Tuesday, February 27, 2007

food, books, studying, music, and hair

I made hummus this morning. The smell of lemon and garlic are on my fingers to remind me that a treat awaits me for dinner tonight! A batch of home-made yogurt is growing in the oven; it will be ready this evening so we can enjoy banana-berry shakes. If my afternoon schedule allows, we shall bake a Hummingbird Cake. Mmm. (and by the way, mmm is an official Scrabble Dictionary word. Multiple games of Upwords have enlightened me to facts such as this.)

My life is not all about food. Books and study take up a lion's share of my time, too. We are reading Light Force by Brother Andrew, and the kids and I all agree it's a fine read. Brother Andrew is best known for his book God's Smuggler and his ministry Open Doors, which has provided Bibles and support for persecuted churches all over the world. I wish I could meet this precious guy and hug him for his humility and unswerving devotion.
In the "study department", I meet with two amateur scholars this evening for our continuing study of Second Peter. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know! (One might think this would discourage me, but no: it's like trying to eat only one potato chip.) The only clincher is the stuff that gets in the way of study-time. Like housework, for example.

Music wriggles its way into my schedule, too. I am learning a fantastic Strauss song that taxes my lazy fingers to the extreme. Strauss knows what he is doing though, and the results are worth the trouble. I MUST learn the Keystone Cops Ballet from my High-Button Shoes score.
It is on the top of my "to do" list. How can our choreographers move ahead without a recording? (They can't.)

I am willing to attend to all of this stuff, as long as Carina is willing to attend to my hair this afternoon.

Monday, February 26, 2007

housewives go shopping

we carry purses.
our ensemble includes:
practical shoes, bulky coats not too fitted
sometimes lipstick.
oh, and coupons.

we wheel expertly between produce and aisle displays
snapping up vegetables and fruit in season
(or at least ones not costing an arm and a leg.)
-the price of citrus this week!
we eye wilted greens for soup ingredients.
we read the brazen headlines of cheesy magazines while in line.
-we try not to, though.
we smile at other people's children.

we commandeer the cart, pointing it to the van.
we override the grey parking lot slush by brute strength,
propelled by the thought of a hot cup of take-out coffee.

we bus our own table at McDonald's.
we appreciate the floors being mopped while we watch.
we chat with older couples.
we are congenial to all.

we are the housewives
and today is shopping day.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

hiegh-ho, heigh-ho

If I am going to make any money this semester, I had better practice.
"The Stack" (as I affectionately refer to the pile of music on the piano) is growing. A few inches high by now, I would imagine. But that's no way to measure an amount of music. One must bravely crack open the scores and scan for black notes, shifting time signatures, and complicated arpeggios. (Finger-busters, I call them) Obscure composers with unpronounceable Armenian or French surnames that write for their own instruments? Bad. Recognizable favorites such as Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, or even Copeland? Good. But I don't have any of them on my roster this semester. The cold hard cash is in the hard stuff this time, and there is only one cure for that.
Bench-time, baby.

Oh, and bring me a soft-lead pencil, wouldja? I need to write in some fingering.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

turkish delight

When visiting our Kenosha friends in November, we partook of some authentic Turkish Delight (of Narnia fame), brought from England by Friend#01. It was interesting, but not addicting. Last evening, we partook of another kind of Turkish Delight: an evening with a dear family that has lived in Turkey. They brought some entertainment with them, too: recordings of traditional Turkish music, imported tea and tea accroutrements, photos, a Bible in Turkish language, and hearts full of love for the Turkish people.
After a dinner which included some Middle Eastern cuisine, we sipped strong tea sweetened with sugar.
The youngest and the oldest learn a few things together....
Turkish hospitality dictates that tea be served only by the hostess! Everyone else must be seated.
If you feed your guests well enough and let the conversation spin for a few hours, eventually even someone that is usually quite reserved will act silly. For a video of someone that is usually NOT reserved, see #1 Son's blog.
It was an informational and inspiring evening!

Monday, February 19, 2007

around our house

-We celebrated President's Day by eating lunch at the Bagelry. Actually, we only remembered it was a national holiday because the bank and post office were closed. This is one small drawback of home-schooling: the disconnect that happens when our study schedule doesn't include long weekends. My darling students vocalized their complaints ("why do public-school kids have a winter break and we don't?") but I paid them no mind. They stopped grousing when their mouths were filled with bagel. They're good kids. Then we came home and hit the books.

-Anticipation seizes me when the mail is delivered. I am waiting for a very important package: replacement bags and filter for my vacuum. I'm very attached to my vacuum. (Call it a vacuum-attachment, if you must.)

-I am reading a great library book by Sister Wendy about her favorite American museums. I am bulking up for my next visit to the Met, whenever that may be. My motto: be prepared. I am also reading From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman. It's a good read and very informative, although the topic (the Lebanese civil war) is outside my usual intellectual zone.

-I miss Friend #12, who is in western NY visiting a friend. No one will play Upwords with me tonight. I miss her for other reasons, too.

-#1 Son misses his camera. It is in the "camera hospital" for repairs.

-#1 Daughter is making cookies with my apron on, making her look shockingly like me.

Friday, February 16, 2007

the greatest means of grace

"God has been bestowing His grace upon us from the day we were saved.The ways by which we may receive grace from God are called "the means of grace". Prayer and listening to a message are two examples, for through them we can draw near to God and receive grace. This descriptive term, "the means of grace", has been universally accepted by the the Church down through the centuries. We receive grace through meetings, through prayers, and so forth. But surely the greatest means of grace which we cannot afford to neglect is the discipline of the Holy Spirit. Nothing can be compared with this means of grace - not prayer, not Bible readings, meetings, meditation, or praise. Among all the God-given means of grace, it would seem this is the most important." ~Watchman Nee "The Release of the Spirit"

I needed the straight talk of my brother Watchman today.
Will I ever grow so mature or strong that I can dispense with the discipline of the Holy Spirit? As one of my friends dryly retorts: ummmm....not so much. Clothing, eating, and drinking are not exempt from His rule. My circumstances? His. Emotions? My will? His. How about my thought life? His again. Watchman asserts clearly, "Whatever the things to which you are bound, God will deal with them one after another."
What kind of God is this that is so intimately involved in the deepest parts of me?

1 O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. 5 You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139 1-6 (NIV)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

budget gourmet

Friend #11 insists I should write a cookbook, the proceeds of which could fund another of my outlandish ideas (on which I will elaborate some other day....) #1 Son has already agreed to do slick top-notch photography for this dream-book. Please be my taste-testers, won't you?

Here is how I turn one 6 lb. roasting chicken, purchased at 59 cents/lb., into two satisfying meals. Cheap doesn't have to mean stingy!

Meal #1: Chicken Minestrone Soup
In a large pot, cover chicken with water and simmer for 90 minutes or so. Remove from broth, cool, and de-bone thoroughly. Reserve 2/3 of the meat for another meal. Chop the rest (perhaps 2 C) into soup-sized pieces and set aside. Add 2/3 assorted dried beans, lentils, or chick peas to broth and simmer for an hour or until tender. Add 1 T crushed garlic, 12 0z. of diced tomato, 3/4 C chopped celery, 3/4 C sliced carrot, and one diced onion. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chopped chicken, chopped fresh spinach and any assortment of leftover cooked veggies (I had green beans and a small bunch of cilantro). I also added 1/2 C of uncooked elbow macaroni and a cup of leftover brown rice. Simmer until pasta is tender. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve with a side of shredded parmesan for sprinkling.
(serves 6, with plenty to spare)

Meal #2: Chicken Pie with White sauce
Sautee 1 C baby carrots and 2 small onions, diced, in 6 T of butter until tender. Toss in 1/3 C flour to coat well. Add enough milk (approx. 3 C) to make a sturdy white sauce. Adjust seasonings. Cover the bottom of a deep casserole with the reserved chicken. (approx. 4 C) Toss 1 C of frozen peas over top. Pour hot white sauce and vegetables over all. Top with whole-wheat biscuits and bake at 350 degrees until brown and bubbly. (serves 6. Not much left over, as my family loves chicken pie....)

You can also reserve some chicken broth from Meal #1 to replace the milk in Meal #2.
Also, if I had my summer garden, my veggie-options would multiply!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


sweet pics on my flickr.

off and on

dentist appointment: canceled
worship practice: canceled
High Button Shoes read-through: canceled
possible "dinner out"- canceled


distribution of Valentine goodies: on
full day of home-school: on
"Upwords"challenge: on
cookie production: on
snow-blowing and shoveling: on
feet up on the couch tonight: on

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

the ladies who lunch

"Everybody greet Mrs. Hull!" she exclaimed as I entered the kitchen. Two little men dropped their glue sticks, red & pink construction paper, and valentine trappings to make eye contact with me and dole out hugs. Their teen-aged sister smiled widely in greeting as she, too, clipped, stamped, and gussied up scraps of paper. This is home-schooling at its best. Within the hour, a seven-year old stood by my side and read aloud to me.
"A chapter book," he emphasized as I nodded knowingly.
"Congratulations," I added to his mom, "on your son learning to read."
"It wasn't my doing," she explained with a gesture toward the other end of the table. "It was hers." And my admiration for his big sister grew a few more inches. It was pretty big already, actually.
As I settled in to a cup o' tea, I surveyed my surroundings. Official Rescue Hero certificates camouflaged the fridge. The spoils of another "rescue hero" dotted the room: a few bright yellow wooden chairs that she found roadside. (Friend #88b is a junkster of the highest pedigree; only dust-bins of the purest quality for her.) The windows sparkled with the winter sun which coasted across the kitchen and warmed the delft-blue walls. Friendly faces vied for my attention. Four equally valuable conversation-lines were thrown out in my direction at five-second intervals for the next lovely hour.
The morning sun became afternoon sun. The boys retired to schoolwork and a video. The saxophone-playing teen-aged girl (who taught her little brother to read) expertly drove herself to concert band rehearsal. #88b and I were left to consume our "bistro lunch". On the menu ? Sauteed Portabello over a bed of baby spinach and red onion served with a slice of whole-grain bread . A hint of pan-fried garlic and a dousing with Asian sesame dressing completed this picture. The short-order cook (#88b herself ) made this entree up on the spot.
Art, entertainment, food, and ambience. You may think by now that I had gotten my money's worth for this trip to Malone. But no. What came next, dear reader, was the treasure trove. Over pink clippings and shreds of paper doily, we uncorked the subject of God's goodness to us, the high rewards of serving Him in this crooked world, and the incredulous fact that we almost weren't friends at all. Only a twisting (perhaps arighting?) of fates had brought us (Friend #88b and myself) to the crossroads of friendship after years of being somewhat acquainted.
If one could add together the heap of things we almost lost, one could excuse the tears that spilled unchecked over bread-wiped plates and scattered valentines. Of the many dear names for God that come to mind, Redeemer, Savior, and Friend are neck-and-neck for a three-way tie.
Any way you shake it, God wins again.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sunday dinner

listening to: "Wait, wait... don't tell me!"
watching: snow falling
thinking about: how to afford a trip to England and Spain. Or just England. Or just this week's groceries.
playing with: food

I am playing with food this morning. Stuffed pork roast is on the dinner menu tomorrow, along with curried rice and green beans. Cappucchino Cheesecake and fresh fruit will be featured for dessert.
Here is my own recipe for stuffing:

Apricot-Corn Bread Stuffing

1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup diced dried apricots
1 tsp allspice
1 T instant vegetable broth mix combined with 1 C hot water
2 cups cubed stale bread (today's is whole-wheat molasses)
2 cups corn bread (discovered in the freezer!)
salt and pepper to taste

saute onion and celery until soft. Add apricots and combine thoroughly. Remove from heat.
stir in allspice and broth. Add all bread and toss to coat evenly. Mix only lightly!
Can be used with chicken or pork.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Last Sunday, our class of 25 wrapped up a mini-course on the book of Colossians. Our sage-like (yet still youthful) professor was Friend #88's spouse, whom I shall henceforth dub Friend #88a. Now Friend #88 shall be known on these glowing pages as #88b. Being the author and creator of this number-thing, I get to make up my own rules.
Anyway. Friend #88a had our rapt attention because he is such a gifted communicator. Also, he is crazily passionate about the topic, that being the Word of God. He danced, he sang, he rapped. He quoted hymns, snippets of pop music, and advertising jingles. He dragged his fingernails across the chalkboard. A few times, he screamed. You gotta understand: it's early on a Sunday morning, and the aroma of freshly-brewed gourmet coffee is wafting up the stairs from the fellowship hall. Desperate measures are called for, even recommended, to keep the class from zoning out.
Throughout the six weeks, I kept a running lexicon of his quips. With his kind yet bemused permission, I share the spoils here for your entertainment, enrichment, and curiosity. By the way, we really learned a lot about the book of Colossians.

Of Jesus:
This is a big Jesus we're dealing with here.
Jesus just got bigger in my little pea-brain.
He's the Whole Enchilada.
Let's not have a bonsai-tree view of Jesus.

You don't have to spell well to get to heaven.
You don't look like such-a-much-a.
The man with the sneakiest guns wins.
Barking doesn't make me a dog.
Earth: an amazing floating incubator. Who's driving this ball?
That's the whole shootin' match right there.
These aren't just nice words put on a Hallmark card 500 years ago.
We can't say, "Here's our little Hallmark card: Jesus."
Let's take our faith for a test drive.
We're gonna try and land this plane.
Are there any notes too high or too low that we can't sing them? We could, but we may just be
entertaining dogs.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

ants in my pants

Right on schedule for this time of year, I am getting antsy.
Winter has set in with its blue-white sameness. Salt deposits drape the sides of my car, leaving me with the willies. (The "salt eats paint" advertisement at the local car wash doesn't help at all; not when the mercury huddles at minus 12.) A grocery trip to Massena doesn't lessen the molligrubs. Celery in cellophane bags, pre-peeled baby carrots, and perfectly quartered meats in yellow syrofoam tubs scream same old same old to me from under the clean florescent lighting. Extremely overweight people sling frozen dinners and sugar-laden cereals onto the conveyor belts left and right. I primly arrange my dark green veggies and non-processed cheese in such a way that they might seem preachy. It is my good deed for the day.
The "Winter Blues" are announced in the local papers and on the nightly news, like they are a touring rock band that gigs here in February. Not in my backyard, I intone. I reflect on my counter-attacks: the mudroom is swathed in peacock blue now. Furniture has been moved for the fun of it. New paint was flung on the living room walls, too. I have played with food, reading library cookbooks for inspiration and preparing veggies in innovative ways. I attended a few concerts, pulled some old scores from my shelves to test my fingers ands memory, and listened to some Middle Eastern music I found online. I read the Bible a lot. I visited a few local cafes with friends and with Hubby. I dream about kayaking. Regularly.
I feel like doing something different; something extraordinary. Out of the box doesn't even begin to describe where I want to roam. No trip to Spain is looming, as it was last year. No Dessert Night planned, which for our church members has been an oasis in the middle of winter. My hope of a weekend trip to my mom's is quickly diminishing: the three-day forecast says snow, snow, and snow.
Today's fix? I will bundle up the clan and head to Friend #44's new salon. We will bring tool boxes, paint supplies, and good humor. We will toil together for a few hours so she can get this baby on the road. What fun to see her dreams take shape! Then we will grab some Jamaican take-out and come home with steaming boxes of yum.
Take that, Winter Blues.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

new workout program

Yesterday's entry spoke of the difficulties in getting physical exercise in the dead of winter. Nothing is preventing me from stretching my brain, however. One might think that a mom who home-schools finds it easy to use her noodle. In the words of Ira Gershwin, "It ain't necessarily so."
Our Sunday morning service usually encourages me to pump some neurons, though. This week's service featured some special music that blessed me to the core. Two college students from South Korea belted out a soulful tune that spoke of serving Him no matter the cost. (Even if the congregation hadn't been briefed on what the lyrics meant, we would've gotten the gist from the inherent passion in their voices.) Our dear pastor, freshly back from central Spain, followed this with a message about this Christ's redemptive work: He has broken down every wall. Christ is all and in all. We are one body, one divine family. Our hearts were collectively moved as he invited the duo from South Korea to repeat their song.
My thoughts boomeranged to a book I had read last summer, 20/20 Vision by Bill and Amy Stearns. Here is an excerpt (one of my favorite devices to get my friends to read) that may inspire:

God desires that all facets of His character be reflected in the New Jerusalem, so He wants all the nations represented there. He's made specific reservations for every ethne --in a registration book! There is the Lamb's Book of Life with individual names, and there is also a Register of the Peoples, listing every ethnic group: "The LORD will write in the register of the peoples: 'This one was born in Zion' " (Psalm 87:6)
Most Western cultures emphasize each person's individuality. But God also deals with individuals in a more "Eastern" way --as members of a group: a family, a generation, a nation. His reservation list of the nation invited to heaven - the Register of the Peoples - includes names you might not recognize: Ahir, Gadaria, Fulani, Madiga, Kunbi, Sayyid, Toroobe, Vakkaliga.
God has reserved places in the New city of Peace for some of each of these people groups. Around the throne of the Lamb will be some from every people (Revelation 5:9) As of today these particular people groups for the most part don't even know they've been invited!

I am itching to hand out invitations, how about you? This is a way cool book. Let me know if anyone is interested in borrowing this piece of workout equipment. Folks: you can exercise an important muscle while sitting down.

Monday, February 05, 2007

what am I up to?

I am missing fresh greens from my garden
I am thankful for the health of my household.
I am am learning that I need to love more. Way more. The sky is the limit, actually.
I am dreaming of a trip to England this summer with my family.
I am pondering the fact that Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt, but God forbade him to enter with them into the Promised Land.
I am bothered by the lack of opportunity for physical exercise this time of year! No one can go for a walk in wind chills of minus thirty.....
I am planning to purchase an area rug for the living room.
I am hankering for blue cheese, fruit and nuts in my salads. It is a new taste sensation for me and a fairly adventurous one at that. I have also learned to appreciate pineapple & ham on pizza.
I am ignoring the musical scores on the piano. dust bunnies. the ironing pile. my hair. my eyebrows. the list goes on.
I am laughing at Everyone Loves Raymond re-runs. I should have more discriminating taste but there you have it.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

thank you, Gian Carlo

Composer Gian Carlo Menotti died this week at the age of 95. He was born the sixth of eight children in Cadegliano, Italy. At age eleven, he composed his first opera which was staged with puppets in a performance at his home. His musical gifts led him to Philadelphia where he studied at the Curtis Institute of Music.
Menotti wrote his own librettos and often staged his own works. His opera, "Amahl and the Night Visitors", was the first opera written for television broadcast. Its debut in 1951 was watched by mainstream America, most of which had never seen or heard an opera before.
I love Menotti's music and admire his rich gift as a storyteller. If you have a dozen minutes to spare, listen to this 2001 NPR interview which details the composer's childhood and inspiration for his most beloved work.
I include this quote from his New York Times obituary:
Of critics he said, "They often spoil my breakfast but never my lunch."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

really really

I really miss Tom & Diane Story.

They have moved away to the lovely state of Virginia. And I already miss them.
I miss their faithful smiling serving cheerful sparkling humorous sociable faces.

That's all.