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.