Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Photography

Lately, I have been stealing ideas from my friends. I don't know if you can call it plagiarism, exactly. . . maybe more like inspiration.

There's Fletch, who recently posted an exhibit of some his amazing photos, and Kirsten who is constantly unveiling very artistic new profile pictures, and Gina who just posted some awesome Christmas portraits. Then, there is L.L. Barkat, whom I haven't actually met, but whose blog is teeming with great photography. And, of course, there's always D.V. who has never taken a bad photo in his life and who could probably win international prizes for some of his shots (since his blog is set to private, you can click here and here to get a sampling).

Anyway, I've decided that I really want to learn more about photography. I don't know much, so the best I can do right now is try to imitate. This morning I studied some of the professional portraits we had taken in July and, utilizing a few tips D.V. gave me a while ago, I came up with this:

A Portrait of a 14-Month-Old

This portrait leaves plenty of room for improvement, but it's way better than my usual flash-on, cluttered-background shots.

If any of you have any tips on how I could have improved the shot or just tips in general, please, please let me know!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Isn't It Ironic. . .


Today I bought a pair of scissors at Ikea. I thought it was rather ironic that, when I went to use them this evening, the only thing capable of cutting the plastic zip-tie was another pair of scissors! Wouldn't you think that the scissor-makers would know that reason you're buying scissors in the first place is because you don't have any!?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Yummy Pie Recipe

Oats and Honey Granola PieWe went over to a friend's house for dessert and she introduced me to this delicious recipe. She found it here on Oprah.com

Oats 'n Honey Granola Pie
Created by Suzanne Conrad


INGREDIENTS
Crust
1 Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crust (from 15-oz box), softened as directed on box
Filling
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, lightly beaten
4 Nature Valley® Oats 'n Honey crunchy granola bars (2 pouches) crushed. To easily crush granola bars, do not unwrap. Use rolling pin to crush bars.
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Whipped cream or ice cream, if desired

Heat oven to 350°F.

Place piecrust in 9-inch glass pie pan as directed on box for One-Crust Filled Pie.

In large microwavable bowl, microwave butter on high 50 to 60 seconds or until melted.

Stir in brown sugar and corn syrup until blended. Beat in salt, vanilla and eggs.

Stir crushed granola bars, walnuts, oats and chocolate chips into brown sugar mixture. Pour into crust-lined pan.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until filling is set and crust is golden brown. During last 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil or pie shield to prevent excessive browning.

Cool at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled with whipped cream or ice cream.

Store in refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dinner Party Debt

I found this hilarious article on rd.com while looking for reading material to give my ESL students. I hope you enjoy it! If you would like to view the article at it's original location, click here.

*******************
Dinner Party Debt
by Mary Roach

Our friend Dave loves to cook. Dave will call us up and say, "Hey, come on over. I got a leg of lamb," as though it had just sort of landed in his lap like a fly ball. Dave talks very fast, which he needs to do to answer the question "What're you making?" in a reasonable amount of time. The last time we went to Dave's -- for a 50th birthday dinner for our friend Sandy -- the answer was, and I'm not even slightly kidding here, "Gonna start with oysters with lemongrass and a blood orange granité, then a fish plate with halibut and preserved lemon, a little cauliflower soup, pasta with anchovy sauce. Meat course, I'm thinking bavette steak with white beans and fennel. Ed eats beef, right? If not, I'll whip him up some Thai snapper."

We happen to have a Thai cookbook, which we use constantly (for propping up the Tex-Mex cookbook), and it has a recipe for snapper. So I happen to know this isn't something you "whip up." It is something that whips you. The shopping alone would require a month's sabbatical. The recipe called for, among 278 other ingredients, "1 tablespoon coarsely chopped kha." As I know from our Scrabble dictionary, ka is what the ancient Egyptians called the soul. Who sells this? What sort of knife does one use to chop life energy?

Generosity like Dave's is difficult to reciprocate. I once tried to cook for Dave and Kate. It was humiliating. I made angel hair pasta with toasted walnuts and some variety of cheese that had not showered in a while. When I tried to mix everything together, the angel hair pasta simply moved around the bowl in a solid lumpen knot. "You forgot the conditioner," said Ed, who has since quietly absorbed the cooking duties on the rare evenings when we're not eating at Dave's.

I have tried to convince myself it's okay that Ed and I have not properly reciprocated by preparing 22 six-course dinners for Dave and Kate. "He understands that we're not up to it," I said to Ed. "Besides, he's not keeping score."

"Everyone keeps score," said Ed. "How many times have we had Lou over without his inviting us?" Lou is one of a small group of bachelors whom we sometimes invite over for a meal at the last minute. It is never intimidating to cook for these men, as your culinary talents need only surpass those of Mr. Top and his ramen.

But Ed was right. I knew exactly how many times Lou had been over.

Last week I e-mailed Dave to tell him I'm writing a column about dinner party debt. Dave was leaving on a business trip that afternoon. "Have a good trip," I wrote. "When you get back, you'll be eating at our house for the next year and a half." I had anticipated some reassuring reply, something along the lines of: "Oh, Mary, I cook for you guys because I love to cook, and I love you. In fact, what are you doing next Saturday? I got a school of tuna."

However, Dave wrote: "Gotta run. Look forward to collecting."

It's true. Everyone keeps track. We owe Dave, we owe Steph and Jerry, we owe Bill and Adair big time. We actually sat down and made a list. It was shocking. What should we do? said Ed. Can we offer them the cash equivalency? How can we ever erase such an enormous pile of debt? Is it possible to declare dinner party bankruptcy? There should be a system in place that allows us to collect credits for feeding Lou, credits that we can then apply to Dave and Bill and Steph.

If I could, I would sell Dave my soul to repay his kindness and generosity. And I know for sure that he's got the right knife to chop it up.

Experiment


Ever since taking Child Psychology in college, I have been itching to conduct an experiment that I will call "The Color Confusion Experiment."

Here is the basic idea--from the time a child is born, he/she would be told that the color blue is called "red", green is "purple", red is "black", etc. The person conducting the experiment would have to be very careful to doctor-up all the evidence to the contrary (so books naming colors would need revision, crayons would have to be de-papered, etc.) Other than switching up the names of the colors, everything else about the child's life would be "normal" (if there is such a thing).

What I would be curious to find out is how such a scheme would effect the child's long-term development. Would he have a deep-seated mistrust of authority figures? Would he end up with some serious psychological disorder? Would he assume that his eyes were color-deficient and blame himself? Or, would it create in him a heightened sense of humor, making him a world-class prankster? Or, would it not really effect him at all?

Well, my opportunity has come, but being the kind, loving, and fairly normal mother that I am, I am not going to subject my son to my hair-brained idea. Instead, I'm posting it up here in case one of you wants to conduct the experiment on your kid. If you do decide to undertake this scientific endeavor, please get back to me in 20 years and tell me how your kid turned out. =)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Please pray.

Some dear family friends are currently going through a very difficult time. Eric, father of six children (two of whom were recently adopted from Africa), is in the hospital in a forced coma due to severe respiratory problems. If you would like to read more, please check out their blog. Even if you don't have time to read the whole story, please do keep them in your prayers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chantilly

Every single time (and I do mean, every single time!) I take the bus home, I find myself singing "Chantilly Lace" as I am walking up the hill back to our apartment. For the longest time I couldn't figure out why? Why would my brain chose that particular song and not a better, less obnoxious song to serenade itself with? Why?

A few weeks ago, I figured out what was causing this strange brain glitch.

This sign is outside the condominium complex just next to the bus stop. Turns out, I had been subconsciously reading this sign all this time, thus my sudden urge to sing that song.

The problem isn't solved, but at least the mystery is.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A blatant plug

I'm not even going to bother being subtle about this. . . this is an advertisement.

My long-time friend (we went to high school and college together) Sarah Stranske, sent me a surprise care-package about two weeks ago. Alongside the fresh corn tortillas, flour tortillas and Mexican spice mixes (all of which were a sight for sore eyes! I'll post pictures of the resulting meals on our other blog), she enclosed a book entitled A Stranger With You. What's so noteworthy about that, you ask. Well, Sarah wrote it! Yep, a full-blown, 350-page, legitimately published novel. And, not just any novel, a good one.

I am in awe that someone I know is a published author. It is so cool to go to Amazon.com and type in my friend's name. After reading her novel, I momentarily felt inspired to write a book, too! Then I realized that I don't have any idea what I'd write about, and even if I did, I wouldn't have time to write about whatever it is I would write about (As the more observant of you have already noted, my blogging, commenting, and even emailing have greatly declined in the last few months). So instead of writing a book, I decided to write a blog post. That will have to suffice for now.

Whether or not you know Sarah (but especially if you do), I would recommend you check this book out. Of course, I'm hoping my friend makes a decent profit off the sales of her book, but more than that, I think the novel is worth reading.

I'll make it easy for you. . . here is the link to Amazon =)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rule breaking and a thank-you.

For the second time this week, Caleb and I made the laborious 2-mile trek to the grocery store. I try my best to buy everything I need during my weekly trip, but this week, we ran out of a few essential items mid-week, and I was forced to make a second trip. By the time we arrived at the shopping center, I was hot, sweaty and sapped of energy. It's bad enough to feel that way myself, but when I looked down into the stroller and saw little beads of sweat on Caleb's face, my heart melted. We were in dire need of a pick-me-up and I was desperate. In the heat of the moment (literally the HEAT of the moment), I decided that the fastest plan of action was to head for the nearest restaurant and order a cool treat. (This is where the rule-breaking comes in. . . ) So, before I could think twice, I pushed the stroller through the entrance of McDonalds and heard myself ordering an Oreo McFlurry.

I always swore I would never willingly feed my kid McDonalads (have you seen Super Size Me?). It was rule number 2 on my list of "Things Good Moms Never Do." But there I was, hunched down next to the stroller offering spoonful after spoonful of flurry fluff to my 13-month-old kid. Only 13 months, and I'm already resorting to McDonalds. . .

"What kind of mother am I!?" I thought. "With every spoonful, I am dooming my son to a nutrient-deficient future. My son will never like broccoli or spinach or cauliflower. I can see it in his huge grin and oreo-studded teeth. And, if he's ruined, what hope can I possibly have for any future kids God may give us!"

As I berated myself for ruining my son's appetite for all things green and nutritious, I heard my brother's voice ringing in my ear, quoting one of his favorite verses, "Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise" (Ecc 7:16 KJV) (If any of you know my brother, you know he is always quoting obscure verses from the King James version. . . usually with a King James-ish accent, to boot).

Be not overly wise. . . be not overly wise. That's just what I was being. . . or trying to be. Suddenly I realized that there are some rules in life that are worth breaking every now and then. . . and eating at McDonalds was one of them.

So, even though he's half-way across the world, I'm sending out a little thank-you to my brother. Thanks, Dan, for the reminder that it is possible to be overly righteous and overly wise. (If Caleb could type, I'm sure he'd send his thanks, too!)

p.s.-Just for the record, I'm going to make Caleb eat green peas for dinner! =)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The True Test of Motherhood

You know you are officially a mom when you can sit in a Thai taxi holding your sick 1-year-old who just vomited all over you and 1) you don't gag and 2) the only thing you care about is whether or not your child is okay.

God really does give us the grace we need to handle the situations He sends our way!

(for more info about the story behind this, check out our other blog)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Walking

The other night, while at Ikea, Caleb started walking. This isn't the best video because he was already really tired by the time we got home and took this, but it is still cute to see him toddle.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Imagination: A Christian Duty

This devotional was sent to me by my mom and I thought it particularly good.

(for the original source, click here)

God is Not Boring
John Piper

Recently I spoke at Northwestern College as part of their year-long 100th anniversary celebration. The title of the message was "The Supremacy of God in the Life of the Mind." One capability of the mind that I focused on was the imagination. It applies to everybody who has a mind. Here's what I said:

One of the great duties of the Christian mind is imagination. It is not the only thing the mind does. The mind observes. The mind analyzes and organizes. The mind memorizes. But imagination is different. It does not observe or analyze what's there; it imagines what is not seen but might be there and might explain what is there (as in the case of most scientific discoveries). Or it imagines a new way of saying what is there that no one has said before (as in the case of creative writing and music and art).

I say that imagination is a Christian duty for two reasons. One is that you can't apply Jesus' golden rule without it. He said, "Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Matthew 7:12). We must imagine ourselves in their place and imagine what we would like done to us. Compassionate, sympathetic, helpful love hangs much on the imagination of the lover.

The other reason I say that imagination is a Christian duty is that when a person speaks or writes or sings or paints about breathtaking truth in a boring way, it is probably a sin. The supremacy of God in the life of the mind is not honored when God and his amazing world are observed truly, analyzed duly, and communicated boringly. Imagination is the key to killing boredom. We must imagine ways to say truth for what it really is. And it is not boring. God's world - all of it - rings with wonders. The imagination calls up new words, new images, new analogies, new metaphors, new illustrations, new connections to say old, glorious truth. Imagination is the faculty of the mind that God has given us to make the communication of his beauty beautiful.

Imagination may be the hardest work of the human mind. And perhaps the most God-like. It is the closest we get to creation out of nothing. When we speak of beautiful truth, we must think of a pattern of words, perhaps a poem. We must conceive something that has never existed before and does not now exist in any human mind. We must think of an analogy or metaphor or illustration which has no existence. The imagination must exert itself to see it in our mind, when it is not there. We must create word combinations and music that have never existed before. All of this we do, because we are like God and because he is infinitely worthy of ever-new words and songs.

A college - or a church - committed to the supremacy of God in the life of the mind will cultivate many fertile, and a few great, imaginations. And O how the world needs God-besotted minds that can say the great things of God and sing the great things of God and play the great things of God in ways that have never been said or sung or played before.

Imagination is like a muscle. It grows stronger when you flex it. And you must flex it. It does not usually put itself into action. It awaits the will. Imagination is also contagious. When you are around someone (alive or dead) who uses it a lot, you tend to catch it. So I suggest that you hang out with some people (mainly dead poets) who are full of imagination, and that you exert yourself to think up a new way to say an old truth. God is worthy. "Oh sing to the LORD a new song" - or picture, or poem, or figure of speech.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Caleb's Birthday List

Every year on my birthday I make a list of things I love (in no particular order), one item for every year. The list is usually random and certainly not comprehensive, but it is a fun way to "capture" my life at that moment.

I've decided to carry on the tradition for Caleb. I don't usually explain the items but since Caleb only gets one item on his list, I thought I'd throw a story in, too.

Caleb's Very First Birthday List

1. Daddy! Caleb's favorite thing to do toward the end of the day is sit by the front door and wait for Daddy. When he hears Josh on the other side of the door, he stands at the door and babbles "da da! da da!" This morning, after Josh left for work, I was doing the breakfast dishes while Caleb was playing. I peeked my head out to see what he was up to and there he was, sitting by the front door with Daddy's shoes in hand, pointing to the door and calling "da da!?! . . . da da!?!" Very, very cute!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Focus


Our pastor said something last Sunday that has been rumbling around in my head all week. He said, "Don't let the FORM of your faith cause you to miss the FOCUS of your faith, namely Christ Jesus." Although this was said in the context of a sermon being preached on Romans 2, I can't help but think of Hebrews 12:2.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross,
scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.


The question I have been asking myself all week and which I now put to you is this: Are your eyes fixed on Christ? Are you fascinated with Christ? In love with Him? Is he your waking thought in the morning and your last thought before slipping into sleep?

I don't know where you are in your walk of faith, but wherever you are I encourage you: "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" and run toward Jesus! (Heb 12:1) Whether you be entangled in the grossest of sins or simply weighted down with trappings of religiosity and morality, the end result is the same. . . you cannot run freely to the arms of Jesus.

Photo:
Singaporean Sunset by Joshua Redin

Monday, October 01, 2007

Organic

I know many of my readers (probably most) are into the whole organic foods thing. I have not yet joined your ranks and, based on my experience today, am not headed in that direction.

We are having Italian food tonight--spaghetti, garlic bread and salad. So last night at the grocery store, I bought the only available head of lettuce--an organic butter lettuce head. I just opened up the container (can I say that it makes no sense to me that they package organic produce in fancy plastic containers) and was washing the lettuce when I discovered a whole family of worms living in my future salad. I'm not talking about just a momma and papa worm. I'm talking about mama, papa, and several other generations. . . probably about 10-12 worms total. GROSS...double gross.

I know worms in produce are a fact of life, but I am a boneless-skinless-chicken-kind-of-shopper and I don't usually like to buy worms with my Tuesday dinner salad. I'm still debating on what to do with the freshly washed, de-wormed head sitting in the colander. Maybe we'll just skip the lettuce and have a cucumber and tomato salad.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Practicing Walking


Caleb is oh-so-close to taking off by himself. He has taken a few steps but by and large he still wants at least one finger touching us. I don't mind. . . it makes me feel important ;-)

This picture was taken at the Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival in Chinatown. I'll be posting more about the festival on our Everyday Singapore blog.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rice

Due to our change in locale, we have been eating quite a bit more rice lately. Caleb loves it. He eats it as fast and as furiously as he can.

On the upside, rice is the perfect size and texture for little mouths, it's cheap, and it is reasonably nutritious. On the downside, it gets everywhere and is nearly impossible to clean up.

Even after a diligent rice hunt, I am always finding rice in the strangest places, like this stray grain. . .

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Double Take

Whistling!

Last weekend, we were out for a walk and kept hearing a little whistle. We realized, after a bit, that it was Caleb! We are quite certain that he may very well be the youngest whistler yet!


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Get-Away


We went to Desaru, Malaysia this weekend for a short get-away. Unfortunately, my camera broke just hours before we left so we have no good pictures from the weekend. We snapped a few from Josh's camera phone, but you know how the quality of those are, so I'll spare you. I borrowed this picture from Asiatravel.com. (Hopefully they won't mind since I am giving them credit!).

Get-aways are a lot different now that there is a baby involved. Resorts are now graded on things like whether or not they had a cool playground and good kids menu. The luxury of sleeping on a king-sized bed is negated by the fact that you're sharing it with a wiggly 11-month-old. And hoping to sleep-in is traded for hoping to sleep period!

But, the upside of taking the kiddo along is that suddenly the little waterslide in the pool seems super cool, the mini-cave leading to the outdoor shower becomes a huge adventure, and drizzling sand into a sand sorter turns into an exciting hour-long activity!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Monkey on the Bus!

Last week I spotted a gang of jungle monkeys just outside our condo. Yesterday, I found a cute little monkey on the bus!


I couldn't believe it. . . he was able to hang on, all by himself!


Caleb loves riding the bus with Daddy!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

I think Caleb wants to be a Scientist when he grows up. Lately he has been attempting to find new applications of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. He is quite thorough in his experimentation, and so far, he has been successful!


The Mad Scientist:
ready for a hard day's work.





The High Chair Experiment:
demonstrating that the the phenomenon of irreversibility is applicable to morning snack-time.





The Toy Box Experiment:
proving entropy within an isolated system.





The Book Box Experiment:
questioning whether or not a "perpetual motion machine" can exist; Caleb may be the first!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back in Action


Those of you who have followed this blog for any length of time will remember that my favorite Christmas gift was the pedometer Josh bought me. And, you may also remember how sad I was when it broke.

When we moved to Singapore, I mentioned to Josh that I would love to have a pedometer here because we walk everywhere. He said, "You ought to get one." That was encouragement enough for me =) I've been using my new pedometer for about two weeks now. As I guessed, Singapore living is conducive to meeting the 10,000 steps/day recommended by the American Heart Association (and a bunch of other "experts" too). If I go out at all, I am guaranteed a minimum of 4,000 steps; it is about 500 steps from our front door to the entrance of our condo complex, and another 1,500 from there to main bus stop in our area. Add to that the walking I do once I arrive wherever the bus takes me, and you can see why 10,000 isn't a difficult goal.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The most important question. . .

Josh is now in his second week of classes. What we have discovered is that teaching is more than a full-time job. In fact, I think teaching might be the second-most time-consuming job in the world (motherhood being the first).

I am sure it will get easier for him as he settles into a routine, but even with a routine, it is difficult to lesson plan, grade and teach 125 students ranging in age from 6 to 18 years old. Despite all the obstacles, Josh has kept a great attitude and has risen to meet the challenge. I admire the fact that he doesn't complain when the alarm has gone off at 5:00 AM after only a few hours of sleep. I admire that he hasn't taken the easy way out and gone with status-quo, but has thoughtfully attempted to make each class the best it can be. The thing I admire most, however, is that Josh is continually asking himself the most important question, "What can I do to make a difference for Christ?". . . After all, isn't that why we're here. Isn't that why you're there.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

From My Kitchen Window

Per Kendra's request, I took a picture from my kitchen window. . . well, actually from the doorway into my kitchen, but you can see the window. The kitchen is, hmmm, how shall I say this, tiny. And, it's HOT. But, there is a heavy wooden sliding door that closes off the kitchen from the rest of the house, which, although it creates a sauna-like effect in the kitchen, is a good idea because it keeps the food smell from permeating the entire house. The glass door opens to a small balcony where the laundry is washed in cold-water-only-teeny-tiny-washer. Most people hang their clothes to dry here, which is a mystery to me, since it is so humid that it takes three days to get anything dry. One of our first purchases was a small electric dryer, which is also on the balcony, just below the window. We've heard that electricity is outrageous here, but my mental well-being was dependent upon having fresh smelling, dry clothes. =)




The view from our living room window is actually a much better view. Our flat is located on the 4th floor and our building faces a naturally forested hill. The foliage here is very lush--almost rain forest-ish. I'll probably be posting more about the climate and foliage on the Singapore site, but at least now you know what I look at when I open the drapes in the morning.


Here is a picture of my favorite room in the flat. We put up new drapes and bought a bed and duvet and lamp. It's really the only room that is decorated 100% with furniture we chose. . . the rest of the house came partially furnished. We like the other furniture okay, but white couches and glass tables aren't exactly a great choice with a busy toddler in the house! I'll post more pictures of the rest of the flat once we're done settling in.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Recent Reads


There are a few perks to being in a foreign country, sans internet and telephone. One of the best is the time it affords one to read, read and read some more. Over the last two weeks (in addition to spending numerous hours on the bus exploring the City), I have managed to cross off 5 books on my To-Read list.

Yvette loaned me Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach just before we left the US. I figured that nothing could be more apropos for a long flight than a travel log. Alas, a certain wiggly (albeit, very cute) boy kept me from getting any reading done on the 20 hour flight. And, since the first 10 days after arriving in Singapore were hectic as Josh, Caleb and I raced all over the city to find basic items like sheets and milk, I put aside the thought of getting any reading done. Life demanded my attention; the book would have to wait.

On one of our many excursions during that first week, Josh and I located the only decent-sized bookstore on the island, Borders on Orchard Road. He perused the computer section whilst (I have decided to adopt this whimsical, British version of "while" since that is what the Singaporeans use) I admired their beautiful display of award-winning literature. Josh bought a textbook on teaching HTML, I bought The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, the first novel written in English by an Afghan. Since we have friends who will be moving their family to Afghanistan the end of this month, I was drawn to the book.

Now I had two books calling my name and no time to read either. Pure torture!

Thankfully, life quickly settled into a routine. Josh started new teacher orientation, Caleb started napping and I started reading.

I decided to start with the first book first and then move on to my most recent purchase. The only other travel log author I'd read was Bill Bryson, whose hilarious take on England in Notes from a Small Island had me in stitches, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this more serious-looking book about one woman's travels through Europe. What I found surprised me. Ms. Steinbach, so full of memories, insight and humor, was an excellent travel companion. I loved her vivid imagery and frequent allusions to literature and art. And, I loved the places she wrote about: Paris, Rome, Oxford. By the end of the book, I wasn't ready to be done with my vicarious travels, so I did two things. . . started reading about Afghanistan and planned another trek across Singapore to see if I could find Steinbach's second book, Educating Alice. By the time we made it to Borders a day later, I had already devoured (the only appropriate word for how I read this book) The Kite Runner and had expanded my shopping list to include Hosseini's second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, as well.

The Kite Runner, Hosseini's first book, was gripping. He is an amazing storyteller. Actually, more than a storyteller. . . his historical and political documentation of Afghanistan's past 35 year turmoil was fascinating. I appreciated the skill with which Hosseini wove fact and fiction together to create a heart-wrenching story about two Afghan boys who, although fictional, were surrounded by concrete information about Afghan culture, Afghan politics, and Islam. Although I would highly recommend The Kite Runner for both it's literary merit and it's insight into Afghanistan, you should be aware that Hosseini deals with some very disturbing material. I felt that he handled it very tactfully, however war and the human heart are evil, and to read about evil is disturbing. There is simply no getting around it.

While I would highly recommend Hosseini's first book, I wasn't as sold on his second. Perhaps it was because I read it right on the heels of his first, or perhaps it was because it just wasn't as good. I think that a large part of my detached feeling toward this book was the shift in perspective. In The Kite Runner the story is told in first person, making the character come to life. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini used the third person, with shifts of focus between two central characters. I didn't care for the style.

Where Hosseini's second book disappointed, Steinbach's book made up for it. I loved her first book. I absolutely adored her second. By the end of her second book, I was literally laughing out loud. Not because she is a comedian but because her commentary on the places she visits is so true! And because her commentary on herself is so honest! Read it and you'll find out what I mean. I am quite certain that nearly all of the people who read this blog would enjoy her wit and forthright style. Actually, as I have been reading this book, a certain dear friend of mine (Christianne!) kept coming to mind. Even if the rest of you ignore this recommendation, I do hope that my curly-haired friend in Florida will stop by the library to get a copy of each of her books.

In addition to the aforementioned, I also finished Bringing Up Boys by Dr. Dobson, but I think I've already said way too much in this post. Since a large part of this blog is devoted to Christian Mothering, I think I'll spare you a detailed review of this book and simply say this: The book was good.

A few pictures

This photo is a bit old, but it says everything about our plane trip to Singapore. . .
Caleb loved flying "the friendly skies."




The good thing about 10-month-olds is that they don't know that the rides in the mall are supposed to move =)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

We're Home. . . whatever that means.

After a two week stint in Mississippi at a training seminar/commissioning service with NICS (the Missionary organization with which we are working), Caleb and I are back in California, staying at my parents' house. Josh is en route to Haiti to visit his best friend, Dustin, who is doing missionary work with the Haitians. I am anxiously awaiting an email from Josh, letting me know he's arrived safely. . . I am a notorious worrier and it doesn't help that my husband is a continent away in a dangerous, third-world country. So, if you think of it, pray for him and for me, too!

It's nice to be home, but in the back of my mind, I know that we're not really HOME. We are in the middle of hard-core transition--not yet "there", but not fully "here" either. It's a good place to be, although not exactly fun. These feelings of not belonging anywhere does stir in me a more definite longing for the day when I will finally settle into my heavenly home with Christ, where moving boxes and goodbyes will be a thing of the past =)

The NICS training we attended was excellent and I can't wait to share more of what we learned. I will post my musings soon, but for now, I'm going to go take care of my jet-lagged, ear-ached, sleepy-eyed boy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My Muscle Man

Caleb flexes his muscles and makes a crazy face (accompanied by a very manly grunt). . . this video isn't the best but every time I get out the camera, Caleb gets camera shy and won't "make his muscles." Hopefully you'll be able to get the idea. . . and a chuckle.


Father's Day 2007

On Father's Day, Caleb and I served Josh breakfast-in-bed. While Daddy dined on French Toast, Caleb munched his Cheerios in his booster seat by the side of the bed. When it was time to clean up, I found French Toast crumbs in the bed and a Cheerio on Caleb's chin. The crumbs weren't picture-worthy, but I thought the Cheerio was.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

One Noisy Eater!

Caleb and the Big Bear

We packed away the Big Bear today, but not without getting one last picture. . . by the next time Caleb has a photo shoot with the Big Bear, he'll probably be the bigger of the two!


Caleb (3 months old) and the Big Bear



Caleb (8 months) and the Big Bear

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Holy Moly Green Guacamole!!

Does your guacamole turn brown overnight? Mine does! Or rather. . . DID. This weekend I was over at my dad's house for dinner and learned a kitchen secret that my gourmet granny taught my dad years ago. Somehow the knowledge didn't make it to me until just a few days ago.

The secret to keeping your guacamole green is in the pits! Prepare your guacamole as usual but instead of tossing those avocado pits, save them. When you're done making the guacamole, drop the pits into the dish. I'm not sure what the exact science of it is, but I guess the pits release some sort of chemical that keeps the avocado from turning brown.

On Sunday, I brought home some of my dad's delicious guacamole (pits included) and served the leftovers to guests last night. It was still as green as the day it was made. . .four days later!

Maybe this is one of those commonly known things and I was just out of the loop, but I thought I'd share it just in case!

Crawling!

Caleb has mastered crawling. He started off about 3 weeks ago with this crazy one-legged army crawl. He has progressed to the more traditional hands-and-knees variety. I am amazed at 1) how quickly he can get around and 2) how quickly he can get in trouble. It seems that out of the 1000 things he touches every day, 999 are "no-nos." However, there are a few things, like the one in this video, that I do let him touch. This "toy" is located right by the bathroom and keeps him entertained long enough for me to get ready in the morning, which means it is my favorite toy, too!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Big Day for Little Sis

My not-so-little-anymore little sister, Elizabeth, graduated from High School this weekend. It's hard to believe since I still remember her first day of kindergarten like it was just a few weeks ago.



CONGRATULATIONS ELIZABETH!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Clean Sheets

Last night Josh and I enjoyed our favorite treat: clean sheets! In the winter, we put on our warm flannel. In the summer, our white-on-white cotton ones. It is so relaxing to lay down and breathe in the dryer sheet smell. And, call me weird, every time there are new sheets on the bed, I love to wiggle my legs back and forth to enjoy the crisp, smooth way they feel.

What I DON'T love about clean sheets is how quickly my wiggling, teething, sleepy-eyed 9-month-old son can get them dirty. This morning, in a span of less than a minute, Caleb had managed to spill milk all over, throw-up, and pee on our fresh, clean sheets. How is that even possible!? He slept all night in his crib without getting his sheets dirty and yet he decimated ours in a matter of seconds.

This morning's fiasco set me to thinking. How many times have I done the same thing to God!? I go to Him in prayer and confession, asking Him to make me clean and fresh. And, He does! He patiently cleans up my sinful mess, forgives me my transgressions and puts me on the right track. Then, within two breaths of saying "amen" I wiggle and squirm and soil my freshly-cleaned-up soul with sin again. But, unlike me, God doesn't tire of changing the sheets. His mercies are new EVERY morning! What a tender, loving Father He is!

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

The upside of Caleb's mess is that I am now forced to changed the sheets AGAIN, which means we will have fresh, crisp, Bounce-scented sheets two nights in a row. I'll try not to grumble too much as I am wrestling with the fitted sheet. Instead, I think I'll use those few minutes to ask God to change the sheets of my soul.

When was the last time you had clean sheets?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

New Profile Picture


I did something to mess up my profile picture, so I'm posting a new one.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Favorite: Naptime

There is no hour of the day so peaceful as the afternoon hours when Caleb takes a nap. It seems that my morning hours are usually filled with laundry and other get-the-day-going activities. But the 1 1/2 hours of quietness in the afternoon have become a real favorite of mine. I have been able to read my Bible, finish a few books on my lengthy list, do a little baking, and every now and then sneak in a little nap myself.

For a mother, nearly every hour of the day (and sometimes the night, too) is filled with care for the perpetually curious, ever-hungry little children God has given to her care. But, He was gracious enough to cause those little wigglers to need an afternoon nap so that their dear mothers could retain a semblance of sanity! Isn't He gracious!?

Very Cherry!

Yesterday, we were invited by our friend, Paul, to his family's cherry farm to pick cherries. We made out like bandits! We came home with about 5-10 pounds of the ripest, sweetest, freshest cherries you've ever seen. Forget the grocery-store, if you want to know what real cherries taste like, you've got to make a trip to California's central valley and taste some Bings, Black Tarts, Rainiers, and Brooks cherries, fresh off the trees.

Some cool stuff I learned about cherries:
  • In order to grow a healthy, fruitful cherry tree, you must cross pollinate each tree with a cherry tree of another variety. So, if you're planning to plant a cherry tree in your back yard, plant two.
  • In Japan, consumers pay as much as $1 PER CHERRY? Crazy, huh!? No wonder the bulk of the Californian cherry crop is shipped to Asia!
  • Cherries are graded based on sugar content. The more sugar, the higher the quality; the higher the quality, the more money the cherry is worth. So basically, sugar = money.
  • A cherry isn't just a cherry. There are early producers and late producers, sweet and tart, soft and firm, dark and white.

Here are some photos from our field trip (technically, this was an orchard trip, but you know what I mean). . .
Caleb and I were so excited for our outing that we waited
on the front steps for Daddy to pick us up.
As you can see, Caleb could hardly contain his joy.


Paul with Caleb, Josh and Yvette displaying the loot off the first variety of tree.
The dark leafed trees on the left are Bing Cherries.
The light colored trees on the right are Walnut Trees.


I was allowed to climb the ladder, as long as I promised not to fall off!


Josh regretted volunteering to pick Black Tarts for me.
Every time he thought he was done, I kept saying, "MORE!"


Life is like a bowl of cherries!
(the dark cherries are Black Tarts, the bright red are Bings, and the light pink are Rainiers)