Monthly Archives: June 2011

Darn!  “Where did my TypeKit fonts go?” I wondered.  Turns out the free service is now subscription-based.  I’m too cheap to pay $30/year for pretty fonts.

Housework! Summer soup! Beef jerky! Computer viruses!

  • Fourteen upper cabinets.  Twelve lowers.  Fifteen drawers.  All cleaned, inside and out, sorted and re-organized.  Plus, as they don’t go all the way to the kitchen ceiling, the tops are cleaned off, as well as all the decorative items that reside up there.  ~sigh~  That is a sigh of exhaustion.  And relief.  In our nearly six years of living here, I have never done all of the kitchen cabinets in one fell swoop.  It had been nagging at the back of my brain daily, each time I took something out of a cabinet and saw an accumulation of crumbs, dust, and/or greasy grime.  Note:  Gel Gloss looks fabulous for about ten minutes, but then that gleaming shine washes off super-easily with soap and water!  Not great for quartz countertops in a kitchen that gets regular abuse use.  Bummer.  Anyone have a favorite stone countertop product they love??
  • Have you ever tried my Thai Chicken Noodle Soup?  I just updated the recipe.  I can’t believe it’s been almost four years since I originally posted the recipe.   The soup —  more of a meal-in-a-bowl than an actual soup — is a staple in our home, even in summer.  Lots of fresh veggies, tasty and fun.  Mmmm…
  • I turned seven pounds of London Broil into beef jerky the other day.  Smoky-garlic and soy-garlic.  It’s in preparation for our vacation.  Jerky comes in handy for snacks and meals-while-driving, as well as made into various recipes (which I learned from this fabulous cookbook for hikers/campers — it’s a shame it’s out of print!  One review says “Invaluable!  Wore out library copy — had to buy my own.”  That is exactly what I did!!)…  Anyway.  What wasn’t fit for jerky got put into a pot of what was supposed to be red chile stew.  Which it was, sort of.  But, I got enticed by a Really Big package of dried chile de arbol at the grocery store last week, and thought, “Oooh, those are the chiles in Cholula [my fave hot sauce],” and I bought it, really knowing nothing about them.  Well, it turns out they are REALLY HOT.  I removed the stems, seeds, and… pith (or whatever it’s called), and my hands burned for hours, even though I think I only used five chiles.  Also, the broth was SO HOT that I had to scoop out all the beef chunks and — sadly — drain the broth, which seemed like such a waste, but I knew if I kept it as it was, it would be inedible for my kids.  I added water to cover the remaining beef (to which some crushed chile still clung), added a chopped onion, sea salt, and about eight cloves of chopped garlic.  After it had simmered for nearly three hours, I thickened the cooked-down broth with some corn starch, and served it with some Spanish rice (which I had made earlier in the week) and some refried beans (from Trader Joe’s — my favorite).  It was good.  Still, lesson learned:  very judicious use of chile de arbol in the future.
  • My computer contracted a nasty virus, somehow, a few weeks ago.  It died.  Actually, it would power up, but Windows wouldn’t start.  The virus was called Windows Repair Module, which — obviously — was a fake.  How insidious.  I kept getting warnings from Windows, and it turns out that each time I clicked the “OK” button, I was unknowingly activating the .exe file associated with various aspects of the virus.  A friend of my husband’s took my hard drive home with him and worked on it every night for four nights.  He was able to pull most of my documents and pictures (THANK GOD!  I cried when I thought they were unretrievable), and save them to an external hard drive.  Then, he reformatted my hard drive.  Now, I just have to load a bunch of software that got wiped out… but that’s OK.  I then thanked my oldest son, Ethan, who will be 14 later this week.  Why?  Because “…with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Ethan worked a hot and hard day at the home of a friend, laying tile and cleaning…  and with that measure of service and giving, it was returned to us, in the form of a repaired computer.
  • If you’re still reading… today is my birthday.  I am 38.  :)  The only thing I really love about growing older is the history, the perspective that it brings to my life.  I freak out less, because I can say, “Look.  We had that really rough patch five years ago, and God brought us through.”  When I was younger, everything was new and untested, and every challenge threatened to topple me.  Now, I’ve had years of tasting God’s goodness, and seeing His faithfulness first-hand.  To me, that’s a really, really valuable birthday present.

My mom, my garden, last day of school, on not being pregnant, and NOT being HOT.

  • A number of people have asked about my mother’s health.  The good news is that she is no longer in the hospital.  She spent 11 days there, mostly in the ICU, and there were a few days when it looked grim.  When she “came to”, she said something really unusual.  “I’m not really spiritual;  my Christianity is practical, helping me live on a day-to-day basis.  But, when I was under, I felt the presence of God so strongly.  I had amazing, beautiful dreams.  Now that I’m not so drugged, I’m still having the same dreams, and still having the same sense of His presence, so it wasn’t just the drugs.  I feel the power of others’ prayers surrounding me.”  That was amazing.  It was also fabulous

    Uncle Kevin. We love him.

    to have my Uncle Kevin, her younger brother, here for several days.  At one point, my older brother was in town, too, with one of my nephews.  So, in many senses, it was like a family reunion.  The family around my mom had the wonderful opportunity if spending much more time together than we would have, otherwise.  My mom is very motivated to get well enough for surgery to resection her spine — a 12 hour, three surgeon procedure — which will stop the suffocating collapse of her thorax.  So, she is cooperating with all her post-hospital instructions and therapies, which is a first.  MUCH good news.  However, she is still very ill, very weak.  My uncle, five years her junior, was mistaken for her son at a doctor’s appointment.  She looks greatly aged, well beyond her 62 years.  That part is hard and sad, as is anticipating the surgery, which she dearly wants…  She’s only been given a 60% chance of even coming off of the operating table, which the family does not see as great odds.  But, she feels it is her only hope for long-term LIFE, and she may be right about that.  However, it’s much like an all-or-nothing bet with slightly better than even odds, and I don’t like that.  So, it’s still like good news/bad news with my mom.  Thanks for all your prayers and inquiries into her health.

  • A corner of my garden.

    My garden is partially thriving.  Corn and beans growing strong.  My Hopi pumpkin is not doing well;  I don’t know why.  But, I recently planted some Mexican grey squash (like grey, short, squat, sweet zucchini), and they’re growing doing great, robustly out-growing the pumpkins, which are a month ahead of them.  I have tomatoes, chiles, and tomatillos I started indoors, and they’re not doing great, partially because I probably transplanted them too early, and partially due to irrigation problems:  part of my garden is too often flooded, while the other part is too dry.  Still, my garden is a source of joy for me.  I’m so happy to have it.

  • This is the last day of school for my three boys.  I always struggle on the last day, because while I need the year to come to an end, I always feel like I should have done better;  we should have learned more;  we should have accomplished more;  we should have made it through that book.  Etc.  In the fall, my oldest will be in high school;  he’s very happy to school at home.  I am looking into a couple of options for my middle son, who is precociously bright.  One plan — an incredibly expensive, accelerated private school affiliated with Arizona State University — just won’t work.  However, there is a nearly identical option, for free, called University High, which I am pursuing.  It is attached to a local school district, and has a nearly identical track as the private school — junior high in one year, and high school in three years, leading one to graduate high school at the end of what would be one’s sophomore year.  It’s not like I want him to graduate fast, in particular, but I would like to see him more challenged, and provide opportunities that would be difficult (or impossible) for me to give him, though he’s already working two grades advanced in most subjects.  The school runs from 9 a.m to 4 p.m daily, though.  That’s a long time away from home.  It meets on a high school campus, though for the first year, he’d be in classes with only children his age, and the classes (and lunch period) are on a different time schedule than those of the high school students’ on whose campus University High meets, so his contact with older children would be fairly minimal, though I don’t like — from a social standpoint — him going to school with children who are predominantly at least two years older than him…  Who knows?  Perhaps Grant will still be at home in the fall.  I still don’t know, and I don’t like the idea of having to decide.  But, decision is unavoidable.
  • I thought I might be pregnant, but I’m not.  I’m nearly certain I had a very early miscarriage last month, though.  Those thoughts, combined with two friends (each older than me) who are pregnant right now…  Sigh…  I have decided that God has placed in my heart a perpetual love of birth and babies, but I don’t know that another baby is specifically in His plans for our family.  Most of the time, I’m all right with that, but at this moment, it’s a little difficult to accept.  I dearly want His thoughts to be my thoughts, and for me to 100% participate in His plans for me (I started a women’s Bible Study at church this week — Beth Moore’s updated Breaking Free — and this idea — fully following the path of the Father — has been confirmed and cemented in my mind, as I study)… and I want to be in agreement and cooperation with my husband’s direction of our family;  it’s vastly important to me to be in unity and harmony with my dear husband.  But that’s not easy, even if it seems simple.
  • I have still been regularly hiking, two or three times a week, 3-5 miles at a time.  It feels wonderful to have better cardiovascular health, and lower body strength.  I’ve also lost about five pounds, which is always nice.  Last fall, I embarked on a plan for better health, and though I lost ten pounds at that time (and have kept it off), I have not been consistently mindful of every carb, etc., so I had not continued to lose weight.  Being this age, it takes WORK to lose the fat which so tightly clings, and gain the muscle, which my body seems reluctant to build.  WORK.  I have no illusions about clinging indefinitely to youth, but I feel like I am gaining an understanding of the amount of effort it takes to upkeep and maintain my health and body, and that, as long as I’m not pursuing that for the wrong reasons, it’s GOOD to be healthy, strong, fit, and eat well.  There’s so much crap out there in the world and the media about being a “hot mom.”  That, frankly, sucks.  I hate that mindset and that pressure.  But, that doesn’t make the converse —  just drifting off to greater lethargy and added pounds of fat —  Godly.  Know what I mean?  I’m forever trying to find that balance — health, not obsession.  Health, not pride.  Not seeking the approval of the Godless.  Not trying to be “hot”.  Just being healthy.  Plus, though my husband has liked me at any weight, he’s particularly pleased when I’m fit.  :)  At 6’2″ and 180ish pounds, with a size 33 waist, he’s slender and fit himself.  He has a workout routine that he follows daily — simple, but effective.  He’s also on a three-week Daniel Fast right now (vegan, whole grain, no sugar, nothing artificial, no caffeine) so he’s an inspiration for me, though I’m always jealous by the ease at which men gain muscle and lose fat.  (I write that with a giggle.  I’m half-joking about the jealousy part.  Men’s physiques are just so different, and the things that are easy to them are hard for women, many times, and that’s just the way we’re made…)

Wistful: Children’s books vs. Reality

Sometimes, I wonder what God has in mind for me, since He gave me a heart to love the things I do, which are in mighty short supply in the desert:  water, flora, and fauna.

There is life here in the Sonoran Desert.  There are animals, a few.  And there are plants, hardy and prickly though they may be.  But there sure isn’t much water.

I’ve always longed for greener pastures, literally.

But, God gave me a husband who is a native of this hot, dry, brown Valley of the Sun, and I’ve adjusted my expectations of what might be lying just around the corner, waiting for me.

Acadia National Park is not.  Nor the Oregon coast.  Not even the Mississippi bluff area of western Illinois, where my maternal grandparents had their farm, and — which I recently heard with a yelp of joy — which my Uncle Allyn is farming a bit of, again, with his recovering health.

There are days as I look out at the landscape of 100+ days of 100°+  when I am tempted to despair, and my heart just longs for cooler, greener climes.

So, I pull out a picture book and read to one of my little girls.

Today, my oldest nephew’s girlfriend and I were having a mostly-joking Facebook conversation about her moving (or the two of us taking a road trip) to Maine.  She was up for just about anywhere on the upper reaches of the northeastern United States, but I steered her to Maine.

In this Caldecott Honor book, three- or four-year-old Sal picks blueberries with her mother and gets "all mixed up" with a mother bear and cub eating blueberries of their own.

In my possession, since before any of my children could read, have been three hardcovers, each of which I have loved since my own childhood.  Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, and Time of Wonder, each written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey.  I freely admit that I can never refuse a sturdy two-year-old toddling with binky inserted, trailing her blankie, barely grasping a picture book, half her size, who pipes up with the hopeful query, “Mowneen i’ Maine??”

For those of you unfamiliar, please check out the books from your local library, or buy them.  Now.  Please.

Also a Caldecott Honor. In which 6yo Sal wishes upon a feather (instead of her first lost tooth, which fell into the muddy pebbles, digging clams with her father) and travels to quaint Buck's Harbor for groceries and the wish-fulfilling cone with her 2yo sister, Jane, and their father.

The books show the progression of the author’s family in the 1950s (when they were written) which spent summers in Maine.  They have beautiful illustrations and apt prose, which shows exactly how adept McCloskey was at thinking with a child’s mind, and seeing with a child’s eyes.

After the Facebook conversation, I read Time of Wonder to Fiala, before her nap.  Looked at the pictures, more than actually read, as Time of Wonder, the Caldecott Medal winner for 1957,  is told in second person, and has a more “grown up” prose than the first two books about Sal and Jane.  It shows both girls, aged about 12 and 8, “manning” their own rowboat and small sailboat (sans life jackets), jumping from rocks along the cove with a bevvy of other children, and weathering a hurricane with their parents, partly by sing-shouting The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

The book mentions several specific place names, which — as I have done on several other occasions — I Googled, to find their location on a map, and pictures as lovely as the illustrations in the book.  And — yet again — I longed for a visit to Acadia National Park, which is in the same exact area as the setting for the trio of McCloskey books.  This time, I found myself especially taken with the sites at Duck Harbor Campground on the minuscule Isle au Hait, described as rugged, remote, inaccessible to automobiles, primitive…  combined with 18 miles of hiking trails, it seems like my kind of place, exactly.  McCloskey’s, too.  :)

Out of curiosity, as I read

…through the fog you hear Harry Smith over at Blastow’s Cove start the engine of his lobster boat and go out to pull his traps.

I wondered if Harry Smith was a real man.  He was.  I found myself sad to read that one Harry Smith, of Little Deer Island, Maine, was buried in the Blastow’s Cove Cemetery in 1957.  It must have been not long after Time of Wonder was published.

Otter Cliff, Acadia NP

I found myself also remembering the incomparable Calico Bush, whose author, Rachel Field, often wrote poetry, apparent in her Newbery Honor prose.  Calico Bush is set off of the coast of Mount Desert Island, which is home to most of Acadia National Park.

Wait.

Suddenly, this sounds very familiar.

[I do a little search on my own blog and come up with THIS POST from February of 2010.]

Sigh.

My memory is short, but at least I’m consistent, eh?

Dorr Mountain Trail, Acadia NP

I guess my point of this point — similar to the last one on the very same subject — is how I just don’t know how to sort all of these thoughts.  I mean, I know that allowing myself to indulge in discontentment is dangerous.  Letting it sit and percolate in my mind is unwise;  I can easily become really unhappy about just about anything, any situation, and anyone in my life if I allow myself to go there.  So, I don’t.  I don’t live in Maine, and can’t conceive of anything that would lead us to Maine, and I think it would 100% be a fruitless and frustrating endeavor to try to figure out how we could or why we don’t have a summer house on a private island in Maine, like McCloskey’s family did.

Precipice Trail, Acadia NP

But, on the other hand… my Father God created me with a love for that particular kind of beauty, and a wistful longing for that sort of slowed-down, simple life, living in community, surrounded with an achingly beautiful piece of His creation.  Did He do that for nothing?  I mean, did He make my heart to love that so, for no purpose, or just to teach me the Godly discipline of not allowing myself to become frustrated and discontented?  Possibly, but I don’t think so.  I hope not.

Last year about this time, I was dreaming of taking a trip there, someday soon, paid for by the thousands of dollars I’d make, writing.  I have made some, but, golly!  In order to MAKE money writing, you have to have the TIME to devote to it, and fit into someone else’s agenda.  That part was less successful.  I’ve had a few other offers for employment in writing, but it’s just not fair to any perspective client to hire me, then to have me perpetually be unavailable, even if that makes any Maine trip tarry.

My hubby works with a guy, though, who has a house in Maine…  Hmm…  Maybe I should find out where, exactly, that house is…  Thinking, thinking…  I don’t think my hubby would consider that appropriate.  I’m sure he’s right.

One way, though, or another…  but it has to be the right way, in the right time.  I *KNOW* that;  it’s just hard to adjust my thoughts on the matter, especially as these visions dance in my head.

Sigh.

You don’t really need what you think you need: An ode to Dad and Husband and learning important stuff to make marriage work

Growing up, I had one of those dads who can fix anything.  ANYTHING.  From computers, to vehicles large and small, to plumbing repairs and appliances, nothing that needed repair was too difficult for him.

He even did stuff like building what we called “The Fort”, which was a 6-foot by 6-foot structure whose floor was elevated 9 feet in the air, in the back yard of my childhood home.  It was accessed by a rope ladder and a trapdoor, and had a swing underneath.  I had some slightly scary but memorable sleepovers up in The Fort, sometimes with friends, and sometimes by myself.

He did some home repair to some drywall, and I’m not sure if he couldn’t quite get the knack of skip-trowelling for texture or what, so he created a new way to texture interior walls:  He would take a very large plaster brush and make small, stippled peaks of plaster all over the wall.  When dry, he would sand down the peaks, leaving a really unusual, attractive texture.  I’ve never seen it anywhere other than that house on Campo Bello Drive.

Imagine my surprise, when, a little more than a year into our marriage, in our first home, my husband said, “You’d better call somebody” when I told him that our ancient flat-surfaced stove had gone bad.  Wha…??  Call somebody?  What did he mean?  He was The Dad of the family, even if we didn’t yet have children.  He was the “somebody”.

In all fairness, my husband, Martin, can actually fix just about anything to which he sets his mind.  He could build a house from the ground up, minus maybe the electric.  And he spent his formative years tinkering on old Chevy trucks with his dad.  But, for the length of our marriage — nearly 17 years now — he’s held down two jobs.  He loves both places he works:  designing homes for a large, local homebuilder (for whom he’s worked nineteen years), and as the worship pastor of our church (which he’s done for 21 years).  Even if you take great pleasure in the work, two jobs — plus a new marriage — are going to tap you out, and at the point our stove died, he just didn’t have the time or energy to care about wrestling with a stove.

We ended up getting a new stove.  :)

The last few years, though, as part of our continuous search for ways in which to save money, Martin has been doing more home repairs.  He has fixed our washing machine when it started gushing water onto the floor of our laundry room;  taken apart doorknobs;  done vehicle repairs;  put in irrigation for my garden, and more.

He’s still not quite as handy as my father, but I have come to the conclusion that perhaps that is part of God’s plan, as I harbor plenty of dissatisfactions with my dad;  God knew I needed something positive about my father on which I could positively reflect, and hold him in extremely high regard.

Anyway.

Someone asked recently what my “love language” is.  I’ve never read the book which originated that phrase, but I think I recall, after taking a quiz some years back, that mine is “acts of service.”  I really do feel loved when I come home from wherever, and see the dishes done, or see vacuum tracks in the carpet, or, in last night’s case, a refrigerator which did not rattle and buzz to Kingdom come.

Even better than that, I reflected — in the silence of the fridge’s new compressor fan — is how God perfectly put together the skills of my husband and me, while stretching both of us.

When the fridge started making a racket about a week ago, and it was clear that the rattling wasn’t just itinerant, together we decided to fix it.  Martin asked me if I could find out which part had gone bad.  I gulped, unsure if I could do that.  But, while he was at work, I found a website with parts schematics for the model of our refrigerator.  I pulled up the page on “air flow systems”, which I thought was most likely.  My oldest son (who will turn 14 later this month!) Ethan and I took the lower cover off of the fridge…  Before we pulled it off, though, I said a little prayer, out loud, “God, please let whatever’s wrong be immediately apparent.”  And it was:  A very wobbly and noisy fan, right at the back of the appliance, easy to diagnose.  Ethan and I vacuumed out all of the fuzz, and peered closely at the failed part, memorizing what it looked like, and the parts around it, so I could find it on the schematic page.  Which I did, with no trouble.

Then, to find the part.  List on it was about $120.  I found it locally for full price, then at another local supplier, discounted to about $95.  Online, I found it for about $80.  I just kept digging to see if I could find it less expensively.  Finally, I did:  for $60.41, including shipping, from a place in Oregon.  I called to confirm that my order would include the instruction sheet, which it did.  (More reasons to love the lush and lovely state of Oregon.)

My hubby decided that he’d rather save the $35 and wait, rather than buying locally.  So, I asked around to see which of my friends might have a small box fan, which I could aim at the compressor, as I had read dire warnings that if the compressor overheats (as it was wont to do, with a bum cooling fan), we’d need a new $300 compressor, not to mention losing all the food in the fridge and freezer.  (Thanks for the fan, Cristi!)

I went out grocery shopping last night, and came home to the refrigerator back in place, no box fan in sight, and no rattling sound.  :)  Martin and Ethan were on it, while I was gone.

Somehow, I feel like that is better than just having a man who can always fix everything.  I mean, I feel like I learned something, and appreciate my husband more, and can see God at work.  He knows what I need.

Panic averted.  Strengths combined.  Money saved.  Fridge fixed.  Feelin’ the love…

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