Friday, April 30, 2010

Birthday Cards

I set out this year with good intentions of remembering family birthdays with a card (at the very least)--a timely card.

This is basically what the year looks like:
January: 1
February: 2
March: 2
April: 5
May: 2
June: 1
July: 3
August: 3
September: 3
October: 3
November: 3
December: 2

Can you understand why it's a lot to remember?

January came and I saw my sister just before her birthday so I remembered.
February I remembered my grandma's 90th birthday (is this because I was reminded?!) and I now can't remember if I sent my brother-in-law a card.
March, hmm, I think I missed both my brother and brother-in-laws birthday.
Okay, so April was going to be the month I really did well. I remembered I had five birthdays (which is a start, right?) on the 14th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 29th. How many got cards? 3 How many were on time? 0 What is the matter with me?
Last week I called my nephew Calvin on his birthday and his question to me? Are you giving me a present? He then proceeded to explain to me how I could send him something through the mail and it would arrive at his house. :) I do have a present, but I didn't get it in the mail or even a card. I'm justifying my poor performance as an aunt with the fact that I'll see him this weekend. And I'm packing that present along.

And also, Happy Birthday to my mom yesterday! I remembered to call, at least. The card, well, I'll be bringing it along this weekend so she can get it in person!

Monday, April 26, 2010


I do not consider myself a music buff. In fact, many of the groups I've learned to enjoy over the years have been stolen from siblings. (Okay, maybe not stolen per se, just heavily influenced by, I suppose. Because you know they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I'm hoping they're flattered.)

Anyway, one group I love was suggested to me by my cousin Lana. I've mentioned her before in these pages. We have uncanny similarities in interests. Back before we were both married, we embarked on a series of cultural expansion through the arts. Together we attended an opera, a ballet, an off-Broadway musical, and a classical piano concert--the 5 Browns.

The 5 Browns became instant favorites. You must check them out on YouTube or a CD from your local library! This five-sibling group make classical piano exciting (I for one already love classical piano, but if you don't, I think you will now). Listening to them is wonderful; watching them is awing.

Last week Jeremy dropped me an email saying he'd checked out the new 5 Browns in Hollywood CD. I might have mentally squealed with excitement (I was at work, so had to refrain from squealing out loud). It's everything I expected. I love this new CD and the show tunes they tackle (Star Wars, Over the Rainbow, My Favorite Things, Romeo and Juliet to name a few), but I also love the traditional classical pieces from other Cd's.

I want to share the beauty that this family creates, so please listen to them and tell me what you think.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Two years ago today...

Jeremy asked me to be his wife and partner in life. I said, "Yes." Now here we are. :)

I love you, Jeremy!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thoughts while reading.

Last night I finished reading The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. Set during the 1790s-1810s, the story centers around Lavinia, an orphaned girl from Ireland. Her parents died on the trip to America and to pay for their passage Lavinia became an indentured servant at the captain's home in Virginia.

I'm really not here to give you a book review (although I will encourage you to read the book; it was quite good!), but to point out something that went through my head as I read.
Lavinia remembered little about herself at the time she took up residence in the kitchen house. She was just seven. She was housed with the slaves of the family and grew up as a servant/slave, but also white. As she'd come over from Ireland, she didn't fully grasp the concept of position and suitable relationships and she was often confused. But, she was very accepting and often didn't ask questions that might have propelled her forward out of some poor decisions.

I started pondering how when I'm uncertain of protocol or I hear others talk about something I don't quite get or I read a word I've never heard before, that I will go to the internet and I'll Google my question or I'll turn to a dictionary for a definition. When it comes to seeking information, I am largely self-sufficient as there is a whole world of stuff at my fingertips. That's not to say I don't talk to others about it as well, but I don't often have to to get answers. However, back in the days where the computer didn't exist and many people were illiterate (plus books weren't widely available), people had to depend on each other to learn. So much more was taught and passed on from one person to the next.

Now, I love the computer as much as the next person. Truly, I like being able to find answers myself; however, I wonder how much are we missing relationally by being so self-sufficient? I think an intimacy and vulnerability in relationships (friendship or otherwise) has been lost.
What do you think?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book Review

The Wives of Henry Oades: a novel by Johanna Moran

During slow spells while working at the library, I'll casually thumb through a copy of Book Pages (check it out if you've never heard of it!) looking for new and intriguing reads. Some issues lack anything of interest to me. As you all know, I read new books, but you might not know that so far I've chosen not to read the Nora Roberts and James Pattersons of the book world. If dozens of people are lining up to read the newest novel of a ridiculously prolific author, well, you're more than likely not going to find me among the hordes. That's not to say I don't follow the mass reading crowd ever (for example, I love the Harry Potter series and a thoroughly enjoyed The Help), but typically, I like to pave my own reading path. I'm not always pleased with each book I pick up, but I'm also learning to put a book down if I'm not particularly enjoying it because I can definitely find another better book to spend my time reading.

The last issue of Book Pages included a brief review of The Wives of Henry Oades. And as the review left me wanting to read more and it was a debut novel (I enjoy seeing what new writers are coming out), I placed a hold on it and read it within five days. As I understand it, the book is based on a short historical law brief from nineteenth century California. This is the story of Henry Oades and his two wives.

The Oades moved from England to New Zealand for a job, Henry, Margaret and their two children (twins joined them the following year). After a time, they moved to a home a distance from town. One day while Henry was away, his wife and children were kidnapped by Mauri Indians. Devastated, Henry searches for his family despite many frustrating setbacks. After months without so much as a shred of hope they were still alive, he gave up his search and eventually moved to California. Several years later he married a young widow, Nancy. Less than a year after that, Margaret and the children showed up on Henry and Nancy's doorstep.

Told mostly through the eyes of Margaret (Meg) and Nancy, the story kept me turning the pages, mostly because I wanted to see how it was resolved. During that time period a divorce rendered any offspring illegitimate and therefore tarnished their future reputation, so neither wife was willing to give up her husband.

Because as the reader, I knew so much more of Margaret's life and history with Henry, I felt she deserved to have her husband back. But, by the time she returned to his life, he'd given his heart to Nancy (who held on to it quite fiercely) and seemed unable to even have a friendship with Margaret. My biggest complaint was Henry. I wanted him to be more vocal with Margaret about the situation instead of nearly ignoring her. The wives strove to build a semblance of family and were mostly successful despite the harassment of the town they lived in. Much of the story surrounds the legal battles the family goes through just to remain a family, one husband, two wives (though one definitely in name only), and four children. And that resolution I wanted, well, it never really came in the way I wanted. But, it was an interesting read and one I'd recommend if you want something a little different.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Quotes from recent reading.

from The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux

The practice of writing, of laboring long hours to buckle words around an idea and make a sentence slide across the page like Fred Astaire across a dance floor, lay ahead of me.

The difference between knowledge and illumination is the difference between electric light and sun.

from Life as a Vapor by John Piper

Since every moment is the beginning of the rest of your life, and every moment is the end of the past, every moment should be governed by the glad affections of both gratitude and faith.

from The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Once Uncle Julian told me how the sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti said that sometimes just to paint a head you have to give up the whole figure. To paint a leaf, you have to sacrifice the whole landscape. It might seem like you're limiting yourself at first, but after a while you realize that having a quarter-of-an-inch of something you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chocolate Love

I love chocolate! Dark chocolate in particular. My dad always preferred dark chocolate and as a little girl I wanted to be like him. So from as early as I can remember, dark chocolate has been my chocolate of choice.

I strive not to keep desserts around, but sometimes I just need a sweets fix, and chocolate is that staple treat. Jeremy loves it too.

Recently I've discovered a new chocolate--Moser Roth, sold by Aldi. I've tried their 70% dark chocolate and their orange-almond dark chocolate. Both are phenomenal. If you love chocolate and have an Aldi near you, do me a favor and try a bar of Moser Roth and then let me know what you think.

What's your favorite flavor and brand of chocolate?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gluten-free Baking

I am still learning much about the art and science of gluten free baking. Since Jeremy's Celiac diagnosis in July, I've been reading and checking out cookbooks and blogs. I've had many failed attempts, but more frequently several successes.

The public library up here added a book to their inventory a few months back and it's been a boon to my kitchen experimenting--Artisanal Gluten Free. The couple that wrote the book first had a blog (isn't that the way of it these days?). They've been gluten free for just over three years and sometimes I feel a camaraderie knowing it's new to them too. Anyway, they created a flour mix, because unlike wheat baking, gluten free baking cannot be done with just one flour. I've made their blueberry muffins, banana muffins, chocolate chip scones, and pizza dough. Except for the pizza dough, when I bite into the baked goods, I can't tell much difference. If you came to visit, I'd happily serve you a plate of muffins or scones.

Chocolate chip cookies and pizza dough have been my most troubled experimentation in the kitchen. I've tried three different cookie recipes and was highly disappointed in all of them (one batch made it into the garbage!). I've yet to try the Artisanal chocolate chip cookie recipe, but I plan to. For the pizza I tried the Bob's Red Mill mix and thought it was disgusting. The crust sort of crumbled (but strangely felt sort of like it was bubbling in my mouth) and then left a raw feeling to my tongue...this I cannot explain. I purchased an Amy's brand frozen gluten free pizza that I dressed up and it was very good, but $7 for a two-person pizza. I purchased pre-made crusts that tasted alright, but completely fell apart when we tried to eat them. And lastly I made the Artisanal pizza crust. It was decent, but something I'd still have to get used to. I didn't have the right equipment to try their thin-crust pizza recipe, but I plan to someday. Although up to this point I've really been more of a deep-dish pizza kind of girl, I think that the dietary changes in our life are turning me into a thin-crust fan.

Saturday evening we had friends for supper. I wanted to make a dessert and couldn't come up with any ideas. I thought about trying the new chocolate chip cookie recipe, but Jeremy rightly said, "isn't that a bit of a risk?" (yes, my cookies were that bad!). :) I scoured the internet for ideas and finally found this recipe for chocolate shortbread. This was an equally risky recipe as I had to make it gluten free, but I decided to give it a try. I substituted the Artisanal flour blend for the all-purpose flour. It worked! I turned out a pretty and tasty shortbread with a light chocolate glaze and chopped pistachios on top. This of course was just a small personal victory, but it pleased me.

Lest you think I make baked treats all the time, well it's not true. However, my bread-indifferent husband actually asks for muffins now. And while we don't always have them on hand, it's nice to know I can produce a product that tastes good and isn't harmful to his body. I've had many moments over the last months where I've despaired a bit about my abilities in the kitchen, slowly I'm gaining confidence and learning how to bake all over again.

Friday, April 9, 2010

How is it...

that I've never read Jane Eyre before? This is a travesty!

Last week after I finished up reading a most delightful debut novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, I decided it was time I set aside all the new books I'd been reading and pick up another classic (if you've been reading here awhile, you might remember I set myself a reading goal of 12 classics this year). I've been behind in that department. So, I picked Jane Eyre off my shelves. A week and a half later I'm just now nearly finished, but I have so enjoyed every moment of it. Already I can tell it will be a book I reread. Why don't people write like that anymore? I've read some enjoyable recently-published books, but in general they lack the depth of these classics.

Now, I'm not saying that just because a book is labeled a classic, that the book is automatically the superior of books published in the last few decades; however, there is indeed a reason that particular books stand the test of time.

What's your favorite classic?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Last week my mom came to visit.

And, we visited and worked and generally enjoyed the company of about 24 hours.

Jeremy and I are so much enjoying our new little home. I still have several problem areas for storage reasons, but in general, this move was an excellent one.

Anyone that knows me well, knows that I crave order. And, in general, I'm pretty good at organization. My mom and I together, are perhaps even better. So, mom came up to help me think through a couple areas in the house, and to help me work on curtains for the house, and also just to visit!

Our first stop was to a Goodwill thrift store to look at the curtains. While I was overall unimpressed with the store, we did find beautiful, embroidered, somewhat sheer curtains for the kitchen and what we guessed to be 7 yds of fabric that fit and framed perfectly the French doors in my living room. All of this for around $14! The next day we stopped at another thrift store looking for two particular sizes of baskets for a catchall/junk place in the kitchen, as well as a crock to hold utensils on the counter. We found all of these for just under $10! I'm always amazed at God reminding us He loves us and watches over us by providing such serendipitously perfect items.

While Jeremy and my brother Wes watched movies, played video games, tinkered with our bicycles (Wes enjoys and is quite skilled at working on bikes), and generally hung out, Mom and I puttered around the kitchen trying to make my smaller space work. By the time she left, the kitchen looked so much better (it's a very sunny room and probably my favorite place in the house). The countertops were mostly clear, my pantry area was tidied up, and we'd made my small drawer space work. She also helped me think through storage in the second bedroom closet. We also had time to enjoy a quick-trip to the farmer's market and to the salvage grocery.

It was so much fun having Mom and Wes here. They helped us move in, so it was fun to show them what we'd done with the place. I'm so thankful for my family; I am truly blessed.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Yesterday was a beautiful, slightly warm day. A day where the weather matched the mood of rejoicing in Christ's resurrection!

I spent my first ever Easter separate from my family. It felt a little strange, but is both part of being an adult and part of being married. I had to work on Saturday, so Jeremy and I couldn't make the trek back home. However, we enjoyed a pleasant, relaxing day, just the two of us.

Growing up, Mom and Dad were always very good at establishing fun traditions surrounding holidays. Most of them weren't flashy, over-the-top, in fact, more often than not the traditions were designed to remind us of the particular reason for a holiday. Like at Thanksgiving we each wrote and read thanksgivings (written on paper feathers and taped to a paper turkey). For Easter, we shared a sunrise breakfast--which so many years actually lacked the sun--on the living room floor. We ate boiled eggs we'd decorated with plants we'd collected outside and dyed in natural dyes--like onion skins. Mom made fresh cinnamon rolls or some other special bread. And Dad read the resurrection story. Of course as we grew up certain aspects changed a little, but the heart of the tradition remained the same.

Because holidays hold such significance and favorite memories to me, I want to make those times particularly special for Jeremy and I. Feasting is such a big part of holidays! Special occasions from Biblical times to the present typically involve special foods. I have yet to thoroughly establish particular foods for particular holidays, but I do try to make it special.

Yesterday morning I got up a little early to put the roast in the crockpot and I thought to myself, "What special bread can I make?" That was the part of my family's tradition I could partake in from afar. So, I tried my hand at chocolate chip scones (gluten-free, of course). And to that I added vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries and fried eggs. And while it wasn't quite like what I've been so accustomed to, it was a pleasant breakfast shared with the man I love.

Since it's always just the two of us, I'm quite terrible at remembering to take pictures. I hope to change that, but for now, you're just going to have to read what goes on here, instead of see photos.

I hope you all had a blessed Easter weekend celebrating!
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