Saturday, July 21, 2007

Published Latte Art

The current issue of Lavender Magazine has an article on Amore Coffee (containing some correct and some incorrect information!) I was working when the photographer was shooting for the article, and made this latte. It's on page 85 of the July 20 - Aug2 2007 issue.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hope in God alone

I'm not entirely sure why, but I've been having a difficult week emotionally. I've been clinging to Psalm 62, especially this:
In God alone there is rest for my soul,
from him comes my safety;
with him alone for my rock, my safety,
my fortress, I can never fall.

At times I am so worried and anxious, driven by the need for approval. (I know, it doesn't always show.) But in God, my soul finds rest. He always loves. I may fail in everything, but in him, I am safe, even from my own failure.

In God, I find shelter; rely on him,
people, at all times;

unburden your hearts to him,
God is a shelter for us.

This is so true! I have found shelter from this heat, from my own fear. I love the picture of intimacy with god, "unburden your hearts to him." When other relationships are shaky, sour, or pressed, I can pour my heart out always to this love.

God has spoken once,
twice I have heard this;
it is for God to be strong,
for you, Lord, to be loving;

and you yourself repay

as my works deserve.

(Repayment as my works deserve is a whole 'nother conversation. ask me sometime if you don't know.)
In the middle of this stanza I always think it will say, "it is for you God to be strong, for you to be just," I don't know why I always expect that, but always am in wonderment to fine that God is strong, God is loving. Ahhh.

That is the way it is, and the next psalm, 63, says it so well. With God I find ever-increasing desire and ever-increasing fulfillment, like good love. I set my heart anywhere else, and find increasing desire and diminishing satisfaction, like an addiction.

We've been arty around here lately. I'm working on a little last-minute illustration project. (it's coming Abby!) I had been putting it off and as I started the drawings found to my surprise that I actually like art. No less, I'm good at it. Ha. A nice thing to rediscover.

These pics are from when our dear friend Liz (Dr. Fleming, that is) visited earlier in the summer.
Here Gibbie is watercolouring. This week he had his first try with the bamboo pen and walnut ink. His beautiful drawings are up on our front door if you want to take a look!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Papa's Papa

That's how my dad described himself to Gibbie today. He drove over for an afternoon visit with us. We went to the Cherokee Sirloin Room and then Cafe Juliana, both on the same corner of St. Paul's west side.

I forgot my camera, but did have my phone to capture a bit of the domino playing with Grandpa Bill, Gibbie, and Mama. I think everyone had a great time. Part of our conversation had to do with the mechanical bent of my Dad's family. While Libby's ancestors were farmers, most of the men on my Dad's side of the family were machinists and engineers (although one was a successful musician). I grew up seeing my dad work on cars, but as he pointed out today, he didn't systematically educate me in auto mechanics. Now he sees me working on diesels, which he doesn't know much about, and guesses that it's only natural.

Cafe Juliana used to be Old Man River Cafe. It's still a great space, and the coffee's still about average.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Corn Bread

Adapted from the More-With-Less Cookbook, a Mennonite book devoted to frugal, simple food:

Wonderful Tasty Cornbread
great with honey

Preheat to 400 F.
Mix in a bowl:
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour (I used 3/4 whole wheat, 1/4 white)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup dry milk powder

Make a well in the mound and add:
2 eggs
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup oil

Stir just until smooth. Pour into an oiled pan and bake till nice and brown. (half and hour-ish)
Serve hot with butter, syrup, honey, or milk.
With frugality in mind, I used all powdered milk, instead of fresh, as the original recipe had it. I also added molasses, which I love in my bread.

Pie--Glorious Pie!

Yes, this gorgeous pie is cooling on the windowsill. Ahhh. It was very much enjoyed!

Mulberry Rhubarb Pie
This recipe is adapted from two wonderful cookbooks. The filling is from A Midwest Gardener's Cookbook, by Marian K. Towne. This book really is a good companion for the Minnesota gardener.
The crust (I never quite understood all quest for flaky, tender crus
ts till I bit into this! It puts ready-made crusts to shame.) is out of The Lost Art of Pie Making Made Easy by Barbara Swell. This book is a hoot.

This will take a while. Makes bottom and top crust with lots leftover for pie-crust cookies (by far Gibb's favorite element of pie-day!)
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
a stick and a quarter of butter, cut into little pieces and frozen
a glass of water with some ice and a squirt of lemon juice in it

Work fast! The key is not letting the butter get warm!
Mix up all the dry ingredients. Rub and cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Take heart; once you get through this the rest is easy. I used to use a pastry cutter before I lost mine. This time, I cut it in with butter knives and then rubbed it in the tips of my fingers. After a while I gave up and used my whole hands. I worked quickly and popped it in the freezer to chill as soon as all the flour was mixed in. It made a beautiful crust!

Now mix up the filling.
Filling: be generous with the fruit now!
Mix up in a bowl:
2-3 cups mulberries, leave the stems on. If you try to take them off, the berries will turn to mush
1-2 cups sliced rhubarb. avoid the tough part at bottom of stalks
3/4 sugar
3 Tablespoons flour

I take that dough from the fridge or freezer. Pat it into 3 disks. Put 2 back in the fridge.
Put the dough on a floured silpats mat. (thanks, Grammers!) These are crazy expensive. I think a floured dish cloth, oil cloth, or saran wrap might work too. This keeps the dough from ripping as I pick it up and from getting stuck to the table.
Roll the dough out quick, sprinkling with flour if it starts to stick. Peel off the mat and into a waiting pie pan. I now cut around the outside edge of the pan with a butter knife to slice off the excess crust, which goes with the extra lump in the fridge.

Fill this bottom crust with fruit! Now I turn on the oven; almost done!
I take the next disk of dough and roll it out as before. Once it gets nice and big, I cut it into long strips a bit wider than a finger. This is the fun part, where I weave the basket-like top crust. I lay a few strips across the middle of the pie. Then I start to lay more strips going crosswise to the first ones, over and under. I continue likewise until the pie is covered in latticework strips of crust.

Just before the oven (375 F) I trim the top crust, pinch top and bottom crusts together (this gives that pretty crimped homemade pie look) and brush the top crust with cream. Put it in the oven.
In the meantime, make the extra crust into cookies.

Pie-Crust Cookies: My mom always let us make these. They finish baking long before the pie, and are great for impatient assistant chefs. If I had extra anything else on hand, I would have improvised another pie or tart with all the extra crust. Plus, if I've got the oven on on a summers' day, I want to fill up that oven to get all I can out of the heat.
Just roll out dough and cut into strips, diamonds, or with cookie cutters. Odd-shaped leftover cuttings just roll out again, or toss right on the cookie sheet. Brush with milk, cream, or water, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Gibbie loves helping with this!
Pop them in the oven. Stay in the kitchen! They cook up quick, for excited little children who can't wait for pie.
The pie cooks for around an hour. I take it out when it's golden brown on top and the berries are bubbling merrily. I set it in the windowsill to cool. Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Pies are so worth the trouble to bake; the house may have been a disaster the day we made this, but the accomplishment of this triumph of summer fruit, this pie, sure made me lift up my head. It's also worth getting out the pretty plates.

Here we go round the Mullberry Bush

Picking fresh berries in the woods is a delightful way to spend a morning hour! When looking for mulberries, note that they tend to grow on not bushes, but very tall trees. (If you have a mulberry bush, or think you may, and don't eat every last berry, please invite us over, so we can come pick them for you!) We did, however, find some medium-sized mulberry trees on a steep hill, which helped us pick them. I used a long stick to pull down high branches to my low hobbit-height, and for Gibbie to reach.

The berries did "color my han," as Gibbie put it. For a day or two the evidence of our forage-ery remained.

The best part about berrying was simply being in the woods, pulling berries off a tree and slipping them in our baskets. There is something so beautiful about gathering. This abundant surplus of the tree; her gift to us. Finding our food, delicious fruits, in a place so beautiful. We also had the joy of being together, of helping one another, and of using what would otherwise fall to the ground. (for any conservationists, don't worry-- we left plenty of fruit for the forest animals, etc!)

I put plenty of red mulberries in the pie, but they're best when almost black. Their flavor is sweet and mild, not tart at all like most berries. Perfect for children. Very unripe berries are white. As they ripen, they turn creamy, pink, and red, by turns, finally darkening into a deep purple.
Mulberry leaves come in different shapes on the same tree. Some leaves are plain, like the one above, while others have one lobe, like a mitten, and some have two lobes. I'm watching sidewalks for purple stains as I try and locate unloved trees; I want more berries. We first found ripe berries on this tree almost a month ago, and this week there seemed to be many more berries left unripe than ripe, so they seem to have a long season this year.

Qualification: I mentioned Samuel Thayer's book, Forager's Harvest, a few posts ago. I am still enamored with it; he writes so well, and the information is so practical and thorough. In no way do I want to set myself out as a teacher on wild foods; I'm just sharing here my enthusiasm over our foray into the forest. The aforementioned book doesn't cover mulberries, but my tools for harvesting were inspired by him.

A few days after berrying, Gibbie randomly asked, "Who is God?" Knowing I wouldn't be able to give even the beginning of a complete answer, I started by talking to him about how God made everything. He offered, "the Sun?" Yes, we listed some more things, "...and Mulberries?" Yes! He was getting excited now, and danced around the room a bit, "and Dibbie and Mama and Evra!!"
Yes, Gibbie, I too am so glad that he made berries for us to pick, and made me and you and your brother. Such good good gifts.
You visit the earth and water it,
you load it with riches;
God's rivers brim with water
to provide their grain.

This is how you provide it;
by drenching its furrows, by levelling its ridges,
by softening it with showers, by blessing the first-fruits.
You crown the year with your bounty,
abundance flows wherever you pass;
the desert pastures overflow,
the hillsides are wrapped in joy,
the meadows are dressed in flocks,
the valleys are clothed in wheat,
what shouts of joy, what singing!

from psalm 65

Love Your Enemies

I read in the St. Paul Pioneer Press today an interview with the now deceased Abdul Rashid Ghazi who had been trying to start a rebellion to overthrow the Pakistani government in favor of Islamic law. In the article he said this:

"How much money has been spent on the war on terror? If these billions had been spent on us, on basic education, on food, then we would love the Americans. The Americans are not getting benefit from Iraq or Afghanistan. Hatred will not bring you any positive results - hatred from Afghanis, hatred from Iraqis, hatred from Pakistanis."

The Bible says this:

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:20-21NKJV)

Sounds like a good plan to me.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Like a little birdie in a nest

One day Gibbie and I made nests for a few of our animal friends. This is a little lamb (or bear, or puppy, depending on who you believe) in his nest. (or den or doghouse) He's sleepin'.

Four Wheels, or Two?

The dreaded scenario happened: two old immobile diesels.

Last week the Mercedes sprung a leak near the injector pump. Since fixing the Audi has been on the back burner, I was left with no drivable vehicles and a lot of work to do.

We've been without a working car many times before and it's generally not a big deal. I hardly ever drive to work anyway. Getting the family to church on Sunday morning is about the only time we need a ride.

What's worse than the dreaded scenario? My bike broke halfway through the week. Man, was that hard. I was left with walking or busing to work. I chose to walk. Getting groceries became painful, literally. (and it bugs the heck out of me when people say "literally" and it isn't literal. My hand actually hurt after carrying the heavy bag of food back from the Co-op.) Life without a car was manageable, but life without a bike felt like a real hardship.

On a recommendation from a coworker, I took my good bike to Express Bike Shop. I always modify my bikes to use just a single speed by taking off all the derailleurs, cables, and whatnot, and shortening the chain to accommodate two gears I find to be a useful ratio. Since I'm an urban year-round biker I don't need a lot of gears and having just one means there's far less stuff to go wrong. I had the folks at Express do it the "right" way and actually remove the extraneous cogs and add a special tensioner to the chain (see photo). Since it was the Fourth of July week, I had to wait extra long for it to be done.
All of the walking, besides being good for my prayer life, gave me time to realize what my main vehicle really is. I'd been feeling for a while like I should maybe break down and get a "normal" car like a Camry or something that would be completely boring and dependable (as well as expensive bloody gas consuming). Some might call this responsible, while others would consider it "selling out." It feels more like the latter to me. In any case, realizing that the bike is my main vehicle and cars are only secondary/occasional transportation put a lot of things in perspective. I once told an old bike-guy-friend-coworker from Amore, "I want to have an old car I can work on and basically never drive." I don't think he had any idea what I was talking about, but maybe you do after reading a bit of this post. I love working on cars, but I'm not so big on driving them every day.

Oh, I think I did fix the leak on the Mercedes too. It was a neat little thing by the injector pump that lets you prime the system by hand! (what a cool idea.) It had a worn out rubber seal. I got something from the hardware store that seems to work. I also have a replacement for the little unit if that doesn't do it. The reason why I only "think" I fixed it is I haven't really driven it anywhere since I worked on it, just idled it and looked for dripping. I've been too busy biking to drive it anywhere.

Gibbie singin' on the trees while he's workin'

Dibbie singin' on the trees while he's workin'. He's a worker. He's working. (singing) He's a worker. With his blickey basket. I think there's Papa there, and Gabe there and Helen there. He sings.
He do-es his other other work, on the playground. He swings.
It's very dangerous. So don't touch it. So kids don't touch it. Just me.
This post is a dictation of Gibbie's own words, describing this picture.

Family Biking

We are getting somewhere in our quest to use biking as practical transportation for the family. The first thing we tried was having both boys in a bike trailer. Our toddler loves it, but the babe cried the whole way- "I'm distraught, scared, and in pain" kind of crying. Today was a big leap forward.

The innovation: wear the baby! It seems this is our answer to all baby dilemmas.
Why I loved it:
1.No crying
2. I've gotten really comfortable with wearing Ezra on my back. I knew he was secure.
3. He can look over my shoulder.
4. No crying. Did I mention that?
5. He sang! As I started biking, he began to croon.
6. My body absorbed the shocks of the road for him. I can accommodate for bumps, very much unlike the trailer
7. My mountain bike was a plus-- I usually hate leaning over, but it was great when he fell asleep, he had a perfect perch for his helmet-heavy head. His body also seemed to support my back a bit.
8. It was comfy for me.
9. I feel safer about him being able to see him and having him so close to me.

You can see in the picture an extra cloth tied over him. That's not holding him on. It's for sun protection. Earlier I had it up over his arms. The helmet mostly shades his eyes.

Note to self:
-install a handlebar mirror; it was tough to see well behind me on the side where his head was. Okay this time, as Paul was there, but I'd feel better with a mirror.
-Watch the gravel. I was extra careful about stuff I'd not normally care about. In an industrial area we went though, the bike lane was strewn with sand and gravel. Ditto for broken glass.
-Next time remember to tie up my pant cuff. These wide pant legs are perfect for catching in the chain.
Saint Paul is a great place for biking! We went to the other side of downtown and only had a few blocks where we weren't on a bike path or bike lane or small street. We are also so blessed to live in Frogtown, within close range of so much that we love. It's a very transit friendly neighborhood and except in the dead of winter, it's totally possible to get around without a car even with little kids in tow.
It is a beautiful day for biking! Down in the hollow it's cool and shady and oh-so-lovely.

big goofy grin

I saw this on the way home from work yesterday and had to take a picture.  It just looked so human to me.  Libby thought it looked like a monster, but I think it looks friendly.

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Tisket, a Tasket, a Little Blickey Basket!

This little basket is called a blickey. I adapted it from an idea in the excellent wild foods guide Forager's Harvest by Sam Thayer. This book is well-written, very practical, and available from the Saint Paul public library. As soon as I return it, that is. The blickey is just a little container you strap to your waist for berry-picking. It's great:
-two hands free for picking
-no accidentally kicking over my berries
-don't have to keep track of where the berries are
-less squishing them in my hand as I pick
-great for kids (pictured here on Gibbie)
This blickey is wicker, made from leftover basket supplies I got from my mom. A very simple little basket, I designed it to not spill and fit well against the body. It has little loops in back to run a string through for tying on, or one could run a belt through it. We've been using ours daily for raspberries, which are finally ripe! Those aren't raspberries in the picture, however. More on the joys of mullberries later.

If anyone wants their own blickey, talk to me. I would gladly give a blickey lesson or make one for you!
Enjoy this beautiful day!

Ezra's very first drawing

Ezra's first drawing! He was very deliberate; he has made marks before, but never knowingly. Here, he was intently watching his pen as he carefully scribbled.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Midwest Renewable Energy Fair

A week after we went to the cabin we took a trip with Willington to the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair near Stephen's Point, Wisconsin. We were tipped-off to this event by our friends at the Solar Oven Society. They've had a booth at the fair for several years running and highly recommended we go. Willington was most exited about the chance to learn about renewable technology that would be useful in his Ugandan homeland. Traveling with him was pretty fun, too, because he'd never seen American farmland before. He was really into all the cows and large farms and marveled that all of the rural places we passed by had electricity and running water.

Although the main purpose of our trip was to learn more about technologies that would be appropriate to Uganda, I also got a chance to visit the alternative energy car show. Pictured above is a whole row of vegetable oil burning diesels. A wide range of conversion systems were represented, ranging from the $350 do-it-yourself (which seemed to involve a generous amount of duct tape) to the fancy single tank Elsbett system.

Since I already have a converted car, what I mostly wanted to know about was waste vegetable oil filtration.  I've read a lot of somewhat conflicting information on the Internet about what works and doesn't work.  I thought that maybe talking to some real people would help me figure things out.  

What I came up with wasn't necessarily the technical information I had hoped for, though I got some good ideas.  My main realization was that there is a wide spectrum of opinion and practice when it comes to collecting and filtering WVO for vehicles.  What one person considers normal would be completely unacceptable to another.  For example, one man I talked to said of the professional Greasecar certified mechanic that installed his system, "well, he's not so careful about what he puts in his tank."  

I think this perspective on WVO opinions is more valuable than a few technical tips.  On the spectrum of WVO filtering I think I want to be a little more careful than center.  I don't exactly know what that works out to yet, but at least I have a better framework for listening to what others have to say about it.