Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Two Quotes

We want to create, but we also don't want to create so as to spare ourselves all this anxiety.
from Mastering Creative Anxiety

It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not.
from unknown source

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Sound of Words

During the final relaxation segment of my weekly yoga class, my instructor reads a poem. He has a very mellifluous voice that's well suited to the reading of poetry. I don't know how he chooses the poem he reads each week, but they are nearly always thought provoking and positive. This is the poem he read last Monday; lines from it flitted through my mind throughout the week.


I like the generosity of numbers.
The way, for example,
they are willing to count
anything or anyone:
two pickles, one door to the room,
eight dancers dressed as swans.
I like the domesticity of addition--
add two cups of milk and stir--
the sense of plenty: six plums
on the ground, three more
falling from the tree.
And multiplication's school
of fish times fish,
whose silver bodies breed
beneath the shadow
of a boat.
Even subtraction is never loss,
just addition somewhere else:
five sparrows take away two,
the two in someone else's
garden now.
There's an amplitude to long division,
as it opens Chinese take-out
box by paper box,
inside every folded cookie
a new fortune.
And I never fail to be surprised
by the gift of an odd remainder,
footloose at the end:
forty-seven divided by eleven equals four,
with three remaining.
Three boys beyond their mothers' call,
two Italians off to the sea,
one sock that isn't anywhere you look.
~Mary Cornish

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Three Things

Sometimes you just need a little sweet drink. On occasion I make orange julius for an after-dinner treat for Jeremy and I (which transports me to childhood when we'd make orange julius and popcorn snacks). No sugar needed, just refreshing, icey, orangey goodness in a glass.

I bought this citrus press last weekend to help in my weekly lemonade making endeavors. And I'll tell you what, it makes juicing lemons so much quicker! I whipped up a fresh batch of lemonade this afternoon.

I found this jar at the thrift store for under a dollar. I love that it says drinking jar on the bottom. It indeed makes a great drinking jar.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Brain

I'm guessing any of the dozen or so people that read this blog are aware of the fact that I have a bit of an addiction--reading.

Take today, for instance. It's the first sunny day since Tuesday. My kitchen is a mess. My floors need dust-mopped. Laundry is waiting to be done. And I have a farmer's market and grocery list as long as my arm. But, the minute that Jeremy walked out the door for work, I sat down with a cup of coffee and finished reading my book. I knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate on anything else until I settled in to turning the final pages of the story.

Now I can breathe easier again. And that book-filled space in my brain is momentarily freed up and ready to focus on food and cleaning and the necessities of life (that is until I pick up another page-turner).

I just finished Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister. Her two books (the other is The School of Essential Ingredients) are lyrically beautiful stories. Read them. I'm still processing--which I'm quite capable of doing while working on chores or walking to the farmer's market--and absorbing the story.

I shamelessly took this quote out of context from my reading this morning--in fact it's from the middle of a sentence--but while reading, this thought made me pause for a moment and realize that as believers, this is how we should approach life as recipients of the greatest gift, life that is paid for by Jesus Christ:
...each particular moment made more beautiful with the sense that it had been paid for...

Okay, I'm done procrastinating. Now on to story absorbing and housework. Have a wonderful Saturday!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

While reading...

I was impressed by this phrase thought: a woman needs to cultivate a "garden" of creativity and to actively tend her dreams.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

I am so pleased to be gardening this season! Last year I tended a tiny little plot out my back door. It's on the south side of the house, but is fenced in, so is pretty shaded. However, I managed to grow a few tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs. This year I decided to plant it out in flowers, herbs, and just one tomato plant.

But the great news is that I have a garden plot at work! The children's department where I work hosts a kid's garden club. The staff partners with a few local master gardeners and they teach kids about gardening, butterflies, bees, and such.

At the suggestion of a co-worker, I approached my manager and requested permission to plant a garden in the same area where the kid's garden club meets. I got the okay and was finally able to plant it a week ago. It's another smallish plot, but very sunny and with room for a few herbs, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and some bush beans (which I'm hoping grow).

I like gardening and being outside and seeing my work bear fruit. I'm no gardening expert, so I'm interested in seeing how my attempts go this summer. Though I'm hoping for success, I feel a bit like this year is an experiment. So, we'll see.

I am truly thankful that God provided places for me to dig in the dirt. :) It's been a desire of mine for awhile now, but I didn't see how it would come to pass considering I'm an upstairs apartment dweller.

(One day I might actually remember to take photos of my gardens to share with you. I seem to be forgetful about that.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Healthy Eating

Sometimes I pity myself for the extra work and money I have to invest to provide healthy food for Jeremy. The burden feels heavier on the days that the grocery "budget" is low (still haven't figured out a good system and weekly quantity), or the day I don't have leftovers to send for Jer's lunch and I can't just throw together a pb&j.

Each bite of food that Jeremy takes has to be considered. And as I am the cook in the house, I'm the one doing much of the considering. Restaurants, pitch-ins, dinner at friends, none of these can be approached without careful thought and planning. In trying to cut down costs and provide lesser processed foods, I grind my own grains (well those grains I have ready access to); I "make" my own flour; I'm learning to make yogurt; I make ice cream; I make chicken stock; I soak and cook dry beans. And while none of this is actually all that difficult or a big deal, it takes extra planning and time.

It can seem like a lot of work and yet, if I step back and really think about it, I am privileged; God has entrusted me with the work of bringing health to my husband!

I spend countless hours flipping through cookbooks, reading blogs, researching, and trying out new recipes. My quest of late has been healthier sweeteners that don't mess with the blood sugar so much. I've long had a thing against artificial sweeteners. Not only are they pure chemicals, but they leave a nasty aftertaste in the mouth. Coconut sugar (also called palm sugar) and stevia are the two natural sweeteners I've been experimenting with recently. Though pure maple syrup, raw honey, sucanat, and agave nectar are also in my cabinet. I do still have a bag of conventional sugar that I use sometimes, but it's not my go-to sweetener. The natural sweeteners are much pricier to keep in the pantry, but the price also makes me stop and think before I bake which is probably a good thing as we don't need lots of sweets, right? :)

One new recipe we've been enjoying lately is Stevia Lemonade (recipe from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook). I love lemonade--the frozen concentrate kind, not the powdered kind--but have you noticed that high fructose corn syrup is nearly always the first ingredient? Instead this spring we've been enjoying fresh-squeezed lemonade. My half gallon jar is sweetened with just 4 teaspoons of powdered stevia (which by the way is the fine ground powder of an herb), and it's not just delicious, it's also nutritious. I feel good serving Jeremy lemonade for supper if he wants.

If you're interested in more natural sweeteners, I suggest you research coconut sugar and stevia. They don't work for all recipes, but they're great sweeteners to have in your repertoire.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

May Reading

May came with lots of reading--11 books total. The first half of the month was quiet, quite rainy and unusually chilly. The second half was busy with travel and substantially warmer. Nevertheless, I used both my at home time and my driving time to read.

I listened to Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the first time. Honestly, this was my first ever reading of a Dahl book. I also listened to Anne of Green Gables for the first time. I absolutely loved it. I've long been a fan of the movie, but somehow never got around to reading the series. There will definitely be more Anne reading in my future!

I marked off one reading goal, a mystery. I read A Stranger in Mayfair by Charles Finch. This is the fourth installment of the amateur detective Charles Lennox. I find the stories an easy read, but with definite mystery. I'm usually left guessing the culprit until the very end. I'd highly recommend this series.

On a whim I picked up a book written by a man who cycled the Tour Divide. A 2,800 mile Rocky Mountain mountain biking race that starts in Canada and goes to Mexico. Eat Sleep Ride was an interesting read as I knew little about bike racing and the man who wrote it set out, more or less, to come in last. :)

However, the book I want to somewhat briefly highlight is A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz. I checked the book out of the library for three reasons: the review I read in Book Pages, the cover featuring a paper doll suit of clothing (I was an avid paper doll fan as a girl and still have quite a soft spot for them), and the male author perspective on Austen. I am so glad I did.

When I concluded this slender volume, I nearly turned it back to the beginning to start again. I felt certain I'd missed something. Part memoir and part literary analysis, I soaked up Deresiewicz's thoughts about Austen's six novels. My favorite chapter was on Mansfield Park. What intrigued me in part was that it was his least favorite novel and yet he brought deep appreciation for the lessons of the text. I actually have never read Mansfield Park, but have plans to.

I want to share a few excerpted quotations of Deresiewicz's analysis of the novel. I hope, despite them being taken out of context, that you might get a small glimpse of this book. Though these flow chronologically through the chapter, they are not necessarily thoughts that tie together as interim story is left out. To get the full picture, you just need to read the book. I think it will be worth your time.

Shame, gratitude, terror, happiness, jealousy, love: her [Fanny's] emotions were not always pleasant, but she felt them with her whole body. "Fanny's feelings on the occasion were such as she believed herself incapable of expressing; but her countenance and a few artless words fully conveyed all their gratitude and delight."....Life was simply much more real to her than it was to Mary or Henry or Tom or Maria. Its risks were more threatening, its pleasures more precious. One of Austen's highest lessons, I realized, is that the only people who can really feel are those who have a sense of what it means to do without.
Being a valuable person--a "something" rather than a "nothing"--means having consideration for the people around you...But the novel's most important word of all was "useful."....Lady Bertram, not surprisingly--it was the worst thing that Austen could say about her--"never thought of being useful to anybody."
I resisted accepting this, for a long time, as a standard of behavior. It seemed so, well, utilitarian--so petty and practical. Is that the best we could do for one another, be "useful"? What about support and compassion and love? But eventually I started to see the point. Usefulness--seeing what people need and helping them get it--is support and compassion. Loving your friends and family is great, but what does it mean if you aren't actually willing to do anything for them when they really need you, put yourself out in any way? Love, I saw, is a verb, not just a noun--an effort, for just another precious feeling.
To listen to a person's stories, he [Edmund] understood, is to learn their feelings and experiences and values and habits of mind, and to learn them all at once and all together. Austen was not a novelist for nothing: she knew that our stories are what make us human, and that listening to someone else's stories--entering into their feelings, validating their experiences--is the highest way of acknowledging their humanity, the sweetest form of usefulness.
...I knew perfectly well that I fell far short of the standards that Austen was holding up, so I started to watch myself, and I started, yes, to exert myself. I made a deliberate effort to be useful to the people around me, whether it was something small, like showing up on time for dinner, or something bigger, like proofreading a friend's dissertation. Most of all, I practiced sitting still and listening--really listening. To friends, to students, even just to people I met, as their stories came stumbling out in the awkward, unpolished way that people have when you give them the freedom to speak from their heart. People's stories are the most personal thing they have, and paying attention to those stories is just about the most important thing you can do for them. I never did come to like Fanny's story, but that's the deepest lesson that finally listening to it had taught me.
(excerpted from the chapter Mansfield Park: Being Good from the book A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz)

Okay, I've babbled on long enough here. I'll just leave you with my completed reading list for May.

Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide by Tony Diterrlizzi (children's, read for work)
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell (children's, read for work)
A Stranger in Mayfair by Charles Finch
A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz
The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (audio)
Turkish Delights and Treasure Hunts by Jane Brocket
The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson
Eat Sleep Ride by Paul Howard
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Happy Reading to you all!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

May June

A week of June has already flown by and even more weeks than that since I last wrote here. I think about blogging and feel rather in slump with it.

In May I met my newest nephew, Max. I celebrated my youngest brother's graduation from high school. I also helped celebrate my mom's birthday and conclusion of 26 years of home schooling (how she did it I'll never know!). I made two trips back home, so got to see family much more than usual, which I always enjoy. All of this happened and I have few photos and no blog posts to show.

Since I did such a poor job of relating life in May, I'm going to strive for a better record in June. So, plan to stop back by for posts on such exciting topics as reading, gardening, and cooking.
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