Monday, October 30, 2006

'Twas the Night Before Halloween

Yes, 'twas the night before Halloween, and the kids and I decided it was time to carve up the yearly pumpkin. This has become something of a yearly tradition for us, and this time around we pulled out all the stops. The result? Mr Sun and Brother Moon. You should be very frightened, my precious. Oh yes, very frightened indeed!

You can see it all over on the photoblog...


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Christian's Spicy Swiss Chicken

Ok, so Marilyn had to play in orchestra all afternoon, leaving me to feed the kids. Feeling the need for something a little different, we experimented and came up with a very good chicken recipe (sorry, no picture - it was all eaten before we thought about it). Here's what we did:
  • 4 chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1-2 hot red peppers, minced
  • 3 Tbsp virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 3-4 fresh tomatoes, sliced
  • 4 slices swiss cheese (better if you're slicing it yourself off a thick slab)
  • Adobo (or salt & pepper)
Basically, we started by thawing the chicken. While that was going on, I minced all the garlic, hot peppers, and rosemary, and then mixed it in with the olive oil to form a fairly thick mixture (this is what we'll use to baste the chicken while its cooking). Put the chicken on a hot grill, and spoon the mixture onto the chicken. Season w/ Adobo (Adobo is a Peurto-Rican seasoning that goes good on just about everything).

Once the chicken is cooked about half way through, scrape off the mixture (back into the bowl, so you have enough for the other side), flip the chicken, and then reapply the mixture (this time you will leave it on for good). Season again, then lay the tomatoes on the chicken. When the chicken is almost done, layer the swiss cheese on top, wait till it melts, and serve piping hot!

Viola! Christian's Spicy Swiss Chicken. I'll bet this would go really well with fresh vegetables cooked on the grill, along with a nice glass of chilled white wine! Next time I make it, I'll add a picture of it as well...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hunting with the Kids

So I was going to post about this last night, but blogger was having problems, so I had to content myself with pushing up some photos and eating Marilyn's homemade pumpkin pie (really rough - see previous post).

This past weekend was another busy one. I took all three kids and headed for Melstone (eastern Montana) to hunt antelope. Marilyn stayed here, because she's playing in the pit orchestra for a local production of Cats.

For those of you who don't know Montana (or "eastern Montana" in particular) - it's dry. Really dry. Think 'badlands' kind of dry. Or at least, that's the way it usually is. This time, however, was different (think 'It Never Rains in August'). A cold front rolled into the state early last week, and it dumped moisture all week long. By the time we got to Melstone Friday morning, it was pouring (and had been for quite a while). And when it rains in eastern Montana, it really rains - and then all that dry Montana clay turns into the most amazing, truck devouring gumbo.

Speaking of gumbo, we discovered that firsthand on Saturday, when we got ourselves stuck. As in, really stuck. We are talking, "so stuck that our right front axle as high centered" in the stuff. Good thing we brought a shovel. And also a good thing that there was another guy just up the road from us (who had also gotten stuck earlier that morning). When he saw our predicament, he promptly walked down with his shovel and we started digging, pushing, pulling, etc.

All to no avail of course. We were REALLY stuck. This stuff was so sticky that the shovel itself would end up completely covered with clay - and then you couldn't get it off. At the end of the day, we ended up on hands and needs pulling big chunks of clay out from underneath the truck with by hand. And then it started raining and snowing and blowing.

Ah, antelope hunting in Montana! It just doesn't get any better than this! :-) Finally, we DID manage to get unstuck, when the guy who was helping us brought his truck down and we were able to jerk ours backwards by a couple of feet. Very very dicey. And after that, we promptly headed back for the main road (which was still pretty muddy itself).

Fortunately, we did get some antelope. Malachi shot a dandy little buck early in the morning (and I missed one that was right next to it). Then later that afternoon on our way out I shot a little yearling. Not big, but it will be tender.

Did I mention that we just about hit some elk on the way up to Melstone? Two days in a row we ran into a herd of them, right off the highway - the first day we just saw them; the second day, I came within ten feet of hitting three young spike bulls (picture my 7000 lb Ford Excursion, loaded to the gills, barreling down the highway just before dawn, suddenly slamming on the brakes and taking evasive action - there's a reason these things have anti-lock brakes!). There were probably 60 elk - and one of them was a decent sized bull. Right there on the highway in the middle of the prairie. Wierd. Too bad you have to draw a special tag to hunt them there...

At any rate, we got back to Billings LATE Saturday night, quickly unloaded and re-packed, had a quick bite to eat at Grandma's house, and then headed for Bozeman to rendevous with my brother Jacob. You see, I needed to be at GVPC first thing Sunday morning to help with Bryan Clark's installation service. And then that afternoon, after Jen cooked a fine lunch, Jake and I headed out to some state land with the boys in order to look for a few mule deer does.

We did happen to shoot one doe - right as it got dark, of course. We also happened to see one of the biggest bucks I've ever seen in the field. Malachi was within 30 yards of him; Jake came within a few feet. And the buck never budged (we were watching the whole thing through binoculars 800 yards away). Instead, he calmly sat there and waited for Jake to walk by, then slipped out through the middle. Amazing.

Unfortunately, we were on private land where we could only shoot does. So we wouldn't have been able to take him anyway. But boy was he big. Micah was salivating (since he only has a buck tag). But it'd almost be a shame to shoot a guy like that your first time out - you might go the rest of your life without ever shooting anything bigger, and that'd end up a little anti-climactic. (See Micah, doesn't that make you feel better?)

At any rate, Jake shot a doe right before dark. Literally. And then we had to drag her about a mile back to the truck, through cliff an dale. Ah, deer hunting in Montana! We got back to Manhattan about 8 PM, had a quick bite to eat and then jumped back in the car and headed out for Missoula by about 9 (I had told Marilyn we'd probably be leaving by 7 at the latest...).

Then, around 10:15 PM, just past Butte at the Fairmont Hot Springs exit, I heard a BOOM - a tire on my dad's trailor just blew out, and I had no spare. Off to the side of the road we went.

At this point, I'm thinking all kinds of really sanctified thoughts because I'm a pastor now. Of course they're all highly technical (seminary teaches you to swear in the original languages), so I won't pass them along. Suffice it to say, this was NOT in the game plan.

Eventually we got it all figured out though - transfer all the animals from the trailor to the roof of the Excursion; all the duck decoys into the space back there with Jack; then a tow truck from Butte to pick up the trailor; and now I'm headed back there this morning to pick it up and bring it back to Missoula. Ah the joy of hunting in Montana! Seriously - that's the thing about all those great hunting stories - you have to actually go through them first! :-)

Well, that's pretty much a wrap. We're all back in Missoula, with the firstfruits of our hunting harvest hanging in the garage ("Look boys - here's how you skin a deer!"), and life is beginning to get back to normal again, at least until next weekend.

If you'd like to see some more pictures of the whole thing, click on over to the photoblog.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Suffering and Misery

Yes my friends, I am suffering for Jesus. Sitting here eating a slice of very hot, homemade pumpkin pie (thanks to my lovely wife Marilyn!), slathered with whipped cream. I know, I know, you really wish you were me right now. Tough luck, pals! Mu-ha-ha-ha-ha.... :-)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday in Missoula

Looking south towards Lolo

So here I am, this drizzly Monday afternoon in Missoula, sitting in front of the fireplace sipping from my cup of Lapsang Souchong (for those of you who don't know what Lapsang Souchong is, it's a very strong black tea, which smells kind of like smoky, dirty old socks - we always used to tease my dad about this growing up - "Uggh! How can you drink that stuff? It smells terrible!!!" - but then I grew up and actually drank a cup and discovered what my dad learned long ago - Lapsang Souchong is really great tea. And since I like tea when I'm feeling under the weather, that's what I'm drinking right now).

Speaking of the weather: I've already mentioned that it's dreary outside, a steady mist keeping everything wet, with dark gray clouds kissing the tops of the mountains that surround Missoula. This isn't a bad thing though - here in Montana, we can always use some moisture, and as long as things are warm and cozy inside, well it's kind of a nice change of pace.

This past week has been a whirlwind (the past 4 months, actually) - and that's probably why I'm feeling a little bit under the weather myself - the long days, late nights, with very little sleep are all finally catching up with me. I spent most of last week trying to finish up framing the basement - then on Friday evening, my dad, my brother Jake (who happens to be an electrician), and my brother-in-law Matt (who happens to be a plumber) all drove up from Billings / Bozeman to spend Saturday helping me get the basement whipped into shape. We made a lot of progress, too - probably 95% of what we had hoped to get done.

Of course, that meant we had very little time for shooting the breeze or lounging around either - we hopped in the car(s) at about 7:30 PM Saturday evening, drove BACK down to Billings, where I was officially ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church of America. (I was ordained at the PCA in Billings, not Missoula, since there is no PCA church here in Missoula yet... after all, that's the work we've been commissioned to establish).

May the LORD be your keeper; may the LORD be the shade on your right hand.
May the sun not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
May the LORD keep you from all evil; may he guard your life.
May the LORD keep your going out and your coming in, from this time forth and forevermore.
- pronouncing the blessing, from Ps 121:5-8
At any rate, it all made for a rather long day on Saturday (we got into Billings at 12:30 AM Sunday morning), and then I had to speak briefly during the Sunday school time on Sunday, followed by the installation ceremony, and then a dinner at the church afterwards. Very, very enjoyable. This marks the end of one very long phase in our lives - from that fateful day some 6 years ago when I told Marilyn, "I think we really need to be praying about going to seminary" (and then lost my hi-tech job in Santa Cruz a mere two weeks later, due to the bursting of the internet bubble) - and the beginning of another, that of fulltime church-planting ministry. I am now officially a "Reverend," which is a little strange since I don't feel that much different.

But it was a great culmination to the whole process, and it was especially rewarding to be ordained in our home church back in Billings, in front of family and friends of have stood beside us and encouraged us over these past few years. I want to extend a special thanks to those of you from outside our church who joined us for this service as well - it means a lot to us that you would come be a part of this special day with us.

And speaking of "special" - I think the most meaningful part of the day, for me, at any rate, was getting to lead God's people in the Lord's Supper as my first official "act" as an ordained minister. Very special indeed, and not something that I will soon forget. Thanks to all of you who were there to be a part of it.

Near Big Timber, looking north towards the Crazies

After the service (and the luncheon that followed), we spent a couple of hours up at my folk's place, planning for an upcoming antelope hunt this coming weekend. And then we hopped in the car to head BACK to Missoula. Doing a 5 hour drive twice in two days gets old quickly, but we were able to stop in Manhatten on the way back for a couple of hours, to have dinner w/ my Jake and Jen. To celebrate, we left our kids to watch their kids, while we adults went to Sir Scott's Oasis in Manhatten. If you ever go their, order the 22 oz prime rib, medium rare - absolutely the best steak I have ever had, and it was HUGE! You simply cannot find a better slab of beef, and it's a great price to boot (a mere $25 bucks a plate). Throw in a Bozone Amber and you can almost hear the angels singing. Wow.

The only downside to this whole thing was that we finished dinner about 9:30 PM, and still had to drive another 3 hours back to Missoula. Ouch. Hopped in the car, and away we went. But it made for yet one more really late night, and I think it all finally caught up with me this morning - I didn't wake up until 10 AM, and now I have a sore throat and a congested chest and all I feel like doing is sit on the couch sleeping. Which fortunately, I can do today. And it gives me a chance to get caught up on email, etc.

So that's the scoop. Kids are doing well, back in school. Work progresses on the basement. I'm officially a Reverend now, and the Missoula Project moves forward one more step. Lot's to be thankful for, and even more to look forward to over the coming weeks and months. Hopefully, my blogging will be a little more regular now...

Summer's last gasp
[Note: I hear it's snowing in Billings today, so you can imagine
that bee and all those little flowers covered with white stuff...]

Sunday, October 08, 2006

More House Photos

So a while back I promised more house photos, and Ryan reminded me tonight that I hadn't followed through on that yet. So here are a couple of shots...

This is our living room (looking to the southeast). Like the blue wall?

Here's the same room, but looking to the northeast (so the blue wall is out of sight just beyond the right hand side of the picture). Note the kids power lounging on the floor. I think they're happy to be home.

Here's Marilyn in her kitchen. Note that she's looking pretty happy to be settling in as well. Like the red wall in the background?

Another shot of the kitchen (looking almost due west, w/ my back to the living room). I bought the house solely because of the hot lady in the kitchen. :-)

And that's really all I have for right now. I'll try to take some more soon...

Missoula Last Thursday

(click here for a high-rez version)
I put up some photos from Malachi's football game last Thursday, along with some shots of the storm that rolled through the area about that time. Beautiful. If you'd like to see them, click on over to the photoblog...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Finished in the Fall

So seminary / ordination exams are now officially complete - I took my oral comps last Wed / Thurs, and was approved to be ordained in the PCA. Woo hoo! We're all very happy to say the least, as this represents the culmination of 4.5 years of hard work and stress (not just for me, but also for the family). So I think everyone is relieved to have it all over at last. The ordination service will be held in Billings on October 15.

So anyway, Sunday afternoon we went for a bike ride and I took some photos. Rather than put them up on the photoblog, I decided to try a new Picasa Weblog feature - I'd invite you to check it out and see what you think...

  • it's very, very fast and easy to post (and then edit captions) - especially since I already use Picasa to adjust the contrast on all my photos
  • you can change the size of the thumbnails (pretty slick)
  • you can view it as a slideshow
  • you only get 250 MB free (which at the highest res, translates to about 250 photos... so I'll run out of space in no time)
  • it's hard to see the photos in high res (you have to download them individually)
  • I can't customize the background or anything
I'd be curious if anyone has any thoughts about it. At this point, I'm probably inclined to keep using my photoblog since it's a little more customizable and there aren't any limitations on space. Thoughts? Comments? Let me know...