Friday, August 08, 2008

1800's Hymns

The funeral yesterday evening for Milly was crowded with non-members. Our insurance agent sat in front of me. The librarian was a couple rows in front of him. Our neighbors across the street were there too. Milly's kids are involved in the community, and their friends and neighbors turned out to support them in their time of grief ... and were blessed (whether they know it or not) to hear the good news of Jesus' forgiveness preached to them in a way that non-Christians too could hear it.

There was a discussion recently over on Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds about hymnody. Some pastors made the case for choosing only the best. Other pastors made the case for allowing people some of their "old favorites" from the hymnal, even though there are stronger hymns that might better vivify faith. Pastor Cwirla called the Favorites "ear candy." Pastor Stuckwisch pointed out that the hymns people have learned by heart are very very dear to them, and unless they are just plain terrible, it is not wise for the shepherd to take away those precious hymns. (Seconded by the woman who is still deeply saddened that there are far too few stanzas of Gerhardt's Christmas and Advent hymns in LSB!)

The hymns at the funeral tonight were "God Loved the World So That He Gave" and "Rock of Ages" and "Abide With Me" and "I Know that My Redeemer Lives." Those are not particularly Lutheran hymns. They're fairly ecumenical. Lots of the non-Lutherans knew these hymns. Even some who have fallen away were still familiar with these hymns. Some of the songs we sang tonight would not pass muster for some pastors. They aren't the strongest choices of hymns available. A few of them have that schmaltzy feel that is so common to hymns from that century ... and which is a big part of what endears those hymns to many people.

But you know what? Those hymns still speak the Gospel. "Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to Thy cross I cling." "Christ Jesus is the ground of faith who was made flesh and suffered death." "And justified by Jesus' blood, thy Baptism grants the highest good." "What but Thy grace can foil the Tempter's power?" And people knew those hymns. Those familiar hymns could reach folks where something "better" probably would not have.

And isn't that the point?

20-25 years ago I could not have fed my husband the vegetables and whole grains that he willingly and appreciatively eats now. It was a long, slow change-over. Sometimes I would decide [boom!] we were going to start eating right, and no more of this monkeying around. Sad to say, it wasn't only my husband and the kids who had taste-buds revolting at that sudden change to what was good for us; I revolted against my own proclamation. We needed to adjust. We needed to slowly change our palates. And we're not where we "should be" yet. Probably never will be.

No matter what our minds know is good for us, we still want what we want. It may be mac&cheese. Or it may be less-than-stellar hymns. But as long as the bulk of the hymnody in a congregation is excellent and strong, even the "pretty okay" hymns can still have redeeming qualities.

Glasses to Grab

A couple of years ago, I walked into Woodman's to find glasses in one of the carts near the entrance, the carts where over-ripe bananas live, and where the second-day bakery is begging to be taken home, and where the Easter candy lives on Easter Monday. The pint-sized glasses can take hot or cold liquids, and were being sold for only a dollar. We were short of glasses, and these were thick and heavy and nice. They could even tolerate holding some hot cider for us in fall. The only thing I ever regretted about that purchase was that I bought only 8.

This week I was checking out of the liquor store at Woodman's, and they had low-ball glasses in a cart by the check-out lane. Only 50 cents each. The only small glasses we have are
a) Tupperware,
b) jelly jars, or
c) mugs that came with the dishes.
These were real glasses, so I nabbed 6. They are such a nice size, and feel so comfortable in your hand. We've owned them for a whole three days now, and usually I can't get one out of the cupboard because they've already been used by other people and are sitting with the dirty dishes. Here I was, Tuesday, worried about wasting $3, and now I'm sitting here with no regret except the one I had over the pint glasses: I should've bought more. It's amazing how such a little thing can brighten things up.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

"100" -- Medicinal

42. Both the leaves and the flowerheads are much bigger in RED CLOVER than in white clover. And red clover doesn't have the gloriously sweet smell that white clover does. Red clover, though, is good for fighting cancer.

43. The purple coneflowers are ECHINACEA, the herb often used to support the immune system's response to viral infection.

44. The yellow flowers in the same picture are called rudbeckia. I kept trying to find out how they differed from BLACK-EYED SUSAN, until finally I discovered that one is the scientific name and the other is the common name for the same thing.

45. Remember what I said earlier about mint? Leaves in pairs, directly across from each other, and each pair offset from the pairs above and below it? And a square stem -- that's a huge clue to finding a mint. I put PEPPERMINT in my backyard at the parsonage; that's where this picture was taken. Mints can spread wildly and take over. That's why the former owner of this house had her mints in small planters. I haven't done much to keep them alive, but last time I checked, the peppermint wasn't a goner yet. It's nice to have mint around for tea or cooking ... or upset tummies. However, I prefer spearmint. My spearmint never "took" though.

46. Good for soothing and calming; we find it in Sleepytime tea. Also good for upset stomachs, as Peter's mother told him after he'd eaten too much and gotten stressed out in Mr McGregor's garden. "She made some CHAMOMILE tea; and she gave a dose of it to Peter! One tablespoonful to be taken at bedtime. But Flopsy, Mospsy, and Cottontail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper."

"100" -- Roadside

38. There are lots of different fleabanes, but since I love daisies so much, the DAISY FLEABANE is one of my favorites. Fleabane looks quite similar to the asters, but the fleabane is smaller (flowers are usually littler than a dime) and bloom in late summer, as opposed to the asters which will bloom in fall.

39. BLADDER CAMPION is a white wildflower. They have a "balloon" out of which 5 white petals spread. The rounder "balloons" are the female flowers and the skinnier, darker ones are the male flowers.

40. I used to love the blue morning glory flowers as a child. When I started noticing white "morning glory" crawling along the side of country roads, or climbing other plants, I thought it was pretty. Then I found out it's BINDWEED and a pest because of how badly it gets tangled into things

41. Mints are easily identified by the stems and the leaves. Mint leaves come in pairs, right smack across from each other, and each pair is 90° criss-crossed from the pairs above and below it. Mint stems are square, so square that you can easily feel the sides of the square with your fingers. BERGAMOT has a smell reminiscent of the bergamot orange which is what flavors Earl Gray tea.

"100" -- Thistles

35. When you see it from a distance, SPOTTED KNAPWEED makes you think of Canada thistle. But it's not. No prickles. Different genus.

36. BULL THISTLE is the big, honkin' thistles, the ones that can grow to 6' tall if you don't mow 'em back, the ones where the purple flower is bigger than a ping-pong ball, and maybe nearly as big as a large plum or a raquetball. Bull thistles have prickles on their leaves, on their stems, and even on their flowerheads.

37. CANADIAN THISTLES are the smaller thistles, but even harder to eradicate than the bigger, meaner ones. Unlike the bull thistles, Canadian thistles have prickles only on the leaves, not on the stems and flowers. If you try to dig up Canadian thistle, even the tiniest bit of root left in the ground will grow a new plant. That's why we keep finding them all over the place!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Swimming Pool

I give up. (Y'know, I think we finally gave up on the real pool about 4 months ago.) After some frustration at the beach, culminating in the shocking [to me] events of last week, we decided maybe we really did need a pool in the yard. We reasoned that the kids needed more exercise than I can manage to get them to do. We needed fun exercise that was easily available. And we needed cool exercise for these two who get SO hot and uncomfortable.

It's the time of year when pools go on clearance. We found one of those large pools that is soft-sided, with a big blue inflatable donut that floats on top of the water and holds up the sides. To me, it essentially seemed like an oversized kiddie pool, with a filter. We were willing to use it for 5-6 weeks yet this summer, take it down, and set it up again next year. And it's cheaper to purchase now than later.

But once we opened the box and took out the instructions, we found some surprises. The pool has to be on level ground. Well, duh, I knew that. But they mean REALLY level. Like, so level that if you start putting water in it, and get an inch of water in one spot while another spot is still dry, you have to take down the pool, level the ground better, and start over. Hey, this is kettle-moraine area, and we ain't got no place to put a pool that's 15' diameter! Okay, well, maybe we can fudge a bit. And maybe we could move some sand and dirt to make things a bit more level. There are two spots in the yard that are kinda sorta close to being quasi-level. But then we continued to read the instructions.

Can't put it under power lines. Shoot, one of our places is under power lines. It must be 10-21 feet away from a grounded electrical outlet. Nope; we'd need an extension cord for either of those two places. What if we fudged and used an extension cord? Well, after doing some internet research, that didn't sound so good.

And then there's the chemicals and the daily cleaning. And the tarp we'd have to buy to go under the pool, and the solar blanket to go on top of the pool, and the electricity to run the filter. Overall, it just seemed like there were a lot of things to consider that should've been listed on the outside of the box instead of hidden in the set-up directions inside the box.

So the pool is boxed back up. And I'm hoping that the store will take it back and refund our money. And now I have to figure out what other options I have for taking kids swimming. Ron (the sweet guy from church that I met at the grocery store last week after being at the beach) told me tonight where there's a really nice beach. It's further away, and there's a daily charge to get into the park and to get into the beach too. But at least it's a possibility.

Bummers. I thought I'd figured out the solution to something. But after a week of puzzling and problem-solving, I'm right back to where I started with the problem.

Car Shopping

I'm trying to think if there's anything I hate more than car shopping. Hours and hours online, sorting through ads. Finally finding a couple of decent options, calling the owners, and finding that the vehicle was already sold but the ad hadn't been taken down yet. Telling myself that it would be far better financially to buy from another person, rather than going to a dealership to hunt up a used car. And yet, after hours of trying to find a privately sold car, thinking that spending an extra $3000 would be much better than continuing to sort through ads.

I keep thinking I have better things to do than this....

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Peach Pie

Why would anybody take a perfectly wonderful peach, full of juicy sweetness, raw and healthy, and do anything but eat it "plain"?

Uhhhhh... because peach pie is wonderful???

Oh, the peaches at Piggly Wiggly this week have been awesome. Delicious. Ripen nicely without bruises. Super price. Sweet as can be. So we gobbled up the first batch. And the second batch we turned into pies. Trying to combine a variety of recipes into one that suited me, I came up with the combination below. I'm especially glad I discovered that it works just fine to leave the skins on the peach. More nutrition that way. But more importantly, a whole lot less work!

Top and bottom crusts for 10" pie.
6 medium peaches (about 6 cups sliced, or 2.5#)
1 rounded cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tbsp peach schnapps

Roll out bottom crust for pie.
Combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon in large bowl.
Slice peaches into bowl, tossing sugar with peaches now and then, as peaches are added to the bowl.
Add schnapps and stir gently.
Fill pie with peach mix.
Top with second crust, seal edges, and cut steam vents.
Bake at 400 for about 40 minutes.
Let cool before eating so that the juicy-goo doesn't run all over the place when you slice the pie.
And then kick yourself for not making two pies instead of just one.

Monday, August 04, 2008


Saturday was the zoo-day for Gary's workplace. No, they weren't all supposed to act like monkeys that day. It was a day AT the zoo for employees and their families, with the company paying for tickets, parking, train rides, sea lion show, lunch, etc. It was a perfect day; you couldn't have ordered-up better weather. The lunch was great, with Asian, Mexican, Italian, and American buffets, fresh fruit, drinks (alcoholic and non), and loads of ice-cream treats.

We have been accustomed to enjoying the Madison zoo, and I love that place. The Milwaukee zoo is bigger and more spread out. (That leaves you tireder when you get home that night. LOL.) Because we attended some of the entertainment at the zoo rather than just watching animals, we were surprised to see how much environmental propaganda is interwoven with the scientific "facts" on the cage-labels and in the narration at the sea-lion show.

Andrew and Paul and I were keeping an eye on scientific names of animals and trying to make sense of them. One of the songs from our science CDs teaches us about "kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species make the name, you see." We were beginning to get confused, as the "panther" genus includes the species of lions and tigers and bears, oh my (NO) leopards and jaguars. But not cheetahs. And not (interestingly enough!) panthers. Panthers and cheetahs, though, join the others in the feline family. Wondering what the other scientific classifications were, we knew it was the animal kingdom, and Wikipedia showed us that the phylum is the group with spinal columns, while the class is mammals, and the order is carnivores. Other classes of vertebrates are groupings such as birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. It's been interesting trying to make sense of these categories, such as chamomile being in the plant kingdom, the division/phylum of plants that flower, the class of composite flowers, and the order of asters or ray-flowers. I think too many of the items in my "100 species" posts are actually a genus instead of a species. Oh well. At least we're narrowing down the items, so that we call it something more precise than just "a plant"!

Body Odor

Something noticed in recent months: a cat smell. When we were house-hunting, some houses had a cat smell and others didn't. I'm not particularly fond of cat-smell, even though I like the cats. But what I've noticed recently is that it's not Athena who contributes cat-smell to the house. It's Rosie. Athena eats real food. She eats what a cat is supposed to eat. She catches live food (with enzymes -- LOL) and eats the whole thing, bones, fur, guts, and all. Rosie, however, eats processed food. She is a lousy huntress, and eats the food from the store. Granted, it's a relatively "real" and less-processed cat food than most of what's on the shelves, but it's still grocery store food, as opposed to the hunter-gatherer food that is the mainstay of Athena's diet. And Rosie is the one who has An Odor.

Is there a lesson here for people-diets?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Refrigerator Muffins

Katie asked how to make these, as she does not have the church-cookbook collection that I have. There are so many recipes for this, with minor variations, that I have to say you don't need to worry about being too exact with this one. For example, the box of cereal can be bran flakes or Raisin Bran, and anywhere from 10-15 ounces.

Mix together in very large bowl:
1 box bran flakes
5 cups flour
2-3 cups sugar
1 ½ Tbsp baking soda
½ Tbsp salt

1 quart buttermilk
4 beaten eggs
1 cup oil

Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Let sit at least 6 hours before using batter. Store in the refrigerator, in a covered container, for up to six weeks (depending on freshness of the eggs).

Bake in greased muffin tins at about 375-400° for about 15-20 minutes. A 15-oz box of Raisin Bran will yield about 5 dozen muffins with this recipe.

Forgetting Butter

Forgetting has been the problem of late.

I put in a load of laundry, turn on the machine, and discover that I forgot the detergent. I discover this when I open the machine hours later (because, after all, earlier I forgot that I was doing laundry at all) and discover clothes that don't smell at all clean.

Earlier this week, I took off in the car for the emissions test (necessary to renew the license plate) and forgot the paperwork. Later that day, we headed off to the beach without the beach pass to get in, and no money for the entrance fee.

On Thursday night, I was finishing thawing some meat in the microwave. (I had remembered to take it out of the freezer in plenty of time. Really, I had. But for some reason it didn't thaw in a timely way. Go figure.) I couldn't figure out why the meatloaves were so small if I was making 6# of hamburger into meatloaf. Discovered the next morning that over 2# of hamburger had spent the night in the microwave. I'd forgotten to take it out and add it to the dinner when it was done thawing.

I often forget to turn on the stove/oven to heat something. More frequently, when it's done I forget to turn off the oven. Last night, making pies, I took the first one out and [ah ha!] remembered to turn the oven off. Trouble was, there was still a pie in the oven, and another that needed to go in. I wonder how a 200° oven will effect a pie crust?

Yesterday, I found over-ripe bananas at the store for el-cheapo. Woo hoo! Banana cookies tantalizing me...! So I come home, start to throw them together, and discover there isn't enough butter in the fridge. Okay, I'll get some out of the freezer and nuke them. I poured half the melted butter off into the recipe, put the bowl back into the microwave, and proceeded to add the rest of the ingredients to the cookie dough while the rest of the butter finished melting. And then [surprise!] forgot the rest of the butter. Later somebody found a bowl of melted butter in the microwave.

Well, there's one thing I've learned from that. I used to think I liked shrimp and lobster and crab legs. You know what? They're quite okay. But what I actually like is the butter you dunk them in!!!