Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

May you and yours have a wonderful Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Day Before the Day Before Christmas

We got a gift this year from the school district; our last day of school was Friday which gave me 4 days before Christmas to shop and start making the goodies.  I'm actually fairly relaxed this year.  I was fortunate to get most of the gift shopping done early (and mostly local or at least made in America!)  I'm keeping the baking down to a minimum this year.  I made a double batch of ginger crinkles last weekend and took most of them to a cookie swap at school.  I did come home with an assortment of cookies, none of which include our usually necessary treats.  I will make some cranberry biscotti later today if energy allows; they are Elder Son's favorite must have!  I am not making my must-have this year, the "Best Buttermilk Poundcake."  We don't need it and I have a yummy delicious fruitcake I treated myself too.  This family is one of those who ACTUALLY LOVE fruitcake.  I splurged and got myself an Assumption Abby fruitcake to enjoy.    I did make two new-to-us recipes this year --- from Pinterest, and SUPER easy.   I made something called Christmas fudge

and I made peppermint bark.

  Both start with white chocolate chips which proved surprising elusive.  I went to three grocery stores before I found some REAL white chocolate chips.  The Nestle white baking chips are NOT made with cocoa butter, and don't have that rich flavor. I did find some Bakers chips that are the real thing, and they were on sale no less!

As far as house decorations this year, I've got the candles in the windows, a wreath on the door, and a beautiful real tree with lights.  I don't think the ornaments will make it to the tree this year, but that's okay.  For me all I need is a real Balsam fir and multi-color lights - no twinkles!  

We will stay with our tradition of Swedish meatballs for Christmas Eve dinner, but we're breaking with recent tradition and instead of a rib roast on Christmas day, we're going to enjoy a Carando spiral ham.  It's a lot for the 3 of us, but some of it will go home with Elder Son, and I am looking forward to split pea soup over the weekend.  And ham salad!

So it's a fairly relaxed holiday this year.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Whirlwind

The house is strangely silent.  After 5 days of 5 adults sharing the house, and 7 more people joining us the past day and half, it's suddenly silent.  Everybody is on the way back to their own homes.  I will admit that at 12:23 am last night, as I stuffed the pillow over my head to block out the raucous laughter of 4 young adults partying in the kitchen just below my bedroom, I was longing for silence, now that everyone has gone, it feels too quiet!

Younger Son and his fiance were the first to arrive from Los Angeles on Monday.  On Tuesday Elder Son joined us.  Yesterday my sister, her husband and her teenaged children arrived, as did my cousin, her husband, and one of her adult children.  It is such a pleasure to have the "kids" all together  although the kids are in their early 30's.  WHERE DID THE TIME GO???  It was just yesterday that they were all chattering like magpies at the kids' table on Thanksgiving.  This year the "adults" were at the kitchen table, while the under 35's were at the big table in the dining room!

I am exhausted from the week of preparation -- opening up bedrooms, dusting and vacuuming rooms that get little use nowadays, and wiping cobwebs from corners of the living room and dining room ceilings.  I was awake at 3:30 am Thanksgiving morning, and finally up for the day at 4:15.  The bird was in the oven at 6 am.  I marshaled the troops as they awoke, getting out the good china and silver, rinsing stemware and filling cut glass salts for the nuts we crack.  Everything went perfectly. Out came the bird at 12:45 pm, in went the sides, and we sat down to eat at 1:30, half an hour earlier than I had expected.  It was so much fun visiting with my cousin and her family, with my sister and her family.  It was almost like Thanksgivings of my childhood with lots of folks perched on folding
chairs, hassocks, and the floor after dinner.

It's so worth the exhaustion!

I am thankful.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Clean House . . . Not!

I have never claimed that I was a good housekeeper as far as cleaning.  I am a good cook, I manage the household (and business!) accounts well, we always have clean clothes and clean dishes.  My pets get fed, and their homes get spruced up at least occasionally.  My houseplants are the kind that thrive on very occasional watering, annual trips outside during the summer, and then benign neglect most of the rest of the time.  My kitchen and main bath are probably the most tended to parts of the house, in no small part due to the fact that I hire someone to do the kitchen and bath once a week.

I grew up in a house where my mom was always busy cleaning something . . . it just never stayed neat and tidy because there were 5 of us always running around.  But my mom had a routine, and she put us to work at an early age to help keep up with the routine.  Every week the living room and dining room was dusted and vacuumed.  I used to complain about in one of the houses we lived in that neither of those rooms needed cleaning because we hadn't used them since the last time the dusting and vacuuming had been done.  We had a family room that we lived in, and an eat-in kitchen where we ate almsot all our meals.  But every week that chore got done.  Every night one of us had to sweep the kitchen floor.  Mom took care of sweeping after breakfast and lunch, at least during the school year.    Every Saturday we were required to change the sheets on our bed and clean our bedrooms  --- putting toys and books away, dusting the bureau, vacuuming.  And every Saturday we helped clean bathrooms and do other chores like the ironing.    None of liked these chores, and I'm sure my mother didn't like them either.  But they got done.

I somehow lost that discipline of daily/weekly chores.  I think I mostly blame the fact that aside from approximately 2 years, I have never been a stay-at-home wife or mother.  When our first child was born, I quit my job to stay home.  At the same time, my husband started his own business and before you could blink I was working again, albeit from home most of the time, or at times when he could be home.  Our 2nd child was born 15 months later, and when he was 2, I started working part-time in the office instead of at home.  All that is my rationale for why I fell out of housecleaning discipline.  With two children less than 2 years apart and a family business, it was hard to find consistent time to do all of the chores that I'd been raised to do.  Some jobs just had to be done --- clean laundry, clean kitchen and a clean bathroom were the essential chores after cooking.  Vacuuming??? Dusting??? Not so much.  Both my husband and I were working more than 40 hours a week at times; our kids accompanied us to the office.  On weekends we often traveled 3 hours to take the kids to visit their grandparents.  So when there was some down time, instead of cleaning, we'd collapse!

And it doesn't help that both my husband and I are pack rats, collectors, and people that see flat surfaces as filing cabinets.

All of these goes to say that I am still not a good housekeeper as far as a neat and tidy house.  If you drop in unexpectedly you'll find several pairs of shoes around the house, the kitchen table stacked with mail, magazines, our pills, and the newspapers.

 My counters are full of small appliances, jars of utensils, a spice corral, and various things that didn't fit in the catchall drawer(s).  If you go into our living room, or dining room, or just about any room, you can usually write your name in the dust on flat surfaces.  My dining room table which is used only on holidays has become my husband's filing cabinet for the business.
If you come on Tuesdays, the kitchen will sparkle, as will the main bathroom.  ONe gift of having a regular cleaner come in, is that my counters and bathroom vanity are 90% less cluttered than they used to be.  On Monday nights I scurry around actually putting things away where they belong.

If I know you're coming ---- like for Thanksgiving---- ah!  Then I actually get some major work done.  All of the unused guest bedrooms have had fresh bedding put on, the cobwebs in the corners of ceiling are gone, the bureaus shine, the windows are clean, and they are vacuumed within an inch of their lives.  The hallways also have been dusted and vacuumed, and the dining room and living room look at least like the before pictures in those house decorating magazines.  (With our odd collection of cast-off furniture, they'll never even make the shabby chic category!)  So the answer probably is to have company early and often.

We will be moving soon (I hope!) into a downsized house.  It will be a big change.  We are going from a 100+ year old rambling house with 5 bedrooms to a 2 bedroom open concept cape.  We're transitioning to open, clean, contemporary styling from our heavy mostly Victorian furniture.  We will actually have an office for the office.  But I am making a huge promise to myself.  There will be no clutter.  THere will be no mail on the table for longer than it takes to read it and dispose of it.  My  counters (in an open concept great room) will be clear.  I have designed the kitchen area with lots of storage for small appliances,a pantry, a spice drawer, a wine rack.  And soon after we move, I will be retiring.  I WILL establish a cleaning routine, so that I'm not exhausting myself trying to clean the house for company!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Friday Five on a Saturday

Yesterday's Friday Five at RevGalBlogPals asks us to consider being in the middle:

1.  I teach in a MIDDLE school - grade 6.

2.  People tell me that I have a gift for being able to seeing all  sides of an argument or discussion.  They tell me they like having me IN THE MIDDLE because I am able to articulate what each party is saying.  (I have to admit that that gift seems to appear more in places like committee meetings, disputes with colleagues, etc.  Not so much in family discussions!!

3.  I am in the MIDDLE of a middle school novel called I Represent Sean Rosen by Jeff Baron.  It's very funny, and I am sure that a number of my students will love it.

4. Oh, I just realized my classroom is in the MIDDLE of my wing.

5.  I am in the MIDDLE of my Saturday morningchores -- laundry, making beds, making grocery lists,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Scattered Saturday

In no particular order of importance:

1.  It's a gorgeous fall day, milder than it should be for Nov. 2.  Wish I could spend it out doors, but there's too much indoor work.

2.  Actually slept for 10 hours last night!  Went to bed at 9 pm, woke up once to use the bathroom, and slept until 7 am.  It's amazing how energetic I feel when I've slept well.  Doesn't happen often.

3. I'm taking a break from trying to deep clean my living room.  Actually before I can clean, I have to declutter.  I've filled 2 garbage bags with debris . . . don't ask, but the debris includes the contents of 2 wastebaskets that have long needed emptying, lots of yarn scraps that have accumulated under the sofa, in odd corners, a number of catalogs and newspapers, an empty chip bag, and lots of clumps of cat hair.  I don't vacuum in there as much as I need to.  I am not someone who cleans her house very often.  But company is coming for Thanksgiving, and it's reached a point where even I am embarrassed to enter.

4.  I'm making a big pot of soup --- it's my usual cabbage soup base, but I've also cleaned out the refrigerator so there are the pot roast leftovers in it, half a jar of left over Prego tomato sauce, a bunch of kale, carrots, onions, and the dregs of a bottle of wine.    Smells wonderful.

5. I am knitting the Umaro blanket by Jared Flood.  I have 2 more repeats to go.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Golly It's Been a Long Time. . .

I never seem to have time to sit down and post something anymore.  I thought I'd have more time this year since I have let go of a lot of things I used to do, but I haven't figured out how I actually found the time to get those things done in the first place!

School keeps me busier than ever.  Although I'm teaching 6th grade English/Language Arts and social studies as I've done for most of my career, I'm am doing more planning and preparation than usual. My partner and I share a terrific group of kids this year, but many of them are on IEP's which requires us to adapt and modify our lessons.  I'm also getting used to having extra adults in my room.  In all my classes except one, there are at least 2 adults, and in 2 classes there are 3 of us.  Sometimes the planning for the adults is more time-consuming than the kids!  Our school also adopted a new skills block or RTI block (reponse to intervention - dumb name if you ask me, for a class!) this year.  For 30 minutes a day, kids who need an "extra scoop" of math or reading skills are sent to a teacher for direct instruction.  I have 5 8th graders that have deficits in reading, so that's a new prep for me.  It's challenging because the skills they are lacking are several grade levels below 8th grade, so I have to find materials that are at their INTEREST level, but at their skill level.  I think I spend more time planning that class than my regular ELA class.

We still haven't moved into the new house ---- inch by inch we're getting closer, but we're not there yet.  Some recent pictures:

The main things left to do before we can start to move are:  getting the appliances hooked up, getting the heat turned on, getting a shower door for the master bath, and getting the occupance permit.  I'd love to say it will be done before Thanksgiving, but I'm being optimistic!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

As If Pneumonia Wasn't Enough . . .

Just as I'm recovering from pneumonia, and starting to feel half-human again, life throws me another surprise!
Thursday evening I started coughing so hard, it felt like I was going to vomit.  So I headed to the bathroom on the run.  Somehow I slipped and fell hard, across the wooden threshold between 2 tile floors.  The wind was knocked out of me and I couldn't get up without help.  To make a long story short, we called our neighbor who has been an ER nurse for over 30 years.  She came over and determined that I'd probably cracked a rib or 2.  She checked me out pretty thoroughly, and told me what to watch.  So since Thursday night, life has been a bit more difficult.  I had to take a day off from work on Friday, and I spent 2 nights propped up in a chair since I couldn't lay down comfortably.  Last night I managed to sleep in bed albeit fitfully.  Tomorrow I will go back to school, but definitely take it easy.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back to School

School started this week ---teachers went back Monday for three days of in service, and the kids returned on Thursday.  It was a fairly calm start to the year, marred only by the fact that I have pneumonia.  I've been sick now for just about 2 weeks.  I went to the doctor on 8/19 and at that time I told him I thought I had pneumonia.  He checked me out and told me, he really didn't think so, that I probably just had a virus.  He sent me home with a prescription for a cough suppressant and instructions to call if I wasn't feeling better by Thursday.  I spent the couple of days, running a fever, feeling about as bad as I've ever felt, but when Thursday rolled around, I started to feel better.  Friday I felt like I had really beaten the bug.  And then Sat came.  The fever was back, the coughing intensified, and everything hurt.  Because it was the weekend, I couldn't get hold of anyone and I really didn't want to go to the ER. On Monday, I got in touch with the dr who decided to prescribe an antibiotic and to order  a chest xRay.  So up to the hospital I went late Monday afternoon.  I also filled the prescription.  Tuesday comes, I felt marginally better.  I called the dr's office first thing to get the results from the xRay.  "They're not back yet."  I called again at noon with the same response.  I called at 4:30 and again got the "Not back yet" response. Wed. morning I called and was told "We tried to call you yesterday."  I went a teeny bit ballistic at that point and I reminded the nurse that I'd called 3 times on Tuesday. She finally admitted that perhaps their office had made a mistake.  At any rate, the xRay showed that I indeed had pneumonia and should continue with the antibiotic.  As far as work was concerned, it was up to me as to whether I went in or not as long as I didn't have a fever.   So, off to work I went for the rest of the week.  I'm glad I did because those 1st few days are really important in getting the kids off on the right foot, but boy am I tired.  I"m glad we have a 3 day weekend, because I'm still not over this.  At least I'm starting to sleep uninterrupted by coughing for 5-6 hours in a row.  But now, I'm having trouble with the antibiotic and my digestive tract.  Oh well.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Last Day of Summer - At Least On My Calendar

This is it.  A glorious late summer morning.  Clear blue skies, crisp air with a hint of fall and lots of sunshine.  A perfect day to spend outdoors.

Wish I felt better.  For almost a week I've been laid low with fever, aches and pains, coughing, headache, and extreme fatigue.  I went to the dr on Monday because I felt the way I had back in 2007 when I had pneumonia --- crackling chest included.  He told me that it was "probably" a virus, that he didn't want to prescribe antibiotics, and that if I didn't feel better by Thursday to call him again.   Thursday I woke up feeling much better, at least for most of the day, and Friday I actually had enough energy to go run an errand.   I was still coughing with gunky chest but no fever or other symptoms.   You guessed it.  Sat morning rolls around and I feel exhausted again and I'm nonstop coughing.  The prescription cough medicine wasn't working well either.  I called his office, but as I had known ahead of time, there was no one on call.  Since I didn't have a fever, I wasn't sick enough to head to the ER.   I felt better by nightfall and I slept reasonably well last night.  I'm still coughing (and bringing up yucky stuff) but I've got some energy back.  And since it's Sunday, I know it's not going to help to call the office again.  If it wasn't for the fact that tomorrow is my first day back to school (no kids, just PD stuff) I wouldn't be too concerned.

So I spent the last week of my summer break mostly sleeping, or slouched on the chaise with a book I was too tired to read.  And of course wondering how on earth I will be able to get the rest of my classroom ready.  Out of our 3 days of in service we get about 2 hours of prep time.  My very patient and understanding husband has mostly fended for himself as far as meals.  I didn't eat a "meal" until Thursday night when he brought Chinese home.  I had some occasional nibbles of toast, some fruit, some soup, and one day I actually ate a bowl of Cheerios.  I mostly drank water, ice tea, or San Pelligrino grapefruit soda!

Today I have to get my school clothes ironed, find my lunch box and thermos which have been packed away all summer, do several loads of wash, and finish the business bookkeeping.  All of which I would have normally been working on during this past week.    I am also planning to cook a meal!!

So, today is the last day of summer.  Tomorrow a new year of teaching begins.

Friday, August 9, 2013


I have finished a sweater....except for the blocking and sewing of course.

This is Drift, by Norah Gaughan.  I used Berroco Vintage in Wild Blueberry.  I had to go way down in needle size to get gauge.  I used a size 4 for the body and size 3 for the ribbing.  I also had 2 skeins plus left over.

I started this in May and just finished knitting last night, so that's not too bad considering the 27+ days of temps in the 90's with extreme humidity, and the end of the school year madness.  It was  an easy pattern to follow and the pattern was easy to memorize.  I just need to find 6 buttons and sew it all up once it dries!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It's Time . . . .

To start re-organizing and prepping my classroom for the year.  I went in briefly last week to unpack a few books and get the lay of the land.  Yesterday I went in for a few hours, but so did 2 of my team-mates, and we spent more time yakking than working.  I went this morning for about 2 hours and got quite a bit done.  I would have stayed later, but a very chatty custodian kept stopping in and I realized that if I stayed I'd get very little done.

My big challenge this year is that I will have a student in a wheelchair and her one-on-one aide in my room so I have to maximize floor space and moving around space for her.  My room is quite small (as is my pod-mate's) so we have each have a lot of reorganizing to do.  I removed a file cabinet and one table so far.  Fortunately they're trying to keep our class sizes small -- at the moment my largest class is 18 but as often happens, the numbers change.  And because our pod is the smallest (only 36 student to share), any new kids will get placed in our rooms.  Once my room hits 20 students it's a squeeze for us all.  I'm debating giving my desk the heave-ho, but it's really the only place where I have lockable drawers for confidential info.  I've always wondered what it would be like to have a room with lots of space and storage.  In the 20 years I've been in this building, I've had a spacious room for a total of 3 years.  I've moved 8 times in those 20 years too.

School starts in less than 3 weeks so I'm really trying to maximize my leisure and get as much done as I can at school in as little time as possible.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August = Sunday Afternoon

August 1 is the date that strikes fear in my heart ----  and in the hearts of many of my teaching friends.  Don't get me wrong, I love my job.  I just hate the fact that all-too-soon my leisurely morning cups of coffee, my stay-up past 10 pm evenings, my afternoon snooze on my porch will be pleasurable memories.  School starts this month --- in 3 weeks for me, to be exact.  Where did the time go??  In my mind, I've always compared summer to a weekend.  June, with its 8-10 days of summer vacation, reminds me of Friday night.  I'm tired, often exhausted, and I need to collapse in a heap on the couch.  I know I can take a night off because there's a whole weekend ahead.  Plenty of time to get to all the chores that need to be done, with maybe some "me time."    July is Saturday morning --- still lots of time to do all the projects and activities that need to be done and that I want to do.  And then August hits.  Now it's Sunday afternoon, I have to get up and go to work tomorrow, and I realize that I haven't accomplished a tenth of what I needed to do, and now there's very little time to get to all the things I wanted to do. The workweek looms, and I'm not ready!

This summer was supposed to be moving into the new house.  But it's not ready yet -- still need kitchen counters, finish work, plumbing fixtures, the deck railings put on so we can get an occupancy permit.  And due to the heat and humidity of most of July, I haven't made a dent in the decluttering of the present house.
DH has had to spend more time at the office than he'd planned.  It's good because it means that he's had a lot of billable work, but we haven't taken any of the day trips we'd planned.

On the other hand, I've read a lot, relaxed a lot, and I've even watched a lot of Netflixed TV (sitting in front of a fan, trying to find relief from the heat and humidity!)  I did some knitting too.  I've also spent quite a bit of time rethinking some of my classroom procedures, policies, and teaching strategies. Now it's time to start heading into the classroom to get it arranged and in order for the upcoming year.  We are not given any room preparation time during our in-service days - all of it's done on our own time.  And as usual, the custodians have done a fabulous of cleaning our rooms.  Our carpets all got washed this year.  Unfortunately when they return the furniture, it's never where it started.  I went in to school Tuesday to unpack supplies that had arrived.  My computer table which should be against a back wall, has been moved to a completely different place, and my file cabinet is totally across the room.  I will need to grab my DH or a few colleagues to help me move those things back to where they belong.  Oh well.  

I will miss all of the free time.  The older I get, the harder it is to give that up.  Retirement is beginning to look more and more attractive. . . After this year, I will be "old enough" to receive my pension, if I so choose, so I will have the luxury of taking one year at a time.  It's freeing to think that I'm going back because I want to, not because I have to.

And so I will enjoy the remaining 3 weeks, despite knowing that it's Sunday afternoon

Monday, July 29, 2013

West Coast Adventure

We just got back from a week in the San Jose area of California.  We headed west to meet our son's fiancee's family who live in San Jose.  Our son and his fiancee live in Los Angeles but they also took most of the week off to head north.  They wanted all of us to tour their wedding venue in Carmel.

We had a wonderful time meeting the family, and I think the feeling was mutual.  They went out of their way to be sure that we enjoyed ourselves.   My husband and I stayed at a very comfortable hotel about 5 minutes from their house and we spent our days playing tourist and most of our evenings sharing great Vietnamese food at their home.  Our first night however, we met V's parents (without the kids!) and we went to Santana Row in San Jose for dinner

Our biggest adventure was our trip into San Francisco the first day.  Although I'd been to SF once before, my husband had never been so he wanted to see a few of the major sights.  Unfortunately, it was pretty foggy all day, so he didn't get the great view of the Golden Gate that we'd hoped for.

 We drove across the bridge, stopped at the park, and then drove back.  We had a slight problem ---- there's a toll on the return trip, but you have to have a toll plate/transponder, which we didn't!  And there's no place to stop and pay cash.  So we can expect a bill in the mail evidently.  The car rental company told us not to worry.

Afterwards we drove to Union Square and found parking under it.  We hopped on a double decker bus and took a tour of the city.  It was a very cool day, but I appreciated the refreshment after the 90°F plus days we'd left behind.  We had a slight adventure as we started the wrong way down a one way street on our way back to San Jose, but fortunately traffic was VERY light.

One of the places my husband wanted to go was to Castroville, the world's artichoke capital.  Artichokes are one of his favorite veggies.  So off we went.

We ate fried artichokes and tacos from a food truck at Pezzini Farms, also in Castroville.

And we saw lots of fields filled with artichokes and strawberries:

We bought a half flat of strawberries at a ridiculously inexpensive price at least as far as East Coast prices go!

On Wednesday, the combined families headed to Carmel where the wedding will be held next year.  They've chosen a venue called The Holly Farm.  It's a lovely, very private space - about 6 acres which will be all theirs for the event.    We had a tour and sipped some lovely wine.

And of course we went visited the beach in Carmel and we drove the 17 Mile Drive in Monterey.

                                                             (The engaged couple!)

We were in Gilroy on Friday for the start of the 3 day Garlic Festival, another highlight of the trip.  Talk about perfumed air!!  This was a lot of fun!

Of course we tried the garlic ice cream which was delicious!

We tried on garlic hats

I ate garlic calamari accompanied by garlic bread.

We made another trip to Monterey to visit the aquarium, and spent an evening at a neighborhood block party.   The engaged couple had a street artist make a portrait of them.

On the last day of our visit, we went to V's parent's house for a pig roast.  Pig roasts are a tradition to celebrate events like engagements.

 This was a lot of fun, and we met dozens of  V's family members.  We ate LOTS of Vietnamese food, most of which I can't pronounce.  One of my favorite dishes (beside the homemade pho) was a noodle dish.  A flat "pancake" of rice noodles was rolled up with minced chives/green onions that had been sauted in oil. Then a yummy garlic fish sauce was trickled over them.  I didn't get a picture, and I need to find out what type of noodles they were because I would love making them.  I also don't know what they're called!

We had to leave the party while it was in full swing so that we could catch our red-eye flight home.  It was a great week, and I've decided that I'd consider moving to the area for retirement!  The weather was beautiful, and there were lots of areas that were not too-congested.  The more I visit California, the more I think I'd live there!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Five - Church Libraries

From RevGalBlogPals:

Church libraries seem to be diminishing and even disappearing in some churches. Our church is full of scholarly books that no one looks at, and how should it change, be developed, or continue? As the de-facto chairperson of the library, I need ideas and suggestions about church libraries in this day and age. Please help!

1. Does your church have a library? What is it like?
My church does have a library.  It contains 2 or 3 UCC confirmation curricula, several sets of commentary, a Biblical dictionary or two, a meditation resource "Imaging the Word,", copies of books we've done as book studies, some Sunday school curricula, and various assorted works of fiction including Jan Karon's series, the James Herriot "All Things Bright and Beautiful" series, some Catherine Marshall, and a few other "wholesome" offerings.  It's not used much, so the shelves are usually neat and organized.

2. Has this church library changed in recent years?

The library has changed very little over the 30+years I've been a member.  I think the last additions to the  library was a confirmation curriculum purchased in 2004 and the Imaging the Word books.

3. Does your church library serve as space for other activities, such as meetings or as a multi-purpose room?

The library consists of 2 floor to almost ceiling built in bookshelves framing a double a window on the back wall of our church parlor.  Our parlor is used all the time for committee meetings, fellowship, community group meetings, Sunday school worship and classes, and our council meetings.  There's also the worship supply closet in it (seasonal antipendia, communion trays, etc) and a small kitchenette.  

4. Is a church library necessary? What does a library need?

A few church members have been talking about our library lately.  We've been wondering about these exact questions.  As it's presently constituted, it serves very little purpose other than a a place to shelve books few, if any, people are using.  Our discussion started when a parishioner suggested putting a shelf in our narthex for folks to share current "spiritual" reading.  He purchases new books frequently and was cleaning out his shelves.  Despite the fact that he'd been a member of the church for over 10 years, he wasn't aware that we had a library!  Our library is so underused and so out of date, that the bookshelves had become furniture that wasn't noticed.

One of the discussion points is the lack of relevant material available.      I think that a library is helpful and that it should be a resource for those folks interested in exploring theology, faith practices, and as a resource for Bible study.  It should have some current commentaries, a number of various Biblical translations, some dictionaries, and current publications from the denomination.  It should also have current writing accessible to lay readers ---  Marcus Borg, Diana Butler-Bass, Sarah Miles, etc.  I'd also love to have some DVD's along the lines of  Living the Questions which we watched a few years back.  

It needs to have worship resources too for both personal and corporate use, as well as resources for personal prayer, meditation, and challenge.  We frequently have lay-led services so it would be helpful to have resources for us to use when we are planning services. 

It should have some resources about other religions and religious practices and some religious history.  During some prayer group meetings a few years ago, some questions arose that we had a hard time finding answers to because there was nothing available.

It should have copies of books that are used in a book study group, and copies of current faith formation programs.

We also need a librarian - someone to weed out outdated material, choose new material, keep track of what we have or would like to have.  Somebody to  periodically pose these questions and review our needs/desires.

 5.  Imagine the library your church would use and describe it.

My ideal library would contain things I've described above.  I'd love to have a library where I could borrow a new book - my local library rarely is able to get me new publications unless they are also popular secular type spiritual books.  (Gratitude, for example). I'd be able to find some resources for guiding personal meditation or devotions.  We'd have a shelf or 2 where folks could share their books with others, with perhaps some sort of recommendation or comment log.

Bonus: Any suggestions or ideas about church libraries that you'd like to offer!

This was an interesting prompt, especially since we are beginning this discussion in my church!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thinking about Church

I've been thinking, reflecting, and above all, praying about church lately.  For a variety of reasons which I don't feel I can go into in this somewhat public space, I've been taking what I'm calling a sabbatical from church.  I resigned my position as church moderator in April after much prayer, and with the exception of a funeral, I haven't gone to a service at my church since March.  I am seriously wrestling with the idea that perhaps I need to find a new congregation to which to belong.  But before I make that decision, I need to figure out what it is I'm looking for.  So I've been attempting to define what it means for me to "go to church," and what I think I need to find in a church.

Here's what I know I need in order to be faithful in attendance, service, (and financial support) to a specific congregation.

  • A congregation infused with the Spirit led by a pastor similarly infused
  • A progressive theology that includes all 
  • Inclusive worship experiences - newcomers, life-long members, children, teens, young adults, middle aged adults, seniors, LGTB, seekers both churched and unchurched . . . .I want anyone who enters the building to feel as though there is a place for her/him - not just "at the table" everywhere else too.
  • A pastor who preaches what we really need to hear -- the pastor's words must make me squirm in my pew and force me to wrestle with the scripture throughout the week (maybe not every Sunday, but most of the time). I don't want constant "feel good" sermons. I don't think that I should feel comfortable and satisfied when I leave church.  I should feel "fed" and nourished, I should feel excitement and empowerment, but not complacency.  I'm also someone who honestly believes that church AND politics have to be integrated.  How can a Christian not have a stand on hunger, poverty, abuse of power, war, etc?  How is that not political?  Obviously I am not suggesting that a pastor tell me for whom to vote, but a pastor should be forcing me to think about which candidates/laws/policies further God's kin-dom.
  • Music that enhances the worship experience --- while I can't say that I would be super excited by a rock band led service and projection screens,  I am open to many music genres and instruments.  I want the music to be intentional, helping to open me up to hearing and experiencing God.
  • Leadership (both pastoral and lay) which is open to challenge and change, and that can support those in a congregation who aren't "on board" with everything
  • Opportunities to serve - but without the sense of obligation, guilt if you can't or don't want to.
  • Opportunities to grow in faith through Bible study, book study, service work, classes, prayer groups, etc. 
  • A congregation attuned to the needs of the local community.
  • Leadership (both pastoral and lay) that plans with intention, that looks beyond the moment

My present church possesses several of these qualities, but it's missing some too.  So now the question for me is to determine which qualities are "non-negotiable." What would it take to change the missing ingredients, and are those things that can be changed?   

Meanwhile, it's a strange experience to be intentionally not going to church.  For 59 years I've been within the walls of a church on Sunday mornings.  (My mom used to carry me in an infant carrier to Sunday school where she, her sister and mother taught, starting at 6 weeks old!) Even in college, in the 70's, I regularly attended church.  I also have to admit that I've been in the same denomination all my life too --- Congregational, and then UCC when it was born.   I am not ready to explore other churches, yet.  Perhaps I will be led back to my present congregation where I've been a member for over 30 years.  Perhaps God is leading me somewhere else.  But for now . ..  

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Friday Five

I haven't done a Friday Five from  RevGalBlogPals  in a very long time.  Finally circumstances have converged to give me time to do one, and this one is fun!

Here's the prompt:

From  revjkarla
Because I am feeling silly, or perhaps, just out there, our FF is dedicated to creating silly sentences.  We all need a little meaningless creativity and humour, right?

Use these five words (in any tense) in a sentence:

1. pulpit, puppy, wrench, word, mouse.
2. weep, love, prayer, bassoon, chair
3. heart, shutter, wish, turtle, walk
4. howl, worry, window, story, trust
5. garden, hat, shepherd, laugh, sigh.

Here's my offering:

1.  Without a word, I rushed up to the pulpit and wrenched the mouse from the worship leader's hand when she started to project cute puppy videos up on the hymn screen during the silent prayer.

2.  Despite the fact that I love music, the sound of the off-key bassoon playing during the meditation prayer made me weep in agony, while other parishioners fidgeted uncomfortably in their chairs.

3.  I wished for a different outcome as I watched the solitary turtle walk across the porch in front of the now-shuttered door, stop, and withdraw deep into the heart of its shell.

4.  As Grandpa finished his spooky story, the howling of the wolves through the open window worried me, but I trusted that he would keep me safe.

5.  I laughed, and then sighed, at the spectacle of the silly hat perched on the head of the shepherd statue in the middle of the garden.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Very Slow . . .Progress in Teeny Increments

The house construction is moving at a snail's pace, and every time we take a step forward, we seem to end up going back 2 spaces!

The tiling is still underway in both bathrooms.  The first delay was waiting for the shower shelves, the soap dish, and the grab bars to arrive.  They came in yesterday.  Now we are waiting on the vanity countertops to arrive.

The kitchen is still in transition.  There was a major error by the contractor (who is no longer working for us) and the measurements were off by 3 inches for the cabinets.  That meant we had to re-order 2 cabinets and then wait for them to be installed.  Meanwhile all the appliances arrived.  The final cabinets were installed yesterday, but the installers discovered a crack in one of the previously installed cabinets (another contractor goof).  Now we need to figure out the best solution for that.

Meanwhile the painting is almost finished.  There's a ton of trim to complete and then some final touchups.  Other tasks to be completed before we can think about moving in include:

template and install the granite kitchen counters
installing the toe kicks and crown molding on the cabinets
install the gas cooktop and downdraft in the island
install the rest of the appliances
install the plumbing fixtures (toilets and faucets)
install the central AC unit
get railings put up on the deck so that no one falls off (required for occupance permit)
finish choosing cabinet and vanity hardware and getting that installed
finish choosing lighting fixtures
installing the closet shelving in master closet, coat closet, and pantry

There are some other items that need finishing but don't HAVE to be done before move in -- installing the overhead garage doors, and finish getting the garage taped, mudded, and painted.

Oh and did I mention a plumbing leak in the basement that is now fixed, but the sheetrock got wet and mold started to grow?  That is also a solved problem, but just another wrinkle.

The original plan was to be MOVING in this month and getting settled before school started.  Oh, such foolish and naive dreams!

I did buy some new furniture for the living area however.  Fortunately we needed a new couch and chair anyway.  We've been suffering with a couch and chair we bought on the very cheap 12 years ago,  knowing that we wouldn't get much wear out of them.  I fell in love with this beauty in February and then spent a lot of time looking for a compatible reclining chair.  And then I waited for the store's summer sale!

Both are leather, and they are super comfortable for both of us.  Once the appliances get installed, I can have the furniture delivered.

We will be able to furnish the rest of the house with what we have . . . maybe slightly repurposed.

So, that's the scoop on the new house.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Salad for Hot Humid Weather

My husband is not a fan of quinoa, but I like it.  I keep trying new quinoa recipes, but so far no luck as far as enticing him.  So this recipe is mostly for me --- and there's enough to keep me in lunch all week.  And maybe, just maybe, he'll tolerate this one.

My Asian-Inspired Quinoa Salad

1 cup uncooked quinoa
pinch of salt
1 small onion diced (use more or less, depending on what you have, and your taste)
1 carrot diced
1 red pepper chopped
2 garlic scapes (or you could use green onions) chopped
1 cup of celery diced
1/2-1 serrano chili, diced (according to your taste)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro  (or more if you wish)

Prepare quinoa per package directions.  (2 parts liquid to 1 cup grain).  I added a pinch of salt to the cooking water, but after making the dressing, I think I will eliminate it another time.  You can do this ahead of time.

Chop and dice all the other ingredients and toss with the cooked quinoa.


1/4 cup peanut butter
1 TBS honey
1 TBS lime juice (can add more to taste)
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 TBS sesame oil
1 TBS olive oil
3 TBS soy sauce

Put all the dressing ingredients in a microwavable container and heat for about 20 seconds.  Remove from microwave and whisk until smooth.  Adjust with extra lime juice or oil if needed.  You can add some black pepper too.

I couldn't find my sesame oil, and then realized I'd used it all, so I just used more olive oil.

Pour dressing over salad and mix well.  Eat immediately or chill.

This is a very forgiving salad --- add other veggies as  you desire, and adjust quantities of veggies as you desire.  Most of the Asian quinoa salads I've seen use red cabbage, but I didn't have any so I used the celery instead.  My celery was on its last legs, so I just sliced off all the bad tops  and used the bottom 4 inches of the head.  Lots of crunch!

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Decluttering Begins

Another drippy, rainy, humid day.  Everything feels like a wet sponge, including me.  But at least the heat is at bay for now --- 70°'s instead of high 80°s.  So I decided it was time to start weeding out.

I tackled something relatively easy and painless --- Kitchen drawer #1. And this wasn't even the junk drawer!


I had a bit of a battle to take the drawer out as you might imagine, so things got a little more disorganized, but you get the general idea.  Don't know where to put something?  Need to clear a counter fast?  Put it in the closest drawer.

Here are the after pictures:

This is the collection of stuff to clean up if possible, and either put in the yard sale (yet to be scheduled), or give away.

Here is the trash:

For some reason, each battery package was either empty or had only one battery in it.  I also tossed some plastic cards with info regarding a car we haven't owned for over 10 years, some broken crayons, some beyond hope serving utensils, a bunch of sketchy bamboo chopsticks, unidentified appliance cords, some ear buds for defunct media players (CD player that is long gone!)  WHY oh WHY do we keep this stuff?

And here's the result of my work:

Now I have 8 more kitchen drawers to go through.  I am sure that the final result of all the organizing will result in discovering items that can be consolidated even further.  Just what do you do with a vintage brass whistle that belonged to my father-in-law?  Or the wooden dreidel my husband played with?  And the sugar spoon that belonged to your grandmother?  And the multitude of screws, washers, nuts, and keys?   For now, I have a jar of the hardware, and the keys will all be tested to see what they might fit.  

This isn't even a drop in the bucket of decluttering that has to happen, but I'm at least I've turned the faucet on!