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Category Archives: recommendations

My cup of tea

Sometimes, there are things you might not read/listen to/bake unless someone pointed you in that direction.  Like this article which is from a blog with an unusual name, and about a topic that might stir up some disdain.  I’m not sure what I think about the premise, but it has me thinking.  It’s a quick read, but if you don’t even have time for that, here’s the paragraph that sums it up:

A much bigger plague among young women than poisoned apples or evil stepmothers, as far as I’m concerned, is the hope of earning a man’s affection. You can convince, guilt or trick someone into being with you, but not into loving you. Not even by rescuing or fixing them. Prince Charming’s allure as an adult isn’t the tiara, it isn’t even about his ability to build us moats, it’s the idea that the only thing he needs from you is you. If I dare re-frame a damsel in distress as a lady willing to wait for a suitor with his act together, would you agree that she’s setting a good example?

You might hesitate to pick up a 600+ page novel about surgeons.  The cultural aspects are interesting, but it really is the medical writing that makes those pages fly.  I love capping a long day of school by crawling into bed and reading page after page of surgery (the vena cava repair was tops).

Speaking of medical goodness, doesn’t Call the Midwife sound like a reality tv show?  Luckily for me, it’s actually a BBC dramatization of memoirs, set in East London.  It’s raw, and it’s gorgeous.

Another thing you might not jump at is a recipe that asks you to put strawberries in the oven.  But this was excellent.

Oh, and my actual cup of tea right now?   I start most mornings with this– smoldering, strong, and sweet.

(I’m not endorsing any of the above- just telling you what I’m thinking about.  They do have bits I’ve skipped [except the tea, which I drain to the dregs], and plenty I’ve disagreed with.  As the opening to Call the Midwife will tell you: discretion is advised.)

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Want some helpful, happy elves?

If you have children under 5 at your celebration, I highly recommend giving safety scissors as the first gift of the holiday.  So entertaining!

Free, rich music

Now and Not Yet is the soundtrack my soul needs right now: good poetry, drawn from a good book, simply and skillfully set to guitar.  Maybe you’re into Psalms and acoustic music, and your soul could use some balm, too.  Here’s a link to download the whole album for free during November.

Five Fresh Songs

Christmas songs and carols start in my household as soon as Thanksgiving dinner dishes are done. A frequent Thanksgiving guest arbitrated a family disagreement this year by assuring us that in past years, we have been allowed carols during Thanksgiving dessert. Yours truly thought we should wait for pie dishes to be finished. No matter; I love the seasonal anthems. But after hearing the same songs in stores, at coffee shops, over the radio, and sung around the piano, I can grow a little sated. If you find yourself growing grinchy from lack of variety in your Christmas playlist, here are a few of my favorite not-so-common carols (all of which are easier to sing along with than O Holy Night):

For theology:
Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day (It’s worth getting a version with all the verses to complete the story.)
Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor (There’s an updated version with altered words that is still pretty good.)

For nostalgia:
Peace on Earth (Yes, this is the carol in Lady and the Tramp, recorded by the timeless Dean Martin.)

Just because they sound different:
In the Bleak Midwinter (James Taylor does a lovely version)
Sweet Little Jesus Boy (Though I’m not normally into country music, Trisha Yearwood’s cover of this makes me happy.)

“Fine” is fine.

I’m fine.  And I’m fine with saying that, even if I’m sick, or the day has left me feeling like a punching bag, or if I’m missing my grandmother (which I always am).  But there is (especially among women) a certain disdain for fine-sayers, the attitude that to declare one’s self fine is shallow and fake.  So I appreciated this wisdom from Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter who is anything but shallow (emphasis mine):

We know that every night, war or no war, there are people lying awake grieving, and that every morning, people wake to absences that will never be filled.  But we shut our mouths and go ahead.  How we are is “Fine.”  There are always a few who will recite their complaints, but the proper answer to “How are you?” is “Fine.”

The thing you have most dreaded has happened at last.  The worst thing you might have expected has happened, and you didn’t expect it.  You have grown old and ill, and most of those you love are dead or gone away.  Even so:

“How are you?”

“Fine.  How’re you?”

“Fine.”

There is always some shame or fear in this, I think, shame for the selfishness and loneliness of grief, the fear of the difference between your grief and anybody else’s.  But this is a kind of courtesy too and a kind of honesty, this unwillingness to act as if loss and grief and suffering are extraordinary.  And there is something else: an honoring of the kind of solitude in which the grief you bear will have to be borne.  Should you fall and your neighbor’s shoulder and weep in the midst of work?  Should you go to the store with tears on your face?  No.  You are fine.

And yet the comfort somehow get passed around: a few words that are never forgotten, a note in the mail, a look, a touch, a pat, a hug, a kind of waiting with, a kind of standing by, to the end.  Once in a while we hear it sung out in a hymn, when every throat seems suddenly widened with love and a common longing.

To whet your appetite for Supper of the Lamb*. . .

. . . which you really ought to buy and read:

Only miracles are simple, nature is a mystery.

The processes involved in sauce making are hardly as dramatic as the driving of great engines, but they testify no less to the brooding of the Spirit upon the face of creation, to the endless speaking of the Word Who mightily and sweetly orders all things.

Yeast, without God to give it as a gift, ceases to be good company.

To be sure, food keeps us alive, but that is only its smallest and most temporary work.  Its eternal purpose it to furnish our sensibilities against the day when we shall sit down at the heavenly banquet and see how gracious the Lord is.

*(note “Supper of the Lamb,” the book, not the supper of the Lamb, although the first will increase your longing for the second)

If silence is golden, this blog has been a-glitter

I won’t offer excuses.  I’ve been busy summering.   Highlights have been a trip to my cousin’s wedding, family birthdays, and plenty of time for sewing, cooking, reading, gyming, and spending time with friends.

Here’s what I’m reading these days:

Desiring the Kingdom

Mansfield Park

Spiritual Depression

One Thousand Gifts