31 October 2012

teaching, schmeaching

Whenever I assign persuasive essays, I send my students a List of Banned Topics. Currently on that list: creation vs. evolution, homeschooling vs. public school, gun control, and abortion. (These are the first topics a typical homeschooled student pulls out of his hat, and after a while I got tired of reading the same rehashed arguments.)

Next year I'm adding cell phone usage and video games. If I have to read one more essay about the dangers of texting . . .

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Do you think it would work to send all my students a blinking neon reminder about Comma Splices, Proper Use of Apostrophes/Semicolons/Colons, and Matching Your Pronoun to Your Antecedent?

Or maybe if The Oatmeal would just make a complete set of grammar posters.

Also under serious consideration: a mass email concerning The Alot. "Alot more dangerous . . . baby less dangerous."

(I'm getting a little stabby about grammar. Can you tell?)

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In my high school composition class, I ask the kids to write a brief "introduction essay" of sorts, and one of the things I request is that they tell me about their favorite books. Being homeschoolers, you can always bet on The Lord of the Rings, Eragon, and Redwall. Then the more classically inclined will mention Dickens or Lewis, the typical teen girl will mention some bubblegum series I've never heard of, and every year there is a popular newcomer: last year it was The Hunger Games, this year it was Heroes of Olympus.

These essays are always amusing and they make me feel like I'm on top of young adult literary trends.

What new books have you been reading?

29 October 2012

ahoy, discoveries! vol. 8

I got tired of chemically plastic bottles "flavoring" my water after several hours and bought a Lifefactory glass bottle instead. It's wonderful. The only thing I don't like is the lid: if you are not paying attention, it's easy to screw it on lopsided, which makes for spillage later. I soaked the inside of my purse this way. Lesson learned.

Liberte makes an amazing coconut yogurt. While I don't usually buy sweetened yogurts, this is a delicious treat. (And I like that Liberte uses full-fat milk . . . plus cream!)

Layering is great. When shopping for said layers, though, being short-waisted is a disadvantage. Camisoles and tanks that fit women with longer torsos scoop far too low on me-- which rather defeats the purpose, no? Recently, though, I have found two styles that work very well, the first from Target (I even scored a bunch on clearance) and the second from J. Jill (this is not the exact style I have but the cut is similar).

I gave up on soap nuts: it's a great idea, but things weren't getting clean enough and we noticed a funny smell after a while. So I switched to Charlie's Soap, and so far, success! It is nontoxic and lasts a long time, and reportedly it works well for cloth diapers.

26 October 2012

Weekend linkage

Pregnancy happenings: this photograph was taken on Sunday, at 16 weeks. At that point Tadpole was reportedly the size of an avocado and approximately 4.5 inches long. Apologies for the poor picture quality. We don't have an actual camera, so we are just using Jared's phone. We'll have a better camera soon. :)

I think Jared is enjoying the fact that I have an actual baby bump now, since it's something he can see, not just hear about. He informed me that he liked this outfit for two reasons. First, it was pretty. Second, it made me look obviously pregnant. (Don't worry . . . I took that last part as a a compliment, just as he knew I would.)

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This is an interesting article on Hawaii's voter turnout, which is spectacularly low-- for a wide variety of reasons. If elections were being called six hours before my polling place opened, I don't think I would vote either.

Hilarious doormat.

Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, is coming out with a new book: Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing.

24 October 2012

Italian sausage soup

Vegetable Soup for a Crowd
{image credit: Lynn.Gardner}
This is a favorite. I remember making this soup for Jared when we were still dating. At the time, he was attempting to hold down two jobs and keep house for himself, so I would try to cook for him once or twice a week. (I can't stand it when someone is hungry, particularly when I'm in love with him.)

As I recall, I'd picked up some groceries to stash in his refrigerator-- we were planning to have some friends over for dinner later that week. I dropped them off while he was at work, and then decided to make some soup while I was there. Was this an act of selflessness or a ploy to impress my boyfriend? You decide. He liked it, the recipe stayed in my binder, and here it is for you.

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Italian Sausage Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound spicy sausage*
8-10 cups chicken stock
1 28-oz jar of spaghetti sauce**
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 medium russet potatoes, diced
2 cups sliced carrots
1 16-oz bag frozen green beans, thawed
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
dried basil and oregano to taste

1) Heat olive oil in large soup pot. Add onion and saute for 1 minute; reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until translucent and soft.
2) Raise heat to medium, then add garlic and sausage. Cook sausage until no longer pink, crumbling into bite-sized pieces as you go.
3) Pour in stock, spaghetti sauce, and vinegar; bring to boil. Add potatoes and carrot, reduce heat, and simmer for 7-8 minutes or until tender.
4) Add green beans and chickpeas and warm through.
5) Season to taste: use plenty of salt (at least one teaspoon), add a bit more spaghetti sauce if you'd like, and be generous with the dried herbs. Serve with Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top. I think that sliced fruit and muffins are a good accompaniment.

*Both mild and spicy sausage make an excellent soup, so use whatever matches your mood!
**Choose one that's going to complement the other flavors in the soup. Anything from plain marinara to roasted garlic will work. I originally only called for half a jar, but I always end up putting the whole thing in. :)

Simple Lives Thursday.

22 October 2012

why I'm glad that other people have done this before

{Grandmother's Tea Party by Louis Moeller}
I like getting advice. In fact, I like getting a LOT of advice, which is sometimes detrimental to my mental health, because if any of that advice happens to conflict, I have a meltdown trying to reconcile it (surely they must all be correct!).

But seriously. I do enjoy picking up tidbits of wisdom and seeing how they can benefit my life.

Here's what I have discovered this year: when it comes to keeping a house, being a wife, preparing for motherhood, or a host of other Life Experience matters, the best people to ask are not impressively titled books. They are not the young women who are just as confused as I am. They are, by and large the older ladies whom I respect--my mom, women in my church, the authors of certain excellent blogs. The ladies who have actually done this before.

(I know. Duh, Rebekah.)

That's not to say that books are never helpful or that women my age never have wisdom to offer. I just mean that increasingly, my first instinct is not to rely on a published expert, nor turn to a friend exactly my age. It's to ask somebody at least one stage of life ahead of me. These women have probably read all those advice books anyway, and what's more, they've run that advice through the wringer of reality. I love that.

Last Sunday I was at a gathering of women from my church, many of whom have large families and plenty of hard-won wisdom to offer. At one point they were talking about the "methods" they were told to follow in their first years as wives and mothers; they laughed at how obsessed they were with those "laws" and how much trouble arose keeping them, from trying to coax a baby to sleep through the night when he wasn't ready to freaking out over every infraction of household rules. Now that these moms are parenting their youngest children, they all have a far more relaxed attitude. They understand that people don't operate according to methods. They understand the value of patience. They know that change happens slowly, and that God is sovereign, not their strategies. Certainly a particular rule might be helpful . . . but then, maybe it won't be. And that's okay.

This is precious wisdom for me. I tend to assume that there is one right way to do everything, so I try my best to find that way. Hearing these women discuss their experiences, I was reminded once again that in so much of life--though the books may have you believe otherwise--there isn't a one right way.

Foundational principles? Huzzah. Terrifyingly specific applications that make you feel guilty when you don't follow them? Get outta here. Thank you, older and wiser women, for helping me to break free from the tyranny of Overly Authoritative Advice.

19 October 2012

Weekend linkage

"If you're such a smartypants, why don't you know about cashews?"
-Jared

"Well, I didn't need a binder full of women to find you."
-Jared 

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Pregnancy happenings: I absolutely love Eddie Bauer's down vests and already own several, but I had to buy a size up this past week-- they were on sale, and by the time the dead of winter rolls around, I'm gonna be too fat for my old ones.

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The Love Commandos are on a mission to allow forbidden marriages in India. I say hurrah for love, but I'm not altogether opposed to arranged marriage either. And I'm curious about the longevity of these "rescued" marriages.

Some timely political insights from xkcd.

Busted: Planned Parenthood admits that it doesn't actually offer mammograms.

I've been enjoying Upstairs Downstairs on Masterpiece Theatre. (Jared tolerantly watches it along with me.) The similarities between it and Downton Abbey are amusing-- what is up with those politically radical, rakishly handsome chauffeurs?!-- but I actually like Upstairs Downstairs a little more right now. It contains more history, thanks to Lord Holland's position in the diplomatic office. I recently read volumes 1 and 2 of William Manchester's Churchill biography so I love all the specific political events they're dragging in. Yes, it's a bit soapy, but what British-aristocracy miniseries isn't?

Taxman (Live) by Nickel Creek on Grooveshark

17 October 2012

savoring + anticipating

Fall Leaves in Rock Creek Park
{image credit: Brandon Kopp}
Right now I am reveling in certain simple pleasures, if for no other reason that once Tadpole arrives, they will whiz straight out the door. For example:

-Long hot showers.
-Sleeping for nine straight hours.
-Oodles of books, read uninterrupted.
-Wearing nice clothes and never getting stains on them.
-Going for a walk alone.
-Leaving computer cords and sharp objects out in the open.
-Husband all to myself.

I know that it's going to be hard for me to let go of those; after all, I've had them free for the taking all these years, and overnight they're going to become well-nigh-unattainable luxuries. You can bet that when they disappear, I'm going to want to whine. A lot.

But I also know that I'll learn, and that God is going to stretch me beyond what I can even imagine right now, and in an odd way, I am excited about that. So-- onward!

Besides, while some nice things will become impossible with the baby, I'll also get to enjoy all these, which are impossible without the baby:

-A fuzzy little head to kiss.
-Waking up with a tiny squalling child beside me.
-Re-reading books such as this and this.
-Miniature clothes and a miniature person to put them on.
-Taking Tadpole for a walk and watching someone else discover the world.
-Breastfeeding (not a joke, honest!).
-Watching Jared hold our baby, which, hello, I already perish of happiness when he holds other people's babies so you can imagine.

All in all, I cannot wait.

15 October 2012

do you know the [pumpkin] muffin man

Gluten-free, vegan Pumpkin Muffins 2
{image credit: rsedlak}
Fall means pumpkin! Thanks to the wonders of canning, I could be making pumpkin goodies at New Years' or Easter or whenever I jolly well felt like it, but for some reason pumpkin only comes to mind at this time of year. In the same way, I only think of peppermint around Christmas, and asparagus in springtime. Moral? My mind still operates seasonally, despite modern conveniences.

(Besides, asparagus is no good out of season.)

(Did you know that canning was invented during the Napoleonic Wars, as a way to preserve food for French troops? I learned this from An Edible History of Humanity. Extremely interesting, even though the writing isn't stellar.)

Anyway . . . these things are tasty. And that is an unqualified tasty, not a "considering that they're made with coconut flour" tasty. Go ye forth and bake. You might even want to fold in some chocolate chips, which would put a considerable drag on the Health Quotient. As you wish.

If you've never bought coconut flour and are spooked by the initial price, remember that you typically only need 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of the stuff every time you bake with it. So where a pound of whole wheat flour can disappear within weeks, a pound of coconut flour will last for months and months, and is actually perfectly economical. (Just keep the opened bag in your refrigerator or freezer to prevent rancidity.)

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Grain-Free Pumpkin Muffins
(slightly adapted from Well Fed Homestead)

6 large eggs
1/3 cup honey
2/3 cup pureed pumpkin*
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 12-cup muffin pan with muffin liners; lightly spritz the inside of each liner with nonstick cooking spray. (Coconut flour muffins can be sticky little buggers, but this helps a lot.)
2) In blender, process eggs for 15-30 seconds, until uniformly yellow and slightly foamy. Add honey, pumpkin, and melted butter; blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients; blend until smooth.
3) Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake 15-17 minutes, until tops are no longer sticky. Let cool for 10 minutes in pan, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

*Canned is just fine, but if you feel like roasting and pureeing your own, have at it.

Simple Lives Thursday.

12 October 2012

Weekend linkage

"Hmmm. If I was an apron, where would I be?"
-Jared

"When it's crying in the middle of the night, I will call it your baby. When it's being really cute I will call it my baby."
-Jared

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Pregnancy happenings: Here is the first picture we've taken since finding out the Tadpole was on its way. I know, not too impressive. At 14 1/2 weeks, there's just a vague thickness about the middle. Use your imagination!

I am beginning to wonder if I will ever appreciate coffee or squash again. Even though I've stopped feeling sick, those two things are still 100% disgusting. I wouldn't actually mind about the coffee, far as consumption goes (there is always tea!). But it makes me kind of sad that I can't even walk into a cafe these days without gagging.

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Oh horrors: Starbucks is running out of artificially flavored pumpkin sauce.

Little acorn people in little walnut houses. Be prepared to squee.

Why are we trying to sound posh? "Britishisms are everywhere. Call it Anglocreep. Call it annoying. Snippets of British vernacular . . . that were until recently as rare as steak and kidney pie on these shores are cropping up in the daily speech of Americans (particularly, New Yorkers) of the taste-making set who often have no more direct tie to Britain than an affinity for Downton Abbey."

Weddings worldwide, from group ceremonies in China to a royal couple from Brunei.

Emma Thompson has written a sequel to Peter Rabbit!

A nice post from Tim Challies: The Extraordinary Value of Women. "Women are no mere afterthought, but are an integral and equal part of God’s design for human beings. The Bible is unique in that it honors women as women, exalting them for their femininity, and encouraging them to seek honor in a uniquely feminine and God-glorifying way."

Marc Cortez on the supposed "golden age" of the Church: "Maybe we’d be better off saying that every age is a Golden Age; that is, a time when God is still faithfully working through his people to spread his gospel and display his glory throughout this broken and fallen world."

This story is quite amazing. "More than half a century after their previous meeting, the two men approached each other on the bridge on the river Kwai. After bowing formally, Nagase nervously acknowledged that the Japanese Imperial Army had treated the British appallingly . . . When they next met, in a Tokyo hotel room, Lomax carefully read out a letter he had written assuring Nagase of his total forgiveness."

10 October 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: this Tartarean grey

{photo found here}
Lungi è la luce che in sù questo muro
Rifrange appena, un breve istante scorta
Del rio palazzo alla soprana porta.
Lungi quei fiori d'Enna, O lido oscuro,
Dal frutto tuo fatal che omai m'è duro.
Lungi quel cielo dal tartareo manto
Che quì mi cuopre: e lungì ahi lungi ahi quanto
Le notti che saran dai dì che furo.
Lungi da me mi sento; e ognor sognando
Cerco e ricerco, e resto ascoltatrice;
E qualche cuore a qualche anima dice,
(Di cui mi giunge il suon da quando in quando.
Continuamente insieme sospirando,)—
“Oimè per te, Proserpina infelice!”

 
Afar away the light that brings cold cheer
Unto this wall,—one instant and no more
Admitted at my distant palace-door.
Afar the flowers of Enna from this drear
Dire fruit, which, tasted once, must thrall me here.
Afar those skies from this Tartarean grey
That chills me: and afar, how far away,
The nights that shall be from the days that were.
Afar from mine own self I seem, and wing
Strange ways in thought, and listen for a sign:
And still some heart unto some soul doth pine,
(Whose sounds mine inner sense is fain to bring,
Continually together murmuring,)—
“Woe's me for thee, unhappy Proserpine!” 


-"Proserpina" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 

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Okay, it's not quite that bad. But a chill is definitely upon us!

05 October 2012

Weekend linkage

Pregnancy happenings: EAT ALL THE  THINGS!!! That is my modus operandi since finishing the first trimester. The tadpole's main job now is to get bigger, and that has turned me into a hungry hippo. It happened overnight; one day I was queasily sipping Diet Coke, and the next day I was devouring two large bowls of chili and a banana for lunch, followed by yogurt and granola one hour later. Nom nom nom.

I got to hear the baby's heartbeat for the first time yesterday, which was wonderful. It made me smile all day long. :) Amusingly enough, the pressure from the Doppler probe apparently annoyed Young Tadpole, because the heart rate kept going up! Poor kid (but listen, if you would just stay still instead of swimming around the whole time, it would be much easier to find you!).

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Moss graffiti. Watch out, I may be spicing up our back alley once we move . . .

List of 10 new documentaries worth checking into.

I would like to furnish my entire house with items from Father Rabbit, thank you.

02 October 2012

engageaversary!

Three years ago, my super-hot boyfriend asked me to marry him . . .

Saying yes was the smartest thing I ever did.

(He's the best husband in the whole universe and he's going to be the best daddy too.)

Lucky (feat. Colbie Caillat) by Jason Mraz on Grooveshark

01 October 2012

he has always answered

I just want to make a note of this.

God has always answered us.

Many people have told me, upon learning about this baby, "Wow, God answered your prayers!" I understand what they mean, I think. But I would like to be more precise: that positive pregnancy test didn't mean that God suddenly sat up and said, "Oh hey, Jared and Rebekah have been asking for a kid for quite a while . . . maybe I should respond." He never failed to reply to our prayers. It's just that, until July 28th, the answer was "No."

Actually, in another sense, the answer has always been "Yes." The Lord knew from the start when this child would be conceived, so even when we-- stuck in time-- heard no, He-- unbound by time-- knew that there would be a yes. What seemed like a no was in fact a not yet.

That is amazing.