September 30, 2011

5 minutes on friends


[parameters:  every Friday, the gypsy mama supplies a topic and we write unedited for five minutes and then publish.  voila!  today's topic:  friends]

They come in all shapes and sizes, my friends.  All personality types and all types of interests, values, and economic status.  They vary in fashion sense and common sense, intelligence and humor.  

This is good.  They fill my gaps, strengthen my weaknesses, challenge my assumptions, need my encouragement.  We're co-dependent, you might say, in the healthy community sense of the word.  

It sours sometimes.  I envy her and she judges me and we get tangled up in who we're not instead of who we're meant to be.  But iron sharpens iron and if we don't lose our temper under pressure we'll be sharpened by the grinding, strengthened by the differences.

My friends, my sisters .....

[time's up]

September 29, 2011

grasping sand

This week has slipped through my fingers, lost somehow in all the "shoulds."  I miss the quiet adventure of last week's "what shall we do today?"  We lived life full, but savored every drop, instead of rushing through the crazy-maze of charts and lists.

I want it back.  I want the inner calm that lets me hear the happy humming, see the laughing eyes, feel the skin so ephemerally soft, taste the fruit from eager-offering fingers, smell the smells of earth's bounty in the air.  Without the calm, all that wealth is lost, blocked out so I can think, think, think of what comes next.  I lose the gifts, or lose their strength at least, so quickly I move on.  I crave the calm.  I crave it.

But seeking it seems like grasping sand.  How can I hold it?  Vacation's just escape, no one expects it all year-round ...

... unless there's some other way to live.  Some way so slow, so easy on the head, that sunrises can stop me in my tracks to turn and watch, that breakfasts dreamed of come to pass because I'm not too tired the night before to prep them.  So "now" that "next" is what seems far away instead of urgent.

I want it back.  Can someone show me the way?

September 27, 2011

the days were just packed . . .

 . . . packed loosely, though, and as full of stillness as they were of activity.  So lovely long and slow, the handful of days felt like luxurious weeks.  Last week my Farmer took off work and stayed home with us to play.  Here's what we did:

The girls helped my Farmer set up the tent, and we embarked on the good life - out of doors.  

Campfires galore were on the menu, followed by roasted hotdogs and s'mores at every opportunity.  All three daughters slept in the tent overnights till the weather betrayed them, three nights in all.

Sugar, Spice & Everything Nice went mushroom hunting with my Farmer ...


Cheesemaking started on Monday and the process pretty much continued all week.  Check out the whole story here. 

On Tuesday we tried papermaking, something Sugar has been waiting to do for quite some time.  There were a few hitches along the way, but it ended well.  Details required a separate post.

More campfires ... 

And then, an ambitious project out of the blue, courtesy of my own roving mind:  to create a playspace in a generations-old junk storage spot.  I present to you .... 

.... The Loft.

..... the workers ....

.... and the results!

We were not the only ones creating something new.  My brother and his wife blessed the family with a new member and we were thrilled to be available to visit him.

And all week long, the thankful things.....

# 142 - hot breakfasts
# 144 - luxury of a mid-morning coffee break with my Farmer
# 148 - new spaces, reclaimed
# 149 - Chopin piano on the stereo, to raindrops
# 150 - the lullaby of Spice reading Paddington Bear to Nice
# 151 - my mushroom meatball pizza - edible love
# 154 - oyster mushrooms in the fog
# 159 - friends' differences, laughter, soul-sameness

grass magic

Did you ever think about the divine alchemy involved in the transformation of grass (natural diet of goats and cows) into milk?  Last week during our "play-cation" we took it a step further and made cheese.

[Since my Farmer was in charge of this operation, I offer not a recipe for cheese-making, but mere observation of the process.]

First was the heating of the milk, the addition of rennet, and the waiting for the curd to set.  We used goat milk, since that's what we had on hand from a family nearby.  There is thought that the process works a bit differently with goat milk.  At any rate, it did eventually set, with the help of a bit of calcium chloride.  The curds were most tenderly cut, and then reheated and ever-so-gently stirred by Spice, who loves any work connected to cooking.

When the milk reached the proper temperature, Sugar and Nice joined the effort to squeeze out the whey...

... and shape little mozzarella balls.

The texture was not quite what we'd expected, so they were dipped into the reheated whey, and turned out something like melted cheese.  They were enthusiastically devoured by all participants.

The chief cheese-maker (a.k.a. my Farmer) noticed a good deal of milk solids left in the whey.  Never one to pass up an opportunity to try something not in the directions, he scooped them out, wrapped them in cheesecloth, and pressed them in a cheese mold we had received as a Christmas gift years ago.  After a day of pressing (and tasting), he let it dry out for another day or so.  Not bad-looking, we all agreed.  Surprisingly, all three girls liked the pungent flavor as well.

Next up was waxing the cheese.  Lacking cheesewax, but not an adventurous spirit, my Farmer used paraffin, creating a double-boiler from his wife's cupboards ....

... and spooned it over the cheese.

We've been turning the finished product daily, inspecting it for aroma and leakage.  It's supposed to be ready in December but no bets are being placed on it lasting that long.

[sharing this page with Ann Kroeker for Food on Fridays....]



Sugar, fond of paging through the craft books I pick up in moments of "should-ness", has been longing to make her own stationary.  I've been saving dryer lint for her for months, and weeks ago my Farmer made the necessary screened frame.  Our week of "play-cation" offered the perfect opportunity to try it out.

First the tearing - one small brown bag reduced to sog in a dishpan of water.

The blender made a fine slurry of lint and paper bag.

Lift the screened frame through the dishpan of slurry.  Gently press dried flowers into the slurry on the screen and press gently with a clean, smooth cloth.  No photos of the actual screening ... I went first to demonstrate and let's just say I ended up wet and in no mood to play photojournalist.  But the end result was nice.

September 23, 2011

5 minutes on growing

[the parameters:  gypsymama provides the topic; we write unedited for five minutes and stop no matter what when it is finished.  today's topic:  growing]

I'm thinking of that caterpillar again.  The one that, this morning, before we were up, cracked open the chrysalis and crawled into a new life.  I'm wondering, again, if its old caterpillar self was bewildered at the bright wet burden unfolding behind.  Did it rejoice in the color, the delicate unfurling proboscis it boasted, antennae fingering fresh air?

Can a caterpillar puzzle?

Can it count loss?  Did it dread the future, dragging those wings it wouldn't know could soar?  So slowly they dried.  Did they lighten, then, to spread for the first, unfolding finest velvety black and vermilion and cobalt?

I never saw it leave the leaf; the rain started and we left it, a windowscreen to shield it from the torrent.

[time's up.  is it cheating to add a picture now?  hope not].

waiting for the invisible

I closed my eyes against the stores and homes flashing past my window, head tipped tired against the headrest. A day of morning moms' group, cookie-baking, and transforming a 30-years outbuilding storage space into a play space left me feeling less than satisfied, and despite having time for rest, weary.

We were aimed for a study with friends, and early. We drove past our destination. I entertained a longing to nurse a coffee at the Waffle House with my Farmer all evening instead.

As we rounded a bend in the road, I opened my eyes, and the sky filled the windshield and my heart: weightless banks of clouds lined the horizon, light-filled columns obscuring the beyond. The sun, invisible, was setting. The clouds that stood between us were backlit with gold, reflecting the glory that they hid.

It looked like hope to me.

As if an insufficient reminder of His presence, the next morning repeated hope: the swallowtail, hung waiting 14 days in chrysalis, silent & still, changing unseen, had emerged during the night. It clung damp, still patient with newness, to dried stems, waiting again till its wings hardened for flight.

But twice was not enough.  (my Maker revels in refrain.)

All today day it rained, dark sky and heavy air. All day the lights were on inside. But just before the sun went down, He cleared away the rain to spread the sky with gold. The stormy day ended bright, wet leaves still dripping against a glowing sky.

Who knows what weather tomorrow will bring. It may rain again all day. But this I know: the sun is there, no matter how thick the clouds cluster. The rain will stop, no matter how long it falls. And in the end, no matter how silent the still green sack, the butterfly will emerge.

September 21, 2011

gratitude plus

Suddenly, out of the long longed-for sweet, crisp autumn air, comes a bad case of congestion.  I don't even care much if it's allergies or a cold.  It hits me hard, and I just want to lay down my heavy head and close my strangely aching eyes and dream of other things.  Any dream will do, really, as long as I can breathe in it.

And yet.

I have a choice.

I can dwell on (and in) my misery .....

Or ....

.... I could aim high, hitch my wagon to that star, and grasp for gratitude.  I will.

: :

I will be grateful for health so amazing that a simple stuffed nose could undo me.

I will be grateful that one nostril is open.

I will be grateful that it's during vacation week, when not so much is expected of me, when I can read books and watch movies and not feel like I am neglecting Important Matters.

I will be glad for sleep - not always possible with congestion.

I will rejoice for all those unsung months of clear breathing that I never knew to notice.

I will praise my Maker for joy instead of mere comfort.

I will be thankful for the freezer shelf full of chicken broth and plenty of garlic on hand.

I will enjoy the rest.

And when my grasp weakens and the damp cloud of self-pity darkens my eyes again ....

.... I will start all over, finding the gifts that are there, always there, for the finding.

September 19, 2011

blog lite

So I'm reading all these high caliber Writer blogs and shedding tears over the beauty they encapsulate in words and gut-wrenching and feeling that lovely deep pang that happens when you read something lovely and deep and I yearn and yearn, wanting to be like Them and be recognized and famous for Touching Lives and Reaching People and rendering all the best of life into gorgeous poetic photography ....

.... and suddenly, I've had enough, like when you're partway through a bearclaw pastry and realize that, whoa, that's why you usually drink coffee with these things - they are just toooooo sweet otherwise.

I need me some blog lite already.

Something close to joy, but not so Deep.  More like happy.  Call me Pollyanna if it soothes your inner bitter, but sometimes I don't need my gut wrenched.  Sometimes I don't need poignant and sometimes even poetic doesn't do it for me.  Life's just not always best viewed through a microscope, no matter what the image trend.  Sometimes you don't gaze fervently but just glance happily around.

Cheerful is vastly underrated.

: :

There!  That's all - no moral to my story!

I'm off to pull some mozzarella with my kids.  Cheerio!!

thanking in the week

How easy it is sometimes to be grateful. This week is a particularly easy one to thank in – we're vacationing from home this week, and looking forward to all manner of enjoyment together.

Up for consideration: cheese-making, tent-sleeping, hammock-napping, campfire-sitting, woods-stomping, mushroom-hunting, comforter-quilting, railroad-riding, restaurant-eating, paper-making, movie-watching, cookie-baking, bike-riding, and story-reading, along with a healthy dose of the mundane (floor-sweeping, rug-shaking, grocery-shopping, dishes-washing, diaper-changing, and even dentist-going.)

I am eager for all of it, though, just for the togetherness of it. Somehow, preparing a meal for a family that is all right here is joy a few significant notches higher than when one very important member is gone all day.

My special beauties collected already, since Friday:

# 119 – excited whispers of sleeping-bagged daughters
# 118 - “head-rattling” hard pretzels and hot spice tea
# 117 – saying “yes”
# 116 - crickets for sleepsong after months of fans
# 115 – white muslin curtains on dark, scrolled rods
# 114 - hymns in the dark

# 113 - campfire's embers: sunset in ashes
# 112 - his first s'more
# 111 - that the list so quickly lengthens
# 110 - buttered toast with daughters around dim table, delicious!
# 109 - Lil' Snip glistening drool, agape in wonder at cold, and first sneakers, and fleece hoodie, and pecans on the driveway, just right for little fists
# 108 - the daughters playing school when I give them the day off!
# 107 - all four sleeping in for once!
# 106 - the Word, mine for the reading
# 105 - pulling on socks again
# 104 - air cool to make me thankful for four walls
# 103 - getting up anyway

Oh yeah. This week's an easy one.  Care to share your own gifts in the comments?  Small or large, easy or hard, each one drops from His loving hand....

Gratitude opens our eyes to truth and strengthens our arms for the burdens of life.

September 16, 2011

5 minutes on joy

[the parameters:  Gypsy Mama supplies the topic, writers type an unedited five minutes, add button, & publish.  enjoy!]


Joy, huh?

Joy is my middle name, the ironic birthright, since joy is what I often lack and seldom think I give.  I'm getting glimpses, though.

I've always looked around me for the happy things, the little beauties.  One Thousand Gifts gave me a structure for my habit, and disciplining it is helping, dosing me with joy, with slow-down, with how-to-thank-for-sharp-things.

So joy is choosing.  Whatever is right, whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - to find these traits in everything, and think on them.  The ugly is so obvious, sometimes.  The admirable takes some searching, but always worth the hunt.

Joy when the baby whines - that he can, that he's here, that he's not always whining.

Joy when the husband's late - that he works, that he called, that it's home he's coming to, and not away.

Joy when the daughters fight - that they love, deep down, that they listen when I admonish, that they care enough to fight.

Joy when friends are silent - that they're there, still, for me to touch, that they forgive, that we forget and move on.

Joy when supper burns and my temper flies away again - that we have food, that God gives grace, that life goes on and tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start, a clean slate, "with no mistakes written on it yet."

....the five minutes fled.

why I love my body

[background:  reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts and being challenged to cultivate gratitude not just for life's warm fuzzies, but also for the very things that frustrate and disgruntle me.  Therefore, this post.]

I love my body ...

… because God made it, and what he makes is good.
… because my Farmer loves it.
… because four of the people I love most in the world have been nourished and given birth to by this body.
… for the hugs and smiles it can give to my children.
… because my “babies” need it, like a mother ship to which they return with regularity.
… for the interesting thoughts its brain can think.
… for the food that satisfies my family, made by these hands.
… because these arms have carried and comforted my little ones (not to mention given my Farmer a good run for his money, so he says, at arm-wrestling).
… for the bottoms wiped, knots untied, noses blown, toys mended, and tears dried by these fingers.
… for the songs this voice can sing.
… for these eyes that see so much, and take it in.
… for ears to hear the laughter, and the cries.
… for the strength in these legs, to walk, and walk, and walk – in the woods with my Farmer, at a park with my children, or in labor awaiting delivery.
… because without it, what would my soul wear?

September 15, 2011

pretty good millet

Let's get this straight from the start:  despite what more enterprising countries (like Africa) may do with millet, in this country, it is largely purchased as birdseed.  There's a reason for that, and yes, it has to do with flavor.  Our North American palates are accustomed to SWEET and SALTY and unless you add a lot of sugar or MSG to millet, you are going to be mostly impressed with its blandness.  [Thus, the unambitious recipe name.]

That said, and keeping in mind its high nutritive value (comments about birdbrains aside), I think I have found a way to prepare millet that at least gets me some "Mmmm!"s from my family.  Anticipating a large demand for that sort of recipe (ha), I share it with you here.  Serve in place of rice.

Pretty Good Millet
3-4 cups chicken broth (you can always add more towards the end if it looks too dry)
2 T soy sauce
Heat these in a medium saucepan while you toast the millet.

1 cup millet
Toast it in a dry skillet, constantly stirring, until it starts popping and giving off a fragrance.  Pour into the heated broth.

1 onion (large if you're an onion-lover; otherwise you decide!)
some oil
Dice onion & saute in oil.  Add to the millet and broth.  Bring to a boil; simmer covered 20 minutes or till the millet has absorbed the broth and is soft.  If you don't stir it at all, and are using a heavy pan, you might get lucky and have some of it brown on the bottom.  Yum!


September 14, 2011


Does silver hurt, do you think, when its shape melts away in the crucible, and dross mars the mirror, twisted and black and ugly?

Does the caterpillar hurt as it hangs in a "J" and waits for the change coming under its skin, shrugged off to unveil chrysalis?

When it changes again, tight in shiny green, inexplicably growing wings, does it wonder and chafe at the change?  

When the chrysalis clears... 

...and the wings fall out new, does the butterfly, confounded, long for the old, the familiar worm?  I wonder.

Do autumn trees, losing glory a drop at a time, mourn for lost lushness of summer? 

Do they stumble on starkness and cold?  Do they sense any glimpse of the spring?

I wish I knew.

I wish I knew how silver endures the furnace it's in:  heat, and more heat, till purity reflects the face of the refiner himself.

"For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality."  I Corinthians 15:53

"to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  Ephesians 4:22-24

"be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  Romans 12:2

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  Galatians 6:9

"You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. 
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever."  Psalm 30:11-12

"Be still and know that I am God."

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