30 March 2012

Weekend linkage

Last weekend we attended a wedding where I knew a lot of people (fellow Hillsdaleans), but most of them had never met my husband. I introduced him.

Friend: So Jared, what do you do?
Me: He keeps me sane.
Jared: Yeah, it's a full-time position.

Oh well. At least he has job security.


Me: I figured out why women get emotional more quickly than men. Our thoughts are tangled up in one another, so when you pull on one, all the others come tumbling along with it.
Jared: Yes, that seems to be the case . . .
Me: For example, you and I start discussing Topic A, but immediately Associated Implications B + C + D crowd into my head, and in all likelihood there's some strong emotion attached to one of those, and soon I'm freaking out in the middle of a sentence, and meanwhile you're still back on Topic A and can't figure out what the big deal is.
Jared: That is also the case.
Me: It's because women don't separate their thoughts into units, and men do.
Jared: So your thoughts are like a plate of spaghetti!
Me: Yes, and yours are like waffles.
Jared: Ha ha. That's good, babe.
Me: Um . . . you realize that's not an original comparison?
Jared: Seriously?
Me: Yeah. There's like a whole book about it.
Jared: Somebody stole my idea before I even had it!!


An article to go along with my earlier posts on appearance: "Of course, we can read over-the-top hyperbole on the covers of Vogue or Cosmo and reason that they're absurd. We can look at images like Blanchett's on Harper's Bazaar and know, rationally, that this isn't the real world. But it isn't reason that these magazines are after."

A pretty spiffy organization, putting together short films and photo collages to explain the language of sustainable food. ("Grass Fed" below.)
Did you know that green onions will regrow their tops? I didn't until two weeks ago when I ran across this post. It works! I'm happily snipping green onions on everything from lentil soup to taco salad. Make sure you change the water every couple of days.

A sweet and tearful wedding (the groom was terminally ill yet they chose to go through with the marriage).

Just made these. So good. I used half almond butter, half peanut butter-- and added 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. (Oh, and you really do need to let them cool a few minutes on the baking sheet before moving.)

This, I have not yet made, but oh boy do I want to. Now where to find bufala?

Aw. Cute paper clips at Ruche! The pigs are my favorite.

Dyeing eggs with cabbage and turmeric: definitely on the docket for next week.

Oh My God by Jars of Clay on Grooveshark

29 March 2012

another stirfry

{image credit: nextography}
Sorry, that's a really boring title for a really good stirfry!

No marinading involved here. Made with chicken and fresh vegetables, flavored with a genius combination of relatively simple ingredients, it's easy to toss together at the last minute . . . and by "last minute" I mean "in about twenty minutes." You know the drill.

As my husband would say, this sauce is off the hizz. He thinks he's so street. (But yes, the sauce truly is superb.)

A nice variation on this is to replace half of the lime juice with rice wine vinegar, and then add the zest of one lime. 


Peanut, Lime, and Ginger Stirfry
(original from Life As A Plate)

1/4 cup lime juice
3 tablespoons natural peanut butter*
3 tablespoons mild honey
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon tamari
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil, divided
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts**
fresh vegetables, washed and chopped***

1) Whisk together lime juice, peanut butter, honey, ginger, tamari, and garlic.
2) Melt 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil in large skillet over medium-high. Sear both sides of each chicken breast in coconut oil, just so that outside is lightly browned. Watch out for splattering oil.
3) Remove breasts from skillet and slice thinly across the grain. Melt another tablespoon of coconut oil and return strips to skillet, tossing with tongs or spatula until cooked through. Set chicken aside in large bowl.
4) Melt remaining tablespoon of coconut oil in skillet if needed. Add vegetables; toss and cook until crisp-tender.
5) Return cooked chicken to skillet, and stir in sauce to coat meat and vegetables. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed (I just added a bit more salt). Serve immediately.


*Almond or sunflower seed butter are also good.
**I wish I had a kitchen scale so I could measure this kind of thing for you . . . I can say that each breast was about as big as my hand, but unless you've been inspecting my hands lately, that wouldn't be very helpful either . . . oh well. Estimation is the spice of life.
***For this amount of sauce and chicken I used a bunch of very slender asparagus stalks cut into two-inch pieces, one large carrot cut into matchsticks, and about two cups of chopped cauliflower. It served two hungry young men and one hungry me, with a little left over for lunch tomorrow.

28 March 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: my olden heart returns

When loud by landside streamlets gush,
And clear in the greenwood quires the thrush,
With sun on the meadows
And songs in the shadows
Comes again to me
The gift of the tongues of the lea,
The gift of the tongues of meadows.

Straightway my olden heart returns
And dances with the dancing burns;
It sings with the sparrows;
To the rain and the (grimy) barrows
Sings my heart aloud—
To the silver-bellied cloud,
To the silver rainy arrows.

It bears the song of the skylark down,
And it hears the singing of the town;
And youth on the highways
And lovers in byways
Follows and sees:
And hearkens the song of the leas
And sings the songs of the highways.

So when the earth is alive with gods,
And the lusty ploughman breaks the sod,
And the grass sings in the meadows,
And the flowers smile in the shadows,
Sits my heart at ease,
Hearing the song of the leas,
Singing the songs of the meadows.

-"Spring Carol" by Robert Louis Stevenson

27 March 2012

whoever does the will of God

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

-Mark 3:31-35 

Untitled Hymn by Chris Rice on Grooveshark

26 March 2012

mud and glory and thoughtful words

{image credit: highlandarma}
On a recent sunny afternoon, I walked out barefoot-- first time in months-- and pulled a heap of weeds out of my newly sprouted flowerbeds. It was glorious.

I don't make that assertion of glory lightly. It's perfectly serious. I saw real glory there in the gentle sunlight and the many-speared lily leaves pushing through dark soil. Glory of the Creator's presence. I could feel His pleasure in the world's hesitant springtime beauty, the lacy clover roots and delicate purple deadnettles. I could sense His power in the tendrils of green life surging through mud and rock. Oh, glorious indeed.

But so often, I've used that term thoughtlessly.

I have mused a lot lately upon the meaning of my words and how careless I am with what comes out of my mouth. I have become verbally slothful. And to be frank, I'm tired of this watered-down language, where words that once signified an idea rounded and weighty are tossed about like empty shells.

For example, when I say something is amazing . . . do I A) intend to employ the full strength of amazing at that moment, or B) have something else more nuanced and less dramatic in mind, and lazily use amazing as a shorthand for that thought? Usually Option B. "That sale on avocados was absolutely amazing." Er, no it wasn't. Sixty-nine cents is an impressive discount on the usual price; this sale made me very happy, because guacamole is my friend; I was pleasantly surprised to run across this sale, excited that I would have an unexpected supply of avocados that week. Despite all that, though, nothing at that avocado display amazed me. I probably thought about it for ten minutes max and then proceeded with my day.

However, because I don't care to exert myself in order to articulate my real thought ("That avocado sale was a rare one, and the store didn't even advertise it, so finding out was a great surprise, like spotting a piece of sea glass in gravel") I just say it was absolutely amazing.

Blah. What a boring way to talk! I have more words than that in my head, so why don't I use them? Why don't I think?


This-here train of thought lurched into motion during church a few weeks back; I think the point that so impressed me was a mere sidenote in the sermon, but sometimes rabbit trails are the most memorable. The rabbit trail in question concerned taking the Lord's name in vain. Now, I'm no cusser, though thus far in my life, that is probably due to fear of embarrassment more than to real conviction. (The truth would come out, I suppose, if I lived in a foulmouthed environment rather than among decent Christian folk.) Be that as it may, I keep it pretty clean. Yet I do use various words to emphasize my exclamations, such as "gosh, look at that raincloud" and "jeez, it's so freaking cold outside!" Well, after that sermon, I started to ponder my words pretty hard.

Fact: terms like these only have force because of what they once were, those original crude or profane intentions. I mean, there's a reason we say "oh, darn" and not "oh, saltines" when we drop our cell phones! I've always known this truth, but pretended to ignore it. Surely by using these tame versions, I could separate myself from the foul meaning at the root. Or . . . maybe not. I mentioned watered-down language above. Could it be that I've watered down profanity, then swallowed the concoction with a smile?

That bothers me. A lot. God seems to be poking at my heart and saying "Rebekah, time to stop your sloppy speech. Time to think about what you say. Time to shape each breath with care, for my glory and not your convenience."

When I mentioned this to a friend, she asked, "Well, then what will you use as interjections?"

I considered. "Nothing, I guess."

It's true. I don't need those words at all, not even the funny substitutions like "horsefeathers" or "puddleduck" (though I certainly enjoy using those terms, and probably will continue to do so with great glee). Like I'm always telling my writing students, let your words pack the punch. Don't rely on exclamation points to communicate energy. To my chagrin, I have become accustomed to using my "tamed curse words" as exclamation points, booster rockets for lame language, rather than articulating what I really mean in the first place.

I don't intend to become a legalist about this. Odds are, I'm still going to sling weighty words carelessly; I'm still going to say "today was the worst day ever!!" and "I love Dijon mustard so darn much." So no finger-wagging in either direction: I shan't be policing anyone, and I don't expect to be policed. This post's purpose is not to lay down laws, nor-- even though I have come to certain convictions myself-- to suggest that everybody should follow suit. It's intended to stir up some reflection. To talk about how we use language, how much we care about the correspondence between our intent and our words. And when it comes to diluted cussing, how seriously we take holiness.

What do you think?

Mud is very nice to feel
All squishy squashy between the toes!
I'd rather wade in wiggly mud
Than smell a yellow rose.
Nobody else but the rosebush knows
How nice mud feels between the toes.

23 March 2012

Weekend linkage

This would be fun to see!

What. These are paintings?! I would have guessed photographs.

The jackrabbits on the left are among a collection of beautiful works in ink by George Boorujy. Check the artists' website for even more!

Colors are wonderful things, and at times, so are their names. Here are 10 you may not have said in a while. (After years of running across it in British novels and being too lazy to look it up, I finally learned what "puce" means.)

ALARMING. And I thought I had a big mouth.

Some vintage ads with, shall we say, less than flattering perspectives on women. The comments on this post are interesting too, with some readers finding it hilarious, others offensive, others turning the tables and pointing out today's tendency to demean men in place of women. What do you think?

(Personally, I find the ads sad as they reflect attitudes of the era, yet on the whole, amusing because I have some distance from them. I've never-- okay, very rarely-- been patronized on account of my womanhood. So to me, "distinguishing between femininity and masculinity" doesn't automatically equal "a power struggle." In my experience, recognizing roles and differences does not mean elevating one over another. At least, it doesn't have to.)

This song gives me goosebumps every. single. time.

Deliver us, Ofra Haza and Eden Riegel by Soundtrack on Grooveshark 

p.s. The bread and blueberry fool mentioned last week were just gawjis, and oh, and they tasted good too. Besides that, the shepherd's pie, and some Dubliner cheddar, we filled a growler with Diabolical Doctor Wit from Spring House Brewing Company. If you live around here and you're a beer person-- we recommend it.

22 March 2012

in which simplicity wins again

Monkey with his banana
{image credit: eggpost}
I feel like a civilized monkey, because frozen bananas are my current favorite snack! They're really easy to "make," if you can even apply that verb to such a process: I break ripe bananas into one-inch-long chunks and stick them all in a container to freeze, then pull them out a few at a time. They're usually not too icy to eat right out of the freezer, just frosty and creamy and sweet.

This habit started because I was freezing banana chunks for smoothies, and one day, I nibbled one on its own. Ooh . . . yum.

The good thing about a frozen-banana habit (as opposed to fresh) is that you never have to worry about your fruit getting overripe. I hate watching a bunch of bananas get all brown and speckly, since personally, I don't eat bananas once they are past the Mostly Yellow With a Touch of Green stage; although the husband prefers them riper (how well we complement each other!), there are only so many he can throw down the hatch in one day. But this way I can put them in the freezer when they are ready, suspending the ripening at just the right point.

Someday I will dip them in chocolate like so. For now I am enjoying them plain.

Another wonderful yet simple thing: chicken salad made with chopped chicken breast, mayonnaise, paprika, tarragon, sea salt, and a handful of green peas. Great flavors, and the paprika and peas add a nice pop of color. You could pile this salad on a sandwich I suppose, but I just eat it with a fork.

21 March 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: yet dearly I love you

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to'another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me,'untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

-Holy Sonnet XIV by John Donne

Caedmon's Call - Prove Me Wrong by Caedmons Call on Grooveshark

20 March 2012

ahoy, discoveries! vol. 5

Rada knives. I have the peeling and heavy duty paring knives. With them, plus my beloved Pampered Chef utility knife and a good santoku, we're set for any kitchen project.

Contigo travel mugs. I've decided that this is a must for anyone with small children. As many of you know, hot liquid is out of the question when chasing after rowdy toddlers . . . you can't very well pull them off counters, brush off their skinned knees, or button their pants with a china mug held gingerly in one hand. The Contigo solves that problem. Shake it, turn it upside down, drop it on the floor. No leaks. And your tea or coffee stays warm forever.

OXO Softworks Kitchen Timer. It has a lot of dreadful reviews on Amazon, which would apply to anyone with large fingers (the buttons are fairly small), but not to me. I like it just fine, except that the clock is fast.

19 March 2012

standards? [part II]

In which I continue my thoughts on attitudes toward physical appearance, pursuing beauty, and determining the proper standards thereof. (But less pompously than that.)


I like lists. Little legalist that I am, I especially love it when lists tell me The Right Thing to Do. Going through Romans, it struck me that God, clearer than crystal, has provided a list of crucial matters for the Christian.
"Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another." (Romans 12)
Though gracious beyond imagining, the Lord hasn't left us wondering how to order our lives. In this and many other passages, He sets forth His will; His commands, given for our good, sit right there for the reading.

Anyway, for the purposes of this post, here's the salient point to notice about the Romans 12 commands: none of them have to do with curling irons. Thus, even if God cares about how I look (and I believe He does), on His scale of value that issue rates far below how zealous I am for peace and prayer; how patient I remain in tribulation; how genuine is my love; how generous is my hospitality; how gracious I am to the sorrowing and the hostile. Those qualities are close to His heart. He longs to see them worked out in His children, carefully cultivated in me.

Hmm. I meditate upon my image in the mirror more frequently than anything on that list. What does that sad fact reveal about where I've set my love, how I've ordered my life? To me, it says that I am seeking joy in quite the wrong place. I love my appearance more than I do God's glory.


Is my weight, or any other aspect of my appearance, so crucial to my happiness that it can affect the entire tone of my day? I would hope not, but unfortunately, most of the time the answer is yes. Consciously or not, you see, I have been busily manufacturing idols. Idols like how closely my hair approximates a picture in a magazine, the brand of clothing I can afford, a number on a scale. Such things have crept upwards in my heart until they have more power to affect me than the reality of Christ and His saving Gospel-- they direct my life, instead of being directed.

Here's what I need to remind myself as I battle those idols: I have a greater inheritance. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading . . . Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1). Wow. With that promise before her, a daughter of God has no business falling into depression over appearance.

Not to say that one's appearance is unimportant. Not at all. For example, my skin bothers me more than almost anything else in this area-- for the past thirteen-plus years it's been a battleground of inflammation and eczema, sometimes painful and sometimes just plain annoying-- and I know that God cares about it. He knows it hurts. He knows it's hard. He isn't sitting on His throne, rolling His eyes, and saying "Oh please Rebekah, I can't believe that bothers you!" And as shown by my writing an entire post about it last week, I believe that physical beauty is worth considering, if on different terms than much of the world does. :)

All the same, though,
"We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies . . . knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence . . . So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4)
As a simple jar of clay waiting for the eternal weight of glory, I can bear momentary afflictions with joy. I can accept the cracks and dirt that accumulate here on earth, "knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also."

Joy in My Morning by Sovereign Grace Music on Grooveshark

16 March 2012

Weekend linkage

Overheard while editing essays at a local coffee shop.

Barista: “What can I get for you, sir?”
Older Gentleman: “Jack Daniels.”


Tomorrow we're going be babysitting putting up with taking care of hanging out with my three youngest siblings. In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, we shall make shepherd's pie, this bread, and a berry fool for dinner. Of course, we're not actually Irish-- Welsh great-grandparents is as close as we come-- so like everyone else in America, tomorrow just we'll pretend.

(I missed Saint David's Day this year, but when it comes around again, I will make a leek tart. Cymru am byth!)

Super cool posters, modern art representations of traditional fairytales. You can see my favorite on the left. :)

Speaking of super cool, check out this site, portraying the relative sizes of everything in the universe . . . from neutrons to dodo birds to the Stingray Nebula.

I made Jared a layer cake-- chocolate with peanut butter frosting; it turned out beautifully, and I was immensely proud of it-- for his birthday. My square cakestand is fun, but I'd like to have a round one too. The green model here would be perfect.
Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine by Carolina Chocolate Drops on Grooveshark