Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Cheery Table for All

Montessori, and many others tell us to make each meal special, to communicate care by setting a beautiful table even if the meal is merely a snack for a small child. To me this means, firstly, flowers. I've long imagined that the greatest thing about being rich would be being able to have flowers inside all year long. But I'm coming around on this point. There is a time for every beauty. Flowers grow in long days, not short ones. The most cheering thing on a winter table is a candle. By dinnertime, it is yet infallibly dark already. Gibbie likes to talk about the "dark, dark world out there." What we need is a bit more light.

Ideas for winter cheer at our kitchen table:
-anything colored tissue paper taped to the windows; cut stars, snowflakes, squares, etc.
-a candle. We have a favorite candle holder (wedding gift, from 10,000 villages; thanks, dear friends!). I buy candles at the coop (yes, expensive), or the thrift store (cheap!), or make our own (the last time we did that was years ago! man, it's a great winter activity!), or scrounge them from my Dad's basement (we call it the "great source and final resting place of all things", though my brother and sisterinlaw are working hard to change that!). We light a candle at every meal. Blowing it out signals the end of the meal. It's a great way for Gibbie to understand that Mama and Papa are still busy when we're catching up after work at the end of the day.
-a nice tablecloth. Hem any piece of cloth, or buy on the cheap at a thrift store. Ours need to be changed frequently! I don't worry about stains, as we have lots. Some I shake out or flip over before changing.
-cloth napkins This is an easy way to dignify and green a meal. My mom always kept a basket near the table, and we just threw them in the wash. Even using them every meal makes an insignificant dent in the laundry load of a family. No sense in buying these new, as they are the easiest thing to sew. Old clothes, like button-down shirts, actually work much better for napkins than new fabric, as absorbency and softness are key. Easy to find in thrift stores. A family can almost stop buying paper products.
-real silver I've found that real and quite beautiful silver is shockingly cheap in thrift stores. I think no one wants to deal with polishing it. (Hint: preschoolers love to polish!) I'm having a love affair with a particular teapot I found for maybe three dollars.
-books at dinner? Sure! I do try not to keep my nose in a book at the table, but we have a special book by the table and Gibbie always looks forward to reading from it. This is covered beautifully in Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt. I adored this book, though I must mention that the edition I read was from the 1970's, so I can't vouch for the newer one I linked to.
-kids help set the table At 3, I hope Gibbie is soon doing this on his own. For now, I keep the children's things in a drawer they can reach. I ask him to do a specific tasks ("please put a plate on the table", not "set the table") one at a time and do it with him if he's not enthusiastic about my request. Doing it with him has been a great thing. It doesn't make it a negative or adversarial thing at all, and has been a wonderfully effective tactic for growing willingness to help. In the summer, he loves arranging the flowers he picked in a jar.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mother Culture

One of my favorite educational philosophers, (okay, I know I'm a nerd.) Charlotte Mason, writes about the importance of what she terms, "Mother Culture". I wish I could reference where I read about this recently, but I've forgotten. She says that mothers must have a vibrant inner life, with an inner life, passions, interests and pleasures outside of the children. To me, it means cultivating my mind, spirit, and body, nourishing (and luxuriating in!) relationships outside of the filial ones, and making sure I have the time to engage in life-giving pursuits. I think we can all agree about this. The difficulty for so many parents, especially, it seems, with small children, in making it happen.

I beg, beg, borrow, and steal time away from the children. We oughtn't be ashamed to ask for help so that we can be healthy. Family, friends at church, co-workers, close neighbors, other parents, and people without children yet or ever, or with grown kids are prime suspects for childcare requests. For the kids' sake, we never leave them alone with anyone unless we know them very well, we have every reason to trust them, and the kids are entirely comfortable with them. When they were very small, we were always near, but would ask for help anyway, and just have time to ourselves in the other room.
So, when I do get some time away, I make the most of it! No running errands for me! I go to a favorite coffee or tea shop, pray, read, draw, I sing, I write, I walk in the woods, I swim, I seek out the beautiful. I find that after time away from my dear children, I come back to them with a renewed store of love, appreciation, patience, and energy. This is my time to fill up. If I'm having difficulties, I bring them to God, and ask for help. If I'm lonely I find a friend or unburden my heart to my unseen Father. I turn up the music loud or listen to stillness.

Still, I need all this stuff even on days full of children. That's when it's time to steal time away. I made a little pocked notebook just for this purpose. It's constructed almost just like Paul's bible cover, and is durable enough for hard daily wear in a back pocket. I almost always have it on me, and keep a small pen stached inside. It's good for taking notes, writing down books I want to check out, recipes, sketches, poems. If I don't get my ideas out immediately, I find they float into the ether. I use it to pray. In the midst of a family, when uninteruppted time is not an option, I find I sometimes can't concentrate enough to pray at all. Writing it out makes it happen. I also make lots of lists that I never look at again.

I made the cover out of more of my garage sale leather, and designed it to hold Moleskin notebooks. That didn't last too long, when it came to buy refills and I remembered how expensive they are. Now I make my own refills. Custom convenience, I enjoy the flexibility of making them just how I want them.
*By the way, did you notice what operating system Paul put on our laptop? He's very happy with it, and hopefully will post on it soon!*

***Also: still taking comers for the conference on sustainable communities I posted about a few days ago. I think it will be a lot of fun!***

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Great Brownie Recipe, Plain and Birthday-fancy

Dear Reader,
I have missed writing to you! I have so many things I want to share, but the days have been stretching on, post-less for me. (I wrote this before I finished that last post, so it's been a bit.) So, first things first; brownies. I've made a few batches of brownies, from scratch, that have been disappointing. Hard to believe, isn't it? You'd think all brownies would be good! But I've found my perfect recipe. Normally I'm not a stick-to-the-recipe kinda Mama, but with baked goods, improvisation can lead to sadness in my kitchen.
One qualification: this whole post is not very Lenten, but we had a birthday around here, and exceptions must be made!
Here it is, from my new favorite cookbook, Savoring the Seasons, which I discussed a while ago. They are an historic recipe from Mrs. Macine of International Falls, MN. Don't be intimidated by cooking these from scratch if you're not a from-scratcher; these are almost as easy as a box, and only have six ingredients. I do leave out her recommended chocolate chips, as they're so expensive, and these are fudgey goodness itself with out them. I also changed the chocolate; her recipe called for squares baking chocolate, and we buy unsweetened cocoa powder in bulk, so this is my adaptation.
6 full Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 stick butter, okay to skimp on it; I always do!
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract; we buy good vanilla, and I always use extra! Paul is amazed at the amount of vanilla and flour we run through; winter's the season--we probably won't need a refill all summer long.
1/2 cup flour

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. I turn off the heat when the butter's about half melted and cover it to finish melting whilst I mix the other ingredients. Waste not want not, you know.
Beat eggs and sugar. Mix in vanilla and flour.
Pour into a greased pan, 9x9 is good. Bake at 375 (F) for 12 to 18 minutes. And here is the key to these goodies: do not overbake them. They are done before they pull away from the sides of the pan.
Now for the fun part: our little one, the older little one, requested a mouse and strawberry party. We had a tiny party, with just a few children (one for each of his years, as he is only three and easily overwhelmed. Also because if it is a small party we can be very fancy and make everything super-special, without Mama and Papa being overwhelmed either!). So, since we were having a mouse party, mouse-sized cakes seemed fitting. I improvised a tiny cake stand by using masking tape to stack teacups and pretty plates together, and whipped out a batch of brownies in mini muffin tin the day before. Each one was about a tablespoon of batter. We always lick all our spoons and bowls!
The day of the party, we whipped a half-pint of cream, stirring in a bit of vanilla once semi-stiff peaks form. I beat some sugar to taste into maybe a quarter cup of cream cheese and whipped cream. I made a simple syrup from a bag of frozen strawberries. Some of this I stirred into some of the whipped-cream-cheese frosting.
The fun part is assembly: I sandwiched the plain frosting between tiny brownies, and topped with swirls of plain frosting, dollops of strawberry frosting, and drizzled strawberry syrup on top. This all isn't as heavy as it sounds because they are small and the frosting is whipped. Delicious? Yes.
Since it was a mouse party, the birthday boy had a special mouse outfit, and all guests wore whiskers and pink noses. There was also one lion, but he was mostly friendly with the mice

We read The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, which I checked out from the library in one of those oversized storytime editions, played hide and seek, sang songs, and nibbled on treats. Happy Birthday, little Mouse!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sustainable Communities!

I heard about a conference on sustainable communities, here in St. Paul, and I am just so excited about it!
The conferences topic tracks include:
  • School, congregational and neighborhood organizing
  • Watershed Education / Restoration
  • Gardening / Greening / Urban Forestry
  • Transportation—Walking / Biking / Transit Use / Active Living by Design
  • Energy Conservation / Green Buildings / Renewable Energy
  • Local & Sustainable Food Systems
  • Zero Waste Initiatives, Greening Your Business, Green Careers
  • Developing a Community-wide Sustainability Plan
Doesn't that sound great?! To be honest, I started to highlight the topics I was most interested in, but then most of them were highlighted!
I am especially interested in Gardening, Greening, and Urban Forestry. I've got our little food and flower garden in our neighbors' yard, but have been hoping and waiting and praying for more opportunities to work on this kind of stuff in our larger community, with other people, both more and less experienced than me!
Is anyone interested in going with me to this conference? It's March 8th, at Augsburg College, here in the Twin Cities, and it's free.
***I've fixed the link above for the conference; sorry it didn't work before***

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Francis' Papa Makes Coffee or the Winter Picnic

So. We're still mid-winter. Off-and-on colds and viruses ranging around like lions, seeking whom they may devour. Dry air. Not much outdoor time. Oh, we try! We bundle up, we go for walks (oh, foolish mortals that we are!). I try to leave an extra ten minutes going somewhere for Gibbie to play in the snow once he's all bundled up.
I have never longed for spring so devotedly. Once we can play outside for more than twenty minutes at a time, not dancing with the danger of frostbite, nay--in no more than boots and a jacket--oh, will we play long and hard outside!
Anyway, with, optimistically two months of the off-again-on-again romance between Winter and that seductress Spring, how will we survive without eating eachother's heads?
Gibbie calls, "Mama, I'm dressing up as Francis! Do you want to dress up as Francis' mama? sweetly) This book you haven't read. It's called, Francis' Papa Makes Coffee."
What, you haven't heard of Francis' Papa makes Coffee? What about Francis Goes to the Zoo?
I've mentioned our beloved Francis books before. It's hard to remember that Francis isn't an actual member of our family. She's a badger, actually. A fictional one. Our favorite Francis books include: Bread and Jam for Francis, Bedtime for Francis, A Baby Sister for Francis, and A Bargain for Francis. Wait! That's almost all of them. Yup. We sure do love our Francis.

They are invaluable for reading again and again and again. Well written, clever, well-timed little stories. But you won't find Francis' Papa Makes Coffee or Francis Goes to the Zoo at the library, as they're Gibbie's own creation.
Gibbie has begun a sort of literary vamping. He makes up stories based on his favorite books.
Gibbie "dresses up as Francis." This often doesn't include any tangible costume at all. He mentally puts on Francis, and tells us about it. He also informs us if we are required to dress up as anyone. Francis' Papa, say, or any other real or fictional person we know and love. Sometimes he "dresses up" Ezra as Gloria, Francis' little sister. True fans of Francis will appreciate that sometimes Albert, Ida, the ubiquitous Thelma, and even Harold occaisionally show up too.
Francis Goes to the Zoo, the most popular title around our house today, underwent some major plot development today. It goes something like this: Gibbie and Ezra get into the "Adventure Box" (they made up that name--I swear! It is, of course, just a big cardboard box.) They usually also toss in some blankets or cloths and stuffed animals. Then follow endless invitations to Mama and Papa, who morph into Francis at Gibbie's will, (yes, he changes characters faster than Superman) to come and look at the animals. They are enticed to pick up and admire the animals (note that to adult eyes, the animals are Gibbie and Ezra). Apparently, when Francis goes to the zoo, she can pick up whatever real animals she wants. Today, amazingly, she got to handle :
-a real live, "puffed-up ball animal" who stared round and round,
-as well as a fluffy animal that was very very soft,
-a baby polar bear,
-and two quite wild and rousty animals who couldn't agree on who got a certain corner of their exhibit and whether that animal would be lying down or sitting.

That's the game: pretending to look at and touch and hold animals in a zoo (now we all know what Gibbie's dream zoo would look like) or pretending to be a friendly zoo animal just dying to be picked up and petted by a locquacious and rhyming little badger.

I like to do my own motherly version of literary vamping. It is so easy to take any good picture book and pick out some part of it that we can play out or learn more about, often with little or no preparation. This forms the basis of my winter-anti-boredom-toolkit.
These pictures are actually from more than a month ago. In Best Friends for Francis, and actual favorite Russell and Lillian Hoban story, Francis and company go out for the most delightful picnic outing. This has been the seed for countless such outings of our own. Elements from the story that we like to include: a picnic hamper blanket, a wide variety of food, and spontaneously composed songs. We were out for a walk near some small woods on a relatively balmy winter day, and decided to eat our packed lunch, outing style. This really wasn't fancy at all, just a thermos of warm milk, peanut butter sandwiches, oranges, and a blanket; but it was so delightful. Paul was right there with us, but as usual, sigh, is not pictured as he was behind the camera. It also really wasn't uncomfortably cold! We were dressed quite warmly in many layers of wool, warmed by our hike, and had our lovely outing blanket to sit upon. On a winter's day in the twenties, (Farenheit; cold enough to be comfortable but not wet) I highly reccomend it!

So does Ezra!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Do you "get" Poetry?

I've happened upon a few very good guides to poetry. I'd like to remember them for when the kids are older, as navigational guides. I'm thinking ahead to how we'll teach them all kinds of things, and starting a system for filing books I might like to read with them later.

Anyway, these books might help with what bothers and intimidates so many people about poetry. We know what to do with a story, how to read it; but we get lost when we enter a poem. You know, "what does it mean?"
I very much myself enjoyed reading The Roar from the Other Side by Suzanne U. Clark. I might use it with the kids in the late-grade school years. She nicely explains the standard list of literary devices, giving excersises for students. It made me want to take up my own pen. She includes great texts by new poets I'd never heard of, as well as some you'd expect.
I've just begun John Ciardi's How does a poem mean? This volume may be appreciated by anyone who has asked, perplexed, of any poem or all poems, "what does it mean?" It might work as a good textbook, denser than The Roar from the Other Side. By textbook, understand that I mean, as I said above, a good guide, not a dry manual. There are many unfortunate textbooks out there, useful for completing workbooks and putting one to sleep before big exams. A good text is written by one who knows and loves their territory. Like a good wilderness guide. When I was in staff training to become a guide for wilderness canoe trips, our guide was a man who knew the lakes we paddled. He knew our equipment. He knew how to navigate. He knew what we needed to learn.
He also loved the land. He swam in the (cold!) water each morning upon waking. I noticed, almost upon meeting him, that he loved the words for the animals, history, and plants of the lakes country. He spoke the names of things deliberately. There is a joy in the particular nomenclature of a place, words that record its particularity. He sang, as we paddled across long lakes.

A singing guide is one who entices his students to follow in his steps. Likewise, these volumes on poetry are each written by a poet. Who but a woodsman could lead others through the wilderness? Similarly, can one become even a decent reader of poetry without writing a few? Though I loved to read as a child and adolescent, I was a terrible writer. Writing wasn't fun, because it never worked out well. But poetry is a key that can unlock some doors.
In my review of the first semester of my ninth grade english class, taught by my first good english teacher, and one of my best, I, in typical nerdly fashion, profusely thanked her for opening poetry to me and even more lavishly thanked her for not making us write poems. The first excercise she assigned the next semester was a big batch of original poems. Ten poems, with no other instructions or limits; ten original poems.
This was so good for me. After dousing us with a sea of all types of the poetic form, she simply pushed us off the dock. And so I learned to swim.
Well, Mary Oliver, a quintessential American poet; accessible, accomplished, and delightful, makes a good guide for writing verse. It's hard! She presents different forms for metered verse which will build the literary muscles of tawny poetic jocks and novice slow-pokes alike.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lent: stripping

We have begun the season of Lent: the forty days before Easter. I think lots of people think Lent means giving up chocolates, or not eating meat on Fridays. Lots more have never even heard of Lent. The word has it's root in "lencten," as in lengthening days, or spring. Just as the days are longer now, but it's not any warmer yet here, a lot of our growth during this season is real, but not always yet visible.
Our priest said it's a time to strip away all the unnecessary things we can. I think this is what many spiritual practices, like fasting, which means doing without certain foods, or eating less frequently, are getting at--taking away our excess so we can focus on deep things less distractedly.

I've come across a new picture I'd like to share. A sweet friend of ours wrote recently on her family's blog,
"I come home from work to Ken and Miri peering out the window in our house waiting for me - I can't tell you how this makes me feel as I literally run to the door of my home.[...home...] It is a place of complete freedom, a place of incredible love and support, and for me it is a place stripped of pretense and/or the temptation to be what one is not.
So I walk in the door and am greeted with the warmest, most enthusiastic greetings, kisses from Ken and Miri as Miri helps me strip off my coat, in many ways reminding me that I am home and it's time to strip away all the facades and worries of the day. I am home. And I realize that I could be anywhere with these two and I would still be home, always at home."

The past few days, I keep returning to this image, of returning home to loving family, taking off one's coat, and with it all masks and cares. I think fasting--doing without--is a way of taking off the things that are not really us, the things which are not worthy of our true selves.

It is right to be sorry for the wrong that I do; the ways I am unkind to others, take too much for myself. But now that I am God's own child, now that he has called me his own, all that stuff, the unkindness, the taking too much, is not me anymore. So I want to take off that coat, wet, cold, and salty from the day, the winter, the roads, strip it off, until I am just the real me. As she so beautifully illustrates, stripping off the false self removes bulk so that we can be intimate.

If we decide to do a kind of Lenten penance (the spiritual practices of doing without certain bad or unnecessary things, and doing certain good things, in sorry-ness for our badness) it is not because we're guilt-ridden. It's not because we're so bad, we need to sit in a corner and think about what we've done! No, we observe this season in preparation for Easter because any of the bad habits or wrong ways we may have are not the real us. Our real self, unencumbered, is God-born, loving, and very tenderly loved.

More Beard Frost

Libby said that my last beard frost photos didn't capture the full effect of the phenomenon. I took this picture when I arrived at Amore on Thursday morning. It was about 8 degrees F.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Wild Rice Soup for a Minnesota Winter: a Tangential Recipe

Winter Wild Rice Soup
The key to wild rice is letting it blossom. I put several handfuls of wild rice (this is real wild-grown stuff, hand harvested by Ojibwe people on Mille Lacs Reservation! Just another local treat from the co-op!) into my little sauce pan, and a kettle of water on the hob. When the kettle whistles boiling, I pour the hot water over the rice, cover it and leave it. This can be done the day before, or hours in advance of the meal. Before cooking with it, I rinse the rice a couple of times. Then all the rice is softened and each grain opens up. Wild rice seems expensive, but expands a lot more than white rice, so it's not really more pricey. If I don't let it blossom, all the other veggies get mushy while I wait for my rice to soften. You then end up cooking the soup for four hours into flavorlessness, or having chewy wild rice soup.
Heat a jar of broth or stock in the bottom of a nice deep pot. I make stock from leftovers of all kinds. Lacking this, just use water.
Put into the pot chopped carrots, wild rice, chopped potatoes, or other firm winter veggies.*
In a saucepan or frying pan, saute in a few glugs of olive oil:
chopped onion, garlic, parsnips**
Have I yet mentioned my new love of parsnips? You can dig them out of the garden all winter (theoretically. this might take advance planning if you live in the frozen north, but if they can be extracted from that hard ground, they will be sure to please!) I love their tart sweetness. Roasted, they carmelize and become a snacky pleasure food. cooked, they are sweet, soft, and tangy.So, saute this high-flavor matter till it becomes fragrant. I let it brown a bit, and toss in a splash of water. For some reason, this makes it all the sweeter. Transfer to the soup pot. Here I also added a fistful of sweet farmer's market corn frozen from the summer bounty. Slosh in some white wine, if you've got it.
Saute some chopped fresh mushrooms and put in soup.

When the veggies are almost all cooked, add a chopped stalk of celery or two.
I don't bother to wash the saucepan before making the roux. This is to be a cream soup. The flavors from the carmelized parsnip and onions are so good I don't want to wash any away. To make the roux, I put two spatches of butter in the pan until melted. Turn off the heat and sprinkle in an equal amount of white flour. This is not the time to use whole wheat flour for this one! Stir with a fork or wooden spoon till smooth. Then I slowly mix in a cup of real (whole) milk, little by little so as not to get doughy lumps of buttery flour. Stir this white sauce into the soup and season to taste: salt, pepper, parsley***, maybe basil or thyme, as your fancy takes you.

*Winter Veggies
I'm thinking about what people who
didn't have supermarkets, cheap gas, and cheap refrigeration would eat, here in Minnesota all year long? Think pioneer suppers, think long Lakota winters. It just doesn't make sense to eat food shipped from South America, Fuji, or California for so much of the year that we don't have a fresh harvest here. Oranges at Christmas are one thing, we don't need this kind of expense and consumption to get good food here. (Joan Gussow articulates the concept of local eating quite well in her readable book, This Organic Life: confessions of a suburban Homesteader. I recommend the book as an intro to the local, seasonal table)
There is so much we can grow when it's warm and keep through the winter right here in Minnesota! I'm hoping do do more and more food preservation myself in the coming years, but for now we're just enjoying the few foods we have put by in the last year, and trying to buy foods that come from good, s
mall, concientious farms as close to us as possible. Shopping at the co-op makes this easier, as they label where each offering hails from. Paul does most of the shopping, so I just ask him to look for the closest state possible. I know he also considers cost. Who wants to pay for shipping refrigerated, gassed spinach and tomatoes from California when parsnips are dirt-cheap?
Another factor is food durability. As in, beets are more durable than spinach. Foods that have to be eaten within weeks of harvest, that bruise easily, or need refrigeration or chemical treatment to survive until they hit the store shelf, we just avoid in the winter. We can eat green salads April through November, right out of our backyards. We're not super strict about this--we're in no danger of scurvvy, but as I lear
n about the whole history of the foods we eat and its implications for us, our neighbors, farmers, and children, I find it very satisfying to plan our meals around real keeping crops. Not to mention, I don't know anyone who actually enjoys grocery store tomatoes in February. As our friend Liz Fleming says, they should have a different name from the tomatoes one grows and picks in the garden, as they are an entirely different and vastly less enjoyable vegetable.

This really isn't as limiting as it might sound:
Parsnips, carrots, turnips, beets, potatoes, winter squash, cabbage, kale. (I found a variety though Seed Savers that is hardy to ten below, Farenheit
and then when picked keep forever in the fridge,)
Grains: Barley, oats, rice, wild rice, cornmeal, quinoa, amaranth, pastas, etc.

Legumes, dried
And for fresh foods: Sprouts! Alfalfa! Mung bean, wheat, fenugreek, etc. Mary Jane Butters has a fun section on growing sprouts in her Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook.

Dried fruits: apples, cranberries, currants, raisins, etc.
Wine, hard ciders, vinegars
Dried Herbs, spices
Meat and Dairy: cheeses, cream, milk, puddings, broth, eggs, etc.
All that stuff can either be produced and sold right here all winter long, or stored from
earlier production here.
I don't have qualms about getting spices, coffee, tea, etc from distant ports as they don't require refrigeration during shipping and aren't fresh; these are dried products, relatively lightweight, ship quite efficiently as compared to fresh, canned, or frozen fruit.

There is also a beauty in seasonality. Roasted root vegetables, thick soups, fresh bread, puddings, and stews feel good these cold months. Rather than feeling limited, I almost wish I had more time before spring to try all the recipes in my head for these foods. There will be plenty of time when it's too hot to even think about the oven. Luckily, in those months, fresh salads and fruits abundant will grow wild just outside our door!
**Cabbage would also be good
***I would like fresh parsley. If we had a good south-facing window for it, I would try growing more windowsill herbs through the winter. Some things take dried herbs better than others. In this soup, I felt the flavors of the ve
ggies, especially the parsley, corn, and wild rice, along with the creaminess of the roux gave a full, rich taste that didn't need extra herbs. No sense in making bright flavors dusty with last summer's dried herbs. I don't go in much for buying them at the market. At ours, they come in plastic cases and are expensive. You get this paltry bit of greenery, more plastic case than herbage. I say, skip that!

Will Bike for Food

Did I ever say that I love to bike? Probably.
Recently I got some nifty bags for my bike that allow me to carry a lot of groceries. Pictured here is one of those black bags made by Trek. The other one is an old Blackburn brand bag that has largely replaced my backpack for daily use. The bike, rack, and older bag are courtesy of our Liz who moved to Argentina. One side benefit of having a lot of missionary friends is that at some time or another they tend to get rid of most of their worldly goods. (We really do miss you though, Liz.. and Kimber & Andy... *sigh*)
It's exciting for me to go to work in the morning by my own foot-peddling power, make some money, stop at the Co-op and get some good organic food, and pedal it home to my family.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Java Train Day

One of the lofty goals Libby and I have for our lifestyle is regular individual project time. Gibby and Ezra are the reasons why it's a lofty goal right now! Once a week I take the boys for an afternoon while Libby gets to work on whatever she wants. This is kind of a double blessing in that I not only get a time for my stuff once a week, but I also get this special time with the boys (which I often end up enjoying more than my "free" time.)

Almost every time we go to Java Train coffee shop. The coffee's average, but the toys are great! And the kid's love it.
There is an actual Java Train play place shaped like a box car filled with stuff to do. It's two stories high and has a seasonally changing model train village on top. Pretty cool.When I'm not playing with the kids, I usually get a head start on planning Bible Sutdy for the next week and muntching on animal crackers with Ezra.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Paul Does a Craft!

Those of you who tune in to The Full Cup for Libby's great creations and do your best to slog through or skip over my technical automotive, biking, or espresso posts - Wait! I did a craft! I got tired of waiting for Libby to make me a nice cover for my ESV Bible, so I did it myself.

Bibles can take a beating in our household, mostly because we carry them around so much. We were talking once with Libby's Rhodes-scholar-semi-genius-friend about Christianity and he was amazed at how well we knew where stuff was in the Bible (though I don't think we're all that unusual in this regard). He said, "I don't know if I've ever known any book that well." My response was that if he knew of a book he could read that would tell him about God and the meaning of life and stuff like that he'd probably read it all the time too. He agreed. My Bible is also a tool for me. I lead a Bible study with a handful of youth once a week for which I prepare and study. I also am writing some new songs for our church and get my text from the Bible. So yeah, it gets a lot of use and abuse.

I made the cover out of some leather that Libby bought at a thrift sale across the street from where I was buying our Mercedes last spring. (We both got what we wanted that day!) I made the cover (with much help from Libby) by folding one end of a rightly-sized strip of leather and sewing it together with a whip stitch. I used a glover's needle and synthetic sinew. The flap holds the front cover of the Bible.
The single piece of leather wraps around the cover back to the front side. I wanted it to have a curved flap on the end. I thought a big plate might help me make the desired curve, but it wasn't quite big enough. I used our pizza stone instead. The tuck-in strap to close Bible was my idea. It mostly works, but might need some improvement if I wanted it to stay shut more reliably.

Overall I'm pleased with the result. I didn't have to buy a cover since Libby had all of the materials already, and I feel like the Bible will stand up to being thrown in my bicycle panier bag much better than it would have otherwise.