Saturday, May 24, 2008


I love to cook. Here is my latest Mexican food meat experiment: carne asada fajitas (barbeque meat and veggies) which is a cheap cut of meat marinated then cooked and served up with tortillas and vegetables. (OK... here's an old Mexican food joke first: The Mexicans have really snowed the American public with their cuisine. Its really not all that hard. What's a taco: tortilla, meat and veggies. Burrito: tortilla, meat and veggies. Tostada: tortilla, meat and veggies. Chimichanga: tortilla, meat and veggies. Fajitas: tortillas, meat and veggies. Enchiladas.... well, you get the idea.)

Anyway, here's the fajita recipe, you'll need... guess what: meat, tortillas and vegetables.
Get a cheap cut of meat (flat iron steak works but it is getting popular and expensive. London broil or any meat about an inch thick works too... actually this marinade is really good with chicken and any white fish too).

Squeeze two oranges, one lime together. Add two cloves of fresh garlic minced, a half a poblano (or anaheim) chile diced small, or some canned green chiles if fresh chiles aren't available), half a teaspoon of cumin, half a teaspoon of chili powder, half a teaspoon of paprika, a handful of chopped fresh cilantro (or a heaping tablespoon of dried). Mix together in a shallow cake pan, then put the meat in it and cover with plastic wrap. (Or you can put it all in a gallon ziplock bag). Put in the fridge and marinate for at least 24 hours. To cook: Barbeque to medium rare. Or, fry in a HOT cast iron skillet: get the skillet hot enough to "dance" a drop of water, then put a dash of oil and then the meat, and sear both sides. Remove from cooking method and thin slice in strips for fajitas.

To prepare vegetables: coarse slice onions, zuchini, bell peppers and mushrooms. Heat a skillet with a little oil then add vegetables. Spice with half teaspoon of each of cumin, garlic salt, chili powder and paprika. Stir together then squeeze a lime into the skillet, stir and cover and steam until cooked but still firm (about 5 minutes).

Serve meat and veggies on separate platters (people put their own fajitas together) with large flour tortillas, dishes of warmed up refried beans, fresh cilantro, sour cream, salsa, grated cheddar/jack cheese and fresh tomatoes.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

What I Do in My Spare Time

About five years ago at the request of a priest who knew I was in construction, I visited St. Paisius Monastery to help build a laundry facility for the Sisters. We finished it over the course of two months of weekends and dubbed it "Hagia Laundria", which made the Sisters laugh, which is a no-no. They asked me if I would consider helping them with their next building project, a room addition for more bedrooms for the Sisters who had been living in 4 by 8 foot un-airconditioned "sketes" (sheds) around the property. I agreed. They handed me a drawing of the floor plan drawn by a volunteer architect. There were no architectural or structural specs, no blueprints, no electrical, plumbing or mechanical plans. Over the next year of weekends I worked and coordinated an ever dwindling crew of volunteers and local contractors who filled in when we couldn't find someone who could donate time and materials, and we played it by ear, making up every detail as we went. We took the roof off the garage, gutted the garage and breezeway, then added a second story, 8 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms a foyer and a workshop/office area. These are a few pictures of the construction.

Here we have removed the roof of the garage and I'm showing Mother Abbess Michaila how to use a framing nailer to make floor joists.

This is the front of the garage, the roof is gone, the floor is framed, and the walls are going up.

This is Sister Anastasia, who is meek, all of 5'5" and 100 lbs WITH a 300 knot prayer rope in her hand (of course its hard to guess exactly with them in habits...) driving the SkyTrak putting the trusses on the roof with precision. The framing carpenters were quite humbled and impressed to say the least.
This is our "roof celebration" when the last truss was set.

This is me framing and sheetrocking the apse windows in the Sister's rooms.

This is the finished building.

But that's all done. I went to the Monastery this past week to begin the interior work on the new Church. For the past two years they have been putting up walls and recently started the roof structure. I'll be doing the interior design and building the domes, ceilings, arches and apses. (Again, with no blueprints. ) This is the interior of the Church.

These are some pictures of the work I started this past week in the two small side chapels. This is the existing roof structure with the altar apse in the front. I'm going to frame an arched ceiling under the steel trusses. You can see the shape of the ceiling we finally landed on after 3 hours of trial and error on the front wall.
This is Sister Anastasia again, standing steel studs in the apse framing for me.

This is the partially finished ceiling structure. The radius track is up, all the dimensions are calculated and I will leave filling in the dozens of studs for the Sisters to complete over the week I am gone.

I know there are people all over the world who would love to have the privilege of doing something like this. It is quite humbling to be able to participate in building a monastery and a Church, to say the least. At the end of a 12-14 hour day there is a deep peace in the exhaustion of the flesh. And God willing my flesh will last long enough to finish the project; and at the end of it all my funeral will be in this Church and I'll be buried in the Monastery cemetery where Mother Abbess said my grave will be tended by the grateful Sisters until Jesus comes again. What more can one ask?