Friday, February 29, 2008


I had great hopes for Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It came highly recommended, and I anticipated a wonderful book that would be difficult to put down.

Instead, I had to force myself to read it. After the first few pages I knew I did not like it. (It reminded me of Sophie's World, a novel that's supposed to be a fantasy about the history of philosophy.) Ishmael also uses a Socratic approach as Ishmael, a gorilla, teaches a white man (who is a writer) about the world, civilization, and "Mother Culture." This book is a sociological/anthropological/environmental/ecological novel.

What Ishmael teaches his pupil is that agriculture is BAD. Farmers are "Takers" responsible for overpopulation and most of the world's woes. Herders and hunters are GOOD. They are "Leavers" and their lifestyle encourages famine, which a benign, natural way of controlling population. (I'm not making this up!)

At one point Ishmael says to his pupil:
"Whenever a Taker couple talks about how wonderful it would be to have a big family, they're reenacting this scene beside the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They're saying to themselves, 'Of course it's our right to to apportion life on the planet as we please. Why stop at four kids or six? We can have fifteen if we like. All we have to do is plow under another few hundred acres of rain forest -- and who cares if a dozen other species disappear as a result?' "

Takers are bad because they have the knowledge of good and evil and can live apart from "the gods." Leavers are good because they live from hand to mouth - really in the hands of "the gods." (There is an awful lot of weird reasoning from the Bible here, too. Takers are descendents of the line of Cain, and Leavers are descended from Abel. Yeah. ) Takers are stagnant. Leavers are still evolving.

And the answer to the question, "What is Ishmael's pupil to do with this new knowledge?" is this: Save endangered Leaver peoples from extinction because they can show the Taker peoples that there is no one right way to live.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wine pairings

With beef - a red wine.
With chicken or fish - a white wine.

With knitting - a sheep label wine:

Steve found this for me to give to Miss Betty. I'm taking it to her tomorrow. I hope it's good enough to sip while knitting socks!

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mason-Dixon dishcloths

I love the dishcloth pattern from Mason-Dixon Knitting and have found that it makes a nice "thank-you" gift because it knits up quickly, and everyone can use another dishcloth. Last week I finished 4 dishcloths to give to two friends at church as a thank-you for the delicious homemade treats they gave us.


David's birthday week

David ended his birthday week festivities with Jackson, Rob, Winston, and Will at the lake. They had a few hours of air-soft battles with Tom, Sam, Joan, Sarah, Marley and Hayley, then the boys all came back to the house with us and spent the night. They had another battle after dark out in the field.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

The Power of One

Our local library book club is reading Bryce Courtenay's book, The Power of One as the March selection. Miss Betty had recommended it to me several months ago, so I thought it would be an interesting book, at the very least.

I was very surprised. This book contained more things that don't interest me than I thought could be possible to bring together into a compelling story. Boxing, bullies, shamanism, botany, prison life, betting, precocious children, railroads, and copper mines all blend together with WWII, South Africa, racism, and apartheid to make a book I read without stopping until I'd finished it.

The story is that of an English boy, self-named Peekay, living in South Africa with his widowed mother and grandfather. He was raised mostly by a Zulu nanny, and has a quick and intelligent mind. The story really begins when he is sent away to boarding school at the age of five. He's the only under-age boy there, and he is the only English kid in a school of Boers... who hate all Englishmen. Peekay is bullied and tortured, but at the same time he learns how to distance himself from what is going on, and how to use his mind to get ahead and stay safe. The story continues until he is 17, when he is preparing to go to Oxford for school.

I'm afraid to say much about the plot, for fear of giving away any of the delightful surprises that make the story such a good one. But Peekay is an admirable character, who refuses to hate, who helps those in need - often at great cost to himself, and who doesn't really use others, but depends on himself. This edition was the regular novel Mr. Courtenay first wrote and published. I read that he also edited this book (probably for language, and perhaps for a few graphically violent scenes) and published a version for younger children that only covers Peekay up until he began high school.


The Soul of a Chef

In The Soul of a Chef Michael Ruhlman continues to explore what makes a chef great. Last year I enjoyed The Making of a Chef, but I think this book was better.

Mr. Ruhlman describes the Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, and follows six men and one woman as they attempt to pass the 10-day examination. He explains the testing and comments on the final day of the exam - the hardest one, and the one which only a few of the original seven will still be around to take:

"This of course is not barbecue-and-coleslaw cooking; this is complex and difficult cooking: four-course meals for ten, four portions served on plates, and a buffet platter for six, after nine strenuous days of cooking and little sleep."

I cannot do justice to this book - the descriptions of the food prepared, the work involved, the emotions and personalities of the chefs - and the perfection for which each of them strives.

For the second and third parts of the book Ruhlman parks himself in two different restaurants (both of which still are still in operation with the same chefs as when this book was written) and shows the sights, sounds, activity, and food at Lola in Cleveland, Ohio, and the French Laundry in Yountville, California. After reading about them both I hope I'll someday have the chance to eat there. In the meantime, the descriptions of both restaurants, their chefs, and the food served will have to do.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

David is 13!

Today is David's 13th birthday. It's really been a birthday week for him, and it's not over yet! My home-birthed, mellow baby is a teenager now. Unbelievable.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Last day at the hotel

Today has been a day of swimming, reading, and lounging around. Tomorrow we leave early in the morning for Montgomery, Alabama, then home. It's been nice to have a small winter change of scenery, but we're missing the rest of the family and are ready to be home again.


We are here

Steve had business in Nashville and he invited David, Sam and me to tag along. We arrived Monday afternoon and have been having a great time.

Yesterday the boys and I had the car to ourselves, so we explored a bit of Brentwood. After breakfast at the hotel, and a swim in the indoor swimming pool, we headed over to Threaded Bliss Yarns for sock yarn. Emily and Dana helped me enormously - they settled the boys in a comfy spot with something to keep them occupied and happy while I looked at all their yarn. As soon as I found a couple of skeins of Colinette's Jitterbug Emily offered to wind them up for me. She wound up three skeins of sock yarn while I looked around the store.

I found some more yarn, but decided to take them home to wind because I wanted the boys to have some time to do what they liked, too.

For lunch we found a Chik-Fil-A with an indoor play place. The boys ate, then played while I read.

After about an hour of play/reading we walked over to Borders bookstore. David found a couple of books, Sam found a pirate book that came with a few props, and I found three books.

We read for a while at the store, then paid for our books and headed over to Harris Teeter grocery store so that Sam could get a balloon, a cookie, and ride Harry the dragon. I also got a nightlight for our hotel suite (Marriot hotels have nightlights in the bathroom, this Hilton hotel does not), and some olives and goat cheese to go with the sourdough baguettes we have in the room at the hotel.

Steve got back around 5:30 and we all went out to eat for David's birthday dinner. Because it was for his birthday, he chose the restaurant. It was Steak 'n Shake and David had a steakburger, fries, onion rings, and a chocolate shake. He was very happy.

We drove around Franklin (another pretty place) looking for a Dick's Sporting Goods so we could get David his birthday gift. On the way we found a Birkenstock store. Steve desperately needed good shoes for business wear, and we found them. Sam needed larger Crocs, so he got a pair, and I was daring and bought a pair of Merrell shoes that were half-price to try.

This is the first time in over three years that I will try to wear something other than Birkenstocks. I'm hoping my feet can take it. If not, I didn't spend a lot finding it out.

After that, we found the sporting goods store. Next to it was a Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft store, so I went there while the guys did their guy-shopping. I found some bright, large skeins of Sugar'n Cream cotton yarn for dishcloths.

Our last stop was the Book Gallery, where all the books were half-price or less. Steve, David and Sam got more books, and then we headed back to the hotel.


David and the babies

Geej sent the girls Valentine books and David read one of the books to Abbey and Mady.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Strawberry Fields

Strawberry Fields by Marina Lewycka is a surprisingly good read. This was an impulse "borrow" from the library, but I may end up buying a copy to keep.

Ms. Lewycka's novel follows an unlikely group of immigrant workers in England as they seek work, opportunity, and a chance to meet lofty life-goals. There are five women and four men from Poland, Ukraine, China, Africa, and Moldova and they begin the story on a strawberry farm. The story has been loosely compared to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and it is a pilgrimage of sorts for each of the characters. In a way, I suppose it can also be read as a comment on the effects of capitalism on the underclass, as the immigrants are taken advantage of in just about every way one could possibly imagine. But I love the way the repulsive bad guys get what's coming to them, and the kind good guys find love and contentment. You reap what you sow, right?

The novel was at times funny, and at times uncomfortable, but I think I liked it. A lot. I would like to try it on Jacy to see what she thinks, but as she's a bit too busy at the moment I think I'll push it Karin's way and ask what she thinks of it.


February's sock - finished

My January and February socks are now a finished pair - blocked and folded neatly in my drawer. I'll wear them eventually, but until I do, they're new!


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gooey Butter Cake

Despite my best efforts to get a picture of this week's new recipe results, it was completely eaten before I could get my camera. (I was lucky to get a bit of cake for myself before it disappeared!)

Hayley chose this week's recipe - a favorite of hers, but one we've never had before. Amy says this is a Midwestern favorite, and now we know why. I have no idea what this cake is like a few hours after it's made, but hot from the oven, eaten within 10 minutes of the oven timer going off it is warm, sweet, rich, and comforting! It's also quick and easy to make.

Gooey Butter Cake
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1/2 c. butter
1 egg

Mix these three ingredients and pat the dough into an ungreased 9x13 inch cake pan.

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 lb. box confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream together these ingredients and pour over cake dough, spreading to the edges. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

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Fresh flowers

The doorbell rang. The FedEx man handed us a box. Amy opened it to find lovely roses sent to her and the girls from Glenn.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Book give-away

Our regional library regularly discards books and I often stop in and scoop up an armful to use or to pass along to others. On my most recent visit last Friday I got a backseat-of-the-carful and sorted them out when I got home. Now I have a stack I'd like to give away to anyone who wants any or all of them. I'm willing to pay the postage (media mail) and ship them out before the end of next week. Email me (LLD61[at]hotmail[dot]com) with your list and address. First come, first served. All are library discards with the usual markings, and all but one are hardcovers.

Fowler's Modern English Usage by H.W. Fowler, second edition revised by Sir Ernest Gowers.

Up the Windy Hill by Aileen Fisher. Children's poems illustrated by the author with silhouettes.

Under the Tree by Elizabeth Maddox Roberts, illus. by F.D. Bedford. Children's poems.

Poems by Rachel Field. Children's poems illustrated by the author.

A Visit to Wlliam Blake's Inn by Nancy Willard, Alice and Martin Provensen. Children's poems.

Winds A'Blowing by May Justus, illus. by Jean Tamburine. Children's poems.

Winds A'Blowing (duplicate copy).

Walt Whitman's America; being selections from Leaves of Grass, Democratic Vistas, Specimen Days and Potraits of Lincoln by James Daugherty, illus. by James Daugherty.

Let's Read a Story edited by Sidonie Matsner Gruenberg. Illus. by Virginia Parsons. Stories for boys and girls.

Wind Song by Carl Sandburg, illus. by William A. Smith. Poems chosen for children.

Wind Song (duplicate copy).

The Sandburg Range by Carl Sandburg. Poetry and prose.

Green Fingers and Other Poems by Reginald Arkell, illus. by John Teppich. Poems about gardening.

In Tribute to Mothers edited by William Lyon Phelps. Poetry and prose.

The Days Before by Katherine Anne Porter. Articles and essays.

Gold... ABC's of Panning! by E.S. "Rocky" LeGaye. Softcover. How to pan for gold.

Honey and Salt by Carl Sandburg. Poems.

Corrie's Christmas Memories by Corrie ten Boom.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Lenten Bible reading

Several years ago Sora wrote about reading through the Bible for Lent. It sounded so good, I decided to do it myself last year. Unfortunately, I didn't record what I did to use as a pattern or schedule to use if I wanted to do it again.

My yearly read-through-the-Bible plan is to read at least 3 or more chapters a day, cross-referencing, and exploring topics as often as I like. But to read through my Bible in 40 days requires a bit more discipline.

This year I made a plan and wrote it down in a notebook (which I hope I won't misplace before next year!). I'm reading about 30 minutes to an hour each day, and I can record a few thoughts or verses from each day's reading in a notebook.

On Wednesday I read Genesis. On Thursday I read Exodus. Today I read Leviticus and Numbers. Tomorrow I read Deuteronomy. For large books I read one a day. (I may take two days for Psalms.) I'll read 5 or 6 smaller books a day. Last year if I felt like reading more than was on my "schedule" then I read more, and I plan to do the same this year.

One thing that amazed me last year was how once I'd begun reading I didn't want to stop. Reading the Word was both comforting and exciting at the same time. And history and prophecy were both more startling and clear at a gallop than they were at my usual walking pace of annual Bible-reading.

Jesus Christ said, "It is written 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' " (Matthew 4:4) Reading through the Bible each year is daily bread, but this Lenten reading is a feast!

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For years Glenn kept his little sisters in pretty hair styles. I didn't have the patience or inclination to do anything other than brush the girls' hair, but Glenn would make them braids or pretty ponytails for church or just when they wanted to look special.

Last night Joan put Abbey's hair up in a ponytail on top of her head. Madyson immediately started saying, "Me, too! Me, too!" Mady's hair is maybe three inches long - on the top of her head, and nowhere else. But Joan figured out a way to scrape a few hairs into a ponytail for Mady and we took a picture.

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Sam lost a tooth

Sam lost his first tooth on Tuesday. I feel like we've now officially ended our "baby era." The last of the little ones is now a big kid.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The girls and David

David is a good uncle. He cheerfully allows Abbey to use his ears as reins when he plays that he's a horse.
Glenn is on the plane to South Korea now. He should get there around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. our time, but it will be 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. there.
We're hoping to hear from him soon after he gets off the plane.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Key Lime Chicken and Peppers and Peas Salad

Last week we forgot to make a new recipe, so we doubled up this week. Both of these recipes appeared in the food section of The Birmingham News a few weeks ago.

Sarah made the chicken and I made the salad.

Key Lime Chicken
8 oz. chicken cutlets (we used boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
2 T. unsalted butter, divided (we used salted butter)
1 T. minced green onion, white part only
1 T. grated fresh ginger
2 T. fresh Key lime juice (alas, we had to use regular limes because we could not find Key limes anywhere!)
1 t. soy sauce
minced fresh cilantro

Sprinkle chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Melt 1 T. butter in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken cutlets; cook until browned on both sides and just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. (Sarah cooked the chicken breasts a little longer to make certain they were cooked through.) Transfer to a serving plate; keep warm.

Reduce heat to medium; add remaining tablespoon of butter to skillet. Add onion and saute until golden, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add ginger; stir in lime juice and soy sauce. Bring to a boil; spoon over chicken. Sprinkle with cilantro to serve. Makes 2 servings. (We tripled the recipe and had no leftovers.)

This was a winner, and we'll make it again.

Peppers and Peas Salad
2 bell peppers, yellow, red or orange
1 t. olive oil
4 strips bacon
1/2 can cannelloni beans, drained
1/2 can cooked peas, drained
3 T. snipped dill weed (fresh)
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
white pepper and salt to taste
1 T. lemon juice (fresh)
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 T. pine nuts, toasted

Slice peppers in half lengthwise, discarding seeds and membrane. Set aside. Heat 1 t. olive oil in skillet and cook bacon until crisp. Combine beans, peas, dill, crumbled bacon, feta, salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and olive oil. Toss and mix well. Carefully spoon mixture into pepper halves and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

We doubled this recipe, and I mixed in the nuts and sprinkled the feta on top. I liked it a lot. That's good, because I will be eating it for the next several meals as no one else was thrilled with it. Steve would call this "lady food."

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Feeding herself

Several nights ago, while we were eating supper, Mady helped herself to a serving spoon and proceeded to eat with it. After we noticed what she was doing she hammed it up for a few pictures.

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The Pillars of the Earth

Last month I read The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. For several years I've noticed that The Woolery sells this book as one that spinners, weavers, and knitters might enjoy, and I wondered why as I knew it was historical fiction about cathedral-building in the 12th century. Now I get it - one of the female characters, Aliena, rebuilds her fortunes by buying and selling wool, weaving it into cloth, then felting it. But that's a minor part of this thick book.

The plot in a nutshell: three men desire to build a large, beautiful cathedral in Kingsbridge, England. Prior Philip, Tom Builder, and Tom's step-son Jack Jackson manage to succeed in getting the cathedral built, despite many obstacles including war, the bitter hatred of various clergymen and earls, fires, death, political intrigue, economic downturns, and other calamities that I've forgotten by now.

This was a page-turner, and I'm looking forward to reading the not-really-a-sequel, World without End.