Friday, December 31, 2010

In Wisdom He Made Them All

     Yesterday we drove across the Bay, wound our way over the hills on Highway 1 and found a wonderland over on the coast at Duxbury Reef.  The tide was out and all the crevices of rock were teeming with life.  The kids were jubilant, it was like nothing else they've ever seen.  Starfish, anemones, hermit crabs, sea weeds and more, not in an aquarium but in the wild as they always are.  We're a long way from Arkansas!  God has made a wide and wonderful world, and we need only take a moment to hunt and find and wonder at what He has done.

O Lord, how many are Your works!  In wisdom You have made them all;  The earth is full of Your possessions.  There is the sea, great and broad, in which are swarms without number, animals both small and great.  Psalm 104: 24-25

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Palliative

     I know my weaknesses, some of them.  Yesterday I mentioned C.S. Lewis and his advice concerning old books and by that standard, and many other standards as well, my reading program last year fell short.  I read too many modern books, or even new books about the old books, which Lewis would condemn as well.
"Every age has its own outlook.  It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes.  We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.  All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it."
     I am compelled not by a desire to know theology, but to know Christ.  I want to know the Christ who has ruled the centuries.  And I'm quick to acknowledge that the twentieth century American church may not know Him quite as well as we think we do.  I may not know Him quite as well as I think I do.  This year I want to learn Christ from men who loved Him in the past, whose work has survived the ages.
     "Hope is not a course of action," Donovan Campbell says in Joker One.  My plan?  I found this list (I don't know anything else about this site, but I know the Puritans so I think I'm okay) and decided to try reading a book a month all year.  I checked around but found the links through that site to the Westminster Seminary book store actually had the best prices and $1 shipping for an order of $35.  I ordered six books.  I'll be reading for a while, only I'm changing the order and starting with The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.  My mom told me it's the most helpful book she's ever read.  That swayed me.
     If, and it is iffy, I finish those I think I'll throw in Thomas a Kempis The Imitation of Christ and Augustine's Confessions to finish out the year with the Puritans.  We'll see.
"The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Books: The Year In Review

      Today my Dad took the kids to the Lawrence Hall of Science, and I settled down on the rug in the sun with not one, but three books, and cycled through, reading a bit of each.  Normally reading is reserved for the quiet evening hours when the real work of the day is done and there's time for a little pleasure, a little "mother culture" as Charlotte Mason would refer to it.  Those ideas, beyond a fifth grade level, so unlike the task of making a home, keep me sane, challenged and interested.
     Years ago I began keeping a journal of all the books I had read.  Nothing personal or thoughtful.  Just titles, authors, maybe some quotes or my reaction.  Then I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a reading contest between Karl Rove and George Bush and discovered that Bush, as acting president, was reading far more books than I was.  Surely I could find the time to up my numbers.  If I loved books the way I thought I did I'd be willing to turn off the telly and read instead.  So my goal is to read an average of a book a week, record it in the journal, and tally up my numbers in December.  I haven't met my goal yet.  I'm close and my numbers are increasing year by year but you won't find me cheating and reading only fluff.
     I don't make a plan, and often pull books at random off the college library shelves for a surprise delight, a new and unexpected knowledge (US Special Forces or Vermeer and UN War Crimes).  I read Christian books, books I don't agree with, fiction, non-fiction, classics, and some that are rough around the edges.  C.S. Lewis has some wonderful quotes on reading old books, letting the wind of the centuries blow through our minds, and with that in mind, I know that's an area for improvement.  Lewis recommended one old book for each new one, or at least a two to one ratio.  I have one remedy planned and I'll blog about that tomorrow.  So today I'll share my five favorites of the year, just bear in mind they're not must read recommendations, only the ones that I enjoyed.  And yes, it was hard to pick only five and strictly speaking there will be six's okay.  Most importantly they're listed in the order I read them, so I'm not choosing one favorite book - I couldn't.  Finally, although I'm linking all these books to Amazon, we always try the library first!

1.  The Kite Fighters and A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park.  I'm making an effort to read my kids' school books and thought these were finely crafted children's literature.
2.  Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi  I was looking for  Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Classics) by Hannah Arendt and found this one beside it so I read them both and preferred Bascomb's book.
3.   Call to Spiritual Reformation, A: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers by D.A. Carson was my brother's book and I read through it at a sprinting pace.  I want to buy the book and read it again in a far more thoughtful manner.  This is a good book!
4.  Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood by a Princeton and Harvard MBA grad.  I think no matter how you feel about the war you would enjoy this book.  There's also a good interview with Campbell you can find at NPR online.
5.  Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky (P.S.) by Paul Johnson.  This is one of those books people frequently referenced, and I enjoyed reading it for myself.  Enlightening and sad, they're not the men we need giving us moral advice on how to live our lives.
    There we go, and in only a few more days another year begins with a personal record to beat and a list of titles too long for the time I have available.  That's the fun of it.
To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with the men of unseen generations – such is a pleasure beyond compare.
-          Kenko Yoshida, 14th century Japanese Monk

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Small Sized Friend

Today I write a eulogy, a eulogy for a bear.  A bear belonging to Kara, and so cleverly named, Bear.  Bear was patient in trials.  After being spun around by his arm, Bear emerged with his constant good cheer.  After being cut with scissors, Bear was an unceasing optimist, a few stitches and surely he'd be as good as new.  After being lost under a mattress for weeks and found flattened, Bear was able to rebound.  He was once white, though more recently identified as tan, but Bear wasn't vain.  He knew, "You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile."

Bear was always up for fun and adventure.  Bear loved sliding on the banisters and being flung up to hit the ceilings.  He was always willing to be photographed.  True, he was a little demanding, always wanting to be tucked in beside Kara.  Always demanding the last bedtime kiss of the night.  Sometimes requiring real food, because he was, after all, no ordinary bear.
 Bear was lost on Saturday.  He was last seen at the Customer Service Desk between gates 36 and 38 in the A concourse at Denver International Airport.  He was lost when harried parents rushed off for the next flight to San Francisco, all the way over in the B concourse.  A heart-broken seven year old walked off that flight in San Francisco, crying tears that elicited the sympathy of elderly passengers.  We've tried calling Lost and Found at DIA, and I'm quick to reassure that no one would steal Bear, he's far too ragged.  Still, we've had no news.  Kara carries on, reading books sing-song and practicing magic tricks.  We've told her we can buy another.  But there's only one Bear.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our Christmas Week: Two

I just thought I'd post a few photos of the hike Bryan took with Ally and Sam.  Bryan was well rewarded for his effort when Sam declared it one of the best days of his life.  I guess we should make the effort to hike more often.

     Ally took all these photos with her camera.  They went up the mountain to an old cave.  We think Indians may have used it at some point.  Now it seems to be inhabited by mice or a little pack-rat.  Sam found some fun antlers.  They saw trees struck by lightening, and called us on the cell phone from the top so that we could go out and wave to them.
    These are good days.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Our Christmas Week

     Last night we watched the lunar eclipse.  We laid out on the deck, in sleeping bags and under blankets, and watched.  It was beautiful.  We watched the shadow of the earth steadily move across the moon, until it was a red orange globe in the sky.  We woke seven year old Kara and brought her out, but she didn't see what the big deal was, and seeing her tired face we let her go back to bed.  Sam fell asleep out there.  But we woke him and all went in before the moon came back out of the shadow. 
     The kids and cousins decorated the tree with plants found outside and berries, bought.  This isn't a tradition, it's something new, but it's nice.

     And we're finding a long walk with the four year old the best way to keep a busy boy entertained on these long vacation days.  Equally fun is time spent building a rock tower down in the river bed and finding crawdad claws in the dirt.  Anything for a change of pace from the non-stop indoor play time.

Happy days!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Geographica: Africa

Hope you all are enjoying your week before Christmas. Tomorrow and Wednesday I'll post some photos of this place, tucked away in Colorado. It will be visual geography.
The Quiz: Africa
1. The Aswan Dam is on the Nile River, in what country whose capital is Cairo?

2. The confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile is in Khartoum, the capital of which country?

3. The Niger River is 3000 miles long from its starting place in Guinea to its mouth in Nigeria; which ocean does the Niger River flow into?

4. The Okavango River's delta flows into northern Botswana, eventually the water disappears in the Kalahari Desert; the Kalahari Desert is shared between Namibia and which other country?

5. Madagascar is separated from Africa by the Mozambique Channel; Madagascar is in what ocean?

1. Egypt
2. Sudan
3. Atlantic Ocean
4. South Africa
5. Indian Ocean

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Interstate Travels

Yesterday, while the sky was still black, I sat having breakfast, cereal and coffee. Arden ran past, his arms up in his new runner's form, toothbrush and paste in hand. He put them in a gallon ziploc bag, announced we could all share with him, and was visibly upset that we wouldn't. While pink stained the eastern horizon, we set off on I-40. The Ozark mountains stood purple with a veil of fog. Arden rode with his toothbrush on his lap for two hours.
In Tulsa our interchange was closed, for the second year in a row. There are no detour signs for erstwhile interstate travelers, we wound our way through the back roads. If your house burns, make do by putting the trailer in the front yard. Need a cheap house? New, used and repo available. If I had traveled the Trail of Tears I also would have sat beside the Arkansas River, which yesterday was only pools of water in a mighty sand river bed, and wept. We passed miles of brown hills, dead cows and wildcats, and casinos in gas stations.
At I-35 we made our way north to Kansas. Salina advertises for the "Second friendliest yarn shop in the universe." Across the wide open expanses of the prairie, you can spot the spires of a church and the grain towers in every town. The fields of windmills were still that sunny afternoon. Without ever noticing a hill, you find you've climbed 3000 feet and cross into Colorado.
The past couple years I like to dream of taking the billboard's offer for free land and living a radically different life. I tell Bryan we could buy a yurt (and sadly, priced them on the internet) and live on the plains. Bryan is always quick to point out that he'd have no job. We suspect the land might come without any water rights. In the semi-arid west the water in the ditch isn't just free for the taking, and it would be problematic. We're well established city folk, and couldn't live that life, but a few hours of daydreaming help pass the time.
In the dark we bump down the driveway into a little valley in the foothills of the Rockies. If there had been snow we'd have needed the four wheel drive taxi service. Our cell phones won't work here. We see Grandpa's silhouette in the doorway as we cross the dry river bed. Then the kids woke this morning to a cold sunshine and blue sky and went hunting for grasses, yucca and pine cones for the Christmas tree.
This is Christmas. Hours of interstate and fast food. Bad Starbucks purchased beside fake palm trees in Kansas. Laughter and yelling in the van. Coming home and the love of family. Yesterday I wished I was a photographer and could take photos, "This Is America." You see the ugly, old and worn, but with patience and eyes to see there's beauty just down the road. Just like Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On Achievement

     I love British Lit.  I realized it too late in life to have been an English major in college, but I've been enjoying all sorts of British authors all on my own.  Several years ago I read a magazine article lamenting the state of higher education and citing, by way of example, English majors who don't read George Eliot.  Well, I loved Silas Marner.  I checked first, to be sure Eliot hadn't written too many novels and there seemed to be only seven.  Then I made myself a goal: I would read all of George Eliot's novels.  Are you already smiling to yourself, a knowing smile?  Silas Marner is a succinct, short, little book.  I hit Middlemarch and wondered what I had done, but slogged through those eight hundred pages.
     My mom likes to point out to me that I have a stubborn streak.  Show me something not being done and I'd love to prove I can do it.  She also likes to mention I deserve a little guy like Arden who is so ardent he suits his name just perfectly.
     Today, preparing for our trip, I had Bryan bring Adam Bede home from the library.  I'll see how far through it I can get over Christmas vacation.  At this point I know I have nothing to brag about.  My goal has been downgraded to a lifetime goal.  I can't count watching BBC's Daniel Deronda as part of that achievement.  At seventy perhaps I'll finish my last Eliot novel.  Bryan and I will be the only people who ever know, nevertheless, I'll have finished and spent 40 years proving I could do it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Handmade

    Today I just thought I'd show you Ally's little owls she's been crocheting for Arden as a Christmas gift.  She's been working hard, sneaking them into the back seat of the van or waiting until he's otherwise engaged.

     They are inspired by the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, for our little man who loves battles, all sorts.  Ally crocheted  them and attempted to make some appear moon blinked.  She had a pattern for the larger ones, and reduced it to make the itty-bitty owls.

     Although we've been knitting for a few years, we're new to crochet.  My sister-in-law taught Ally this summer and introduced us to this amazing little book, Amigurumi World: Seriously Cute Crochet.  These little animals seriously are cute.  And the author has made it easy, even for people who just barely know what they're doing (like us), to keep up.  I'm planning to take this book along on our Christmas trip and use my free time on vacation to make a few cuties of my own.

      Do I dare repeat it?  And before I do, mention that I didn't make any gifts for my own kids this year.  I made gifts for some people on my list.  For others I shopped and bought, and it's good.
     Buying a gift is good, but making one is ten thousand times better.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Marvel

     Is this really worth spending your life on?  That's what I was asking myself as the show began, the show Bryan took me to see over at the college this weekend.  We would have loved to have taken the kids, but doing almost anything with all six of us is prohibitive.  It was The Masked Marvel.  It was Michael Cooper, a one man show, behind a wide variety of handmade masks.  Masks made of brown paper grocery bags and Elmer's glue and a "little" paint.  Michael Cooper made it sound so simple.  In a hurting, hungry world, filled with Hollywood movies and 24 hour news is there a place for these simple pleasures?  Is there a place for a $10 ticket to see one man's art?  The very idea that I would ask myself that question is no doubt anathema to some of you.  You can see, I'm not an artist nor a serious patron.  Remember, I'm so very ordinary.  But I reserved my judgment and in the end left delighted.
     The first aspect of the show that delighted me is how very, very unexpected it was.  As I was washing up lunch dishes before the marvel, Bryan asked if I was excited.  "Well, I don't know.  I don't know what to expect."  Which really means I didn't know if I would like it, I didn't know what a masked man might do up on stage for an hour or two.  I am the girl that finds a dish she likes at a restaurant and orders it the next 100 times I go there.  It's boring, but I always know what I'm getting.  (I don't cook like that though!)  Even when the marvel began, you couldn't predict what would come next, a series a vignettes with music, humor and beauty all mixed together.  Even movies get boring, plots are so predictable you almost know what's coming next.  I've read they've done this to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, added seven swords and a green mist, to give it a plot and move the story on the big screen.  Read the book!  We've made it required reading for all members of the family before we go see the movie.  The beauty of Narnia isn't just in the story lines, or even Lewis' theology, it's the whole package tied with a ribbon of words and finished with a bow.  The Masked Marvel was unexpected, new, an expression of the artist himself. 
     The other genuine delight of the show was the joy.  I'll grant that "joy" may not be the best word for it, it's not a lasting joy based on hope and eternity.  It's a joy based on a spirit of friendship, kindness, humor and love of simple things.  Is it worth giving your life to something that makes someone smile?  That makes a dad come home and give himself over to playful silliness and non-sense with a four year old?  That makes the whole family goof around in the living room, competing to see who can move their body without moving their head? 
     The Marvel said, "Buying things is good, but making them is ten thousand times better."  There are many good things in the wide world, but there are some that are better.  And it's not always what we expect.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Geographica: South America

     I'm reading of wild winter storms in the midwest and thinking of poor stranded travelers in airports and, worse, in cars.  But if your safe and warm a quiet day at home, enforced solitude, can be a sweet day.  When we homeschooled in Pennsylvania we often took "snow days."  Some mothers love the fact that a homeschooled student can always get to school.  I loved those unexpected days off.  Kids could play in the house, and in the snow.  There was lots of hot chocolate, cookies in the oven, and read alouds on the couch under the quilt.  Here in sub-tropical Arkansas, I've promised my kids a snow day every time it snows.  It just doesn't happen often and "ice days" don't conjure up the same warm emotions.  If your in the car today, have safe travels.  If your home, which is always nicer, make the choice to savor the day.  And now, Ally's quiz:

Geography Quiz:  South America
1.  Surrounded by the Andes Mountains, Quito is the second highest capital in the world.  Quito is the capital of what country?
2.  Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world, is in the Orinoco River System in what country?
3.  Lake Titicaca and Lake Popoo are connected by the Desaguadero River in what country?
4.  The Gran Chaco was made by river deposits from the Andes Mountains and is mostly free of stones.  The Gran Chaco is in Paraguay and which other countries?
5.  The Atacama Desert is the driest place on earth with an average rainfall of .004 in. per year.  What country is the Atacama Desert in?  (Bonus fact:  Ally just told me that one part of the desert hadn't had rain for 400 years.)
Bonus Question:  The southernmost tip of South America is known by what name?

1.  Ecuador
2.  Venezuela
3.   Bolivia
4.  Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia
5.  Chile
Bonus Question:  Cape Horn

Saturday, December 11, 2010

One Hero

     There came a time in Israel's history when they were so cowed by the enemy, the Philistines, that they didn't have one sword left among them.  The Philistines' rule was so complete that blacksmiths were unheard of among the Israelites lest they "make swords or spears."  It seems to me that it hadn't been that long since the time of the judges, and these verses are in I Samuel 13, right after Saul is anointed king.  The Israelites had squandered not only their freedom from the enemy, but the only means by which they could take it back.  There were no blacksmiths, except among the Philistines.  The Bible tells us the cost of sharpening a plowshare or a hoe was two-thirds of a shekel.  There was no village blacksmith, instead a payment to the enemy to be able to work your field. (An archeological aside: these little two-thirds of a shekel were real little "pym" weights cast in silver and excavated in 1907.  From The Bible in the British Museum.  God's word is true even in small details.)  Except God (and isn't He always the Exception) remembered them and gave them a hero, just one, with a sword.
"So it came about on the day of battle that neither sword nor spear was found in the hands of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan, but they were found with Saul and Jonathan his son." (v.22)
     Jonathan goes on, in chapter 14, to route the garrison of the Philistines, and swordless Israel knows a day of victory.  After all it's not a spear that wins the battle, it's the hand of the Almighty God.  Jonathan knew,
"perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few." (v.6)
     And the people knew.  When Saul wanted to put Jonathan to death for eating the forbidden morsel, they cry out,
"Must Jonathan die who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel?...for he has worked with God this day." (v. 45)
    As I went about my tasks today, I was thinking about a people going out to fight without a sword among them and wondering if that could be Christians like me as well?  Christians in a time of cultural decline?  Could we be so cowed by the forces of this world (thinking of Ephesians 6:12 "our battle is not against flesh and blood...") that we've allowed them to take not only our swords but our blacksmiths as well.  Are we left so impotent we can't even sharpen our tools (I Sam. 13:21)?  God wants to deliver us from the enemies that crowd the landscape of our hearts, He wants us to wield the sword and He will bring the victory.
     I wonder what the corollary to the sword is?  The Bible itself seems too simple an answer, though it is called a sword, and I do love my Bible.  But I think it's more.  Just think of all the Bibles in an average American home, yet we can't gain ground.  To equip my children to live well in these times I thought of Ephesians and the full armor of God, the Bible being only one component.  I thought also about giving my kids the disciplines, habits and abilities that will allow them to wield that "sword."  And we can't do it on our own, "except God."  It's not hopeless or too hard a calling, God still brings about deliverance in the hearts of men, and invites us to work "with God this day."
     In the end isn't there just one hero?  One who has routed the enemies of sin and death?  One Son, who did die, so that I have hope in the battle of life?  In the end there's only one real hero and it's Jesus the Christ.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Something Lovely: The Kitchen Sink


Challenged by the post on kitchen flow and a pretty sink over at Like Mother, Like Daughter, and loving the practical wisdom she shares, Ally and I spent yesterday afternoon working in the kitchen.  I don't have a logical bone in my body so I needed Ally, my girl of "infinite-resource-and-sagacity" (that's Kipling, we were reading yesterday and it suits her).  As soon as I mentioned traffic flow and awkwardly arranged cupboards Ally had a whole list of problems, and therefore several days worth of projects and improvements.  We swapped the brown dishes and Grandma Lake's crystal, so that the brown dishes can come right out of the dishwasher and into the cupboard.  Ally also built a strong case for switching the microwave and toaster.  She mentioned how difficult it is to get to the microwave when I'm at the stove; true.  I've been thinking, the morning crowd around the toaster pushes me back from the coffee grinder, and maybe separating the toaster and coffee maker, by bringing the microwave over isn't a half bad idea.  I'll do that tomorrow.  Finally, Ally wanted to reorganize the entire pantry which is quite a chore.  Someone designed our entire kitchen without one shelf high enough to fit a cereal box, and the whole pantry went downhill from there.
     Yesterday's kitchen challenge resolved another problem here, that of Ally's morning chore.  She does breakfast dishes.  She likes to get up early, eat, do her chore and sit right down to math; and can I really complain about that?  But, most of us eat breakfast later and at nine I'll ask,"Why haven't you done the breakfast dishes?"  With a knowing smile she always tells me that she did.  Indeed.  So, yesterday we decided Ally can empty the sink and dishwasher, leave the kitchen clean, and when the rest of us straggle through around eight, we'll put our own dishes in the dishwasher.  It's so deliciously simple I don't know why we've been letting this cloud hang over our heads.

     I've been the Christmas Grinch this year, but all of this put me in a good mood.  I baked Grandma Lake's stollen (with dried fruit instead of candied).  I pulled out Great Grandma Bush's nativity set.  And we all trooped out to the woods, next to the soccer field, of course, and cut greens for the windowsill.  It's all good, that Grinch heart grew just a couple of sizes.

     When the time came to blog today, I hesitated.  We have such an ugly counter top, with the same theme running into the garden window behind the sink.  I just knew it couldn't compare with all the lovely (newer) ones out there.  There are also claims being thrown around that the filming of the Lego battle broke Ally's camera and it just didn't work the way it ought to.  And my camera?  It's out of batteries.  All photos are taken by Ally a wonderful girl of 13 and of infinite-resource-and-sagacity.  However, in a spirit of gratitude I'll just post what I have and hold my head high.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Conversation with the Chef: Our Favorite Fall Soup

     We've been eating this soup, and loving it, all fall.  The original recipe is in the Penzey's spice catalog.  It's well worth your money to order enough from them to get the catalog.  It's educational (where does cinnamon come from?) and always has good recipes.  Of course, I took this recipe and changed it up a bit, to suit our tastes.  I've been dicing the vegetables in very small pieces, it's a time waster but aesthetically pleasing.  Also I added fresh herbs from the garden, when they were still growing, because they're so tasty and what could be nicer than cooking with an herb bouquet?  My herb bouquet, or bouquet garni, isn't quite the true French version.  Of course, I adapted that as well to what I had on hand.  Herbs are so expensive, I think it doesn't hurt a bit to take the ones you know are meant to be a subtle flavor and adapt the recipe to use what you have.  Clearly, there's no chili without chili powder.  But I think you can get away with a bouquet garni without a European bay leaf.  Just don't mention it to the French Chef.

Vegetable Chowder
4 TB butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 red skinned potatoes, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 c. green beans, diced
16oz. package frozen corn
4 c. chicken stock (homemade)
15 oz. can cream-style corn
1 c. chopped ham
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. poultry seasoning or sage (or add sage to the bouquet garni)
*Bouquet Garni – use sprigs of herbs from the garden (rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, parsley) tie with a string and let them float in the soup as it simmers, remove before serving.
*Or in winter use scant amounts of dried herbs, probably leave out the basil.  A sprig of fresh rosemary should still be available, otherwise omit that also.  Julia Child would wrap these in cheesecloth so that the herbs would not disperse in the liquid; I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.
1 ½ c. half and half or milk

In a soup pot, melt butter over medium-low, add the onion and cook until soft but not browned.  Add garlic and cook for one more minute.  Add all remaining vegetables and continue cooking about 5-10 minutes, or until the pot gets too dry.  It helps to leave the lid on and lift it to stir occasionally.  Then add broth, cream style corn, ham and seasonings.  Allow to simmer over medium heat until all the vegetables are soft.  Add the milk and cook until warmed, but careful: the milk scorches easily on the bottom of the pan.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

From the Couch

     I'm a little sick today and have spent my time reading on the couch, eating homemade chicken soup and drinking cups of ginger or peppermint tea.  I pointed out to Ally that many days I dream of laying around on the couch, guilt free, but when you're sick enough to really do it you don't feel well enough to properly enjoy yourself.   I am enjoying my book, How the Heather Looks: A Joyous Journey to the British Sources of Children's Books a fun adventure through Great Britain finding the places from which the authors drew their ideas.  Even better, it's a book full of books and my Amazon list is getting rather extensive.  There's no better way to spend a day than with a book.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Love's Labor

     Over all we have a fairly traditional division of labor at house.  Bryan mows the grass and does small plumbing repairs.  I mop the floors and clean those same toilets.  (We're not militant about it.  Our daughter mows and installs dead bolts.  Our son does laundry and dishes every day.)  We didn't plan it out on paper, but as we developed our rhythms of living together we each have certain traditional tasks we perform and some that we do together.  If Bryan is home and I'm cooking dinner, he's almost always in the kitchen.  He's not a great cook, but he's a fine sous chef and a good dish washer as well.  But he finds his way to the kitchen because I'm there and even after fifteen years of marriage we still enjoy being in the same room.
     Every once in a while I like to surprise him.  I wrangle the mower out from behind the bikes in the shed and mow the lawn when it's a little long and I know it's been bothering him.  Or when he's overwhelmed at work and comes home exhausted all week and the bank statements show up, I'll balance the checkbook for him.  If I have the ability and the skill, and extra time in my day, I like to show a little love and bear the burdens of life with him.  He'll do the same for me.  I'm the laundry folder here, but when he sees three baskets of unfolded clothes it's a visual cue that I'm overwhelmed and without being asked he'll help me out.  Or there was one afternoon I was gone and asked if he and Ally would start pizza.  I came home to rowdy music, pizza started, toppings all chopped, kitchen counters completely cleaned off, and he was moving appliances and cleaning underneath them (I'm still impressed).  It's love, a kind of love willing to sacrifice a little free time for the sake of the other.
     Now don't get hung up on the specifics.  No excuses like "I'm allergic to grass and can't mow" or "I haven't balanced a checkbook once in my life."  Do the work of applying this to your own life.  I'm going to recommend taking time to do something for your husband (or parents - if you're not married) that normally isn't your job.  Not all the time, then it would be your job, not theirs.  Just once in a while.  Even if your husband isn't the kind of man to do it for you, you can still be that kind of woman.  Say without words, "I love you enough to inconvenience myself.  I love you til it hurts."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Geographica: The Continents

Okay, so strictly speaking I'm not sure you say the Inca people are "indigenous."  It seems they should properly be referred to as the Inca civilization.  The verb form should probably be past tense.  But I'm so tired tonight and this editor's brain isn't working well.  Pardon the poorly worded sentence and try to overlook our clumsiness with the English language.  Enjoy Ally's test of your knowledge of the continents.

1.  Lamas and Inca people are indigenous to the Andes Mountains on what continent?

2.  The Pyrenees Mountains and the Elbe River are on what continent?

3.  The Orange River starts in the Drakensburg Mountains in southern Lesotho on what continent?

4.  The KaraKum Desert and Borneo Island, which is the 3rd largest island in the world, are on what continent?

5.  The Gibson Desert and Uluru, also called Ayers Rock are on what continent?


1.  South America
2.  Europe
3.  Africa
4.  Asia
5.  Australia

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Feasting on Crumbs

     I'm posting tonight from the floor of the upstairs hall.  Arden's splashing around in the tub and in a few short minutes I'll be up trimming nails, brushing teeth, reading stories; those truly important things I do.  Tonight just a quick little reflection before church and a quiet day tomorrow.
"It is sweet to be nothing and to have nothing, and to be fed with crumbs from thy hands."        The Valley of Vision
     Sometimes I forget that I am nothing, I think I am a such-a-much, or could be if only I applied myself.  Sometimes I forget that I have nothing (spiritually that is, physically I know I have been richly blessed) and instead think that God had quite a find when He found me.  Other times I remember all too well, I am rocked by waves of insecurity and doubts and know I am nothing and have nothing.  But then I don't remember the sweetness.  And the sweetness?  It's being fed by God Himself, who looks down and sees even me.
     After reading this today I thought of the Canaanite woman, the unclean enemy, who came to Jesus entreating His help for her daughter.  Even Jesus' disciples thought He ought to send her away, after all she was SHOUTING, making a scene, you see.  Jesus' words seem so hurtful, don't you wonder why He phrased it this way?  He said He'd come to feed the children, not the dogs under the table.  But she persisted, desperate,
"'Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.'  Then Jesus answered and said to her, 'O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish."  Matthew 15:27-28
     Jesus fed her with the crumbs from His hand.  She was rewarded with all the tender compassion of God Himself.  Am I willing to be even a dog under the table feeding on the crumbs?  I am!  But now we can be children at God's table when we're reconciled to God through Christ.  He promises to satisfy His children.

A good book to read a page or two at a time:  Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions