Nature’s Most Perfect Food

Beans, beans, the musical fruit,
The more you eat, the more you . . .
{ahem}

We’ve been eating a lot of musical fruit here in Bomberger-land lately. In fact, dried legumes have been on the menu for the last three nights — and are likely to be on the menu again in the very near future.

Pinto beans. Brown beans. Kidney beans. Garbanzo beans. Lentils. Split peas. Black eyed peas. Great northern beans. Navy beans. Fava beans. Lima beans. Black beans. Crowder peas. Sixteen bean soup.

The culinary possibilities are nearly endless, wouldn’t you say?

beans

Yummy yum yum.

 

It’s not that beans are my favorite food. They’re not. And believe it or not, the fact that they’re not my favorite food is actually the point of the exercise.

You’re curious.

Right. I’ll try to explain:

I recently finished listening to the audio book of David Kessler’s The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite(I completely forgot to mention audio books in my nightstand tower roundup, but yes, I do love to listen on my commute whenever I can get my hands on a good book.)

Just like many Americans, I’ve struggled with portion control and compulsive eating throughout most of my adult life. If I see good food, I eat good food. If I see more good food, I eat more good food. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that I happen to enjoy distance running and other forms of strenuous exercise, I would likely have had a serious weight problem long before now. Just like many Americans.

In his book, Kessler blames this pandemic problem on what he calls “hyper-palatable food”: food loaded down with brain-happy-fying sugar, fat, and salt — to the point of being nigh on irresistible — and then doled out in ginormous portions to emotionally vulnerable eaters. (Hint: that’s all of us.) He calls it the “cue-urge-reward-response” cycle.

Here’s how the cycle works: we see hyper-palatable food. It looks/smells/seems good. We eat it. We feel really good — for a moment (it is delicious, after all). This then sets us up to be even less able to resist hyper-palatable food the next time we encounter it.

Now, don’t for a minute think that I’ve been ignorant or completely undisciplined about nutrition up to this point. I’ve always liked lean meat and healthy veggies. I cook, serve, and eat them often. (My mama raised me well.) But I also take pride in being a good cook, which means (if all goes according to plan) when I’m done cooking my lean meat and healthy veggies, they usually end up tasting really very good. They taste so good, in fact, that it’s really very hard for me to stop myself going back for seconds, thirds, and even fourths (and then, of course, helping the children with their plates, because that’s the kind of caring mother I am).

This brings me back to the beans.

I don’t particularly mind beans, but I don’t particularly like them either. No matter how much sugar, fat, and salt you add to beans, they still pretty much taste like beans. (That is, like liquid gel caps somebody filled with mud.)

They’re palatable, but they’re not hyperpalatable.

They’re also — as my kids will tell you cheerfully if you ask them — “nature’s perfect food.” (Turns out it’s not bacon, after all. Who knew?)

Dry beans and peas are high in fiber (soluble and insoluble), iron, and protein. They contain several essential vitamins, are made up largely of complex carbohydrates, and are also — you guessed it — extremely low in sugar, fat, and salt.

They’re also cheap. Two dollars worth of beans can easily feed a family of six. How awesome is that?

When I first suggested to Ken and kids that we consider radically increasing our bean consumption, I expected major resistance. But I didn’t get it. Ken wanted to know, “When do we start?”

The kids have been great sports, too. They ate pinto beans the first night and sixteen-bean-soup the second night with few complaints and no gagging — fake or real. (It may have helped that I bought a loaf of lovely, crusty-on-the-outside, squishy-on-the-inside sourdough bakery bread to serve alongside and help us ease our way into an otherwise unpalatable diet, but whatever the reason, they’ve been troopers.)

Here’s how easy the cooking has been this week: in the evening, I put our beans of choice in cold water to soak over night. In the morning, I rinse the beans; add water, garlic, salt, and a little ham or other meat (not much); and pop them in the crock pot to simmer on low all day. When I get home from work, I pull out a few fresh fruits and veggies, slice into the bread, and ring the dinner bell.

(No, we don’t have an actual dinner bell. I’m speaking figuratively here. It’d be awesome if we did have a dinner bell, though . . . )

One of the children asked tonight if we wouldn’t get bored eating beans, bread, and veggies most evenings.

In response, Ken and I asked her, “What’d you have for lunch at school today?”

“A peanut butter sandwich, apple, granola bar, and juice box.”

“And yesterday?”

“A peanut butter sandwich, apple, granola bar, and juice box.”

“And last week?”

“A peanut butter sandwich, apple, granola bar, and juice box.”

“Aha,” we said. (We can be pretty clever when we work together.)

Maybe I’m being premature to write about such a major paradigm shift just three days into it. I’ve fallen off many dietary wagons before, and chances are at least fair to middling that I’ll fall off this one, too, sooner or later. Even so, I feel compelled to share this week’s adventure with you, knowing that the likelihood of my regression renders these modest jottings all the more urgent.

So here’s my report:

We ate beans this week. All of us at beans — even the children. And while beans aren’t anybody’s favorite, we all enjoyed our meals together. Everyone but the baby finished their first helpings and no one went back for seconds. We all left the table feeling full but without having overeaten.

I felt healthier this week — dietarily speaking, at least — than I have in a long time.

The kids and I recently watched a BBC documentary on the eating habits of Henry VIII. It offered a fascinating look at what a person will consume if given free reign — literally, in the case of this reigning monarch — to eat as much as he wanted of the most palatable food the kingdom could offer. Meats. Sweets. Sweet meats. Sweets and meats . . .  baked into savory pies.

Henry VIII, as you may remember from history class, was, by the end of his life, morbidly obese. What’s more, by all accounts, his eating habits contributed heavily to both his chronic health problems and his earlier-than-strictly-need-be demise.

In fact, as the documentary concluded soberly, Henry VIII would likely have lived a longer, healthier life if he’d eaten the food doled out in the servants’ quarters: small amounts of meat, whole wheat bread, and pottage — a thick boiled stew made of whatever foodstuffs happened to be handy. Meat (if it could be gotten). Grains. Vegetables (including lettuce, apparently. Ew.). Oh, and also: peas and beans.

Lots of peas and beans.

I gave the kids a little break from the beans tonight and made them a box of Kraft macaroni to split between the four of them. (If you know your Kraft macaroni, you’ll know that one box split four ways means meager servings all around.)

The oldest polished off her fatty, salty, sugary noodles almost immediately and asked what else there was to eat.

“You’ll find beans on the stove,” I told her. “Help yourself.”

“I think I will,” she said, returning to the table with an appropriately modest portion.

“You know,” she said as she tucked in, “These aren’t too bad. I may be starting to like beans after all.”

She polished the bowl soon after — and did not go back for seconds. #Winning.

Beans, beans, they’re good for the heart.
The more you eat, the more you . . .
{Good night, everyone.}

In the Garden: Serf’s Up!

Friday was Field Day at the kids’ school, during which they ran and jumped and threw softballs and kicked shoes and waddled around in potato sacks with all the other little Lutheran schoolchildren in the city. Good fun.

Oh my goodness. So much cute.

Field Day Friday, however, should not be confused with the unofficially dubbed Field (Hand) Day Saturday that followed it over at our family co-op garden, during which we planted all the seeds and seedlings we’d been saving until after the last frost.

In Michigan, of course, “after the last frost” is always an elusive date. Two years ago, we had a killing frost on June 2, and, although we were disappointed to see our baby plants shrivel up the next day, we weren’t completely nonplussed. These things happen when you live in a cantankerous climate zone. Still, we’re usually pretty safe if we wait until Memorial Day Weekend — so that’s what we do. Saturday before Memorial Day has become our traditional family day for putting in the garden . . .

Sweet green bell peppers and spicy hot jalapeno peppers.
Bush beans. Pole beans.

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Cucumbers. Yellow summer squash. Dill. Basil.

garden 2

Three kinds of tomatoes. Zucchini. Eggplant. Cabbage.

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I’m getting hungry just thinking about the tasty veggies that will be coming our way over the next couple of months.

We sure did work like serfs to get them in the ground, though. (Hence the title of this blog post. Did you like that?)

First, Dad went through once more with the tiller to fluff up the soil and cut down the weeds. I hilled potatoes while he worked, partly to kill time and partly to make sure that my back would be good and sore in the morning. (Mission accomplished. I had ibuprofen for breakfast today.)

Then we got out our sticks, string, yardstick, and hand trowels and got to work rehoming all our baby plants — some store bought, some home grown.

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The fun begins.

When the seedlings were all in, we planted onion sets and sunflower seeds. We left half a row open for red cabbage and a couple of rows for sweet corn (both to go in a little later), but by the middle of the afternoon, every other available spot in the garden was claimed.

garden 5

Halfway done, or thereabouts.

After planting, we wet down the entire garden, hauling watering cans out one by one from the furthest spot in the yard the hoses will reach.

garden 6

This . . . times about fifty.

Finally, I put my back to the test once more, mulching pepper plants until I ran out of grass clippings. (We like to use grass clippings for mulch — they’re readily available, help the plants stay warm on chilly evenings, hold in moisture, keep the weeds at bay, and dry out pretty quickly into hay.)

All in all, it was a very good day.

It was such a good day that, before it was even all over, my five-year-old fell asleep face down on the warm cement in the driveway.

garden 7

This photo was taken about an hour before the “fell asleep face down on the driveway” moment that seems destined to go down in the annals of family history. As you can see, she’s already showing signs of contented fatigue.

The work of the garden has just begun, of course, but we’re off to a strong start.

garden 8

Inching closer to her historic moment — and yes, someone’s getting a shampoo later!

The tower on my nightstand

I have a tower on my nightstand. A tower of books.

tower of books

I really hope it doesn’t fall over and crush me in my sleep.

 

Perhaps it’s because I have a touch of ADD when it comes to reading. It could be that I’m overly ambitious. Or maybe I’m just a greedy guts who likes to bite off more than she can chew.

I don’t read one book at a time. I read about ten. (I’ve occasionally lost count of how many I’m reading at a time.) It’s a miracle I ever finish one, given the fierce competition on my nightstand. I certainly don’t finish every book I start.

I used to, on principle. Now I don’t, also on principle. Life’s too short to waste time on bad books.

I used to say I loved reading. Now I know myself better. I love reading . . . good books.

Thankfully, there are more good books in the world than I could ever find time to “read, mark, and inwardly digest.”

Hence the tower.

In the interest of full disclosure — you can learn more about someone from a quick glance at their bookshelves than you can from their social media feeds, after all — here’s a sampling of the books I have recently finished, the books I’m reading now, the books I have mostly abandoned but might pick up again sometime soon, and the books I will be reading just as soon as I can find a little extra time. (Right . . . )

Just finished.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

This book made me cry for all the right reasons. Who else but Kate DiCamillo could take the story of a stuck up porcelain rabbit and weave it into an epic, deeply spiritual saga of redemption, sanctification, and second chances? I hope to write an entire post about this soon, because it was that good.

The Man Who Knew Too Much

This was my first proper foray into the works of G. K. Chesterton, but I will be back. Splendid, rich, puzzling, wonderful stuff to be found there.

On my nightstand.

The Bible

Yes. This. Always, this.

The Treasury of Daily Prayer

I’ve written about this gem before. It’s still great.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

I was super geeked when I heard South Dakota Historical Society Press was publishing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s early, never-before-published, “grown-up” memoir.

Then I had to wait three months for Amazon to ship my copy, because apparently South Dakota Historical Society Press underestimated the potential market for this book and didn’t print enough. (Rookie mistake.)

Now I finally have the book, and while I still haven’t made it past the hefty introduction, I’m really enjoying it. As a longtime Little House aficionado, I find this unutterably cool.

If you want your own copy, though, good luck. Amazon is currently out of stock. Again.

Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England

This. Book. Is. Fascinating. I picked it up on a random browse through the library, and I’m now on my third renewal. (At four hundred plus pages, it’s a beast.)

Judith Flanders takes readers on a guided tour through the Victorian home. (I’m in the drawing room at the moment, having already examined the kitchen and the bedroom.) She pulls together literary evidence, advice manuals from the time (which are a hoot), memoirs, advertisements, and other historical evidence to show how people really lived in Victorian England and why they did the (sometimes kooky) things they did. Such fun.

The Power of a Praying Wife

My sister gave me this one a while back, and after powering my way (pardon the pun) through the first two thirds — and really getting a lot out of it — I’m afraid I’ve stalled out. Temporarily, though, I think. I see no reason not to power through (again, sorry) the last third as well.

On my phone.

(I know, I know. You’re probably surprised that I read book on an electronic device at all, literary luddite that I am. But every night, after I tuck in the littlest one, I sit down in a rocking chair in the darkness, pull out my phone, and read free ebooks until she falls asleep. Some days, it’s the closest thing to “me time” I can finagle.)

Cloudy Jewel

This is my third Grace Livingston Hill book this month, after The Enchanted Barn and The Girl from Montana. GLH is an author who, if she were alive today, I might not enjoy as much as I do. Why is this, you ask? It’s because, if she were alive today, she’d probably be writing fluffy inspirational Amish romance novels, and those I cannot abide.

Instead, she wrote fluffy inspirational contemporary romance novels — but since contemporary for her meant “between about 1890 and 1945,” her more than 100(!) books contain a great deal of fascinating real history in amongst their quaintly wholesome charm.

My Grandma Mac first introduced me to GLH, which is as powerful an endorsement as any book or author could hope to get.

I told one of my colleagues this recently. Her response: “I’m pretty sure my grandma used to read Grace Livingston Hill, too.”

The Princess and Curdie

I’ve read this before, but now I’m reading it again, because George MacDonald + free ebook + a hero named Curdie = brilliant.

Great Expectations

This is another reread — my favorite Dickens novel, now conveniently available on my phone thanks to the magic of free public domain ebooks.

At work.

(For those that don’t know, I work for a publisher, which is exactly as incredible as it sounds, and which means that I nearly always have a “work” book or two going in addition to my “home” books.)

A Faithful Farewell: Living Your Last Chapter with Love

I hope I don’t need this Marilyn Chandler McEntyre book for long ages yet, but whenever I do end up needing it, I’m glad it will be here waiting for me. This slim, beautifully written volume of meditations combines scripture snippets, hymns, and prayers with reflections on the real issues and emotions people face as they prepare for death. Morbid? A little, but not really. Beautiful and transcendent? Yes, definitely.

What Does It Mean to Be Catholic?

No, I don’t plan on “swimming the Tiber” anytime soon. I’m as Lutheran as ever; ich kann nicht anders. But I will be interviewing the author, Jack Mulder, on Wednesday, and I want to be prepared. Yet even if I didn’t have to read this book, I probably would. It’s accessible, interesting, personal, and answers tons of questions I didn’t even know I had about Catholic faith, doctrine, and lived experience.

Next.

Morality for Beautiful Girls

My mom loaned me this Zimbabwe-set mystery by Alexander McCall Smith and strongly recommended I add it to my to-read tower. I can’t wait to dive in.

Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers

This might sound like a snoozefest at first blush, but I’ve heard some very, very good things about it from people whose opinions I respect. I’m really looking forward to reading it.

The Little White Horse

The first time I met my then-future-mother-in-law, she asked me if I’d ever read Elizabeth Goudge.

I said I hadn’t, and she went on to wax rhapsodic about what a splendid writer and storyteller Goudge was.

I’m ashamed to say that, twelve years after marrying her son, I still haven’t read any Elizabeth Goudge.

My shame ends soon, though: I recently acquired a copy of The Little White Horse (a favorite book of J. K. Rowling’s growing up, so my mother-in-law is in very good company), and I’ll be starting in on it the next chance I get.

* * *

I think, at last, that’s may be all. Of course, I may have forgotten some. I’m an enthusiastic reader, but not a terribly faithful one.

Enough about me, though: what’s in your tower? 

 

I’m Not That Old Fashioned

Last week, Ken and I finished a fascinating series we stumbled across together on YouTube: The Worst Jobs in History.

Think of it as Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs meets PBS’s Pioneer House meets Blackadder (this last because it’s hosted by Tony Robinson, who once played the turnip-loving manservant Baldrick on that lovely old BBC gem).

In Worst Jobs, Robinson works his way through various epochs in British history, from Anglo-Saxon times through the Victorian era, trying his hand at the most awful livelihoods historians can find to throw at him.

Like this one.

From cultivating fields with wooden(!) plowshares to wiping kingly bottoms to pulling loaded coal trolleys through dark mine shafts, these jobs weren’t (and aren’t) for the faint of heart. Many were physically brutal. Many were dangerous. A disturbing number of them involved poo.

As I go through life and bloggerdom merrily calling myself “old fashioned,” then, I suppose a brief clarifying word is in order:

I do know that not everything in days of auld lang syne was strawberries and cream. For every happy yeoman farmer, there were many others not so happy — serfs and servants, impoverished peasants, industrial wage slaves.

And I must confess (though it won’t surprise you to know) that there are many newfangled innovations for which I’m very, very grateful: flush toilets, for instance. Epidurals. Window screens. Poly-cotton blends. Refrigerators. Kleenex. Not having to work twelve hours a day in a nineteenth-century textile mill.

It is yet another modern luxury, I suppose, that I have the privilege of choosing the ways in which I am old fashioned. I get to work in the garden — and I love to work in the garden — but I don’t have to work in the garden, at least not in the way that most of my great great grandmothers did. If a groundhog eats a third of the crop (as one pernicious beastie did last year), I know we won’t go hungry.

That’s a comforting thing, because as much as I love timeless living, I’m still not all that good at it.

I must say, though: thanks to Tony Robinson, I’m pretty sure I could now build a fairly decent wattle and daub hovel, if I ever had to.

I’d just need to get my hands on lots and lots of poo.

In the Garden: Potatoes, Peas, and Radishes

Hi! I’m back. For how long? Who knows! For now, though, certainly, yes, here I am, hi!, etc.

(P.S. Read this if you want to see how and why I got started blogging in the first place. Read this if you’d like to know what to expect going forward.)

It’s spring in West Michigan, and that means mud.

Here at our new house, “mud” means clay — thick, clumpy stuff that’s good for squishing between your toes but not so good for growing much of anything except, perhaps, thistles.

(I’m not a hateful creature by nature, but I loathe thistles. Those pestilent buggers are a waste of good chlorophyll.)

Over at the garden I share with my folks, though, “mud” means dark, rich loam, fluffed up by Dad’s jury-rigged lawn tractor plow and brand new-to-him tiller until it’s light as down and smooth as butter.

(Forgive me for waxing eloquent here. I love good dirt.)

With the soil ready and the weather balmy, this weekend seemed like a fine time to get a little dirt under my fingernails and put in a few early veggies.

We started the day planting five rows of potatoes.

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We grew potatoes for the first time last year on a whim, after Dad managed to score an unbelievably good sale price on a 50 lb. bag of late-season seed potatoes. It took a fair amount of work to get them tucked into the ground (this was before the tiller) and even more to get them out again in the fall, but they were worth it. We stowed away nearly three bushel baskets full of meaty, Yukon Gold spuds in all shapes and sizes, enough to keep us from having to buy store potatoes for months. And then — guess what! — the old runts in the bottoms of the baskets kindly put on enough eyes that we didn’t have to buy any new seed potatoes again this year.

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Two years of taters for $5 and a little dirt under the fingernails? What a deal!

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There is no garden crop I look forward to with as much mouth-watering enthusiasm as I do sweet peas, so I’m very glad they don’t mind going in the ground a couple of weeks earlier than most garden plants.

Three weeks ago, I started seeds for both sugar snap and snow peas in a sunny kitchen window, and — joy of joys! — nearly all of them came up strong (some two to a pot).

All I had to do then was carve out a little nest in the soft soil with a trowel, tuck the little darlings in gently, and apply water, which I hauled out to the garden old school two watering cans at a time. When all the pea babies were in, I planted another 10 row feet or so of seeds directly just to stagger the harvest a little. (And also because the world can always use more sweet peas.)

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As I was finishing up on the watering, I got a text from Dad asking if I wouldn’t mind planting some radishes. (He was at the airport on his way out of town. Radishes are, of course, a natural thing to ponder while you’re waiting to catch a flight.)

Sure, I said. And sure, I did.

I’m not the world’s most devoted radish fan, personally. I enjoy them in moderation (like, five a year). But Dad and my oldest girl are both very fond. I’ll need to keep an eye on that row, though. Last year, the unharvested radishes nearly went rogue on me.

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One final note from our weekend planting adventure: baby humans and baby gardens don’t go well together. In three visits to the garden, our littlest green thumb unceremoniously plucked a seed potato out of the grown by its eye, trampled a newly transplanted pea seedling, and joyfully frolicked all through the fluffiest bits of the freshly prepared soil until big sister came and gently evicted her, as seen in the time lapse slide show below.

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What I’m Reading: A List for Sam

So, early today I posted a review on EerdWord that got several of us chatting on Facebook about pastors and their recreational reading habits (or frequent lack thereof). 

In the course of our conversation, Rev. Sam Schuldheisz (of E-nklings fame) asked me to recommend five or ten books that I thought might make good downtime literature for pastors. My reply got a little too long for a Facebook comment, so I thought I’d put it here instead, for everyone’s convenience. 

If you’re new to this conversation, I recommend starting with “The Pastor and the English Major” over at EerdWord before reading further.

* * *

Okay, Sam: here goes. This was very tricky to do, by the way — and the resulting list might change tomorrow if I happen to find myself in a different mood. For now, though, here’s my tentative list of recommended recreational reads for pastors.

1. Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.
Despite her reputation for lacy period romances, Jane Austen remains one of the world’s foremost social satirists. Her stuff is insightful, cutting, and frequently hilarious. If you want to learn (and laugh) about human nature in all its variety, Austen-land is the place to be. All of her work is good, but for the sake of you male pastors out there who cringe at romance, I’m recommending the one of her novels that feels the least “lovey-dovey” to me.

2. C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
No one can render complex theological concepts as plainly and winsomely as Lewis, and LWW is his magnum opus. Plantinga calls this quality “deep simplicity,” and every pastor would do well to study it.

3. Richard Peck’s Grandma Dowdel books (A Long Way from Chicago, A Year Down Yonder, and A Season of Gifts).
These books will teach you new appreciation for the old, the strong-willed, and the eccentric. Also, there’s almost nobody who can tell a story as well as Richard Peck. I wish I could, but I can’t. If you learn how, let me know, and I’ll drive down (no matter how far) to hear you do it.

4. A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.
No one is ever too old for Winnie. It seems like we reread it at least once a year as a family, and when we do, no one laughs harder than Ken and I. Somehow, Milne manages to capture astutely the way very small people think and speak, and the result is equal parts wise and humorous. Reading this book is almost guaranteed to improve your children’s sermons.

5. John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
It’s an epic journey well worth taking at least once in your life. (Probably not more than once, though. It’s that epic.)

6. John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie.
I recommend this one especially for the younger guys. Whether you think of it as nonfiction (as Steinbeck claimed it was) or fiction (as some of his critics contend it almost certainly is) it does present a stunning portrait of America in the late 50s and early 60s. If you want to understand better the massive cultural changes your older parishioners have witnessed throughout their adult lives, this is a good place to start. Also, although I’m not a huge fan of Steinbeck’s novels, which I think are bleak and depressing (Plantinga would disagree with me here), I find this book both engaging and triumphant.

7. Jennifer Worth’s Call the Midwife (AKA The Midwife).
This riveting, funny, heart-wrenching memoir, which you may recognize from the PBS series of the same name, is outstanding. What’s more, it consistently affirms the sanctity of life even as it acknowledges candidly how difficult and complicated “life issues” can be.

8. Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games.
You might like it; you might hate it. (I really liked it.) Either way, it’s a quick, exciting read that will help you better make sense of the cynical, uncertain age in which today’s young people find themselves growing up. The book also sneaks in a wealth of ethical conversation starters on everything from the widening wealth gap to media violence to genetic manipulation.

There’s my list. Ten books, if you count the Peck titles separately. Plantinga has his own list, though you’ll have to find a copy of his book to get at it.

What’s on yours?

Snapshot: Harvest 2012

Ooh! Ooh! Guess what?! In the garden today . . .

Wait a sec, though. As keen as I am to tell you about this year’s garden, I just don’t feel right jumping feet first into it without first bringing last summer’s harvest in properly here on Life, Old Fashioned.

To make this ancient history as snappy and painless as possible, though, I’ll let my stockpile of photos do the talking for me over the next couple of “snapshot” posts. By the end, you should all be feeling up to date and ready to move forward with me into this glorious new growing season.

Ready? Here goes nothin’!

Mr. Hubby

Mr. Hubby keeps a diligent eye out for slackers as we all work frantically to get the last of the harvest in before the killing frost.

borrowed sweatshirt

Do you recognize that sweatshirt from the previous photo? As the cold fall weather closed in on us throughout the afternoon, the dear fellow quite literally gave me the shirt off his back. I’m afraid I may have gotten it a little muddy grubbing around in the tomato patch.

busy pixie

Isn’t this busy bee cute in her pixie wings and froggy boots? When the garden only has hours left to live, even the littlest one has to chip in!

The last day.

After a summer of more produce than even we could eat (we gave a lot away), the garden yielded one last enormous harvest on its final day. Thanks, garden! Rest well!

Pumpkins

Not pictured in the previous portrait: the pumpkins. Six tiny seedlings took over half the garden and gave us . . . well, a heck of a lot of pumpkins. Many of them ended up feeding the deer when we couldn’t use them all in time. (This year, we’ve started with just three vines, and I’ll rip them out without mercy out if they start to get out of hand again!)

See? That wasn’t so bad!

Coming up in my next “snapshot” post, I’ll show you exactly what we did with all those tomatoes, peppers, and overripe squash after hauling them into the house.

Adventure: I Would Walk 500 Miles (or, at the very least, 14)

Walking sandal

This is not my foot.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I have a ton of stuff stored up to share with you on here on Life, Old Fashioned. But before I begin on that project, I’d say it’s high time I got started on a new old fashioned adventure. Don’t you think so, too?

In my once and future life, I am a runner. Not quite a marathoner, mind you (marathoners go a little beyond even my special strain of crazy), but a long-distance runner nonetheless.

In my present delicate condition, however, I am not a runner.

If I had been running faithfully — daily — vigorously — before the conception of my newest little darling, I could no doubt have kept it up safely throughout at least the early months of my pregnancy.

But alas, I took most of this past [long, cold, icy] winter off. (It seemed like the prudent thing to do, given my recent ankle trauma.) As a result, my fitness level at the beginning of this nine-month odyssey was not quite where it needed to be for me to feel comfortable hitting the pavement in a major way.

According to BabyCenter.com, though, what I should be doing (instead of sitting around drinking vanilla malts and moping about the fact that I’m not running) is walking:

Walking is one of the best cardiovascular exercises for pregnant women because it keeps you fit without jarring your knees and ankles. It’s also a safe activity to continue throughout all nine months of pregnancy and one of the easier ways to start exercising if you haven’t previously been active.

Okay then, you boring pregnancy experts: rather than running my heart out during these gorgeous early summer days, I’ll be walking.

It seems simple enough: pick up one leg, then the other; repeat. It’s even a little like running, except that I can do it in a sundress and sandals. BONUS!

What’s more, it fits extremely well with my old fashioned aesthetic.

After all, the Bible tells me (or at least implies) that Abram and Sarai walked from Ur to Canaan. Moses walked to Sinai. Jesus and his disciples got their feet dirty walking all over Palestine. Literature tells me that Chaucer’s pilgrims walked to Canterbury. Lizzie Bennett famously ended up with her petticoat six inches deep in mud — by walking three miles to Netherfield Park. The four Pevensies made it all the way from Lantern Waste to Cair Paravel to claim their Narnian thrones . . . by walking.

And yet: how often do we fail to walk further in a day than it takes to get from the house to the car to the office and back again? (Or, in my present life, from the chair to the clothesline to the garden to the pool and back to the comfy chair.)

How often are we led to honk at folks who would rather hover indefinitely waiting for a prime parking spot at the supermarket than park in an empty space further out and walk the extra 50 meters?

Just today, in fact, I watched a guy fetch the mail on a four-wheeler as I drove by. (Gotta love that sweet country living!) His driveway could not have been longer than the average tennis court. 

Walking, it would seem, is becoming a lost art in contemporary America.

But we can’t let that happen now, can we?

This, then, is my challenge to myself for the next seven days — and to you, too, if you’d care to join me: I will walk two miles each day, one in the morning and one in the evening.

We live on a country road where even the tractors drive faster than they should, so I sadly won’t be  leaving the property on most of my jaunts. We do, however, also happen to be in possession of a long, loopy driveway, on which one lap around is nearly exactly a quarter mile. So for me, this adventure will essentially mean walking four laps twice a day.

I (we?) can definitely do this.

Why I’ve Been Away . . . Again

Avocado IMGP1105

Q. What’s sweet and darling and approximately the size of an avocado this week?

Hi.

It’s me again.

Remember me? The odd chick who used to blog about all that old fashioned mumbo jumbo?

I know what you’re probably thinking . . .

Where the heck have you been, woman?!

Well, actually . . .

As often happens when I disappear for a while . . .

I do have a good reason.

(Several, in fact.)

Here are some of them:

  1. Facebook & the rest of the Interwebz. Yah, I know. It’s a time suck. It’s rotting my brain. And it’s not really even that fun anymore. I’m just a junkie, plain and simple.
  2. Books. Yum.
  3. Work. It got crazy for a while there.
  4. Kids. Ditto the above.
  5. Long spring days filled with lots of activity.
  6. Company. We had fifteen people sleeping in our house last Friday night. That’s a lot . . . of FUN! :)
  7. And speaking of sleeping . . .
  8. I’ve been sleeping  a lot lately. . .
  9. (Like, a whole lot), mostly because . . .
  10. Baby #4 is due in early December!

HEY-OH! There it is.

For the sake of efficiency, let me go ahead and answer as many of your questions as I can right away, so I don’t have to do it one at a time later:

  1. Yes, Ken and the kids are super excited.
  2. No, we don’t know yet whether our baby is a boy or a girl.
  3. Yes, we do plan to find out whether our baby is a boy or a girl — in about a month’s time. If you’re really good and eat all your veggies between now and then, we might even let you know, too.
  4. No, I haven’t had much morning sickness.
  5. Yes, I am feeling pretty good. (Of course, since I don’t like to announce a pregnancy until after the first trimester, chances are good that by the time you know, I’ll already be well past the worst of it.)
  6. Yes, we are talking about names, but no, we haven’t decided on any. If our baby is a boy, he will likely be Kaleb Something-or-Other. If our baby is a girl, we’re currently toying with the idea of calling her Amelia Rose. (Let the Whovians understand.)
  7. No, we wouldn’t actually name a child Amelia Rose, although it is a pretty name. That would be dorky. It would be akin to naming a daughter after an obscure flower in The Lord of the Rings or a son after the High King of Narnia. I don’t know what self-respecting parent would do that.
  8. Okay, yes, we totally did do both of the above. But that doesn’t mean we would (necessarily) do it again.

Anyway, all of this rambling is to say . . .

Hello! I’m back — bigger, rounder, and better than ever, in fact.

I’ve missed you.

And I really hope to stay back this time. After so much time away, I’ve got a large stockpile of old fashioned goodness to share with you in the coming weeks and months . . . at least until the company, kids, work, pregnancy, baby — and yes, even Internet frivolity — conspire to drag me away yet again.

Music Night Field Trip: Harpeth Rising @ Foundry Hall

“The concert was amazing. I remember thinking at the time, “This is nothing like my CD. The louds are louder. The softs are softer. Everything’s clearer and richer — and it’s all around me. It’s like I’m swimming in sound . . . like I’m breathing music.”

(Actually, I just made that up. Mostly what I remember thinking during the concert was, ‘AHHH. This is GOOD.’ The rest came later.)

Ever since then, I’ve found myself more and more often preferring even dismally mediocre live music to the very best of the canned stuff.”

me, a little while ago

I was reminded of these words again yesterday, when we packed the whole family (sans Ken, who had important pastor stuff to do) up in Dad’s Suburban to make the trek an hour south to catch a show at Foundry Hall.

“You’d love this group. It’s called Harpeth Rising. I’d really like to go and take the kids — you too, if you can come.”
— my mom, last week (quote approximate)

What can I say? I have a soft spot for my mother, and my mother has a soft spot for Foundry Hall.

Foundry Hall is this spunky little non-profit venue in quaint downtown South Haven, Michigan. It draws in indie musicians and performers from all over the country — world, even — most of whom can play the pants off any “artist” on the American Top 40 despite the fact that I’ve never heard of them. You probably haven’t either.

Harpeth Rising is one such band.

Nestled somewhere between bluegrass and classical (two of my very favorite things), and twisting in lots of tight two-, three-, and four-part harmonies (yet one more of my very favorite things), these pickin’ and pizzicato-ing phenoms kept me and mine utterly engrossed right up through the intermission and even a little beyond.

(Soon after intermission, the kids all got tired and wiggly. Still . . . no complaints. Two thirds of a concert with almost no fidgeting has got to be some kind of record for us!)

The video below was not filmed at Foundry Hall, but the group did perform this song last night. It sounded a little like this, only more alive. It was (a)live music.

(Like what I did there? I thought so.)

Honey-voiced lead singer Jordana played an instrument that I never quite knew whether to call a “violin” or a “fiddle.” She weaved the two styles together so seamlessly and so masterfully that I’m still not 100% sure she knew, either. Whatever she was playing, it was sublime.

Banjoist Rebecca was . . . awesome. I love me some good banjo-picking, and she was good.

Have I ever mentioned that I once tried to teach myself banjo? Honest to goodness, I did. I mistakenly thought it might be easier to learn than guitar, since it has a narrower neck, and I am a person with smaller-than-average hands. I didn’t get very far (and I do not now list “banjo” anywhere among my musical accomplishments), but the experience did give me a high degree of respect and appreciation for masters of this under-appreciated instrument.

Not only was Maria an accomplished cellist, but she also has a certain je ne se quois when it comes to children. They were enchanted. :)

Not only is Maria an accomplished cellist, but she also has a certain je ne se quois when it comes to children. They were enchanted. :)

Before last night I wouldn’t probably have thought of the cello as a bluegrass instrument . . . but I would have been wrong. Cellist Maria brought sounds out of that instrument that might well have made Yo-Yo Ma’s jaw drop. Mine certainly did.

Have you ever heard a cellist rock out the base line to Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking”? Or witnessed a cello being played with drumsticks? I have . . . now.

And drummer Chris . . . well, let’s just say that my son now wants to be a violinist AND a drummer. Chris was that cool.

Anywho . . .

Thanks to Andru and the rest of the crew at Foundry Hall for hosting a great show.

Thanks to Mom for inviting us to go and to Dad for driving us.

And thanks most of all to Harpeth Rising for the stories, the smiles . . . and the music.

“It was beautiful.”
— my three-year-old, after bedtime prayers earlier tonight