This past weekend we had a very encouraging shopping trip, and as an inveterate non-shopper, I don't say that often. This time we ventured into a part of town we rarely visit (though after this experience it may happen more often) and most notably went to our IKEA for the first time.
At the risk of exacerbating the Switzerland-Sweden confusion, I'll mention that going to IKEA was like a mini visit to Janet's apartment, though sadly lacking in grandchildren. There are many similarities in the stock between this and the IKEAs I've been in in Switzerland, and I kept exclaiming, "Look, that's their silverware drainer / toy bins / easel!" "That's the exact train piece package I bought over there!"
Although the purpose of the trip was merely exploratory, we did end up buying several items, and what both surprised and thrilled me was where they were made. Yes, there were certainly plenty of items with the "Made in China" label, but we also easily found products from India, Bulgaria, Latvia, and other alternative sources, and even the occasional "Made in USA." Later in the same trip we were happy to buy a teapot made in the Czech Republic from Crate and Barrel.
To judge by what's available in most stores, China has a monopoly on production these days, and their reputation for product safety and factory working conditions is terrible. Even if their record were pristine, I'd still be concerned about their control of the market. (Microsoft, Apple, and Google make me similarly nervous.) I don't boycott Chinese products, but I'm a lot happier to see more variety available. Is India any better? I don't know, but until proven otherwise I'll take the chance, and I'm certainly happy to buy from countries with European Union standards.
Although we missed our own Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner and burning-of-the-palms this year, I love this traditional prelude to Lent. After we left Norwood, Massachusetts, our friend Alan became vicar of a small church there. He has since written a book, and more to the point, produced this homage to Shrove Tuesday pancake dinners, inspired by Robert W. Service's The Shooting of Dan McGrew. As a fan of all three (Service, Alan, and Shrove Tuesday pancakes), I had to reproduce it here (with permission).
The kitchen crew was whippin’ it up
at the Redeemer pancake dinner.
The band that was playin’ the Bluegrass tunes
was pickin’ ‘em out like a winner.
There at the back was a man in black,
who was speakin’ of Israel;
And by his side was the love of his life,
the lady that's known as Gail.
The cause of all of this merriment
was the upcoming purple season;
And so the crowd was chewin’ the fat,
as if they needed a reason.
The following day would bring ashes and grief,
forty days of a somber tone.
But tonight they wore beads and sated their needs
by carvin’ the ham to the bone.
The vicar was telling the lamest of jokes,
as the vicar is wont to do.
They say that the Anglicans know how to drink,
and they surely know how to eat too.
These are the simple facts of the case,
and I guess I ought to know.
There was food and fun, and everyone smiled,
I saw as I watched them go.
There’s a time for Lent and a time to repent,
but the season goes down so much better,
If you start it off by gorging yourself
on homemade pancakes and butter.
When he was young, my father had a two-mile walk to work, and used the time to memorize long poems, including Dan McGrew and another Service work, The Cremation of Sam McGee. Later, upon request, he would recite them to his children and grandchildren. That pleasure cemented my love of the poems, and it came flooding back when I read Alan's verse. Thank you, Alan and Vivien!
My reading for 2013 started off at a great pace: I had read 28, more than half my goal of 52 (one per week), by the end of March. That by the beginning of 2014 I had completed only 57 shows how busy the rest of the year was.
Here's the list, sorted alphabetically. A chronological listing, with rankings, warnings, and review links, is here. I enjoyed most of the books, and regret none. Titles in bold are particular favorites.
- 3 Theories of Everything by Ellis Potter
- Animorphs #1: The Invasion by K. A. Applegate
- Animorphs #2: The Visitor by K. A. Applegate
- Animorphs #3: The Encounter by K. A. Applegate
- Animorphs #4: The Message by K. A. Applegate
- Animorphs #6: The Capture by K. A. Applegate
- Animorphs #7: The Stranger by K. A. Applegate
- Animorphs #8: The Alien by K. A. Applegate
- Better than School by Nancy Wallace
- Child's Work by Nancy Wallace
- Cooked by Michael Pollan
- Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant
- Difficult Personalities by Helen McGrath and Hazel Edwards
- Getting Organized in the Google Era by James A. Martin
- God Is Red by Liao Yiwu
- The Gospel of Ruth by Carolyn Custis James
- Guitar Zero by Gary Marcus
- Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry, narrated by Susan Denaker (audio book)
- The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Hork-Bajir Chronicles by K. A. Applegate
- How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson
- The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson
- Indian Captive by Lois Lenski
- The Keys to the Kingdom #1: Mister Monday by Garth Nix
- The Keys to the Kingdom #2: Grim Tuesday by Garth Nix
- The Keys to the Kingdom #3: Drowned Wednesday by Garth Nix
- The Keys to the Kingdom #4: Sir Thursday by Garth Nix
- The Keys to the Kingdom #5: Lady Friday by Garth Nix
- The Keys to the Kingdom #6: Superior Saturday by Garth Nix
- The Keys to the Kingdom #7: Lord Sunday by Garth Nix
- Kluge by Gary Marcus
- Landmark 2: The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daugherty
- Landmark 9: The Building of the First Transcontinental Railroad by Adele Nathan
- Life of Fred: Apples by Stanley F. Schmidt (This series is not bolded, because they are math textbooks, but I loved reading them, and they're great math stories.)
- Life of Fred: Butterflies by Stanley F. Schmidt
- Life of Fred: Kidneys by Stanley F. Schmidt
- Life of Fred: Liver by Stanley F. Schmidt
- Life of Fred: Mineshaft by Stanley F. Schmidt
- Lilith by George MacDonald
- Lost Women of the Bible by Carolyn Custis James
- Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese
- The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
- Meet Christopher Columbus by James T. de Kay
- The Myth of the Garage by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
- The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald
- The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
- Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert
- The Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
- Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
- The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley
- The Spirit Well by Stephen R. Lawhead
- The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke
- The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- What I Saw in America by G. K. Chesterton
- When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James
- A Year with G. K. Chesterton edited by Kevin Belmonte
We're currently undergoing some home phone renovations, so if you need to contact us, please do so via e-mail, cell phone, Facebook, or here. Thanks for your patience.
UPDATE 2/19: The home phone is working now (thanks, Lime Daley!) but we'll be making changes now and then over the next week, so you can still resort to the above contact methods if necessary. (You know I prefer e-mail most of the time, anyway.)
... to point out to our Northern friends that our temperature was a record-breaking 86 degrees today. Last week was winter. I guess the groundhog thing doesn't work south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Nunsense was written in 1985, but neither of us had seen it until Sunday. We went to the performance at Sanford's Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center because our friend Linda was the music director for the show. As it turned out, we knew one of the main cast members, too—a friend of Heather's from high school. She played Sister Hubert and did a fantastic job. Everyone did a great job, actually, though some had better enunciation than others, so we didn't always get the jokes because we didn't catch all the words.
A few of the jokes were less than family-friendy, but they'd probably go over the heads of anyone who shouldn't hear them, and compared with much of what can be seen today, the show is fitting for—well, for a convent!
Afterwards we had a (too) quick bite to eat at the Willow Tree Café. German food is not normally my favorite out-to-eat meal, but this was excellent and I'd love to have an excuse to go back.
We had the Gourmet Potato Pancakes and the Sausage Sliders from this menu. Both were worth repeating, although next time I may want to try the Reisen Bretzen.
Each Christmas we send out a slew of Christmas cards, and receive slew minus epsilon in return.. (By "slew" I mean about 120; and you wonder why we find postage stamps to be a good investment.) The trouble is that these cards arrive in the mail at what is usually the busiest time of the year, where we have little time to appreciate them. If we happen to go away for Christmas, the situation is worse: we return not only to unpacking and laundry and neglected work, but also to a pile of cards and letters. It's so easy to slip into a routine: Slit envelope, check. Open card, check. Skim card, quickly read letter, and glance at photos, check. Enter data (news, change of address, etc.) into our Christmas card database for next year, check. Toss card and envelope into recycling, check. Breathe sigh of relief, check. But that's all wrong. The cards are meant to be appreciated, photos admired, and newsy letters savored.
Last year I read about a family who saves all their Christmas cards until the next year, putting them in a "prayer basket." Each day one of the children pulls a card out of the basket and the family prays for the people who sent it. I found that an admirable idea, but my anti-clutter side couldn't bear the thought of keeping a basketful of cards sitting around all year. I did, however, institute my own version, and I love it:
At the end of the above-mentioned data entry routine, the envelopes get recycled, but the cards go into my Tickler, spread out over the days. Thus, each morning I have one or two cards/letters/photos to enjoy in a relaxed fashion. I pray specifically for the people they represent, illuminated by whatever information I've just read. Then, and only then, do the cards go into the recycle bin.
Win-win-win. I receive much more pleasure out of our Christmas mail, people are prayed for, and I enjoy a small decluttering moment every day.
Publix, our local grocery store, often has tasting centers set up throughout the store. Of course they are meant to encourage you to buy the product; sometimes I do, mostly I don't. But I love the tastes, especially when it involves the sushi department. :)
One of the stations usually involves not just a single product, but a whole meal or main dish prepared before your eyes (if you want to stick around and watch, which I usually don't). These are almost always delicious, and every once in a while I can't resist picking up the ingredients to make it myself. So it was one day last week.
Does Chicken over Warm Kale and Asparagus Salad sound good to you? I can't say it did to me, but that's the advantage of these stations: I tasted it. I'm including the recipe below, at least as much for myself as for anyone else. On the other hand, as far as I'm concerned recipes are merely suggestions, so here are some of the changes I made, or might make next time. There will be a next time. It was so good each of us ate more than the 1/4 recipe portion size recommended, and I could have eaten a lot more. (More)
Tired of Treasury bonds that pay nearly nothing, and bank accounts that pay less? Frightened by the vicissitudes of the stock market? We just made an investment with a guaranteed minimum return of six and a half percent. Anyone else interested?
It's not a great return, but it's decent, could go much higher, and essentially risk-free.
Who's with me on this?
December 15 was the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. This day of rejoicing in the midst of the somber Advent season was fitting for our church's service of Lessons and Carols. Christmas Eve would have been still more appropriate, but in a time when many choir members are out of town for Christmas—not to mention a time when pastors really, really don't want to give up their opportunity to preach to a packed church—compromises are made. I love the Lessons and Carols service: lots of Scripture readings, lots of music, no sermon. Apologies to my pastor friends and relatives....
I know that the entire service was videotaped, but that's not available right now, so I once again resort to what I can find online. Except for Christmastime, that is, which features our choir of two years ago—before we joined, so don't strain your eyes looking for us. I'll modify this post if and when our own versions become available. Hymn numbers are from the Episcopal Hymnal (1982). We, personally, did not sing all of the works listed below; some were solos, some by youth and children's choirs.
Prelude: Soli Deo Gloria (arr. Mark Hayes) Our youth choir sang the non-Latin words in English, but this Russian version is cool.
Canticle: O Gracious Light (Phos Hilaron) (I really hope to get our version of this, which includes Porter's solo)
Procession Carol 102: Once in Royal David's City
Night of Silence (Daniel Kantor) I find some of the text a little odd, but a more beautiful combination with Silent Night I've never heard.
Here are some excerpts from Conversion Diary's 7 Quick Takes post today.
You may recall from previous years’ ravings that I love Christmas cards. LOVE. I love getting them, I love sending them out — I even love updating our address database and printing labels.
Throughout the year, [our friends] go through their Christmas cards one at a time to pray for the family who sent that card. I just love that tradition, and I think it speaks to the enduring value of Christmas cards, even in the online age. There’s something special about having a physical object that you can hold and feel, like a picture or a card, instead of pixels confined to a screen.
That said, I totally get why some people don’t send them. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it. We can’t do it all, especially during the holidays, and some activities have to go, even if they’re great in theory.
One of the things I’ve realized only recently is that I need to find as many liturgical year traditions as possible that are not work for me. Doing Christmas cards, for example, does not feel like work. Each evening I look forward to pulling up my basket filled with envelopes and pictures and our family newsletter and new pens and sharpies. I can’t wait to jot down little messages on the back of the cards and smooth labels onto envelopes, all with a favorite show playing in the background and a glass of eggnog at my side. It truly makes the holiday season more special for me.
Baking, on the other hand, makes me lose my will to live entirely. I know that it would bless my family if our counter were spread with warm cookies and pies throughout the season, but my children lost the mommy lottery on that one. I occasionally make some treats with them because they enjoy it, but you’ve seen how it tends to turn out, and then I feel like I need 10 hours in a Relaxman to recover. I have a friend who is the opposite (hates Christmas cards, loves baking) which makes me realize that the key to maintaining sanity during holiday seasons is to find activities that you genuinely enjoy. [emphasis mine]
Wise words—easier said than implemented, but wise.
Last year for Veterans Day I posted the honor roll of all those—thus far documented—in our direct lineage who have served in the military, from the Pequot War to World War II. (We don't go any further than that directly, though I'll tip my hat as well to some current family who married in.) Today I invite you to remember your favorite veterans and enjoy some selections from our church service yesterday, November 10, 2013. In the Episcopal Church, at least in my experience, no secular occasion (e.g Mothers Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day) is ever the focus of the service, but we do allow ourselves a little time to remember what the rest of the country is celebrating. After having the veterans of various branches of the service stand, we sang the part everyone knows of God Bless America, which I don't need to include here. Below are the anthems we sang.
A Prayer for Our Time (Joseph and Pamela Martin, Harold Flammer A7600). It took me a while to warm up to this anthem, written in response to the events of September 11, 2001, because my favorite of that genre has always been our own Robert Kerr's Prayer for Peace. But it has definitely grown on me, and singing it yesterday was spectacular. It's been a long time since I've been in a choir where the singing gave me goose bumps! It's not that our choir is so spectacular, but it's good enough that sometimes everything comes together just right. (Again, remember, that the videos below are not us.)
They Shall Soar Like Eagles (Laura Manzo, Fred Bock/Hal Leonard BG2078)
In Remembrance (Ragan Courtney and Buryl Red, Genevox 0-76-731560-5)
Happy 20th anniversary to two of our favorite people! Belated, that is; I blinked and the week was gone.
Our family is infinitely better off because of your wise decision those many years ago.
We have a bunch of folks from the Caribbean in our church, including several friends from choir. Every year they put on a Caribbean Festival, and it is tonight. Porter is still there, earning his Honorary Jamaican badge for another year: set up, tear down, and manning the drinks table in between. The food and the company are always great, and the music would be too (I love steel drums) if the volume weren't so painfully loud. I only lasted two hours, and gave my earplugs to Porter when I left.
We were driven out of our previous church by music so loud I had to wear earplugs during both choir rehearsal and Sunday services. Let's just say that our former music director would have loved the volume tonight. But here it's only one night a year, and I enjoy the food and fun. I would have enjoyed the conversation if I could have heard the person next to me....