Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Last day of March

I love having a birthday month - that's when birthday wishes, birthday greetings, birthday presents, and birthday surprises come all through the month, not just on the day of my birth.

Mary the Mail Lady brought packages from Baerbel and Beth today. So on this gloomy rainy day I'm opening cards and gifts and thanking God for friends.

Beth sent a Trader Joe bag and catalog, recipe cards, Taste of Home magazine, and a beautiful bracelet she made of green Swarovski crystals.

Baerbel sent a set of heart-shaped cookie cutters, a heart-shaped box, coffee drinks, a pen and key-chain set, a 2009 Weight Watchers calendar book and a towel she embroidered herself.

The children loved the pig on the envelope:

And now I am ready for April to begin.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Love Over Scotland

This is the third book in Alexander McCall Smith's Scotland Street series. Perhaps because I read it immediately after I finished Espresso Tales I found it a bit disappointing. Pat's life is changing direction and Domenica's friend, Antonia, was too odd. On the other hand, Lard O'Connor is back; Irene is just as brash, bossy and abrasive as ever; and Domenica's pirates are... modern.

I'm looking forward to The World According to Bertie.


Espresso Tales

Espresso Tales is the second book in Alexander McCall Smith's Scotland Street series. This book continues the stories of the characters living and working in Edinburgh. I was very pleased with the continuation of the characters' lives and found it extremely difficult to put the book down.

I'm afraid to outline any of the plot, lest I spoil the story, so I'll just say that Alexander McCall Smith continues to delight and amaze me with his novels.


A World Lost

I read Wendell Berry's book, A World Lost last month, got busy, and forgot to post anything about it.

It's a good thing this novel is a short one. It was sad and mysterious, but the sadness wasn't lightened nor was the mystery solved in the end. I probably could not have finished it had it been a longer book, as I found the story emotionally demanding.

This story is about Andy Catlett's Uncle Andrew and Andy's recollection of Andrew and the day he was murdered. Andy's feelings for his uncle are intertwined with his emotions at leaving behind the innocence of childhood.

"When I opened the door my father and Cousin Thelma quit talking. Cousin Thelma smiled at me and said, 'Hello, Andy, my sweet.'

My father smiled at me too, but he did not say anything. He stood, held out his hand to me, and I took it. He led me out into the hall and up the stairs.

And I remember how terribly I did not want to go. I had come out of the great free outdoor world of my childhood--the world in which, in my childish fantasies, I hoped someday to be a man. But my father, even more than my mother with her peach switch, was the messenger of another world, in which, as I unwillingly knew, I was already involved in expectation and obligation, difficulty and sorrow. It was as if I knew this even from my father's smile, from the very touch of his hand. Later I would understand how surely even then he had begun to lead me to some of the world's truest pleasures, but I was far from such understanding then."
In the rest of the book, Andy gives details about Uncle Andrew - his life and his relationship with the rest of the Catletts and others in Hargrave and Port William. Andrew appeared to be a kind of hard-living ne'er-do-well who didn't do much. His story was dark and subtly destructive. Yet Andy and Wheeler loved him.

Although Andy does not resolve to his satisfaction the reason for Andrew's death, nor the answer to his own question, "What manner of man was he?" he does come up with a way to soothe himself:

"Remembering, I suppose, the best days of my childhood, I used to think I wanted most of all to be happy--by which I meant to be here and to be undistracted. If I were here and undistracted, I thought, I would be at home.

But now I have been here a fair amount of time, and slowly I have learned that my true home is not just this place but is also that company of immortals with whom I have lived here day by day. I live in their love, and I know something of the cost. Sometimes in the darkness of my own shadow I know that I could not see at all were it not for this old injury of love and grief, this little flickering lamp that I have watched beside all these years."

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Moderne Log Cabin Blanket - Block 9 is endless

I knit on block 9 while we watch episodes of Lost on DVD. I think I'm going to have to knit on it at other times if I'm ever to finish it.

See the tiny marker? It marks Garter Stitch Row 45. I have to knit 99 garter stitch rows. Then I'll have to knit the border.

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A view from the front porch

Red azaleas are very cheerful on a gloomy day.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Despite my allergies, I love spring

Camellias on the ground.

Camellias on the bush:

Azaleas beginning to bloom:


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Friday, March 20, 2009

I Meant to Do my Work Today

This is just as true for 48-year-old mothers as it is for 7-year-old sons.

I Meant to Do My Work Today

I meant to do my work today---
But a brown bird sang in the apple-tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand---
So what could I do but laugh and go?

~Richard Le Gallienne

It's from Sam's current favorite book of poems:

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Columbus and quilting

Columbus thought he should help me baste the top, batting, and back of the quilt. He's not a lot of help, but he is amusing.

I can see how a quilting frame would make this easier. I do have Steve's grandmother's old quilting hoop and I think I might try giving it a go.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Point of view

David climbed up on the roof of the garage and took pictures of the back yard and Tom's cottage. And the laundry on the line. It's the view the birds (and the cats) get, I suppose.


Sidetracked by Granny Squares

With Steve gone this week I have some extra time to do stuff. Unfortunately, I've not been disciplined with my extra time and have squandered it with a shot-gun approach to projects. Last night I thought I might get some serious work done on a sock for Dad, or try to make headway with the last block of Sarah's Moderne Log Cabin blanket. Instead I decided to try making one small granny square.

It happened so fast I thought I'd make another. Then another. And so it went... .


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Basting takes forever

Basting is not my favorite part of quilting. It's dangerously close to being boring. However, I have to get it done eventually because when Steve gets home he will probably want to eat his meals at the table. Right now the dining room table is covered with quilt and cutting mat. Children and I eat elsewhere.


What Laura is doing on her spring break


I decided to work on a quilt for Joan.

This could end up eating more time than I realized. And could seriously vie with crocheting as my "new mania." (I always think of Toad from The Wind in the Willows when I get hooked on a new hobby... .)

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A trio of knitted baby bibs

Two still need to have the buttons sewn on. These will be for a baby boy due any day now.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Crocheted baby blanket: Done

I'm on a roll with the baby blankets, but that's good because we have a lot of pregnant ladies at church. Next up: I'm thinking pink and white... .


Socks for Dad: Done

These seemed to be the longest socks in the world. The good news is that I had enough yarn to finish both. I gave them to Dad and cast on his second pair - the pair for which he wants nine-inch cuffs.

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What Steve is doing on his spring break

And Glenn is having fun, too!


Friday, March 13, 2009

Birthday fun!

My birthday was Wednesday. Joan and Sarah had class that day so afterwards they went to their favorite grocery bakery and got these lovely confections for us all to enjoy. It was perfect! We cut tiny bite-sized portions and everyone enjoyed a taste of each dessert, but no one got enough sugar to make him sick.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Frogmore Stew

On Monday evening Tom cooked and served Frogmore Stew for our supper. There were fifteen of us and we had lots leftover, even though we ate until we were stuffed. We ate it in the traditional way - with our hands! And there was very little clean-up to do afterwards. We simply rolled up the newspapers with the cans, cobs and shrimp shells and threw them in the trash.

Frogmore Stew (Tom's way)
Potatoes, washed and cut in half
Corn on the cob, shucked and cut in half
Kielbasa sausage
Crab legs
crab boil

(Use in quantities appropriate to the number of people to feed.) In large pot, boil potatoes for 20 minutes. Add sausage and crab legs and boil for 15 more minutes. Add crab boil and shrimp and cook for 10 more minutes. Add corn and cook for 5 more minutes. Drain off water, dump food on newspaper-covered table and eat. Napkins optional.

When I make it I add onions and bell peppers and omit the crabs.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Have yarn, will darn

Last night I read a reference to darning socks in the current issue of MaryJanesFarm. I thought, "Darn it! [Sorry! Couldn't resist!] I have several pairs of socks with holes in them and I save all my leftover sock yarn. There's no reason why I couldn't darn those socks and wear them again."

The socks in question are all wool and handknit, which is why I never threw them out. All but one pair were gifts and I keep thinking that someday I'll repair them.

Last night I decided "Someday" was now. The only snag for me was that I have no darning egg, and off-hand, I couldn't even think of a good substitute.

But today I searched my closet because I remembered the children once had a little egg that rattled when shaken, to be used when making music. I didn't find the egg, but I did find a little maraca we must have bought for Sam a few years ago. I also found one end of a wooden apple that went to a set of play fruit purchased from Magic Cabin years ago as a Christmas present for one of the children.

After darning one pair of socks, I'm definitely using only the maraca from now on. It's the perfect size and the handle makes it easier than the apple slice to manipulate.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Emil and the Detectives

I've heard about Emil and the Detectives for years from other homeschooling families. When I saw a copy at our library's book sale I bought it and read it. It's a cute story about a young boy, Emil, who goes to Berlin to visit his grandmother and other relatives. Emil's widowed mother styles ladies' hair in her home to earn a living. She saves what she can from her small earnings to send to her mother in Berlin. On this trip, which Emil makes alone, his mother has him take a large sum of money to his grandmother.

While riding on the train to Berlin, Emil falls asleep and while sleeping is robbed of his money by a fellow traveler. Emil awakes, realizes what has happened and decides he must get the money back. The book tells how Emil and his "detectives" - many other small boys in Berlin - track the thief and plot and plan the perfect way to capture the thief and get back Emil's money. In addition, they find that their robber is more than a petty thief and Emil gets a huge reward which he uses to help his mother.

It was a delightful story and I look forward to sharing it with Sam, who is seven.

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You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can't Make Him Think

Ray Comfort's book, You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can't Make Him Think was somewhat similar to Timothy Keller's book, The Reason for God, in that its intended audience is atheists and skeptics. It's a very short book and a quick read, but the tone is not as gentle or friendly as Mr. Keller's book.

The book is a series of questions and accusations emailed to Mr. Comfort and answered by him. The subtitle is "Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics" and the language is definitely angry. This book is very in-your-face.

While it might be helpful for a Christian to learn what sort of arguments he might hear from an atheist friend or co-worker, some might not be comfortable responding in the same way as Mr. Comfort. For a gentler, kinder, but still strong and sound response, I'd recommend Timothy Keller's book.

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The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

One of our pastors said Timothy Keller's book, The Reason for God was a good book, so I read it while traveling last week. It's a fine book for Christians to read, but it really would make good recommended reading for one's skeptic or atheist friends.

Keller takes many of the common modern arguments against genuine belief in God and gives good, solid answers. He uses the Bible and works by C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard, and others to bolster his arguments for belief in the living God. (He even mentioned Wendell Berry!)

It was both a good read and a good manual for thoughtful answers to often-heard questions.

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Out of the Salt Shaker and into the World

Rebacca Manley Pippert's book, Out of the Salt Shaker and into the World was one of the books recommended at our church's mission conference last month. In this book Mrs. Pippert shares anecdotes and practical wisdom regarding evangelism as a part of one's day-to-day life. I found her advice for Christians to truly live what we believe - that is, to pursue holiness - refreshing.

This in particular spoke to me:

"There are other ways that God's holy presence in us can be expressed to the world. One of the greatest differences about Christians is that we know we are sinners. Therefore, we have the freedom to admit our sins and weaknesses. We are also free to share how God is helping us overcome our temptations.

'Our honesty with seekers about our struggles does several things. First, it punctures the stereotype that Christians think they are perfect. We don't excuse sin by rationalizing it. Indeed, it's because we take sin so seriously that we try to develop a realistic understanding of who we are, warts and all. Our self-honesty, however, leads us to hope, because we see that God is changing us, not overnight and not without setbacks, but slowly and surely.

'Our honesty before others also shatters the stereotype that all Christians are judgmental and critical people. By sharing our weaknesses, we acknowledge that we not only understand the human condition but we too must overcome it! We are not "finished products," yet we rejoice that by God's grace we are being strengthened to change. Owning our sins and temptations can actually lead seekers to experience conviction for their sins."

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Parsley for soup

The parsley I planted last spring survived all our sub-freezing nights and has overshadowed the mint and is in serious competition with the rosemary.

Last night Sarah made beef soup and we harvested about one cup's worth of parsley to put in it.

Beef Soup

2 lbs. ground beef, cooked and drained
3 carrots, washed, peeled, and diced
3 celery stalks, washed and diced
1 onion, diced
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 lb egg noodles
1/4 cup beef-like powder
6 to 6 1/2 quarts water

In pan, saute carrots, celery, onion, parsley and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent. Transfer to large soup pot. Add beef-like powder (or beef broth or beef bouillon) and water and cooked ground beef. Bring to a slow boil and add noodles. Cook about 6 minutes or until noodles are tender. Serve.

This soup fed 9 of us, using large bowls and having second (and even a few third!) helpings.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Spring bouquet

Marley brought me a bouquet of daffodils and spring snowflakes she picked in the field behind our house.

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Bracelets by Joan

Yesterday Joan had some time on her hands so she rummaged through boxes of sewing items left to me by my grandmother. She took a few items and disappeared, returning later with these two bracelets for Sarah. She ran these up on the girls' sewing machine using a bit of trim and a few buttons. When I saw them I thought she'd gone shopping!


Back to Posey

I started knitting Lisa Kay's Posey sock pattern last April. I love this pattern! It is so much fun to work - and so pretty.

Last spring I finished the squares for one sock, then decided to go ahead and knit the same part for the second sock before finishing the first. I knit about half of the second sock, then set it aside to knit for other people.

When I packed my suitcase for San Diego last week I looked for a small knitting project to take with me. I knew I'd knit on the sock for Dad on the plane, but wanted something a bit more challenging for knitting at the resort. Posey was the perfect project. Now I want to finish them and wear them - and maybe start a second pair... .

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Dad's socks - getting there

I asked Dad to try on the finished sock last week and let me know how it fit lengthwise. He has long feet (size 12 shoe) and I was afraid I wouldn't get them right. I finished the toe, but did not weave in the yarn so that if I had to rip back and make them shorter, I could. (Aric's feet are size 13 and Steve's are size 11, so I was hoping I had hit the happy medium.)

He came while I was out and tried on the sock. When I saw him later in the day, he said it was great, but he'd like it a bit longer. LONGER?! What he meant was that he'd like a longer cuff. Unfortunately I knit the sock from the cuff down to the toe, so adding length to the cuff isn't really an option.

But now I know for his second pair to make the cuff 9 inches instead of 8 inches.

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Moderne Log Cabin: intarsia

I am now finally working on Block 9 of Sarah's afghan, the Mason-Dixon Moderne Log Cabin blanket. I've been thinking of it as two blocks, but according to the pattern, it is one block knit using intarsia to join the colors. (The colors in the top photo are not true.)

This may take some time. I have to knit 99 garter stitch rows for this block. But it makes for good movie-watching knitting, and the temperatures are still cool enough to make me thankful I can drape it over me and stay warm while I knit.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

High tea

Thankfully, Chuck and Kim actually brought their camera on Saturday and took pictures as we walked around the resort. (I never remember to do that. I wanted to get a picture of Beth and me together and I completely forgot to get my camera out.)

My "little" brother and me:

Chuck, Kim, Steve and I enjoying our tea:

Chuck and Kim on our balcony:

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The Grand Del Mar

Chuck and Kim came to see us at the hotel on Saturday afternoon and spent about four hours with us. It's so ironic - here we live 4 houses apart in a tiny town in Alabama and we never see one another. Too busy. But they were in San Diego for an educators' convention while we were in La Jolla on a trip with the company Steve works for and we spent a greater chunk of time together on Saturday than we have in the past three years - holidays included.

I knew Kim would love the hotel. She took a lot of pictures. When she and Chuck flew out to San Diego on Thursday, they sat next to Erin, the woman who works for The Grand Del Mar and who booked our company trip for the resort! She told them so much about the resort that they were able to educate us when they came to see us. And while they were there, they saw Erin again and thanked her for telling them about the resort. We all toured the hotel, then had high tea on one of the many balconies. Steve said the highlight of the trip for him was Kim's delight at the beauty of the hotel and its setting.

Now I'm trying to find a good book about Addison Mizner, the man whose architectural style influenced the design of The Grand Del Mar.

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