Saturday, October 07, 2006

One way Jesus is different from dinosaurs

This happened 3 weeks ago but I didn't want to let it go undocumented:

While my mother-in-law was visiting, we decided to explore the Petrified Forest National Park with her (less than 2 hours away). We had never been and will probably not go again - as far as national parks go, it ranks down at the bottom of my list in just about every category. In a land of amazing wonders and breathtaking scenery, it just wasn't that exciting. (Maybe it was more impressive 100 years ago, though, since visitors steal about a ton of petrified wood a month, and used to take much more.) If we had paid the $30 entrance fee rather than using our National Parks pass, I would have felt seriously gipped.

The area immediately surrounding the park was full of Route 66 kitchiness, mostly dinosaur themed. There were "statues" of dinosaurs lining the interstate leading up to the exit (including one hilarious depiction of a T-rex crunching down on a man), as well as various "dinosaur parks" and "dino museums" at the exit, all looking as if they hadn't changed in the last 50 years or so. Even the park's visitor center had scale models (better done, at least) of what the dinosaurs that once roamed the area might have looked like. The Papaya was greatly impacted.

The one redeeming aspect of the park was the Painted Desert - the landscape of pink, red, black, brown, and white hills going on and on, with practically no vegetation anywhere, was definitely other-worldly and awe inspiring. As we gazed down from the overlook before hiking the steep trail into the desert and doing a bit of exploring, the following conversation took place:

Papaya: Think there are dinosours down there!

Me: It really looks like that, doesn't it? But you know what? There aren't any dinosaurs around any more. All of the dinosaurs died a long time ago.

Papaya (relieved): The dinosaurs died?

Me: That's right. The dinosaurs all died a long, long, long time ago. There aren't any dinosaurs any more.

Papaya: The dinosaurs all died. They're all gone now.

Me: That's right. There are no more dinosaurs.

[If you repeat the last two statements over and over again, you'll get an idea of what the next 10 minutes of our conversation was like. Then it got a bit varied:]

Papaya: Jesus died.

Me: That's right. Jesus did die. But he came alive again.

Papaya: He is risen!

Me: Yes - isn't that happy?

Papaya: (Worried silence)

Me: But the dinosaurs didn't come alive again. They stayed dead.

Papaya (very relieved): They stayed dead.

Me: That's right - they stayed dead.

The rest of our day was punctuated every 2 to 3 minutes by the Papaya's musings that "the dinosaurs are all dead, Mommy/Daddy/NaiNai. They stayed dead." In fact, three weeks later, he still vocally meditates on that fact fairly frequently. It's the enduring legacy of our trip to Petrified Forest National Park.

Butternut Squash Bonanza

On my last trip to Flagstaff (a little over 2 weeks ago), the natural foods store had a great sale on organic squash. I left the store with 10 pounds of butternut squash, a bounty that impressed my check-out clerk and even surprised me.

I've spent quite a bit of time over the past two weeks thinking of new and interesting ways to cook with butternut squash. These included a fabulous bread pudding (which had the added value of using up various bits of leftovers, including half a loaf of stale whole-wheat double-cheese bread and an old corn muffin), a chili (butternut squash works pretty well in chili, just in case you were wondering), a pasta toss, and - my greatest success - an amazing pizza.

Just in case any of my many readers have an overabundance of winter squash and want to make a delicious and unusual pizza (delicious for two vegetarian squash-lovers, at least), here is Papaya Mommy's Special Recipe for Butternut Squash Pizza:

Start with a homemade (with help of breadmaker) whole wheat-cornmeal pizza crust. Cover with a generous layer of mozzerella cheese. Then spread on your butternut squash combo: cubes of squash tossed with a coarsely chopped onion, sage, salt, pepper, and olive oil and roasted in the oven until soft. Top this with large pieces of toasted walnut (pinenuts would be good, too). Your final layer is a sprinking of fresh Asiago cheese. Cook the pizza and enjoy a fabulous autumn taste sensation.

Next time I feel led to purchase double digit pounds of squash, I will have to refer back to this entry.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

So absurd, I had to post

I'm excited about voting in November, not so much because of the candidates running for office, but because of all the ballot propositions I get to help decide. I could have a part in raising the minimum wage, or banning smoking in all public places here! We just received a nice fat publication from the Secretary of State that detailed all of the propositions on the ballet, as well as "pro" and "con" arguments submitted by various invested individuals or groups.

By far the most original and crazy proposition on the ballet suggests using unclaimed lottery money to create a $1,000,000 voter's jackpot. That's right - vote in Arizona for the chance to win a million dollars! This prize would be awarded to a randomly selected person who voted in the primary or general election - retroactively applied to this election and valid in upcoming years.

While I personally think this is a Very Bad Idea and will vote against it, I was highly entertained by reading the "pro" arguments, so much so that I have to quote one of them. Here it is, verbatim, the "WWJD" argument:

"Some criticize 'Voter Rewards' as being morally wrong. If that might be the case, we should look to the ultimate authority on morals and ethics. What does God say? Do what you are supposed to do and I will REWARD you with eternal life in heaven. What are we saying? Do what you are supposed to do, vote, and we will REWARD you with a chance to win a million dollars. If incentives are good enough for God, they are good enough for the voters of Arizona!"

As a lover of the absurd, it made my day.