30 August 2010

I am happy to have . . .

1) My new double-walled ceramic mug, very much like this one, except mine is bubblegum pink. I'm wishing it were a bit larger, but I like it anyway and ceramic tops plastic or metal as far as Hot Drink Containment goes. (Nothing like a steely cup of tea. Woooo.)

2) Mums on the front porch! Yellow and pink, they are so delightful.

3) Smart students who make me laugh and think. They have great insights into the literature we study, and I never feel like I have to drag them along. Hurray for self-motivated high schoolers.

4) Time to read suspenseful novels. Latest find: When Eight Bells Toll by Alistair MacLean.

I heard a shout and the harsh chatter of some automatic weapon-- Jacques and his machine pistol, for a certainty. Had he imagined he'd seen something, had the box come to the surface, had he actually seen the box and mistaken it for me in the dark waters? It must have been the last of these-- he wouldn't have wasted ammunition on anything he'd definitely recognised as a box. Whatever the reason, it had all my blessing. If they thought I was floundering about down there, riddled like a Gruyere cheese, then they wouldn't be looking for me up here.

5) A nice big chest freezer for all these peaches!

26 August 2010

One hundred and fifty-eight

That's how many pounds of peaches Rachel and I picked this afternoon. All by ourselves. Go team!

Cherry Hill Orchards is less than ten minutes from my house, and what's better than standing in a peach orchard, eating a juicy orb of goodness that you just pulled from a tree? Not much. So off we went. And guess what? They're only 75 cents per pound when you pick over 100 pounds. Score.

Our house smells like peaches now. I have two giant baskets sitting by the front door-- they are for friends, so yeah, we aren't actually keeping all 158 pounds-- and three big bags in the kitchen, and about sixteen really ripe peaches sitting on the counter waiting to go into pies and smoothies and baked oatmeal over the weekend. Four of the largest already met their scrumptious end in a cobbler. I can't wait.

The only meh aspect to this whole peach affair is their non-organic status. Peaches are some of the most intensely pesticided (a word? yes? no?) fruits out there. Boo. However, they aren't going to kill us, and I try to avoid the Dirty Dozen List the rest of the time, so . . . whatevs.

Back to our regularly scheduled nonsense. Ahem! Peach cobbler. I have this perfect, wonderful, delicious, cannot-be-improved upon recipe for said cobbler, so of course I didn't follow it. Nope. First I left the peaches unpeeled. Then I borrowed this brilliant idea and spiked the filling with bourbon. Then I omitted the lemon zest and nutmeg. And then I wanted the biscuity bit to crunch, for a contrast with the velvety soft peaches, so I subbed some white stone-ground cornmeal for half of the flour.

I think it worked. Don't know how it tastes yet, but that bubbly, syrupy, golden mess looks awfully good. And besides, it has a buttery crust and peaches and bourbon. Hello?

25 August 2010

Food marketing

Oh, xkcd. You have (many) brilliant insights scattered about your (often inappropriate) ridiculousness.

Personally, my favorite Misleadingly Healthy Food Labels are "with whole grains" and "raised without hormones."

A bagel made "with whole grains" is probably made "with" plenty of other things too. It might have a few tablespoons of wheat germ mixed in there, but when the other ingredients are bleached flour, soybean oil, and corn syrup solids . . . hum.

And chicken "raised without hormones?" I was very impressed until I read the teeny tiny print at the bottom: federal law prohibits the use of hormones in poultry. Oh. So you're basically telling me that you keep the law. Yay . . .

24 August 2010

21 August 2010

No end to the adventures

"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open."
-Jawaharial Nehru

20 August 2010

Staying Real About Real Food

Here's the thing. These days, I cook a lot and do tons of reading on "real food" nutrition. But you know what? That's because I have the time. It's just me all day. No children, and teaching doesn't start until next Wednesday.

I know this season will not last. Someday I will not have time to make yogurt, soak oatmeal, research phytic acid and probiotics. (That's part of the reason I am trying to educate myself now.) When that time comes I want to be able to accept it gracefully. I want to trust God and keep His will foremost, not my own. I want to make the necessary compromises without throwing a fit over my spoiled plans.

So . . . I am thankful that I have the time and resources to do what I'm doing now. However, I'm very aware that this season is God's kindness to me. If I do accomplish anything worthwhile, it's nothing to boast about. And that will still be true ten years down the road, when there are (hopefully) several children at my side and I am spending more time on parenting than sourdough starters. :)

These three articles have been extremely helpful to me: getting my motives straightened out and adjusting my expectations.

Can Natural Living Become an Idol?
When Homemaking Gets in the Way of Mothering
Even Real Food Bloggers Get the Blues

18 August 2010

I've Been There

I am reading through Acts right now, the first time I have done so since going to Turkey, and it is amazing. I have pictures of these places! I have stood in the same streets, amphitheatres, harbors. The reality of the narrative is impacting me like never before.

Tarsus.Pisidian Antioch.
Talk about the Scriptures coming to life. I am more thankful than ever for that trip!

17 August 2010

I Spend Most of My Time In the Kitchen

For reals.

Take today. First I made mayonnaise.* Once upon a time, I thought that mayo would be super difficult to make, like hollandaise or baguettes. Not true. It totally worked and only took 10 minutes, so if you have a blender or food processor, dude, you have to try it (then you can skip all the unneccessary weird stuff in the grocery store jar). Add more salt and Dijon as desired. The coolest part (apart from avoiding the unnecessary weird stuff) is how it magically turns into thick, white mayo before your eyes! Ahh!!

Yes. I'm a dork. You don't have to say it.

Anyway, then I made baked macaroni and cheese, a halved and tweaked version of Smitten Kitchen's recipe: less cheese and butter, more milk and salt, whole wheat penne, plus two cans of albacore and half a bag of frozen peas. Egad. This stuff rocks my world. And now there's leftovers, because not even we can polish off an entire 9x9 pan of pasta.

Then I made bread dough from Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois' cool cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I've been fiddling with this method (wet dough with a slow cool rise) since we got married, and while the finished product has never been bad, it could use some practice. One thing that has always worked out is sandwich rolls. So that is what my big glass jar of dough is going to make-- that, and pizza this weekend.

Then I cleaned the fridge and the sink and the microwave . . . and the Kitchenaid and the teakettle . . . and ran the dish rack through the dishwasher . . . and everything smelled like vinegar and baking soda. But golly, it was clean!

Brief interlude, in which I did miscellaneous housekeeping-y things. Then I went to the grocery store and came back with a bunch of reduced-price meat. So the turkey sausage and hamburgers went into the freezer, ready for meals later this month.

Now, I'm baking chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. I like this recipe, using only half a cup of brown sugar and baking it for a little longer on a baking stone. They're crisp and chewy and rather lovely.

No, I don't always cook this much in one day. :o) Today was kind of a doozy . . . tomorrow I'm only planning to make dinner!

*addendum: I used white vinegar and after a few days it was too . . . vinegar-y. So lemon juice next time.

16 August 2010

Curry Rice Salad

Hmmkay. Unless you don't like a) rice or b) curry-- and if not, what a sad sad little person you are-- you'll like this salad. It is way tasty. Promise.

Curry Rice Salad

1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
7 tablespoons olive oil (more as needed)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (I recommend almonds, pecans, and cashews)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour rice into small casserole dish (I think mine is about 6 cups) that you've coated with nonstick spray.
2. Combine water, salt, curry powder, peppers, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in small saucepan. Bring to boil.
3. Add boiling mixture to rice in casserole dish. Cover tightly and place in preheated oven; bake for 1 hour. (Baking, incidentally, is the only way I have found to make perfectly tender and not-soggy brown rice. And it never burns.)
4. When rice is finished, remove and let cool for as long as you want, depending on time constraints and how warm you want the salad to be. I sometimes make the rice a day ahead and add the other stuff just before serving, so the salad is either cold or room temp. Or sometimes I go for the jugular and do everything at once: presto, warm curry rice. It's up to you.
5. Anyway. Once the rice is cooked, you can add the rest of the ingredients. You may want to put in more salt, more curry powder, more pepper . . . you may want to omit the nuts, add currants, toss in some fresh basil . . . whatever you do, you'll probably want more olive oil. (If you don't like a strong olive taste you could sub some canola instead.)
6. Eat.

12 August 2010


Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
'I'll do a sketch of thee,
What kind of pencil shall I use,
2B or not 2B?'
-Spike Milligan


Sometimes they work. And sometimes . . . not.

Vinegar as an all-purpose cleaner. It's sort of amazing. Further excitement: it saves me from spending unnecessary $$ on other "green" cleaners.

Failure: Deep dish quiche. Leakage and undercooking and a collapsing crust, 'twas not a pretty sight. I guess the cooked parts were good though.

Success: Cutting my hair into a very sharply angled bob. Love it. I've learned that I never regret getting more taken off.

Failure: Finding a BPA-free and non-leaking water bottle that holds an entire gallon of water. Does anyone make those? Sheesh.

Somewhere in between: Homemade yogurt. It tastes great but isn't thick enough. Round two next week?

11 August 2010

Hey, that's us

When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."
-Acts 11:18

This is a truly thrilling point in Scripture: it's where we finally come in! (By we I mean probably every Christian who reads this blog, because I have very few friends of Jewish background.) Don't let this just slip by. Remember that the whole Bible up until this verse has revolved around just one nation, and God's dealings with them. Now God reveals the bigger plan. Incredibly, His glorious Gospel, the "repentance that leads to life," is actually for everyone!

Even for me, the German-Welsh-Danish altogether-barbarian sinner from the frigid northlands. :)

10 August 2010


It's like magic.

I would like to know why smells and sounds can change my whole emotional state in seconds.

Why a certain honey-scented cream reminds me of Turkey. Why black currant tea takes me back to junior year, my wonderful roommate Vanessa, and all the dramatic ups and downs we weathered together. Why Regina Spektor and “Blue Bonnets Over the Border” draw tears out of my eyes. Why the scent of lavender makes me feel safe and peaceful.

Yes, I can make logical connections for each “reminder.” (Vanessa and I drank a lot of black currant tea; my beautiful mother, who was the embodiment of peace and security to me since birth, always smells like lavender.) No mystery there.

But how do these associations happen? How does your brain make those links? Does anyone know, or is that still a magical mystery?

06 August 2010

Some (almost) completely unrelated things

1) "And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy."

This is part of Peter's speech in Acts 2. The reason I like it so much is the mention of "servants" along with sons and daughters. Because some days, I don't feel like much of a daughter. I'm burdened with my own failures and unworthiness. But God reminds me that through His grace, I am still accepted-- and even the lowest servants in His house share in the glories of the kingdom.

2) My brother Simon got his drivers' license this week, which is slightly terrifying, but only slightly more terrifying than me having my drivers' license. Between us we should keep the traffic police busy.

3) Isn't this print cute? (I suppose its cuteness level goes up the more you like tea.) I really like the stuff Keep Calm Gallery sells . . . just look at this adorably mushy specimen. Someday I'll have a long hallway in which to hang such things.

4) Okay, I found this recipe. It involves chocolate cookie dough and ganache and a freezer. It looks awesome. And I think I should make it very soon. So somebody invite me to a party, and I'll bring these.

5) Birthday! Birthday! Birthday!

03 August 2010

Now all I need is a rich great-uncle

Introducing: my four newest reasons for wishing Nonexistent Uncle Sebastian would leave me a tidy little sum.

These glass storage containers. I am trying to reduce plastic around here (also chemical cleaners, reduced-fat dairy, microwaves, caffeine, omega-6 fatty acids, and an assortment of other questionable characters . . . but let's save the healthnuttiness for another day). Glass storage is a good option. And while one set of containers wouldn't break the bank, if given the opportunity, I would be acquiring more than just one set!

Beatrix Potter bonanza! It's like every possible Good Thing About Books showed up at the same party. Memorable stories. Charming and beautiful illustrations. Hard covers. A nifty storage box. This screams literary keepsake to me.

Want. This. Knife. Enough said.

Can we go here on vacation? Capaforo, a five-star hotel on the Sicilian island of Salina.

Despite all these "wants," though, don't get the idea that I am pining away for things I cannot have. I am quite content with what God has given me in this season . . . well, okay, usually content. :o)