Friday, April 23, 2010

Touching Hearts, Changing Lives.

Last night was the closing program for HeartLIFE, not just for the year, but in addition the program is coming to an end (in its current form, anyway).   It was a bittersweet evening!  I've been working with HeartLIFE for seven years and it has been a joy and delight, and a growing experience in so many ways.

HeartLIFE is a mentoring program for girls which was developed and written by my friend Denise.  Its purpose is to help girls grow to be Godly women, teaching them spiritual lessons and many life skills along the way.  A typical evening would consist of one-on-one time with teachers, a spiritual lesson, and a skill time. 

In the spiritual lessons, girls were taught truth from the Bible, encouraged to begin a relationship with Christ or grow stronger in Christ if they already know Him.  Often teachers would help girls develop Bible reading and study plans, and encourage them to memorize verses and keep journals - all in the interest of making their relationship with God something vibrant and growing.  

Various crafts and skills are taught throughout the year, not just for the sake of the craft, but to lay a foundation and then build on it.  An effort is made to teach some of the arts which are somewhat dying out, as well as helping them develop their skills in more 'popular' crafts; for example girls learn how to knit, crochet, and weave a basket, but they also get an opportunity scrapbook, paint,  cook and bake.  Some classes would put on a Tea or Shower, for another class or for mothers or for a pregnant teacher. In doing this, they learned how to inexpensively and creatively decorate and set tables, how to plan a menu and prepare the food, and how to serve their guests.

When a girl reached 11th grade, she had the option of becoming a Titus Teen, which means she was a helper in a class.  This gave her an opportunity to put into practice what she had been learning herself, as she worked with the girls, got to know them, taught them and loved them.

I love that in HeartLIFE a girl learns that it's okay for her to want to be a girl, growing into a woman.  So much of what our daughters hear from the culture around them is that girls and boys are not really different, and that they should prefer the same things that boys prefer. Nothing could be further from the truth.  God specifically created girls and boys with different interests and strengths, and in HeartLIFE we celebrate the difference and encourage girls to develop womanly skills which will benefit her all through her life.

One of the aspects of HeartLIFE that I have loved is that in practice, it has not just been about women mentoring girls.  Rather, the women themselves have been mentored and encouraged by each other and, at times, ministered to by the love and concern of the girls in their classes.  Relationships were built that were rewarding and meaningful.  I believe that the teachers will miss the monthly Leaders' meetings as well as the weekly meetings with the girls...I know I will!

HeartLIFE was not an easy ministry to carry out.   It required much commitment and time from the coordinator(s), teachers and helpers ... but it was the most worthwhile ministry with which I've ever been involved.  I'm so thankful for my friend's  obedient spirit and servant heart in following the Lord's leading in developing and overseeing this ministry for so many years.  Through it, she and many others have indeed been "touching hearts, changing lives".

Thursday, April 22, 2010

About Language Learning

I've been learning Italian.


It started when Jacob was in the 9th grade, because I told him he had to learn a foreign language.  His first choice was Danish (at the time his life's goal was still to work for the Lego company, which is headquartered in Denmark). I told him I wasn't all that interested in learning Danish and so he chose Italian, which was fine with me because I had been wanting to learn it anyway.


We studied it for about a year and a half, and then he asked if we could switch to German; his reasoning was that if he was going to have to learn a foreign language, he'd prefer it to be a Germanic language, since he already knows a Germanic language (English).  I informed him that if he was going to learn a Germanic language it would be Dutch, because that would make my life infinitely less complicated! I used to speak German fairly well but that was a long time ago.


So this year he's been studying Dutch and the Italian books have been sitting, unused, unloved, on the bookcase.  But a couple of months  ago I decided I really did want to continue to learn some of that language and so I dusted them off and started up again.  I recently read a book called How To Learn Any Language by Barry Farber, which was encouraging on two fronts: a) I've been doing some things RIGHT in my approach to teaching Jacob language, and b) it had some good suggestions in it.


So I'm spending some time every day with my Italian book and my vocabulary cards.  Since I'm hanging around the house for Jacob's sake but not really needed by him for much of the day, it's a good use of my time and I'm having a lot of fun with it!  I suspect it's also a good mental exercise for my Failing Brain.


Oh, and I highly recommend Pimsleur language CD's.  They are great.  The library has a number of them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Strawberries and Chocolate

Strawberries were very cheap this week, so I bought three pounds...and I decided to do something with them sooner rather than later, thereby reducing the chances that I'd end up with some really gunky-looking strawberries.  Sadly, I have been known to be that delinquent on occasion.  And what goes better with strawberries than chocolate?  Furthermore, the only thing that complements chocolate better, I would argue, would be raspberries!  But alas, raspberries are barely affordable right now so this is a pointless discussion.  Let's stick to strawberries.


So I googled "strawberry chocolate recipes" and I found the following.  I ended up adapting it because I had no whipped cream (my family would argue I adapted it because I'm fundamentally incapable of following a recipe to the letter), so I'm including both the original recipe and my adaptation of it.


Strawberry Chocolate Meringue


Meringue:
3 egg whites
1/4 t cream of tartar
1 t vanilla
1 c sugar


It is best to separate the eggs and then let the whites sit until they are at room temperature (they will whip up to more volume) but if you don't have time, please don't let that little detail prevent you from forging ahead anyway.  And be sure to put those yolks in a little bowl in the refrigerator and use them to make a yellow cake, or some really great scrambled eggs (throw in a whole one with the yolks), or use them in cookies, or pancakes, or...you get the idea.


Preheat oven to 300.


Add the cream of tartar and vanilla to the whites and beat till they are foamy. Add sugar, a tablespoon or two at a time, and beat well, till mixture is stiff and glossy and the sugar is no longer grainy (rub a bit of meringue between your fingers to determine this).


Spread meringue on a cookie sheet that has a piece of parchment paper on it, and shape it into a nine-inch circle, building up the sides a bit so you have a nice, shallow bowl shape.


Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes.  Turn off oven and let meringue rest there for another hour.  Remove and cool (in freezer, if you need it to happen quick).


Filling: 
Here is the recipe on-line:
3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c cocoa
2 T milk
1/2 t vanilla
1 c whipping cream, whipped
Blend cheese, sugar, cocoa, milk and vanilla.  Fold in whipped cream and spread this mixture on the meringue.


Here is what I did:
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c cocoa
2-3 T yogurt
1/2 t vanilla
Blend all ingredients and spread on meringue.  I only ended up using about half of this mixture.


Next, chop up some strawberries, you will need about 2 cups.  Spread them across the chocolate mixture.


In a small saucepan, combine
1/3 c chocolate chips
1 t shortening
over low heat, melt till smooth (stir all the while).  Drizzle over the strawberries and the edges of the meringue.


Here is the finished product:




Oh.my.goodness was this good!  It was so popular that I decided to make more today, seeing as how I still had half of that chocolate mixture left over, plenty of eggs, and lots of strawberries.  This time I made individual meringues, about 11 of them.  They take less time to bake - maybe 20 minutes or so, but other than that, proceed just as for the large meringue.  Here is what they look like:




You need to make this soon.  Trust me.  And if you live near a Meijer store, strawberries are only a dollar a pound this week.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Growing Through Tragedy

The last few weeks have been difficult ones for our family.  A week before Good Friday, Terry's 30-year-old nephew was killed in a car accident.  Terry flew to California the following Monday to be with his family for six days while I kept the home front going.

As I grieved during that week,  particularly for Terry's sister and mother, I was so blessed by the surety of God's presence and working in all of our lives.  I was amazed at how frequently, during my morning Bible Study and my evening Bible Reading, the Scriptures I "happened" to be reading gave specific comfort for the rough times we were enduring.  I read verses like these:

You number my wanderings, 
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?
Ps. 56:8

The righteous cry out and the Lord hears
Ad delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart.
Ps. 34:17-18

In God (I will praise His Word)
In the Lord (I will praise His Word)
In God I have put my trust.
I will not be afraid. 
What can man do to me?
Ps 56:10-11

I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens and Your truth to the clouds.
Be exalted above the Heavens, O God, 
Let Your glory be above the earth.
Ps. 57:9-11

That last one was a good reminder to me that even in our deepest griefs, we need to remember that God is STILL God.  We can't possibly begin to imagine what could be the "good" in this tragedy...but we aren't God.  It is hard, right now, for us to see how God can bring anything good out of it...but we aren't God.  It seems totally unfair to us and makes us downright mad...but we aren't God.  He is the Creator; we the created.  It is for us to thank Him in all situations (perhaps not FOR all situations, but IN them) and to praise and exalt Him, regardless.

It has been a difficult, devastating time and I hate that this is now part of our family history.  But I'm so thankful that we do have our faith in God to help us make any sense of it, to give us strength, and to give us HOPE...we will see Dale again, and what a glorious meeting that will be!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Old Books

I have an affection for old books  that borders on an irrational passion.  The irrational part is that my affinity for these books sometimes has more to do with the way they look on a shelf, than with the content.  See, told you it was irrational.



When I go to yard sales, used book stores, flea markets, or antique stores, I tend to gravitate towards these kinds of books, and, if a volume has an appeal of some sort as to content, and the price is right (I'm still frugal as the day is long), I might very well bring it home with me.

For a while I felt kind of bad about this and wondered if I was being frivolous.  But what I have found, as I read these books, is that often they turn out to be real treasures!  I've read some old books that have been very entertaining, well-written, and unusual in a variety of ways, and have often closed one of these with a sigh of satisfaction and placed it back on the shelf with a feeling of well-being.  So I've concluded that this "hobby" is enriching my life and, as long as my frugality stays firmly in place, doesn't need to induce guilt feelings.  For now, anyway.

My most recently read "old book": The Royal Road to Romance by Richard Halliburton (that's "romance" in the old sense of the word - meaning adventure, pageantry, heroic deeds).  My current "old book": The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Danya

Danya is our Primary Dog.  She is a ten-year-old Australian Shepherd who is, at times, so troublesome all I can say is, it's a good thing she is so cute.  When we got her, we did not realize how high-maintenance Aussies are in some respects (and clearly we don't learn well because we then got another one) but we also didn't know how much fun she would be!

Danya is very smart, and learned certain skills very well.  For example, she excels at Heel and Sit and Platz (lie down).  She only does Come, however, when she's in the mood and often will kind of peek up to see if the person calling her really means it.  I've decided she's a strong-willed dog who tries to come across as compliant - she grovels like the best of them, and fawns all over you, but deep inside, she's generally checking to see if she can get away with ignoring whatever it is you want her to do.  

Danya is good with Abigail.  She will put up with a fair bit of pulling of hair, being crawled on, and eye-jabbing.


Probably the most irritating facet of this dog's personality is her penchant for eating pretty much any disgusting substance she finds.  She clearly operates on the principle that if it turns out she doesn't need it, she can always throw it up later (preferably on a carpet).  I'm guessing Jacob would say her most irritating habit is eating Lego pieces.  She has a deep love for them, along with pencils, particularly Ticonderoga pencils. She thinks they are so choice.

Danya is a most graceful, elegant, modest dog, as is evident from this picture:

We knew when we got her that Aussies are very protective of Hearth and Home, and will bark loud and long to get the point across.  What we didn't know, however, was that this particular Aussie is apparently genetically incapable of NOT barking if her brain is telling her there is Someone Suspect around.  I've often held my hand tightly around her mouth, to the point where I know her teeth are digging into her lip, and she would  still be trying to utter  this pathetic, muffled, inside-the-mouth Woof.  Unbelievable.

But she's ours and we love her.


Monday, March 8, 2010

God's Power

In my Bible Study this morning, the passage was 1 Samuel 5, where the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant, and their god, Dagon, kept getting knocked over during the night (I love that story!).


The last question was, How have you seen God's power recently?


Well, I haven't seen Him knock over any idols, but a few events came to mind which show His power in different ways.


Yesterday afternoon, Terry and I took a walk, and several times we had to stop to watch some geese, returning from their winter jaunt down south.  We both love to watch them, both in the fall and in the spring, and every time I see them, I marvel at the power of God, who created them with that unerring instinct to make that long journey twice a year.  It never ceases to amaze me!


And then last night I talked with a friend who had recently spoken at a women's conference.  She told me that  it was evident to her that the things she shared with these women touched many of them right where they needed it most.  I so often see that happen and I love that God does that.  It seems like such a little thing, and some might call it coincidence, but to me it shows His concern even for the "little" things in life.  And when you think about  it, something that helps a believer deepen their relationship with God isn't really so little, after all!


I'm so glad He gave me sight to see these things.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Battle of the Books, Round 2

Last night was the second round of Battle of the Books.  This one was for grades 4-8, and here are the books they read:


The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill
Eric Liddell by Ellen Caughey
Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
Wanted....Mud Blossom by Betsy Byars
Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary
Exploring the Titanic by Robert Ballard
Boston Jane: An Adventure by Jennifer Holm
Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes


The battle was a lot of fun, and everything went pretty well.  This was in great contrast to the awful dream I had the night before...where everything that could go wrong, did.


The room set-up was all wrong
There were some men who just would NOT stop talking
Jordan was there, for some reason, and he was really rude to me, twice
The microphones didn't work
The podium wasn't where I had put it and I was trying to move it but it was really heavy
For some reason, we were outside instead of in the church, and the weather wasn't very good


One positive thing happened though: in the dream, I asked the kids to introduce themselves by giving their name and saying which of the 8 books they liked best.  I decided that was a great idea, and I did actually have the kids do that.  It was interesting for me to hear which ones they chose.


I don't know if any of the kids will come again next year, but I've already started working on my book lists, so I hope they do!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Makeover, Part 3

Finally - it is just about done!  We are just waiting on curtains we ordered, and then I have to make that all-important bedspread decision - To Buy or Not To Buy - but the rest of it is done and it is beautiful.  Getting the carpet installed turned out to be much more of a hassle than it should have been, but as my good friend Gertrude says, we're not going to major in the minors (you'll have to imagine the German accent) - and concentrate instead on the fact that it is done, and that it looks great.

Here is the room

and the windows


And the best thing you can do with an empty room is plunk a cute baby down in the middle of it and then take a picture really fast before she starts to crawl away...



When we get the curtains and make that important bedspread decision I might post a few last pictures.  In the meantime, I'm still putting pictures back on the walls, and I am seriously enjoying being back in our own bed.

Oh, and the guest room and hallway are looking much better too, now that all our stuff has been removed from there and you can see the floors again.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Indiana University

In 1978, I became a student at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana.  The way I ended up there was kind of random, and before I went, I barely even knew where Indiana was (you just don't learn much US geography when you live in Europe).  At first I was very homesick and I had all kinds of adjustments to make, as well as  experiencing unexpected culture shock.

However, by the time I'd been there about a semester I loved it - my classes, the people I was meeting, Inter Varsity meetings.  And in the fall of 1979, I met Terry and began dating him the following spring.  That was a very good thing that came out of my years in Bloomington.

I'm not sure, though, if I ever appreciated enough, while I was there, what a beautiful college campus Indiana University is.  Last weekend, Terry and I went back for a visit.  It has been at least ten years (probably more) since we were there.  We drove down in a (for them unseasonable) snowstorm, which made for potentially treacherous travel, but it also made everything look so pretty...

This is the view from our bedroom.  We stayed in the Biddle Hotel, which is part of the Student Union...


This was taken during our walk across campus.




Lindley Hall, where the Linguistics Department is housed:




We had dinner at our favorite restaurant, The Trojan Horse.  It's amazing to me that it's still there!  And no one makes a Gyros that is as good as theirs.  I've looked.


  


We also did some driving in Brown County and checked out the State Park there as a possible location for a future Extended Family vacation spot.  It is so beautiful!  If you ever had the impression that Indiana is a boring state, you need to visit this area.

We visited with friends near Indianapolis, enjoying good food and conversation and church with them on Sunday.  I love friendships that have endured for a long time because even when you don't see each other often, it feels like you just pick up where you left off last time!

Oh, and I found a couple of great Depression Glass items and a book.  Successful weekend!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Makeover, Part 2

Progress on our bedroom project is slow, but it is happening.  We've finished painting all the woodwork in the bedroom and have almost finished inside the closet.  I have completed most of the wallpaper in the room, and we have had an electrician come to put in two more outlets (there were only 2).  Some time in the next few days, I expect to receive a phone call from the nice carpet-installation people, and we will make an appointment for them to put in our lovely new carpet.


In 2001, Terry and I went on a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate out 20th anniversary.  We went to as many ancient sites as we possibly could, and at one of them, we saw the ruins of a Roman villa.  Many mosaic floors were still in fairly good condition and some of them were quite intricate and beautiful.  Our favorite had some writing in it which said, "This house is not built of wood and stone but on Jesus Christ".  It was amazing to stand there and think that the people who lived there so many years ago were fellow-believers!


Some time after we were there, we were re-wallpapering a room in our house.  We had, on occasion, when removing wallpaper, found things written on the walls, usually notes about lengths of walls or locations of studs.  Remembering the Roman villa, we decided to write something more significant, and we wrote a similar statement plus a Scripture verse on the wall of that room before putting up the wallpaper.


I did the same thing in our bedroom.  It's hard to read in the picture, but it's some verses from Psalm 16, which is one of my very favorite psalms.


"I will bless the Lord who has counseled me;
Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever."
Psalm 16:7-11

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

One Year Old

Yesterday, the most precious little girl I know turned one.  Here she was, 366 days ago, when we first saw her in the NICU.



And this was taken last summer... 



and this...


We don't really enjoy her that much, can you tell?

Yesterday:



And:



Years ago, when my siblings and I started having children, my Dad told me that he was surprised by two things about being an Opa: how much fun it was, and how much he loved them.  I have thought about that often during the past year, and he is so right.  Having a grandchild is amazing on so many levels.  It is pure fun, of course, for a Baby Junkie like me to, once again, have an infant around who "belongs" to us.  It is gratifying to see her get to know and recognize us, and want to be with us.  It is wonderful to have another little person around to play with all those great toys we have, and to introduce to all the excellent books in our house.  It is cool to live in such a great "Grandparents' House" and actually have a grandchild!


But the thing that I have thought about quite a bit this year is the concept of Legacy.  It has come up often in the ministry with which I'm involved, and it has come to my mind as I've seen our family expand into another generation.  When I saw pictures of three and four generations of Jongkind women, I was struck by the blessing that it is to see, with your own eyes, the succeeding generations of your family.  I've thought a lot about what a privilege it is for me to be involved in Abigail's life; to be an influence and a role model to her, and I've thought about what kind of influence and role model I want to be, and what I want her to learn from me.  I thank God that I am able to be a part of her growing-up years and I pray that I'll use the years wisely.


Finally - this photo blesses my socks off.  As much as I love being a grandmother to this adorable child, I LOVE thinking about my parents being her great-grandparents.  They have enjoyed her so much, the times they have seen her.



Happy Birthday, Abigail!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Battle of the Books, Round 1






In 1994, when we moved to Michigan and Jessica was in the 5th grade, we were thrilled to hear of a new venture that the Schoolcraft librarian was beginning that year, called Battle of the Books.  Children in grades 4-6 formed teams, read books assigned by the librarian, and then took part in a sort of Quiz Bowl based on the books, with one team emerging victorious.  In the ensuing years, Jessica and Jordan both participated and I did some coaching, as well.  We added a lot of good books to our library during those years!


This year, I decided to offer something similar to the home school group at our church.  I tweaked it a bit to accommodate the families in the group, giving them two separate events: one for grades K-3 and one for grades 4-8.  Twelve children signed up for each battle, and they formed teams and began reading the books I assigned.


Last night, the Battle of the Books for the younger children took place.  I was a little nervous, mainly because I had no idea what to expect, never having done this before!  I was prepared with questions and more questions and back-up questions, just in case (oh, please, no, let it NOT happen) we ended up with a tie.  I had moral and score-keeping support from Jessica, and Terry helped with getting the microphones set up.  Allison and Terry took pictures.  (Jacob was planning to come but was sick)


I have to say, though, that it was a BLAST!  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I think the kids did too, which is, of course, why it was so much fun for me.  


Here are some pictures of the participants:





After I asked each question, the teams would confer and give their response to the adult sitting with them, who would write it down on a small notepad.





Each team had to answer each question, but one child from one team would come to the microphone to give the answer out loud.  It was amusing to see how at the beginning, many of them did NOT want to do this - but after they had had a turn or two, they began to realize it was pretty cool, and after that, no prodding was necessary.











Besides the ending-with-a-tie issue, my only other concern was having the kids come up with an answer that was not what I wanted, but might still be valid.  We had one such question and my Moral Support and I (plus our runner, Cameron, responsible for collecting written answers from the teams after each question) spent some time going through the book to determine the correct response...



And congratulations to the winners!! (phew, no tie)



Battle of the Books, Round 2, will take place March 2!  I can't wait, and I'm already planning for next year, too!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Find Me Faithful

In church this morning, we sang the following song.  It is on a Steve Green CD we have had for many years, and I've always loved it, but have never sung it before.

Find Us Faithful

We're pilgrims on the journey 
of the narrow road
And those whov'e gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God's sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who've gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness
Passed on through godly lives.

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we've left behind
May the clues that they discover
And the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them
To the road we each must find.





When I listened to the song in years past, I'm sure I agreed that it was a great sentiment; that I did want this to be true of my life; that I hoped my children would see this in me.


But it hit me much harder this morning than it ever has before.  I think it's partly the fact that I'm older - growing older doesn't bother me one bit but passing the half-century mark does make a person begin to think about what has been accomplished and how many years are left with which to do anything.  I believe a significant factor is also the fact that I've become a grandmother.  When I look at little Abigail and I think about the little one that will be joining the family this summer, oh, how I want them to be able to say, at the end of my life, that they saw me being faithful.  That they knew that my faith in God was the most important thing in my life.  That they were inspired, by my life, to be faithful to God themselves.  I can think of no greater legacy.  May those who come behind me find me faithful.




Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Makeover

We are giving our bedroom a face lift.

Our bedroom, I know now, is 12'x12' (I had to calculate how much wallpaper to buy).  It is, I believe, the second-smallest bedroom in the house.  However, we chose it for three important reasons:

1. It is on the ground floor
2. It is the only room in the house with two closets
3. It is on the ground floor.

I've been wanting to repaint and paper it for a long time, but it took me several years to gird up my loins and actually go through with it, because of the enormous hassle of moving out the furniture and emptying out my closet and moving the waterbed and sleeping in the guest room for the duration...but we finally did it.

Here is what it looked like before we started:




There were two different kinds of wallpaper on the walls.  Two had a neutral paper that peels off intact and is so sturdy it can then be used to protect the floor when you're painting.  Similar paper was used in other rooms in this house and we have a stack of it in the basement.  The other two walls have a more "normal" type of paper which is basically going to stay right where it is.  I know, you're not supposed to do that.   However, I scraped and peeled about six layers of wallpaper off the living room walls when I first renovated that room, and so I don't feel bad for leaving up one layer of paper.  Besides, the wallpaper is holding this house together, so those two walls will just have a little extra stability.

We started painting the woodwork.  Here's what it looks like now:





On the door, you can still see the original paint color.  The new color is quite a bit darker.

I'm hoping that by next week I'll be able to start wallpapering, at least in the bedroom (the closet is another story - there is almost as much work in there as in the room itself and it's NOT that big a closet).  Check back for more news on this scintillating stage in our lives....

Monday, January 18, 2010

For What Are You Thankful?

This idea comes from a friend on a home-schooling website:


Let's fight the winter post-holiday doldrums by thinking of 10 little things for which we are thankful!! NO cheating and listing big major things like husband,  family, Faith, church.... this particular poll is only for little things we are so often under-appreciated! :) 


1. BOOKS - if you know me at all, or read my blog carefully, you already knew this would be at the top.

2. KITCHENAID mixer - I really love that thing!

3. BASKETS - to contain the various piles, stacks, and messes in my house

4. DOUGH SCRAPER - my new favorite kitchen tool. I've raved about this in a previous post so I don't need to elaborate on it here.  


5. TICONDEROGA PENCILS - they just make me feel good.  Unfortunately, they make our Primary Dog, Danya, feel good, too.  She loves to chew them.  If there were eight pencils on the floor in various sizes, shapes, colors and brands, and only one was a Ticonderoga, she would choose it above all the others for her chewing pleasure.  She would only turn to the others if I had taken the Ticonderoga away from her.  I guess I should count myself fortunate that Tasha, our Back-up Auxiliary Dog, is not a pencil-chewer.


6. DVD's - I hate most tv programming and I love owning and renting DVD's that are fun to watch

7. WOOL AND KNITTING NEEDLES - in spite of the fact that I've restarted my latest sweater something like five times, I'm still thankful for the tools and ability to knit.

8. MY BED - it is SO comfortable and it is pure delight to get into it every night.

9. VICKY MORGAN - because she taught me how to wallpaper, and we are working on our bedroom right now (well, Terry  is painting the woodwork but eventually I'll be wallpapering it).

10. THE BEAUTIFUL DEPRESSION GLASS BELL THAT I BOUGHT LAST SATURDAY - I didn't know such a thing existed but I came across it at an antique store and it is in the same pattern as some of my Depression Glass dishes and I am so tickled to have found it!



So  - what ten things are making you happy this month?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Home School Mom, 1; Telemarketer, 0.

Today I got a phone call from a telemarketer.


I know, that's not so unusual.  I used to get loads of them.  But since I begged Terry to get caller-ID, I haven't actually spoken to one in a long, long time.


Lately, however, every now and then I get calls that my caller-ID lists as "unknown name" and it turns out to be someone I actually know and to whom I'd like to speak, so today when I got one of those calls, I did answer the phone. 


I had a moment of panic when the person on the other end asked for "the father or mother of Jacob Dehart".  Somehow, those words just do not inspire Happy Thoughts!  I told him I am Jacob's mother, and within seconds I knew I'd made a mistake, as he identified himself as working for a company that sells ACT/SAT study materials.  This is how the conversation went:


Mr. ACT - Jacob has requested study materials for the SAT/ACT and I just want to confirm some details with you before we send them to you.


Me - Wait, he requested WHAT? (because I'm thinking, on what planet would my son ever request such a thing? certainly not this one).


Mr. A - Study materials for the ACT/SAT.


Me - When did he do this? 


Mr. A - Well, it could have been when he took the PSAT (he didn't take it), or possibly on-line.


Me - Hey, Jacob, did you request study materials for the ACT/SAT?


Jacob - No.


Me, to Mr. A - Jacob says he didn't request anything and I'm not interested.  Besides, we already have an ACT study guide. (this is the truth)


Mr. A - Oh, ah...okay.


I've NEVER had a sales call that deflated in such a hurry.




I should mention that this call came around 2 in the afternoon, which makes me wonder if this company makes a habit of calling poor hapless, disconnected parents while their teens are at school, and convincing them that their kids really want this material.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Finishing Well

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a dear woman from my church.  I have only known her about seven or eight years and I can't say I knew her  well, but I will always appreciate the fact that our paths crossed for a period of time.  She passed away last Thursday, and in my Sunday School class, we talked about her and what it was that made her the treasured and valued person that she was.


Some things that were said about her there, at other times, and some thoughts I've had about her:


She was always interested in others.


She never complained (she had cancer and was in pain or sick very often) but was more likely to ask how YOU were doing than to talk about how she felt.


She absolutely loved her grandchildren and cared deeply about what was going on in their lives.


She wanted to be able to make a difference in the lives of women and actively pursued that goal.


She was a woman of prayer.


She loved the Word of God.




On her coffin was a beautiful floral arrangement that had an open Bible in the middle of it, which was open to Proverbs 31, and this verse was highlighted:
An excellent wife, who can find?  For her worth is far above jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.


That describes my friend!  She was an excellent wife, an excellent mother and grandmother, an excellent woman of God.  It is my fervent wish that I finish well and make the world a better place for having been here, as she did.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ka'kat

No, that's not a bad word, it's my newest experiment from Baking with Julia.  It's an Eastern Mediterranean treat which you will probably call "mini-bagels" if you make them and give them to your kids.  And you want to make them!  They are delicious...and SO cute.


2 T sugar
2 t dry yeast
1/4 c very warm water
Combine these ingredients in a small bowl and whisk.  Let stand 4-5 minutes.
Meanwhile:


1 3/4 c warm water
3 c flour
Combine these in a bowl and stir well.  Add the yeast and again, stir well, for about a minute (whether by hand or by mixer).  Let this sponge sit for about 10 minutes.


Add:
1 1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground mahleb (optional).


Okay, about mahleb.  It is the ground kernels of a type of black cherry found in the Mediterranean region.  I swear I am not making this up.  I couldn't find it locally, so I went to the trusty ol' internet and of course you can get it from lots of places.  I ended up going with The World Spice Merchants (http://www.worldspice.com/home/home.shtml), and I figured that as long as I was paying all that money for postage, I might as well see what else was available...big mistake!  This very cool website has all kinds of spices and seasonings and it includes recipes for each one, in case you don't know what to do with it.  I ended up getting some vanilla beans and tomato powder (right) and Moroccan Spice Mixture (left).



ut I digress.
After adding the salt and mahleb, stir in more flour (probably up to another cup or two) till the dough can be kneaded, and then do so for about 8-10 minutes.  You can do this by hand or using a mixer with a dough hook.  For small batches of bread such as this, I use my treasured Kitchenaid Mixer.







Let dough rise for about 1 1/2-2 hours, till doubled in bulk.


Turn out onto floured counter and knead for a minute or so.  Then cut it into 32 pieces.  I use this handy-dandy tool, which I have only owned for about a year and I can't BELIEVE I baked bread for all those years without it.  Not only is it great for cutting dough, you can also use the inch measures on it for the next step, and when you're all done you can use it to scrape up the dough that is stuck to your counter.  You NEED this tool.





Roll each piece into a piece 6" or 7" long and then form a circle, pinching the ends together.  Place on a greased baking sheet.  Let rise for about 30 minutes. 
This is my nicest baking sheet.  I had the rest of my ka'kat on icky-looking sheets so I didn't photograph them.



Heat oven to 400.


Brush the ka'kat with an egg wash (1 egg, beaten with about 1 T of water) and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  
Bake for about 20 minutes, watching them to make sure they don't get too crispy.  I think I baked mine a bit less, maybe 15-16 minutes.  I also switched the baking sheets halfway through (top rack to bottom and vice versa).
Cool on racks.
These can be frozen and crisped in a hot oven before serving, if desired.





In summary:


2 T sugar
2 t yeast
1/4 c very warm water
1 3/4  c warm water
4-5 c flour
1 1/2 t salt
1/4 t mahleb (optional)


1 egg
1 T water
sesame seeds


Proof yeast, sugar and 1/4 c water.  Combine rest of water with 3 c flour and stir well.  Add yeast mixture.  Let sit 10 minutes.


Add salt, mahleb and enough flour to make a stiff dough.  Knead for 8-10 minutes and let rise till doubled.
Divide into 32 pieces; roll each into a rope 6-7" long.  Form a circle and pinch ends together.  Place on greased baking sheet and let rise 30 minutes.  Brush with egg wash  and sprinkle on sesame seeds.  Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes.  Cool on rack.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Author Focus: M.M. Kaye

Mary Margaret Kaye was born in 1908 in India, and lived there much of her childhood and early married life.  She also spent time in Kenya, Zanzibar, Egypt, Cyprus and Germany, because of her husband's military career.


M.M. Kaye has written more books than the ones I will mention here, but these are the ones with which I'm familiar.  


Historical Novels
The Far Pavilions - my favorite novel and one I re-read about every 4-5 years.  It takes place in India about twenty or thirty years after the Indian Mutiny.  It's a long book, but rich in detail and tells a wonderful story of an English boy who spends the first eleven years of his life growing up Indian, and the impact that had on his adulthood (and that description doesn't begin to do justice to the story but I'm afraid if I go into any more detail than that, I won't be able to stop!)


Shadow of the Moon - also takes place in India but during the years leading up to, and during the Mutiny.  


Trade Wind's locale is the island of Zanzibar.  It tells the story of a naive, idealistic  English girl who goes there to visit family and the growing experiences she has there as she sees what life is really like.




All three of these novels give you a good idea of what was happening historically, while at the same time telling a gripping story.  I highly recommend them!




Suspense novels
Death in Berlin
Death in Zanzibar
Death in the Andamans
Death in Cyprus
Death in Kashmir
Death in Kenya


These are all shorter than the historical novels, and far less involved but no less entertaining.  If you enjoy mysteries, try them!


M.M.Kaye has also written a wonderful autobiography in three volumes.  I've only read the first one but it's one of my goals to find the other two and read them as well.
The Sun in the Morning
Golden Afternoon
Enchanted Evening


Happy Reading!












Home, sweet home

Home, sweet home