Friday, June 30, 2006

puttin' the "scare" back in scarecrow

Step right up, folks. Welcome to our funky little town, where the theme this year is "Fun Park Gone Awry". Questions? See here.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

...and the livin' is easy....

A blur of hours, seamlessly tumbling one over the next, has been my portion the last few days. I haven't actually sat in the kayak, but perched on the roof of my PT, it has happily buzzed all over the North Country: supermarkets, riding lessons, Crane, library, ballfield, and Grandma's house. Perhaps today I can wend waterward. Oh, the happy slap of bow on river!

Four children of Friend # 21 are here for a spell, as their sweet mom travelled south to visit an ailing relative. Of course, no one opted to sleep in a real bed last night; not when there is a camper on the premesis and an air-conditioner in the family room. The floors are scattered with overnight bags, extra shoes, riding boots, and someone's cast-away socks. But merriment is in the air, so it's okay. Anyway, two ambitious girls vacuumed and washed the kitchen floor this morning, which leaves a blank slate for today's doings.

Today, I raid the garden for the spoils of copious rain and cool evenings. Drowned Mustard Greens will be the featured antipasto this evening at Chez Nancy. The basil is up and looking for some olive oil to couple with. (Friend #7, take note!)

Even in the midst of the bustle, a corner of my mind keeps refuge with introspection. Seasons like this bring to my mind the Shaker adage: Hands to work, Heart to God.

That's the kind of multi-tasking I can abide.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

addiction, done right

Homemade Frappacinos

very strong coffee, cooled
vanilla bean ice cream
heavy cream

I am toying with amounts here. But try 2 C coffee, 1 C ice cream, 1/2 pint cream, 3 T sugar, 2 T cocoa, and 1 C ice. Blend on high until frothy. You can top with whipped cream, nutmeg, or cinnamon. (You can also charge $3.95 a glass, like ****bucks does.)

My Kenosha Friends (#5a, #5b, and dear #60...) will be jumping on this recipe, you betcha.

Monday, June 26, 2006

search me (thoroughly)

We really think we know ourselves. After all, only one lucky soul is privy to the rumblings inside our head, the feel of being that comes from living inside this familiar skin, and the wants, dreams and desires that fuel our daily regimen.
We are convinced of that knowing. We are also dead-sure that no one understands us but our very selves. Shouldn't the expert on me be....well, ME? But here it is, folks, in black & white, p.693 in the Amplified Version of the Bible:

O LORD, you have searched me and have known me.
You know my downsitting and my uprising. You understand my thought afar off.
You sift and search out my path and my lying down,
and You are acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word in my tongue [still unuttered],
but, behold, O Lord,
You know it altogether.

Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:1-4, 23-24

Here are some things I have known about myself from childhood:

1. Books were invented for me to enjoy. I have always loved books.

2. Pianos were meant to be played by yours truly. What's so hard about 88 keys? Okay,
and three pedals. oh, two (sometimes more) staves. Whatever. It's my thing.

3. I like solitude. Nobody believes me on this one. I could take a 10-hour road trip, alone, and
never think of turning the radio on, not even once. Honest. This love of quiet has (so far) kept me from owning a cell phone.

Here are some things I wouldn't have known about myself, that I know now:

1. I love to cook for company. Love it, love it. The whole thing from menu-planning, table decor, food presentation, and accompanying background music.

2. I have loved raising my little darlings, homeschooling them, and just hangin' with the fam. Years back, I wasn't what anyone would call the mothering type. Well, well.

3. Keeping house is one of my joys. Strange but true.

4. I love being around people. This one is hard to reconcile with my love for solitude. But that's why I own a kayak that seats ONE.

What new things will I learn about the job of being me as the years unfold? I won't rule anything out, because I won't want to miss a trick. Don't think that my own clever self is responsible for any of this, though. I would've missed so very much if the above verses weren't my constant prayer.

I think I'm finished downsitting at the computer. It's off to bed.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

sharing the company benefits

If I Could Shut the Gate

If I could shut the gate against my thoughts
And keep out sorrow from this room within,
Or memory could cancel all the notes
Of my misdeeds, and I unthink my sin:
How free, how clear, how clean my soul should lie,
Discharged of such a loathesome company!

Or were there other rooms without my heart
That did not to my conscience join so near,
Where I might lodge the thoughts of sin apart
That I might not their clam'rous crying hear;
What peace, what joy, what ease should I possess,
Freed from their horrors that my soul oppress!

But, O my Saviour, who my refuge art,
Let thy dear mercies stand 'twixt them and me,
And be the wall to separate my heart
So that I may at length repose me free;
That peace, and joy, and rest may be within,
And I remain divided from my sin.


This poem requires thought, and that's why I post it here. Not every couplet resounds with me, but in general, there is some fine thinking-material here.

As my inner-circle knows, I am a champion of the inner peace that Christ provides for His kids. I'm also a fan of a good night's sleep, which comes under the category of "perks of being a Christian." These benefits seem elusive to some, and that spurs me on to love and good deeds.
I'm not giving up 'til peace, joy, and rest are the portion of those I love.

Don't thank me...
Thank Him.

Friday, June 23, 2006

around the table

Dinner was served at 9 pm this evening at the Hull Diner.

Three Hull brothers, their mother, and three of her grandchildren, plus a few lucky drop-ins,
consumed mounds of food accompanied by VERY LOUD conversation.

Tomorrow is another day of boisterous doings. Long live Family.

the best hidden art

Bedside, I keep a trove of favorite books. Re-reading a good book is not tiresome if it stirs the imagination. A few war-horses of mine, sure to please, are children's books. As part of our school curriculum, we just finished My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. I have pored over this one countless times over the years, beginning in the 5th grade. Another priceless children's classic is Heidi by Johanna Spyri. (Skip the maudlin movie: grab the real thing.) Anyone with me on these two hands-down perfect books?

For the mom-set, just in time for summer-reading, I bring you The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer. The subtitle is,"Creative Ideas for Enriching Everyday Life." If Edith lived down the street, I know we would be fast friends; she really clicks with me in all things artsy. This book makes a great wedding shower gift, which is a handy fact to mention in June. Here is an excerpt to whet your appetite:

"If the one who cooks is the wife in the family, her attitude towards the marriage as a whole should be to think of it as a career. Being challenged by what a difference her cooking and her way of serving is going to make in the family life gives a woman an opportunity to appraoch this with the feeling of painting a picture or writing a symphony. To blend together a family group, to help human beings of five, ten, fifteen, and sixty years of age to live in communication with each other, and develop into a 'family unit' with constantly growing appreciation of each other and of the 'unit' by really working at it, in many different areas, but among others in the area of food preparation, is to do that which surely can compare with blending oils in a painting or writing notes for a symphony. The cook in the home has opportunity to be doing something very real in the area of making good human relationships."

You can talk to me about paintings and symphonies, and you have my ear! There are chapters on music, interior decorating, gardens, flower arranging, writing, drama, creative recreation, and more. I turn to this book for all kinds of encouragement and inspiration, because my outlook on being the keeper of the home needs refreshing now and then. Let's face it: we don't get regular pats on the back from the general society in this department! Edith backs all her topics with solid biblical foundation: God is the ultimate Artist, and His art communicates.

So, be of good cheer, all you keepers of the home. Not only is your job (your career!) of great value, it can be fulfilling, challenging, eternally effective, and an honest reflection of the character of God.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

a vacation from learning?

How does one spend their second day of summer?
How does one actually order any of their given days?

For many of us, the parameters are a given. It starts with that Great American Tradition: The Commute. Replete with gas in the tank of our shiny cars and a fresh cuppa drive-thru coffee nestled in the convenient plastic cup-holder, our hands guide the wheel to all sorts of places of employment. For others, (and in opinion born of experience, the lucky ones...) the office is as near as the kitchen sink. Okay, the office is the kitchen sink. Or at least the office watering-hole is the kitchen sink!

I am a stay-at-home mom. I am a home-schooling mom. My parameters begin (and generally end) around these mind-boggling callings. For some reason, and I'm not completely sure, this humble blog doesn't dwell on those foundations of my day. Oh, I'm resolutely devoted to them. Anyone traveling through these here parts can tell you. Our curious visitors say,
"Are you still doing school? Public school is already out for the summer." and
"Wouldja look at this chalk-board. Do your kids really do all this reading?" and (my favorite)
"Who makes sure your kids are doing the work?"

Hmmm. That would be me.

My little darlings can attest that they don't get much slack in the academic department. But for all their endearing complaining, I know they secretly appreciate my big stick. Tomorrow is our last scheduled day of school for the season. But, the learning continues. I dipped into the used bookstore recently, and nabbed a lap-full of dog-eared classics for #1 Daughter. Each one is wrapped neatly in colored paper and a satin ribbon, and will be distributed throughout the steamy months of summer. She'll eat them up.
#1 Son will continue to learn small engine repair, thanks to our hobbling collection of lawnmowers. Why rob him of the knowlege by buying anything new? Mom also has plans to pull the Bach Violin Sonatas from the shelf for review purposes. That new bow is gonna get a workout this summer, lessons or no lessons!
Our family also owns 3 other properties that need to be mowed and maintained, besides our own which includes barns, gardens, and manure piles.

Don't feel sorry for the young residents of 3108. Evenings on the boat, ice-cream out, and fun company are sprinkled liberally throughout their summer-lives.

The second day of summer. Bring it on.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

the longest day

How does one spend their first day of summer?
Here is how "yours truly" squandered hers:

1) completed (and hand-delivered) our last quarterly report for the school year. Home-schooling families are required to submit these forms to their local school district. It's not a thrilling chore, but a sense of satisfaction follows their completion. I was also encouraged and amazed at all we really accomplished this quarter! My little darlings have their last day of school on Friday. THEN LET THE FUN BEGIN!

2) made a generous bowl of fresh salsa, a staple around this restaurant. I dipped into it regularly throughout the day, chip in hand. Trivia: hot peppers increase your endorphin levels, giving you a mental zinger. Anyway, it works for me.

3) painted a few exterior window frames. High gloss bright white. Hubby picked up the paint for our shutters today: red cent. (No, Martha did not coin that term. Ha.)

4) lounged under the walnut trees while watching #1 Daughter ride her pretty horse. I sprawled on an old rug which I bought years and years ago. Although it looks oriental, it came from a bargain bin: just the ticket for spreading on the lawn. Rain doesn't hurt it, and that's a bonus, considering I forget to bring it in often enough.

5) chatted with a dear friend on the phone. We covered a lot of ground in 30 minutes. We also made a date for her to visit for a few days. That's what summer is for.

6) dragged my kayak into the lake for a soggy paddle. A speedboat-load of rowdy friends doused me with lake water in their crazy enthusiasm. The sun was winking over the trees when I headed for home. Almost 9 pm, and still light!

7) half-listened and half-watched the movie Chocolate while posting this lazy, lazy entry. The soundtrack is superb. And I've watched it before, so I can multi-task without stress.

Happy Summer, Everyone.

16 Hues

1. glass of milk
2. scented notepaper
3. porch swing
4. handkerchief
5. pressed powder
6. cloudless day
7. mounting dusk
8. lawn frost
9. yearling peach
10. orchard ladder
11. tilled soil
12. blue smocking
13. sourdough
14. cake batter
15. canning jar
16. broom handle

A for effort, Deb!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

fun in the hardware store

A glass of milk and a sheaf of scented notepaper in hand, I ease into the porch swing. A damp handkerchief cools my neck; the pressed powder that I applied to my cheeks earlier today is long wiped away. This hot cloudless day is fast coming to a close, and in the distance I see the mounting dusk.

Gone is the dew of this morning's lawn frost. The yearling peach tree stands on the field's edge, an orchard ladder leaning companionably on its trunk. The smell of freshly tilled soil hangs in the air. My kitchen chores display themselves on the blue smocking of my apron: a smudge of sourdough, dab of cake batter, and an imprint of apple butter from a canning jar. Even the marks of a broom handle dent my palms.

Now that I have you in my grasp, dear reader, I leave you with this: can you find the 16 names of paint color in the preceeding paragraphs? Gotta give Martha Stewart credit. In addition to her glorious taste in color, she also has a way with words.

the power of stuff

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our power;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

(William Wordsworth, 1770-1850)

What a task it is to live on this very present earth, and not allow it to lay hold of us! The apostle John writes in his letter to the Asian church: Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. Yes, this entry comes from me; the very same soul that goes bonkers over art, architecture, and gardens. What gives? As Desi says to Lucy: You'd better start 'splainin.

A few decades ago, I resolved to prune my life from the love of things. This pruning is an ongoing process. "Love people, not things." I constantly quote inwardly. (and at times, aloud.) You know; things:
Expensive clothing.
My dreamhouse.
My piano (oh yes.)

The list can go on. Dear reader, I hear you say: "Yes, but you have some of those very things!" True, but not by design. It would take a ream of paper to relate the comings and goings of the material things in my life. I'm pretty grateful for the comfort and wealth God has lent me. Keeping a mental list of the big-ticket items that I call mine is a handy way to check my heart attitude. Pop-Quiz!
1. do I own this, or does it own me?
2. if God nudged me, could I easily give it away?
3. is my happiness tied up in this thing?
4.can I take it heaven with me? (pretty rhetorical...)

Here is the goal of my little self-quiz: Hold them all loosely.
Enjoy my things while they are in hand. Easy come, easy go. Be philisophical to see it come. If it becomes too dear, give it away. Give lots of stuff away. Be happy to see it go. Bye Bye, Stuff. It's a fancy-free way to go about this jungle we call "life."

Sure, we can complain that the world is too much with us. Kinda like white on rice.
But I'll be a monkey's uncle to lay waste my power on mere stuff.

How about you?

Monday, June 19, 2006


way too much housework & stuff to really post today.

BUT: for your entertainment, check my new photos, under "Extra".
The Botanical Gardens certainly is a garden of Eden for the soul!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

back blogging from D.C.

Staggering to the top of the calvalcade of stairs for the National Archives, chest heaving from exertion and heat, I gaze upward, amazed. Around me, a janitor lazily sweeps the dusty corners with his long-handled broom, and a uniformed guard lolls in the shade of the colossal columns, sandwich in hand. Below me, the din of traffic fades along with the glare of the noon-day sun. Above me, fashioned in stone, beauty soars. No one else joins me in this stone forest; the throngs line up at the ground floor entrance to view the treasures within. That privilege (which includes seeing the actual Declaration of Independence!) is not on my agenda this afternoon, having made the tourist-rounds before. Instead, this regal staircase beckoned me to higher ground.

Architecture captivates me. I don't know how to explain the drive that compels us to adorn our surroundings. From a simple sprig of green tucked into a window frame to the over-the-top glitz of Whistler's Peacock Room, our imaginative race always manages to "kick it up a notch".

Hope you enjoy this photo study of some "national treasure" that isn't always noticed.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

wistful list (say 3X fast....)

1. Home is a lovely place. I almost warmed up to the new paint in the mudroom; that's how glad I was to arrive home.

2. Old Friends are good medicine. I gaze across a packed auditorium at their dear faces, and think: I am doubly-blessed to know such good people.

3. Heart-to-Heart talks
make long drives pass swiftly. Friend #32 is kindred spirit in all things reflective, and I have a fresh appreciation for her outlook of life. She understands "Cat Theology", too.

4. Graduation Speeches have their merits, one of which is having the opportunity to admire our young, strong, godly graduates standing in scarlet ceremonial garb.

5. Witty Banter is quite entertaining, if done with ancient inside-jokes and dallops of endearment. I have met my match this weekend with Friend #01.

6. A Weedy Garden demands my attention. It is a worthy statement: anything worth gaining is surely worth maintaining. (hey...I just made that up! -Probably an overflow from viewing the Benjamin Franklin Exhibit at the Library of Congress.)

This list is a sampling of the things that crowd my thoughts this morning; thoughts that follow me as I tend to my chores.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

beauty everywhere

Amazingly enough, yesterday's itinerary remain quite intact. Well, there was the short detour to the Freer/Sackler Galleries, where I viewed a collection of Whistler miniatures. (If you don't know Whistler, you surely must know his mother....) The collection was stunning; oil washes on wood panels, some only 3 inches in diameter, but perfectly capturing sand, sea, and sky. My thanks to the dripping rich person with good taste that collected them and donated them for my enjoyment.
But enough museum-ry. (never enough for myself, but I'm thinking of my poor readers!)

Last evening was one for my mental record-book. As per yesterday's plan, our little band of brothers met at the National Cemetery. Our dear soldier, in civilian garb, showed us many things. Yes, we viewed the changing of the guard, we received an inside look at their bunkers and training facilities, and we learned a bit about honor and national pride. But my moment was stepping from the car to visit the newest additions to the cemetery: the men and women who gave their full measure devotion in Iraq. My prayer continues to be that they have not died in vain, and my heart aches to see that prayer come to pass.
Truth be told, my emotions were on a roller-coaster yesterday: beautiful art and architechure surrounded me all the livelong day; meaningful monuments and ceremony in the evening.
Dinner with spell-binding conversation and laughter was totally gilding the lily.

There are too many tales to relate on this cyber-page, and time's a-wasting. So perhaps the telling of my Library of Congress visit can wait for a rainy day in the North Country.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

the plans of mice, men, & myself

This day stretches before me like a snow-white sheet of paper and a freshly-sharpened #2 pencil.

I'll attempt another itinerary:
Hop on the metro, disembark at Smithsonian station, and stroll through the Botanical Gardens with my camera. If #1 Daughter was joining me, we would surely stay to sketch exotic flowers & fauna.

Crossong the Mall's expansive lawn, I will settle in at the National Gallery for the bulk of the afternoon. If they allowed pillows, I might attempt to spend the night, dozing amongst the Vermeers and Rembrandts on a satin couch. Actually, the best plan of attack would be to choose a genre or two, and thoroughly soak them in. (early Flemish? medieval illumination? 20th-century American?) You may think I sound knowlegeable, but every time I leave a museum, I'm reeling with the things I don't know....
Oh, the places I'll go, never even leaving the building!

Closing time will find me traveling by rail to the main entrance of the Arlington National Cemetery, where I will meet up with Friend #32, Friend #55, and soldier-friend Ethan. Ethan serves as a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and has graciously offered us an after-hours tour. Hopefully, I will have some foot-power in reserve to tramp, tramp, tramp those hallowed grounds.

As I anticipate this auspicious day and the promise it holds, my heart is near my family. They are camping and working near Alex Bay, thinking happy thoughts of mommy and her curious adventures.

Thanks, dear fam, for loosening the leash. Pie will be your reward.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Of Thee I sing

So many museums, so little time.

It would take a few years of museum-mania to see everything in Washington D.C.
Every visit, I attempt to establish a "game-plan". Then every visit, I get side-tracked and scrap my elaborate plans. Today's plan was to give the Museum of American History a quick tour and then head immediately to the National Gallery to whittle away the afternoon. Well, I got sucked into American History. Really. It caught me by the foot and wouldn't let go of me.

While I was captive, I made the best of it. I STOOD INCHES from General George Washington's full military uniform. INCHES. I could see the threads on the gold and blue worsted wool, and notice the dull glow of his burnished brass buttons. Buttons, I might add, THAT HE TOUCHED. This thrills me to my toes; I think it should do the same for anyone.

Thomas Jefferson had a little portable lap-desk; sort of a prehistoric lap-top computer, if you will. He designed it himself, of course. It has a stick to prop up the wooden lid and a clever sliding drawer for his ink-pot and quill pens. (Thomas Jefferson was a clever man.) He bequeathed it to his granddaughter as a wedding gift, as the one he ordered for her (no, not online...) happened to SINK, along with the ship that was delivering it. (the early American version of a lost UPS package...) Jefferson composed the Declaration of Independence on this quaint desk, along with other staggeringly significant documents that changed history. I was more than remotely interested in seeing it with my own eyes.
Just as I was making a stealthy get-away from this place, something in the lobby stopped me in my tracks: a vast Old Glory, cloaking the wall. What was this? Only the very stars-and-stripes that draped the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks, that's all. Soot and dust still clung to the cloth, proof of the drama that gripped the world that fateful day. All at once, my heart swelled with patriotism and pride to stand before such a thing.

Museums are wonderous places that make my heart sing.

And that, my dear reader, was only my morning.
Tomorrow, I will sing to you all about the Library of Congress, just about one of my favorite places IN THE WORLD. (I hear you laughing, Friend #12, at my wild ranting...)

Monday, June 12, 2006

out of the salt shaker and into the world...

Wouldn't you love to read some amazing stories of what God is doing around the world? I know I would. Yesterday, I purchased a copy of 20/20 Vision by Bill and Amy Stearns. And this afternoon, while in the passenger seat of a hybrid Toyota Highlander driven by Friend #32, I am gobbling this book up. ( yeah. preposition at the end of a sentence...I know.)

More than a ledger of inspiring true tales and jaw-dropping statistics about the accomplishing of the Great Commission, (as if that isn't enough!) this book gives examples of strategies that are working, miraculous accounts of divine intervention, and practical ways individuals and churches make a difference. Since I am still happily mulling over yesterday's message about salt & light, it's no wonder this passage jumped off the page when I came upon it:

"The Roman Doignetes received the following report from an outpost in the empire in A.D. 150:

'The Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country nor language nor by the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of theor own nor employ a particular form of speech nor lead a life which is marked out by a singularity....They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others and endure all things as if foreigners.
Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and the land of their birth as a land of strangers.... They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed law of the land and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives.
They love all men and are persecuted by all.... They are poor yet make many rich....To sum up in a word: What the soul is in the body, that is a Christian in the world.'
Fulfilling their role as salt and light, voluntarily or otherwise, Christians through the ages have spread the blessing of the resemption of Christ across geographical and cultural boundries."

(p.153-154, 20/20 Vision)

I'm challenged. How about you?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

salt & light

Today's sermon required thought. The biblical application of the words salt and light gives me prime thinking-material for tomorrow's drive to D.C.

Have you ever partaken of saltless bread? I have. Multi-tasking while loading the bread machine leads to all kinds of mishaps. Even sprinkling salt over the butter doesn't do the trick. Bread without salt is not worth the chewing, which leads me to consider the dreariness of a life without spiritual salt.

I scan the extended forecast, looking for the little icon of a cheerful orange sun. A spate of sunless days, gray bumbling clouds, and scourging damp leave me longing, yearning, pining for light. What my soul needs is a day of bountiful sunshine. Come on, June. Delight me with a running start to summer.

Salt. Light.
I'm grateful for the words from the pulpit today. Young whipper-snapper Friend #9 may admit to his ignorance about tools, cooking, and such. But he knows a bit about salt and light.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

the 1844 house

Recipe for an enjoyable evening out:

take 4 happy friends
fold them gently into a classy resturant (under new management)
arrange them in a toile-wallpapered corner of the dining room
mix interesting food with a barrel of laughs
take out the camera and document the whole thing.

la bread basket (w/side of orange-butter)

raspberry sorbet:
the keeper of this blog had to cleanse her palate 3 times....

the birthday-girl's stuffed portabello

happy birthday, Bonnie.
(tiramisu is italian slang for "to swoon"......)

the girls

Friday, June 09, 2006

free is good....

I love free stuff.

Here, for your enjoyment, is a list of free stuff that has landed in my lap recently.

1. a red zip-up jacket, perfect for chilly morning walks. Someone left it in our mudroom months and months ago. We tried to give it away, raffle it, or sell it. But no takers. So now it's mine.

2. various-sized boards and decking. Hubby brought it home from a job; just the ticket to build the small porch on the front of our house.

3. a trip to D.C., coming to me this Monday through Thursday. Add to that, free hotel accomodations and free unlimited access to all the Smithsonian Museums.

4. a 5-foot long wooden bench, found roadside in Potsdam. A fresh coat of white paint, and voila! A multi-use piece of outdoor furniture.

Come and sit on it anytime. No charge.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

salad that sizzles

I just devoured my lunch, and am compelled to advertise it.

Every summer, a new recipe or food-combo holds my gastronomic attention. Last year, it was Abby Daniel's 4th of July salad: romaine, raisins, apples, pears, and swiss cheese with a lemon-poppy dressing. Oh yeah...
The year before, it was my sister's chopped broccoli and peanut dish. Good stuff to chew. (and swallow.)

Have I tantalized your taste-buds yet? Because if you enjoy crunchy green things doused with dressing, listen up.

TOSS: romaine, baby spinache, julienned carrots, tomato, croutons, chilled steamed green beans, and spicy freshly-toasted pecans. (fry pecans with a schlupp of hot sesame oil. Locally, you can get that oil at the co-op or at Purple Rice.) Drizzle with Newman's Own Asian Sesame Ginger Dressing. ahhhhh.

Make sure the pecans are hot when you add them, and your bowl will sizzle.
(Ask Friend #10. She partook last evening.)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Timotheus the Unique

This is a close-up of one of my treasures: a hand-made replica of a page of New Testament manuscript. It was a wedding gift, presented to us 20 years ago by the hand who crafted it. (See his signature and the date on the lower right corner?)

Friend #01 visited our family recently. Because he is traveling to Great Britain for a few years for research purposes, our time with him was especially dear. This is a man whose friendship has had a lasting impact on my life. Now my husband and children enjoy his company, too, which warms my heart. Once we made him laugh so heartily (at the dinner table), that he fell on the floor. Wearing his bathrobe. Friends like that aren't a dime-a-dozen.

I wonder if Friend #01 will report to dinner in his bathrobe while in England. If so, I know he would pull it off regally. He's that kind of guy.

Thanks, Friend #01, for being uniquely you.
Some things just can't be replicated.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

throwing it into gear

Neutrality Loathsome

God will have all, or none; serve Him, or fall
Down before Baal, Bel, or Belial:
Either be hot, or cold: God doth despise,
Abhor, and spew out all Neutralities

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Tough words. Wise words. Words that challenge.
As a lover of art, I have grown to embrace the things that challenge me. Although I have grown in my appreciation for 20th-century music, much of it still rankles my ears. I endeavor to like it, though. Why?
I remember hearing Debussy's Le Mer as a high-school student. I didn't have a musical pocket to put it in.
"Awful!" I exclaimed. "This can't be music!"
Yet, a few short years later, I was learning a dissonant piano sonata by Hindemith, even more of a musical leap for my ears. And loving it. (Sometimes I eat words for a living....)
This change of heart has taken place so many times, in so many ways, that it doesn't surprise me anymore. It happens whenever I stretch my head (and heart) to think past my first assertions. In museums. In concert halls, libraries, and classrooms. In the car and in the supermarket. In conversation with friend and foe alike.

And in church.
I hear something that rankles my spirit. It could be a passage from the Old Testament. You know, that whole take-no-captive, jealous God kind of thing. Let's not think we can escape by reading a kinder, gentler New Testament. Just where is that Sunday-school Jesus with long blonde hair that politely knocks on our door with a quaint lantern in his hand? Not in these pages, in any translation. When we truly venture in, we easily join the disciples in their complaints: "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" (John 6:60b)

Neutrality is not an option for a believer. Perhaps an option for a "consider-er" (if that's a word). But His promises are not reserved for those who consider. This God who despises, spews, and abhors is the very God who loves, forgives, and has mercy. He calls us out from the muck of indifference and thrusts us into a life of cut-and-dry. Throwing the car into neutral gets us nowhere. We feel the rumble of horsepower under our seat, the wheel turns under our hands, our foot toys with the gas pedal. That's not the Christian life I aspire to.

My prayer today is that I would engage the engine. Neutrality can eat dust.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Roadside Beauty

It was an amazing week for accomplishing things in Knapps Station, New York. Here at 3108, the eaves and window frames were scraped and primed. The scrubby lilacs were mown down to the quick. Weeds were whacked. And, coup de grace: the brick painted.

Sherwin Williams Lazy Gray now adorns our circa 1835 brick farmhouse. We are now designing country shutters and a small colonial-style front porch. The family is in agreement about matching the shutters with the Potsdam sandstone foundation, but the exact shade is a tricky one.

This is not merely an informative post, but also one to express my gratitude to my family, Friend #12, and Dave L. for their hard work. Mom rejoices in seeing this log-awaited project take shape!

Check my flickr for more pics.

quiet times require deep thought

Extricating myself from the church picnic is no easy task.

Lovely people whom I love (and I think who love me, too) bunch together in jovial groups, two or three sports events are rollicking on the lawns, and wilted desserts still dot the cafeteria tables.
I could toss plastic balls with little ones, help clean the kitchen, root for my hubby's team, or catch up with another busy mom. But any of that will exact a steep toll on my already-tired voice. Yesterday's road-trip and dinner in a noisy resturant was my weekend limit, I guess.

This predicament leads me homeward to a quiet house. Usually a treat, but today a penance. Yes, the swish of the washingmachine and thump of the breadmaker lend an air of purpose to my surroundings. Yes, I can loll at the computer and fiddle with the wording of today's entry without interruption. Yes, a volume of Brahms is displayed on the piano, inviting me to scold my melancholy away with rich counterpoint. But.....

Alright, I won't complete that complaint.
I'll just backtrack to the blessings inherent, take up my pick, and explore the patch I've been given.

I've heard tell: hidden treasure is buried in the most unlikely field.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Bubsie the Birthday Boy

Three-year olds can be fascinated by TV commercials. Enough so, that they can start new family traditions.

Case in point: chubby, dark-eyed toddler looks up from his matchbox cars to take in a splashy Red Lobster ad. Fire-engine red crustaceans are tumbling out of crates, morphing into moist white meat poised over tiny cups of frothy butter. (This kid liked to dip food into anything.) Happy waiters present over-sized platters of stuff that looks like giant insects to a family that wears bibs. What's really going on here? Is this food? Can I have some?

Thus, a three-year old gets to celebrate his birthday at Red Lobster with Dad. No, Mom didn't join them. Alas, pinchy live lobsters are not as scary as a one-year old sister who tends to be crabby at dinner-time. We choose to shield the general public from this fact. This experimental jaunt quickly became tradition. As any mom worth her seafood knows: "We always go to Red Lobster on my birthday" will be the motto after one visit.

Today, Bubsie is 15. This is thirteen years of seafood platter supreme, topped off with pumpkin-cheesecake at home. (Not quite a seasonal dessert in June, but the boy gets what the boy wants. So, he is coddled a bit.) Today, we will join the guys in Watertown (Friend #12 and Grandma Janet, too) to celebrate the boy we are all wild about.

Happy Birthday, Bubs.

Friday, June 02, 2006

All Creatures Great and Small

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things-
For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced- fold, fallow, and
And all their trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

The mantle of ghostly mist is lifting from the side meadows, after hunkering down for the evening on the marsh. A snapping turtle laid her eggs in the sand down there, in the evening cool. We stopped to watch her carve a hollow in the sand last night, her placid and ancient eyes drooping with her task. Fox, heron, weasel, fish, and deer all went about their business in the nightshade, while electric fans droned us to sleep in our brick house.

The drowsy nights of summer are upon us. I am a big fan of a good night's sleep, but I anticipate lying awake in the wee hours, if only to hear the maples heaving and sighing under the moon. I jostle my Hubby (unintentionally) as I stand to gaze heavenward through the skylights, hoping to take in the Aurora Borealis. Heaven help my household if I do, because even at 2 a.m., everyone must partake the sights.

My enthusiasm for all things bright and beautiful doesn't wane with the moon; rather, it seems to wax with my age. So today, as I read this favorite poem, I wonder how I could possibly love it more, ten years hence.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

This a one of my Birchbark finds, and the writing is wonderful. The clue to a good book is very often found in the opening line. Such is the case here:

Along a narrow street in the Paris neighborhood where I live sits a little store front with a simple sign stenciled in the window: "Desforges Pianos: outillage, fournitures."

I can't say what is appealing about that beginning. After all, it is merely informative. But it drew me in, which is the magic of good writing.

The chapter Un Match Musical tells about the author's chance-meeting with a professional accompanist. Those who know me, know that this is "what I do". There aren't too many of us. (or if there are, we don't spout about it, being by nature shy and retiring...) Here are some excerpts that sparked hearty agreement in me; quotes from this un-named yet eloquent man:

"I realized...that being an accompanist gave me an entry into the world of song and it diminished the piano's tyranny. Of course, we all try to make the piano sing, but it's a losing battle. You're playing a percussion instrument, no matter how you look at it. The voice, on the other hand, is infinitely supple. I really believe that the brain is concentrated in different areas for piano and for song."

"In the best case, you work with a singer who not only has a good voice, but who is also musically intelligent, and our instincts and ideas match and complement each other in interesting ways. We provoke each other and it brings out something new."

"Most often.... you're in a strange situation where you know far more musically than the singer you're working with and yet you have to be careful how you assert yourself. You must earn the confidence, the respect, and the trust of notoriously willful and self-centered performers."
(blogger's note: hey, I'm just quoting here!)

"All I can tell you for sure is that when it works, neither of you is conscious of the various elements. It's like a wonderful conversation where anticipation and communication merge. It's almost as if you are breathing together and the music is your breath."

Perhaps I am pining for that rare experience, as I am not playing much this summer. But in August, I take part in a concert to "put the shine on my spats". I'm only a member of the chamber orchestra, but I would be just as happy to be a fly on the stage wall. Wish you all could come, as this festival is always a musical highlight for me.

Musical breathing. It's a fulfilling pastime.