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My Unitarian Universalist church congregation had hired a new minister about six months ago. As part of the hiring process, we had a Ministerial Start Up Workshop that was led by our region’s contact in the Unitarian Universalist Association.  I was asked to take pictures of this workshop. The only reason why I’m writing a blog post about this is so I can prove to people that, yes, I can take pictures of events.

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

The workshop began after the usual Sunday service ended and it started with lunch.

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

The Reverend Megan Foley of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) led the workshop.

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Everyone sat in a circle in order to make it easier to communicate with each other face-to-face.

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Basically much of the time was spent on describing the history of our congregation, what were its successes and what were its mistakes and things of that sort.

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Our congregation’s new minister, Rev. Rachel Christensen, spoke outlining her hopes for the congregation’s future.

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

The workshop ended with a communal art project but one didn’t have to be an accomplished artist to take part.

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

A bag was passed around that was full of foam Valentine heart stickers in a variety of colors (ranging from light pink to deep red) and styles (some had glitter on them). The idea was to choose the hearts we liked the best.

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

Here’s the set of hearts I chose.

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

We stuck our hearts on a board. Here is what the board looked like when it was finished.

Ministerial Start Up Workshop at Paint Branch UU Church, January 21, 2018

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Santa Claus

My Unitarian Universalist congregation had its annual Kwanzaa service on New Year’s Eve this year (mainly because New Year’s Eve fell on a Sunday in 2017) where lunch was served following the end of the service. Here are my photos of the food and the decorations from that day.

Sometimes I’ll go up to the Pennsylvania Dutch Market that’s only opened from Wednesday-Saturday in Laurel, Maryland. That market features all kinds of Amish-made goodies that are sold in stalls that are run by the Amish themselves. Here is what the market itself is like along with some of the homemade goods that are sold there.

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The next photo shows the parking lot outside of the market. As you can see, it’s a very popular place to go food shopping. The parking lot gets so filled with cars that I frequently park in the Home Depot parking lot next door and walk over to the market.

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There was a really lovely cloud formation that I saw in the parking lot during one of my trips to that market that I can’t resist sharing here.

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The last two photo shows some of the food items I’ve purchased from that market on separate trips.

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St. Patrick's Day

Here are some appropriate photos for the occasion, starting with this bag of Guinness potato chips that I found at a local Wegmans a few weeks ago.

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day: #Guinness Potato Chips.

I recently purchased a bag and I tried a few chips yesterday. I found that they have a nice earthy flavor that’s a nice contrast from the other potato chips that are out there. Despite that, I probably won’t be buying this too often because these chips were imported from the U.K. and Wegmans sold them for a whopping $3.99 per bag. (I can get a bag of Utz or Lay’s chips of the same size for around $1-2 per bag.) I recommend them for anyone who wants to try something different.

There is this house in Greenbelt, Maryland that likes to go all out for each holiday. I took pictures of this house around Halloween and Valentine’s Day. That same house decided to decorate for St. Patrick’s Day.

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What’s more, there are two windsocks that were hung near the light display.

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And, for the last photo of the day, here’s a picture I took at Wegman’s a few days ago. It’s more about March 14 than St. Patrick’s Day but these pies for Pi Day are cute nonetheless.

Pi Day at Wegmans Supermarket

As for me, I’m going to observe St. Patrick’s Day in the way that I’ve been doing for years. Tonight for dinner I’m going to eat some beef stew made from Guinness beer. Last night I purchased this Irish Soda Bread mix from Aldi (all I need to do is just add milk) so I’m going to whip it up, bake it, and serve it with the beef stew. I also recently purchased some Kerrygold brand garlic and herb butter on sale at Safeway so I’m going to eat the Guinness chips as an appetizer then spread the butter on slices of the newly-baked Irish soda bread and eat them with the beef stew.


Santa Claus

For some added Christmas fun, here are some photos of various Christmas-themed food taken with my Droid Ultra smartphone at various local supermarkets over the past few weeks. Enjoy!

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The past few days the U.S. has been rocked by news of the sudden closing of a beloved iconic company, Hostess, the maker of the famous Twinkies along with other beloved snacks like Ho Hos, Suzi-Q, Zingers, Snowballs, and more.

What the hell happened? Hostess claimed that it was those greedy unions members who went on strike because they wanted their pay and benefits increased to outrageous levels and the company had no other option but to close. However if you look at other sources, you’d know that it wasn’t that nasty union who forced Hostess to close down for good due to its sheer greed. Hostess went into bankruptcy for the second time since 2009. For the past 8 years Hostess has had 6 CEOs (none of whom with experience in the bread or cake baking industry) and it had been owned by Wall Street investors: so-called “restructuring experts,” managers from other non-baking food companies, and now a “liquidation specialist.”

The union members who are now blamed for the Hostess closings had watched as money from previous concessions that was supposed to go toward capital investment, product development, plant improvement and new equipment was squandered in executive bonuses, payouts to Wall Street investors and payments to high-priced attorneys and consultants. Over the past 15 months, Hostess workers have seen the company unilaterally end contractually obligated payments to their pension plan. Despite saving more than $160 million with this action, the company fell deeper into debt.

If all that wasn’t enough, creditors of Hostess Brands Inc. said in court papers the company may have "manipulated" its executives’ salaries higher in the months leading up to its Chapter 11 filing, in what the creditors called a possible effort by Hostess to "sidestep" Bankruptcy Code compensation provisions. The high pay that Hostess executives received had been going on for years. One example: Hostess’s then-CEO, Brian Driscoll, saw his salary rise to $2.55 million from $750,000—a 300% increase.

Basically what those Wall Street investors did to Hostess was what Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital did to the now-defunct KB Toys: Purchased a profitable company whose products these investors had little or no prior experience in, drastically slashed workers’ salaries and benefits, laid off scores of employees, refused to invest in things like research and development or new equipment, and paid themselves outrageous salaries and bonuses until the company began to hemorrage money so much that it had to close.

Hostess was one of those solid American brands that many people were familiar with. I know that Hostess was a major part of my youth. I had lots of memories snacking on things like Ho Hos, Twinkies, and Suzy-Q. When I was younger I used to frequently eat a Hostess snack as a dessert with my lunch. I never forgot when I spent my freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College when someone from Hostess sent two of its employees to the college’s Student Center. One person was dressed as the Twinkies mascot while the other person gave away free Twinkies to students.

Here’s another memory I’m going to divulge. My husband, who abruptly ran away from home last December and has largeley avoided me since, once told me a deep dark secret when he saw me snacking on a Twinkie. At the time we were both students at the University of Maryland at College Park and we had been dating seriously for at least six months or more. My future estranged husband told me that when he was an undergraduate student at Oberlin College he worked at the radio station there when he was snacking on a Twinkie and another campus radio station person saw him and started calling him "Twinkie." That Twinkie nickname stuck for the next four years that he was at Oberlin.

My husband didn’t want me to tell anyone about how he was once nicknamed Twinkie. If he hadn’t walked out on me last December with zero notice, I would not be revealing his secret in this blog post.

Yesterday I decided to head out for a final visit to the Hostess Bakery Thriftshop in Beltsville, Maryland. I didn’t go there very often mainly because the majority of the food sold there wasn’t very healthy for me and if I got a craving for Hostess there is a convenience store closer to my home that I usually go to buy such a snack. But the white building and the colorful sign was definitely a fixture on Route 1.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

A fleet of Hostess trucks was parked in the back of the building after the trucks made their last delivery of Hostess products ever.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

Despite the building’s large size on the outside, the store itself is pretty small. It was very crowded with people buying up as many Hostess products as possible before the store closed for good. Some shelves were already empty when I got there.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

Hostess’ most famous brand is Twinkies. When I was at the store, the only Twinkes that were still in stock was a special edition Chocolate Creme Twinkies.

A Farewell to Hostess

As I looked at the inventory that was left, I found some surprises—I never knew that Hostess made cereal. (That’s what I get for not visiting the store more often when I had the chance.)

A Farewell to Hostess

After I purchased what I picked up, I put my bags in the car then I walked over to the 7-11 that is in the shopping center located next door to the Hostess Bakery Thriftshop. I found a few more Hostess products on that shelf but, alas, no Twinkies. I bought some other products that I didn’t find at the other store. I ultimately had three shopping bags full of Hostess products.

A Farewell to Hostess

This is the only healthy Hostess product that I purchased. It’s for its unsweetened Toasted Oats that’s basically Hostess’ version of Cheerios.

A Farewell to Hostess

The back of the ceral box had some basic facts about animals that kids (and animal lovers in general) would be interested in.

A Farewell to Hostess

Since I didn’t find the regular Twinkies, I went ahead and purchased a box of the Chocolate Creme Twinkies. It’ll be close enough to the Twinkies that I fondly remember eating.

A Farewell to Hostess

I purchased three different flavors of Hostess Donettes—chocolate frosted with a yellow cake, chocolate frosted with a devil’s food cake, and powdered sugar with a yellow cake.

A Farewell to Hostess

Rounding out my purchases are the following products: Suzy Q’s, Hostess Cup Cakes, Ho Hos, and Fudge Grahams Cookies.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

Today after church I decided to make one more trip to the Hostess Bakery Thriftshop in Beltsville. I had The Smiths’ "How Soon is Now" playing in my car as I arrived to the store’s front parking lot. In a way the pulsing rhythms and the overall depressing tone of that song made for a fitting soundtrack because I learned from one of the employees that today is the last day that the store would be open to the general public.

Today the prices were slashed even further than yesterday.

A Farewell to Hostess

There were even more empty shelves than before.

A Farewell to Hostess

As I browsed the stuff that were left on the shelves, I found that this particular Hostess store sold products by other manufacturers such as the ones I photographed.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

This next photo shows how abrupt the closing of Hostess really was. The store had decorations up for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday. Ironically the Hostess employees who are in the process of being laid-off will probably have a hard time finding much to be thankful for.

A Farewell to Hostess

I didn’t buy as much today as I did yesterday mainly because I had either already purchased enough of the products I wanted yesterday or because the products I was interested in (like the original Twinkies with the vanilla cream filling) were sold out. I purchased a couple more boxes of Hostess’ version of Cherrios cereal along with these two new Hostess products.

A Farewell to Hostess
A Farewell to Hostess

I plan on being very slow about consuming these products over the next few months in order to savor my last taste of these products and to prevent rapid weight gain. I hope I can discipline myself. I have to balance eating these products before they go stale with not eating them so fast that I gain enough weight to make my clothes a tight fit. I know that I need to make sure that I exercise as much as possible in order to burn some of these empty calories that are in Hostess products.

Unless a different company buys the Twinkies recipe and the right to manufacture them, if I have a desire for Twinkies in the future, I will have to closely watch this YouTube video of Jolene Sugarbaker demonstrating how to make Twinkies knock-offs.

In addition, I came across this site that has recipes where you can attempt to replicate 9 Hostess treats—Cup Cakes, Donettes, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Fruit Pies, Sno Balls, Suzy Q, Chocodiles, and Ho Hos.

A Farewell to Hostess Part 2 (December 1, 2012)

Here are a few extra photos I shot in Florida that I wanted to share with you. First up are a few photos I took at a bakery located in Downtown Disney. There are a lot of Mickey Mouse imagery in the baked goodies sold there. (You’ll have to look hard in the third photograph for the Mickeys but, trust me, they are there.)

Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney

Next are a few photos of my devil doll. As I wrote a few days ago, I ordered this doll off the Internet and while she came with wigs and shoes, she didn’t have any clothes. I hastily made a couple of dresses with a hot glue gun using items like socks and buttons but I really wanted to buy something more proper that didn’t have that "I made it in under an hour" look. I found out about a few doll shops in the Orlando area so I brought the doll with me.

Here’s the doll sitting on a chair on the hotel balcony. She’s wearing one of the outfits I hastily created and I dubbed "Clown Couture" mainly because, with the large buttons and polka-dot fabric, it looks like something a clown would wear.

5 Star Doll Tong Tong in Florida

Here’s the doll in the same chair beating on this small cheap bongo that I bought on impulse from Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach. She’s wearing the other outfit that I hastily made from a sock with a hot glue gun.

5 Star Doll Tong Tong in Florida

Here’s the doll wearing the new outfit that I purchased from Judy’s Dolls in Longwood. It was originally made to fit Miss Corolle dolls but it fitted her perfectly. She looks really cute in it.

5 Star Doll Tong Tong in Florida

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