Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Catching Up

Lake Michigan--gorgeous!
It really has been two months since I last made a blog post!  This summer has been full of traveling, gardening, and planning.  Two trips took us to four states I had never been to~~Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Michigan.
One was a ministry trip and the other a really truly vacation.  A quick trip to West Virginia was also a ministry trip, but we got to visit with some very old, very dear friends, so it felt more like a vacation.  Also, we attended the national convention of The American Association of Lutheran Churches, which is our denomination, in Minnesota in June.  I'm ready to stay home awhile . . .

The flowers have been spectacular this summer, especially the zinnias and marigolds.  For the first time, I grew the marigolds from seeds and they are enormous.  The zinnias are abundant too.  The vegetable garden has struggled somewhat due to lack of rain (yes, we water it, but it's not the same as rain somehow, is it?), and anyway, by this time of the year I'm ready for it to be over.  Not the flowers, just the veggies!  We have gotten a decent amount of green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and spaghetti squash.  For the second year in a row the cabbages were completely worm-eaten and a complete loss.  It seems they won't be successful without some sort of cage or netting to keep the loopers off, and spending money on it gets us quickly to the point of diminishing return.  I give up!

We've begun another year of ministry to our local college campuses, which means the resumption of our every-other-Friday dinners.  The array of nationalities represented at these dinners is really something wonderful.  Besides our American friends, we've hosted people from China, Turkey, Haiti, Brazil, Morocco, India, and Japan, and ages range from less than a year old to mid-fifties.  Educational levels include everything from special ed to post doctoral researchers and visiting scholars.  My job in all this is as a support person.  Along with my husband, I plan menus, shop, cook, prepare, clean up, and extend a glad welcome in the name of Christ to each guest.  For more on the various outreaches we're involved in through Wittenberg Door, go here

The big news for me is that I'm homeschooling again!  I loved homeschooling my own two daughters, so I  was thrilled when the opportunity arose to teach my granddaughters.  The older is in first grade and the younger is a preschooler.  Every morning, their dad drops them off and we learn and grow together until their mother collects them about four hours later.  It is so rewarding to lay out for them a feast of good things to nourish their hearts and minds!  I will try to post with specifics soon. 

Playdough Spelling

On a field trip to the nature center in a neighboring town.
The little girl in the middle belongs to another family. :)

We began school the Tuesday after Labor Day.  The first two weeks were a time of adjustment and working out a few kinks, but we are settling in now and making good progress.  I will keep you posted! 


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Around My House

         Listening~ The Forgotten Man:  A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Schlaes has been on my list for a long time.  I'm glad I finally managed to get to it (thanks, Hoopla!).  Schlaes sheds new light on the Depression and dispels some of the myths surrounding FDR and the New Deal.  For instance, I was surprised to learn just how influenced by socialism in general and the Soviet Union in particular Roosevelt's cabinet members were.  I also learned that Casa Grande, Arizona, was founded as a planned collective farming community, but it quickly failed (no surprise there).  I have friends who used to live in Casa Grande, so this was interesting to me.  I also didn't realize how extensive the legal challenges to the New Deal were and how much of it was overthrown by the US Supreme Court.  The book does get a little dry here and there with statistics and the like, but they are necessary to get the full picture.  Recommended reading for those interested in learning more about this time period.

I love me some Dickens!  It had been a very long time since I'd encountered Oliver Twist, and I'm so glad I revisited him.  As is typical with Dickens, the plot gets in such a tangle you don't think it can ever be unraveled, but of course it is.  The scene with Fagin in prison on the eve of his execution is poignant.  Reading Dickens reminds me that every time and place has its social evils and our time is not unique.  The version I listened to is narrated by Simon Vance, my very favorite narrator of nineteenth century British novels.

I just started listening to The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  Can you believe I've never read this or any Steinbeck for that matter?  The narrator is Dylan Baker, who narrates one of my favorite (funny) books, The Teacher's Funeral by Richard PeckI'm looking forward to this one.  Chapter one was brilliantly written and read!

        Reading~  The Dean's Watch by Elizabeth Goudge.  I loved The Scent of Water and am enjoying this one as well.  Goudge's prose is lovely, her characters are full-bodied, and she tells a good story!

         I've also just started The Story-Killers:  A Commonsense Case Against the Common Core by Terrence O. Moore.  The author is a professor at Hillsdale College, and since I highly respect other Hillsdale professors I've read or listened to, his credibility starts at a high level for me.  I've only read the preface at this point, but so far he's painting a pretty bleak picture of the state of public education under Common Core.  We shall see if it continues, as I suspect it will.

Image result for blue bloods tv show        Watching~  Dave had Blue Bloods recommended to him by a friend.  Not having had a TV in the house since HD became the standard, we are pretty out of it when it comes to keeping up with TV shows.  But we found it on Netflix and started watching, usually one episode at the end of the day.  It's a good, though not great, show.  The Reagans are a family of NYPD police officers ranging from a rookie to the NYPD police commissioner (played by Tom Selleck), except for the daughter Erin, who is an assistant DA.  There are some major improbabilities (most noticeably, Danny the detective and Erin the assistant DA being assigned to cases where they have clear conflicts of interest) and loose ends left unresolved, sometimes forever, sometimes just for too long. (I can't think of an example right now, but trust me, they are there!)  The family is a strong, intact, devoted, Irish-Catholic family who all make surprising compromises considering their church's stances on certain issues.  For instance, Erin is divorced, and almost all of them engage in pre- or extramarital congress, to use an old-fashioned term, lol.  On the positive side, the characters are trying to do the right thing, sometimes in very complex situations, and they are committed to seeing justice done.  They often risk their jobs or career advancement for what is right.  All in all, it's an enjoyable show, but you presumably already know that since you, dear reader, are probably more up-to-date and in-the-know than I am!

     We've also been watching a lot of this lately~

Daily there are deer down by the pond, often mama/baby pairs but sometimes just mamas and other times just babies.  Sometimes they get really curious. . .

. . . and look in through the windows!

Saturday, May 26, 2018


I used to dream about how much time I'd have when my children were grown.  I'd sew and read and blog and and volunteer and wonder what to do with my time!  Ha!  When your husband is in ministry and your grown children and grandchildren live nearby (one still at home, which is great by me--she has legitimate reasons), you're as busy as ever, just with different things . . . or maybe not so different after all.  Here are some highlights of what I've been up to for the past month:

Hospitality--This academic year we've been engaged in a lot of hospitality related to Wittenberg Door.  We have hosted as many as twenty-five people at once and we've had people from all over the world--China, Haiti, Brazil, Japan, Jordan . . .  Most recently, friends from China (mother and son) came for dinner and to fish in our pond.  We have made some great friends and hopefully pointed some people to Christ.

Grandparenting--Elizabeth spent several weeks in Latvia and Lithuania during April and May ministering to at-risk teens.  This is an on-going ministry that her entire family engages in in various ways.  Sometimes, it involves us too since there is much practical support needed here at home while she is away.  My part involves extra childcare and grandmother duty (with assistance from Dave and Hannah, of course).  It's my joy, but it's also exhausting!  There's a reason God gives children to young adults!  We had two sleepovers, made Mother's Day gifts, played in the hose, cooked, read lots of books, worked in the garden, went fishing in our pond, took trips to library, grocery store, nearby state park, nursery, and family fun center (which is not so fun for adults but the kids love it!).  Some highlights:

Plant picks for Mother's Day!

Gardening--Spring was so late this year everything is behind by two weeks!  My pansies have usually been done in by the heat by now, but they are still going strong.  We finally managed to get the vegetable garden put in and spruce up the flower bed, however late.

The veggie garden has tomatoes, cabbage, spaghetti squash, cucumbers, and green beans.  There is still a little space left, so I'm going to pick up some herbs next time I'm shopping.  Though it looks rather empty now, we know from experience that the plants will fill out and be quite crowded.  I took this picture through the fence:

The bucket is for throwing random rocks in.  Dave tilled deeper this year and brought a lot of rocks to the surface, so every time I'm out there, I pick up whatever rocks I see and toss them in.  The bucket is almost full, plus each corner of the fence has a pile to keep critters out.  Keeping them out is an ongoing battle here!

Though every year I add a couple perennials to the flower bed, I planted a lot more of them this year.  The allium bulbs I planted three years ago started out as six, but they have increased to eleven flower-producing bulbs.  I love love LOVE these and look forward to them every May.

They look like something from Dr. Seuss!

Blooming wild on our property are coreopsis and daisies.  Love!

House--There is a screened-in porch off our bedroom that needed some attention if we were ever going to use it consistently.  Before it was sparsely and uncomfortably furnished and just needed some TLC.  So I finally gave it the TLC it needed, rearranged the furniture (including adding some pieces and taking some away), and bought cushions for the metal chairs.  There is still more I want to do, but it's soooooo much better now!  In fact, I'm sitting on it while I write.  It's shady and cool and so pleasant!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Around My House


How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt   A good counterargument for the "religion ruins everything" crowd, at least as far as Christianity is concerned.  Schmidt goes back to the very beginnings of the Christian faith to show how much good it has done in the world, while he doesn't deny the errors committed by those who acted in the name of Christ but who nevertheless went against Christian teaching.  Schmidt explains how the establishment of the first hospitals and orphanages, the abolition of slavery, the elevation of the status of women, and advances in science, to name just a few topics, are the direct result of faith in the Bible.


The Scent of Water  by Elizabeth Goudge   I loved this book from the first page!  I'm reading it s-l-o-w-l-y and savoring every sentence.  I've wanted to read Goudge for a long time now, but she is hard to find in used bookstores!  I was given an Amazon gift card for Christmas and after much pondering, decided to use some of it to get three Goudge books:  The Dean's Watch, Gentian Hill, and this one.  One of the things I most love about it is the attention paid to the houses and housekeeping.  I think I developed a taste for glimpses of domestic life while reading the Anne series by L.M. Montgomery and I still enjoy descriptions of houses and how people live in them.  I also very much like Mary, the heroine of The Scent of Water.  My Amazon gift card was well spent!


Image result for series of unfortunate events imagesA Series of Unfortunate Events   This highly enjoyable series is available on Netflix.  The casting is excellent, especially Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf.  I remember him from his Doogie Howser days and knew he had been successful on Broadway, but I hadn't seen him in anything for a very long time.  Count Olaf's various incarnations give Harris the opportunity to showcase his versatility, and it is immense.  This show has me laughing out loud at times.  Highly enjoyable, even for adults!

Image result for great interior design challengeThe Great Interior Design Challenge    Also available on Netflix, this is the decorator's version of The Great British Baking Show.  Amateur designers compete to become the next big thing in the world of interior design.  It's fast-paced and fun and keeps my half hour on the treadmill from descending into drudgery.


Easter is the most important feast of the entire liturgical year and is always a joyous celebration.  Some highlights:

This actually took place on Saturday.  Elizabeth and Justin were hosting a gathering of 25 people on Sunday at their house, but I wanted to have a smaller celebration with just immediate family as well, so we kicked off the festivities a little early at our house.  It was a great time!

Thursday, March 8, 2018


My mother-in-law, who lives nearby in an assisted-living facility (by her own choice), put in a request for gingersnaps recently.  Though I could have bought some, I wanted to make them because I think it's a shame if a person never gets homemade goodies.  I'd never made them before, so I turned to my trusty BHG cookbooks.  I amd currently in possession of three of these cookbooks: a recent one published about five years ago, the 1987 edition which was a wedding gift, and a vintage 1953 edition.  The recent and vintage ones belonged to Dave's mother, but since she never cooks anymore, I'm putting them to good use.  I used the recipe from the vintage edition because, well, just look at this illustration!

How could I resist??  The cover~

And the cookies~

The recipe was easy to follow and resulted in delicious, crispy cookies.  However, I reduced the baking time from fifteen minutes to twelve, and I'm glad I did.  They would have been too brown otherwise.  Here's the recipe~

BHG Old-fashioned Gingersnaps

3/4 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. light molasses (I used dark because I already had some.)
1 beaten egg
2 c. sifted flour (Sift first, then measure.)
2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. cloves
1 t. ginger

     Cream shortening and sugar; add molasses and egg; beat well.  Sift dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture; mix well.
     Roll in small balls; dip into sugar; place 2 inches apart on greased cooky sheet.  Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) for 15 minutes (I reduced this 12).  Makes four dozen cookies.

I didn't dip mine into sugar because my mother-in-law doesn't like things too sweet.  They are delicious nevertheless!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Recent Hospitality

In the past nine days we have hosted three separate dinners for nine or more people!  The first was our (meaning Wittenberg Door's) twice-monthly Friday night dinner for international students, along with American friends, which features various kinds of American food and English conversation practice.  This week was different, though - in honor of Chinese New Year, we enjoyed traditional Chinese food and activities, led by our Chinese friends.  A fun time was had by all!

We all pitched in to make Chinese dumplings.

There I am, trying my hand at Chinese calligraphy.

The following Sunday we celebrated Dave's birthday with a large family gathering.  His brother and wife moved to town last fall and it's so great to be able to have them join us for family celebrations!

It turns out we didn't take that many pictures, but here's one of Dave and Arane.  (The little ones are so excited about birthday parties, even when they are not their own!)

Arane supervised the gift opening.  She's an expert. :)

Yesterday, my soon-to-be-88-year-old mother and my sister drove an hour and a half to spend the afternoon and evening with us.  They hadn't been here in a long time, so it was wonderful to have them at our house.  Once again, I was too busy enjoying myself to take many pictures, but I really love this of my mother and the little ones watching deer down by the pond.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Around My House


The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn  I received this book for Christmas.  I added it to my Amazon wishlist after hearing an interview with the author on NPR.  It sounded interesting and it is!  Cooking, or the lack of it, is about so much more than just techniques and knowing your way around a stove.  Apparently, lots of people carry lots of baggage, good and bad, from their childhoods and current relationships when it comes to the simple act of preparing food.  Kathleen Flinn takes nine women from beginner cooks to . . . well, we'll see how far she gets.  I'm only about halfway through the book now.


The Little Book of Hygge:  Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking  Pleasingly narrated by the author, this book clocks in at a little over three hours.  I'm about halfway.  It's a good introduction to the concept of hygge, but you could probably get a enough of an idea just by doing a web search.  Wiking is a happiness researcher who clearly knows his stuff, but I'm not really learning anything new about hygge.  If you're a hygge novice, this book will be helpful.

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset   The author won a Nobel Prize for this historical epic, which is why I wanted to become familiar with it.  The Penguin edition is 1168 pages and the audio edition I'm listening to is over 44 hours long!  I listen to audiobooks when I think I will get bogged down in a paper edition, which would definitely have been the case with Kristin.  By the end of the second part, though, I needed a break; hence The Little Book of Hygge mentioned above.  I like it--I don't love it--and I'll be glad that I got it through it, even in audio format.


Image result for howards end movie imagesHowards End  The movie based on E.M. Forster's novel is wonderful.  I had watched it several times many years ago, but since then I haven't been able to find a copy of it until Netflix began streaming it fairly recently.  Excitement!  The acting is excellent, the scenery beautiful, the story compelling. I will be revisiting this until Netflix no longer carries it.  And just so you know, the movie is very faithful to the book.

Related imageMary Berry's Country House Secrets   I stumbled across this series on Youtube a few days ago.  I'd never heard of Mary Berry until The Great British Baking Show, which I loved, and so was excited to find this.  There are four episodes, each of which features the always classy Mary taking us through a stately British country house.  We meet the occupants and learn some of the history of the house and area.  And oh, yes, there is a cooking component.  So much fun!


After the great pantry clear out of January, I tackled a big storage closet in our conservatory this month.  It holds board games, puzzles, and the few toys we saved for visiting children, some files, cello music, gifts for future giving, and odds and ends.  One of these days I will learn to take before photos, but here's an after anyway:

There's even room left over!

A Favorite Blog~

Charming the Birds from the Trees

Emily's blog, Charming the Birds from the Trees, is lovely!  She documents her life with her Orthodox priest husband and their three children.  There is some peaceful, lovely homekeeping, a little travel, a little knitting and sewing, some wonderful quotations, and always lovely photos.  I like her approach to living!


The winter pond is so beautiful!  A few days ago we had frost on top of ice, and it was sparkly in the sunshine!

(Just so you know, I don't make anything from Amazon or anywhere else for my opinions about movies, books, etc.  Links are provided for your convenience.)

Catching Up

Lake Michigan--gorgeous! It really has been two months since I last made a blog post!  This summer has been full of traveling, gardening...

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