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July 23, 2009

Fireworks, Fireflies, Smores, and a Jig

This evening at my aunt's farm here in Virginia, we had a lot of types of fun (me, my son, my daughter, my mom, my niece, my aunt, two of my cousins and my cousins once removed, and some more family from other sides):

- I caught my first firefly in my hands, and watched it in a jar for a few minutes before letting it go

- We swam in the pool and danced the Virginia Reel in the water (8 of us)

- I swang in the hammock under the trees

- I walked down to the gazebo by the pond with my niece (16) and my son (14) and watched the sunset reflected in the still water and had fun taking photos of each others' silhouettes against the scenery with my iPhone

- We enjoyed interacting with the 3 dogs of varying sizes and breeds, and the 4 cats, and we saw 3 deer strolling in the evening air, and cows and horses in the pastures. We tried to converse with the bovines in American Cow, but it must have come out more Swiss Cow, since they didn't really seem to get our point.

- We danced mini versions of the Jolly Gordon, In-Out-and-Across, Sheena's Saunter, Soldier's Joy, Sellenger's Round, and the Pattycake Polka in the living room (with only 6-8 dancers! A very small circle!)

- Some of us played croquet

- We enjoyed an all-American meal: grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, ketchup, baked beans, potato salad, macaroni salad, corn on the cob, green salad with walnuts and strawberries, and watermelon, and then made s'mores over a fire outside. The onions for the dinner came straight out of my aunt's garden just before we ate - I had never seen onions in the ground before. Thrilling somehow. She grew them from seed.

- We waved sparklers in the dark, and then set off a couple of ground-based fireworks while singing songs like the National Anthem and America the Beautiful.

- For good measure, we also sang some Christmas carols in harmony there outside in the dark. Not so surprising we would think of that, given that my aunt keeps two Christmas trees lit up in her living room even in July (this comes from my grandmother, who had a Christmas room all year too).

- We hugged and chatted and enjoyed being together

Thank you, God of all good gifts, for this lovely evening, and the rain going away in time, and for my family. Talked about my husband and how nice it would have been to have had him there. I do miss that uniquely wonderful man. Get to see him soon, yay.

July 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 15, 2009

This is a test post to my blog from my email

Today I really need to pack for my trip to the U.S., but here I am
testing the New Typepad interface...and how I can supposedly enter a
blog post from my email. I'll have to comment on it if it works...I
wonder if I can add a photo? How about this one of the view looking
down from my bathroom window?HydrangeaFernBathroomView.JPG

July 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 10, 2009

Our First Bread-Baking Session in Zurich

FirstSwissBreadBakingJason, Emily and I started at 9am:

- activate the yeast with sugar and warm water
- mix the dough
- knead it
- let it rise
- punch it down
- let it rest
- shape it (and be creative with cinnamon, pecans, butter, brown sugar, poppy seeds, honey, chocolate chunks...)
- let it rise again
- bake it

And lo and behold, by 12:30pm, we had bread of our own designs!
JasonsStickyRoll EscargotRoll
Thanks to my mother, who baked bread when I was growing up, and passed along her recipe. What fun! My fourteen-year-old and eleven-year-old and I all enjoyed ourselves and felt satisfied in more way than one after eating some of our creations for lunch. I also thank God for wheat, yeast, children, and ovens. And summertime leisure in which to put them all together.

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

What starting place would you recommend to someone who's never read any of the Bible?

One of the four gospels, almost certainly?

Those cover the Rock Bottom Essentials of Jesus' life, teachings, death, and resurrection. Perhaps the Gospel of John? It's got all those great "I am..." statements like I am the Good Shepherd, the Gate/Door, the Life, the Truth, the Way, the Resurrection, the Bread of Life, etc. But the beginning can be a little mystifying without some orientation, referring without explanation to Jesus as "the Word" (though mystery can be good, too).

Or maybe the Gospel of Mark because it's the shortest and most straight-forward/simple? Or the Gospel of Luke followed by Acts because they go together and continue the story of the early believers in Jesus, by the same author?

Or what about Paul's letter to the Romans? It has so much great explanation of the basic state of humanity and how exactly the good news of Jesus affects us.

Genesis would start from the very beginning with the foundations of humanity and what went wrong and how God dealt with it...

Would you consider Psalms? Maybe one a day, gradually (along with other readings)...such a deep collection of human emotions poured out to God unashamedly and boldly, acknowledging His sovereignty and care about what we're going through. But then that's a really long book.

Proverbs has a lot of really great wisdom to offer on very practical matters...

Hebrews could be a very interesting way to start for Jewish people wanting to understand Christianity.

Philippians is short and sweet and has those great parts in chapters 2 and 4 about Jesus' mission and the flavor our lives can have with Him...but really is better with a gospel understanding first.

Ephesians is truly rich and thick with description of how God sees us and what He offers us if we bow to Him, the deep blessings that accompany kneeling at His feet in surrender...

Let's just face it - I love it all. If you haven't tasted it, or not in a long time, maybe this is the summer to go for it.

If you have already been feasting on the Bible, what book do you recommend for first-time tasters?

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

July 09, 2009

Non-Move Summer Butterfly

I realized as school ended for the summer that this is NON-MOVE SUMMER for our family...a nice treat :-) We get to do other things than pack, unpack, sort out stopping and starting utilities, address changes, etc. Very, very nice.

We get to take walks with the kids and smell the buddleia and admire the butterflies:
Enjoy your summer! (Whether you're moving or not.)

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

Gattikon Pond & Wood Flowers

GattikonWoodsFoxgloveGattikonpond1 Gattikonpond2From our long walk in the woods and by the pond a few weeks ago, on the edge of Gattikon, a neighbouring village. Foxglove flowers are so striking.

July 9, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

More from the Yard this week: Hydrangea, Snail, Raspberries

In our garden:
PinkHydrangea SnailinHibiscusTreeLangnau Raspberries
And from the garden at the Château de Chillon last weekend:

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

Finding Places Starting with a Particular Letter

(very useful for Scattergories)

Ever wanted to know whether there were any places in Switzerland starting with the letter X? There aren't, unfortunately. But there are two in Italy and two in Germany and over a score in France. You can find it all out at fallingrain.com (is that Falling Rain, or Fall in Grain? And Why? No idea).

This came up because we have a relief map of Switzerland hanging in our front hall (it's very bumpy, with those Alps taking up most of it). As we were saying goodbye to David this morning on his way to work, one of the kids suggested we find placenames on the map starting with every letter of the alphabet - but we were stumped by Q and X. So I looked it up...and found one Q large enough to figure on the map: Quinten, on the Walensee. Why, that's only an hour from here!

Without an X in CH (or Liechtenstein), I checked the surrounding countries whose edges are on our map, but the two Xs in DE and IT are too far off, and the several in F seem to be too small to appear on the map (even though they're all but one in the neighbouring region, Alsace).

And for your final trivia topic this morning, did you know that Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Bolivia and Chile have all been called the "Switzerland of South America?" If you follow the preceding link, you will also find out that ten different countries have been referred to as the "Switzerland of Africa" and

"we would be remiss in failing to note that Liechtenstein is sometimes called "the Switzerland of Switzerland."

There are some other very funny things at that Language Log page.

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

July 08, 2009

Cygnets on Lake Zürich

I don't think they're ugly at all. Just because they're gray? Let's think of it more as silver. I saw these on a stroll through Zürich with my cousin and our daughters. It was a wonderful week of seeing ducklings, a bear cub, wildcat kittens, and these sweet cygnets.

July 8, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

5-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

The kids made two batches of 5-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake after dinner tonight. - the first in a mug, which overflowed onto the microwave platter (fun to see, but a bit of clean-up) - the second in a cereal bowl, which did not overflow but wasn't as fun to watch. Both delicious. Thanks to Kristin for the recipe, which I have edited a little (to use whole wheat flour and a cereal bowl).

4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
a small splash of vanilla extract
1 large cereal bowl or huge coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to bowl/mug, and mix well.
Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.
Put your bowl/mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high).
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.

EAT! (this can serve 1-2).
Now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night!

It took the kids more like 15 minutes, but they made two mugs of it, since it was for the four of us - I have yet to try cooking it myself. But it was delicious!

July 8, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack