Thursday, May 29, 2014

One Week in May

I often wake up between four and five o'clock in the morning,
just as the birds are beginning their mad welcome of the day.
Somewhere high in the treetops,
fragile choristers gather in the dark,
and upon mutual agreement,
burst into song.

"Spring's a feast!
Come and see!
You won't believe!"

Up and down the high scale,
from the farthest reaches of the poplar loft,
they give voice to the new day,
as if green glowing leaves
and scudding clouds
finally decided to pour forth praise.   

This week, we had a little birthday party for my dad.
It turned out to be a fantastic day, 
where the family and the weather and the guest of honor
and the tales and the songs and the food 
all cooperated in a lovely harmony.
My dad is famous for his stories and jokes.
Here's one story. 
He had just met his future father-in-law, my Grampa Ericson.
Grampa was Swedish, a gifted engineer and carpenter,
known for taking great care of his possessions.
"See that car?" my dad asked my Grampa.
"That's my fourteenth car."
My Grampa got a sick look on his face.
At the time he had owned maybe three cars in his entire life.      

To get ready for my dad's party,
I needed a lot of help.
Isaac washed the windows, with Malachi assisting.
Malachi absolutely loved the entire window-washing operation.
At one point, while Isaac was painstakingly cleaning our French doors,
his baby brother took the squeegee and, using the same motions,
attempted to clean the dishwasher.
It's what he could reach.  

Caleb changed the dressing on his father's knee,
since I'm a wimp about things like that.

My girls helped with yard work and with Malachi. 

All the kids worked out a skit about my dad's life,
with Anna Kate on piano and Julia narrating.
The girls practiced to time the music with the script,
but didn't account for the howls of laughter from their appreciative audience.
The first "actor" was Malachi, representing Baby Jim.
He even wore the same tiny jacket my dad wore as a toddler.

The next two actors were Caleb and Krista,
portraying Jim and Carole at the University of Minnesota.
(cue music: The Minnesota Rouser)

Finally, as Julia narrated the storyline about my dad and mom serving in the jungles of Peru,
Isaac bounded onto the lawn, wielding a machete.
Since Isaac is the grandson who most resembles my dad, 
he made a convincing and appropriately epic "Jim."   

When I was in college, my roommates used to sometimes find me in a "Peru" frame of mind.
"Uh-oh," they would say. "It's a Peru day."
(The glaring clue: I would be sitting on my llama rug, looking at old pictures).

Well, this entire week has been one long "Peru day."
From hearing about how my parents decided to serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators,
to seeing old pictures of them on the river and with me and my sisters, 
to reading two jungle-themed books back-to-back,
I am awash in gratitude,
replete with memories,
thankful to the brim that I had a mom and dad who willingly left the beaten path.

My dad's life verse:
"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (I Cor. 15:58)

What I just read:
When I Fell From the Sky by Juliane Koepcke, a memoir from the only survivor of the LANSA crash.
What I'm reading now:
Into the Glory by Jamie Buckingham, true stories of jungle aviation.


Friday, May 23, 2014

How to Cut up a Watermelon, Redux

 With my dad on his birthday

Happy Birthday to my wonderful, adventurous, encouraging dad.

In honor of his day, I'm re-posting one of his favorite movies. It's called "How to Cut up a Watermelon." I kid you not, my dad has probably watched it a few dozen times.

This Monday, remembering our soldiers past and present, we will gather on Memorial Day. And we will most likely eat watermelon. Here's my fave way to serve it.

You can watch the clip here.

In the video, I have the slices on a small tray. But I almost always use this vintage baking pan for watermelon. It holds a lot, looks cute, and is easy to carry onto the patio.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Recipe for a Beautiful Bed

What comfort I find in the common ritual of making the bed.
To float the white sheets over the expanse,
and watch them settle into place,
the way my mom used to do when I was little.
She made it look easy,
but for a child, it wasn't easy.
It required some height and some strength in the arms.

I couldn't wait to grow up,
into a woman who could hover gracefully around her bed
and shake, smooth, yank and toss the linens,
until everything looked wonderful.  

You don't need a Bed-in-a-Bag
(Please, please don't buy that).
You don't need to spend wads of money at Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware.
You do need to keep your eyes open, collect what you love as you find it,
and take your time.

Here are the ingredients:

Natural fibers (cotton, mostly. And a bit of linen, a scrap of silk)
White sheets, preferably with a stripe in the weave so it's easy to lay them correctly
A duvet insert
A duvet cover
2 pillow shams
2 euro shams
1 or 2 throw pillows
A quilt to toss or fold at the foot of the bed  

This duvet cover was $30 at IKEA. I know white can be scary, but white can be soaked in OxyClean overnight. Then it looks almost new again.
The big green shams were found at Salvation Army for $5 each, new in their packaging. I keep trying to figure out if they're the same color. They look slightly different from each other. No matter, perfection is not the goal here.

The scallop-edged euro shams, Ralph Lauren, a travesty at $175 each. WHAT?? Of course not. I found the first one at Marshall's for $10, then I had to hunt for the second one on ebay. It cost more, but was still a steal compared with the full price.

A striped bolster, the insert was from IKEA for almost nothing, the cover was on clearance at Pottery Barn for under $2. You gotta keep your eyes peeled! Good deals abound! 

This raw silk pillow cover was found new at the thrift store, originally from Target. But somehow, over the course of its life in our topsy-turvy house, it got ruined with paint. Burgundy paint, of all things. I don't even approve of burgundy. I dug it out of the closet a few weeks ago and decided it needed to be rescued. It got a linen flower to cover the paint daub, then a calico flower for good measure. To make the flowers, cut out concentric circles, using bowls and glasses as templates. Stack them up and tack them into place with a few stitches, finishing with a vintage button on top.  

The calico flower matches one of the fabrics on our quilt, made by a dear friend when I had Malachi.

What you don't see:
The bed frame, which isn't the Wesley Allen iron bed we used to have (it made a nifty antennae for electrical waves), 
or the dark wood headboard from my Grandma, which replaced the iron bed. 
We had to move the bed to another wall, the window wall, to further avoid electricity.

So the bed isn't perfect. It's a big, plain wooden frame (no metal anywhere), and I'm not going to show you pictures of it. The bedskirt doesn't fit well over the wooden corners. Maybe someday we'll figure that out.

For now, I do love to make the bed,
my white oasis in a a loud and busy house.       

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Down for the Count

Mother's Day 2014, in my weed-infested rock garden, with all five kids.

Oh so much has happened this week. I had some very bad, grumpy days, set off by the babysitter's last-minute cancellation that kept me from going to a play. I won't tell you who the babysitter was.

On Mother's Day we went to the Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. It's set smack dab in the middle of the new Somali community. The juxtaposition of today's immigrants with the immigrants of 100 years ago is fascinating. I was reminded of the Community Outreach speaker at my daughter's university, who told us that every country in the 10/40 window (the area of the world that is most difficult to reach with the Gospel), is now represented in our Twin Cities community. In other words, the 10/40 window has come to us. This fills me with hope and with shame. I am doing absolutely nothing for these people, and they live right on my doorstep.

I will resolve to pray for them. I can do that.

After going to the Swedish Institute with Nate's mom and our three youngest kids, and snacking on gluten-filled baked goods to tide us over till later, (and not feeding our fine little mother and grandma a single bite, since she's gluten-free) we breezed through Costco and then came home.

My terrible mood was slowly starting to improve, since I adore being with all my children. We watched Mick trundle through the grass, holding onto the football (but not throwing it), and dissolving in giggles when his big brothers jumped over him.

As Krista (Caleb's fiance) and I sat in our comfy chairs and watched the guys play basketball, and listened to the happy voices all around us, suddenly my husband fell onto the court and started to holler and yell (and swear, just a bit). "My knee, my knee," he shouted, clutching at his left leg. Caleb ran to the house for an Ace bandage, Isaac got the van backed up to the court, and within minutes we were loading Nate into the van for a drive to Urgent Care.

The patellar ligament tore. That's the ligament that holds the kneecap in place. The kneecap is now floating several inches above where it's supposed to be.

Nate is the sole supporter here, and his work is carpentry. So this is scary.

The funny thing is, my attitude now is much better than it was five days ago. This makes no sense at all. I feel terrible for my husband (he's not in much pain, but he's bored beyond belief). But I should be way more afraid and way more off-kilter.

The panic may strike later. In the mean time, Julia comes home from college on Friday, can I get an hallelujah? She is a marketing major, and maybe she can help us market these beauties. Feel free to share, we think somebody out there needs a piano bar. We just haven't found that person yet.

Nate has his MRI today and surgery as soon as possible. Thank you to all who are praying, we can tell you are lifting us up. Recovery time is typically about three months, with six months till the knee functions completely normally. Our hope is that he'll be able to work again in about two months.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Maple Roast Chicken with Herbs

Today is going to be busy and fun and rainy. We have a visit from my parents, a trip to Julia's pop-up shop so she can sell her leather goods, and a thunderstorm moving in. I hope the storm doesn't keep everybody home from the shop. 
If I make dinner at all, it will be something like this. My easiest meal. I got the recipe from my sister and it stands up to infinite variations.You can use a whole cut-up chicken, or any combination of dark and white chicken pieces. You can also use any of your favorite herbs.  

 Maple Roast Chicken with Herbs

8 chicken thighs, skin removed
1 red onion, cut into wedges
sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
potatoes, cut into quarters   

Pat chicken dry, if needed, and place at one end of a large baking dish.
Drizzle chicken with: olive oil (I use about 2 Tb.) and
                                maple syrup (about 3 Tb.) 
Scatter the onions over and around the chicken.  
Sprinkle chicken with: thyme (about 1 tsp.). My sister uses fresh thyme, I use dried.
                                  salt and pepper to taste
                                  and lately I've been adding marjoram too.

At the other end of your baking dish, or in a separate dish if you run out of room, place the vegetables.
Drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and with dried dill if you like.

Bake for about 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees, basting the chicken and stirring the vegetables every half hour or so. I often roast the food for about an hour at 400 degrees, then reduce the oven temp. to 350 until everything is done. Oven temps will vary. Mine must run cool, because this dinner needed a full 2 hours in the oven (even with the first hour at 400). I did have the pan pretty crowded.

This picture was taken after 1 1/2 hours of roasting. I was running out of natural light and had to take it, but later the food got more brown and crispy and delicious-looking.

I love this meal because it is so easy. It makes the house smell wonderful. And after it's done, you have just one pan to wash, and hopefully you have a few leftovers for the next day. I usually chop everything and make a hash.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Take the Long View

Speckled and spiny,
fat and crowded,
this aloe is not exactly beautiful.

It's interesting.

It's a live sculpture,
grown from a tiny sprout
that my Grandma gave to me.

It makes its home in a German pot
perched on a mirrored gear. 

But what is this?
In my dining room,
sharing air with the aloe
and the driftwood cross
and my new tree-basket chandelier?

It's a beautiful mess.
You can see Julia's leather accessories here

In the backyard, the meadow grass is brilliant green. 
The trees have not yet leafed.
Malachi loves to stand at this window and gaze outside.

This week,
I'm trying to take the long view.
The days are spent restoring order,
picking up toys,
calming tantrums,
settling a restless little one down for a nap. 
(I had amnesia as far as raising a toddler was concerned).

When I back away a bit from the myopia
of the dailyness
of it all,
I see the picture more clearly.

What a mess meets the eyes of my heart.
I feel small and helpless in the face of such sorrow.
I want to do something.

I've been awake since before 2:00 a.m.,
my mind flitting from thing to thing,
the way minds do.
Memories of our family day yesterday,
walking around the Island on Julia's campus.
Images of our latest house plan.
A beloved friend's face.   
Children around the globe, misused and tormented.            

Slowly, I gather my thoughts
into prayers.
I lay aside the flights of fancy 
and begin to notice the burdens that I'm bearing.
I lay them before Jesus, one by one.

It is not a small thing
to bring before the One Who Sees
my faltering pleas
for mercy.

"If any of you feel, But how can we be happy while we are burdened by the sins and sorrows of the world? I say to you, 'O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end...But the Lord shall endure for ever...He shall judge the world in righteousness' (Ps. 9:6-8). The day when that word will be fulfilled is on its way, it is hastening. So in faith and certainty we rejoice, for sin and sorrow shall not endure forever; they have an end." (Amy Carmichael)