30 September 2011

Weekend linkage

Tomorrow: Outer Banks or bust! Today: pack pack pack. Also post links, because what's a weekend without frivolous internet amusement?

Purchasing white pumpkins is now on my post-vacation to do list.

Well, this travel mug is clever.

hahaha WHAT. (The reviews are the best.)

This book looks like loads of fun, if you've scissors and a pile of paper.

I've never even seen All My Children, and this still made me laugh.

Whimsical visionary or litterbug extraordinaire? I can't decide. (Thanks Daddy for the link.)

Ooh! Someone please buy me these for Christmas? Our bookshelves aren't nearly overflowing yet-- I've only just begun to double stack!

Watched Tangled last weekend. Soundtrack now playing on near-continuous loop.

Though I was never a Mandy Moore fan she does a great job with Rapunzel. More to the point, Donna Murphy is made. of. win. And Zachary Levi, in addition to playing the only genuinely handsome prince-figure Disney has ever created*, has one gaw-jus voice.

*Kudos on that, Disney . . . though Prince Phillip is none too shabby.

28 September 2011

the Lord, who has compassion on you

"For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,"
says the Lord, your Redeemer.

"This is like the days of Noah to me:
as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you,
and will not rebuke you.
For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,"
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

-Isaiah 54:7-10

Well Written Wednesdays: serious and profound

"We are in the habit of assuming that the most serious and profound apprehension of reality is the Sense of Tragedy; but it may be that, in assuming this, we ourselves are mistaken. 

"It may be that there are points of view from which the Tragic Sense must be seen as serious and profound indeed, but limited and imperfectly philosophical . . . [in this age] we hug our negations, our doubts, our disbeliefs, to our chests, as if our moral and intellectual dignity depended on them. 

"And indeed it does—[but only] so far as the alternative is to remain this side of Tragedy, and to shut our ears and eyes to the horrors of experience."

-Newston Arvin

{image: A Soul Brought To Heaven by A. William Bouguereau}

26 September 2011

Health-related soapboxing

I think the reputation of "healthy food" is pretty sad. Take these lines from one (otherwise acceptable) cookbook on my shelf:

If you want to be really healthy, use low-fat yogurt.

Chicken thighs have a rich flavour, but if you want to cut down on fat, use chicken breast instead.


Get that subliminal message? If it tastes good it's probably bad for you. Healthy food is no fun.*

Well, given what we usually label "healthy," that opinion is justified. Rice cakes the texture of styrofoam. Margarine. Sugarless, fatless, flavorless ice cream.

But lucky you! That crap stuff isn't good for you anyway.

This, on the other hand, is. . . and it's unequivocally delicious.
Greek salad
 {image source}

Steak and Chorizo
{image source}

blueberry smoothie
{image source}

(050/365) December 13, 2009: Not-so-ripe avocado
{image source}

Lamb Chops RECIPE
{image source}


{image source}

Okay, here's my soapbox. The key is enjoying healthy food is to rethink what healthy food is.

It's to understand that fat is not inherently evil, and neither is cholesterol or sodium. That grassfed steak beats tofu. That those sawdusty carbs are pretty useless anyway. And that a bowl of fresh peaches with real cream is a lot more satisfying than a "cookie" topped with Cool Whip. This is why you don't need to feel deprived while eating what your body needs-- because, surprise, your body needs things that taste good! Quiche. Pot roast. Guacamole. Caesar salad. Admittedly, breaking a sugar addiction isn't much fun, but hang in there. I say, why lament the loss of Pop-tarts when you can still have chicken Marsala and aged cheddar? :)

And that is my real food credo. End soapbox. Please pass the butter.


*This is why I have enjoyed cookbooks by Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and Rachel Allen. They cook real food, without guilty apologies for the butter and sea salt. Notably, not one of them is an American . . .

23 September 2011

Weekend linkage

From a blog devoted to the differences between American and British English: shoes.

"Don't create a canon within the canon."

I made this. Recommend.

When you've tired of Vivaldi, another suggestion for grading music: Aretha Franklin.

The Alphabet from n9ve on Vimeo.

22 September 2011

In which I get in touch with my inner Bugs Bunny

I like carrots, but was never apt to munch them plain. This dressing changed my mind. Now I eat carrot sticks so I can have more Ranch. :)


Herb Ranch Dressing
(originally from Maid in Alaska) 

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream*
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried chives
1 teaspoon dried parsley**
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
pinch dried sage

Combine all ingredients; whisk together in small bowl for the low-tech version, or in a blender if that's what you fancy. (If you have one, a Blendtec creates a very smooth dressing by turning the herbs into evenly sized specks, which is nice.)

*Sour cream or strained (Greek) yogurt makes for a thicker dressing.
**A delicious variation is to replace half of the parsley with tarragon.

21 September 2011

Come one, come all

"Oh, I don't think I would care to catch a sensible man. I shouldn't know what to talk to him about."
(click on the picture to enlarge and see details)  

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!"

Well Written Wednesdays: stiff-spine fortitude

"But that is the secret, right there. Tedium is both the burden and the gift of cricket. Part of the tension is the tedium. Cricket is to other sports what the slow-food movement is to lunch at McDonald's. Its fans take the long view. They become Patience on a monument. They embrace the joys of delayed gratification. Like bad weather, Latin verbs, and the threat of succumbing to malaria while claiming parts of Africa for yourself, cricket requires the stiff-spine fortitude of the old-school Englishman."

-from The Anglo Files by Sarah Lyall

17 September 2011

Weekend linkage

Just when you thought Angry Birds couldn't be more pervasive. . . China has an idea.

I have found that while grading papers rife with comma splices (and as you'll recall, questionable analyses of history) the soaring strains of Vivaldi's Gloria are a necessary tonic.

Interesting! A movie made from the story of David and Goliath. This could be good.

I've been pondering the deep, dark question of nitrate-added meat. Bad? Good? Harmless in moderation? (I hope so, because I like bacon.)

I forget . . . did I link to this shirt before? Anyway it's worth a second laugh.

"Our car needs washed." Or not.

"I see you have the machine that goes PING!" Monty Python, I love you.

A chalkboard like this would be lovely in our mud room.

"It was then that the first spaceship landed." Best Dinosaur Comic of the week.

15 September 2011

"crunch time" dinners

Green beansI am a planner by nature. We joke that I make a spreadsheet for everything, and really, it's only half a joke. I love to have things set out in an orderly fashion! (I don't know what will become of me when we have kids. Apparently they do not fit so tidily into spreadsheets.)

So you can bet that a time crunch is not my favorite thing in the world.

Despite my plans, sometimes there is only half an hour between the moment I get home (or finish cleaning the bathroom or pull the last weed or hang up the phone) and the moment when dinner's supposed to be on the table. What to do? The question is a little harder now that we are eating fewer grains, and avoiding gluten as the main component of any meal. That means no pasta!

But not to worry. Omelets are always an option. Stir-fries or curries are perfect for hurried meals (especially served over quinoa, which takes 20 minutes to cook, max). You can make taco salad in a snap. Fish fillets pan-fry in less than 5 minutes. Many soups can be ready quickly too.

Then there's "skillet," an interestingly named dish that packs a lot of flavor and color into one simple bowl. All you need is sausage (or ground beef), potatoes, and some vegetables. No recipe, just technique. Use whatever ratio you want; I generally start with a pound-ish of meat, four medium sized potatoes, and a heap of green beans.


Skillet Stew
(I remember my mom making this but I'm not sure where the idea originally came from!)

several links of good sausage*
some baked potatoes, cubed**
fresh green beans***
a fresh tomato or two
a couple cloves of garlic, minced
some strong chicken stock
several tablespoons of olive oil or butter
salt to taste
several tablespoons of pesto^

1) Heat large skillet to medium-high and drop in sausage links. Brown on all sides, then add half-inch water, reduce to simmer, cover and let cook for 8-10 minutes. Remove to cutting board and let cool slightly, then slice into small pieces.
2) Wash, destem, and halve green beans. Wash and chop tomato. In skillet previously used for sausage, heat olive oil over medium-high and add beans. Cook for a minute, tossing frequently, then add tomato and minced garlic. Salt generously and let cook for several minutes, until beans are crisp-tender and tomato is softened.
3) Deglaze pan with enough chicken stock to loosen the browned bits. (Stir in pesto too if you have that.) Stir in potato and sliced sausage.
4) Add more chicken stock and pesto as needed to create "sauce" for stew; season all to taste.

*Ground beef and turkey also work great, and honestly, I usually use that instead. (Cheaper.) Just brown it and then add more seasoning then you would with sausage.
**If I remember, I bake some smallish red potatoes at 400 degrees for 45 minutes ahead of time. If you want to use diced raw potatoes, saute them before adding the green beans.
***Or sliced bell peppers or chopped broccoli, if that is what you have! I prefer green beans though. And in the winter I use frozen ones because the "fresh" beans in the store are kinda nasty.
^Or other herbs and spices to taste. This is up to you, so you'll need to trust your culinary instincts. You can go spicy with paprika and cumin, or stay safer with parsley and oregano.

{image credit: smithsarahjane}

14 September 2011

Well Written Wednesdays: is there no way round?

"Do we really have to go through?" groaned the hobbit.

"Yes, you do!" said the wizard, "if you want to get to the other side. You must either go through or give up your quest. And I am not going to allow you to back out now, Mr. Baggins. I am ashamed of you for thinking of it. You have got to look after all these dwarves for me," he laughed.

"No! no!" said Bilbo. "I didn't mean that. I meant, is there no way round?"

"There is, if you care to go two hundred miles or so out of your way north, and twice that south. But you wouldn't get a safe path even then. There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go . . . Stick to the forest-track, keep your spirits up, hope for the best, and with a tremendous slice of luck you may come out one day and see the Long Marshes lying below you, and beyond them, high in the East, the Lonely Mountain where dear old SMaug lives, though I hope he is not expecting you."

"Very comforting you are to be sure," growled Thorin. "Good-bye! If you won't come with us, you had better get off without any more talk!"

"Good-bye then, and really good-bye!" said Gandalf, and he turned his horse and rode down into the West.

-from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

{image credit: Alan Lee, of course}

12 September 2011

oh, she just wants . . .

Cottage DoorA bit of soapboxing today. If you're here for the recipes, come back later. :)


There is a phrase I've heard often in the past couple of years: She just wants to get married.

Typically it's used by a parent to explain why his or her daughter is not going to college. Oh, she'll be working at Starbucks this fall, babysitting in her spare time. No, no college plans. After all, she just wants to get married and have kids.

This confuses me rather a lot.

1) First someone tell me, why is it "just" getting married? That makes it sound like marriage is the option for dummies or lazy people. Smart people go to college and hardworking people shoot for high-paying jobs. But all this girl wants to do is . . . let me see . . . enter a solemn covenant with a fellow sinner, possibly create and nurture eternal souls alongside him, and endeavor to reflect the beauty and love of Christ in their lives together.

Er. That's an incredibly noble and difficult vocation. There is nothing "just" about marriage.

2) Nobody needs an excuse for not going to college (or working at Starbucks and babysitting for that matter). I believe that cultivating your mind-- learning, thinking, wondering-- is extremely important, but you sure don't need to attend college to do that. Coffee is good. Taking care of children is good. So if that happens to be what the Lord has led this young lady to do, may she go to it right heartily. Don't downplay her pursuits as a mere holding pattern!

3) Then again, if the gal's dearest wish is to be married, how is that a reason not to go to college? There were flocks of eligible young ladies at my school who longed for marriage but figured that in the meantime, they would make good use of their time by learning in a formal manner. I was among them. Many of those ladies are now happily married with children, putting their education to excellent use as they scrub floors, make pie, and teach piano lessons. (Don't tell me that liberal arts are a waste of time. I will throw Cardinal Newman at your head.)

And note that many of those ladies are currently single and likewise putting their education to excellent use. Saying "just get married" makes it sound as if you can acquire a husband and children at the grocery store. Not so much. What if the young lady's wedding day is six years down the road? Or what if, once she's married, children are unexpectedly difficult to come by? (Exhibit A right here.)

Anyway, don't discount furthered education-- whether at Princeton or a community college-- simply because said daughter "just" wants marriage and a family. It may not happen so smoothly and one can't simply bank on hopes.


Ahem. This has been your daily dose of Rebekah's Learned Opinions, in which I get huffy about a phrase that has probably been uttered in all innocence but causes me to shake my spear about the denigration of marriage or the mischaracterization of higher education. The End.

p.s. My ambition is one day to have a front door like this. {image credit: newsman05}

11 September 2011

the working of His hand

"God works in His elect in two ways: within, through His Spirit; without, through His Word. By His Spirit, illuminating their minds and forming their hearts to the love and cultivation of righteousness, He makes them a new creation. By His Word, He arouses them to desire, to seek after, and to attain that same renewal. In both He reveals the working of His hand according to the mode of dispensation."

-from Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin

10 September 2011

in which I give my humble opinion

I received a Blendtec Total for my birthday last month. (I cried with happiness. Not even kidding.) Here is what I have learned about it so far-- what it can and can't do, and for whom I'd recommend it.

A Blendtec rocks at these jobs:*
-salad dressings
-perfectly smooth soups
-coconut milk (and flour)
-grinding nuts
-pureeing squash
-chocolate milk . . . tee hee
-crepe batter
-refried beans
-breakfast smoothies!!! (a cup of kefir or yogurt, a heaping tablespoon of almond butter, several large leaves of romaine, half a frozen banana, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, about 2/3 cup frozen peach slices . . . perfecto . . . we make smoothies an awful lot so it was worth the investment just for this)

A Blendtec is pretty good for these jobs:
-homemade larabars (it needs some prodding and some coconut oil to help it along)
-almond butter (you need to scrape it down frequently and also give it time to cool down in the middle of the process . . . but it does produce a fabulous end product after all that . . . and the forthcoming Twister jar would solve the problem)

The Blendtec fails at these jobs:
-dicing or chopping a la food processor (it is far too powerful and reduces food to tiny bits with one touch of the pulse button)
-blending very small amounts (less than a cup of material and you run into problems)
-being quiet

Other reasons why the Blendtec is awesome:
-it is very easy to get food out of the blending container thanks to the wide square base
-the dull blade presents zero danger of cutting yourself while washing
-speaking of washing, it cleans up easily with a bit of soap and water and has no annoying crevices to worry about
-it is surprisingly light and store-able (a food processor has a wider footprint, while a Vitamix is far too tall to fit under cabinets)

Reasons why you might not want one:
-if you don't make smoothies or any of the other things listed above
-if you are more interested in a machine that chops and slices than one that purees, blends, and grinds (just get a food processor)
-a Blendtec shuts off after each cycle (whereas you can program a Vitamix to run for a much longer period of time)
-keep in mind that it is friggin' loud (I call it the jet engine) but hey, so's a Vitamix, so if you are in the market for a high-speed blender . . .

*I am sure there are plenty of other things to add to this list-- I just haven't tried them yet.

09 September 2011

Weekend linkage

In light of the lively political ongoings of late, this article was interesting to me: does a presidential candidate's faith "matter?"

So Jared and I were pseudo-parents for a few days this week, taking care of two boys while their parents were away. During this time I was introduced to the Red Green Show (thank you Ethan) and, well, you'll have to watch it.

Ooh. This is cool. Now for some watercolor paper.

08 September 2011

in which my students are amusing

"When the Roman empire fell people stopped caring about knowledge and the middle ages were started."

"Did you know that the Plains Indians fought differently than European countries?"

"This comes to show you that if you are looking for something great in value you might not realize what long term could be more important than what you were originally looking for."


Oh, it's gonna be a good year.

07 September 2011

Well Written Wednesdays: that laboriously clever criticism

"A few weeks ago, in the New York Times Book Review, Mr. Saul Bellow expressed impatience with the current critical habit of finding symbols in everything. No self-respecting modern professor, Mr. Bellow observed, would dare to explain Achilles' dragging of Hector around the walls of Troy by the mere assertion that Achilles was in a bad temper. That would be too drearily obvious. No, the professor must say that the circular path of Achilles and Hector relates to the theme of circularity which pervades The Iliad.

"In the following week's Book Review, a pedantic correspondent corrected Mr. Bellow, pointing out that Achilles did not, in Homer's Iliad, drag Hector's body around the walls of Troy; this perhaps invalidates the Homeric example, but Mr. Bellow's complaint remains, nevertheless, a very sensible one. We are all getting a bit tired, I think, of that laboriously clever criticism which discovers mandalas in Mark Twain, rebirth archetypes in Edwin Arlington Robinson, and fertility myths in everybody."

-Richard Wilbur, from "The House of Poe"

Laboriously clever criticism is one reason I didn't want to go to grad school.

03 September 2011

Weekend linkage

Two style-related items this week. First, an exceedingly clever montage of 100 years of history in clothing and dance. (I've watched it about ten times and am still not tired of it.)

Second, there's not much to laugh about where Gaddafi is concerned, but Time found something: his clothes.

"Stop trying to excel at everything." A great article on accepting limitations and not feeling guilty about it, from Scriptorium Daily.

The Bermuda Triangle of Productivity: lost somewhere between Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail. Oh so true . . . except for me it's Gmail, my blog feed, and (alas) Wikipedia.

How scientific studies become fodder for paranoia. It's a comic. It's funny. I promise.

What a good idea. Must make these macchiato pops before summer's up.

that I am not my own

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I am not my own but belong—
body and soul, in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

-from the Heidelberg Catechism

01 September 2011

zucchini idea #657

Zucchini Flower
For everyone up to the gills in late summer squash, muffins and bread have probably made multiple appearances in your kitchen. Sauteeing, roasting, and grilling too. So how about stuffing?

This is one of our new favorite meals, perfect for these zucchini heydays: with fresh herbs, tomatoes, and a few jolly green giants, it sings of summer. Serve with wedges of juicy sweet cantaloupe and a simple side of buttered red potatoes.

(And it's grain-free if you like that sort of thing. I do.)


Stuffed Zucchini*
(adapted from Simply Recipes) 

2 medium-sized zucchini**
2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef***
1 medium-sized tomato, diced
1/4 cup white wine
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil and thyme
generous grinding of black pepper
healthy dash of hot sauce (I used sriracha of course)
some sliced or grated "melting" cheese such as Provolone

1) Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, stir to coat with oil, and let brown for a minute or two. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until soft.
2) Raise heat to medium-high and add ground beef. Stir to break up as it browns.
3) Add tomato and white wine. Bring mixture to boil and let cook, uncovered, until liquid from tomato and wine has evaporated.
4) Meanwhile, scrub zucchini and slice in half lengthwise. Scrape out insides, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Place in 9x13 baking dish.
5) Once liquid has evaporated from meat mixture, spoon it into a large mixing bowl. Add egg, salt, herbs, pepper, and hot sauce. Stir to combine and divide between your four zucchini boats. (If making this ahead of time, put foil over the stuffed zucchini now and refrigerate until dinner.)
6) Whether you made this ahead of time or not, once it is time to eat preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lift foil and pour in water to a depth of 1/4 inch. Cover tightly with foil and bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven and uncover. Add cheese to top of zucchini boats (I cut slices into strips and lay them on top). Return to oven, uncovered, 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted.

*A.k.a. "meat canoes" (husband's name for them).
**Mine were approximately ten inches long. I don't recommend using smaller, since it will be difficult to hollow them out.
***I have been using grassfed beef and it has a richer, more savory flavor than any commercially raised beef you're likely to find. So if you use CAFO beef, I can't guarantee quite the same level of lip-smackin' goodness. But I am sure it will still be very tasty!

{image credit: squash blossom by Jamie Anderson}

Shared on Simple Lives Thursday and Pennywise Platter.