Sunday, January 30, 2011

What about sleep?

Here's a question for all you thinkers out there. If you are thinking about life in the Old Testament/ New Testament/ Christian tradition, is sleep a good thing or a feature of the fallen world?
Of course everyone knows we need and want sleep especially if the bed is warm and comfortable.
Everyone knows that sleep restores the body and soul. Even evil Macbeth called sleep, "sore labor's bath,/ Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,/ Chief nourisher in life's feast-" (2.2.36-39).
But do we need it because we are mortal and obviously not all-powerful?
Did people sleep before that fruit was stolen from the tree?
God never sleeps, so it must be part of the human tradition.
In Literature, sleep is a type or picture of death (for instance- in sonnet 73 Shakespeare refers to night as "death's second self that seals up all in rest.")  Is that picture pointing to a deeper truth?
Also there are nightmares... which seems to put sleep in the "fallen" or "corrupt" category.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter Past Times

It's been cold and snowing. I love snow; it makes me feel creative. I wasn't feeling great this week, so I had to stay home, and the wheels in my mind started turning.  I found some journals that were blank --totally blank with nothing written in them yet.  There were seven of them! Who knows where they all came from but I remember seeing my friend Wendy recovering books to make them pretty. Mine weren't so pretty.
So, I got to work.
I sat near the heater and watched the rain and sleet and snow fall outside the window.
This deer has both antlers, but you can see that one is broken.
While I worked, three somber, shivery-looking deer stepped carefully through the ice and leaves and lay down by the fence.  Their coats were dark and faded. One had a solitary, broken antler. Winter, I suppose is hard on everybody.

I kept working, cutting paper shapes, layering colors, brushing the glue on with a kiddie paintbrush and creating designs that somehow refreshed my soul while the deer stayed, glancing at me from their careful distance.  An entire flock of blue birds came to my holly tree. I watched them splash in the icy bird bath. Two huge robins scared them away. I used to like robins.
I kept working. The bluebirds returned.
I wonder if the blue birds who came this year were the same ones that visited last winter?

 I love it when creatures keep me company.
 Except for the stink bug that crawled right up my sweater!  That jolted me to reality.
Why did I have so many journals?
Because, though I am a writer, I don't write in this sort of journal. I use my computer, or composition books left from my children's years in school half-used and plentiful.  I take another sort with me, very slim and light in order to keep my overstuffed purse from weighing enough to separate my shoulder.

So if any of you aspiring writers out there have been meaning to buy a copy of Solomon's Puzzle, this is the week to do it! The journals are one of a kind as pictured below. First come, first served and free with a copy of the novel.  Use the "Contact Us" button to tell me if you have a preference..


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Literature, Cussing and Tom's Rules... part two

An English teacher thinks about literature and her own writing
I wrote earlier about the convention or use of fathers in Western Literature to examine the nature of God and about Tom MacBride as an uncommon hero.
dim picture of the book cover of "The Scottish Chiefs"
Tom MacBride is a different sort of father than is commonly seen in literature. He’s also a different sort of Christian than is commonly seen in literature, but I hope that most of my characters are so. And though we are inspired by literature, through reading we learn more about human nature and about God’s work in human life, we find our hearts opened as we read about different strains of struggle and heroism, we can’t use those stories as we would a code of conduct.
For instance, we would never say to our children or students: if you find yourself floating down the Mississippi River with a noble, escaped slave, you should lie to everyone you meet and steal food and clothing. No, but we understand why Huck did it. We understand this because Huck Finn represents every lonely, hopeful one of us humans. We may not want our sons to be like Huck Finn in the lying and stealing sense, but I, for one, hope everyone learns to think and to question corrupt practices in society and to discard falsehoods about God though they be told freely and without conscience—as Huck did.
That’s because...  (Read more...)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Literature, Cussing and Tom's Rules... part one

An English teacher’s thoughts about literature and her own writing…
book shelf with colorful books mostly red and blueMy study of literature is limited to those works rooted in Western thought—beginning with the Greeks, concentrating on British and American Literature. Though some scholars claim that Homer’sOdyssey pictures or predicts the Christian God, certainly literature written after Christ’s advent is influenced by the concepts found in the Bible. And much of what I studied and taught reflected this influence. Allusions abound in both prose and poetry even if the subject is mundane and not sacred. Thus my book follows this way of thinking, this library of references, this tradition of seeing things in light of the books and thought gone before me. And therefore since the Christian tradition speaks of God as our Father, the examination of the nature of parenthood or fatherhood is also a study of the presence of a Father God in human life. However, most writers don’t create characters and call them “God.” They suggest attributes of God in the artistic representations of the work.  Read more...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Just Half A Teaspoon of Cinnamon Left

I started making an apple pie.

I made the dough.
Use 1 cup of flour
1/3 cup of shortening (or butter)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup ice water, mixed with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or if you'd like 1 T vodka.

Some of my sons like to cook and one of those is into the chemistry of cooking. He saw on America's test kitchen that a tablespoon of vodka in a recipe of pie dough makes it flakier.  The science behind this is that when you mix and handle the dough it has to be wet, but if you use too much water, then the baked crust is heavy and soggy.  The alcohol is wet when mixing and rolling, but cooks out or evaporates when the pie is baked. Vodka is evidently tasteless, so... they said to use that.  I went to the store and bought a small bottle. The clerk, eyebrows raised, looking knowing and amused said, "Is this for cooking, ma'am?"

Cut the shortening or butter into the flour/salt mixture with two knives or a pastry cutter. The dough should look crumbly. 
Add ice to the water mixture and when it is cold dribble it in, mixing the dough gently until it comes together. Don't overmix! You cannot play with pie dough, handling it toughens it! If you want to play, make bread.

Midway through my task, Joey and Jack arrived at my house and of course they wanted to help me.

Joey has a great deal to say and starts right in. 

Jack liked helping with the apple peeler/corer/slicer. This device makes pie making easier. They are widely available.  I got mine from that cooking store that has parties at people's home (can't think of the name), but they are also available at Bowen's Farm Supply and King Arthur Flour and of course, for the "exclusive" model at Williams Sonoma

Jack could not believe the results.
Joey stopped talking long enough to try one of the apples.

And sometimes he talked and ate and gestured for emphasis at the same time! So talented!

Jack wanted to try the sliced apples.

Jack is a great and cheerful helper.

So, it turned out that I didn't have quite enough apples for the pies.  Hmm.  Turns out, I also had only a scant teaspoon of cinnamon left.  

We decided to add fresh cranberries and raspberries to the pie.

Sprinkle the fruit with sugar and let it stand for a couple of hours.  This brings out some of the liquid. 

While this is happening, play with cars or whatever else you have to do that is equally interesting. Today, Joey sat contentedly letting Jack race every one of his cars first.  Joey said, "I just want Jack to have as much time as he needs to race his cars."

 It felt like some sort of a miracle had happened and then I remembered what sort of miracle it was.  Joey is nearly five and five year old kids are terrific and giving and cheerful. It's as if all the careful training and abundant love their parents have been giving them suddenly come together and make sense. I told Joey how pleased I was that he was being so kind to his brother. Jack seemed pleased, too. 

When a small pool of liquid gathers at the bottom of the fruit bowl, it is time to make the pies.
Roll out the pie dough and place it in the pie pans.
Using a slotted spoon, place the fruit on the bottom crust.
Take the liquid that is in the bowl and add 2-3 T of cornstarch. Mix this well to eliminate all lumps. Pour the mixture over the fruit. 
I made a crumb topping from butter, brown sugar, sugar and flour.  
Mix together 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of white sugar. Cut 6 tablespoons of butter or coconut oil into small pieces and cut into the mixture.  (If you want larger crumbs, a tablespoon at a time, some liquid -- rice milk,  milk or cream to make larger crumbs but be careful not to add too much).
Heap the crumbs on the fruit and bake at 375 for about 30 to 40 minutes until the fruit is bubbling and the crumbs are toasted.

I'm just worried that Jack might have tossed in more salt when I wasn't looking!  But even so, it was the sweetest of days!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Kindred Spirit

Working at Cottonseed Glory one weekend this past fall, I asked a customer if she neededpurple green quilt in tea motif using "yellow brick road" pattern help.  The kits full of fabric that we'd put together for a quilt displayed in the "pink" room, had gone missing and she was hoping to find one.
I went to the storage room to hunt up a kit. Though hung at the very back of the pink room, the kit offers fabric with a tea motif -- tea cups, green tea and flavored tea emblems, tea pots and flowers in bright, warm green and brown and lavender, reminding one of the earliest days of spring. (Read more...)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Old Fashioned Gingerbread, Anyone?

“Had I but a penny in the world, /thou shouldst have it for gingerbread.”—William Shakespeare 
wheat stooks with candle and gingerbread muffinsfrom Love’s Labor Lost
A dear reader asked for the gingerbread recipe in Solomon’s Puzzle.  In the chapter called “Apple Tree” Tom thinks Laurie needs the recipe of some gingerbread he is given at the home his friend, Admiral Charles Johnson, who is the novel’s Superintendent of the U. S. Naval Academy. I’m sure the sequel will prove that Laurie did get the recipe and begin to offer it at Eight Hands Around!
Laurie MacBride’s Old Fashioned Gingerbread...

So Many New Classes at Cottonseed Glory

 The new classes at Cottonseed Glory are so imaginative! Here's one called Chesapeake Bay Sunset: only basic sewing skills needed...

 notice the texture added!

 Both the classes below teach a technique called English Paper Piecing and are taught by Kelly Kout an applique expert..."
Learn this classic method using the traditional hexagon to create a Grandmother's Flower Garden design or use it to make Kelly's original pineapple motif. Speed up the pineapple wallhanging piece by using an easy fusible method that allows you to finish the stitching by hand without stitching through the adhesive material.

The bag pictured below takes just a bit of fabric:

Looks great made up, doesn't it?

Cotton Crochet Rug: with just a basic crochet stitch, you can turn fabric strips into a custom rug to match your home.  It's washable and durable.

Fabric artist Barbara Tinsman teaches an original design where you'll learn many techniques as well as tips for perfect fitting. Barbara is an excellent teacher who sells her art garments and pieces at shows and galleries. 

Another wonderful thing about sewing is that you can keep learning!  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Two Favorite Appetizers

My favorite appetizer is simple and wonderful.
Fresh French bread sliced and spread with unsalted butter.
Slice fresh radishes and layer them atop the butter. Sprinkle this with sea salt.
Enjoy with your favorite beverage.
The crisp bread, soft in the center, the creamy butter and the salty crunch of the radishes are a sublime combination.
Simple, delicious and refreshing.

I also like to make hummus because it's good for you, yummy, it's far less expensive and I prefer it without garlic.
This week I thought I'd try a black bean hummus.

One can of black beans and one can of garbanzo beans drained.
 fresh cilantro chopped (1/2 cup)
juice and grated peel of one lime

1/2 to 1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil

Mix the beans and process in the food processor until it's pretty well chopped.
Add the cilantro, lime peel and juice, the salt and pepper.

Whirl again in the processor.  While the processor is running add the olive oil and thereby create a creamy mixture.

Enjoy on fresh carrot sticks, chips, slices of bread, on sandwiches, etc.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Everyone's Welcome At Tea, Too

Did I ever tell you how to make the perfect cup of tea?
First invite some friends.  If they are tiny friends, get out the dolls and the little three legged stool for a tea table. Some things about tea time are thus instinctual, but making the actual tea is not. It is scientific and the formula is strict.
Play for awhile until everyone's tired and thirsty.

You need fresh, cold water. You may not use the stuff that's been sitting in your kettle over night.
Put the kettle on to boil and heat your teapot up by running hot water in it.
Get the tea bags ready. Use one per cup of water and one extra (for the pot).

Stay nearby. You'll hear the water warm up. Soon you'll realize by the rising steam and the sound of bubbles that it is near boiling. Dump the warm water from the teapot and put the tea bags into the pot.
Quick! As soon as the water has reached a full, rolling boil, pour that boiling water into the teapot, on top of the tea bags. Cover the pot with its lid and cover further with a tea cosy or with clean kitchen towels.
the tiny pink and purple teapot sings in a British Accent. Thanks Aunt Stef!

Allow your tea to steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the teabags and serve immediately in a china cup or mug with cream and sugar.
The pink-haired troll is desperate for a cup of tea as you can see.

Each of these steps are vital and must be followed without variation.  The water must not be allowed to boil for several minutes.  Nor should the water be allowed to stand boiled and then cooling in the kettle It must be "just boiled, " when it is poured into the teapot.
Never put the teabags into the pot when the boiled water is already in there. The water must be poured onto the teabags.

Sorry to be so strict, but... well... certain things in life, you know, must be taken very seriously.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Fabric and More Pictures of Quilt Classes Winter 2011 At Cottonseed Glory

 Clare and Val and I went to Cottonseed Glory to see the new fabrics and take more pictures of the upcoming classes. In this picture, she is squirming because she wanted to get down and run through the store squealing with delight and touching the fabric.  
The ladies in the shop were so hospitable and friendly to Clare.  She toddled from room to room saying "Green!" "Blue!" "White!"

I love the new fabrics for Spring:
This would make a wonderful pillow case, quilt or curtains for a toddler in love with the Thomas stories.

The shop also has fabric that looks like bricks to pair with this!

It would make an awfully cute baby quilt!
But this below is for big girls:

This photograph doesn't really do justice to the bright tones of the new fabric... you'll have to see for yourself.

Plenty of pink for all of you expecting baby girls in your families, or for little sun dresses or quilts for bigger girls.

The fabrics from Moda are always a classic favorite...

It staggers the imagination!

 Valerie brought her camera and she is an insightful photographer. She took the following  pictures of some of the samples for upcoming classes.

This class will be taught on Saturday, March 5.

In it quilters will learn to make this textured wall hanging. The waves are made from prairie points and adding texture and dimension.  Quilter Jinnie Siever says, "Simple piecing and a little bit of machine appliqué complete this quilt in no time."

I love the mix of colors, the brightness of the boats...

And the wonderful, imaginative waves.  

Below are better pictures of the T-shirt quilt mentioned before.  This quilt does more than just join old shirts together to make a quilt.  Techniques prepare the T-shirts so that they fit into the quilt and can be quilted, adding durability, beauty and texture. 

What a great way to celebrate travels, interests, or school memories.

Love the textured look of quilts.
Come to see these and more at Cottonseed Glory, 4 Annapolis St., Annapolis.