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.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Active Obedience

Why do we refrain from helping when we know that help is so needed? Why do we remain silent when our voice should be lifted for a cause we believe in?

Our error is that of omission rather than commission, and for some reason that makes us feel okay about it all. We judge our own and other peoples' actions by the element of badness in them, but good is not merely a lack of badness. Just because we are mostly inert and inactive doesn't mean we are behaving as we ought. There is an active element to well-doing.

Sometimes we are not being outright law-breakers. We have no obligation to join in an activity, or to speak to this person we don't know, or to give our time to a mercy ministry in our area. We don't need to join the cheesy song and dance in order to serve God. We already do what we are told to do, explicitly, and seriously, this extra stuff is just for the really outgoing and extroverted people, the ones who are 'good at' it. This poetic piece talks about loving orphans in a way that costs us nothing. Yet how many of us are just this way? We think being of Northern European extraction exempts us from participating, or we think that getting into the motions is too immature.

James tells us: "To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17) Sometimes, showing God's love to the world might call for some embarrassing and inelegant moments that make you terribly self-conscious and red in the face. We must be willing step up and live as lights to the world, lights that are not under a bushel but reaching into the far corners of darkness. We must be willing to look silly to the world, for the world laughed at Christ and it will laugh at us as it laughed at Him. We need to be ready to look silly to ourselves, to be awkward for the sake of Love. We need to be willing to be fools - fools for Christ.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


For some reason, making friends of those who live just next door seems a little bit difficult to me. I mean, we probably have very little in common. They don't attend my church, the school I just graduated from, or any of the weekly activities I'm involved with. I know nothing about them but that the people to the North of us have an alert black dog and a young son, the people to the West must like to garden because their yard always looks great, the old folks across First street are doing construction in their yard, and whoever lives in the yellow house has an alarm that goes off every morning at 7:00.

But we are called to know our neighbors. We are told, in the same verse and with just a little less emphasis than that of loving God, to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).

It is easy to jump to what we are always told by pastors and parents (and which is all true) that our closest neighbors are those who live in the same house we do, and to focus on those relationships. Yes, very true; but the Samaritan and the Jew weren't siblings, spouses or roommates. The command to love one's neighbor as oneself extends far beyond the walls of your home.

This week, I am getting to know my neighbors. Not just waving when I walk by and they are out getting their mail. Not retrieving my or my family's wandering pets and other animals from destroying their property. Not sending them Christmas cards that say all the generic things on them and none of the important things. Not overhearing conversations, arguments or party music from a house or two away, and deciding from that what they are like.

Emma (my roommate) and I were just talking about inviting some of our neighbors over for dinner. To start out, we decided we will have to knock on their doors and meet them, or happen to catch them when they're out in their yards pulling weeds or getting home from work. But that very day, before we had the chance to even start something, one of the neighbors knocked on our door, and handed us an invite to a block party in his yard, and stayed to visit for a few minutes. The invite is on the fridge, and we are all deciding what food to bring to it tonight. Then I was ambushed by bees in the yard, and, reacting much more severely than usual but having no allergy medicine, I walked over to the house with the lovely yard and knocked, and made an acquaintance while asking for help. And then yesterday, the woman with the dog who barks at me every day and the little boy with the tent in the backyard came out and visited through the fence and asked if her dog Shadow bothered us by his barking. Now I just need to ring the doorbell of the yellow house at 7 one morning until I wake the sound sleeper who lives there - but considering the volume and insistence of his alarm, the doorbell might not do the trick.

This is real life, and these are real people, and we have a real job to do in making where we live a beautiful and pleasant place, and to share the joy that we have been given with others. We are not called to live secluded lives, never stepping foot outside our doors unless it's to get into our car and drive to our own job, school or church. We are not called to develop ties with third-world countries by means of the internet or mail system while we ignore the broken people in our neighborhoods. We are not called to be friends with only those who are 98% like us in belief systems, ideals, religions and political views.
We are called to know, to help, and to love our neighbors, and that includes the ones who are unlovely. It includes the ones who are on the opposite side of a fence that is more like a wall. It includes those who look like they are too snooty to interact with people from the lower-middle class, and those who chain-smoke in their alley while their kids frolic in the dirt, barely dressed. And it definitely includes those who are only removed from you by two walls and the different sidewalks you use.

Monday, August 22, 2011

All Grace

He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

As it is written:
'He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.'

Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,
while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11

27. the cool morning air during my run when I know that mid-day will be close to 90
28. my roommate Tali's cheery good-morning
29. cantaloupe
30. forgiveness, not only for the big things, but for the very petty as well
31. the faithfulness of my pastor and what I've learned from him in 15 years
32. Psalm sing held in Friendship Square downtown
33. our capable music leader, complete with shades and baseball cap
34. text message from a friend who lives just down the street
35. the luxury of lotion
36. coffee, even without cream
37. the possibilities of an early Monday morning
38. the amazing little girl I get to work with every day

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Coffee, cilantro, cleanup, conversation

That is what Saturdays are all about. Or, at least, what this one is about, now that I'm all graduated and not sleeping in after a ridiculously long school week and spending the rest of the day scrambling to get homework done that was due yesterday... I am beginning to enjoy this being-done-with-school. It is peaceful, and God is bringing everything together into a good routine, even while giving me plenty of opportunity to stretch out and try new things.

Here is my Saturday plan and my progress so far: Running, shower, scrambled egg breakfast and some quick facebooking with friends. Walk downtown to meet and chat over iced coffee in the sunshine while Train of Thought plays and sings not 20 feet away. Farmer's Market, where I couldn't help but stock up on some more produce (cilantro, cucumbers) even though I just went shopping. Now gearing up for some good hard work in the yard, whacking some thistle patches and extremely tall grass, mowing, and hopefully bagging up whatever dead plants I rake up afterwards (though I have to run to the store to get some good strong trash bags). Then later this afternoon, making some bread, and putting dinner together for myself and a couple of friends. My roomies are all off on various things tonight, so I'm inviting two close friends over to eat and hang out. Maybe we'll even see a movie.

I love the life God has given me right now. I will always be working toward godliness with contentment, which is great gain, and am nowhere near sanctified enough at this point in my life, but it is days like this that I feel His hand on me for good. I feel it in the sunshine on my bare shoulders and the laughter late at night with new roommates. I taste it in the roasted and ground and brewed dark beans in my cup, and I smell it in the smooth round scents rising from peaches piled at the market, and the dark and almost sticky section of the street that construction workers have been at for the last week. His goodness presses in on every side, and I feel it molding me into the right shape, the shape of gratitude. Saturday is the perfect time for me to slow down and enjoy every bit of this good life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

19-26: the bread of life

I made some bread for the first time in my new house. It made me very happy. Baking bread is one of those things that works like therapy (along with singing, reading, and working in the sunshine). I love baking any time, but it seems like I usually endup doing it most late at night when I want a break from my reading or just feel snacky. :)

This bread has no recipe. It's a very basic thing to make, though, and if you have practiced doing something for long enough, and give enough love and care to it, you are sure to get by just fine without directions and lists and persnickity rules. That is how life is, whether it is in writing a letter or getting a baby to fall asleep or sewing a dress. The same goes for driving a car, and grocery shopping, and raising a garden. You do it again and again until you could almost do it in your sleep.

It is Monday, and in this world, there are millions of miracles to be thankful for.
I'm thankful for a kitchen which has all of the neccesities for cooking.
I'm thankful that if you pour yeast and a pinch of sugar into warm water, it will foam up and keep on swelling even when you add other weird things to it.
I'm grateful for whisks with their little webs of silver wires and the clack they make against the side of a bowl.
I'm thankful that bees have factories to make honey, and that I can get mine in little plastic bottles shaped like a bear.
I'm glad that grapeseed oil is green and weird looking, but that it doesn't change the flavor of the food.
I'm grateful for the sun of an egg waiting in the white shell, and the salty little rocks stored in cardboard shakers by my stove, and that they make tangy yeasty water taste good.
I'm thankful for flour and the way it whisks into the bowl, flouffing like dry snow all over the counter, and how it thickens and tightens into stretchy white dough.
I'm thankful for my hands and the way they tell me how taut or soft the dough is beneath my fingertips, how done the loaf is when I tap it, hot in the oven.
I love how these things combine to make bread. Bread which strengthens man's heart, which represents the broken body of our Lord, which makes my toast and my sandwiches and the lovely warm buttered treat for during a movie at night. The life that was nurtured in wheat, then broken down and given to death, and battered and ground and completely changed, changes form into the order of bread loaves, and returns to life again as man takes it into him. It returns to greater life as it becomes, now, part of the Temple of God, part of this person which images the true Bread of Heaven.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

encouraging folks

For Famous Authors Writing Weirdly

Emily Dickinson, thank you –
you always make me feel better –
that it is legitimate, forgivable –
writing these phrases – that never become sentences –
letting long em-dashes chop my conversation.

Thanks, Billy Collins,
for writing about everyday
and becoming famous,
because now I'll never have to hesitate
before putting a toilet into a line that needs one.

And thank you, Victor Hugo, for Les Mis.
You make me feel better for digressing
for pages and chapters on details that interest me
and no one else on the planet –
but I'll always steer clear of sewer plans.

Friday, August 12, 2011

This week...

I have been settling in to my new home. It has been a lot of work and a lot of fun, and I've been far too busy to do much writing, and conspicuously lacking internet at my house, so it's impossible to do writing in the evening when I often feel like it. :) But I am alive and well. Sunday I unloaded boxes and bags, and Monday I started training for my job. It has been a full week of cleaning and de-spidering, sorting kitchen supplies belonging to us 5 roommates and the ones left at the house by previous renters, working with a wonderful family and learning to instruct their daughter, seeing old friends as they trickle into town for the beginning of school, volleyball and movies and even a bit of baking. I was hankering to bake and since we were missing yeast in our supplies, I made some Molasses Crinkles - one of our family favorites back at home. So good.
Since I missed it on Monday, I want badly to write a thankful list right now. But I am short on time here at the library and need to take care of several more errands downtown. I'll be back. And perhaps I'll have some pictures to post of my new abode.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Packing (again), and Plans

It is early August, and I am packing up belongings and clothes. Four years in a row I have boxed and bagged and suitcased my life and bundled it all off to Moscow - and this is the fifth. It feels the same, yet all different, too.

Four years ago I was moving away from home for the first time. I was headed for my first real classroom experiences, having been home schooled. I was going from country living at the end of a dirt county road where I'd been all my life to spending long days in town - a town larger than anything around here for 30 miles. The next three years, the moves were easier, and adjustments simple.

This time, I'm not headed back to school, but to work. I will be part of the same church, and have some of the same roommates, and go to the same grocery stores and haunt the same coffee shop, but this is no longer me being a kid in college. This is me with my own bills. This is me as the college graduate in a house full of younger students. This is me deciding how to spend my evenings (because now they exist, and not just as a five-hour time slot to finish homework for the next day). This is me being a grown-up with real responsibilities in the real world.

Two days from now, I'll be settling into a new house, and starting to put my ideas into practice. Budgets. Schedules. Work. More job searching. Grocery shopping. Housework. Friendships. Decorating. Meal preparation. Connecting with the community. Two days from now, I'll be putting myself to the test. Much has been given me; will I give back in a worthy manner? The world waits for me to discover and shape and beautify it; will I love it as earnestly and gladly as I should?

I anticipate it all. This will be me living, and the grace of God alive in me.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Making your home beautiful

I love Lindsey Tollefson's blog. Her variety and creativity are fantastic, and her color schemes always inspire me.

Monday, August 1, 2011


11. The quilt on my bed that is always needed around 3 AM (even in summer when the house has cooled down completely).
12. Running shoes. It is amazing how good it is to have well-supported feet!
13. Gasoline
14. The lovely Wilson ladies at and the wisdom they share.
15. My family is watching the Lord of the Rings series bit by bit. The extended versions. Sometimes I love what PJ and others did with a portion of the story. Sometimes, not so much. But the watching experience with running commentary from all of my siblings is the best.
16. The opportunity to give glasses of water.
17. Feeling like a kid - again (this time, it was a scraped knee, and it felt as bad as it looked, but made me sympathize a bit more with Seth's bike wreck and bloody knee yesterday).
18. The trampoline springs arrived in the mail today, and the kids were thrilled to have a new yard toy! This is a first for our family and has already been the cause of a couple falls and sore spots, but much more laughter and fun.