Cooking with the Joy Project

Before I get into this post, I am going to ask you to read it, and then consider passing the word along. I don’t ask you to do that lightly. I don’t write for promotion or to advance myself. Primarily, I write to express myself in a place where no topic is irrelevant. Second, I write to keep in touch with friends. Finally, when my blog does get around, thanks to those who have found their way here, I always feel great delight.

I am asking you to pass this on because I think this could be a really exciting movement. Pass this on because it isn’t about me, but about a joy-filled young woman who inspires me every day. Thanks. 

I love to cook. A close second to my love of cooking is cooking with other people. I am not much of a teacher, but with a bit of experience (and my big brother chef on the other end of a cell phone) I’ve picked up a thing or two and I love to pass it along.

I’ve known Cydney for about 6 years now. She is  on the youth council of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and a blogger at Lutheran’s Connect. Cydney and I started sharing our cooking when I took her home to PEI for a long weekend. She was a student, living in student housing, and she asked me to teach her how to cook something. I picked Mom’s “Texas Hash”. It’s yummy, simple and cheap: Ground beef, can of tomatoes, green peppers, rice, s&p.

About 6 weeks later we were chatting and she said, “Can you teach me to cook something else?” Of course, I replied. What have you been cooking lately? She’d been cooking Texas Hash for 6 weeks!

Most recently, Cydney shared some scary news with me. She was a 20 year old woman with boundless energy, joy and faith, and she had been diagnosed with cancer. I was devastated. The thought of Cydney’s light dimming, even a little bit, made my world a lot darker. And yet, as we waited for tests to come back, she was full of hope and carried us all. As her journey began, raging extrovert that she is, she began a blog and The Joy Project.

Cydney sucking the marrow out of...ummm...something, on a beach in Greece.

Cydney decided to start a cooking project to help her appreciate food in a way that was difficult since her chemotherapy made her sick. She started by looking for a cookbook, which she found, and she would work her way through it, cooking for herself, her beloved, her family and her friends.

After the first post I was completely hooked and I desperately wanted to be with her in her kitchen. So, I asked her if I could accompany her on the Joy Project to which she very generously agreed. I bought the book yesterday.

So Cydney and I are cooking together, again, four provinces apart. I just tried the shrimp risotto with leeks and snow peas and–doh–forgot the lemon juice! Still it was yummy. I hope this is a gift to Cydney. I know it is a gift to me. I get to do something tactile that connects me with my awesome, brave friend even though I can’t be with her to hold her hand (or have her hold mine). Cooking has always been a practice of prayer and gratitude for me. Now I get to share it.

Please go check out Cydney’s blog, look inside my labyrinth heart as well as her posts on Lutherans Connect. Pass this on to your followers or your friends. Cook along with us if you like. Here is the book Cydney has chosen. This is totally Cydney’s project, not mine. I’m just along for the ride. If you want to know how I am getting along, come find me in the labyrinth heart comments.

Where to find Cydney:

Blog: Look Inside my Labyrinth Heart

Lutherans Connect: Doctor Proctor

Twitter: tugmyjersey

The cookbook: Inside the Small Kitchen by Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine

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Christmas baking chez Leger

After dragging my butt and procrastinating since the first Sunday of Advent, the sounds, sights and smells of Christmas are starting to appear chez Leger.

This is not about me being lazy, or even too busy. In fact, I am amazed at how not busy I am right now. For example, this is my day off, and except for the panic I just had 30 seconds ago that I don’t have two families to light the Advent candle on Sunday…any takers?…I’m pretty relaxed. My programs are winding down as the main liturgists of our parish are speeding up amidst lung and foot infections. But no panic.

This is actually about my homesickness. This is only my second Christmas without family. The first time was in my second year of seminary and I thought…let’s try it. I hated it. I called Marc in Moncton and informed him I was coming to visit.

Mom and Anne, Rannie hoping for a taste and plum pudding in the bamboo steamer
Marc and Norm setting the table

For the past four years we have had Mom and Marc’s parents, Anne and Norm, for Christmas.

With the insane pace I had on Christmas Eve (4 services in 10 hours driving 200 km in between) it was wonderful to have extra hands and cheer around the house to counteract my exhaustion. Christmas morning was beautiful hysteria as we exchanged family Christmas traditions and then, of course, the famous laid back turkey.

This year, we are 1,500 km from our parents and it is time to start our own Christmas traditions. It’s hard to believe. As a person who loves to host and as a priest, one wouldn’t think it would be this hard. I just can’t imagine Christmas without our East Coast family.

I have not sunk into despair, though, and it is starting to feel like Christmas here. The white Christmas helps a lot! I don’t think I have had a white Christmas in about 3 years. When Marc was in Columbus, I started putting up outdoor Christmas lights, something I have never done. I never had a ladder tall enough to reach the high gutters of the rectory in Antigonish. I found the greenery and put it in our new windows.

Had a good cry when I found these little angels which were a gift from good friends last year.

One big missing piece was my Christmas baking, which, I guess I should say was never really mine. Mom has 3 sisters still alive who always found a few extra cookies and squares to send me at Christmas. I think they took pity on me because Mom does not have that same creamy thumb they have, and so how would I ever learn? So Christmas baking was Aunt Tappy’s cookies and strawberry jam which was easy as anything to make, but never really tasted right without her garden grown berries and Aunt Shirley’s peanut butter balls and plum jelly. Mom has one Christmas specialty I am especially fond of, Hello Dollies. She also makes wonderful shortbread.

So, this year, I am the resident baker. My first batch of shortbread was a total failure. I forgot the cornstarch, so had these beautiful creamy fried egg looking things. I was encouraged when I scraped them into the compost and they had a creamy, crumbly texture. The second batch got rave reviews. The first batch of Hello Dolly’s are delectable.

Not being a baker, it has taken me 5 months to discover 1) My oven’s hotspots and 2) I don’t own a large mixing bowl. With all the powder flying around this kitchen–flour, cocoa, icing sugar–this needs to be addressed. I also need cookie tins!!

So, today, I made these delectable Chocolate, salt and pepper cookies. They are very rich so I can’t tackle more than one at a time. They contain white pepper, black pepper, sea salt and fleur de sel on top. They have that irresistable combination of salty and sweet and once they are happily swirling in your tummy the pepper kicks in. What fun!

Oh, and one last bit of Christmas cheer. For the past four years we have had the benefit of a fresh, Guysborough County Christmas tree given to the rectory. Yesterday morning, we discussed whether we wanted to venture out and get a fresh tree. We had almost decided against it, until I went to All Saints’ King City for clericus Christmas lunch. A fresh tree had been left there with no takers. So we bundled it into the car and it is now sitting in our living room, awaiting decorations at my traditional birthday tree trimming.

So, finally, it is beginning to look and feel a bit like Christmas.

Magdalene Ester Siteman: Visit from an Ordinand

Fr. Elliott and I exchange blogs from time to time. This is from my time up in Neil’s Harbour last week.

Magdalene Ester Siteman: Visit from an Ordinand

Isn’t she adorable? Yeah, yeah, the baby is cute too.

Blessings,

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone. No, I am not a day late.

It is often hard to differentiate between the secular celebrations of Christmas that fill our cities, towns and communities and the Christian celebration of Christmas. Frankly, I don’t mind calling what I see in town halls and shopping malls holiday.

For Christians, we are now, beginning on December 25 and ending on January 6 or Epiphany in the Christmas season. And so, today and for the next 10 days, I want to wish you, your loved ones and all in your communities a very merry and blessed Christmas.

Let us keep the good will and wishes for peace flowing for the 12 days of Christmas and throughout 2006.

Blessings.

Welcome to my blogspot

Hello Friends,

I was just curious to see how one could do such a thing, inspired by my dear friend Fr. Elliott Siteman.

I am writing right now from Moncton, New Brunswick where I am spending a wonderful, relaxing and heartwarming Christmas with my partner and his family. Now that I have a full week of time on my hands, I am going to add something to my little page.

I won’t promise regular updates on this page, but you can come here to read more about my soon to be announced parish appointment, ordination dates, and my growing research project.

Later, I hope to post parish events and other exciting information.

Blessings to you.