Jan 31, 2009

Peace Like A River

I have long wanted to share a book with you: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.
It was recommended by John Piper; so I read it.

While Peace Like a River is fiction, it is important in ways that fiction should be. Many classic works have this same quality, both engrossing and readable, but spine-tingling important. This is one of them for me.

I have been trying to write this post for three weeks, but just can't seem to do it justice. I'll try.

The setting is 1962 Minnesota, small town. The narrator is an 11-yr old boy, Reuben Land. He reminds me of Scout Finch. The language has a poetic, earthy quality to it, one of small town America. His words sometimes are funny, youthful and sincere....and his sister's words are overly dramatic as only a young girl's can be.

Trouble is about to enter the lives of Reuben, his father Jeremiah, his older brother Davy and sister Swede, but it isn't the plot which drives the story. It is the characters and how they dealt with each other and the plot which remain with me, now several weeks after reading the book. While the father, Jeremiah, is uncompromising,he is fascinating. He leads his children as no father I know; he seems both smaller and larger than life..... I wish I'd met him. I think he'd see me, really see me and...I'd want to follow his instruction.

The narrative begins with Reuben's birth;

From my first breath in this world, all I wanted was a good set of lungs and the air to fill them with....think about your own first gasp: a shocking wind roweling so easily down your throat, and you will slipping around in the doctor's hands.....

..."He isn't breathing Mrs. Land."...

...."nothing could be done; perhaps it was for the best."

I was lying uncovered on a metal table across the room.

Dad lifted me gently. I was very clean from all that rubbing, and I was gray and beginning to cool. A little clay boy is what I was.

"Breathe," Dad said."

I lay in his arms.

Dr. Nokes said, "Jeremiah, it has been twelve minutes."

"Breathe!" The picture I see is of Dad, brown hair short and wild, giving this order as if he expected nothing but obedience.

Dr. Nokes approached him. "Jeremiah. There would be brain damage now. His lungs can't fill."
Dad leaned down, laid me back on the table, took off his jacket and wrapped me in it - a black canvas jacket with a quilted lining, I have it still. He left my face uncovered.
"Sometimes," said Dr. Nokes, "there is something unworkable in one of the organs. A ventricle that won't pump correctly. A liver that poisons the blood." Dr Nokes was a kindly and reasonable man. "Lungs that can't expand to take in air. In these cases," said Dr.Nokes, "we must trust in the Almighty to do what is best." At which Dad stepped across and smote Dr. Nokes with a right hand, so that the doctor went down and lay on his side with his pupils unfocused. As Mother cried out, Dad turned back to me, a clay child wrapped in a canvas coat, and said in a normal voice, "Reuben Land, in the name of the living God, I am telling you to breathe."

......It made Dad my hero, as you might expect, won him my forgiveness for anything that he might do forever; but until later events it didn't occur to me to wonder just why I was allowed, after all, to breathe and keep breathing.

The answer, it seems to me now, lies in the miracles.

Let me say something about that word: miracle. For too long it's been used to characterize things or events that, though pleasant, are entirely normal. Peeping chicks at Easter time, spring generally, a clear sunrise after an overcast week - a miracle, people say, as if they've been educated from greeting cards. I'm sorry, but nope. Such things are worth our notice every day of the week, but to call them miracles evaporates the strength of the word.

Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It's true: they rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave - now there's a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of the earth.

I wish I could go on and share the whole book. I myself think Spring and babies are miracles...but I get the point!

Let me say this: Peace Like a River is about life, full of trials and family and hope and work. It helps cut to the chase of life, winnowing away all the chaff that we see in our ordinary days and think of as life.

Jan 29, 2009

Snow day #2 and "Snow Cream"

Warning: if you aren't interested in an overly enthusiastic account of the snow, you'd better skip the words. I am smitten.

Pure powder snow for sledding on our second snow day. This is a local homeschooling mom's "secret place" and it was perfect! Here we are, ready to GO!
It is on a levee with fields all around us, gorgeous and pure white. When we moved here they were full of ready crops, colorful and full of promise. They've been dead and sad looking for two months, until now. The lights snows have nothing on this snow!

Here's #2 with the powder flying, and into her face! Soft and glorious!

#3 was all grins.
I forgot to mention the surprising part of the day: I sledded. Over and over, I just couldn't get enough. I had crusted snow all over my jeans and under my jacket on my sweater. My ear warmers and scarf were crusty. I LOVED IT! It was fast and soft and fun!

The train tracks down below is another picture in which I pretend I am a photographer...I just couldn't resist.

No manipulating of the image at all...this is straight out of the camera.

It was dusk and we were going home after hot chocolate and MacGyver re-runs at a friend's house and we crossed the tracks....I actually stopped and reversed in a very snowy road just to get this photo from the car. We didn't get stuck, thankfully. The same lovely homeschooling mom who took us to the secret place for sledding also sent out this recipe for "Snow Cream"
You gather one gallon of fresh snow. Then mix together 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tsp vanilla, thoroughly incoroporating the sugar. The pour all over the snow, mixing it very well. Eat...wonderful!OK, hopefully, I'll be a little less enthusiastic tomorrow. I wouldn't bet on it, though.

Jan 27, 2009

Snow Day

Today was a snow day. it was around 20 degrees, for a high. Not uncommon, but snow is more rare to us so far here:
If you click on the pictures, you can see the snow coming down. It still is.
The plows are doing their job and the roads are fairly clear. We just haven't had much actual snow this year here...so we were ready for it!Besides some fun playing in the snow outside, we went to a local park with hills. #3 brought his new sled from Gram.
#2 shared a friend's sled, above.DH and #4 had a blast going down...even though his face doesn't show it.#1 was flying down the hill, fast....she had just hit a bump and her head and feet both flew up, hair flying.
I wish I'd been able to catch this shot better....#3 is going very fast and is very happy.

Butternut Soup and Ree's Dinner Rolls

How I love to make the recipes that Ree gives us on her "Confessions of a Pioneer Woman" Blog!
This week I made her Pot Roast again, and ohhhhh...this is so good.

I also made my own butternut squash soup:We make it often, so I though maybe you'd like to try it.
First turn your oven to 350. Cut two medium butternut squash into halves and place on cookie sheet, cut side down. Cook them for about 45 minutes, till very soft, and lightly browned on the flesh. Meanwhile...

Dice two medium onions.
Saute them in 3 TBs butter, adding 1 tsp garlic salt, 1 tsp curry powder, 1/8 tsp nutmeg. Let it brown and get carmelized.

Then add 4 cups water and a quarter cup "Glory" brand chicken soup base, or any other you use. Even chx bullion would work. Simmer for a while till the squash cools enough to handle.

Scoop the butternut out of it's shell and dump it into the mixture. Let it simmer for a while...it'll break up as it mixes and heats into the broth. Add more liquid if you think it needs it.

When you are ready to serve, add 2-3 cups 2 percent milk. Then get your handy dandy hand blender and blend it till it thickens. The dairy in it makes it thicken with the hand blender.

Done! Serves maybe 8?
We like it so much I didn't stop to take a photo of the nicely filled bowl. I only got around to it later. (seethat first photo overhead). This is what the bowl looked like after someone finished their serving.
This next recipe was another photo failure. I meant to take a photo of the heaping, gorgeous pile of dinner rolls. We snatched them up so fast I only caught the last one before it was gobbled. This is Ree's recipe for dinner rolls; I hadn't made them before and wasn't sure I could do it. Baking hasn't been my strength. Maybe this is changing with such great recipes around. There was enough dough for three meals!!!!Let me know how it turns out if you make them?

Jan 19, 2009

Eichler, murder, and the magic switch

Margaret Grace (author Camille Minichino) sent me via Laura's blog a book, "Murder in Miniature". Although I have several books I want to share with you, I have to do a quickie on this one. I really didn't have time to read it, but I knew it would be relatively quick read and so I gave it an afternoon indulge.

Who was to know, the setting was an Eichler home. I, myself, grew up in a fantastic, incredible and unique Eichler home!!!!!! The book was an enjoyable read, with never a desire to put it down. The plot and characters were fun, but...at the end was a big surprise! Yes! the home which was the setting for the mystery was my floorplan! It was a reverse, but still the same! I loved it. She showed the floorplan on the last page. Thank you Camille, for the book, the fun, and the trip down memory lane.

OK, now the swtich. The switch for which I am endlessly grateful:
Can you see it? Here it is closer:
It is the answer to our heating situation. We have forced air heating which works very hard to keep up on those very cold days, but doesn't quite do it.

We are also blessed with an ancient boiler, which heats wonderfully well. It is not attached to a thermostat so we have to go into the basement and turn it on manually.
The basement is cold.

It isn't my best friend.

It has rickety stairs and lots of funny bricks in weird places, holding the house up ...somehow. Sooo.....My wonderful husband got me the switch.
Now, all I do is flip the switch and "whoooosh" the gas boiler flares on with much heating and quiet lovely warmth.
Lovely it is.

Jan 15, 2009

Interview me!

Some of my favorite bloggers have recently been interviewed by other bloggers. Dlyn gave an interesting interview a couple of days ago and asked us if any of us wanted to be interviewed as well. I said...yes. I like Dyln's sense of humor and figured she'd be fun. So here's her questions for me and my answers. (If you would like to be interviewed, tell me in the comments section)
So here's the interview:

1. I love looking at your knitting projects. What or who got you started with knitting?

Thanks, Dlyn! I do love to knit. It was my good friend Tammy who taught me, a mere few days after she learned. She has definitely been the leader and the expert, and I have followed her as well as I could, considering my continuing passion for reading and my family. I find that I only want to make things that serve two purposes: one is it HAS to be practical...someone must want it to really use it, and the other is that it has to be fun to knit. I totally enjoy looking at the cool things other people have made. Living where it is cold ( 1 degree F outside today people!) makes it much more fun for me. I can enthusiastically use wool instead of cotton, which is much nicer to work with. Not that scratchy wool, just nice wool.

2. What values do you most hope you pass along to your kids?

This one is so important to me. I want them to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. I want them to see me rely on Him and even to fall back on him when I have blown it, confessing and receiving His righteousness. I want them to want to know Him more and more. The rest is just icing on the cake. That's the most critical thing I want to pass on to them.

3. What do you do when you totally want to pamper yourself and relax?

OK, this question could have me talking for ages! I love to sit down with a great book (or a quick fun read) and while away the hours in front of a roaring fire. I also love to have my feet rubbed with lotion (thanks kids). What a pleasure. I like to sit in front of a good show and knit and knit. I also love to play games with my kids - Bang! is a favorite. When things get chaotic, I like to sit down at the piano and try to learn a new piece. Somehow, chaos seems less chaotic when the piano gets in the mix. A dirty little secret is that (many years ago) I used to sneak outside and smoke. I liked being alone and felt like I had to be doing something, so I'd find a beautiful spot in the backyard and be alone out there looking at the sky and the birds and the flowers (and that disgusting smoke - yeah, I know).

I have to say that I find far too much time in my days for such things. I am not sure how, but housework and little things I am supposed to do just seem to get forgotten when it comes to my days. After kids, my brain has been unable to hold the things I want it to, and the housework and chores seem to be the first things I forget! :-)

4. You have a very impressive reading list - are there books that you read over and over or do just read each one once?

I have a bunch of books that I have been waiting to read over again, 'cause I know them so well. I have to wait until they are more fresh. Lately (the last 5 years or so), it has all been new books. Most of the books I read fall into three groups: books I read out loud to the kids, easy books I read like candy, and books for my own education (like the classics). My favorites tend to be spread across all three types, no snobbery here!

5. What is your favorite family activity?

My most recent favorite is to go on long bike rides together. It is too cold now, but in the Fall we loved the bike trails here. Even the youngest kid was fine with a 12-14 mile ride. The wind rushing by, the smiles and the sense of accomplishment, all made for a happy group. We also like to play cards together. Most times we have some small squabbles when playing cards, but it is still really fun! We used to like beach camping, but haven't done that in while, with moving preparation and all that.

OK, that's it! Thanks Dlyn for such great questions.

For those of you who might want to be interviewed, here are the directions:

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Jan 12, 2009


Each year we get a live tree and decorate it on Christmas Eve. For the last two years, the day after Christmas my favorite woodsman wants to hack it to pieces as soon as possible. First, he takes the branches off:
Then he chops it into two large pieces to be used for Easter. This year, he got carried away. I think I kept him waiting too long. It wasn't until after New Year that he got to it. It ended up being completely OBLITERATED. Nothing left but a few tiny wood chips.
We had so much putting straw on a local strawberry field, the kids put themselves to sleep with the after-fatigue:
OK, I don't really know why they were pretending to sleep. The work was fun, but good and the fellowship was priceless. I am not sure what they were looking for, but I liked this one too...I've been sick. A small cold that is attacking my throat and keeping me down. But I want it to go away.

Jan 4, 2009

Historical House Field trip

We took a trip to a local house, built in 1820. Since ours was built in 1890, I wanted to see if I could tell any difference.....whoa what a difference. The people in that house had money! And servants. One of the servants had a very interesting fiber-related item:
While these boys may look bored, they were not. They were salivating: some aromatic hot buns were just pulled out of the huge fireplace and they were told all about the making of them ...but were not going to be able to eat them. :-(Inside one of the bedrooms, the whole realm of attire was discussed. Those rich people wore a lot of clothes back in 1820.

They also were not above robbing the cradle: the wife was 10 1/2 when she married and had her firstborn at "almost fourteen", according to a docent.
I was enthralled with the light in the kitchen. It was southerly, mid/late afternoon light. I thought it looked great on the candles.

#2 couldn't wait to end the bathing instruction. That's a bath tub on the floor there, yes that tiny thing. The docent asked her to get in and then demonstrated how the bath would take place. She didn't like being the exhibit. I did.
Last, but not least, #4 is enjoying reading in her favorite spot, on top of a heat register, in the dining room. At least it is warm.