Sunday, June 21, 2015

Daybook Entry for Sunday, 6/21/2015

Outside my window it is quiet.  The early quiet of Sunday morning.  The cars that normally are filing by to the office or the factory or the mines are still.  The sun's rays are bit by bit dispelling that summer morning fog.

I am thinking about Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes, the two books featured in this week's reading.  SoS is such a celebration of marriage and sex as created by our loving Father for us.  I'll admit it:  I love these books!  But SoS comes with a strong warning:  don't wake love up until the time is right.  Somewhere along the way, I heard this illustration that I've used with my kids and many others:  Sex is like a fire in the fireplace.  It gives beauty and warmth and ambience and all things good to a marriage.  But God created it to do this only within the bounds of the 'fireplace':  marriage between a man and a woman for life.  In the same way that lighting a fire on a living room rug will burn a house down, sexuality outside the 'grate' is nothing but eventual destruction.  I've found this to be both dramatic and 'sticking' for young audiences.  And Ecclesiastes- what a cool book!  I asked Alex last night before they listened to the daily reading, "Tell me about Solomon."  He said, "He was a foolish man.  (after prompting) And he was a wise man.  (more prompting) And he liked food, wine, and women and sex.  And bellydancers. (??  Upon which, he arched his back, stuck his belly out and danced in his Sonic the Hedgehog pajamas.  Obviously he's never seen bellydancers- which is a good thing ;o)  It was not sexy, but it was funny ;o)  Here's the summary of Ecclesiastes for kids:  This man had enough money to do whatever he wanted.  He was curious like you, but about everything.  Whatever you're curious about, Solomon knew what it was like.  He said, "Been there, done that, and the T-shirt reads:  'Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!'  Just serve God and enjoy what He has given you and avoid all the misery I created for myself."  Yep, we keep it simple around here :o)  

I am thankful for a new car.  Not only did God provide for our needs, but He also threw in a whole bunch of bells and whistles.  Honda Crosstours are being discontinued, hence a huge discount.  Its name (the kids christened it) is the ENRAMERE.  You must read the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson to get it.  No, you must read the Wingfeather Saga either way.  It is amazing!!!

I am wearing my walking through the woods clothes.  On Sunday mornings, I walk through the woods behind our house to the local cemetery, circle around it twice and return home.  It's quiet and perfect for praying through the pews of our church.  And your churches, too.  Last week, I saw a rabbit.  I have surprised a deer recently, as well. 

I am creating a restful Sunday environment.  Intentionally.  This is a good thing.  No hustle and bustle to church.  More on that later.

I am going to Pell City Camp in a week!  Woohoo!  The kids are pumped, the shelf stable coffee creamer thingies are bought- in french vanilla, and Italian sweet cream.  I am ready.

I am wondering why June is the wedding month.  It's blistering hot down here, and sweat is hardly romantic. 

I am reading  Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon.  Again.  And then I'll read it again later.  Because it's so good.  In fact, maybe I'll start with At Home in Mitford and go through the whole series again just for the sheer joy of it.  God bless Father Tim, the leading citizen of Mitford.

I am hoping that Nathan is not serious about buying a brush goat for the backyard.  Sometimes, he surprises me with his level of strangeness ;o).  I'm trying to dissuade him.  I'm trying to keep the kids from finding out, b/c they will be on his side and I will be outnumbered and the backyard will be denuded and there will be poop.

I am learning that three things feel really good.  Increasingly good with each year that passes:  eating great food, going to bed, taking hot morning showers.  Just saying.

In my garden you mean the little pots on the back porch.  Things are dying.  As usual.  In my pots.

In my kitchen  Sunday is prepared.  That intentional thing I mentioned.  It's about preserving this day of rest.  Recently I realized that Sunday was my least restful day.  Why?  Masses of dirty dishes.  Big meals.  Hurriedness.  So, I'm making this intentional effort to preserve my rest, too.  Everything is ready to throw in a pot and walk out the door.  Even the garlic and bay leaves and peppercorns and thyme and parsley for the roast are measured out and waiting.  The potatoes are cut and submerged in hot water and then refrigerated to keep them from browning (thank you, Mom, the scientist for the method that works).  The clothes are ironed, the car is gassed up.  It is a challenge, I will not lie.  But now, it is quiet and good.  It is my offering to the Father for giving me this day to rest in Him.  

In the homeschool room it is summer.  Hallelujah!  But I DID go to the CHEF Alabama homeschool conference exhibit halls this week.  It reminded me just how much I love homeschooling and how incredibly fun the homeschooling community is.  Alex won a fishing pole from the Trail Life exhibitor.  He is delighted!

A favorite quote for today from Jan Karon's aforementioned book.  One that made me smile:


“Hugging the slightly built, highly metabolized Harley Welch was like grabbing on to a field hare that smelled, curiously, of cologne.”
 
One of my favorite things of summer is a delicious tomato sandwich.  Salt, pepper, mayo, bread and luscious tomato.  That's all.
Have a blessed Lord's Day!

 

Isaiah 58:13-14 English Standard Version (ESV)


13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
    from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
    and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
    or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
    and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer Feet and Melting Roads

When I was growing up, every summer Tuesday was bookmobile day.  It parked for a couple of hours in front of the United Methodist Church where the fifth Sunday shape-note sing was held.  The songleader had some kind of palsy, it seemed to me, and the stuffed bobcat in the community center next door was losing its fur.  Oh, and the peach icecream at the meetings there was amazing.  Just saying.  Back to the bookmobile.  The selection wasn't huge obviously, and the children's section had my favorite check-outs, the Boxcar Children series.  The driver had a 'desk' of sort behind her driver's seat.  She just twisted around and stamped cards right there.  Those cards that let us take home our treasures.  This was the beginning of the huge book stacks.  See, I have a problem.  It's called underestimating the number of books I want to check out.  I inevitably waddle from whatever library with a ridiculous number of books, peering over the top and hoping I calculate the curbs correctly.  The children are useful for picking up the off-size ones that slip, slide, uh, that one's a goner.

These days, I meander carefully through the Hoover Library parking lot.  In shoes.  When I was a kid, I went  uphill both ways in two feet of snow.  Just kidding.  Actually, I went a mile or so from home to parking lot and then back the other way.  There was a method to navigating Nixon Chapel-Douglas Rd. in the summer, barefoot.  First, one had to watch out for the crazies zooming down the road in front of the bookmobile, cross quickly, and race to the shade of the auction that only opened on Saturday nights.  There was a prize waiting in that shade, a Grapico and Sunkist machine.  Cold.  So cold.  So if quarters were jingling in any of our pockets, we saw the last of them right there.  Then off we went.  The caffeine and sugar helped us meet our goal:  to walk quickly.  Not for exercise (we got plenty of that in the garden with my granddad).  No, the road was melting.  Literally.  Potholes were fixed occasionally, but the mixture would melt down and ooze on the surface of the road.  You had to hop around those spots if you didn't want to wish you were dead.  And just when you couldn't stand it anymore, there was that lovely stand of pecan trees in front of Mrs. Brown's house that made the road so cool with its shade.  We stood in silence.  Any noise might cause her to pop out of the house, wearing her clothes inside out and... well, we thought she was creepy.  Then off for home.

Needless to say, our feet was tarred by the time we got home if we weren't uber-careful.  In fact, they might be feathered or furred.  You had to watch out for things like roadkill.  To wear shoes in the summer put wear and tear on school shoes.  Maybe if we had wanted shoes, my mom would have let us wear them.  I don't think they were a forbidden object.  But have you ever been a mile from home on a hot day when your cheap flipflop's strap pulled away and you had to contort your big toe and second toe to grip it as you hopped home?  I have.  Too much trouble.  Have you ever tried to balance 20 books on a bicycle handlebar?  Too much trouble. 

On to 2015, my poor feet.  My poor, poor country feet.  I used to get pedicures and let the little Vietnamese ladies here scrub those calluses.  That was before two things happened.  I "lucked" out on an interesting massage chair with rollers in the seat.  OK, it just felt obscene- who wants a backside massage?  Ew.  I'll admit it.  It took me 15 minutes to turn that selection off.  (I'm not good with machines, and I wasn't about to try to explain my problem to someone using basic English).  The second thing that happened was this:
  Yes, that would be a cheese grater.  I kid you not.  Not a rasp, a cheese grater.  And the girl had the gall to smile and say, "Now, don't move.  I don't want to cut you."  To her credit, she didn't cut me, but she cured me of professional pedicures.  So, now we move from a childhood story to a life-changing invention.  I'm even posting a link here to Amazon so you can get one for yourself.  For the cost of one, maybe two pedicures, I have entered the world of nice feet.  Using this a little every day, my feet are returning from the world of scary dinosaur feet to nice human feet.  Even Nathan has been impressed, since I have spent 14 years trying to keep my heels from touching his leg in the bed.  I tried to convince him that they were great exfoliators, that the friction helped me keep my balance, that going to mailbox barefoot was normal.  He remains unconvinced.  So, goodbye scary summer feet.  This blog post is for you, Kristi Hope.  Not that you have scary feet.  The first part.  Haha!

 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Crisco in the coldest part of your fridge...
Homemade Pie Crust that Anyone Can Do!
This specific flour (I vouch for no other's performance... just saying...)  also in fridge (or freezer)

Some ice water.  Everything needs to be cold!

For a double-crust pie, 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour...

+ 1 teaspoon of salt, stir together...

Add in 2/3 c. of Crisco, carefully measured as you can see ;o)

Use a pastry blender like this or the two humble forks to the side to mix it up until it looks like...

this!  Crumblies.

Dig a hole in the middle, toss in 10 Tbsp. of that ice water (drink the rest).

Stir casually with aforementioned humble fork.

Here's where we get to my own strange method.  A big piece of plastic wrap.

Dump entire contents of bowl, even the inevitable dry flour in the bottom onto plastic and pull the wrap up around it.

Mash it (or press it) 5-6 times (THROUGH THE WRAP); this prevents extra body heat from getting into the crust and allows for clean hands.

Wrap up...

Put in fridge for at least 30 minutes.  Not 16 hours, people.  Just a little while.  You can also freeze it at this point, if you're amazingly organized and making this for later.  Or you can throw it the freezer for 10 minutes if you're disorganized and you're rushing the clock (not that I have ever done, mind...)

Wash hands with yummy soap in your incredibly messy sink, since mess is inevitable and your children husband wanted waffles and poached eggs.

Use a knife to divide your little dough ball.  See how I'm off center here, that's b/c the bottom crust has to reach the sides so needs a little extra dough.  About 60/40.  At this point I like to fold it over gently 3 times or so (maybe it gives it flaky layers, maybe not, just a theory).  Pat back into a disk and roll out...

Roll out on floured surface with floured rolling pin, generously flouring your clothes as you go.

You can lay your pie plate or skillet in the middle to estimate needed size.

Use that lovely bench scraper or a basic pancake flipper and wiggle it loose on one side and fold in.

And the opposite side...

And now the right...

And the left... put up your bundle and put it...

in your pan / pie plate.  (Cast iron does amazingly well at EVERYTHING, including pies...)

Here is an example of why I say I make good food, not pretty food (See Marianne Brown for pretty AND good...  yes, Betty Crocker is my sister-in-law and I love her) :o)

Patch the hole or holes or whatever flaws you've got going on.  Prick the bottom of crust 8 times or so with a fork, fill with loveliness, top with remaining crust rolled out the same way, brush the top with an egg yolk you've mixed with a Tbsp of water, and bake.  I always put a cookie sheet under my pan, because loveliness is no longer lovely when it drips down and burns in the bottom of your stove.

The scraps from the ugly pie crust are mine.  A little turbinado, a little cinnamon and a little real butter is the consolation prize for my success in not eating the pie that's coming out of the oven.  No white sugar for me these days.  And if Evie's Christmas music is playing, I can take a bite and close my eyes and suddenly my mom is giving me the end pieces of her Christmas morning cinnamon roll dough roll... roll..  that sounds funny.  Enjoy your pie crust making.  Cheap and scrumptious.  Recipe compliments of Taste of Home years and years ago, method compliments of my beleaguered Home Ec. teacher + my own adaptations...

Sunday, November 09, 2014



 "There was a crooked man, who "drove" a crooked mile..."
A crooked house in our neighborhood post-tornado 2011; if it leans there's something WRONG!

 
This week a little light popped up on my dashboard to tell me my brakes needed work.  Really?  They seemed fine to me.  We checked the brake fluid.  I had some.  But since they are pretty important, we took the car in to our Christian mechanic’s shop.  He checked it out and sure enough, the front pads were bad.  When I got back into my car last night to drive it away from the shop, I was stunned.  I could stop.  Like almost instantaneously.  Without dragging my heel on the pavement (just kidding).  I had adapted my driving bit by bit to the brakes’ demise, that I didn’t even know they were almost gone.  This is not my first time to do such a thing.  A few years ago, they found my car was seriously out of alignment.  They asked me if I had not noticed it drifting to the side of the road.  No.  Never.  Then I realized I had begun to keep my hand on the left side of the steering wheel, applying pressure to the left automatically to keep it from drifting right.  Bit by bit, I had adapted without ever consciously thinking about it.  It took someone else stepping into the driver’s seat and saying, “Oh, my goodness.  What is wrong with your car?” for me to even notice it.  It also happened when Nathan’s mom realized I was running without any shocks.  I like to blame my state of oblivion on those bumpy country dirt roads and my dad’s assortment of old VWs.  We just went places.  To this day, my car is all about getting me somewhere, and that’s about it.  There is no love lost between me and my Corolla.

How does this happen?  Well, the main reason is no one else ever drives my car.  And two, I don’t know enough about normal cars to notice abnormalities in mine.  Things get twisted or off-kilter, and I just adjust accordingly.  This is so human of me.  Many Christians go through life, limping along in their unbiblical worldview.  They bump along oblivious of the fact that they have contradictory beliefs or messed up behaviors.  How is this possible?  We look on and think, “Surely they know that’s not normal?!”  But they seem completely oblivious. And then to our horror we find that we’ve been doing the same thing.  We sit under the Word on Sunday, and we’re stunned when Scripture shows us how messed up we are.  Just like me with my car, there are two main reasons for this:  one, no one speaks into our lives in these areas, including God.  We’re not in the Word, we’re not under authority, we’re not in relationships of accountability with other Christians, and ignorance is bliss, I suppose.  Secondly, we don’t know enough of what ‘normal’ Christian life looks like to with which to compare our own.  Our ignorance of Scripture is appalling, and the lack of godly mentors who truly live biblical lives in relationship with us is telling.  We become dangerous Christians, whose mouths have no ‘brakes’, whose behavior is off-balance and ungodly, whose thoughts are completely misaligned.  And we just adjust.  We run around crooked, thinking that we’re normal.  God help us!  It’s time to take these lives of ours to the ‘shop’:  let’s get in the Word.  Let’s get in relationship so others can help us see our need of growth.  This Christian life was meant to be a life of joyful balance that actually functions well in the home and the workplace.  It’s time for a little (or a whole lot of) discipleship!

Monday, October 06, 2014

It's fall.  Nighttime temps have actually dipped in the upper 40s.  Hence the poetry.  It is a reaction I always have to this time of year.  A good pumpkin spice coffee, a bubble bath and a poem.  Good things.  Here's a poem that Kathryn's memorizing for school.  She particularly likes this one, and so do I. 

Afternoon on a Hill

 Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 - 1950
 
I will be the gladdest thing  
    Under the sun!  
I will touch a hundred flowers  
    And not pick one.  
  
I will look at cliffs and clouds
    With quiet eyes,  
Watch the wind bow down the grass,  
    And the grass rise.  
  
And when lights begin to show  
    Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,  
    And then start down!

(*photo from www.sceptretours.com)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rocks and Marbles

At a certain point in the raising of children, the focus shifts away from the negative to the positive.  There's a lot less of, "don't do this" and "don't touch that" to "do this" and "do that."  At ages nine and seven, my kids don't get a lot of discipline, shall we say.  Corrective actions happen less and less frequently, and we were looking for a way to shift our approach toward rewarding the results of their training.  I stumbled upon a 'system' online, and we adapted it for our own uses.  Here's the original post from which I got the idea.



How we do it:  Each child has his or her own color of glass marbles (Kathryn:green, Alex:blue).  Throughout the day, marbles may be earned for a variety of things (the vagueness started getting to us, so our list is as follows:
1.  Complete morning chores before school without being asked.  (1 marble)
2.  Complete bedtime chores before 8:00 p.m. without being asked.  (1 marble)
3.  Do all homeschool without complaint.  (2 marbles)
4.  Get caught doing something nice for someone else (not their chores).  (Reward up to Mom)
5.  Eat breakfast and lunch with a good attitude.  (1 marble per day)

*  On number four, Kathryn began 'doing something nice' for Alex by completing his chores for him.  He was delighted and more than happy to let her 'earn a marble.'  You can see the problem here.  An example from yesterday of 'something nice' was when Kathryn wasn't feeling good, Alex went and got her a blanket and stuffed animal.
*  On number five, this is a big deal for picky eaters.  They truly dislike so many foods.  I don't die on that hill at suppertime, since that is family time.  At supper, they can pick from whatever is on the table.  Sometimes (rarely) that may be just bread and butter.  They haven't died yet.

Each day, they earn marbles and then at night they combine them in a big jar.  This is intentional, as I don't want them 'competing' for goodness.  Rather, they are being told that loving actions benefit the family as a whole and gets us all closer to our goals.  The goals are lines marked on the jar.  As they are reached, preset fun things are done.  It may be pizza night, or a new book they want, or whatever is on their minds at the moment (and approved as appropriately motivating and budget friendly as possible).

On to the rocks.  Rocks are a big deal.  They are given ONLY when a stranger comments on their CHARACTER.  Not their appearance.  This would be, "You are so polite,"  or "You are so kind," etc.  Sometimes, they get close with a "thank you sooo much," but that isn't a rock.  Needless to say, rocks get us a lot closer to our goals and are hard to earn.

This has also allowed us to pull back a little from stronger forms of discipline.  There are times when discipline (I'll leave this up to your biblical imagination- haha!) are needed.  Lies and outright rebellion are the main two no-no's here.  For smaller infractions (for example, yesterday when Alex didn't want to write and I could tell he was goofing off by s-l-o-w-l-y! writing), I pulled a marble out of the jar.

This is working really well for us.  It is a way to reward progress, correct wrongs, build teamwork.  All with an emphasis (I verbally emphasize this to them on a regular basis) on how doing right affects others. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Daybook Entry:

Outside my window:  The deep darkness that precedes the sunrise.  Yesterday, at 3:00 p.m. there was a beautiful doe tiptoeing around outside our back window eating the wild violets that grow in the low places next to the brush.  Such a gorgeous, delicate creature.  What a fun interruption to our school day as we sat and admired her. 

I am thinking:  about doing another fall series on poetry.  Just for me.  And maybe Sonja Vernon and Kim Neuenswander :o)  Something about the change of the seasons makes me long for cozy blankets and deep thinking poets.

I am thankful for:  a man who is "obsessed with God's Word," as Pastor Potter encouraged the congregation to be last Sunday.  I must admit, it IS all he talks about, and there are times that I say, "OK, my brain is tired, no Bible discussions for the next few minutes, please." (Is that terrible??)  Due to his unique salaried position, he has the freedom during much of the year to study all day long.  And he does.  Every time he stands up to speak, I know the many, many hours he has poured into his topic.  He takes 'rightly dividing the word of truth' seriously, and I'm so thankful for the example he sets for our children.

In my kitchen:  only the coffeemaker is bubbling away at this time of the day.  Today I plan to make some lovely roasted butternut squash with cinnamon.  Maybe I'll throw in some toasted pecans.  Who needs dessert?  Never tried it?  Try this link for ideas.  The hardest part is peeling the aggravatin' squash.  My goodness!  It must be impervious to all wild creatures, because I can barely get into it with a sharp kitchen knife.

Around the house:  Alex.  What?  Where did he come from at 6:00 a.m.?  Bad dream.  Sip of milk.  Hug, kiss (since no one is watching). Back to bed with you, short person.

I am loving:  the pumpkin spice iced coffee I tried at Dunkin Donuts this week.  Note to prospective buyers:  there is no need to ask for any extra sweeteners.  It's already good to go.  Loving the shine of wood post-Pledge dusting session.  I normally dust my furniture with a feather duster.  A quick swipe and off I go.  There's something about rubbing the wood down with Pledge, or Old English (even better) that imparts that lemony smell and shine that just inspires me.  When I was little, my Mawmaw would assign me the chair legs and hard-to-reach places with a dust rag cut from my grandfather's ribbed tank style t-shirts.  I can feel the memories flooding back every time I pick up that shiny yellow can.

I am hoping:  the fall leaves will be glorious.  If not, I may have to go find some glorious ones.  See below.  Mentone, AL perhaps?

I am sorely tempted by:  the thought of jumping in the car and taking a road trip with the kids to see Jamestown.  When we study these things in history, I would love to have the money to make it come alive in person.  "Guess what, kids?  We're studying Japan this week.  Here's your passports."  (Can you imagine?) :o)  In the meantime I've discovered "Anna's Adventures" in Jamestown here. These videos take you there and are much cheaper.

I am reading:  Jan Karon's newest novel, Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good.  I am savoring it, like a piece of fine chocolate.  At 77, I think she's at the top of her game.  The book is hilarious, gripping, tear-jerking.  I recently went to hear her speak in Birmingham- more on this later.  It was a magical evening!

On my to-do list:  Find someone, ANYONE, who will fix the motor in my garden tub.  It must a bad sign that no one wants to touch the task.  Hmmm....  Also, pop some wheat bread ingredients with cracked wheat into my machine this morning to have delicious, buttered bread at lunch.