Thursday, December 29, 2011

a novel

I've been reading Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina for a while now (you must pardon me; it's nearly 990 pages long and I've been reading other things too), and as I read I am impressed with his art and perception. The story is tragic, follows more than one adultery, plagued with depression and hatred, but Tolstoy shows these characters as real and complex, their stories in motion and with conseqeuences, and their falls and stumblings for what they are and for how they destroy life.

Not only that, but it is full of striking metaphors and some realizations and generalizations that are really great. Take this paragraph about Levin (the character I probably like and sympathize with the most) in Chapter Fourteen:

"Levin had been married three months. He was happy but not at all in the same way as he had expected. At every step he found himself disillusioned in his former dreams while also discovering new, unexpected enchantments. Levin was happy, but on entering into family life he saw at every step that it was not at all what he had imagined. At every step he felt as a man might feel who, after admiring the smooth, cheerful motion of a boat on the water, actually gets into the boat himself. He saw that apart from having to sit steadily in the boar without rocking, he also had to keep in mind, without forgetting for a moment where he was going, that there was water beneath his feet, that he had to row, that his unaccustomed hands hurt, and that it was easy only when you looked at it, but that doing it, though it made you very happy, was very hard."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

George Bailey: What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary.
Mary: I'll take it. Then what?
George: Well, then you can swallow it, and it'll all dissolve, see... and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair... am I talking too much?

Man on Porch: Why don't you kiss her instead of talking her to death?
George: You want me to kiss her, huh?
Man on Porch: Ah, youth is wasted on the wrong people.

George: This is a very interesting situation!
Mary: Please give me my robe.
George: A man doesn't get in a situation like this every day.
Mary: I'd like to have my robe.
George: Not in Bedford Falls anyway.

George: Mary Hatch, why in the world did you ever marry a guy like me?
Mary: To keep from being an old maid!
George: You could have married Sam Wainright, or anybody else in town...
Mary: I didn't want to marry anybody else in town. I want my baby to look like you.
George: You didn't even have a honeymoon. I promised you...
George: Your what?
Mary: My baby!
George: [stuttering] Your, your, your, ba- Mary, you on the nest?
Mary: George Bailey Lassos Stork!

Senior Angel: A man down on earth needs our help.
Clarence: Splendid. Is he sick?
Senior Angel: No, worse. He's discouraged.

George: Well, you look about the kind of angel I'd get.

George: Now, come on, get your clothes on, and we'll stroll up to my car and get... Oh, I'm sorry. I'll stroll. You fly.
Clarence: I can't fly! I haven't got my wings.
George: You haven't got your wings. Yeah, that's right.

Clarence: Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Now Beginning

Gerard Manely Hopkins has a short Christmas poem I love.

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and alway:
Now begin, on Christmas day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

fairly recent writings

I'd love to hear thoughts on Rain-Washed, especially.

this night is dark
no snowflakes fall to lighten the world with their white weight
and the stars won’t show their far, faint light

When the rainfall comes to the streets, the sidewalks
and the asphalt are cleansed from the grey-brown of dust
to almost obsidian sheered with a layer of light.

My soul is this street where the dust of ungrateful
has slowly replaced my wonder with apathy,
has covered and blurred the magic to commonplace.

Your grace is the grey that falls finely around me,
and shimmers in silver in thousands of puddles,
and washes the soil of complacency from me,

until all of this street rejoices to be
and to soak up and shine back the clear light of heaven.

thankful today: #233-244
-the sweet and strong of wine
-fumbling through part of the Messiah with my choir. We sounded nothing like this, but we are going to a Messiah sing-along on Sunday and are hoping to enjoy ourselves. :)
-Levin in Anna Karenina. (‎"...there was another voice in his heart that said that there was no need to surrender to the past and that it was possible to do anything you wanted with yourself. And in obedience to that voice he went to the corner and began exercising with the two thirty-six pound dumbbells there, trying to make himself feel vigorous.")
-Christmas essay by Rachel Jankovic! Funny, sweet, realistic, encouraging.
-extra work at Christmastime
-a car whose belt still whines sharply, because it hasn't broken yet! Need to get that fixed...
-tall stretchy striped socks
-Mr. Appel and his beautiful prayer at my graduation 7 months ago
-crazy-laughter time with roommates
-that moment you put the last piece of tape on a Christmas package
-co-op chocolate
-beautiful sad songs like The Dimming of the Day (Alison Krauss)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas is a-coming

Niece and I, during our delightful tree-hunting expedition. By the huge, gorgeous tree for my parents' house.

Moscow living room on Sunday evening. Cozy fire and popcorn-stringing mess, and our fine little tree.

Roomies: me, Emma, Maria, Tali, Becki

Monday, December 5, 2011

Even now

After a weekend of unbelievable craziness, I am here on a Monday morning, sick, tired, unable to go to work.

Saturday I drove home. The rest of the day included a whirlwind amount of Stuff. I know I usually write oodles about the good times I have, or write a never-ending thankful list about it, but this time, I'm just gonna say - my 5 year old niece asked me to give her piggy back rides twice and sat with me on the couch, and my 5 year old nephew sat and drank hot chocolate with me and talked about his birthday and what he wanted for Christmas and held my hand for a while as we tromped around looking for a tree. Those were two of the best things about the day. And I have to say - getting to see my friend's Thanksgiving baby, and finding 5 Christmas trees with all my siblings, and getting the lights on Mom and Dad's at last, and eating pizza made by Laura, and singing happy birthday to the best 8 year olds in the world, and watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas, were also definitely highlights of the day.

Sunday I drove back to Moscow. Sunrise on the way, advent sermon, Winco shopping where we ran into dozens of friends, mid-day dinner at Fraser's, walk around the lovely UI campus with friends, lots of coffee, baking cranberry-walnut-orange muffins, stringing popcorn and setting up our tree, Lisa's Thin Man movie party and eggnog, and more time with friends. All very good.

But last night I felt horrible, and this morning still pretty sick. You know those mornings where you are coughing up the grossest stuff for at least an hour and two cups of hot tea and a steamy shower don't really help your congestion or throat that much... Too sick to go to work, and cold enough I'm staying under this blanket-robe Snuggie thing, and late on my rent bill, and my computer also decided to die yesterday and needed to be all backed up to save things that are important. It's an UGH morning.

Perfect time to write a thankful list, and to pray. Yes indeed.

(220-232 giving thanks)

-This weird Snuggie that my arms go through and that drags on the floor behind me when I walk, making me feel like a little kid in a grown-up's bathrobe

-Apple cider and apple cinnamon tea

-A gracious employer who cares more about how I feel than that I am missing work

-A gracious landlord who accepts late rent

-The book of Matthew, especially the Beatitudes (my reading this morning)

-A tree with lights, popcorn and ornaments in my living room

-Tylenol and Benadryl, allowing me to sleep last night

-Tali making lunch for us both

-That there is no snow; although I personally want it, its absence means Tali can borrow my car easily

-That I am at home; although I hate missing work, if I was there I would be spreading germs and not getting rest.

-That I am not in the choir for the Christmas concert this week; although I miss it like crazy, if I was a member of the choir I would be stressed about being sick, and when Thursday comes I would not be in the audience getting to enjoy the music in a different way than when one is presenting it.

-A way to back up computer files

-The possibility of a new job

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Through the Dark

Alexi Murdoch is one of my new favorite singer/songwriters. The simplicity and homeyness of his acoustic guitar and his voice and oftentimes his lyrics as well comfort, stir, gladden, engage. Wikipedia, the infallible source of all wisdom, tells me he was "born in London to a Greek father and Scottish-French mother and raised in Greece, just outside of Athens until he was ten, when his family moved to Scotland," so of course some of his awesome comes from that background.

Through the Dark just came on my station. Brainlessly simple, but good. Good for a cold night that seems so very unlit. Good for a night whose edges seem to crumble. Good for a night of sniffles and tea and chapstick. Good for a night that calls me to curl up under a soft blanket and dreams for at least a couple of days.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A friend just shared this...

I had to do the same. Later tonight, I plan to go look it up in Orthodoxy and read the context.

‎"The outer ring of Christianity is a rigid guard of ethical abnegations and professional priests; but inside that inhuman guard you will find the old human life dancing like children, and drinking wine like men; for Christianity is the only frame for pagan freedom. But in the modern philosophy the case is opposite; it is its outer ring that is obviously artistic and emancipated; its despair is within."


(As always, clicking on the photos will enlarge them to full size)

Giving thanks 206-219
206. Christmas lights draped over and around the windows
207. a pile of clean dishes in the sink and on the counter
208. Tali's guitar - when she plays it, when Maria plays it, and when I try to play it
209. Adele
210. balls and skeins and tangles of yarn of various colors
211. sitting around the house Sunday afternoon with roomies, crafting Christmas gifts and listening to Wodehouse on audiobook
212. a clear windshield on an icy cold morning
213. wire whisks in the kitchen
214. central heating
215. the old jacket I found at home - dark blue, too large for me, pocketed and collared, and (once again) very boyish
216. laughs and funny moments with my student that are deep and real and distract us from school for a few minutes at least
217. Adam's old fashioned crunchy peanut butter, sitting in my cupboard right now
218. Gilbert Keith Chesterton
219. Thanksgiving week and the good times and great foods I shared with family

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Monday

"Never seek to define your identity apart from your relationships. When did we become sons of God? We were generated in His image when He breathed the breath of life into our first father. When did we become objects of wrath, children of the devil? When our first father took the fruit that had been forbidden to him, but which he coveted anyway (Gen. 3:6; 1 Jn. 2:16). When were we born again, when were we regenerated? When we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ in truth, moved by the Spirit to do so, and God the Father became our Father once again. In short, it happened when the central covetousness died, and the central thanksgiving was born. What is it to be born again? It is the death of covetous wanting, and the birth of thankful wanting."
From The Gospel and Thanksgiving, sermon by Douglas Wilson

Giving thanks-

191. the big man's coat found in our basement and how comfy it can be to wear something so utterly unfeminine, huge and warm.
192. gold and green and neon leaves against the snow
193. building a snowman where no one else will ever see it
194. corn chip crumbles in the bottom of a bag
195. homemade cranberry sauce
196. laughing at games we are playing until our eyes water and our stomachs ache
197. Maria's hot orange juice
198. reading through an entire Shakespeare play (that I've never read before) in one sitting with so many of my friends
199. someone giving up a seat for you
200. someone else who always remembers to thank you for the food you have made or served
201. guitars and co: the picks, the slides, the capos, the strong fingers, the head that nods in time to the music, the foot tapping and the singing
202. lounging around at midnight with roomies chatting for a few minutes before bed
203. cheese
204. the wave - across streets, through windows, across the room, in meeting and in parting the motion of friendship and salutation
205. a God who supplies all my needs - and then so much more. Abundance and grace.

Monday, November 14, 2011

With Gusto

The wind is ferocious today. It blows hail at an angle from a wild sky partly blue and mostly white, and always shifting. It makes the little maple bush, empty of all leaves now, sway back and forth like a mad pendulum. It whackles the branches of the tree out front against the roof of the house. It rattles the back door in and out a good half inch, slipping in weasel-like around the edges wherever there is the slightest gap.


I have the day off work. I mean to sleep in longer than I do, but it feels better to be awake and moving than lolling under my quilts. Morning is not for sluggishness but the joy of life.


Peaceful days are nice in their own way. But I like the dramatic days - the swollen, golden days of almost instant sunburn, the snowfalls that accumulate an inch per hour, the cleansing rush of heavy rainfalls, the the urgency and bustle of windy days. When the world is pulsing and breathing hard and whirling with gladness and telling sudden stories, life wells within me, and unfolds my praise.


Life is for living; the shower almost hot enough to burn my skin, pulling back dripping hair, warm socks between my feet and the wood floor. Hunger is for food; the tortillas bubbling and turning dark brown while the eggs solidify, dipping it all into salsa and chewing slowly as I read Isaiah. Morning is for planning; for making a list, and a phone call, and a trip to the hardware store for a narrow paint brush, a gleaming silver tray and puffy white rollers, for cans of primer and paint with their perfect labels and unopened lids and the gloopy splash inside those round walls as I carry them out to my car. Time is for people; asking for help willingly rather than trying to do it myself, sipping coffee with friends at my old school, hauling wood inside together in anticipation of a fireplace party.


Leaves skitter along the street, and the hail that fell minutes ago has melted, leaving my sidewalk polka-dotted with wet splotches. The sun came out and is gone again; the wind is slower, and the brightness of the sky is lessened and greying. The caffeine-rush of the morning has quieted a bit, and it feels like an ordinary afternoon.


I take a break from scraping old paint from an ugly ceiling, brush bits of off-white from my shoulders and the scarf over my hair, and eat an apple still a little pert from the orchard a month ago, but sweeter and softer now. After my break, I feel the paint waiting, a promise of fumes and a short wooden stick for slow stirring and the satisfying waterfall as I pour into the tray. It speaks of patience along the edge of the walls and stiffness along my neck and drips along the sides of the can on the way to the floor, and it also speaks of the smooth new roller layering freshness, and the wooden brush handle in my palm, and the gleam of the lights against a surface that will be perfectly white. The paint and the tools wait for me to finish what I started, and I refill with good food and retie my scarf for an afternoon of thinking and working within these quiet walls.

thanking God

178. hail bouncing from my sidewalk
179. dry shoes
180. hugs from old friends
181. hearing my mom's voice for a minute on the phone
182. how warm my computer's power cord is under my feet
183. Josh Ritter and Pandora
184. Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina
185. automatic doors when your hands are full
186. paint-stirring sticks
187. finding mounds of hibernating (?) ladybugs in the pile of wood, a gleaming red and black surprise
188. having snow boots
189. sore muscles that speak of the activities I was able to do this weekend
190. that tamarack trees turn yellow

Monday, November 7, 2011


I've been thinking almost constantly about connecting with my community here, hoping to belong here more and more, and to bless those around me even as they bless me. I am learning to love people more this year than ever before. It has been a good evening on that front and I pray for it to continue.

167. Thankful for the residents at Clark House, and how they remind me of my grandparents who have passed away, and of the frailty of life, and the love of God to the very end.

168. For Jeremiah and Noai and the Rouch family, who are faithful in their ministry to these people through song, prayer, handshakes and conversation.

169. For the hymnals there that hold so many of the good old songs I have been missing.

170. For the voices - tiny and clear, old and wavering, middle-aged and firm, young and eager - that sing these songs.

171. For my car, that took me safely from home to there and back again, and then on to the book study.

172. For Mrs. Lawyer - her wisdom, her smile, her bluntness, her love.

173. For Rachel's cookies and the Maki girls' hospitality every week.

174. For the girls who joke and love and wink and shove on the way out the door.

175. For white stuff floating down, and for voices saying Merry Christmas 48 days early.

176. For that moment when you're all standing there with your car doors open and one leg ready to step into it but you are still talking and laughing with everyone and not quite ready to end the time together.

177. For girls who call hello as soon as I come into our house, and who ask me how I am as soon as I enter the room where they are studying their various subjects.

How many siblings do you have??

Sometimes people ask how many siblings I have, and then act like they wish they hadn’t asked. No matter how matter-of-factly I answer, in how soft of a voice, or how I ease the blow by casually saying seven brothers and leaving a thoughtful pause for them to adjust before mentioning the nine sisters.

The eyebrows jump straight up a few inches off their usual resting place, like a cat that has been batting nonchalantly at a still mouse it assumes is dead, when the mouse suddenly gives the reaction it has been prodded for.

The mouth unhinges for a moment, offering a nice view of the teeth, tongue, uvula and pharynx, and sometimes a case of muteness attacks for a few seconds after this anatomical display is closed.

The eyes – well, you have seen the cartoons where the eyeballs nearly leave the face because their saucer-like size makes it hard to fit between the other features. Like that.

Then the comments. People are amazingly quick at putting us into a box, a category – no matter how obviously empty their category for Extremely Large Family has been up until this point. They assume my parents must be uneducated, or Mormon, or hate the environment, or hate their children who obviously are harmed by having to share a bedroom with brothers or sisters.

But sometimes people are cool enough to ask the right kinds of questions, ones that reveal that yes, they may think it is all a little crazy, but they are interested in how this kind of crazy works for a real life family. One of the best questions I’ve heard was from a kid, about a week ago. “But how do you all use the bathroom and take showers in the morning? Do you have to get up in the middle of the night to do it before everyone else?”

I laughed. But the more I thought about that one, the more ironically true it was. My sisters have some kind of system worked out among themselves so that they all end up with shiny clean hair every day, and when I go back to visit I have to either wait until an hour after breakfast when everyone else is done and off doing chores and the water has had time to heat up again, or grab my shower before bed each night – but then I have to fight my brothers for a chance at the hot water and towels.

There are too many things about life in a big family, too many even about this family in particular, for me to answer what it’s like to be part of it in just a few sentences of conversation. It has been a life, not merely an experience. But I still try to explain what it has been like.

There are not enough bathrooms. There never have been, but at least there are 2 now. Standing in line at the bathroom door warps all sense of time, proportion, common kindness, and etiquette. People have been known to accuse others of taking hours in the shower when it has been far closer to a quarter of an hour in reality. People have been known to knock, go to the other bathroom and knock there, then go back and knock on the first one again in case that might help. Some of our number have tried to cut in line and been forcibly removed or seriously chastened for their cheating. Brushing teeth is quite a community affair, since you are extremely selfish if you clean your pearly whites with the door shut all alone when 6 or 8 people can pass the toothpaste and coordinate movements around a sink and be so much more efficient.

There are so many dishes. You would not believe the heaps. A mother would never get them done if she didn’t have so many people to help clean them up. So maybe it evens out. Just don’t keep thinking or you might realize that if she didn’t have that many people to clean up after, she wouldn’t need that much help with the cleaning up. But then we would miss the crazy after-dinner mess that is Mom making coffee and a couple sisters clearing the table and someone rinsing the dirty dishes on the counter where Naomi is trying to mix up cookies; and Lydia is emptying the dishwasher of lunch dishes and reaching in front of whoever is at the wash sink to put the glasses away while Elsi is trying to sweep the floor for the night, and the damp towels, and the splashed water, and the bumps and dodges as you step back to make room for someone to pass and right into someone else working behind you, and the conversation that never stops and the collaborative love and labor that warms us all.

Sometimes we want to play Monopoly but there are too many people. But that just means we play Monopoly and Rummy and Battleship and War all at once, and what a din around the crowded dining table.

You are never in the house alone, which means you can usually find someone to do an activity with you or answer a question for you. This is why, sometimes, a little brother will come up with an extremely pitiable look on his face, stand there so quietly and then ask in the sweetest, pleading voice, “Will YOU play chess with me?” This also means you can never BE alone in the house, which can be another problem altogether (unless you go in the bathroom, lock the door, and ignore whatever knocks, shouts or desperate pleas you hear from the other side).

I didn’t grow up doing sleepovers with friends (though I seem to remember one of them). I don’t think I missed it, though, because I shared a room with enough friends already, and we could never go to sleep without sharing our lives (Bible readings and frustrations, uproarious laughter and books like A Damsel in Distress, thoughts on movies we’d just watched, and the talent and attractiveness [or lack of it] in the actors, and all kinds of stories).

We didn’t have to invite a bunch of friends over to play volleyball.

We didn’t always fit into our vehicles. Actually, that isn’t right; I mean we didn’t always have the correct number of seatbelts for the number of passengers. We used the CJ5 jeep until we fit a Chevy Blazer and had to upgrade to that, used the Blazer until we fit a 12-passenger van, and used *that* until we were just the right size for the 15-passenger van, which we stubbornly used even when (for a while) we could have used a couple more seats. But seatbelts can be shared, and policemen thankfully can’t always count heads as the cars pass on the street, and no one was ever injured or ticketed for the way we traveled around.

Eating meals out was a rarity with that many mouths to buy plates for. Such a rarity that was almost nonexistent. This meant that we thought stopping to get hamburgers on the way home from Spokane was quite the treat, and when we did, we made it a party that I’m sure the employees were quite astounded at.

We don’t draw names for Christmas shopping, which means there is quite a pile of gifts under our tree – or perhaps I should say around our tree, for they certainly don’t fit beneath the branches no matter how fat a tree we can find, and they have been known to pile up to a ridiculous height. Sometimes it is the better part of wisdom for 2 or 3 of us to partner up and buy gifts for the other 14 or 15 of us, and sometimes one ends up buying one gift for the older girls to share, one for the boys, and one for the little girls, but there is none of that nonsense of Which sibling am I actually going to give something to. Every one is a face and two hands at Christmas, and there is almost nothing better than watching the eyes of a little brother as you approach him with a wrapped box, and place it into hands that can’t wait to pull the paper away and drop the card and pull out what you chose for him because you know him.

It means a lot of gifts. It means a lot of birthday cakes around the year, including 5 in January alone. It means heaps of laundry and two baskets full of unmated socks. It means sharing chores, and laps, and time with parents, and so many good times. It means a lot of coordination, and budgeting, and loving one another in the day to day. Just like any family.

Seventeen is a big number. But we are not numbers from the inside of the family. That is why I don’t realize how shocking it is for people to meet us. And that is why I think of a family of 7 children, and a family of 9 children, and sometimes even families of 5 children, as ‘big families’ without a thought to the difference in headcount from my family. We number 17, and it is unusual, and it is amazing that our parents have done this with their lives; but we are actually just siblings and friends, like you and your brothers and sisters probably are. And the craziness is good, and the goodness is crazy. This is my family.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The gift of food

Thanks 155-166

155. Grocery stores. Sometimes I feel suddenly overwhelmed at the number of choices to make there, unable to decide which kind of salad dressing to get. Other times, I am floored by the abundance of God evident in the heaps of food around me.

156. Calculating my money, the emptiness of my cupboards, and each item I take from a shelf at the store, so that the total at the cash register comes out within cents of my budget.

157. Slices of apples and cheddar

158. The Spirit of Food: 34 writers on feasting and fasting toward God.

159. Simple Americano with a pinch of sugar and a slosh of cream

160. The smell that hits me when I open our pantry to the sacks of apples waiting to become apple butter.

161. With the help of Emma, getting all of the dishes washed from our chicken, rice and gravy dinner last night. Brings back good memories of the fellowship, re-stocks the cupboard with clean dishes for today, clears the counter and makes us look like responsible housekeepers.

162. The multi-colored and-pattered plates in our cupboard that bring the same tasty things to each of us in different ways.

163. Opening my freezer to find the bag of dark chocolate chips I bought on sale a week ago and forgot about.

164. A fresh bag of coffee in the cupboard, thanks to Maria.

165. Communion tomorrow morning with my beloved church family, my Lord and Savior, and the rest of His body around the world and throughout history.

166. Sunday dinner invite from friends, and preparing our contribution to the meal ahead of time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Next year on Oct 31...

Stumped on a good Christian response to the secular and weird ways October 31st is celebrated? I definitely have been. But this article by pastor Ben Alexander is extremely helpful and I plan on passing it on to others who might be benefited from it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall Festivities

October is almost over, and it has been grand. Here is some pictorial evidence.

So much goodness.

Giving thanks: 146-154

This season where everything gets a chance to burn with the last fire of summer before bowing under winter.

My hilarious and very human roommates, who make my life amusing with their words and actions, and make it pleasant with their kindness and love.

A woolen poncho on a cold, cold day.

Hitching rides around town with friends.

Douglas Wilson

Violins in Vivaldi music

Dollar Store candy in a bright yellow bowl

How much Becki makes me laugh

Water filters that make really-gross city water drinkable

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Did you get a sunburn?"

Being a naturally-rosy person, and one that flushes easily with heat, embarrassment, anger, tears, laughter (you name it!), I have no idea how many times I've been asked that.

Today I didn't mind it at all.

Doris asked so sweetly, and her face is so palely aging, and she wanted to hold my hand and to talk about her six sons and my seven brothers, and she waits to see us Monday by Monday and to hear our voices.

Doris has watery eyes and thin, dark-grey hair. She seems like she has had a happy life, in the easy way she smiles, in how she thanks us for singing, and requests we sing particular hymns, and in the kindness she shows to Patsy by finding her page in the hymnal every single time. Even brightly-dressed Patsy who watches us sing with her mouth open and no comments after the songs cannot be rude to Doris, and her presence is softened by her quiet, gentle-spirited neighbor. Doris is grace and peace behind a walker. She is joy in the grey moments, joy in the last days.

Doris is one of the people who makes Monday a delight.

Other goodies in my life today: 135-145

135. Extra sleep after the alarm rings

136. A bag of apples in the pantry, another on the counter, another on the floor, and the fruit bowl piled high

137. New socks on cold mornings

138. T. S. Eliot, particularly snippets from Choruses From 'The Rock' (1934) IX and X.

139. A notebook with a clear page, and a pen with a fine nib

140. Freshly made applesauce steaming on the stove, golden lumps and smoothness, faintly breathing cinnamon

141. Pomplamoose and their delightful music (Youtube will acquaint you with them - awesome couple!)

142. Lisa's apple Pan-Dowdy

143. Cheddar cheese in thick slices

144. That my car has a radio

145. Really hot water from the tap.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Food, love, poetry, beauty

Two poems I read today were about onions. Almost invariably I think of Father Capon when onions show up in books I am reading. His directions for knowing, looking at, enjoying and using an onion will always stick with me, nudging me further down the path of loving the little things. Capon's book, theology and cookery, is also extraordinarily poetic, and his way of looking at the onion is especially poetry.

But perhaps these vegetables are ultimately poetic, these multi-layered, strong and stringent, beautiful globes with pale pale flesh, filmy slips between the layers, lightly-striped and crisp golden skin. I already admire them for the way they grow in their dark straight lines in the garden, for their crinkling tops as they dry hanging in the storage room, for their perfect circles falling in sloping stacks on my cutting board, for the way they pale and become nearly clear and then honey-colored in the bubbling butter in my frying pan, for the flavor they add to my spagghetti, my taco, my salsa and my salad, BLT and hamburger and the pork roast. But today, my love for these countertop sweet-and-hots grew a little more.

The poems:

William Matthews

How easily happiness begins by
dicing onions. A lump of sweet butter
slithers and swirls across the floor
of the sauté pan, especially if its
errant path crosses a tiny slick
of olive oil. Then a tumble of onions.

This could mean soup or risotto
or chutney (from the Sanskrit
chatni, to lick). Slowly the onions
go limp and then nacreous
and then what cookbooks call clear,
though if they were eyes you could see

clearly the cataracts in them.
It’s true it can make you weep
to peel them, to unfurl and to tease
from the taut ball first the brittle,
caramel-colored and decrepit
papery outside layer, the least

recent the reticent onion
wrapped around its growing body,
for there’s nothing to an onion
but skin, and it’s true you can go on
weeping as you go on in, through
the moist middle skins, the sweetest

and thickest, and you can go on
in to the core, to the bud-like,
acrid, fibrous skins densely
clustered there, stalky and in-
complete, and these are the most
pungent, like the nuggets of nightmare

and rage and murmury animal
comfort that infant humans secrete.
This is the best domestic perfume.
You sit down to eat with a rumor
of onions still on your twice-washed
hands and lift to your mouth a hint

of a story about loam and usual
endurance. It’s there when you clean up
and rinse the wine glasses and make
a joke, and you leave the minutest
whiff of it on the light switch,
later, when you climb the stairs.

Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Thank you, Colleen at Live a Life Worthy, for tagging my blog as 'versatile.' At first, I was just as confuzzled as you seemed to be when tagged, but I think I can sort of 'keep to the code' in carrying on this thing.

As part of being tagged, I have "2 responsibilities: writing 7 things about myself and tagging 15 blogs with this award." I will likely come very short of the 15-blog mark when tagging, but will give it an effort. :)

Thing 1. I do not blog only-pictures, only-poetry, only thoughts on family life, only links to other blogs or music, or only-anything-else-I-love. Part of my goal in keeping this blog is to share my love of this world, in all its varied beauty and unpredictable pain, because the Maker of it all is a Trinity. So yeah. May my blog become more diversified (versatile?) as I grow in knowledge and love of this wild and wonderful sphere spinning at 67,000 miles per hour (hat tip to ND Wilson and one of my favorite books).

2. I have never flown in an airplane. This is one of the serious deficiencies of my life so far.

3. When I was little, I planned to be an author and write under the pseudonym Terry Lane. Which I thought was clever because Terry/Terri can be a girl or a guy, and how sneaky is that for a pseudonym?!?

4. I hate, detest, abominate, fake food. This includes things like boxed mac n' cheese, American cheese, white chocolate (WHAT chocolate???), powdered anything-that-should-be-moist (soup, milk, mashed potatoes), imitation crab, etc etc. People, food is important. Don't scrimp, don't pretend, and don't be shallow about these glorious thing that cooking and eating are.

5. It is way too easy for me to get addicted to computer games. Hence, no one was allowed to use computer games on my laptop when I was going to school.

6. Secretly, I have always wanted to be an artist. Someday (perhaps in the Eschaton) I shall do more than stick people and 2-dimensional houses with puffy leaf trees beside them.

7. One thing I shall perhaps always slightly regret is not having kept track of how many or which books I have read over the course of my life.

In Front of Your Eyes
the artsy sophisticate
Green and Blue World
Imago Dei
Glory of Kings
Crazy as Me

Monday, October 17, 2011


"We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give."
Sir Winston Churchill

One of my favorite 13 year olds just returned from a week in Florida with her family. They were sent there per her Wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation which gave them the trip of a lifetime and the memories to last several.

We spent over an hour this morning looking at the pictures captured - the sunshine, the theme parks, water rides and dolphin-feedings, happy faces under hat brims and bare feet in amazing blue water, sweet horses giving rides, carousels, cartoon characters giving hugs, elaborate villas, ice cream shops - and took school this morning very slow and relaxed. She had so much fun. She wants to go back to Florida and stay there - presumably with all the wonderful gifts of the last week continuing into the unforeseeable future.

Grateful for gifts: #123-134

123. Henri Landwirth, founder of Give the Kids the World, and his miraculous life, whose survival of the Holocaust contributed to his desire to bless the kind of children who did not survive things like that.

124. safety through a lot of car and plane travel, and being across the country for a week

125. Renee and Laurie, the ladies here who gave so much time to make this wish come true

126. a week of relaxation away from the daily schedule

127. four days in my own little Valley of Elwy with my family

128. the happy little blid-ip my phone says when a text comes in

129. how warm a laptop feels on a super-cold morning

130. my mom's boxes of food she donates to our little house of girls

131. pasta with homemade cheese sauce

132. fog in the morning

133. sun in the afternoon

134. tea with honey and raw milk

Sunday, October 16, 2011


It is fall.

There, among the rough, beige-grey-brown of the eternally-constant evergreens, maple. It grows there by a fallen pine whose kinked and bone-white branches scribble along the angled trunk. On its other side is the front right fender of an old car that is almost completely rust-colored, windows all long gone, tires flat and falling into the ground, various side panels and hood pieces loose, bent, or just plain missing.

The car sinks, turning browner all the time. The white tree leans more as months pass, its wood becoming lighter and more brittle. The maple is alive. It leans Southward, as if reaching face, hands, arms, soul toward the life of the sun that throbs across the sky every day.

In the quiet of the sparse trees here in this corner of my parents' property, surrounded with old and lifeless cars, a sagging fence marking this land from that neighbor's land, the maple grows. The maple sees another season leave, another come, and changes garments to flourish in the new one. It reaches forward, glad to golden and wave and wane here among the death of ancient Chevrolets and fallen evergreens, reaching content for this quiet death that will be overthrown in spring.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


This is a poem from Billy Collins' new book Horoscopes for the Dead. Do you ever feel this way?


I don't want to make too much of this,
but because the bedroom faces east
across a lake here in Florida,

when the sun begins to rise
and reflects off the water,
the whole room is suffused with the kind

of golden light that might travel
at dawn on the summer solstice
the length of a passageway in a megalithic tomb.

Again, I don't want to exaggerate,
but it reminds me of a brand of light
that could illuminate the walls
of a hidden chamber full of treasure,
pearls and gold coins overflowing the silver platters.

I feel like comparing it to the fire
that Aphrodite lit in the human eye
so as to make it possible for us to perceive
the other three elements,

but the last thing I want to do
is risk losing your confidence
by appearing to lay it on too thick.

Let's just say that the morning light here
would bring to any person's mind
the rings of light that Dante

deploys in the final cantos of the Paradiso
to convey the presence of God,
while bringing the Divine Comedy
to a stunning climax and leave it at that.

Monday, October 3, 2011

planks of thanks

"Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks. Remembering frames up gratitude. Gratitude lays out the planks of trust. I can walk the planks - from known to unknown - and know: He holds."

from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp


110. a sister who comes and wakes me up if I oversleep in the morning
111. the bliss of sleep after insomnia
112. a wedding and its attendant gladness, tears and bittersweet memories
113. Luke and Theresa's smiles as they turned to face one another over the rings
114. my mom putting a check into my hand
115. fresh cow's milk
116. latin conversations all the way from Bucer's to Garfield Street
117. tortillas fried
118. Billy Collins
119. reading someone else's poetry and being lifted by it
120. old computers that still run
121. a zip-up hoodie with long enough sleeves
122. the satisfaction of paying rent on the exact day it is due

Monday, September 26, 2011

Out of Sight

During an afternoon of driving and hiking to and around Palouse Falls yesterday, I was struck by so many things surprising and wonderful to my eyes. Rounding a corner of the dry, fall-brown countryside studded with dark rocks and scattered with sagebrush to see startling spring green filling farmer's fields, resting under the silver lines and sprays of irrigation pipes and the slowly moving backs of Hereford and Angus behind even fences. Parking at the Falls and walking to the edge of the drop-off to gaze down at more water than you typically see in Moscow over months of time just hurling itself into the ravine like a suicide throwing his life away from a high bridge.

A little later, I wandered away from my friends (who were all either swimming in the pool downstream from the waterfall, or resting, watching and chatting from the rocks) to creep along one side of the rocky walls of the ravine toward the falls itself. The rocks became more slippery, coated with brilliant green vegetation and sludgy mud. The sound of the falls was like thunder, drowning out the voices of my companions, and the power of its rush downward created a wind that drove the constant mist at me like a winter storm. I shielded my eyes from the sting, thinking of the ocean, and craned my neck to look up along the torrent of water to the craggy rocks at the top of the falls. There, 160 feet above, where we had been some thirty minutes before, the water just continued to curve white and blue in a never-ending rush. Hundreds of gallons of it, continued to pour over the falls the entire time I was there.

So much water. So much strength, and voice, and so much moisture. All of those droplets that have existed since creation, are now, here, appearing at the top of this falls and plummeting to crash in the dark blue pool beneath. All this water that is in front of me, that God meant for me to see and feel spitting against my face, for me to wade into with my sandy shoes and sweaty socks, that He planned to lap against these rocks with quiet reverberation, that He wanted me to taste on my lips and to darken and droop my hair, and that He fore-ordained to wash away the blood from my throbbing ankle and the sticky apple juice from my fingers. All of this water has been around since before Adam. The molecules bumping into one another and hooking up to form the Mickey Mouse head of H2O, traveling the circuit from sky to earth and ocean to sky again. God does that, and God made us meet today, and God will carry it onward all this week to other destinations. It will have other stories besides me kneeling and trailing my dry fingers in its life, stories besides these young men swimming in their jeans, and muddy converse on slick stones, and the long, stringy seaweed clinging to the vertical wall of rock on both sides of the falls for hundreds of feet. The water it keeps on keeping on. God sustains this with the words of His mouth, and by His love draws its story on, fuller and richer and more complex and beautiful with the passage of time.

It stuns me to realize the hugeness of the world, the glory in even one small part of it. Sometimes it is the little things that make me really think. Sometimes it isn't even something important like people being born and loving and marrying and dying 4,000 miles from here with their own struggles and homes and religions and diseases. It is something like a waterfall just under 2 hours' drive from my town, invisible until you are right upon it, but so very alive and thrumming with God that I can't believe I've never seen it before. It is just some water going through a chasm in the rocks. But this waterfall has been here far longer than the 4 years I have lived in this region, and I never knew the place. The waters of this fall have been moving and working green and satisfying thirst and going salty as sweat and evaporating upward into clouds and falling as evening rain for thousands and thousands of years, sustained by the word of God.

I see so little, and God is so much bigger. My eyes glimpse and shimmer and blink in amazement and gratitude, and then I turn to my next creaturely duty. I will forget again for a while how there are great stories in this molecule of water, this particle of dust, this portion of the universe. But God never loses sight of any of it. He never ceases to speak story into this world, and to love into existence.

#98. Wind in an open window on the highway
99. A bleach-white snake skeleton, dry and still gently shaping S with even its death
100. The crag of a rock under fingertips, and that it bears weight
101. Watching a crow soar along the canyon below us
102. New friends and conversation
103. Emptying one's shoes of all kinds of dirt and stones and tying them snugly again
104. Climbing up a narrow crevasse, and the view framed by this narrow V when you look backward
105. Safety
106. Raindrops in a sky of sunset, spilling a double curve like an oil-color over the grey
107. Wheat stubble turning to heaps of gold along both sides of the highway
108. 65 mph speed limits
109. The goodness of physical tiredness and mental adrenaline after time spent outdoors

Monday, September 19, 2011

Time Turns

Hi, Monday.

After a weekend of homeric proportions, this is one Monday I am not quite ready for. But it is ready for me. Time turns, the sun runs ahead, and we have to follow even if we are looking back over a shoulder at some moments that we would rather see again.

You open your eyes from a dream that is half remembering and half wishing, and as you lie there, backing it up and replaying it, and sanctifying it all with the grace of prayer, the digital numbers on the nightstand blink from 6:58 to 6:59 to 7:00. New numbers. A new minute. A new day, a new week, a new space for you to work in. And so you must work.

The wind is pulling at the trees and dragging all toward autumn. Do not resist the pull of time, but follow it with the steps of the faithful who knows what power sends the seasons. See this too as gift. Let go the slow, golden, heady air of summer, the almost drunken warmth under the sun gaze as he rolls around the sky. Feel the air snap at your sleeve, and open your arms wide to this season of sweaters and sneakers, of spiced cider and flannel and long-handled rakes. Run with the wind, not against it.

#87. for stiff calf muscles in the morning, compliments of a night of dancing, making me walk around the house like a grandmother when I first get up
88. for library books - Terry Pratchet, at the moment
89. for books I'm borrowing from Jordan - poetry from Edmund Spenser and Billy Collins
90. for books I bought at the conference - G. K. Chesterton's delightful Manalive, and The Ball and the Cross, which I've not yet read
91. for the surprise of receiving The Dragon's Tooth (N. D. Wilson) in the mail. Whoever ordered that for me, thank you! I am already enjoying it.
92. for new friends from faraway places, the first face-to-face conversation with them, and things like cell phones and facebook to hopefully help it continue
93. for canned tomato soup, even when I'd rather have something hefty and homemade and healthy, and better-tasting.
94. for an open afternoon in which I can rest and then tackle some of my self-inflicted chores
95. for weather that makes a hoodie your favorite piece of clothing
96. for sunshine on the brown grass of my front yard, and on the constantly undulating leaves on this little maple tree just outside my window
97. for peanut butter

Thursday, September 15, 2011

reggae night

Sometimes you just need to get a bit of swing in your soul.

Sometimes you need to feel anything but white, and pretend you have the do-wop rhythm and dreads.

Sometimes you just need Bob Marley to tell you everything's gonna be alright.

On 21 May 1981, Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga delivered the final funeral eulogy to Marley, declaring:
"His voice was an omnipresent cry in our electronic world. His sharp features, majestic looks, and prancing style a vivid etching on the landscape of our minds. Bob Marley was never seen. He was an experience which left an indelible imprint with each encounter. Such a man cannot be erased from the mind. He is part of the collective consciousness of the nation."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

new sister(s)

In 2.5 weeks I will receive another sister. Theresa marries my brother on October 1st, and we are thrilled to have her join our ranks!

But it is probably even more momentous for the other side of the equation. While we'all (10 biological sisters and 2 sisters via other brothers' marriages) are adding 1 to our numbers, Theresa is going from having 0 sisters (1 sis in law, I think) to having, suddenly, scads and scads.

Here is a picture from the bridal shower this last Saturday. Theresa surrounding by current and previous Dahlin gals. (Exception: the 4 littlest ones in this picture are not sisters she is gaining, but nieces and nephew.)

Left to Right:
Naomi holding (my nephew) Devon, (niece) Natalie, Emili, Maylene holding (my niece) Evelyn, Maria holding (niece) Hailey, Vicki, Becki, Theresa, Laura, Bobbi, Brianna holding (my niece) Alyssa, Lydia, Elsi, Abbi.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Speaking Back

Last night I felt that there were too many good things. Too many things about my life that I love to really mention them all, to even share with people who care how happy I am, to even bookmark enough things that I won't forget them. There are too many. And I really can't do them justice. But I must still attempt it.

If I am living under a waterfall of mercies, I must at least try to acknowledge a few teaspoons-full of it. I am walking the North Cascade Highway, and I have to take as many digital pictures as I can, although even a video camera would never do it justice. I am a small creature on a vast seashore, and must draw my lines through as much of the golden sand as I can.

Christ gave His all in order for me to have all of this.

And even today, when some of the rose of a fabulous Sunday has faded, and I'm not having the smoothest Monday of my life, I must speak. Still the waterfall falls, pouring silver and sunlight over my head. The right hand of His mercy is in water flowing over me, the left hand of the rocks below that catch me roughly when I slip, and so much else, so much crowding in on me and so much out of my sight, speaks Christ incessantly, boundlessly. This is my one response.

#73. tears that lead to unfolding and understanding and healing
74. music by Over The Rhine
75. having a job that is all about building a person - body and mind and soul. I am honored.
76. tylenol
77. the Nuart Block Party and scads of people enjoying and loving God together there
78. standing 10 feet from the stage to experience the music: the praiseful words, feeling the rhythm reverberating in me, watching fingers on frets and keys leaping and switching skillfully, the people surrounding me moving to the music
79. Maria and Becki, reading aloud from my Lord Peter Wimsey collection as I drove the 115 miles yesterday
80. fresh veggies in my fridge from my mom's garden
81. BBQ food
82. Joseph Schoolland's laugh
83. the satisfaction of a child accomplishing a hard task, and being there to praise their efforts with the right words
84. sharpies
85. the gas I bought and used this weekend - I am so grateful to have a gas-burner to get me places I want to go!
86. waking up early even when I don't need to. The extra time provides such a relaxing morning routine.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Whelmed-o'er (54-72)

This (thus far) has been a weekend of epic proportions. Life has been lived, and accidents have been averted. Life has been taken up, and sin has been left behind. Life has been shared, and tears have been held back. Life has been eaten and drunk after thanksgiving, has been celebrated in song in my living room and enjoyed in smoke around a campfire. Life has been commemorated in Scripture reading with friends. Life has been renewed in my mind and my heart so that I feel overwhelmed as with sea breakers with the joy of it.

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
1 John 4:16

#54. laughter and talk and food and tea with an old roommate who is finally back in town
#55. that we didn't hit that moose on the way up the mountain on our camping trip
#56. that moose exist. What faces they have! I grin just thinking of them.
#57. safety climbing rocks, and living with yellow jackets and hornets for a couple days - especially that Tali was not stung
#58. the light show from the top of the mountain - stars above, and farms and towns below, flecking white fire in the black of night
#59. burritos baked over hot coals
#60. water
#61. the portable word of God. Reading around a campfire has got to be one of my favorite things to do.
#62. our friends who came by to make sure we were all right when they heard about our heavy-drinking neighbors at the campfire
#63. the smell of pipe tobacco
#64. thimbleberries
#65. cedars and ferns, making the whole place feel like my grandparents' place
#66. Bailey's fine little car, 'Cheese'
#67. finding breakfast burritos, coffee, and my brother and his fiancee at our house when we got back early Sunday morning
#68. Pastor Wilson and the book of Samuel
#69. passing the peace with Emma
#70. orange juice
#71. serving dinner with my roomies to 12 people in my house. What a delight!
#72. a real night's sleep, complete with ridiculous dreams

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

some mid-week music

I am listening to some excellent and fun music by the Portland Cello Project this afternoon, and wanted to share a link to Take Five.

That is just one. I definitely also like Denmark. And probably some more. I just got started listening to these guys.

From their website, the goal of the group:

1. Connection. To bring the cello to places you wouldn't normally hear it. They've performed everywhere, from touring with heavy metal guitarist Buckethead, to sports bars in Texas, to punk clubs in Boston, to halftime at Portland Trailblazer games, to music festivals focusing on everything from rock, folk, classical and... pure noise...
2. Innovation. To play music on the cello you wouldn't normally hear played on the instrument. Everything from Beethoven to Arvo Pärt to instrumental covers of Kanye West and Pantera.
3. Collaboration. To build bridges across all musical communities by bringing a diverse assortment of musical collaborators on stage with them. The PCP has collaborated with musicians such as Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul and Mary), The Dandy Warhols, Mirah, Laura Gibson, Thao, Eric Bachmann (Crooked Fingers), Matt Haimovitz, Dan Bern, among many others...

Monday, August 29, 2011

39-53 on a good Monday

Peer pressure. Conformity. I don't know what to call it, but sometimes I feel stupidly inclined to side with those around me and reflect the same attitudes they do when the ideas are not mine at all. And then I stop and think, what the heck?! I don't agree with that. How'd I get on this bandwagon?!?

Mondays are one of those things.

Most people are Monday-haters. And most of the time, I don't blame them. Sunday is over and the rest we've had is at an end for a good number of days. The weekend is done and whatever we planned better be done already or ain't getting done. Some people head back to school, with strenuous, mind-boggling, insane amounts of assignments. Others head back to unpleasant jobs they were so relieved to get away from on Friday. Me, I can always use more weekend, too - more time to relax, to cook, to meet up with friends, to watch movies, to read. I love Sundays, and am always looking back at a pleasant time had on the last one, and peering ahead to when the next one will arrive.

But I have not had an unpleasant Monday in ever so long. When I was in school, Monday meant a fresh start - leaving behind whatever poor grades or difficult assignments I'd barely finished on Friday, and starting anew with all sorts of possibilities. It meant tea time at 9:30 or 10 in the morning with the entire school gathered for tea, coffee and snacks in the commons. It meant chatting with classmates again between classes and learning new things in the classroom from teachers I loved. As Dr. Wilson would say (and his Naval officer had started Mondays with once upon a time), "Goodie, goodie, Monday morning, another week in which to excel!" :)

Now, as a graduate with job responsibilities and bills, I still have nothing much to complain about on Monday AM. I may be tired, need gas for my car, or just be moody, but the day and the week is new. Everything in a sense has had a death at the end of last week and been resurrected over the Lord's Day, so that I face this week with a clean face and an open heart, clean hands and open eyes to see the goodness of God in the land of the living.

Thank God for Mondays.

#39. blackberries and plums on the counter from my sister and her afternoon picking fruit yesterday
#40. clean laundry, though it be piled high and messy on the chair in my room
#41. fried potatoes and eggs
#42. makeup. oh how grateful I am for thee.
#43. my roommate Tali's laugh
#44. looking forward to singing at the Clark House nursing home tonight
#45. the opportunity to start a Bible study
#46. Laura M and her sweet words
#47. absence of construction on the road (that has been slowing me down for weeks) this morning
#48. sunshine chasing away the clouds of the night
#49. the thunderstorm that lit our sky with weird blue fire last night, watered the lawn, and watered our skin as we watched
#50. that the fires started by the lightning (in wheatfields and a tree) were easily put out
#51. my little student's cursive in the words of Scripture she copied for me
#52. her smiles and laughter as we work together over the morning
#53. an open window in a car with broken AC

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Half and Half

When your sister brings a gallon of half-and-half home and you've been skimping on milk for a while, what a party for your palate. Here are some things I've been doing with it this week.

(Straw)berry Smoothie - ultra general and subjective recipe
Drop some frozen berries into the blender
Add enough dairy (milk, half-and-half, cream?) to nearly cover the bulging frosty fruit
Dribble some vanilla in there
Add a dash of sugar if you like (completely heavenly without it!)
Optional: add more berries or a berry syrup for extra flavor
Blend on 'pulse' until texture looks good and there are no large frozen pieces in there.

Creamy Potatoes or maybe Potatoes au Creme because there's no Gratin
Peel potatoes (russets or any old kind will work, but Red Pontiacs are my favorite)
Slice super(paper-)thin and layer in casserole dish/cake pan
Every few layers, pause and add salt. Sea salt is especially good.
About 1/3, 2/3 and at the top of the pan, sprinkle pepper and a very little nutmeg, and, if so desired, some onions. A word of warning about the onion: be very, very moderate. I would do half an onion or less in a panful for my entire family. These slices are so delicate most of them don't even constitute slices but distintegrate in your fingers. And the dish works without them too, they just add a certain little dash of whatsit.
When your pan is full, pour cream (I would advise heavy cream, but today I used half and half and it worked all right, just not quite as decadent and delicious)until the potatoes are submerged completely. So much creamy healthiness. :)
Bake at 400* for about an hour. The top will be all browned and golden (but not black; turn the oven down if that's gonna happen) and a knife will slide into them easily
Cool slightly before putting on the table. They keep the heat extremely well.

Vanilla Pudding
which I actually DO have measurements for, because it's from, only I fudged things a little, of course
Heat up 2 cups of milk (half-and-half, people: more substance, more yummy) in a medium saucepan until hot but not boiling. The milk will have little bubbles in it. I stirred mine almost constantly because I didn't want any scorching to happen, but I don't think you HAVE to
While that's heating, combine in a small bowl 1/2 cup (or less) white sugar, 3 Tablespoons cornstarch and 1/4 teas salt.
Also get out of your cupboard/fridge at this time: vanilla, and 1 TBSP butter
When the milk's nice and hot, pour some of the dry stuff into the milk while you're whisking the milk. Do just a bit at a time, and keep whisking, so that lumps aren't formed
Stick a spoon into it once in a while, and when the spoon back is covered nicely with white stuff (it's not so thin that it slips right off), pull the pan off the stove and immediately add the 1 tsp vanilla and the tablespoon of butter, stirring until well combined.
Pour the pudding into individual bowls and chill in fridge for a while. Maybe 30 minutes. Maybe longer. Mine was done way before dinner so I don't know how long it took to cool.
Yummy served with sliced berries. Potentially delicious with almond flavoring and craisins served with dark chocolate on the side.