Weekend Snapshots 34


I love my book group. We read a book every month and then meet to have rarefied, high-brow discussions about what we’ve read. We NEVER for a second let the conversation drift to things like our children or what’s going on at work.

IMG_8031In keeping with the lofty nature of our gatherings, we make an effort to dress up for the occasion. In fact, we have a rather strict dress code:



The day started out so well.

IMG_8029We were all lazing about, soaking up the sun streaming through the windows…IMG_8038Taking kids to their indoor soccer games…


Taking photos of this, that, and nothing at all:


Suddenly I realized it was time to take my daughter to her soccer game. As soon as we got back, it would be time to go serve dinner to the group of homeless men who are being hosted by our church for the next couple of weeks. I was supposed to have prepared a Chicken Enchilada dish in advance so that it could just be reheated in the ovens in the church kitchen, but I had lost track of the time. My husband was taking my oldest son to his soccer game, and then almost immediately to his piano recital. They would be meeting us at the church as soon as the recital was over.

I only had time to chop up the chicken breasts and open a can of enchilada sauce. It was up to my thirteen year old son to save the day. I handed him the recipe as I ran out the door, begging him to follow the instructions and to finish making the dish while I  took my daughter to her game.


I was sweating bullets as I drove back to pick up my son and hopefully the Chicken Enchilada dish. Proving once again that he is the adult in our household, he was in the kitchen when I ran through the door, waiting to take the finished dish out of the oven.


My hero!





Brunch at Bodo’s Bagels

We made a pit stop at MarieBette Café and Bakery to pick up a few things like a baguette:

And a crazy looking thing called a brioche almandine studded with mysterious pink chunks my daughter described as looking like wads of chewed up bubble gum:IMG_8074IMG_8080

And then, because we clearly did not have enough dessert, we whipped up a batch of our new favorite cookies from the Princess Pinky Girl website. The recipe’s main ingredient is strawberry cake mix. We substitute coconut oil for vegetable oil. IMG_8059

To be honest, the only reason I made the cookies the first time was because they looked so pretty in the photo. Mine always end up being aesthetically disappointing, but they never fail to be delicious!

Silliness while waiting for the cookies to bake:

It’s snowing now as I finish up this post. We’ve already gotten the call from the county to announce that there will be no school tomorrow. My husband recorded and emailed to his students a video of the lecture he was going to give tomorrow. Here’s hoping I get to stay home with them too!

Weekend Snapshots 20

Last weekend was perfect, because of all the things that didn’t happen. The snow wiped clean a full slate of activities, and we got to stay home in our pjs all weekend long, reading and napping and drinking hot cocoa. This weekend was perfect, because of all the things that did happen…


My beloved book group met this Friday. My friend, who has been hosting us for years, always puts out a lavish spread, which includes a decadent dessert she’s made and tea served in beautiful heirloom tea cups. Last month Calamity Jane here broke the handle of the one in the front. My friend let me back into her house anyway, and she even managed to repair the handle with some super glue. Our book group nights are always such a special occasion, and so I like to get dressed up appropriately:

What could be better than kicking off the weekend hanging out with dear friends who love you even when you break their precious things, and to do it in my pjs?! (Pajamas seem to be the common denominator for all perfect weekends).


On Saturday morning I got an impromptu private concert with two of my favorite musicians:

Later that day another group of old friends and I got together over lunch. It was especially lovely, because it was a mini-reunion with our friend, who has moved away from Charlottesville. Drat! Forgot to take a photo! Next time, friends, next time!

As I drove away to the next appointment on my schedule, I got the news that the house we’ve been trying to sell is UNDER CONTRACT! Yahoooooooo!!!

Saturday was the first night of the two weeks that our church will be hosting PACEM, a roving homeless shelter that operates during the cold winter months in various churches around Charlottesville.

It was my first time ever being the nightly meal coordinator. My husband volunteered to make his famous lasagna:

and I had a willing crew of helpers, which included these three hooligans:


I wrote about Rite 13 here and here. The last time I went through this brutal and sadistic ritual, I had some warning and time to prepare myself for the ordeal. This time I was completely caught off guard and the consequences were absolutely devastating.

After the service, I recovered enough to insist on taking a photo to commemorate the momentous occasion of my son’s Rite 13 and my public breakdown. Predictably, he began to complain about having to stop and take a photo. What I could never have expected were the shocking words that came out of his older brother’s mouth:  “She gave birth to you. Take the picture!”

Holy smokes! There is a God. And He and now I’m thinking more likely – She is good. Really, really good. 

The kids all insisted on closed-mouth smiles, because they were afraid goldfish crackers would be stuck in their teeth…

And I even got to get a photo with my son, because I did give birth to him after all!


On Saturday our Helping Hands kids (an after school service group I co-lead) helped transform the Fellowship Hall of Westminster Presbyterian Church into a PACEM homeless shelter:




Many years ago, my children and I took a train trip to Staunton, Virginia. The train goes past the woods behind Farmington Country Club, perhaps the most exclusive neighborhood in Charlottesville. The expansive and luxurious homes here sell for millions of dollars. As I looked out the window, I noticed that there were blue tarps scattered throughout the trees. I was shocked to realize that homeless people were living there. On another occasion, the Helping Hands kids were picking up trash from the nature trail behind our elementary school. From the debris we found, we realized that there must be people living in the woods there as well. The best estimate we have is that there are about 240 homeless people in our community. Another sobering statistic says that there are about 450 children in our area who are either homeless or living in shelters that are unfit for human habitation.

PACEM (People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry) is a grassroots interfaith organization that formed in 2004 to address the problem of homelessness in Charlottesville after members of the clergy reported the common experience of finding homeless individuals sleeping in the doorways of their churches. PACEM coordinates volunteers and space (mostly in churches and temples) for a rotating shelter that operates in the colder months when homeless individuals are most vulnerable. From late October to early April, homeless men and women come to an intake center on the Downtown Mall. From there they are transported to separate shelters (one for men and one for women), where they receive a warm dinner and a bed for the night. In the morning they are served breakfast and are transported back to the Downtown Mall.

My family has learned a lot from volunteering with PACEM over the years. I had always assumed, for example, that the homeless were also jobless. I was surprised to learn that many of the PACEM guests do in fact have jobs. Many of them work physically demanding construction jobs. Recently, I also learned that there are young PACEM guests, who are students in one of our local public high schools. The very first year we helped with PACEM, my oldest son was about seven or eight years old. One evening we helped cook and serve dinner. The staff gave him the special job of loading up a dinner plate for a guest who used a walker and would have found it hard to go through the cafeteria-style line. My son delivered his plate to him at his table and then sat down to chat with him for a few minutes. I remained in the kitchen serving up food to the other guests. My son ran back to find me in the kitchen, and said excitedly, “Guess what?! He speaks English, just like us and he was really, really nice!” In that moment I realized how valuable this program is, not only for the homeless individuals it serves, but for the volunteers who see the human face of homelessness.

To learn more about PACEM and how you can help, please click here.

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