29 April 2011

Weekend links

Pixar versus Dreamworks. Guess who wins?

Tullian Tchividjian on Christian growth-- what is sanctification and how do we detect it? Maybe for all our talk of grace, we're still relying on ourselves for security.

I like balanced opinions, so I found this blog post from a "big farmer" (as opposed to a small organic or free-range farmer) very good. It's well written and provoking. Though I have my preferences, I never want to demonize those who disagree.

And a bit of Biblical humor. Imagine what Moses could have done with an iPhone.

28 April 2011

51 Weeks [in which there is kissing]

Now we have come to the end: reader, I married him.

(I'm sorry, I just had to say it. If anyone should be allowed to use that line in her wedding day story, it's an English teacher who majors on British Victorian literature.)

On the morning of our wedding, I got up fairly early, as our plan was to take pictures at 10:00 and so leave time for lunch and relaxation before the wedding at 2:00. My youngest brother Mark woke up around the same time. We spent some quiet minutes together, making breakfast and talking. It was odd, eating fried eggs and toast in the big echoing dining room, knowing that I would never do this quite the same way again.

Then the morning's business got underway, namely beautification. My aunt worked wonders with a curling iron and hairspray, while a friend from church applied makeup.

This was my reaction when I saw my hair. (I didn't know it could get that fluffy.)

Of course, I wasn't the only person getting ready. Here are my maid of honor (my best friend since babyhood) and my younger sister, who was a bridesmaid.

Once I was all dolled up, I drove with our photographers Adalie and Shannon to Pheasant Run Bed and Breakfast, where the reception would be later that day. I didn't feel nervous at all, partially because the day had already been planned out so well, and partially because I knew that Jared was waiting for me at the bed and breakfast, and what could possibly make me nervous about that? I was going to see my man!

When we arrived, I asked the girls to wait outside for fifteen minutes; Jared and I had decided to have our first kiss that morning, without the entire world (well, 120 wedding guests) awkwardly watching. It was a very smart decision. And that's all I'll say about that.

Then the photographers came in and . . .

. . . there was rather a lot of this. I don't think we were very well-behaved photography subjects. (Sorry ladies.) All we wanted to do was smooch, though in our defense, we'd been waiting a while for it.

At least they didn't have to remind us to smile.

Our wedding party rocked. Six siblings and two best friends. We had a hard time getting any decent formal portraits, but we did take a lot of laughter shots, which I actually prefer. They capture the joy of the morning more accurately than posed smiles.

Remember in an earlier post, I commented on the difference between our families? The two pictures below illustrate my point perfectly.

Yes. Well. Despite the hullabaloo above, we all managed to take some decent pictures and scoot off to our hiding places before the ceremony began. We ate lunch (gosh it was good). Nerves finally begin to strike towards the end of lunchtime as I realized that on the other side of the door, all our guests had arrived and the prelude was winding down. Almost time.

Our moms and all of my bridesmaids spent several minutes praying for me. Then we went to line up outside of the sanctuary.
As I took my dad's arm, I started to shake. It was a bit surreal, and on the verge of terrifying, that I was actually going to walk down the aisle in front of everybody, stand at the front of the church, and enter the most important covenant I'd ever make on earth. Even though I was more excited for this than anything in my life, there was that inevitable moment when I thought, Good Lord, what am I doing?!

I felt dizzy. I felt, for the first and last time, unsure.

Then we started walking and the fright dropped away. Nothing but happiness remained. . .

Because this guy was waiting for me at the end of the aisle.

Everything went according to plan. To this day I cannot think of a single thing I would have changed about our wedding ceremony. It was beautiful, filled with Scripture and music. I was miraculously able to pay attention the whole time and can still remember what our pastor said in his short sermon. We wrote our own vows because we wanted to make sure that certain things were incorporated, but we also used a lot of the traditional language, particularly for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, as long as we both shall live. I have always loved that passage, and really, you can't improve on it.

At the end, we walked out to Marvin Gaye's Ain't No Mountain High Enough-- it was a fun way to kick off the rest of the evening.

So. Party time.


When planning our wedding, the very first thing we decided was to serve a chocolate cake with raspberries. Obviously, we have our priorities.

(The second thing decided: "No garter toss.") 


Music played by talented friends, poetry and prayer, swing dancing, beautiful flowers, abundant laughter, finally becoming Jared's wife. (Not to mention the stuffed mushrooms.) Truly the most perfect day of my life.

But in the end we had to say goodbye. To Charleston and beyond!

Thanks for sticking around for this extremely long story! It took a lot more time to tell than I anticipated. :) But it was incredibly fun for me to remember these things and put them into writing, so I'm glad that you all enjoyed it.

The End.

Potatoes! Potatoes!

So a brunette, a redhead, and a blonde are robbing a potato farm. The farmer hears a noise and comes out to investigate, so the girls jump into potato sacks. When the farmer pokes the first potato sack, the brunette meows-- so he thinks there is a cat inside. When the farmer pokes the second potato sack, the redhead barks-- so he thinks there is a dog inside. And when the farmer pokes the third potato sack, the blonde hollers, "Potatoes! Potatoes!"

Butter-Roasted Potatoes
(not sure where I originally found this recipe) 

2 medium roasting potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
spices (paprika, thyme, garlic, etc)

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, scrub and halve potatoes.
2) Once oven is hot, place butter in pan (one just large enough to hold potato halves). Put in hot oven for a few minutes to melt butter.
3) Whisk salt, pepper, and spices to taste into melted butter. Place potato halves cut side down in pan. Roast for 25-30 minutes. Potatoes will have a delicious crisp crust due to the butter and high heat, but inside, will be soft and tender.

Linked at Pennywise Platter and Fight Back Friday.

26 April 2011

51 Weeks [in which we waste no time]

(You didn't think I was finished, did you? We still haven't reached the 51-week mark! Still a quarter of a year to go!)

After Jared slid the ring onto my finger, we just sat there for a few minutes, too happy to say anything. Then he asked, "So-- when do you want to get married?"

"As soon as possible," I replied.

"Thanksgiving?" he suggested.

"Maybe that's too soon. January?"


We knew our wedding had to be over a college break, since we had quite a few friends and family members at school. Between Christmas and New Year's Day, the first or second weekend in January seemed like a safe bet. We ended up settling on Saturday, January 2, exactly three months from the day Jared proposed.

It never occurred to us to view a three-month engagement as abnormal; both of Jared's brothers had similarly short engagements, and brief engagements are more common in our church than not. We both knew what we wanted. With no good reason to delay, we set out to make it happen soon.

Of course, we weren't doing it on our own. My mom, a organization and decorating genius, took the helm of the reception planning. I had some ideas, but really, she did most of the work! At first I fought to keep my finger in every wedding-related pie. But then I realized that there was no way I could think of every detail, let alone get them done, especially on such a tight schedule. Planning went much more smoothly when I relinquished control to other people (not easy for me to do, but I'm learning) and focused on the few things I could realistically accomplish.

Wedding preparations were stressful, yes, but not as much as they could have been. We both had wonderful families who pitched in to help and were marvellously supportive through the whole thing. And it was fun, despite the snags and worries. (Except for picking out the guys' clothing. Oh my word. What a headache.) Premarital counseling was a bit of a whirlwind; Jared and I felt as if we spent every spare moment reading books and discussing our "homework." But it was good. We definitely learned a lot.

Busy and serious as those three months were, we managed to enjoy ourselves. In fact, the week after our engagement, we went to the Outer Banks with Jared's clan.

One morning, we watched the sun rise, one of the most beautiful moments of the trip.

Our days barreled along, full of florist's appointments, prayers, and nervous breakdowns. Some matters required little discussion, if any: within the first two days of our engagement we had decided that there WOULD be stuffed mushrooms and there would NOT be any alcohol.* Other matters demanded hours of agonizing, whether crucial (guest lists) or trivial (tie colors). Excel spreadsheets became my best friend.

Somehow it all got done, and if not, I guess it wasn't that important. I tried to view the wedding as a big party, a celebration of what God had done in our lives, which relieved the stress and increased my enjoyment of the whole process. Those three months could have put irreversible cracks in several relationships and been an emotional nightmare, but by God's grace, that didn't happen.

Our wedding day approached and our excitement rose. My parents' house was jam-packed with party paraphernalia; I made dozens of meatballs and cranberry bars; Mom filled urns and pitchers with gorgeous flowers. Jared and I drove to the airport to pick up several out-of-town wedding guests, glad for the excuse to be alone for a couple of hours.

On Friday we ran through our rehearsal, which went more or less flawlessly. (Huzzah for detailed plans.) The rehearsal dinner was a delight, from the lasagna and cheesecake to the hilarious slide show of our childhood pictures. I was whisked off to one last celebratory party, this one with a group of close girlfriends-- we talked and laughed long into the night.

Then home I went. It was my last night as a single woman, and I wanted to get some sleep.

*We've no moral objection to alcohol. (As demonstrated by the many bottles of wine, whiskey, and rum in a cupboard somewhere around here . . .) But good booze is awfully expensive, and we also have some family members who'd be bothered by its inclusion. So all in all, not worth it.

25 April 2011

Weekend links [late edition]

As a wild Dr. Seuss fan, I would like this book, please.

Speaking of books, this is quite amazing: handsewn covers for childhood classics like Black Beauty and The Secret Garden.

A clever idea for a children's springtime party: "seed balls" made of clay, compost, and wildflower seeds.

I think this is a good realistic take on eating a "traditional diet."

24 April 2011

Holy Week: he has risen from the dead

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you." So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

-Matthew 28:1-8

{image: stained glass from Chartres Cathedral- the angel at the empty tomb}

23 April 2011

Holy Week: a stone against the entrance

And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

-Mark 15:42-46

22 April 2011

Holy Week: they were filled with awe

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

-Matthew 27:45-54

{image credit: Francis Murray Russell Flint}

21 April 2011

Then I would be happy

I've been thinking about happiness lately. Happiness and discontent.

I have noticed that despite the lavish mercy around me, despite the countless graces among which I live, I constantly find myself saying, If only . . . then I would be happy. My wishes run the gamut of depth. If only I could repaint this room. If only I had a body like hers. If only we could travel more. If only Jared didn't have to work late. If only we had a baby.

Most of the things I wish for are good, abstractly considered. There's nothing inherently wrong with repainting your house or wanting to spend time with your husband. But rather than bringing my desire before the Lord in humble prayer, I quickly start manufacturing an idol. Soon I'm obsessed. Soon I'm convinced that nothing can make me happy unless I get what I want. This nasty knot of discontentment generates anger and despair.

Incidentally, I was watching a couple of young kids recently and, in the midst of an argument over how to spend the afternoon, heard this exact sentiment burst forth: "But I WON'T be happy until we play THIS!!!" Oh brother. That is exactly what I must sound like to God.

My complaints dishonor the Lord by refusing to accept His will and pretending that I have a better idea. In the end, I'm deceiving myself about the nature of happiness and becoming miserable because of it. By ignoring the truth-- that God loves me, has saved me, promises me every good thing, keeps me close in His care-- and believing a lie instead-- that I must have what I want to be content-- I turn away from the joy the Lord offers.

These are a few of the Scriptures I have been reflecting on, in an effort to replace my discontentment with joy, the lies with truth. I have found it really helpful to meditate on Heaven, actually, because lifting my eyes to those eternal wonders always seems to push out my complaints.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
 -Psalm 73:23-26

Are the comforts of God too small for you, or the word that deals gently with you? Why does your heart carry you away, and why do your eyes flash, that you turn your spirit against God and bring such words out of your mouth?
-Job 15:11-13

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:5-7

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland . . . they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
-Hebrews 11:13-16 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
-Revelation 21:1-4

Holy Week: those who passed by derided him

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters) and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him . . . it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, "The King of the Jews." And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.

And those who passed by derided him . . . So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying "He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe." Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

-Mark 15:18-32

{image: woodcut by Hans Schaufelein, circa 1430}

20 April 2011

Olive oil and other midweek miscellany

First, this picture, because it's fabulous. Ice cream cones for everyone, even and especially natty businessmen! (Today's brilliant sunshine has got me in a summer mood.) From The Sartorialist.

Second, this dressing, because it's also fabulous. Try it with a salad of torn romaine, sliced red cabbage, shredded carrot, and a diced sweet apple. Wicked good. Add some albacore tuna if you fancy.

Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
(original probably from Food.com)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cloves minced garlic
6 tablespoons olive oil

1) Pour all ingredients but olive oil into a small glass bottle; I think mine once contained chili sauce, or maybe it was iced tea? Anyway, screw the lid on and shake well.
2) Pour in olive oil and shake till completely combined. Store in the fridge. (Because of the olive oil, it can get really thick when chilled. Just run some hot tap water over the bottle, and it will return to the correct consistency.)

Third, speaking of olive oil, Weis has the most ridiculous sale this week: 3 liters of Casa de Oliva extra virgin for $10. That's half the normal price. You better believe I stocked up.

Holy Week: let him be crucified

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”

Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

-Matthew 27:15-26

{image: from the Liege Psalm Book, 13th century}

19 April 2011

51 Weeks [in which the ring makes its appearance]

This is the part of the story everybody wants to hear. So. How We Got Engaged.

By the end of September, Jared had a full-time job and I would have bet my boots that he was going to propose. Eventually. In the meantime I was delighted to stay as I was: completely twitterpated. I was dating the best man in the whole world and couldn't imagine anybody more fortunate than I. Oh my. How wonderful to finally know how I felt, and to be confident (as much as possible without verbal confirmation) that Jared felt the same way.

Realistically, I figured that Jared probably wouldn't ask for a while. He had a lot on his plate with work. I knew the question was coming, though, and I knew what my answer would be.

On the night of October 1st, 2010, just before I went to bed, my mom asked me how I felt about my relationship with Jared. Of course, she was well aware of the fact that I had fallen in love-- I doubt that was a mystery to anyone at that point. But she wanted to hear my thoughts on the future.

I told her, "I am sure Jared's going to ask me, but I don't think it will be for a while. Probably the end of November, at the earliest. I'm not expecting anything." Famous last words.

The next morning, I was watching Jared's two young nieces (I must admit that by then, I thought of them as my nieces too) at their house. My plan was to be there all day. We had spent the morning playing silly games and reading books, and around 12:00, were just finishing up lunch. Then I heard a knock at the front door. Who would that be? I walked over and peeked through the window. There was Jared, with a rather sheepish grin on his face. What in the world? He's supposed to be at work.

Suppressing my confusion, I opened the door and let my boyfriend in. Our nieces were of course very pleased to see him, and demanded that he read them a book before naptime. Once I had put the youngest one to bed, Jared announced, "I'm taking you on a date."

"Hold on! What about the girls?" This was ridiculous.

"I've got a replacement coming."

"Oookay." Sure enough, Jared's oldest brother Matt showed up, and off we went.

I had been too befuddled by Jared's sudden appearance to reflect, but once in the car, my curiosity kicked in. Having convinced myself that he would under no circumstances propose until late November, that possibility figured only briefly in my speculations. I didn't want to hope when the chance was so miniscule.

Besides, Jared liked surprising me. An elaborate plot such as this would not be unheard of.

Before long I had figured out that we were going to Longwood Gardens. This excited me, since I love the place. Jared had never been there, but we had been talking about going for a while; I was delighted to realize that he had gone ahead and planned a trip. Of course he was not going to propose there, no way, even though it would be the perfect place to do it so this was just going to be a really special date.

Really. Special.

I honestly don't know how I sustained this self-deception and refrained from collapsing under the weight of the obvious. But I did. We arrived at Longwood and I was still morally certain that there would be no ring that day.

As we got out of the car, Jared grabbed his backpack. Finding this extremely odd, I asked why he was bringing it. "Sweatshirt," he mumbled. "And a water bottle." I rolled my eyes and dropped the subject. I was determined to enjoy our visit and show Jared all of my favorite places. Serendipitously, we headed toward the Italian Water Gardens, a very pretty section; not so serendipitously, the fountains were under construction. Oh well. We turned to wander through the Beech Woods for a while, then walked up towards the meadow. There's a nice view and a bench just before the treeline. I stood there looking out at the golden, grassy expanse, with Jared right behind me.

"Ah, do you want to sit down a while?"

Oh. My. Word. It finally hit me.


There was a letter. There was a poem. And then, courtesy of the backpack, there were nine red roses, one for each month we'd been together. "Remember when I picked you up for our first date?" he asked. "I brought you a white rose. That was for purity and friendship. Well, now I'm giving you red ones, because I love you. Here's one for January, here's one for February, here's one for March . . ."

By the time he had given me all nine, I felt dizzy. Trying to savor every word, trying to understand the fullness of the joy sweeping through my heart. I don't know what I looked like, but I felt radiant; it was the first time Jared had told me that he loved me, and those words had incredible power. (They still do.)

"I don't have a rose for October." He reached deep inside his backpack, pulled out a tiny velvet box, and grinned. "But I do have this."

So he asked. I took a long, happy breath and looked into his eyes. I said yes.

October 2, 2009. It was a pretty good day.


{This picture was taken at my parents' house that evening. We wandered about Longwood all afternoon in a satisfied sort of haze, then went back home for a celebratory dinner with both our families. Oh happy times.}

Holy Week: tell us if you are the Christ

Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death but they found none though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, "This man said 'I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.'" And the high priest stood up and said, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?" They answered, "He deserves death." Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, "Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?"

-Matthew 26:57-68

18 April 2011

Holy Week: she has done a beautiful thing to me

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

-Matthew 26:6-13 

16 April 2011

Weekend links

Mmm . . . gorgeous ottomans upholstered with Indian saris.

If you are interested in the meat industry's use of antibiotics, read this. (It's on account of such issues that I just brought home over 50 pounds of free-range, no-antibiotics chicken and turkey from Eberly's Poultry. Oh sales, I love thee. Oh chest freezer, I love thee even more.)

A lovely reflection by Christine Perrin on art's role in our education, and in our everyday lives. Thanks for the link, Leslie. :)

Speaking of poems, I like this piece by Lisel Mueller.

Then of course, there are poems set to music. If you've never heard the Gabe Dixon Band, you should. Start with this song.

And here we have music . . . not so much with the poetry . . . I think "Baby" should be performed like this always, now and forever, amen.

15 April 2011

Simplicity and perfection

You would expect something so very delicious to be far more complex. No: four ingredients, two steps, perfection every time. As I remember, growing up, this is one of the recipes people always asked for when they came for dinner. That and the chocolate cake.

Marinade for Grilled Chicken
(my mom's recipe)

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1) Whisk all ingredients together.
2) Pour over chicken to be grilled-- thighs are the best, we think-- then cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for 8-24 hours. You can scale this up or down as needed, of course. We have also done steaks with it and that's also delicious.

13 April 2011

51 Weeks [in which there is love]

So anyway, this went on for a while. Jared doing his best (which was quite a bit) to win my heart, me trying to relax (not my most notable talent). We went to church and family functions together, did a lot of "everyday life" things together, and got into a rhythm on Wednesdays: I would come to his house and cook dinner, then we would go to our church's young adults small group.

Everything felt more natural now, as we meshed in ways we never had before, and the emotional awkwardness disappeared as we both felt more free to express how much we liked one another. Days when I didn't talk to Jared felt somehow flat. I was loving it.

Late one August evening-- it must have been a Wednesday-- driving home from young adults' group in the still summer dark, I asked myself The Question. It was the one I had been asking myself all summer. What if Jared and I were to break up? Could I do it? Whenever I had considered this before, I had felt a sort of peace about that possibility. My answer would be yes, I could do it. Sure I would be sad, but nothing would be irreparably torn. There had been no love to multiply the pain.

So I asked myself once more. What if Jared and I were to break up? Could I do it?

The suddenness of the response, its uncompromising clarity, punched the air from my lungs.


I clutched the steering wheel, unable to breath for a moment, unable to think for a moment more. Then again the answer came: NO WAY. Stunned, I vibrated between panic and joy, afraid to examine my heart further for fear I'd lapse into doubt again. But this time the answer was unmistakable. If we were to separate? If I had to say goodbye? If my future didn't include him? Oh God, I would feel like part of me had died, I truly would. My chest hurt just thinking about it. I had never wanted anything as much as I wanted to be Jared's wife at that moment. This is from you, isn't it? What I asked for? Love without any doubts?
It was. Just like the beginning of our courtship, when I felt absolutely certain of my answer and had no need to reason myself into a conclusion, I had fallen smack into another absolute certainty: I loved Jared and I wanted to marry him. Fin. And I never asked myself The Question again.

My mom always told me that when I fell in love, I would know it. She was-- as usual-- right.

12 April 2011

As good a corner as possible

"You must have changed immensely. A year ago you valued your liberty beyond everything. You wanted only to see life."
"I've seen it," said Isabel. "It doesn't look to me now, I admit, such an inviting expanse."
"I don't pretend it is; only I had an idea that you took a genial view of it and wanted to survey the whole field."
"I've seen that one can't do anything so general. One must choose a corner and cultivate that."
"That's what I think. And one must choose as good a corner as possible."
-from The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

08 April 2011

Weekend links

Australian endurance runner Pat Farmer is aiming to run from the North Pole to the South Pole in one year, raising money for a clean water initiative. You can follow his progress here. I think he is crazy sauce.

The fake word "alot" will certainly figure in my grammar booklet. For now, maybe these hilarious musings on that mysterious creature, the Alot, will entertain everyone out of the error.

They made a movie about the KJV. Awesome. It has John Rhys-Davies in it. Even more awesome. I wanna see.

If I had tons of money to spend on clothes, I'm pretty sure I would spend it all at Toast. (Or Ann Taylor. But that goes without saying.)

07 April 2011

A ninja among cakes

Shhhh. Don't tell anyone, but . . . this cake is good for you.

And as Jamie Oliver would say, it's dead easy. You would never know, though. Looking at the ingredient list, you might think the cake would be dry or undersweetened. Not so-- not even close. Its crumb is moist and tender. The bright, fresh flavors of carrot and apple do not need to battle cups upon cups of sugar. They have plenty of natural sweetness of their own. And the cake is beautiful. Color! Texture! Aroma! Dig in.

This is honestly the best carrot cake I've ever eaten, and I have eaten a lot of carrot cake. It is also my mom's preferred recipe, and carrot cake is her very favorite. Almost every other carrot cake we try makes our teeth hurt with sugar overload, or tastes more like a spice cake with a hint of carrot. Not this one.

It's sneaky.

Now, the recipe.

Fantastic Carrot Cake
(originally from Whole Foods for the Whole Family, and I haven't altered it much)

2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup oil*
4 eggs, beaten with fork
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup shredded apple or drained crushed pineapple
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 and lightly spray two 9-inch cake pans, or one 9x13 pan.
2) Whisk together dry ingredients. Pour in honey, oil, and eggs; beat thoroughly, making sure that no dry streaks are left on the bottom of the bowl. (I use my Kitchen-Aid but you can easily do it by hand.) Stir in carrots, apple, and walnuts.
3) Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until cakes test done.**
4) Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes, then run a knife around edges and flip cakes out onto wire rack. (This may require some tapping or, horrors, even smacking of the cake pan. It's okay. I actually had to lift mine an inch above the rack and drop them in order to dislodge the cake. No harm done.) Flip them over again so they can cool right-side-up; this is where multiple racks come in handy. Or a plate. Either way, let cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
lemon juice
vanilla extract
powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter together until fluffy. For the rest, you need to use your own judgment. Add 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Beat it well and taste. Does it need more sugar? More lemon juice or vanilla? Adjust, beat, and taste again. (See, this is the fun part of cooking. You have an excuse to eat extra cream cheese frosting.)


*I used a combination of melted coconut oil and olive oil. My mom just uses olive oil. You can use whatever you'd like, but do keep in mind that certain oils-- soybean, vegetable, and corn among them-- are highly processed, high in omega-6 fatty acids, and really not healthy.
**If you aren't sure what that means, get yourself a toothpick. Stick it into the middle of the cake. Remove. Are there streaks of uncooked batter or mushy crumbs sticking to it? Five more minutes.

{image credit: izzysmama on Flickr}

04 April 2011


I'm not very good with my hands, for the most part, but I do know how to knit. A few months ago I started a little project: a scarf for my husband, with a soft grey yarn and a cool parallelogram pattern. Though I don't work on it very often, it has been fun to see it grow inch by inch. I love having something to stash in my purse and occupy me at odd times, i.e. waiting at the chiropractor's office.

As usual, I am growing something funky in my kitchen. Right now, it's mung bean sprouts (which I plan to use for dinner on Wednesday) and kefir (thank you Beejee). The mung beans I have done before, so I know they will sprout beautifully and taste wonderful. The kefir project is completely new, however, so we'll see how that goes. It will be an adventure, if nothing else.

And finally, I think I'm going to write that Grammar Guide for Adults I've been contemplating for so many years. Apostrophes, comma splices, "every day" versus "everyday" . . . all the compositional errors that make me bang my head on the nearest hard object and despair of our nation's future. :)

Any requests on issues to address? Those pesky semicolons, perhaps? Email me or leave a comment, and I promise to include a section on that topic.

{image credit: W.R.Miller on Flickr}

02 April 2011

Weekend links

Some pithy, valuable reading for anyone in a romantic relationship, but particularly marriage. "Human romance is a wonderful experience.  But it is not the ultimate human experience."

If you like cooking with ghee, or (like me) have never done so and would like to try, check out this giveaway on Food Renegade .

A comic on Lizt and Chopin. I laughed my head off and I don't even know that much about music history.

How to be late for your own funeral, a la Elizabeth Taylor.

I'm loving this kitchen from the Style Files. A tad small, but they certainly know how to make the most of the space.

A recipe search engine that draws together thousands of excellent food blogs. Brilliant! It's my new go-to when looking for a recipe online.

01 April 2011

If I can't eat it...

I'd rather not put it on my face.

This promises to be a highly crunchalicious post, so if you're only going to heap scorn upon me, you should probably stop reading. Ha.

Well, actually . . . scratch that. I can't stop you from reading, and I don't care about scorn. I shall pursue my pseudo-hippie ways regardless. :)

So, carry on!


I have been using "natural and organic" products for quite a while, but this past year, I realized that a lot of those products still included questionable ingredients. They simply had the "natural and organic" label slapped on because they passed a certain set of government-determined standards, or because the manufacturer felt like advertising them as such.

But wait a minute. Do I trust the government with my health? Ahahaha . . . no way. Do I trust ad campaigns? Again, no.

Hmm. Time to do my own research.

The skin is the human body's largest organ. It is not an impermeable plastic barrier; what goes on usually goes in. And so I am trying to make sure our personal care products are-- in theory at least-- edible. Though I wouldn't actually care to eat most of them, I wouldn't have to call a poison control center if I did!

Though I have a long way to go, here are a few things that have worked. By the way, an unexpected bonus: naturalizing these products also means simplifying. Fewer things to buy, because so many of them have multiple uses.


1. My face requires exfoliation but hates anything harsh or drying. Every morning I use a gentle and delicious-smelling scrub made of equal parts nutmeg, finely ground oats, almond meal, and dry milk powder. Last time I added the contents of two organic chamomile tea bags, and a few tablespoons of coconut. I love it. The original ideas came from here and here.

2. My outrageously dry skin needs a serious moisturizer. Instead of an equally outrageously expensive product from Nature's Gate (which is quite effective by the way), I just switched to sweet almond oil. Light. Pure. Cheap. The end.

3. One more note on the face: I use the oil cleansing method for makeup removal, and also to calm down the acne that randomly pops up on occasion. A 3:1 ratio of olive oil and castor oil seems to work.

4. Speaking of olive oil, it's a great all-over moisturizer. Plus, an aromatic perk: it makes you smell like the Mediterranean, especially if you add lavender . . . and I'm all about aromatic perks. Some people swear by coconut oil for this but it's too heavy for me.

5. Antiperspirants give me the willies (plugging your sweat glands?! ugh!) but natural deodorants always leave something to be desired. Enter this brilliant combination: 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil, 1 tablespoon baking soda, 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder, and essential oils to your liking. I use a combination of rosemary and lavender. Stir it up till smooth and store it in a little jar.

It totally works. I'm not kidding. After all, in the case of deodorant, this girl doesn't take chances. :) The original came from Passionate Homemaking.

6. Dr. Bronner's is great for both body wash and hand soap. It's thin but also very concentrated, so to get a nice lather and avoid waste, I use a foaming soap pump at the sink and one of these for the shower. Dr. Bronner's has a lot of varieties available but I just go with the unscented Baby Mild.

7. Taking an omega 3-6-9 supplement has been one of the best things ever for my hair and skin. I haven't needed conditioner since I began taking it, and my hair actually has some shine!

8. I usually straighten my hair, but then I have short fly-aways on top. Once upon a time I used synthetic gunk in a green bottle; now a smidgen of coconut oil does the job beautifully.

{image credit: Globalsapiens on Flickr}