Monday, December 31, 2007

A Story

Somehow in our conversations with MandoNut recently a story I wrote in 1994 came up. He was impressed with it and asked if he could use it as the basis for a song. Last night he and I worked on song lyrics, and this morning I thought maybe you all would like to read my story.

I wrote it for a contest, and the first bit, in italics, was the story-starter they gave us. The contestants had to fill in the rest from their own imaginations. This is my effort, and it won the contest in my age bracket. Pretty cool, I say; and I while I'm tempted to edit it now, I'm resisting. Plus, I do think I was inspired when I wrote it.

Mark was lying on a dolly, examining the damaged axle of a Pontiac Firebird wen he was startled by a sudden "Hello? Is anyone here?"

"Yeah," he replied. "Under the Firebird."

As he scooted out from under the car, the first thing he noticed was her shoes. They had 3-inch stiletto heels and were the blazing red of a summer sunset. The shoes matched her dress to perfection, as well as the fiery Porsche in the driveway. Mark shook his head and grinned to himself. That kinda style sure didn't hit this neighborhood very often, he thought.....

"I'm looking for Mark Watson," said the lady. "I was told he works here."

"Uh, yeah, that's me," Mark said, wiping his hands on a rag. He was curious, but he spoke casually. "Whatcha got-- carburetor trouble? transmission? brakes?"

"Um, no, it's not the car. I have some important business to discuss."

Mark looked at her more closely, and now he could see she looked younger than he had first thought-- much younger. It was amazing what clothes and make-up could do. Now he was really curious.

"If you're Mark Watson, I need to talk to you," the lady-girl said urgently.

Mark glanced around. The shop was empty. He was here alone this afternoon finishing up a couple jobs for Monday.

"Okay, have a seat." He waved her to a row of chairs they kept for the muffler-while-you-wait customers. The girl tossed her hair smartly and sat down.

"Pepsi?" he offered, fishing some quarters out of his pocket. He handed her a cold can, and she took it, fumbling shakily with the tab. He helped her open it and she took a swallow.

"I know about you and your wife Marie," she said abruptly.

Mark was surprised and wary. The girl looked down at her pop can, twisting it in her hands.

"I've heard you two want a baby. And... I have one to give you."

Mark sat stunned. Questions buzzed in his head like a swarm of gnats. "But--but... How?--"

She gestured impatiently. "It's all worked out. Daddy's a lawyer and he knows. You just have to sign the papers and have them notarized and he'll do the rest." She stood up.


"I want to. You have to." The girl walked away, her heels staccatoing sharply on the concrete floor.

This is nuts, thought Mark. He paced distractedly, running one hand roughly through his hair, then both hands. Girls don't walk in from nowhere to give away babies. For one thing, babies don't grow on trees for the taking, or the giving. He and Marie sure knew that after trying for so long to get one, one way or another. It was especially hard for Marie, because she still remembered the baby she gave away.

The story reeled through his mind like an old movie: Marie at 16, pregnant, unmarried. It was still a vivid scar. Giving up the baby for adoption-- it was the best thing. But the baby, her baby, was gone. It might not have mattered so much, except it had turned out to be her only baby.

The clicking of the high heels returning brought Mark out of his thoughts. He turned.

"Here," said the girl breathlessly. She set down a baby carrier seat. "She's mine, but I want you and... Marie to have her."

Mark didn't move. The girl made an impatient sound and began quickly undoing the straps. She lifted out a pink flannel cocoon and handed it to him. "Take her," she commanded.

Mark obeyed. He looked down into a sweet sleeping face not more than a month or two old.

"The papers are in the diaper bag," the girl continued. "Her name is Ivy Marie." She paused uncertainly. "My name is Kimberly."

Mark stared at the baby in a swirl of emotion-- consternation, unbelief, hope, doubt. It just couldn't be. "Wait," he said. He heard a car door slam. "Wait!"

He ran-- carefully. But, with a flash of red the car drove away. Disconcerted, he stood helplessly.

In the end, he took the fragile bundle home to Marie, who was positively, unashamedly delighted, ecstatic. A Baby! At Last! It was providential. Who cared about the details?

Mark did, and he dubiously followed the typed instructions he found in the diaper bag. But it was all as the girl named Kimberly had claimed. Tiny Ivy Marie was theirs forever. And everyone said she looked just like Marie.

A week after the adoption was finalized, Mark was under a Chevy beating rust into his eyes. He shoved out to shake his head and he heard something.

"Mark! Mark!" It was Marie, holding Ivy Marie close and walking fast toward him. He was on his feet in a second.

"What's wrong? Is--?"

"No, no, the baby's fine-- but- I had to show you-" She handed him a sheet of paper. "A letter. Read it!" Her chin quavered and she began to weep.

Alarmed, Mark pulled her and baby Ivy Marie close and he read:

Dear Mother-I-never-knew,
Thank you for giving me the chance to have a home and family. I don't know if you would be proud of the way I'm turning out, I've made some mistakes, but that's not your fault. Thanks for at least giving me the chance to try. I know you'll care for my baby the way you would have cared for me if you could have.
Sincerely, Kimberly.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Going to Bed with a Clean Conscience-- and a Clean Ceiling

Saturday morning: the day to start painting the ceilings. I woke up in good time, and got out my eight or so little paint cards and stuck them to the ceiling so we could all evaluate which color looked nicest with our new walls.

Hmm. Cashmere white? No, it's a little too gray.

Meringue Peaks? Ooh, too yellow against the yellow walls.

White? Too stark.

Soft Linen? Sugar Wafer? Dandelion? Nooo, maybe not.

Cocoa Mocha? Absolutely not! Too pinky brown. Looks AWFUL.

Ahh. Here's the perfect one: VANILLA CREME. (It was even unanimous.)

So we were off to Walmart, jiggity-jig; and home again, home again, jiggety-jog.

And with a little help, I got the kitchen/dining room ceilings all painted. Done!

And in the process I got a new ceiling fan.

See, when Hubby went to take the ceiling fan down so I could paint around it, he discovered the mounting was broken. (Oh so that's why it was hanging kinda crooked and funny all summer....) As we debated how to deal with this unexpected turn of events, I suddenly remembered that we had a brand new ceiling fan stored away. We bought it a while back--a LONG while back-- hoping to use it in our porch, and haven't installed it yet. I brought it out, and lo, it matches the dining room light we bought relatively recently, and also the new futon. And also the new floor lamp. Score!

So now the ceiling is wonderfully clean (painting beats scrubbing in my book). And the color, while being close to what we had before, is different enough to feel fresh. Besides, the Vanilla Creme paint, especially dumped out in the paint tray, really does look like some kind of creamy dessert element.

In addition, we bought it in satin, which, as far as I can tell, is not supposed to be used on ceilings, but we like a bit of sheen on our ceilings. This part of our house has unusually low ceilings, which is a very loong story; just know that it's not our fault! Anyway, the mild glossiness gives the ceiling gentle reflective properties which make the ceilings seem higher and the room seem bigger. At least, we think so.

And when I cleaned up the mess (the papers and dropcloths and paint smears and dishes from supper that I didn't clean up because I was painting and the painting supplies) I discovered that underneath it all my kitchen was actually clean. And so is my dining room. So hey, it may be ridiculously late, like, it's really Sunday morning now, but I can sleep the sleep of the just tonight!

Friday, December 28, 2007

(some of) What I Got For Christmas, and what I want next year (or sooner)

From my wonderful MIL, who believed me this year when I said I wanted chocolate for Christmas:

In case you can't tell, that's a 35 ounce bag. That's almost three pounds of chocolate! I dumped them out into a half-gallon canning jar, and it's really pretty. Even though the level is somewhat diminished by now. But I've had help eating them. Really.

From LovelyDaughter:

This even better than the Dove Chocolate, if you can believe it. But, of course, I'm not abandoning the Dove...

From MB3:
And, boy, are they rich. I can taste the cream.

From MandoNut, who did indeed come to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with us:
Seriously. He bought us a futon! What kind of crazy houseguest would buy us an expensive piece of furniture? I guess there's a reason we call him a nut.

It is going to be so very useful, and is much more comfortable to sit on than our vintage, avocado green, five-piece sectional. And when one of the kids wants to sleep by the stove because they're sick or cold, they don't have to sleep on the floor. (Believe me, NO ONE slept on the sectional. Very uncomfortable.) In spite of that, I'm still grateful for the sectional, because we were able to pack up pieces of it to make room for the futon.

And now, on Monday, I get to go pick out the cover for the futon. It may be one of the following:

1) a color similar to the sectional.
2) a pattern that will pick up on our new decorating scheme, assuming the colors on my computer monitor are accurate.
Or maybe something different. We'll see.

And I'm so inspired, I might buy a new sofa or loveseat, and scrap the sectional altogether. That poor couch has served many people for many years. It was handed down to us from Hubby's grandparents. I think they bought it in the sixties or seventies, whenever streamlined, contemporary furniture was in. I have looked in the past for a replacement for it, because I figure its days will come to an ignoble end sometime, but most of what I found was too big and overbearing for our tiny little square of room.

(Yes, I know we have a big L-shaped multi-room. But what with the hall into the bedrooms and the front door and the fireplace, we actually have a pretty small corner in which to put a conversation nook. The furniture can't be too big, or all we'll get is one recliner for six people, and that just doesn't sound fun.)

But-- I've been looking again, and it looks like contemporary-style furniture with a fairly compact footprint is back in, and I have found some choices.

This: (very similar in style to our sectional)
Or this: (I could get two of these, because of their size, and retain a little bit of sectional versatility)

Or maybe even this:


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Letting it Melt in My Mouth

I just realized last night that Christmas as we celebrate it now is a tradition whose days are numbered. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me before. In fact, we are already on borrowed time, since our children are 25, 23, 19 and nearly 17. They are all still living at home for various reasons, so our family style and structure has changed very little as of yet, and in many ways I consider myself fortunate, even while sometimes worrying that we are out of step with society's expectations. After all, most other young people aged 25, 23 and 19 are out of the house and on their own already.

So we still celebrate Christmas like we always have, since the kids were very young, and it looks like this:

On Christmas Eve, at bedtime, we set the table with our nicest stuff-- tablecloth, good dishes. Each person sets out their plate and covers it with a handkerchief. This is a handed-down tradition from Hubby's family, and used to be very common in Mennonite homes many years ago, except in those days, the hanky was put on later by the parents and was brand-new for the occasion.

Then the kids get a clean sock and tape it to the back of their chair, which is a little twist I added as a nod to my own family traditions. My grandpa always filled stockings for us.

After the kids are in bed, Hubby and I put their gifts on their plates, covered by the hanky. We fill the socks with nuts (peanuts, and in later years, pistachios), a candy bar, a tangerine, some little something (this year-- toothbrushes, and combs, and hair things), and any other little candies or whatnot that might be fun.

In the morning, we sit around the table and take turns, oldest to youngest, to uncover our plates and empty the socks, and see what everyone got.

Then it's time for Christmas breakfast, which has always been either Life cereal or Golden Grahams, both normally out of our budget, therefore special.

As the kids got older and began buying gifts for each other, we added a round of gift-opening sitting on the couch by the woodstove.

Last night I realized that this might possibly be the last Christmas we are all here to put out plates, because who knows what can happen in a year? And once the kids start moving out, the tradition will have to change in some way. Not that that will be bad, just-- different.

So today I am savoring the day, like a piece of Dove chocolate that you let melt on your tongue instead of biting it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Twelve Days of Redemption

I've been reading about the history of the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas." It's been interesting in light of the fact that there is a bit of a controversy concerning what the song is really talking about.

One prevailing opinion is that the song is a codified catechism that Catholics taught their children during a time of persecution. According to this theory, each item in the list represented a bit of scriptural knowledge, like this:

1 Partridge in a pear tree = The One true God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch" which contain the law condemning us of our sins.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Another prevailing notion is that the song was just a silly children's song used sort of like the memory games our children play. You know, like, "I'm going on a trip and I'm taking..." Each person recites the whole list up to that point, and then adds a new thing.

Some views say that the five gold rings represented the gold bands around the necks of pheasants, and the four calling birds were actually four "colly" birds, which were blackbirds. That makes perfect sense to me, seeing as blackbird pie was a "dainty dish" in those days. (Well, that's what the nursery rhyme says, so it MUST be true.)

My own personal, novel, idea is that it was a fun holiday song describing the Twelve Days of Christmas during medieval times. Have you ever read in your history book what feasts were like in those days? I can well believe that the holiday celebration included all those fowls, including the pheasants and blackbirds; probably roasted over the Yule log, or something. The "maids a'milking" would then symbolize all the butter and cream and cheese being consumed. And all those musicians and dancers were hired for the occasion.

There you go. A merry fortnight of feasting and partying in the local castle.

Just picture it:

On the first day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
A partridge in a pear tree. (Were there PEARS on that tree?)

On the second day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Four calling birds, (blackbirds, remember?)
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Five golden rings, (actually five pheasants)
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Six geese a-laying, (Hmm. Maybe this includes EGGS?)
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eight maids a-milking, (Milk! Cream! Cheese! Butter!)
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree!

But what about the hidden Christian meaning? Was that the true origin of the song, or was it an add-in later to give deeper meaning to the song? Well, I don't really know.

However, I know this: Any time we can redeem the secular or pagan origins of our traditions or holidays, it's a good thing.

There are those who disagree with this. They say we should avoid like the plague anything that has the slightest connection with pagan practices. But Christmas is all about redemption-- God sending Jesus to redeem fallen mankind. Why, then, shouldn't Christians redeem the pagan imagery of the holiday?

Christmas trees no longer stand for some pagan something-or-other. They help point us to the Creator.

Santa doesn't have to be just a jolly old fairy tale. He can represent all that is good and kind and giving during the holidays. He can even in a small way represent God.

Giving gifts can either be a materialistic sign of our collective greed, or it can remind us of the giving inherent in the whole story of Christmas: The magi bringing gifts to the Christ child; God himself giving his son to us, to redeem us and all that pertains to us.

So, in light of that, I wish you a Happy Redemption Season-- all twelve days of it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Christmas Reading

When our children were young, Christmas gatherings at Hubby's folks' always included a re-enactment of the Christmas story. All the grandkids went upstairs in Granny's house and found dress-up costumes and props, and put together a little pageant for the grownups. Over the years everybody pretty much got to play every part eventually, and it was fun for everyone.

But then the grandkids grew up. Gradually, we lost actors as they got older and felt self-conscious and "too old." Now the youngest is 10 and the oldest is 25. So one year I put together a "reading" of the Christmas story that was divided up into "parts" and included group singing. Now everyone, even the adults, can participate, and we still have the Christmas story included in our gathering.

I made several copies of this and handed it around, and everyone read aloud around the circle, each person reading the next paragraph. (The italics help differentiate the "parts." The blue print indicated songs.) It actually turned out very well, sounding like narration and speaking parts interspersed with audience participation. GuitarGeek played his guitar for us to sing along with.

The Story of Christmas

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was like this; for after his mother, Mary, was engaged to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, intended to put her away secretly. But when he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying,

“Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take to yourself Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She shall bring forth a son. You shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins.”

Now all this happened, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying,

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son.
They shall call his name Immanuel;” --which means, “God with us.”

Emmanuel, Emmanuel
His name is called Emmanuel
God with us, revealed in us
His name is called Emmanuel

Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took his wife to himself; but she remained a virgin until she had brought forth her firstborn son. And Joseph named him Jesus.

At that time the Emperor Augustus ordered a census of the Roman Empire. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All the people went to register in the cities where their forefathers had lived.

So Joseph went from Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a city called Bethlehem, in Judea. Joseph, a descendant of King David, went to Bethlehem because David had been born there. He went there to register with Mary, who had been promised to him in marriage and was pregnant.

While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have her child; so she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

Silent Night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

In the fields near Bethlehem there were shepherds taking turns watching their flock during the night. And look! an angel from the Lord suddenly appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone all around them, and they were terrified. The angel said to them,

"Don't be afraid! I have good news for you, a message that will fill everyone with joy. Today your Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in David's city. And this is how you will recognize him: You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

Suddenly, a multitude of angels appeared with the angel. They were praising God by saying,

"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace and good will toward men!"

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her king
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Then the angels left them and went back to heaven, and the shepherds said to each other,

"Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph with the baby, who was lying in a manger. When they saw it, they publicized widely the saying which was spoken to them about this child. All who heard it wondered at the things which were spoken to them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, just as it was told them.


Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying,

“Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.”

When Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he asked them where the Christ would be born. They said to him,

“In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written through the prophet,
‘You Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are in no way least among the princes of Judah:
For out of you shall come forth a governor,
Who shall shepherd my people, Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called the wise men, and learned from them exactly what time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, and said,

“Go and search diligently for the young child. When you have found him, bring me word, so that I also may come and worship him.”

They, having heard the king, went their way; and behold, the star, which they saw in the east, went ahead them, until it came and stopped over the place where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. They came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Opening their treasures, they offered to him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold him, born the king of angels

O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
Christ the Lord

But when it was time to leave, they went home another way, because God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying,

“Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”

He arose and took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod was dead, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and told him,

"Get up and take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead."

So Joseph returned immediately to Israel with Jesus and his mother, to their home in Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew and became strong in spirit and filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him.

Merry Christmas

TT#16: MORE Books Never Written

What?! It's Thursday already? I'm still working on Monday's To-Do list! That may have something to do with the fact that my to-do lists on Mondays are pretty optimistic, and I'm lucky to get it all done by Friday!

But onward with today's Thursday Thirteen. Once more, I present to you a list of books that could have been written, but weren't because the authors don't exist. This is a compilation of ideas from my kids, our friends, and myself.

The Joy of Trying New Recipes, by May B. Good

Guide to Over Eating, by Ima Hogg

Selecting Fancy Light Fixtures, by Crystal Shanda Lear

When I'm Famous, by Hansel Clapp

Gourmet Cooking for 600, by Bernie Black and E.T. Enniway

My Grandpa was a Church Janitor, by Dusty Church

Automobile Mechanics, by Carl Gogh

Hunting Blinds and How To Use Them, by M. Heiden

A Documentary of Hurricane Andrew, by Wendy Daye and Stormie Knight

My Life as a Thief, by Robin Witta Gunn

A History of Comedy, by Whit E. Fellowes

Encouraging Your Young Child To Succeed, by N. Abel

Communication in a Marriage, by I. Tock and U. Tock

Do you have any book ideas to add?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

In which I tell of all the living I've been doing lately

For the last week I've been so busy living life, I haven't really had time to write about it.

Last Thursday we participated in a homeschool Christmas concert. It was being put on in a small town theater about two hours away from here. We were, once again, the big shots from out of town. Our part of the concert went well, in spite of the fact that 1) we had all been taking turns being sick --too sick to practice-- in the weeks leading up to the concert, and 2) I had a violin string break right before our turn on stage. Aack. Fortunately, I usually keep spare strings, so I was able to fix the problem, but GuitarGeek and the concert host took turns telling jokes to keep the audience occupied while I frantically fitted a new string and tried to tune it. Talk about adrenaline.

Oh, and 3) I was in the middle of my turn for the Big Cold, and was working on laryngitis. If I sang very quietly right into the mic and concentrated real hard, I could make my voice come out and keep it from cracking. Mostly.

After the concert, all the participants were invited for chili at the Baker's house, and we had a great time. The chili was just what my cold wanted; the friendship was wonderful and heartening. Therefore we didn't manage to tear ourselves away till after midnight. Which means we didn't get home till after two, and didn't get to bed till three. It's actually good we go to bed as soon as that, since we heat our house with wood, and we had to re-light the fire after being gone for twelve hours and get the stove going good before we could sleep.

Friday evening Hubby and I went with our friend Swede to a bible class we are considering enrolling in. While we were out, it began snowing. And snowing. At the end of the class another friend invited us out for a bite. Actually what he said was that he and his wife needed a fix of "cheap tacos." Oh how I wanted to go! He jokingly said we'd be done by midnight or one-- and I knew how close to the truth that actually was-- and the three o'clock bedtime of the night/morning before rose up and taunted me. Plus, the roads were fast becoming unfriendly, so we regretfully declined and made our slow way home.

We got home around eleven and ending up waiting up till midnight anyway for MandoNut who was driving out from the Big City a hour away to spend the weekend with us. He hadn't made it yet because of the snow. But he got here, and we all headed to bed, knowing we'd possibly be snowed in in the morning.

Saturday we finished putting back the chaos from the painting project and cleaned house, all in between long, interesting conversations with MandoNut.

Sunday we had a crowd of friends over for worship/music/prayer/fellowship, and soup, so now our living room has the drum set and the guitar rig and the bass rig set up in it. This is not the first time I've been grateful for our open living space, our expanding table, and our versatile sectional couch!

Yesterday, LovelyDaughter and I went Christmas shopping. In spite of my optimistic hopes, we didn't get it all done. We weren't able to head out till mid-afternoon, so there just wasn't time. However, my cold, in addition to causing me to lose sleep at night, has greatly reduced my stamina, so it was just as well. I actually only have two gifts left to get, and the candy for the stockings, and I may do that this afternoon.

I had hoped to have the re-decorating all done before Christmas, as sort of a Christmas present to myself, but I think it's too much pressure to put on myself. I might get the ceiling done, if I can do it around all the music gear. I'd better find some BIG tarps! The trim will have to wait till after Christmas, I'm thinkin'.

It's been good. The big family Christmas gathering is next Sunday, and then we're home free, and MandoNut might come for Christmas, and maybe Swede, and LovelyDaughter and I will spend time together in the kitchen making all kinds of good food for all of our guys and it will be good. Very good.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

TT# 15: Books Never Written

Cleaning out my ancient emails the other day, I found a "conversation" with several friends where we had exchanged ideas for silly book titles and sillier authors. I think I remember something like this going around when I was a kid. Here are thirteen of the ones we came up with, including the ones that came in the original forward that got us started.

How to Write Big Books, by Warren Peace

I Lost My Balance, by Eileen Dover and Phil Down

The German Bank Robbery, by Hans Zupp

I Hate the Sun, by Gladys Knight

Prison Security, by Barb Dwyer

How I Won the Marathon, by Randy Holeway

The Lion Attacked, by Claude Yarmoff

Take This Job and Shove it, by Ike Witt

How to Say No, by Ida Wahna

Scaling the Empire State Building, by I.M. Skaird

The Art of Skyscraper Acrobatics, by Howie Duzzit Idunowe

Cowboy Cooking, by Chuck Waggon

A History of the Mennonites in Siberia, edited by Wiebe, Friesen, Fast

[These last author names are real names, by the way, and they are also the punch line to a local joke which is: "What do you call three Mennonites in a snow bank?" When you pronounce them correctly the answer sounds like "We be freezin' fast!]

And now, how about you? Do you have any ideas for imaginary books written by non-existent authors? I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Today's Episode of The Good, The Bad, and The Bright (Side)

I woke up today feeling both good and bad. I had energy and motivation, and was in a good mood, deep down. But I also was fighting a cold, which made me tired and grouchy; which seemed to make my whole day play out the same way, and for a while I couldn't decide if I was having a good day or a bad day.

However, there's a bright side to everything. For example, the bright side to being energetic while miserable, is.... that at least I'm getting something done, in spite of it...?

Well, it was easier to spell it out over the rest of the day. Like this...

Good: We remembered to get cereal yesterday so we could have breakfast today.
Bad: We forgot the milk.
Bright Side: We had biscuits and hot tea instead.

Good: I got a batch of bread baked.
Bad: In the process, I dropped my yeast jar on the floor and spilled dry yeast everywhere. And I didn't feel like cleaning up another mess!
Bright Side: The jar wasn't full, so it wasn't as big of a mess as it could have been. And I didn't spill ALL of it, so I can still bake a couple more batches of bread.

Good: I got the trim off the wall by myself.
Bad: I put two dinks in two of the freshly painted walls trying to maneuver that long piece of trim.
Bright Side: They can be touched up, and will blend in with all the other older dinks.

Good: Cleaned out the heretofore unknown mouse chewings and droppings back in the corner behind LovelyDaughter's art desk.
Bad: We have MICE???
Bright Side: I think the mice are long gone, but if not, we can set mouse traps.

Good: The back and underside of my rolltop desk is clean.
Bad: I'm still trying not to be grossed out by how much spiderwebby dust there was. What kind of slobs are we?
Bright Side: At least it's clean NOW.

Good: I got the rolltop desk moved away from the wall.
Bad: I had to nearly break my back and the desk doing it myself before anyone would come help me, even though I asked for help.
Bright Side: At least it got done, and I didn't really break my back. And the desk may have been cracked already.

Good: I got all the furniture moved, and all the painting done.
Bad: Everything is in huge chaos, and it all has to be put back.
Bright Side: The chaos is not bothering anyone but me, so I think I'll chill. It will get done, in time.

Good: Estimated time painting one wall-- 20 minutes.
Bad: Estimated prep time, including moving furniture, taking apart the homemade brick-and-board shelving, laying out newspaper and dropclothes, cleaning up the dirt and cobwebs behind the furniture and off the walls, and assembling the painting supplies-- one to two hours, depending which wall. (And that doesn't include how long it's going to take me to put everything back.)
Bright Side: At least the painting is fast. Imagine how long it would take if the painting itself took as long as the rest of it.

Good: The paint color I chose looks wonderful on the living room walls.
Bad: It doesn't look so great on the wood floor where I dropped a large splot of it.
Bright Side: I think I can scrape the splot up. The floor is oiled, and it appears the paint did not actually soak in. I hope.

Good: I got lots done today.
Bad: I'm too tired to go to a Christmas party we are invited to tonight.
Bright Side: We just found out the road conditions are pretty snowy and icy, so we probably wouldn't go anyway. (It's a 90 mile round trip, approximately, which can be miserable in bad weather.)

Actually, It looks wonderful in here, in spite of the chaos. So far, incredibly, it's turning out like I pictured, so I can hardly wait to make the rest of the trim and put up the curtains, and get the furniture rearranged. Even though it's taking much LONGER than I'd hoped, and is much more WORK, because of all the CLEANING I'm ending up doing, it's still good. It's going to look like a new and much cheerier-- and cleaner-- place when I'm done.

Final assessment: BRIGHT.

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's Cold and Dreary Outside, But Warm and Sunny Inside

I've been working on getting my re-decorating done in time for Christmas, and it's been a long slog. Somehow this has turned into not just re-painting, but a cross between fall house cleaning and moving. The dust I've found! The spider webs! The papers and books and catalogs and magazines I've had to DO something with! The re-thinking of furniture placement!

I've got the kitchen and dining areas painted, and now two walls of the living area, and I'm happy to report that my two shades of yellow are looking nice, as I'd hoped, and not overwhelming, as I'd feared. The lighter shade looks very sunny and happy, as I've mentioned before, and the darker shade is almost the exact shade of buckskin, and looks very cozy and warm. And now, though the project is not yet completely finished, the house feels bright and cheerful, even on these cold, gray days we've been having lately.

The great thing is, not only do I like it, but so do all four of my kids. I think Hubby likes it, too, but he's reserving his judgment till it's all done and he can see if it grows on him.

If all goes well, I will try to post pictures eventually, so you can see what I've been up to.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Of fairy tales, and children, and the kingdom of Heaven

Last night LovelyDaughter and I dug out our video of "Frosty The Snowman." I think maybe --heaven forbid-- we're getting too old to watch it. Because we started noticing things we'd never noticed before. Hence, the following list of:

THING ONLY ADULTS NOTICE about the story of Frosty

1. The explanation for the snow being special is

a) it's the first snowfall of the year
b) it's Christmas snow

So which one is it? Or is it special when the first snowfall happens at Christmas?

2. The kids are in school till three o'clock. But then later we're told it's Christmas Eve. Since when do kids go to school till mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve?

3. And then, when Karen hops the train with Frosty, she's only concerned about getting home for dinner, not getting home in time to have Christmas Eve celebrations. Strange kid.

4. Nobody in the story ever closes a door! (Except of course when the evil magician slams the door on Frosty and Karen. So... what, the door doesn't open from the inside?) Not even Santa when he comes to rescue Frosty and Karen, but then a few minutes later he goes and OPENS the door and lets a cold breeze in. Who closed it?

5. When Frosty goes belly-flopping, he must have turned to ice. Otherwise, wouldn't he have done what all other cartoon and movie snowballs do, and gather more snow and turn into a monstrously HUGE snowball?

6. When the ticket agent at the train station makes up a ticket to the North Pole he lists many of the stops along the way, including Hudson Bay and Nome, Alaska-- which are at opposite sides of the continent! (I know this was probably put in for the humor, but still...)

7. When Santa brings Karen home, he leaves her on the roof! Poor Karen-- stuck on a snowy roof. And there's not even a chimney for her to go down!

These are all aside from the total improbability of the entire story,

And yet-- "Frosty" is still a cute, fun story. It's a modern fairy tale, complete with a hero, an evil magician, a funny sidekick, a damsel in distress, a rescuer, plenty of magic, and a happy ending.

We all rejoice with the kids when Frosty gets to keep his hat.

We worry with them about getting Frosty to a place where he won't melt, and agonize with Frosty when Karen needs to get warmed up.

We are relieved when she finds a warm place, and infuriated when the evil magician is so small-minded that he sacrifices Karen's and Frosty's well-being for the sake of getting back his hat.

We cry with Karen over Frosty's demise.

We're thrilled when Frosty is restored.

We laugh delightedly to see Santa play his trump card of "no presents EVER" and shout "Yes!" when the evil magician succumbs to the threat.

We're glad at how easy it was to get rid of him forever, since really he was just a selfish, overgrown child, and not that evil, really.

And then we love having the story all wrapped up tidily, with Karen brought back home in time for Christmas, and Frosty, we assume, going to live with Santa forever, where he'll never melt.

(At least, all tied up tidily except we don't know how Karen is going to get down off her roof in the middle of the night-- but never mind that.)

Of course, I don't actually do any of these things OUT LOUD. After all, I'm over forty. But somewhere the little girl in me IS doing those things.

And that is one of the best things about Christmas-- It brings out the child in all of us. And wasn't it Christ himself who said that to enter the kingdom of heaven we must become as little children?

In this season, we are very close to the kingdom of heaven. Here's hoping you enter in.

[Image from Classy Announcements

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

TT#14: My Dream Christmas List of Things to Give and Things to Get

Thirteen Things about momhuebert

I wish I had plenty of money this time of year (well, any time of year actually....) because of all the things I wish I could get for my husband and my kids. But I don't, so I can't, and more's the pity.

So to remedy this, at least in part, I decided to "pretend" shop.

Kind of like the game LovelyDaughter plays with her young cousin at family gatherings: go through the Penney's catalog and "buy" one thing from every page. I actually played with them at Thanksgiving, and it can get kinda hard on some pages ("well, if I were an old lady, I'd buy that pair of shoes") and pretty funny on other pages ("um, if I were a guy, I'd buy those underwear") and there is lots of laughing and joking.

What I've done here is make a list of things I know my family would love to have and pretend that I really could buy them for Christmas. Kids, if you read this: Merry Christmas!-- with all my heart, if not with money.

Somehow it scratches an itch. I have half a mind to print out all these pictures and put them on the more inexpensive things I will end up really buying, with a note: I may look like a giant bag of Skittles, but at heart I'm a leather jacket, just for you.

Anyway, without further ado, here's My Wishful List of Christmas Gifts.

First off, for Hubby.

1. These custom made Carl Dyer moccasins, called Ring Boots.

2. This suede jacket (from Territory Ahead) that looks like an upgraded version of the Carharrt work jackets he likes, only this one would be for driving around in our BMW Z3.

For GuitarGeek, our oldest son:

3. One or two or three of these shirts from The Territory Ahead.

4. This "Leather Hoodie," also from Territory Ahead. Actually, I'd like to buy him half the catalog (the men's half, of course). It all looks like him.

For LovelyDaughter:

5. This candle holder:

6. This coat (from Woolrich):

For DrummerDude, our 19-year-old:

7. This camera (a Fuji S8000fd)

8. This laptop (a black MacBook-- woohoo!)

For MB3, who is 16, almost 17:

9. A cowboy hat, maybe like this one...

10. These absolutely cool leather pants

And now, three things for myself.

11. This audio bible:

12. And this, to listen to it with:

13. Fancy chocolate (imagine that!)-- lots of it; rich, dark, maybe with nuts....

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bizzy, Bizzy, Bizzy

I feel a little like that character in the story of Frosty the Snowman-- you know, the bumbling magician who unintentionally gave Frosty his magic hat? I can't remember the story very well, but I can hear him (unless it was someone else altogether) saying "Bi-zzy, Bi-zzy, Bi-zzy." Well, I've been busy, busy, busy, too.

Last week I painted our kitchen and dining room. And then we spent the weekend at a church conference, being on the worship team. We left everything torn up while we were gone, which was a big step for me. I'm usually obsessive about leaving the house in good order when we leave, because I hate coming home to a mess.

However, the point is, we've been busy, and we no longer have renter beige walls, we have "Golden Margarita." (Kilz Casual Colors; available at any Walmart near you.) I put up my four panels in four colors (Croscill Classics, Manchester Button-down Drapes, in Red, Gold, Natural, and Sage-- from Penney's) on the dining room window, and my plaid valance (in the same four colors; Park Designs, bought at Auntie Em's at the mall) on the kitchen window, and it all looks wonderful. Hubby is not sure he likes it. He's making me keep the old (like, over twenty years old) renter beige drapes, just in case. Grrr. But everyone else loves the new look. It feels sunny and happy; and the red, gold, natural, and sage of the new curtains just sets off the yellow walls.

However, now I don't know what to paint the living room. It is the long side of the L of our living space, and I bought "Golden Rod" for it, which is a deeper shade of yellow, but now I'm afraid it will be overkill. I don't want the room to go from "sunny and happy" to "noon time in Death Valley."

I've considered two options:

1) choose another color of paint (assuming Hubby doesn't kill this idea, since it would be a waste of twenty bucks if I don't use my gallon of Golden Rod.)

2) go ahead and use it, but sponge paint over it a couple of other colors to tone it down. I would use the leftover Golden Margarita, and maybe a tan or brown, and a green. Maybe even a terracotta/brick type color, to match our fireplace.

If I choose another color completely, then I am at a total loss what color to pick. I don't want too dark of a color, because I don't want the room to feel hard to light. Should I go with another shade of off-white, or light brown, or green (if it doesn't clash with my avocado sage green couch), or...or... oh, I don't know. You see my problem here.

I know some of you gals are great decorators and have a good eye for color. What would you do?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

TT#13: Thirteen Things I Like To Do

Thirteen Things about momhuebert

Thirteen Things I Like To D

ride in a convertible with the top down and the heated seats on
take a walk at sunset

light a fire

sit by the woodstove in the fireplace

get lost in a good book

hang out laundry

watch birds on the bird feeder in winter

read good blogs

laugh out loud

soak my feet in warm olive oil water

drink hot tea with rich chocolate dessert

read or watch happy endings

fall asleep

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This Explains Some Things....

Hmmm. For what it's worth....

Your Personality is Very Rare (INTP)

Your personality type is goofy, imaginative, relaxed, and brilliant.

Only about 4% of all people have your personality, including 2% of all women and 6% of all men
You are Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Perceiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wish Me Luck

Well, I'm on my way to buy paint.

I've had a bee in my bonnet, a fire in my belly, too much grass growing under my feet, and moss gathering on my non-rolling stone. It's time to do something different with our living space after twenty years.

By some standards (i.e., my family's hillbilly standards), I believe we probably have another twenty years before we need to re-decorate, but there are some of you wondering how I managed to live with our decorating scheme for even five years.

My theory up till now has been that the house is the canvas for the people who live in it. Meaning, people and their stuff are the focal point, and the walls and windows are to be a non-entity, to stay in the background and make a nice, unnoticeable foundation for the "real" life that was happening. And with a small house full of six people who have lots of creative hobbies, we have plenty of stuff to focus on.

Plus, I was scared to death that I'd get tired of anything less inconspicuous, and heaven knows it's expensive and a lot of work to paint and decorate, and why would I want to do it more than once? Therefore, our walls are painted cream, our curtains are cream, our light fixtures are cream....

We have a little relief in that we have a large brick fireplace and hearth, and we have medium dark hardwood floors. However, it's time.

And lately I've had a change of philosophy. I've been in some homes that were actually "decorated," not just thrown together with sale items from Walmart, and I was impressed. Not with the expensive-ness (well, that too), but with the atmosphere that had been created. I didn't realize how paint, and furniture, and useless decorative items lend a certain air to a room and communicate a message. That message can be "I'm rich," and "Don't touch," or "This is a place to relax," and "You're home now." Mostly I was only familiar with the "Don't Touch" variety of "Home Decorating" but now I've seen the "Relax, be comfortable, be at home" variety, and I want that for my house.

In addition, I have also been in some homes lately that were renter beige. Somehow, it just left me cold. And then I came home and looked at my house, and saw it with new eyes. Aack! It's not "cream," it's renter beige!


I've spent several weeks thinking, imagining, and picturing, and I think I've got a plan. Last week I picked out tentative paint colors. Yesterday LovelyDaughter and I went shopping and bought curtains. I figured I'd better find curtains now, and match the paint to them, instead of trying to do it the other way around. Paint is easy to adjust, but finding window coverings I like, in colors I like and that match, and that fit my budget-- that's a job.

Our house is very small, and the main living area one big L-shaped room, with the "living room" as one leg, and "kitchen" and "dining room" as the other. So the avocado refrigerator is a major decorating item, and must be kept in mind. Fortunately, our couch is also vintage avocado green, so that sort of ties together.

Here's the plan. I want to capitalize on the green, which is pretty close to today's "sage" green. With sage, and brick red (from the fireplace) as my foundation, I think a sunny light golden yellow (perhaps sponge painted with several shades) on the walls will brighten everything up and make our living space feel cozy. I hope.

Dark wood floors, yellow walls, creamy white ceilings, sage green and brick red for accents. What have I forgotten? Oh-- the windows.

We have two picture windows, one by the couch and one by the dining table. The living room window will get a scarf-y fabric that has a faint golden bronze print. Just something to cover the window at night to eliminate the large black square we have now when it's dark out. The dining room window gets heavy curtains-- the fabric feels like a light blanket or throw-- in place of the off-white drapes it has now. I'm experimenting with panels of different colors-- one red, one sage, one gold, one cream. If that's a little overwhelming, maybe I can just do two colors, to pick up on the sponge painting theme. I have 90 days to exchange or return them, so I hope I should have my mind made up before then!

My goal is to have it done for Christmas. Why? I'm not sure. It's a way to prepare ourselves for the season of Christmas, and of being cooped up in the house during the dark and dreary cold and cloudy days of winter.

I hope it turns out well. I can't rid myself of the nasty feeling that I've just spent all the kids' Christmas money on the house! Oh well. Uh, Merry Christmas, kids!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving: His and Mine

Hubby and I are from different backgrounds, as perhaps are a lot of couples. I'm from Kansas City, with Swedish roots on one side and hillbilly roots on the other. My hubby is German Mennonite all the way. Hubby and I met at college, and when he went home and told his folks about me, the first thing they asked is "Is she Mennonite?"

Of course, my family's traditions were very different from his family's. On my mother's side we had the exact same holiday menu for every single holiday. Here it is:

--Grandpa's homemade punch (as an appetizer while the meal was cooking)


--Mashed potatoes (made with "real" potatoes, as Uncle John used to always say. When I was little I had to ask what that meant. My mom always made mashed potatoes with potato flakes.)

--Giblet gravy

--Cornbread dressing/stuffing

--Buttered green beans

--Relish tray with cottage cheese, black olives, cranberry sauce, pickled beets, and cream cheese-stuffed celery. (Each of these items was-- I guess still is-- mandatory. Heaven forbid that you forget any of them!)

--Dinner rolls (used to be always homemade, and still are if I'm there. We live far enough away that we don't always make it.)

--Pumpkin pie with Cool Whip

--Pecan pie

--Mincemeat pie (at least when Grandpa was alive; no one else eats it.)

Now, on Hubby's side the menu is completely different. It looks like this:

--Ham (Pork is not the other white meat, it's the only meat.)

--Verenike (pronounced ver-RRAN-ick-kyuh) This is a Russian dish, actually, which the German mennonites learned to make when they were settlers in Russia for a hundred years, before they all emigrated here. It's noodle dough made in the shape of little turnovers and filled with dry curd cottage cheese and egg and salt and pepper. It's heavenly when drowned in...

--Onion cream gravy (made with lots of onions and real cream.)

--Tweiback/tweibach/zweibach (pronounced either TWAY-buck, or ZWEE-buck. Low German is not a written language, so no one knows how to spell anything. Take your pick which spelling you like.) It's a kind of bread. Literally, the name means, "two bake." They're made of two balls of dough, one on top of the other. If you tear the top ball off, you see that the bottom half now has a crater which just begs to be filled with...

--Homemade jelly. We usually have two kinds-- one is always mulberry.

--Pluma Mos (Plume-uh-mohs) Um, how do I explain this? It's sort of a fruit soup. Picture prunes or plums and lots of raisins in sweet, thickened milk. You can make it with apples or cherries, but then it would be Oppel Mos, or Cherry Mos. I remember a elderly woman giving a talk on her Christmas memories and she said, "Now I'm old enough to not have to eat pluma mos!" You either love it or you hate it.

--Baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows

--Jello salad, either carrot-orange, or something the grandkids fondly call, "Fish Eye Jello." (I think it's made with pearl tapioca, but I don't usually get close enough to tell.)

These are what Hubby's mother makes. Then every year we have various dishes, contributed by the daughters-in-law, which could be any or several of the following:

--green bean casserole
--corn casserole
--seven layer salad
--potato casserole

--Dessert. Which also varies. Either pie (pumpkin, apple, chocolate, or pecan), or something rich made of cherries and cream cheese. Or pumpkin and cream cheese. Or cherries and whipped cream. Or pumpkin and whipped cream. Or chocolate and cream cheese and whipped cream.

That is just half of Thanksgiving, however. In this neck of the woods, I mean prairie, there is also "Lunch," which is the late afternoon/early evening meal. Lunch consists of ham, ring bologna, chunks of cheese, jello salad, taco salad, ramen noodle salad (or whatever it's called), tweiback, lots of mustard and ketchup and barbecue sauce, and about six kinds of dessert. There, now please help carry all the chairs back upstairs and take the tables down and you can all go home.

If we go back one more generation, you will find another completely different tradition. When Hubby's grandmother was still hosting holidays we would be treated to the traditional meal that Hubby's dad's generation grew up on:

--Ring bologna
--Fried potatoes
--Baked beans
--Plum Mos

The reason for this slightly odd menu was this: In those days in this small community, there was a church service on every holiday and everyone went to church in the morning. The mothers of the families would prepare ahead in order to have food ready when they all got home. The ring bologna was store-bought for the occasion. The potatoes were baked ahead, ready to cut up and fry when the family got home. The baked beans were simmering in the oven all morning. Everything else was made the day before. Even as times changed, this remained a traditional holiday meal.

Sometimes I wonder what I will do when it's my turn to host holidays. Which footsteps will I follow? I know Hubby will want me to carry on his family's food tradition. But I'd like to keep mine as well. Besides, sometimes I miss turkey for the holidays. We never have turkey! (Unless we happen to manage the trip to Kansas City for the holidays.) So here's my plan: Keep my family's turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. And after having my fill of turkey, I'll gladly make ham and verenike for Christmas and Easter. At least, that's MY idea. Check back in a few years...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

TT #12: Thirteen Likes and Dislikes

I wanted to make another "like" list today, but I found I was having a hard time. Too many things I thought of were repeats from previous lists. I started feeling pretty boring. Are those the only things I like?

Finally I got the idea to make a list of things I DON'T like, and then use that as sort of an opposite list. It makes sense that if I don't like some things, I probably do like the opposite. So here you go:

13 things I dislike, and 13 corresponding things I do like.

I don't like/
I DO like

getting along
being late
being on time, or even a little early
feeling behind
being caught up
not sleeping well
good, refreshing sleep
bad dreams
no dreams, or very good dreams
dissonant music
beautiful harmony
the smell of trash burning
the smell of fresh air
foul language
interesting, clean vocabulary
monongamy and faithfulness
big city traffic
country roads

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Yeah, What She Said....

A year or so ago, we jumped on the bandwagon that our extended family was on and tried the South Beach Diet. Not because we especially need to lose weight, but because the family members who were eating that way said they not only lost weight, but they felt better. And we were definitely all for feeling better. What I found was another benchmark in our striving to eat healthy. I began doing what I call "shopping the perimeter." Do you realize that most of the healthiest food in the store is parked around the edges? The meat, the produce, the dairy. It's "real" food, un-preprocessed. Now I shop the perimeter with occasional dips into the center for things like baking supplies and grains and peanut butter. In the words of Madame Blueberry, "there are whole AISLES" I don't even go down now.

Go here and read what Carrien says about buying food that's good for you. She has written pretty much what I would have written if I'd thought to write it!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wine Update

The MD 20/20 went to The Big Wine Cellar In The Sky, otherwise known as Down the Drain. It was fit for neither man nor beast, and I know because we and the cats both sniffed disdainfully at it and turned away after one sip. Also, despite the fact that it smells like fuel, it doesn't burn worth a darn.

Our next try, at the suggestion of Carrie, was Yellowtail Merlot (which I found, to my chagrin, is not pronounced MER-lot, but mer-LOW.) Honestly, we couldn't tell much difference. There was the not sense that we were poisoning ourselves, like with the MD 20/20, but the taste was awfully similar to our bourgeoisie tastebuds.

Our third try was champagne, which we liked, but is impractical for everyday use.

Besides, it still doesn't resemble this:

"Here you are, mother," said Bacchus, dipping a pitcher in the cottage well and handing it to her. But what it was now was not water but the richest wine, red as red-currant jelly, smooth as oil, strong as beef, warming as tea, cooling as dew.

"Eh, you've done something to our well," said the old woman. "That makes a nice change, that does." And she jumped out of bed.

[from Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis.}

Or this:

...a flask half full (he knew there were some people who would have said half empty) of a quite palatable wine-- rather frisky, with some floral notes and a nice, lingering, jaunty sort of finish."

[from Once Upon a Marigold, by Jean Ferris.]

Or even this:

Then Mrs. Beaver handed round in the dark a little flask out of which everyone drank something-- it made one cough and splutter a little and stung the throat but it also made you feel deliciously warm after you'd swallowed it-- and everyone went straight to sleep.

[from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis.]

I figure, if I can't have wine that tastes good at least it should put me to sleep.

However, last night I found a redeeming use for the Merlot: You make your pork loin drink it.

I cut up some pork loin into chunky strips and splashed a generous amount of Merlot all over it. Generous, meaning, I think I drowned the poor meat, but it didn't look at all sorry, since I've never seen meat absorb liquid like that. Whatever I think of wine, the pork liked it.

I stirred the meat and wine around, and sprinkled ginger and sugar all over it, and then sauteed it in peanut oil till it was done. And oh my, oh my! That meat was tender and very, very tasty. It was a hit, and the wine saved itself from demise.

So, do you have any other great uses for wine that do not involve actually drinking it?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Chocolate After Dinner, aka Chocolate Love

I made brownies last night. We haven't had just ordinary, unhealthy, rich, chocolate-y brownies for a long time.

When it was time to serve, we thought, what are brownies without ice cream? So LovelyDaughter offered to run to the local grocery store and grab some while we waited. And she brought not only ice cream, but also whipped topping.

So I dished myself up a piece of brownie, and Hubby topped it with a scoop of chocolate ice cream, because he knows that, for me, there can never be too much chocolate, and then I put a dollop of whipped topping on it. I took one bite and Hubby said, "Stop. Stop eating right now. Just wait."

So I stopped mid-chew, and what did he do? He found a piece of Dove dark chocolate and a grater:
I think he loves me.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Note to Self-- In Case of Fire, Break Out This List

Thirteen Things from momhuebert

I've been reading about the California fires, and how people have to evacuate their homes quickly, and also I read this, which got me to thinking about what I would do in a similar situation. And I really don't know. I'm pretty sure my decision-maker would freeze up in a panic, and either I'd end up taking nothing, or taking really silly things, like my shampoo, or a a necklace, or something. So I decided to think it through and come up with a list.

This list is assuming we have to leave home quickly, say in 15 minutes, for an unknown period of time, and be going somewhere where we may not have necessities handy. If it were a fire-- after making sure the kids (the youngest is 16) were alerted and safe-- I'd just grab the first four things and run. I'm sure everyone else in the family would have their own four things they'd want to grab, in addition to the survival gear, but with six of us, I'm sure we could be packed and out of there in 15 minutes. Maybe less. Kinda makes me want to have a trial run, just to see if we can do it. Hmm. Maybe I should institute "Evacuation Drills" aka, "Packing for a Trip." Fifteen minutes sure beats several hours-- or days!-- of getting ready to leave....

Anyway, here's the list:

Thirteen things I'd grab in case of evacuation.

1. my purse (because it has in it--among other miscellaneous stuff--my PDA, my bible, my water bottle, my drivers license and bank cards, any cash I may have, and a hairbrush.)

2. my laptop

3. my violin

4. my winter quilt that I made

5. thermoses of water, as many as we have time to fill.

6. our campstove with fuel

7. our "campout box," which is a relatively small storage tote with everything in it for cooking and eating: cast iron skillet, mixing bowl, plates, cutlery, cups, salt and pepper, utensils, napkins, etc. We use it for camping.

8. tents, sleeping bags, and pillows.

9. our "shower bags" and towels-- each person has a travel bag with travel size soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc, for travelling and camping.

10. any non-perishable food we have in the house, e.g. bread, noodles, dried fruit, peanut butter, potatoes, canned goods; possibly some frozen food, for use right away.

11. toilet paper

12. flashlight and batteries, or lanterns, or both

13. whatever clothing can be stuffed quickly into a backpack.

I have just compared my list to the recommended experts' list and I'm doing pretty good except for one thing. I should have all my family's important documents packaged up and ready to go. I'm embarrassed to admit it never crossed my mind. So I either forget the flashlights, or I add number 14:

14. important family documents (hopefully already rounded up and in one easily grab-able format.)

Hubby said that if he were making this list, he'd bring some tools or a chainsaw, so I guess this is still not a definitive list for us. However, living in Nebraska, the likelihood of an evacuation for forest fires or hurricanes is very slim, which I guess just bears out our state motto, which is "Nebraska, the good life."

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wordless Wednesday-- Can You Guess?

No, you can't, so I'll tell you. This is my absolute favorite photo of ME, taken in 1962.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Of Lava Lamps and Chocolate

We had a great experience Saturday night. We have a friend, MandoNut, who lives in nearby BigCity. He is divorced, and lonely, with no other family close by. He earns a living trucking so he often calls to talk to GuitarGeek while he's driving. That man gets more use out of his cell phone than anyone else I know. It's also not unusual for him to spend a free weekend at our place, and I try to fill him up with good home-cooked food while we laugh and talk around the table.

Once a year his mom and stepdad come for a visit, and when they come they like to take MandoNut's friends out to eat, partly for the fun of it, and partly to say thank you to MandoNut's friends for being MandoNut's friends. (Is this cool, or what?) This is the second year our family has been blessed to be numbered in MandoNut's special friends.

Now, MandoNut's folks like to do it right when they do it, and they brush aside ideas of what we call fancy restaurants, and they take us to NICE (read EXPENSIVE) places.

We were to meet on Saturday, and on Friday MandoNut called to ask if we had a preference as to where to eat. Well, no. I just said, "Not Amigos." He had two ideas, one being a fancy steakhouse where they marinate the steak in wine, the other being one that served Indian cuisine that involved lamb, seafood, and lots of vegetables. LovelyDaughter and I voted for the Indian food; I wanted to try lamb and LovelyDaughter likes trying new things. All the carnivores in our house voted for STEAK-- GIMMIE STEAK! Because of course, they like not only identifiable meat, but they want it to be BEEF; because, of course, it's what's for dinner. Of course.

Saturday afternoon we drove to BigCity early so GuitarGeek could pick up his new prescription sunglasses (and does he ever look scary in them), and to buy new jeans for MB3, since the only ones he has that fit him are pretty air-conditioned. After that was done, we drove downtown, parked in a parking garage, and walked around the corner to the restaurant. Do any of you see how ritzy this is? Of course, if you live in a big city and spend a lot of time parking in parking garages and walking around downtown it will sound pretty mundane. But believe me when I say we felt pret-ty snazzy.

Then we walked up to the doors of the restaurant. They had their menu on a plaque outside. All I could think was "Oh my goodness, I'm glad we're not paying!" And when we walked inside all I could think was, "Oh my goodness, I think we're not dressed up enough." We weren't feeling snazzy anymore, more like country hicks surrounded by sophisticated city people with a whole lot more money than we have. Even the waiters looked fancier. But we didn't let on, we just acted like we eat at these kinds of places all the time, and told the hostess we were waiting for the rest of our group.

We sat down on the window seat provided for waiting customers and hoped someone we knew would come rescue us. We got to watch a stream of people walk by to the down stairs where there was a surprise party gearing up for the arrival of the surprise-ees, and listen to the gal giving instructions: "Grab a party hat and noisemakers; they're on their way, and Kim is buying domestic bottles." I can write that because I heard her say it quite a few times. I'm still not sure what "domestic bottles" are, but I'm guessing she meant someone was treating everyone to bottles of wine as long as it wasn't imported. I assume imported wine is more expensive. (If I'm wrong you can tell me, but I hope I guessed right, and if I did, you can tell me that too.)

Suddenly, our host appeared and he led us back to the table. They had been there the whole time, but we didn't know it, and they hadn't taken a reservation, just a table, so their name wasn't on the list. Good thing they found us.

We spent way too long some time choosing our meals. This was quite an eclectic restaurant, and I was totally thrilled when I found that the carnivores and the adventurous among us would all be satisfied. Here's what we ate:

Me-- lamb with vegetables and quinoa

LovelyDaughter-- salmon with mango chutney and fancy rice

Hubby-- Steak with "pommes." (in other words, he ordered what he orders everywhere: beef with french fries. Would it surprise you to know that he's always the first to be ready to order?)

GuitarGeek-- same.

DrummerDude-- some sort of Brazilian seafood stew with shrimp and mussels and other things. (I guess he's more into trying new things than the other males in the family.)

MB3-- Buffalo Steak and mashed sweet potatoes. (I couldn't believe he voluntarily ordered mashed sweet potatoes, but I think the call of the buffalo must have been stronger.)

This may not sound fancy, exactly. But it was. Nearly everything had fruit in it: the quinoa had berries, and so did the rice, and so did the salad-- one of the best salads I've ever had by the way. Did you know that blue cheese and sunflower seeds and dried cranberries taste marvelous together? I had no idea and I would have never put them together myself, but it was very good.

After the meal the waitress came by with a long platter with one of each kind of dessert they offer. I had no intention before that moment of having dessert. I was so full I had given half of my plateful to MB3. (Teenage boys make eating out worth our money. I don't know what I'll do when they leave, because I, by myself, do not eat enough to be worth the expense.) But when she held that platter of beautifully arranged, tempting goodies next to me I capitulated very quickly, and so did everyone else at the table-- even MandoNut who was already talking about being a beached whale.

And y'all. It was wonderful. First I split a Tiramisu thingy with Hubby. He didn't think he wanted any dessert at all, and I was sure I couldn't eat very much. But part way through LovelyDaughter gave me a bite of her dessert, which was a rich Pot de Creme, a fancy sort of pudding that was very chocolate-y, very creamy with a huge dollop of real whipped cream on top. Oh. My. Word. I quickly asked Hubby if he was enjoying the Tiramisu. He said, actually, yes. So I gave the rest to him and grabbed the waitress the next time she walked by and ordered me a Pot de Creme.

It looked something like this, but with a LOT more whipped cream:

When it came, I took a bite and let it coat my entire mouth. Oh was it good. MandoNut asked me, "How is it?"

I said, "It makes me want to cry." This was true. It was so good, so chocolate-y, so rich, so smooth, so creamy, so tasty, that it brought tears to my eyes. I've never felt that way before. (Has this happened to anyone else?)

He looked at me incredulously. "Is it that good?"

All I could do was nod my head slowly and seriously. And keep eating.

But what I really want to tell you about is the drink I ordered. You may know already that Hubby and I have been wetting our feet in the world of wine, so to speak, trying to find something we can stand. So when I saw the large drinks menu, and remembered that our host was well-versed in wine lore, I began reading and asking lots of questions. I won't bore you with that conversation, but here's what I ended up getting:

A drink called a Lava Lamp. It's champagne with berries in it. Just imagine it with dried cranberries, and you'll see what I had. The cranberries sink and float with the same effect as a lava lamp. I was impressed. And, incredibly, I liked it.

So did Hubby. Every time he took a drink, he'd say, "Be careful with that stuff." So I'd take the tiniest sip possible. Later, he and LovelyDaughter were discussing the odd feelings they got from drinking it; they could feel it going to their heads whenever they took a swallow. I thought, good heavens, I must be a hardened winebibber already-- I didn't feel a thing! And then I found they were drinking in gulps, not sips, and Hubby said he was talking to himself when he said "Be careful with that stuff." Oh. So I was TOO careful? Well, I enjoyed sipping on that champagne for two hours, sharing it with Hubby, LovelyDaughter, and GuitarGeek. We got a lot of taste mileage out of that little glass.

This discovery, of course, does not solve our dilemma of what to drink for a bedtime relaxer. I learned that champagne is expensive, and does not keep well, and I really wasn't figuring on drinking an entire bottle of champagne every night, as well as it might make me sleep.

However, MandoNut ordered an Irish Coffee, which I guess is coffee with some sort of alcoholic something in it , with cream, and I tasted it. Hmm, I thought. A HOT drink at bedtime. Hmmm. So I've been researching liqueurs, which are different from liquors (see, I'm learning) and there's a whole world of possibilities out there. Someday I'll get brave again and try some of them.

But for now, forget the wine-- I'm checking out recipes for Pots de Creme!