29 February 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: no amount of fire or freshness

Outside the wind was loud and there was a faint flow of thunder along the Sound. All the lights were going on in West Egg now; the electric trains, men-carrying, were plunging home through the rain from New York. It was the hour of a profound human change and excitement was generating on the air.
One thing's sure and nothing's surer
The rich get richer and the poor get-- children
In the mean time,
In between time--

As I went over to say goodbye I saw that the expression of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby's face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to him as to the quality of his present happiness.

Almost five years! There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy fell short of his dreams-- not through her own fault but through the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.

-from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

p.s. Happy birthday, Rossini! "All kinds of music are good, except the boring kind."

27 February 2012

joy set before me

Long Road in MontanaLast winter, I struggled with depression; it was like walking in the dark twenty-four hours a day. This winter, the darkness comes and goes. It's better. I'm grateful.

Still, though, some days I don't want to get out of bed. I think: Everything goes wrong, the hours feel empty, I'm sad and lonely. Why bother getting up?

One recent morning I had flopped on the couch, discouraged and bent on wallowing. Sad again, for no apparent reason. What's the point of fighting this? Nothing worth doing. I should just go back to sleep. Oh, how I wish I could skip today. This week. My life. 

Then I thought about Jesus.

Each morning of his life, He woke up and decided to keep going. Every single morning he "set his face like flint," when He could just as easily have shut his eyes and thought: I don't want to get out of bed. I can't handle another day in this broken world, can't deal with these men and women sinning against me. Everything goes wrong. The hours feel empty. I'm sad and lonely. Why bother getting up? I wish I could skip today. This week. My life.

He, the Creator and King of the universe, had descended an unfathomable distance to Earth. He had been made small, weak, vulnerable. People laughed at him, looked down on him, ran him out of town. Even his disciples had little faith and misinterpreted his teachings, more concerned with squabbling over seats in the Kingdom than with spreading good news. He was about to be abandoned by His Father and slain by rebels.

Jesus had every reason to rage and to despair. Why did He get up in the morning?

Hebrews 12 explains. "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." The joy that was set before Him-- the approval of God the Father, the glory given to His children, the delight and peace found in His presence. It sufficed to propel Jesus through each long day on this Earth, running with endurance, no matter how hard.

That hope was enough to overcome every temptation to despair.

There is joy set before me, too. 

I can have it today: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice . . . 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).

And I can set my hope on it for the future: "According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice . . . Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1).

 "Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself," Hebrews continues, "so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted."

I'll consider. And I'll get up.

Still, My Soul, Be Still by Keith & Kristyn Getty on Grooveshark 

{image credit: Stuck in Customs}

25 February 2012

and therefore I have hope

"My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, 'My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.'
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.

"But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.'"

 -Lamentations 3

24 February 2012

Weekend linkage

Whimsical animals-- a rabbit on a trampoline, a pig in a party hat-- on mugs, aprons, and tea towels by HAM Studio.

Further whimsy from Vegetabowls. I'd love to serve yogurt and granola in the orange bowls, tomato soup in the cabbage . . .

Gorgeous handmade honeypots, citrus reamers, dinnerware, and more.

Whether served in handmade mugs or not, cappuccino art like this would blow my socks off.

Speaking of socks, I'm considering options for cold-weather attire. I could go for style . . . or not.

This wedding is just precious.

Rich chocolate ice cream without an ice cream maker? Color me intrigued.

22 February 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: the call of wild countries

"After supper was over and the toasts had been drunk, the boy Pablo was called in to play for the company while the gentlemen smoked. The banjo always remained a foreign instrument to Father Latour; he found it more than a little savage. When this strange yellow boy played it, there was softness and languor in the wire strings-- but there was also a kind of madness; the recklessness, the call of wild countries which all these men had felt and followed in one way or another. Through clouds of cigar smoke, the scout and the soldiers, the Mexican rancheros and the priests, sat silently watching the bent head and crouching shoulders of the banjo player, and his seesawing yellow hand, which sometimes lost all form and became a mere whirl of matter in motion, like a patch of sand-storm.

"Observing them thus in repose, in the act of reflection, Father Latour was thinking how each of these men not only had a story, but seemed to have become his story. Those anxious, far-seeing blue eyes of Carson's, to whom could they belong but to a scout and trail-breaker? Don Manuel Chavez, the handsomest man of the company, very elegant in velvet and broadcloth, with delicately cut, disdainful features, --one had only to see him cross the room, or to sit next him at dinner, to feel the electric quality under his cold reserve; the fierceness of some embitterment, the passion for danger."

-from Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

21 February 2012

another one for the blender

Sign coconut
"A said to B, and B said to C, I'll meet you on top of the coconut tree . . ."

I covet that caution sign for display in my kitchen.

A couple of weeks ago I started making smoothies with coconut milk instead of yogurt. I use less because it packs a [much] bigger caloric punch per ounce, and that adjustment produces thicker smoothies. The higher fat content makes them super creamy, too. I like it.


Green Coconut 

1/3 cup coconut milk*
1 1/2 cups lacinato kale
half a frozen banana, broken into chunks
1 peeled kiwi (this is pretty much my favorite thing to put in green smoothies)
1/2 cup frozen peach slices or half a small sweet apple, cored
optional: splash of vanilla, sprinkle of cinnamon, flax seeds, grapefruit seed extract, etc

You know the drill. Stack it all in the blender and whirl away; if it's too thick to blend, add a little bit of milk or kefir to thin it out. Make some scrambled eggs or grab a handful of almonds, and you've got breakfast, baby. I never get tired of that vivid green in my glass.

*I mean canned coconut milk, thick and minimally messed-with, not the sweetened stuff in a carton.

20 February 2012

the undoubted power of His divine majesty

"The certainty [Scripture] deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit. For even if it wins reverence for itself by its own majesty, it seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearts through the Spirit.

"Therefore, illumined by His power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else's judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God Himself) that it has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men . . . Nor do we do this as those miserable men who habitually bind over their minds to the thralldom of superstition; but we feel that the undoubted power of His divine majesty lives and breathes there."

-John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion


"This is almost baffling. He says that his conviction concerning the majesty of God in Scripture . . . rests not in any human judgment, not even his own. What does he mean? As I have wrestled with this, the words of the apostle John have shed the most helpful light on what Calvin is trying to explain. Here are the key words from 1 John 5:6-11: The Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth . . . And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. In other words, 'the testimony of God,' that is, the inward witness of the Spirit, is greater than any human witness . . .

"And what is that testimony of God? It is not merely a word delivered to our judgment for reflection, for then our conviction would rely on our own reflection. What is it then? Verse 11 is the key: 'This is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life.'

"I take that to mean that God testifies to us of His reality and the reality of His Son and of the gospel by giving us life from the dead, so that we come alive to His self-authenticating glory in the gospel. In that instant we do not reason from premises to conclusions; rather we see that we are awake, and there is not even a prior human judgment about it to lean on.

"When Lazarus wakened in the tomb by the call or the 'testimony' of Christ, he knew without reasoning that he was alive and that this call awakened him."

-John Piper, God is the Gospel

17 February 2012

Weekend linkage

I'm a sucker for small, fuzzy things. (This may be why my husband recently bought me a stuffed penguin, secretively took pictures of its "adventures" while I was busy making breakfast downstairs, and then emailed said pictures to me all day. Wee Penguin accomplished many things that morning, from lifting weights to ironing husband's shirts to reading CS Lewis. I laughed so much.) And this fondness means that when I saw this felt mouse in an Altoid tin, I squeeeee'd like nobody's business.

Why does Reformed theology often generate coldness in place of love? An answer from Ray Ortlund. "If we are ungracious in our relationships and ethos and demeanor and vibe and culture, then we are betraying the doctrines of grace and only using them for covert purposes of self-exaltation."

This book looks interesting.

Well, I turned into my grandma this week: I bought a sleep mask. And . . . I have slept more soundly. Mine has a funky lime green and electric blue print, which I like, but this one would be nice too.

Uncle Larry wants YOU for Constitution 101.

I am going to buy this print (seriously! this is not just another pipe dream about something beautiful that I can't afford). By the way, the gal's blog is lovely and funny and full of sincere food for the soul.

Time to recycle a sweater!

With a nod to Tony the Tiger, David Crowder Band's final album is grrrrreat. I love the continuity of music and of theme. And it's about light. "Even the darkness is not dark to you."

Blessedness of Everlasting Light by David Crowder Band on Grooveshark

16 February 2012

chicken butt!

ChickensWe eat lots of meat. My husband appreciates a steak as much as the next man, and well, so do I. (Jared says that was one of the things that surprised him after marrying me. He thought I would just eat rabbit food all the time, but lo, I demand chicken thighs with my lettuce.) And personally, my body seems to run better on protein and fat than on sugar.

So you'll never find us having green bean salad for dinner. As a side to chuck roast or swai fillets, absolutely. Alone? Not in this house of confirmed carnivory. While we consume more than our fair share of eggs and I enjoy legumes several times a week, the meat's the thing.

Good-quality meat is obviously more expensive than bread or rice, but thankfully we've been able to find ways to afford it about 70% of the time, and just buy conventionally raised meat when we can't. I figure that CAFO beef is better than no beef at all.

One recent cost-saving (and fun) endeavor: buy whole chickens and break them down myself. It demands knife skills and a fair investment of time. I broke down twelve chickens in 3.5 hours and froze four more whole. If you stick it out-- and aren't disgusted by raw chicken corpses, ahem, sisters-in-law-- you save lots of money and get a freezerfull of various useful chicken pieces, from boneless skinless breasts to wings. And you can also freeze those carcasses for delicious stock!

For thorough instructions on breaking down a chicken, including pictures, look here. My additional two cents: it's easier to slice away the breast when you remove the skin first. And don't be afraid to bend those legs backwards to find the joint.

If you live in the Lancaster area I recommend Eberly Poultry. Every bird they sell is freerange, grassfed, and hormone-free. They have organic products as well. Check their website for weekly specials! Several weeks ago they were offering "grade B" roasters for $1.05 per pound. Occasionally missing a drumstick or a wing, but apart from that, perfectly good. That's what I bought for my chicken-butchering fiesta.

On a completely unrelated note . . . you guys, we have seventeen different kinds of tea in our cupboard. Intervention please?

Shared at Simple Lives Thursday.

{image credit: Allie's Dad}

15 February 2012

even the darkness is not dark

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

-Psalm 139:7-12

14 February 2012

Well Written, um, Tuesdays: a knight riding down

"What are you thinking of, Anne?" asked Gilbert, coming down the walk. He had left his horse and buggy out at the road.

"Of Miss Lavendar and Mr. Irving," answered Anne dreamily. "Isn't it beautiful to think how everything has turned out . . . how they have come together again after all the years of separation and misunderstanding?"

"Yes, it's beautiful," said Gilbert, looking steadily down into Anne's uplifted face, "but wouldn't it have been more beautiful still, Anne, if there had been no separation or misunderstanding. . . if they had come hand in hand all the way through life, with no memories behind them but those which belonged to each other?"

For a moment Anne's heart fluttered queerly and for the first time her eyes faltered under Gilbert's gaze and a rosy flush stained the paleness of her face. It was as if a veil that had hung before her inner consciousness had been lifted, giving to her view a revelation of unsuspected feelings and realities. Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps . . . perhaps . . . love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.


I read that passage, from the last chapter of L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Avonlea, sometime in middle school. And several times again in high school and at least once again in college. (I like Anne.) It seemed so wonderful to me, I decided that my own love story was going to follow that pattern too: romance unfolding "naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath."

I would have a solid friendship with a boy before I ever dated him. We would have a long history together, not some breakneck getting-to-know-you drama. It would come upon us gradually, without awkward questions or surprises or (worst of all) uncertainty. Suddenly we'd both know.


Instead I got a boy whom I sort of knew, but not really, writing me long letters expressly for the purpose of courtship while we both scrambled to finish our senior years at college. There were awkward questions, plenty of surprises, and decidedly dramatic uncertainties. We worked and wondered and Defined the Relationship and sought counsel and cried (well I did) and then got the whole shebang wrapped up within a breakneck year.

Orange Colored Sky by Natalie Cole on Grooveshark

So much for the "old friend through quiet ways!" And so much for the lack of pomp and blare. Dating Jared was a step from zero to sixty-- everybody knew it. I got swept off my feet in spite of myself.

Well, Happy Valentine's Day, dear husband. Our romance has been anything but "seeming prose," and I wouldn't change a thing.

{image: "The Overthrowing of the Rusty Knight" by Arthur Hughes}

13 February 2012

now we are released

City Nature – Pomegranate Tree, Nizamuddin Chilla
My brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
-Romans 7:4-6

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
-Galatians 5:22-24


Where we once bore deathly fruit, living as slaves to sin and thus fearing the law because of our inevitable guilt, we now bear the fruit of life, living as slaves to righteousness and free of fear.

Thanks be to our Saviour, there is no law that can torture us with condemnation.

I think that last Galatians phrase-- against such things there is no law-- is one of my favorite in   Scripture, because deep down (maybe not so deep!) I am a legalist. I want to know exactly the right things to believe and do and say, no gray areas please. When I'm not clear on What to Do, I fear that I've missed the mark somehow, that I am disappointing God or missing out on His blessing. Have I broken some rule? I wonder. What am I doing wrong and how can I fix it?

But here I find comfort in simplicity. Listen, Rebekah, pursue godliness in these things; pursue love, peace, kindness, self-control. No law will condemn you for that. And what's more, the Holy Spirit himself will help you. Your salvation is already assured, and now, you can walk in freedom rather than fear.

{image credit: Manyank Austen Soofi}

11 February 2012

it is the only way to eat them

Solo sliced apple RAWJack. How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.
Algernon. Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them. 
Jack. I say it’s perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances. 
Algernon. When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink. At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins.

-Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest


I'm not sure why, but muffins have universal appeal. On this side of the pond, Algernon's sentiment seems echoed everywhere. In college I was assured of a happy welcome when I arrived at a boys' dorm with a basketful; at home my brothers greeted every batch with rejoicing. Now we two enjoy them often.

Moist and spicy, I find these little muffins perfect for breakfast, alongside soup, or as a portable snack. Make a double recipe and freeze some if you like. They are higher in protein than most, and if it interests you, they are both gluten- and grain-free. Even if you don't care about that, though, they are extremely delicious . . . especially with a bit of softened butter. Don't get it on your cuffs.

Apple Spice Muffins
(original recipe from The Nourishing Gourmet)

1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup mild honey
1/2 cup coconut flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup shredded tart apple (no need to peel it)

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease eight muffin cups with nonstick spray.*
2) Melt butter. (I dislike microwaves so I put the butter in a glass measuring cup, place it in a small pot with a couple inches of water, and bring the water to a boil. A few minutes of simmering melts the butter.) Stir in honey and set aside to let cool slightly.
3) Meanwhile whisk together coconut flour, baking powder, spices, and salt in medium bowl. Beat eggs lightly with fork and shred apple.
4) Pour melted butter, honey, and eggs into bowl. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Fold in shredded apple.
5) Divide batter between prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tops are browned and muffins test done with toothpick. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

*I use a stoneware muffin pan and preheat it with the oven. Highly recommended-- it's a non-toxic baking surface that browns beautifully and is easy to clean.

{image credit: Food Opera}

10 February 2012

Weekend linkage

Ya'll watch this. Tree-climbing in the Congo next weekend, anyone?

I'd never seen Annie Vallotton's Scripture illustration work before reading this article, but I like it very much.

To keep in mind next time you go poisoning pigeons in the park . . .

A way to make bacon? For serious? I need some pork belly!

Fish a la greque: this was one seriously good dinner.


p.s. I was at a friend's house on Sunday night and watched The Voice for the first time. It was likely also the last, because 1) we lack a television 2) Christina Aguilera is annoying 3) I cannot handle this stuff. It is just too ABSORBING and EMOTIONAL and EXCITING and TRAGIC and good Lord, I don't even know these people! Personally, I have a hard enough time keeping up with the real relationships in my life . . . I can't add a TV show to the mix . . . how do people with televisions manage it?

Well, I hope Adam wins anyway. Because I like Maroon 5 (I do! I confess!) and Tony Lucca was amazing. He was the only contestant whose hypothetical record I would pop into the CD player and listen to on repeat.

Trouble by Ray LaMontagne on Grooveshark

09 February 2012

and we rejoice in hope

"No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness.

"But the words 'it was counted to him' were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God."

-Romans 4:20-5:2


No distrust! How I long for that to be said of me. That I am fully convinced, and glorify God through faith. To have such unwavering trust requires a relationship of great depth-- so I want to know Him in His sufferings and resurrection. I want to rejoice in His grace day by mundane day. I want to stand on my confidence in Him when the crisis comes. May each day be shaped by "the grace in which I stand . . . [and] hope of the glory of God." Draw me closer to you, O Lord, and plant my feet immovably on your promises.

08 February 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: nothing happens to me

"Well, I want to go to South America."

"Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn't make any difference. I've tried all that. You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There's nothing to that."

"But you've never been to South America."

"South America hell! If you went there the way you feel now it would be exactly the same. This is a good town. Why don't you start living your life in Paris?"

"I'm sick of Paris, and I'm sick of the Quarter."

"Stay away from the Quarter. Cruise around by yourself and see what happens to you."

"Nothing happens to me. I walked alone all one night and nothing happened except a bicycle cop stopped me and asked to see my papers."

"Wasn't the town nice at night?"

"I don't care for Paris."

So there you were. I was sorry for him, but it was not a thing you could do anything about, because right away you ran up against the two stubbornnesses: South America could fix it and he did not like Paris. He got the first idea out of a book, and I suppose the second came out of a book too.

-from The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

07 February 2012

unenlightened soup

Sometimes I get these free magazine offers in the mail. Two risk-free issues of This Old House! A trial subscription to Martha Stewart Living! I send in my request and get the free magazines, then cancel . . . leaving the publication's bill-collecting department to send me alternately pitiful and threatening requests for the rest of the money, until two months later, they realize that I really meant it.

Well, the most recent offer was from Cooking Light. I disagree with at least 70% of the magazine's dietary philosophy ("saturated fat is evil and you must eat whole grains to function properly") but I find some of the articles interesting, I like the emphasis on fresh, unprocessed food, and I have gotten several excellent recipes out of its pages. Including this one.

I'm not much good at making food from the Eastern Hemisphere, as I haven't an Asian bone in my body. However, this riff on Thai flavors turned out splendidly. I "unenlightened" it, first by using regular coconut milk and chicken stock, then by giving you the freedom to (gasp!) add more salt. It's much tastier this way. Ancel Keys is rolling over in his grave. :)

Julia, this is for you.


Thai Chicken Soup
(originally from the Jan 2012 issue of Cooking Light)

2 tablespoons coconut oil*
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2/3 cup chopped bell pepper
1 large carrot, sliced on the diagonal
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
4 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups chicken stock 
1 15-oz can coconut milk
4 teaspoons fish sauce
4 teaspoons lime juice
4 cups coarsely chopped kale
4 cups thinly sliced cooked chicken**
sea salt to taste
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro

1) In large soup pot, melt coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, pepper, carrot, garlic, sambal oelek, and garlic. Saute for a few minutes; reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 5 minutes more.
2) Add stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, and lime juice to pot and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and stir in chopped kale; cover pot and simmer for 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender but not mushy.
3) Stir in chicken and heat through. Add salt to taste. Stir in cilantro just before serving. This is a very thick soup, more like a stew honestly-- serve with rice if you'd like, but I think it is great without.

*Or any cooking fat that will go well with these flavors . . .
**Either use leftovers from a roast chicken, or poach several breasts and/or thighs for the occasion.

06 February 2012

man does not live by spreadsheets alone

Lost without listsBut some women do! Excel runs my life. (Delicious and Gmail energetically vie for the title.) My spreadsheets cover groceries, meal plan, to-do-this-week, work hours, class grades, mailing lists, price comparisons, clothing inventories, Things I Froze This Summer, budget, booklists, and exercise routines.

Yep. Excel is the shizzle.

Recently, in a resolving time of year, I sat down and thought about how I could make better use of my time. I typically accomplish what I need to, but in a somewhat slapdash fashion. Everything gets done . . . but just barely. I'd like to change that pattern.

Historically, the more structure I have imposed upon my life, the more productive I have become. Is it that way for anyone else? I just can't retain tasks or keep track of time in my head; when I try, the bathroom floor goes neglected, my cell phone runs out of battery, and I scramble to get dinner on the table because I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer. I need a schedule, a timer, and definite boundaries. I need somebody to tell me "do this." Even if that somebody is only an Excel spreadsheet. :)

So here's the plan. I made a spreadsheet with several tabs, namely . . .

1) Master list for the week. One column for each day. The top six cells of each column are separated by a heavy line from the bottom section. That smaller top section is reserved for such Weekly Tasks as working out on Monday, sending my students their assignments on Wednesday,* and ironing on Saturday. Then the rest of the column is for once-and-done things like "make a chiropractor's appointment" or "grade British Lit essays" or "go to the library."

2) Meal plan. A grid seven across and fifty-two down. I love planning meals. It takes time at first but saves a lot later. It allows me to strategically plan for leftovers, make sure I'm not doing a complicated dish on a day that I will be out of the house until 5:30, and avoid serving chicken five days in a row. :) I can adjust my plan to fit grocery store sales or what I have in the freezer.Plus, if I look at this spreadsheet at the beginning of the week, I can schedule stuff like "thaw salmon" or "make potato salad ahead of time." (Perhaps you are able to remember these things without a reminder but I AM NOT.)

3) Grocery list. Closely linked to the meal plan of course; I've got columns for different stores, from Weis to Savemart to Target.


My hopes for this plan are trifold. First I want to make sure that important things like, ah, cleaning our house don't fall through the cracks. Second, I want to add more "authoritative" structure to my days so I'm not as tempted to fritter away precious time: since The List (and not just my passing thought) says I must do x and y, I will probably do it. Third, I want to have a place to write down ideas. If I think on Monday "oh, I should repot the thyme and oregano" but don't have time to do it immediately, I'll forget. So now I want to discipline myself to write that idea into a column, so eventually, it will get done.

I'm trying to be realistic about this new endeavor. But it seems like a good approach for now. I have measured out my life in Excel spreadsheets . . . and I like it.

*Yes, I have forgotten to do this before.

{image credit: Terry Madeley}

05 February 2012

the deep thunder of its want

None other Lamb, none other Name,
None other hope in Heav’n or earth or sea,
None other hiding place from guilt and shame,
None beside Thee!

My faith burns low, my hope burns low;
Only my heart’s desire cries out in me
By the deep thunder of its want and woe,
Cries out to Thee.

Lord, Thou art Life, though I be dead;
Love’s fire Thou art, however cold I be:
Nor Heav’n have I, nor place to lay my head,
Nor home, but Thee.

-Christina Rossetti

04 February 2012

Weekend linkage

Sonnets: hidey hidey hidey ho.

I neeeed to make kale chips.

For Valentine's Day, I planned to braise short ribs and buy a bottle of cabernet to go with them. As you wish.

I used to want to work in a bookstore. Maybe live in one too?

Daddy always called me his palomita.* Now I have the right cocktail.

I have decided that I wish to resurrect 1950's fashion.

Why we care about blog comments.

We have this IKEA desk . . . ideas for future tweaking! The whole site is great, actually.


Despite Monday's post, I'll admit that on some cranky days, I really do feel like this . . .

I'm not a girl to demand flowers. They just wilt after a while and are so ruddy expensive. But a big bouquet of these would be most acceptable.

Blog find of the week: The Dapper Kingdom. Chameleons with monocles!

Stricken, Smitten And Afflicted by Fernando Ortega on Grooveshark

*Why? Paloma Herrera. Once upon a time, you know, I was a ballerina.

02 February 2012

with which we may eat, drink and be merry

Fall Table-New York Wedding-Christian Oth-Style Me PrettyLindt Intense Orange. I will simply quote the Lindt website: "a unique combination of dark chocolate with delicate orange pieces and almond slivers." You know those chocolate oranges from Christmastime? Same flavor, but with almonds and dark chocolate, a little more grown-up.

Dark Chocolate Dreams from Peanut Butter and Company. To continue the theme of Combining Dark Chocolate With Other Tasty Things . . . pop open a jar, take a whiff, and I dare you to keep your spoon away. I'd like to try Mighty Maple next.

Terrachips Stripes and Blues. "Exotic vegetable chips," as the phrase goes, this one a mix of blue potatoes, sweet potatoes, and striped beets like unto archery targets. I wish Terrachips wouldn't use canola oil, but as a periodic treat, I heartily enjoy these. The blue potato, kabocha squash, and carrot mix is also great.

Celestial Seasonings' India Spice Chai. Though not typically a Celestial Seasonings fan, I find chai blend remarkably good. Strong hints of nutmeg and not too much clove (which is usually my quibble with chai teas).

Cascal Fermented Soda. All the fun of bubbly without the alcohol. Mind you, I don't object to alcohol. But sometimes one needs a beverage safe for one's younger siblings . . . or for oneself, if one plans on driving anywhere after dinner and has a rather low booze tolerance. (Me!!)

{image credit: camillestyles}

01 February 2012

Well Written Wednesdays: the possibility of balance

"But what if it's a huge river," I asked him once-- "like the Congo, which is much broader than the reach of any vine?"

"This is simple," he said. "Such a river should not be crossed."

If only a river could go uncrossed and whatever lay on the other side could live as it pleased, unwitnessed and unchanged. But it didn't happen that way. The Portuguese peered through the trees and saw that the well-dressed, articulate Kongo did not buy or sell or transport their crops, but merely lived in place and ate what they had, like the beasts of the forest. In spite of poetry and beautiful clothes, such people were surely not fully human-- were primitive; that's a word the Portuguese must have used to salve their conscience for what was to come. Soon the priests were holding mass baptisms on shore and marching their converts onto ships bound for sugar plantations in Brazil, slaves to the higher god of commodity agriculture.

There is not justice in this world. Father, forgive me wherever you are, but this world has brought one vile abomination after another down on the heads of the gentle, and I'll not live to see the meek inherit anything. What there is in this world, I think, is a tendency for human errors to level themselves like water throughout their sphere of influence. That's pretty much the whole of what I can say, looking back. There's the possibility of balance. Unbearable burdens that the world somehow does bear with a certain grace.

-from The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver


This book. It's been haunting my thoughts for weeks. Themes of guilt and forgiveness, pride and submission, wildness fighting order . . . a twisted Gospel sapped of life by hatred and a lifeless land given hope through love. Beautifully written and piercing in the depth of its characters, their struggles, and their conclusions. I borrowed it from the library but it's one worth buying.