Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kevin and Kell on coffee

Mouseover:  "Coffee--bringing the day into focus."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kipling's "Just So Stories"

How marvelous!  The complete Just So Stories, with original illustrations are up in their entirety on-line.

"But the wildest of all the wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him"

Saturday, April 25, 2009

some saturday silliness

I was in college when Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet came out in the theater.  I asked my Shakespeare prof what he thought of it, his reply was, "When I left the theater, I was surrounded by weeping fourteen year old girls.  Really, what more can you ask of a Romeo and Juliet?"

Friday, April 24, 2009

seven quick takes, volume 090424

the trip to Chicago edition

1.  I did it!  This is an accomplishment for a five (the defining fear of fives is having enough knowledge/skill to be competent to act).  In this case, I sucessfully navigated Chicago's public transportation system to get myself and three small children from O'Hare-land downtown to the Shedd aquarium and back.  I did so without losing any of the children, and I managed to keep us all fed during the day, and my youngest didn't even decide she had to go potty while we were trapped on the over-crowded El, 45 minutes from getting off.
2.  I think my kids even had a good time at the aquarium.  I might feel bad about the three hours out of the day that transit took, except that was clearly as much of a treat as the fish.  There haven't been questions about when we get to go back to the aquarium.  There have been many questions about when we get to ride the train again.
3.   I did it!  I sucessfully followed the directions my friend gave me to drive the hour trip from our O'Hare hotel to her house in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.  I didn't miss any turns, I didn't get ticketed.  I didn't even get honked at.
4.  We had a great day with friends on Wednesday.  It's a wonderful treat when your kids are as good of friends with your friends' kids as you are with the parents.  It means the parents are free to completely ignore the children and let them play while we have our own conversation . . .
5.  I did it--mostly.  I made it back from my friend's house to the hotel in the dark, only muffed two of my turns, managed to work around them anyway without panicking, and didn't actually end up having to run the toll station for incorrect change . . . And anyway, the first muffed turn was really more of an alternate route.  Right?  (I mean, I was told before we headed home "If you miss the turn onto Lake Cook Rd., just keep going and you can get onto the highway off of 12--it just takes longer.")  It was the way that the freeway interchange between 90, 190, and 294 works going south/east that really threw me.  I mean, everywhere else in Chicago, signs that say "O'hare" mean towards O'hare . . . not "we're going to route you directly to the arrivals and departures drop-off point."
6.  Why were there toll booth attendents available to make change at every booth that we passed for four days except for the one I got to at 9:30 at night with two sleeping children in the back?  Why can't they jigger the toll machines to take dollar bills?  Why doesn't the U.S. mint simply decide that it's going to sensibly convert our nation to dollar coins and be done with it?  And if they throw in some of the pretty two-tone two-dollar coins like Canada has, that'd be a nice bonus.
7.  I . . . did . . . it.  When 90 turned into a parking lot in front of us and my wonderful husband got us off the freeway, I sucessfully helped navigate us through the side-roads and alternate routes of greater-greater-Chicago.  

A good trip.  I'm glad to be home, sleeping in my own bed with my own pillow.  I'm glad to be back in my own little midwestern town where 15 minutes in any direction gets you to corn fields and I can drive my standard routes without thinking about it.  And next time will be a bit easier.  :)
7 quick takes is hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary

Monday, April 20, 2009

modern culturally acceptable idolatry

Flipping through my comics reader this morning, I was averaging one comic out of every four mentioning earth week.  Did you know it was earth week?  Apparently we're all supposed to help out by turning off the TV to save electricity and using recyclable lunch boxes instead of disposable lunch sacks.  (I find this ironic on a morning that we had to make sure to NOT use our daughter's lunch box because her class is going on a field trip and they all have to bring a completely consumable/disposable lunch.)  Deny yourselves.  Save the earth.  Reduce, reuse, recycle.  Spend your time, attention and money . . . does this sound like worship to you?

Now, I'm all for stewardship.  The first job God gave people was to tend the Garden, and that never changed.  But when our focus is on the gift instead of the giver, the created rather than the Creator . . . isn't that nearly the definition of idolatry?  Can going green be syncretistic?  Alan Jacobs certainly suggests it in his excellent review of the Green Bible in the latest First Things.  

Because what are we on about with "saving the earth" anyway?  You know and I know (and you know that I know) that whether or not I send my kids to school with their lunches in a lunch box or a paper sack doesn't really make any difference.  Or does it?  If it makes a difference in the bent of my heart, if it makes a difference in my attitude, is that a net gain--even if no actual conservation is accomplished?  We are being called to lay our offerings at Gaia's altar.  

And it can be a tricky thing.  Many of the actions that the modern druids call us to, are, in fact, appropriate offerings for a Christian seeking to be a faithful steward and caretaker of all the gifts which our Creator has given to us.  But it's a question of orientation.  Do I take the actions I do for the glory of Christ's name and the furtherance of his kingdom?  Or is the highest good I can imagine merely earthly?

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Atheism is so easy. It requires nothing more of you than your willingness to cultivate cynicism, which is the laziest thing to grow.  --The Anchoress

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

classic Bucky

Harvard scientist creates chocolate inhaler

Somehow, this makes me really uneasy.  Can such a thing really be doing anything to give us a healthier relationship with food?  This strikes me as one more symptom of our society's disordered take on consumption, in all its forms.

a couple of videos

The first are encapsulated redemption stories. And we should never tire of hearing each other's God-stories. The second is a very helpful and entertaining reflection an art, the church, artists and Christianity by the wonderful David Taylor, a seminary classmate of my husband's.

Cardboard Stories from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

David Taylor-In His Own Words from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

daily dose of the gospel

Adding the common book blog Of First Importance to my reader makes for a pretty devotional shot of gospel every morning.  From John Piper today:

The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy . . . don’t try to be strong in your own strength; it will not be there when you need it. Only one strength will be there—the strength that God gives according to the gospel.  --The Gospel in 6 minutes

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday Comic round up

It's always interesting to see which of the Sunday strips acknowledge the existence of Easter Sunday and which don't.  On this, the feast of the Resurrection, the most important day of the Christian year, should we even expect the world to acknowledge it?  I was surprised that many of the strips which have previously made a point of establishing their families as church-going--Jump Start, Curtis, Baldo--ran completely generic Sunday strips.  There were the spattering of generic "Easter means spring" and Easter egg themed strips . . . mostly from grandparents of the funnies pages.  Family Circus, of course.  FBoFW, Blondie, and Mutts.  Rhymes with Orange wins the kudos for secular acknowledgement.  The pastel camo just makes me laugh.

And for a blog in which I have publicly affirmed my love for peeps, this year's Foxtrot deserves special notice.

B.C., of course, has traditionally held the position of being the most outspokenly Christian strip in the funny pages.  With Johnny Hart dead and his grandson writing the strip, I was curious to see what Mason Mastroianni would come out with this year.  I was pleased to see his honoring his grandfather's spirit by one-upping the delivery.

And Mallard Fillmore wins the prize for succinct theological accuracy.  If the glory that God deserves is infinite, the finite amounts of glory we can give him in any setting are vastly inadequate (they taught us in algebra that 1 / infinity and 1000 / infinity are both effectively 0) . . . then it strangely, wonderfully, fitting to honor him in this way.

My favorite strip this morning though goes to the erratic "One Big Happy," which it appears took the occasion of Easter to make some rather different religious commentary.  Namely, how completely ridiculous and self-contradictory the various popular beliefs about angels are.  Kudos to Mr. Detorie.  

A blessed Easter to everyone.  Christ is risen--he is risen indeed!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mmm . . . it's Peep season again.

I love peeps.  And it's always good to be up on the latest research on these things.  Thanks, Rob.

Easter Egg Bread

This recipe is a favorite in my husband's family.  My MIL brought the recipe out and is making it for us while visiting this week.

(Pane di Pasqua all' Uovo)

2 pkgs. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup water
3/4 cup butter or margerine
1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, well beaten
3 1/4 to 4 1/4 cups flour
6 colored eggs (uncooked)
1/4 to 1/2 cup maraschino cherries (optional)
1.  Soften yeast in the warm water in a bowl.  Mix in the 1 cup flour, then the 1/3 cup water.  Beat until smooth.  Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled (about 1 hour).
2.  Cream butter with lemon peel and juice (and cherries if desired) .  Mix in sugar and salt.  Add beaten eggs in halves, beating thoroughly after each addition.
3.  Add yeast mixture and beat until blended.  Add about half of the remaining flour and beat thoroughly.  Beat in enough flour to make a soft dough.
4.  Knead on floured surface until smooth.  Put into a greased deep bowl; turn dough to bring greased surface to top, Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled.
5.  Punch down dough; divide into thirds.  Cover; let rest about 10 minutes.
6.  With hands, roll and stretch each piece into a roll about 26 inches long and 3/4 inch thick.  Loosely braid rolls together.  On a lightly greased baking sheet or jelly-roll pan shape into a ring; pressing ends togehter.  At even intervals, gently spread dough apart and tuck in a colored egg.  Cover; let rise again until doubled.
7.  Bake at 375 Farenheit about 30 minutes.  During baking check bread for borwing, and when sufficiently browned, cover loosely with foil.  
8.  Transfer to wire rack.  If desired, spread a confectioners' sugar icing over top of warm bread.

Makes one large wreath

From 1001 Great Recipes from Around the World (apparently out of print)

some thoughts on zoos

I love zoos.  I love animals.  The medium sized city I grew up in had a really nice zoo for its size, and I remember many wonderful, sunny trips there.  Sometime around the time that I was in junior high, they even overhauled and modernized a number of their exhibits, giving the big cats more space and that kind of thing.  I even hauled three of my good friends to the zoo for my 18th birthday.  I figured, I it was my birthday and I could do what I wanted.

Since then, the zoos and aquariums I've had access to have been major metropolitan ones.  Vancouver's aquarium is world class (birthplace of Baby Beluga), and their zoo is huge.  In one sense anyway.  The Vancouver zoo has the largest ratio of acreage to animals of any animal out there.  If you go there, prepare for a hike.  And pack your binoculars.  If the animals are at the back of their enclosures, you won't be seeing much.  One of my favorite parenting memories is of taking our oldest daughter--then sixteen months old--to the Vancouver zoo and watching her discover elephants.  They were right next to the parking lot.  Her eyes went up . . . and up  . . . and up.  She planted her hand on her nose, baby-signing "elephant."  She "talked" about the elephants for days.

Our visit to the Seattle zoo was nice, even while it was pouring rain.  While we were living in the mountains in Colorado, our "home" zoo was the one in Denver.  The pride of that zoo, if you'll pardon the pun, is their lion exhibit.  And they do it right.  We saw a baby giraffe only a month old there, and usually planted ourselves in the ape house to watch the gorillas for a while.  (The elk zoo out our front door in Colorado was good as well, though limited in its variety.)

Omaha.  Oh my gosh.  If you ever get a chance to spend the day there, take it.  Our day at the Omaha zoo will remain in my mind as one of those God-sent grace notes in my mind.  The zoo is about half a mile off of I-80, and we had passed it several times driving back and forth from Colorado back to see family in the Midwest.  When we planned to make the move, I decided that I wanted to block in an afternoon to stop there and give our family a break.  We left the mountains Wednesday evening, and stayed Wednesday night with friends.  We spent all Thursday driving the length of Nebraska, and the kids were troopers, but I figured by Friday the kids would need a break, and so they did.  So Friday afternoon was the Omaha zoo.  In mid-December.  Thirty degrees and spitting.  And lo and behold, the Omaha zoo is about half indoor terrariums.  There's a full indoor tropical building at eighty degrees and humid, with birds flying free.  A full desert building.  An aquarium nearly as good as Vancouver's.  And we had it all to ourselves.  We spent ten to fifteen minutes just sitting in the tunnel section of the aquarium, where all the fish swim over and around you, while our middle daughter fell in love with the sharks.  We watched the bobcats and our youngest daughter watch each other with equal interest.  We didn't even to get to the monkey house.   (And the indoor sections were only half the zoo--the front half.  The back half had all the large enclosures for things like elephants, giraffes, and zebras, and we didn't tackle those.  I could easily have spent 2-3 days exploring Omaha's zoo.)  We got each of the girls a stuffed animal from the gift shop and went on Friday evening much refreshed, and ready for two more days of driving.  (Side note:  one of the things I most appreciated about the Omaha zoo was that they don't just care for their animals--they care for yours too.  As I noted, we were in the middle of a move when we stopped there, and had our cat sitting in her carrier in the truck.  When my husband checked with the gate people to make sure that his admission stamp would get him in and out during the day so that he could check on the cat, they said, "Oh, just bring her inside to the kennels!"  Apparently, the Omaha zoo has a number of large-dog sized kennels in the basement under their offices so that guests don't leave their dogs over-heating in the car during the summer.  And what's good to keep a dog cool in the summer is even better to keep a cat warm in the winter.  Kitty enjoyed a quiet nap away from the children for the afternoon.)

So this all brings me round, in a long, meandering way, to yesterday's disappointing visit to the South Bend zoo.  We'd been going to go to Ft. Wayne's zoo, which I've heard is excellent, but it's not yet open for the season.  So we drove the other way, to South Bend, and found . . . not much.  Given how much I love to sit and watch the animals, I figured that even with a small zoo, we could burn most of an afternoon.  But we'd seen everything in an hour and a half.  It took longer to do the drive back and forth than it did to see everything the zoo had to offer.  Part of that was that they had large number of the animals not out yet because the weather was too cold for them--but isn't having the indoor enclosures guest-accesible a pretty basic zoo thing these days?  And a lot of the animals that were out, especially the bigger ones like the big cats, didn't look like happy animals.  The didn't have enough space.  They acted either neurotic (the frantically pacing leopard, and the camel chewing his wooden fence to tatters), or else bored.  A lot of them were asleep.  My youngest didn't even realize that she'd seen a bear because it was just a black blob in the corner.  (Some excuse on that one anway--we learned that that bear is the oldest living in captivity . . . 33 years old, when that kind of bear lives to about 7 in the wild.)  I drove home in the afternoon feeling uneasy about the fact that some of our money had gone to support an organization that doesn't do well what it's supposed to be doing.  Talking to my husband about it yesterday evening, he said that he feels that way about most every zoo--that none of them do a good enough job with the animals, with the possible exception of San Diego's Wild Animal Park.  I wouldn't go that far.  But it has me thinking today about things like stewardship of the earth and the fact that we were meant to live with the animals from the beginning.  They offer us friendship and a connection to God that we are supposed to have that our sin ruined.  And how do we answer that need to be with them in a way that is fair to them?  Maybe more later.  This post now done due to chronic distraction.  :)

Friday, April 3, 2009

7quick takes, volume 090403: the we should have been dead edition

Why does a good God allow bad things to happen?  I submit to you that an awful lot of the time he doesn't, and we don't even bother to notice.  God reaches down and protects us, and we call it luck, or just take for granted that nothing bad should have happened.  Yesterday, as my family and I were driving the three hour trip from Indianapolis home to northern Indiana, we saw not one but two accidents involving overturned semi-trucks.  And we pray for travelling mercies so carelessly . . .

Thinking about this today, I realized that I can easily think of two or three incidents for each member of my immediate family--my mom, dad, brother and I--when we easily could have died and didn't.  Seven quick takes:  the our-lives-are-riddled-with-miracles edition.

1.  I was ten years old.  My dad and I, ignorant Midwesterners, were playing on a snowfield in the Colorado Rockies.  We slipped and tumbled down a very steep grade into a whole lot of huge boulders at the bottom.  Result:  Bruises for us both, and a concussion for me.
2.  When my parents were newly married their new, nifty little compact was slammed into at an intersection by a much larger truck.  The car was totalled.  If my mom had been wearing her seatbelt, she would have died.  For some reason she wasn't, and was just fine.
3.  My brother, last year, swinging from a rope swing while camping and the knot gave.  He landed flat on his back from 8-10 feet in the air.  Result:  not paralysis or death, but concussion and slight memory loss.
4.  Me, hiking on Isle Royale National Park, a four hour boatride from anything, let alone medical care.  I walked over a hornet's nest.  Got stung.  I'd never been stung before and didn't know what it was--stood there, trying to figure it out, until my dad shouted at me to run.  Some three dozen stings, all up in my shirt.  Good thing I didn't turn out to be allergic to stings.
5.  My brother, again, his senior year in high school.  Driving home through the country, at a rural train crossing without lights or gates or anything.  Accidentally ran the stop sign and made it across in front of the train by about 10 feet.
6.  Me and my mother, when I was four years old.  She was driving my friend and I home from preschool when a sixteen year old driver ran a red light and slammed straight into us.  None of us more than shook up.  (Additional minor miracle/grace of God for this incident:  the accident happened right in front of the house of a nice young mom who invited my friend and I in to watch Sesame Street with her daughter while my mom dealt with the police.  The whole scene is one of my more vivid early memories.)
7.  My brother in college, trying to cross the street back to his dorm with a pizza for dinner.  Hit by car.  Result:  several stitches across the back of his scalp.  And yes, the pizza was fine.  But pretty cold when he and his girlfriend finally got to eat it three hours later.

Lord Jesus, thank you for all the ways that you sustain us that we don't even know about.  Thank you for all the times when it could have been so much worse, and wasn't.    Help us remember that that's you.

7 quick takes hosted by Jennifer at Conversion Diary