Tuesday, August 31, 2010

[month of mornings] 13 :: early to run

[early to run]
5:54 am

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning in 
Africa, a lion wakes up.
It knows that it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.
It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle
when the sun comes up you'd better be running.

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
-Benjamin Franklin

Is this inspiring? What if you are neither a lion or a gazelle, or even in Africa for that matter? What if all you have is concrete roads and sidewalks, and a pace slower than most two year olds can skip? And what if you are neither wealthy nor wise in spite of all your efforts?

 Well, at least you have the sunrise. And running with the light in your eyes and clouds growing pink on the horizon is all the inspiration I need.

Monday, August 30, 2010

[month of mornings] 12 :: wash on mondays

[wash on mondays]
7:48 am

Sunday, August 29, 2010

[month of mornings] 11 :: sweater vests are still cool

[cinnamon toast]
8:09 am

Knitting for children is so gratifying. You can finish something like a sweater in just a few days and feel so delighted at what you accomplished, and then watch them run around in it, looking all cute and stylish even if the sleeves are too long or the waist too short or the stretch a bit much. Toddler bodies are so forgiving... not so much for those of us past puberty.

These rainy days have brought on a slew of knitting and this sweet little pattern, found here, was just my style. Simple. Easy. Able to be followed by someone who still does multiplication by writing it out and counting on fingers in my head. Math is not my strong point I would say. I did have to work some serious brain power though to try and make this pattern work... it was free for a size one but I needed a 3 or 4. Plus my needles and yarn were not the recommended size. 

It seemed to me there was going to be a bit too much finagling involved in order to pull this thing off, and it did still turn out a bit small, but I am at least pleased that it looks proportionate and that my little Scout can wear it for maybe a month or so. Plus, it's not a hat, and as we all know, it was time I moved on from those for awhile (did we all know that?).

I am so in love with knitting. I want to become a knitting evangelist. Everyone should knit, including men and small children. It slows you down, makes you productive instead of consumptive, and is a way to give your love and attention to the people around you both in tangible and intangible ways. Have you converted yet?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

[month of mornings] 8 :: don't go away

9:16 am

Rainy day, don't go away. 
Something about today was just right, rain and all. It had whispers of autumn in it and as autumn does, it made me nostalgic and full of memories. Rainy days, when they are cool and steady with the pattering on the windows, make me slow down and do little things. Knead bread, light a candle, sit on the floor and knit a few rows with a little girl who rarely sits still, but seemed to catch the mood and lay sprawled over my legs for minutes at a time. 

The air smelled like southern Indiana in October where my family could camp every year in Brown County State Park. I could picture our campsite, the wet leaves strewn all over the forest floor, wood smoldering in the pit, the sound of drips on the canvas roof above my head where I would lay with a book or a game of Yahtzee. It was my favorite trip and one of my fondest childhood memories, the memories both hard and very, very good.

[into it]

[works in progress]
9:25 am

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

[month of mornings] 7

[faster please]
6:22 am

It's the first thing they say when they stumble out of their rooms, barely able to walk straight much less form sentences. But somehow they can manage "what's for breakfast, mom?" or just a simple plea, "can you make me breakfast please, right now??"

It's all I can do to get something prepared fast enough, and sometimes I'm still too slow.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

[month of mornings] 6

[ride it out]
7:44 am

Not five days ago I was writing about oppressive heat and a summer that burned long. Then the wind started to blow. It blew a storm right in, and if I was the kind of girl who grew up lickin' her finger and holding it to the sky or watching the clouds and feeling the air I could tell you from which way that storm came, but I can't. I would have to look it up on Google.

Either way (though I wish it were the cloud watching way), the heat broke. Just like that. Where three days ago I could think of nothing but fans and cold salads for dinner, today my friend and I talked of denim and hot chocolate, pulling out sweaters and the smell of an autumn candle. 

Sometimes, no matter how much you believe it's there, you just can't imagine the bend in the road will ever come, that relief and change is in sight. Who ever thought up this beautiful idea of changing seasons? Of the reprieve that you can't see coming but it comes, year after year after year after year? Whoever it was, He has good ideas, that One.

Monday, August 23, 2010

[month of mornings] 5

[pre-dawn planning]
5:44 am

The life of a teacher... lesson plans, grading, reading and learning content, always tweaking. And who does all of this work benefit?

 Well, this week alone I've learned about the similarities and differences between Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism and their influence in China, the many applications opportunity cost and opportunity benefit have to the economics of my own household (bet you're jealous you don't have an economics teacher to make your financial decisions with aren't you?), and some easy and simple ways to learn government vocab. 

Thank you honey, those long hours are definitely paying off. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

[month of mornings] 3

6:36 am

If you spent the night at my house on a Friday and woke to the day with us the next morning, you would probably either laugh... or cry. As the light started streaming in and the sound of small feet slapping against hard boards filled my room today, I was feeling like everyone had slept in, including myself. Then I looked at the clock in the kitchen. It was still before 6. At this point you may have cried.

It was okay though. If coffee gets made everything looks better. 

Because of this Wendell Berry book I'm reading, we started talking over breakfast about work... it's importance, the way we look at it in our modern culture, how the work of the home gets marginalized and degraded (for both men and women) and ultimately even avoided. We started talking about the importance of a clean home and how we sometimes avoid that work too or try to find ways to make ourselves feel better about not doing it. In today's circles we talk about things like trying to be free of the "pressure of perfection" or letting people see us "as we are."

This conversation was made entirely possible, by the way, because of that cup of coffee.

The result of having a conversation about work and home this early on a Saturday morning? Everyone had their chores completed and our entire house was cleaned up by 7:20 am. That is the part you hopefully would have laughed at. I did.

Friday, August 20, 2010

[month of mornings] 2

[rise and shine]
7:29 am

It is still hot here, heavy hot. At 7:30 the air sits still and wet, weighing down on your tender skin and even more fragile cooling system like a wool blanket that's been dipped in the sea and thrown into the oven. It's all you can do to keep from constantly complaining about the discomfort.

We head out into this thick, wet heat every morning to make our way up the hill to where the bus waits to carry my sons and half our little neighborhood off to school. We pass by the water, grey and still or sometimes choppy and crashing with sprays of surprise showers over the rocky embankment. Fishing boats bob in the distance and a horn blasts from further out in the bay. A man sells crabs from the back of his rusty truck bed.

At the crest of the hill is a small park where every morning a group gathers to perform their early ritual. They snap fans in unison as they balance and stretch, dancing in mirrored rhythm as the bright accordion papers wave like choreographed petals in the sunlight. It's exercise, and art, and a pleasure to watch as we drip and wait in the morning heat.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Introducing...[month of mornings] 1

Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own...
-Charles Dickens
[to and fro] 
7:29 am

7:33 am

Mornings. They are new, every day. They are quiet and still, and hold promise. They are refreshing, and a good morning can feel like that slow stretch as you get out of bed, a wakening that slowly builds as the moments topple over one another.

Right now, where I live, the mornings have changed as children head back to school and I head out the door earlier than we did during the summer. The light is beautiful and happy to share it's companionship, where in a few months it will duck and hide for a few more hours each day. 

I find myself noticing many little things during these hours that I so love. As an early riser, who is rising even earlier in an attempt at a new schedule, some of the most important as well as favorite things of my day happen as the day dawns. 

So, in an attempt to find some sort of way to inspire myself to a photo a day,
 I am going to share a [month of mornings]. The posts may or may not include words.

The rules are:
every day
for one month
one photo (or two)
taken before 10 am

 I am sure there are others out there who love the mornings too, just like these ladies who were a part of the inspiration for this project. If so, please feel free to join in and share a link to your photos. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

{book}worm wednesday :: going west, east, and the final frontier

Reading can go in waves, can't it. Sometimes you just want a novel. Sometimes you want something to challenge you, to make you think. Sometimes you want fluff and feel good. Sometimes you want to be knocked off your feet. Sometimes you need to just read for the sake of letting any or all those things happen to you regardless if you want them or not. Sometimes you need voices from other times to help you see clearer in your own. Sometimes you need the voices of the present to help shed light on the past.

 I remember watching Reading Rainbow as a kid, and sometimes I wish I still could, all those magical journeys through the books other children were reading. This list is just a small glimpse into one person's tunneling through the world's and pathways that a good book takes you. I wish you wonderful wanderings in wherever yours are leading as well.

what I'm reading
The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry
I kind of went on and on about it here, so I won't do that to you again (right now anyway), but I am still reading and still soaking in these words like a field all furrowed and seeded, ready for the drenching rain to soak it full and heavy, and make it grow. You know I must describe it that way... they are agrarian essays after all.

Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child by Kevin Swanson
I appreciate this book, thought it is not quite as groundbreaking as the title suggests. It's a simple, helpful look at the things that any parent can and should do to educate their child in their whole being: Character, One on One instruction, Protection, Relationships, Life Integration, the Love of Learning, and more are just a few of the ideas he builds on. It hasn't changed my life, but it has challenged me in several ways.

Velma Still Cooks in Leeway by Vinita Hampton Wright
I'm intrigued and interested to read this simple story about a woman in a small town, cooking and caring for her neighbors and friends but dealing with the burdens of the deeper things of life. From the jacket cover, "Velma seeks to be lightened from the heaviness of her past and to find hope that her life has meaning beyond the ordinariness of her existence." Ha. Don't we all. Even if we don't have a deep and dark past, we all have a past, and they are all broken in some way. I have read Wright's book about the writing life and am looking forward to her novel, which just arrived yesterday from my mom in a package by the way, so I'll let you know!

the husband list
Children of God by Mary Doria Russell
The first book in this series was deeply moving and thought provoking, which I mentioned a couple months ago. The premise is challenging: the author sharing that she wrote these stories in light of much of the modern day berating we do towards the early explorers and the damage they did and lack of cultural sensitivity they had. So she has crafted this story to ask the question, if we were confronted with a similar situation now (which could only happen on another planet at this point), would we really do it any differently? In this second book, she dives further in. 

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
I don't know much about this book except that it is a little crazy, in a good way. Its the telling of family, of land, of people, and all from the unique and delightful mind of a boy who was born the very night of India's independence on August 15, 1947.

The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring the Sabbath by Mark Buchanan
In today's world, busyness is one of the top ten words on most people's lips. And yet it seems to be doing little to improve our lives. This book is about the rest and reverence of setting apart mind and body and soul not in a removal of all things good, but in a truly restful and worshipful way, in a way we were created to. I've seen it challenge the reader and cause him to ponder a changing of ways, of habits, and spur him on to an adding of things that restore instead of just removing things that deplete.

the kid list
James Herriots Treasury for Children
Another package goody! We dove into this right away last night and again this afternoon and already I am smitten (I think they are too, but I should probably ask). Simple but interesting and as the title says "warm and joyful" tales from an old Yorkshire country veterinarian. The illustrations are wonderful. And it's about farms and animals. What is not to love?

Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner
A beginning reader book, and one that my boy is taking great pride in earmarking and reading on his own just like a grown up. The story is unbelievable really, three young boys from Kentucky head west with their father to settle on new land. The challenges they face and overcome are hard for this mama to imagine. And it is a true story.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
There seem to be things I mention almost neurotically, and the Ingalls family appears to be one of them. So, yes I think this was on the list last time and yes, we are still reading it. I don't ever remember crying about these things as a child reading the story, but Laura having to give her precious Charlotte away to that mean little toddler and Ma not understanding? My heart broke. And then the grasshopper crazy cloud that ate their ENTIRE wheat harvest in one sitting? I get depressed and irritated when the internet stops working for crying out loud (now that is an issue in and of itself). Pa walking hundreds of miles for work, Ma living for months with no news of him, Laura and Mary hauling the entire woodpile indoors when a blizzard arrives unexpectedly. I'm just so stinkin proud of them all! The fortitude, the motivation, the ability to see life for what it is and to accept it... it astounds me. And the way you are feeling right now, looking cockeyed at your computer like, "settle down lady" is precisely the way two little bobbing heads look at me every night as I wipe tears and snot from my face and try to get through another chapter.

board books, oh my.
That would be all the board books I am reading to my dear little lady who has taken such an interest in them, it is nearly to the point of madness. How many times can a monkey jump off the bed before it will get the point?? How many belly buttons and dinosaurs, I do love a good Sandra Boynton standby though. They still make me laugh the five gazillionth time through. 

Thank you for reading! As always I love to hear what is on your nightstand or coffee table or living room floor, too!

And here is a little sneak preview of something that is coming up tomorrow...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

raspbaby hats

Introducing: Raspberry Mocha and Raspberries N' Cream... both for babies to be arriving here soon.

I am itchin' to start on a project that is for some other part of the body than the head. But there are immediate family members all around clamoring for me to make them one for the looong cold winter. And because it kind of makes me feel a wee bit closer to Caroline Ingalls, I am excited to do so. But they sure do lose hats easily and that makes me both nervous and perhaps tyrannical, which doesn't seem like a pretty combination.

Stay tuned. I feel some sweaters and hats and who knows what else coming on...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's just the first day, that's all.

Not a big deal really. So it doesn't matter that raindrops the size of Buddha's round little tummy came rushing at our broken umbrellas like they had fallen from Mars or maybe even somewhere further than that. Just like it didn't matter last year when we arrived at the top of the hill, somewhat bewildered at how lonely it was, only to realize I had gotten the bus time wrong.

It's just the first day, and people say it should feel like the first untying of apron strings and your heart should beat faster and you should memorialize it with scrapbook pages or journal notes, or special breakfasts, or like we did, with just a few extra moments before toast on the couch. But it's just the first day and I don't do them that well, no bells or whistles or tears or beating hearts, except somewhere inside a little clock tocks and a little lens clicks and I notice that I gather things up more than I give credit for.

Not a big deal really, the too-small backpack and the hole in the sock, and the packed lunch for tomorrow that is less than I hoped it would be, they slide off my back like that Buddha all wet and slick and taking a ride in the rain down the slope of my burdenless back. No, it's somewhere else, somewhere deeper that the guilt and the weight sits, that place where I think about them leaving so young and how I can't homeschool, and how even saying that is a way of making myself feel better since if I did I would probably beat my fists against it.

It's not the empty scrapbook that sits heavy, but the weight of knowing I'm not doing them right, not giving what I should or saying what I could, not knowing what to do or knowing what to do but getting mad irritated instead. It's the burden of a parent who has the heart of a child in her hands, but can't mold it past a certain point because there is a molding that I have no control over. It's the weight of the forces that work outside my human hands, the weight of little hearts that will grow to be big hearts and need spiritual schooling and an intervention I can't plan or control or make happen.

It's just the first day, but it's every day that's the important one really and it's every day that I have to let the strings lie loose . Because the words said it this morning, though months away from the cards they often grace with their gilded lettering, "For unto you is born this day, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And he will be for all people..." These curly heads and thinning limbs, they need heart changing, they need what I need, a washing with a heavy, pelting rain that makes them clean, so clean. It's a work I can't do. So I just make lunches and whisper simple words, and ask that it gets swallowed up and used for a deeper work, by bigger hands, and a voice much louder and softer and wiser than mine.

And let that rain come hard. Lift up those little hands, straight up to where it all comes from, high in the heavens above, and let them be washed clean, cleaner than even a hard scrubbing mama could ever make them.

holy experience

Monday, August 9, 2010

Signs of a Good Summer

Banged up knees say it. Brown tan lines that ring around the neck and start up halfway down the arm say it. Golden flecks at the tips of wheat colored hair say it. Brains empty of fun ideas but full of memories from earlier days when the inspiration beat strong, that says it. The signs of the summer are sweet and plentiful. Shoes that need repairing, an oven that has gone mostly unused, book piles growing smaller.

I am feeling grateful for a restful, albeit challenging last couple of months. There was much good and much grace, and just as many hard days that gave pause to the reality of my own mistakes. 

This week, it is back to school for husbands and kids alike, which means that even though the temperatures will rage and the humidity will swelter for another several long weeks, I am getting that that autumn itch to get back on schedule.

I've already made chore charts, started thinking about how my days will pan out minus one more child in the mornings, begun planning kid's lunch ideas (just found out they like chickpeas and seaweed strips, but not together of course), and thinking through what my goals and priorities are for the next few months. Some people just like planning and schedules. I wouldn't make a very good hippie I don't think. But I like nose rings, and dreadlocks (on other people), and Bob Marley... does that count?

{The sign of a good summer... the makings of a good pizza.}

What are the signs of your summer?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Art of the Commonplace

Sometimes I get sucked into a vortex. It's a fun little phenomenon for me because it means that I am intensely thinking on one particular area or thought and am excited and passionate about it. Perhaps the people around me don't look at it that way but most of them are too young to be aware that this phenomenon is happening and those who are of age (my husband) are both amiable and level headed enough to bounce my thoughts and emotions right back into... my little vortex. 

So, lately I've been musing a lot over the way I live. Whoa, kind of broad you say, but I'll try to break it down. (if you don't feel like reading an essay... just skip down to the bracketed paragraphs near the end)

All of our lives are filled with the day to day. It is this everyday stuff of life that actually makes up our life. I know it is in these things that I need to find joy, fulfillment, gratefulness, acceptance, and meaning. But as so much of our modern day society attests to, this is not so easily done. I wonder on why that is. I read books about it, I ask God about it, I try to be aware of ways that I am falling short of what I've been made to be, ways that need confession and renewal. But I still struggle mightily with it; with being a pool of stilled water in the midst of the place that I am, with being a cup filled right in the midst of the things I possess, with being a joy-filled soul right smack dab in the middle of the days and the tasks and the very life I now live.

Wendell Berry, sage and modern day critic of our culture and the way many of our practices are eroding at the very things that make us human, has a collection of essays called The Art of the Commonplace. In it, I am finding much that is challenging my way of living and the thinking that underlies it. He's a farmer. He doesn't think we should all be farmers, but he writes to show us that we, in our post Industrial Revolution world and Age of Technology, have lost our connection to a huge part of what makes us whole as humans. In short, it's our connection to the land. He doesn't mean this in a New-Agey sort of way, but in the sense that we are biological, created creatures, who feed off of and live upon and in interdependence with the created earth and other living creatures. 

Most of us don''t live with an awareness of these truths, even though they are at the root of what makes us human. Instead, in our Information Age, we have become career people, where all information becomes specialized and the effect of this is "to make us frustratingly helpless and ignorant in regard to basic human skills- growing food, maintaining a home, caring for and educating children, promoting friendship and cooperation, facing illness and death. This specialization also leads to a sense of our own isolation from the broader wholes of which we are a part." Berry also writes of how we as modern day people no longer have pursuits or goals constrained by the limitations our natural world and communities put on us, we have instead become autonomous, self-seeking individuals whose goals are measured and limited only by our own egos. But we aren't any happier or healthier as a result. Instead, this has lead to the destruction of our natural world for our own limitless pursuits and the destruction of our communal lifestyles of which we as humans are (like it or not) desperately dependent upon.

I don't think it's hard to see these things as true. Movies, books, the Today show, our own hearts, all testify to the fact that for all our abundance, for all our advancements, we struggle with isolation, purposelessness, feelings of homelessness, angst, dissatisfaction, egotism, narcissism (see this interesting post about Mel Gibson from NY Times writer David Brooks). And what I'm trying to say is that I experience many of these things myself.

One thing in Berry's writing that hit home to me is that many of these destructive symptoms are a result of our dis-ordered living within the ordered world we've been given. It really is a gift, this earth, and especially as someone who believes in the Creator and walks in a hopeful following of Him, I ought to be seeking to be thankful for this gift, and striving to live as I was designed to within it. Sometimes discontentment in our hearts can come from a purposeful choosing to want things we do not have, but perhaps sometimes it comes from a different kind of waywardness, the sin of ignorance, or of careless living in the place God created for us, and created us for. So for all the good that we have at our fingertips, we need to become more and more mindful about ways to overcome or change, or perhaps even eradicate modern day practices that are eroding away not just our land, but our humanity as well. 

It's funny, one of the first suggestions Berry makes for reforming our relationship with the land and our communities (because he really doesn't want us all to be farmers, though you may come away feeling that way) is changing our relationship with food. There are a few other practices and parts of daily living that I've come across whether in his book or on my own reading (or perusing through blog-world one day), and it has set me to thinking on all of them.  I think all of these areas require improvement or overhaul in my life, and this requires careful thinking about what they do to not only me but the land I live upon and off of, and the people I depend upon and whom depend upon me. I don't by any means have them all figured out or even understand them all, so I welcome your responses if you have them.

Food is not just a fuel, as much of our eating and dieting tends to make us think. It is "the most concrete and intimate connection between ourselves and the earth that exists." And I would add to that, it is one of the most important ways that we as humans connect with one another-- in all cultures in all times the meal has been a central rite of our fellowship and community and family. This area is always a challenge to me as some of the ideas about how to (as a non-farmer) cultivate a healthier relationship with where my food comes from are difficult to do in this city. But there are ways and I need to pursue them.

I came across this post about hospitality the other day and it hit me rather hard, a bit harder than I would have expected because I tell myself that hospitality is important to me. But as with most things, there are blinders on that routinely need to be swiped off. Hospitality is not about impressing people, being a food artisan, or being the life of the party. It is simply about welcoming people into your home and seeking to know them, to make them feel cared for, and to share in life together. I very easily aim for other things even while I think I am aiming for these.

To rest from work, from technology, from the things that sap us and drive us, and to spend time doing things that bring us together with people, with creation, with God, with the joy of a rested, rejuvenated heart and mind and soul.

"The goal of human life, and therefore also its inspiration, must be to attain the peace and rest that marked the climax of creation. Our desire, our knowledge, and our work must finally end in the dance of joy and delight that mirrors the creator's pleasure in the goodness of creation.
"A Timbered Choir" (collection of Sabbath poems) by Wendell Berry.

 "The focus [in Wendell's poems] is not simply on a cessation of work for one day of the week but rather the transformation of all work in light of the goodness and interdependence of creation."
-Norman Wirzba

I came across this quote the other day from a book someone else was reading...

"Failing to notice a gift dishonors it, and deflects the love of the giver. That's what's wrong with living a careless life, storing up sorrow, waking up regretful, walking unaware. But to turn the gift in your hands, to say, this is wonderful and beautiful, this is a great gift-- this honors the gift and the giver of it....notice the gift. Be astonished at it. Be glad for it, care about it. Keep it in mind. This is the greatest gift a person can give in return. 'This is your work,' my friend told me, 'which is work of substance and prayer and mad attentiveness, which is the real deal, which is why we are here.'" 
-Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore. 

It struck another chord (it's like they're all strumming at once in here!) with me about this desire I have to learn how to make things that are "homemade." In today's world, where there is everything at your fingertips, handmade stuff is more of a hobby, a fun crafty thing to do, but it is not a necessity to life, as much of it used to be. And yet, I wonder if some of our disconnect with our things and our discontent with them, could be coming from our lack of effort and work put into the creation of them. I want to learn to make things so that I can give gifts like that quote. I want to look at the things I have been given, whether it is  a meal, or a sweater, or people made by the hand of God, or the world crafted by Him, and honor them with all that I am.

What is my work? What in the world do I think about it? Do I accept it? Do I strive to be the best I can be at it? Do I see the goodness, the grace, even the mystery in it and marvel and give thanks? I am overwhelmed by how to even do that on a day to day basis. 

But I see a glimpse... that the "commonplace" is a place for artful living, when that art is pursued by serving the land and the lives around me. "Service is the "art of the commonplace," the art that willingly enters into life with others and the earth and seeks the flourishing of all." (Wirzba) This seems to me a faithful understanding of the way God intends for us to live. Now to do it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Cucumber Shout Out


The cucumber. I've been enjoying it's presence in my life lately. It's like the white button up oxford of the food wardrobe: somewhat boring but always adds a crispness that is at once cool and unassuming. Or like that smart girl in your class that was quiet but always had a timely answer. The cucumber sort of slides its way into so many dishes, but is rarely the flashy main attraction. So the other day at lunch, as I sliced away at a squeaky clean, crunchy cuke that just oozed freshness, I offered a small "I really like you!" under my breath. Maybe I should have said the same to that smart girl.

In China, the cucumber gets a lot of attention. You see people everywhere chomping on them like they are a bag of potato chips (and the bag of potato chips DOES indeed come in cucumber flavor if that suits your fancy). Workers on break, grandma's feeding little children, pretty young women on their way to the office, you name it young and old alike seem to love this simple veggie that can be picked up at any roadside stand (or basket).  Countless Asian dishes use the cucumber as a tasty part of their ensemble. We eat it with more foods now than we used to, which says more about me and my need to grow in food exploration than it does anything else. 

Cucumbers are an excellent complement to Indian Curry, chopped fresh with tomatoes or just sliced for finger food. Any Mediterranean inspired food needs cucumbers it seems... couscous and hummus, tomatoes, feta, olives, you name it, it needs some crunchy cuke. Even something like the boring ham and cheese sandwich can get a bit more exciting and summery with the freshness of a few summery green slices. If you're into Chinese fare, why not try it with scrambled egg? My sister-in-law Leah, who makes the best chunky guacamole salsa I've ever tasted in my life adds cucumber to her genius recipe. Here's a yummy looking recipe that I would love to try (I pretty much love all her food). When things like pine nuts, avocado, and cucumber are mentioned together, I get excited.

For me it's the cucumber, but there are so many wonderful summer foods available right now. What are you enjoying?

Monday, August 2, 2010

He Comes Home to Her Hugs

She loves her Daddy, this girl does. He just returned from another long week away, the last travels of the summer behind us now. The returns are always so sweet, and particularly for this child who loves to wrestle and romp and cuddle with the best of them. As you may gather from bits and pieces I drop here, sometimes I can tire of her energetic ways but not her Daddy. He is over the moon about her, no matter how many times she sits on his head or lands an elbow in his face. It must be all those kisses and curls and the way she'll lay and snuggle with him for longer than I've seen since she was a breastfeeding newborn. 

And I have to say it does melt my heart a bit to watch them together. They're both so blessed to have each other, which makes me a blessed woman too.