30 January 2012

the way the story went

Cross ATX Fountain PensOnce upon a time . . .

. . . we got married. That was in January 2010, and I gaily expected to be pregnant with our first child before the year was up. Or, to be honest, sooner.

Well, guess what? We just celebrated our second anniversary, and still no bun in this oven.

Over the past two years, my babyless state of affairs has produced a lot of ugly things. Fear, disappointment, jealousy, hysterical crying, kicking things, anger with myself, anger with God, anger with anyone else who gets pregnant, bitterness, depression, maniacal research, and questioning my worth as a woman. (You try life as an illogical melange of hormonal angst, and see how you like it!)

I want to see my husband be a daddy. I want to tell my baby-loving parents that they're going to have grandchildren. I want to hold a soft, big-eyed little person in my arms and not have to give him back at the end of the visit. I want to nourish and teach and grow alongside the young souls entrusted to us. That's what I want.

But you know what else I want? To trust God.

Oh, that's hard. Harder than I ever knew, even when I was wondering where I'd go to college and searching for solutions to my health issues, or later when wishing for a boyfriend or wrestling with theological conundrums, or still later when freaking out about my non-emotions. This has been painful. I have been asked to let go of my carefully cherished plans and my yearning for control. Then I was asked to rest in a God who I wasn't always sure loved me.

He does, though. I've learned that at least. "I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." And through the pain and the fury of trial, I have also learned to say: This is the way the story goes. My small phrase of truth . . . it's not a hopeless expression of cynicism, but a sweet reminder that the Lord I follow holds all history, which certainly includes our family's future.

Here is what I mean. When reading a well-crafted book, an Allende or a Hemingway, I don't try to direct the story. I let the author take care of that, and just experience the unfolding of each event in its own timing. Everything works out beautifully. I may not love the road the tale takes, but it is perfectly done. Resting in the writer's plan, I can enjoy it page by page, without worrying about what may or may not happen next.

God is my Author. The "author of life," says Peter . . . yes, in more ways than one. He writes the story, one more finely crafted than the best volume on earthly shelves. I stand on his storyline and walk through the plot. Two years after this particular chapter began, I'm finally walking quietly.

To be honest, He's worn me out. I dragged my feet. I screamed and fought as hard as I could. This isn't the right story, I said. It was supposed to follow my preferred pattern: courtship, wedding, babies. Look, that's how it worked out for them! And them! Why not us?

Because that was their story, not ours. Now, more by exhausted default than by any great act of faith, I can do nothing but lean on God. There's nothing left but Him. Too proud to submit any other way, I've had to take the rough road to peace. "I have calmed and quieted my soul . . . O Israel, hope in the Lord now and forevermore." I have had to release my desire for that other story, and trust that this one is equally good.

There is a deep joy in this helpless rest. Our God loves and carries us. His comfort, as genuine and complete as I've known, feels unlike anything experienced while in a state of self-sufficiency. Who knows the next chapter? Ah, the Lord does. That is enough. It finally is enough. What a fool I'd be to demand He give me the pen.

Not that I'll never question Him again (I know my sin too well), or that even now, the pain has completely vanished. Something-- a pregnancy announcement, a question from a well-meaning acquaintance-- will often shake up my contentment and threaten to set my bitterness flowing. When this happens, again I ask: Can I trust God? Can I follow this path with peace in my heart?

Only if I believe that He truly knows what is best for me, and that He is not only perfectly capable of executing those plans, but is also in the process of doing just that.

I believe that now.

This is the way the story goes.

{image credit: Video Eleven}

29 January 2012

Come and see . . .

Our Town, a theatrical production by CLCHM (Central Lancaster County Homeschool Music) at Wheatland Presbyterian Church, February 3-4.

Good clean fun, as they say, though not funny. (Don't expect a barrel of laughs like The Importance of Being Earnest . . . this one's more serious!)

27 January 2012

Weekend linkage

Good thing drinking coffee isn't a capital offense in these parts. I'd soon be short a husband. (Okay, I drink it sometimes too.)

I dislike unreasoned divides between "girl things" and "boy things." Boys should learn how to vacuum the living room, hold a baby, and make lunch; girls should be able to take out the trash and shoot a gun. But I am a decided complementarian for all that, who believes there are some very clear Scriptural lines between male and female, and this story is . . . weird.

One nail polish to rule them all. Yes, that caption about sums it up.

Granted, I don't need any more tote bags. BUT.

We like potatoes and will be making potatoes Lyonnaise soon, methinks.

We also like real food and won't be doing a juice cleanse soon, methinks. (I love Garance.)

As for the photo, which comes from The Sartorialist: do you think Jared would wear a hat like this?

26 January 2012

in which I make soup

"In the town of Alto, Ohio, there lived a boy named Lentil . . ."

Lentil, Blueberries for Sal, Time of Wonder, Make Way for Ducklings. Robert McCloskey wrote some of the best childrens' books in the world. So my family thinks.

(When one of my brothers recently discovered that Jared has never read McCloskey, he could find just one thing to say: "Did you even have a childhood?")


This recipe makes a thick, savory, satisfying bowl of soup. I do love me some meat but sometimes it's nice to have cheaper options still full of protein. And lentils are pleasantly low-maintenance, requiring no soaking or boiling aforethought. In half an hour you can be enjoying dinner. :)

On Sunday night I baked a pizza for the husband, made soup for me. We were both happy.

Spicy Red Lentil Soup
(adapted from Comfy Belly)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 a large red onion, chopped
2 small carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 a serrano pepper, minced*
4 cups chicken or beef stock
1 cup red lentils
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste

1) In heavy pot large enough to hold at least 6 cups of liquid, heat olive oil over medium. Add chopped onion, sliced carrots, and minced garlic and pepper. Saute for a minute or two, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for a few minutes, until vegetables are softened but not mushy.
2) Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until lentils are cooked to your liking. I prefer them to retain some firmness and shape, but some people like them softer.
3) Adjust seasonings to taste (my beef stock was very flavorful, so if yours is lighter you will want more salt and herbs). Serve plain, or with chopped avocado and sour cream.

*Less if you want to dial back on the spice.  And if you don't have any serranos lying about, you could season the soup to taste with ground cayenne pepper or hot sauce instead.

{image credit: Harald Walker}

25 January 2012

Well [Spoken] Wednesdays: Dr Stewart edition

As I mentioned last week, Dr Stewart and Prof Westblade were the teachers who most shaped my view of the world while I was at Hillsdale. Dr Stewart also claims the title of Professor Most Taken: that is, I enrolled in more of his classes than those of anybody else.

As an eager college freshman, I found myself in his Western Heritage course along with the rest of the freshmen in the Honors Program. The upperclassmen, upon discovering this, promised us great things. We were not disappointed. Dr Stewart's specialty is making your understanding of history and civilized society go BOOM. Then he dumps a lot of primary source documents on your head and asks what you think of that, buster? Were the Dark Ages so very dark? Was Greek democracy so very ideal? Was the British monarchy so very oppressive? Is neo-conservatism so very smart? Not so much. And then you write a paper.

Dr Stewart doesn't give exams except when the provost makes him. In protest, his exams generally consist of A) jokes, B) strawberries with Nutella, and C) ridiculously easy identification questions. But lest you think that his classes are cakewalks, I'll tell you about the dreaded Map Quizzes. In Western Heritage, you get a featureless outline of Europe and are required to draw in certain countries, locate certain rivers, place certain cities. The same thing in American Heritage, just with a blank outline of the USA. I'd never studied geography so hard. Besides that, he is no pushover with papers. I'd make two or three trips to his office for each one, and only earned A's after obsessive polishing.

He taught me more about writing than my English professors did, though. (At least until I got to Dr Somerville.)

The marginalia of Dr H. David Stewart. I wasn't able to find my notes from Western Heritage, though, which stinks because that was the first class I had with him. :(

American Heritage
"You don't conquer the world by accident."
"With God as my witness, I will sell you this cow for some magic beans."
"Statistically speaking, you're going to be nine-tenths dead."
"I'll let you borrow my leech if you give me your land."
"He won the genetic lottery."
"We're not going to enslave the children."
"It's not mean if it's accurate."
"I'm value-neutral now."
"At this point, make vague reassuring noises."
"Always tax poor people. They don't have much money but they don't have much power either."
"If you're dead, you aren't committing treason."
"I don't believe in democracy."
"Andrew Jackson is a bad, bad man."
"You're so silly. Nobody cares about constitutionality anymore!"
"And I'm going to keep enlightening you until you agree with me."
"When I first moved to Paris . . . which sounds sexier than it is."
"They don't do quiet in France."
"You can't complain if you don't have a better suggestion."
"I love it when I accidentally answer a question."
"I suppose I could be nice in a theoretical sense."
"I can be both nice and lazy!"
"You want a really fine pastry, go to a Frenchman. If you want to conquer Eastern Europe, go to a German."
"Never insult an Italian. He'll kill you."
"People have always been stupid."
"Have people bring you food. I approve of that idea vigorously."
"Cows are not the sharpest animals in your barn."
"I suppose that is inspiring in a perverse sort of way."
"Deception and lies aren't quite the same thing."
"I hereby give my country away."
"Let's make you king of the world."
"You are, in effect, my slaves."
"You all aren't dead, unless this is some bizarre form of Purgatory."
"What are the Olympics really about? Kicking commie butt."
"Communists can dance Swan Lake better than you."
"In America, there's stuff to loot!"
"Empower your children-- lie on the census!"
"Idiot is not a racial condition."
"I hate two-eared people."
"Women don't do thinking stuff. Women do feeling stuff."
"Get post-Christian. That's where the action is!"
"Now go to stores and pretend to shoplift."
"Swallow, then talk. Order of operations."
"And I will exploit your sorry butts."

Mystery Literature
"They pay me to know everything."
"If there's a conspiracy look for the guy with the moustache."
"Nobody wants to read normal stuff."
"Coincidence is really lame."
"There's some sophistication in all the stupid."
"Fear makes people kind."
"That seems like a whitewash for coincidence."
"They do it even worsly."
"You are in the wrong class, ma'am."
"The man pulled a sermon on me!"
"You can all be really grumpy if you want to."
"Boys always screw things up."

History of England
"This is hugely non-trivial!"
"A pretty girl will sell more things than an ugly girl. That's reality."
"You don't stay a monarch very long if you believe the best of everybody."
"There are all sorts of authorities that it would be fun to abuse."
"Killer sheep!"
"Let's oppress us some monasteries."
"If there's anything you can't call Spain, it's Protestant."
"Now we're talking in wildly general terms."
"No, we are not going to discuss what that word means. Now let's go fight the Spanish."
"The carpet in the foyer must be red! I'm going to another church!"
"Marrying a Spaniard is a bad idea."
"God loves you more in the morning."
"Old people don't riot. Rioting is a young man's game."
"You are a pimple on history."
"Look, here are people mattering!"
"Unfortunately for King James, no one liked him. So he went on vacation to France."
"Everybody can run for king."
"There is no privacy in the royal world."
"Excellent. I'm going to exploit her womanness."
"This is a giant shut-your-face."
"All right, let's burn London."
"Get your arch-libertarian ideas out the window."
"There are no naked women in coffee houses."
"You're a gentleman if you're a gentleman."
"These are little pigs in baby blankets, not caterpillars!"
"You can have a cupcake if you give a really good answer in class today."
"We're only godlike, not ultra-godlike."
"Imminent death tends to make people consider things they had not considered before."
"History is full of funny stuff. That's why you study history: to laugh at people."
"Peasant, run over there and get us gold!"
"You can't just go buy an army at Walmart."
"We're dumb Americans so we don't know what words mean."
"Don't get your caveman history from TV."
"Clearly he's a man slut. Just look at what he's wearing."*
"Now we can read lightbulb ads. Hurray!"
"You can lie with anything."
"I'm not selling all my ducks!"
"Okay, would someone who is not a moron like to answer the question?"
"Let's do the weave."
"Railroads are not unrelieved wonderfulness."
"I'm an American. I don't like prudence."
"We've got to shoot him! We don't want to say sorry."
"So when the war is over and your honeypot comes home . . ."
"If you make fun of the way I pronounce 'England' I might make fun of the way you write papers, and which one of us will be more heartbroken in the end?"
"I gotta live until I'm 112! My son won't move out!"
"Methodists don't like getting hit by cats."
"There are much better stupid questions than that."
"Maybe rational men can solve their problems, but men aren't always rational."
"He stubs his toe on objectivity."
"There's another significant principle running around."
"Never name your enemy. Just make them anti-you."
"Every election is the most epic one in history."
"Ah, that's typical election puffery."
"The only toasters in my empire will be the ones I push into your bathtubs."
"I think it would be cool to have a museum of fakes."
"Do I need these hippie earls?"
"Personality is a package for ideas."

Western Heritage Revisited 
"A million dollars is not the same as having my dad."
"I will find you and take all your chickens."
"You are easier to replace than I am."
"All the founders would be in my church if they were alive today."
"I'm going to be an atheist Babylonian."
"Elephants would make great horses."
"Life isn't as tidy after the Reformation."
"I'm pretty sure I'm the embodiment of historical consciousness."
"Sometimes your friends need a good kick in the shins."
"Not all Calvinists are Calvinists."
"You'll be the special committee for the suspension of laws."
"Western culture lacks a moral will."
"Capitalism is just another materialist ideology. We need Christ."

*This in reference to a hapless 18th-century gentleman:

23 January 2012

casa de jengibre

Well, here it is. As you can see, this particular photograph was snapped (snapped! ha! how long will we be using this film-camera lingo?) during the making of a smoothie.

Useless Trivia: you know it's Jared making the smoothie if the fruit goes in first and the banana is fresh. I put in the yogurt/kefir/coconut milk first and use frozen bananas, as I think things blend better that way and the smoothie turns out creamy without ice. So this one must have been the work of my darling husband. His taste just as good, even though we've settled on different techniques.

And now I've been talking entirely too long about smoothies. Sorry. I need a ten-step recovery program.

Anyway, like the house? I don't have a picture of Rachel's, but it had the same candy-shop vibe. She actually succeeded in covering every square millimeter of gingerbread with candy. I thought they both turned out pretty cool.

Not as cool as this, perhaps.

22 January 2012

an all-sufficient comforter

He was broken, that we should not be broken; he was troubled, that we should not be desperately troubled; he became a curse, that we should not be accursed.  Whatsoever may be wished for in an all-sufficient comforter is all to be found in Christ.

-Richard Sibbes

(HT: Ray Ortlund)

20 January 2012

Weekend linkage

A couple of weeks ago I finished up a sweet painting project-- redoing a china cabinet by taking it from dark wood to pale blue. It was a lot of fun. Now we're thinking that we should do the same thing to a dresser that's sitting in the living room. What about this?

On the top level of the cabinet, we have books upon books. Despite our love of Amazon, audio books, and Project Gutenberg, there's nothing like paper pages on real shelves. They're obviously more fun!

In other painting news, how to spray paint your food. This gives a new meaning to "apples of gold in settings of silver . . ."

I'd love to store (unpainted) kiwi and lemons in these ceramic baskets from Anthropologie. That is, if they were to go on outrageous clearance to the tune of 99 cents each. Something to keep my eyes open for at Marshalls' and TJMaxx, I suppose.

Barbeque sauce with bourbon? Sign us up.

Hilarious, though I still think Flynn is a good handle for a fish. (He likes it. By which I mean he's still alive and kicking, so anyway he hasn't committed hara-kiri over his name.)

"Becoming radically thankful." Oh, I needed this! I'd like to buy the Ann Voskamp book as well.

And I thought coffee filters were just for making coffee!

Where do you belong on this visualization of Left and Right politics? I find myself split, crunchy con that I am. Politically and religiously right but culturally left . . .

(Speaking of left, the image along the left margin is also from Information Is Beautiful. It shows you how flavors fit together in cooking. Download it for a bigger view!)

18 January 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: Prof Westblade edition

If I could sum up everything I learned from the Blade, it would be: Trust God.

As a religion professor, the director of the Hono(u)rs Program, and my academic advisor for the first two years Professor Westblade led me on many an intellectual jaunt. And several geographical jaunts too: Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Boston, Concord, Turkey. Like Dr Somerville, he listened to my angsty ramblings about faith, Scripture, and then dispensed priceless counsel. Over and over again. Intermixed with terrible corny jokes.

In his classroom, my understanding of God exploded outwards and upwards. In his office, my faith in God sent down deeper roots. It is safe to say that the Blade (along with Dr Stewart, who comes next week) exercised the greatest influence on my worldview-- my understanding of God, of creation, of human society, of myself-- while I was at Hillsdale. And those two weren't even in the English department. Yay liberal arts.

The marginalia of Prof. Donald Westblade. 

Introduction to Western Religion
"Sometimes the will of God sounds like spinach."
"The only one who ever gets to be the devil is me."
"Faith is not a blind leap."
"If you ever have the opportunity to try a time machine, I do not recommend the 13th century."
"Do we boast in Calvin rather than in Scripture?"
"The wages of trust is justification."

Old Testament
"In the beginning was a foblemorp."
"Sin does not swoon when you walk in the door."
"God was the great Burger King in the sky."
"Well, now we come to my area of expertise: sin!"
"Do we want the nanny state to protect us from everything?"
"The Bible is a funnel shaped story."
"God is characterized by surplus."
"Maybe I'm flirting and you should report me to Central Hall!"
"Motives define actions."
"I wish all of you the beauty of Sarah in your nineties."
"Faith is for people who sin, not those who are already righteous."
"Naomi learns that her pity party was premature."
"God will pay attention to anything done in His name."
"Some of the prophets were dancing cheerleaders!"
"The ritual law is the means by which Israel is selected, not saved."
"Oligarchies are paranoid sorts."
"Kings only record their victories."
"Jesus went and got killed! Messiahs aren't supposed to do that!"
"Everything echoes everything."
"The divine Word takes over your life. You can't leave it at the office."
"We get some extra Jesus today."
"Rebekah, you're going to need a very special husband."*

Jonathan Edwards
"God is not a vacuum cleaner."
"You can't have animals in the parlor with the sherry!"
"This is a scouring pad for the heart."
"We are still in a funny parenthesis."
"History is not a science experiment."
"God's glory is a liberal art."

*True dat.

17 January 2012

when I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs

How do you eat your eggs?

We eat ours scrambled, fried, hardboiled, baked . . . in omelets, quiche, frittata, clafoutis, macaroons, smoothies, sandwiches . . . with salsa, mushrooms, red onions, pesto, sausage. Dinner once a week is eggs. Breakfast on Saturdays is eggs. Eggs in mayonnaise, eggs in cobblers, eggs in chocolate pudding.

Unless one of our children has an egg allergy, it seems inevitable that someday, we'll have our own flock of chickens.

(We hope to avoid becoming roughly the size of a barge.)

Baked Tomato-Herb Eggs
(original recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
5 large eggs*
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese**

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees and heat olive oil over medium heat in oven-proof 10-inch skillet. Add onion, green pepper, and garlic to skillet, saute for one or two minutes, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for five to ten more minutes or until onion is softened.
2) Add diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, and herbs. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and let simmer until tomatoes are soft and most of the extra moisture has evaporated.
3) Spoon about a third of the tomato mixture into a small bowl; make five shallow, evenly spaced hollows in remaining mixture. Crack eggs into skillet, one in each hollow (this helps them not to run together). I then break the yolks with a spatula so they swirl into the white a bit, but you can leave them intact if you prefer. Spoon reserved tomato mixture over and around eggs.
5) Cover skillet and let eggs cook on medium heat for about three minutes, until whites are becoming opaque and yolks are beginning to set. Remove lid, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top, and place uncovered skillet in preheated oven for several minutes more, until yolks are done to your liking and cheese is bubbly. (We prefer the yolks more firm than runny.)
6) Serve hot, with biscuits or toast if desired, or with a fork and a side of sliced fruit if you're me. :)

*This is the number of eggs I use, as I eat two and the husband eats three. You could use four and that would work just as well.
**Methinks feta would be excellent here.

16 January 2012

I shall not want

LambsThe Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

"Want what?" I said to myself as a six-year-old. "Food? Friends? Fun vacations?" It took me a while (even as a Smart Church Kid) to realize that this lovely KJV phrase means I shall not be in need, not I shall not have unmet desires. A slight difference, no?

The first reminds us that with God as our protector, we'll lack nothing that is necessary . . . with "necessary" determined by the wise Shepherd himself, not by the sheep. The second rather treats God like a candy machine.

God knows what I desire, what I need, and how the twain shall meet (or not). Either way, I shall not want. And this is forever true because the Lord-- not cruel tyrant, not a weak though well-meaning mortal, but the everlasting God-- is my shepherd.

{image credit: The Dogs Blogs}

13 January 2012

Weekend linkage

To eat for breakfast: blueberry omelet.

To eat afterwards: planetary chocolates.

To drink: beverages in mason jars, on the go.

To watch: the making of tea bags.

To concoct: a sugar scrub.

To read: how the 1964 World's Fair changed American eating.

To wow: people making their own wedding rings.

To amuse: Downton Abbey personality quiz! (It says I'm Matthew. I was kind of hoping for Sybil, but at least it wasn't the Dowager Countess.)

11 January 2012

Well [Spoken] Wednesdays: Dr Somerville edition

Dr Somerville was my academic advisor for the second half of my college career, that is, once I had finally made up my mind about majoring in English. In addition to taking two American literature classes from him-- which convinced me that first, I actually do like American lit, and second, I also like Hemingway-- I spent lots of time in his office. Sometimes it was to go over papers. Sometimes it was to weep and wail over the quandaries of life. (Once I flopped down on a chair and demanded to know why I was an English major, anyway, and did God care about what I was studying, and what was the point of literature in the end when I should be out saving the world?) Either way, he would listen to me, muse for a while, and then produce some miraculously simple yet thoughtful answers.

Alone among my Catholic and Orthodox English profs, Dr Somerville is a Presbyterian, and Reformed to the core. And really, sometimes all I needed was someone to say "Well, Rebekah, I know this is quite overwhelming but you need to remember that God is sovereign even over your career plans and thus perfectly capable of untangling these options in His time. So stop being so darned introspective. God will guide you and all shall be well." He is a consummate Calvinist, who keeps a dried-up daffodil on his desk as a memento mori and delights in pointing out the inevitable depravity of humankind, yet who finds humor (even if it's gallows humor) in nearly everything and can give sincere encouragement to his downcast advisees.

Now that I'm an English teacher myself, I teach more like Dr Somerville than any of my other professors. He was always methodical and organized, yet extremely interesting. I realized that I could follow his model of running a classroom with a lot more success than the model of a Dr Whalen or Dr Smith . . . which is to say, catatonically brilliant. I haven't got the prerequisite brains for that. But I can research and organize; I can tell stories and make helpful observations; I can ask questions. So that's what I do.

Here are, in all their glory, the marginalia of Dr John Somerville.

American Literature 1820-1890

"We'll let you know if you're an idiot."
"It's disturbing, which means entertaining."
"Gothic literature is like literary terrorism."
"He has three names, so he's a nineteenth century poet . . . or an assassin."
"So we can learn to live by nature, which is awfully encouraging. But then, nature does have rattlesnakes and ticks."
"The Appalachians are user friendly."
"I don't want to be a two year old brat. I would rather be a fifty-two year old brat!"
"Marriage is, despite evidence otherwise, a civilizing institution."
"How about when you get married you name your first child Marmaduke?"
"Harvard, the Hillsdale of the East . . ."
"Emerson? Talk about ruining your lunch!"
"I guess if your dad's making pencils you're going to be a writer."
"Have you seen our copy machine? It runs on coal."
"Take every opportunity you can to prove your superiority."
"If I scream and fall to the floor, ignore me."
"Don't be overly harsh on Emerson. I'll do that."
"I'd rather my students not see me drooling."
"Suitemates? A whole group of potential head-hunters!"
"I'm the long-haired missionary kid."
"What are yard sales? People selling what would otherwise be trash to fools who don't realize it's trash."
"I'm always full of good intentions."
"I can't become a hermit so I'll just get sick."
"Can I do the rest of the class in an Irish accent?"
"If I have time on my hands, I make more handouts."
"We are a utopia."
"There is a temptation among certain types of students to spend all their time in the stratosphere."
"Don't worry, I haven't gone liberal on you."
"Maybe I'll meet a man with a low cut blouse and he'll wrestle with me!"
"Never ignore a detail because you don't understand it."
"Don't put it past a writer to want to make a living."
"Oh, missionary kids-- what do you expect?"
"I'm profoundly heterosexual."
"Fortunately, the world is not filled with women stuffed up chimneys."
"When the economy fails-- and it will-- the business majors will be jumping out of windows. But we English majors-- since we never had anything anyway, but beauty and goodness and truth-- can warm ourselves by our books."

Modern American Literature

"I did not want to get into the bathtub with that woman!"
"I can use the pronoun her  in discussing him."
"For your edification, I have brought you some bad poetry."
"I am here in all but spirit."
"Rafts don't go up the river."
"Maybe he's a collateral descendant."
"Deer are known to jump. A little-known fact!"
"She is a proper punching bag."
"Downhill means getting worse."
"Are you hot like I am?"
"They had bad neighbors. It was like living next to a fraternity house."
"This is a digression off of a digression."
"What's in it more me? That's pretty much how I go at life."
"There may be the rare not-student walking around campus."
"Let the drama be in what you say, not in the punctuation you add."
"I hope to infect you."
"I didn't realize I'd actually fallen asleep . . ."
"Let's all room in the same building!"
"Those ice cubes were little lumps of stink."
"I'm in a bad mood today because I can't give a midterm."
"You don't have to go to Harvard to lose your faith."
"For some reason, everyone was actually paying attention that time!"
"Don't worry, you will live on as an anecdote."
"The colon is so essential."
"You look like crayons."
"I'm leaking!"
"I've seen Dr Arnn [the president of Hillsdale College] in spandex. It is quite an impressive sight."
"Well, I think I can outstrip rabid weasels."
"If I did this at the University of Michigan I'd be fired."
"Don't encourage me. This is what happens when I get extra sleep."
"B. Dalton's is the McDonald's of bookstores."
"I'm on my rant again."
"I love the cemetery."
"I'm not a philosopher. I'm just a poor English professor."
"You may feel as if you know nothing. That's because you don't!"

10 January 2012

for the common sunshine

"Te Deum"
Charles Reznikoff

Not because of victories I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day's work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.

some brand love

Schulte-Ufer cookware. I have two pots from the Wega line, and they are real workhorses: stainless steel, heavy bottoms, glass lids, all easy to clean. The first came from my one and only yardsaling expedition this summer. The second was a Christmas present from my husband, to replace the flimsy and slightly warped saucepan I'd been muddling along with since our wedding. Burnt quinoa, begone!

Aubrey Organics Blue Camomile. Both the shampoo and the conditioner . . . I've got fairly dry hair and this line works well. It uses a very natural formula (a good rating on Skin Deep). Fairly pricey, but better if you order from Vitacost, and one bottle lasts me a long time.

IKEA dishes. The FARGRIK line to be exact, in white for most things and green for our favorite curry-stew-pasta-whatever bowls. I love the simple, strong lines and classic colors. We've had ours for two years and have inflicted surprisingly little damage upon them: one broken dessert plate and two chipped cereal bowls. The nice thing about IKEA stuff is that when it does break, you don't have to empty your piggy bank replacing it.

Graphique La Petit Presse stationery. Oh TJ Maxx, you are my friend. The green whale thank-you notes are my favorite.

Market Pantry frozen vegetables. Now, I usually don't buy organic unless it is super-on-sale, so if you do, this recommendation is not for you. :) Target sells frozen vegetables that are both cheap and good: 99 cents for a pound of peas, spinach, green beans . . . I've been very happy with the quality so far, and I'm picky about that kind of thing! It is really nice to just grab a bag out of the freezer at the last minute.

09 January 2012

rather like a squirrel

Fence, squirrel, nuts!
Nuts! I love them. Walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamias, cashews, hazelnuts . . . even those imposter legumes, peanuts . . . I'll take them all.

Good for breakfast. Good for snacks. Just plain good.

I posted about these cinnamon-sugar-vanilla jobbers a while ago, and they are wonderful, especially with walnuts or pecans. Pour a few cups into a pretty glass jar, and you've got a great hostess gift! (If you can keep your hands out of the jar, that is.)

But here is a more savory combination that I actually prefer. For snacks I lean towards salty over sweet, and these fit the bill. And anyway, they're a lot quicker to make. :) I'm afraid they are coated in a spicy goodness that requires copious finger-licking, which is a tad undignified, so don't serve 'em at a white-tie banquet.


Spicy Mixed Nuts
(an ever-so-slightly tweaked version of this recipe from Elana's Pantry) 

1 cup whole almonds
1 cup walnuts, broken in half
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1) Heat heavy skillet over medium heat. Add nuts and stir (frequently to avoid burning) until toasted, fragrant, and starting to brown.
2) While skillet is heating, combine spices in small bowl.
3) Once nuts are toasted, pour into mixing bowl and toss with olive oil. Add spices and stir to coat thoroughly.
4) Let cool completely, then store in airtight container.

{image credit: Don McDougall}

06 January 2012

Weekend linkage

Though I'm not a strictly "seasonal" cook (we eat lettuce in February) I do prefer to emphasize ingredients from the appropriate time of year, and it seems to me that this carrot and thyme soup would be great for winter. (Our thyme is still going strong, by the way. It has been sheltered by the front door and is proving quite hardy. I guess the abnormally temperate winter is probably helping . . .)

The Three Little Pigs in Shakespearean English. Made my week. "Nay, it shall not be, not by whit of whiskered jowl!"

A really cool National Geographic feature on twins and epigenetics.

If you've ever wanted to live in Sense & Sensibility . . .

05 January 2012

pumpkin pancakes

Oatmeal pancakes are one of my favorite breakfasts nowadays.

Besides being way tasty (that is the technical term, I believe?) and the perfect vehicle for maple syrup, they haven't any gluten, and soaking the oats overnight seems to diminish any negative gastrointestinal effects. Enjoyable all around.

(Do you like how I used the word gastrointestinal in a discussion of breakfast? I promise the rest of the post will be far more appetizing.)

Anyway, last week I opened a can of pumpkin to try it in a smoothie-- pretty good by the way-- and then had most of the can left. Hmm. Solution: pumpkin pancakes!

Oatmeal Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup plain Greek yogurt*
1 1/2 cups whole milk, divided
1 cup pureed pumpkin
2 eggs, beaten with fork
1/2 cup oat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves

1) Stir together oats, Greek yogurt, and 1/2 cup milk in medium bowl. Cover with towel and leave on the counter overnight.
2) In the morning, preheat an electric griddle to low-medium heat (mine does well on 325). These pancakes are denser and so take a little longer to cook than those made with wheat flour; if the heat is too high you will burn the outside before cooking the inside!
3) Whisk pumpkin, eggs, and remaining milk into rolled oat mixture.
4) In separate small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients. Fold into wet mixture.
5) Measure pancake batter out in 1/4 cupfuls onto preheated griddle. Flip when edges are just set and tiny bubbles have begun to pop. When centers of flipped pancakes are no longer "doughy" (this might require test-tasting, poor you) remove to plate and keep warm. Serve with butter, maple syrup, and warm applesauce.

*If you do not have Greek yogurt, use 1 cup of regular plain yogurt (not quite as thick as Greek). Just don't add all the milk right away in step 3; start with 2/3 cup and increase if needed.

Post shared on Simple Lives Thursday.

04 January 2012

Well [Spoken] Wednesdays: Dr Juroe edition

I took the only evening class of my college career with Dr Juroe. Three hours every Monday night. It was a good class, it truly was, but by the middle of the semester I was falling asleep halfway through; 8:00 PM is never my most shining hour.

However, once we began to take a break for tea and cookies, things improved. :)

Here are the marginalia of Dr Jim Juroe.

Eighteenth Century British Literature

"That was a joke. You were supposed to laugh!"
"King Josiah was like a one-man Hillsdale College."
"I'm doing this out of human laziness, with which I am afflicted."
"There's not much education going on in the world today."
"I'm going to give you a really dumb analogy now."
"Be quick like bunnies!"
"The dullards are really, really funny."
"Let's talk about more ghoulish stuff. Isn't this fun?"
"She looked like a young Marilyn Monroe: a glass of milk with a swatch of lipstick across it."
"These people can't read. They probably went through college studying sociology.""If you don't know for sure, just shout even louder! That's what our politicians do."
"You're a sneaky bunch."
"Hillsdale has always been long on abstractions."
"Don't hold me to my promises. That would be really tacky."
". . . but that's another part of my wayward youth."
"I execute students who sell their books."
"Paradise ain't never good enough for those who live in it."
"Queen Anne passed some really stupid laws."

03 January 2012

a new favorite

Italian Sausage with onion and bell pepperI threw this together for a quick supper on Friday night . . . to my surprise, all of the elements worked together really well. That is what I call a serendipitous success.

You need three burners and just as many pots for this meal. But for all that, it's not complicated, especially if you make the soup ahead of time (or use canned soup).

You can serve this with grilled cheese to round out the meal. We two polished off the whole thing, but then, we like meat, especially the male half of us. :) If you're more restrained in your carnivory, this will serve more people.

Soup and Sausage*

creamy tomato soup (my recipe here)
8 to 12 oz pound mild sausage in its casing, cut into 3-inch sections
2 tablespoons butter
one small yellow or red onion, sliced
4 oz button mushrooms, sliced
1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
salt and pepper to taste
a splash or two of white cooking wine
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (homemade is best)
2 tablespoons spicy whole-grain mustard

1) Make your soup and let it simmer on very low heat. To minimize work at the last minute, make it ahead of time and simply reheat. (I make a really big batch and freeze it.)
2) On high, heat skillet large enough to hold sausage in a single layer; add sausage and let sear briefly. Add 1/2 inch water, cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook sausage 10-15 minutes, until no longer pink in the middle.
3) Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onions, and peppers. Saute 30 seconds; reduce heat to low, then cover and cook 10 minutes or until tender.
4) Whisk together mayonnaise and mustard in small bowl.
5) When you are ready to eat, remove lid from vegetables and increase heat to medium-high, stirring frequently to let vegetables brown but not burn. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Once you see those nice browned bits on the bottom of the skillet, splash in your white wine and stir briskly to deglaze.
6) Serve soup alongside sausage, sauteed vegetables, and mustard sauce. (The husband piled up his sausage and vegetables and spooned some soup on top, which created a great creamy-tomato sauce for the whole thing.) This meal is not elegant. But it is very good.

*I stink at naming recipes. Too cutesy, and I'd feel stupid talking about it. Too clever, and it sounds like a menu item at a molecular gastronomy restaurant. So I go for the obvious.

{image credit: photoshoporama Dan}

Shared on Simple Lives Thursday.

02 January 2012

our song is love

And I'm not gonna take it back
And I'm not gonna say I don't mean that
You're the target that I'm aiming at
And I'm nothing on my own

Happy anniversary, you blue-eyed charmer. How has it been two years already?!