one of my favorites

16 December 2008

"Nuns of the Perpetual Adoration"
by Ernest Dowson

Calm, sad, secure; behind high convent walls,
These watch the sacred lamp, these watch and pray:
And it is one with them when evening falls,
And one with them the cold return of day.

These heed not time; their nights and days they make
Into a long, returning rosary,
Whereon their lives are threaded for Christ's sake;
Meekness and vigilance and chastity.

A vowed patrol, in silent companies,
Life-long they keep before the living Christ.
In the dim church, their prayers and penances
Are fragrant incense to the Sacrificed.

Outside, the world is wild and passionate;
Man's weary laughter and his sick despair
Entreat at their impenetrable gate:
They heed no voices in their dream of prayer.

They saw the glory of the world displayed;
They saw the bitter of it, and the sweet;
They knew the roses of the world should fade,
And be trod under by the hurrying feet.

Therefore they rather put away desire,
And crossed their hands and came to sanctuary
And veiled their heads and put on coarse attire:
Because their comeliness was vanity.

And there they rest; they have serene insight
Of the illuminating dawn to be:
Mary's sweet Star dispels for them the night,
The proper darkness of humanity.

Calm, sad, secure; with faces worn and mild:
Surely their choice of vigil is the best?
Yea! for our roses fade, the world is wild;
But there, beside the altar, there, is rest.

night time

15 December 2008

sometimes nights don't get any better than this: a stack of books next to your pillow, a tangle of quilts and duvets atop you, and a warm furry friend beside you.

it's getting so that I wake up in the morning eager for bedtime.

Word File

12 December 2008

Hebetude: lethargic, mentally dull.

example: Her midafternoon hebetude suddenly shattered as she splashed into the icy stream and at once she felt the tickle of the minnows against her ankle, the spongy springy moss beneath her toes, the glow of the spotty sun on her shoulder.

The Glory Man and Koinonia Farm

09 December 2008

Saturday night my mom, Kathryn, and I went to Regent University Theatre to watch the premiere of The Glory Man, a play written by Dennis J. Hassell about the founding of the Christian farming commune, Koinonia, by visionary Clarence Jordan and his wife, Florence. Like the early church in Acts, the community they set up on this "demonstration plot" allowed them to practice faith, stewardship, and brotherhood in concrete and often radical ways. Hassell focuses upon this last facet of their farm as he examines their impact on race relations in the area, for to the Jordans, brotherhood meant brotherhood in which humanity, not color, was the defining quality. As conflict escalates from the simmering bigotry of the surrounding farms and churches to crop burnings and shootings and even rape, Koinonia faces a relentless test of its faith and tenacity.

Koinonia still operates today, practicing fellowship, peace, and stewardship after over fifty years since its founding as a "demonstration plot for God's Kingdom." I was delighted to see that its members adhere to the principles of permaculture and sustainability in their production of pecans and cakes, and they have a wonderful selection of fair trade coffees to round out their catalog. Consider supporting this ministry (which has multiplied into other ministries you might be familiar with, like Habitat for Humanity, founded in 1968 as Koinonia Partnership Housing) with your Christmas giving this year. Here is Koinonia's website:

Word File

Adumbrate: to display a faint copy or outline; to obscure in part or to overshadow; to foreshadow.

example: The union of man and wife in matrimony adumbrates the union between God and Christ; each person is distinct in his or her role, his or her strengths, his or her purpose, yet both together make one and only one. The finite union helps one to consider the infinite union.

inside a seamstress's mind

04 December 2008

I've gotten the bug to sew dresses again, so as usual I go right up to my closet (half is devoted to fabric and patterns) and pull out pretty fabrics and drape them across reasonably clear spaces like my floor and bed (which I didn't make this morning)...

...the dusty aqua linen is lovely but I don't think I have enough for the type of dress I want to make...shall I finally use that black and white woven windowpane I've been saving for a special dress?

...I snatch up a few of my patterns and toy with the idea of making that dress I designed a few months ago--then I remember that I have two very minor alterations to make, so I search out my sketch pad--which happens to be on my floor right in front of me, partially obscured by the vintage '70s and '80s patterns which, despite their decades, seem to have possibility... hand brushes against a shirt I haven't put away yet, and I pick it up to study the seams and slightly gathered detailing; I've been meaning to construct a dress like it, for its shape contains the perfect amount of drape and ease without looking frumpy (a line I'm usually in danger of crossing)... measuring tape is rolled up as it should be and where it should be, and I take the opportunity to record the hem circumference of my shirt. I'll continue its a-line shape a few inches further in my pattern...

...I remember some pictures of dresses I'd seen on flickr awhile back and retreat downstairs to use the computer...then I get sidetracked looking at all the beautiful handmade creations of fellow sewers and spend an hour in fruitless inspiration...

but here's a pattern I'll buy whenever Hancock's or JoAnn's is having a drastic sale on Simplicity patterns: it's a Built by Wendy number 3835, and I've seen some inspirational versions of the dress sewn up by some talented sewers...

(clockwise from top left: ellybeth, WheresBeckybean, CharlotteCarotte, and treschic_veronique)

another book to browse

I picked up one more book when I returned to the Regent book sale: a journal written by Eugenie de Guerin. I've not heard of this woman, but the passages I scanned looked interesting with their tender earnestness and spiritual bent, the writings of a young woman to her wandering brother, I believe, as she searches out deeper realities.
...heart communications are sweet, and I am so easily led into them. Besides, they do me good, and relieve my soul of its sadness. When waters begin to flow, they set out with foam on their surface, and grow clear on their way. For me, my way lies with God--or in a friend--but especially in God; there I hollow myself out a channel, and find calm therein...

Word File

Jejune: barren, dull, empty, immature.

example: I sighed and drummed my fingers against the rough cloth of my chair, letting the man's jejune presentation waft by with all its droning ambiguity and tinsel-thin facts.

book sale

02 December 2008

I awoke with excitement fluttering inside me--today is the Regent Library book sale! The sale lasts for three days, from 9 am to 5 pm each delightful day. I slipped over there in the afternoon and perused table after table of texts on nutrition, evangelism, Scandinavia (quite a thorough collection!), marketing, education, and so forth. What did I walk away with? Three lovely finds: a biographical commentary on Christina Rossetti, a short collection of Chekhov stories, and an explanation of the Anglican church. As my parking space was rather iffy I had to hurry my browsing, but I plan to return tomorrow.

Wwoofing Adventures #4

01 December 2008

London Tour, cont.

Our fresh new day brought fresh new energy and attitudes to the three of us, and we set out early the next morning to finish our London walking tour and browse the many galleries and museums around the city. Leicester and Trafalgar Squares were among the first stops, the National Gallery our next. I obligingly studied my favorite periods of paintings as I wandered from room to room, but soon sleepiness overcame me and I had to sit down. Perhaps I just wasn’t cultured enough to appreciate the work of such great artists as Caravaggio and Van Gogh and Seurat and Giovanni with alertness, but really I tend to find the layout of museums and galleries a bit tedious—if I’m to study anything in great depth, I don’t do so standing up. I kept dreaming of a museum in which the paintings were displayed on individual tables with benches beside them, allowing the viewer to sit and peer down at the art, that visual direction so much more conducive to actual study. But I enjoyed listening to the folks drifting in and out as they discussed their impending lunches and, occasionally, a painting.

St. James Park was our next stop, for I remembered it as a haven of green and quiet and ducks in the middle of the bustling city. We broke bread on the lawn while some rowdy boys displayed their Frisbee skills further on. It was wise of them to keep moving, for the day was brisk and after my quick nap under my jacket I was thoroughly chilled and ready to spend several pounds on a hot drink. We walked up to Buckingham Palace, stared at it dutifully for a moment, and then continued on our way to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The V&A

The three of us wandered through the museum’s provocative exhibit about book-designing, fascinated by the layouts and themes and handwritten pages of each piece. One artist even blew his carefully executed book up with dynamite. Then the fashion exhibit kept me entertained for at least two hours with displays of designer ensembles from the modern era, namely eighteenth-century through present. Oh, the construction of the garments and the carefully-wrought details! It was as though I were walking through the back covers of Threads in fact. I soaked in as much as I could and vowed to incorporate similar techniques into future sewing projects.

“Did you see that welt pocket, Meagan? Meagan?” Come to think of it, I vaguely remembered her telling me she was going to some other exhibit. After traipsing through several rooms and floors, I managed to locate LeeAnn wandering the metalsmithing hallway, and the two of us recommenced our search for Meagan.

Our Discovery

We were passing through the second or third floor when something arrested us—and suddenly LeeAnn and I were staring dumbfounded at Trajan’s Column, assembled right there a few feet from us, the scenes of war spiraling up the absolutely massive cylinder. We had read about that very piece in our CivArts texts and here it was, commanding attention as if it were an ancient Roman himself. The detail of the myriad faces was incredible and seemed to suggest that the abstract concept of war-and-conquer was propelled by individual persons. I briefly scanned the rest of the room which was scattered with Romanesque doorways, Elizabethan sculptures, a whole church front, altars, effigies, and crosses, but inevitably my gaze would again alight upon the Column.
“eh?” I thought, “what was that?” In its rhapsodic flight, my gaze had swept over a nearby placard. I ventured closer to read: …despite the large proportions of the gallery, the height of 83 feet is not large enough to accommodate the column in one piece, as it may be seen in Rome … The cast is displayed in two … opening of the Architectural Courts in 1873 … The sections of plaster reliefs are each individually numbered to make up a giant jigsaw…
Suddenly recommitted to finding Meagan, we made our sheepish exit, and I hoped that the couple over yonder had not overheard my naïve amazement at finding the priceless Roman art in Great Britain. Once reunited, the three of us had just enough time to scout out a sushi place before returning to the V&A for their Regency festivities which we were delighted to discover for the evening.

Reliving Regency

First that evening we watched the recreation of one of the duels between Sheridan and Matthews. LeeAnn, a fencer herself, pressed close to analyze the fencers’ techniques as we watched the two re-enactors brandishing their swords and bandying insults at one another. Next was the dance.

The Regency dancing was to be held in the room displaying the tapestries of the Acts of the Apostles. The tapestries were on loan from Her Majesty’s collection—and my mind immediately shot back through history and imagined Raphael’s hand painting those very scenes, those very eyes, those very shadows in the draping cloth. As we looked on each cartoon, LeeAnn read the pertinent biblical passages so that our ears were washed in truth as our eyes were treated to its visual representation. I had made sure to read each placard carefully lest these, too, should prove to be imposters, but each attested firmly to the 16th-century origin of the paintings.

A man and a woman in regency dress demonstrated two dances in a rather ungraceful series of hops and twirls and dips, but after watching the onlookers half-heartedly copying them, we soon took our leave. And, I must say, I was proud of our full day and late night—synchronizing our internal clocks with that of Great Britain’s was going well.

one of my favorites

24 November 2008

I've found the make of the china I've loved for awhile now--it's Wedgwood's Queen's Plain pattern. It's elegant and rustic at the same time, and its warm white compliments other colors beautifully--can't you imagine it against softly colored tablecloths with softly colored napkins folded on top? Its simplicity would ground and showoff my eclectic collection of patterned dishes so well.

The unfortunate part is that it's also discontinued and therefore rather expensive, so I'll have to assemble my collection slowly, piece by piece. But then, that's the way I've always collected china (and I've collected dishes and serving pieces for years).

Word File

22 November 2008

Cynosure: the object of attention, usually strong attention.

example: That spider scuttling down the wall--the thick-bodied joint-legged hairy-representative of all that came with the curse of Genesis 3--was now my cynosure, its ugly form stamped upon my screaming eyes, my reeling brain.


21 November 2008

When I was in the Lake District in England, I learned the term, "ethical consumer," and learned that we need to care enough to know from where we get our food, clothes, electronics.

Are we supporting local shops or major corporations? What is the business itself supporting, which we end up supporting with our patronage? Fair trade? Abortion? Certain political figures? Becoming a responsible consumer will seem overwhelming in no time, as you must pick at, ease, and tug information out from the tidy-looking product on the store shelf--but it's our duty to unravel its secrets as we shed our complacent materialism and store-bought ignorance. With this in mind, try tackling one shopping-category at a time and develop responsible habits in that area before moving on to the next.

I started with the category of food. Hey--why don't you come along with me while I shop?

Okay, for most of us, comestibles are only available at big supermarkets, but I choose my store based upon proximity--Harris Teeter is only 1.5 miles away, and those who work there make sure they always display a friendly, helpful face to those who shop there (and in transitory Hampton Roads, friendly service is not always a given). The big green cardboard monster offering free sugar cookies to "kids of all ages" is a great business strategy, for they've gotten more of my business that way than any other. I lock my bicycle up outside and head inside--tonight's menu? chicken risotto and bacon-wrapped green beans.

I already have the onion and garlic, but I need the green beans. I look at the fresh ones, and there are a few options, including some organic beans, which I must check out. I don't like their plastic packaging, but let's see where they were grown--hmm, all I see is that they were packaged in Ohio. What about the French beans next to them? Similar packaging, but again, a vague reference to where these were grown with nothing but a "product of the USA." Well, that's a start, but I hope we can do better, especially for those prices (about twice the price of the regular fresh green beans). I think I'll check out the frozen green beans, and if they were grown in the US and are cheaper, settle for those because what's fresh isn't looking much better.

The meat department is nearby, and there I'll get the chicken breast. Humane living conditions is my utmost priority when it comes to animal products, so I only scan the organic, cage free choices. The breasts are at least twice as much as the regular--$10 for four little breasts! That's out of the question; after toying with the idea of using other cuts which appeared to be cheaper, I decide to forgo the meat; afterall, I'll still get flavor with the chicken broth. As for the bacon, there is nothing organic, but one company made my choice easy, for it was "certified humane," marked with a label I'd never seen before. Hey--I'll use the bacon in the risotto, too! I do love the stuff, so adding it to everything on the dinner table appeals to me.

Chicken broth is my next item. Again, I only want the cage-free, possibly organic, variety, so I'm left with three choices--oh, a low sodium version? Kristen, immersed up to her eyebrows in nursing school, delivers a diatribe against sodium every time she visits. 70 mg per serving instead of 570 for the regular organic? Fabulous. And the price is only a tiny bit more than non-organic.

The Arborio rice is another easy decision, for there is only one bag--and it has "eco--" in the title. Check.

And that's it. I purchase it all at self check out and pile it into my reusable bag, which I stuff into my bike basket before heading home.

Word File

18 November 2008

Desuetude: state of disuse or practice

example: Although she earned her black belt several years ago, the desuetude of her skills made her question her ability to defend herself against a surprise attack.

in league with the best

"The next time you think you have an excuse why God can't use you, consider the following:

"Noah was a drunkard, Abraham was too old, Isaac was a daydreamer, Jacob was a liar, Leah was ugly, Joseph was abused, Moses was a murderer, Gideon was afraid, Samson had long hair, Rahab was a prostitute, Timothy was too young, David had an illicit affair, Elijah was suicidal, Isaiah preached naked, Job was bankrupt, John the Baptist ran around in a loin cloth, Peter was hot-tempered, John was self-righteous.

"The disciples fell asleep while praying, Martha fretted about everything, Mary Magdalene was demon-possessed, the boy with the fish and five rolls of bread was too obscure, the Samaritan woman was divorced more than once, Zacchaeus was too small, Paul was too religious, and Lazarus was dead.

"No more excuses!"

-author unknown

What I'm Reading

17 November 2008

I recently finished reading C.S. Lewis's Surprised by Joy, the account of his lifelong pursuit of that which he calls Joy and how the Divine Mercy at last intrudes into his heart. The first several chapters lull us into reading it as an autobiography flavored with the matter-of-fact candor of Saint Augustine, for Lewis, too, uses past experiences as the hard frame around which he molds the more important examination of his belief (and disbelief) in the divine, the examination which prevails over biographical details by the conclusion. In contrast to Augustine's lilting spree into metaphor and prayer, however, Lewis paces himself by the scholar's beat. His sometimes endearing recount of his boyhood play-land of Boxen, his voracious appetite for mythology, his childhood friend's encouragement to appreciate the "Homely," retains the underlying rigor of the scholar's singleness of purpose, to write how Joy pointed the way to his Savior. Joy, he writes,

was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, 'Look!' The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold (130 of this edition).

Surprised by Joy is a rather short book at fifteen chapters holding titles like "The First Years," "Renaissance," "The Great Knock," "Guns and Good Company," and "Checkmate"; but it proffers Lewis's testimony to how the "great Angler played His fish" (116). The experiences, the philosophies, the friends He placed around Lewis ultimately caught hold of the athiest and pulled him into the Kingdom.

Word File

Prevaricate: to mislead, to lie, to evade the truth

example: When confronted about the broken jug, the little girl twisted her hands and whimpered that the puppy scared her. Her prevaricating did not, however, distract me since I had prohibited her from touching the jug already and since they had no dog.

Word File

14 November 2008

Contumacious: obstinately disobedient

example: Although I coaxed and wheedled, snapping my fingers and ultimately shouting "Come," my dog remained transfixed, his four contumacious feet anchored to the floor.

Reggie's bedside manner

07 November 2008

Reggie gets a new bed each Christmas, but this year, it didn't quite make it to the holidays before ... well, it was done for.
Mom, Kathryn, and I took him to PetsMart so that he might pick out his new bed and faithful companion (very very faithful companion) for the next few months. Actually, we picked it out for him because all three of his focusing neurons scatter the moment he steps inside the dizzying array of smells and sights. We picked out a tasteful bed and brought it home, tentatively expecting a reenactment of last Christmas's glee as he received his one and only gift. Believe me, he never left its pillowy depths that whole day.

But this new bed? He hates it. He barely even deigns to touch it.

It's a mere pillow size, he says, barely big enough to support my head.

Oh, I hate it. Why is this happening to me??

Oh the size of's gone, it's gone.

Look at me...

photo courtesy of Kathryn

evolution of a librarian...

06 November 2008

Kathryn's been walking around in her apron this evening like she'! I love donning my own vintage apron as I tidy or bake because not only does it protect my clothing, but it also puts me in the mindset for whatever task I'm embarking upon. It's rather like dressing up for tests--you know, putting on that nice skirt and jacket and doing your hair all nicely so that you look polished and competent and think thoughts are polished and competent. It's simply dressing for the part.

But that's not what I'm writing about, so pardon the detour. As you might know, I've been seriously considering earning my master's in library science (MLS) in order to become a reference/research/instructional librarian in an academic institution. With this in mind I've arranged to spend a few weeks shadowing the librarians at Regent University, particularly those who work in public services. It's been so helpful to see what may lie on the other side of graduate school, the day to day routines and tasks that come with the work. Each of the librarians and staff members has been very accommodating, especially my liason, Marta. I'm getting more and more excited about my career!

Thus far, I've peeked into several departments at Regent Library, including the reference desk, circulation, periodicals, acquisitions, cataloguing, technical systems, and today I even sat in on the reference meeting. Here are some particular things I've learned in my hours at Regent:
  • it's imperative that I gain practical experience while earning my degree. The credentials are useless without applying the knowledge, and application is what employers are looking for.
  • become fluent in the language of technology. It's not worth the money to hire a librarian who cannot use the computer. Like it or not, technology is fast becoming the library's framework, and it is a useful tool.
  • that second master's degree sets the applicant apart and enables her to specialize in a particular department, something which is almost necessary in academic libraries and collection development, reference instruction, and all the rest that comes with the job. I was rather crestfallen to hear that I need to commit to earning two master's degrees rather than just the MLS, but now that I hear that I can land a job with the MLS and then earn my second while working--and probably find tuition reimbursement among my benefits, I'm delighted to have that opportunity. So...a master's in Southern literature? Medieval theology?

I've gotten the course descriptions from University of Kentucky's school of library science, and I will also look into UNC at Chapel Hill and Greensboro, both schools in neighboring North Carolina. Each of these three schools are part of the academic common market, granting Virginia residents instate tuition, which, need I say, helps me tremendously.

wandering the apple orchards

03 November 2008

On Saturday my family (except Kristen) drove up to Charlottesville for one of the last weekends left us for apple picking.

First we hit the North Garden Apple Festival...

set amid the colorful leaves of fall...
where plenty of apples were set out for sampling and purchasing...

and more were chopped and stewed in vats of apple butter.

Craftsmen set out their wares, including handmade brooms, baskets, glassware, cheese, and condiments.

A nervous looking calf and goat were penned up for petting...
and bands played throughout the afternoon...

as odd school-buses creaked by...

We wandered the stalls and, in the orchard itself, ate a delicious concoction of spiced apples and marscapone cheese served with artisan bread before heading to Carter Mountain Trail to pick our own apples.

Bins of Staymen, Pink Lady, Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious, Pippen, Winesap, and various guords allowed folks to get fresh apples without heading to the orchards...

but we ventured to the orchards to pick our own from the fruit-laden branches

or the ground beneath...

It was good to support local (well, reasonably local at three hours away) orchards and to wander among the trees, crunching the juicy fruit as we picked it. We took home several pounds as well as the odd apple cider slushy and some fabulous cider doughnuts which look like the doughnuts Lady dips in coffee in Lady and the Tramp!

Holy Ghost Wiener Roast

In celebration of fall, Rebecca, Kristen, Brandon, Kathryn, and I attended Triple R Ranch's "Holy Ghost Wiener Roast" on Friday night, where hundreds of people gathered for hotdogs, square dancing, bonfires, rock climbing, hay rides, pony rides, cider (American kind), and good music. What a delightful few hours! We met up with some friends who work at Triple R as well as the odd family or two from my old church and passed the time away dredging up old memories and making plans for new ones.

We ended up spending most of our time sitting by the fire, so after realizing that most of the venues were closing up, we beat a hasty retreat to the hayrides where our friend, David, was driving one of the tractors. There's nothing like the smell of hay and thousands of glimmering stars to draw one's soul further into the country. Although we were packed onto the wagon's bed, the deep darkness isolated one from the other in a cozy, intimate communion with the world around us--until one corner of the bed erupted in squawks and squeals over brushing up against some brittle leaves.

We finished out the evening listening to the Hunt Family Fiddlers, a family of nine that plays Celtic and American classics, singing and step-dancing to the some of them. Kristen bought one of their cds, and we listened to it on the dark and twisty-turny way home. You can read about the Hunts on their blog here.


31 October 2008

Last night Rebecca, Kristen, Brandon, Kathryn, and I gathered for our third annual pumpkin-carving. We served hot cocoa made on the stove and fresh-baked pumpkin bread (both courtesy of Kathryn); the pumpkins Kathryn and I had picked up that afternoon at a little corner garden shop called Carter's Corner, the grounds of which were laden with gorgeous round richly-colored pumpkins and occasional hand-scribbled notices informing us of the 39 cents per pound cost. I subsequently searched out the smallest and lightest pumpkins although after several minutes of searching the grounds among the little kids and their parents, my biceps were rebelling against my awkward two-gourd load. When I whimpered a feeble protest at Kathryn's more thorough search, a man smoking a cigarette calmly insisted upon taking one and carrying it to the counter with us, seemingly happy to witness another "guessing."

I got the impression that this was one of his fall entertainments, the guessing contest, as he stood placidly by watching the transaction. "Oh, I'm not very good at estimating weights," I said to the girl at the counter when she urged me to guess for a free pumpkin, but she and the cigarette-man pressed me until I half-heartedly tossed out "10 pounds?" "Go up," the girl told me conspiratorially, so I revised my guess to 12 pounds. Bingo! The first pumpkin was free. I had a go with the second, immediately surmising it a bit lighter--11 pounds perhaps? but dully stuck with my original guess to keep things simple and overestimated it by a pound. I'm still kicking myself for not going with my gut and nabbing that free pumpkin, but hey--I don't mind supporting a good business, right?

We listened to my favorite artist, Vienna Teng, as we chatted and carved until 11 at night. Rebecca carved the most artistically, executing a full-blown rose with shading carved at various depths--quite skillful. Brandon finished a jolly face in minutes, and Kathryn outlined the Beatle's logo with a pointed wheel. I think she still means to carve it out. I tried my hand at a simple school of fish, hacking out about five goldfish that don't even look as good as the cracker. Pumpkin carving is not my forte. Kristen "came to the rescue" and chiseled out swirls among them, but let's just say it's a good thing pumpkin-defacing comes only once a year for the Moore girls.

But the evening finished with three more or less completed jack-o-lanterns, a compost pile topped with stringy orange globs, and nicely toasted pumpkin seeds. I do love fall!

simple Saturday

19 October 2008

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday, and it was a pleasant day spent with Kathryn, Mom, Dad, and later on in the evening, Rebecca. Having declared the night before that I wanted few reminders of my advancing age, we spent the day as we might any ol' Saturday with only occasional interruptions of sheepish "happy birthday, Valerie"s.

I was eager to try out this recipe I had seen for Parmesan encrusted chicken, so I made some for our supper. It is a very easy yet flavorful recipe which is perfect for slicing up in a salad. I tossed spinach, greens, tomatoes, and toasted whole almonds with a simple dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, and honey which I learned from Hazel and served it with the chicken. Kathryn sliced up little purple, red, and gold potatoes, drizzled them with olive oil and salt, and baked them at medium high heat for our side. Dad and Mom put together the crowning glory, however, an eight-layer jiggly tower of chocolate cake filled with vanilla pudding and glistening with ganache over the top and sides. Its daunting presence in the middle of the table testified to where my edible priorities lie.

We rounded out the day with a quick game of a Monopoly copy-cat called Bookopoly which my parents' had picked up in the garden shop of all places. Instead of the Boardwalk or Park Place we bought lovely book-properties like Goodnight, Moon, The Sound and the Fury, and To Kill a Mockingbird. The dreaded jail space was T.V. time-out and one of the penalty cards read: Caught reading Cliffs Notes; go back 3 spaces. Isn't that fun?

a glimpse of life forward and back

16 October 2008

Last week I accompanied Kristen on her data collection trip, and we spent the weekend monitoring seat belt use in western Virginia. If ever you see a petite girl wearing a yellow reflective vest, red hat, giant purple sunglasses, and clicking dials on her clipboard, make sure you and your shot gun passenger are wearing your seatbelts properly. She can see the glint of the unused seat belt buckle dangling behind you. And she will mark you a "No" when she does.

It's rather strange the intersections we found ourselves haunting--a corner outside a general store, the edge of a big white house's lawn, a cotton field. Very little traffic passed by, but a good percentage of that traffic was friendly. More than a few times a car would roll to a stop as the inevitable elbow poked out the window, bracing the curious driver as he leaned out--"what are you doing?" "Are you selling something?" "Honey, did your car break down?" I usually watched these interchanges from Kris's car, feeling rather like a ninny in my skirt and flats in the tall dewy grasses. I could just imagine some of the unfriendly types snorting about how the damn government spends our damn tax dollars paying two lumps to chat along the side of a random road. No, for most of the sites I would read or nap in the front seat, popping out only occasionally with a funny story about a budgie or to snap photographs of fields.

Ever since I left England I have been searching for the home and land I want to own some day, and western Virginia is a step in my dream's direction with its friendly population, mom-and-pop stores, and fields--oh yes, and livestock like cows or, best of all, GOATS. The pace of life is slower here and people are content to lounge on their front porches as the cars go by. The house I will own will have a porch, a porch that's big enough for chairs and the odd table or two. I can see my children running around, my dogs scattered on the steps sniffing the air, and the occasional waft of fragrant goat wisping from the back, bug-tusseling with the sharper scent of jasmine that's planted alongside the house. I shall have vegetables planted on raised beds, a few fruit trees and soft fruits, and copper gardening tools tucked in the shed--where, ahem, my sweet little children last left them.

These children--five or six--I will teach at home, training the older to teach the younger in some subjects. They will have chores around the house and farm and no television. I want them to cultivate imaginations of their own. There's no telling what they'll come up with as entertainment--they might form an entourage of talking cats named, oh, Melissa and Maria and Mary; they might make their own mystery movie called something like "On the Verge of Darkness" that involves clever twists that truly puzzle their viewers. They might don their fluorescent Ninja Turtle helmets with interchangeable eye bands that they for some reason picked out at the toy store having never shown any interest at all in Raphael or Michelangelo and cycle around bends as they evade the "cops" since they're "robbers." They might take on the role of busy mothers named Marge Smith and Marjorie Boushingles who take their kids to ice-skating lessons--and who might inadvertently show up at the dinner table instead...

...On second thought, maybe television is villainized. I um, think I'll park them in front of the tele for the whole day 'cause there's no telling what shinanigans kids'll come up with these days...or in days in which their mother grew up.

Wwoofing Adventures #3

12 June 2008

As I pray in St. Paul's Cathedral, a choir begins to sing...softly. The sopranos are light and the basses are gentle. I see the offering pouch I noted last summer, still beneath the candle stand and proclaiming in squeaky magic marker letters that I HAVE BEEN STOLEN FROM ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL. I also hear the thud click and ratchet of commercial tourism layering its tinny sound over their holy melody. Is it a fitting illustration of the old fight between God and mammon or am I overdramatic with sleep deprivation? The information booths and stands advertising guided tours for four pounds do seem to suck the marrow out of the cathedral as the stamps authorizing our right to enter thud and click, thud and click.
Setting out from the Bird's Nest after breakfast, we had returned to central London for our self-guided walking tour along the Thames. I loosely plotted a route from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey where we would also pass by the Wibbly Wobbly Bridge (officially known as the Millenium Pedestrian Bridge), St. Paul's, Leicester Square (for the half-price ticket booths Meagan and LeeAnn were anxious to peruse), and Covent Garden. Having been awake for a day and a half by then, plodding through London forced our bodies to keep up with the new time zone and provided us with a mental map of the area which we would visit for the next few days. It was gratifying to walk through my memories of London which had lain dormant since I returned from last summer's two literature classes, and whenever I spied something familiar I rejoiced in the clarity that comes from recognizing what you have not seen in awhile.

It was overcast and every-so-often it sprinkled, but I don't think we minded much; we were still amazed to be in England actually beginning our long-anticipated wwoofing adventure. "Can you believe we're here walking around?" we breathed, words which would be repeated and rearranged as our staple phrase for the next two months. It would crop up at all places in our conversations accompanied by never-flagging head shakes and exclamations: "Oh I know!" "No, no I really can't." All the nebulous dreaming and paper-laden planning now took on real textures and experience: the slippery slick stone of the pavement and the spitting precipitation of the London sky reminded us that we were indeed here at last.

Our elatement dipped at times throughout the day such as when LeeAnn could not find a working phone card and, bordering on hysteria, finally resorted to purchasing a rip off at a small shop, or I, teetering even closer to hysteria, couldn't find a bathroom and cursed myself at every step for drinking coffee and lots of water that morning. Yes, my elation dipped as my search for a toilet took me several blocks up and down the street until I finally gave in and entered Starbuck's, traitor to the British experience. I knew they had restrooms, however, so I bought some exorbitantly-priced fruit bread to justify my use of their facilities and returned to St. Paul's where we trudged up the hundreds of steps to the outer dome and my skirt caught the wind and flew up to my chin.

--Note to self: a light and airy skirt is inappropriate for windy days and climbing openwork metal staircases with fellow tourists climbing directly beneath you.

We trudged up Fleet Street and walked right past Dr. Johnson’s house; the rainy pavement sent our cold, flip-flopped feet skating; the bridge on the way to Covent Garden turned out not to be the bridge on the way to Covent Garden. Our enthusiasm and vigor waned as the afternoon wore on until we finally sought shelter beneath the columns of the Lyceum Theatre, chilled, wet, hungry, and tired.

We decided to head back to the Bird’s Nest and finish the route tomorrow.

meet Philbert

08 October 2008

He's part puppy, part goat, part horse, part donkey...ready and, I might add, eager to play at whatever part he's needed. He's an animal of many faces and moods, something the world has never seen the likes of.

He had humble beginnings as a man's extra-large lambswool hand-me-down, fabric scraps, and buttons. Actually, I never used the buttons, but they were nice in the picture.

All of him fit on one felted sleeve, a truly economical sort of chap.

Sewn by machine and stuffed with shredded batting, he emerged in three dimensions, ready to claim the heart of any unsuspecting child.

He's attentive...

and eager to play...

He's mysterious...

and content to ponder the intricacies of life.

He is called Philbert, and he's waiting for someone special.

busy photographers

07 October 2008

This afternoon Kathryn and I toured the neighborhood with Dad's SLR as we explored the features of the old camera. My favorite thing about a manual is the control it allows me over the depth of field--it really allows me to choose exactly what I want the viewer to focus upon, literally.

So armed with manual, notebook for recording our experimental techniques, and the eager eye of the amateur photographer, we set out to learn what we could about aperture and shutter speed.

We shot a whole roll of film on our adventure.