Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall to Winter

The days are getting shorter and the temperature is dropping. Yesterday morning, because the skies were clear overnight, the low was 30F – a foretaste of winter. The rains returned today and it wasn’t quite as cold.

A couple of days ago I went out riding on my bike for a bit over an hour. I suffered the last twenty minutes or so. It was over two months since I last bicycled for that length of time, and I felt the effects. I ride around a few times a week to run errands, but the position and biomechanics between my mountain bike and road bike are quite different.

I think all of us have mostly gotten over the colds that we had.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sermon: 1 John 4:19-5:4

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Yes, it’s almost a week overdue, but it is posted now. Last Sabbath’s sermon was on 1 John 4:19-5:4. It is about the kind of love that frees people captive to all sorts of things. But are we ready to really accept it?

As an aside, some major changes are taking place and there is a fairly good chance this may be the very last sermon for an undetermined period of time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Squash and Pumpkin Season

Fall is definitely here. Not just because of the torrential rains we’ve been having, but because this afternoon I found large boxes of pumpkins and winter squash on sale. Baking sugar pumpkins were on sale for 55¢/lb. and winter squash for 89¢/lb. I loaded up the shopping cart and came home with close to 35 lb.

Why so much all at once? First, because stored in a cool environment they last quite a while. Second, because it’s important here to get them while there’s still a good selection of fresh, undamaged, unspoiled ones.

We’ll be having baked squash, squash soup, squash gratin, squash stew, squash, squash, squash…

Monday, September 21, 2009

Plugging a couple more posts

Both are from the reinventing the adventist wheel blog.

The first: Egocentric mission or inclusivist gospel?

“… [If] bringing people into a saving faith in Jesus Christ is equivalent to bringing them into membership within Adventism. If this is the case, then there are a number of consequences… An inordinate burden in saving the whole world… Leads to an exclusivist mentality… Prevents authentic learning from others…”

The second: Exporting Adventism

“Can we as Seventh-day Adventists celebrate people’s rescue from sin (its current destruction & future consequences), even if they do not come to be a part of the Adventist denomination/movement?”

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Recipe: Cream Stew with Peas and Potatoes

I peered into our refrigerator this afternoon and saw there weren’t any vegetables left in there. I had already been out to run errands, so I didn’t really want to go out again. I looked into the freezer and saw several bags of frozen peas. So… theme for tonight: peas.

In Japan there is a boxed roux for what is called shi-chu – which I’m sure came from stew. The one I had most recently, which would now be several months ago, was a creamy, white type. Anyway, that idea popped into my mind, and thus I was on a mission to recreate something similar.

I did a quick search for recipes already on the web for something similar but didn’t really find anything where I looked. I was primarily interested in seeing what kind of spices and seasonings were used in other variations. There was one that seemed like a distant cousin and it used oregano and cumin. An interesting combination, I thought, but figured it was worth a try.

After pulling out all the ingredients, here’s what I had…

  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, cooked, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks (see note at end)
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced medium
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups sliced chunks of vegetarian steak (see note at end)
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups frozen peas
  1. In a medium bowl whisk milk, cream, and flour. Set aside.
  2. In a large sauté pan (I used a 14-inch pan with 2-inch high sides) heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add onions, salt, pepper, oregano, and red pepper and fry until onions start to become translucent. Add garlic and fry another minute. Add cumin and stir to mix. Add vegetarian steak and continue to fry for another minute or two.
  3. Whisk mixture from Step 1 once more and carefully pour into pan. Add potatoes and bouillon cubes. Stir to combine, breaking apart the bouillon. Add more salt if needed (I found the 1 tsp. salt and the salt in the bouillon sufficient). Bring heat to low and gently simmer for 20-30 minutes to combine flavors, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add frozen peas, increase heat to medium and cook another 7 to 10 minutes until peas are warmed through, stirring frequently to prevent burning on the bottom.

Note 1: While I prepped everything else, I cooked the potatoes in the microwave oven, using its baked potato settings. By the time I was ready to peel and cut the potatoes, they were cool enough to the touch.

Note 2: I had a can of Worthington vegetarian steaks. I used about six chunks and sliced them into about 1” x 1/8” sizes. I plan to use chicken breasts and mushrooms in a couple of days. For that I plan to brown the sliced chicken breasts first (and then remove and set aside, added back in with the potatoes) before frying the onions. The mushrooms will go in when the vegetarian steaks went in.

I’m not sure how close I came to the pre-made roux that I mentioned earlier, but the result was definitely satisfying and good enough to do again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Recipe: Red – Potato, Radish, Tomato

I had some red potatoes sitting around, also some radishes, and a bit of fresh sage from a few days ago. What could I do with them…?

I didn’t know how it would turn out, but I crafted a dish that combined all of them. It turned out surprisingly well. It’s similar to several other dishes I’ve made, but today’s combination is brand new.


  • 1 lb. red potatoes (about 3 large), washed, optionally peeled, and sliced thin (about 1/8”)
  • 1 bunch (about 12) radishes, washed and sliced thin
  • 1 large section of a shallot, sliced thin
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh sage leaves
  • 4 tbsp. + 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt + a little more
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ketchup
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tomato, seeded and sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup finely grated or shredded cheese (e.g., mozarella and parmesan mix)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • Juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
  1. Prepare potatoes, radish, shallot, and sage as directed above. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Over medium-high heat, heat 4 tbps. oil in a 12” frying pan. When hot, drop in half each of the shallots and minced sage. Fry until shallots become tender, about 2 minutes. Add radishes, sprinkle with salt (about 1/4 tsp.) and pepper, and continue to fry until they become tender. Remove from heat and using slotted spoon remove radishes, shallots, and sage and set aside in a bowl.
  3. Return pan to heat, add 2 tbsp. oil. Add remaining shallots and sage and fry until shallots are tender, about 2 minutes. Add potatoes, sprinkle 1 tsp. of salt and pepper, then stir to combine. Fry, stirring occasionally until surface of potatoes are browned, about 8-10 minutes. While potatoes are frying, combine ketchup, soy sauce, and about 3 tbsp. of water in a small bowl. When potatoes are nearly done frying, pour mixture into pan, stir to mix and combine. Fry another 30 seconds or so. Remove from heat.
  4. Place radishes from step 2 on top of the potatoes. Arrange tomato slices on top of the radishes. Sprinkle cheese on top. Cover (if you don’t have a lid, cover with seal with foil) and bake for about 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake another 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile toast pine nuts in a frying pan over medium heat until lightly tanned. Place into a bowl and set aside. When potatoes are done baking, remove pan from oven and sprinkle pine nuts on top. Drizzle lemon juice over the potatoes and serve. (Additional sage sprig or parsley can be used for garnish.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wow, scientific name index

I was just browsing the back of the book The Nature of Southeast Alaska and came across a common name to scientific name index of common species of fauna and flora found in this area. The reason I’m excited is that the index seems more comprehensive than the listings found in most field guides that I own.

The book itself is unique among nature guides of this region. It is not primarily a field guide. Rather, it is a book that discusses the environment and the ecology and how that shapes the species that are found in Southeast Alaska. Most field guides don’t really tell you where you can find a particular species, or if they do it is only in very general terms. This book provides the reasons behind why species are found where they are, when they are.

Sermon: 1 John 4:31-21

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

This past Sabbath’s sermon covered 1 John 4:13-21. You might notice that the previous sermon was back in chapter 3. What happened to the passage in between? While I was away, I had the church continue to work through the epistle.

The audio is not very good. The echoes from the AV system make the audio very difficult to understand. I apologize for that.

The sermon consists of reading the passage followed by reading my translation of Dad’s speech at the end of Mom’s memorial, and also a reading of Mom’s final letter of gratitude to all who stopped by to see her. I use these to provide a contemporary, real-life illustration of the passage in 1 John 4.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Busy Tuesday

Today was busy for me from the get go. It started first with racing my bike to the hospital to pick up our pickup so that I could drive Shelley to school, then going back to the hospital to swap back to the bike to ride home. That was followed almost immediately by riding the bike back into town for the weekly coffee appointment. When that was done I quickly returned home to make final edits and print out tonight’s supper recipes, make a shopping list, and go shopping (again by bike).

Almost as soon as I returned, it was time to go back out (on bike again) to the monthly Ministerial Association meeting, held today at the Catholic church. As usual, there was a large spread of food for lunch. This being the first meeting after the summer break, discussions went a little longer than usual.

While I was out, Elise took Amy to an art class. When she returned home, I had her take me, with supper supplies, to the church. There I spent the next couple of hours preparing white beans, part of the white beans into soup, and a potato gratin.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A bit of sun today

After a very stormy Thursday, today arrived fairly dry and by mid-morning the skies broke up enough to let some sunshine through.

It’s well into Fall now and I figured there probably wouldn’t be much fish in the Narrows, but I went out with pole in hand anyway, just to enjoy some time outside and watch the scenery.

There were quite a number of dead and dying silver salmon in the waters. I even caught one that still gave a little bit of a fight. It wasn’t worth keeping so I took the hook out and let it go to feed whatever critters might eventually come upon it.

This is all about the ecological system in this area. Last night I attended a lecture, part of this year’s Tongass Rainforest Festival, by a  biologist from the University of Alaska. He described how salmon are critical to the ecology. They feed in the ocean, become nutrient rich, and then bring all this back upstream where they die and release their nutrients back into the system. Terrestrial Southeast Alaska is generally nutrient poor, so these salmon provide a necessary infusion of nutrients back into the soil as they are consumed by mammals, fish, and insects.

It was interesting to experience firsthand a bit of the lecture from the night before.

Ketchup as a flavor enhancer

While in Japan I saw a television show on the merits of using ketchup as a replacement for ‘dashi.’ Why this fascinated me in particular is that I had been on the search for a replacement. Dashi typically uses seaweed and fish, which is problematic for strict vegetarians and vegans. Even seaweed may be too “fishy” for some people.

From past food articles and podcasts I had already known tomatoes are high in umami. Because of the way ketchup is produced, it concentrates the umami into a very small volume. What the television show provided was actual data that showed how much umami and kokumi is present in ketchup. There is so much in there and it is present in a manner that diluting ketchup by ten or even fifty times does not reduce the amount of umami and kokumi that is experienced by the tongue.

Over the past few days, now that I’m back in the kitchen again, I’ve been using diluted ketchup to enhance the flavors of various dishes. The results so far have been positive. The miso soup made using ketchup instead of traditional dashi seemed to be okay. This evening’s stir-fry vegetables and tofu also included a bit of ketchup in the sauce. Shelley noted how good this particular stir-fry was. When asked, I couldn’t recall anything I did differently from past versions, but later this evening I realized that I did add one key ingredient that was different – ketchup.

The key is to use ketchup sparingly. One teaspoon (or even half) into a single family dish should be more than sufficient. You don’t want to taste the ketchup… unless of course that’s what you want. Dilute, dilute, dilute…

With this knowledge I might even be able to put together Asian dishes for church dinners without scratching my head as to where to obtain the necessary umami and kokumi.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I’m not the only one…

The following linked post, Saving Jesus from Adventism, echoes many of my sentiments.

Every movement wrestles with the human inclination to makes saints out of it's originating leader-sinners. We all too soon forget that those we celebrate were considered, in the eyes of their contemporaries, miserably unruly heretics.

There is a predictable entropic shift from dynamic to static when a 'faith that works' becomes a success-bandwagon filled to overcapacity with those who don't 'get it'. What soon remains is that which doesn't work because it is not of faith. The proverbial 'tail inevitably wags the dog' in silly, yet spiritually fatal efforts to make Kodak moments of the previous, rather than persistently and continually grasping heavenward for the Precious. Wonder in heavenly wideness, lapses hopelessly into narrow and meaningless wander in humdrum wilderness.

Click for rest of article at Re-inventing the Adventist Wheel.

Slept this morning

I’m still experiencing the full effects of jet lag. I was very drowsy last night, nodding off while trying to read a bit. But by 1 a.m. or so I was wide awake and spent the next three hours sitting in front of the computer, listening to an audio book, and mostly just waiting for the time to go by.

I crawled back into bed about 4:30 a.m. and then I must have eventually dozed off because the next thing I know, it is about 11 a.m. I’m not sure which way my body clock is moving but I did finally get a substantial stretch of sleep.

The weather today is wet and windy. It almost looks like a tropical storm.

Last night we went to the High School open house where we met the teachers and staff and got a brief glimpse at what Shelley is/will be learning this year. The new HS principal is from Aloha High School in Oregon, not too far from where we used to live.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Back home

I returned home on Monday around noon, after almost two full days of travel. I’m experiencing the effects of jetlag, as you might see from the time on this post – 1 a.m.

The trip was mostly uneventful. I say mostly because as soon as the bus from Kichijoji to Narita began to move I began to feel nauseated and ill. I listened to a reading of The Age of American Unreason and shut my eyes to keep from getting really sick.

At Narita I wandered around the shopping floor of Terminal 2 for the next four hours, purchased overpriced OTC medications to treat the nausea, and ate some udon before heading down to passport control and into the departure area.

My Alaskan body never adjusted to the temps in Japan. The bus was too warm, the terminal was too warm, and the plane was too warm.

I never did find a comfortable position on the flight. I didn’t sleep much either. The medication I took got me drowsy and I must have dozed from takeoff until the meal service started. After that I was awake for the rest of the flight.

Arrival into San Francisco was uneventful. It was a warm day there as well. I rechecked my bag in at the recheck area right outside Customs. Then I went to the Alaska Air counter to get my boarding pass. It turns out I should have taken my checked bag all the way out and rechecked it there. What happened was that at the Narita counter, the agent wasn’t sure the baggage would make it all the way to Petersburg because of the date change and flight changes. I didn’t feel like taking the time to try to explain that any bag destined for Petersburg really had only one route and one airline, and if it got there it would find me. So it was checked through to Seattle. That meant I had to pick up the bag at Seattle and recheck it there.

I had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant and had beef noodle soup. From there I went to my uncle’s townhouse in the middle of the city where I showered and napped for a little while. His wife made me some onigiri (rice balls) for the plane. Back to the airport, through security, and off to Seattle.

It was just after 10 p.m. when I arrived in Seattle. I picked up my bag and went to the counter to see when I could check it back in – 3:30 a.m. when the counters reopened for the next day. I found an AC outlet and paid for a WiFi connection ($7.99/24 hours) to keep me entertained for the next five hours. Between Wall Street Journal Online and Facebook, the time went by fairly rapidly. Quite a few other people were also sitting/sleeping about the area waiting for the counters to open.

A bit after 3:30 a.m. the counters opened and I was able to check my bag in (and didn’t have to pay the bag check fee because it was originally from an overseas flight). I proceeded to go through security and straight to Dilettante, a chocolate and coffee shop/stand, where I got myself a Xtra Dark 72% mocha. This is a Seattle-only shop with a few locations in the city. Normally I don’t care much for mochas because they are way too sweet. But this is the one place where I look forward to it because I can choose the kind of chocolate that gets added to the coffee. The last time through Seattle I had just the hot chocolate using the Xtra Dark 72%, and I could have that again as well. It was sad to see, a couple hours later when more travelers came in, that a very long line formed at Starbucks while only a few people milled about Dilettante. Is the power of marketing that influential…?

I finally boarded my final flight to Petersburg. The scenery into Ketchikan was amazing. For once it wasn’t overcast or raining. Wrangell was overcast and starting to rain. From there it was just a short hop to Petersburg. I think the pilot tried to keep under the cloud cover and flew right above the Narrows. I don’t think I’ve been on a jet flight where the tops of the trees were so plainly visible. I started to feel a bit ill again. Then we landed and I was home.

I slept, slept some more, and slept at odd times. And now I’m wide awake at 1:30 a.m.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Two weeks in Japan

My two weeks in Japan is about to come to a close. By this time tomorrow I should be enroute on the first leg of my trip back to Petersburg.

Although the circumstances that initiated this trip was tragic and sad, it turned out to be a good trip. I got to meet numerous relatives, some that I hadn’t seen for some 10 to 16 years.

The memorial/funeral was certainly an eye-opening and interesting experience. This was the first such service/ritual in Japan that I was involved.

I arrived too late to be a part of the service that placed the body in the casket. I went later to view the body and the casket was filled with items meaningful to Mom.

The memorial was held at the church right next to the Adventist hospital, just a few minutes’ walk from the house. The service was attended by somewhere around 300-400 people, and during the ceremony at the end placing flowers in the casket, an additional 100-200 employees from the hospital came through. It felt like a memorial for a minor celebrity – which apparently my mom was. Everyone spoke of her ever cheerful outlook, her smile, and her laughter. That made more positive impression on people than any words could ever do.

The next part of the ceremony and ritual was completely unexpected, at least from a Western perspective. Family and close friends boarded two buses led by a Hearse (actually a stretched Toyota). We went to the crematorium where the ritual of cremating the body took place. We paid our final respects to Mom and then the casket was slid into the furnace. We went up to a waiting area and about 40 minutes later we were ushered back down. The remains were slid out for our examination and then taken to the side of the room where everyone took part in collecting the bones (with chopsticks) and placing each piece into the urn. From there we boarded buses and arrived at a Chinese restaurant where we partook of a memorial dinner.

Following dinner we returned home (carrying Mom’s portrait – it was carried and was at the head of each procession all the way from the memorial to the dinner – and the urn) where the funeral service caretakers came in and set up a little altar where the portrait and urn was placed alongside flowers and numerous memorabilia.

Other than that, the past two weeks have been pretty fun and enjoyable. There’s a little bit of loneliness and sadness that I sense every now and then, but no big sense of loss or grief. I’m a little surprised but perhaps not too unexpected. I think it was harder waiting for my mom to pass away than to deal with the death itself. Now that she’s gone there’s no more uncertainty and no more waiting for something to happen. I know I’ll see my mom again when Christ returns.

So the family has been having a good time every day. We’ve been eating well, both cooking at the house and eating out. I’ve had plenty of good Japanese food. Among them: Real ramen, ramen with tomato based soup, sushi, more sushi, real chicken donburi, 1/2 lb. steak for $50, and Izakaya (Japanese pub) food. Oh, and I can’t forget all the wagashi (Japanese confections). I might have gained a few pounds…

I got to experience being in the midst of historical national elections. The Democratic Party of Japan won a huge victory over the Liberal Democratic Party (which is actually the conservative party, in spite of its name) which had been in power nearly continuously for 50 years.

A tropical storm (called a typhoon, even though it didn’t hit hurricane levels) came through and we experienced Ketchikan-like downpours (i.e., like sitting under a waterfall).

We went to Dad’s church where the regular pianist was away both weeks. Conveniently(?) I was available and was drafted to play.

After tonight, I will be on the road, in the air, and in airports for something like 40 hours before arriving home.