Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Troublesome Tuesday

Frozen narcissus from a colder day gone by in my garden.

Such delight to answer the 'birds and bees' questions;
Sharing the beauty of God’s plan for
Love and life and babies . . .

Unlike the troubling Q & A today regarding
Abortion and euthanasia –
Man’s plan . . .

* * *

It is definitely a two-teapot day
(With two quiet times, as well).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Wonder

. . . Wherein I celebrate uniqueness.

* * *

Now there are diversities of gifts,
But the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:4

* * *

One day, Punchinello met a
Wemmick who was unlike any he'd ever met.
She had no dots or stars.
She was just wooden.
Her name was Lucia.

It wasn't that people didn't try to give her stickers;
it's just that the stickers didn't stick.

Some of the Wemmicks admired Lucia for having no dots,
so they would run up and give her a star.
But it would fall off.
Others would look down on her for having no stars,
so they would give her a dot.
But it wouldn't stay either.

"That's the way I want to be," thought Punchinello.
"I don't want anyone's marks!"
So he asked the stickerless Wemmick how she did it.

"It's easy," Lucia replied. "Every day I go see Eli."


"Yes, Eli. The woodcarver. I sit in the workshop with Him."


"Why don't you find out for yourself?
Go up the hill. He's there."

And with that, the Wemmick who had no stickers
turned and skipped away.

From You Are Special by Max Lucado

* * *

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect;
And in thy book all my members were written,
Which in continuance were fashioned,
When as yet there was none of them.

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me,
O God! How great is the sum of them!

If I should count them,
They are more in number than the sand:
When I awake,
I am still with thee

Psalm 139:16-18

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday

[My grandfather] had a lovely tenor voice and was often asked to sing. Everyone’s favorite was an old song about heaven called, “Sitting in White” which depicts the eternal scene of worship at the throne of God. He usually finished the song with a catch in his voice and eyes bright with tears. The last time I heard him sing it was just a year before he died. At the end of the song he said, “Won’t it be wonderful when we know we’ve finally made it?”

from Perennial: meditations for the seasons of life
by Twila Paris (page 50)

* * *

I found a little devotional written by Twila Paris tucked into the corner of the shelf at the local library used book sale. It looked unopened, never used. It partnered with a cd of perennial favorites that I own and enjoy using to shape the contemplative moments in my day. I carried this little book home for a mere 50 cents and added it to my basket containing Bible, books, journal, pens, and stationery. This basket nestles close to my favorite chair, just a short reach from my lap. I may find myself here once a day or several times, but always I find a peaceful pause, a place to peruse or ponder; a punctuation in my busy day that finds me at the feet of my Lord just when I need a bit of refreshment.

Daily life has encompassed many schedules throughout my years as child, student, employee, wife, and mom. Each new phase required a bit of shift in priority and layout in order to keep my heart refreshed while meeting the needs of all in my care. I learned a looooong time ago that a day begun kneeling before my Lord contained seeds of greatness and fulfillment; a day that rushed past my starting pause, yielded more exhaustion than I had hoped to carry. And so, I begin my days with a quick peruse of the news and blogland, from which I tote away a bevy of thoughts, ideas, needs, and requests. I then make my way to the kitchen to create a bit of breakfast and a pot of tea. Next I settle into my favorite chair with a tray at hand and a view of the majestic trees and brilliant sky, often painted with hues of storms or sunny rays. The beauty lifts my heart in a prayer. I simply sit and listen as sweet music fills the air, or in warmer days slide open the patio door and listen to the laughing fountains and singing birds at play in my gardens -- God’s gift to me in remembrance of Eden and better times.

Some days I dig deep into a weighty passage of scripture, others find me pouring my aching heart out in Psalms, still other moments find me speechless in wonder-filled awe that I am alive -- right here, right now, just as I am. A variety of authors joins me in this quiet moment as ideas float and sift through my sieve of life. My perspective changes with the times and maturity, but merely serves to enhance my quest for truth . . . immovable truth. I often find humor in this special space of time, such as running across this verse today: “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees” (Isaiah 35:3). Truly a timely reading, considering yesterday’s spate in the garden on my knees wrestling with the tenacious tendrils of weedy things in threat to my tidy beds.

Though my day flows in a generally similar pattern from start to finish, I find so many pathways to explore. Some prove a waste of time, others reveal secrets my heart has longed to receive. Regardless of what the day may hold, I cherish my peaceful moments with the Lord in prayer, Word, and silence. The everlasting love promised of old rescues my heart from fears and foibles that I would surely find with only the world as ally. So many hurts and struggles and fears fill the pages of newspapers, blogs, and entertainment modes. Can hope really survive until we know we’ve finally made it?

[She pauses to dip a deep draught of refreshment from her Lord’s proffered spring, knowing the peace which defies explanation but works the miracle every day.]

* * *

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
Shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus

Philippians 4:7

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

At Play in the Garden

“Oh dear!” She stops abruptly as she exits the cottage. “My friends will find no greeting or friendly chat these days, as I am wont to dash out into the springtime gardens at every available moment.”

She knows that the day will end around the table sharing a meal amidst the eager chatter of all who gleefully spill about this garden discovery or that budding project. Well, it doesn’t end there as all clamor for just a wee bit more outside time. “The dishes can wait,” they lobby (her included) and then flee the cottage confines for just a bit longer as the lately setting sun nods off.

Those final moments of evening will be spent nestled near the fire deep in conversation with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson regarding gardens, or maybe George Washington Vanderbilt and Henry E. Huntington and their beloved projects, with pauses for time with Wendell Berry sharing from deep within the Kentucky lands of his youth. Oh my! Time passes so swiftly that bedtime approaches long before she can gather her thoughts and carry them to the computer for sharing.

“Alas . . . blogging in springtime has proven far more challenging than expected,” she muses as she continues to navigate her neophyte year of blogging. The desire to waltz through the Lilliputian orchard newly dug, or tiptoe through the berry dell, or even sit atop a bench dreaming of the Colonial vegetable patch has swooped in and captivated all available hours. There remains little time for opening the box and logging on.

With a sigh she gathers gloves and straw-brimmed protection and scampers out to the greening world of wonders. “Later I’ll make some time for . . .” she calls over her shoulder as she trails off amongst the violets shyly dancing at her feet.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Wonder

For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle
Is heard in our land

Song of Solomon 2:11-12

* * *

Well . . . I heard a frog in the fountain yesterday, but alas no turtle, yet . . .

Once upon a time, while out planting some spring flowers, I heard a steady-paced munching. As I dug and planted I looked around in wonderment as the feasting continued . . . "Munch, munch, munch . . ." Suddenly I pulled back a leaf and espied a round-shelled turtle happily chomping away on my early-ripening strawberries.

I visited with this fellow on many occasions over the ensuing weeks -- me gardening, he dining (on my garden). He lived in my gardens for quite a spell, having been duly named Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Turtle ("Mr Apt," for short).

Alas, when the pool builders arrived and dug through his munching grounds to install water piping, we captured Mr. Apt and placed him in a kiddie pool for "temporary" safekeeping. He was not amused, nor very forgiving; he escaped the aqua garrison and made off from my gardens never to return -- not even pausing to bid adieu.

I have yet to see another turtle in my gardens, but happily this verse reminds me of "Mr. Apt" and the springtime experience of once hearing the "voice" of the turtle in my land. (*Munch! Munch!*) and hoping to hear it again some wonderful Spring Day.

* I posted this automatically, as I often do. The sun shone and the flowers danced when I pushed the button. Today I awoke to soft fluffy flakes of snow swirling all around. I shall celebrate spring in my heart as I snuggle by the fire with a mug of cocoa and a Wendell Berry book. Surely there will be no spring turtles sharing their voice in my garden today.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Do You Ever Have One of Those Days . . .

. . . when everything feels right in your life?

* * * * *

A day when . . .

. . . you love the way your curly locks fall across your smooth brow.

. . . your dream of a little orchard comes to life as the bareroots of an apricot, apple, cherry, plum, and pluot sink into the fertile soil of your own land.

. . . your husband smiles and tells you your latest whole wheat cookie creation is fantastic (you smile doubly wide knowing you ground the flour yourself).

. . . your children laugh and giggle in the sunshine as they clean every fountain of winter’s grimy touch and spring’s scummy explosion.

* * * * *

Later when you run out into the sunshine and freshness of an afternoon in the gardens you find that the “rightness” has found its way out there too.

You marvel to find . . .

. . . a single bud of your favorite narcissus (Poet's Eye) peeking out shyly ahead of the rest.

. . . Magnolias Jane and Leonard Meissel rushing to greet you on your waltz around the gardens.

. . . that beauty of a red camellia has finally put out a blossom after being transplanted last fall.

. . . that daffodil that you thought was named Aria (but was actually called Ara) looks as if it is singing an aria (and surely should have been named Aria all along).

. . . a lonely snowman stands amidst the faded blossoms of winter’s dance, which must now go to the compost as the little snowman nestles back into the closet to await an invite to attend next winter’s commencement.

* * * * *

As the sun sinks low, she sighs, breathing deeply and inhaling the beauty of fresh damp joy. She whispers, “What a good day . . . thank you,” to the Giver of all good things.

* * *
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,
And to sing praises unto thy name

Psalm 92:1

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Respite Wednesday

The hill is like an old woman,
All her human obligations met,
Who sits at work day after day,
In a kind of rapt leisure,
At an intricate embroidery.

She has time for all things.

Because she does not expect ever to be finished,
She is endlessly patient with details.

She perfects flower and leaf,
Feather and song,
Adorning the briefest life in a great beauty
As though it were meant to last forever.

~~ Wendell Berry ~~
"A Native Hill"
from The Art of the Commonplace

* * *

. . . [S]he that soweth to the Spirit
Shall of the Spirit
Reap life everlasting.

Galatians 6:8b

* * *

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Promise Fulfilled

Sky High Biscuits

When my dear friend Karen Deborah visited over the New Year, we feasted on scones, biscuits, and lots more as we downed pots and pots of tea. She asked me to write down my favorite recipes for her as she desired to trim the budget without reducing the quality of their mealtimes. I agreed to share some of my very favorite "scratch" recipes for basics like biscuits and pie crust.

Time flew and this promise went unfulfilled.

Recently, she put out an SOS on her blog and I remembered that I had a debt to pay (and paying this kind of debt is pure pleasure). With the crash in the economy and many hearts turning toward home-cooking to save some dough (*snicker*), I thought I would just pop these easy-as-pie recipes onto my blog so all of you friends could take a look at some of my favorites (which may become favorites of yours, too).

As I've mentioned in a previous post, one of my all-time favorite cookbook/lifestyle manuals is Hearth and Home by Karey Swan.

I discovered this excellent book through some homeschooling avenue that I fail to recall. It emphasizes a whole-wheat healthy diet and lifestyle reflecting a love of homemaking and the celebration of a simpler life. Reading Karey's book is like sitting across the table from that dear friend who has so much to share and such a heart for sharing it. Her story will delight you, her recipes will inspire you, and your whole family will benefit (not to mention the budget savings).

Recently, while wandering around google looking for some reference to something (which I also fail to recall at this moment . . . hmmmmm, should I be worried?), I happened upon Karey's blog. I have always wished for a sequel to Home and Hearth and with this newly discovered blog and the opportunity to connect more personally through email, I have found that joyful sequel and it continues to grow as Karey shares so many wonderful thoughts, life lessons, celebrations, and yummy recipes. Her book refers to a whole wheat velvet spice cake with caramel frosting but fails to include the recipe; through prompting from me, she has listed that recipe on her blog. (Sorry I couldn't create a link to the recipes posted on January 30th and 31st, so you'll have to check her recipes file -- trust me, it's worth the extra effort).

Well, this all leads to my family's favorite biscuit recipe, Sky High Biscuits, which lends itself to adaptation in so many delightful ways. I think I should state right now that I am a recipe tinkerer and generally do not follow the exact instruction after the first attempt -- and sometimes not even then. In the case of these excellent biscuits, I did make them per the recipe, and then I adapted the use of my food processor, then I went 100% whole wheat, then I experimented with herbs and spices (Italian seasonings make a delicious variation), and finally I added a bit more sweetener, substituted flavored kefir for the milk (or buttermilk, as I often use) and came up with a moist and delicious whole wheat scone. Have fun with these basic recipes and you will discover your inner cook and artist.

But, getting back to the basics, this Sky High Biscuit recipe (pictured at the post beginning) should delight all. (Just click on the pic for a larger, easier-to-read version.)

The following basic bread recipe makes a wonderfully light and fluffy loaf suitable for sandwiches, pizza bread, toast, and produces excellent breadcrumbs from the dried out pieces (if you are lucky enough to have anything leftover). I use 100% whole wheat with a bit of pure gluten added. I also halve the recipe (hence the 2-1/4 notation next to the salt quantity) because my kitchen aid can't quite handle a full batch. (I'm eyeing a more powerful model. Anyone have any comments or suggestions?) This bread is SO EASY! It has only one rise time because it begins with a 15-minute "Sponge" step. I encourage you all to give it a try and sit back and bask in the warm reception from your family.

Now as for those light and flaky pie crusts we all admire through an intimidated veil, I have two fabulously easy recipes. The first comes from The Amish Cook by Elizabeth Coblentz with Kevin Williams; a fascinating read even if you never cook any of the recipes. I highly recommend strolling through this back-to-basics lifestyle of devotion, frugality, and healthy eating.

This Never Fail Pie Crust has never failed me! I have used it for pies, tarts, turnovers, and more. You can sculpt the dough into leaves and work it a bit more than usual without fear of ending up with cement (or worse, a crumbly mess). This dough works well for the beginner or children who eagerly wish to roll out the dough. I like thick flaky crusts and this one never fails to please for fruit pies, meat pies/pasties, and more.

For a little more advanced baker who desires an all butter crust, I highly recommend the basic pate brisee in Susan Herrmann Loomis' book French Farm House. I herald this as another "must read" for the experience, if not for the recipes. ALL of Loomis' books entertain and make you yearn to know more and more about how people eat and celebrate life across the nation and across the globe. I have several of her books and they provide staple recipes and inspiration to try something new.

This simple recipe yields a most delectable crust. Give yourself time to experiment with the dough, keeping in mind this desires a lighter touch than the Amish crust above. Go on . . . give this one a try, too. My first attempt was SO UGLY that I ended up flinging it onto a cookie sheet, covering the hideous dough with rose petal jam, and then folding the sides in to make a crude looking pocketbook of dough. The results? The MOST DELICIOUS and attractively rustic tart that wowed my family. So, failure became success in another's eyes (and tastebuds). Take the time to get acquainted with this all-butter beauty. You'll be glad you did.

Now on a final note: I cook with whole wheat whenever possible (you'd be amazed how seldom I need unbleached flour) and avoid transfats. I use butter, olive oil, and Spectrum Naturals Organic All-Vegetable Shortening (made with 100% non-hydrogenated palm oil) for those recipes calling for shortening -- like Earl Scrugg's Famous Buttermilk Biscuits (but I'll save that one for another post).

What's next on my list of homemaking challenges? Hmmmmm . . . in my quest for new avenues to higher health value and beneficial budget savings, I have recently purchased a grain mill.

I have had it less than a week and enjoyed every day of grinding, testing, baking, and grinding again. My recipes need a bit of modification as the flour quality varies from commercially ground flours, but that is all part of the fun. So, if you miss me here at the blog you can probably find me in the kitchen with a whirring machine and a well-floured smile.

Next on the list? Refried Beans with ground pintos BEFORE cooking. I'll let you know how that goes. : D

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Wonder

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD . . .

Make a loud noise,
And rejoice,
And sing praise.

Psalm 98:4

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Just looking at this . . .

And this . . .

And this . . .

While dreaming about this . . .

And this . . .

And this.

What are you dreaming about today?

* * * * *
A dream is a wish
Your heart makes.
~~ Cinderella ~~

* * * * *

- - - - - -
All paintings by Claude Monet

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hush Fills the Air . . .

. . . a quiet moment appears.

‘Twixt mommy-ing, hearth-tending, and careful study in a day, I always stumble upon a truly quiet moment . . . a serendipitous pause . . . a peaceful gift.

This particular particle of time cannot be planned or scheduled. No calendar notation yields this moment. Just as a woodsy wanderer happens upon a sylvan clearing graced with a freshet of most glorious beauty – a rollicking rill filled with spangled stones sparkling in the late afternoon rays – I sit and stare in awe, drinking in the beauty, filling reservoirs of memory to carry forth and savor forevermore.

In that mere moment my pulse lulls, my breathing delves deep and cleansing. A truly peaceful moment descends.

Or maybe you find yourself slogging through a most arduous task of clearing a densely-overgrown thicket which threatens to choke out the woodland beauty. Briers and prickles, bloodied snags and unkind mutterings vanish in a flash when the travailing rake uncovers a nest of baby bunnies – all fawn-colored and sweet as if plucked from the pages of a Beatrix Potter tale. A smile splashes across your muddied face, warmth fills your grousing heart as you gaze upon the snuggling family.

All toil-filled thought washes away in the wake of such a gentle discovery.

I live for these moments, hiding in the crevices of every single day. Some pass quickly, like sitting at a stop sign and glancing toward a kiddie park at just the right moment to catch sight of a toddler running toward the sandpit with joyful abandon. Other instances linger like a nap woven through a hammocked-pause in a shady garden nook serenaded by trilling birdsong complete with honeybee refrain.

Expanded or oh-so-brief, I keep my senses fine-tuned and ready to receive the gift of a quiet moment, for therein lies joy.

Thou wilt show me the path of life:
In thy presence is fullness of joy;
At thy right hand there are pleasures
For evermore.

Psalm 16:11

Monday, March 9, 2009

Old Routine + New Hour

The time change always throws our tidy days for a loop. (Loops can be fun . . . or not.) Around here we welcome the longer daylight hours, but find it a struggle to regain our bearings this first week. This morning when I woke Rachel for an earlier-than-usual piano lesson, due to the teacher’s scheduling conflicts, she struggled awake and answered my morning call before I left the room. When I returned 10 minutes later she had fallen back to bed. I implored her to get going and she popped up saying, “I thought I was up!”

Such will be the timbre over the next few days – willing hearts, but dragging bodies. Who would have thought that one hour this way or that could make such a difference? Years ago I decided that the time-change would signal a holiday of sorts. The routine would have to relax and flex while the little bodies (and big ones, too) adjusted.

I find it particularly disconcerting as I use the sun and shadows as my primary timekeeper, having eschewed a watch when I walked away from my corporate days. When the sun peeks just so I delight in the thought of a cup of tea. Another moving shadow warns that dinner must be set about if dining will follow on time. And so my day goes as I gaze out the windows or walk along the garden paths. For today I will sip afternoon tea off schedule and we shall dine a wee bit later, and also snacks will flow freely throughout the day as tummies adjust.

So, I set the bread to rise, put a roast into the oven, simmered the makings for pate (chicken livers, red wine, onions, garlic, and yummy spices) atop the stove, and set about the business of watching for the newness of the times.

Schoolwork and chores flowed as usual. Laundry, vacuuming, and dishes all fit neatly into allotted times. Why this feeling of being behind? It must be due to the fast traveling sun in the blue sky chopped through with weighty rain clouds. My most recent rut of a routine hasn’t adapted to the gift of a longer day, and thus whispers, “Hurry before darkness falls.” It all feels new today in that sense of the unexpected and uncontrollable.

Solution? A pot of tea and a slice of bread spread with sweet butter taken in the sunny sliver breaking forth into my keeping room. I shall thumb through the new coffee-table beauty of a book on Hummingbirds I picked up at the library’s weekend booksale (for $1) along with several other interesting reads from the stack begging to be sorted and shelved according to subject. Even the books fall into limbo this day. In fact, this post feels rather limbo-ish . . .

Hmmmmmm . . . I think I shall take a walk around the gardens for a bit of fresh air as soon as my teacup empties (the bread has been gobbled up long ago). Maybe when I return with pinked cheeks and chilled fingers I will have lost the feeling of limbo.

Any one else feeling a bit off with the change of the hours?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Wonder

Wherefore comfort yourselves together,
And edify one another,
Even as also ye do.

I Thessalonians 5:11

* * *

And I will pray the Father,
And he shall give you another Comforter,
That he may abide with you for ever . . .
The Spirit of Truth . . .
Ye know him;
For he dwelleth with you,
And shall be in you.

John 14:16-17

Friday, March 6, 2009

I'll Have Joy, Excitement, and Mystery . . . to go, please.

She walks into the kitchen,
As she does numerous times per day,
And notices the dirty glass on the counter.
Eager to preserve the tidiness she strives for endlessly each day,
She reaches for soiled glass to quickly swoop into the dishwasher.

But . . .
She recoils as soon as she sees the contents of the glass:


Deep in her throat forms the strident call to her youngest,
For surely this collection of snails has her fingerprints all over it.
Of late, Rachel has been wandering the woods in search of Spring . . .
Always searching . . . always finding
the delights of her adventurous heart.

She found something alright.

"I simply cannot endure this!" She says to herself sharply.

But then she catches sight of a sweet sentiment,
Placed in the windowsill as a steady reminder
In just such a case as this:

God Makes All Things Beautiful in His Time

Placing glass of shells near the delightful promise,
She chooses to join Rachel's game of wonder
And believe there is beauty to come,
While encouraging her to secure these treasures in a safer place . . .
(With Dad's help).

She promptly leaves the kitchen
Returning at a later (and snail-free) time.

[Thanks Dad.]

* * * * *

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder
without any such gift from the fairies,
he needs the companionship of at least one adult
who can share it,
rediscovering with him the
and mystery
of the world we live in.

~~ Rachel Carson ~~

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sticks and Stones to Heal Thy Bones

"I need to get some rocks from the river for my class on hot rock therapy. Any one feel like helping me out?" a very tired Elizabeth queries after a loooooong week of massage therapy classes.

Hands shot up in the air as volunteers eagerly joined up for an afternoon at the Yuba River. Wedged between past and predicted storms, the 69-degree temps offered no hardship as Dad, Lydia, and Rachel set off with a detailed list and a treasure sack. Let the games begin!

A short drive from home brought the collectors upon the rustic beauty of the Bridgeport Bridge.

In addition to its obvious charm, this bridge holds title as the longest single-span bridge in existence. Yet another piece of yesteryear that puts our little corner of the world on the map for those seeking pioneering/mining history of California.

In use since 1862.

Dedicated to those who sought a new life here in California.

Both inside . . .

. . . and out,

This beauty beats the competition by a mile.

But, lest they forget why they came . . .

The girls grabbed the list and set to work.

They searched far and wide for this shape and that,

Taking time to enjoy rejecting those that just didn't quite measure up.

Some wore out before others in the quest. ("Always carry a book," I have counseled through the years. Nice to see they listen.)

One even had energy left to craft some comic art along the riverbank -- a gift to future passersby (until the storms return).

Finally the hunters returned home and spilled out a trove most plentiful.

Some enjoyed studying the flecks and musing over the origins (budding petrologists?). Another merely enjoyed the hunt (rockhound?) and set off to journal the experience. (Wanna guess which one?)

A third gathered up the stones as tools (massage therapist?) and set about warming them for the next homework item on the agenda -- putting these stones to play in an actual massage.

At which time I began waving my hand wildly in the air, volunteering to help her with her homework . . . like a good homeschooling mom.

; D

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