Gosh almighty! It's Christmas time again"

--Presbyterian Gal

Mark’s the Chairman of the Board;
Gerry was VP at Ford.
Now to retail quick they come.
Will the season be a bomb?
Putting stuff where all can see
For sale with trusty Master C.
Barbie, Legos stuff from Dell!
Having stuff is really swell.
Buy a watch or buy a ring--
Commerce is this season’s King!

--Mac

Santa's mall village looks so fine,
The children begin to fall in line.
To ask for what their heart's desire;
Toys and games of which they'll soon tire.
Gerry smoothes her freshly coifed hair;
Mark takes his place in Santa's chair.
Seeing in line the first little girl,
Mark thinks that he's going to hurl.
For Susie with no shoes and cough;
This morning, her parents Mark laid-off.

--Rev. Kim

Mark killed puppies, squirrels and kitties.
Into prison he was sent.
There he met his best friend, Bubba,
Who took him for his last red cent.
Oh, the woe and tragedy,
Now the Guv has set him free.
No job, so Momma’s is his flop.
But Gerry wants a home to mop.
This Santa gig is his last hope,
So on a train they can elope.

--Mac

Mark's still sitting on the chair
All these kids, its starting to wear.
Gerry ushers to and fro
Kid to mom says, "I have to go"
Mom (on line for over an hour):
"you can wait .. Look its Santa's tower"
Up on the chair little Sammy goes,
over Santa's pants, poor Sammy flows.
Mark the mops will soon be here,
Time to feed those tiny raindeer.

--Reformed Catholic

And for something new this year
they've produced some real 'rain'deer.
But the blighters are quite randy:
kiddies shocked in mall ain't dandy.
Tabloid press are all outraged,
meanwhile reindeer get engaged.
Lawsuits flying everywhere
and some kid's nicked Santa's hair.

--Nik

Sales are down, the stores lament,
Shoppers moan, my money's spent.
Mark and Gerry save their earnings
Credit card use they are spurning.
Looking toward that Christmas Day,
Spending time with family,
In the meantime Mark still sits
and kids still fuss, and cry, throw fits.
Mark the line is almost done,
Time to pack up and head for home

-Reformed Catholic

Outside the mall a dachsie dog
Thrown from a car like it was a log,
Was crying so piteously
Mark hastened to the parking lot to see.
Several people gathered round
To try to help the little hound
Mark knelt down and patted its head
He saw it was needing to be fed
"Pup, you're coming home with me,
You'll be the kids' gift under the tree."

--QG

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bea and Olivia: Holiday Bling!

Woof! Beatrice here.

Double Woof! Olivia over here, too!

Beatrice: How do you like our new holiday collars? My old one was really bulky and uncomfortable. I think it made my neck look fat. It was also brown and brown. I think the red is more flattering to my skin tones, don't you?

Olivia: I was SO embarrased by my old collar. Loved the hot pink color but half the bling on it had fallen off. Lookin' shabby, I tell you. A girl likes to sparkle at Christmas you know! Now we're stylin'.

Note from QG: Remember Pets Need Christmas, Too! And speaking of that Sappy Christmas Song, don't forget to keep adding your verses to our 2009 version in the comments on the post below. An update will be posted tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Fourth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest: First Update


Here's the first update of our Fourth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest:

~tune of Hark the Herald Angels Sing~

Mark and Gerald Engel sing
"Gosh almighty! It's Christmas time again"
Time to wear the suit of red
at least that's what our mall boss said
Stain resistant Santa pants
"Gimme", "Gimme" children chants
With the parents loud proclaim
"I wanna take the picture again!!!"
Mark and Gerald Engel sing
"Gosh almighty! It's Christmas time again"
--Presbyterian Gal

Mark’s the Chairman of the Board;
Gerry was VP at Ford.

Now to retail quick they come.

Will the season be a bomb?

Putting stuff where all can see

For sale with trusty Master C.
Barbie, Legos stuff from Dell!
Having stuff is really swell.
Buy a watch or buy a ring--

Commerce is this season’s King!

--Mac

Santa's mall village looks so fine,
The children begin to fall in line.
To ask for what their heart's desire;

Toys and games of which they'll soon tire.
Gerry smoothes her freshly coifed hair;
Mark takes his place in Santa's chair.
Seeing in line the first little girl,
Mark thinks that he's going to hurl.

For Susie with no shoes and cough;

This morning, her parents Mark laid-off.

--Rev. Kim

Mark killed puppies, squirrels and kitties.
Into prison he was sent.
There he met his best friend, Bubba,

Who took him for his last red cent.

Oh, the woe and tragedy,
Now the Guv has set him free.

No job, so Momma’s is his flop.

But Gerry wants a home to mop.

This Santa gig is his last hope,

So on a train they can elope.

--Mac

Mark's still sitting on the chair
All these kids, its starting to wear.
Gerry ushers to and fro

Kid to mom says, "I have to go"

Mom (on line for over an hour):

"you can wait .. Look its Santa's tower"

Up on the chair little Sammy goes,
over Santa's pants, poor Sammy flows.

Mark the mops will soon be here,
Time to feed those tiny raindeer.

--Reformed Catholic

Wow! So far our song contains worry about the commercialization of Christmas; unemployed parents and sick children; animal abuse, prison, mama and a train (where's the rain?); and an incontinent toddler. Somewhere along the way Gerald morphed into Geraldine (aka/Gerry). We're not going to inquire further...just press on!

Well done, all! But I'm sure there will be MORE. Put it in the comments.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Book Review: Dissolution and Dark Fire

I've been happily engaged in reading a wonderful series of mysteries by C.J. Sansom set in Tudor England--at the same time period as my previous book review, Wolf Hall.

These novels feature Matthew Shardlake, a hunchback lawyer, who is unwillingly pulled into the dangerous political struggles at the midpoint of the reign of Henry VIII.

The books need to be read in order because they are written chronologically and the character of Shardlake develops and changes. For example, Shardlake is an avid reformer and supporter of Lord Cromwell (the central figure in Wolf Hall) in the first book Dissolution. Dissolution takes place during the period when the King and Cromwell were taking over the English monastaries. Shardlake becomes disillusioned with the reformers as he sees their greed and hypocrisy, although he does maintains his protestant viewpoint.

Dark Fire , the second mystery, takes place during the fall and execution of Lord Cromwell and highlights the increasing tyranny and paranoia of Henry VIII. I'm now in the middle of the third book in the series, Sovereign, in which Shardlake is compelled to join a Royal Progress to the city of York by Archbishop Cranmer, where he unwittingly witnesses evidence of Queen Catherine Howard's infidelity. Thankfully, I can look forward to reading Revelation when I finish! Revelation is set during the last days of Henry VIII during his courtship of Catherine Parr, the last of his 6 wives.

Matthew Shardlake is a fully drawn character--intelligent, sympathetic, and well-rounded. The supporting characters in the 3 books I have read are also well developed. There are no stock characters in these mysteries. A number of them, like Lady Rochford, are real historical figures and Sansom's characterization of them is accurate. Sansom's portrayals of at everyday life in the Tudor period are outstanding. You'll shudder at the descriptions of the sanitary havoc wreaked upon York by the multitudes of men, women and horses that accompany a royal progress!

I just love these books! Those of you who were also disappointed with Wolf Hall will enjoy them. And yes, you can read them on Kindle (I did!). Sansom is working on a fifth one, Heartstone, that will be published next year. Yippee!
____________________________________________
Reminder: Check the comments on the post below and add your lyrics to the 2009 Christmas Song! I'll post an updated version on Wednesday.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Fourth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest: Rules and First Stanza

Welcome to QG's Fourth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest!

~applause applause~

The contest is inspired by the Bulwer-Lytton Bad Fiction Contest and its motto: "where w.w.w. means wretched writers welcome!"

Each year my Gentle Readers are invited to contribute their own deathless lyrics in a group effort to create the sappiest, most sentimental and generally execrable Christmas Song of the year.

Here are the rules of the contest:
  • QG will post a beginning stanza--this year contributed by our own Presbyterian Gal (take a bow!). If your muse is with you, add a stanza or lines of your own in the comments.
  • QG will post updates as the 2009 Sappy Christmas Song evolves and you may continue adding verses in the comments.
  • When, in the sole judgment of QG, the Song seems complete, or I am tired of it, the entire song will be posted and prizes will be awarded. The prizes will be inspired by the contributions--so be creative!
This year's Sappy Christmas Song will be sung to the tune of Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.

And....HERE'S THE FIRST STANZA:

Mark and Gerald Engel sing
"Gosh almighty! It's Christmas time again"
Time to wear the suit of red
at least that's what our mall boss said
Stain resistant Santa pants
"Gimme", "Gimme" children chants
With the parents loud proclaim
"I wanna take the picture again!!!"
Mark and Gerald Engel sing
"Gosh almighty! It's Christmas time again"

Now it's YOUR turn! What tear-inducing tales of woe will the children tell the Engels? Who will melt down first--the Santas or the kids or the parents? Who will create a stanza that combines trains, momma, puppies, kitties, prison, rain and tragedy? Check the comments to find out...

Friday, December 04, 2009

Snow In Sugar Land


We've never seen snow like this in the 30+ years we've lived in Houston. Fa-la-la-la-la!!!

Friday Five: Do Nothing Edition

Sally at RevGals asks us to list 5 things you will NOT be doing for Christmas.

This sure fits me this year, so here goes:

I will NOT be setting up a Christmas tree and decorating it.
I will NOT be planning and preparing a big Christmas meal for 20 or more.
I will NOT be trying to set up a lot of outdoor Christmas lights.
I will NOT be filling stockings.
I will NOT be buying presents for extended family members.

Here are 5 things I AM doing:

I am watching the snow fall, but not stick yet, in Sugar Land!!!
I made donations to Central Asia Institute on behalf of extended family members.
I am attending a Christmas concert the Diva is singing in tomorrow.
Babs, Portia and I are attending a Lessons and Carols service Sunday.
I am enjoying less stress, more Advent!

How about you? What are you NOT doing this year for Christmas?

MOB Redux Update: Wedding Riddle


Here's a little riddle:

What's dark purple, three pieces, flecked with silver threads, looks better on a person than on a hanger, and is now in my closet?

Answer: The Mother of the Bride dress.

Woo-hoo!

~Thanks to BFF Dorothy for helping choose it~

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Fourth Annual Sappy Christmas Song Contest Kicks Off Monday!


~Tune of "White Christmas"~

QG is dreaming of Sappy Christmas Songs
Gentle Readers wrote not long ago.

With sentimental lyrics

And teary stories
Of puppies, old men, kitties and the snow!


QG is dreaming of the 2009 version,

The one she knows you long to write.

When Monday dawns
it will be sappy and right
For you to start bringing
that Sappy Christmas Song to light!


QG is back by popular demand with the Fourth Annual Sappy Song Competition. In the spirit of the Bulwar-Lytton Fiction Contest, you are invited to contribute your own deathless doggerel to create this year's masterpiece of sappiness.

For those of you who are new to QG, or just don't remember, check out the 2007 and 2008 Sappy Christmas Songs. Thanks to ceemac, who reminded me about our first classic: 2006's Pets Need Christmas, Too!

Log on Monday morning when I will kick off the contest by posting the opening stanza of our 2009 masterpiece of sappiness which was contributed by our very own Presbyterian Gal. You are invited to continue creating the song by contributing several lines or a whole stanza. Or create the refrain!

Virtual --and perhaps real--prizes will be awarded for outstanding contributions to this year's contest.

Will the result equal the treacly cloyingness of Christmas Shoes?

Check in next week and find out.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Alternative Christmas Gifting: Pay It Forward


This morning a friend and I were discussing different alternatives to Christmas giftings. This year my SIL and I agreed that it was time to do something different and more meaningful. So instead of giving individual gifts to all the members of the family, we are going to give donations to worthy causes in their honor. Not one of us needs any more stuff, thanks be to God!

My friend told me that last year she and her husband gave each of their now- adult children money--but with a string attached. The money had to be given away to benefit others! At Thanksgiving dinner each family member reported where the money went and what it did.

One of their daughters gave her money to KIVA for micro-loans to help small business owners in the third world. As the loan was paid off, she was thrilled to be able to "reinvest" the principal and interest in loans to more people.

Another daughter and her husband used the money to recruit runners for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in honor of his mother, a breast cancer survivor. More money was raised for the cause as a result of their efforts.

Her son used the money as seed money to organize a fund-raiser for a friend whose wife (a young mother of 4) was paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a freak accident. At the end of that fund-raiser, $30K was raised for the family.

My friend called it "Paying It Forward". I particularly loved the idea that everyone shared the results at Thanksgiving dinner the following year--what a celebration they had! I'm going to see what SIL thinks about Paying It Forward next year.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Geeky Gift Suggestion


St. Betty gifted me with this on Thanksgiving, since I said I didn't think I would get around to putting up a Christmas tree this year. It plugs into the computer and changes colors when it lights up! When I tried it out, everyone loved it and wanted to know where to get them. If you want to get one for your geeky friend, here's one site that sells them.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Retro Recipes

This Thanksgiving my sister, Music Mary, made a couple of the old recipes I remember my mother making for every Thanksgiving and Christmas family gathering back in the '60's. It has been years since I made her Crab Dip and it was just as delicious as I remembered it.

Portia and Babs didn't remember it at all, but really liked it and asked for the recipe so they could serve it at the Ugly Christmas Sweater party they are hosting in a couple of weeks. (More on Ugly Christmas sweaters later!).

Here's the recipe:

Hall's Crab Dip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine 1 can crabmeat, 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1 tsp. minced onion and 1/2 tsp. horseradish. Put in baking dish. Top with toasted slivered almonds. Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly.

My mother always served this with Triscuits and a side of bourbon balls chased with bourbon on the rocks. How WASP were we? Really. Really. WASP.

Thanks to Music Mary for reviving this delicious tradition and all the memories that came with it.

Did you partake of any retro recipes at Thanksgiving? Care to share? And if you have any creative ideas of what to do with leftover homemade cranberry sauce (it's really yummy, too), I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Making My List, Checking It Twice!


QG'S THANKSGIVING EVE CHECKLIST:

Smoked turkey-check
Fresh turkey-check
Creamed corn and sweet potato casseroles from Junior League of Houston-check
rolls from JLH-check
Silverglade Salad--ingredients in fridge
Stuffing--ingredients in pantry
Pecan Pie-ingredients in pantry for Babs
Toffee Pecan Pies--in route from San Antonio
Pumpkin Pie--in route from San Antonio
Carrot Cake--being made at Portia's
Apple Pies--being made at Portia's
Paula Deen's Mashed Potato Casserole -ingredients in fridge (don't even ask what's in this, just eat it and enjoy!)
Homemade cranberry sauce--in route from San Antonio

Wine, beer, water, soft drinks in drink refrigerator.

READY, SET......GO!!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve Dinner Ideas


If you're like me, expecting Thanksgiving Day guests to arrive on Wednesday, you are not only planning the food for that day but for the night before.

Since I need to do a lot of prep work tomorrow, today I am going to make a huge pot of chili that I will serve Wednesday evening to all the out of town guests. That way I just have to heat it up, add some tamales and a salad, and serve! Hopefully there will be enough left-overs for anyone wanting lunch the next day since we are having dinner in the late afternoon. Plus Portia will bring some chocolate and peanut butter chip cookies for dessert.

I don't really have a written recipe for my chili--good native of San Antonio that I am--but here is an attempt to document it:

3 lbs chili ground beef
2 lbs stewing beef, cut in bite size chunks
2 large onions, chopped
head of garlic, minced
2 cans tomato paste
1 can stewed tomatoes or diced tomatoes with jalapenos
6 to 8 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons cumin
salt to taste
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons harina or flour
2 cans pinto beans

Saute the chopped onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil until soft and transluscent. Add the meat in batches and brown. Return all browned meat to the pot and add the canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the salt, chili powder, cumin and cocoa powder and combine well. Cover with water and simmer until the meat is tender.

Once the meat is tender, add the canned beans with their juices. Simmer another 10 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary. Combine the harina or flour with equal amount of water and stir into chili to thicken. Cook until thick. Serve!

Note: this is not very hot chili, so offer sliced jalapenos or hot pepper sauce for those who like it very spicy. The cocoa is a traditional Mexican ingredient.

What do you do for dinner on Thanksgiving Eve? Go out? Have a favorite pre-Turkey Day recipe you would like to share? Let the cooking begin!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel won the Booker Prize (the UK's top literary award) for achievement in fiction this year. Since it is a historical novel about my favorite period of English history (the Tudors), I snapped it right up.

The story centers on Thomas Cromwell, a commoner who rose from very humble beginnings to become a lawyer, secretary to Cardinal Wolsey and ultimately was named Earl of Essex by King Henry VIII. Cromwell had enormous influence on the course of English history during the decade in which he was in power as the closest advisor to the King. This was the period that saw Catherine of Aragon set aside for Anne Boleyn; Anne Boleyn executed; her successor Jane Seymour die after childbirth and the disastrous match with Anne of Cleaves.

It is also the period that saw great changes in the English government and society as Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic church over his desire to divorce his first wife. Cromwell was one of the most influential figures of this period. He was sympathetic to the Reformation movement, but was always a realist.

Wolf Hall focuses on the rise of Cromwell, who fixed his star to Anne Boleyn, and ends just before her arrest and subsequent execution. Although the book has received a lot of fulsome praise by critics, I have some problems with it.

First of all, it really demands that the reader have a good background in the history of the period. Most historical fiction writers supply enough background along the way so that the reader who is not familiar with the period and people depicted can follow it. Wolf Hall does not.

Secondly, I found the writing style awkward. Too often I found it difficult to figure out who "he" was. In fact I almost gave up reading it about half way through out of frustration.

Thirdly, there were so much extraneous detail and so many minor characters that the main themes of the novel were overshadowed.

I did learn a lot about Cromwell's influence on the reformation of both the English government and the English church. He was a canny politician who used his methodical and logical mind to rise to power in a cynical and treacherous court. Ultimately, he fell from favor and lost his head--but that is a novel for another day. I read somewhere that Mantel plans a series for this character.

Writing a historical novel about Thomas Cromwell was a great idea but I think Mantel should have focused the narrative more tightly on her main character. I'll probably read her sequel, if there is one, in the hope that she does that.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Landscaping Completed!

I'm excited that we completed the landscaping in the back yard of our new house just in time for Thanksgiving!

Since I miss having a pool here, I designed this "water feature" that was completed a couple of days ago. Beatrice thinks it is her personal drinking fountain and a worthy replacement for the Pool Dragon that she used to chase at the old house.

This type of fountain is called a Bubbling Pot, even though these are more like big Southwestern style urns. Woo-hoo!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Who Wore It Better, Redux

Over at Portia's blog, Olivia is demanding a recount!

PresbyBloggers Adult Bible Study Post

Go over to Presbyterian Bloggers today to read my post about the Bible Study Discussion program at my church and hopefully, a good discussion in the comments about what makes a successful adult Bible study program.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Striving To Be a Starfish Presbytery


(From Rev. Mike Cole's State of the Presbytery address last Saturday available at www.pbyofnewcovenant.org)

THIS WORLD IS:
  • tired of war and needs a people committed to peace
  • weary of fearfulness and needs a church which is courageous
  • jaded by self-serving charlatans and needs people who hold fast to that which is good and renders no one evil for evil
  • frustrated with survival of the fittest and needs those who will strengthen the fainthearted and support the weak
  • fatigued from all the “isms” and needs a church which helps the afflicted and honors everyone
  • tired of bad news and needs a church which loves and serves the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit
THIS WORLD NEEDS A RE-FORMED/RE-FORMING CHURCH AND PRESBYTERY WHICH IS:
  • starfish-like in character
  • decentralized in its power and knowledge
  • able to regenerate new life even when losing part of its body
  • Flexible and fluid
  • where relationships and trust matter more than structure and statutes
To which I say, Amen!