Saturday, March 31, 2012

Just a Saturday

I have no idea what to blog about today. So I decided to give you a jumble -- just pictures I already have that I really like. Plus some random thoughts on what I did today.
Adam went off this morning to sit with his old guy at the assisted living facility in town. I started the day off with my mother's waffles and strawberries.
A field in Statesville across from our old church. The flowers were in perfect bloom.
After devotions and roaming around on the computer (that means: facebook, pinterest, and my google reader), I decided to wash the sheets on the bed and hang them on the line, on this fine day. First, I had to remove the huge stack of Adam's clothes that had taken up residence on the bed.
Myrtle Beach. I adore the ocean. Adore it. Can I say that again? I never, ever get tired of it.
I realized that most of his clothes were sweaters, which really needed to be put away for the season. And washed first. So that was more laundry. And I had coats that needed to go downstairs too. I started clearing off Adam's closet shelf too, and discovered a stack of my daddy's shirts that he'd been missing All Winter!
Perfect frost -- I love the little ring of white around each leaf. This ivy draped off the brick planters at our old house.
So I washed sheets and sweaters, and started digging into boxes in the basement, and rearranging clothes. Then I decided our food down there needed to be put into boxes instead of floppy bags. Living in somebody else's house, even temporarily, is sometimes difficult.
I love this photo, but it's too tall for a blog banner. It's from a shop in Birkdale Village, where Adam and I used to go on dates, a few years ago.
Mother recommends having a bit of ice cream with some Pepsi, when you're thirsty. I had that today. It was yummy. I nearly forgot to eat lunch, but mother recommended some broccoli soup, which I ate.
This photo was taken at Adam's mother's house -- a quintessential Southern picture, don't you think? She lives too far away, over in Mississippi, and we miss her.
On Monday Adam will drive down to Georgia and get his new bees for this year. Unfortunately, none of his hives from last year survived. The move over here, and then again to our friends' house, was too stressful for them. But we get to start again. Bees are so furry.
Mother and I watched the tail end of Antiques Roadshow. A man brought in a 1st imprint copy of The Hobbit, signed, with a gorgeous dust jacket, valued at $80,000-120,000. That's crazy money. Made me wonder if Adam's old copy of the Tolkien calendar is worth anything. Then we watched Rick Steves in Vienna.
This is my old Lady Banks Rose. I hope her new owner will appreciate her! We did so much work on that yard, and it was very rewarding.
We're thankful that PBS's festival is over now. No one celebrates during that festival. So now we can watch This Old House on Saturday afternoons. Yay!
Peter and Adam a couple of years ago, at Biltmore House. What goofs! Peter will be off to college soon. How strange it will be to have only one child at home!
Adam came home in time to finish making his delectable pizza, which we enjoy every Saturday evening. The breeze from outside is cool. Mother is cleaning house today because they're having company tomorrow for dinner. I have clean sheets, organized clothing, happy children, a fully tummy, and a dear husband at home. That's a lot of happiness!
A weeping cherry tree in our neighborhood in Statesville. I think it might be the largest I've ever seen. I've enjoyed these pics and the memories they elicit, but we're happy to be gone from Statesville now and moving on (hopefully) to new and wonderful things in life! Praise God for all His good gifts, at just the right time.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Blogasbord Chaos

And now, in no particular order:

Wandering from Worship -- This is a great article about how the church is trying (and often failing) to attract young people. I think we old fogies might be surprised at what young people really want. Why do we assume they'll be so shallow as to choose a church based on the coolness of its praise band, instead of the quality of its teaching?
Obamacare -- No matter what side of the debate you're on, Thomas Sowell is always an intelligent read. Here, he gives some background to how we've arrived where we are, and why our government thinks it has the right to tell us what to buy.
Goodness and Beauty -- I loved this little article, perhaps because I have a college age girl, and another one coming along into the teen years. Girls do often want both inner and outer beauty. Perhaps we should stop treating it as an either/or option?
Canadian Cuts -- Apparently Canada has decided it's time to cinch up the old economic belt and make some adjustments. Why do we seem to be moving in the opposite direction here in the U.S.?
Bee Disorientation -- I tagged this article/video for Adam, but some of you might want to watch it too. Recent studied, very specific (they put microchips on individual bees!) show that some pesticides may be contributing to the horrible colony collapse that is plaguing bees world-wide.
86-year old gymnast -- Um, I never could do most of this stuff. Amazing videos!
Early Puberty -- This is a truly alarming new medical trend among young girls. I didn't finish the article, but I tell you, we need to be more cautious about environmental factors we put into our children's lives.
The Blessed Nap -- All I can say is, my husband has been right all these years. I may become a daily napper!

Looking Ahead

I snapped this (rather dark) photo of Julia last night. She was minding her own business, sitting on the floor. What do you think she's doing? Yep, that's an ipod touch in her hands. (Thank you, Philip, for giving it to your dad. The other children have enjoyed it :)
Is she watching a movie? No -- you'll notice there are no earbuds draped up to her head. Playing Angry Birds? Nope. Organizing music files? Playing Girl Sense? Emailing, even? No, she's not.

She's writing a book.
She's been working on this book for about a week, and I must say, when she described the premise of the book, I felt it was a very good idea. Not a radically new and never-before-thought-of idea, but a rather unusual idea with some neat twists. I won't give it away! She's really excited, and has enjoyed putting her ideas into ... computer memory.

Kids these days do read -- they read a lot. Peruse the past fifteen years in your mind. Harry Potter? Twilight? Hunger Games? (I know, I know, perhaps not the most wholesome material.) And these are only the block buster biggest hits. Kids and young people are reading in huge numbers, and the advent of Kindles and ebooks has only exploded the reading market. I'm so glad! I feel that the activity of reading is safe for the foreseeable future.

But it's only safe if people keep writing, and that's where Julia comes in. She writes because she's seen me write. She sees it as a doable, fun activity that quickens the mind and produces a valuable product.

Should I kick her off the ipod touch, not allow her to use the desktop computer, and make her write it all out by hand, on paper? Of course not. Who still writes out a novel in long-hand on a legal pad? I suppose there are a few out there. But the world of books, agents, editors (especially!) and publishers is an electronic world. Manuscripts fly across oceans via email, and are corrected using the Reviewing Toolbar and other fancy means. How silly it seems to say that a novel -- Julia's novel -- should live its whole life electronically, until the reader sees it, and then -- only then -- it must be in paper form.

There will always be a market for the print book, I'm sure. But I want to be looking ahead. This next generation of writers (not just readers!) will want an electronic format. The readers of the world will be glad they have it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Smell-o-vision

How long will it be, do you think, before we can smell the things on our computers?
Have a whiff of lilac:
I didn't grow up with lilac, in the Deep South. It just doesn't grow well in central Mississippi. When we moved to Iowa years ago, I was introduced to lilacs and their heady scent. I encouraged Julia to come experience the lilac for the first time.
My mother is a lover of plants, and she's discovered that lilacs can -- just barely -- thrive here in western NC, in the cooler elevations.
A balmy day, light wind, bursting blooms, a stormy sky. Spring is here.
All that to say, by the time I'm an old lady, I wonder if we'll have a little scratch pad on the side of our laptops/ipads, and we'll be able to scratch-n-sniff what we see on the screen. Roses? Filet mignon? What would it add to the novel you're reading on your Kindle, if sounds effects could be added, as they did in the old radio shows? What if you could smell the stormy night air in chapter 7, or the Sunday dinner being cooked in chapter 11? Some young Steve Jobs is bound to invent it, I'm sure.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On Being a Creature

We regularly have interesting theological discussions at our house. It comes with the territory of having a pastor and seminarian, a Bible teacher, and various highly opinionated persons, all in the home. Conversations lately have set my mind churning on what it means to be a willing bond-servant in God’s kingdom.

A bond-servant is a slave, in plain words. Who wants to be a slave? Any hands going up?

Slavery language makes us uncomfortable, but a bond-slave is exactly what Paul calls himself – a willing, happy bond-slave of the King. I think some folks are uncomfortable taking on that identity, for eternity.

Another way of defining myself is to admit that I am a creature. Someone else designed me, decided I would exist, and set my purpose and abilities. I am not a “self-made man” (or woman) as the great American tradition claims. I am other-made.

This is a humbling fact of existence, and one that makes some Christians squirm. We like to set our own goals, form our own destinies, search for our own dreams and guide our own lives. Who wants to be somebody else’s creature? Any hands going up?

For you Harry Potter fans, perhaps an image of the house elves comes to mind. Dobby, the loving, almost-fawning Harry Potter fan. He would die for Harry. He loves Harry. Harry gave Dobby his freedom from horrible slavery, and afterward Dobby commits his life to being Harry’s slave – a willing slave. Harry’s shadow. We don’t loathe Dobby for his servitude. We admire him.

Then there’s Creature, the other house elf. Sullen and cruel, he lurks around the Black home, looking for interference and mischief to do. But in Rowling’s world, both elves are doing what they were created to do:  serve. Whether in sullen resentment or joyful service, both are “creatures.” Neither can escape that role.

I am a creature, designed by God to adore Him, serve Him, follow Him, obey Him, and listen for His voice – and all that happily. It’s a high calling, a hard pill to swallow, for those of us who’ve thought we must have self-directed lives. I am God’s created thing.  He made me for Himself because that is the highest calling, the highest honor, He can bestow on a created thing. The fact remains: once you are a created thing, you can never be anything other than that. My existence is dependent upon another, my creator.

Perhaps we spend too much time dwelling on the fact that we bear God’s image. We want to feel the divine within. When we get carried away, like Eve, we listen to the little voice telling us we can be gods too. Instead, listen to the voice of God, telling you the truth about yourself: “You are my much-beloved creature. Do what I created you to do.”

Monday, March 26, 2012

If Nature Could Sing --

If Nature could sing, she would be trilling along at the top of her lungs right now, about how beautiful life is, how good life is, how soul-stirring spring is.
 She is putting on her brightest dresses, and dancing around the stage as she sings.
She's using her brightest make-up to enhance her beauty.
No one could forget that she is a feminine creature, delicate, lithe and lacy.
Her voice is smooth, clear, elegant, magnificent.
I took these pictures this past weekend when were off visiting friends in warmer climes. I am struck at how glorious spring feels this year. Much more than an awakening of the world, it is an awakening of the heart for me this year.
So spread your arms out wide, breathe deeply, turn your face to the sun, and feel the life growing to your fingertips. That's what the trees do. Stretch! Sing!

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's FREE!!!!!

For Two Days!  Three Against the Dark is free today and tomorrow at Amazon! Click over there --->, and get your free copy, and tell all your friends!
It's a special 2-day sale to boost my sales and ratings at Amazon, and boy! is it working! So far today I've had  210 new readers download the novel, which is thrilling! I'm in the top 900 in all Kindle ebooks, and in the top 50 in both the Action & Adventure, and Fantasy categories. Thank you, kind readers! What an exciting weekend this will be :)

The Staff of Life

I do not make my sandwich bread as faithfully as I used to. To be honest, it's just a lot more trouble to bake it, without my own kitchen. Somebody has to haul my big mixer up from the basement, and I need a few hours when neither my mom nor Adam is in the kitchen. I made some two days ago though.
I think these are some of the prettiest loaves I've ever made. Perfect color, perfect shape.
Speaking of which, it's time for breakfast. Buttered toast with jam, and hot tea. Have a great day!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mother's Wheat Bread

Okay, food fans! Here's my mother's wonderful wheat bread recipe, just made today. I wrote down this recipe in my personal cookbook, about 23 years ago:
So, I thought I'd take you through the recipe, then and now -- show the evolution of the recipe, because it has changed a lot in 23 years!
Here are the ingredients: wheat flour, white flour, oil, blackstrap molasses, honey, oats, flax seed, salt, yeast, milk, water.
The old recipe did not call for flax seed or oats, but Mother has added them to the recipe since then.
Dissolve 2 Tblsp. yeast in a cup of tepid water, and scald 3 cups of milk in the microwave. (Old recipe: scald 1 quart of milk on the stove top, wait for it to cool)
In a large bowl, mix 1/3 cup safflower oil, 1 cup honey, 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses, 1 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup flax seed. (Old recipe: 1 cup veg. oil, 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup molasses)
Adding the honey. Blackstrap molasses is very dark.
Stir these ingredients until well blended. My mother doesn't use a mixer for her bread, as I do. At this point, also add the milk (cooled somewhat) and the yeast mixture. Be sure it's not hot enough to kill the yeast.
Now you'll add the flour. Sift and stir in 5 cups of white flour, and then 5 cups of wheat flour. Mix 2 Tbspn. of salt at this time also.
Mother switches to a flat wooden paddle at this point, and works the flour in. She leaves a little of the flour in the sifter, to use on the bread board.
Here's her bread board, made for her by an old friend. She turns the dough on on this board. You can see that it is only partially mixed, but dry enough not to be at all liquidy now.
Now she kneads the dough.
Fold in the dough and use the heel of the hand to press it down. 
After all these years, Mother can tell by the feel of the dough, if it has enough flour. You want just enough flour so it is not sticky to your hands, or the board, but no more. So keep adding a little flour until it is just right.
Once the dough is the right consistency, form it into a large ball.
Put a clean dish cloth over it, and let it rest and rise for an hour. It should about double in size.
Then Mother uses her lethal marble rolling pin to roll the dough out in a rectangle.
She pours a lot of walnuts (one cup? two?) and spreads them out. Then she rolls the dough up like a jelly roll.
Then she cuts this with a large knife into 3 or 4 segments.


She gently pinches the ends of each segment to close the walnuts in.
She works each segment into an oval loaf shape, being careful not to let the walnuts squeeze out.
Then she slits each loaf several times, so the dough won't break open as it rises a second time. She used to put the loaves into loaf pans to bake, but now she bakes them as they are, on a baking stone all together.
She bakes them at 400º for 10 minutes, and then at 350º for 30 minutes, or until the loaves are well browned.
This is a healthy, sturdy bread. And the honey in it makes it last so much longer than most homemade breads. I hope some of you will try this recipe; the results are so worth it! Toast it for breakfast and put butter on it. So delicious with a cup of hot tea!