A Word From the Girl

Yesterday was packed.
And today is coming to an end . . .
but know that i am working on writings about the wandering and slavery that give meaning and purpose to this coming Advent Season . . .
i need to bite off small chunks . . . but instead, I am trying to completely relearn the old testament.

to tide you over . . .
listen to my favorite silly ditty . . .
completely irreverant . . .
by Dar Williams . . .
called The Christians and the Pagans


I will be back soon with my thoughts in order.
This everyday blogging thing is a big commitment!

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Don't Give Me No Turkey

Our friend Dave was at our house for dessert on Thursday. And after looking at the counter full of food, he asked a question that goes right to the heart of any chef - even a hack like me - "So, were you pleased with how it all turned out? Any favorites?"

Well, YES Dave, there was in fact a favorite . . .
And it was a total suprise! Mom and I both thought that the Sweet Potato Gratin or the the Mushroom Strudel would knock our socks off . . . and that the pork might be a little dry . . .
NOT so! While Herb is a little bit happy that he finally ate the last of the leftover pork last night and doesn't have to have it AGAIN, even he would agree that it was out of this world (at least the first three times, that is)!!!!

Stuffed Pork Loin with Caramelized Onion-Cranberry Sauce
From Cooking Light

For the deepest flavor, caramelize the onions in the same pan you use to brown the pork loin. Substitute apple for pear in the stuffing, if you prefer. Garnish with flat-leaf parsley.

1 (2-pound) boneless pork loin roast, trimmed
2 cups cranberry juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup Bosc pear, diced (about 1 large)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons dried cranberries, chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cooking spray
1 cup minced onion
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed
1/2 cup cranberry juice
3 tablespoons sugar

Cut horizontally through center of roast, cutting to, but not through, other side using a sharp knife; open flat as you would a book. Place roast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to a 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet.
Combine 2 cups juice and next 3 ingredients (through 2 tablespoons sugar) in large bowl; stir until sugar and salt dissolve. Pour juice mixture into a large zip-top plastic bag. Add roast to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 4 hours, turning occasionally. Remove roast from bag, and pat dry; discard marinade.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine pear, cheese, and dried cranberries; sprinkle cheese mixture over roast, leaving a 1/2-inch margin around outside edges. Roll up roast, jelly-roll fashion, starting with long side. Secure at 2-inch intervals with twine. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add roast; cook for 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Place roast on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160° (slightly pink). Let stand for 15 minutes before slicing; cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

While roast bakes, add onion to skillet; sauté 8 minutes or until onion is browned, stirring frequently. Add fresh cranberries, 1/2 cup juice, and 3 tablespoons sugar to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until cranberries pop and sauce thickens. Serve sauce with roast.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 3 ounces roast and about 1/4 cup sauce)

CALORIES 226(26% from fat); FAT 6.4g (sat 2.2g,mono 3.1g,poly 0.8g); PROTEIN 26.5g; CHOLESTEROL 67mg; CALCIUM 38mg; SODIUM 584mg; FIBER 1.4g; IRON 0.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 14.8g

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I Am An Orphan Girl

My hope is that this pursuit of Advent's meaning can become an open conversation . . . whoever you are, if you read this blog, throw in your two cents. Let's explore this together.

Todays Song . . . .

We all have a wandering place inside. It is in our souls. It has become a part of our DNA, even, I think. Really. I think that somehow, if it is possible, the results of sin (a spiritual reality) have influenced and changed our physical reality. I know this is not a new thought - but it still just kind of mesmerizes me! We are so intertwined - body, mind, and spirit. Those guys at the YMCA really knew what they were talking about!

That wandering place is different for everyone . . . but it all goes back to "the big apple caper" that I talked about yesterday. Let's not blame Eve . . . . if she didn't do it, I am sure you or I would have. That must have been SOME apple . . . no, that was some lie that she believed! She believed that God didn't really loved her - that he was not setting limits to protect her, but rather to deceive her. Oi! So she bit in . . . and now there is a breech between Him and us.

And so we wander.

Like Jacob and his tribe.

Like Moses and his stragglers.

We wander.

Even though we are connected . . . to others. Even, now, connected to God again . . .

We wander.

As we walk into these first days of Advent, I think it is only right to get in touch with that wandering side of ourselves.

The Israelites, after they entered the Promised Land, still had to wait about 400 years before the promised King would arrive. They anticipated. They yearned.
And they had been yearning for generations.
That is an entire lineage - generation upon generation - of wandering and wondering and yearning and even some disappointment.

And just like disease has found its way into human DNA, I believe that after all of those years of feeling unconnected and unfulfilled . . . first in Egypt, then the desert, and finally "safe" but waiting for a king . . . a wandering heart and a constant feeling of being lost has also made its way into our physical makeup.

So, let's not skip ahead to the elation of longing being fulfilled that comes on December 25 . . .

I think we can really appreciate his arrival more if we first get in touch with how much we long for him.

We won't know the impact of his redeeming qualities if we are not aware of what it is that needs to be redeemed.

And now, the creative therapist in me gets to ask some questions . . .

* Imagine that your "wandering orphan" lives in a part of your body. Where would your orphan be? What color are the walls there? What does the temperature feel like? What does it look like? Is there a smell? Any sound?

* What is your wanderer looking for? How would your wanderer know they have found what they are looking for?

Before I leave you with the song. . .
I found this website yesterday . . . looks like they might be writing a weekly advent meditation.
(jennifer, is this where you went to church in nashville????)

Orphan Girl
I am not sure who wrote this . . . it is sung by Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris . . . . and others, I am sure.
I suggest you find this on iTunes . . . it is good to hear the aching in these ladies voices.

I am an orphan on God's highway
But I'll share my troubles if you go my way
I have no mother no father
No sister no brother
I am an orphan girl

I have had friendships pure and golden
But the ties of kinship I have not known them
I know no mother no father
No sister no brother
I am an orphan girl

But when He calls me I will be able
To meet my family at God's table
I'll meet my mother my father
My sister my brother
No more orphan girl

Blessed Savior make me willing
And walk beside me until I'm with them
Be my mother my father
My sister my brother
I am an orphan girl

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What Is It We Are Waiting For?

The cool thing about yesterday's Advent mix up is that we just bought ourselves a week to explore the back story.
Why do we acknowledge this time of anticipation?
Why do we celebrate a child's birth that took place 2000 years ago?

I have a few thoughts on all of this . . .

Keep in mind a few things . . .
A) It has been 7 years since in sat in my Old Testament seminary classes. So, I know that I might have some of the Biblical details mixed up. I will try to clarify those as I study more this month.
B) These are my thoughts and words about Advent . . . please enjoy them, use them, pass them along . . . but please don't preach them, publish them, or claim them as your own.

Now that we have all of that cleared up . . .

From the time I became a believer in Christ (in my late teens), I can remember feeling disillusioned during the Christmas Eve service at church. The day would go great up to the point that I sat in the dim old church; squirming around in a creaky wooden pew. We wrapped last minute gifts . . . or in my case, we made our last minute gifts and prayed they would dry on time! And then mom made homemade waffles and ham. After washing down a great day with a tall glass of egg nog, we drove to church.

Eventually, I saw Christmas Eve as a time of worship rather than a special night to wear my new dress and oggle at the women who wore fur coats to the late service.

But I always left feeling sad and overwhelmed.
It was clear that what was being said was important.
What we observed was important.

I knew it must be important because there was a 20 foot tree at the front of the building and hundreds of poinsetas placed strategically around the room. The choir, robed in Burgundy and gold, sang songs learned especially for that evening - often times in Latin. Now, I don't know about you, but in my world, if a person makes the effort to learn something in Latin, it is a pretty special occasion.

They had my attention.
It was clear that Christmas was important.

But I felt hard pressed to be changed in my heart by what had happened in Bethlehem so many years ago. Even as an adult, it has been hard to celebrate something that I don't really understand the origin and importance of. Easter is much easier for me. As violent and agonizing as the story is, I get the whole, "he died for your sins and then overcame them" thing.

What has been more difficult to grasp is the process of "waiting" and "anticipating" that Israel went through so many years ago. It is hard to imagine a time in history when people believed the Savior would come . . . they just didn't know when.

The time of Advent leads up to the crescendo of Christ's birth!
But the message that was told was always too big to fit into an hour long service. There were not enough candles or choir robes or words in the Latin language to sufficiently communicate the message. It was like pouring the Pacific Ocean into a Dixie Cup.

Even if it had been possible for them to sufficiently convey the message in one hour, my heart could not hold it; my mind could not comprehend it. Because the Christmas Story is so much longer than what can be told in one hour. It has so little to do with stars and wisemen and mangers. Those are, in my opinion, vivid but gratuitous details that we have grasped tightly to, with the hopes of creating some symbolance of order out of this holiday.

Most sermons are based on 9 or 10 verses of Scripture. That is, if the pastor even uses Scripture anymore! But this message, really, requires the back story of the entire Old Testament and hundreds of years of relationship between God and man to fully appreciate the significance of a young, unmarried girl who risked her life because she believed that an angel told her the child in her belly was from God.

It doesn't do much good to anticipate Christ's arrival if we don't really understand why we need him. You can't yearn for somebody that you don't know. You can't really celebrate the homecoming of a loved one if you didn't miss their absence in the first place.
I suppose that is exactly what the Isrealites did.

By the time of his birth, Christ had been prophesied about for decades. Some people yearned for his anticipated arrival. Sadly, many people lost hope that he would come at all, and the faithful anticipatory crowd tended to be limited to prophets and others who were considered to be the town crazies and overall burdensome to those who just wanted to live their lives without obligation or boundary.

Why did they need a Savior? Why was this Emmanuel's arrival such a big deal? Why were they anticipating him for so long?

We can trace this all the way back to Genesis. From the time Eve's lips tongue tasted lies mixed with apple juice, we needed some help.

We needed a Redeemer. We were disconnected from God after that whole fresh fruit fiasco, and humanity as a whole was desperately in need of a means of repaying an infinite debt.

Later, the nation of Israel is formed in the form of one polygomist who had a falling out with his brother, so he takes his wives and all of their children away from their homes out of his own fear, and ends up in Egypt, where they are enslaved. All of those people suffered because he was a bonehead. Perhaps he was feeling a little like Miss Eve at that moment.

Yes, I am thinking we need a Savior. Because, don't we all make mistakes like this? (. . . the answer . . . it is "yes".)

Later, there is this whole locust and blood thing . . . kind of gruesome. They finally get out of dodge one night after an angel goes through town and knocks off all of the Egyptians. So, they are free, but far from home. So God earmarks a kid with a lisp to lead the group of ex-slaves to a "promised land". But what should have been a three or four day walk takes 40 years.

These people are wandering around and without a King. They cannot go home and they cannot go to the "promised land" due to political unrest. They don't have a poltical leader to protect them.

And they are desperate for one. Why?

A king, a good king, will represent and protect his people. A good king has a voice that is respected and heeded. A good king helps to maintain order and justice.

This is something we all need. And without a good king, we are either unfairly reigned (a dictatorship) or reigned with a weak hand and left to our own devices. There was disorder and injustice - and they longed for someone to come in to guide and protect them.

One problem is that people have historically been disinterested in resolving the breech between themselves and God. It seems much easier and more comfortable to just keep things the way they are.

Israel needed a king. We need a king. The reality is, they had one - from the beginning, God has been king.

But they chose not to follow him. They did not respond to his direction.

So, God promised them a king they might respond to.
A human king.

And so, we wait, like they waited.
We look inside and we see the ways that our souls are just like the state of Isreal back before the Savior was born . . . scared, without direction, and burdened.
It becomes just a bit more clear that this kid whose birthday we celebrate next month, might actually be worth the wait.

Look inside . . . And ask . . .

How do I need to be redeemed?
How do I need to be led?
How do I need to be protected?

These are the reasons a Messiah was promised and delivered. If we don't know why a Redeemer is significant in our lives, then we have no basis on which to anticipate Christ or to celebrate his birth at the end of this month.

And we are left with a belly full of nog and an empty heart.

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Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll . . . and Apparently, Some Truth

They were looking for the Messiah to come on the back of a white stallion. Heck, I bet they expected he would be a grown-up. But he was the baby of an unmarried Jewish girl.

Not quite what you would expect.

But then again, God rarely chooses the obvious path.

I learned that, once again, several years ago when I stumbled upon this song.

A man who is cloaked in rumors about his sexuality, integrity, and drug habits . . .
he saw truth.
and he sings about it.

Let us look for God, today, in places we would never expect Him to be.
Like, for instance, in our hearts.

Still working on my reflections for today . . . going back to the begining . . . thinking about WHY we need a Messiah in the first place.
Whoa - there is just a lot to think about!
But I want to give it sufficient time to make sure I am saying things that are true . . . so, I will try to get that up this afternoon.

Have a great day!

The Christmas Song
by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds

She was his girl, he was her boyfriend
She'd be his wife, and make him her husband.
A surprise on the way any day any day
One healthy little giggling, dribbling baby boy
The wisemen came, three made their way
To shower him with love while he lay in the hay
Shower him with love, love, love
Love,love was all around.
Not very much of his childhood was known
Kept his mother Mary worried always out on his own
He met another Mary, who for a reasonable fee,
Less than reputable was known to be
His heart was full of love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love was all around.
When jesus christ nailed to his tree
Said oh daddy-o, I can see how it all soon will be
I came to shed a little light on this darkening sea
Instead I fear I've spilled the blood of my children all around
The blood of my children all around
The blood of my childrens all around.
So I'm told, so the story goes
The people he knew were less than golden-hearted
Gamblers and robbers,
Drinkers and jokers, all soul searchers
Like you and me, like you and me
Rumors insisted that he soon would be
For his deviations taken into custody
By the authorities, less informed than he
Drinkers and jokers, all soul searchers
Searching for love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love was all around.
Preparations were made for a celebration day
He said eat this bread but think of it as me
Drink this wine and dream it will be the blood of our children all around
The blood of our children all around
The blood of our children all around
Father up above
Why in all this hatred do you fill me up with love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love is all around
Father up above
Why in all this hatred do you fill me up with love, fill me love, love, yeah
Love, love, love
Love, love, and the blood of our children all around.

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His heart . . .
is deep and wide.
It is full . . .
and overflowing.
It is tender
and wounded
and thristing for more.
He laughs
and listens
and shares
and cries.

His heart . . .
knows God.
And loves me too.
He listens at church
and talks about it
a little bit.
But mostly, he
just puts it into action.

He bought K-Mart gift
cards for us to put in our
glove compartments
to give out to folks in need.
I made a big deal out of
"giving them to people
who are equipped enough to
know how to use them" . . .
he already knew that, though.

And he is using his "restoration"
money that was given out in church
a few weeks ago
to start a hat and glove fund.
These will also be kept in our cars
to give to folks in need.

He trusts God
and doesn't let rules or expectations
keep him from living the
way God would want him to.

Tonight, we saw a man
who was asking for money.
We didn't have any.
Two hours later, we saw him again.
By now, we had cash from an ATM.
Herb gave him a $20 without
thinking about it.
He was not worried about how
this man might use the money.
Certainly, not all of the imporvereshed
are addicts.
But so many of them are.
That is how they end up on the streets.
It is deemed the responsible thing to
gauge the likelihood that the person
will use the money for food or shelter
instead of crack or moonshine.
But Herb doesn't seem to bother
with all of that.

I grew silent.
Poverty overwhelms me.
Addiction pains me.
There is a place
inside of me
that understands my responsibility
to serve and love the poor and weary.

I yearn to make a difference.
I desire to see it all change.
And I know that I can help.
But it all just seems so big.
Where to start?

I have worked with addicts before
and so infrequently do they change.

Cycles are so hard to brake.

So, I reacted out of my head
rather than my heart.

"He was so strung out, babe.", I said.

"I don't think that matters - it is not
ours to decide if and when someone
deserves to be taken care of.", he said.

I love his heart.

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it would seem that today was, in fact, NOT the first Sunday of Advent.
That would be NEXT Sunday.
So . . . stay tuned!



One More Thing

I have some very favorite Christmas Carols . . .

But I also have some less traditional Christmas faves . . .

I will share one with you each day this month.

Today, I could not find the lyrics for this song.
BUT, I did find a site for you to download the tune for free!

Not to shabby, huh?

Just take a peak here and choose Linus Song from the list on the left hand side of the page.


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Days of Anticipation

"And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature."

Today is the first day of Advent.
Growing up this meant that the songs we sang in choir at church began to change.
It meant that at some point, our family would probably be asked to walk an embarrassing, long walk down the long red carpeted aisle of our 100 year old Presbyterian church; one of us, probably my dad (he is the man, after all) or me (I was the one who enjoyed the sound of her own voice) would read a passage from the Bible.
Then one of us, probably my brother (because he was little and cute), would reach up to the elaborate brass candelabra and light a candle. White or purple, depending on the week we were asked to participate.

Advent, they say, is a time of preparation.
The only preparation I took part in during this season was making sure my lipstick matched my tight red sweater.

As the trees loose their leaves and the sun peaks later and sets earlier, they serve as vivid symbols of what happened with Israel before Christ was born.
Quite literally, there was famine and war, due to the lack of a king.
Life was sparse
and dark
and lifeless.
There was a yearning for more.
Much more.

In my soul,
and maybe yours,
there is also famine and war.
It is colder.
Much more stark than other times in my life.

And so I find great hope in the promise of this advent season.
Maybe hope like Israel found when they heard that after hundreds (400, I think) of years of leaderless war, that a the promised king might finally be arriving.

It is a time in my life . . . as it was for Israel . . . that is filled with anticipation
and perhaps a little fear.

What if the king is not coming?
And if he does,
what if he can't help us?

In the end, we find out that it is a bastard baby child that is the promised king.
Not quite what they were hoping for.
And then, later he rides into town on an ass . . . just like the ones he was born amongst . . .
instead of the white horse that a king would ride . . .
and then to top it all off, he gets killed.
Well, not just killed.
The death that is saved for the most vile of criminals.
Kind of sounds like a trifecta of disappointment and even more despair.
Turns out, it actually is not.
This God of ours has a wild imagination and He gets his work done in the most interesting of ways.
After all, He IS the Creator . . . an artist . . .
and us creative types tend to be a little reckless and unconventional in getting to our intended destination.

But we are not there yet.
Let's not skip ahead.

Right now, we are in a season of promise.
We don't know what is to come . . .
But we hope.
We anticipate.

Things are darker . . . quite literally, as our sun comes for such short visits these days . . .
and for some of us, things are darker inside.

And as we are surrounded by stark darkness, we hear a quiet promise . . .

Things are about to change.
A Savior is coming.
THE Savior is coming.

Here was stand, surrounded by darkness . . .
Yet, we can, should we choose,

anticipate . . .
wait for . . .
watch for . . .

a bright, abundant source of light and life.

Today, should you choose, think about a way you might choose to participate . . .
to daily hope and watch . . .
during this time of waiting.
This time of watching.
Should you need ideas, let me know.
I have a few.

For me . . .

I have a few books stashed here and there.

And I am going to go find a few Paperwhite bulbs today to plant . . .
in rocks . . .
to remind me that life can come even in the most desolate of environments.
And I am going to watch those ugly bulbs everyday . . .
and see what they might do.
I am going to plant them in a glass container so I can watch their roots begin to grow.
that they will in fact . . .
come to life.
No, they . . .
we . . .
ARE alive here and now . . .
we just don't appear that way.
We just don't feel that way.
Instead, we hope they (and we)
will bloom.

I also have the desire to put a big old piece of butcher paper up on a closet door for doodling and writing words and verses that stand out during this season of anticipation.
Have not passed that one by Herbie yet . . .
we'll see how he feels about having a collage on the front closet door!

And, finally, I am going to try . . .
to write in this blog daily throughout Advent.
About what I see as I wait.

How do you think you might posture yourself during this time of waiting for the Christ child?

It might be easy.
Your life might be dark and dizzy and volatile.
So, the promise of a peacemaking king might make perfect sense to you.

But maybe you are enjoying life.
Maybe things are easy and breezy.
How nice for you!
And if they are, what might you do to listen to that voice deep inside,
quiet as it may be right now,
that says,
"I need a Savior"?

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There Should Be a Required Screening Process Before People Are Allowed to Reproduce.

Me: "Our kids will not call us 'mommy' and 'daddy'. We have to come up with some cooler, more interesting names."

Herb: "Okay. They will call me Steve. Or Steven. Steven with a "V" or a "ph". There are options."

Me: "Great. Sounds good, Steve. I think I will have them call me Pretty."

Herb: "Yeah! 'NO! Pretty did NOT tell you that you could do that - I know her better than you do and she would not have given you permission for THAT!"

Good thing we are a ways off from kiddos!

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Last year, our first holiday season as a married couple was a whirlwind.
I won't complain . . . I mean, it was a blur because we just returned from two weeks in Southern Italy.
But it did make for limited attention paid to the holiday season.

This year, I am excited about having lots of (second) firsts!

The first Thanksgiving meal . . .

The first Christmas Card photo shoot (can you tell which ones where posed by Herbie???) . . .

The first Christmas tree . . .

The first time sticking our heads through a ply wood cutout!

Oh . . .
And for your reading pleasure . . .
A quote from my man . . .

"Do you think that if I was a cheeta, I would sweat when I ran? I mean, they can run much quicker, with less input of energy."

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Come Stay Awhile




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The Menu

Most kids in the '80s went home after school and played Nintendo . . . or went outside and rode their bikes around the neighborhood.
I did that sometimes.
And sometimes I went home and attempted to make homemade mozzarella cheese sticks.

I never really learned how to cook with recipes.
Partially because I have never really been all that great at following directions in general.
I attribute it to the fact that I had eye surgery in the third grade . . .
to correct a vision problem that resulted in dislexia-like symptoms.
It really isn't a big deal anymore. . .
But when I was learning how to learn . . .
Learning was tough for me
School felt like torture
I couldn't follow what the teacher was saying
But I wanted to succeed.
So I was frustrated.

But from a young age, you learn how to adapt your learning style . . .
Since reading and comprehension did not come naturally,
I never really learned how to interact with facts and information . . .
but I developed a keen sense of hearing . . .
my ability to play with words was honed . . .
and I became very visual.


I remember blocking out the teacher's voice when she explained "shortcuts" in third grade math class . . .
"Are you KIDDING ME?
It took me all week to learn how to do it the long way!
I can't risk goofing that up with your shortcut!"

Eventually I had surgery.
Within the year I went from struggling to get a "C", to being an Honor Roll student.
But the foundation for my learning style had been solidified.
It was just too difficult to learn the facts - so I have always done everything by intuition and using my senses.
So in day to day life, that means I probably can't give you detailed directions of how to get to a restaurant downtown . . . but if you came to my house, I could drive us there just fine . . .
using my gut and environmental cues . . .

My dad taught me how to cook just using my five senses.
In the kitchen, I found a great deal of freedom . . . and confidence.
In the kitchen, I didn't have to worry about reading or trying to keep facts straight.

I just cooked.

And it turned out well!

Sweet freedom.

This year I get to make my first Thanksgiving meal for Herb and my mom.
Kind of a small group.

Still praying about any "orphans" that we might need to scoop up and share the wealth with.

This morning I woke up at 5:45 am - excited to start the day. I figured if I could get my tasks done early, I can spend the day scrap booking. Or has Herb has taken to calling it, "mixed media art" . . . we are still working on that "suburban soccer-mom" stereotype that is has historically been attached to scrap booking at our house.

That's okay. We'll get there! Eventually, I will probably be a soccer mom, so there you go!

I just spent the last hour collecting recipes for the meal and putting them into plastic sleeves.
I do use recipes now.
Partially because I need an idea of the nutritional information so Herb and I can make sure we are getting what we need.
Partially because I have hit a plateau in my cooking . . .
And I am now interested in technique and theory.
In fact, it is on my "to-do" list to buy the text book that most culinary schools use, so that I can get my head around how to prepare meat and create sauces.

The Menu:

* Mushroom and Caramelized-Shallot Strudel
* Red Wine Reduction
* Field Greens w/ Pancetta . Pears . Blue Cheese . Dried Cranberries . Walnuts.
* Vanilla-Pear Vinaigrette
* Butternut Squash Soup
* Creme Fraiche
* Homemade Garlic Croutons
* Spiced Sweet Potato Gratin
* Grandmother Taylor's Stuffing (an old family recipe . . . always served on the side . . . no need to ruin it by putting it in a turkey!)
* Stuffed Pork Loin
* Caramelized Onion-Cranberry Sauce
* Pumpkin Tiramisu

I am really excited about the Butternut Squash Soup. I made this a few years ago as a contribution to a meal . . . and I STILL daydream about it sometimes! I am even more excited because I convinced Herb that I need the pumkpkin soup turine when it went on sale at Safeway this fall!
Please enjoy this amazing recipe:

By the way . . .
Creme Fraiche is made by combining equal parts of heavy cream and sour cream - whip and chill.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cups butternut squash puree
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and
thinly sliced
2 cups chicken stock
2 small bay leaves
3 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1/4 tsp. ground coriander (optional)
1/4 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger (optional)
8 baguette slices, each 1/2 inch thick,
lightly brushed with olive oil and toasted
until golden brown
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer the onion to a slow cooker. Add the squash puree, apple, stock, bay leaves and the 3 tsp. salt to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 2 hours according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Remove the bay leaves and discard. Add the crème fraîche. Using a stick blender, puree the soup directly in the slow cooker until smooth. Stir in the coriander and ginger. Ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls, garnish each with a toasted baguette slice, and season the slices with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 8.

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Well, the guest room is complete. And later, I will post some pictures.

For now, let me share the joys of painting with a four year old . . . .

A few days ago, Herb asked if it was cool if he had a few friends over to join him in his man cave (IE: the basement on a sunny, beautiful Colorado afternoon) to watch the Wolverines play some football.

I said, "Sure".

We had a few "stop-by'ers", and one tried and true . . . our friend Russ came over with his two boys.
And stayed for five hours.

Nathan, or "Na-Na" as they call him, is two.
The NA in "Na-Na" is pronounced, nae.
Between the fact that he is two, and my theory that the entire second year of human development is just one big drunken acid trip, he is a very rambunctious boy.
Made of rubber.
Doesn't cry or whine.
Just throws himself across the room until he hits a hard surface.
His brother actually rolled over his head and he just laughed.
And is always ready to fight.
I think it is because he is twerked that they call him Na-Na.

Christopher is four.
The differences between two and four amaze me.
It is the difference between,
"I need a bobby (bottle)!!!!" and a consistent need to have your butt wiped by another human being


"Miss Cara, excuse me, but there is a bad guy behind you. I am just going to shoot him real quick."

After a few hours of watching the boys catapult themselves off of the couch and onto a pile of pillows and cushions, I decided to start working on the guest room.

Christopher could not have been more fascinated by this.

I pretty much felt like a celebrity.

"You're going to PAINT?!?!? NIIIIIICCCCEEE!"

Okay, first of all, I LOVE that these two little people say "dude", "nice", and "sweet". SO funny!

Second, you need to understand that Christopher has bright red hair, glasses, and yesterday - an eye patch!
I do not have words for the cuteness here.
And unfortunately, I am still learning to take decent pictures . . . plus, he kept posing with his gun, so I don't have any great photos to show you.

Christopher was convinced that helping me paint was the best way to spend the rest of the afternoon. I figured that the 20 minutes it would take me to set things up would be long enough to disinterest him and cause him to move on.

Not so.

He waited with baited breath, perched on the edge of the bed.
And sometimes standing over the unopened paint can, lunging, with the roller in hand.

Being that I might have some sort of inner-Montossori school teacher dwelling inside, I decided to let him help me. It is the same place inside that, several years ago, felt it was good idea to let the baby I nannied for feed himself . . . his mother finally asked me to stop, because, while it was "sweet to let him help", the squash and mashed pea stains were a little excessive.

Apparently convenience and cleanliness outweigh exploration and discovery.

But what do I know, I am not a mom.

Turns out, Christopher was actually quite good at painting.

And fun to paint with.

You can always count on a four year old to keep things real.
At one point, after switching places, Christopher said, "Thanks for trading, Miss Cara."
Well, you are so welcome Christopher.
Really, what a lovely thing to say.
Us grown-ups should try being sweet like that.

At one point, we heard the grown-up boys yelling at the game on TV. Christopher looked at me and said, "Miss Cara, don't you think my dad and Herb are CRAAAZZZY?!?!!?!?"

An hour later, they yelled again.

Chrisptopher, "Really, Cara, don't you think they are crazy?"


At one point, Christopher decided that it was a good idea to paint with the enormous rubber glove that he found in the painting box.

ME: "We are not going to paint with gloves on."
Christopher: "Yes. I can do it."
ME: "No, we are not going to paint with gloves on."
Christopher: "But I want to."

And then I had the gratification that parents who use "Parenting with Love and Logic" must feel all of the time! I can't believe this stuff works!
You give two choices.
Both of which you will be equally satisfied with if the child chooses.
Then they get to decide which one they will do.
In the end, they are happy because they think it is THEIR choice.


Too bad this doesn't work with bosses.
"You can either give me a year off, at double pay OR let me have an early retirement while continuing to pay me 75% of my salary."

So, I said, "You can wear the glove. That is fine. But you won't be painting. You can either wear the glove OR paint. It is your choice."

Christopher: "I am wearning the glove."

This lasted about three seconds, until he realized how boring glove-wearing alone can be.

Christopher: "No, I want to paint."

Glove off.
Reinstatement of free and effective child labor.


Eventually, after the first wall was painted, I realized that I no longer had the patience to have a four year old help. Not because he was not useful - we really should re-examine those child labor laws - but because with a four-year old comes a two-year old brother on an acid trip. Na-Na periodically decided to "help". This mostly comprised walking in the room, picking up something random and trying to dip it into paint.

SO, the guest room had to become a no-kids zone.

But later, when I was cleaning up in the laundry room, Christopher ran in, took one look at our space-age looking, front-load dryer as it spun a load of darks, and said, "NIIIICCCCEEE!!!! That's so cooool! I can SEE what the clothes are doing!"
And then, pointing to the washing machine (which was not running at the moment), "I wonder what THAT one does?"
"I wish I could be clothes, so I could spin around and around in there too!"

Christopher, I wish you could live at my house so I would have a constant flow of entertainment by a little person that actually says, "I wish I could be clothes . . . "


It makes you want to rent a four year old.

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Today . . .

* scrap book new pictures from anniversary trip to the mountains
* pick up "brother's bbq" for herb's football watching pleasure
* paint guest room
* clean bathroom
* eat some guacamole

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I am so excited today!
In my basement guest room, I have the makings of a cozy, comfortable space! I picked out some delicious paint colors . . . and spent the morning trying them out on the walls. I have decided on grizzly Bear for three of the walls . . . and a pumpkin spice shade for the focal wall . . . where the bed will be! The bed is covered in a yummy new brown quilt, with circles of pink, red, blue, green . . . i drug in a groovy hutch from another room . . . and I am going to stain it green. And I have another cool night stand . . . very rustic . . . that I will stain pink or blue. . . I have not decided.

Designing a beautiful home is something I always wanted to do. I just didn't have the space, time, or money to do it. It is difficult to make a place your own when you are competing with the styles and preferences of roommates. Little did I know that marrying a sensitive, creative, FABulous man would lead to similar road blocks.

Unlike many husbands, my man cares about design, color, texture. It is fun when we are out shopping or daydreaming. But when push comes to shove, we have both found the house to be a place where our fears of being unheard and disrepected are inflamed. The home is a place we express ourselves. It is a place where we vulnerably put ourselves "out there". And "ourselves" tend to be very different.

He loves clean lines and mod patterns. He loves Eurpean style. He likes maculine, sophisticated colors. I love that too. But I also love distressed barn wood, old quilts, and chunky pottery. I love folk art and just the right amount of clutter. I love stacks of rocks from various trips on my window sill. I love notes stuck into the corners and crevises of mirrors and cabinets.

Merging our homes has been a challenge this year. Learning that "I don't like that" does not mean "I don't like you"! Obvious, but hard to learn.

But today, I am happy. I have a little corner of our world where I get to express myself! And it makes me feel like "myself" is totally loved, accepted, and celebrated!

I will post pictures this weekend!

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Paper Hugs

Last week I spent some time in a groovy home-grown book shop. Love those. With their carefully thought out window displays. And their creaky wooden floors. So unpretentious. So NOT trying to be both a big-time chain while maintaining small town charm. The woman at the register . . . writing down purchases in a little spiral notebook. Sigh.

While I was there, I wrote down some titles for a new project Herbie and I are going to try out. We are each going to pick out a book (hopefully from different vantage points) about the same president. Then we are going to discuss it . . . and then pick out things that happened during his presidency and read books about those things.

I also spent a long time in the cozy back of the store. Pulling out my favorite old books . . . the ones my mom read to me. The ones my kindergarten teacher read to me. Some of them so old that my mom and kindergarten teacher were read these books as little ones. With two friends pregnant, and my slowly growing desire to start a family of our own (someday) . . . I wrote down the titles of my favorites.


The Runaway Bunny *** Guess How Much I Love You *** Jam Berry *** Where the Wild Things Are *** Alexander and the No Good, Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day *** Sylvester and the Magic Pebble *** Amelia Bedillia *** Ramona Quimby *** The Very Hungry Cattepiller *** Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka *** Caps for Sale *** Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel *** blueberries for Sal *** Ricki Ticki Timbo *** corduroy *** Popcorn *** Paddington Bear *** Angelina Ballerina *** Each Peach Pear Plum *** The Mitten *** The Velveteen Rabbit *** What Do You Do With a Kangaroo *** There is a Monster at the end of the Book *** Are You My Mother *** Make Way for Ducks *** Another Mother *** Bread and Jam for Francis *** Brown Bear Brown Bear *** Goodnight Moon *** Eloise *** Stone Soup *** Madeline *** Make Way for Ducks ***

What were YOUR favorite children's books?

What are you reading right NOW?

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Wisdom for the Day

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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The Vows

I know that it is only through the grace and love of Jesus that I can make these vows to you. So I commit to you that I will always pursue you through His eyes.
I vow to love you when it is easy, but especially when it is difficult.
I vow to celebrate and cherish you and to pursue us as a couple before I pursue myself.
I commit to working through and processing the impossible things that life drops before us.
I vow to give my heart to you and only you.
I promise to take swing lessons with you!
I vow to hear you and your needs, your desires, and your dreams.
I vow to challenge us to pursue lives that continuously reflect the love of Jesus.
I vow to pursue God and His direction for our lives.
I vow to identify and work on things in my life that might keep me from an intimate relationship with you or things that might hinder our pursuit of God.
I vow to hold your anxieties, fears, and doubts in the arms of our marriage.
I vow to buy you flowers for no special occasion.
I vow to treat you with respect and honor.
I vow to laugh with you, sing off-key with you, boogie with you, cry with you, celebrate with you, make babies with you, walk in the park with you, nap with you, make decisions with you, tickle you, travel with you, and share my entire life with youÂ… till death do us part!

I commit myself first to Jesus Christ, and it is through faith in His goodness and love that I commit myself secondly to you.
I will freely share my heart, my thoughts, and my body with you. I will not hold back any part of myself from you.
I will listen to you – even when I am not feeling heard.
I will laugh and play with you; I will dance with you in the kitchen and kiss you in the rain. I promise to always keep you guessing!
I will journey, explore, and adventure alongside you – even when the path seems uncertain and the outcome is unknown.
I will honor you with my actions and my words; when I speak to you or about you to others.
I will stay with you and be faithful through the best and worst that life may have to offer us.
I will encourage you when you are discouraged.
I will challenge you to become the man God designed you to become.
I will be patient with you.
I vow to look beyond your individual needs or my individual needs – instead, I will focus on what our relationship will benefit from. I will not take a fighting stance with you or defend myself against you – instead, I will trust that you are fighting for me and our relationship!
I will show you in small ways that I love you – I won’t wait for a fight to show you how much I care.
I will learn to assume the best of you – rejoicing in the truth of who you are and refusing to assume the worst of you.
I will hold you, squeeze you, and smile at you . . . I will be your partner and your
friend . . . until death do us part!

WOW! Looking back, through clear eyes . . . as a wife, not a fiance . . . not a bride-to-be . . . these vows take on such a different meaning. They have such heftier implications and responsibilities. The funny thing about these vows is that we promised things we are not capable of. And funnier, things we had never even attempted to do before . . . things we didn't even know if we are capable of doing. And we are educated, intuitive people. . . so had we read these vows objectively . . . had they been somebody elses wedding vows . . . I think we would have both said - "WOW! That is a big commitment. Are you ready to promise those things? Do you even understand what you are committing to?"

But maybe that is the funny thing God does when you fall in love. You loose some objectivity. You become overcome with emotion and excitement about the future. And you are capable of making promises that God knows you won't be able to keep . . . at least not all of them . . . all of the time.

I mean, "I will assume the best of you . . . " This from the girl who has been suspicious of everyone, her entire life? In general, I assume the worst about most things most of the time and now I have committed to always assuming the best of the one person who will have total access to me . . . the one person who is most capable of fully loving me . . . the one person most capable of fully devastating me? I am going to always assume the best of him? Wow, I don't even assume that the barista at Starbucks has my best intentions in mind - how did I think I would be able to do this with Herb?

Loss of objectivity. Stary eyes. God clouds our judgment, I think, for a little while . . . so that we won't be scared off of marriage. Because if we really knew the implications of trying to fully love another human being . . . I don't think we would ever make the commitment. Because we just are not capable.

That is the point of marriage, I think. Or one of the points . . . to learn how to love. I mean, really love. Not love, in the sense of infactuation and attraction and finding the other person undeniably charming and hilarious . . . Love in the sense of sacrifice. Comprimise. Honoring. Seriving. Going to the grocery store after you are already in your pajamas because your spouse needs cough medicine. And doing it with a kind heart. Giving the other person a break, even when they have been a bonehead.

Real love. It really has very very little to do with your feelings for the other person. Has little to do with how cute or funny or charming they are. It has to do with you. And your heart. And your willingness to get over yourself for another person. It doesn't even have much to do with feelings. It is more about action and perspective.

SO, a year later, I look back at these vows. And I value them. They are funny though. Kind of like going down to my mom's basement and pulling out the big plastic tubs full of finger paintings from kindergarten and three sentence paragrpahes from 3rd grade. They are sweet. Kind of funny. Because you know more now than you did then.

But the beauty is in the process . . . in the learning. You must finger paint before you can create the Sistene Chapel.

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