Saturday, August 01, 2009


We picked enough beans earlier this week to add to a stirfry, but tonight was the first time I picked and got almost enough for the supper veggies. I'm beginning to realize that my garden this year is only big enough to be a hobby (because I need a hobby??) and not enough to really supply us much food -- much less produce enough that we can put some veggies up for winter. See my watermelon vines? I think we'll be awash in watermelon. Yummy! The cantaloupes, though, hiding behind the tomatoes, just aren't setting fruit. Gary's even tried hand-pollinating them. We may have to try some more. Cucumbers are in the front corner by the corn -- I hear that the spikey cukes and winter squashes may serve as a deterrent to corn robbers (aka skunks and raccoons).

Our salsa pepper is the plant that bore earliest and, so far, most prolifically. When we picked the first one --not knowing how hot it might be-- I wasn't careful to wear gloves when I chopped it. Burn burn burn! Not gonna make that mistake again! I hope these peppers keep coming along until after the tomatoes ripen. I'm drooling over the salsa possibilities. (Of course, the cilantro ain't doin' squat, so I may have to buy that...)

Beans and one zucchini plant are up in the one raised bed. The other has itty-bitty teeny-tiny rows of turnip and spinach and carrot and lettuce and rutabaga and other stuff.

My sprinkler broke yesterday. The replacement sprinkler doesn't reach as far. My asparagus (in the corner of the "L") was barely dampened with yesterday's watering. We'll need another length of hose or the self-discipline to remember to go out with the sprayer to water that corner. There's a little parsley tucked between the blueberries and blackberries, close to the front of the picture. Yukon Gold potatoes are planted down the middle of this garden section, between the baby raspberries.
Somebody who left hoofprints has been nibbling the leaves of my strawberries. Somebody should die and end up in my freezer. I've heard that the smell of humans can serve as a deer deterrent. So, can you get arrested for public indecency (which in these modern days classifies you as a sex offender) if you decide to pee around the edges of your garden? If you did it at night, the neighbor kids wouldn't catch you. But the mosquitoes would -- owie! Athena does a great job takin' down Thumper, but I don't think she's going to stop Bambi. Given the weird shape of our yard, and the hills and the septic mound, our garden spots are going to have to fit into weird locations with weirder shapes, and 6' high deer-proof fencing could get rather expensive for our garden spaces.

Today's Laugh

A man had to attend a large convention in Chicago. On this particular trip he decided to bring his wife. When they arrived at their hotel and were shown to their room, the man said, "You rest here while I register for the convention. I’ll be back within an hour."

The wife lies down on the bed. Just then, an elevated train passes by very close to the window and shakes the room so hard she’s thrown out of the bed.

Thinking this must be a freak occurrence, she lies down once more. Again a train shakes the room so violently, she’s pitched to the floor.

Exasperated, she calls the front desk and asks for the manager. The manager says he’ll be right up. The manager is skeptical but the wife insists the story is true.

"Look, lie here on the bed. You’ll be thrown right to the floor!"

So he lies down next to the wife. Just then the husband walks in.

"What are you doing here?" he yells.

The manager replies, "Would you believe I’m waiting for a train?"

Friday, July 31, 2009

Rasberry Custard Pie

Combine 3/4 cup sugar
and 2 Tablespoons cornstarch.
Pour sugar over 1 quart of raspberries,
and heat gently (do not cook!) until sugar melts.
(I did it in the microwave.)

While the sugar is melting into the raspberry juice, make a single 10" pie crust and place into pie plate.

Gently stir sugar into berries.
In another bowl, combine
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk

Pour berries into raw pie crust.
Pour egg/milk mix over the berries.

Bake at 350 for about 75-80 minutes, until egg is set and top of pie is beginning to turn golden. Do not try to shorten cooking time by baking in a hotter oven. Let cool completely before you even think of cutting the pie.

Sihon and Og

My mom read me lots and lots of Arch books when I was little, and because of that I tend to know my Bible stories pretty well. But Sihon and Og? That's one I either didn't hear, or it's one I forgot.

So many of the psalms work their way through salvation history, telling the wonders God had done for the Israelites. Our psalm for this week is 136, and we run across it every day: "Sihon, king of the Amorites" and "Og, king of Bashan." And I don't know what's what.

So I dug through the Torah until I found the references. After the forty years of wilderness wanderings following the Passover and the exodus from slavery in Egypt, it was time for the Israelites to go into the Promised Land. The high priest Aaron had just died. The Israelites defeated their first Canaanite foe. Then they headed the long way around Edom. The people started sassing Moses. Again! God sent the fiery serpents, and we hear the story of how those who were bitten were saved when they looked at the bronze serpent on the pole. After they worked their way through a few more campsites, God gave them water.

Then Israel asked permission to pass through Sihon's land, promising not to touch anything. Sihon said "no way" and came out to fight, and the Amorites lost their territory. Then Israel again set out on the path toward Canaan. Og wasn't any more pleased about these millions of people traipsing through his land than Sihon had been. So Og and his armies came out to fight. They fared no better than Sihon's armies. And then we get back to familiar stories again, with the Israelites hanging out in Moab, on the east side of the river, across from Jericho, and the Moabite king in a panic and calling for Balaam to curse the interlopers.

Today's Laugh

One day, an immigrant from Poland entered a New York City Police Precinct to report that his American wife was planning to kill him.

The police officer on duty was intrigued by this and he asked, "How sure are ya that she is gonna kill ya? Did she threaten to kill ya?"

"No," replied the nervous immigrant.

"Did ya hear her tell someone else that she’s gonna kill ya?"


"Did someone tell ya that your wife is gonna kill ya?"


"Then why in God’s name did ya think she’s gonna kill ya?" asked the exasperated police officer.

"Because I found bottle on dresser and I think she gonna poison me!" He handed the police officer the suspect bottle.

The police officer took one look at the label on the bottle and started to laugh out loud. The immigrant became indignant and said, "What so funny? Can't you see the label on bottle said, 'Polish Remover'?"

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Not Too Much

It makes for a glorious day full of joy when a person doesn't try to do in one day what should normally be accomplished in the space of three days. Trying to do too much always makes for stress. And it makes for failure when at the end of the day only a small portion of the day's needs were met. It's totally different when a person is trying to do a reasonable amount of work. Then there's satisfaction in what was done!

Parenting Lessons from the Garden

The tender, new, little plants are more likely to be nibbled by the bugs than are the bigger, stronger plants. Maybe sugar and caffeine and TV won't do as much damage to a 15-yr-old as they will to a 3-yr-old.

Plants will live when there's not quite enough water, but they need abundant water to grow lush. Baptism and the Word?

Daily attention to pulling weeds, five minutes here, ten minutes there, every day, when you're not making a "job" of weeding, prevents problems. Going away for a week or two of vacation results in a huge mess that takes a while to fix. That's when you notice how significant the daily work has been.

New little strawberry plants should not be making fruit but should grow strong for their own health during the first year.

Plants take more space and more attention from the gardener when they're big than the gardener expected when they were just little sprouts.

The amount of fertilizer that helps a mature plant will probably be enough to burn a baby plant.

Without pruning, a vine or tree doesn't make proper fruit.

A gardener may do everything right and still end up with a poor crop. A gardener may do loads of stuff wrong and still reap a great harvest. The work is ours to do, but the results are in the Lord's hands.

Today's Laugh

A customer sent an order to a distributor for a large amount of goods totaling a great deal of money.

The distributor noticed that the previous bill hadn’t been paid. The collections manager left a voice-mail for them saying, "We can’t ship your new order until you pay for the last one."

The next day the collections manager received a collect phone call: "Please cancel the order. We can’t wait that long."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The New Creation

The beginning of Psalm 148 calls on the angels and the Sabaoth, the sun, moon, and stars, the heavens, to praise the Lord. Then it says why:

For He commanded and they were created.
He also established them forever and ever;
He made a decree which shall not pass away.

At the end of the world, come Judgment Day, the world will be destroyed by fire. God will make a new heaven and a new earth. I always thought that meant God was going to destroy it all and start over.

But now I'm wondering.

We believe in the resurrection of the body. We don't believe in a "do-over." WE will be in heaven with our bodies. We won't be different people, with different bodies. We will be our own selves, albeit with resurrected bodies that have been made gloriously free from the effects of sin.

Paul tells us (Romans 8) that the whole creation is yearning with eager expectation for the end of the world, for Judgment Day when the Christians will be revealed, when the world will be made new. Does that mean the sun and moon and stars are not going to be obliterated any more than people will be? Does that mean they too will be freed from the curse and made new? Are the rocks and the stars and mountains going to be like the people, where it's not a "scratch that, let's start over" but a perfecting and remake of what God already created?


Butter = $0.95 per cup
Walmart's cheapest coconut oil = $1.40 per cup
Real lard from the Darien butcher = $0.35 per cup
Hydrogenated lard from the store = $0.60 per cup
Aldi's raw olive oil = $2.00 per cup
Woodman's cheapest raw olive oil = $1.90 per cup
Woodman's cheapest olive oil = $1.50 per cup
Off-brand shortening = $0.50 per cup
Pomace oil = $0.70 per cup

I ran out of lard when I made soap last week. I can't find butchers around here that actually kill animals and sell the meat and other parts; the "butchers" here are just meat stores. I think I may actually have to buy some Crisco for use in seasoning skillets; it's killin' me to wipe coconut oil and olive oil on my skillets.

I've been using lard for two reasons. 1) It was the cheapest fat I could find. 2) I'd rather use unrefined fats than chemist-made fats. Of course, pigs are unclean animals, so I'm not sure that my usual plan ("I'd rather eat the fat God made than the fat the scientist made") pans out for lard.

Looking online for information on fats, I discovered that somebody else uses the same thing I'd been using as a shortening-replacement. In recipes that called for Crisco, I was using part butter and part lard, with a little more butter than lard. It seemed to work nicely, giving a buttery taste instead of such a piggy taste, with more of a shortening-texture to the baked goods.

For all the grand things my friends have told me about coconut oil and its health benefits, I'm finding that it stinks as a product for greasing pans. When I've used coconut oil to grease the granola pan or bread pan, I can't detach my food from my baking dish. It also makes cornbread turn out with a weird non-cohesive texture.

I wonder if grocery-store meat departments sell suet at this time of year. I have no idea how much it costs.

Last week I made a batch of home-made soap with Crisco. I wonder if the processed fat will work okay, or if it will give me rashes like the typical store "bath bar." If it works, it'd be a lot easier than rendering and washing animal fats. If not, I'm going to have to take a long drive to a real butcher. On the other hand, pomace isn't that much more expensive than the Crisco imitations.

But in the meantime, I'm gonna have to find me some lard, somehow, somewhere.

Crazy Site-Meter

Since a couple of cyber-stalkers seem to have lost interest in my blog, I haven't been keeping a very close eye on my site-meter to know how many people visit my blog or where they come from. It's usually fairly consistent. But now and then, there's an odd spike in the site-meter, and I wonder who must've linked to me and what the visitors were coming to read that day. I know sometimes I do that to other people, where they are puzzled by a sharp upturn in their hits, and it's because I happened to link to one of their posts.

Yesterday I happened to notice as the same thing was happening on my blog. Wow, my site-meter was spinnin' like crazy! Pr Weedon was amused by yesterday's joke of the day, linked to it on his blog, and I got as many hits just from his blog as I usually get in a day and a half. That was fun to watch, especially thinking of other people chuckling over that joke that I enjoyed so much!

Day By Day

In the past, I always got side-tracked during the late summer and early fall as I read Day by Day We Magnify Thee (also available in an updated reprint)*. Somehow, the July-to-September readings on sanctification and fruit and citizenship and good works always seemed so oppressive that eventually I just kinda sorta didn't get around to reading it each day. I'd pray my psalms and collects, but would climb out of bed and "forget" to read Day By Day.

As time went on, as I continued to listen to true preaching, as I began to understand the freedom of a Christian and the way the Gospel (not the Law!) works in us to change hearts and lives, I began to realize that my Day by Day wasn't getting set aside during summer. Those things that Luther had written became joyful and good and comforting, and were no longer seen as the demands that I'd always felt them to be.

But now that we're in the three-year pericopes, now that the readings in Day by Day are disconnected from the flow of one week's sermons into the next, it's getting hard again to keep reading them through this time of year. I find this sad, and I don't quite know what to do about it.

* Footnote -- Interestingly, now that the book is back in print, the price on the used copies of the original has dropped from $40-100 down to $1-4. That's how good this book is, that people were willing to pay $40 or more to buy it when it was out-of-print.

Ebay Sales

We have books that need to be sold. I started listing Paul's textbooks from last semester on It's so hard to know how to price them. On the one hand, I want them out of the house! I want to be paid something for them. But I don't want to price them so high that they'll be sitting around here while ebay-shoppers buy somebody else's textbook instead of mine. So we've been going with the theory that we'll price it lower than most of the others, maybe what we'd get from a book buy-back at the college bookstore.

You know you've probably picked a too-low price when the textbooks are snapped up in a matter of hours ... by buyers who appear to be dealers. Shoot, I wanted the books to go to other frugal college students, not to dealers who'll jack up the price for a profit. Oh well, at least we whittled down the pile of books on our shelf. And we sold enough to pay for the bulk of fall semester's textbooks. Yippee!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

For What Reason?

Sunday's [three-year] epistle was from Ephesians 3 and began, "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His grace, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man."

One thing Pastor has taught us is to go back and look for the reason preceding a "therefore" ... because it matters.

Since the previous verse says, "Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory," I'm wondering if that's what "for this reason" refers back to. Paul is praying that God would strengthen his hearers ... because it shakes them up when they see his suffering for the sake of ministering to them??? It would make sense.

But then you've got another "therefore" at the beginning of verse 13. Why doesn't Paul want his hearers to lose heart? Because God has all this grace and love to pour out on the world, not just on the Jews, but on the Gentiles too. And He sends Paul so that this wisdom can go out into all the world. And Paul's saying, "Look at this awesome mystery of how expansive is God's love in Christ, and don't let it scandalize you that I might suffer a little as I'm preaching it all over the place."

I don't know about you, but for me, looking at the first half of the chapter altogether changes how the second half of the chapter sounds. Almost like as if they were plagued in the first century with a desire for the theology of glory that their pastors were trying to save them from.


We babysat Gus today! Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

It's so NICE to know that somebody loves me enough that she feels comfortable calling and saying, "Can you watch him for an hour or two?" Ohhhh, I feel so loved!

And babies are fun!

I forgot how much I talktalktalktalk when there's a little one around who gets The Running Commentary On Life, and how to make the bread, and how to sort the clothes, and what we're seeing on a walk, and what color his toy is, and all that stuff you jabber about to babies.

Phil Donahue

Cheryl's got a great little clip of Milton Friedman explaining to Phil Donahue why it's not a wretched, evil, terrible, nasty thing to have an economic system that runs on greed. So after seeing it, one of my children asks, "Who's Phil Donahue?"

I'm old.

Today's Laugh

A husband looking through the paper came upon a study that said women use more words than men. He was excited to prove to his wife that he had been right all along when he accused her of talking too much. He showed her the study results.

It read: "Men use about 15,000 words per day, but women use 30,000."

The wife thought for a while, then finally she said to her husband, "It's because we have to repeat everything we say."

The husband said "What?"

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wonderful Doctor!

Is this too warped? It was such a relief when the doctor said, "Oh, man! You are SO messed up! You are in terrible shape!"

My tailbone began hurting the last weekend of March. It's been hard to be sitting, hard to get up and sit down, hard to carry things, impossible to run. There for a while it was taking several minutes to haul my body out of bed to a vertical position. I figured I'd bruised my tailbone, and that takes a long time to heal. But it's been four months now. How long am I supposed to be patient?

This weekend I saw a blogpost about the mental-health benefits of exercise. That's what I experienced in the four years that I was jogging two miles daily. But then I had to cut way back because of some [hopefully temporary] bad ramifications for physical health. In April I had to cut out all exercise because of the back pain from my injured tailbone. But after a while, you've got to balance the good the exercise does against the bad it does, ... and so I went out race-walking for just one little mile today. I've got to get back into it.

I also saw the doctor today. After checking for cysts, rashes, or other possible signs of injury to the tailbone, he checked my alignment. (I feel like a Buick.) That's when he burst out with "Oh, man, you are SO messed up." But that's good. If my back is out of whack, he can straighten it. He said he'd never seen my legs so uneven and my hips and pelvis so locked. There was plenty of wincing and gasping in pain, which incited the doctor to a speech about the necessity of anti-inflammatories [read: aspirin and/or Advil] even if I'm not hunting for pain relief.

The doctor straightened my back, popped a pelvic disk back into place, and gave me therapy exercises to keep working on popping that disk into place. He said it's been messed up for so long that I'm going to have to keep convincing it to get back where it belongs.

I am SO sore now, but there's hope that the pain of the past few months isn't just a slow-healing bruise. It's mis-alignment that is relatively easy to correct. Maybe in another week or so I won't be so pokey as I go about my tasks. Maybe I won't ache so much. And maybe I can get back to my jogging and the benefits it brings.

Unintended Compliment

As we talked about the garden last night, Gary mentioned how nice it looks and how weed-free. He wasn't saying "thank you" and he wasn't intending to compliment; it was just an observation. Since most of the weeding is done during the day while he's at work --and when the mosquitos aren't quite so vicious-- I don't think he realizes how much time is spent on the weeding. Actually, I'm the one doing it, and I don't realize how much time is spent on it either; I just keep getting distracted out there whenever I go to move the sprinkler and then just grab that one dandelion out of the soil ... and 45 minutes later come back indoors. Oops. That weeding can be addictive when it's not a "chore" for the day and you're "just going to get that one." Kinda like Lays Potato Chips -- betcha can't eat just one.

I don't know why, but his comment last night, which wasn't even intended to be nice or make me feel good, is one of the nicest compliments I've heard in a long time. It makes me think about what I've read on the topic of self-esteem and praise and what kind of compliments actually help encourage a person.

And, really, the garden does look very nice.

Staking Tomatoes

I have tried all sorts of ways to hold the tomatoes up. We've used the tomato cages; the weight of the tomatoes makes the cage fall over. We've tried having them climb little brackets of criss-crossed fencing, but tomatoes don't want to hang onto it like as if they were peas or grapes with grabby little tendrils. We've tried letting them sprawl on the ground, but that makes it hard to find the tomatoes and is just asking for slugs to snack on the tomato you'd planned to put on your BLT. We've tried staking, but as the plant grows, the stakes either snap or are yanked out of the ground by the weight of the plant.

A week or so ago, Gary went out and bought 6' stakes of rebar. He pounded them 2' down into the ground, and we've been trying to get the tomatoes moved from the sad, sorry, cracked, leaning little stakes to the big, strong, sturdy rebar. They're doing better. I've only broken one branch so far, and it hasn't died in the week since I broke it. (What's up with that? I don't understand, but I'm glad about it.) This morning I noticed that the tiny littlest tomato plant is starting to be all tippy and is now pulling its little stakes out of the ground. I wonder if the store bought any more rebar since Gary cleaned them out?

Today's Laugh

Two workmen were approached by a passer by who asked what they were doing...

"Well, we work for the government," one of the men said.

"But one of you is digging a hole and the other fills it up. You’re not accomplishing anything. Aren’t you wasting the taxpayers’ money?"

"You don’t understand, mister," one of the men said, leaning on his shovel and wiping his brow. "Normally there’s three of us: me, Rodney, and Mike. I dig the hole, Rodney sticks in the tree, and Mike, here, puts the dirt back."

"Now, just because Rodney’s sick, that don’t mean that Mike and me can’t work."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Funeral Leave

When a person has an 8-5:00 job, even if he has paid time off, it's still not fully his prerogative to decide whether or not he wants to use his time off for a funeral. Bosses expect notice about days off, and have to shuffle work around among other employees, many of whom are vacationing this time of year. The boss can't let too many people be gone on the same day. It's one thing if it's your kid's funeral, or your dad's funeral, or your sister's funeral; a boss will understand the importance of that. But it's another thing altogether when it's somebody very close to you who isn't on the boss's List Of People Whose Funerals Constitute Excused Absences From Work.

Throw in a 9-hour roundtrip,
and now what?

That was definitely one of the nice sides of Gary's flexibility in his schedule as a pastor.


I've been noticing recently how much it can affect a person to be wondering (or assuming) what someone else thinks. Even if it turns out later that you're wrong about what the person thought or what his motivation was, it's hard to go back and undo the damage. Maybe somebody asked a question that went unanswered, or maybe a question was phrased in a clumsy way, or maybe there was an odd look on the person's face, or maybe the person tried to joke around and just couldn't pull it off as funny. Even if all those things were totally innocent (the piece of mail with the question was lost by the post office; the person grew up with different slang; somebody was coming down with stomach flu), it's far too easy to let those misunderstandings fester and then influence any further relationship.

Seems like it would be easiest to get things straightened out right at the start of the problem, rather than having to go back and repair the damage of the misunderstanding later.