The Great Torillieria Mystery

Our continuing foray into the world of international breads brought us Tortilla as March's Ethnic Bread of the Month. This one is fairly significant, because doing without tortillas as well as tortilla chips (which assume an ability to make tortillas in the first place) is a situation which we would like to avoid.
From some prelim research, we discovered that most of the traditional recipes called for large amounts of lard... also a situation we'd like to avoid. So we found an allrecipes.com version with shortening as a substitute that seemed to get good reviews, and went at it.
The good news? They're quick.
The bad news? Well, not really bad, but there do seem to be some mysteries intrinsic to tortillas which have evaded us. If you know the answers to these of life's persistent questions, please do tell:
1. They taste kind of like pie crusts. We didn't grease the pan before frying them. Was this a mistake?
2. Round? yes. Nice and round? no. Ergo, it must be that, either, we should have trimmed the edges, or maybe we should have thrown them like pizza dough instead of using a rolling pin.
3. Is all this to say that the lard is really necessary? Is shortening never an okay substitute?
Tune in next month as the Chefs McLaughlin tackle their next ethnic bread.


Bus Revolution

A couple weeks ago, we were lamenting the rising gas prices, and decided that, at some point, society (and us personally) would have to have a breaking point, where the expense was too high and we would change our transportation choices. And then, epiphany! Prices had already more than doubled, and we really hadn't changed anything about the way we get around, except that we pay more than twice as much. Had the breaking point already come, but so insidiously that we missed it?

So, our resolution. Eric is now bussing as much as possible (most days he can get to the University hospital very easily, and he busses free with his university affiliation), and very much enjoys getting to read on the way to work and back home. There is a clinic Eric sometimes helps to staff that is walkable from our house, and as soon as the weather is just a bit nicer (hopefully soon), Rachel can bike to work, and Eric can bike to his regular clinic, thus helping our goal of improving exercise, as well.

It seems to be an interesting question. What is your breaking point? For us, it seems better to decide now, rather than gradually increase until we're spending 80% of our GDP on the ole' petrol.


Free Book (not for the faint of heart)

Our friend James just informed me that the President's Council on Bioethics has run a printing of a new volume: "Human Dignity and Bioethics". As has been their habit, these first printings are complimentary to those who email and request one before supplies run out. The email address is at the end of the following post in "First Things" magazine. I requested mine, but don't have confirmation that any are left in stock. But what's to lose? I am still enjoying their earlier volume "Being Human" as noted by its place amongst our prestigious recommended reading list. Thanks, James.


Holy Week Meditation: Easter Sunday

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

--Isaiah 53:1-6

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

--I Corinthians 15:53-58

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!


Holy Week Meditation: Holy Saturday

The Old Testament begins with darkness and the last of the Gospels ends with it. "Darkness was upon the face of the deep," Genesis says. Darkness was where it all started. Before darkness, there had never been anything other than darkness, void, and without form. At the end of John, the disciples go fishing on the Sea of Tiberias. It is night. They have no luck. Their nets are empty. Then they spot somebody standing on the beach. At first they don’t see who it is in the darkness. It is Jesus.

The darkness of Genesis is broken in real majesty speaking the words of creation. "Let there be light!" That’s all it took. The darkness of John is broken by the flicker of a charcoal fire on the sand. Jesus has made it. He cooks some fish on it for his old friends’ breakfast. On the horizon there are the first pale traces of the sun getting ready to rise.

All the genius and glory of God are somehow represented by these two scenes, not to mention what Saint Paul calls God’s foolishness.

The original creation of light itself is almost too extraordinary to take in. The little cook-out on the beach is almost too ordinary to take seriously. Yet if Scripture is to be believed, enormous stakes were involved in them both and still are. Only a saint or a visionary can begin to understand God setting the very sun on fire in the heavens, and therefore God takes another tack. By sheltering a spark with a pair of cupped hands and blowing on it, the Light of the World gets enough of a fire going to make breakfast.

It’s not apt to be your interest in cosmology or even theology that draws you to it so much as it’s the empty feeling in your stomach. You don’t have to understand anything very complicated. All you’re asked is to take a step or two forward through the darkness and start digging in.

-Frederick Buechner (1926-)

Celebrating Pi Day

We went to a school for a long time. In middle school, you call those people “nerds”. As time goes along, such designations are less utilized, and you can even start to believe that maybe you weren’t, after all, a nerd. But then, sometimes, events transpire which demonstrate that the label still fits, it’s just that you’ve become more okay with it over the years.

Such was 3-14-2008, a.k.a. “Pi Day”. Some friends of ours saw this coming and asked us how we were planning on celebrating. Part of us was proud that we didn’t even know this day existed (the part that had issues in middle school), but the rest of us got excited, and the result was us hosting a party of Pizza Pi and Dessert Pi, where (I’m not kidding) such phrases as “No, that’s a little too big, can you make the slice about π/4 radians?” were actually uttered. Have the sounds waves of this world ever formed such a pattern? Of course, we don’t know, but those are the questions nerds like us enjoy challenging.
Our assertion that we’ve come to terms with our geekiness may be challenged by the anonymity of the accompanying picture that Pi Day produced. But we’re seriously okay with it. Really.


Holy Week Meditation: Good Friday

…If Humanity were wise, she would stand today and sing in strength the song of conquest and the hymn of triumph.

Oh, Crucified Jesus, who art looking sorrowfully from Mount Calvary at the sad procession of the Ages, and hearing the clamor of the dark nations, and understanding the dreams of Eternity: Thou art, on the Cross, more glorious and dignified than one thousand kings upon one thousand thrones in one thousand empires. Thou art, in the agony of death, more powerful than one thousand generals in one thousand wars.

With thy sorrows, thou art more joyous than Spring with its flowers. With thy suffering, thou art more bravely silent than the crying of angels of heaven. Before thy lashers, thou art more resolute than the mountain of rock.

Thy wreath of thorns is more brilliant and sublime than the crown of Bahram. The nails piercing thy hands are more beautiful than the scepter of Jupiter. The spatters of blood upon thy feet are more resplendent than the necklace of Ishtar.

Forgive the weak who lament thee today, for they do not know how to lament themselves.
Forgive them, for they do not know that thou hast conquered death with death, and bestowed life upon the dead.
Forgive them, for they do not know that thy strength still awaits them.
Forgive them, for they do not know that every day is thy day.

-Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)



I guess this isn't surprising, but it's still fun to see our site linked to Andrew Peterson's. We're the 7th blog listed on his blog tour. Feel free to leave encouraging comments on our blog review to make it look important.

Holy Week Meditation: Maundy Thursday

Sitting in the basement room in Paris surrounded by forty poor people, I was struck again by the way Jesus concluded his active life. Just before entering on the road of his passion he washed the feet of his disciples and offered them his body and blood as food and drink. These two acts belong together. They are both an expression of God's determination to show us the fullness of his love. Therefore John introduces the story of Jesus' washing of the disciples' feet with the words: "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (John 13:1).

What is even more astonishing is that on both occasions Jesus commands us to do the same. After washing his disciples' feet, Jesus says, "I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you" (John 13:15). After giving himself as food and drink, he says, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). Jesus calls us to continue his mission of revealing the perfect love of God in this world. He calls us to total self-giving. He does not want us to keep anything for ourselves. Rather, he wants our love to be as full, as radical, and as complete as his own...

The Word became flesh so as to wash my tired feet. He touches me precisely where I touch the soil, where earth connects with my body that reaches out to heaven. He kneels and takes my feet in his hands and washes them. Then he looks up at me and, as his eyes and mine meet, he says: "Do you understand what I Have done for you? If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash your brothers' and sisters' feet" (John 13:13-14). As I walk the long, painful journey toward the cross, I must pause on the way to wash my neighbor's feet. As I kneel before my brothers and sisters, wash their feet, and look into their eyes, I discover that it is because of my brothers and sisters who walk with me that I can make the journey at all.

-Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)


Holy Week Meditation: Wednesday

If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I crave hungrily to be used to show the way of liberty to a soul in bondage, instead of caring only that it be delivered; if I nurse my disappointment when I fail, instead of asking that to another the word of release may be given, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never crosses my mind, or if it does, is never given room there; if the cup of flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that others are caused to feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I refuse to allow one who is dear to me to suffer for the sake of Christ, if I do not see such suffering as the greatest honor that can be offered to any follower of the Crucified, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of Calvary love...

If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

That which I know not, teach Thou me, O Lord, my God.

-Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)


Andrew Peterson's New Novel

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree.
by Andrew Peterson

As aforementioned, we were gifted with some advance copies of this new novel, and devoured it shortly. The first thing to know is that Andrew Peterson has long been Eric's songwriting hero. In fact, there's web evidence of this; just scroll down to "Heroes". His latest effort does much to buttress this, and even advance this idea into new realms.

You know how there was that really talented person in high school that you didn't really know, but you had this innate assurance that, if you could just get together and hang out, you'd be new best friends? Rachel has postulated that such is the case with ourselves and the author. So, Andrew, next time we're visiting Eric's family in Nashville: La Hacienda, our treat.
There's a few truths about this book that can, in fact, be judged correctly by it's cover. The redundant reference to the "dark" in the title, and the obscure zoology of the "toothy cows" in the subtitle both set a certain tone of fun that continues throughout, reminiscent of the book version of "The Princess Bride", for those who have read the book. But the rest of the subtitle points out the meat of the tale, which is a quite compelling opening to a larger saga, in which Andrew has truly created an original and consistent world, in which the whole spectrum of trivial to grand finds a home. This world creation, apparently produced out of bedtime stories for his three kids (who echo the birth order of the 3 protagonists in his story), rings of fantasy, but not like the novels where the main characters could very well meet Bilbo and Mr. Tumnus around the next corner, for all the similarities a story bears to previously created worlds. Instead, it's a new imagination, like Tolkien or JK Rowling, in which Andrew tells a whole new mythology, built around a huge turning point in the history of the land of Skree, which all starts out innocently with a small family living near the cliffs, all the while hinting at stories and legends that exist in this land, for which there is just not enough time.

So, in it's lightheartedness, there's room for virture. And peril. And the lost jewels. And the toothy cows. We lapped it up, caught up enough in the story to forget that these are the words of a favorite songwriter. Our only regret was that this is the first in a series, and apparently the rest of the story has yet to be written. Eric finished it one night on call at the hospital, and was taken enough, that when his rare chance for sleep came, he instead lay in the dark awake, wondering how Nia and Podo were going to keep safe the Lost Jewels of Anniera.

Can be found at Amazon and Andrew Peterson's site.

On Being Irish

I just wanted to put out a special post-St. Patrick's Day post on this relatively novel new thing for me of celebrating an Irish holiday as an Irish-woman. OK, so in all honesty I am almost 100% pure-blooded German (German Lutheran at that) but 27 months ago I married into a great Irish (well, Scotch-Irish) family. On my wedding day, my new father-in-law stood up and toasted us, and then gave me a very special pin with the McLaughlin family crest and motto on it. Our family motto is "Fortus et Fidus." Strong and faithful. What an awesome family motto! So much better than, say, Weak and Miserable. Or, Deceitful and Deceptive. So Eric's family is really into family history, and they know that the McLaughlin clan had castles in Scotland AND Ireland, because they kept getting into feuds on one island, and would then move over to the other island/castle for a few decades to let things cool off. We have a McLaughlin family plaid blanket which Eric wears as a kilt on special occasions. :) Eric's family has pictures of themselves in front of the family castle. And Eric's oldest aunt has a special clan chief feather that she wears to the family reunions.

I love my family very much, but we don't really have a lot of German holidays or traditions. I would like to think that the Selle "clan" were important citizens of Germany, and did something like support Martin Luther during the Reformation, but for all I know they were just regular old peasants, who in the 1800s took a boat over to America and settled in nice little German communities in New York and Michigan. I suppose Germans can celebrate Oktoberfest. But that's not so much a holiday. And (big confession) I don't even like sauerkraut.

So this year for St. Patrick's Day, as a McLaughlin, I wore a green sweater and we had pesto (which granted is not cabbage and corned beef, but it is green) for dinner. OK, OK, pretty lame. But I would like to think that wherever we end up in the world, we can still celebrate these little cultural moments with our kids, and remind them of the wonderful family heritage we have on both sides of the family. And on every March 17th, just like Eric's mom used to do, we can put green food coloring in their morning Cheerios and milk.

Holy Week Meditation: Tuesday

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poor:
With thee
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

-"Easter Wings" George Herbert (1593-1633)


Holy Week Meditations: Monday

Over a hundred years ago in the Deep South, a phrase commonplace in our Christian culture today, born again, was seldom used. Rather, the words used to describe the breakthrough into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ were: "I was seized by the power of a great affection."

It was a profoundly moving way to indicate both the initiative of almighty God and the explosion within the human heart when Jesus becomes Lord. Seized by the power of a great affection was a visceral description of the phenomenon of Pentecost, authentic conversion, and the release of the Holy Spirit.

In March 1986 I was privileged to spend an afternoon with an Amish family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Jonas Zook, a widower, is eighty-two years old. His oldest daughter Barbara, 57, manages the household. The three other children, Rachel, 53, Elam 47, and Sam 45, are all severely retarded. When I arrived at noon with two friends, Joe and Kathy Anders, "little Elam" - about four feet tall, heavy-set, thickly bearded, and wearing the black Amish outfit with the circular hat - was coming out of the barn some fifty yards away. He had never laid eyes on me in his life, yet when he saw me step out of the car, he ran lickety-split in my direction. Two feet away, he threw himself into the air, wrapped his arms around my neck, his legs around my waist, and kissed me smack on the lips.

To say that I was stunned would be an understatement. But in the twinkling of an eye, Jesus set me free. I returned Elam's kiss. Then he jumped down, wrapped both his hands around my right arm, and led me on a tour of the farm. The Zooks raise piglets for a living.

A half-hour later at a lovely luncheon prepared by Barbara, Elam sat next to me. Midway through the meal, I turned around to say something to Joe Anders. Inadvertently, my right elbow slammed into Elam's rib cage. Hi did not wince; he did not groan. He wept like a child. His next move utterly undid me. Elam came to my chair and kissed me even harder on the lips. Then he kissed my eyes, my nose, my forehead, and my cheeks. And there was Brennan, dazed, dumbstruck, weeping, seized by the power of a great affection. In his simplicity, Elam Zook was an icon of Jesus Christ. Why? Because his love for me did not stem from any attractiveness or lovability of mine. It was not conditioned by any response on my part. Elam loved me whether I was kind or unkind, pleasant or nasty. His love arose from a source outside of himself and myself. Jesus came as the revealer of love. Jesus reveals God by being utterly transparent to him. What had been cloaked in mystery is clear in Jesus - that God is love. No man or woman has ever loved like Jesus Christ. Therein lies his divinity for me.

Jesus was seized by the power of a great affection and experienced the love of his Father in a way that burst all previous boundaries of understanding. And it is this Jesus, the wounded Jesus, who provides the final revelation of God's love. The crucified Christ is not an abstraction but the ultimate answer to how far love will go, what measure of rejection it will endure, how much selfishness and betrayal it will withstand. The unconditional love of Jesus Christ nailed to the tree does not flinch before our perversity. "He took our sicknesses away and carried our diseases for us" (Matt. 8:17).

-Brennan Manning (1934-)

(Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone.)

What in the world are we doing?

All I know is that there's no leaking anymore. I guess that means we did it right. 3 days with no shower was interesting. Not exactly novel for us, but interesting nonetheless.


Holy Week Meditations: Palm Sunday

How you loved us, O good Father, who spared not even your only Son, but gave him up for us evildoers! How you loved us, for whose sake he who deemed it no robbery to be your equal was made subservient, even to the point of dying on the cross! Alone of all he was free among the dead, for he had power to lay down his life and power to retrieve it. For our sake he stood to you as both victor and victim, and victor because victim; for us he stood to you as priest and sacrifice, and priest because sacrifice, making us sons and daughters to you instead of servants by being born of you to serve us. With good reason is there solid hope for me in him, because you will heal all my infirmities through him who sits at your right hand and intercedes for us. Were it not so, I would despair. Many and grave are those infirmities, many and grave; but wider-reaching is your healing power. We might have despaired, thinking your Word remote from any conjunction with humankind, had he not become flesh and made his dwelling among us.

Filled with terror by my sins and my load of misery I had been turning over in my mind a plan to flee into solitude, but you forbade me, and strengthened me by your words. To this end Christ died for all, you reminded me, that they who are alive may live not for themselves, but for him who died for them. See, then, Lord: I cast my care upon you that I may live, and I will contemplate the wonders you have revealed. You know how stupid and weak I am: teach me and heal me. Your only Son, in whom are hidden all treasure of wisdom and knowledge, has redeemed me with his blood. Let not the proud disparage me, for I am mindful of my ransom. I eat it, I drink it, I dispense it to others, and as a poor man I long to be filled with it among those who are fed and feasted. And then do those who seek him praise the Lord.

-St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)


To Blueway or Not to Blueway

When: 2nd week of June
Where: The Tennessee Appalachians
Who: Well, if all goes as we're planning, it will be us, Eric's sisters and their husbands (or soon-to-be's), Rachel's brother and 2 cousins.

When we realized we had a week of June vacation to spend with family, we made what I think will be a very effective manuever. Namely, we're using our families as bait for each other. We noticed, at our wedding, that our two families had an uncanny affinity for each other. Now, 2.5 years later, we are playing that card to bring them all to us. Well, us as we travel to Tennessee. So we have a week carved out for some or all of the following: Whitewater rafting, camping, multi-day canoeing, and multi-day hiking, on or off the Appalachian Trail.

We have committed to the rafting, but the rest is somewhat up in the air. Our Chattanoogan-savvy friends, Curt and Chris Chaffin, informed us of the Tennessee River Blueway, over 50 miles of canoeing equipped with several rope swings into the river, and a restaurant on the water. This is opposed to getting further up in the mountains and maybe hiking some of the AT, which is as much for bragging rights as anything else.

The family committments are slowly trickling in, and it looks to be a good showing of McLaughlin, Selle, and Laubenstein. If any of you yet uncommitted are reading this, you will fall as well. Resistance is futile.
Any other thoughts?


Holy Week Meditations

In preparation for Easter, we have to decided to post a daily meditation during Holy Week, mostly in the form of some of the best literary works we have read over the years that are speaking of Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection. So, tune in, we will start the postings this next Sunday.


...Start Putting Them In The Water

Just like any other field, in medicine we joke that some day soon they'll start putting some of the more popular pharmaceuticals in the drinking water. Well, it appears that we already have, more or less passively, albeit in amounts so small it's trivial. But, don't worry, any of you men out there who feel bad knowing that female hormones may be in your drinking water can just rely on the anti-anxiety and anti-depression meds also there to provide the necessary balance.

(In truth, I'm just posting this to move those restaurant logos out of the top blog spot. Why did I do that?)


Birthday Challenge Results

For those who thought that taking advantage of all the free birthday offers out there was too ambitious of a goal, the results are provided here, in logo form. We would like to thank the above area businesses for the fine birthday gifts they gave to Rachel. In total, this is 3 free ice creams, 1 free noodle lunch, 1 free burger and fries, 1 free mongolian BBQ, 6 free bagels, and half off a very fine meal for two at The Earle.
A little free advertising love as a thank you note to these venues. Hey, you scratch our backs, we...


A new career?

My friends and I had a joke in medical school...you always need to have a backup career in case medicine doesn't work out. Now, maybe for some people it wasn't so much of a joke, but fortunately for the people I knew, well, we all graduated in the end at least. So my backup career was going to be managing a band. I did have a brief stint as a concert organizer in college (AuggieFests I, II, and III), and got to drive some Christian bands around one summer when I volunteered at CreationFest West outside of Spokane, WA in 2000 (Switchfoot, Out of Eden, the Katinas, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" author Joshua Harris, and my all time favorite band delirious?). It didn't sound like such a bad back up plan. I think that Eric's backup plan would have been to be a rock star. Maybe in another life we still would have met and gotten married, and I could have been his band manager and tour organizer. Of note, most of you probably know that Eric is a semi-rock star (at least in the eyes of his wife), and has a couple of home-grown CDs out, and has his own myspace site. If you haven't checked it out, you should.

That's a good transition into the real topic of this blog. One of Eric's musical inspirations is a terrific artist named Andrew Peterson. He's put out a number of CDs which are full of great folky tunes and amazing lyrics....like, "This is not another song about the mountains, except about how hard they are to move. Have you ever stood before them, like a mustard seed who's waiting for some proof?" Good stuff. Plus, he's a big Tolkien fan (like us!). Check out his website here. Now we've learned that Andrew is venturing into the world of children's books. His first book, entitled, "On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness,"comes out at the end of the month. I went on his website the other day and found out that we had the chance to become BLOG REVIEWERS of his book! We got our approval email this morning and are eagerly awaiting our free copy of his book, so we can read it and post a review (this excites us for several reasons. One, it's Andrew Peterson. Two, see previous blog post about our affinity to free stuff). Stay tuned--it's due to post March 17-22. Perhaps this will morph into a new career for us. people send us free stuff and we review it on our blog! Of course, there's not a lot of money in free blog reviews....