Happy Birthday!

For his birthday, Kevin wanted a Buche de Noel cake. So I scoured recipes and found a chocolate heaven version of the traditional French "log." We bought no less than 20 ounces of chocolate for the cake, filling, and icing. Twenty. To put that in perspective, the chocolate cake I typically make takes three. Then I made dark chocolate mousse from scratch for the first time (for the filling), and it didn't flop! I call that a big accomplishment. The cake was another story. . .but I improvised, and this is the result.

The recipe is here, but I warn you: It is not for the faint of heart.


On Saturday, we drove up to Pennsylvania Amish country. We took our time and did a bit of exploring on the way.

Growing up in Oklahoma, you think you have a handle on proper names of Native American etymology. I mean, it's Indian Territory, right? But then you move to a different part of the country and discover that their Indian words sound nothing like what you're used to. *sigh* this is the Susquehanna River in Susquehanna State Park, where there is also a 250 year old mill that was actually in use until 1954.

Thanksgiving Friends

We shared Thanksgiving with Kevin's college roommate and his wife, who have also migrated to this part of the country. Kevin's parents flew up to celebrate with us as well, but they conveniently stayed behind the camera.

These pictures are from downtown Annapolis, where we went for a before-dinner stroll while waiting on the Oklahoma flight to land.

Thanksgiving Food

I'm not sure why these 2 pictures of our pretty table (complete with china pulled from storage!) are so different. . .probably some camera setting issue.

My lovely turkey, the first cooked by me without the help of a Reynolds Turkey Bag

Our food table, but I think some food had not yet gotten there

For You Parents

Having no children yet, I have the responsibility to advise all of those who do. Isn't that how it works?

Seriously, I liked this article on Bible stories for tots.


House Favorites, part 2

The Ultimate Oddity - ceramic, black cat crawling up the exterior wall between the attic windows. Don't ask. We don't know.

Vintage Automatic Lights in the tiny closests - Can you see the little manual button released by the opening of the door that turns on the light?

Cool, antique-ish furniture, like this tapestry chair. . .much of which comes with the house

Vintage Bathcloth Drying Rack, on the wall by the bathtub. Again, not tile. Wallpaper.

House Favorites

More reasons we love the house:
Transoms over every doorway

Central Vacuum System, built-in (Yes, you read right. Open a hole in the floor, attach a hose, and vacuum at will.)

Awesome Fireplace

Awesome Faux Fireplace. . .this lovely switch turns on the flickering electric log-light

Built-in Fish Pond outside the back door

House, part 3

The Front Bedroom, soon-to-be Study

into the Bathroom (No, that's not blue tile. . .it's blue tile-patterned wallpaper!)

through Bathroom Door #2, into the 2nd Bedroom, which also has a door to the main part of the house

to Tiny Random Room with a Sink, opening from the 2nd Bedroom (perhaps a future Walk-in Closet? Master Bath? Nursery?)

More House

The Kitchen, back right corner

The Kitchen, front right corner

Vintage "Lady Kenmore" Gas Range

On the left side of the range, a separate electric bread oven above an electric rotisserie (The right side? A gas oven and broiler drawer)

We plan to finish the attic and make more bedrooms.
Attic Stairs

Attic, big picture

"Our House" To Be

Finally! Pictures!

The Front

The Back, with Dogwood and Maple Trees

The Enclosed Front Porch

The Living Room and Dining Room

The Dining Room, another view


Calling All Teachers

Finally, someone publishes the teacher's side. Although I know Oklahoma's schools are far better than those described here, I can think of a similar incident from my personal experience or that of a fellow teacher for almost every one described in the article. Perhaps her solution is a good one.


For Rachel, Commiseration

In keeping with Rachel's pecan disaster here, I dumped a half cup of freshly chopped almonds (Have you ever chopped almonds? They're harder than pecans, especially when frozen. . . .) on the ground, and then broke 3 metal prongs off my rotary nut chopper (Not to worry, I found them. . .the granola is safe) when I started over with a fresh handful. I then proceeded to empty about half of a new package of sesame seeds on the floor, so the almond pieces wouldn't be lonely. I'm going to go sweep now. . . .


Cut Out and Eat

This ad/coupon made me laugh. . .hopefully it doesn't lose its power in the telling.

It's an ad for Redenbacher's natural popcorn. There are 2 dotted-line, coupon-sized boxes. The top box has a coupon in it. Underneath, it says, "To see how great Orville Redenbacher's Natural Popcorn tastes, cut out and take to a participating retailer."

The second box is empty. Underneath, it say, "To see what other natural snacks taste like, cut out and eat."

Ha ha ha ha ha.



Yesterday, we offered to pay a vast amount of money over the next 30 years for the privilege of homeownership. Today, that offer was accepted. We're going to have a house!!!

Pictures to follow. . . .

Opine, please

Comments on the (slightly) new look, anyone?

A Companion Post, on Communion

To accompany the link below to the poem by Lewis, here is short prose piece about the ordinariness of this extraordinary gift. We are now in a church that partakes of the bread and wine every Sunday as an integral part of worship, and the beauty of this sacrament--this mystery--has a greater presence in my thoughts.


Be blessed

I've never read this poem by C.S. Lewis before, but it says exactly what I've never tried to put into words. Be blessed.


On Community, Part 2 - A Caveat

I wrote this the same day as the previous post. Perhaps they should be one.

Certainly, there is much more to community than the rather negative consideration of how our sins influence others. There is the flip side of the coin, that is, how our righteousness is an encouraging and edifying influence on others. Seeing others succeed at what I would like to be or accomplish has a great uplifting influence on my faith, my determination, and, I think, on my actual success. Also, there is another aspect of community, also more cheerful to consider, which has been thrust into my awareness over the past year. That is the length we will go to in order to aid someone because of a mutual acquaintance or loved one. In various situations over the past year, I have been repeatedly amazed at the love showered on people in this way. A simple hypothetical example would be in the case of a good friend’s children. Although I may not have any particularly close relationship or affinity for the child himself, still I would do anything within my power to help him out of a scrape for the sake of my love for his parent. In several situations, I have seen more than a common Christian charity shown toward someone of remote acquaintance because of a friendship with someone else. If it is discouraging to think that every mistake I make has a ripple effect, it is greatly encouraging to think that my close association with people I love can also be a great boon in times of need.

On Community

I wrote this--including the (now second) Author's Note several weeks ago, but have vacillated on whether or not I should share it. Even now, I worry that it is harsh. But it is honest, and , I hope, stems from humility and not hubris.

**Author’s Note: I hesitate to post this, as my intent is not to cause further injury to anyone reading it, either on my account or another’s. I do not know who reads my blog regularly. Some of what is written here is still rife with raw emotion, although most of it I have been contemplating for the better part of a year. That, alone, is perhaps the best indicator of how deeply affecting community can be. This is a readily available outlet, and I hope that I am not the only one to have struggled here and that these thoughts may encourage and edify someone else. I have tried to be considerate, without compromising honesty. I will, then, simply and sincerely apologize for any undue pain this may cause anyone reading. Please forgive my frankness.

Recent and semi-recent events have had me contemplating the influence we have on those around us: family, friends, acquaintances, even strangers. I’ve also been reading Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun this past week. Along with the familiar Hawthorne themes of sin, penance, and redemption, there is an emphasis on the effect of our sin on others otherwise unconnected to it. Take Hilda, for instance, the essential innocent Christian maiden of Puritan heritage:
A torpor, heretofore unknown to her vivacious though quiet temperament, had possessed itself of the poor girl, like a half-dead serpent knotting its cold, inextricable wreaths about her limbs. It was that peculiar despair, that chill and heavy misery, which only the innocent can experience, although it possesses many of the gloomy characteristics that mark a sense of guilt. It was that heartsickness which, it is to be hoped, we may all of us have been pure enough to feel, once in our lives, but the capacity for which is usually exhausted early, and perhaps with a single agony. It was that dismal certainty of the existence of evil in the world, which, though we may fancy ourselves fully assured of the sad mystery long before, never becomes a portion of our practical belief until it takes substance and reality from the sin of some guide, whom we have deeply trusted and revered, or some friend whom we have dearly loved.
When that knowledge comes, it is as if a cloud had suddenly gathered over the morning light; so dark a cloud that there seems to be no longer any sunshine behind it or above it. [. . .]when [that one friend] falls, the effect is almost as if the sky fell with him, bringing down in chaotic ruin the columns that upheld our faith. We struggle forth again, no doubt, bruised and bewildered. [. . .]the crash, and the affright and trouble, are as overwhelming, for the time, as if the catastrophe involved the whole moral world.

Without any false claims to the kind of unblemished innocence Hilda possesses, and allowing something for Hawthorne’s romantic exaggeration, Hilda’s experience of her dearest friend’s sin resonates deeply. Of course I sin. I fail, daily, and it does not disrupt my daily existence to know that those I care about do the same. Yet, there are some sins that, in my human perception, seem beyond me. . .as if I, in my righteousness, could never commit that one. I recognize the falsity of my reasoning and know that “there is no one righteous, not one,” that all sin is separation from God, that our petty picture of righteousness is “as filthy rags” before His holiness. Still, the thought persists that I could never, for instance, commit murder. Surely I could never abandon my marriage vows. . .or preempt them. Surely I could never falsify documents. Surely I could never. . . .
And then someone I care about does one of those things I persist in thinking “undoable.” And, like Hilda, my world is shattered. My self-righteousness, in what is righteous indignation, sputters about the audacity, the carelessness, the blame. The penitent sinner in me shudders, “If she could, could I?” And I spend weeks. . .maybe even months. . .reeling from the loss of some measure of innocence, alternately wetting my pillow with tears of anguish and pounding it in outright fury.
It is not only a theoretical struggle with my attitude or emotions. It has practical implications. Ever on the lookout for some way to justify myself, I seize the weaknesses of others as an excuse for my own. I take advantage of any godly compassion for my struggling friend, projecting equal compassion and forgiveness for myself in my own failings. Almost without realizing it, my resistance to sin is lowered and so are my expectations for my own behavior.
I must belie my self-centeredness here. The world does not revolve around my reactions to the choices of those I care about. Their lives. . .and the results of their actions. . .are not solely about me, my limited understanding of righteousness, or my response to sin (mine or theirs). Yet as a representative of everyone in the community of believers, it does matter. What we do affects those around us, helping or hindering their individual struggles to live rightly. We have a responsibility to encourage one another not only by our words, but by our right deeds.
In the end, I hope that I learn sympathy and compassion for those whose vision is clouded by temptation in areas where I am undeservingly blessed with clarity. I hope that the failings of others bring me to a deeper realization of my own imperfection. I hope that they make me doubly watchful, watchful that sin not become commonplace in my life--even those “little” daily sins I too often accept without great consternation--and watchful that they lead me to greater accountability, that I may have and heed wise counsel when my own vision is clouded.
As Hawthorne urges at the end of the passage quoted above,
Remembering these things, let them suggest one generous motive for walking heedfully amid the defilement of earthly ways! Let us reflect that the highest path is pointed out by the pure Ideal of those who look up to us, and who, if we tread less loftily, may never look so high again.


Vote for Me!

It is time I added a profile picture to this page. I've cropped 5 photos, from recent to a couple years old. So, it's readers' choice. Which one is the image I should show to the world? (We're ignoring that, with all of them pictured below, I've now shown them all.)

#1 - The organized and coordinated me

#2 - The friendly and conversational me

#3 - The makeup-less enjoy-the-outdoors me

#4 - The hiding-from-recognition me

#5 - The (What do I call this one?) me


Finally, apple pictures!

Our entire collection of apples. . .minus the 4 or so that we had already consumed.

My hurried, makeshift bandage. . .a napkin and neon green duct tape. I was in the middle of a 1-minute blanch timer and couldn't leave for a band-aid. Serrated vegetable peelers hurt!

One day's worth of apple peels, cores, and lemon rinds.

The finished product: Pie Filling, Applesauce, & Cinnamon Applesauce!