Friday, May 22, 2009

I Believe...

This can't really be much of a surprise, but because I've never directly said what I believe, I want to make a clear statement of it now in my last post. I believe the following with all of my heart and also with all of my mind. I don't want a crutch to lean on. I don't want religion. I'm not looking for something to make me feel good. I seek Truth. And I wholeheartedly believe this to be true.

My relationship with God has brought a great deal of peace and light and deep joy to my life in spite of many challenges, trials, losses, and hardships. The Bible says that God daily bears our burdens, and this has been so very true for me. I am loved and forgiven, blessed and kept by His hand. My hope remains in Him. I pray that you will have that hope, too.

I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.I believe in the Holy Ghost: The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of sins: The Resurrection of the body: And the Life everlasting. Amen.

~taken from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer

:~:~:~:~:

Thank you for your kindness and great warmth to me. Thank you for your prayers and blessings and encouragement. Thank you for appreciating the things I've shared about my life and family and home.

Gratefully,
Susan

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Very Quick Answer to Leigh's Question and Our Tasty Dinner...

Yet another post, and it's not even the last one! :-) I guess this is my final furious flurry.

In the comment box, Leigh asked this (don't feel selfish about asking, Leigh!):

"Speaking of "three little things" :), I remember you commenting on one of your posts that there were three things you wanted your kids to do each day. Would you mind sharing what they were? Actually, I guess it would be the two other things :), since you already mentioned writing."

I've long wanted to address this kind of thing because it's been asked more than once, and I've felt remiss in not responding. It's not that I haven't tried, though; it's that I get bogged down every time I try to write about this because there's a whole philosophy behind this, so it's not as cut and dried as my answers seem. (A good part of the philosophy behind this is in my learning posts, especially the ones on a learning atmosphere. I never did finish those and that pained me a great deal.)

This is not yet the answer to Leigh's question, but, just to let you know, the last three topics in my learning atmosphere notes were going to be:

1. The great importance and value of chores and doing good, hard, physical work and having real responsibilities.

2. Do real things. John Senior talks about this in his wonderful book The Restoration of Christian Culture. Read it if you can get your hands on it. :-)

3. Um, um, um... Oh, my goodness, I can't remember the other one, and all of my papers are packed! :-) It must not be important...

Anyway, a very quick, unwieldy (because I'm not taking the time to think and edit-- cringe-- but I have thought much about this over the years, and I have lived it with my kids), off the top of my head response to Leigh is this:

The three things I expected my kids to do daily besides living a full and intersting life of learning in our free time--

1. Reading

Whatever they wanted as long as it was quality, well-written stuff. And there's much of it out there for children (especially older books), so no one was ever-- or ever felt-- deprived! They were supposed to read every day, but it's almost a joke to list this because reading was their favorite thing to do. They loved books. They read alone. We read together. For hours. Sometimes I had to tell them to stop reading and do something else. The most common topic of conversation in our home was books. It's still that way.

2. Writing

Whatever they wanted. Anything. It was open-ended! Journals, essays, letters, copy-work, dictation. They created newsletters. They had their own little writing club. They made lists and plans and all sorts of things. I have boxes and boxes of journals the kids kept, and they did a prodigious amount of other writing. Andrew Pudewa says that reading (and memorizing) good poetry is one really great way to learn to write. I believe him. My kids did read and memorize poetry for fun and wrote and wrote. They wrote in their own way. I didn't correct it or grade it, but I did read it, and if I saw patterns of things they were doing wrong, I'd mention it to them. Honestly, most stuff self-corrects if they are reading well. Doing that and then writing, writing, writing, brought it all together nicely. All of them eventually really wanted to be good writers, so they took it upon themselves to work on it. We had loads of good handbooks and helps for writing on our shelves, and the kids used them often. I absolutely mean it when I say that all four of my kids are much better writers than me. I'm glad I didn't dumb them down by trying to teach them. :-)

3. Math

Making progress every day, at their own pace, which was most often fairly accelerated. We selected materials together. Different kids needed different programs. I wanted them to like and "click" with what they were using. From 4th grade on, the kids completely taught themselves math.

~:~:~:~:~

These were our basic, everyday things. On top of this, we explored our natural world and appreciated the world of the arts with great enthusiasm. We delved into many hobbies and interests. We did real things. We tried to avoid things that kept us from the real things, the good things, a true education. The kids were enthusiastic doers, creators, thinkers. It was lovely watching them fill their days with learning and creating. Unless something else was on the agenda, the business of our days was to get an education. And we all took it seriously. It didn't fit within any particular hours. It went on from wake-time to bed-time and on the weekends. It was what we did, and it is what we still do. Even my college kids pursue their own life and education along with their school assignments. They get it.

I think this worked for us because of the kind of atmosphere and expectations we had in our home. We kept a lot of distractions out of our home environment, like media and too many activities, and not everyone will want to do this. That's okay. This is just what we did. We lived in the country where the kids roamed and played and explored. We read together and worked together and talked an awful lot. Learning was fun for us. And I think our enthusiasms rubbed off on each other.

Other kids and families played a part in our lives, too, and people were in and out of our home often, but we had an awful lot of long, quiet days at home to work and go about the business of learning. If one wants to create a learning lifestyle atmosphere, it takes a lot of work to do it. And, as we go along, we realize what works and what doesn't, and then we make a choice as to how we want to proceed because we have to work within the reality of our situations. If we are home educating, then education is not to be shrugged off. If a natural course of learning isn't working, and if we have tried to adjust our environment to make it work, and it's still not working, or if we are unwilling to make the necessary adjustments, then we need to reevaluate what we're doing. Not everyone's family will thrive in the same way, but, hopefully, we can all love to learn and make it a natural, everyday endeavor, not limited to certain hours or certain days or a certain part of our lives.

(Another home education book I really like is Educating Children at Home by Alan Thomas.)

~:~:~:~

Okay, there. Now for dinner.

I didn't intend to post this (neither did I intend to answer any questions, but here I am), but it was so good that I had to write one last bit about food. Cooking is so relaxing and enjoyable for me. I'm trying to eat whatever meat is in the freezer and whatever food remains in cupboards this week. There's not much left, but this afternoon I did have a few Yukon potatoes, a couple onions, and four organic chicken thighs. There are always lemons and olive oil about the house, and there are currently lots of fresh herbs in the garden. Beautiful gobs of oregano and sage and tarragon, with other herbs coming on nicely. I chose to use oregano because it would work well in a Greek-flavored lemon-chicken-onion meal.

So, that's what I made-- a lemon-oregano potato, onion, and chicken dish that looked so pretty before putting into the oven that I was wishing badly I could photograph it. It looked just as pretty and tasty when it came out. And it tasted just wonderful. A dinner with my very favorite kinds of flavor. It makes me thankful for so much good food.

I turned the oven on to 375 degrees.

I sliced one yellow onion.

I cut three or four smallish-medium Yukon potatoes into big, bite-sized chunks.

I wish I had thought to add a whole bunch of whole cloves of garlic to this.

I chopped a whole bunch of fresh oregano.

I squeezed the juice from one small lemon.

I fried the chicken thighs, with skin on, in butter to brown well and begin the cooking process. I sprinkled the tops with salt.

When the thighs were nicely browned, I set them in a parchment lined baking dish.

When I finished frying the chicken thighs, I set them in a parchment lined baking dish. I placed the potatoes and onion into a bowl and tossed them with some sea salt, the lemon juice, most of the oregano, and some olive oil (a few tablespoons?). Then I placed this around the chicken pieces. (The size dish depends on how much you're making. You'll want the potatoes and onions to fit in, if not one layer, in close to it. You don't want a deep mound of vegetables or they won't get that nice roasty look and taste.) I sprinkled the rest of the oregano over the chicken and the potato mixture. I drizzled any juice that remained in the bowl over the chicken and then the potatoes and set it into the oven to bake. For how long, I'm not sure, but it was over an hour for sure. I just kept checking. When it looked done enough, I let it cook even longer. I wanted it to be really done! I let it go until the chicken skin was lovely crispy brown and the meat was fall-off-the-bone done and melt-in-your-mouth tender and the potatoes were nicely browned, too.

When it came out of the oven, Michelle and I oohed and ahhed, and when we ate it, we oohed and ahhed even more energetically. We loved this. I hope you will, too.

That's all for now, but I'll still try to respond to recent comments before I go to bed tonight. Last little post coming in the morning.

I'll leave comments open for about a week, and then I'll close them. I'll leave the blog open so people who want to catch up on older posts can. Eventually, but not right away, I'll "hide" the blog so that it can't be accessed. If you want to make copies of anything for your own use before that, you are welcome to. Please, though, do not republish anything I've written. While the blog is still open to the public, you are welcome to link to it. Thank you!

Three Little Things...

1. Why do kids find such delight in creating forts that are like little dens? As I sat at the table drinking my coffee this morning, Jayden and Roman made a fort underneath, by my feet. The opposite side of the table was enclosed by a chair, and the open side had unused moving boxes leaning up against it, so it did create an obvious fort, and if you're a little child you will notice these things. My own kids made forts under tables and behind furniture all the time. They'd drag out just the right things to turn these forts into little homes, and then they'd play happily there for hours.

It's the same kind of delight they got from books like Brambly Hedge or Beatrix Potter or The Rescuers or so many other books featuring anthropomorphized animals. I don't know that there's a connection between the forts and the stories except that the words "den" and "cosiness" tend to come to mind for both, and the imagination is delightfully engaged in both cases, too. My children still love Brambly Hedge-- the illustrations in particular, I think. My 23 year old son still enjoys occasionally perusing his volume of the entire collection of Brambly Hedge stories, and he's not embarrassed to say so!

2. In the midst of the moving and serious talk of changes and decluttering and simplicity, I've not dropped off shopping for thrift or vintage items altogether. It's just that now, the things I buy need to be needed. And I needed dish towels. I used to like Martha Stewart's K-Mart dish towels (the only thing I ever entered K-Mart for), but when I stopped by recently, they didn't have any. So, I looked at the antique store, and somehow, these really kitschy old linen souvenir and calendar dish towels caught my eye. They were all in great/perfect condition, well made, sort of fun and tacky, and cheap, so why not?!

So, I now have in my possession one really cute bright orange (and other early 70's colors) rooster calendar dish towel from 1971. I have a 1979 light blue and green and brown towel with an adorable picture of owls on it (the little boys particularly like this one). There are two linen souvenir towels from Australia-- one with koala bears and one with eucalyptus plans. There's a cool one from the Grand Canyon. And there is one that's clearly from the 1950's-- it's bright pink and lime green-yellowish and black, with a typical 50's design style, set in Paris. There are unifying-color-theme issues with this little set of towels, but that's okay. I like them.

3. And I am reading. The books I'm reading are mostly of the spiritually-oriented variety right now, but I'll pick up others again when I am settled. Currently, there are several in my stack, but two that I'm just starting to read are Esther de Waal's To Pause at the Threshold and Joan Chittister's The Gift of Years: Growing Old Gracefully. I know I'll really like the Threshold book (it's perfectly suited to my situation), and I'm loving what I'm reading in The Gift of Years. I haven't read it thoroughly yet, but I've browsed through it, and I'm pretty sure that when I'm finished I'll be highly recommending this. I might as well do that now, since I won't be blogging when I finish. There is a lot of wisdom and joy in this book. If you are middle aged or older, or you're just interested in thinking about what really matters, there is a lot of insight and inspiration to be gained from this book. It's light, but thoughtful and deep.

And now I'll carry on with my work. My last, short, post will be tomorrow. Nothing wordy or thoughtful on my part, but one little thing I want to say before I leave. Also, I'll try to get back to respond to recent comments later.

Transitions...

"In the Gospels, we watch a Christ who, in dismissing certainties, shows us what freedom might mean. We watch the way in which he enters into people's live and dissolves an existing situation, whatever it might be. The likelihood was that the condition had promised security, safety, but now Christ challenges the people to leave their nets, or to leave a nice, safe booth and to follow him. He says to Peter, James, and John, 'Come,' and to Matthew, 'Stand up, move, walk, come with me.' Our God is a God who moves and he invites us to move with him. He wants to pry us away from anything that might hold us too securely: our careers, our family systems, our money making. We must be ready to disconnect. There comes a time when the things that were undoubtedly good and right in the past must be left behind, for there is always the danger that they might hinder us from moving forward and connecting with the one necessary thing, Christ himself."

~Esther de Waal in To Pause at the Threshold: Reflections on Living on the Border

In the process of moving house, most things have now been packed and are ready to be transferred to our storage unit. The little bit of furniture that will be hauled to our new home has mostly been moved to one corner of the living room now. And, without thinking, I've moved myself there, too

Next to one of the living room windows, I set up a beat up little table I'll set up in my apartment. A lamp rests on it, and it didn't take long for a small stack of books to form beside the lamp. Even though the table is there only temporarily, awaiting its move, it has become my morning quiet time place and the place I sit when I want to eat something, to read with pen and paper at hand, to make lists, or to write in my journal. And it's a very pleasant spot.

I realized this morning, as the coffee finished brewing in the French press and I began to walk toward the living room to sit down with my journal and coffee, that I have made something of an initial transition already without even thinking about it. I have left behind my old familiar spots for reading and relaxing-- the dining table and the chair in the corner adjacent to the woodstove-- and I've left them behind with good memories but no regrets. I'm at the threshold of a new time, a new stage of my life.

As I thought about this, I realized something. Keeping this blog has been a gift to me in a way that I didn't expect. It's a journal of my very ordinary daily life over the course of an entire year, through the seasons and holidays, of our celebrations and joys, through times of grief and times of delight. It's a keepsake glimpse of one year of our family life and some of the philosophy that has guided that life, lived here in our High Desert Home.

It's not a journal of everything we did, of everything we thought, of everything we enjoyed or endured, but it's a real, honest, grateful glimpse of the lovely life the Lord blessed us with here. I can look at my blog and recall good things. Through photos and my words, I can remember and enjoy and be thankful all over again for God's many blessings.

I will look back with a smile and a full heart, but not with yearning. I've loved living here. It's where my kids mostly grew up and where we enjoyed day after lovely day together. This place and the time we spent here has become part of the fabric of our lives, and so, in some nice ways, it's always with us. We have been made and shaped and changed here, but the time has clearly come for us to move forward. The kids already have, and Mike's job took him away long ago. Our thoughts of retiring here are gone, and we have no regrets about that.

I look forward to what comes next, and I feel extremely blessed. God continually surprises me with His provision in every way. I want to make the business of my life to be one of seeing the blessings of God and of counting them every single day.

I'm moving, transitionally (more changes will come in time), to a small apartment. No, it's teeny-tiny. And like I said earlier, that's okay with me. I don't mind living a smaller life; in fact, I welcome it. If there's one thing I've come to know, it's that things really are just things. When I narrowed my possessions down to what I would take with me and what I would not, it came down to three things. Useful. Beautiful. Meaningful. And when this is narrowed down to what is most useful, beautiful, and meaningful, it enlightened me a bit to my values.

~I really do intensely dislike clutter in my space and would rather get rid of special things than live in a frustratingly crowded place.

~Not much matters as far as material possessions go. It really doesn't. But that doesn't mean I won't try to make my surroundings pleasant and cheerful. God surrounded us with beauty. That matters. Some of my stuff has seen its better days, for sure, but that's okay, and it wouldn't be beautiful to anyone else, but because it's charged with meaning and memories, there's a sweetness to it for me. When I talk about beauty, I'm not talking about magazine-home beauty. What's going with me is either well loved or useful.

~My books were the most difficult to narrow down. (I'm taking half cookbooks.) I realized that the books I wanted were the ones that spoke of the kind of inner life I love. The ones that are lovely to read. The ones that inspire me to simplicity. The ones about giving and sharing and showing hospitality (yes, even in a teeny-tiny world). The ones that challenge me not to be about myself, but to be about others. Without trying to, I narrowed the books down to what is extremely well-written-- things that are accepted as classics or are "classic" to my own life.

~Oh, you don't need to have the whole list, and, anyway, I don't have time to write it!~

I think the biggest challenge I'll get to meet is the kitchen stove. :-) It's like a dollhouse stove. I don't think a 9x13 inch pan can fit into the oven. The burners are all laughingly small. Will I be able to use two of them to heat my Dutch oven? :-) I love to cook, and I'd really like to have a great big, six-burner, restaurant style, gas stove, but I think I've got the smallest four burner electric stove that was ever made! People have cooked on a single electric burner on their counters before, though. Really, this is nothing to complain about. It's something to have fun adjusting to. And I mean that.

One of the blessings of middle age is that you've been through a lot of changes, a lot of ups and downs, maybe some crises, probably some loss. And what you learn, if you welcome the lesson, is that it all ends up not mattering. What matters-- really matters (and I'm not being spiritually trite here)-- is loving God and loving others.

Smooth transitions, changes, and adjustments all start with choice. With openness. With no demands. With letting go. There's a huge amount of freedom in this and a sense of adventure. Why not see each threshold or transition as an adventure? As exciting? Or at least as good. Can I stand on that threshold and feel the welcoming breeze, smell the fresh air, see the warm and compelling light? What's out there? I just need to step through to find out.

Like what is behind, what is ahead will not be perfectly ideal or always-sweet and giddy. Life is not like that. But if we believe that God is leading us along, what is there to fear? Why keep looking back? He says He has us hemmed us in behind and before. He says He lights our path. He says He will never leave us or forsake us. He says His plans for us are good.

I believe Him.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Stillness...

"Stillness in one individual can affect society beyond measure."

~Bede Griffiths (1906-1993)
(as read in Paula Huston's The Holy Way)

photo: amolife.com

Monday, May 18, 2009

Speaking of Having No Air Conditioner...

"The Siesta" by Paul Gaugin

"Only mad dogs and the British go out in the noonday sun."
~an Indian saying

This bit of commentary was motivated by my eating of really spicy food in the middle of this very warm day in the hottest room in the house, all of which adds up to a bit of light perspiration even when one is sitting still. And then I realized that the spicy food and the perspiration actually ended up cooling me off, and I began to think of other cultures who live in hot climates, and how they live (and often eat spicy foods), and why we all sweat, and why we didn't used to work in mid-day, and all sorts of things, including how our western "advances" just might not be...

Until modern times, people in very hot climates around the world lived without electric air conditioning units or systems (many or most still do). For the most part, there was no choice in the matter, but our modern, particularly western, and maybe more particularly, American, way of hot weather living is now mostly geared to and centered around air conditioning.

When it's hot, we wake in air-conditioned bedrooms. Most often, when we leave the house, we step directly into an air conditioned car. When we leave the car, we walk straight into air conditioned buildings, and when we return home, we do this in reverse. And if any of the air conditioners in this routine happen to go out, we are miserable. Why? Maybe because we are battling nature, and when our tactics (in this case our A/C's) fail, we lose.

Ever notice that 75 degrees in very early spring can feel almost too warm, but when temperatures start dropping back down toward 70 degrees in the fall, we're just about chilly enough to pull out the sweaters? I read once that it takes the body two weeks to totally adjust if it goes directly from cool to hot temperatures. For those two weeks, the hot temperatures will feel hotter than they will when we finally physiologically adapt. But if we follow nature, there's a thing called spring that usually eases us into hotter temperatures, and physiological changes happen more gradually, more comfortably, and more naturally.

When we move continually from air conditioned environment to air conditioned environment, though, how is our body supposed to adapt? Is it possible that we're not allowing nature to take its course, and so we never allow our bodies to make the adjustment that would ease the effects of heat? Are we maybe more miserable than we need to be in the heat because we've tried to outsmart it? Might this be poetic justice? (I'm kidding.)

The same need to allow time for the body to adjust is true when we encounter large changes in altitude, as high altitude mountain climbers know well. To disregard nature's timetable in making physiological adjustments, in their case, would mean death. It's wise, and healthy, to work with nature.

But we were talking about heat, weren't we?

Nowadays, people don't often think about planting trees to shade a window in summer and, conversely, to allow light in the winter. Why should they? We have air conditioners! Not many people consider the things that used to be done, guided by common sense, to keep their homes from getting unbearably hot in summer (and I think "unbearably" used to mean something different than it does nowadays). Without even thinking about it, we tend to count on our air conditioners, and I think this can sometimes be to our detriment.

I'm not saying I'm 100% opposed to air conditioning. There won't be an air conditioner in my apartment when I move, but here at our house, I have a little window air conditioner that I sometimes turn on when the temperature reaches the upper 90's or when company is here. In recent years, I've tried not to use it, but most people aren't accompanied to sweating it out, and I don't intend to train them, so I turn it on for company without making a to-do about it.

It feels nice to walk into an air conditioned place straight off a hot sidewalk, and there are good-- even life-saving-- reasons for certain people to keep their air conditioners running, so I'm certainly on no crusade against them!

Being A/C-dependent may be one way we moderns are losing touch with our natural rhythms. In some cultures, a siesta was set for mid-day when it was too hot to work. Cultures all over the world have established rest times during the hottest part of the day.

There's some interesting info on this here:

Siesta

People have traditionally rested according to the dictates of nature. Whether or not they would have chosen this if they had been able to foil nature is another thing (because we tend to like to override nature whenever we find a way), but the fact remains that they did indeed rest (and still do in many places), and it became an established part of those cultures.

My great-grandpa was a wheat farmer in high desert Oregon in the early 1900's, and, without fail, he rested-- laid himself down right on the floor of the living room-- every day after lunch. He spent the hottest part of the day indoors and worked the rest of the daylight hours. Even intuitively, this seems good, doesn't it?

Because we are busy, taking time to rest or relax is something many people now consider a nuisance, a hindrance, or even a luxury. As we get wealthier and technology advances, we find ways to vault past the gentle, body-wise guidance and limits of nature-- like heat (we use air conditioners) and darkness (we have bright electric lights) and even natural human energy (we load up on sugar and caffeine to keep our systems up and running when our natural energy tanks are empty). This is to our peril, I think.

Natural rhythms are good ones. There is darkness, and there is light. There is a time for waking, and there is a time for sleeping. There is a time for growing hungry, and there is a time for eating. There is a time to be busy, and there is a time to stop and relax. There is work to do, and then there is rest. There is heat, and there are natural ways to stay cool.

Taking some of these natural steps are good for the environment and will reduce our power bills, but because, as a culture, we've worked so hard to find ways to outsmart nature, we haven't needed to take things like heat into consideration as we build our homes, our daily lives, and our routines. Most of us would need to educate ourselves just a bit and make some simple adjustments to the way we think if we wanted to live more naturally in hot weather once again. If.

On that note, here are a few good tips for staying cool without an air conditioner for those who are interested and don't mind perspiring a bit from time to time. Perspiring is extremely good for our health, and yet we avoid it like crazy! I wonder why. Maybe so our hair and clothing won't get messed up. :-)

How to Cool Yourself Without Air Conditioning

(I have not watched the video in this link, so I do not know what that guy there is doing with all of that liquid or what that liquid is. I hope he's behaving!)

I have have to say that I've read here and there in writings about eco or sustainable building, that people are again considering the old ways of keeping cool. So, it's definitely being done.

My Final Daybook Entry...

I have no new pictures because my camera battery has run out and the charger has gone missing, so I'll take this from my files (this isn't my house) as a representation of the state of things here. The house is emptying quickly.

I hate to make a big pronouncement of the fact that this is the last week I'll be blogging (but it is, and, no, this is not yet my last post), as if I'm communicating something important because that feels really, really silly. So let's just move right along...

I'd like to fit in one more Monday Morning Daybook, so let's get down to it, and let's make it a long, rambly, stream of consciousness one:

Outside my window...

I enjoy the view out across the meadow as I sit at the computer drinking this morning's bold, black French-pressed coffee from my favorite round handmade-in-Poland mug. It's a bright, lovely morning. The rising sun shines lovely pink light on the western hills. Birds fly busily and cheerfully about, twittering and singing, as in a fairytale. The sky is vivid blue, and the morning air is crisp and refreshing, as always.

One last time. Here it is. My favorite mug. No scones this morning, though. :-)

It's supposed to be in the upper 80's here today for the second day in a row, but the nice thing about the high desert is that, even when days are very warm, temperatures drop considerably in the evening (is it because of our elevation? 4500 feet?). The thermometer had dipped into the upper 30's this morning-- a nice, cool way to start what will should become a very warm day. We don't have an air conditioner to cool us on hot afternoons, but I've long been of the persuasion that it's not necessary to feel perfectly comfortable every moment of one's life.

Around the house...

The big push begins. My goal is to have every single thing in the house, except for the daily essentials (like my coffee press), packed today. And I want everything to be in storage or on its way to our new home by this weekend. Then I'll come back here to have the sale that was necessarily postponed last weekend and do a bit of final cleaning up.

It's a busy mess around here, but somehow there are still spots of order, and even little corners that are pleasant and pretty.

Reading...

Paula Huston's The Holy Way. I've really benefited from this book. Some of Paula's insights have been timely and helpful. I've just discovered her blog, and I hope she'll be posting regularly.

That beautiful book by Tessa Kiros, Falling Cloudberries, though I must say I avoided it for two days when food, for maybe the first time in my life, repulsed me.

Jane Brocket's book, The Gentle Art of Domesticity, again, just because I am, you know, an incurable domestic. Jane is the kind of domestic who makes lovely things with her hands and admits to not caring much for cleaning (although her home is clearly very clean). I'm the kind of person who actually finds peace in the rhythms and order created by daily housework, and I even think of it as a holy task, but I'm with Jane when she says that a house should have the appearance of actually being lived in. Actually, I'm with Jane on just about everything. I think her book is great!

When I think about my domestic ways-- my inclination to tend to matters of house and home-- I realize it started when I was a young girl...

I was the type of young girl to want to make my bedroom happy and cosy. I loved playing house more than anything else, and when I was in third grade or so and got a cardboard corner cupboard for Christmas, I was in little girl domestic heaven! I placed the brand new transistor radio I also got for Christmas on one of the shelves and let carols serenade me as I quite happily puttered around cleaning my bedroom on Christmas morning.

I must admit, though, that "cleaning" my bedroom in those earliest years was often done in the fashion of piling all messes and clutter in the corner, covering it with a big blanket, and pulling it all into a tight ball, loose blanket ends tucked neatly underneath. (There! Doesn't that look nice?) In fact, I remember setting the corner cupboard up on one of these nicely covered piles of stuff-- they were actually sort of like miniature, indoor landfills! Apparently I didn't have much of a decorator's eye.

At any rate, while I was quite the domestic-minded little girl, I could tear around the neighborhood, on bike or on foot, with the best of the boys (and my sisters). We all loved playing sports, climbing trees, racing bikes, and building forts. (I suppose I was the most domestic tomboy ever.) When I was involved in fort-building, it was always with an eye toward making it a domestic haven. There would definitely be a kitchen, some place to sit, and a nice entryway. I would make sure there were wildflowers or greenery inside. And there would be a broom-- whether it was an old one Mom let us use or one we fashioned from a tree branch-- and I would happily and industriously sweep, sweep, sweep. When a fort has a dirt floor, there's never-ending sweeping material. Nary a pine needle or a leaf rested long on the floor of any fort I inhabited!

I can't say for certain that I keep my house as well as I kept my forts (I know I don't sweep that obsessively), but I was, still am, and will continue to be, I'm sure, an incurable domestic.

In the kitchen...

Not much, I'm afraid. First, I was too sick to eat. And on that note, let me interject a free tip here. When you've been too ill to eat for two days, do not start off again with a few bites of chocolate mousse, no matter how much you love chocolate and even if it's healthy avocado-based chocolate mousse. Not a good idea. By yesterday evening, though, the green lemonade tasted good. I think I'm on my way.

And suddenly, this morning, things like chocolate chip cookies sound good. Why? I haven't made them in ages, though I mentioned once before that I do believe I've made more chocolate chip cookies than any other person in the history of the world. I used to keep a continual supply of them in my home, and with my four kids, one hungry husband, and a constant stream of neighbor kids and visitors moving in and out of our home, the cookies didn't last long. Today, if I'm feeling well enough, I shall take a break and bake some cookies (and then I'll pack my baking sheets).

Thinking about...

How much different my life is going to be when I leave this country home for life right in the midst of the city (yes, that's right, and I'll say more about this later this week). Pretty much everything will be different. I'll be able to walk or use mass transportation almost every place I'll need to go, which I love. I'll have no yard (but I will have window boxes, and there are parks right at hand). And my living space is, oh, more than six times smaller than the space I have now (!).

Did I mention my life will be a lot different when I move? But I really don't mind. In fact, I look forward to the challenges and blessings of this as I attmept to continue living quietly and simply in a very busy, bustling place. I've wanted to live a smaller life. I've wanted to develop a life of less being more, and here's my chance! Here's an opportunity to grow and learn and find joy exactly where I am. I know it won't always be easy, but I believe it will all "work together for good." So, I really do embrace this change. Home is wherever you make it. Home is wherever God leads you. And I know that where we're going is where we're supposed to be for now.

So, as I pack, I'm decluttering more than I ever have, and I've done a lot of it. I'm packing some things away for storage, and I'm taking just enough with me when I move. I've measured every bit of wall space in our new apartment, and have calculated what things will fit inside without leaving me with a cluttered jumble of stuff. It's been sort of fun to think what I want to take the most (or what will fit), and narrow things down to what is useful or beautiful (right, Lucille?!). And most meaningful.

What new things will I need there? Do I have those things, or can I use something I already have in place of it?

Which brings me to another thing I may as well ramble on about. If I need to buy something, I try first to buy something used, usually from a thrift or antique shop. I actually prefer older things because they have often have more interest, history, character, and charm than what is new. Plus, they're usually constructed of better quality than a similar new item, at a fraction of the cost.

I've always been draw to the plain beauty of vintage things. (These are not mine, though I have some utensils like this. I got the photo from a favorite blog, Vintage Living.)

But I'm not buying whatever strikes my fancy at either the thrift shop or the antique shops since I'm trying to live with less, not more. (And, at the same time, I'm trying to live more with less!) So, instead, when I need something in particular, I'll pop in to Goodwill or the antique warehouse to see if they have what I'm looking for or at least something I can creatively use in place of it. I guess you could say that, instead of hobby-thrifting, I'm Intentional-Thrifting.

Doing...

In the midst of writing this, the boys woke up and wanted their "Mama," who had left just a short time before to take their dad to town. I took both boys to the couch and distracted them by pointing out birds and all of the pretty and interesting things we could see outside. I put their attention to looking and listening carefully so as not to miss anything. As always, it worked, and soon the bird-watching became so engaging that we were snuggled together, reading through the boys' favorite bird book. Roman decided that he is a Mountain Bluebird and Jayden is a White-Breasted Nuthatch. Jayden nodded enthusiastically in response and said, "I a nuthatch!" We watched the swallows move back and forth from their nest colony they built onto the side of our house to the surrounding countryside in search of food for their noisy babies. This faithful, relentless work by the adult birds to feed their babies amazes me. I'm thankful I'm not a bird. I'm too lazy. But maybe I should learn something...

Glad to be human, I lazily sipped my coffee and sat on the couch with the best two little boys in the world and enjoyed observing God's gift of nature that is around us. And finally, we got up and had ourselves some cereal.

We'll be leaving in town in a short time to stop by the bank, pick up the mail, and gather some more boxes for packing, so it's time to close this daybook.

Have an extra lovely day.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bedside Flowers...

When you are feeling too poorly to lift your head from the pillow, let alone get out of bed, it's very nice to have someone place a cheery pot of flowers on the table beside you. Then to lie there, hearing the quiet whispers of people moving through the house, doing the work that you should be doing-- packing and moving and organizing-- and occasionally coming in to see if you need anything.

And, on day two, feeling much better, but still unable to arise, lying in bed reading, while those nice people once again move through the house thoughtfully, quietly, and unobtrusively.

Lying still and quiet. Pretty flowers brightening the room. Morning sun falling gently in the wide open window. Sweet, cool, fresh air blowing lightly through the room. I can't think of a more pleasant way to feel poorly.

I'm moving around a bit this evening. And maybe someday I'll feel like eating again.

Thanks, Mom and Nancy, for everything. You'll never know what a help you were (in so many ways) while you were here.

Thank You Both, Kristen and Anonymous, for...

the mint chutney recipe! How really nice of you both to go to the trouble.

Kristen, I really enjoyed your comment. You live in Belgium. Oh, how fun! Thanks for letting me know you've been reading here. I'm so glad to know that. I smiled reading about your own morning quiet time with your coffee. And about cleaning that press... I don't know what to tell you except that I do it the Lazy Homemaker way, and most of the time, I leave the press intact and simply wash it the best I can with my soapy dishrag. Occasionally, I'll dismantle it and give it a good cleaning, but this is rarer than the Conscientious Homemaker would smile upon, I'm afraid. All the best to you, Kristen!

Monday, May 11, 2009

I Keep Turning Comments On and Off...

When I let you know awhile back I'd be ending my blog, I thought I'd just slide out quickly, so I turned off comments. Then I'd have a reason to allow them for one post, so I'd turn them back on. Then I'd turn them off again. It all seems a bit thoughtless. So sorry!

I was talking with someone this evening, and I mentioned that it feels rude to have a public blog and no way for anyone to contact me. No email. No comments. So I think it's best just to leave the comments open until I'm gone. I won't be changing this again. :-) Thanks for being patient with me!

And hello to you Dorothy and Laurel. It was nice to see your comments this morning even though you didn't have that recipe I was looking for. About the recipe, I decided to that there's a thing called "delayed gratification" that is good to practice. So, I'll just wait to have the fish with mint and apple chutney when I have my book back.

A Belated Mother's Day Post...

I wrote this yesterday morning, but then I didn't post it. I wasn't sure if I seemed to be pointing fingers or if it was critical in any way. That's not what I mean to do. So, I read it aloud to Michelle while she was doing something, and she said she didn't know what I was concerned about and that I should go ahead and post it. But maybe that's because she's my daughter, and she knows my spirit.

Anyway, here's what I wrote...

For Mother's Day, I was going to put up a photo of my mom and dad together (because that's the way they were for 54 years), and I thought I had a whole disc of photos to choose from, but when I inserted the disc, it had been mislabeled. There was a small amount of text on the disc and nothing else. Sad.

But I can still say how much I love and appreciate my mother. I can still say that she amazes me. I can still say that she is my hero. I've posted about Mom before, here and here and in other places, and I don't want to repeat myself, but I do want to honor her today. She deserves it.

Mom married young, when she was just two months past 18, and she had her first child right after turning 20. By the time she was 25, she had five children. Wow, huh? Mom and dad used to joke that they grew up with their kids, and I think we were pretty lucky it was that way. A lot of people say that waiting until you're older to have children is better because you're wiser, more stable, and more settled.

I happen to disagree that older is better, but I'm not really arguing for or against either youth or age in parenting. Maybe God means for both to happen. If there's a choice, maybe we should be having kids when we are young and continuing to have them til we are older. Children are a blessing, you know.

But I do think that sometimes (certainly not always) older parents with young children can be too calculated, too careful, too logical, too perfectionistic, too worried, too analytical about it all, and, as George MacDonald wrote long ago, "Analysis is well as death is well." This can be true in parenting. Really. We need to be attuned and prayerful and take our responsibility seriously, but we also need to be light and child-like and cheery and airy and loose. Good, consistent discipline and happy, orderly routines, combined with freedom and fun-- with Love in and through it all-- works well.

To be fair, I'll have to say that I think today's young parents can (but certainly don't automatically or always) have their own temptations. Never before has a generation been so incredibly media-saturated, so distracted, so busy, so seemingly disoriented and not knowing what to do about it (I say this based on real life experience with lots and lots of young mothers). I often (again, certainly not always) see a restlessness, a distractedness, a lack of order, ennui. And I can see how it affects parenting. I see frustrated and exasperated moms who don't realize that they might be doing this to themselves by being reactive and inconsistent in their parenting, maybe because they're too distracted or busy to be proactive and consistent.

My mom didn't know the first thing about raising kids, either, but I look back at how God gave her amazing wisdom. Today, we have a gazillion books, classes, videos, and parenting aids. Mom didn't, and I think many parents today don't "get it" nearly as well as my mother did. Of course, she was imperfect and had her own frustrated moments, but a lot of love, warmth, humor, affection, playfulness, happy spirit, apologies, and God's grace more than amply made up for it.

Young or old, it comes down to all of us needing to take a long, hard, prayerful look at ourselves to see where we we need to tighten ship. I guarantee there's something for all of us.

I smile sometimes when I hear a bunch of older moms clucking about how girls nowadays don't know how to keep a home. Well, it's certainly a good thing if a girl does know how to cook and clean, sew and garden, make and do. Her life will be smoother and easier and better for it for sure, but it's also not the end of the world if she can't. She'll learn. And we moms who have older or grown children sometimes need to lighten up and laugh and encourage rather than shake our heads and feel pleased that we raised our girls to keep a home. (As a mom of grown children, I shake my head at all of my mistakes and all that I'm still learning. Yikes.)

When Mom was first married, she didn't even know what to do with a can of corn. If she bought meat, she'd ask the butcher what to do with it. Apparently, grocery store employees taught her to cook! And she was quite able to read and learn. Her Betty Crocker cookbook was well-used, I think. In the end, it didn't matter. Not a bit. Mom must have learned fast. My memory is of eating good food and of warm times in the kitchen. Food cooked with love and a happy spirit just tastes good to a child.

And Mom depended on God and His grace. I caught her many times on her knees early in the morning, praying, because she knew that was the thing that mattered most. In parenting, maybe ignorance really is bliss, as long as we take the posture taken by the people of Israel long ago when they prayed, "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on You." That was Mom's posture. Her weakness was her greatest strength.

Because, when it comes down to it, all of our ideas and philosophies and knowledge and capabilities and self-assuredness about raising kids aren't going to make us successful parents. It comes down to the grace of God in our children's lives every single time.

Thanks, Mom, for all you did teach us kids, pointedly and by your example, in our home-life and on your knees. The best lessons of all were learning that the key to everything is knowing where our true Strength and Wisdom lie. Your loving ways toward us are what made us want to find our Strength and Wisdom there, too.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Do You Have This Recipe? (Help! Comments Open For This One)...

Today I had the great idea to fry some white fish and top it with Padma Lakshmi's Green Apple Mint Chutney. I love this! And the more I got to thinking about the chutney, the more I started craving it. It's raw and absolutely delicious.

So, I went to my cookbook shelf to look up the recipe in Padma's book, Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet, and I suddenly remembered that the book is still at my mom's house with the things I still haven't brought home from my stay there.

So, I came online and did a search for the recipe. There were lots of references to it (seems a lot of people like it), but no recipe. Drat!

So, we went to town, and I stopped by Borders to see if the book was there. Nope.

Then I went to the library. The library has the book, but it's checked out. Overdue, in fact.

My girls don't have the recipe, and my mom is out of town, so she can't look it up in my book for me.

Now what?

Well, I honestly don't know if anyone but my kids is looking at my blog anymore, but just in case someone is reading, and on the off-chance that one of these someone's has Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet (I hope, I hope), could you please leave the recipe in comments for me? I would be so glad if I could pick up the ingredients when I'm in town tomorrow and have the fish tomorrow evening.

Thanks. :-)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Busy, But Relaxed, Progress...

Scraps left on the table from a small sewing project because, yes, we do take breaks from all of the work we've been doing to get ourselves...

...moved out of here!

We've gotten a lot more work done than it appears in the reflection in this mirror. The bookshelves behind the boxes now contain garage sale items. The things on the hutch in the background are waiting to be packed or put onto the sale shelves. Most stuff is packed, though.

There have been some nice things going on. A lot of simple (and big!) nice things, like...

~It's a girl! Yippee! Michelle's third child, after two sweet boys, is going to be a girl. Michelle had her 20-week ultrasound yesterday, and we were all elated at the news (though we would have been thrilled with a boy, too).

~A thoughtful neighbor who really surprised me by coming to mow the entire (big) yard. He was driving that riding lawn mower around my yard for almost two hours. Wow.

~A daughter who is sooo helpful with packing and sorting (and so much fun to have around)-- thanks, Michelle. (Boy you did a lot today!) Love you.

~Grown kids who call home just to chat with their mom and are so pleasant and interesting to talk to. See you guys soon-- can't wait!

~A mother and a sister who call to say they're coming to help me next week.

~Eating our family's traditional Saturday morning scones with Michelle and the boys this morning.

~Sitting by Michelle in the pleasant (not hot) sun on the back deck this morning while the boys played and got very, very dirty (as boys do and should).

~Raw "pumpkin" soup with no pumpkin in it (from Natalia Rose's book, Detox4Women). Suprisingly yummy. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the abundance of good food we have available to us.

~Little boys who can just sit and think. Or sit and read. Or spend hours a day imagining and playing without needing to be entertained.

Healthy, Tasty (Another Food Post)...

Vegetable pizza for Michelle and me tonight.
This one's ready to slide into the oven.

We spread a large sprouted grain tortilla with just the tiniest bit of basil-tomato pesto and topped it with a big mound of whatever raw vegetables we were able to round up: a bed of chopped spinach leaves; a mix of red and green bell pepper, yellow onion, and sliced mushrooms; some marinated artichoke hearts and sliced grape tomatoes; a sprinkling of slivered basil leaves and some sea salt. There are lots of vegetables on this pizza, but no cheese. Nope, none at all, and we like it that way. We popped the pizza into a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes until the tortilla was nice and crisp and brown. Yum. We liked it so well that we made a second one and enjoyed it as much as we did the first.

Friday, May 8, 2009

One of Our Favorite Dinners...

Here's a picture of Melissa's chicken-rice bowl from an al fresco meal we ate last summer. We love this. I added mango to the rice bowls last night, and I thought it notched up the tastiness of this dish nicely.

I've posted about these chicken-rice bowls before, but I didn't share a recipe. Well, we ate it again last night for the first time in quite a while, and it tasted just heavenly. I will, once again, make a point of having it on the menu regularly.

This meal is easy to prepare, and much of it can be done ahead of time and pulled together quickly at the last minute.

Let's say this serves 3 to 4.

Cut up (into bite-sized pieces) 2 to 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (depending on how much chicken you want). Marinate it in the following for at least 1/2 an hour in the refrigerator (leave it marinating in the fridge for hours if you want-- you'll cook it right before serving dinner):

1/2 c. shoyu or tamari
4 T. sesame oil (toasted)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T. tahini
4 T. maple syrup or rapadura
3-5 green onions, chopped


(I actually wing it most of the time with the marinade, adding and changing at my whim, but the recipe above works great. Sometimes I add a little bit of brown rice vinegar and mirin.)

Cook 1 1/2 c. short grain brown rice in water according to directions on the package (basically, it will be 1 1/2 c. rice in 3 cups water for 50 minutes). If the rice isn't done in 50 minutes, just cook longer. If the water dries before the rice is done, gently pour in some more water to cover the bottom of the pan. If the rice is done before the water is gone, drain the rice in a sieve, return to pan, replace lid and let sit for a bit before fluffing and continuing.

When the rice is cooked, remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Then fluff and stir in the following (the rice and nori part of this dish is from a recipe in Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson):

1/2 orange, zest and juice
1/4 lemon, zest and juice
1 T. rapadura
1 T. shoyu (or tamari)
1 T. brown rice vinegar


If you do this ahead of time, refrigerate the rice, and warm it before using. Just before serving, stir 2 sheets toasted Nori, crushed, into the rice. The Nori adds a delicious taste to this dish, so I wouldn't think of leaving it out!

When you're ready to eat:

Cook the chicken (which takes merely 2 or 3 minutes). Heat a wok to fairly high heat, and spoon in a bit of coconut oil/butter to coat the wok nicely. While the wok heats (or before, if you're slow!), cut an avacado or two and a nice, ripe mango into chunks or slices. Chop some green onions, and have some toasted sesame seeds on hand, if you want to use them.

I cook the chicken in stages, and I serve these chicken-rice bowls one by one as they are ready to go. Plop a big spoonful of chicken into the wok (drain off the marinade by either picking up the chicken with a slotted spoon or by tipping a regular spoon to let the marinade run off), and spread the chicken in a single layer across the pan. The chicken shouldn't be crowded. Let it brown (it will happen quickly) and then began stirring it until it's brown all over and cooked through (don't overcook-- it happens fast-- but let it get nice and brown). When the chicken is done, you can cook some of the marinade for sauce, if you'd like, but it doesn't require it to taste delicious.

Put a serving of rice in a bowl. Layer chicken on top of this, then avacado and mango chunks or slices. Top with a bit of green onion and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds, if you like.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Afternoon Coffee Time...

Afternoon coffee time. 3 p.m.

Make sure it's really a break, and wait until the appointed time. It all tastes better and is more pleasant this way.

Essential-- hot coffee; cookies or just a tiny bit of leftover dessert or dark chocolate; a book or two for browsing.

Not essential, but nice-- company.

See the cookies on the plate above? I made these up (if you can call it that) one day two or three years ago when I felt like having a treat but I didn't want to bake. I had a box of Carr's whole wheat crackers (which are more like cookies than crackers) and a bar of Green & Black's 70% dark chocolate. I melted the chocolate in my makeshift double boiler, which is a pyrex bowl set over a pan of boiling water, and then I spooned the melted chocolate on top of the crackers, gently smearing it with the back of the spoon to spread it around. I put the cookies in the freezer just long enough to let the chocolate harden (otherwise, it's really messy!), and then I put the cookies in a jar. These are addictive.

Impressive...

That's one bag of trash for an entire year. I'm inspired and challenged.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Portland's Best Coffee Company Moves to New York (Alert for Laura!)...

A photo from a long-ago post. Stumptown coffee. Normally, there's a colorful card in that slit on the bag, telling what type of beans it contains. I probably pulled out the card and used it for a bookmark...

I just read today that the owner of my absolute favorite coffee roasting company-- Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland-- is moving (or has?) to New York and is opening up for business there. I had a moment of panic when I saw this. I was pretty sure that the company would stay open in Portland because they are so highly popular and successful there (and the company's roots are there), but are things going to change? Will Stumptown go the way of Starbucks (apparently, too much growth, resulting in quality that is stretched thin and watered down to the point of who even wants to go there)?

Stumptown Roasters have have kept a good rein on their business. You can't find these beans just anywhere (but you can order them online at stumptowncoffee.com), and it's always a draw when I see a shop or business that proudly displays a sign saying they serve Stumptown Roasters coffee. Those shops have always been in Portland or in close reach of Portland. But now Stumptown will be in New York, too. I suppose this is natural and inevitable since the owner has moved there-- of course he'd want to open up for business in New York, too! But I hope that, somehow, Portland's great coffee company will not change, while, at the same time, I hope it will be appreciated and highly successful in New York, as it has been here in the northwest.

This is the coffee that I featured in my blog sidebar for ages under the heading "Daily Grind"-- Stumptown Sumatra (they roast more than one type of Sumatra beans). I happen to be typing this as I drink a nice, hot mug of Stumptown Roasters "Sumatra Gayo Mountain" coffee. I ground the beans and brewed the coffee in my French press, as always. This coffee is good stuff.

A barista in a Eugene coffee shop that I frequent (only because they sell Stumptown coffee beans) told me that she didn't even drink coffee before working there, and she had every intention of making great coffee drinks without ever consuming them herself. She sighed and said that this coffee just smelled too darn good and that eventually she learned that it tastes as good as it smells. She justified her lack of resolve by saying that Stumptown is all about nuance, like fine wine, and how can a person resist that?! :-) Indeed.

Stumptown Coffee Owner Moves to New York

Specialty Coffee Roasters Brew in New York - NYTimes

I know. I'm raving.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Five Nice Bits of Randomness...

The lovely Tessa Kiros, as pictured on the back cover of Falling Cloudberries.

#1-- I mentioned Tessa Kiros in a recent post (about cookbooks). I love Tessa. She is at the top of my list when it comes to cookbook authors (along with Viana LaPlace, Nigel Slater, and Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid; I'm talking about readable and inspiring authors, as well as stellar cooks). Tessa truly inspires and motivates me with her style and manner and the culture she creates within the pages of her books. And her food is amazing and beautiful. And now something wonderful has happened! Tessa's absolutely gorgeous book,
Falling Cloudberries, is back in print. This is my current favorite cookbook. I discovered Gourmet magazine's "cookbook club" yesterday, and, what do you know, Falling Cloudberries is their cookbook of the month for May. (I think I've managed to include enough superlatives in this paragraph to adequately get my feelings across!) :-)

#2-- Awhile back I made a list of non-toxic products I like and use. Something new I've been trying/testing for a month now is an Aveda line of hair "bodifying" products. I use things for a long while before giving it a thumbs up or thumbs down because, often, after using a non-toxic product for awhile, it's starts building up on my hair and making it really dull. I'm happy to say that the Aveda products haven't done this. And, as they will eagerly tell you in their salons, all of their products are "at least 96% pure." I told my daughter that, for all we know, the other 4% is radioactive waste, but 96% pure sounds good! Aveda does have a good reputation with "green" advocates, like Renee Loux, for one. Here are the products I like:

Aveda Pure Abundance Volumizing Shampoo
Aveda Pure Abundance Volumizing Clay Conditioner
Aveda Volumizing Tonic with Aloe
Aveda Pure Abundance Volumizing Hairspray (the first non-aerosol that has good hold but hasn't made my hair look like oily concrete)

#3-- I thoroughly enjoyed my salad tonight. It was a thrown-together affair that I made up in steps as I got going. The salad looked sort of messy, but I really liked it. I smashed half an avacado and squirted the juice of about a third to half of a lemon on it. Then I plopped on a little bit of stoneground dijon-style mustard, added a few drops of liquid stevia (agave would work), and stirred. I gently smooshed this around on some chopped romaine until the lettuce was well-coated. That alone was good, but then I added some nicely ripened mango chunks to it. Yum. Very thinly sliced pieces of red bell pepper and some chopped cilantro would have added nice color, but the salad wasn't going to win a beauty contest anyway. It sure hit the spot, though.

#4-- I'm really proud of myself for getting all of my boxes of journals and papers and writings sorted and packed away in good time. You have no idea what a feat this was for me, and I am quite proud of myself. Usually when I even crack open one of these boxes, I'm doomed to stand in front of it, reading and remembering for hours. I did, though, enjoy quickly perusing a few of my journals from three or four years ago-- the one I kept on our Yosemite camping and hiking trip; the one I kept when I gave up the computer for Lent (that was an eye-opening experience); some of my eating journals; lists of books I've read; and more. As I read, it struck me that my life has changed in some ways since I started blogging-- there are both pros and cons to this-- and it will be good for me to be routinely away from the computer again for awhile. I hope to learn much this time around, too.

#5-- One nice thing I found in my pile of papers was what appeared to be something I printed from a blog in November 2007. It is simply a pretty photo of a vase of flowers with a quote below it (the flowers pictured below are my own):


"The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest."

~Thomas Moore, 19th century poet

If that quote with the photo is from your blog, thank you for sharing it. Those words are more profoundly true than many people imagine or want to believe. And I'm glad to end this post on that lovely note.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Chapel Time" (Making Progress)...

Pretty much all of the sorting and packing for our move is finished in the kitchen, living room, and dining room. Most of the stuff I'll take with me is coming from these three rooms, so even though I've got a lot of house yet to sort and pack, I feel like I've conquered the biggest part of the job. In these rooms, I've got empty drawers and cupboards everywhere (and a lot of stacked boxes) except for a few things I'm still using and will pack to take with me when I leave.

Furniture that is going with me (like this pictured antique pine sideboard/dresser from England) is shoved up against the walls at one end of the living room. The lamp made the cut. This Hummel clock-- it's called "Chapel Time"-- has been wrapped and placed inside a box a few different times, but for some reason I keep pulling it back out. So, here it sits in this spot on the sideboard-- telling the wrong time because the battery has been removed-- while I consider for a bit longer what to do with it.

We lived in England in the mid-1980's, and it was during that time that this limited edition Hummel clock showed up in the shops. I hadn't collected any Hummel figures during my time in England (I know. Hummels are German, but they were in so many of the shops in our area of the UK), but I was continually drawn back to this one. All Hummels are sweet, but the clock struck me extra well for some reason (I still can't really explain it). I thought I'd like to have the clock, but I put it out of my mind because being drawn to something is no reason to go ahead and buy it.

A few days before we left England to come back to the United States, Mike, big bag in hand, walked through the door of the furnished flat we were temporarily renting. He smiled and handed the bag to me, and when I looked inside, there was the Hummel clock. I was touched by Mike's thoughtfulness, and I've loved the clock ever since.

Bringing "Chapel Time" back to America was a bit of a challenge because our household items had already been packed and moved home. I had to hand-carry the clock, and this wasn't particularly easy to do on traveling day because I had four very young children (ages 6 weeks, 1 year, 3 years, and 4 years) to mind, as well as my luggage and theirs and my carry-on items and theirs (diapers, snacks, dolls, toys, books, surprises, distractions) and my purse. This wiggly mound of people and stuff moved around from place to place as one for hours and hours and hours.

It started when we rose early in our London hotel, bright and chattery and eager to get back to friends and family in America, where we hadn't been for over three years. It proceeded by herding children and lugging baggage down five flights of stairs (no elevator in the old hotel) and down the street to the underground (and managing to get people and paraphernalia aboard the train in the morning work rush), making our way to Heathrow airport, waiting in a little airport cafe for our flight, being suddenly hurried outside by airport officials because of a bomb threat (we stood in one spot in the chilly air for what seemed like hours), finally boarding our plane, keeping everyone busy and content and in one place on the plane for more than nine hours, disembarking in Seattle (with all of the little ones and our stuff intact), making the long trek to customs (at least it seemed long) while I continued holding a baby and hauling bags (luggage had no wheels in those days) and keeping three little ones beside me. Whew.

Thankfully, the kids were very good kids, but they were tired, and I was dragging a lot of stuff with me. By the time we moved through customs in Seattle (a nice man took mercy on us and eventually moved us to the front of a very long line), my brain was numb (think zombie) and my arms were aching.

But our entourage arrived in good, mostly cheerful, jet-lagged form, thanks to what had to have been a wonderful army of helping angels and the very grace of God.

This little Hummel clock went through it with me that day. And I think I've just decided. I'm taking the Hummel clock with me.

(And, so, another spontaneous post has been written when I should have been packing instead...)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Thrift Shop Blue...

Here's some of my Goodwill Blue.

Over the past couple of years, without completely realizing how much I've been drawn to it or how much I have collected, my thrift store shopping has resulted in a bunch of kitchen things that lean toward a particular shade of vintage blue. Even when I picked up my fabrics a while back to make new couch pillows, one of the colors I purchased and planned to make predominant in the pillows was this shade of blue. I guess I like the color, at least in touches here and there.

And then I find out that others like it, too.

Apartment Therapy San Francisco More Interiors with Robin's Egg Blue

When All is Said and Done...

Make a life.
Know who you really are.
Do what you love.
And don't copy others.
You are not them.
God made you you.

He has given you gifts, desires, talents, and inclinations.
Pursue them with gratitude and great joy.
They are God's gift to you.
Make them your gift to Him.
Even if no one understands.

If no one is impressed.
He is honored and pleased.

Enjoy stillness and quiet.
Appreciate His created beauty.
There is loveliness all around.
Choose to see it, hear it, feel it, smell it, taste it.
Open your eyes to wonder.
Then create.
Make your own kind of beauty.

Smile, inside and out.
Laugh heartily and often.
It's contagious and brings good health.
Choose to enjoy each day.
It is a gift.
And enjoy others.
They are a gift, too.

And take yourself lightly.
Rather, think much of others.
Be attentive.
Be magnanimous.
Share your life.
Give your life.
"Be the change you want to see..."

Sometimes life really is hard.
But "count it all joy."
Because we have hope.
And we have purpose.
And we have Strength.
And, anyway, we're just passing through.
We might as well do it joyfully.

Let go of expectations.
Hold things lightly in an open hand.
Let them flutter freely away.
It simply means there's one less thing.
And a little bit more freedom.
Let go and find peace.

Because, when all is said and done,
Only three things remain.
Faith.
Hope.
Love.
And the greatest of these is Love.

And when we have that, we have Everything.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I'm Turning Off Comments for Good Now...

Thank you all for sharing with me and for being so kind. I've followed your links and have enjoyed your blogs and am glad to have had a chance to "meet" you. I'll have more to say before I leave, and I'll let you know when I put up that final post.

Blessings to you all,
Susan

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Perusing Cookbooks Like Laura...

Oh, look, here's a photo of some of my cookbooks. I thought I had one in my files of all of my cookbooks, but I don't want to take the time to search for it (lazy!). And there are some of our Saturday scones and my French press and sunflowers from the market and the cake stand that I was tempted to give to Aimee-not-my-daughter.

Here I am posting when I should be packing, but, on the other hand, one needs to take breaks, and since Laura brought up the topic of cookbooks on her blog today, I couldn't resist doing this. Go on over and tell Laura what cookbooks you're enjoying.

Some of my favorite cookbooks are still at my mom's house, but the following are the ones I'm currently reading, perusing, and using. I say "currently" because the cookbooks I have in my reading stacks are constantly changing.

I mostly buy and use cookbooks that are prosey, educational, and kitchen-philosophical (I've said this all before). I don't have many books that are simply collections of recipes. There are some good ones out there for sure, but I want to spend most of my cookbook reading time really learning about food and cooking from the great chefs and cooks who write these books.

Laura mentioned in an email to me that, of the 1/8 of my books I'm packing to take with me, she's guessing there are a good number of cookbooks. Well, Laura, you are absolutely right! Exactly half of the books I'm taking with me are cookbooks. These are my comfort books. I love to read them, browse them, glean ideas from them, and find inspiration in their pages. I make up most of the things I cook, but the cookbooks help me pull my ideas together. And sometimes I follow recipes verbatim. That, too, though, is a way of learning to cook food your own way. It's like doing copywork to learn to write!

Here's my list of the cookbooks I'm currently enjoying. As always, I have made this much longer and more complicated than it needs to be, but that makes this a whole lot more fun. Sorry I'm not adding links to the books (lazy again!), and sorry I use the word "love" so much in this post, but I can't help myself:

1. The Unplugged Kitchen and Verdura by Viana LaPlace. There's no need to make things complex with you're working with outstanding ingredients. When you have that, you're almost home. Simple, fresh, hands-on, and to the point-- my kind of kitchen philosophy!

2. Any Deborah Madison book. Judging by the five cookbooks I own by Deborah Madison, you might say I like her food. Yep. In fact, in the oven for dinner right now is her Olive Oil Bread (foccacia) from her Greens cookbook.

3. Lindsey Shere desserts. I haven't been cooking from this lately, but I read it a lot, and I will make something from it before too long. Everything I've cooked from this book has been excellent. Lindsey Shere is my kind of pastry chef.

4. Nigel Slater, always. The Kitchen Diaries and Real Fast Food. That's just a start. I guarantee I will buy more of his books in the future. I love his writing, and I love his simple food.

5. Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I have four of their books (not including the latest one on China), and I love them. Love them. They're right at the top of my list of favorite cookbooks. I read them, look at them, and cook from them often. The photography is gorgeous, the stories are interesting, the cooking instructions and information is excellent, and the food is delicious (if you like various world cuisines).

6. Rick Bayless. Mexican Everyday, in particular. Bayless won the James Beard award for Best Chef in America last year (I'm pretty sure I've got that right... should check on it... nah!), and in this book, he shows his skill. Einstein's book on relativity is really, really short because he is a master of the subject. Likewise, the recipes in this cookbook are easy and to the point, and they're also really tasty. I guess I'm saying I think Rick Bayless is something of a master at what he does, and I'm sure he'd consider that high praise coming from an ordinary housewife in very rural Oregon!

7. Claudia Roden. Lately, I'm once again perusing Arabesque. I love the look of this book, it reads wonderfully, and the food is good, too!

8. Alice Waters. The Art of Simple Food. At first I thought of this as simply another good book on the basics of cooking, but the longer I have it around, the more useful I find it, especially as a resource and general guide. The simplicity of this book can be deceptive. It's really quite good.

9. How to Eat Supper. I've been packing this book around with me, reading through it again, and enjoying it just as much the second time through as the first. For dessert tonight, we'll be having the rustic jam tart from this book. I topped the almond shortbread crust with Bonne Maman cherry preserves, and-- yum!-- this super-easy-to-make tart is really good (Michelle and I were compelled to test it this afternoon).

10. Shall I say Tessa Kiros and her Apples for Jam or Donna Hay's The Instant Cook or Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques? All are good books that I've been perusing, but I'll go with Kiros because her book always makes me smile and want to bake a chocolate cake and decorate it and celebrate whatever is happening, or not happening, today. I've cooked very few recipes from this book, but I like reading it. Tessa has some nice essays and stories woven throughout her recipes.

By the way, yes, I'm still posting. I'm going through a little flurry of it right now, aren't I? But it will come in spurts because I won't be here all the time, and, yes, the computer will be packed away soon, and I'm still going to close the blog. :-)

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Evening Book...



"When evening arrives-- no matter what happened during the day, whatever "sturm und drang" occurred, whatever challenges were unmet, whatever disappointments and regrets-- people have a universal desire to find a serene place where they can put all the parts of the day together in some tranquil way. Given the spirit of forgiveness of the prior hour, at Vespers we are free to let go of the day and to luxuriate in the quiet beauty of the evening. The serenity of Vespers, wherein we gather together all the day's contradictions, is truly healing, since healing essentially involves a knitting together of what is apart, what is broken."

~David Steindl-Rast in The Music of Silence

Outside...

A cold wind blows hard, bringing in clouds and making dramatic the sky that was clear earlier today. A mix of rain and snow is expected tomorrow, so we're having our typical, temperamental, high desert spring mix of weather. I wouldn't say it's as bad as the author of Letters of a Homesteader Woman put it about her Wyoming climate: "We have three seasons here. July, August, and Winter." It does seem that way around here sometimes, but I love our unpredictable weather.

Everything is turning green outdoors. Perennials and herbs are growing more quickly every day. There are now some harvestable herbs in my humble little fenced garden area-- tarragon, marjoram, lemon thyme, and oregano (and maybe something else), and I need to remember that they're ready to use!

Inside...

I continue to build a fire in the wood stove most mornings because even on really warm days, our nights and mornings are cold and frosty. It was down almost to ten degrees yesterday morning, and it was somewhere around 20 degrees today when I awoke. And, once the fire is rumbling and crackling, I stand beside it with my mug of black coffee and a little stack of books. Once the warmth of the stove moves further out into the room, I sit on the chair or at the table for a bit of quiet time.

Boxes are everywhere, and it seems I've hardly made a dent in the packing. Today I was hit by a renewed wave of desire to get ruthless about getting rid of things. Who wants to pack and store or haul them? Things can be so encumbering, and since I tend to eagerly shake off whatever becomes entangling and burdensome, I'll take advantage of this current mood.

The hardest thing, by far, to pack has been my books. 7/8 of them are going into storage for a good year, and it gives me great pain to tape shut the lids on the book boxes. The rest of the stuff has been easy.

This evening, another fire has been built, and light is playing on the dining room furniture as the lowering sun shines through the wind-blown trees. It's quiet in the house as I'm here alone.

In the Kitchen...

Which happens to be inside (like everything in the description above) but deserves its own special category... I'm always happy when I'm working in the kitchen. When I settle in and embrace the rhythm and importance of the work and enjoy the process, it's satisfying, nurturing, therapeutic, and enjoyable on many levels. We've been having simple things to eat. I'm attempting to eat frugally without sacrificing nutrition and yummy food. I made whole-grain blueberry pancakes for everyone for breakfast this morning. Later when I was feeling really "snacky", there was an extra avocado sitting around, so I made my good old avocado-based chocolate mousse to share with Michelle.

For dinner, I was here alone, so I had a salad I put together from whatever was leftover in the fridge and available in the cupboard (pickings are currently thin). I mixed a vinaigrette consisting of lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, and a squirt of agave. I tossed chopped romaine leaves with a bit of the vinaigrette, then I mixed some cannellini beans with minced red onion and chopped tomato and tossed that with some of the vinaigrette, too (if I'd have thought about it, I would have added some chopped fresh herbs from my garden). I spooned some of the bean mix onto the greens. The salad was fresh-tasting and enjoyable, and it looked bright and pretty in my clear Pyrex mixing bowl. I sat at the counter by myself, eating slowly and perusing a cookbook.

Pretty much everything in the kitchen is packed for storage except for what is going with us when we move. We'll be living small in our new place, and I'm determined not to have clutter around me, so I'm making a point of keeping things as simple as I can. And I'm really liking this!

Reading...

Oh, I'm not reading anything that is overly demanding of my intellect because my mind is currently being pulled and stretched in a few different directions, but I'm reading (in some cases, re-reading) plenty that is thought-provoking and worthy. The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford. Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn. A few Deborah Madison cookbooks (I've always loved her good, simple food). Detox4Women by Natalia Rose.

Thinking...

I'm not even going to scratch the surface of this! I'm thinking about many things-- Simplicity. Service. Different ways of giving. Frugality. Community. Church. Growing and learning and developing. Family. God's goodness and provision. Making do. Recycling and "repurposing." Different types of hospitality. Caring. Frugal creativity and beauty. I guess I'm thinking about what it means to live responsibly as a Christian today. You know how it is. When hands are busy with routine and rhythmic manual work, like packing boxes, the mind is free to wander and contemplate.

Currently and until bedtime...

Just a few minutes ago, I stepped outside for a bit and was met with a bracing wind. I'll exchange my flip-flops for socks and warmer shoes, bundle up in a winter coat and gloves, and go back outdoors to stack firewood on the deck, to put the outside dog into her kennel for the night, and to bring in some things that were left on the deck this afternoon when Michelle, the boys, and I were sat out there together (it was warmer then).

Then I'll move around the house to do some tidying, drink some green lemonade, and sit down for some quiet reading time. I'll think over my day and count my many blessings and thank the Lord for them. Likely, I'll talk to at least one of my kids on the phone-- a welcome evening pleasure.

(I keep forgetting to turn off comments. Maybe I'll just leave them alone for a while longer.)