Sunday, November 23, 2014

whatever is lovely

I've mentioned here before that I don't listen to the news. We don't have TV and my radio is limited to an occasional five minutes when I am driving and no one is talking to me (which happens about once every seven years). Even when I am alone in the car, I might turn on some uplifting music, but I honestly can't remember the last time that I listened to a news program or a talk show. It's just not something that I do.

Lest you think that I am some kind of an ostrich, we obviously have internet and I do try to keep abreast of current events that way. I know who won the major races in the election. I know what is going on in Ferguson right now. I know about the President's speech on immigration. I am not ignorant. But I choose not to dwell on the news. I would venture to say that I know as much, factually, about what is going on as the next guy--and I get that in about five minutes online every day. Anything that goes beyond facts, I consider not only unnecessary, but detrimental to my mental, emotional and sometimes physical well-being.

As someone who has experienced a lifelong struggle with depression, I have learned to be very, very careful about what I allow into my mind. But even for someone for whom depression isn't an issue, I think that the truth stands: you become what you digest, not only physically but also mentally. A steady diet of agitated, negative thought turns me into an agitated, negative person. Conversely, consuming life-giving things fills me with life, with joy, with peace.

If you listen to talk shows, pay attention to the level of agitation in the host's voice and to what it does to your heart rate and your anxiety level. The shows are designed to titillate, to invoke an emotional response, to keep you churned up. If they didn't accomplish that, they wouldn't stay on the air. Very rarely do they offer actual valuable information that you don't already know...they chew on what has already been stated, like a dog worries a bone, coming at it from all angles, offering this person's opinion and that person's opinion and a long litany of "what ifs". But when you stand back and look at it objectively, what information have they given you that is actually uplifting and helpful? And what are you going to do with what you have heard, other than stress about it for the next two weeks? On television, a commentator covers the news story in a few brief sentences. What follows for the next twenty minutes is commentary and opinion on the story, it's interviews with "experts", and it is repeating those same headlines again and again. I remember watching TV after the 9-11 attacks on the world trade center. For hours, newscasters repeated the same few sentences (cleverly reworded to fill more air space), interspersed with the same video footage of the planes flying into the buildings. Over. And over. And over. And every time I saw them, my blood pressure rose a few points, even though I was learning absolutely nothing new.

Scripture talks about focusing on whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. I don't find these things at the touch of a radio dial. I find them in the everyday rhythm of life. I find them in meaningful conversations with family and friends, in the pots and pans on my kitchen stove, in good books that stretch and challenge me to be a better person.

The world does grow darker. I am aware of that. There may come a day when we experience that darkness in a more tangible way than we do now. But on that day, will we regret spending time focused on the good and the lovely rather than on the darkness? Will I wish that I had spent more hours glued to a television screen instead of reading to my children, baking bread, walking outside, listening to good music, laughing?

So here's my challenge for you: Next time you are tempted to turn on the TV or radio, to flip that switch and flood your mind with negativity, purpose to focus instead on something meaningful and happy. I'm not talking about some kind of Pollyanna, fake happiness--but something life-giving. Music and books can be filled with human drama and emotion and yet still fill you up rather than pull you down. Pick up a good book. Watch I Love Lucy (yes, I consider Lucy extremely meaningful, especially when your entire family is rolling on the floor as you watch it together!). Fill your mind with beauty and purpose. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

A photographer spends two weeks in Iceland. Is anyone else as fascinated with this country as I am? These pictures are absolutely amazing.

This book is the perfect companion to the pictures above.  A writer and his family spend a summer in a remote, off-grid Icelandic farmhouse. (Note: I wouldn't recommend this book for young people, at least until you proof it describes a tragic event in the author's family in somewhat graphic detail).

This post on Soulemama's blog about the simple art of woodcarving and knife sharpening (don't miss the video at the end!)

Anything by Ben Hewitt.

This story of unexpected sweet!

The new issue of Taproot looks just wonderful.

Cook something that will nourish your body and soul, like this brussel sprout and winter squash recipe. With cranberries and a Dijon vinaigrette? Oh, yes!

Hug someone close to you.

Then notice how happy you feel, filled up with good things. I'm telling you, it works!

Friday, November 21, 2014

pulling out the sweaters

Our first really cold spell hit last week. We were actually out-of-state visiting family for most of it, but we got home in time to enjoy a couple days of hunkering down by the heater with cozy throws, lots of coffee and hot soup, and yes, a little stitching. Inspired by the fabulous Soulemama, I am trying my hand at rug hooking. It's really just cushion hooking, since it is a very small project, and I don't think it could officially even be called that because I don't have all of the proper equipment--but I am enjoying it nonetheless. I crave repetitive handwork. I am convinced that it has saved me thousands in therapy bills.

One of the best things about wintry weather, of course, is that the handknits can be pulled out of my cedar chest. This sweater that I knitted for Beatrice last winter was a little large on her then, and it fits her perfectly now. Another bonus: since she is walking this year, I don't have to worry as much about it getting shredded when she crawls around. I especially love the buttons on it, made from coconut shells.

The pattern, which I found on Ravelry, originally had a large, floppy hood that looked adorable but didn't seem practical for my wild child. So I left it off and just knitted a simple neck band. Sweaters are not exactly my forte and I hold my breath to see if they will fit the way that they are supposed to...but I must say that I consider this one a success. There is nothing quite as cuddly as a toddler all wrapped up in handknit wool.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

in her kitchen

Gabriel Calimberti traveled the world visiting and interviewing grandmothers from many different countries. Through their stories, their pictures and their recipes, compiled in this beautiful cookbook, he shares how food brings families and people together.
Whether its an egg and custard pie from Albania, a vegetable and fresh cheese stew from Bolivia, or a moose steak from Alaska, a cultures' food--and more specifically, a families' food--is a source of comfort, of stability, of definition, a grounding that we take with us wherever we go.
While I might or might not try some of the recipes in this book (caterpillars in tomato sauce, anyone?), I love it simply as a book to sit down and read, a glimpse into the lives of older women around the world. I also find it fascinating to see how people take basic foods that grow or can be raised where they live and turn them into such unique cultural dishes.
Highly recommend!
For more information, click here.
To read more about the author, click here.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

fall back

the knitting bug has bitten hard...socks, right now
Oh, how I love the fall time change! Long evenings, candles on the supper table, books and games and movies and lots of time to snuggle. It's cozy. Cozy is one of my favorite words.
my sweet husband brought me new autumn dish towels!
I love the earlier bedtimes. Last night we were all in bed before 9:00. The only thing that keeps me from wanting to move to Alaska is the 22 hours of daylight in the summertime. I like days, but I like nights too. Sleep is a good thing.

banana, tahini and dark chocolate...a marriage made in heaven

I love hearty, warm food after months of fresh vegetables (I'm still recovering from those fifty tomato plants that we ended up with in the garden!). Oatmeal. Soup. Enchiladas. Cake.

Carbs are also a good thing.

As an introvert, I relish this time to pull in, I embrace the stillness, the calm that wraps its self around us like a warm quilt, the days of quieter activities and indoor creativity. God gave us such a gift in the variety of the seasons!

Have a lovely Wednesday!


This 40th anniversary reprint of a 1970s cookbook feeds my inner hippie. Rustic brown cover. Handwritten pages with pen and ink drawings. Vegetarian recipes. And it's published by ten speed press in Berkley. Just thumbing through its pages makes me want to don a flowy skirt and some Birkenstocks and travel the country in a Volkswagon bus.
In all seriousness, I love this book. It's fun to read and chock full of simple, meatless recipes that originally came from the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. Since we are trying to incorporate more plant-based meals into our diet, it arrived at the perfect time.
I especially love the fact that most of the recipes call for common, wholesome ingredients.Veggies, beans, seasonings, whole grains--things that I mostly already have in my cupboards.  I don't have to travel a hundred miles to find gourmet mushrooms or a rare Indian spice.  If I have one complaint, it's that some recipes rely on tofu, which I don't use, but since I'm not going to make every single recipe in any of my cookbooks, I can get past that. Unless I plan to do a Julie and Julia project, which I don't.
Highly recommend this beautiful, practical and fun book!
For more information, click here.
To learn more about the author, click here.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Friday, October 31, 2014


When it comes to gardening, not many vegetables give you as much bang for your buck as collards. The three-inch seedlings that I bought last spring are now three feet tall, with leaves the size of dinner plates.

Our favorite way to fix collards is so simple. Pick the leaves (about 1 per person) and wash them well. Then cut the center stem out, roll the leaves up and slice them into long ribbons. In a cast iron skillet (not necessary, but definitely preferred!),  melt a generous amount of butter and add the collards. Saute for about ten minutes, stirring frequently, until wilted and dark green. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. and serve hot.

Even my kids like them this way!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

a few of my favorite things

I do love raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, and especially brown paper packages tied up with string, but a few of the other things that I love aren't found in The Sound Of Music. Crisp autumn mornings, for instance. Early mornings, with roosters crowing outside my window, my robe wrapped around me, and a steaming cup of coffee in a locally made, hand thrown mug in my hand. Hand thrown pottery definitely makes my list of favorites.

The Andy Griffith Show. This has been our nightly entertainment lately.

Watching my kids play together.

Watching my kids eat (and enjoy!) collards from the garden and lacto-fermented pickled okra. How weird am I, that beneficial bacteria make me so happy?

Health food stores. I dream of owning one someday.

Yarn shops. I dream of owning one of those too. Or maybe a health food/yarn shop combo. How cool would that be?!

Walking through falling leaves.

Homeopathic cough syrup that actually works.

My husband. He definitely tops cough syrup and yarn shops.

Apologia science. We are doing sea creatures this year and it is fascinating. Cetaceans. Pinnipeds. Benthic animals. See, I like it just because I can use big words and sound really smart.

Thanksgiving. The best holiday. Faith, family, food, falling leaves. And our annual traditional 1,000 piece folk art jigsaw puzzle.

New baby calves everywhere.

Leggings, tunics and tall boots. These had better never go out of style, because I'm pretty sure I'm committed for life.

Blogging. I'm not the greatest or most polished blogger out there, but I do it for the sheer joy of the creative process. To anyone who reads my ramblings here...thank you! You are one of my favorite things too.