31 August 2009

Mellifluous Mondays: More Tennyson

Some nice cheery Victorian verse to start off the week.

The Splendour Falls

The splendour falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O hark, O hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field or river,
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow for ever and for ever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

Tennyson was such a jolly optimistic fellow.

In the mind of these melancholy Victorian poets, splendour always belonged to the past, when peace and beauty and religious faith were realities. Now in the cynical modern age, the splendour is dying. It is giving place to agnosticism, industrial filth, and social upheaval. Nobody believes in "Elfland" anymore. I think that in this case, you can use Elfland as a code name for just about anything, from class structure to Christianity . . . anything that depends on faith.

30 August 2009

Recipe of the Week: Po-ta-toes.

Just watched The Two Towers again. I love Sam and Gollum's tater exchange: "Po-ta-toes. Mash em, boil em, stick em in a stew . . . lovely big golden chips with a nice piece of fried fish. Even you couldn't say no to that." "Oh yes we could. Spoiling nice fish! Give it to us raw and wriggling. Keep nasty chips!"

Anyway, you may or may not like wriggling fish, but these taters are darn good.

Olive Oil Potato Salad 

2 lbs. redskin potatoes
1 small green pepper, diced
1/4 c. minced red onion
1/4 c. olive oil
3 T. white wine vinegar
2 large cloves garlic, minced
minced fresh parsley
minced fresh basil
minced fresh oregano
salt and pepper

Scrub and quarter potatoes. Boil until just tender, and drain well. Place warm potatoes in large bowl with green pepper and red onion. Pour olive oil and wine vinegar over top, and toss to coat. Add additional olive oil as necessary (you'll need more than 1/4 cup, but I don't measure exact amounts). Add garlic and remaining ingredients to taste. Toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This is one of my favorite potato dishes. Unlike mayonnaise based potato salads, it won't go bad if it sits out in hot weather. Use lots of parsley and salt!

27 August 2009

Thankful Thursdays: The Living God

This morning I read 1 Kings 17-19 in my devotions. These chapters hammer one theme over and over again: the Lord is a living God.

"As the Lord your God lives . . . and the Lord listened . . . the Spirit of the Lord will carry you . . . the Lord, He is God . . . and the hand of the Lord was on Elijah . . . and behold, the Lord passed by."

God is both alive and active. Or as the writer of Hebrews would put it, he "exists, and rewards those who seek Him." I am so grateful that the Lord our God lives; unlike the host of pagan gods out there, he hasn't wandered off into another corner of the universe, turned into a constellation, been vanquished by a rival deity, or fallen asleep. He creates, listens, acts. That's a God in whom we can have faith. That's a God we can obey, follow, and proclaim to the world.

25 August 2009

My Favorite Things #5

The Kuhn Rikon skillet in my mother's kitchen. I covet that skillet-- no sticking, even heat, perfect size.

Slow Rise Bakery's Four Seed Cookies. Seriously, these things are amazing. Thick and chewy and sweet and crunchy and how about that, they're even good for you. If you ever want to make my day, you could get me one, yes? Stauffer's sells them in the bakery section. Very convenient. Very nice. Not that I'm dropping hints.

Pro Remarkable mascara from Cover Girl. It comes in a sweet purple tube. It doesn't clump. The colors are deep and natural. And finally, it's waterproof . . . but still washable. That, my friends, is a neat party trick.

24 August 2009

Mellifluous Mondays: Welcome to the Victorian Age

"Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; -- on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The sea of faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Matthew Arnold was a sort of cultural critic in the early Victorian era, and he put his finger on many of the tensions boiling beneath the surface of that prosperous, dignified society.

Problem number one was their loss of faith, which-- just as a retreating sea reveals barnacles and dead fish and limp seaweed-- left the ugliness of existence exposed on the beach, without hope for redemption. Stemming from that came a loss of direction, because without faith in God and in the Scriptures, it was hard to tell right from wrong or to discern the purpose of human life. Hence the "ignorant armies" and "confused alarms."

At the same time, a lot of really amazing things were happening in the world, most of which should have cheered the Victorians up, like expanding empire and technological advances and social reforms and more easily accessible education. But without God, that "land of dreams / So various, so beautiful, so new" was a nightmare. Arnold recognized that. Sadly, he and most of the eminent figures of his day refused to believe. Their best attempts at consolation consisted of beautiful art, increased control over nature, and somehow, love.

Yeah, that's an uplifting love poem for you. "Babe, the world's falling apart and I don't know what anything means and our life will probably be hell, but would you pledge yourself to me all the same?"

My online English classes start on Wednesday, and one of them is British Victorian Literature, so I've been thinking about this a lot lately. :) Brit Vic is a wonderful era in literary terms, but it's rather depressing.

21 August 2009

Recipe of the Week: Chocolate Excellence

Okay, full disclosure. This torte is neither cheap nor quick nor easy-peasy to make. What’s more, it will probably break your calorie bank for the next two weeks. But forget all that-- it’s one of the best desserts I know. With its dense, creamy, truffle-like texture and intense (not too sweet) chocolate flavor, you can’t go wrong.

Just go make it already.

Dense Chocolate Torte

16 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
½ c. butter
5 eggs, separated
1 T. vanilla
¼ c. powdered sugar

Prepare a springform pan: coat with nonstick cooking spray, dust with cocoa, and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 250.
Melt chocolate and butter over medium heat, stirring until smooth.
Whisk together egg yolks and vanilla in large bowl.
Pour chocolate mixture into egg yolk mixture, and stir to combine.
Beat egg whites to soft peaks; add sugar gradually, beating to stiff peaks.
Fold stiff egg whites into chocolate/egg yolk mixture, one third at a time. Stir gently until whites are dispersed.
Pour into prepared springform pan, and use a spatula to smooth the top.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until set and toothpick comes out almost clean.
Cool completely in pan, then remove from pan and transfer to cake stand. This torte is moist and will sink as it cools.
Dust with powdered sugar, garnish with fresh strawberries or raspberries, and serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Jared and I made this for Irene’s birthday on Monday. :) It was a hit there, and will be at your house too.

20 August 2009

Thankful Thursdays: All Sorts

1) I got a car! It is not cool, it is not new, and it is not going to be the envy of the neighborhood. But it runs well, it gets good gas mileage, and it was cheap-- so there. It's a black Honda Accord and I am very pleased to have it sitting in the driveway. :)

2) Simon's birthday today. How thankful I am to have all these wonderful siblings, and to watch them grow more mature in Christ with each passing year.

3) Yesterday was Luke's last day of work, which means that he will actually be around for the next week-and-a-half (until he leaves for Grove City on the 29th). This is a very good thing.

19 August 2009

Free Shakespeare. Come one, come all.

If you like live theatre . . .

If you like Shakespeare . . .

If you like free entertainment . . .

Then have we got a show for you. The West End Shakespeare Company, a group of very talented and energetic high schoolers, will perform Much Ado About Nothing on Monday, August 24 at 7:00. The show is at 1125 Columbia Avenue, Lancaster PA.

Admission is FREE (the company is requesting donations of canned goods and other non-perishable items, which they will give to Water Street Rescue Mission).

These kids have been working really hard on the play; I should know, as two of the principal characters live in my house and we all have Shakespeare lines coming out of our ears. ;) Anyway, it's going to be a great show, so you should come. All the cool people will be there.

18 August 2009

My Favorite Things #4

Crunchy crispy Wasa crackers, with peanut butter or tuna salad or just plain and unadorned. Looks like nasty cardboard health food. Tastes like GOOD.

Nature's Gate shampoo and conditioner. :) Part of the reason I like it is because of the great scents. I always go to the store and stand there smelling things for twenty minutes before deciding what to buy; it's my cheap version of aromatherapy, I guess.

Black picture frames (especially when they are cheap). Simple and classy whether with color or b&w photography. By the way, A.C. Moore always has a 50% coupon in the Sunday newspaper, which is helpful for framing. And last week JC Penny's had a lot of frames 50% off, so if you hurry you might still find some . . .

17 August 2009

Mellifluous Mondays: Clever Ogden

Ogden Nash is one of my favorite poets. He's ridiculous.

"A Word to Husbands"

To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever you're right, shut up.

"Introspective Reflection"

I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance
Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.

"Reflection on Icebreaking"

Is dandy
But liquor
Is quicker.

13 August 2009

Thankful Thursdays: Getting Things Done

You know, there's nothing like that "ahhh" feeling after you finish a project that's been simmering on the back boiler for a while, eating away at your peace of mind and making you feel guilty about doing anything else. You've been mulling over it for so long, wishing it would just finish itself already, and then bam! goodbye project.

In my case, I completed my class plans for both High School Composition and Introduction to Composition this week. That, my friends, was a very good feeling. Now I just need to polish Brit Vic and Intro to Lit a little bit, and do some heavy-duty work on Creative Writing. [Edit: Creative Writing was hammered out this afternoon. Oh snap. Now looming literature lurks luridly on the larboard . . . why larboard and not starboard? Don't ask me.] Should keep me busy until classes start on August 26.

Other things-that-got-done this week:
-haircut (all short and layered and bouncy now!)
-sold several unwanted books that were taking up room on my desk
-finally had an ice cream date with Shannon and Elizabeth Anne (and people, if you have not yet gone to Carmen and David's Creamery on Prince Street, I'm telling you that you MUST go right now, and get the lemon ginger cookie ice cream or the chocolate orange sorbet, or even better, both)

11 August 2009

My Favorite Things #3

My new favorite dessert, gelato affogato (Italian for "drowned ice cream"). Scoop vanilla ice cream or gelato into bowls. Top each scoop with a good strong shot of espresso, a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, and grated dark chocolate. Serve immediately.

Oh baby, this is good. Jared and I made it for my 22nd birthday party last Friday. Between the espresso and cream, it's a two-person operation, especially when you're serving eleven people and trying not to melt the ice cream . . .

10 August 2009

Mellifluous Mondays: Baseball, of all things

So Jared took me to a Phillies game on Saturday. I know, you're all thinking Rebekah? Baseball game? What a joke. But to my surprise, I loved it. From the national anthem to the crisp green grass to the greasy stadium pizza, it was lots of fun and I'd totally do it again. You learn something new every day . . .

Here is this week's poem. It is quite long ("Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Lawrence Thayer) so I've provided an external link.

06 August 2009

Thankful Thursdays: Birthday!

I'm a palindrome again. Woo!

Today I'm thankful that God has sustained me yet another year. Well, "sustained" implies a mere holding pattern. So maybe that's not the right word to use, because it's been more vivid and dynamic than that. He has upheld me in my faith (a miracle in itself given my stubborn tendency to stray), caused me to grow in godliness, and dumped a truckload of blessings on my undeserving head.

It's been one of the most surprising years of my life-- also one of the most dramatic, I think. Good thing I like surprises. Good thing the Lord has all my drama under control. Good thing I can trust Him with anything, anywhere, at any time.

"The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken."
-Psalm 16

All right, speaking of 22, I find this poem amusing. It's a bit cynical, but maybe I'm just cynical too. It comes from the marvelous A.E. Housman.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
'Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.'
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
'The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
'Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.'
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true.

03 August 2009

My Favorite Things #2

I had fun listing "a few of my favorite things" last week, so I decided to keep going. No, I'm not fishing for birthday presents anymore. Haha :) I just enjoy Sharing Useful Objects, as Pooh might say . . . along with some Useless But Nevertheless Entertaining Objects to spice it up. Who knows? Maybe these will become some of your favorite things.

1) Justin's Nut Butter, especially the almond. Very tasty.

2) Sharpie Ultra Fine pens. They're pretty much the best.

3) Magnetic poetry kits, particularly this one and this one. As if I needed an excuse to spend more time in the kitchen.

Mellifluous Mondays: A man will ne'er quite understand

"Woman" by Coventry Patmore

A woman is a foreign land,
Of which, though there he settle young,
A man will ne'er quite understand
The customs, politics and tongue;
The foolish hie them post-haste thro',
See fashions odd and prospects fair,
Learn of the language How d'ye do?
And go and brag they have been there.
The most for leave to trade apply
For once at Empire's seat, her heart,
Then get what knowledge ear and eye
Glean chancewise in the life-long mart.
And certain others, few and fit,
Attach them to the Court and see
The Country's best, its accent hit,
And partly sound its Polity.


A clever fellow, that Patmore. He was another of the Victorian litterati and a friend of Tennyson. One wonders which category he fit into: the foolish braggarts, the chancing traders, or the sincerely attached?