26 February 2011

51 Weeks [in which I acquire two rings, a new last name, and a husband in less than a year]

"You just got married? Congratulations! How did you meet?"

"Well, we've been in the same church our entire lives."

"How sweet. So you grew up together?"

"Um, sort of. I mean, not exactly. See, we knew each other. Kinda. But we weren't friends. When we started dating, we were practically strangers . . . but once we started, it went awfully fast . . . oh. This is a long story."


So long, in fact, that it will need multiple posts. Beginning now.

This is the story of our romance. It was fun. It was terrifying. It was, ultimately, a joy I never expected. And it all happened in fifty-one weeks. Some of you have heard the abbreviated tale, but now I'll have time to tell it well; others of you haven't heard it at all. Either way, stay tuned. It's a pretty crazy ride and chock-full of grace!

1: In Which Everyone Is Surprised
2: In Which We Keep the Mailman Busy
3: In Which Things Progress
4: In Which There Is Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth
5: In Which Things Are Said
6: In Which There Is Love
7: In Which the Ring Makes Its Appearance
8: In Which We Waste No Time
9: In Which There Is Kissing

25 February 2011

no frigate like a book #1

What I've read lately:

Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solhzenitsyn. Oh my. Such characters! It was very funny and very sad. (Also very long, so if you have a lengthy trip on the horizon, this would be a good one to take.) The story is set in Soviet Uzbekistan, 1955, and intertwines the lives of characters from government officials to political exiles. Laced with humor but with a backbone of tragedy, it generated deep and intense emotions as I read-- though I never cry over books, a few have brought me close and this was one of them. The complex, winsome characters will stay in my memory for a long time.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Again, the characters amazed me. It was one of those books that I wanted to continue forever. The book is presented as the journal of Cassandra Mortmain, a British teenager in the 1930s whose eccentric family and confusing American neighbors provide her with endless frustration and amusement. It had its comic moments, along with many tender and sad ones. The conclusion is bittersweet, not depressing. I was actually quite irritated when it ended-- "But what happened to her then? I need to know!!" I think I'd like to see the movie now.

Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by Richard Blackmore. We have so many old books, and one day I was running my finger down the row, trying to find one I'd like to read. I lit upon Lorna Doone and, having heard of it from friends at college, decided to give it a try. It was quite good. Certainly an interesting plot and narrator. I don't care for overly Romantic books, though-- they're good at points, but either the sweetness becomes saccharine and makes me ill, or the excessive sublimity gives me the heebie-jeebies. So I would only recommend it if you enjoy that style.

The post's title, by the way, alludes to the poem by Emily Dickinson.

{image: the frigate USS Essex}

22 February 2011

In which the day is a good one

Because in it, I . . .

Made french toast. With maple syrup and butter and blueberries. This was good fuel for my husband to go shovel snow, and me to, ah, stay inside and cuddle with a tea mug. (Speaking of snow, holy cow, an avalanche just slipped off our roof and tumbled past the window. That always makes me nervous.) French toast is a good reason to let bread go stale. Croutons are another . . .

Wrote about Othello. That's nice enough, but as is the nature of research, I always go down lots of rabbit trails before coming to the conclusion. Today I learned about Scheherezade. It had to do with Othello somehow, I promise.

Went to the gym. Not that making my muscles scream is in itself pleasant, but I like the accomplished, I-pushed-myself feeling afterward. And it's always pleasant to see results. :) Also, a post-workout shower is tops.

Drooled over a Crate & Barrel sale catalogue. Everything in there looked so wonderful. However, in no position to make an order, I was inspired to rearrange several things in the kitchen and living room. To me, creating a new look out of old items is intensely satisfying. I love switching things up around the house, making it fresh without having to purchase anything.

Made up dinner. Farfalle sauced with some marinara and crushed tomatoes, tossed with sauteed grated carrot, red onion, and chunks of sharp cheese, finished with Parmesan and herbs. Don't forget the garlic bread.

Dipped things in chocolate. And decided that this needs to happen more often. Husband concurs . . . so it is written, so let it be done.


Chocolate Dipped Whatever

12 oz bittersweet chocolate (three 4-oz bars)*
1 heaping tablespoon coconut oil**
your selected dipping candidates (pretzels, almonds, strawberries, or the "whatever" so helpfully noted in the name)

1. Line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Break chocolate into pieces. Melt coconut oil and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, whisking frequently to prevent burning. (You could be fancy and do it in a double boiler. But I don't have one of those and even hate messing with the bowl-over-simmering-water improvisation, so I just melt it straight in the saucepan and risk the occasional scorch.)
2. Once mixture is smooth and glossy, it's dipping time. You will want tongs for this: either dip the pretzel/almond/strawberry partially into the chocolate, or drop the thing in and remove with tongs. First method is nice for large items, second better for small. I, for example, half-dipped all the whole pretzels we had left in the bag, then dumped in the small broken pieces and stirred them to get thoroughly coated, and fished them out with my handy tongs.
3. Whatever your coating method, once that chocolate has been applied, put the now-enrobed item onto your parchment-lined cookie sheet. Continue with the remaining items and fill up the cookie sheet. Stick it in the fridge to chill thoroughly and get that lovely smooth sheen. Once chilled, the parchment paper will peel right off. Store in the refrigerator, if you have any left.

*Obviously you could use a sweeter chocolate, but I prefer the dark bite of bittersweet.
**You're supposed to put in shortening, according to most instructions I've seen. However, I never have that around, so I used coconut oil instead. It was fab-u-lous.

19 February 2011

Jane Eyre: The Musical

Attention! If you like theatre, music, homeschoolers, or all three, make plans to see CLCHM's latest musical: Jane Eyre.

Performances will be at Liberty Place in Lancaster City and run March 10-12, with a 7:00 show every day and an additional 2:30 matinee on Saturday. Contact Mrs. Brenda Rockwell for tickets: brendarockwell@hotmail.com.

Note: even if my siblings weren't in it (and they are) I would still tell you to go. CLCHM always puts on stellar productions. They get more skilled and more professional every year.

18 February 2011

Not a free lunch

But possibly a free grain mill, which will help you MAKE lunch. :)

Yes, Kitchen Stewardship is doing a Nutrimill giveaway. See here. I may or may not be crossing all my fingers and toes. And praying.

(I think it's a legit prayer request, don't you? God knows if I should win or not, so I see nothing odd with petitioning him about it. Grain mills aren't spiritual, but we aren't just spirits, now are we?)

{image credit: simonverrall on flickr}

Out of all his troubles

"My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them."

-Psalm 34

I don't "feel" this verse today. But I know its truth. And the truth trumps my feelings.

16 February 2011

Worth a cheer

Huzzah for the following:

1) I learned how to take stains out of the carpet, or at least lighten them dramatically. With a mixture of 1 tablespoon laundry detergent, 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 2 cups warm water, goodbye to the mud, tea, and cinnamon syrup (don't ask). Thanks to Barefoot Lass for the tip.

2) An excuse to buy a dress . . . at Ann Taylor no less. Being in Julia's wedding, I am obliged to wear this. Yeah. Poor me.

3) Essential oils are delightful. I just got my first little bottles-- rosemary, lavender, and sweet orange-- and love them. The rosemary and orange worked magic in my homemade cleaners. And the lavender has gone into many beauty routine concoctions, such as a salt and olive oil scrub. It smells like Provence.

I'd give you a celebratory recipe, but the thing I have in mind really has no recipe. Here are my precise instructions: blend a banana with tropical fruit juice* and ice until thick and smooth, spike with Bacardi, as liberally as you please, and enjoy. We did.

*Ours was a mango-guava blend. Recommended.

{image credit:
csavules on Flickr}

The measureless essence of God

John Calvin on understanding God's nature:

"Here, indeed, if anywhere in the secret mysteries of Scripture, we ought to play the philosopher soberly and with great moderation; let us use great caution that neither our thoughts nor our speech go beyond the limits to which the Word of God itself extends. For how can the human mind measure off the measureless essence of God according to its own little measure, a mind as yet unable to establish for certain the nature of the sun's body, though men's eyes daily gaze upon it? Indeed how can the mind by its own leading come to search out God's essence when it cannot even get to its own? Let us then willingly leave to God the knowledge of Himself . . . without inquiring about Him elsewhere than from His word."


For our anniversary I got Jared a picture-packed, oversized, full-color book called Cosmos. It's sweet. There are chapters on everything from our own solar system to black holes. I knew the cosmos were big, but for me visualizing something is better than reading about it, and so this book has given me a better sense of just HOW big. It's taken up residence on our coffee table and never fails to amaze. Whatever page you choose, the immensity and complexity of our universe will boggle your mind.

(Boggle, by the way, is a great word. First, it is fun to say. Second, it is fun to spell. And etymologically, I believe it comes from the Middle English "bugge"-- later "bogle" or "bogey"-- a spectre that would startle and confuse anyone it overtook at night. Hence, "to boggle" is to startle and confuse the mind.)

Anyway, back to the cosmos. Considering how far they reach beyond our minds' comprehension and how short we will always fall of understanding them, shouldn't we humbly refrain from snap judgments about the Lord who made them? To assume that we fully comprehend His essence, particularly in the matter of the Trinity, and especially apart from what He has revealed in Scripture-- a mite foolish, don't you think?

{image credit: NASA Goddard photostream on Flickr}

12 February 2011

With these we will be content

"Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction . . .

"As for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and . . . keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will display at the proper time."

-1 Timothy 6:6-15a

{image: "Washerwomen on a River Bank" by Luis Jimenez y Aranda}

11 February 2011

That you may not grieve

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep . . . For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words."

-1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

{image credit: traumlichtfabrik on Flickr}

07 February 2011

Do not refuse to regain your youth

"A man grows old; he is full of complaints. The world is old; it is full of pressing tribulations. . . . Do not hold onto the old man, the world; do not refuse to regain your youth in Christ, who says to you, 'The world is passing away, the world is losing its grip, the world is short of breath. Do not fear. Thy youth shall be renewed as an eagle.'"
-Saint Augustine

{HT: Ray Ortlund

Image: traditional Chinese representation of a phoenix, legendary bird that rose from the ashes of its own funeral pyre with "youth renewed"}

04 February 2011

Just for fun [avocados, party hats, and cinnamon]

The other day, Jared came into the kitchen while I was making guacamole and commented on how disproportionately large the avocado seed is. It's really comic if you think about it (so are mango seeds).

He then asked if I had ever planted one.

I pooh-poohed this idea, assuming that growing an avocado tree would require far too many "special conditions." But then I looked it up . . . and I must eat my words. You can indeed sprout and plant an avocado seed with nothing but a glass of water and some toothpicks. We're trying it. (Whether it will last past the initial sprout is another question. Alas, we don't live in California, but in the snowy northlands.)


Hip Hip Hooray is a blog devoted to parties. But not just any parties: kids' parties. Cutest ideas EVER. Basically, it makes me want to open a party-planning business and wander through the world dispensing balloons, paper lanterns, and cookie jars.


Cinnamon, vanilla, and a satisfying crunch? I'm sold! In our house, these candied nuts vanish like frightened prairie dogs (and that's pretty fast). I have been craving "fancy food" lately: cucumber sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, spring rolls, all impractical and time-consuming. Why do I always make life difficult for myself? Anyhow, these fit the bill without being impractical OR time-consuming.

Spiced Vanilla Nuts
(swiped from The Nourishing Gourmet)

1 large egg white
1/3 cup raw sugar*
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional- for a spicy version)
3/4 teaspoon each dried marjoram and thyme (optional- for a savory version)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups walnuts, almonds, or pecans**

1. Preheat oven to 300 and line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
2. In medium bowl, whisk egg white until bubbly. Whisk in sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt (also the cayenne and herbs, if using). Add nuts and stir thoroughly to coat with spice mixture.
3. Spread evenly on prepared pan, trying to get a single layer (you might need two pans depending on how large yours are). Bake for 25 minutes, or until the nuts are dry and crispy. Don't let them burn! I usually stir mine halfway through.
4. Let cool, stirring occasionally to break up the nuts (they will want to stick together). Nom nom nom.

*You could use regular white sugar instead, but I like the slight crunch raw sugar gives.
**I have used halved walnuts and slivered almonds with success.

{image credit: umamigirl on Flickr}

03 February 2011

He must retain what is his own

"If we wish to have one God, we should remember that we must not pluck away even a particle of his glory and that he must retain what is his own . . . It is enough to recognize that whenever any observances of piety are transferred to some one other than the sole God, sacrilege occurs. And first, indeed, superstition contrived divine honors either for the sun and the stars or for idols. Then followed ambition, which, by adorning mortals with the spoils of God, dared profane everything sacred . . . So inclined are we to lapse into this error that what God rigorously reserves for himself alone we distribute among a great throng."

-John Calvin,


Through idolatry, says Calvin, we "distribute God's glory among a great throng." Of course, these days it's easy to excuse ourselves from this topic. I don't have any golden calves sitting around my house, and you probably don't either. So are we off the hook?

No. The issue goes far beyond literal idols, for if anything enraptures our hearts more than God-- brings us more joy and satisfaction than God-- comforts us more than God-- inspires more awe than God-- well, that is an idol. And we're giving "particles of glory" to that thing, person, or activity, when all glory belongs to the Lord.

Stealing what belongs to God and wasting it on idols? I do it every day. Praise the Lord for His mercy on sinners like me!

{image: The Idolatry of Solomon by Frans Francken}