Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Breakfast & Lunch

Breakfast: Yesterday I rather wore myself out, and I determined that today I would take it easy. That means that, with great effort, I did not get out of bed before 7:00. I have a hard time sleeping in. Adam brought me some OJ, and some coffee. Later, I went to the kitchen, and made this:
Toast, poached egg, more OJ, more coffee, and 2 peanut butter cookies. They were not good dunked in the coffee, I found. The book? Elizabeth Goudge's Green Dolphin Island. I'm enjoying it very much.

By 10:00 I was in the car with the girls, headed to the grocery. So much for taking it easy. My parents will be passing through, and eating dinner with us, so it's time to cook!

Lunch: I made a quick alfredo sauce, and put it on these itty-bitty shells. Aren't they adorable? Anna and I love alfredo sauce. These shells are good at holding a little dab of sauce in each one.
Tonight we're having brisket roast, a big salad, macaroni and cheese (by Philip's request), and peach pie for dessert, which my mother is bringing with her.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bees at 94º

Bees are picky about their hive temperature -- 94º. (If you're a Star Trek fan, you can see that the writers for that show did their research when they made up the borg hive cubes.) Anyway, when the hives get hot, the bees get busy cooling it down. When the sun hit our hives this morning, Adam said the bees went crazy -- clouding outside the hive and buzzing so loudly he could hear them over on the patio.

They did it again later. I took a picture of this hive. The bees exit the hive, sometimes fanning the opening with their wings. They stay out until the hive cools down.
You can see that the other two hives are okay for temperature. Adam decided to replace the t-shirt material he'd used in the top of each hive (to keep the saw dust from dropping into the hive), with burlap, which ventilates better. Before he put the burlap on, he noticed that there was a grapefruit-sized ball of bees, hanging on the bottom of the hive. After he'd put the burlap on, the ball of bees had already gone back into the hive:  temperature difficulties solved!
We have lots of bees. The queens are each laying about 2000 babies each day. Of course, lots of bees die each day too, but generally, we're making serious headway on increasing our hives.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Blogasbord Is Back!

USA Today on Medicare -- This article points out the weaknesses of both parties in dealing with the monkey around everyone's neck: healthcare costs for seniors.

Only 1.4% of Americans are gay -- I found the approach of this article fascinating: the gay community has inflated the stats, and it's totally unnecessary. Good read.

Bursting the low-fat bubble -- Another milk/low-fat article. I found the comments afterward interesting. Evidently people who grew up with the low-fat mantra are rather unwilling to hear anything else. But we should ask: after 30 years of religiously following a low-fat regime, is America thinner? NO.

Korean drive -- I haven't had time to watch the video yet, but the subject is one with which we're familiar, after teaching at a boarding school with numerous Korean students. I thought the Japanese were tops in this department.

Twelve Questions -- Here's a list of questions from a stay-at-home parent, that will make you guffaw :) If you don't read the others, you should read this. Laughter is good for you.

What We Did In the Mountains:

Well, the first evening, a big storm came through (as usual), and zapped our electricity. Instead of movie-watching, we lit fifteen candles in the living room (yes, my mother had 15 candles in the living room, plus two we didn't light). She's just that kind of girl! It was very Austenesque. My mother and I are both excellent talkers, but I noticed that during the evening, conversation lagged just a tad, a couple of times. We all need to practice our conversational skills, for events like these. You never know when you might need them, when modern technology fails you.
We each took a candle to bed, which was exciting. The electricity came on just as we were nodding off, of course. You can see that we did some damage to her wax stores!

Her grocery store (Ingles) has a fabulous salad bar. Frankly, it's an entire lunch buffet. This is a picture of ONLY the olive section! There are also roasted garlic, mozzarella balls, artichokes and other delectibles in this stretch of food.I like to get Adam a container of olives, one of his favorite snacks.
No matter how often I go to the mountains, I must take a picture of this: mist in the valleys, in the morning.
As we were leaving town this morning, they were having their White Squirrel Festival, an annual event. We did not join the festivities, but I couldn't resist a photo of this -- a real soap box derby! The brown car says, "He man woman hater club" on the back. Hmm.
I think perhaps we can see why the fathers are enthusiastic about the soap box derby. When else does a grown man get to jump on his four-wheeler and rev it up, on Main Street?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Up, up and away!

I'm dashing away this morning for a quick visit with my parents, in the mountains. And taking 3 kids. Who were rather grumpy when I informed them this morning :)
I'm not taking my computer along, so you'll get a little break from me, until Saturday. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap

Today I made my own laundry soap. I've been toying with this idea for a while, but I was put off by the recipes for liquid soap, and the vision of a 5-gallon bucket of it in my laundry room.

Instead, I made a powder soap. Here are the 3 ingredients you need. All three of these are sold at our local WalMart.
Be sure to get "washing soda" and NOT baking soda. Evidently there's a pool product that's the same as washing soda, so you could check into that, if you like.

My recipe:
1 bar Fels Naptha soap (it's about 5 oz.)
1 cup washing soda
1 cup Borox

Grate the bar of soap. This is the only tedious part. I should have grated it on a finer setting, but, um, I'm a wee bit lazy.
Looks suspiciously like cheese. I like the color and the aroma.
Add the two powders, and stir well. I think it would have mixed better if I'd grated it more fine.
So this is the final product. I'll have to tell the kids to stir it well each time, to get all 3 ingredients in each load
The good news? This stuff is such a savings! Everything I've read says it costs about 2¢ per load. Normal detergent costs about 20¢ per load. That's a hefty savings, over time, and we do a lot of laundry. I also like that it's more natural, without some of the extra chemicals added to most ingredients for texture/color/aroma, etc. I may also end up using my own homemade soap, after I make some more.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Only This

When sorrow terrifies us, and a black
Future looms before us, dear, you cannot
Love me for the years ahead. Life is fraught
With many sadnesses. Do not shrink back.
We have today, only today, only
This moment. Who can promise anything
Beyond? And, my love, when you are looking
At the years behind, the hard and lonely
Years, before we met, before this sublime
Wonder of joy consumed us, bonded us,
Made such doubters believe in the wondrous,
Still, darling, do not love me for those times.
They are gone. The others do not exist.
Let us love today, embrace only this.

Copyright by author
May 24, 2011

Seeking Youth

Yesterday, a friend posted a fun quote on facebook:  "We have enough youth; how about a Fountain of Smart."  One friend responded "Or a fountain of thin."  Sigh.  If we can't have youth, then we at least want to look young, don't we?

I think if you polled Americans, you'd find that we dread death most, or at least the process of aging. We really, truly, long to be young forever. We'd love to have bodily youth, but with the wisdom of age, wouldn't we?

As a matter of fact, if you offered the average America a magic pill that would make him live forever, on this earth, in good health, never dying, he's take it in a second. Everybody wants to live forever, right?

The infamous Fountain of Youth.

But God has something to say about that.

This earth is fallen, riddled with evil and sin. We should not desire it. The unsaved man desires it. But the Christian should have a fundamental re-wiring of his inner desires; he should desire heaven.

Have you read closely in Genesis 3 about why God threw man and woman out of Eden? Because they were naughty? Because He was angry? Because they didn't deserve it anymore?

No, He did it to protect them. He had to make sure -- make absolutely sure -- than they would not live forever in this horrible, sinful state. He had to insure their deaths.

"Then the Lord God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.  Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever --' therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden ...."

Get this:  if Adam had eaten of that other tree, the tree of life, he would have been fixed eternally in his sinful state, unredeemable. God couldn't allow this. He denied us eternal youth on this evil planet -- it would be the worst fate of all! Death is, in this context, a great gift. It is a way to escape a fallen world, and (if you're saved by Jesus's love on the cross), have your eternal youth in a much, much better place.

Don't give me eternal youth in this place. I don't want to stay here and watch war after war, and murder after murder, kidnappings and abuse, corruption and deceit. Give me my eternal youth in a different place. I'll eat of that tree of life in God's new earth.

Don't long for youth here. Don't color your hair, yearn for 20-year old hips, moan at your wrinkles or live vicariously through your children. You're gonna die. And it's a great alternative to staying here for eternity.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chocolate Mousse Royale

 Adam's been craving Chocolate Mousse Royale, his favorite flavor from Baskin Robins. But instead of heading to the nearest drive-in, he decided to make it himself. Homemade ice cream is dreamy, don't you think?  And these days it's really not even much work!

Adam's recipe:

The night before (or several hours), in your mixer:
1 1/3 cup of sugar
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 pints heavy whipping cream
a pinch of salt
Blend together and then mix at high speed to whip air into the cream. Then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Right before you're ready to put it into the freezer, put 1/2 cup chopped chocolate chips into the food processor.

This step didn't work as well as he'd hoped. He wanted tiny pieces of chocolate. He got that, plus some chocolate powder. Blend that into your cream mixture.
The secret to our easy ice cream is the Donvier Ice Cream maker we bought many years ago. We're not even sure when or where we got it. This thing works great! It has a frozen core, which we keep in the freezer. We can make ice cream any time we like.

And it involves very little "cranking" or stirring. There's a paddle that sits in the ice cream, and a handle on top, which you turn every 5 or 10 minutes, for about an hour. This recipe took a full hour, because it is so rich. You just turn the handle to scrape the cream from the sides. But you don't have to open up the container each time. It's easy.

We tasted the mixture last night, and it is so rich, chocolatey and silky-smooth. Adam mentioned that we achieved that smooth texture without the addition of propylene glycol ( a variant of anti-freeze), which is found in much commercial ice cream.

If you find an ice cream maker like this one around, I'd recommend buying it -- the results are worth it!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


The apple tree told me
It was none of my business
Where the baby apples lay.
I looked anyway.
Tucked among the green
Sun-dipped, mottled and long
Leaves, whispering
As leaves do, hung
Thumb-sized apples
Of identical hue.

By August, the apple tree
Will bow, pregnant and ready
To be rid of them.
Bees will suck juice
From the ones she’s thrown away,
The hot air heady,
Sweet in mid-day.
I will make some use
Of the fat, red fruit.
And the apple tree will say,
Thank you.

Copyright by author
May 21, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Considering Camping

Much humor has been enjoyed this past week at the expense of Harold Camping and his followers. It's been a long time since an end-times prediction has extracted this much attention from the media. Camping jokes are all over the internet -- everything from requesting pagan pilots if you fly on Saturday, to people offering to adopt the pets of those raptured. There's a lot of snickering going on.
But there's a lot of pain too.

The families of Camping's followers are struggling. Sometimes one spouse is a follower of Camping, and the other is not. The kids are confused and scared. Many have given up jobs, savings, homes, and whole lives, banking on the assurance that it'll all be over, tomorrow.

I wish it were true, in a way.

There's much to love in this life, on this earth, but there's much that is evil and broken. I'm looking forward to heaven, to a new earth, just as Mr. Camping is. I believe Jesus will come again, just as he believes it. I believe in a judgment too. We have a lot in common. We just differ (significantly) on his ability to predict it.

But I believe it's coming too.

I just don't live (much) as if I do.

I'm uncomfortable with Camping and his crew. He makes me squirm with a little introspection. I know he's a nutcase, but at some level I look at that devotion, that belief, and wonder if I'm lacking. I'm not the only blogger who's feeling this way.

So while I may smile knowingly with the rest of the world, when I look at Camping, and his people, I know I have a lot in common with them. We have the same hope. They're just so desperate for it to happen NOW, that they've gotten out of whack.

Because, we must ask ourselves WHY these people believe. Is it because Camping is so charismatic? Because his math is so convincing? Or because they long so to see Jesus's face, that they'll buy into it?

A little part of me wishes I longed for Jesus so much that I believed it'll be tomorrow -- a childlike belief that trusts in spite of all opposition. The Scripture says we cannot know the date. But perhaps we all should be hoping, eagerly hoping, each day.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

S'more Caterpillar, Please!

I came home from Bible Study last night to find that Philip and Julia had been doing a little creative cooking:
Wanting s'mores, but finding the outdoors too cold and damp, they decided to use the oven. I believe the photo explains itself: long graham cracker, M&Ms and chocolate chips, topped by large marshmallows. I'm not sure what temp Philip toasted them on; I doubt it was broil because he's a cautious fellow. They made me one too, and it was delicious. In fact, I might suggest it was better than the usual s'more over the campfire. The tops of those marshmallows were firm, with an almost crusty top, and when I bit into it, the contrast of the top, with the soft,melted inner marshmallow, was so yummy.

Chalk Brood and Sugar Water

The bees have been busy and productive lately. We've gone from 40,000 bees when Adam bought them in April, to over 100,000 bees now. Lots of babies. When the sun came out yesterday, they went crazy, flying about to use the warmth.
You'll note that the hives are shorter. Adam removed the top box on each hive, the box that just contained a glass jar of sugar water, to feed the bees. You can see, leaning against the hives, the board covers that the jars sat on. These covers were a problem:  because they covered the main hive boxes, they prevented air circulation, which is so necessary to hive health. Adam has a fine screen on the bottom of each hive. It allowed air to flow in, but keeps other bugs out. Ideally, a screen should be on the top of each hive also. Well, yesterday, he removed those feeding boards, and put on screens.

He did this because he was getting chalk brood in the hives. Chalk brood is a fungus that gets on the brood -- the babies capped in the comb -- and kills them. The nursery bees throw this brood out. Chalk brood comes when the weather is moist, as it has been. Good air circulation prevents it.

But, how to feed the bees, once Adam removed the jars and their boards? Well, he has a solution for that too -- a feeding bucket. This is a 5-gallon bucket, turned upside down, full of sugar water and the essential oils that bees love. You can see that it's set in water, to prevent ants from climbing up and drinking all the bees' water.
He set the bucket out yesterday, and in no time, forager bees discovered it. Here's one, sitting just above the tiny holes that Adam drilled in the bottom of the bucket's rim. See them? They're the right size for the bees' tongues. The sugar water doesn't come pouring out, because a vacuum is created in the bucket. The bees can suck it out, but it doesn't come out on its own.
This morning, the bucket was loaded with bees. They're happy to find their water! But Adam wanted to know if all the bees there were his own, or if some were from other hives. So he decided to "bee line" his bees. He takes powdered sugar, sprinkles it on the bees at the bucket, and watches to see where they fly. The powdered sugar makes them look like little moths, or angels, flying around. But normal powdered sugar also has corn starch in it. He didn't want his bees to have corn starch. (They will groom each other, and eat the sugar off each other.) So he made his own powdered sugar.

Did you know you can powder your own sugar?

Just put sugar into a good chopper/grinder, and voila! Powdered sugar!
Happy bees.
That's what the beekeeper is doing this morning.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I just have to start out with this whole Harold Camping thing -- have you heard?

The world is supposed to end on Saturday. 

That's right! Only 3 days left to shop! Spend it all up, ladies!

Seriously though, here are a few posts I've read about this elderly predictor of end times:
New York Magazine had an interview/conversation with Mr. Camping.
Rev. Chuck Betters hosted Camping once for a debate on his end-times predictions. He gives a good assessment of the man.
Time also has a simple article explaining Camping's math. It gives Scripture verses that are pertinent to his "formula."

Enough Camping. I personally think the man is a false prophet. The end times are supposed to be full of them.

And now on to ... Meat Glue!  I bet you didn't know about meat glue! If you ever eat meat in restaurants, you're eating meat glue. Simply put, it allows butchers to "glue" together smaller, inferior cuts of meat (think, stew meat), into larger, shaped cuts (think, filet mignon). Not only is it deceptive, it's also unhealthy.
Here's a video of how it works.
Here's a longer video, which I haven't watched all of yet, that looks more scientific, and interesting.

Obamacare Waivers -- they're everywhere! A total of 1372 one-year waivers have been given to companies.
The latest request? Nursing homes.

World had another worrying article about how higher education in the US is way overpriced.  Causing a little anxiety for this mom of college kids.

Where would you put honey bees, in a big city? Read this.

Panera Bread succeeds with a pay-what-you-like store. Can you believe this works? It makes me happy.

Netflix is the wave of the future. If you don't know this yet, you're behind :)

The Antikythera Mechanism. An ancient machine, found by divers. Man's oldest computer. Interesting stuff.

Why We Blog

I enjoy blogging. I also tend to talk to myself, always have. As MFK Fisher says in one of her books, writers tend to have an inner, yapping voice that is constantly talking. When we write, we just put that yapping on paper. Well, she said it better than that.

I have some blogging friends who weary of it. They begin for fun, they find an online community that they love, their blogging peaks with lots of readership, comments, advertising and other exciting things, and then life intervenes. Children, or work, or moving, or even crises come in, and the blogging suffers.

And the blogger wonders why she's doing it anymore. The less she posts, the fewer readers she has. She loses her motivation. She wonders if she should quit. Why is she blogging anyway? To talk to thin air?

Well, yes. That's exactly why I blog. I like to talk, and it matters little to me (I apologize, gentle readers) if anyone much is listening. Sad, but honest. Arrogant too, because I consider myself alone to be an adequate audience. Hmm. Gotta work on that.

I think blogging is not a way to help the blogger view the world. It's a way to let the world have a window into your home, your life. It's a view from the outside, in -- not the inside, out. That's the way I see it, anyway.
But for me, blogging is more like a diary. I've been keeping diaries on and off since 2nd grade. So blabbing about my days comes naturally. A diary is a labor of love, just for the sake of keeping a record, nothing else.
We do not intend for a diary to be read by others. It's for our eyes only. We do not intend fame or publication, and certainly not interaction. It's a mental exercise.
And we certainly don't expect anyone to pay us anything, for keeping a diary. We do it for ourselves. Don't you love the old, red leather on this one?
When I tire of talking to myself -- of thinking -- then I suppose I'll tire of blogging. I may slow down at times, or become less creative:  write fewer poems, cook less often, neglect my yard.  But I don't think I'll stop altogether. It's not time to close up the diary yet.
So, all you weary bloggers out there -- take a deep breath, take a week off, and give your brain time to ruminate and ferment. You'll come up with something new to tell the world. Don't pull the curtains closed on your window.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Making Money

I have a big patch of money plant in my yard. Last year, I allowed the interesting seed pods to dry on the plant, before I cut them. Big mistake. In the rain and moisture, they'd already begun to mildew, and had lost their silvery luster.
So this year I'm trying something else -- cutting them while green, and bringing them inside to dry. But money plant is a biennial, I think, so it seems to go on a 2-year rotation.  This is the year of the greenery. I think next year I'll have a bumper crop of the "money." So, if the drying works like a charm this year, next year, I'll be rich!
I'll let you know if they turn out. Wouldn't it be easy if it grew on trees?

"Mommy, How Do I Flip This?"

This morning, Anna asked to bake a Honey Puffed Pancake for breakfast. I've blogged about it before, here. The recipe I'll give below. It's not a simple recipe, but she loves it, and I want her to cook, so I said yes. We agreed she should cut the recipe by half, since she's the only one eating it this morning. She did a great job!

It looked wonderful in the pan, as it began to bake.
And it turned out that golden, crispy egg-yellow. But then I heard her call from the kitchen, "Mommy! How do I flip this thing?"
And my heart itself flipped over, skipped a beat. Isn't this what she's doing, right now in her life? Making that move, that flip, from our home to her college? She's done all the work. She's adjusting to new responsibilities. But she still needs a little help from these older hands, experienced hands. Hands that have learned how to flip things in life.

"Grab the handle upside down, honey. Like this."  I show her. "Put the plate beside the pan, and turn the pan over, quickly."  You have to trust that a good firm, confident upending of the cast iron will reveal a beautiful pancake.
It was delicious. Now she's cleaning up the kitchen, bless her. Nineteen years of slow, vaguely-methodical training do eventually pay off. She's ready.

Honey Puffed Pancake (from the Hancock House B&B, Dubuque, Iowa):
1 cup milk
6 eggs
3 Tbs honey
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbs butter, divided

Honey Butter Spread:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
cinnamon to taste

Preheat oven to 400º. In blender: milk, eggs, honey, cream cheese, flour, salt, baking powder. Blend ingredients on high for 1 minute. Grease 10-inch ovenproof skillet (We use cast iron.) with 1 Tbs butter. Add remaining 2 Tbs butter. Heat skillet in oven until butter sizzles. Pour batter into skillet and bake for 20-25 min. until puffed and golden brown. Pancake will fall and flatten some after being removed from oven.

Beat the ingredients for the spread while the pancake is baking. You may heat it gently on the stove to a liquid, if you prefer. (As Anna did in the pictures.) You may serve the butter spread with pancake syrup on top, or use it alone.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pesto Baguettes

My neighbor Ali saw my basil growing bushy, and she said, "I'd make pesto with that." I'd never made pesto before, so I thought, "It's high time!" One of our favorite items at the bakery in Brevard, is a pesto baguette. If I'm making pesto, why not make some bread to go with it?

Here's the basil. I cleaned it like lettuce.
Here are the other ingredients: olive oil, pine nuts (which we happened to have!), and garlic.  I also threw in some pecans, because they're my favorite nut. Well, besides Adam.
Toss it all in the food processor, pulverize it, (tell Philip that, no, the nut pieces are NOT too large), and presto-pesto!! There it is! The big green slime monster! But it tastes oh-so-good.
I whipped up two loaves of French bread and rolled the pesto inside it, just like a jelly roll, before baking. Couldn't be easier. See that green stuff about to ooze out the side? That's the best!
Yum. But I think I should have rolled it thinner, to give more rings of pesto.
Julia says it met her expectations.
Philip took a nap while it was baking. He likes pesto, and it's even green! Miracles still occur. This cute photo of Philip taking a nap is especially for Rebecca, because we miss you, dear. No children (or mothers) were harmed in the taking of this picture. He doesn't know I took it, and he also doesn't know that I'm about to post it online. It's hard, having a blogging mom.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Just What She Wanted

Anna's graduation was different from your usual high school ceremony. One graduate. About 20 people. Held in a small room in the local library. But it was exactly -- exactly -- what she wanted. Private, small, spiritual, just her friends.

Still, we had the usual fun tables displaying the joys of Anna's growing-up years.
And a couple of display boards, and cards.
Adam and I each gave a little speech.
And Anna thanked all the people who've been important in her life -- even her siblings!
Mostly, there was lots of talking, visiting, hugging, smiling, and congratulating.
And even a congratulatory kiss from the daddy ...
My dear parents drove over for the event. Bless them -- with 26 grandchildren, my mother said they had 8 birthdays and 3 graduations, just in May! That's a lot to remember! We're so glad they could come, even though I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, getting everything set up.
The two buddies. Julia and my dad have been pals since way back :)
There was some goofing around. Adam and Peter are always good for a bit of silliness.
Finally, Anna got to kick off her shoes, and visit with old friends. It was a great day! We are so proud of her!