For a fleeting moment I was, in the eyes of someone, a college prof. I drove over to listen to Aileen present a paper and critique to faculty and grad students and just before Aileen introduced me to one person, this person assumed I was a visiting faculty member. I was pretty much amazed by my daughter and her presentation.
On the drive I listened to a lecture on a CD. Things on CD’s mean being stationary so the long drive was the perfect time. On a rabbit trail one morning I came upon this intriguing title:
The Merciful Impasse: The Sermon on the Mount for People Who’ve Crashed (and Burned). I popped it in, began listening, and then started fumbling for the case; and hit the middle of the road bumps swerving all over to grab the case which read “Paul F. M.Zahl” But I had a woman in my mind. I conjured reasons in my head, maybe Paul is like the name Michael- sometimes it’s a girls name. Or Terry. But then Paul began to refer to Mary, his wife. I have since googled him and he is.
So I listened to him and my mind wandered to thinking, maybe that is what heaven will be like- neither male nor female- and so for portions of the drive Paul was a woman and then if I tried really hard, he was a man.
But here’s the thing; he was absolutely in love with, adored, esteemed and smitten with his wife. It wasn’t the point at all of the lecture but it was this undeniable undercurrent that you just can’t fake. And I fell in love with this sweet couple.
The lecture is excellent too.
Here’s what’s hard to believe: “that God has freely granted not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation.” (Lord’s Day 21 Heidelberg Catechism)
At church camp we sang Kumbaya and meant every word of it, afterwards celebrating communion with Kool Aid and graham crackers, a bread and wine stand-in. We set balloons free to demonstrate whirled peas or banning nuclear bombs or something; I can’t remember; I was too busy enjoying the colors of the balloons set against the cloudy blue, glad someone had thought to do such a thing. We also fasted to really feel scarcity of food, and then got together to talk about how awful it must be to go hungry everyday. I guess a lot of people would consider it a fairly liberal church. And it was; it was liberal with love.
When one girl who had spent all her life in that church came back from college pregnant (and without a degree), they had a baby shower for her unfortunately timed child. There wasn’t any talk of, “perhaps we are encouraging sinful behavior by celebrating this baby,” or “perhaps we’ll send the wrong message if we shower this little baby with gifts and love.” Abstract theology is religion rather, they understood that we are not made righteous by getting our lives cleaned up; we are made right by a Savior who comes alongside us; instead of judging us, he identifies with us. These women just threw a glorious baby shower and loved on her. And the young mother-to-be was humbled and thankful. She knew her sin. She had lost fellowship with God as a result of her sin. But the deeper truth was that she had sinned in order to lose fellowship with God.”
At Christmastime the church let that scraggly little excuse for a family make up the holy family in the Christmas tableau; the parents stood in for Mary and Joseph. And their little baby girl, Meghan, filled in as Jesus.
That pitiful girl married the father and their excuse for a marriage celebrates 34 years this month.
Andrew, you have my heart and you make me feel like a cherished jewel. The years have so flown and I am filled with the wonder of God from whom all blessings flow, His amazing kindness, love, care, abundant mercy. This rich, rich life has come to you and me from His hand.
Truly, “That at the age of twenty or so, with little knowledge of each other and a dangerous overdose of self-confidence, two human beings should undertake to commit themselves for life- and that the church and state should receive their vows with a straight face- all this is absurd indeed… A pox on all the neat explanations as to why it is reasonable that two teenagers should be bound to each other until death. It is not reasonable.”
Bed and Board – Robert Farrar Capon
This is a just finished painting. I have a stash of favorite wine bottles in my studio cabinet. This one DuBrul Vineyards Côte Bonneville is a fantastic wine. You would be very very fortunate to have a glass of this one sometime.
Still life with lime and purple ribbon
I have a “thing” for the striped towel; it’s been appearing in my paintings way back to living in Miami, though it’s not in the set up; I added it in. Artistic license.
Full ride. Stipend. Research Assistantship.
Times like this I wish my dad were alive. He grew up in a very blue collar family and he was heading that way too which was obviously fine, but when a kid he’d known in high school came back from college for Christmas break and had done well; my dad thought, “if that kid could do such a thing; he could dare to dream.”
So he applied and was accepted to college. And became a health physicist. He discovered he didn’t really like academia so he was done at a four year degree; but was always called Dr. Jarrett in his field. They assumed. And he traveled the world for work, packing his golf clubs when he could.
When I made the hair-brained decision to home-school ( “what the heck are you thinking!?”) He was on a positive note; not hopeful.
And then at the ages of 16 and 17, Meghan and Erin graduated summa cum laude from community college. He was there in the bleachers with the program, scanning the names, looking at the symbols that preceded few names; the *, the #, the ∆ and my dad realized Meghan and Erin had those noted achievements lined up next to their names. And they had earned the right to wear the elite tassel cords. And he sobbed.
Soon after he had a massive stroke that took his life. But he’d seen the beginning to the end of the first two’s education. I was glad.
When Aileen received a full ride, stipend and research assistantship I knew he would have loved to listen to all she knew, all she is doing in the molecular biology field.
“Ah”, people would say in a sort of ‘haha you’re in for it now’ way, “Girls are easy, wait ’til your sons gets older.” (Do not say this to parents; it is wholly unhelpful. And downright evil. Parents find these things out on their own without the snide jab.)
So when Jarrett called me and said he had received the official offer to grad school with a full ride, stipend and research assistantship; when we hung up, I just sat and stared ahead. It did not occur to me to call Andrew or anyone; I got off the phone and just sat. When Andrew walked in the door from work, I asked,
“Did you get a text?”
That was it; I think we both felt a little like we were standing on holy ground. We were speechless.
Because, well, teaching boys is different than teaching girls. Girls tend to be intent on getting their schoolwork done, on time and well. Boys tend to go through a sort of let’s see what we can let slide, see what mom won’t catch not being done, how far can I push her, shall we say, “phase.” And there might be for extended periods of his youth a bleak looking into a son’s future of possibly panhandling or sorting garbage. I think we were maybe in a bit of shock. It was over. All the raising and handling and threatening and cajoling and loving and admiring and respecting had culminated in a really terrific young man.
Godspeed in your next adventure, Jarrett
Perhaps you’ve heard of Karl Ove Knausgaard? He’s written a six-volume, 3,5000 page autobiography. That’s a lot to say and he’s only 45. I read about him in my new subscription to The Economist which Matthias talked me into over WSJ assuring me that it’s way hipper to get. Knausgaard’s book has been translated from Swedish into English, if you’re interested. In a way, though, I can see how easy it would be for almost anyone to cover that many pages if they were so inclined…
I did not need to check, we are not out of town on Thursdays, we do not have house guests on Thursdays; that would be perfect. Weeks ago my sister-in-law wondered if she, my niece and her baby (grand nephew? first nephew once removed? second nephew?) could spend a Thursday night with us. Days or more later, I did check the calendar and discovered that the stranger guests for whom Matthias had purged his room would be here that night. And the night before and for two nights following. But hey.
Wednesday night, late, our stranger guests arrived.
Thursday morning I boiled a corned beef and invited Meghan’s family for dinner too and then left to judge a speech and debate tournament for which I have no skills nor experience.
Two other judges were judging with me so at least someone with skills could make a right choice. But the debate? I was the ONLY judge! These two poor debaters in their future lawyer attire were hoping I had the sense to make a knowledgeable choice. Ensconced behind me were spectators who would be able to look over my shoulder and see that my “notes” were mere willy nilly nonsense. They would call me out as a charlatan judge and the ruse would be up. I judged carefully, and left.
I had two missed calls from Jarrett. If you have kids, you know that a text will always suffice when corresponding with a parent so to have missed two calls in quick succession means something. I responded via text just before beginning.
“Can’t talk. judging. whts up?”
“Flunk them and call me.” (obviously he has NOT taken the judges’ crash course; you do not flunk people)
I called between events and he relayed some stupendous news that I wanted to announce with a megaphone. And then a text tells me:
“Don’t say anything to anyone.”
Done with that little bit of judging humility, I called Doris to find out when they’d arrive,
“We are sitting in your driveway, Gretchen is trying to break into your house.”
“Try the doorbell, Taite’s home.”
Soon I was making rueben sandwiches for the army we were and then a few neighbors came to visit and had a few too. I just kept popping ruebens into my faithful panini maker and handing them round. While our raucous dinner is going on, Erin calls and wonders,
“Did you know the two of us are heading to a foreign tropical paradise tomorrow.”
“No, I did not.”
And then I receive an email with photos from Aileen,
“We just bought a house.”
“I did not know.”
Late that night the stranger guests slinked in. Friday morning a quickish breakfast and then Doris et al take off for the airport to pick up their long gone husbands. I throw their sheets into the washer thinking to offer the bedroom to the stranger guest dad so he can have his own room and the child (probably the boy) can sleep in a bed instead of on Matt’s floor.The phone rings and Caitlin wonders if I can get her some groceries before Jarrett and Matthias come her way. Andrew’s eyes absolutely sparkle at the thought. He loves buying groceries. I do not. I could learn from him. I really should be able to walk into a grocery store and fall on my knees in thanks to God for the amazing gloriously beautiful abundance of food that is laid out before me. Andrew could, if given the opportunity, spend days in a grocery store; he loves checking out the marbling on the meat, the freshness of the seafood; he dreams up fantastic feasts while wandering through anxious to try out his latest rubs and spices.
But first we visit our financial planner so he can tell us that we are in fact, no longer thirty-something, that we should in fact, be planning for retirement. I like going because I always get one of those individual choose the flavor cups of coffee. But neither of us get too excited about finances, so we are glad someone in the room does.
We get home, the guys leave with their grocery laden truck, Taite is gone to hang with friends. Andrew are we alone!?…
And Andrew makes us steaks with butter smothered mushrooms along with some potatoes that we have tried to duplicate ever since Pip made them when we visited her in Little Baddow, England, these thinly crispy encrusted potatoes the centers of which are almost fluffed mashed potatoes are a mystery to recreate. But we keep trying.
Afterwards we take the Netflix movie that has been on the counter for a month and pop it in. Twenty minutes into it we hear the front door open. The stranger guests are back. Out pops the movie. The two kids scurry to get in their jammies. I feel sorry for them away from home and all their fun stuff staying with two old people. I open the game closet and they choose Settlers of Catan. I do not play games. I am too competitive and it only always turns ugly so I don’t know the rules. Andrew texts Taite:
“Come play games with our guests.”
She does not respond. I resign myself to play while Andrew and the dad sip wine. We resort to reading the directions but I don’t think we are playing it right because it is boring. And I am losing. But thankfully I am not cranky about it. Around 11 pm the girl is getting more and more miffed with her brother because he might be winning. And she might just be plain exhausted. I suggest bed.
In the morning the stranger guests’ car will not start and they will be late. I offer to run the kids to their event while the dad watches his car not start. Andrew finds a charger or something and the car does start but they all run back in, pack all their stuff into the car incase when they are ready to leave the event and the car doesn’t start again, they will have someone jump start it and then just keep on going until they are home. Maybe. But they might be back too.
So we go about our day planning a fire pit for the back yard that we (I) want done by May 10 so I can host a great huge celebration in honor of Jarrett’s graduation as a newly formed Mechanical Engineer. I am so excited about this fire pit. Jarrett about sacrificed a finger for this 600 pound vessel when he and a friend were loading it into the truck and he misjudged the placement of the two-by-fours so that he just about set the behemoth straight down on his finger. But he didn’t and that morning in February I got a text with a photo that said, “Merry Christmas.”
For a brief moment I thought the text had come after a two month delay but then I realized he’d hauled it just the night before. And I ran out to take a look at the beauty. So we had that to get settled in the ground by graduation.
That evening we went to Meghan and Eric’s for dinner and to visit with their charming and generous guest. His car is a little like Mary Poppin’s satchel; Dave pops his trunk and from it emerges fine cigars, a myriad of spirits, and other delectables. We enjoy the company and then return home to see the stranger guests’ car quietly hiding in the dark, plugged in to charge overnight. The car had started earlier but using the headlights drained it. They would leave in daylight.
I know it’s not kosher on the Sabbath with the sun brightly shining to veg out in front of a movie but I was determined to see “Get Low” and get it returned. After that we were done. The house was quiet and just when we were thinking we were not having enough fun, thankfully the doorbell rang and our friends came to visit. I was hoping they would. I’d made baked macaroni to share if they came.
Monday as Andrew left for work he wondered,
“Anything going on tonight?”
But I was wrong. I’d forgotten it was Saint Patrick’s Day for heaven’s sake! Jarrett and Matthias put on their kilts loaded up their bagpipes and snare drum to go bar hop all night long. Taite had her evening chemistry course, and I had a baby shower to go to.
But Tuesday. Tuesday really was free. I snuck up to my painting table and fell in love again with luscious Pompeii Red, Hansa Yellow, Quinacridone Gold. When mixed together they create a fiery beauty. And then I painted a single fig.
I decided Matthias would be the sacrificial pig. And I do not use the word “pig” lightly.
I have been warning him that he will be sacrificing his room so a small family can move in for 5 days; he needed to make sure it was straightened up. We do not know this father and his two children. So I wanted at least a reasonable cleanness, fake them into thinking the room always looks so good.
I remember when I was a kid and I truly thought the room looked all clean, my mom would come in and see things I seriously did not. So I imagine Matthias thinking that somehow compiling all the junk from two beds onto just one, is a job well done. Even though I’m actually more than certain he knows it’s not.
With two twin beds and three people staying in there, someone would be on the floor. I decided to get down and see what he or she would see right before dropping off to sleep. It was horrifying.
I discovered a full package of pepperoni (clearly visible on the package, “keep refrigerated”), 3 Xacto knives with razor blades exposed, a little architectural building being erected out of heavy card stock(thus the knives), a few stray bullets, a gun scope, some fire works, a plastic egg with Silly Putty in it, gobs of loose dollar bills from various odd jobs, five years of accumulated dust, and a partridge in a pear tree. So I detailed the room. While Matt was gone. So I could purge to my heart’s abandon.
That was a reminder to me why I don’t deep clean very often. It’s way more rewarding this way.
(When I threatened Matthias that the WWW would know he is a pig, he said, “I don’t care, my esteem does not rest in the cleanliness of my room.”) Apparently.
And funny enough, Matthias even has an airplane hanging from his ceiling/
Anne Lamott blew me away with Traveling Mercies- her humor, her insight, her realness. And her annoying love for all things not George W. Bush. She amps that up in Plan B Further Thoughts on Faith and I wanted to slap her a little bit, okay, yah, we get it, George Walker Bush is evil incarnate; now can we move on?
But she kept harping on Iraq and Bush. When she takes that burden off her shoulders, her writing is once again provocative, poignant, perfect.
She is like all those wonderful liberal friends I have who allow me to gauge my ability to love by how many times my fingers are poised to comment on their Facebook posts. And I don’t. And they do that for me in the reverse. Continue to love me in spite of our huge differences. Really that’s what makes our lives bigger- to know and love people for who they are right now, in real time ,even when all that I believe doesn’t hold true for them. It’s hard and sometimes someone will just up and “unfriend” you for it. We need to practice hovering above the keyboard a little more. So I read Anne Lamott again for practice and pleasure.
She gets things across in as few well chosen words as is possible:
“Sam began chucking rocks into the creek, and Lily barked at them loyally, as if shaking her fist- ‘and stay away!’”
When a friend got bad news,
“She had been in a deep depression for a while, but she finally followed Barb’s advice to call me after various people at her church kept saying that she could be happy- she was going home to be with Jesus. This is the type of thing that gives Christians a bad name. This and the inquisition. Sue wanted to open fire on them all. I think I encouraged this.”
“I smiled with a secret smile of pleasure in being older, fifty plus change, which can no longer be considered extremely late youth, or even early middle age. But I would not give back a year of life I’ve lived. Age has given me what I’ve been looking for my entire life- it has given me me.”
Lamott, like all of us, is a Christian who continues in sin not that grace may abound, but because it does.
I am leery of a memoir that has the potential of becoming a swaggering braggart.
Christian memoirs run that risk, the “I found Jesus,” part can get lost in the drugs, sex, alcohol, and abuse; like the reminisce is making them long for the good old days. And reading you begin to pity the poor schmuck who happily grew up in a loving Christian home. That’s when you know a story’s failed itself in the Christian memoir genre.
So I was ever so slightly skeptical that Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies would fall into a drunken love fest about her bad old self. Instead I found an honestness about who she is, where she is, how she fails, how she succeeds. All of which does not measure up in the crucible of perfect truth. She’s broken and honest. And loves her Savior. And thinks abortion is a good option. That part made me sad.
We have to be willing to take people, even Christians, where they’re at, which in theory is easy. But in reality, I find some people really tedious, some stupid, some feeble when I should be trying to just cover their sins with love. But there you go and in reality it just made me mad that Lamott would vigil away outside a prison that would enact the death penalty on a man who snatched a small boy from his young life, then murdered him after enduring untold horrors and then threw him in the woods.
But be totally okay with a small helpless child being killed in the coziest of wombs because mom’s have rights too. And unfortunately, I think she’d call foul on me and call me a right-winged conservative Bible thumping nut job. It was sad because Anne Lamott absolutely exudes love for all sorts of people, no matter what, no matter where. But apparently everyone, even Anne Lamott, has her limits. And her limit fell at Republicans and Pro Lifers. I found that small of her.
Especially when she so cleverly says:
“It’s so utterly bizarre to stare into the face of one of these tiny perfect beings and to understand that you (or someone a lot like you) grew them after a sweaty little bout of sex. And then weighing in at the approximate poundage of a medium honeydew melon, they proceed to wedge open your heart. (Also, they help you see that you are mad as a hatter, capable of violence just because Alvin and the Chipmunks are singing when you are trying to have a nice spiritual moment thinking about ashes.)”
Anne Lamott knows she’s “just a bad Christian. A bad born-again Christian,” a Christians who know the depths to which she can fall. And sometimes does. And admit it. There’s hope in it like reading about David or Rahab.
She remembers the hour she first believed,
“I was thirsty for something that I will dare to call the truth, so I read a lot of East Indian poetry and sat in the little chapel on campus and tried to pray. In the spring of my sophomore year, I began a course with a tiny Czechoslovakian woman named Eva Gossman. I loved Mrs. Gossman in general and worked very hard in her class. Then one day she gave us Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, and my life changed forever.”
She is riotously funny, utterly honest, and dares to expose and explore her fears and failures.
Lamott is not going to be for everyone. If you are the sort who would tell me, “We don’t use the word ‘crap’ in our house,” and insist no one else does either; do. not. get. this. book.
If you live in a tiny tight Christian ghetto; do. not. get. this. book. Another reviewer wrote: ”Lamott reminds us that sanitized piety should not be confused with real faith.”
If you are willing to take people where they’re at in their faulty fallen striving journey Lamott has a way with words.
“Is there a really good reason why you don’t want to raise a pig and then train it to walk around in sawdust obeying your rope tugs so you can show it and then sell it for slaughter? Because I think if an opportunity like that is handed to you, you maybe need to think about doing it.”
Have you ever said that to one of your kids? Me. Yesterday.
And I had to check myself. Why? Did I think it imperative that my daughter slop a pig? Did I really think wrestling a pig should be summer priority? If not then what? Parents run the risk of attempting to live vicariously; but I was fairly sure the pig raising wasn’t that for me. Parents can sometimes mistake “my child” for “performing seal.” (That happened Saturday night when I practically shoved her off her chair to go Irish dance with the Lord of the Dance dancer so, no, I knew that urge.) It wasn’t that either. So, why the pig? It came down to regret.
I did not want Taite to get all grown up and regret that she had the opportunity to jump in a pig stye; and passed it up. I know; it sounds ridiculous. But consider.
When Jarrett was about 7 I got tired of him lazing around all day in the summer on his school break. Okay maybe he was closer to twelve. But still there he was a growing boy with butt loads of energy, living in the suburbs in the United States where productive children on summer vacation is deemed abusive. A suburban kid can weed the yard only so much.
All that and we were needing a break from each other. So I made him go find a dairy willing to hire a white boy who’s too young to work. He found one. And I was grateful the dairyman was willing to risk it.
Early morning I’d drop him off at the dairy office check-in where he received suspicious looks from all the Mexican workers. Jarrett was a minority of one at the dairy. And a young one at that. He was not given the easiest jobs and was out with a scythe in the ditches, ditches that stretched on for miles, to clear weeds; he climbed up in the barn rafters to clear out pigeon shit; whatever worst job needed done; he was the man. Summer temperatures were at least in the mid 90′s sometimes hitting triple digits by afternoon. Soon the guys were handing him portions of their homemade tamales at lunch and letting him hitch a ride if they went for a bite out.
And then last week when an opportunity for Matthias to work a tough job all summer presented itself; Matthias was glad, his dad was glad, I was glad and Jarrett got downright nostalgic. Jarrett’s summer like that had been a character building summer, a never say die, never give up testing ground. And he envied Matthias the opportunity. He was glad we had made him do the tough thing those summers ago.
You have to do hard stuff to have a story to tell. And okay, Taite did the tough stuff when she went through hell physically a few years ago but that couldn’t be what puts her on eternal “hold” for the rest of life’s adventures that come her way. So that was really it; I don’t want Taite to regret not taking the opportunity to get all the underlying stuff that goes with the pig.
“Please, please not the squash casserole again; try something else,” it pleaded. There was a butternut squash on my counter begging me not to chop it up, add apples, a little brown sugar and lots of butter,
Then I spotted a recipe in Bon Appetit. Besides the butternut squash, it had few ingredients (which I substituted with abandon):
For pancetta… bacon.
For pecorino… hard parmesan.
Fresh rubbed sage… Bell’s Turkey Seasoning- “A New England staple since 1867″
Other than that I exactly followed the recipe with the remaining ingredients- salt, pepper, garlic, and pasta.
I was determined to follow the quantities too… until Andrew spied the little dribbly 4 oz. of chopped bacon, “maybe you should double that; aren’t you using that diet cooking magazine you get? They always skimp on the good stuff”
“Cooking Skinny? No, this is Bon Appetit.”
In the end, none of us liked it. Okay, I dumped it in the trash. BUT I dutifully waited a week or more until it had molded so I wouldn’t feel guilt. In the morning I spied 2 cereal bowls in the sink soaking from their midnight nosh.
Friday Caitlin and Zac were zipping to town and bought steaks on the way to have dinner with us. I wanted to add a special dessert.
Fool that I am,I tried another Bon Appetit recipe, Lemon Buttermilk Pie with Saffron. Let me save you the heartache of a perfectly good crust.
I followed the recipe perfectly, every last ingredient exactly, as called for, the exact right amount. For reals. Thank heavens I told Andrew to pick up just one lemon or I may have made two awful pies. Go on back and click on that link and look at the photo of Bon Appetit’s pie. Lie. It comes out of the oven the color of Big Bird. Maybe “pinch” needs defined. Maybe just never make the pie.
Here’s the thing; saffron will remind you of roasted chicken or turkey or maybe a delicious rice dish. Saffron in dessert, to me the novice, seemed wrong on two levels- 1.taste and 2. neon screaming sunshine yellow. Also saffron has a certain smoky lingering flavor. All red flags were screaming, “Don’t do it!” But I did.
It was disgusting as though someone had taken a drag on a cheap cigar and with a straw infused it into the sacred pie.
Thankfully a few grandchildren have undeveloped taste buds and they thought it was quite a treat to eat pie for lunch. I just kept hacking off slices and doling it out.
So on Sunday we were having a couple for dinner and I was kind of spent with the novelty of the new and opted for tried and true, never to disappoint Domestic Goddess Chocolate Loaf Cake. I did make two- I dared to double- both happily ensconced in parchment paper. And then Saturday night it began to ever so slowly but steadily drizzle ice-ish stuff on our way home from a midnight céilidh where Jarrett played parlor pipes and people line danced and then Taite danced with a former Lord of the Dance Irish dancer and having accepted a dare to do it, received $50 for the privilege, and we caught up with friends we see rarely; on our way home from that fest, rainy sleet had begun. By Sunday afternoon we had to cancel the dinner for safety’s sake and eat the only decent thing I’d made in a all week. By ourselves.
It is not exciting to look at but the moist texture is fantastic.
Round about 8 years ago we traveled to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to meet the parents of the young man whom Erin would marry. While we were visiting Tim’s parents; Tim was right then flying to Europe to surprise Erin with a proposal and a ring.
Erin had graduated with her degree in nursing at 18 and then had been working in hospitals for a few years and had decided it was time for a little sabbatical. So she bought a ticket and plunked down in Madrid where she knew absolutely no one and went to language school.
Meanwhile, Aileen and Caitlin were staying in Germany with my sister and took a quick little plane trip over to visit Erin. Tim conferred with Aileen and Caitlin now back in Germany about the surprise visit having seen the lay of the land, so that one day when Erin thought she was meeting up with some new found friends at a lake; Tim snuck up from behind and surprised her to death.
There we were meanwhile perchance with Tim’s parents and Cindy was teaching me the delectable results of browned butter in mashed potatoes, my little sabbatical too. The nutty richness is sublime.
So, when this recipe called for browning butter and sugar until amber colored, it made all the sense in the world to me; I’d learned from Cindy the heavenlies to which butter can ascend. Honestly, even if you were to leave off with spreading the chocolate chips on top, just the butter and sugar cooked to a burnished brown would be enough deliciousness to be called a treat. You could maybe just sprinkle a little Maldon salt on it.
This is another recipe of wonderful simplicity from Shauna Niequist’s book, Bread & Wine:
Chocolate Salted Toffee
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp coarse sea salt
In saucepan, combine butter and sugar, and bring to a boil. Over medium-high heat, keep stirring until it turns a deep amber color.
Remove from heat and pour onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper,. refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or until cool and solid to the touch.
Melt chocolate chips in a glass bowl over a pot of gently boiling water. When the chocolate is smooth, pour it over the toffee and spread with a spatula. Sprinkle sea salt, and then refrigerate until cooled and solid. Break into irregular pieces.
Just THREE ingredients! (four if you count the salt. Make it Maldon)
This made me nervous, the butter and sugar for awhile resemble raw sugar cookie dough, but just keep patiently cooking over a medium high heat and it will begin to turn.
As it starts to turn golden- just before you think it is really, really done; remove from heat. The residual heat will make it continue to brown a bit more. If you don’t like the depth of color return it briefly to the heat.
Quickly spread on already prepared pan- WITH PARCHMENT PAPER- it will set up fast.
Done and delicious.
Yay. First of all, I would not have know of Matthias’s wonderful achievement of making President’s or Dean’s list except for this little post card in the mail. He neglected to mention it.
Second of all, wow, what a way to reward a guy who’s studied hard. Why come up with something a little fun when you could offer him not one but two tickets to a political documentary. Heck, it didn’t even do that well on Rottentomatoes. Fun times.
Third of all, anyone interested in a couple of tickets?
Okay, so I was pretty honored when a friend of Jarrett’s texted him and wondered if he should dress up for dinner at our house, to think he might think that we do that, that he should do that. I was humbled. I glanced down at my house shoes a.k.a. scraggly slippers and my house sweater a.k.a. absolute horror but warm sweater and said,
”Oh, please tell him ‘no.’”
And then I ran to my bedroom and threw on some earrings to go with the slippers and sweater. Our guest arrived and kept his knitted cap on at the table. He was sure we would not approve of what lie beneath,
”Oh, please, we don’t care a wit.”
Our dinner guest was here because I have a vision for our “wine cellar;” please hold the term loosely until further notice, in fact, our in-house sommelier, Igor, is beginning to rebel at the conditions to which he’s reduced sometimes refusing to bring up the better wines so poor is our “cellar.” Enter this terrific guy with a mohawk who might just do the work.
We had a terrific time getting to know him riddling him with questions about his life, his faith, his living situation, his family, his future… After dinner and now gathered in the kitchen eating dessert, I was probing to get a quote for the wine cellar work. Jarrett; meanwhile, was busily setting up the hookah. Our guest quickly looked from Jarrett to Jarrett’s mom and finally just asked,
”Your parents are okay with this?”
”We’re okay with hookahs. So… anyway, back to a general quote for the wine cellar….?”
Taking a long drag he said,
”I think I might need another dinner before I can figure it out.”
My inability with the camera aids in anonymity.
Hopefully these are the “before” photos:
golf club, outdoor hoses and all manner of detritus put Igor off.
“High End” deserves better.
More of Erin’s great style! She and Tim fixed this place up into pure delightfulness. It has a huge attic hideaway space for kids which is a double bonus in a city. And I love the exposed brick walls.
Frosty Massachusetts Sunday evenings were set aside for the Wonderful World of Disney. One of those evenings my mom came in bearing bowls of snowy vanilla goodness. It was such a simple thing- fresh snow mixed with sugar and vanilla. It was exquisite.
No matter how many times after that I would scoop the softer, cleaner snow from beneath the upper crust, rush in and mix it with sugar and vanilla; never again did it taste the way it did in the cozy 60′s den of our ranch home with Walt Disney himself telling us what a great movie we were about to see.
That is the way it is with food, the event, the people lift the ordinary into a realm of memorable delight; the recipes can be replicated but it never tastes quite as good.
Shauna Niequist has written, Bread and Wine: A love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes, it is similar to Ruth Reichl’s, Tender at the Bone, where the short chapters lead to the food that makes the event memorable.
So on this snowy Washington Saturday when for the first time in a long time we have no overnight guests and no one coming for dinner, on this afternoon I wanted to make the simplest chocolate mousse with Taite. And we will eat them, not snarfing them down, but sitting at the table just the five of us with a little cup of coffee and a lot of conversation.
Photos by Taite
Simplest Chocolate Mousse
2 Cups chilled heavy cream- divided
1 1/2 Cups (12oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 Cup honey
In a small sauce pan pour 3/4 cup cream, 1/4 cup honey, and 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. Cook on very low heat until chips are melted, stir to combine.
In a separate bowl, beat 3/4 cup cream until soft peaks form. Fold cream into chocolate mixture.
Divide among 6 ramekins. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Before serving, whip the remaining 1/2 cup cream to firm peaks. Spoon onto top of each mousse. Garnish as you’d like with a few berries, shaved chocolate, etc.
There is a scene in The Scarlet Pimpernel, when suddenly the identity of the Pimpernel becomes glaringly obvious to Marguerite St. Just, the room begins to wildly whirl and everywhere she looks there is evidence of the truth.
Those were my feelings when I read God’s Word to Women by Katharine Bushnell. So absolutely blown away by the awe of her work; I could not sleep that night. I, in fact, woke Andrew up at around 2:30 AM to tell him of the marvels that were swirling in my head, from a book, that quits making man and woman, husband and wife constant sparring partners. And it starts in a garden.
And it Wasn’t Eve
But it goes beyond male/female relationships; it extends to God’s promise to his church- that there will always be a remnant- even when the number seems very small- even when that number is TWO.
But lets back up. God formed Adam and placed him in Eden with the stipulation not to eat from the tree of knowledge; other than that, Adam had a lot of freedom. (Adam is told to “tend and guard” the garden. (Gen. 2:15) Mind you, “Guarding” only need take place when there is a threat- Adam knew the threat- and it wasn’t Eve, ’cause she warn’t thar yet.)… And then God forms Eve.
But Adam eats, and Eve does too. God, of course knows this but asks anyway if Adam has eaten of the tree “which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Adam blames God- “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.” Adam, sacrificed Eve- threw her under the bus- and blames God. In one quick sentence. This evilness advances him to the side of the serpent, Adam became a false accuser of God.
Eve is there listening. The serpent was surely slinking around listening too when Eve is asked, “What is this you have done?” Now this would have been the perfect time to defend herself against Adam’s claim. This would have been the perfect time to give a little tit for tat, blame Adam for not making it clear what the commands were– she was not yet formed when God gave the command. “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16,17) This would have been a good time to blame God too- “The man whom you formed first..”
But Eve answers, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” She comes clean. She admits that she was deceived; she does not blame God; she does not blame Adam. She confesses. She owns that she allowed the serpent to deceive her. Adam, God and the serpent, all present, hear Eve. She makes her choice; she chooses for God. In so doing she creates enmity between herself and the serpent. She advances to the side of God. What follows is beautiful.
God elevates her position before Him; He puts a further divide between the woman and the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman.” God acknowledges Eve’s stand with Him, blesses her, and places Eve in His camp- further from the serpent. God goes on to castigate, not Eve, but the serpent-
“Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.”
God continues, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” This is Genesis 3:15.
Genesis 3:15 comes right before Genesis 3:16. What a wonderful thing that we serve a God who blesses us for our good works. A punitive sentence upon Eve after the wonderful prophecy in Genesis 3:15 would be crazy-making. She stood with God, and now God stands with her.
How in the heck-O did that wonderfulness get turned into a curse?! The original old Hebrew language was lost twice and was got back via Hebrew scholars/rabbis (who, well, kinda hated women) Christianity and Christian women in particular were despised. (See Church in the Roman Empire – William Mitchell Ramsay) It was the case that interpretation of scripture would seek to demean women. Fact.
Further, vowel sounds were not added until 600-800 A.D., so caution needs to be taken when reading the translated text. The Hebrew language in Genesis 3:16 can more sensibly be translated, “a snare hath increased thy sorrow,”- the word “snare” being literally rendered, “a lyer in wait.” Quite simply God is giving Eve a heads up, letting her know that the serpent has done some damage- a lyer in wait- the serpent- has increased Eve’s sorrow. The difference is between HaRBeh and AaRBeh The capital letters alone constitute the original text. ARB occurs fourteen times in Joshua and Judges. It is translated “ambush,” and “lyers-in-wait,” or “in ambush. “ A lyer in wait (the subtle serpent) hath increased thy sorrow.”
And of the second part, “and your conception”- the word here for conception in Hebrew is HRN- “but that is not the correct way to spell ‘conception.’ The latter occurs, and is correctly spelled, in Ruth 4:13 and Hosea 9:11, and nowhere else. The real word ‘conception’ as it is spelled in Ruth and Hosea is HRJWN. This word in Genesis comes two letters short of spelling the word. All Hebrew scholars know this.” (GWTW- Bushnell) The correct translation, the Septuagint, of Genesis 3:16 is”sighing”- “A snare hath increased thy sorrow and thy sighing.”
If we choose to interpret Genesis 3:16 to be all about women and their desire for power; we lose the church, we lose the promise of a remnant. And we pit women against men in eternal battle. It is simply not so. Adam chose the serpent; Eve chose God; Adam chose death; Eve chose life.
Sick Jokes be Damned
“And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” (Genesis 3:20)
This naming of Eve is not a sick little joke. This is Adam’s confirmation, acknowledgment that Eve chose life, that his wife was the remnant that God saved. God saved his people by way of one. Four thousand years later, God chooses for His Son to be born of a woman. Just a woman.
Following his fall, Adam is driven out of the garden- “So He drove out the man; and he placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” This “he” is singular- one person- Adam- not ‘them.’ “He drove out the man.” (Genesis 3:24) “Eve repented; but there is no inference that Adam repented at this time, for he was expelled from the garden.” (GWTW- Bushnell)
God has already warned (not cursed) his daughter, Eve, that her “desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” So, here is Eve still in the garden as God sends Adam out. At this point, one of two things happened:
1. Adam repented and became a child of God, allowing him back into the garden with Eve.
2. Eve watched Adam driven out of the garden and turned from God and followed Adam out as well.
We know what happened; Eve followed Adam out as God knew she would, and “Adam knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (Genesis 4:1)
End From Beginnings
God knew the end from the beginning. God knew that her desire for Adam would lead her out and away from God and the garden. He knew when it came time to choose which master she would serve, this time Eve would choose Adam- “your desire shall be for your husband.” She was not interested in “usurping authority” as current day interpretation goes, she was not interested in “wearing the pants;” she was interested in- she desired- her husband.
“Thy desire shall be to thy husband.” “Desire” the original word used here is teshuqa and it only occurs 3 times in the Bible. The sense of the word must be fixed 1. By studying its relation to other words in the sentences where it occurs, 2. By studying its derivation and structure, 3. By studying the way it is rendered in the ancient version of scripture.
The 3 instances:
Genesis 3:16 … and to Adam, Eve’s teshuqa
Genesis 4: 7,11 “and to Cain, Abel’s teshuqa
Song Sol. 7:10 “and to the church, Christ’s teshuqa
There is no variety in the 3 sentences excepting the proper noun implied.
The implied obligations to man is in the “shall be” which is supplied by the translators.
Shuq is derived from “to run.” The prefix, te, gives the word and abstract sense and corresponds to our termination, “ness,” like “goodness,” “kindness.” “A” is added to make it feminine.
“We can assert positively that this sentence is a simple future or present, warning woman of the consequences of her action. So it is rendered in all the ancient versions, never as an imperative. As a prophecy it has been abundantly fulfilled in the manner in which man rules over woman.” (GWTW- Bushnell) If we teach that this is an imperative- a command, Christianity looks like the Muslim religion only a tiny bit nicer. Maybe.
Even to a Fault
Women for time and eternity have been the abused in relationships, women will return time and again to the man who physically and/or emotionally beats them up. Women are wired for l-o-v-e. Women desire a man’s love. Even to a fault. As Andrew said, “If you can’t see that women are wired to be ‘run over’ in Genesis 3:16 then you are missing the whole point.” What a glorious thing that God did not pit man against woman as though in a boxing ring, a wrestling match to duke it out down through the ages each trying to wrest the reins from the other. That would be destructive.
“A snare hath increased your sorrow and your sighing;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
Out from the plush green dragon’s zippered belly came an orange and green metal truck,
“Here grandma, the dragon brought this home you should take it back to your house.”
In the course of watching Fox that day I told him that Uncle Jarrett had made him a ring- a super power ring- out of a coin but I’d forgotten it. That really niggled away at Fox; he was desperate to get that ring in his little mitts and every few minutes he’d be back in my face to remind me to bring it next time,
“Maybe you could go home right now and get it,” Fox said in that sort of adult speaking to a child way about how I could make things right if I put on my big girl pants.
“There’d be no one to watch Aoife,” I countered.
Fox’s next plan was to grab a sheet of his stationary and jot a few notes to Jarrett. He brought the scribble lines to me and said,
“What does this say?”
Toddler writing is different than toddler drawings, with drawings you can say things like, “Tell me about what you’ve drawn,” and thereby deduce what the drawing is and then exclaim over it. With words, you can either read them. Or Not.
“Fox, I don’t know what it says, what does it say?”
“It says, ‘Thank you, Uncle Jarrett, for the ring that I hope grandma will remember to bring next time.’”
He folded it in half and then along three sides that weren’t folded made little half inch fold-downs to form a sort of envelope which he quickly, furiously unfolded and began to scribble again with decided determination, all the while his head bent down at his paper but his eyes shooting up in my direction. He spoke as he wrote,
“Maybe grandma can remember next time.” and finished with, “That part is for you so you don’t forget.”
Never even mind he was the one who ripped off grandma’s sturdy metal truck.