Seventeen Years of Real Life

There we are.   Audrey took this photo last night, which was the 17th anniversary of the nearly fateful day when Jon and I were, for a few hours,  refused permission to get a marriage license.

We managed to pull that one out of the fire after a couple of hours of racing around downtown Hendersonville, NC where we persuaded a physician we hardly knew to give us each a physical on the spot, fully clothed, in a stairwell.  I believe he said “You both look pretty good to me.” and he checked off all the necessary boxes and signed his name.
Jon and I  ran back to the courthouse just before closing time, snatched our license up and got hitched 48 hours later on a brilliant spring day surrounded by people we love.

Much of the seventeen years that followed have been like that Thursday afternoon.   Just when it all looks one way, something else rears up and changes the landscape.   And I think it’s all working out pretty fine. What a gift this man  is to me.

Leland Ryken on Work

I have been thinking of something one of my dear friends said to me last week regarding being fully involved and invested in the work set before us at all times.

Our trouble  is that sometimes the tasks before us seem mundane or unpleasant or tedious and so we do them in a distracted manner, rather than pouring ourselves in and making the details of our lives lovely.   It all came flooding over me yesterday as I was sewing up a couple of new table cloths and decided not to bother ironing the edges since they were only for the kitchen.

They turned out fine, but I knew I was hurrying too much and taking lazy shortcuts…and that’s a weed that’s hard to eradicate!

My friend  and I are praying for one another, that a Godly  kind of self-investment in our work will be  more evident in our lives every moment of every day.  It’s surprising how easily I fall off the rails on this and fritter my time and have to reorient myself to the notion that there is a good work set before me for each moment, and that I need to be giving myself to it with my whole heart, and doing it as unto the Lord.  Whether it’s dishes or laundry or teaching history or marking grammar papers or cooking dinner.

It’s about stewardship of time and energy, and about being thankful for the time, energy, people and work that have been bestowed upon me.

So with this in mind, I have gone back in an old notebook to look at things I have copied from other writers regarding “work”, and here is something that popped out at me as being right on target…..how even a pagan idea can be applied in a godly way if our perspective is one of honor to God and thanksgiving for his providence.

“There is something primordial about work.  It answers a deep-seated human urge to be useful, to master something, to do something skillfully, to produce something tangible.   Karl Marx put it this way:

‘Labor is the very touchstone for man’s self-realization, the medium of creating the world of his desire….Man….labors to transform his world, to put his own mark on it, to make it his, and to make himself at home in it.’

Of course this view of work as achievement can lead to either a humanistic view of human greatness or a Christian stance of stewardship in which ability and opportunity are accepted gratefully as God given.”

Leland Ryken’s Work and Leisure in Christian Perspective

Jeremiah Burroughs

“Carnal men and women do not know their own spirits, and therefore they fling and vex themselves at every affliction that befalls them.  They do not know what disorders are in their hearts which may be healed by their afflictions, if is pleases God to give them a sanctified use of them.”

Jeremiah Burroughs…The Rare Jewel

there was once a little nubbin of knitting…

And that little nubbin looked like this when it appeared on my old green blog last month.

So, what ever happened to that nubbin?

That innocent looking nubbin was actually  a relentless instrument of torture for me for  most of the month of April.  I knitted along, and got as far as the 53rd row …a few times.
In fact, I know that I started it over from it’s very complicated provisional cast-on beginning… at least eleven times.  I think I almost cried over it while trying to correct my mistakes in the car (with Jon driving) on Good Friday.  I got so tangled up in a series of mistakes while I was knitting in Ohio two weeks ago,  I had to start all over again, AGAIN.

A small voice whispered to me that perhaps I was in over my head, but I hunkered down over that orange yarn snarling  “I Am Not!”

And then I remembered that knitting is supposed to be pleasant and restful and soothing and creative.  Knitting should not feel  like going to war.

So I started over with an easier pattern and some fresh yarn, and here is what I have achieved in six days:

This is the Modest Lace Shawl , which you can check out for yourself if you click that link, and which I have made before.  But this time I’m using much finer wool on size 3.25 needles (I think that pattern recommends something like size 4), so it’s going to take twice as much time to get it done.  But it does look nice in this finer gauge.  I think I am about 30% done here, and it’s pretty gratifying to see it getting bigger and better every day.  As I write this, I am about to get the tea ready for knitting night, my knitting neighbors are on their way over!

Meanwhile,  here is the latest on the orange Angel Lace Shawl:

I will return to it once I finish the Modest Lace one, and hopefully I will have learned something along the way about keeping a better count of my stitches and not getting jumbled up.  If anyone ever reads this and has any good suggestions for how to place markers in this piece of work, I am all ears.

Spenser, Milton, Melville and Machiavelli

Just after lunch today, I read aloud from Canto One of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene. The boys were super leary of this selection before we started reading it.  But they  warmed up as we go into it.

Then I lost Helen at the point in the fight with the dragon where the Red Cross Knight finally gets the upper hand.  Here is what caused her to nearly lose her lunch:

“Therewith she spewd out of her filthy maw
A floud of poyson horrible and blacke,
Full of great lumpes of flesh and gobbets raw,
Which stunck so vildly, that it forst him slacke
His grasping hold, and from her turne him backe:
Her vomit full of bookes and papers was,
With loathly frogs and toades, which eyes did lacke,
And creeping sought way in the weedy gras:
Her filthy parbreake all the place defiled has.”

So, sweet dear Helen (who was  perched on the edge of her seat waiting for those little fairies to trot out in poetic beauty) immediately recoiled in horror.

Daniel, meanwhile, perked right up and engaged with this piece of poetry in a way quite unique for him.  Leaning forward whispering “yeah, man yeah…”.

Canto Two after Monday lunch.

I am reading Paradise Lost, myself.  The introduction alone was worth the price of the book.  Amazing to learn that Milton’s own doctrinal statements, found over 200 years after his death, refute the Nicene council’s statements on Christ’s divinity.  And that once orthodox theologians began to understand Milton’s ideas in this matter, their acceptance of Paradise Lost as commendable Christian poetry and a  theological work of art came to an end.  Even though these ideas  are nowhere to be seen in Paradise Lost.  He is seen to be in grave error,  his work now considered heretical, even though it was once much beloved and quoted form pulpits of well educated reformed ministers.  How the mighty are fallen…..

Meanwhile, I have a couple of kids who are reading Machiavelli’s The Prince, and I expect I’ll send one up here for a little discussion of the book next week.

And I am, FINALLY, reading Moby Dick aloud to the whole bunch of kids.  So far, they love it.    I believe this is my my fifth reading of Moby Dick…..And that first appearance of Queequay the harpooner is funny every time.

Figuring out who we are over here…..

This blog is getting itself sorted out, though for the moment, it’s kind of muddled.

Is it a book blog? is it a mommy blog?  Is it a food Blog?

Is it an SAT preparation Blog?  Is it a desperate bid for attention?

Is it going to goof off and act like a knitting blog once in awhile?

Yes, and maybe more….once we get ourselves figured out here.

The Rare Jewel….

“All God’s strokes are strokes of love and mercy, all God’s ways are mercy and truth, to those that fear Him and love Him (Psalm 25:10). The ways of God, the ways of affliction, as well as the ways of prosperity are mercy and love to him.
Grace gives a man an eye, a piercing eye to peirce into the counsel of God, those eternal counsels of God for good to him, even in his afflictions; he can see the love of God in every affliction as well as prosperity.
Now this is a mystery to the carnal heart. They can see no such thing. Perhaps they think God loves them when He prospers them and makes them rich, but they think God loves them not when He afflicts them.
That is a mystery, but grace instructs them in that mystery, grace enables men to see love in the very frown of God’s face, and so comes to receive contentment.”

Jeremiah Burroughs

The Rare Jewel , p. 21

Helen’s 3-Day Coconut Cake

This is my mother’s much loved coconut cake recipe, which she always served at Easter lunch back in those blessed days when she was cooking for us all.
When it says “3-day” that means make it three days ahead.  And this three day business was pretty huge with Mom…..like, you should see the look she gives if I make it only one day ahead.

And it actually is much better when you make it ahead of time.

There are some in our family who use Duncan Hines Golden Butter cake mix for the cake, but the preferred cake is as follows:

onc cup of soft butter
one and a half cups of sugar
one and two thirds cups sifted cake flour
three large eggs and one egg white, beaten but not stiff
one teaspoon almond  extract

Cream butter with sugar until fluffy.  Alternately add flour and  beaten eggs, blending well after each addition. Add extract.  When your batter is smooth, pour into two prepared nine inch cake pans.  Bake 25 minutes or until your toothpick indicates done-ness.
Cool on racks.

Now, gather the following for the frosting and filling:

two cups of sugar
two cups sour cream
two nine ounce packages of frozen coconut, thawed
one and a half cups Cool Whip

Combine sugar, sour cream, and coconut.  Chill.

Once you have  everything cool, assembled and ready to join  together….(I always take a deep breath at this point and have a little chat with my layers about not breaking as we move from rack to platter….)
The next step it to VERY CAREFULLY split each layer in half, creating four layers.

Then,set aside one cup of the sour cream mixture for frosting.
Spread the remainder between the layers of your cake.  ***

Combine reserved sour cream mixture with Cool Whip.  Blend until smooth, spread on top and sides of cake.

Store this in an air-tight cake container for THREE DAYS before serving.  It will be the moistest and most coco-nutty cake you ever tasted.

***Sometimes, at this point, I will put a layer of lemon curd as a filling between two layers, in place of the coconut mixture….so we have, from the bottom layer, moving upwards:  cake, coconut mixture, cake, lemon curd, cake, coconut mixture,  and then cake which will be frosted.

Men, Women, Heavy Equipment and Flowers

This post is for my cute husband.   Does that gross anybody out?
PDA on the blog.   He gets a blog post all his own because
A) he is in Amsterdam  wretchdly sleep-deprived waiting for a plane to take him those last couple of inches (on my map)  to Oslo, and  I miss him.  And….

B) he told me four times last night that I have to write this on the blog because  he thinks

1)  it is much more funny than it really is, and  2) it reflects the universal breakdown in communication between Men and Women.

So, in order to get to this story you have to lean way back to May 16, 2002, on which day, Jon hopped into his fun little convertible on a flawless blue-sky California morning with the intoxicating scent of jasmine heavy in the air.

(His car would have been just in the driveway at the back of the photo here.)  And  before he drove out across the canyon to Loma Linda, just a little  too casually he asked if I would be home that day….as something was being delivered  and I should be there when it arrived.       I smiled, nodded, and then hauled my 35 weeks pregnant/almost 40 year old hulk towards our house, which was almost entirely in the deep throws of major renovation, thinking “Flowers, he’s sending flowers….what a guy”                                                                                                                                                                                                        So the day droned on, I and my four little darlings doing domestic things………. the things we did on any ordinary California day…….like A-beka Math, fumigating black widow spiders in the  day…….like A-beka Math, fumigating black widow spiders in the Tonka trucks, shooting the odd rattle snake, shooing tarantulas out of the kitchen, and watching coyote packs drink out of the baby pool.

And after lunch I began to fill the large wash tub in the laundry room with water so I could bathe some animal.

Then, I heard the sound of a large truck (Uncommon for us out in the wilderness where we lived)  and I dropped everything and went to investigate.

It was a big giant truck trying to tie itself into a tiny knot so it could fit through the hairpin  turn  with gateposts on either side which was our driveway.   When the side of the truck kissed the gate and kept plunging ahead, the screeching of metal completely liquified my spine.   I nearly fainted.

It was also noticing that  it wasn’t a florist’s truck.

I think the driver decided to off-load his parcel at the foot of the driveway, and bring it up on that machine that is some kind of cousin of a bob-cat, which you sometimes see  clinging for dear life on the tailgate of an 18-wheeler.
I was  thinking “What on earth…?” or something similar and he was hauling  this enormous box, larger than larger than the bob-cat thingy that was pushing it up the 45 degree incline to the house.   Without a word of English, and my not knowing how to understand what he said in Spanish, he drove it into the garage, set it down,  handed me an invoice and left.

I marched down right behind him to see what he had done to the cast iron gate (which I had just finished painting)……..

.and examined the chipped bricks which would need to be filled in and repainted, grumbling a little as I went along.  Here is a photograph of that gate, just to give you an idea.

I read the invoice and saw that  a very, very nice table saw had just been bestowed upon us.
And so I trudged into the kitchen, thinking that a table saw would certainly help us finish the renovations more than flowers would have.

And then I heard water running.  And for a minute or two, I continued to hear water running, until it dawned on me that I had left the washtub filling…..I had completely and utterly forgotten it as I was so freaked out by that truck demolishing my gate post.

Well……the laundry room (where the water was running) was a long skinny room, with the ironing board along one side, and an iron on it, which was turned on.  It was plugged into an extension cord, and the connection was on the floor.

But I didn’t think about that when I saw that the floor was 3 inches deep in the water
which had overflowed the sink.  So I headed straight for the faucet intending to turn off the water,
and planted my right foot squarely on the little bit of exposed electricity just at the connection between the iron and the extension cord.

And I felt the most astonishing sensation of electricity in my face.  It threw me back, and I grabbed the cord and pulled it out of the wall

A few of us spent the rest of the day wet-vaccuuming the lime green carpet of that laundry room.  And later, I ripped the carpet out, before heading down the driveway to plaster over the missing chunk of my gate-post.


He  heard the story last night for the first time, and now he sees this as some kind of metaphor for all marriage miscommunication.
In addition, he laughed his head off.
It was one of those things where his laughter was funnier than the joke.

So then I was laughing at him, and he was laughing at this thing that’s really no funnier than a whole lot of other days I can remember at that address in the desert in California.

I often look around myself in Canada, and California seems like another universe, entirely.

Shocking news about Canadian Taxes?

Well, being American and all, when I saw the bit of shocking news here below, I thought….how on earth can I comment on this without sounding imperialistic or American or something.  I can’t.  But here it is.

“VANCOUVER, B.C. – A prominent think-tank that’s often critical of government spending policies says Canadian families spend more than two-fifths of their total income on taxes.

The Canadian Consumer Tax Index 2010, which calculates the total tax bill of the average Canadian family, found that taxes have increased by a whopping 1,624 per cent since 1961. In contrast, expenditures on housing increased by 1,198 per cent, food by 559 per cent, and clothing by 526 per cent from 1961 to 2009.”
Is this shocking news to anyone?
All you have to do is look at your tax form.  This information is not being hidden from us.
I thought everybody was OK with paying 41% of their income for taxes.    I mean, it’s for free health care.
The link for the whole article is right here.