Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chocolate Cake Pudding

It's pronounced "pudn." I always feel a little funny spelling out pudding because it sure is not how I pronounce it.

Mama's chocolate cake pudding is the answer to everything. She would whip it up without warning at any time. We never really knew when we were going to have a bowl of it, still warm, with evaporated milk poured over it. You can't imagine how good it is.

I used to cook a lot for fun in my young adult years, but somehow I got away from it once I became vocation director and had to travel so much. When I went off to school at University of Dayton, I got back into cooking as recreation. Once I made loaves of pumpkin bread for every one of my twenty or so classmates.

But what became my favorite was Mama's chocolate cake pudding. The ultimate Cottingham comfort food. Even more so than red beans and rice, which of course is very nourishing and comforting but... it's not chocolate. I made it alot while I was in grad school. Shared it with friends, especially with Mom's Ladies, a faith sharing group I belonged to. Iserved it as birthday cake once, still warm from the oven, and the birthday candles sort of melted into it. Live and learn.

I have made it a few times since I got here to Trinita. Because Olivia does not like coffee, I even made it once without coffee, but I will never do that again. Even though the coffee is not a major player, it really is not right without it. Like Tang compared to fresh orange juice.

Tonight, we had our third Mission Planning Council meeting, as we continue preparing a capital campaign for Trinita. I am very aware that our Council members all have jobs and families and they do not need to be hanging out at Trinita on a week night until all hours, so I keep a sharp eye on the clock to make sure we end by 9:00. But tonight, I kept looking at the clock and thinking... at 9:00, we can eat the cake pudding! That was my real motivation for keeping the meeting moving at a brisk pace.

It is all gone now. Dang. Next time, I'm making a double batch.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Peace in the Pine

Today was the annual work day. Only my second experience of it. We had many teens show up that we were not expecting, so we had to scramble a bit to find suitable work for them.

I quickly realized that a group of four 7th graders who must have shown up just to get in their service hours were going to require special attention. I assigned them to the Dandelion Death Squad, and handed out their implements of destruction-- level four iron spikes. I told them if they killed enough dandelions to level up, they would get steel Spikes of Doom. I have to admit, I found them very entertaining, and I think they forgot I am a middle-aged nun after an hour of banter about World of Warcraft. One of them invited me to join his guild!

Alas, I was faking. I have never played WarCraft online, only Legend of the Green Dragon, which is a text game. I was once Torres, head of a pie-throwing guild. But they did not catch on to me. Alas, also, they did not work very hard, so never leveled up. I really had to babysit them until lunch, after which I invited them to go home. But they were fun despite the 10-second attention spans. One of them kept saying as he swung his rake over his head, "I am at peace with the world!" Hmm... a line from a movie perhaps? Who knows. But it stuck in my head.

We have another retreat center, very different from Trinita in most ways, but similar in its effect on visitors. Blessed Trinity Shrine Retreat is in Holy Trinity Alabama. I lived there for three years and have been there countless times over the years. People talk about how peaceful it is there, how they feel it as soon as they arrive. In fact, they have made that their logo, on t-shirts and coffee mugs: "Peace in the Pines."

Two years ago, I came back from an assembly of our congregation at our Motherhouse in Philadelphia with a bucket full of pine saplings. They were from Holy Trinity. They stayed in the bucket until May, when I finally got around to planting them in back of the Stable Chapel. I will never forget it, because a few days later, after I went home for vacation, I developed my first-ever case of poison ivy. To add insult to injury, the following spring, I was unable to locate a single living pine sapling. Many dead ones though. There really is no justice.

But this afternoon, as I was coming up the hill from the pool, I peered into the brush and behold! A living pine sapling! Bright green fresh growth among the brown pine needles. Wow, is there a message there for me? Bambelela!

Tonight, we are having a slumber party with the Trinita Girls Cenacle. The two youngest are sixth graders, and this is their first real exposure to Trinita apart from attending a meeting recently. After an arts and crafts project, followed by s'mores in the Lodge fireplace, followed by spontaneous fun playing with our huge supply of costumes on the stage, followed by night prayer, followed by snacking and dancing up in the dorm, they came down to hang with Anita, Olivia and me for a bit. We started telling them stories of the old days, and they listened politely. But before they went back up to the dorm, Madison said, "It feels so peaceful here."