19 December 2012

Stash-busting IV: Gift-wrapping, Round 1

As a continuance of my stash-busting mentality for this Christmas, I decided I needed to bust my gift-wrap stash. Every year, I go out and methodically select wrapping paper and ribbon so that all of my efforts are coordinated and beautiful. I love wrapping gifts, and I love making them pretty.

That being said, I have a lot of half-finished rolls of wrapping paper and spools of ribbon that I've picked up on clearance just sitting in my wrapping paper storage bag (yes, I'm that person). I decided that, this year, I needed to finish off what I already had before I could be justified in purchasing anything new. Should all go as planned, I should be cleaned out and ready to start looking for new paper for next year right as everything goes on post-Christmas clearance (which is the best time to buy anything that you needed before Christmas!).

I'm taking gift-wrapping in chunks this year so that papers are similar in the same families. My first set of gifts to wrap was for my brother-in-law, his wife, and their two boys. I chose two similar papers, both with snowflakes, and wrapped as many as I could in one paper before moving on to the next. For tags, I chose monogram letters this year, printed on card stock that I had left over from last year (stash-busting all over the place). I used this font (Apex Lake), which is available for free at dafont.com.

Thus, I give you a glimpse at my first round of wrapped gifts:

17 December 2012

Stash-busting III - Lovely Cowl

So, I want to preface this stash-busting post by letting you know that I totally failed in following this pattern so that the product was as it should be. I realized more than halfway through that I missed something in the instructions that affected the pattern, but I kept going and I still like the results.

Here's the pattern, from Patons. I think you have to create an account to actually log in and see it. But they have a great pattern library online, so it might be worthwhile to sign up just because of that.

I also didn't use Patons yarn, since I didn't have any in my stash. What did I use, you might ask? Baby yarn. Because it's super-soft and it was pretty.

Yarn: Baby Bee, Sweet Delight Baby (60% Acrylic, 40 % Polyamide)
Color: Iris Dreams

Really simple cowl. Essentially, I alternated rows of dtr and sc stitches. You're supposed to alternate one row dtr and three rows sc, but I missed the repeat. At the end, when everything gets joined together, I improvised rather than following the pattern and chained 5 for the dtr rows and single-chained into the sc rows because I didn't want just a line of single chain.

Regardless, here's the result:

It's a Christmas present, so I'm not naming who I made it for. You'll just have to deal. And I'm debating making a second one, since I have more yarn... though I'll try to do it correctly this time.

13 December 2012

Stash-busting II - The BFS

One of the first holiday projects I began was this front door stocking that I found at the Caron web site. I used the size of hook that was recommended and a bunch of leftover red yarn balls (if you look really closely, you can tell that they weren't all the same color, but in the dim light of our living room at any time of day, you can't tell at all). The pattern says that the gauge doesn't matter, but let me tell you something:

The gauge does matter.

That's why I've labeled this the "Big Freaking Stocking." Honestly, that's what I call it at home. I look at it and think, "Man, that is a big freaking stocking."

It's supposed to be about 11" wide overall, but mine is at least 13" (which equates to about 5 extra circular inches). It wasn't a terribly intensive project, because it made up pretty quickly and it's worked in continuous rounds so there's not a bunch of time wasted in the turning, but it is certainly big.

It's pretty great, in spite of its size. I decided to not do the buttons that are part of the pattern, but just leave the lacy cuff as-is instead. It's one of those classic decorations, and I can always look back and laugh at how I didn't think it would be so big in the end.

Here it is:

10 December 2012

Stash-busting I

It has certainly been a while since I last posted, well, anything. Our no-media November was a great stretch to refresh our hearts in what matters, to read, to work on projects, and to simply get things done.

December, thus far, has been an odd mixture of both, mostly because this season is busy! And, for me, December often means that I'm trying to finish up as many half-finished projects has humanly possible before Christmas arrives.

This year, I decided I needed to bust my stash.

Hopefully, this will need little explanation. Most of us have a stash. It's that section of storage that is made up of leftover and inherited craft supplies that you keep, but for which you have never found a use.

Well, I decided mine was overgrown and needed to be trimmed down, so I took a strategic aim at Christmas gifts in particular (but, you know, projects in general) trying to find items that could be made with stuff I already had.

My yarn collection is receiving the brunt of the fall cleanup, while I'm thinking my fabric stash will receive the brunt of the spring/summer cleanup.

See, this was my yarn collection before I began sifting through it:

I scoured a bunch of sites for free crochet patterns to see what my options were, and I was pretty amazed at what I found: Everything from stuffed animals to home decor to practical things like dishrags and mop covers, and scarves, hats and clothing. I printed off my favorites, set all my yarn out on a clean couch (I know, right? It's been a while since that last happened) and started matching project printouts to yarn I already had.

Great sites with free project patterns:

Over the next few weeks, I hope to bring you glimpses of what I've done with my stash (though some projects are, naturally, still unfinished). The first major project I undertook was the gingham blanket I finished earlier this fall, which was done completely with stash yarn. But there's a lot more to come...

09 December 2012

For the Love of Books: 2012 Reads

Books I read in 2012...

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
Todd Burpo & Lynn Vincent, 2010

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
Nicholas Carr, 2010
   This was a book from Christmas 2010. I began reading it on the shuttle from our apartment complex to campus when I was still doing the "going to class" thing. Then, Christopher's accident happened, I put down the book, and I haven't gotten into much that has to with my field since. Since we had a long car trip down and back from Arizona, I decided I was going to read, loaded my suitcase with books, and hoped I would get around to this.
   As it had been more than a year since I read the first half of the book, I started over. It's not an incredibly difficult read, but you'll probably want to be awake because of the way Carr walks through the brain's plasticity and the historical perspectives around various written and (now) mediated technologies, leading to the Internet. It's a great narrative, missing some of the technological skepticism from his first novel, The Big Switch. A Pulitzer Prize finalist, and definitely deserving of the nomination. 

In Praise of Prejudice
Theodor Dalrymple, 2007

The Idiot
Fyodor Dostoevsky,1868-1869
The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
   One of four absurdly large volumes that I received for Christmas (by request), I'm eager to dive into the world that Conan Doyle created that still captivates millions today. I love that, while the opening and closing tales are quite lengthy, the middle is constructed of several shorter stories concerning the world's most infamous fictional detective, which make for easier swallowing and less preoccupation - things I don't think I'll find so much in Eliot's Middlemarch or Dostoevsky's The Idiot. I'm fairly certain that my desire to read the classics increases almost every time I pick up a modern piece of fiction, and I love that Barnes and Noble has simple editions that make them readily accessible!

The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume II
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
   After finishing the first volume of this collection, I'm diving into the second. Aside from the odd adventures and cases, the stories when assembled like this present an interesting literary delight. The combination of Watson as narrator and his telling of past cases and Holmes is an interesting juxtaposition. It's written as a biography of sorts, which makes the stories all the more interesting for me because there are so many layers. It's no surprise that people at the time thought the stories and Holmes were real, as they seamlessly are woven into the London of Doyle's day.

The Prodigal God
Timothy Keller, 2008

Til We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
C.S. Lewis, 1956
   Lewis' last piece of fiction, published after the last of the Narnia series (The Last Battle) and just before his marriage to Joy Gresham, is perhaps my favorite - but certainly for much different reasons than his other fiction. The book retells the myth of Cupid and Psyche and, though not allegorical, has always managed to cause me to delve into the deep places of my soul looking for the light of the living God.
   I finally purchased a new copy for myself, but am trying to read it on car trips with Christopher, which means that it is taking quite a while to get into... 

Now is Gone
Geoff Livingston, 2007
   One of the most influential books for my study of communication on the current organizational level, I'm re-reading this one as I begin my ventures back toward finishing my thesis. Livingston's understanding of how public relations is changing in light of new media strategies and online communities is without comparison in my opinion - particularly as he is one of the few who approaches the subject in a practical way for everyday media managers. Excited at the prospect of reading his latest release, Welcome to the Fifth Estate: How to Create and Sustain a Winning Social Media Strategy after I finish.

The Fitting Room
Kelly Minter, 2011
As with Minter's No Other gods, I have found myself re-reading this volume of her wit and wisdom. When I first read through the chapters on forgiveness and peace last summer, I was challenged in how I work through things - particularly past hurts. This winter, with everything that has been going on, I've been challenged to live and believe differently while navigating this season. There is something about Minter's tone, charm, warmth, and understanding of reality that just draws me in and invites me to read her books over and over.
Emily Climbs
L.M. Montgomery, 1925
   If you haven't figured it out, I have a serious love for Lucy Maud Montgomery. It's just one of those things that I feel I need as a part of my daily diet. Having read and re-read the Anne of Green Gables series, a friend loaned me the Emily of New Moon series, which are proving a slower read because I'm unfamiliar with them (unlike the others, which I zip through because I know them so well!). There's a simplicity to Montgomery's work that is so refreshing. She wasn't necessarily trying to impress people - she just wanted to convey everyday life and the extraordinary people that inhabit it. As a result, I'm quite enjoying the series and looking forward to adding them to the pile of Montgomery reads that I re-read more regularly than I probably have time to do.

Emily's Quest
 L.M. Montgomery, 1927

The Golden Road
L.M. Montgomery, 1913 

Kilmeny of the Orchard
L.M. Montgomery, 1910 

Short Stories: 1896-1901
L.M. Montgomery, 1896-1901
   I find Montgomery's short stories to be the perfect endcap to a day. Each is beautifully executed in the same style as the rest of her work and is self-enclosed, which means I can put it down when my time to go to sleep arrives. All available for free on Kindle. Awesome.

Short Stories: 1902-1903
L.M. Montgomery, 1902-1903

Short Stories: 1904
L.M. Montgomery, 1904
Short Stories: 1907-1908
L.M. Montgomery, 1907-1908

Short Stories: 1909-1922
L.M. Montgomery, 1909-1922 

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way
Shauna Niequist, 2010

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life
Shauna Niequist, 2007 

Redeeming Love
Francine Rivers, 1991/2005 

What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage
Paul David Tripp, 2010 

15 November 2012

I apologize for my unplanned hiatus...

...it will continue at least until the end of November, and here's why:


If you have questions, and you know me personally, you can send me an email (I'm checking that twice a day), text, or grab me sometime when you see me. I look forward to returning to this here blog and having my heart set right again. See you soon!

29 October 2012

Upcoming & Now Online...

I do, in fact, have a Weekend Workroom to post, but I've been sucked down the Hurricane Sandy rabbit hole (because I am a news junkie - there is no doubt). Hopefully I'll get that up tonight or tomorrow. In the meantime, there's a new post of mine at the Summitview blog about how literature affects my desire to be in the Word. You can check it out here:

And, just as a disclaimer, I did have a different title for it originally... Don't remember what in particular, but it was a little shorter! Enjoy!

21 October 2012

Weekend Workroom: Finishing

This weekend was about finishing things.

For one, the inside of our front door has long looked like this:

Not very attractive, to be sure, but it at least got sanded somewhere along the way, which means it's been leagues ahead of the outside of the door (or the house for that matter - if you visit, you'll understand how our house is not-so-pretty from the outside).

While Chris and his dad worked on outside stuff, getting the yard ready for winter (and for our dogs not to have mud to roll around in!), I decided I was going to tackle some painting projects that have long sat unfinished. I'm still mid-project on a few of them, but it was nice to finally get somewhere... A few hours and two coats of paint later, our front door now looks like this:

It's really pretty. I rehung my wreath there tonight. It just seemed right.

Anyway, after that, we went to our semi-annual teens-run-around-in-the-dark-with-noodles youth ministry night last night and I tackled the last round and a half of the border on the blanket I've been working on since this spring (see here and here for beginnings and mid-point). I got to the last 20 stitches and I ran out of yarn in my skein. So, I finished it after I went home. And it's awesome. Definitely one of my favorite projects. Consequently, I'm back to work on Christopher's blanket now. Some pictures of the finished product:

It was nice to finish some things for a change. Off for another busy week!

15 October 2012

Weekend Workroom: Fall Color

I've been looking for inexpensive ways to decorate our home for the seasons, particularly fall, whose color palette I really enjoy... so I'd been shopping around and finding a ton of things that I liked that came at a pretty steep cost (can't really afford a $40 wreath, you know?).

Regardless, I came across a few tutorials for time-light, investment-light (I spent about $10 total on felt, fabric, and yarn) projects, made a run to the craft store last Monday while waiting for our vehicle to get an oil change, and invested my afternoon in making my home a little more colorful. Here's what I came up with:

Tricks + Treats: Autumn Fabric Wreath by Elise Blaha
I purchased $5 worth of fabric quarters (they were on sale for $1.25/ea. at Joann's) in 4 colors and spent a bit of my afternoon cutting (and tearing, because ripping fabric is quite a bit of fun) the quarters into 1x7-inch strips. I just followed the tutorial and tied them one at a time, right next to each other (in a repeating order because I don't do "random" so well).

Fall Leaves Garland DIY
This was one of the easiest projects I've done in a while, though it did require a bit of prep work. I made a few of these and gave them away as birthday presents to some friends (I kept one for myself, don't worry!). I grabbed a bunch of fall-colored felt at Hobby Lobby (reds, yellows, oranges, greens, browns) and some craft yarn. The leaves I just cut out free-form, some multiple sheets at a time. I used about 40 leaves per garland because they were 2-3 inches in length and that was what I was going for in length. Mixed them all together in a paper bag and pulled them out at random (though I did have rules for how close leaves of the same color could be). You can make them however long, but it does get tiring after a while of continuing to push the ones at the bottom further down the yarn. Tied each off at the end.

My house looks a little more festive for the season, and I'm pretty excited about it all. I like the fall. The leaves are turning and the air is much cooler than it was over the summer.

And, to beat it all, I didn't spend $40 on a wreath.

08 October 2012

Media Monday: "The Shallows"

Over the last three years, I have read a lot of very interesting books and articles in my quest to get my master's degree. The result is that I have fed my nerdiness. While trying to ease my way back into studying and reading things related to my field so that I can get back on track toward finishing my thesis (and consequently, my degree), I picked up The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.

It's a book I received for Christmas in 2010, which I started and then put aside with all of my field-related studies when Christopher got hurt and we bought/started renovating our home. I picked it up again over spring break and finished reading it shortly after returning home. I was blown away, and immediately started synthesizing the book's content.

The premise pertains to how the Internet is completely changing how our brains work, particularly with regard to how we remember things and how we engage with life. Carr deftly describes how our cognitive functioning is interacting with the change in how and where we gather our information:
Imagine filling a bathtub with a thimble; that's the challenge involved in transferring information from working memory into long-term memory. By regulating the velocity and intensity of information flow, media exert a strong influence on this process. When we read a book, the information faucet provides a steady drip, which we can control by the pace of our reading. Through our single-minded concentration on the text, we can transfer all or most of the information, thimbleful by thimbleful, into long-term memory and forge the rich associations essential to the creation of schemas. With the Net, we face many information fuacets, all going full blast. Our little thimble overflows as we rush from one faucet to the next. We're able to transfer only a small portion of the information to long-term memory, and what we do transfer is a jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream from one source. (pp. 124-125)
Carr details how this change has happened in his own habits - how he writes, reads, works - and contrasts it with historical perspectives and understandings of the brain (something he does really well in The Big Switch, his first book). Breadth of knowledge may be increasing, but there are signs pointing to a decrease in depth of knowledge (hence, Carr's title).

The book is a great read, engaging and thoughtful. It was even a Pulitzer finalist. These are reasons I encourage you to pick it up yourself and give it a read. I will, however, share one of the most fascinating sections from my trip through its pages:
It's not hard to see why books have been slow to make the leap into the digital age. There's not a whole lot of difference between a computer monitor and a television screen, and the sounds coming from speakers hit your ears in pretty much the same way whether they're being transmitted through a computer or a radio. But as a device for reading, the book retains some compelling advantages over the computer. You can take a book to the beach without worrying about sand getting in its works. You can take it to bed without being nervous about it falling to the floor should you nod off. You can spill coffee on it. You can put it down on a table, open to the page you're reading, and when you pick it up a few days later it will still be exactly as you left it. You never have to be concerned about plugging a book into an outlet or having its battery die. (pp. 99-100)
Now, it is certainly no secret that I love books, or even that I love real, printed ones. But a lot of what Carr relates about how the format of the book has changed as it has made its way into interactive platforms is mind-boggling to me. It ceases to be just reading. We lose our ability to simply be lost in whatever it is that we're reading.

Sure, we all know that it can be easy to lose one's train of thought while reading a book, but you realize it when you come to recognize you don't have a clue what is happening on the page and either put it down for a time when you can concentrate or get back on track. With a lot of electronic and interactive book platforms, there are more than our own trains of thought going while we read:
Christine Rosen, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, recently wrote about her experience using a Kindle to read the Dickens novel Nicholas Nickleby. Her story underscores Johnson's fears: "Although mildly disorienting at first, I quickly adjusted to the Kindle's screen and mastered the scroll and page-turn buttons. Nevertheless, my eyes were restless and jumped around as they do when I try to read for a sustained time on the computer. Distractions abounded. I looked up Dickens on Wikipedia, then jumped straight down the Internet rabbit hole following a link about a Dickens short story, 'Mugby Junction.' Twenty minutes later I still hadn't returned to my reading of Nickleby on the Kindle."
When we step outside of the traditional book platform, we step into a world filled with rabbit trails. They all lead to information of some sort or another, but is it good information? Is it actually leading to a depth of knowledge, a depth of understanding? Do we actually understand the book better?

These are all good questions, and I think Carr has some good thoughts on how our brains are changing with our constant and overflowing influx of information and stimuli. If you want to read it, I recommend a paper copy. Might even let you borrow mine.

06 October 2012

Weekend Workroom: THE Pumpkin Patch

So... be prepared for a bit of a picture dump.

At the end of last month, we went to Nebraska to celebrate my brother-in-law's 30th birthday. On our way back from Omaha, we stopped at Vala's Pumpkin Patch to experience the now-annual family trip with our nephews. It's quite the place. Didn't think we'd spend the whole day there, but we did.

There were a lot of animals to see and pet:

Definitely a few cuties to hang out with:


 Duck races with Oma and corn mazes to get lost in...

 ...and a grown-up size jumping pillow.

 Good grub. Christopher "split" a turkey leg with Mackers.

I really liked the lanterns in one of the eating areas.


And, of course, pumpkins. Lots and lots of pumpkins.

I am so excited that it is finally autumn!

04 October 2012

Thursday Thoughts: What I Learned at a Dueling Piano Bar in Omaha

As the finale for my brother-in-law's 30th birthday, Christopher and I met up with him and his wife for drinks at a dueling piano bar in Omaha. It would be a new experience for everyone and we just hoped it would be fun.

It was definitely a new experience.

First, it was extremely loud. Set in the back room of a sports bar, the room consisted of a bunch of tables (filled with all sorts of people, including a few bachelorette parties) and some pretty sizable speakers that washed out any ability to hear even the waitress trying to take our order.

Second, it seemed innocuous enough at first. A few well-known songs. Guys playing piano, singing to each other. And then came the first hit of raunch, which we assumed was in passing and would get better as the night progressed.

But, third, we were wrong. It became progressively worse. And, to be honest, it's not the cursing or lewdness that got to me the most: It was the (seemingly) endless attack on marriage.
Marriage is the end of fun, of enjoying your partner. It's all about how one spouse can manipulate the other. Better enjoy the last night or nights you have before it's all over.
Chris and I later talked about how we're surprised anyone actually gets married anymore. There has to be something built into us that knows it is supposed to be meaningful, worthwhile, and beautiful. Most of the world has just seen the bad examples, the "irreconcilable differences," the affairs, the drifting apart after multiple decades together.

The Christian side of things isn't really any better. More than half of those marriages end in divorce, just like the rest. What's missing? Why are we failing at something we so obviously desire but just can't seem to get right?

About a month ago, I had a pretty rattling dream where I was surrounded by a number of believing couples whose marriages I greatly respect who, at the influence of one member of the group, decided that they should all get a "mass" divorce and swap wives. (Most of this is probably due to subconscious fears rooted in experiences at one of the churches my family attended while I was growing up, which is a long, crazy story.)

And, as they began to strip off their wedding rings and celebrate the finalized dissolution of their marriages, I got up on the table and started yelling at them about how foolish they were, about how God would never divorce them - and He had every reason to do so.

Which is BIG for me, you know, because whenever I start yelling in dreams, nothing actually comes out of my mouth. I typically start yelling and realize that no sound is coming out, and become increasingly burdened until I wake either shaking or weeping.

But I was definitely yelling in my dream, and I awoke with the words, "God will never divorce you," rolling over and over in my head. There is so much power in those words that we too often neglect.

You see, Christopher and I are married. We took vows in front of family, friends, and God, and we celebrated in style like so many others do. But we are committed to more than just one another. We're committed to something deeper - that Christ's sacrifice for the Church (His bride) ought to shape us and how we understand marriage. And divorce is not an option.

It's a covenant that's deeper than affection. It's rooted in the very fact that Christ chose us when we did not deserve it, but He did it anyway. We whore after lesser things, thinking they will fulfill us. We have been unfaithful to the Faithful One. Yet, though we fail Him time and again, He upholds His covenant with us that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Marriage can be a beautiful, life-giving thing. The world may see chains, but I see freedom in the fact that God will hold me to my covenant to this man. Freedom from fear. Freedom to believe that, in the same way, God holds Himself to His covenant to me. He will never divorce me. What a beautiful truth upon which to build my life and my marriage.

And, to think, I learned that at a dueling piano bar in Omaha.

01 October 2012

Media Monday: Reassessing Facebook

While I am going to start pulling together some thoughts on media to post here (that whole trying-to-start-finishing-my-thesis thing), here's a little something to kick it all off: My latest post over at the Summitview blog, which is an update of my original I'm-leaving-Facebook post from 2010.

You can find the permalink for the blog post here: http://summitview.com/blog/entryid/30/two-years-sober-why-i-left-facebook-and-haven-t-gone-back

Happy reading!

30 September 2012

Weekend Workroom: Gingham Update

Okay, so remember this blanket I started on back in March? Well, I didn't get very far on it before I went back to work and it became too warm to work on a blanket...

Which is one thing that is awesome about the fact that it is finally cooling off around here and acting like autumn (because, as it turns out, it is now autumn)! The last few days, I've been picking it up and working on it while Chris and I have done sick-people lounging (I think I have a sinus infection, but I don't really know if I have one, I suppose).

Regardless, the result is that it keeps on growing... The body of the whole thing is 55 rows, and I'm nearing the 35th of those rows. It's such a small blanket, but I guess that makes sense because it's meant to be for a small person (I make these connections, sometimes!). It's turning out to be a great little blanket, one of my favorite projects for sure, though it really does have a wrong side, as I mentioned in my initial post. Orderly strings and tie-offs everywhere. See?

Next, I'm hoping to make some headway on my thesis and make myself a skirt or two because I bought fabric for that purpose when I spent time with my mom a few weeks back. I've been wanting to learn how to make clothing for a long time, so I'm pretty excited to get started on that...

24 September 2012

Weekend Workroom: Jamstress

**SIDE NOTE: I know this is totally, completely later than anticipated... I've been trying to figure out how to hook up our new camera in the little time I've had at home over the last few weeks. We've been gone back-to-back weekends, first to celebrate my husband's birthday and then to celebrate my brother-in-law's 30th, with a few shortened weeks and a couple trips through getting our car back from the shop thrown in there. It's been a bit crazy, but I finally have a real day off today. I'll be blogging, meal planning, grocery shopping, and doing all the things that I've really been missing about my life... Regardless, I give you jam!**

I must confess, I don't know if I ever thought of making jam before. There's been something really cool, however, about making my own tomato soup, and there's always been a draw for me in the canning process (my grandmother used to can their garden each year and my mom occasionally cans when she finds great deals on veggies and fruit), so I figured I'd give it a try whenever the opportunity presented itself.

So, we had some friends offer us some plums a few weeks back, from the tree in their backyard (Italian plums, the best I could tell). I did some research and discovered a simple recipe that didn't use pectin, a traditional canning process, or twice as much sugar as plums (believe it or not, it's common to have a recipe for twice as much sugar as fruit, which just seems silly to me). This was all just an experiment. I don't even like plums, as a general rule.

But I found this recipe:

And I went to work. I had a lot of plums, and I tried a number of ways to get them out of their skins. In the end, though, what worked best was making sure I had clean hands and using my fingers to remove the fruit... I found I got more of the fruit that way in the least amount of time. It was a really messy process, so make sure you've got a space that can take some sticky mess and be easily cleaned afterward.

The main place I deviated from the recipe was that I put my fruit pieces into a blender, rather than let them just cook down to the right consistency. I wanted an even consistency because I'm a odd sensitive-to-texture person, so I did it this way. You could certainly let the plum pieces cook down if you want a fleshier sort of consistency.

If you have a splatter screen, you'll want to use it. I still have a small mark from where a bit of molten plum mixture jumped up and landed on my arm.

As soon as it was done, I poured it into two clean pint canning jars, using a canning funnel. I made a double batch, or I would have only filled one pint jar. I tasted it while hot and really enjoyed the flavor of the jam. Then, I let it cool and refrigerated both jars, where three can be stored for up to three months. I'm not sure it'll last until then. It's pretty tasty.

So, that's my adventure in jam-making. I like the title "Jamstress," (Gilmore Girls, anyone?) so maybe I'll do this again!

16 September 2012

The Summitview Blog

Hi all! As part of my job, I'm writing occasional posts for the new Summitview blog (www.summitview.com/blog). It should be fairly similar to the feel of this blog, but trying to stay in line with the church's vision (so maybe not so many recipes and craft projects, you know?)

Regardless, you can check it out every other Friday. My first post was due this past week, and can be found at:

Dependent on how the rest of the day goes, I'm hoping to off-load some pictures for a Weekend Workroom post that I think is pretty cool. Stay tuned!

11 September 2012

Treasure on a Tuesday: "Till We Have Faces"

There is a simplicity in the work of C.S. Lewis. His writings are either straight-forward and literal (A Grief Observed, The Four Loves, Mere Christianity) or directly allegorical or interpreted (The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters). It is rare that he breaks from these two molds.

But Till We Have Faces is more Tolkein-esque, relying upon an entirely separate world with no modern ties and steeped in layer upon layer of indirect allegory. It is beautiful and haunting, and I have loved the tale's pages since I first read it nearly a decade ago.

This retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche is set in the barbaric realm of Glome. We find ourselves in the presence of a king with daughters - one ugly, one beautiful, and one a saintly figure seemingly destined to save the kingdom in one way or another - and the king despises them all, for they are not sons.

While I won't visit all of the details of this "myth retold," it is certainly worth a read. Lewis believed that the power of myth was that it all pointed back somehow to the truths of what has happened since the commencement of our world - and he has buried so many thought-provoking pieces of truth in the depths of this incredible novel that make me come back to plumb the depths of my soul time and again.

This is definitely not a child's story, but neither was Tolkein's Middle Earth. Its darker, heavier, and more honest look at the lengths men will go to in order to preserve themselves before earthly and divine powers. It illumines the heart and base condition of man as being anti-god. I see in its pages a shattering glimpse at my own heart, and my own desire to pretend that God doesn't exist.

After re-telling the traditional iteration of the myth in his note at the end, Lewis describes his process in crafting his version:
The central alteration in my own version consists in making Psyche's palace invisible to normal, mortal eyes - if "making" is not the wrong word for something which forced itself upon me, almost at my first reading of the story, as the way the thing must have been. This change of course brings with it a more ambivalent motive and a different character for my heroine and finally modifies the whole quality of the tale. I felt quite free to go behind Apuleius, whom I suppose to have been its transmitter, not its inventor. Nothing was further from my aim than to recapture the peculiar quality of the Metamorphoses - that strange compound of picaresque novel, horror comic, mystagogue's tract, pornography, and stylistic experiment. Apuleius was of course a man of genius: but in relation to my work he is a "source," not an "influence" nor a "model."
The tale captivated Lewis, as I'm sure did the truths within it. And it captivates me, too. After revisiting Lewis' "myth retold" for the third or fourth time, I am in awe of his ability to weave both story and truth into a tale that still draws me in and splits me open.

10 September 2012

Fighting the Undertow

un·der·tow [uhn-der-toh] noun
1. the seaward, subsurface flow or draft of water from waves breaking on a beach.
2. any strong current below the surface of a body of water, moving in a direction different from that of the surface current.
[from dictionary.com]

One of the things I've been struck with the most lately is something I wrote in my last entry:
Life continues on. It doesn't seem like it will when we see the charred remains and ash is still resting on your car in the morning. But, one day, you drive home and realize the smoke isn't pluming into the sky any longer. One day, it does begin to rain. You celebrate another birthday, another homecoming.

But today, I'm still a little overwhelmed. I am, however, praising God for the rain, for the fact that He protects, and for the blessed assurance that He both sees and knows each and every one of us. 

And it's true. Life continues on. It has after several horrible and tragic events occurred, as it has for millenia. Fires destroyed houses and lives. Cancer has walked people we love into incredible places of faith. A gunman took lives in a movie theater, of all places.

It is nothing new to me that life is hard, but I too easily stuff it away and let it simmer under the surface, which is what I've had to fight for the past few years as I've moved my way out of depression - because if I don't fight the undertow of this world's trajectory, it is too easy to be pulled under.

So I've been in hiding, to a large degree.

As an introvert, I expend incredible amounts of emotional energy to be around people. It's not that I don't love people - because I really do - it's just that it takes me longer to recharge after being social. The fact that I now work most days in a given week means I'm now social more days every week.

It's good, and it stretches me, but it's been hard to recharge in ways that are effective, and so this blog has taken a back seat, and I want to apologize for that.

Christopher and I were talking the other day about how freestyle isn't really the most efficient use of your energy (because we went swimming, so we were talking about it), and how if we were in the middle of the ocean (I'm assuming there would be no sharks to eat us, but maybe he thought differently), we would want to do something that was more efficient to get us through the waves and back to land (eventually, because the ocean is BIG).

And I think that's kind of where I've been. I don't splash around a lot on the surface, making it look like I'm trying to make my way through the water - I'd rather slip underwater and glide with the current rather than try to fight the waves (like with a nice breaststroke). But I've definitely been processing under the surface - lives being changed by fire and cancer, a former classmate's death in a movie theater, and even the stupid stuff that really doesn't matter so much like our cars both getting hit in the church parking lot in a freakish accident that I'll get into later this week.

It's not that I'm completely processed, but I'm working on getting there, and I'm now at the stage in my processing where I really should be writing a lot more than I am, so maybe you'll hear a little bit more from me.

But what it all boils down to is that Jesus is the only way for me to fight the undertow. The grace that rescues me in this life and allows me to stand in His presence in the next is the only force that isn't degrading from this world's entropy - His grace won't get shot down in the middle of the night by a crazy man; it won't burn with the hottest of blazes; and it will always be in mint condition (unlike our car).

And I have to cling to that, even when it seems like there's nothing to do but to keep swimming and make it to land somehow. It's the only thing that can keep this world from pulling me under.

28 June 2012

On Wildfires, Weddings, and Weeping

Life has been a little overwhelming lately. Especially as Chris was out of the country (he's back now), and everything around us began to bring terrifying news, I've somewhat retreated into myself. At the end of each day, I have felt largely overwhelmed, anxious, and utterly exhausted.

It started with Christopher leaving for Nepal. He had a great trip. In all honesty, I had a good stretch the first few days, and was really blessed by the ability to put some extra time in at my job and to spend time with the family I worked for this past spring.

Then I went to our beautiful friend, Helenka's, wedding the first Saturday Chris was gone, and I came home to find the area to the west of us aflame. As I drove back toward Fort Collins, I thought, 'Man, that smoke cloud was not there when I left this morning.'

And it wasn't. After arriving home, I calculated what the fire would have to do to get to my home. The following Thursday, we could see it descend into Lory State Park, which is easily visible from town. Last Saturday, winds caused the fire to once more jump the highway and the river and head quickly north - where it burned even more homes than it already had.

To date, 257 homes have burned in the High Park Fire. One of them belonged to a couple from our church. All of them have families and stories and meaningful items that can never be re-gained.

Today, the crews reached 75 percent containment, with full containment expected July 15 - an entire two weeks earlier than they expected two days ago. In that, and in the rain that fell hurriedly to the ground tonight, I praise God.

In the meantime, though, I worked. I went to my parents' house, celebrated our nephew's third birthday in Colorado Springs with Christopher's family and waited eagerly for his return, and I wept over my barrenness as I held our littlest nephew in my arms and sang him to sleep.

And, as Christopher came home, news started trickling in about a little girl who is the daughter of our friends and neighbors, Anthony and Sam. The reality of a three-year-old having cancer is surreal, as everything seems to be these days. The family is still finding out more specifically what type of cancer, how advanced, and what types of treatment will follow. They covet your prayers. Please keep Esther, her parents, and their other four kiddos in your prayers. Anthony and Sam are both trying to keep updates posted on Sam's blog, "I will most gladly." I woke up last Saturday and just wept, and I continue to weep whenever I read more about what's happening and the faith in which Anthony and Sam are walking.

Last weekend, we celebrated five years of marriage (yay!), bought a car, and went to another wedding to celebrate the long-awaited union of Jimmy's owner and her (now) husband. We came home to  news of more wildfires.

I don't think I ever really understood what it means that the earth groans under the chains of the curse until these last few weeks. Seeing images of flame engulfing people's homes on the news last night in Colorado Springs might be one of the most deeply impressing images I have ever encountered. If this is a foretaste of how God plans to destroy the earth so it can be made new again at the end of everything, I am beginning to get a visual for what that may look like. There are so many people we know who are in that area, because it is where Chris grew up. Our family cabin is just north of Rampart Reservoir. Eagle Lake, where I went to summer camp growing up, should be gone for all intents and purposes, but the fire passed around.

And I'm speechless when I see these things.

It's not that I don't trust God to be who He is. Chris made a comment last night that people are quick to ask where God is when the house is gone, but they never asked where He was in its acquiring. It is sad to see homes and landmarks lost - places where kids grew up, where people were married, where we used to hike and enjoy the creation that God has so graciously given us - but I am so grateful that, at least with the Waldo Canyon Fire, no fatalities have been reported thus far.

Life continues on. It doesn't seem like it will when we see the charred remains and ash is still resting on your car in the morning. But, one day, you drive home and realize the smoke isn't pluming into the sky any longer. One day, it does begin to rain. You celebrate another birthday, another homecoming.

But today, I'm still a little overwhelmed. I am, however, praising God for the rain, for the fact that He protects, and for the blessed assurance that He both sees and knows each and every one of us.

09 June 2012

Weekend Workroom: Library & Cataloging

I love books.

I don't know that anyone who knows me at all would fail to understand that statement. The seasons where I let myself read, I read voraciously.

And for many, many, many years, my dream has been to have my books cataloged and organized and in matching shelves.

Chris has tried to make this dream a reality for several years. In our first year of marriage, at our second residence, he "built in" bookshelves (as much as he could in a rental) to give us a bit of extra storage space and a nice piece for our living room. We added a bookshelf that we used as pantry space at our next residence (since the house we lived in had ample pantry space). Then we migrated everything over to our last apartment (man, we've moved a lot) and just used the same configuration of shelving because a) we had no money, and b) we decided it wasn't worthwhile until we had a permanent address again.

When we moved into our home (yay for permanence) last spring, one of the things I set my heart on was to finally purchase some matching bookshelves and create my long-dreamt-of library, but it was one of the last indoor things we could do because it wasn't an essential piece of making our home work. Because IKEA has finally made its appearance in Colorado, we figured through all the pieces we desired and a timetable in which to purchase each of them.

But we've continued to purchase other things that have been more needed in the meantime, so the project has continued to be pushed off by our circumstances.

For my birthday, Christopher's parents purchased the bookshelves and Christopher assembled and put them in place in our home.

And it is freaking awesome.

This post will kind of do double-duty because there's so much more of my heart wrapped up in it than there probably should be, so it fits here but it also fits over at the renovation blog. There will be other stuff featured at the reno blog, though, if you want to check out some of the other things we've been up to lately (who am I kidding? You can see what Christopher has been up to...).

Our garden level/den looked like this when we moved in:


Yes, the paint on the walls was high gloss. It was everywhere, which is one of the main reasons we painted EVERYTHING. We replaced the light when we moved in, and the carpet and the stairs this past spring, but I digress...

And now it looks like this:

We used the Billy bookcase system from IKEA. I took the measurements for the room and used their Billy planner (http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_US/rooms_ideas/planner_billy/index.html) to figure out how to make the best use of the wall space. The bins on the left shelf are a reddish color (also from IKEA, but I don't remember what they're called), and are the perfect storage space for Christopher's shoes. The chair is a Poang from IKEA, and it's super-comfy. We plan to get a second one in time, but it's a great spot to read, rest, and enjoy the coolness (thermally) of our garden level.

Perhaps the largest piece of this, however, was actually cataloging the books. I wanted a system, but not just one of my own... so I landed on the Dewey Decimal system. It's simpler than the Library of Congress system and a lot of more recently published materials actually include the numbers with the publication information. I still have a few more boxes to go before I'm done, but I've made some pretty incredible headway the past few weeks.

I am a little confused over the difference between [Fic] and the 800 classification for literature, and I can only assume that it has to do with intelligence level ([Fic] being more juvenile fiction; 800s being "literature" with a snooty holding of the head). The "younger" books have been moved upstairs with the bookshelves that used to be downstairs. It seems to work well for us. There also wasn't sufficient room for our bibles on the shelves, so they got their own bin on the Expedit.

For the cataloging, I've been using a freeware program called "Book Hunter." I found it through the Apple App Store. It doesn't have a plethora of bells and whistles, but it does the job and has plenty of color to keep me happy when the books' covers are in the system.

Anyway, I keep looking down the stairs and thinking, "Man, that looks good" and sighing a bit because it's pretty cool.

Next task: Replace the desk. We haven't found one we like yet. Give it time.

07 June 2012

Thursday Thoughts: The Reality of the Gospel for Everyday Life

I am a pleaser. Sometimes this is a good thing (such as the fact that I work hard and diligently as a result) and sometimes it is a bad thing (because I too easily find my moods and worth in how others value what I do and not in its natural value or what I might assign to it). If I don't feel a project will please, I often don't even start it.

When I feel as if I'm failing, I tend to shy away from the foot of the Cross to which I so readily cling. I try to hide my failure, even from the God who so clearly has seen it all and loves me regardless.

But there is compassion for the taking at Jesus' feet! I love Bethany Dillon's song, "Be Near Me":
All I have ever wanted -
and what men have given their lives for -
is a God who understands my weaknesses, a God that I can love.

I cannot believe You are angry or unjust -
You've done nothing but have compassion on us.
So be near when I've given up. Be near me.
Compassion is what stirs me from my hiding. It is the very heart of God in so many ways! Compassion gives life, and takes us from our hiding in the darkness and brings us into the glorious light of life in the Son of God! It lifts our eyes from our failure and brings an understanding of Christ's heart near to us.

Knowing myself and knowing the incredible depths of folly to which I succumb so readily, it is awe-inspiring and humbling to serve a God who understands my weaknesses and failures without my having to bring them out of the dark cubby where I like to hide them.

He is not angry or unjust. Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions about Christianity is that God exists as a large Judge in the sky, waiting to rain judgement and dole out apt punishment - but I am so grateful that is not an accurate picture of the God I fail and fall before daily!

It is true that He will act as Righteous Judge - He is holy, righteous in all His ways, and any violation of His character by us deserves eternal punishment. We have to start with God. When we start with ourselves, we always will fail in answering the important questions about life here on this round, rotating rock flying in space.

But He is compassionate! Jesus was not a mistake and is not just a man that people follow and cling to blindly. In His knowledge, God set Jesus as the Lamb Slain on the Altar of God before our world was ever born. Just as a parent anticipates the birth of a child, so God looked forward to our arrival. But He knew our sin against His holy nature could too easily separate us from Him as our Father.

So He sent Jesus, fully man in His limitations and fully God in His glory. And He was sent, from the first, to die for us.

Before we were born, God took those steps to prepare for our arrival and to ensure that we would not be wrested from His grasp by others who would claim us as their own.

Before I was born! I need the reality of this in my heart every day or I try to hide behind all that is already exposed and dealt with in the economy of mercy.

05 June 2012

Treasure on a Tuesday: Favorite Classic "Chick" Books

If you have been over to my "Books" page anytime recently, you will likely notice something: I read a lot. This is partially because I love losing myself in stories (good ones, of course) and partially out of reaction to our culture that seems to encourage illiteracy (perhaps I'll elaborate on that in a later post, but the gist is that we're becoming an increasingly simple and visual culture).

Regardless, the result is that I read a lot. My favorites often include female heroines, but please don't confuse my understanding of "chick" books with either romance novels or feminist agenda pieces - I look for simplicity of lifestyle, gentleness of spirit, a little spunk, and characters that challenge me to be better. So far, I am not an Austen fan. Pride and Prejudice was one of the hardest reads I slogged through for my high school literature classes. I hope to someday try again, as I someday hope to complete either Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, both of which I started in middle school...

Here are two of my favorites:

Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery
Perhaps my favorite book of all time, this beautiful novel and its subsequent series (eight books total) are perennial reads - meaning I take a romp through all eight of them every few years. Anne is an orphan, wide-eyed, imaginative, and searching for a place of her own where she can get away from taking care of other people's twins. On a fluke, she is installed in the home of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an older gentleman and his spinster of a sister - who want a boy to help with their family farm.

But Anne, in spite of all the odds, finds a place in their hearts and their home in this amazing tale of finding beauty in the redemption of forgotten things. The simplicity of life displayed in this (and the other books in the series) challenge me to live simply and in faith.

And because there are seven novels that follow, it is a journey that only begins with this volume. The journey's end is just as breathtaking as its beginning. Rilla of Ingleside, the eighth and final volume, concerns the coming into adulthood of Anne's youngest daughter, Rilla, during the tumult and upheaval of the first World War. In many ways, Montgomery seems to have written each of the preceding books in order to get to this one and have it stand as a testament to the changes in daily life and the innocence stolen from the entire world as the Great War fell upon it.

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
You can easily tell what my favorite books are by the age of the copies on my bookshelf and the fact that I won't let them out of my house. Little Women and Anne of Green Gables easily rank among my oldest tomes. I inherited my copy of Little Women from my maternal grandmother and the pages are so old that the entire thing is falling apart.

But that old book smell is awesome.

I greatly appreciate the March sisters and the way that Alcott so deftly integrates them into the family structure at such different times in their growing up. They are all, first and foremost, family, and then Alcott examines their differences and how they overcome their vanities and faults.

Meg is beautiful and gentle, if a little vain; Jo is intelligent, fiercely loyal, and yet headstrong and independent; Beth is a homebody, a gifted musician, and possesses the most gentle and quiet spirit of any female character I've known; and Amy, the youngest, is impulsive, spunky, vain, and yet somehow endearing in her youthful follies. Their mother is stalwart, raising them and seeking their best in the absence of their father, who has been taken away from them by war.

It is a timeless tale of growing up and seeking to know our own hearts, and it has so much variety in its pages that I never seem to be bored with these beautiful, strong, loyal women - and I see the depths of my own heart better through their lens.

29 May 2012

Coming back soon...

I promise that I have not forgotten my blog here. Between the new job and still being at one car, we've had a crazy couple of weeks and have spent only minimal time at home. At the end of the day, I'm very ready for bed...

But things are really good. Chris is done with school for the year; I'm settling nicely into my new non-routine routine at the church; we've done some spring cleaning, celebrated a few birthdays, started up the AC a few times; Chris is prepping for his trip to Nepal with the teens; and I'm awaiting a new camera so I can display the incredible awesomeness that is my new set of matching bookshelves and my newly cataloged library (well, maybe I've made time for that the past few weeks...). More on the last one especially coming soon. When Chris is gone, I'll be sad, but I will certainly have a bit more time on my hands!

See you soon!

10 May 2012

Thursday Thoughts: The Back Door

I haven't been much in the mood to talk these past weeks. As I wrote to one of my best friends in an e-mail, "I've been exceptionally brooding and contemplative lately." It's not necessarily such a bad thing to be there - but it can be to stay there, and so I am attempting to lift a silence that has been partially self-imposed and partially imposed by the requests of others. But, because of this, I've been a bit lapsed and unfaithful in my blogging, and for that I ask your forgiveness.


For almost a year now, we have been praying for some very specific and practical things: a) that God would provide us a way to honor our creditors by repaying our debts, and b) that God would provide me a job, preferably related to my field, so that I could contribute and use what I felt He led me back to school to study with my master's program.

And we have waited, sometimes patiently and sometimes not-so-patiently, for answers to these requests - mostly expecting them to come through the "front door," or to be obvious solutions to such problems.

But, by the grace of God, the answers to these requests have not come in obvious ways. He has shown Himself to be infinitely more gracious and loving in granting answers to these prayers, as well as His complete control over this world, in how He has dealt with us these last 6-8 weeks.

The answer to our first prayer (concerning our debts) came through an unexpected and freak car accident that resulted in our Subaru being totaled. Christopher's interpretation of the whole thing is that God looked at our situation, heard our prayers, recognized that we were too stubborn to sell the car ourselves to get out of debt, and decided to do it for us. In the accident's wake, we have been able to pay off two sources of debt entirely, pay down a third, put aside money for a down payment, and learned that we can live with one car (though it can be a bit tricky, since I work in town and Chris works half an hour south of our home).

Not at all what we would have picked on our own, but incredibly demonstrative of God's grace toward us in our foolishness.

The answer to the second has been a bit more slow to develop. I have been praying specifically that God would have a place for me where I could use my talents and gifting to further the Kingdom or help the little guy (since that's what I felt Him lead me to go back to school for). What's more is that I was hoping to find a part-time job (like, four days a week instead of five), so that I could build in time to work on and complete my thesis (and, consequently, my master's degree).

But all I found when I started looking were full time positions that were not in any way related to what I ultimately wanted to do, so I shifted back toward admin and office work (which has kind of always been a foolproof fallback for me). I was blessed with four weeks' worth of work in September and October and was scheduled to go back after a two-week break, but the project stalled out - in fact, every job I was put up for between then and the recent past stalled out because no decision was ever reached on who to hire. In January, with my gobs of spare time, I decided I wanted to make my time count and serve the body if at all possible, so I started spending my time with a family that is part of our teen family ministry (their oldest kids are teens - they have seven, and their youngest is 3). It turned into a job that lasted, conveniently enough, through last Thursday, when the family left for a vacation.

I say "conveniently" because God has finally found a place for me, and I started a new position with our church on Tuesday.

And while that is a long story filled with prayers, conversations, and seeking counsel, it boils down to this: At every turn, I kept hearing God speak softly and firmly to my heart to "Move forward in faith."

God may not fulfill all of my dreams, but He continues to fulfill some of them and to satisfy my heart at the greatest of its depths. I may not ever be a biological mother to a baby girl or boy, but that doesn't mean I stall out in the bitterness of that reality. At some point this spring, I realized that I want my life to count. I want to be fruitful. I want to further the Kingdom of God.

I want to march onward, to move forward in faith, in all of the things that God calls us to - regardless of what dreams He may or may not fulfill along the way.

It is certainly a back door. After months of waiting for any position to keep me busy, I am humbled and overwhelmed by God's orchestration of events for my life at this time. When I interviewed for a different position with our church, the one that I'm walking into didn't exist. God didn't just find me a place, He made me one where none existed. And it will require faith, as a lot of it is experimental and filled with transition and unknown - but I'm walking forward in the faith that He has called me to walk in, and I'm looking forward to what He does with our body of believers.

And might I mention that I work four days a week? How 'bout them apples?

So there you have it. Back doors all over the place. Hidden blessings.

How beautiful to be reminded that He has not abandoned us, and He never will.

08 May 2012

Treasure on a Tuesday: Christian "Indie"

None of these are truly "indie" in the traditionally independent meaning, I suppose. They are more independent or nontraditional Christian releases, which is why I've labelled them "indie." In the Christian airplay market, most things that don't get play might as well be independent.

Regardless, these are some favorites from the last several years, and for a variety of reasons. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Phillip LaRue - Let the Road Pave Itself (2009)
When I was in high school, there was this brother-sister duo that we kind of listened to called "LaRue," based upon the duo's last name (naturally). Some good stuff, but not necessarily earth-shattering. Enter Phillip LaRue's first solo release a few years ago - something changed in a big way. This collection of songs is honest and raw in a way that few ever are in a culture that often appreciates more polished offerings. Favorite tracks include "Chasing the Daylight," "Sleeping Beauty," "Running So Long" and "Mountains High Valleys Low." This is one of the few recent albums I can listen to from end-to-end, as each track is beautiful and (for most of them, at least) haunting in its own way. "Black and Blue" is about as emotionally wrenching as it comes, questioning God's involvement in the roughest of days. Stunningly beautiful.

Adam Watts - Sleeping Fire (2006)
This guy name Jeremy Camp used to have a drummer named Adam Watts. Watts started releasing his own music starting with 2004's The Noise Inside, and kind of branched off to do more of his own thing. Sleeping Fire is a bit more polished than Watts' first album, and a bit more focused thematically. Many of the songs center on the idea that we're inching our way through life, in faith, and illuminate the humanity in us all that Christ came to redeem. "Invisible Light" is one of my favorite songs, perhaps of all time. I also heartily enjoy "Fly Fall Fly," "Bear With Me," and "Real for Me," and essentially the whole album.

Caedmon's Call - Share the Well (2004)
This is one of those albums that matter. Caedmon's set out on a series of international missions trips that led to the concept for this album. They incorporated native musicians, traditional styles, and global-consciousness into this incredible offering of songs. The band's emphasis that the same God exists over all peoples is humbling in "There's Only One (Holy One)." Christ's sufficiency for all of those peoples is conveyed in the deep-reaching "All I Need (I Did Not Catch Her Name)" and "The Roses." Scattered interludes by native musicians make this a project to listen to in order for full effect, and lead gracefully from song to song. Other favorites: "Volcanoland," "Bombay Rain," and "Wings of the Morning."

Andrew Peterson - Resurrection Letters, Vol. II (2008)
You might ask where the first volume is if you ever start to look for it, but Peterson still hasn't released a first volume to prelude this one. But that's okay. This album stands just fine on its own. For much of our second year of marriage, Chris and I listened to this album as our alarm in the mornings. It is one of Peterson's most polished releases, with great production value and the honest but fine-tuned tracks for which he is well-known. Favorites include "Invisible God," "Hosea," "Rocket," and "The Good Confession (I Believe)." Peterson is a music-crafter. He is one of the many that inspire me to create things that matter, and make me weep when I hear those that do.

06 May 2012

Weekend Workroom: A Little Bit of Everything and a Lot of Rocks

Our weekends have been a bit jumbled lately, as we've sought to keep our lives on track with our one-car status and we've had a slew of events that have kept things interesting. Not much time for crafting (though I'm hoping to change that this week - more in Thursday's post), but Chris and his parents have been doing a lot of work outside.

Two Weekends Ago (April 20-22): Missions Weekend
In preparation for Christopher's upcoming trip to Nepal in June with some of the youth kids, we helped put together and run a Nepalese-style lunch and servant auction for some fundraising (the lunch happens every year - the food styles just rotate). It was a great event, but a lot of work lugging tables and chairs into place the night before, and helping get everything ready to go that Sunday. Overall, raised about $3000 for the trip and went home and slept (at least I think that's what we did).

Last Weekend (April 27-29): Grab Bag Weekend
We were scheduled to go to the regional marriage conference, but decided it was a bit too much to sandwich between the track meet Chris was scheduled to coach on Friday afternoon and the prom that we were scheduled to chaperone Saturday night. But it was a good set of days. I went with Chris to work on Friday and was blessed to be able to do some shopping for things we had been putting off for a while due to finances (more on that in Thursday's post, as well), and then I joined him at the track meet (which I'll admit I actually enjoyed quite a bit, even when I wasn't reading). Saturday morning, we had donuts and spent some time together before doing some more long-put-off shopping, Chris mowed the lawn, and we went to prom. I don't know why any parent in his or her right mind would send a teenager to prom. It was awful. There are not really other words to describe it. But my date was great!

This Weekend (May 4-6): Rock Haul
Christopher's parents came up Friday night, so I spent my day off Friday cleaning the house (mostly because it really, really needed it - it is spring after all). The reason they came up? To figure out a solution for the west side of our house, where Chris found another layer of rock under the ground cover when he tried to clean it all up last summer. With the use of a crazy machine that moves stuff like rock and the creative re-use of old railroad ties, everything is looking much better, and it's not even quite done. More on that will be posted when it's finished at the other blog (http://mercuryreno.blogspot.com).

So, it has definitely been a mishmash around here lately. Lots of things happening with our weekends. And our camera needs to be charged, but we can't find the correct cord, so picture-taking is somewhat limited. What few pictures I take, I have been taking with my phone and sending through my Twitter account. Here are two to note:

Christopher riding with the "Dingo." Yes, that was it's name. No, it did not eat any babies.
Just rocks. But it helped us get our driveway back, and we are very grateful for that.

Completely unrelated to most of this post, but I made two of these roasted red pepper
and Italian sausage pizzas this week. They were absolutely awesome.