Tag Archives: family

Easter Dinner

uu easter fb

Now, I don’t eat ham…I don’t like the texture (although I’ve always had a hard time explaining why), but I grew up in a family who usually did the traditional “Easter Ham” & I have a husband who gets pretty excited about about it as well. For me, Easter is about spring, egg hunts, flowers…chocolate-covered marshmallow bunnies (I’m not gonna lie!), and activities with the kids! I love dying eggs and watching their faces when they discover their baskets in the morning. Even my 17 yr old is excited to discover the T-shirt or comic book hiding among the eggs & treats in his basket (Mommy bunny always puts some non-edibles in the basket as well). Many years ago my mother started making a particular ham recipe that became a family classic. It is now the only one that is asked for in my home, my siblings’ homes, my in-laws have shared it with friends, my husband has been emailing around work…I figured the “cat’s out of the bag” I may as well share it with you all.


Our Easter Dinner consists of Mom’s Coke Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, & a Vegetable, this year I made Garlic Roasted Asparagus. We round it out with my Pineapple Upside-down Cake.

Ham thick side down in pot

Start by placing your Shank Half/Bone-in Ham, thick side down, into a pot on the stove top. Pour 2-liter of Coca-Cola Classic to cover entire Ham, use more if needed (cannot be diet, off-brand, or Pepsi or it doesn’t work the same). Cover with lid, bring to boil then simmer for at least 2 hours.

pour coke over ham

While the Ham is simmering in Coke, it’s a good time to use the oven to prepare the cake or other dessert. I’ve always been a fan of Pineapple Upside-down Cake. I try to do a lot of things from scratch, but given that I’m in the kitchen all day on the holidays anyway having a couple of cheats I think is alright! I use Duncan Hines Pineapple Supreme. If you look on the side of the box there is a skillet recipe; you do need to have a 12+ inch skillet that has an oven safe handle, but it is SO worth it! I’ll paste the link to the recipe on their website below along with the pic of my finished cake. This is my “go to” recipe! I love it. #duncanhinespineappleupsidedowncake

finish with your favorite Easter dessert. Ours is pineapple upside down cake

http://www.duncanhines.com/recipes/cakes/Duncan%20Hines%C2%AE/pineapple-upside-down-cake/

sprinkle with cloves, brown sugar, and molasses to taste

Now that your Ham has been cooking for 2-3 hours while you got your cake baked & out of the way…Pour the Ham & Coke into a strainer in the sink (be careful, the hot Coke-Cola is sticky & will burn badly if it splashes onto your face). Trim off fat. You can choose to leave the Ham whole or cut it off of the bone in chunks like I do (as pictured). If you leave it whole you must score it well to ensure that the flavors get through it. [I prefer it “chunked” for a couple of reasons. I think that it allows the pieces to all get good & crispy in the oven as well as making sure that the flavor gets all over them.] Sprinkle with cloves, brown sugar, & drizzle with molasses (to taste). Set aside.

Here’s one more “cheat” that I do…I admit that I haven’t yet successfully been able to make homemade, all from scratch, cheesy scalloped potatoes…so sad.  They are always either too greasy, the potatoes are too firm, or the sauce isn’t creamy enough for my liking, as I’m a perfectionist about such things…so, I cheat. I get boxed scalloped potatoes & I embellish them & jazz them up! For our family of 5, I usually use 2 boxes. I always use the “oven method” on the box. Follow all of the steps up to stirring in the potatoes…STOP! Add a small handful of shredded sharp cheddar (I get Tillamook extra sharp white cheddar, it’s awesome & a great price at Costco)  & 1 bunch (just shy of a cup chopped) green onion. Stir it up good then add the potatoes. Sprinkle a little more cheddar on the top (to get that nice crispy goodness) then bake as directed.  So much better than straight outta the box!

if you're gonna cheat, they're SO much better

While the potatoes are in the oven, clean asparagus under cool water. (To remove woody ends from the asparagus, gently bend the end of each spear until it snaps naturally.) Lay on a paper towel & pat dry as you can, you don’t want them to steam in the oven.

once dry spread single layer drizzle generously with olive oil then sprinkle with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and garlic

Next, spread the asparagus out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with sea or kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, & garlic (I use a little garlic mill, but you can use granulated as well). Finally, pop in the preheated 425-degree oven & roast the asparagus for about 10 minutes. The secret is for the oven to be very hot without the veggies getting overcooked & wimpy.

finished asparagus

Now that the asparagus is done, crank the oven temp up as hot as it will go (ours goes up to 550) & throw the ham in for 10 min (15 min if you left it whole), then rearrange the pieces, sprinkle more cloves, brown sugar, drizzle more molasses, & turn on the broiler on high. Set the timer for 7 minutes & go get the table set. (The broiler gets it good & crispy around the edges.)

after 10 minutes rotate sprinkle again cook another 10 repeat sprinkling again then broil on low for 5 if you want extra crispy

Dinner is done!

Dinner is served!


Coke Ham

  • 1  Shank Half/Bone-In Ham
  • 1  2 Liter Bottle Original Coke-Cola
  • Brown Sugar
  • Molasses
  • Cloves

Place Ham, thick side down, into pot on top of stove. Pour Coke-Cola over ham. Cover with lid, bring to boil. Simmer for 2-3 hours. When 2-3 hours have passed: Heat oven as hot as it will go (probably 550); Pour ham and Coke-Cola into strainer in sink; Transfer ham to an oven proof pan (either the entire ham or cut from bone & place in pan, but either way trim fat first; if whole ham in dish you must score it by cutting slashes all over it so the next ingredients will seep down inside); Sprinkle with cloves, brown sugar, & molasses (to taste); Put in oven for 15 minutes (If you cut the ham from the bone, you’ll need to cook 10 minutes in the oven then rotate pieces, add more cloves, brown sugar, & molasses, then cook another 7 minutes on broil to crisp it up.


Garlic Roasted Asparagus

  • 1 bunch Asparagus
  • 4-5 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt or Sea Salt, to Taste
  • Fresh Ground Pepper, to Taste
  • Ground Garlic, to Taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Clean asparagus under cool water. Remove woody ends from the asparagus by gently bending the end of each spear until it snaps naturally. Lay on a paper towel & pat dry as you can (you don’t want them to steam in the oven).  Next, spread the asparagus out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with sea or kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, & garlic (I use a little garlic mill, but you can use granulated as well). Finally, pop in the preheated oven & roast the asparagus for about 10 minutes. The secret is for the oven to be very hot without the veggies getting overcooked & wimpy.


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SCOTUS decides the Hobby Lobby case: AKA #BoycottHobbyLobby

It’s days like this where the impulsive part of my brain says, “Grab the children & move to Canada! . . . NOW!!!”

Then I read the following statement from our UUA President, Rev. Peter Morales, & I remember something that I watched during one of our Sunday morning worship services at last weekend’s General Assembly (which I will paste at the end:

http://www.uua.org/news/pressroom/pressreleases/296165.shtml

For those who are just waking up…this morning the US Supreme Court ruled in favor (5 to 4) of Hobby Lobby. This Corporation now has the right, based on their “religious beliefs” to pick & choose which insurance benefits they offer their employees.
In this case, we’re talking birth control. The “Christian Right Conservatives” don’t want to pay for contraceptives, basically (although meds like Viagra are okay…don’t get me started…I’m just beginning to not see red anymore).

Many are viewing this as a women’s issue, but it’s a men’s issue, a family issue…an everybody issue!

Go with me for just a minute…I’m going to get personal.

In my family, my husband works his butt off working full time, overtime when he can, gets benefits for the family. I work part time, 1-2 half days a week in the office & the rest of the time I work from home, averaging 16-18 hours a week, our 3 yr old goes to a Pre-school/daycare when I’m in the office. We have 2 other kids who are in school full time. I get paid monthly & even though my hours are minimal, my hourly pay is good & my paychecks cover most of our rent (and are equal to close to half of my husband’s monthly net pay).

I have an IUD. According to the New York Times, “The cost of an IUD, one of the most effective forms of birth control, is considerable. It requires a visit to the doctor, and a procedure to have the device put in place. Medical exams, insertion, and follow-up visits can run upward of $1,000. Without insurance coverage, it’s likely that many women will be unable to use them.” Luckily, my husband’s insurance covered it, but if more companies start following suit who knows if my next one will be covered. (They need to be replaced every 5 years.) I will also say that this is the only reliable method of birth control that works for my husband & I. We don’t have to worry about forgetting, misusing, having reactions from my IUD. It just works.

Now lets say for a minute that my wonderful husband worked for Hobby Lobby. They could have refused to pay for our IUD. There would have been NO WAY we could have paid for it. I know that I can’t take birth control pills (as I react); without getting too personal diaphragms don’t work for me; condoms aren’t practical for many married couples & they can break or get holes & even when used correctly they’re only 98% effective…we would end up pregnant again, I wouldn’t be able to work, we’d be on food stamps after my income stopped paying most of our rent (which is a program we know that they’ve been speaking out against) then we definitely wouldn’t be able to afford to get my IUD, then more babies….endless poverty cycle.

I don’t know how “Christian” “Pro-Family” people can go out of their way to create hardship for families who are just trying to protect themselves against having children that they’re either not ready for or perhaps (like we are) done making their family, or like many, taking the medications for other things all together.

One other analogy I offer that I want you to think about before I wrap this up, only because I think it’s all too easy to say, “well, if they don’t want to cover a medication, what’s the big deal? It’s their company…” (Even though the employees cover a fair amount of their own premium costs…)

let’s flip the perspective for a minute. I posted this in response to someone’s facebook post this morning & it got some feedback so I’ll put it to you all as well: *you are christian & work for a lovely Muslim family-owned corporation. They decided that during Ramadan, since THEY fast from sun up to sun down as part of their Religious Beliefs, they would stop allowing food on the business properties from sun up to sun down, just during Ramadan. You are welcome to drive off site, eat something, & drive back during your 30 min lunch break but they won’t give you more time & this would only allow you a few minutes to eat & ends up costing you more $ in gas each week. You sue, but are surprised when you lose because you find out that your boss’s religious freedom is protected over you, just like the fore mentioned case.*

The average Rightwing Christian doesn’t usually like to be the minority & doesn’t like it when the religion-based law that they made a such a big deal over doesn’t only apply to them.

It’s time for me to share with you what I promised I would earlier. I will share the words first then post the link for the service itself. (You will find this at approximately 49:41) It is the Meditation before the Sermon (which is also amazing!).

This is Revs. Shana and Melora Lynngood, Co-ministers First Unitarian Church of Victoria, BC~Sunday, June 29th, 2014 at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Providence Rhode Island

“Please join us in a spirit of meditation and reflection… breathe in… breathe out… if you feel comfortable doing so, close your eyes… We have all done it— Especially those of us who like to think of ourselves as astute, intelligent, well-informed.
We criticize and judge—convinced that we know the right way.
And sometimes we ARE right—especially when our object of critique is an injustice, an unfair law or system.
We clench our fists—indignant, righteous. Take a moment to consider—In justice work—in life—what makes you clench your fists?… Sometimes, that response is justified; the clenched fists understandable, even appropriate.
But if we remain in that pose, our posture rigid, our approach set, convinced of our own superior view,
Then we miss the blessings…Steamroll right past the beatitudes.
To experience spiritual transformation—in justice-making and in life,
We have to un-clench our fists and open our hands.
Hands open, letting go of the need to be right, the urge to point the finger of critique
Hands open—signaling humility.
Hands open—receptive to the love that can guide us
Hands open—ready to serve.
Hands open to grasp hands of others, joining across differences, finding there meaningful connection
Hands open, like a toddler stumbling with arms akimbo, awkward, but poised to explore and experience new possibilities, new insights, new growth.
Take a moment to consider—if you were to open your hands, step into a more embracing stance than is usual for you, what blessings might you receive?
May our hands—open to the spirit—give life the shape of justice.”

http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/295428.shtml
No matter how frustrated you may be, regardless of pride, nor anger–may you find your inner peace & wisdom & be able to lower your fist & open your hands & accept the gifts that come.

Learn from this day. Get out there & make a better day for our children.
Don’t be afraid to be loud when it matters.
Shalom friends.
~P

Zesty Taco Soup

Clearly we are in need of a little spice during this super chilly winter season. For those of you who don’t know….the high for today in my neck of the woods (Flathead Valley, Montana) is around 1 degree (not including any wind chill factors). This varies greatly from town to town. School was canceled today for my friends, just south about 17 miles because it was so windy that the cold was unbearable this morning.

Yesterday I posted a lovely, cheesy Mexican casserole & today for dinner, as requested by my 12 year old so, I’m making a crock pot full of my Zesty Taco Soup. This recipe was developed last fall when I started pulling things out to prepare my sister’s Chicken Tortilla Soup, then realized that I had no chicken breasts…or thighs (my backup)…only ground turkey. I looked at the recipe, compared it to my Turkey Chili recipe, made a few notes & tweaks & there we were!

*I will warn you by saying that I am a crock pot addict. I am a busy gal who never has enough time for anything, AND I love to cook. The crock pot has saved my life! It allows me to prepare homemade soups, sauces, casseroles, even some desserts on days when I just wouldn’t otherwise have the time. If you don’t have one get one. And please don’t waste your time or money on a cute little one that barely fits a couple cans of soup in it. Seriously, what are you going to make in there anyway? Spend a little more & buy the big one. Even if you live alone, & here’s why…most crock pot recipes are made for the big pots (& if they’re not, it’s easier to multiply a recipe than divide a recipe!). Make more & freeze it or can it, or give it away. Especially if it’s soup or sauce! Soups & sauces freeze & reheat REALLY well. You just need to pour it into smaller containers so that it cools quickly, then put it into labeled freezer bags with the date on it. Most stuff you can keep in the freezer for a year, sometimes more. Look it up online if you’re unsure. Stepping off of my soapbox now…*     

Onto the yummies…

1 package Ground Turkey          1 can Black Beans          1 can Kidney Beans          1 can White Beans              2 cans diced Green Chilies                1 can diced tomatoes with chilies          1 yellow onion diced                    64 oz chicken sock                            1-2 packets (to taste) taco seasoning          1 can tomato sauce          1 cup frozen corn                                    (optional) avocado, green onion, & sour cream to garnish                           *I try to get hormone free turkey & organic canned goods & produce as much as possible. Retailers like Costco are excellent about prices when it comes to organic canned beans, tomato sauces, & chicken stock, I highly recommend you price compare if you haven’t already. We are on a tight budget in my home, but I have found that retailers like Costco are really doing their part to keep cost down on organic products when possible.*

Turn the crock pot onto HIGH. Put in the ground turkey. You can put it in right from frozen as long as it’s going to be cooking for at least 6-7 hours total. (Usually 1 package is about 1.25-1.3 lbs, that’s what I use. For me the beans are the star, if you like more meat, feel free to add more.)  Once the heat has started to move through the pot, add the onions, corn, & taco seasoning.

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Next, add your chilies & tomatoes w/chilies to the pot. Stir.

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While the onions & meat begin to cook a bit, it’s time to prepare the beans. Most people don’t realize that canned beans need to be prepared, especially if they’re organic…wrongo bongo!

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Canned beans don’t need to be pre-cooked, but they do need to be rinsed! They are sitting in this lovely sodium-filled goo which keeps them a wonderful consistency when canned, otherwise they would turn to mush. We don’t want to eat the goo, however, & many people do. It is a preservative that isn’t good for us, it is meant to be discarded, not ingested. Please rinse your beans!

I have chosen Black beans, Kidney Beans, & Garbanzo Beans. Garbanzos, mostly because I am out of other white beans & I enjoy have tricolor beans in soups, but also because I  have children & all children like Garbanzos because they look like butts! Sorry, but it’s true! Little beige bottoms floating in your bowls is funny & they will eat them!

Once they are rinsed, add the beans to your pot. Stir.

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Now that all of our solids are in & starting to cook, we can add our liquids. Usually I use homemade chicken stock, but this soup has so much flavor all ready, that it almost would be a waste. I use organic store bought chicken stock, & 1 can or tomato sauce. This fills the pot. Stir it up good. Put the lid on & Set the timer for 5 hours if the turkey was fresh or 7 hours if it was frozen.

I like a little dollop of sour cream or a sprinkle of cheese on top & green onions &/or avocados. Serve it with tortilla chips to dip.

IMG_20140205_194847

Have a wonderful afternoon & keep warm!

~P

Quick ‘n Easy, Super-Yummy Mexican Casserole

This is one of my family’s favorite casseroles! It was inspired by a recipe that my mother emailed me. I tweaked it…a lot, & it is quick, easy, inexpensive, versatile, & tasty. You can make it vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, super meaty…I can easily increase the quantity for a potluck or bring it down for just my husband & I.

To start, you need enough burritos to line a glass baking dish. I use frozen bean burritos, the ones with refried beans, but you can use any variety. (You could even roll your own if you are so inclined.) Cut them to fit tightly into the dish. *Let them thaw in the dish before baking or you will have to increase baking time. I usually put them in the casserole dish a couple of hours before I’m ready to bake them.*

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Personally, I like this dish without meat, but all of the men in my house prefer some chewable protein in it, so we have compromised on ground turkey. I usually cook it up, much like I would for tacos.

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Then I add diced chilies, 1 can of diced tomatoes with chilies, & some sliced olives.

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Okay…here is the one ingredient that I wish I could replicate using something more natural or homemade…

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Campbell’s Condensed Fiesta Nacho Cheese Soup…If I could figure out how to mimic it using natural ingredients, I would! If anyone else has any ideas or know how, please share!

I use one can of the above soup, an equal amount of sour cream. (If you wanted to make a vegan or dairy-free version, you could omit the cream soup & use Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese & Better Than Sour Cream or similar brand, then add some extra spices.)  I also sprinkle a small sprinkle of shredded sharp cheddar cheese into the mixture too. Stir it well.

Smear the sauce mixture evenly over the burritos, making sure to schmoosh (that’s a technical term) into all of the cracks & gaps.

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Once it is evenly spread out, sprinkle with shredded cheese.

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Preheat the oven to 435 & bake for about 35 minutes (as long as the burritos were completely thawed, a little longer if they were still frozen).

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Enjoy!

I hope that it makes mouths as happy in your home as it does in mine!

Week 1 of “30 days of Love”. . . did you know?

There are so many things happening right now! Martin Luther King Jr. Day was yesterday. There are many wonderful organizations that have decided to use his legacy to remind us to be a better, kinder, more tolerant, more just, & loving society.

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I love GLSEN! They do SO much for gay & lesbian youth. This week, they are promoting “No Name-Calling Week.” http://www.glsen.org/nonamecallingweek . It is an effort to help stop bullying, primarily in schools.

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Let me talk about bullying for just a minute. I am not a fan of bullying, but many of the zero tolerance, anti-bullying campaigns have been backfiring the past couple of years. (Remember what happened with the DARE program of our era?) If you put an all encompassing umbrella over bullying, give it a lot of publicity, & then make a zero tolerance policy….you draw attention, sometimes to things that kids weren’t even thinking of & you sometimes give existing & potential bullies ideas.

The zero tolerance policy means that your own policy forces you to punish kids for behavior that doesn’t warrant the punishment simply because if you don’t, you’re not following policy. I don’t think that it’s okay to allow children to be mean to each other. I do think though that, depending on the situation, there is a certain amount of age appropriate push & pull that goes on between kids & youth. That is not the same as being mean, but with these “zero tolerance” bullying rules that schools are making, it doesn’t allow for normal behavior. We can’t expect everyone to always act “just so,” a little push in line, not wanting to sit next to the stinky kid, not wanting the kid who is really bad at math on your team during a math drill DOESN’T make you a bully! It makes you a normal, age appropriate kid. Should the teacher tell you that you get what you get? YES. Should the lunch lady yell out, “No pushing in line!” from behind the counter? YES. Should someone remind your kid that it’s not nice to call that kid “stinky”? ABSOLUTELY, should that same someone call the stinky kid’s parent’s & investigate why he’s so stinky ABSOLUTELY.

I think focusing on one aspect of bullying, like GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week. is a nice way to handling it. You aren’t teaching these kids a new behavior. Kids have known how to name call since they were 2 years old! Focusing instead on how that behavior effects people, what that feels like (even for adults), instead of talking about bullying as if it’s 1 act, 1 punishment…that’s something I can get behind.

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Many UU’s around the world are jumping on board with Standing on the Side of Love’s “30 Days of Love” campaign.

http://standingonthesideoflove.org/30days2014/

Day 1 was Saturday, January 18th. I cut & pasted below what it says on their site for week 1:

“Week One: Living the Dream

Sunday, Jan. 19: Suggested worship service themes include honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and recommitting to racial justice work.

What to Expect: Kick off the week with MLK Day and set aside time for congregational self-examination and reflection. Look for resources on furthering your racial justice work.”

I think I can do both of these campaigns easily together! Living in small town Montana, you’d be surprised how many racial slurs, comments, & names one still hears (especially when people are talking politics, it seems).

I vow, to do my part to not only not “name call” (which is a rule in my home anyway, one that I only seem to break when speaking of myself…), but to be verbal when I hear others. That takes care of GLSEN. For my UU contribution this week, I’m going to concentrate my ears on those racial slurs, jokes, & “name calls” that I hear when I’m out & about. I am a small woman & usually when I hear these things it is a group of men speaking (although not always) & my habit has been to give a look, much like a disappointed mother or school teacher would give a disobedient child.

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I vow to use my voice this week. I will speak on behalf of my children (& others’ children) who don’t deserve to hear it. I’ll be honest, we are a mostly white community, but that is no excuse to allow the racially ignorant folks in our community to feel like they run it.

This is my commitment to my faith community, my family, GLSEN, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, & most importantly…to myself.

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What is a Unitarian Universalist?

I thought that this was great!

A lot of people ask me about my faith. It is a hard thing to describe to most people in my neck of the woods. Many people here are either SO Christian that to imagine a life that is open to other possibilities is so foreign that it borders on offensive, or they were raised in that life & they run from any & everything that looks or smells like church.

As a Unitarian Universalist, I am allowed to find my own path. I am given the personal freedom to believe (or not) whatever I believe. At my little fellowship, we have Quakers, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, Agnostics, Pagans, people who follow Native teachings, people who don’t seem to follow any particular faith, & lifelong UUs who claim nothing other than that. We are all on our own spiritual path, together, & it’s good. We don’t really have any formal dogmas we follow. We are inspired by the teachings & writings of religious leaders from all world religions, poets, philosophers, writers, teachers, lecturers, scientists, presidents, and more. We meditate, some of us pray, some of us take communion from time to time. We are all different & we all have different spiritual needs. None are turned away & all are welcome.

It’s a beautiful thing. I once told a friend that I should start my own church. Where you can believe anything you want. You can be eclectic & draw from all sources. No one is right & no one is wrong. Everyone is okay…we’re all okay…

Then I found, thanks to a childhood friend, my UU church in Des Moines, Washington. I walked in & I listened & I spoke with the minister & I looked in the classrooms & I asked about the curriculum…

This was the church that I had wanted to create years before. It had always existed, for hundreds of years, anyway.

I just hadn’t found it until I needed to.

When I moved to Montana, my criteria was “they have to have the same or better schools for the kids, & they have to have a UU church.” They had both.

Now I get to live with Glacier Park in my back yard, I get to direct children’s programming for my spiritual home. And I get to share all of it & more with all of you.

My next post will be more about food, I promise. No preaching, I just really liked this video!

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