Thursday, November 8, 2012

Two Weeks

Here's a few things and thoughts on what has been happening in and around our place over the last two weeks or so.
 
FOOD
 
 
Cute Owl Cookies: Super fun to make and puffed up huge! I'll make them again next year, but I'll make more and smaller cookies.
 
 
Trader Joe's Pumpkin Butter. Ohsogood. Even better with a little vegan cream cheese!
No one in our family was too thrilled with their Cookie Butter or even the Mango Butter that we tried (surprising, since we are serious mango lovers around here), but this Pumpkin Butter is nummy.
 
 
OUTDOORS
 
 
There was a whole lotta raking going on. Above is a small sample of our leaf collection from our small yard. It was a real "lake of leaves"! So proud of the girls for their willing teamwork 3 weekends in a row!
 
 
The Box Elder bug island. These guys have been EVERYWHERE this autumn. They crave heat and the cool day that we were out raking, we found them all huddled here on the heat-absorbing downspout!
 
Thankfully, they are completely harmless. We still have a few survivors in the house. I don't kill them or many other insects, generally, unless they would do us harm. The few that found their way into the house have slowly gotten vacuumed up once they've lived out their little red and black lives. They've watched us playing cards, watched me putting on makeup and brushing my teeth, and have heard a bit about the French vs. the Glorious Revolution, Latin and Greek root words, and how to caluclate interest on a loan.
 
 
A couple of Maverick Dandelions. Lotsa luck there, guys.
 
HALLOWEEN
 
 
It was the Ninja and the cute, Japanese Schoolgirl this year. The cute, Japanese Schoolgirl that knows how to throw a side kick in tae kwon do!


We also hung out with Unicorn, Candy Corn, and "Pop" corn (and Mama too) this year!
 
Unicorn came over to our house and enjoyed owl cookies and a bit of punch. She wasn't too sure about the floating hand though... :)

 
Those fesitivities behind us, we're on to the rest of the big, holiday season!
 
In the meantime, I have been thinking about some more serious matters. Hurricane Sandy has really bothered me. I have been reading for years about peak oil, climate change, emergency preparation, etc. and with the increasing intensity of the storms and other weather patterns we have all experienced of late, and the fact that we are pretty much finally settled enough into our home, it is time now to get more intentional about these things. Now that I actually have a neighborhood to live in again, I am looking into seeking out other people who are connected with the Twin Cities Transition groups - local chapters in the larger Transition Town movement.
 
I'm sure I'll have more to say regarding this in posts to come, but I'm out of time right now! Have to get the buscuit topping on the Crock Pot Potpie before I take the girls to tae kwon do.
 
Enjoy the rest of your week!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thoroughly Enjoying...

 
I'm still frustrated that I don't have my photo editing software yet to share with you the true, brilliant colors we're enjoying, but I want to share nonetheless. :)
 



 
I didn't know what color our front yard Crimson Maple would turn. I feared brown - not really terrible, but I really craved color after so much green in Florida - but we were treated to burnt orange (there's another to the right of this one) which partners so nicely with the neighbor's beautiful, buttery yellow tree.


Our leaves in the front are just starting to fall, but the neighbors' yard across the street is a positive lake of leaves!







 
We're thoroughly enjoying our first Autumn back. Some of you are enjoying Spring... Whatever your time of year, cheers of the season to you!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Polarized

Last night I was up late talking with my older daughter. We were talking about all kinds of things that are on her almost-16 mind these days and one particular thing struck me - one thing that is sad and has me pretty disappointed with many adults these days.

We were talking about college choices and the thing that she said was this: You know, I don't want to go to school where there are going to be a bunch of partiers. I kind of want to go to a Christian school, but I really don't want to be around people who are so politically opinionated. My professor [Maia is currently enrolled in a PSEO course, which is a college course paid for by the state that high-school students can take for concurrent high-school and college credit] is SO opinion-based and I'm just sick of it!

And guess what? She's not the only teen who feels this way. My nephew, a senior in high school, says that he won't talk with his friends about the upcoming election, because he says that so many of his friends have such strong opinions - and not necessarily their own, but those of their parents - that he doesn't even want to get into it with them.

Sadly, this really is everywhere. I just skip over all the Facebook posts that have smarmy remarks. The internet is the last place to have a true discussion with anyone. The safety of anonymity leads to words that many wouldn't dare speak in face-to-face discussions. Acutally, I wonder even about that word, "discussion," because, honestly, I hardly think we're having any of those.

What we have are ZINGERS.

Yes, the smart remark that is so clever and is something that everyone can "like" and "share" and feel smug about because they got the last clever word... except that it never is the last word and someone else will come up with a new retort in about... 12 seconds... and what we're left with is nothing of substance, but instead a lot of insulted, vengance-seeking (whether in word or deed or zinger) people.
Little more than parody is built on clever insults. Certainly solving serious dilemmas that affect millions of people does not call for a punchline.

A couple of months ago, I was listening to a panel of seasoned journalists talk about the state of politics and news these days. One of the questions regarded the extreme polarization that our country has not been able to pull itself out of for the last 12 years or so. Where did this come from? It wasn't always this way, was it? An excellent answer that struck a chord with me was this:

With the rise of both the internet and opinon-based cable programs that present themselves as "news," citizens now get their information filtered through a lens that is skewed toward a perspective they already hold. Consider this for a moment. Does it not leave you feeling a little bit creepy and a little bit brainwashed? Don't you think that we ought to be challenged in our thinking just a bit and perhaps even find ourselves argreeing, from time to time with the other guy? I don't agree with my husband or my children or other family members on everything. Why should I feel this way about a political party - right or left? Because while it is quite comfortable to sit in a room and discuss topics of all kinds with people who agree with you on everything, it does not make the opinion in that room right or true.

I'm not suggesting that there aren't things that are not right or true. I have my own beliefs and values that are dear and important to me. But if my belief is different from yours, can we agree that I will not likely bring you around to my way of thinking by talking louder than or over you or by insulting you and/or what you believe in?

And so, is this how we want to teach our children to speak to one another? Is this how we instruct them in discourse toward resolving the issues of our day... of their days in the future? By teaching them to talk over someone hopefully by saying something clever enough to have printed on a tacky
 t-shirt?

I am especially making a plea to my Christian brothers and sisters out there. Stop participating in the volley of insults. Yes, Jesus disagreed with people, but instead of  calling someone an idiot or stupid or shaming or humiliating them by trying to make them look foolish with a cleverly-crafted one-liner, He taught them by using parables and invited them to think about themselves in the mirror of the story, thereby letting the Holy Spirit convict the heart and inviting them to change.

For the sake of each other, the generations to follow,our nation and Your Son, give us grace, Father, in these last days before our election and in the future,to practice your instructions in James 1:19, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry..." Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Queen of Cozy


Hello again, all, and a very happy Autumn to you!
Oh, it's always hard to start over again, isn't it?
My blogging joints feel a little bit creaky, a little bit rusty, but here I am,
finally, again.
 
I can't even really begin to back-track on all that the moving entailed. It's only been in the last few weeks that I've even considered getting back to these pages. Our new school year is in full swing now and it's taken some getting used to in addition to the settling-in that continues as we make this house our home.
 
That schedule has required a good deal of planning that I intend to talk about in another post, but speaking of home...
 
This was the view from our front picture window just over a week ago. My camera doesn't do it justice and I can't find my photo editing software (don't ask), so for now, these pictures will just have to do. It took only a few days - one particularly windy one at that - to cause some of this full-blown GLORY to scatter, but I can tell you that my whole family is thoroughly enjoying the technicolor splendor that is autumn in Minnesota - our first in eight years!!
 

 
 We've had a few chilly nights and our days are averaging in the 50's F this week, so inside is kept niiiiice and warm and I dubbed myself the "Queen of Cozy" as I began pulling out all my autumn decor.


Now, I decorated every year in Florida too, but there honestly wasn't a whole lot of need to be cozy
from anything, really. In fact, while there were subtle seasonal changes on the gulf coast,
my decorating really was autumn to my daughters. Now, they have learned that it is so much more.
 

And speaking of cozy...
these are just a couple of random kitchen shots from my new kitchen.
Storage space-wise, this is probably the smallest kitchen I have ever had to work in.
It doesn't bother me; it was kind of like a puzzle putting it all together, seeing where I might be able to fit everything. In the end, everything simply does not fit.
I really wondered at the family that lived here before we did. I guessed that it must have been a single man or a couple without children. I was very surprised to learn that they actually had three sons!
So... either they didn't cook much or they did what I do and made a makeshift pantry in my laundry room downstairs. We have plenty of storage space down there, as the laundry room runs the entire length of the house, so it's worked out nicely.
 My favorite thing in my little kitchen is my little kitchen window over the sink. Can you believe I have never had one?? They always seem so common, and yet, in the time I have been an adult moved away from my family of origin, I have never had a window over my sink... and I just love it!
This particular little spot reminds me of my mother's last Minnesota home before she moved to Florida. It's not exactly the same set-up that she had, but it is similar and I think of her often when I stand at my sink, especially in the mornings when it is still dark out, I am making my tea, and I only have the light on over the sink. Very cozy, indeed. :) Wouldn't you agree, Mom?
 

 
It was this very time of day when I took these pictures as you can see by the kitchen reflected in the window. The lace panel is actually a small runner that my grandmother or great-grandmother tatted, I believe. Eve found this bit of hydrangea the other day as we were taking a walk. In the other corner of the window-sill are some scented geraniums in a little jar that we are hoping to root for a school project. I had never seen scented geraniums before, but I am completely charmed by them!
 
 
My bakers rack is now set up in our little kitchen and is proving to be very useful for all my cookbooks. Well, these are not ALL my cookbooks, but the ones I use most often. Below, I keep my spices. It's funny, because I've had this bakers rack for about a decade now and it's never been used for what it's meant to have been used for until now. It's still only partly utilitarian, but is much more kitchen-oriented than it has ever been.
 
But do you see that wee little picture down there behind the basket?
Look, look! It's my now big teenage girls when they were just wee ones themselves!
Oh, I LOVE this picture of them! Maia is reading The Three Little Pigs to Eve. And even better is that it is the very copy of the the book my sibs and I had growing up. It's held together with a bit of tape these days, but it's still a great book!


Other than some freezer pickles and one small batch of refrigerator pickles made with my sister, I haven't had time to do any canning this year. But that doesn't mean that I haven't been busy trying to preserve as much of our summer garden that I can! I did quite a bit of freezing of our tomatoes, basil, pesto, and kale. I've still been harvesting things at my sister's place, so while it's been wonderful to have all the fresh produce (thank you, Lael and Mike!!), it will be nice next year to think that I will only need to walk a few steps into my own back yard for my harvest.
Oh, the plans are many...

In the meantime, as the weather cools, we've been making sure that the birds are getting their share...
 


...ahem.

 
The pumpkins have been selected as well, but are living inside for the present. The little, theiving critters above completely mowed down the gourds I had on our front steps, so we're being more cautious with our pumpkins until the jack-o-lanterns are carved! :)
 
Actually, I don't mind sharing with the squirrels for the most part. I like watching them as much as birds. I just hope our tulip bulbs will survive. We don't have many - just 5 in a pot on the deck. See the rock around the base of the tree in the picture above? That's all around our house in our flower beds too. Yes, it does make it all maintenance-free, but not very colorful. That's a springtime project. So, for now, we'll put the handful of tulips in the pot on the deck and plant them in a more permanent place next fall.
 
And speaking of pots, I brought in the geranium yesterday too. She'll hang out with us this winter and go back out in the spring.

And finally, I just thought I'd show you the cool stamp I made this week with a styrofoam tray from the grocers. A large portion of our curriculum this year is based on the Anne of Green Gables Unit Study, Where the Brook and the River Meet. It is chock full of activities and one of which was this. Two other homeschooling families that we know are doing this curriculum this year too and so we meet together weekly to share some activities together. We had the girls practice on styrofoam trays before they committed their designs to the linoleum blocks we got for them.
 


It is hard to just sit by and watch the girls have all the fun, so I joined them with my own design: knitting needles and yarn, of course! :)
And speaking of knitting, I have a sweater here on the needles that is just begging to get off, so I'd better wrap things up here.
 
I hope you're all enjoying the fullness of this season, whether it be sunny and warm or cool and crisp. Aren't you just so thankful for the diversity that is life on this planet?
Have a terrific weekend, friends, and I hope to be talking with you again very soon!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tomorrow, Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the day we close! I am taking a few more days away from here to get our move COMPLETE! I know I haven't been here the past week or so, but we're still with just one shared computer among 4 people and still have plenty of loose-ends to finish - packing etc. before we're settled.

I'm tired of talking about this lead-up to the move and excited for the new beginning! In the meantime, I am LOVING this summer novel I posted about starting earlier and highly reccomend it! If you enjoyed Anne of Green Gables, I think you will love this one.

Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge

Goudge is another writer, like Montgomery, who conveys such a love of place. The place even almost becomes a character in the story. I adore stories like this, since I share that same personification and connection to places.

There are gorgeous descriptions of homes and landscapes in this book as well as ordinary lives elevated by the presence of love. Ms. Goudge writes with great insight and there are many interesting life lessons that are eloquently conveyed through her charming cast of characters. It's a wonderful summer read!

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Simple Woman's Daybook for June



Sometimes I think it's kind of "cheating" when it comes to blogging with The Simple Woman's Daybook, but... it's JUNE! Can you believe it's the 11th already??? And we're all sharing the computer, since a virus has attacked the Mr.'s and mine. Plus, it's a lovely, simple tradition that has been happening in the blogosphere for a number of years. I'm thankful that Peggy created it, that she keeps it going, and enjoy participating now and again.

FOR TODAY

Outside my window... it's breezy and cool after a sultry weekend. It's a welcome relief, since we're just two more weeks in our rental and decided against installing all the window unit air conditioners that the landlords left in the basement. But there are NO fans in this house; the cool-front is much appreciated!

I am thinking... about my meatless menu. Well, not really, but here it is (a good way to squeeze it in this Monday!):

Monday:  Lasagne, rolls, and peaches
Tuesday: Veggie burgers, Corn/Chickpea Salad
Wednesday: Eggless Egg Salad Sandwiches, Coleslaw, and Smoothies
Thursday: Corn Chowder
Friday: Stir Fry
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Alaskan Tomato Soup

I am thankful... that after a full and busy weekend, I do not have to go anywhere today!

In the kitchen... are fresh-picked strawberries from my sister's patch. I'm freezing this batch for her family, as they are out of town this week and will miss some of peak-picking time! Also, fresh basil, dill, arugula, and lettuces came home with me today.

I am wearing... pink and brown plaid shorts and a gray v-neck t-shirt since I'm not going anywhere or (planning on) seeing anyone. Scintillating reading, this, I know. :)

I am creating... a knitted pullover. Working and working, albeit slowly, on Joelle Hoverson's Hourglass Sweater whenever I get a chance. Here it is on Ravelry. It's perfect, mindless knitting for this busy, moving season in my life.

I am going... nowhere today! Aaaahhh.

I am wondering... how tonight's new vegan lasagne recipe will taste.

I am reading... a lot, as usual. Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Gouge is one. Loving it! Also, Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter on my Kindle.

I am hoping... to be running again soon. Tried it out again last week and ended up with a sore foot. More waiting...


I am looking forward to... rounding out our curriculum for the fall. I think we may do a unit study for the majority of our work this year. This one looks amazing and I think that's what we'll be doing. I'm so excited; it will be our first unit study in all 12 years of homeschooling I've been doing. It will be fun to do something different and I'm hoping we'll all have a great time doing it!

I am learning... a great deal in the book of Daniel thanks to our Sunday Bible studies using Beth Moore's Daniel: Lives of Integrity, Words of Prophecy.

Around the house... I am evaluating what we can live without again for the next week and packing things away.


I am pondering... homemaking and how much I love it. :)
One of my favorite things... is living in the city. I love walking to my sister's house to work in our shared garden. I love seeing the sights along the way. I love the variety of gardens: neat, sloppy, creative, new, old, flowering. On my walk today I saw people waiting for the bus, a toddler watching her grown-up garden, little asian children playing in their yard, a girl sail by on her skateboard, a man mowing his little lawn with an electric lawn mower, another man pondering his garden, and the neat-as-a-pin-garden-lady out mowing her yard too (of course), folks at the coffee shop, and three, middle-school aged boys out on a walk, heading who-knows-where on their summer vacation.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Driver's Ed continues for Maia with our other homeschool friends on Tuesday and Wednesday. Helping Dad get a fitness membership later in the week. The usual taekwondo classes for the girls and National American Miss pageant prep training for Maia at the end of the week! I can hardly believe my daughter is going to be in a pageant. Thankfully, it's a bit different from run-of-the-mill pageants; this one based on public speaking skills, community service, etc.


And that's that! Hope your week's off to a great start!

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Year in the Life

My summer reading plan is already on shaky ground. I am trying to stick with the work of fiction that I picked up at the library the other day, but it better get good quick, because today when I pick up the girls from their last volunteer time at our local branch, I'm also picking up A Year Without Made in China: One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy.

I am such a sucker for these books. Do you love them too? You know what I'm talking about, right? I've already read: Kingsolver's, Animal, Vegetable Miracle; Gretchen Rubin's, The Happiness Project as well as Eat, Pray, Love; No Impact Man; A Year of Plenty, and another book just called Plenty.  I have perused this list at Goodreads and have added to my to-read list. Based on the popularity of some of these titles, I am confident that I am not the only one.

I am fascinated with parameters and what they can do to and for our lives. Perhaps this is why I like these books so much. Setting parameters with oneself seems to be a way in which one can have an adventure in the inner realms without needing to physically travel. We've never had a lot of money for travel, so perhaps this is why things like this - parameters - and long-term projects are so appealing to me. I know I am not alone.

Project 365 on Flickr is a popular project: one photo a day for an entire year. Other projects are similar and have been published into beautiful books: morning and evening photos, self-portraits, a sketch-a-day, etc.

Have you ever attempted a year-long project?

I tried Project 365 a few years ago starting in January and got to April. Not a failed attempt completely, I don't think. I have many amazing photos from that time that I would never have otherwise taken. And that's the idea, of course: to stretch ourselves. When the going gets tough, what will we do? That's the discovery and the adventure!

When it came to photography, something I've only had a mild interest in, I quit after 4 months. And that was okay. One year, though, after reading the wonderful book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Daily Lives by Wayne Muller, I set out to observe the Sabbath as a true day of rest for one year. And I did it. I think there were a couple of days that some work crept in, but for the most part, and with younger children at the time, it was remarkable. And I appreciated the support I got from my husband and my mom who would remind me of my commitment and helped me make it possible.

Today, the need for time - specific rest time - doesn't need to be as carved out for me .Much less of the work my girls do for school is as hands-on for me as it used to be.  My children are of the age that they make themselves their own meals on the weekends and dh does too.  Most of the time my girls make their own lunches here at home too and so only supper falls to me on a regular basis. While cooking remains an important part of my work, meal planning and preparation were a huge time commitment in the earlier years of my family and part of taking a Sabbath was planning rest for that. And it did take planning.

But of course, what I found was that is was worth it, and I was able to actually experience the gift that Sabbath is from God to His people. From that time I learned that, as being part of God's creation, He knows us. He knows how He made us and if left to our own devices, we will work and work and work until we make ourselves sick. If we're blessed enough to love our work, we may work through meals without even thinking of eating. This is why I believe God made it necessary for us to have approximately 3 mealtimes a day for refueling, yes, but also for rest. And this, I believe, is why He made it a commandment for us to rest. As New Testament believers, we are not bound by the law, but I always keep in mind that the law was for good... for our good and for us to experience life the way God would have us experience it. To follow God's way always leads to blessing. Choosing our own path means we choose, as my mother so often put it in our childhood, "to learn the hard way."

Another year-long experiment I did was to choose to not purchase anything new for myself for one year outside of, I believe, undergarments and yarn. :) Yes, I believe as a new knitter without a stash, I allowed myself, "when necessary", to purchase yarn. I do believe that a knitter could even go without that. There are ways of recycling yarn and I did that too. Also, I was gifted yarn. But of course, that meant I was at the mercy of another's taste in color and fiber. I allowed for new yarn for those reasons. And it was my experiment! My rules.

That was another good year, but I don't know if there was enough insight gained from that year to write a whole book. When one has been practicing voluntary simplicity for a long time, often new experiments like this are more subtle addtions to a lifestyle. Personally, I like that better, because as readable as the shocking lifestyle changes of something like No Impact Man are, for many of us, a little at a time is more sustainable.

A little year-in-the-life fantasy of mine recently was imagining what it might be like if I listened to nothing but classical music for a year. Now, I like classical music. In fact, it was because I was listening to it on a drive one day last week that I thought of it. But I am far from a classical music afficionado. I have a Pandora station that is named "Bach" because I know I like his work. And I like Vivaldi. But that's about it as far as composers that I know I like. Beethoven stresses me sometimes; some of his pieces sound angry to me. And that's about the amount of intellectual conversation I can give you on classical music. That's not to say that there aren't some pieces that I recognize when I hear them and like them, but it is unlikely that I could tell you the name of the piece or its composer.

So, what would happen if I listened to only that music for a year? Obviously, I would hear other music vicariously, but what if I only chose classical for an entire year? Do classical music lovers have current top-ten songs that are popular for a particular year and so that year's hit gets played repeatedly on classical music stations so that it becomes a soundtrack to that particular time? Are they forced to rush back to a certain time period, unbidden, because of a few notes they hear on the radio the way I do when I happen to hear a song by The Cure, Modern English, The Replacements, Shawn Colvin, James Taylor, the Cult, REM, the Beatles, Led Zepplin, the Indigo Girls, and on and on and on...? If you are real fan of classical music, educate me, please! I am curious... so curious. Because there is feeling to music and it sets a tone. How might the tone of my life change if that is what I heard the majority of the time? There was a time, historically, of course, when that is all people did hear. Might I begin, as I fancy, to dress like a character from a Jane Austen novel??

Ah, well. I think I am too afraid of missing out on all the other kinds of music available to limit myself. But that is the curious thing about limits and parameters. We think they are restraining, but often they open up to us entire new vistas we were as beforehand unaware.

I'm telling myself for now that I am just too preoccupied with the move and have enough on my plate with this to enter into any sort of long-term project. But it is tempting. Always tempting. Perhaps a month. That might be a small enough bite to chew on... someday. :) In the meantime, I will be working my way through the year-in-the-life books on my reading list and reading about the brave souls who do dare, live to tell about it, and share their stories with me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer Goals

Ahh, summer. It's nearly here. Our last day of school is on Thursday and we'll spend the morning at Como Zoo. My girls are kind of "big" for a zoo field trip, but Como offers so much! First, it's FREEEEEEE! Second, it also has a lovely conservatory and the summer flower show this year is inspired by the Impressionists. I LOVE the Impressionists, so I am really looking forward to that! Third, arriving when the zoo opens at 10:00 a.m. is absolutely the best time to go, because it's animal-feeding time! I was there once years ago at animal-feeding time and I actually heard a lion roar. I have never heard a lion roar at a zoo, so I knew then that it's worth it to be an early bird.

I usually have some sort of goals for my summers. This year (again) will be pretty much moving-focused (aaaahhh... almost there, almost done!) and so, though that is still before me I have a few ideas I hope to get to.

I do hope to get some good reading done - maybe two works of fiction. I am such a non-fiction reader and despite many attempts and goals (and even blog posts about them), I still don't read nearly as much fiction. So two should be accomplishable, right?

Two days until June. I found myself mentioning to a friend of mine that if I want to knit some Christmas presents, I should probably get started on them now too. Wouldn't that be a smart thing? Yes it would. Now that would be a wonderful accomplishment! Notice I'm not committing. I'm thinking about it. I hope my November self won't have to be angry at my June self later this year. Perhaps I should be making out that goal list...

I've got Twin Cities sight-seeing plans for us as a family, since so much is new to the girls. Money is going toward moving in, not getting out of town, so it's a stay-cation this year for us. Of course, as I said, so much is new to them anyway, so we are definitely playing the tourist in our own cities!

Screen-Free Wednesdays are also part of the plan. Despite the 90-minute limit each girl has, the computers still see a lot of use, as they are sitll used for school and background music. So, we're going to disconnect on Wednesdays. They can still listen to their mp3 players, since they don't have a radio or stereo, but I just want our faces away from screens. I'll check my e-mail at the end of the day for work purposes (some of you do and some of you don't know that I am a Mary Kay consultant), but that will be it. Strangely - or not-so strangely - enough, neither girl raised any objection to the idea, so it ought to be interesting! We'll see how long we'll keep up the practice.

Tomorrow I've planned an evening picnic with my family for supper after work. We'll meet down at Harriet Island just for dinner and a bit of walking around. I'll be bringing the potato salad I mentioned in yesterday's post. And here's a tip:

Did you know that you can keep your potatoes from getting mushy when you boil them by adding a tablespoon of white vinegar to your pot of water? It's so easy and so perfect for potato salad! You don't taste the vinegar, but it hardly matters, since you'd be making a salad anyway.

One more potato tip:

Perhaps you've found that if you try to cut up potatoes and save them to cook later, they, like apples, turn color. If you'd like to cut up potatoes ahead of time you can, as long as you cover them with water. Then, just store them in the fridge. They should keep without turning for a day or two.

Alright, that's all I've got for today! Off to the library. I've got one book of fiction and one non on hold. I wonder which one I'll read first! ;)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Blessed Memorial Day!


Hello all! Are you having a relaxing long weekend and taking some time to give thanks today for those men and women in service who gave the ultimate - their very lives - for our country's hard-earned freedoms?

We have had an incredibly relaxing day. After a lot of rain, the skies have cleared and today has been simply stunning. My niece, Celia turned 5 today, so we walked over to my sister and and brother-in-law's house with a bag full of goodies and a bouquet of flowers similar to the one at the top of the post.

Don't you love flowers? They instantly add something to a room and I love gathering the random things that are blooming in the yard right now.

Upon arriving at Mike and Lael's house, we noticed that we were all apparently wearing the requisite Memorial Day, hang-out-around-the-house-and-maybe-plant-a-few-seeds-outfits. Notice the matchy-matchy? For both husbands and wives? Yeah. It's a bit scary, yes? Mike, of course, has the latest-trend, newborn-baby accessory, but despite how good they look, we won't be getting one of those anytime soon. Ahem. :)


Outside, we checked out the newly-mulched garden. All the baby plants seem to be doing so well. I seriously can't wait to see how they'll all fill in.

 We added seeds today: golden and red beets, carrots, edamame, peas, and pickling cucumbers!


 Earlier last week our power was out for a bit, so on the day I thought I'd be making that lentil loaf, we all got big veggie subs at Subway. So FINALLY, tonight I've got that loaf in the oven. It always smells so good with that ketchup baked on top. I'm getting ready to run downstairs to put on the potatoes for mashing. Here's the recipe for the gravy I've used and we've loved for years. It is taken from an old Above Rubies magazine and the lovely Nancy Campbell is the one I believe should get the credit here.

Vegetarian Gravy:

1 c vegetable stock  (I use my veggie soup base mix)
(Oh my goodness. That link is from 2007. My girlies were so little then!)
2 T flour
2 t chili powder
1/2 t thyme
1/4 - 1/2 c nutritional yeast
2 or 3 T Braggs aminos or soy or tamari sauce

Heat vegetable stock in sauce pan over medium-high heat. While that is heating, blend dry ingredients in a small bowl and slowly stir into the sauce pan along with the Braggs or soy sauce. Continue to stir as it comes to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover and stir occasionally until ready to serve. Add more stock or water if you need to thin it a bit. I double this all the time with great success and it reheats well too!

Here's the rest of our meatless week:

Monday - Lentil Loaf and Mashed Potatoes (finally!)

Tuesday - Enchilada Bake

Wednesday - Sandwiches and Tempeh Potato Salad
(This is for our picnic at Harriet Island! And btw, this is a fabulous recipe from Vegetarian Times! I don't always like their recipes because sometimes they need a bit more punch, but this one is always a big hit! It's such a great way to try tempeh - mmmm - if you never have.)

Thursday - Vegan Mac & Cheese

Friday - Stir Fry

And just one more shot of these lovelies. It's such an old-fashioned mix; I love it!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Taking Part in a Food Revolution

Do you remember Jamie Oliver's show a couple of years back called Food Revolution? My girls and I loved that show, though Jamie really was pretty much preaching to the choir in our case. That's wonderful news, though, if you've seen the show, know about his mission, and want to change the way America feeds itself. If you don't, check out the TEDtalk he gave the same year his program launched. And even if you saw it back then, it's a terrific reminder of the direction in which we should be moving. After all, this generation of children is expected to live 10 fewer years than we will. And 10% of our health insurance premiums are for diseases caused by obesity. And the top killers, Oliver says, far from the things we fear, such as homicides (which are at the bottom of the list) are actually totally preventable diseases influenced by what we put in our bellies and into the bellies of our growing children.



What to do? Well, there are numerous ideas in the video, but this stay-at-home mom who cooks from scratch for 90% of her meals, now wants to make an even more concerted effort to teach her 12 and 15 year old how to make some of those meals on their own. I've talked about this repeatedly and my girls do know how to make some meals for themselves, but I'd like to see them even more confident in the kitchen. I'd like them to know how to make substitutions when we are out of a particular ingredient, how to make a fresh meal using leftovers, how to pull something together using seemingly disparate ingredients, or what basic ingredients and flavors make a meal italian, mexican, or asian, for example.

I just happen to have girls, but of course, boys need these skills as well. Just think how nice it will be knowing that by the time they get to college or are out on their own, our children won't be having regular dinners of canned spaghetti or boxed pasta, frozen pizza, other frozen dinners or fast-food takeout.

Summer, with it's less-structured schedules and often plaintive cries of, "I'm bored," seems to be the perfect time for greater kitchen instruction. It's on my to-do list. I want to be determined not to let it slide when I'm feeling tired. I wonder if I could set a goal... um, yes I could. ;) Okay, I will set a goal of teaching my girls 5 different meals that they can make this summer. They can choose their favorites and I might even have them learn one of our regulars, like vegan mac and cheese or our super easy veggie chili. Just think of how many night's off of cooking I might gain from this. :) Care to join me?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Just Another Meatless Monday (And Budget Update)

So, do you have that Bangles song in your head? heh. Shameful, I know.

Here's the rundown for the week, proving that you can always eat veg and have a happy tummy too:

Monday: Cabbage/Burger Casserole

Tuesday: Veggie Italian Sausage (my family loves this one from Tofurky) with Baked Fries. Tuesdays and Thursdays are tae kwon do nights for the girls, so I choose something light and easy to make since we get home later. Most of the time I'll do soups or chili in the crockpot on these nights, but with the weather so nice, I've been changing things up a bit.

Wednesday: Pizza!

Thursday: Corn Chowder

Friday: Lentil Loaf and Mashed Potatoes (we had church events last Friday evening  and one daughter not feeling well, so I ended up not making this; we just grabbed a few things and went)


Back a couple of months ago, I posted about how I was going to be trying to work on our food budget. I did so well that first month with a budget of $525 that we thought I could try trimming it even more to $515. This has turned out to be more difficult. Last month, my mom came to stay with us for a couple of days and this month we started hosting a Bible study in our home on Sunday evenings. We wouldn't want to change any of those plans to accomodate a budget, so the budget will need to change to accomodate to our lives. We'll go back to $525/$530 and see how comfortable that keeps us.

The great news is that because we stuck to our guns and bought a home within our means, below what we actually qualified for, come July our mortgage payment will be almost exactly half of what we are currently paying in rent! SOOOO very happy about this. That will give us a little more wiggle room as well as being able once again to set some money aside into savings.

It's tempting, so tempting, in this culture to reach beyond our means to satisfy, however temporarily, a desire for bigger and better. Advertising wants us to believe that we deserve certain things, especially when we've reached a certain age. "Shouldn't we have, by the time we are in our thirties, XYZ?" "Shouldn't I be making more than I'm making by X age?" "Don't we deserve to have X after so many years of hard work?" The bank account may not reflect that possibility, but we get tired of waiting. Or maybe we haven't even been waiting, but a new desire has been created in us, perhaps from the friend or neighbor that has something that looks like something we think we would like.

Reality and history show us a different perspective.

 History shows us that generations have passed with our ancestors having worked very hard all of their lives never having attained half of the material goods that some of us take for granted today. Wars, depressions, recessions and the like cannot be ignored. Now, I specifically note that they may not have attained material goods, but it does not mean they didn't lead fine and happy lives. We realize, of course, that material goods do not buy happiness (a temporary emotion) or even more, joy (a sustained state of being).

Reality reminds us that it is all grace. Simply being born into your country with your family, your friends, your connections, your educational opportunities is all grace. Plenty of people don't get what they "deserve" good or bad. Plenty of brilliant children live in parts of the world where opportunities will not come their way, where they are responsible for caring for their siblings, their parents, or themselves. Good kings ascend to thrones by birth and wicked kings follow. Wise men are servants, wicked men despots. A good man is rewarded. A good man is denied.

What I am trying to say is that we simply cannot allow our thinking about what we feel we "deserve" to color our view of the world or motivate our decisions. It is all grace. The Bible tells us that what we all really deserve is death. It also tells us that because of Christ and the free gift He offers, it doesn't have to be that way.

I'm not saying that we should never do anything nice for ourselves or even be a little extravagant once in a while. But temper it with some perspective of what it really is (a gift) and don't be fooled into believing you deserve it.

I don't know that I was planning to "go there" with my topic today, but there you have it. Maybe my point is that having this kind of perspective is helpful when one is trying to live within her means. It is helpful in avoiding unnecessary temptations. Because, for example, buying a pair of shoes that perhaps you really shouldn't have, perhaps really couldn't afford, is a smaller thing and one that can be more quickly and easily overcome, but buying a house, notsomuch. And yet the same thinking that causes the one mistake is the same that instructs the other. Making a regular practice of living within your means in the small things translates into greater rewards when it comes to the large. Like a smaller house payment and lower property taxes. It's worth it. :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hello, Gorgeous


I am in love. All over again, I am in love with the peonies and I remember - as if I could ever forget - why they are my favorite, favorite flower! And oh, how I missed them with their dear, plush petals. It doesn't get cold enough in Florida for peonies - or lilacs, their springtime sister that takes second-place in my heart.

"These are girly flowers, Mama!" says my younger. She is smitten too. "I want to sleep in a peony! I would be a peony fairy and live in it." And later, "I want my wedding dress to look just like this!"

I know I've shared this poem somewhere here on the blog before, years ago when I was lovelorn for their annual display, reminiscing of their fragrance... that I couldn't quite capture... that would take me back to my grandmother's garden. But Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets. And she is writing about my favorite flower! It doesn't get much better than this; it is a rite of spring for me. Enjoy, enjoy! And have a blessed weekend!

Peonies
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open--
pools of lace,
white and pink--
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities--
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again--
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

- Mary Oliver

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Prelude to the Journey From House to Home

We are finally on the last leg of our massive moving adventure! We have found a house and plans are in motion to close on June 21. I am beyond excited to think of seeing long-packed-away (18 months now!) family photos, paintings that I've done, and other personal items that were just that - too personal - to be on display when our house was on the market.

While I am not a homebody necessarily, I am whole-heartedly and joyfully, a homemaker and I have already begun making plans for our new place. The whole of the interior is very neutral and so all of my pent-up decorating and nesting will begin to be unleashed in just over a month!

One of my favorite sections at the library is design and decor books, but I have had no need for them for a year and a half! Now, now I have permission again to peruse the pages for inspiration. And speaking of that, Pintrest has been a delight for that as well. Especially since my tastes have changed over the years, it is interesting to use my Pintrest boards to actually discover what I like nowadays. I really didn't know exactly what with or how I wanted to start with colors for the new place, but now I am narrowing down ideas and am getting excited!

Thrift stores, antique malls, and garage sales will all become fair game again. A long-time favorite pastime, these too have been off my list these last 18 months of paring down to make us as streamlined and mobile as possible for what will amount to 3 - yes three - moves in 8 months! So while I am a lover of a clutter-free life and am not looking to fill up my house with unnecessary stuff, I am also hoping and praying not to be going anywhere for a long, long time.

Recently I commented on my friend tonia's blog,

As I am preparing and praying over our new house (we have a purchase agreement currently) becoming a HOME and what God wants it to be, I am excited and nervous all at the same time. Home means a great deal to me and the idea of not moving again for a long time means just about as much. I am about to turn the page on a new chapter and wonder, wanting so much to love it all, what I will find?

New neighbors and community. New streets with which to become familiar. New parks for biking and hiking. New libraries, stores, restaurants. Which will become familiar? Where will we choose to... or just naturally become... regulars?

There is so much that goes into making a house into a home. My home is my work and my ministry and a vehicle through which I can practice one of my spiritual gifts of hospitality. I am not someone who believes that women should not work outside the home and though there are more women returning to stay at home with their children when they are young, often, unless you are a homeschooling parent, it seems to be acually looked down upon if a woman really just wished to remain a homemaker.

I'm not advocating one way or another and I don't know where I will even be when my little birds fledge the nest. Sometimes a person or family has no choice to remain at home, if for no other reason than health benefits a company can provide. There are real and hard choices to be made and each case is different. But I will argue that it is not always financially necessary for a family to be a two-income home and that if money is not necessarily made or brought in by a homemaker, it can certainly be conserved to a great degree. We, for example, in the years 14 1/2 years that I have been home with my children, have actually paid off all our debt. Presently, we are even completely debt-free, beause we don't even have a mortgage... though that will soon change! ;) I am not saying that to boast, but to make a point that one can live comfortably and happily on one income. I am just arguing that it is possible.

Something I wrote in my journal a few months back is something that guides my thinking in the way I value my work: The world needs God's expression of Mother-love and it needs it in the comfort of the home setting, not just being nursed in a hospital or other care setting. Again, I am not suggesting that women who work outside the home do not provide this. It is just that I have found that one of the benefits of my work is that I am available.

For years I have been available for neighbors' children needing a ride to school in the rain or when a parent could not pick them up. I have been available for children whose parents were not yet home and a storm sprang up and they knew they could come to my house for a little bit of safe-feeling. I have been available when animals have been found and need to be returned home, when a neighbor just wanted to run to the store or had to work when her child was home sick. It didn't mean that I was always inundated with requests and it didn't even always mean that I had to actually go and do anything, but the fact that I was there and that most people have expected me to be there I believe is a value to neighborhood and community that is not there if no one stays at home. That our home may be a refuge of comfort to people other than my own family is an extension of hospitality and, to me, a tiny reflection of kingdom living.

I hope that if you are someone who has been feeling down or frustrated being in your home - whether you are there full or part-time or if you are new to staying at home or feel a little aimless or in a rut in your home, having been there so long - that you you will look with fresh eyes at your home and your position. I hope that you realize the potential that is there for creativity, learning, offering healing, a listening ear... for joy.

And if you don't believe me, hear the words of one of my favorite authors and illustrators and just people in general (I seriously can't wait to meet her in heaven!), Tasha Tudor:

 I enjoy doing housework, ironing, washing, cooking, dishwashing. Whenever I get one of those questionaires and they ask what is your profession, I always put down housewife. It's an admirable profession, why apologize for it. You aren't stupid because you're a housewife. When you're stirring the jam you can read Shakespeare.

Monday, May 14, 2012

News, Some Structure, and a Meatless Monday

It's a fresh, sunshiny new week! Gosh, it's gorgeous outside, so I am going to try to key quickly!

My ankle is healing nicely and I'm hopeful to perhaps try a little jogging on it next week; YES! We'll see. I am being cautious in all that I am doing with it. In the meantime, I started this fresh week with a little bit of yoga. I had stopped my yoga because it had strangely started causing my back to ache. When I was sharing this with my sister, she wondered if it could be connected with my running. I immediately said no, because I had gone an entire year doing both running and yoga and had been in the best shape I had ever been; my endurance was terrific and I felt strong. Then in late January of the following year, I started struggling with my back. It was always irritated after yoga. Eventually, I just stopped. I've always thought it was kind of strange, given that yoga is often used to strengthen one's back and, indeed, entire body.

I was telling my siter this while we were on the way to the plant sale last week when what she'd mentioned clicked with something I hadn't thought of before. And while I kind of felt like a numbskull for not noting this before, I am so very hopeful that my problem may be that I had bought new shoes around that same time. While they were the same brand, the store where I purchased them did not have the same model of shoe I'd had such success in the year before. I don't know... maybe they don't even make that kind of shoe anymore, so I bought the newer one. The arch, I'd noticed was different and kind of cramped my foot for some time in the beginning and I thought I just had to get used to it, which I did, but I wonder if it kind of did a number on my form and therefore my back.

SO, I am in the midst of a new experiment. While I can't run, I am going to try some gentle yoga this week and see if my back can handle it. I love the way yoga tones me all over. When I feel the stretch in a Down Dog position, for example, in my legs, my arms are also being worked. Brilliant for time-crunched mamas!

I've been thinking about introducing a little bit of structure in this space. Ugh. I so rarely seem to stick with this kind of thing, but I'm going to try. I'd like to continue writing more often and a loose structure may help guide my posts. Perhaps they won't be as ramble-y.

I haven't talked about my vegan diet in some time, so I thought that joining the folks over at Meatless Mondays would be a good place to start. But first, a confession. I can't claim a strictly vegan diet anymore, because when my husband and I locate a farmer that meets our criterea for kindness to their chickens, we will occasionally buy eggs. I know how important it is for some who are vegan to be clear in what it means to be vegan, so I can't claim a strictly vegan diet anymore. I may go back to being completely egg-free again, because I still don't like the idea of so many male chicks being tossed aside into bags to suffocate or straight into a machine that mutilates them immediately upon their birth (deemed as the "humane" way of disposing of those animals not profitable). If I do, my reasons will be for that, not because I think it is exploiting a chicken to use it's eggs for food.

What I did want to mention today is why we remain dairy-free. I won't go into any gruesome details here. There are plenty of websites out there that do that. I just want to clarify by stating some facts that I think some of those who know me just don't understand, because it is true, consuming dairy does not (directly) kill the animal.

Here are just three (though there are more) reasons we don't consume dairy. The first two are from Robin Robertson's fabulous cookbook, Vegan Planet:

1) "A factory-farm dairy cow must endure a painfully swollen udder and spend her entire life in a stall, being milked up to 3 times a day. She is kept pregnant most of her life, and her young are usually taken from her at birth."

2) "Veal calves - byproducts of the dairy industry [often male calves that have no "purpose" on a dairy farm] - are locked up in stalls and chained by the neck so they cannot turn around their entire lives. They are kept in darkness and fed a diet without iron or roughage in order to produce tender, milky-white meat."

3) I don't need to.

What we WILL be eating this week is as follows:

Monday: Pakistani Kima ( curry dish from the More With Less Cookbook)
Tuesday: Rosemary Lemon Potatoes with Black Olives and Sundried Tomatoes (from Vegan Planet)
Wednesday: Baked Polenta with Red Beans and Salsa (Vegan Planet)
Thursday: A la Carte Veggie Wraps with homemade Hummus
Friday: Lentil Veggie Loaf with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

So, perhaps you'll take a look at the Meatless Mondays website or any of the books I mention and be inspired to try your own Meatless Mondays every week. There are thousands upon thousands of  free, wonderful meatless recipes out there on the internet and from your local library to try and there is so much fresh, fabulous produce available now and in the months to come here in North America that you'll never be lacking in choices for flavor and variety! The Avocado Raddish Salad over at Meatless Mondays is something that looks divine to me right now! We didn't get any radishes for our garden this year, but that doesn't mean I won't be looking for them at the farmer's market! Ooo... and that reminds me of a fantastic radish recipe I want to share with you! I'll have to get it from my friend, Lily. Good grief, it's making me hungry just thinking about it. Thank goodness I've still got my blueberry Silk yogurt - right here - yum! - and some peach iced tea. Happy Monday! :)


.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Plants.


Photo by Gary Smith, Courtesy of Allposters.com


So, I went to the Friends' Plant Sale today with my sister to buy some plants for our summer garden. This sale is a fundraiser for the Friend's School and it is serious business, people. Thousands of people descend on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for this annual sale and it's only gotten bigger every year. There was nothing like this in the area in Florida where I spent the last 8 years. It's plant season all year long there; people just don't get as excited.

Ths was not the first time I'd been to the sale. I think I went about 14 years ago. When I went, it was at or near the actual school - at any rate, it was a much smaller site. Folks pulled wagons for their purchases. Now, it's a whole different story... or a whole 'nother, which is often the way people say it (have you noticed??).

Now people pull around wagons with towers attached to them. I saw a four-level tower today: the base a wagon and one of those plastic shelving units with the bottom legs bowed into the wagon and three levels up on top. You know... for all your plants.

Now there is a system in place (tally-takers, separate from those who actually take the money, for example) - a well-designed system, of course - to get you through easily and I can say that it was exceptionally easy.

Now there is a numbered area where you can place all your plants when you're done and you can go and get your car for easy pick-up... kind of like the airport baggage claim... but with plants.

Oh, Minnesota. You and your love of your short-lived growing season! Like concentrated laundry detergent you will take your tablespoonful of time and the sunshine and grow for all you are worth!

It was wonderful to see the glee on the faces of so many (and one in particular who was shopping with me) all together with their gardens in their minds' eyes. I wanted to ask each one, "What are you planting this year? What does your garden look like? Is it large or small? Do you have containers or boxes or beds? Is this your first garden or your fortieth? Will you can or freeze at the end of the season or do you share your abundance with neighbors? Is there something new you're trying this year? What is YOUR favorite tomato?"

I haven't been away from the Sunshine State long enough to feel my pulse quicken over planting season yet. Especially since we've had such a warm winter - a cheater, really - I haven't been starved for the greenery that I know my fellow Minnesotans feel. But I do remember it and I know that feeling will return. My sister has taken the day off of  work every year for the past few years to volunteer at the tally tables. Volunteering gets you in early on Thursday night for the first pickins. This year she's already home because she's on maternity leave, but apparently she's not the only one who takes a three-day weekend to work the plant sale properly, as I overheard from one conversation.

Another snippet of conversation that floated past went something like this, "...that's the technique that my Grandma Bell taught me, so that's what I do." So sweet, this simple act of growing food.

So, my sister and her husband are making room in their garden for me and my family this year. It's working out in a perfectly symbiotic way of sorts: she just had the baby and didn't think she'd be able to handle the garden this year and we won't be in our new house until the end of June and certainly won't be putting in a garden until next year. So for 50 bucks a piece we look forward to: arugula, aparagus, 2 kinds of  beets, brussels sprouts, celery (red!), broccoli, leeks, scallions, kale, bok choi, kohlrabi, 3 kinds of tomatoes, a new-to-us, climbing spinach, peas, carrots, swiss chard, 2 kinds of lettuce, beans, summer squash, basil, spearmint, chocolate mint (!), oregano, tarragon, thyme, chives, popcorn (!), strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, sweet red peppers and orange peppers, pickling cucumbers, rhubarb... and... oh, I just can't remember any more!

Summer, summer, with your gorgeous array of flower and vegetable! I am so excited to welcome you and see what you will bring forth!  And my favorite tomato? Brandywine. Oh yes. Right off the vine or on a warm plate with olive oil, basil, sea salt and cracked pepper. Tomorrow is the work day. It all goes in the ground! It's so, so worth it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Just What She Wants to Do

Its a beautiful day outside today. This morning we were treated to a quick-moving storm that darkened the morning skies, but quickly gave way to sunshine and bright, springtime color. Inside, however, it's a slightly different story. I'm nursing a cold and a sprained ankle. Plus, I think my kitty of these last 19 years is preparing to leave us.

Nimue and I have what I would call a "love-frustrate" relationship, meaning that she has always loved me and has caused me no small amount of frustration on a regular basis. She was downright grumpy and occasionally mean for much of her younger years. Age has mellowed her a great deal, so I haven't had to concern myself too much for some time now with that part of her personality that was trouble for me and any company I might have. For years, though, she could be unpredictable with her temperament.

She also liked to do plenty of things that she knew she wasn't supposed to do or would drive me up a wall. For example, when I would nurse my younger daughter in the wee hours of the morning, she would walk over to the plants that she ignored during the day, look right at me and then begin to chew. Of course, having the baby attached to me meant there was little I could do except scold her in a yelling whisper, "Nimue! Stop! Stop that!" Because what came next was throwing up that same plant on the carpet.

Another favorite of hers was to meow at all hours of the night right outside our bedroom door. It doesn't mean that letting her in would make her quiet; she meowed if let in as well.

So, it should really should not have surprised me that despite her current slow-motion state and little action in general, she could still manage to create a ruckus as only Nimue can.

She hasn't eaten anything for 3 days now. Today she tasted her food for a few seconds, but she's pretty much refused anything other than water on the whole. So when she got up to walk toward the kitchen from her basket, I followed, curious and hopeful. She just planted herself in a little patch of sunlight on the floor, so I thought, it being so beautiful outside and her speed of movement being greatly diminished, that I could let her out back into our fenced-in yard to roam about in the sunshine a bit. Even though I'm hobbling around, I thought even I could outpace her at this point.

So, out we went and she was very happy about this. She immediately walked easily ( I thought she might fall) down the three steps of our deck and took a stroll through the grass and into the perennial bed. She sniffed about here and there and headed back. "Oh," I thought, "she may not have many more adventures like this." (Though she is an indoor cat, I have let her out from time to time under observation or on a leash or tie-out. The tie out, by the way, was not fool-proof and led to another fiasco, but that's another story for another day). I checked to see that everything was safe. The deck, though short, was closed in all around, so she couldn't get under there, and there was only one, small opening under the fence and she was not near that. "I'll just go grab my camera and take a few shots." And I went inside, knowing right where I'd placed my camera in my purse and was all of FIFTEEN SECONDS in the house. I come out and she was gone. Really? Really???? Well, no, not really, because this being our rental house, and me not realizing that the deck was not, in fact, closed-up all the way around, she'd squeezed under the 6-inch gap on the back side of the deck and crawled to the FAR end closest to the house... and lay down.

Oh great. What if she DIES under there??? I'm going to have to find something to start to rip apart a portion of this deck to get her out!

Eve came outside and lay down on the grass looking under the deck and shouting and my nearly-deaf kitty, "Nimue!!! Nimue!!! Come out!!"

Maia came outside and marched around on the deck first in bare feet and then in wooden-soled sandals, making a loud racket to inspire same nearly-deaf kitty to come out.

I tried calling my brother-in-law to see if he had a screwdriver bit that might fit in a drill to unscrew those screws with a flower-shape on the head instead of anything I recognized (Phillips or flat-head) so that I could begin disassembling the deck! Yes, that's right. I did have those thoughts.

Nimue lay at the back and calmly stared at us doing what she has done her whole, live-long life: whatever she wants.

Eventually, she sniffed around a bit and started heading out only to initially tease Eve by turning back within arm's reach. But she did, finally, mercifully come back out and we brought her back inside. Just so she could step two front feet in the litter box and pee on the floor.

Ah, yes. Days to cherish.

But, you know, I still love her and I will miss this whiny, old lady when she is gone from our lives and I'm thankful that right now she is still happy, if skinny and slow, and sleeping contentedly in her basket right now, which is just what she wants to do.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Inspiration::Power of Words::In Real Life

Look where I was this weekend!





This Saturday I attended this wonderful "national/local" conference of sorts that invited Christian women bloggers to come out from behind their screens and attend local meetups in real life. The concept to me was brilliant. I've read about blogging conferences before and have thought about how cool it would be to meet up with other women writers. But my blog is not one that is a business for me and flying across the country to a blog conference is not an expense in which I can afford to indulge. So, when (in)courage announced it was going to be having "video-cast" driven gatherings all over the United States that anyone could host, I got excited. Though I've got family and friends here in the Twin Cities that I am thrilled to have come back to, I am still a new resident again, starting over building community and building community was precisely the focus of this first (in)RL gathering.

Plus, they made it incredibly affordable to attend: $10. That's right. Ten dollars got you a beautiful t-shirt, a pack of greeting cards to send to your girlfriends - new and old - and entrance into drawings with products from the (in)Courage line by Dayspring.  I won, by the way. :) I didn't even realize I was entered (everyone who registered was) until I got a note in my e-mail inbox. I and 99 others were sent this bag absolutely free. Cute, huh? :) It's a makeup bag, but I think knitting or art supplies are going in mine. The photos are blurry... I don't know why... but there's a sweet Scripture verse from Ecclesiastes on the front of the bag.



So, on Friday, all participants gathered round their computers for introductory videos. Nearly 2 hours of inspiring, moving content to prepare us for Saturday. And then we showed up... in real life. :)

One of the first things I was happy about was the fact that I was not hosting the event! Now this may not sound nice, but it's not as plain as it seems. As someone who's number one spiritual gift is "hospitality" it is a delight to be treated to an event in someone else's home, especially as someone new to town.

Allison and Anna hosted our event at Allison's in-laws' beautiful home just east of the Cities. We met and chatted, ate good food, yummy treats (chocolate ~ of course!), and watched and enjoyed, laughed and cried over more wonderful content provided by (in)courage.

And I came away from all of this... inspired. Inspired and encouraged to keep building the kingdom, keep building community. And also, to keep writing. We were reminded that our words are powerful:

Proverbs 16:24 - "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

Proverbs 10:11 - "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life..."

Proverbs 10:20 - "The lips of the righteous nourish many..."

Ephesians 4:29 - "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for builiding others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Proverbs 25:25 - "Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land."

Do you ever have times when you come away from someplace changed? I experience this sometimes at big family gatherings - weddings and funerals, reunions, and such - or after returning home from traveling. There is just a lot to think about and process after events such as these. Certainly, I wasn't feeling that this was going to occur in a 4 -hour block of time this past Saturday. But it did... and I'm still thinking about it. I feel so blessed to have gone and am curious to see what God is going to do next!

In the meantime, I am thinking about words: written and spoken, journaled and blogged, in prayer and in Scripture, in letters and e-mails, texts and social network posts. Can you think of a way that your words may become a "fountain of life" to someone today?
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