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June 18, 2009

Blueberry Cobbler

The last recorded Blueberry Cobbler in our household was about five years ago, in August 2004. Made by David, not me, on the day we were flying to Colorado for a summer holiday. I was busy packing.

The last recorded blueberry baked dish that I made myself was a blueberry pie with a lattice top, also made in summer 2004 in California (this time supported by photo at that link).

Well, today I made another Blueberry Cobbler (my first?), with a very easy recipe. The odd thing about it is that one melts butter in the baking dish, then pours the batter into the middle of that, without stirring, and then pours the blueberries into the center of the batter, without stirring, and puts it in the oven for 40 minutes. Here are photos of what it looks like as you put it into the oven, then 12 minutes later, then fully baked at 40 minutes:
BlueberryCobblerAsPutIntoOven BlueberryCobblerAfter12Minutes BlueberryCobblerFinalProduct40Mins
This may very well be what one always does with cobblers, but for me it was an act of faith to leave all the blueberries on top huddled in the middle. My faith was well-rewarded when all the berries had migrated to the bottom and all the sides, and all the batter had risen to the top, with the butter well distributed all around.

I'll have to let you know how it tastes after my family gets home to share it with me. But how can you go wrong with plenty of berries, whole wheat flour, butter, and sugar?

June 18, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 15, 2009

Emily & James and the Giant Peach

On Friday and Saturday nights, Emily eloquently and animatedly played the Narrator for a local production of Roald Dahl's James and Giant Peach. The director of this small drama group hails from South Africa and is a gem. Emily loves attending the weekly theatre fun and worked hard memorizing her long monologues for this show. The director did an amazing job sewing costumes and painting an enormous peach capable of hiding an adult standing behind it to roll it across the stage and "crush" the evil aunts...it was such a lovely peachy color, just perfect.

David, Jason and I enjoyed our roles as spectators (and throwing streamers over the "ticker-tape parade" in the final scene). We also helped out in the kitchen selling homemade baked goods during the intermission, to help cover the costs of the production. Afterwards we got to use the industrial dishwasher and hand sprayer...have you ever seen those? The kind of dishwasher into which you place a heavy-duty plastic tray full of dishes, closing the lid with a lever, and then about 30 seconds later they are sterilised and steaming? The kind of hand sprayer that dangles handily from above the sink, and can be used to teasingly threaten your kitchen co-workers with a good dousing if they're not working hard enough, or just look too cute?

It was fun to see Jason eagerly run into the kitchen at intermission and after the show, raise the electric rolling window shades to reveal the kitchen counters, and begin hawking his wares. He was a good salesman, and savvy with counting out change while the ladies were cutting up pieces of apple tart, chocolate cake, and strawberry cream sponge.

Yesterday was hot, hot, hot; today is rain, rain, rain. This equates to happy, healthy garden plants. A gorgeous green extravaganza. Speaking of plants, the drama parents all chipped in and we bought the drama teacher a real live peach tree to plant in her garden. I was so impressed with the mother who thought of that. Such insight and creativity. I would never in a million years have come up with ever so appropriate a gift. Fantastic.

Next fall, onwards to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island with the same drama group. Go, Emily!

June 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 12, 2009

10 Plagues Mnemonic

I'm sure you've never, ever, even once, wished you could remember the 10 plagues in Egypt in order. But JUST IN CASE, here's a way I just made up. Actually two. Take your pick. Can you tell I'm reading in Exodus at the moment? Now you'll be ready for that winning trivial pursuit question.

Blows From God Flowed; Liberty Bought; How Lord Delivered Finally.
Blood Frogs Gnats Flies Livestock Boils Hail Locusts Darkness Firstborn

Notice that where there are duplicate first letters (Bx2, Fx3, Lx2!), the second letter of the mnemonic word is the same as the second letter of the plague word, which helps a lot!

Before I noticed how many duplicate initials there were, I had come up with this other mnemonic, which I actually like better in general:

Before Fleeing Goshen, Frightening Lashes Bombarded Heavily; Lord Defeated Foes.
Blood Frogs Gnats Flies Livestock Boils Hail Locusts Darkness Firstborn

But it presents too many problems with the duplicate initials, unless you remember the order of the account already, in which case you don't need a mnemonic!

Let's have soft, thankful hearts towards God in the first place (there's no time like the present), such that we don't need any plagues to get our attention and get us to submit...

June 12, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 11, 2009

Deep Verbs of Jeremiah 31

I loved reading this week of some of the neat things God does. All in one single chapter (out of 1189 in the whole Bible), here are some of God's described actions/promises to His people:

God promises to:
- Be God (v. 1)
- Give rest (v. 2)
- Love with an everlasting love (v. 3)
- Build up (v. 4)
- Gather (v. 8)
- Lead (v. 9)
- Watch over (v. 10)
- Ransom (v. 11)
- Redeem (v. 11)
- Turn mourning into gladness (v.13)
- Give comfort and joy instead of sorrow (v. 13)
- Satisfy (v. 14)
- Fill (v. 14)
- Reward (v. 16)
- Discipline (v. 18)
- Restore (v. 18)
- Delight in His children (v. 20)
- Remember (v.20)
- Yearn (v. 20)
- Have great compassion (v. 20)
- Refresh (v. 25)
- Plant (v. 27)
- Write on our hearts (v. 33)
- Forgive (v. 34)

Our role:
- be rebuilt (v.4)
- go out to dance with the joyful (v.4)
- weep (v. 9)
- pray (v. 9)
- hear the Word of the Lord (v. 10)
- be His flock (v. 10)
- shout for joy (v. 12)
- rejoice in the bounty of the Lord (v. 12)
- dance and be glad (v. 13)
- be filled with His bounty (v. 14)
- repent (v. 19)
- understand (v. 19)
- be His people (v. 33)
- know Him (v. 34)

It's a deal, Lord! Your graciousness knows no end.

June 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 10, 2009

Of Kids and Marshmallows

I found this article from the New Yorker to be most interesting. It is a very long article, but here are some pertinent excerpts from which you'll get the gist of this longitudinal study starting with marshmallows and little kids, and following them into their adulthood...

The secret of self-control.

Children who are able to pass the marshmallow test enjoy greater success as adults.

Carolyn Weisz, a four-year-old with long brown hair, was [...] was asked to sit down in the chair and pick a treat from a tray of marshmallows, cookies, and pretzel sticks. Carolyn chose the marshmallow. [...]

A researcher then made Carolyn an offer: she could either eat one marshmallow right away or, if she was willing to wait while he stepped out for a few minutes, she could have two marshmallows when he returned. He said that if she rang a bell on the desk while he was away he would come running back, and she could eat one marshmallow but would forfeit the second. Then he left the room.

[...] Footage of these experiments, which were conducted over several years, is poignant, as the kids struggle to delay gratification for just a little bit longer. Some cover their eyes with their hands or turn around so that they can’t see the tray. Others start kicking the desk, or tug on their pigtails, or stroke the marshmallow as if it were a tiny stuffed animal. One child, a boy with neatly parted hair, looks carefully around the room to make sure that nobody can see him. Then he picks up an Oreo, delicately twists it apart, and licks off the white cream filling before returning the cookie to the tray, a satisfied look on his face.

[...] Most of the children [...] struggled to resist the treat and held out for an average of less than three minutes. “A few kids ate the marshmallow right away,” Walter Mischel, the Stanford professor of psychology in charge of the experiment, remembers. “They didn’t even bother ringing the bell. Other kids would stare directly at the marshmallow and then ring the bell thirty seconds later.” About thirty per cent of the children, however, were like Carolyn. They successfully delayed gratification until the researcher returned, some fifteen minutes later. These kids wrestled with temptation but found a way to resist.

[...] Once Mischel began analyzing the results, he noticed that low delayers, the children who rang the bell quickly, seemed more likely to have behavioral problems, both in school and at home. They got lower S.A.T. scores. They struggled in stressful situations, often had trouble paying attention, and found it difficult to maintain friendships. The child who could wait fifteen minutes had an S.A.T. score that was, on average, two hundred and ten points higher than that of the kid who could wait only thirty seconds.

[...] If Mischel and his team succeed, they will have outlined the neural circuitry of self-control. For decades, psychologists have focussed on raw intelligence as the most important variable when it comes to predicting success in life. Mischel argues that intelligence is largely at the mercy of self-control: even the smartest kids still need to do their homework. “What we’re really measuring with the marshmallows isn’t will power or self-control,” Mischel says. “It’s much more important than that. This task forces kids to find a way to make the situation work for them. They want the second marshmallow, but how can they get it? We can’t control the world, but we can control how we think about it.”

[...] Mischel [...] knows that it’s not enough just to teach kids mental tricks — the real challenge is turning those tricks into habits, and that requires years of diligent practice. “This is where your parents are important,” Mischel says. “Have they established rituals that force you to delay on a daily basis? Do they encourage you to wait? And do they make waiting worthwhile?” According to Mischel, even the most mundane routines of childhood — such as not snacking before dinner, or saving up your allowance, or holding out until Christmas morning — are really sly exercises in cognitive training: we’re teaching ourselves how to think so that we can outsmart our desires. But Mischel isn’t satisfied with such an informal approach. “We should give marshmallows to every kindergartner,” he says. “We should say, ‘You see this marshmallow? You don’t have to eat it. You can wait. Here’s how.’ ”

I also saw a link to self-control with sex. Teenagers and young adults need to hear more people say the same thing about that - "You don't have to do that now - you can wait. Really. It'll be more than twice as good later if you do, without all the emotional, medical, social and spiritual fallout of doing it now. Greater rewards of health, emotional safety, trust, unique intimacy and the practice of faithfulness and patience for your future spouse."

June 10, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Compassionate Reality TV

Three kids from Mongolia are brought to the U.S. to get life-saving complicated heart surgery.

Watch this 25-minute joyful-tear-producing pilot episode of compassionate reality TV, hosted by the granddaughter of Billy Graham, as her internship with Samaritan's Purse. There's even a link in the story to being drafted into the NFL (how'd they manage that one?).

June 10, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pseudogamous Marriage

Anthony Esolen at Mere Comments, on the problem with many modern marriages:

We say aloud, "I give myself to you," but whisper to ourselves, "I retain myself for me." 

We say, to paraphrase Augustine, "Lord, marry me to this woman, but not quite." 

We engage in a convoluted and expensive pretense, complete with band and wedding cake and ring and honeymoon in Cancun, when all along we are saying, in part, "I am for myself, and for this person here only insofar as this person is for me," rather than, "I now belong to my spouse, and in my belonging to my spouse I will become myself, because it is only in giving that we receive, and only in binding ourselves to the gift that we are set free."

There's much more at that link.

June 10, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dancing, Illness, Joy

We had a very busy weekend:

Friday night - supposed to go to a school BBQ, but just delivered some whole wheat chocolate cake and left to conserve energy

Saturday morning - Jason had two hours of placement testing in French and German for his new high school for the autumn

Saturday afternoon - Jason received an award for academic excellence at his current school's graduation ceremony. David took Jason (David got to sit next to his boss, who also has kids at Jason's school), and I stayed home to rest, watching the program over live streaming video online (what a cool service the school's webmaster offered, wow! The world is more and more amazing). I was feeling low-energy and suspicious in the throat domain (Jason had been ill with sore throat and fatigue previously).

Saturday evening - our family led another 18th Century Dance Evening at our church, for 28 people. We all had a lot of fun. We danced the following dances:

• Gay Gordon • In Out & Across • Sheena's Saunter • Sellenger's Round • Patty Cake Polka • Virginia Reel • Gay Gordon as a jig • Soldier's Joy • French Girl • Final Waltz
(except the music file for the Patty Cake Polka somehow got corrupted and wouldn't play right, so we had to stop in the middle :-( )

Those are ALL the dances that I currently know the steps to! I am planning on learning some new ones with virtual help from the caller I learned these from, since our kids want to move on to some less familiar ones.

Due to generous prayers from several friends, and God's grace in answering, I didn't start to lose my voice until JUST AFTER the last dance of the evening! 10 guests from the general ex-pat community joined us, which was wonderful to see. They seemed to have fun and in fact sent some lovely emails afterwards confirming that.

Then, Sunday morning - we were all scheduled to help lead the worship at church (David on sound board, Jason on drums, Emily on keyboard, me singing). I croaked through the practice and completely lost any singing capacity by the time the service started. So I sat down and the pastor's 12-yr-old daughter did a great job holding up the ladies' part on her own.

Sunday afternoon - REST. Down time. "Flat on Bunk" as they used to say at the homeschool science camp we went to in Northern California. Much-needed recharging time. It was a great, busy, joyful, fun, full, social weekend. We can't survive too many of those in rapid succession. We're really a homebody, quiet, laid-back kind of family that takes restorative weekends seriously. :-)

June 10, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 09, 2009

Pink Pink Pink

PeonyPink PinkRoseOpen PinkRoseBud
Peony, rose and rosebud in our garden. I never cease to wonder at the variety of lush glory provided for us by the Floral Designer of the Universe. Thank You.

June 9, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 04, 2009

Wolfram Alpha

Have you heard of Wolfram Alpha?

I asked it:

 "Where am I?"
It put me in Luzern (right country, only 31 kilometres away, which I also found out from it)

"What is the meaning of life?"
Input interpretation: answer to life, the universe, and everything
Result: 42
(according to Douglas Adams' humorous science fiction novel Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

"Does God exist?"
Human Discourse - Additional functionality for this topic is under development...
Leave your email address to be notified when it is ready.

"Who is president of Zimbabwe?"
Wolfram|Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.
(Google's response to the same question is: Robert MUGABE)

Interesting. Obviously it's meant for mathematical and scientific calculations, which I didn't exactly test...what interesting questions and answers have you come up with on Wolfram Alpha?

June 4, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack