Saturday, October 27, 2007

Creme Brulee

After a gazillion times of watching High School Musical, we decided to try making "the perfect creme brulee." Well, not the perfect one, but just a stab at it.

Basically, first you make the custard and chill it. Then you put on the brown sugar top and melt/caramelize/burn it. We put it under the broiler. Didn't work well at all. It tasted like custard with an over-toasted marshmallow on top. We decided that apple Betty was better.

Now I'm curious as to what a "perfect creme brulee" tastes like. Would it be as good as I wished, or would I still think that banana cream pie, or a Snickers, or Julie's apple cake are better desserts?

Friday, October 26, 2007


I am SO far behind on reading my Backwoods Home Magazines. But I was doing a little skimming during Maggie's swimming lesson recently. I ran across an article that really intrigued me: Funerals Don't Have to Be Expensive in the September 2005 issue. (See, I told you I was behind on my reading!)

It's hard to check out websites when you're sitting poolside. So tonight I finally got around to checking up on a few of these items. Turns out that the very nice cardboard casket in the article is no longer being manufactured. But there's a whole list of alternative suppliers of caskets. Maybe I'm morbid, but I kind of like the idea of spending $500 for a casket now, using it as a bookshelf or a linen chest, and then not having to pay the funeral director $6000 for a casket when we need one. Or maybe it's not being morbid so much as it is just being a tightwad. Of course, this scheme would leave me (or my family) with having loads of company for a funeral, and having the couch, chairs, and tables all covered with BOOKS that used to live in the casket/bookshelf and have recently been displaced.

Gary's been saying for quite a while that he should probably check out the funeral homes around here, and their prices. It would be something he could do at a leisurely pace so that the information would be available to church members when they're not in an emotional state to sort through all the decisions. I'd like to know what kind of pine boxes the funeral homes have available, so as to know whether to mail-order a casket from the guys who make Jewish caskets or easy-to-assemble pine boxes, or whether we could count on the more expensive caskets made by monks which can be shipped in the space of a day or two.

I fully intend to be one of those cruel and heartless customers who will boldly insist on seeing the "unacceptable caskets," the "welfare caskets," when visiting the morticians. I have no patience with salemen who try to pressure me into buying things. Kids, don't let them talk you into burying me and your dad in fancy boxes. Tell 'em your folks would be just fine with a used refrigerator box from the appliance store, if that were legal. And Mom, I'll go along with whatever the other kids say, and won't force them into picking cardboard or pine unless you want us to.

Psalm 78:60

He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh,
the tent He had placed among men,
and delivered His strength into captivity,
and His glory into the enemy's hand.

In the context of the psalm, which gives a run-down of Israel's history, this is obviously a reference to 1 Samuel 4-5 where the ark of the covenant is captured by the Philistines and placed in Dagon's temple.

I noticed too that the psalm makes plain that GOD was the one who delivered that ark into the hands of the Philistines; it wasn't that the Philistines overpowered God's people such that they could capture the Israelite God.

But, hey, we've been doing John at Thursday morning Bible class for the last year. So when I see "tabernacle" and "glory," I'm musing on the first chapter of John's gospel. Is this psalm about Jesus? The Father forsook the tabernacle, that is, the Son that He sent to mankind. On the cross, Jesus (the strength and the glory of God) was delivered into the enemy's hand. If this psalm is about Jesus, and if the capture of the ark was about Jesus too, then a person might even begin to wonder if part of the story is a picture of the descent into hell.

For all outward appearances, both the capture of the ark and the descent into hell were "loser" times for God. But that wasn't the reality. Look at what happened in Dagon's temple. The ark came in. And Dagon fell on his face. Dagon's priests set him upright. Next morning, Dagon was on his face again, with his head and hands broken off. Likewise, when Jesus descended into hell, it wasn't an oopsie that He had to cope with. He chose to be in that position, and it was a triumph for Him. "And every knee shall bow, in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ IS Lord to the glory of God the Father."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

John 20:20

Okay, maybe this is a no-brainer for y'all, but I was just tickled when I noticed this today. Supposedly we were studying John 13 in Bible class today, but Pastor got off on one of his "foot theology" tangents, and how the Absolution plays into that, so he was reading to us from the Quasimodo Geniti gospel.

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you." When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you!"

Y'know, I'd always thought that Jesus' showing them His wounds was one thing, and the blessing of peace was another. Y'know, He comes in, forgives them ("Peace to you") and then shows them His hands and side. Like, say, maybe to prove it was the same guy who got crucified? Or like, maybe, to show that Friday's wounds didn't keep Him from rising? Or like, maybe, this was the first resurrection appearance to which they'd have to witness, so they'd better get a good look? Okay, well, maybe all those things come into play a bit.

But it's more than that!!! He shows them His hands and side because those wounds are what made for the peace that He spoke unto them.

It's all connected.
The peace cannot BE without the wounds.
(I just think this is SO cool !!!!)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Green Drink

Whole-food vitamins seem to me to be a much better way to get supplemental nutrients into a body than using the chemical vitamins so often found in a drug-store aisle. Problem is, whole-food vitamins are not cheap (as seen by this example). I've seen price-tags of $80-120 per month per person. The cheapest I've seen is at Basics where I could get a month's worth for one person for $40 ($32 on Super-Tuesday). That's just totally out of our price range, no matter how wondrous the testimonials are as to the health benefits!

Instead of whole-food vitamins, I make green drink. It's basically the whole-food vitamins without the capsule wrapped around it. I could theoretically put the green-drink powder into capsules, but I am just waaaaay too lazy for that! So instead, I drink what my loving children fondly (or not so fondly) refer to as "pond scum."

A recipe for Green Drink is one pound each of:
alfalfa powder
wheatgrass powder
beet root powder
barley grass powder
nutritional yeast (or catnip powder)

I prefer to make Super Green Drink,
one pound each of:
blue-green algae powder
spinach leaf powder
chlorella powder
rosehips powder
orange peel
lemon peel
alfalfa powder
wheatgrass powder
beet root powder
barley grass powder
nutritional yeast (or catnip powder).

Yes, this is a mixture consisting mostly of grasses and algaes. Hence the term "pond scum."

The ingredients are mixed in equal amounts (by weight). Store covered, in a cool dark place, in a glass or plastic container. Combine a cup of cool water with a heaping tablespoon of powder. It's easiest to mix it if you use a glass jar with a screw-on lid, and shake it vigorously. One glass daily provides more nutrition than you'd get from your typical over-the-counter vitamin pill.

When I first started drinking it, it tasted very very GREEN. So I started by mixing a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon. And sometimes I added an ounce of orange juice. But eventually I got to where I could drink it. It's not exactly good. But last time I mixed up a batch, it was $7/pound, which is a pittance compared to the handy-dandy whole-food vitamins that come in capsules so as to hide the greenness from your tastebuds.

In case you're interested, I buy my powders from AmeriHerb. A catalog is available by calling 1-800-267-6141.

Friendship Sunday

Last month, a synodical representative met with the members of our church to discuss the difficult situation in which we find ourselves [money trouble]. Pastor X advised that we need to serve more cookies and donuts, have more potlucks, invite people to dinner in our homes, and call people by their first name repeatedly. That will show friendliness and people will flock to our church. More people would mean more offerings. Our money problems will be solved. When attendance at Bible class was suggested as a possible beginning to dealing with our problems, that solution was not embraced.

To be fair to Pastor X, follow-up conversations indicated that he didn't fully realize that that was pretty much all he said during the meeting, and that he actually does think there's more to be said. (You know how sometimes you think things but they don't actually make it all the way out your mouth?) Also, in the intervening weeks, he's come to realize that the situation is a little more complex than he suspected on the night he first met with the congregation.

One of the guys at church has taken to heart the advice about friendliness. So he has planned a Friendship Sunday. Coffee and donuts will pre-empt the second half of Sunday School that day. Today I read in Luther (page 384 of Day By Day We Magnify Thee) this quote:

The Word and doctrine will create Christian unity or fellowship. Where they reign all else will follow. Where they are not no concord will ever abide. Therefore do not talk to me about love and friendship, if that means breaking with the Word, or the faith -- for the Gospel does not say love brings eternal life, God's grace, and all heavenly treasures, but the Word.


Our area had a hard frost on September 14. My tomatoes made it through. Here it is, six weeks later, and I'm still getting fresh garden tomatoes. Not in abundance, but still enjoying a few here and there.

But they say you're not supposed to store tomatoes in the fridge. Outdoors overnight, it's refrigerator temperature. I'm wondering if that's going to be bad for the fruit.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


We distracted ourselves from life and did something totally uncharacteristic tonight. We just up and went to a play. I wanted so desperately to go back to APT to see Merchant of Venice again, but we couldn't fit in another visit before the end of the season. However, Merchant was the show they took on the road this year. So we went to tonight's play. Even though we had to buy tickets [gasp!]. But it was worth it! Annnnd we ended up in the spit-zone (aka, front row). Wow!

There were a lot of lines I wanted to come home and look up. One was from Bassanio. He was trying to decide which choice to make. (For those of you who don't know the story, it was kinda sorta like the girl he loved was behind "Let's Make a Deal" Door#1, Door#2, or Door #3.) To help him decide whether to choose the gorgeous option, the very nice option, or the outwardly ugly option, he mused on two analogies: one from law, the other from religion. What was duh!-factor obvious to Bassanio was something we today are suckers for buying into.

In religion, what damned error, but some sober brow will bless it and approve it with a text, hiding the grossness with fair ornament?

Ain't THAT the truth?!? Gussy-up heresy and we think it's pretty.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Depression-Era Mentality

They say that people that lived through the Great Depression learned to make do, but that for decades afterward it had an effect on the way they viewed possessions and frugality. But I think I've developed that depression-era mentality. I had to be in the mall today (to pick up a free item designed to entice us into the store to spend money) and was really rather offended by all the consumerism, the cookie store, the food court, all the clothes and shoes and jewelry and technological devices. Last week when I did paper route, I was offended by the amount of Halloween decorations out. Not because of the gore, but because of the sheer amount of dollars spent on something as frivolous as Halloween decorations. This does not set well with me that I think this: I'm too much the free-enterprise, conservative believer-in-capitalism to have these viewpoints. But there are so many things like that. I simply cannot comprehend that people have enough money to spend $20/week/child on music lessons. I simply cannot comprehend that some families do Disneyland every year. It's beyond me that I know people with antique cars or sports cars that they have just for fun. I am dumbfounded by the socializing at a bar (with $5 drinks) at pastors' conferences.

Weird thing is that I don't resent people for what they have. I just feel like such a foreigner, such a misfit, such a freak.

And I'm not sure what to do about decluttering. I'm afraid that sometimes I want to take things to Goodwill that anybody else would consider to be complete garbage, whereas I'm thinking there's still some good use left in something. When people give us hand-me-downs (like school workbooks that are 2/3 used already) I feel obliged to make use of them. When you simply cannot take the risk that you might have to buy a replacement for something 2-3 years down the road, it's very hard to let go of Stuff.

A friend was home on leave from Afghanistan. His mom told how the family attended a wedding, and her son was just kinda shocked by the amount that was spent on the wedding and reception. He knew what it could've done for the kids and the families where he was stationed over there. And to some extent I agree. Yet I think it's perfectly reasonable that people enjoy the blessings God provides. In our family we have some indulgences (DSL for the computer, and rental DVDs) that aren't necessary but that we enjoy.

It's one thing to be frugal when you have no choice. What I'm seeing in myself (and what kind of worries me) is that I'm not going to be able to let go of this. If I should someday have a decent income, I don't think it will be possible for me to spend it on clothes or interior decorating or high-quality appliances. When a whole generation of people had this depression-era mentality, people understood each other's hang-up. But for somebody my age to think like this, that just makes me a complete misfit.

Youth Group Poll

I assume most homeschooling families would respond in the same way I would. But I'm not sure about non-homeschooling families.

Would you send your kids to a youth group where the leader attends church several times a year and where the pastor would not be allowed to be involved?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

His Memory

Once upon a time we were at a bed-n-breakfast, and Dr Scaer was there too. At breakfast, he was politely making conversation and asked about our homeschooling. Somehow I got on a roll and ended up talking about how great it is that kids can educate themselves and might not even need college. Suddenly I gasped, realizing I was denigrating the necessity of college to a man who has spent most of his life as a professor. Oooops!

A few years later we were attending the symposium on the Lutheran Confessions at Fort Wayne. Being a TLH family, we had to blunder our way through unfamiliar prayer services in chapel for the first part of the week. But on the final day of the symposium, prayers were
matins from TLH,
Psalm 98 chanted from the back of the hymnal,
and hymn 132 "O God of God, O Light of Light."

Now, it so happens that we have memorized all those things. And it so happens that Dr Scaer came and sat down next to us in chapel that day. With my 16-yr-old son between me and the good doctor, we said/sang our prayers without crackin' the book.

After chapel, Dr Scaer suggested that the reason "you homeschoolers" have kids who've memorized so much of the hymnal is because we've failed to teach them to read. He suggested that it might be easier to teach them to read before they're 20 than to teach them to memorize the whole hymnal and psalter.


High School Musical

A week and a half ago, Disney's High School Musical arrived at our house as part of our Blockbuster subscription. It's been watched over a dozen times -- probably closer to 20 times. Some of the song-and-dance scenes have been played repeatedly throughout the day.

I'm not sure why we became so crazy over this movie. But we have! It's light. It's fun. It's catchy. And we just keep playing it over and over. It's not exactly like it needs your full attention when it's on. So it plays in the background, and we dance around the kitchen while sauteeing veggies and singing the songs, and other such nonsense.

We really like Chad (the hero's best friend) because he looks so much like Patchy ... except for the hair. Jane has a picture of him: Patrick is the one in the brown shirt.

The movie made me wonder why we do surgery on VCFS kids who have velo-pharyngeal insufficiency (in other words, they talk really really nasally). Three of the four lead singers in the movie do that baby-talky nasal singing. It's pretty obnoxious. But we still love the show and the songs! Maybe if VCFS kids didn't have their cleft palates fixed, they too could grow up to be famous singers!

I hope my kids don't think that high school is really like they show in the movie. Those kids are never in class. They walk around the school freely, without passes from the teachers. They come and go. They socialize all day long.

With what we hear about overcrowded high schools, and how the school has to run some classes in closets and hallways, it was a crack-up to see empty rooms available for kids to hang out in.

We are dying to try making creme brulee! "It's really satisfying," says Zeke. But I keep forgetting to skim the cream off my milk. Maybe I'll just have to buy some cream. We've web-browsed for recipes. I think we're going to have to put the dessert under the broiler, so that means we'll need a metal pan. We think we're coming up with a way to fake our way through the lack of equipment for this recipe.

The main thing I noticed about this movie was how different it was from Grease. So many people told me that it was like Grease. There was one main thing I hated about Grease, though. The message was to change yourself so that the guy (or girl) would like you. In Grease, the wholesome girl became sleazy to attract the guy she liked. It seemed to me that, at the end of the movie, I always got the message to "sell out who you are so you will find friends." And that's the exact opposite of the message of High School Musical. Personally, I think high school IS (and will remain) the place where everybody is supposed to stay in their own groups, their own cliques, and stick to their "own stuff" (not playing a cello or doing hip-hop dancing, unless that is what Your Group does). Nevertheless, the movie's message is that we should accept diversity and work together, as shown by one athlete who bakes, another athlete who sings, a skateboarder who plays cello, and one of the geeky smart girls who sings too.

And Rachel, I'm not sure whether you should get this for Dad for Christmas. I'm not sure he can send it back to Blockbuster without buying a copy for himself right away. Of course, he did say yesterday that he thinks he's had his fill and could consider returning it now for the next movie on the list.