Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent Hymns, and the End of NaBloPoMo

This is one of my favorite Advent hymns. Unfortunately we didn't sing it this weekend -- and probably won't :-( -- but I'm posting it here.

O Come, Divine Messiah!

1. O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.

Dear Savior haste;
Come, come to earth,
Dispel the night and show Thy face,
And bid us hail the dawn of grace.
O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.

2. O Christ, whom nations sigh for,
Whom priest and prophet long foretold,
Come break the captive fetters;
Redeem the long-lost fold. Refrain

3. You come in peace and meekness,
And lowly will Thy cradle be;
All clothed in human weakness
We shall Thy Godhead see. Refrain

Download a MIDI of this hymn.

I must admit that this MIDI is MUCH slower than I generally sing it -- I like it almost in waltz time.

I would post a few more of my favorites, but in poking around I found this link, which is awesome! Go see for yourself and enjoy.

And this brings me to the other theme of this post -- today is the end of NaBloPoMo. Once again it has been a good discipline for me, and I've loved having more from my favorite bloggers all month too. I hope I can remember to be kind to y'all and post more regularly than I did last year. At any rate, I promise to keep up with the moving updates, even if they're just a few whiny sentences.

Have a happy and blessed Advent!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday of Advent

Our choir sang at 5:00 mass yesterday evening, so all of the family who were in town for "house work" went to that mass. Because of this I got out the Advent wreath and we lit the first candle last night at dinner. As a decoration, it looks a little forlorn in the middle of a kitchen where the bulletin board of pictures has been taken down, the cookbooks have been packed away -- because I'm not doing any cooking I can't do from memory until after the move -- and the walls are getting grubby because they're just going to be knocked down in a month or so anyway.

But as a symbol, I'm finding it movingly inspirational. We are moving forward, we are looking forward, and and when the time it symbolizes is fulfilled, something wonderful will have happened! As I was mulling over what I wanted to say in this post, I happened to think about Mary, who in the year we are commemorating was eight months pregnant* and about to set out on a long trip on donkey-back. I can picture me in that situation, having the same thoughts I'm having now: "I can't do this." "It's too hard." "It will never work out the way I want it to."

Since Mary was far more in tune with God's will than I'll ever be, I don't dare picture her giving in to the temptations inherent in these thoughts. She knew that she was living in/obeying the Father's perfect will, so despair or mental paralysis was not even an option. But I'm pretty sure there were mornings when the thought of heaving herself back onto that donkey required conscious submission and acceptance! So I'm going to strive to let the Advent wreath remind me to surrender my irritations and impatiences, so that I can eventually arrive at the joy of Christmas.

* Elisa and Christy, I'm thinking about you! [Two of Arwen's HS friends are expecting their first babies ANY DAY!]

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I don't mind painting, really. Stripping wallpaper I find surprisingly enjoyable. Laying vinyl plank flooring I expect to find interesting, if tiring. Pulling dirty contact paper out of cupboards and off of shelves was startlingly satisfying. But washing walls and cleaning windows -- Ugh!

And that is all for the end of a very tiring day. Goodnight!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Random Update

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving. Ours was great! Arwen and Branwen shared the cooking, with help from parents and siblings. I was very happy not to have the full responsibility, but I forgot that this would mean that I didn't get the leftovers! Some of the pies are here (we had seven pies for 11 adults and four kids...) but I am not going to get even ONE turkey sandwich. :-/

"Here" is back in our hometown. Although Arwen and her family stayed at their home to recover from all of the traveling Bryan has been doing recently, Branwen and Larry and their kids, plus Tirienne and Miriel, all returned here today -- so that we could work on the new house!!! We got a lot of cleaning done today and will do more tomorrow. Next weekend will be painting, the weekend after that the hardwood floor. During the next week, the carpet will be installed, and then we'll move the weekend after that.

And yes, if you do the math, that means we will be moving the weekend before Christmas!! I would in NO way have planned it like that, but we did pray for "the right house at the right price at the right time", so I guess I have to assume that this is the right time. Anyway, the big girls have volunteered to do stocking-stuffers, and the other kids have been delegated to cut and put up and decorate the tree -- which we never put up before the third Sunday in Advent at the earliest, because we leave it up until Epiphany. So I guess I will survive. (And for any of my friends who are reading this -- the traditional New Year's Eve party is ON! Even if I have to buy all the food at Sam's Club.)

I expect that over the next few weeks I will have more than one moment of temptation to melt down. Please pray for me, that I will be able to rely on God's strength, because I am certain that mine is going to get pretty well drained. For somebody with a history of anxiety and panic like mine, that's a big trigger for losing it. Please pray that I won't!

Finally -- my nose is better! All of the giant scabs have fallen off, and although there are still blotchy pink areas. I look pretty normal. And unless I touch my nose in the wrong spot, it no longer hurts at all. The only real pain I've had lately was yesterday, when I asked Blaise to "give Grandma a kiss" and he banged his hard little forehead into my nose. But that was my own fault for forgetting that babies do that!

And now I'm off to find another piece of pumpkin pie...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Christmas Catalogs

I am posting from Arwen's house, where Thanksgiving dinner preparations are well under way. (Yes, I know it's only Wednesday, but there is no possible way we could do everything in one day and still be thankful when we sat down to eat!) I always think I will be able to do some pleasure reading while I am here, but the chunks of time are just too small, unless you count the third run-through of The Cat in the Hat as pleasure reading.

Fortunately, I brought along a huge stack of catalogs; you know, the ones everyone is buried under at this time of year. (And spell-check just made me take the "ue" out of catalogues -- guess I'm just old-fashioned.) At any rate, glancing at three ridiculously priced items that I can't imagine anyone ever wanting, let alone needing, is about the speed of my reading right now.

And the sweet potatoes are ready to be peeled and mashed, so I'll see ya later.....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tasty Tuesday -- Leftovers Night

We are leaving town this evening to spend Thanksgiving with the married kids (and Arwen's in-laws). But because of a scheduling issue, we won't be able to leave until later evening. So tonight is leftovers night.

I know that in some families leftovers have a bad reputation. I know of one where Mom eats all the leftovers for lunch because no one else will touch them. But our leftovers night is (relatively) popular,because everybody (usually). gets to choose something they really like.

On the morning of leftovers day -- I schedule them into my menu plan -- I go through the fridge and make a complete list of what's in there. (I try to keep all leftovers in one area, with varying success.) I mark down approximately how many servings of what are available. Then at the bottom of the page I list everybody who will be around for dinner, and plop the paper on the kitchen table. As people select what they would like, they write it on the list after their name and cross out the servings or items they chose. (Obviously, when the kids were younger I helped them with this.) Then, come supper time, I organize and heat up what's wanted, and throw away the rest.

I can't promise this method always makes everyone happy -- Roger somehow often winds up out of town on leftover night, unless there's meatloaf -- but most of the family is satisfied, and there are no mysterious tupperware science projects in the back of my fride. And that's a success!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Musical Monday -- Godspell! . . . . Or Not

I mentioned yesterday that I remembered most all of the songs from Godspell. That's because several of them are actually resettings of words that were already in use as hymns. This is an adaptation of a prayer by St. Richard of Chichester.

Day by Day

Day by day
Day by day
Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

Godspell music is here. I have seen it set to other tunes, but can't seem to find one on the web.

This one is a German farmers' hymn translated into English by Jane M. Campbell.

All Good Gifts

We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand..
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain...
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain...

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above
So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love...

We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life, our health, our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!

All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love.

Godspell music is here. The tune I first heard is here.

This last one has words by Clifford Bax. My high school choir did an especially fine arrangement of it. The italicised words were added for Godspell.

Turn Back, O Man

Turn back, O man
Forswear thy foolish ways
Old now is earth
And none may count her days
Da, da, da, da, da
Yet thou, her child
Whose head is crowned with flames
Still wilt not hear
Thine inner God proclaim

Turn back, O man (is your seat comfortable sir?) (mm, I like that)
Turn back, O man (is my seat comfortable sir?) (Handle with care)
Turn back, O man (can you take it?)
Forswear thy foolish ways
(See ya later I'm going to the front of the thee-ay-ter)
(Hold me while I slip into something more comfortable)

Earth might be fair
And all men glad and wise
Age after age their tragic empires rise
Da, da, da, da, da.
Built while they dream
And in that dreaming weep
Would man but wake
From out his haunted sleep

Turn back, O man...
Turn back, O man... (hard as a rock)
Turn back, O man...
Forswear thy foolish ways

Earth shall be fair
And all her people one
Nor till that hour
Shall God's whole will be done
Now, even now
Once more from earth to sky
Peals forth in joy
Man's old undaunted cry
Earth shall be fair
And all her people one.

Godspell music is here. The tune I first heard is here

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Most Boring Post of All Time??

I am sitting at my desk trying to come up with a theme for a post. Arwen and Miriel are in the next room disputing about whose fingers are longer, and who has the biggest palm. (This is not a "fight"; it just means they have now been together long enough that all of the Important stuff has been communicated, and they are talking randomly. A threat to mere type what they are saying has been ineffective in getting them to simmer down.) Roger is watching The Princess Bride at the other computer. I have seen it enough times that I can identify the point in the plot from one or two lines.

I guess I can tell y'all about Godspell. The production was held in a (Lutheran) church , with chain-link fence and canvas stretched across the front
of the sanctuary. It actually gave a sense of intimacy, as if the audience was almost up among the actors. I thought that I had only been marginally acquainted with the musical, but as each song came along I realized that I knew it, including most of the words. And it made me cry at the end.

And now I'm going to go hang out with my daughters, and prove that my fingers are longer.......

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sloppy Hippie Saturday

A photo update on my nose is here; I think there's been improvement..

So today, in honor of my going to Godspell tonight, I decided to channel my inner hippie when I got dressed. I'm wearing a long pink and purple floral skirt, a cream long-sleeved scrunch-neck, two necklaces, and a purple shawl. The perfect accessory would have been the long strand of apple-seed beads that I hung onto for years, but at some point I let the kids play with it -- Arwen remembers them -- and they are now gone. (I don't think I'm really sorry.)

The sad thing about this is that nobody who knows me will even notice -- everything I'm wearing periodically shows up in my regular wardrobe. Who knows, maybe I am really a hippie deep down. Kelson certainly thinks so!

And now I'm going to go put dinner together and play with my grandchildren. Catch ya later!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Seven Quick Takes Friday --11/20

The home of Seven Quick Takes is here.

1. My face is healing. A couple of scabs fell off yesterday, including the one in the middle of my upper lip -- man, was that a relief! -- and a chunk of the one on the bridge of my nose, where they almost but not quite decided to put in a stitch. That one wasn't quite so great, since it was apparently holding something together, and the spot oozed for half the night. But it is better today, and doesn't stick out so far.

2. On the other hand, I am incredibly tired and achy today. I expect that I've been just as achy all week, but the ibuprofen I've been taking for my face covered it up. Maybe I'll go take some now....

3. Tomorrow night I am going with other members of our choir to see a local theater guild's production of Godspell. Even though that is a pretty iconic show for my generation -- and I was at least marginally one of the "Jesus People" in my day, and own the album shown in the link -- I've never actually seen a production. To be honest I probably wouldn't bother this time, but since our choir director has the lead role....

4. Brandon just emailed us his flight itinerary for his Christmas leave. He flies in to December 19th, and leaves again on January 3rd. That sounds like lots of time now, but it won't feel like it then. Miriel, on the other hand, has until the beginning of February free, which will be wonderful! I've been cooking madly to be sure she has lots of favorite dinners on this Thanksgiving break. I'm hoping she'll cook a meal or two in the darks of January. It's so much fun that all my daughters are good cooks!

5. Actually, Brandon is a good cook too. It's just that his repertoire is limited to things that he likes, which is a rather small subset of everything out there. But what he does he does well. And there are never any surprises, like the time Tirienne made an "Oreo cake" and dyed the filling purple and the frosting fuchsia. Tasted great with your eyes shut!

6. We got our new phone book today, by the put-it-in-an-orange-bag-and-throw-it-on-the-front-porch method. It will be interesting to go up and down the street and see how many empty houses have orange bags on their porches! If there are a bunch, I might go collect one, so that in the new house we can have a book in the kitchen and one in the office. Kelson scorns paper directories, calling them "old tech", but so far I can find a number at least as fast as he can dig it up online.

7. I need to finish up at the computer and go sit in the living room, so that I will know immediately when my kids and grandkids arrive. The plan was to travel during Blaise's nap time, so I'd better get going. See ya tomorrow!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Itchy Kitchy Koo

My mother had something she always told me whenever I skinned my knees as a kid -- "When it starts to itch, it means it's getting better." Man, do I hope she was right. Because currently I am (almost seriously) tempted to scratch the front of my face right off.

There is a remote possibility that I am having a reaction to adhesive, since I have been cushioning the nose pads of my glasses with the tape from Sport Strip Band-Aids. I have just removed that, and for the last 30 seconds it's felt better. But I'm pretty sure that's not the whole story, since I woke up this morning already itchy, and I don't wear my glasses while I sleep!

Actually I think my mother was probably right. I am already showing other signs of healing; the two black eyes I was promised have not materialized, but I have gorgeous yellow circles underneath. It sure looks like the yellow you get when a bruise starts to fade. At any rate, here's hoping!

I am really looking forward to tomorrow, when Arwen arrives with Blaise and Camilla. (Bryan is spending the weekend at his dad's deer hunting "ranch.") And Miriel is coming with them! She has a long Thanksgiving break from the John Jay Institute, and is flying back to Michigan today. Only Brandon won't be here for Thanksgiving, but he's already put in for his Christmas leave, so we'll all be together then. In the new house, DV.

The original plan was that Branwen and her family would come for this weekend, too, and we'd get some good work in on the house. But we still don't have a closing date, so that is off. Everybody is going to come back here Thanksgiving weekend, though. (Arwen and Branwen wanted to cook this year, so we are going there for Thanksgiving itself.) At least we will be able to pack boxes in this house, though I have myself nearly convinced that cleaning is not an "alteration" and that nobody can object to some vacuuming and scrubbing on the new house even if we don't yet have title. But we'd certainly appreciate prayers that we'll be closed by then!!

Well, it appears that typing is a good mechanism for keeping scratching from following itching. But I need to go do some other things, so here's hoping that I can stand it. Bye!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Whatcha Readin' Wednesday

For anybody who cares, the gory pictures of me and my nose are here. I would love to post a disclaimer about how he takes them in the morning before I'm showered, blah, blah, blah, but I expect that that's just how I look right now. Fortunately it's not how I feel! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.....

I finished Blackwork, and can recommend it with reservations. The mystery is fine, but I believe that Ferris is trying so hard to be relevant that she goes overboard. One continuing character is homosexual, which I can ignore because he's such a stereotype that he doesn't ever become real, but in this volume she gives equal attention and countenance to a Wiccan cleansing ritual and a Christian wedding ceremony. Furthermore, the "Wiccan ritual" includes the Prayer to Saint Michael in a version that manages to not mention God. Apparently devotees of Wicca believe in Saint Michael, but not in God. Who knew??!!

I am having an interesting time balancing my reading right now, because there is so much to be done for the move. On the one hand, I'm afraid if I check more books out of the library I'll just wind up moving them, which is silly considering how many books we already need to move. On the other hand, if I'm going to maintain my sanity throughout the move, I need to be reading something, and I hate pulling books out of boxes I've already packed. (Don't tell Kelson, but this is the first argument for getting a Kindle I can give any credence to.) I'll let you know how this balancing act works out!

Right now I'm going to go get the pizzas ready for dinner and read a little bit of the new First Things that came today while they bake. See ya!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tasty Tuesday -- Ratio Macaroni and Cheese

To keep you all up to date -- I am getting along quite well for somebody with a broken nose! The swelling is only moderate, and 99% of the pain is from the bruises and brush burns. I haven't needed the prescription pain meds at all and am getting by with just ibuprofen. The gory picture still hasn't been taken, but since my out-of-town kids want to see, it will be coming.

Yesterday we didn't really have supper as a family. We did the All-American thing and had fast food at different times. I am happy to report that a Wendy's double stack is very eatable with a damaged face if you cut it into bites with kitchen shears. (I also have a fat upper lip ....) But I already had this casserole prepped and in the fridge, so tonight's supper is taken care of.

Ratio Macaroni and Cheese

This isn't really a recipe so much as a procedure. It can be varied up and down to serve as few or as many as you like.

Cook 1 cup elbow macaroni until almost done (about 5-6 minutes.) While water is boiling, melt* 3 tablespoons butter or margarine. Stir in 3 tablespoons flour, salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in 1 cup milk**, and heat until thickened. Stir in 1 cup shredded cheese***. When macaroni is done, drain and stir into cheese sauce. Put in greased casserole and bake at 350F until**** browned and bubbly.

* I do all my sauce-making steps in the microwave, but you can do it in a pan on the stove if you prefer. If you pre-warm the milk it goes very fast.

** This can be any milk, skim to whole, or even half-and-half or cream if you're feeling luxurious.

*** Our family prefers extra-sharp cheddar, but you can use Swiss, or American, or something fancier. One cup shredded is roughly equivalent to 4 oz.

**** I don't give a cooking time, because this depends on the size of your batch, and also whether you pop it straight into the oven or make it in the morning and stick it in the fridge. Probably half an hour for the one cup batch warm, and going up from there. You could burn it if you left in the oven for hours, but if it's hot through it's edible, because all the ingredients are already cooked.

This quantity serves one, or two moderate eaters. I made it yesterday with 1 1/2 cups macaroni, because Roger loves it but Kelson won't eat it. (He'll probably have ramen.) The reason this is called "ratio" mac/cheese is the ease of scaling up. It's one macaroni to one milk to one cheese, with 3T butter and flour for each cup. Back when all the kids were home I would make it with four or five cups of macaroni, milk, and cheese. That filled a three-quart casserole!

Monday, November 16, 2009

You Won't Believe This -- I Don't!

So my post for today is on hold, as is most of the other stuff I meant to do today. Roger and I were walking the dog, I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk or my own feet*, and then we spent three hours in the emergency room. Diagnosis -- broken nose, plus face brush burns out the wazoo. The good part (??!!) -- once my face feels better (they said a couple of days) nothing to prevent me from working on moving stuff. Stay tuned, possible gory picture to follow.

In other news, Roger had a lovely birthday.

* I've been tripping over my feet all my life. I sprained my ankle for the first time when I was 5.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Roger!

Today is Roger's birthday, and I have a gift to wrap. Choir is singing at 11:30, and then we are having a birthday dinner of steak, salad, rolls, cherry pie, and wine. I made the pie yesterday, but the rolls are from scratch and I'm also making a blueberry cobbler for Kelson, who doesn't like cherry pie. So I'll be busy most of the day.

I may or may not be back with another post (!) when the festivities are over. See y'all then or Monday!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sloppy Saturday #2 --- 2009

Last night we went to Home Depot and looked at carpet. May i just say that the number of choices is overwhelming? (Fortunately, if you limit things to our price range, only sort of overwhelming...) We did settle on a color that goes well with all of our paint choices, and a secondary (read "extremely cheap") version for the basement. Now if we could just get a closing date...

Then we came home, and like boring old people, had a snack and went to bed. Kelson was at the school Drama Club production of Our Town. I love his reaction, lifted directly from Twitter: "Picture, umm, the Music Man, except the Music Man never came to town..." That sums up what I've thought of that play for decades, which is why I made no plans to go, although I know many of the kids who are in it, and I'm sure they do a great job. In the spring they'll do a musical, so that should be better.

This afternoon I will be doing mixed sewing: a little mending, letting out some pants for our 90YO friend Father Paul, and putting together Blaise's Christmas stocking. Counting the ones I've made for friends and relatives, this will be the 19th stocking I've done over the past 27 years. They're woven cloth, with appliqued contrast toe and heel patches, and the names are on counted-cross-stitch bands at the top. They all coordinate, though no two are exactly alike. I wonder how many more I'll need to make over the years? So far the grandchildren have arrived far enough before Christmas that I could do a stocking, but I predict that someday I'll need to do one in a hurry.

(What, you say? No newborn will know if his/her stocking is missing?? But I will, and so will the other grandchildren, and that's enough reason for me.)

In keeping with the Sloppy Saturday theme, this post has no coherent ending. Tra, la, la, I'll be back tomorrow......

Friday, November 13, 2009

Seven Quick Takes Friday --11/13

Seven Quick Takes is hosted here.

1. Today is Friday the 13th. I have never seen the movie of that name, and have no desire to. But I DO actually like Friday the 13th! I think this has something to do with me asserting my independent identity. The first Friday the 13th I specifically remember was the year I was in seventh grade. (I could run the calendar back and get you the exact date, but I'm too lazy.) I was thirteen years old, in Homeroom #13 with a teacher I really liked, and I decided that three thirteens were lucky, at least for me. I don't really believe in lucky numbers, but I must say I've never had a bad Friday the 13th.

2. We have not closed on our house yet. We have jumped through at least three "one final hoop"s since I last mentioned it, and I am starting to fret that moving and Christmas might happen in the same time frame. I really wanted to be moved before the second Sunday in Advent!

3. On the other hand, I do have paint colors and flooring picked. We still need to make a final decision on the carpet, but that is mostly because we haven't settled on who we will buy it from. Home Depot and/or Lowe's have some things we like, but there is a locally-owned flooring store we dealt with when we recarpeted 12 or so years ago, and we simply haven't had time to drop in and see what options they have.

4. I have done a hunk of pre-move cleaning that I hadn't expected to. For a couple of weeks now we've been noticing moths in the house -- the cat makes sure we see them! -- and today I discovered that they've been living it up big time in my baking cupboard. I had to throw away all my whole-wheat and cornmeal supplies, plus assorted croutons, grains, and nuts. Yuck! On the other hand, I can wait to replace them until we're moved in. And about half of the stuff was things I've been thinking I'll use "someday". Cracked wheat from around Christmas of 2002..

5. A friend just dropped by with some clothes she is getting rid of, to see if I wanted any of them. She remembered that several years ago I had especially admired one blazer. It's a jewel-tone plaid, and my kids will make fun of it, but I do love it, and it fits, so I'm going to hang on to it for at least a little while. There's also a lovely brown tweed blazer, so I'm now on the hunt for dress pants in the right shade of brown. Wish me luck!

6. I have finally come down with the cold that my family has been passing around, or at least some cold. I feel fine, but I sound odd when I talk, and awful when I cough. I'm truly glad it doesn't hurt! I just hope I can sing by choir mass on Sunday.

7. I am "off the hook" for dinner tonight. I didn't feel like cooking, and fortunately Roger just received some "birthday" coupons from Mancino's, a pizza and grinder chain. Dinner out for three is not very expensive when you have a coupon for a free 16" grinder! ( The restaurant link is not to our local store, but it has the best picture of the menu. On the "grinder" link you need to scroll down to see what distinguishes a grinder from a sub. We have sub shops too, but these are different.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veterans' Day -- a Day Late.

I'm sorry to admit that yesterday, while various friends and relatives were posting tributes to veterans past and present, I was complaining that the library wasn't open. (Although I did acknowledge veterans in my Facebook status...) So today by way of restitution I'm going to post two poems, the first one famous and the second one only a year old. But if I have my way it will be famous!

In Flanders Fields - by John McRae (of Guelph, ON)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

I memorized that one as a child, not because I had to, but because it called to me, somehow. And last year, to my astonishment and delight, my friend Kate penned this:

The Torch

You are the dead. Long years ago
you fought, and died, were laid below
the crosses, there in Flanders Field.
Ninety Novembers now have pealed
Church bells and speeches for the dead
by dwindling rank of comrades led,
to honor you - - John McCrae,
and all who stood in danger's way.

Your poem -- it haunts me now as when
I memorized first, at ten.
(So many children have). But I
-- I hear the larks sing in the sky
and shiver at the dead below
the crosses, laid in Flanders Field.

...And wonder at the final verse.
Would you have thought of us the worse?
Have we kept faith? Is our torch bright?
Or are we too ashamed to fight,
call evil false or good things true
like those young men who stood with you
in Flanders Field.

We are the living - you are the Dead,
not for you the poppies red,
blooming today for us below.
This ragged torch is burning low
but brave young men can still be found
hallowing some foreign ground
with earnest blood, while I at home
peck away at my short poem.
Lt. Col. John McCrae-
remember us, this November day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Whatcha Readin' Wednesday -- Disappointment

Well, I finished April Lady, but as I mentioned on Friday, I spent half my time being annoyed by the Gibson Girls on the cover. Somewhere along the line I discovered that this release of the Heyer books is under the HQN imprint, which turns out to be Harlequin romances under a slightly different guise. This completely explains why I was unable to read the Kasey Michaels book for more than a few pages -- it's just a Harlequin in a frock coat. Your choice of disappointing or disgusting.

Another disappointment came today, when I stopped by the local library to pick up the books they have on hold for me. Veterans' Day = closed library. (Pout, pout.) I am making do with fiction I have on hand until tomorrow, when I will get my hands on Blackwork by Monica Ferris and Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander. These are both the latest numbers of series' I enjoy, so I'm hoping for no disappointments once I actually can read them.

One book that is NOT disappointing is the work on synesthesia Wednesday Is Indigo Blue which I mentioned last week. I'm reading it in short snatches because it's fairly scholarly, but even though I'm not synesthetic myself I keep having "aha" moments which help me understand my family better. (It turns out that Roger is also a synesthete, which makes me agree with Kelson -- I'm a little bit jealous. The only consolation I've found so far is being able to use all these great words: synesthesia, synesthetic, synesthete. I also found the word for somebody with photographic (eidetic) memory, which is eidetiker. Luscious.)

And that's it on the reading front for today, sadly. But since the library will be open then, I say with Scarlett O'Hara "Tomorrow is another day!" See ya then!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tasty Tuesday -- Busy (or Lazy!) Day Meals

Everybody has them -- days or even seasons in our lives when there seems to be just no time to cook. Culturally, we are bombarded with messages that tell us this means we should hand over the responsibility for dinner to the Colonel or Mickey D, or maybe we should "hit the Hut." But what if we don't have the budget for this? Or what if we could eat out every night, but don't think that would be good for our family either spiritually or nutritionally?

I'm about to enter one of these seasons (heck, I've already started packing boxes), so I'm relying on the meals I've learned over the years are easy for me AND have a high success rate with my picky eaters. But what I'm really relying on is something I learned from my mother. While she wasn't a great cook, she had a repertoire that would keep her family happy. And since she taught third grade for all of my growing up (actually, until after Branwen was born) she never had a whole lot of time, especially on week nights.

I've heard of mothers -- some with multiple children -- who go to the grocery store three or four times a week. Mom didn't have time for that. She made a weekly shopping trip for perishables and such, but she also did the thing that has saved my whats-for-dinner? neck more than once -- she stocked and maintained a pantry. I talked about this a little last NaBloPoMo, but
today I want to specifically mention the kinds of things to have on hand when life gets crazy.

First on the list is canned protein -- tuna, different kinds of beans, even that old standby Spam! Our dinner last night consisted of canned chili beans over rice, with cheese for those who wanted it. Although the rice cooks for 20 minutes, my actual work time was about five -- measured the rice and water, set the table while it boiled, set the timer, went and did something else for most of the time, and microwaved the beans for the last few minutes.

Obviously, to make this kind of dinner work, you also need dried starches on hand. This includes all kinds of pasta, rice, and instant potatoes if you like them. (We don't.) If you have a large freezer, frozen potatoes and corn and flour tortillas expand the range even more. I also freeze breads and rolls and bagels-- since I have three freezers -- and because Roger loves to make them I always have frozen chili and spaghetti sauce on hand. If you freeze them flat in zipper bags thay will thaw in mere minutes under running water.

Canned and jarred sauces are an option if you don't have an in-house chef, and I actually keep canned pizza sauce on hand, although I like my homemade stuff better. And canned vegetables are great, especially tomatoes. I also keep canned soup on hand for lunches, but they don't become dinner unless something drastic occurs!

The one perishable that I would recommend regarding as part of your pantry is cheese. Bought in 8oz. blocks -- they regularly go in sale for $1.50 or less in my area -- it keeps for months. And with the other staples I've mentioned, it's the heart of bagel pizzas, and quesadillas, and tuna melts, and plain old grilled-cheese sandwiches.

Tonight we're having something a little fancier: broiled salmon with baked potatoes and peas. But since I portioned the salmon before I froze it, and the peas are from a bag, this almost qualifies as a pantry meal. If you tell me what you have on hand, I'll tell you how it can become dinner! (Unless all you have is chick-peas and chocolate frosting, in which case a pantry restock is in order...)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Box 'em Up!

We are approaching having a closing date on the house! There is one more hoop to jump through, a visit from the bank's appraiser, and that is happening even as I type. It would have happened sooner except that a communication got messed up somewhere -- the appraiser kept trying to get the key from the law firm which is the "seller of record" when in fact our agent has the keys, and so do we. But now that that is straightened out we are hoping for a closing date this week.

Once we close we will shift into overdrive; cleaning, painting, doing various repairs, and installing carpet and hardwood. Meanwhile, I am packing a few boxes every day or so. Today it was four more boxes of books. This means that three of our eight bookcases are empty. Of course they're the smallest three...

I also acquired some more packing boxes today. We were walking the dog through our emptying neighborhood discussing which houses we know to be empty and which ones were going next, when we saw a big pile of junk -- it's trash day today -- in front of one. Now we have had big piles of trash in front of our house twice already, so this could have meant just cleaning out, but when we go to the pile we saw that it contained 20 or so boxes in good condition. They must have moved already, or they wouldn't be throwing their boxes away. So when I got home I hopped in the van and drove back, and collected about half of the boxes. (The rest were very large boxes, of which we already have more than enough.)

My goal is to have all our boxes packed before moving day, so that I can spend my energy unpacking necessary things. I get a pass on the heavy lifting -- that's what sons and sons-in-law are for! And a bunch of Kelson's friends have been promised copious quantities of pizza and pop to assist. Right now my most-likely bet for moving day is December 12th, but we shall see.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Coming Clean

(This is the post I would have done on Friday if my computer hadn't been kidnapped.)

As most of you know, I use my real name here, and also my husband's name, but except for Arwen, who uses her real name at her blog -- which I think is how most of you got here-- I've been using pseudonyms for the rest of my family. Since Arwen has been using real names on her blog bit by bit, and all my kids are active online, in the interests of simplicity I'm going to give you "The Name Post."

In order of appearance my children are:
Arwen Elizabeth (you knew that ;-) ) ,
Branwen Elanor ("Rosie" -- Rose is her confirmation name, and her husband "Anthony" is really Larry),
Miriel Margaret ("Maggie"),
Brandon Ransom ("George" -- confirmation name again),
Tirienne Anne ("Katie" -- confirmation name Catherine) and
Kelson Reuel ("Tommy" -- our last name is Thomas.)
I actually have been using our grandchildren's real names, so Daniel, Camilla, Matthew and Blaise they remain.

The names are mostly all from Tolkien and Lewis. "
Arwen Elizabeth" scans the same as "Arwen Undomiel". (And if you're not a total Lord of the Rings geek and don't know this already, "ennorath" in Arwen's blog URL is Quenya (Elvish) for "Middle Earth".)

The name Branwen is used a lot in the Brother Cadfael novels of Ellis Peters, and is the name of a major character in the Wrinkle in Time books. Elanor is both Samwise and Rose's daughter in LOTR and a tiny white flower of Middle Earth.

Miriel was both an Elf (the mother of Feanor - Silmarillion)) and the last ruling queen of Numenor (read the appendices of LOTR). Margaret just sounded good with that, AND we were trying to give the kids one "normal-sounding" sorta-kinda-saint's name to use if desired. (Elanor sounds like Eleanor).

Brandon's name snuck in there when we weren't looking -- we wanted something that sounded good with "Ransom" (Elwin Ransom is the main character in Lewis' Space Trilogy. The name became popular about 17 seconds after we picked it!

Tirienne is named for Tirian, the last King of Narnia. We loved it, but didn't think you could do that to a boy, so we feminized it. It's pronounced "Tee-ree-ENNE". (Or, as we told my dad when he struggled with it, think of a letter N crying -- a "teary N".)

Kelson is the main character in the first-written trilogy of Chronicles of the Deryni by Katherine Kurtz. And Reuel is for John Ronald REUEL Tolkien. I guess we'd given up on the "normal" by then, although Reuel is a Biblical name meaning "Servant of God."

I realize this is a lot of information packed into a small post, but I thought I'd head off the most obvious questions in advance. Feel free to comment, and be aware that I'll be using real names from now on!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Sloppy Saturday #1 --- 2009

I am really grateful that I started the "Sloppy Saturday" category for last year's NaBloPoMo, because that means I can be sloppy this year and not give it another thought! Today has been a mixture of awesome -- taking the visiting kids/grandkids to see the new house, Indian Summer weather, pleasant -- singing in the choir for 5PM mass, a great casserole for dinner, and painful -- the last hymn at mass (I can't stand bad theology) and falling down hard on my hands and knees by tripping over the slipcovers while trying to let the dog out.

Currently I am sitting here waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in...

Maybe I should have called this post "Klutzy Saturday", except that I definitely can be klutzy any day of the week. When I was in junior high school about half a dozen of us had a "secret organization" called Cordo Plus. Yiddish slang having not yet penetrated our little Pennsylvania backwater, we had never heard the term "klutz", but we knew what we were, and "cordo" stood for "uncoordinated." And man, we were.

A couple of years ago I read a news article about a high school gym class where the grading was based not on how far or fast you could run, but on whether or not you kept your heart rate in the target zone for long enough while you were running. This required high-tech monitors, of course, but man, how we cordos would have loved it. We worked twice as hard as the natural athletes in order to earn C's to their A's.

(Dear children of mine who are half the readers of this blog -- yes, I know you've heard this rant before. My knee has stopped aching, I'm going to sleep now. Goodnight!)

Friday, November 06, 2009

Seven (Incredibly) Quick Takes

1. My plan was to blog later this evening.

2. My son wants to play Starcraft head-to-head with his friend who is visiting from out of town.

3. My computer is the only computer other than his (out of seven in this house) which is suitable for this purpose.

4. I am going to have to change my plan.

5. The new plan is to finish April Lady.

6. I will enjoy the book, but I will try not to look at the cover, because I will be annoyed.

7. Publishers who put Gibson Girls on the covers of Regency romances ought to be shot, especially if the Regency is by Georgette Heyer.

And that is all. See you tomorrow, if my computer survives the battle.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ch-ch-ch-changes; or, Why I Hate Shopping

Today I ran a couple of shopping errands. It's my "off" grocery shopping week, which means I needed to pick up milk, juice, bread, and some items from the deli. I usually spend 85 to 90% of my grocery budget on the "on" weeks, so it really was supposed to be quick fill-in trip. I also needed to pick up some things that we'll need in the new house: towel bars, toilet paper holder bars (why would people take those with them?), a shower curtain rod, and some new toilet brushes and plungers. Riveting stuff.

I also wanted to get an inexpensive pair of socks in the same khaki as my pants, and maybe a couple of pairs of knock-around pants to replace the two half-worn-out pairs that I fully intend to ruin while painting the house. No jeans; I gave up jeans years ago. Yes, you can call me an old fogey.

My first stop was at Wal-Mart. I used to love Wal-Mart, and I still think its prices can't be beaten on a lot of staple items. But several years ago my beloved Wal-Mart was replaced by a new Super Wal-Mart, which is ugly, annoyingly laid out, and has pretentions of grandeur. I looked in "bath hardware" for my shower rod. Lots of shower heads and toilet seats, but the rod, towel bars, and TP rollers are in housewares, as apparently they are now fashion accessories. Toilet brushes were also difficult to find. There were either the decoratively disguised ones in housewares for $14.97 a pop, or ones in hardware that looked so spindly that I feared they'd break if I actually used them.

I decided to change course and look for some socks and pants. I actually bought two pairs of socks, but the ones in the color that I actually wanted came in a three-pair bundle pack with two colors that I never, ever wear. So, not a deal. And although over the years I have bought multiple pairs of knock-around pants -- inexpensive elastic-waist woven pants with pockets -- there, they have once again changed brands/suppliers and there wasn't anything that I liked. And even if there had been, I went through every pair in the possibly acceptable colors and the were none in my size. NONE. (Insert picture of me with steam coming out my ears.)

Giving up on Wal-Mart as a bad job, I paid for the stuff in my cart and wended my way to Meijer. If you're not from the Michigan area, you may not be familiar with this chain, which originated in Grand Rapids, and which Roger loves! He would willingly drive past Wal-Mart to pay more for the same item at Meijer. (I think Meijer is what Super Wal-Mart wants to grow up to be; brighter, better organized, "nicer". But the prices are higher.) Same song and dance -- wimpy toilet brushes, no pants in my size, annoying multi-packs of socks.

At this point I decided to cut my losses, get my grocery items, and go home. The juice I wanted was out of stock. The cereal I had planned to buy had every variety on sale except the one I wanted. The bags of candy which were supposed to be on sale scanned through at the regular price. At least the lady in the deli was nice! (Although the lady in line behind me was probably annoyed, because she was very slow...)

So what I have to show for three hours of shopping is: a few groceries, a couple of pieces of bathroom hardware, two pairs of not-quite-right socks, and a headache. But at least I got a blog post!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Whatcha Readin' Wednesday

Well, I finished all the Michael Ruhlman books. I really enjoyed them all. I found it fascinating that the essence of "what makes a chef" seems to have changed over the 12 years these books cover. It seem that the omnipresent media culture has affected this along with everything else.

I also finished Born Round, the autobiographical work by Frank Bruini, NY Times restaurant critic, who Ruhlman mentioned repeatedly. Bruini's book is a look at how he overcame childhood chubbiness and disordered eating to become a fit, healthy restaurant critic. Unfortunately, it's pretty clear from the book that the disordered eating was only one symptom of a neurotic complex that he still hasn't acknowledged. I felt compassion for him, but I wouldn't recommend the book.

My current non-fiction is Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia by Richard Cytowic and David Eagleman. I became interested in this topic after reading this post of Arwen's. (And Lindsay, I know you have it too.) I'll report back after I finish more than the first chapter.

On the fiction front, I picked up April Lady by Georgette Heyer from the new book shelf on a hurried sweep through the library. With a copyright date of 1957, the book is not itself new, but is out in a new paperback edition. I love Georgette Heyer, and when a scan of the first page didn't immediately produce an "oh, yes, this is the one where.." I grabbed it. Don't get me wrong, I know I've read it, but I seem to have forgotten enough details to make it almost-good-as-new. Heyer is always a joy!

One feature of this edition of AL is a foreword by Kasey Michaels. I've read some of her mystery/chick lit stuff, which is meh but OK if you don't have anything better. but it seems she also writes Regencies, so I'm giving her A Most Unsuitable Groom a try. It can't possibly measure up to Heyer, but I wanted several books and was in a hurry. That's what I love about the library -- If you hate it you can just take it back!

I have exactly 10 minutes before I need to go start supper, so excuse me, I'm going to go play a dumb game on Facebook. Catch you tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tasty Tuesday -- Pork Sausage Casserole

This dish is adapted from the More-with-Less Cookbook. I've been making it "forever", and it's one the whole family at least tolerates. It's also one of the few recipes I haven't reduced in size as the kids moved out and on. Most of the leftovers* will vanish just the same.

Pork Sausage Casserole

In a pan, brown 1 pound ground sausage** and one onion -- chopped. Drain fat and juices. Combine in large greased casserole with 2 ribs celery -- chopped, 2 cups raw rice***, 1 t. salt, pepper to taste, 1/2 t. poultry seasoning, 2 t. parsley flakes and 3 1/2 cup boiling chicken broth****. Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350F. (I like to stir it midway through cooking, or the rice ends up on the bottom.)

* When reheating leftovers of this, I have found that adding a little water helps retain the texture, stovetop or microwave.

** I usually use plain sausage, but you could use hot, or sage, or even Italian or chorizo. I think with these last two I'd leave out the poultry seasoning.

*** The original recipe specifies long-grain rice, but I've made it OK with medium. You might have to adjust the liquid a bit.

**** I don't actually use "boiling chicken broth". I use water and chicken bouillon granules, and usually I make it ahead and refrigerate. If you do make it ahead, bake it for 1 1/2 hours to be sure the rice is done.

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Purchase

We went to the furniture store this morning. I had been through several stores a couple of weeks ago, "idea shopping" as I told all the ever-so-helpful salespeople. After mulling those ideas for a while, we went back to the first store I checked out. It's locally owned, and much of our current furniture came from there.

We bought a couch, and ordered a recliner in a coordinating fabric. They actually had a recliner in stock in the fabric I liked ("The country's most popular" apparently -- I'm boring!) but the back was low enough that when Roger fully reclined his head was almost dangling. So we ordered one with a higher back.

I said that we bought a "couch", but what we actually bought was a sectional with matching wedge ottoman. I think in a pinch our whole extended family could sit on it, if the babies sat on laps and people perched on the arms. Technically it's two love seats with a recliner on one end of each, plus a corner seat. But since we can seat four friendly people on each of our current couches, I'm thinking three on each loveseat, one in the corner, two on the arms, two babies on laps, and an adult plus two preschoolers on the ottoman. I would almost like to try it!

It's a chocolate brown chenille, and the recliner will be a similar color of marled pseudo-leather. If you're thinking "three recliners??" the answer is YES. All of us like to have our feet up!

Although I am not looking forward to the actual moving (and for those who have asked, we don't have a closing date yet but are hoping for mid-November) I AM looking forward to being moved. The little niggling things wrong with out current house keep piling up, and there is no incentive to fix them, although we did replace the florescent bulbs in the kitchen fixture finally, after three of the four died.

So another step in the move has occurred, and tomorrow the state-required inspection happens. And maybe then we'll be able to close and start making changes. I'll keep you posted! (A little NaBloPoMo humor ;-D)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NaBloPoMo -- The question

November is National Blog Posting Month, otherwise known as NaBloPoMo, or even NaBloP. As those of you who have been around for a while (or bothered to read all the way through my archives - HA, Ha, ha, ha ha!) know, I have done NaBloP for the last couple of years. And this year I'm going to give it another shot.

I have been considering recently why in the world the inventor(s) of this insanity chose November. November is the start of the holiday season. November is when everybody is even busier than usual. What would have been wrong with having NaBloP in February??

Furthermore, November for me this year is moving season. I have an enormous number of books to pack, along with all the other assorted household bits and pieces. In the end there will be more boxes of other things than of books, but there will be more boxes of books than of dishes, or of bedding, or of Christmas decorations, or of any category you care to name. Man, have we got books!

Also, there will be painting. I mentioned before that I was struggling to find paint colors to bring the bathroom tile into the 21st century. I'm still struggling. And there will be flooring. We could afford to do the "basic carpet throughout" thing, but for the same general cost we can have self-installed pre-finished solid hardwood in the living and dining area, so we're going for it. And probably going crazy getting it installed. And that's not even mentioning the kitchen floor, which currently is ghastly worn-out indoor-outdoor carpet. I might like ceramic tile someday, but a kitchen remodel is a couple of years down the road, so we're going with vinyl. Self-installed vinyl.

So the NaBloPoMo question mentioned in the title is this: Will she or won't she be able to pull off all this and daily blogging too? Stay tuned, because at this point only God knows for sure!

Bonus points to the first reader to identify the product that inspired the phrasing of the question!