31 May 2012

because he delights in steadfast love

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old.

30 May 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: all Johannesburg was awed and silent

I saw the famous gust of wind in Eloff Street
It came without notice, shaking the blinds and awnings
Ten thousand people backed to the wall to let it pass
And all Johannesburg was awed and silent,
Save for an old prostitute woman, her body long past pleasure
Who ran into the halted traffic, holding up hands to heaven
And crying my Lord and my God, so the whole city laughed
This being no place for adoration.

-"No Place for Adoration" by Alan Paton

29 May 2012

potato salad, the second time round

French Potato Salad
{image credit: Delishhh}
I first posted this potato salad recipe in August 2009. Here it is again, right at the start of picnic season, with better formatting and clearer directions. Obviously it's a good one because I am still making it three years later . . . and the recipe has been requested numerous times by friends and family. Now I have a nice blog post to which I can direct them. :)

This is ideal for outdoor summer events, because unlike mayonnaise based potato salads, it won't go bad if it sits around in hot weather. Also, if you are like me, your herb seedlings are beginning to run riot and you need some way to use them up. (My tarragon and marjoram are having a competition to see who can grow the fastest.)


French Potato Salad

2 lbs. redskin potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1 small green pepper, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
minced fresh herbs, to taste (I would recommend parsley and tarragon, but basil, dill, and thyme are also excellent depending on the flavor you desire)
salt to taste (it will need plenty)
black pepper to taste

1) Place potatoes in large pot of water, bring to boil, and cook until just tender (you don't want them at all mushy).
2) Meanwhile, place diced onion in the bottom of a large colander. When potatoes are done, pour into colander to drain; the hot water will take the edge off the onion.
3) Tip potatoes and onion into large bowl. Add green pepper and garlic, and pour olive oil and vinegar over top. Toss to coat. Add additional olive oil as necessary (you'll need more than 1/4 cup, but I never measure the exact amount).
4) Add herbs, salt, and pepper to taste. Toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Shared on Simple Lives Thursday.

28 May 2012

in which I pretend to know something [part III]

Day 84 - Juggling
{image credit: The Kit and the Cub}
Third bit of marriage advice? Treasure time with your husband and don't ever take him for granted.

Women often become absorbed in a complex agenda. As a multi-tasking bunch, it is difficult for us to concentrate on only one thing at a time, because we're jugglers by nature; if we take our eye off any portion of life, even momentarily, we fear it will all fall to pieces. To continue juggling effectively, we keep five mental tracks going at once. In the middle of one conversation we're considering yet another responsibility we ought to take care of later, and the task list for the day grows ever longer, and focusing on anything but our own agenda seems impossible.

We have to keep all the balls in the air. Right?

Perhaps. But your husband is not an item on your to-do list. You can't just check off his box and hurry on to something else. That may work for a while but ultimately it proves unsatisfactory. He is a gift to you; treat him as such. If you "fail" to accomplish all of your tasks because you took time to listen to your husband or give him a backrub after a hard day or just send him an encouraging email, that's okay. Time used to love your husband is not wasted. Never feel guilty about it.

When you are a performance-oriented person, like me, this can be hard to swallow. I tend to evaluate my own worth based on what I've recently accomplished. Productive day? I'm happy. Unproductive day? I'm downcast. When I cherish a particular vision for my schedule but it gets derailed by an unplanned event (even if that event is good in itself), I can feel frustrated. As if those hours were thrown away.
The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s "own" or "real" life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one's "real life" is a phantom of one’s own imagination. (C.S. Lewis)
How much more this is true when the "interruptions," rather than being unpleasant, consist of the delightful intersection of your life with your husband's. Challenge yourself to put down the laundry basket and simply be with him, enjoying it freely--whatever that happens to look like. ;)

25 May 2012

Weekend linkage

On Wednesday I was at my parents' house, and my two youngest siblings were getting ready for their homeschool evaluations. Apparently they need to fill out a form beforehand, inquiring about their experiences this past year. Rachel was writing down Mark's answers for him.

Rachel: What's one area you need to improve in?
Mark [flippantly]: Paying attention.
Rachel: Oh yeah, that is a good one for you!
Mark: No! Stop, don't write that!
Rachel [writing]: Too late.
Mark: I want you to write something different!
Rachel: Fine then. Give me a real answer.
Mark: Um . . .
Rachel: Come on, hurry up.
Mark: Um . . . what was the question again?
Rachel: hahahahaha

I love them :)


This strawberry mojito looks fantastic. So does this smoothie, also with strawberries, and a more unique ingredient: beets! (I just saw the season's first beets at the farmer's market the other day.)

Wee sculptures of food, from chef salads to chocolate chip cookies. And I though I was good with Playdough.

Also from Colossal, an Argentinean sculptor beaches a whale in the middle of the woods. This would be creepy but awesome to find while taking a hike.

How common is your birthday? It was no surprise to see August's popularity, since in our combined families, 30% of birthdays (six out of nineteen) occur in August. It's like crazy party month.

Miniature city built out of type.

A good one from Dinosaur Comics: "Wilde's the most egregious preemptive plagiarizer of my funny jokes ever!"

A wine hoax of gargantuan proportions. This article made me think about what we use as status symbols (in this case, expensive wines) and how we can fool ourselves into believing that they're more valuable than they truly are.

Marinated roasted mushrooms.

Famous authors denigrate their fellow wordsmiths. "Bulwer nauseates me; he is the very pimple of the age's humbug. There is no hope of the public, so long as he retains an admirer, a reader, or a publisher." Tell us what you really think, Mr. Hawthorne!

It is okay to say no to unnecessary crazy. Preach it sista.

Two unique wedding features from A Cup of Jo: colorful bridal gowns (I vote for the gold!) and a cheese cake. Like, literally cheese.

Praying as we work and as we live. "'True, whole prayer is nothing but love,' offered St. Augustine. Is the only reason we don’t really pray is because we really don’t love? . . . And real prayer isn't about changing God's mind but about finding God's heart--and letting His heart change my mind."

When coffee and chocolate were identified as the staples of life several weekends ago, we left something out.

Scotch & Chocolate by Nickel Creek on Grooveshark

24 May 2012

coconut fish curry

Four years ago, I was in Turkey, wandering the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul and wishing I could bring the spice vendors home with me. (Only the spices, to be exact. Not the vendors themselves. "Ahh, dear lady! Here is so much for you to buy, come try come try! Beautiful prices for beautiful girl! Anything you want, I have. Special price just for you, sweetheart!" Annoying. Flattery grows tiresome quickly.)

Spice Market
{image credit: kitarp}
My friend Shannon is there right now. Hop on over and look at her pictures. Now that's beauty.

Speaking of spices . . . remember that fish curry I linked to a few weeks back? Made it yesterday: sauteed, simmered, and gobbled with gusto. It's quite easy, especially since it uses prepackaged curry powder rather than a homemade blend of turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and the lot. Though I like fiddling around with my spice jars, convenience also appeals.

If you happen to be a fellow fish-lover who enjoys vibrant flavors, we recommend that you make it too.

p.s. Trader Joe's sells irregularly shaped cod pieces at a lower price than the perfect fillets, and those pieces work perfectly for a dish like this.


Coconut Fish Curry
(swiped from Katy She Cooks, with many thanks and a few modifications) 

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 14-oz can petite diced tomatoes, undrained 
3/4 cup canned coconut milk
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound wild-caught cod (or other mild white fish), chopped into bite-sized pieces

1) Melt coconut oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute for a few minutes, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until softened.
2) Remove lid and raise heat to medium-high. Add garlic and ginger; saute for 30 seconds.
3) Add tomatoes, coconut milk, lime juice, curry powder, and salt. Bring to low boil and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until tomatoes are softened and liquid is partially reduced. (You should enlist the help of your exhaust fan here to avoid filling the kitchen with steam.)
4) Stir in cod. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and seasoning if needed. Serve over rice or quinoa.

Shared at Simple Lives Thursday.

23 May 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: the liquid love and brightness

Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hooves. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled.

The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse's neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed into each other's nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish between them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leapt upon the horse's back. Turning in his seat he waved a farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I knew well what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out as quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that I must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning.

-from The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

21 May 2012

in which I pretend to know something [part II]

Here's my second piece of marriage advice: listen to him. I don't just mean after a conversation, as in "consider his words carefully and heed his advice" (though that's good counsel too). I mean during a conversation, as in "wait for him to speak, instead of rampaging along with your own torrent of words."
Conversations #3
{image credit: Udit Kulshretha}

This is a huge challenge for me; I didn't even realize that it was an issue until at least halfway through our first year of marriage.

My conversation is a verbal juggernaut, speeding along its track without consideration for what the other person may have to say. Jared is much slower to speak than I (and is also much more polite). Unless I consciously pause, rein in my tongue, and wait for him to say something, he will rarely butt in, and I will mistakenly assume that he has nothing to contribute to the conversation.

Furthermore, I-- like most women I know-- process ideas by talking about them; I will happily discuss something that I haven't yet fully sorted out, because by means of that discussion I will gain further clarity. A lot of men, on the other hand, process ideas mentally and only talk about it afterwards, once they have a good foundation to build on. Thus, Jared prefers to muse quietly for a while before he speaks.

This used to drive me crazy (confession: sometimes it still does). As a talkative woman accustomed to interacting with other talkative women, I expect people to respond immediately to what I say. None of this quiet reflection nonsense. When my husband doesn't respond, when he is silent, I can think that he wasn't listening. False! I just need to give him time to collect his thoughts.

If I hadn't done this I would have missed at least half of the wise things that Jared has said in the past several years.

So ladies, exercise some self-control. You might be surprised at what you hear. :)

18 May 2012

Weekend linkage

We're all feeling sick 
so I'll make this quick

(the Monday poem I wrote on the blackboard. . . yup, we downed a lot of vitamin C this week)


A pretty illustration of herbs and their uses.

Life is a festive occasion. "This present experience is brief, non-ultimate and good.  While it lasts, it is to be dignified — not absolutized or despised but dignified — as a gift from God.  This life is a mixture of grace and tragedy, a good creation marred by our human folly.  So, the wise seek the things that are above, where Christ is, and they receive with thanksgiving the good things God gives here and now."

Make your own dry erase board! What a good idea.

I want these stickers.

Would you buy a ticket for Titanic II?

We stopped watching Psych this season, since it seems to be relying on more crudity and less cleverness for its humor. Too bad . . . the first several seasons were fantastic. Anyway, now we're hooked on Numb3rs. The writing has none of West Wing's razor-sharp genius, and some of the plots are predictable, but still! It's quite good. Basic premise: two brothers, one an FBI agent and the other a prodigy mathematician, work together to solve crimes. The relationship between Don and Charlie (not to mention their awesome father) is very sweet and genuine. There's a lot of nerdy humor, it has given me a new appreciation for math, and it's clean. So there you have it. The show was cancelled in 2010 but we still have four seasons to go on Netflix!

A critical mind . . . or a critical spirit. How easily I conflate the two.

See you later, alligator.

Bloopers from theology students: parts one, two and three. "Martian Luther is the theologian of justification."

This is a beautiful piece from the Requiem by Tomas Luis Victoria. Really, I'd recommend listening to the entire work.

Funeral Motet - Versa est in luctum by Tomas Luis de Victoria on Grooveshark

16 May 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: what was known as relativity

When Uncle Jack jumped down from the train Christmas Eve day, we had to wait for the porter to hand him two long packages . . . Uncle Jack shook hands with Jem and swung me high, but not high enough: Uncle Jack was a head shorter than Atticus; the baby of the family, he was younger than Aunt Alexandra. He and Aunty looked alike, but Uncle Jack made better use of his face: we were never wary of his sharp nose and chin.

He was one of the few men of science who never terrified me, probably because he never behaved like a doctor. Whenever he performed a minor service for Jem and me, as removing a splinter from a foot, he would tell us exactly what he was going to do, give us an estimation of how much it would hurt, and explain the use of any tongs he employed. One Christmas I lurked in corners nursing a twisted splinter in my foot, permitting no one to come near me. When Uncle Jack caught me, he kept me laughing about a preacher who hated going to church so much that every day he stood at his gate in his dressing-gown, smoking a hookah and delivering five-minute sermons to any passers-by who desired spiritual comfort. I interrupted to make Uncle Jack let me know when he would pull it out, but he held up a bloody splinter in a pair of tweezers and said he yanked it while I was laughing, that was what was known as relativity.

"What's in those packages?" I asked him, pointing to the long thin parcels the porter had given him.

"None of your business," he said.

Jem said, "How's Rose Aylmer?"

Rose Aylmer was Uncle Jack's cat. She was a beautiful yellow female Uncle Jack said was one fot he few women he could stand permanently. He reached into his coat pocket and brought out some snapshots. We admired them.

"She's gettin' fat," I said.

"I should think so. She eats all the leftover fingers and ears from the hospital."

-from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

15 May 2012

kale is super.

I hadn't tried kale until about a year ago, when I bought a bag and stuck a few curly handfuls in the blender with yogurt and bananas.

(What are you doing? said my husband. Green smoothie, I said. Try some? No thanks, he said, and has remained skeptical despite my drinking one at least once weekly and suffering no ill effects. I like the fresh flavor. You just need to avoid overloading on the green-- no good-- and add an apple or banana or other especially sweet fruit.)

Kale, like broccoli and blueberries, has been designated a superfood by certain health mavens. But as with broccoli and blueberries, I eat it because I like it, rather than out of any sense of healthful duty. Soup! Quiche! Salads! Chips! And yes, smoothies! Gimme.

Super 8 by Michael Giacchino on Grooveshark 

Of course, it's nice to know that I'm shoving lots of nutrients down my gullet in the meantime. :)

p.s. This recipe also looks awesome.


Garlicky Kale
(inspired by No Recipes) 

2 tablespoons butter
1 small red onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
8 cups kale, washed and chopped roughly into small pieces*
2 tablespoons white wine (I like cooking sherry in this)
salt to taste
optional: a splash of lemon juice

1) Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until soft and translucent.
2) Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes.
3) Raise heat to medium. Add chopped kale, wine, and a pinch of salt; cover and cook until wilted (only 5 minutes if you like your kale to retain a lot of body, but longer if you'd like it tender, more like spinach). Season with additional salt to taste, and lemon juice if you want. Yum.

*I use curly kale because that's what I can usually find, but I'm sure lacinato would work well too.

Shared on Simple Lives Thursday.

14 May 2012

in which I pretend to know something [part I]

Last week I went to a bridal shower. I'd been asked ahead of time if I could share words of wisdom (?!) with the bride, so in the few days preceding I set about compiling a list of Things I Have Learned About Marriage.

It was a surprisingly long list. (I say "surprisingly" because when it comes to the practical matters of life, I'm not the sharpest crayon in the box . . . neither observant nor inclined to be so. Thus I was pleasantly shocked to see how much I really had learned after only 2.5 years of wedded bliss.) I only chose three to talk about. Then it occurred to me that it might be fun to post them here too. So here goes #1.


All Apologies(20/365)
{image credit: howficklemyheart}
Whenever you possibly can, take the initiative in resolving conflict. Never sit there pouting, waiting for your husband to apologize first. He may not, at least not for a long while . . . and in the meantime, you'll be simmering a nasty pot of bitterness.

How to initiate? Well, find your fault in the conflict and let him know you are sorry. Even if you think it's all his fault (which is rather unlikely) you can still invite him to speak his mind and point out your weaknesses. Maybe he will and maybe he won't, but when you express humility this way, it can soften his heart to you and prod him to apologize as well.

Some couples need "cool off" time when they are in the middle of an argument. Sometimes we do too. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. However, don't let that wise period of withdrawal slide into angry silence. As soon as you are ready to pursue resolution-- once you are self-controlled enough to want peace instead of revenge-- go for it. Communicate your willingness to talk. I can't tell you how many potential wars have been headed off by one of us saying "I was wrong. That was stupid. Forgive me." A sincere apology really defuses anger. Make it your goal to be the first to offer that apology!

Yes, I believe this is an area where it's quite appropriate for the wife to initiate :) ha. (And anyway, by opening yourself up to peacemaking, you are inviting him to take the lead.)

11 May 2012

Weekend linkage

Me: Is there anything else we need at the grocery store?
Jared: Coffee. And chocolate.
Me: But we already . . .
Jared: I am a simple man, my dear. I require only the essentials of life.


Last week I was placing an Amazon order and realized that they were offering me $50 of free stuff if I'd open a credit card with them. Sweet. So I did, and with that $50 purchased several "want but don't need" items, including (finally) a Microplane zester. I am in love. This one next-- I'm ready to kick my clunky box grater to the curb.

Go Viola. "Humanity is messy . . . we as artists cannot be politicians. We as artists can only be truth-tellers."

Sometimes Jared talks about getting a motorcycle. I told him that if he does, I'll buy boots like this.

Yesterday I spatchcocked a chicken for the first time, using a variation on this recipe. It roasted faster, cleaned up easier, tasted just as wonderful as the traditional roast-- I am sold.

Get insulted by Martin Luther! "What bilgewater of heresies has ever been spoken so heretically as what you have said?"

Cookbooks authors and the lies they tell . . . about caramelizing onions.

Once my hair's longer I will be trying this mermaid tail braid tutorial.

If you have a lot of unwanted books sitting around and would like to acquire new ones for free, get thee to Paperback Swap.

I'm putting this ballet documentary on our Netflix queue! Meanwhile I'll keep watching Youtube clips like this one . . .

We've had a lot of busy evenings lately. This song seems appropriate for the weekend.

Let's Just Stay In by Tony DeSare on Grooveshark

09 May 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: in London there was such a man

The French had collapsed. The Dutch had been overwhelmed. The Belgians had surrendered. The British army, trapped, fought free and fell back toward the Channel ports, converging on a fishing town whose name was then spelled Dunkerque.

Behind them lay the sea.

It was England's greatest crisis since the Norman conquest, vaster than those precipitated by Philip II's Spanish Armada, Louis XIV's triumphant armies, or Napoleon's invasion barges massed at Boulogne. This time Britain stood alone. If the Germans crossed the Channel and established uncontested beachheads, all would be lost, for it is a peculiarity of England's island that its southern weald is indefensible against disciplined troops. In A.D. 61, Queen Boudicca of the Iceni rallied the tribes of East Anglia and routed the Romans . . . But because the nature of the southern terrain was unsuitable for the construction of strongpoints, new legions under Paulinus, arriving from Gaul, crushed the revolt, leaving the grief-stricken queen to die by her own hand.

Now the 220,000 Tommies at Dunkirk, Britain's only hope, seemed doomed. On the Flanders beaches they stood around in angular, existential attitudes, like dim purgatorial souls awaiting disposition. There appeared to be no way to bring more than a handful of them home. The Royal Navy's vessels were inadequate. King George VI has been told that they would be lucky to save 17,000. The House of Commons was warned to prepare for "hard and heavy tidings." Then, from the streams and estuaries of Kent and Dover, a strange fleet appeared: trawlers and tugs, scows and fishing sloops, lifeboats and pleasure craft, smacks and coasters; the island ferry Gracie Fields; Tom Sopwith's America's Cup challenger Endeavour; even the London fire brigade's fire-float Massey Shaw-- all of them manned by civilian volunteers: English fathers, sailing to rescue England's exhausted, bleeding sons.

Even today what followed seems miraculous. Not only were Britain's soldiers delivered; so were French support troops: a total of 338,682 men. But wars are not won by fleeing from the enemy. And British morale was still unequal to the imminent challenge. These were the same people who, less than a year earlier, had rejoiced in the fake peace bought by the betrayal of Czechoslovakia at Munich. Most of their leaders and most of the press remained craven. It had been over a thousand years since Alfred the Great had made himself and his countrymen one and sent them into battle transformed. Now in this new exigency, confronted by the mightiest conqueror Europe had ever known, England looked for another Alfred, a figure cast in a mold which, by the time of the Dunkirk deliverance, seemed to have been forever lost.

England's new leader, were he to prevail, would have to stand for everything England's decent, civilized Establishment had rejected. They viewed Adolf Hitler as the product of complex social and historical forces. Their successor would have to be a passionate Manichaean who saw the world as a medieval struggle to the death between the powers of good and the powers of evil, who held that individuals are responsible for their actions and that the German dictator was therefore wicked. A believer in martial glory was required, one who saw splendor in the ancient parades of victorious legions through Persepolis and could rally the nation to brave the coming German fury. An embodiment of fading Victorian standards was wanted: a tribune for honor, loyalty, duty, and the supreme virtue of action; one who would never compromise with iniquity, who could create a sublime mood and thus give men heroic visions of what they were and might become. Like Adolf Hitler he would have to be a leader of intuitive genius, a born demagogue in the original sense of the word, a believer in the supremacy of his race and his national destiny, an artist who knew how to gather the blazing light of history into his prism and then distort it to his ends, an embodiment of inflexible resolution who could impose his will and his imagination on his people-- a great tragedian who understood the appeal of martydom and could tell his followers the worst, hurling it to them like great hunks of bleeding meat, persuading them that the year of Dunkirk would be one in which it was "equally good to live or to die"-- who could if necessary be just as cruel, just as cunnning, and just as ruthless as Hitler but who could win victories without enslaving populations, or preaching supernaturalism, or foisting off myths of his infallibility, or destroying, or even warping, the liberatrian institutions he had sworn to preserve. Such a man, if he existed, would be England's last chance.

In London there was such a man.

-from The Last Lion: William Spencer Churchill, Volume 1 by William Manchester (the first two pages thereof, as suggested by my father-in-law . . . thanks Ray)


And now I believe I'll be reading the rest of this. Even if Manchester hadn't already captured me with his prose, as a Hillsdalean it's only right. We have a huge statue of the guy in the Student Union, after all-- though many irreverent students are more inclined to decorate Winston with balloons and Santa hats than to ponder his greatness.

08 May 2012

well, if a Russian count came to visit, I would make this

That's Count Pavel Aleksandrovich Stroganoff, an interesting fellow whose political and military career you can read about here. Abandoned by his mother Princess Trubetskaya, given into the care of a French tutor, youthful member of a Jacobin sympathizer group, reform-minded counselor to Czar Alexander I, hero of the Napoleonic Wars . . . and good-looking to boot. I wonder how long it took to embroider that collar.

Sometimes I wonder why people in old portraits sport such small smiles. Whither the happy grins? Were they really all so solemn? Then I remember how much my face hurts after just a 5-minute photo session, and how the subjects of these portraits had to sit there for hours upon end . . . oh. I see.

What does all that have to do with beef stroganoff? Nothing really. But Russian noblemen are more interesting than chopped mushrooms.


Cheapskate* Beef Stroganoff 
(I'm sure I got a base recipe somewhere but that was so long ago I've forgotten, and anyway I've certainly edited it enough since then to call it my own)

1 lb lean ground beef
3 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons beef stock
2 tablespoons red wine
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
parsley to taste

1) In large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add ground beef; brown and crumble. Remove from skillet and set aside.
2) Melt remaining butter in skillet and add mushrooms. Saute for a few minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender.
3) Return browned beef to skillet. Whisk together beef stock, wine, Dijon, and cornstarch; pour into skillet and stir briskly. Raise heat to medium-high and continue to stir until thickened.
4) Reduce heat to low and stir in sour cream. Cover skillet and simmer for 15 minutes.
5) Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and dried parsley. Serve over mashed potatoes or brown rice.

*A more authentic version would call for beef cut in cubes or strips, browned, and braised in the sauce. But I tend to use ground beef whenever I can get away with it. (We think grassfed ground beef tastes better than conventional cube steak anyway.)

Shared on Simple Lives Thursday.

07 May 2012

up, up, and away

"In four more years we'll be able to put our hair up," said Diana. "Alice Bell is only sixteen and she is wearing hers up, but I think that's ridiculous. I shall wait until I'm seventeen."

"If I had Alice Bell's crooked nose," said Anne decidedly, "I wouldn't-- but there! I won't say what I was going to because it was extremely uncharitable."

--Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery


Why do I put my hair up so often?

First: I don't like my hair. The only haircut I've ever loved was a stacked bob. However, the husband wasn't such a fan of that style, and I got tired of paying for a trim every month! So I went back to long, where at least I can do something pretty with it in order to disguise the fine texture, dishwater color, and unimpressive volume (whine whine whine). Jared does really like when I put it up, so I figure it's a nice solution all around.

Second: my face is rather plain. I mean, I'm not the Countess of Tyrol, but modeling agencies sure won't be calling me either. I think a good hairdo counterbalances what my face lacks . . . I can make my hair feminine and interesting, even if my square chin and wide cheekbones aren't. haha :)

Third: it's fun. This last reason is the best, as it's positive rather than a mere attempt to mitigate (what I see as) my flaws. So it's the one I have chosen to focus on. A sleek half-ponytail or twist makes me feel elegant, even if I'm wearing ratty old jeans. I'm amassing quite a collection of headbands, flowers, and pins to pretty up my creations.

Most recently I have been amusing myself with mini-beehives. Don't worry, I'm not doing the full Winehouse . . .

I just like making a tiny part in the front, with the rest combed straight back and teased for some volume, then a messy bun to finish it off. Then I can pretend that I look like Brigitte Bardot. (Please don't burst my bubble.)

A high bun is something else I've been trying out, and I think I like it. This style will work even better when my hair grows another inch-- at the moment, it's a bit hard to keep every strand piled up there.

(Now if I only had as much hair as Hailee Steinfeld, we'd really be talking!)

What do you like to do with your hair, ladies? Any ideas for me? :)

05 May 2012

Weekend linkage

"No, I'm not going to stop making fun of you. It's one of my principal pleasures in life."


Ooh, this pea salad and coconut fish curry both look delicious.

Speaking of fish, I learned last week that fish ranching is a thing. Our next big career move!

Though we already own two teapots, two French presses, three carafes, an auto drip coffeemaker, a Bialetti, and a porcelain pourover cone (i.e. nearly every hot-drink-producing device known to man), this laboratory-inspired service set-- simultaneously clever and beautiful-- is loudly calling my name.

Just add monster.

This is definitely the best "Hey Girl" spoof I've seen yet.

Ouch. Poor guy.

Sherlock is on this weekend EEEEEEE!!! (Also, Benedict Cumberbatch reads The Little Red Hen.)

I recently heard an NPR interview with Joel Osteen. Fittingly, I found this article a few days later: "What's Wrong With Joel Osteen?"

Really interesting article about Christians and slavery during the Civil War.

Add Phil Wickham to the long list of Things I Didn't Know I Liked Until Jared Happened. (A list that includes baseball, sour cream, and sweatpants.)

Holy Holy Holy by Phil Wickham on Grooveshark

03 May 2012

tag, you're it

You may have noticed that I added several new "tags" to that list on the right. I like to be able to find things, and you probably do too, so I thought these additional labels might be nice!

Posts filed under Crunchalicious chronicle my natural-lifestyle-hippie-crazy-prairie-woman endeavors, from making yogurt to putting pumpkin on my face, and musings, from deceptive advertising to natural cleaning alternatives.

I decided to collect my posts on discouragement, depression, and finding hope in God in the midst of the mess, and file them under Even the Darkness. I know I'm not the only one. (While pulling together this tag, I discovered that I've unwittingly posted John Donne's "Batter My Heart, Three Person'd God" three separate times on this blog. That made me laugh. Apparently I like this poem.)

As for The Boy, well, that's what my dad called Jared the whole time we were dating, so these posts include our courtship story, thoughts on marriage, and random snippets of our life together.

Sometimes the labels go all wonkus on me and stuff is filed under the wrong category. A quiche recipe under "Scripture," for example. If you ever find a post like that, leave a comment and I'll fix it! :)

02 May 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: to dream of baboons and periwinkles

The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches Tigers
In red weather. 

-"The Disillusionment of Ten O' Clock" by Wallace Stevens

01 May 2012

"Oh no . . . Aunt Nellie brought her green bean casserole!"

365.2.21 : Sometimes I eat just a can of green beans for dinner.
{image credit: the boastful baker}
This is one of those unfortunate dishes that winds up as the butt of holiday jokes. Its shabby reputation, I think, comes from its genesis in multiple cans (MSG'd!). Even though we secretly relish each gelatinous serving, we know that nothing with that many processed foods involved could possibly be good for us.

Da da daaaa . . . introducing an alternative. Just as good as the original, actually better in my opinion, and a lot less guilty. More work, since slicing mushrooms and whisking up a roux takes longer than cracking open a can. It also requires three burners on the stove. But if you find such work worthwhile, this recipe is perfect.

Since this uses so much stovetop realty, I like to serve it when the main dish is grilled or baked. Think shishkebab or roast chicken

Is it sacrilegious to make green bean casserole on days that are not Thanksgiving?


"Unprocessed" Green Bean Casserole
(original recipe from Brown Eyed Baker)

1 lb green beans, fresh or frozen
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1 medium yellow onion, quartered and sliced thinly
10 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt (or more)
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

1) Preheat oven to 425. Lightly grease 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray or butter.
2) Melt 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium heat. Add sliced onion and saute for one or two minutes, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until soft and caramelized.
3) If using fresh green beans, trim stems and cut into 1-inch lengths; bring pot of water to rolling boil and blanch just until crisp-tender, then drain in large colander. If using frozen green beans, prepare according to package directions, undercooking slightly.
4) Meanwhile, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in separate skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and browned. Add cornstarch and cook for a minute more, stirring briskly. Add stock and milk 1/2 cup at a time, whisking vigorously with each addition to avoid lumps. Cook for a few minutes until thick and glossy. Season with salt and pepper.
5) Stir cooked and drained green beans into mushroom sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Transfer into prepared baking dish and top with caramelized onions and chopped walnuts. Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until browned and bubbling at edges.

If you'd like to make this in advance, it will probably just require a longer baking time.