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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Summer's Conclusion

Lately, I've been busy trying to make the most of the waning days of summer. I spent September 11-13 as part of the "Saints and Sinners Barbecue Team" competing in the Bar-B-Q Pit Competition at the Norwalk Oyster Festival (an event that had remarkably few oysters in evidence). This was the first time out for the team, which consisted of several members of the First Congregational Church of Norwalk, several people associated with the Norwalk Children's Foundation, and several other friends. Overall, we did very well, coming in 6th or 7th place in most events, out of a field of nearly 30 competitors, many of whom are either restauranteurs and caterers or "professional" barbecue contest competitors. Our team took third prize for booth decoration and tied for third place in the "Iron Chef" competition.

My three big accomplishments in the competition were the Iron Chef competition, where we prepared tequila-lime marinated skirt steak with a vidalia-chili finishing glaze, grilled asparagus with olive oil and sea salt, and fire-roasted garlic mashed potatoes. My mesclun-stuffed swordfish with ginger-lime-soy marinade turned out quite well and took sixth place in the seafood competition, and the hot wings came in sixth in the "People's Choice" competition. All in all, the team did very well and we're planning on a second appearance at next year's oyster festival and are even thinking about entering some other competitions, too!

Last week, I traveled to Sharon, CT, to attend the General Association of the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ. (Say that five times real fast...) General Association is the longest running clergy gathering in the United States and dates to the bad-old-days when Connecticut was a theocracy run by the Congregationalist churches. Originally, the General Association would pass all sorts of resolutions and make decisions regarding the government of Connecticut, including electing the governor. These days, it is is a continuing education and fellowship event for UCC clergy. This year, we celebrated the 300th anniversary of the General Association and had the Rev. John Thomas, who is concluding his second term as General Minister and President of the UCC, as our guest speaker. Over the two days we had together, John shared many remembrances from his ten years as GMP and discussed the evolving role of pastors in our society.

This past Saturday, Ian and I, along with our friend Eric Anderson, spent the day at the Pipes in the Valley festival in Hartford. It was a gorgeous day and we got to hear several fantastic musical groups. The day started with a massed pipe band that marched across the Founders' Bridge and then there were continuous performances on two stages for the rest of the day. We were all quite impressed with The Wicked Tinkers, whose high-energy music incorporated didgeridoo, an electronic repeater box and a bronze age horn along with the traditional pipes and drums. The evening finished up with a two-hour concert by Gaelic Storm.

Two amusing tidbits from Saturday: We saw what has to be the world's smallest tugboat, which only appeared to be about 12' long, zipping about on the Connecticut River, just behind the stage. Second, I've been wanting to have a kilt for some time and, because Norwalk hosts the Round Hill Highland Games each year, I'd been thinking that I now have an actual excuse to own one. I tried one on at one of the vendor's tents and Ian decided that he wants one, too, so now we're sort of seriously in the market for kilts. That may well become its own post, later.

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