Saturday, August 9, 2014


I took this picture yesterday, on my Kindle, because I was entranced by the hundreds of honeybees doing their thing in the mint patch. There are a couple of blurry golden patches in the sea of green -- those are bees  (it's kind of hard to aim the camera app).  It's been lovely weather for August here, breezy and in the 70's and low 80's.  I haven't felt particularly inspired to do much of anything (as you may have noticed by my lack of blogging).  There's going to be a steep price to pay come schooltime, I'm afraid.

I'm declaring plum season over.  There are about 25 quarts in the freezer.  Zucchini is coming in faster than we can eat it.  I haven't done any blackberry picking this year and probably won't.  The boys are gone - Daniel and Steve on their way to college because RA orientation starts early; Peter still plugging away through boot camp.  He's more than halfway done now but it is a privilege once a week if we hear from him for a few minutes. I've been worrying about him a lot this week as he's supposed to be learning grenades, and no mom ever wants to think about that.

Then, too, I could start worrying about a lot of the world's problems this week.  Genocide in Iraq, Ebola in Africa, baby Gammy abandoned in Thailand because he has Down syndrome, thousands of migrant children with no good options.  That's why it was good to be pleasantly surprised by the beautiful little bees when I went to pick a sprig of mint yesterday.  But it's hard not to worry.  The house is too quiet.

I've been working hard on language learning this summer.  Since discovering Duolingo last winter, I've finished two "trees" - Italian and French (French was review but Italian was all new).  I'm about 2/3 done with Spanish and almost halfway with German - but German is getting hard.  I've also started their beta version of Dutch, which is better than any of the others from a teacher's and learner's standpoint... but I'm taking it slowly because there is too much cross-confusion with German.  I don't really have any fear about learning languages now, and there isn't a whole lot of confusion really, when you are studying multiple languages at once.  It's kind of like having children -- once you've had your first and then adjusted to the extra chaos of the second, you more or less hit your stride and start going on muscle memory or maternal instinct or whatever works for the third.  It's not hard, it just keeps you very busy.  And even if you run through 3 or 4 names (including the pet's) before coming up with your own child's name, you both know what you meant.  I'm starting to be able to recognize some interesting patterns in language structure that I would never have figured out if I weren't obsessive about learning so many languages.  Maybe one of these days I'll dig further into that Proto-Indo European textbook.  But for tonight, I'm heading to bed.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Randomday: Manic Squirrel Edition

I have started calling it Smeagol.  There is a squirrel that chewed a hole directly through the roof of the entryway.  There is a self-contained attic space there, with no access from the rest of the house.  Friday we had our friendly handiman come out and fix it.  The squirrel came out and ran away when he started working on it.  But today, danged if that squirrel wasn't back and gnawing at the new shingles over the patched spot.  We have been chasing it off on sight.  But I looked up squirrel repellent online and brewed up a strong tea of cayenne pepper.  I also read that squirrels hate peppermint oil, of which I had a little.  So this afternoon I climbed up there with Steve's help, and caulked the torn shingle after hiding a few cotton balls soaked with peppermint oil underneath.  Then I sprayed the cayenne tea over the ridge of the roof and as much other area as I could get it to cover, and we are really hoping that deters the Smeagol squirrel.

Other random matters: Quarta came back from camp this morning.  She was sick on the windy road home (nervous stomach and no breakfast) and spent almost the entire day sleeping it off.  

Plum season is almost over.  I have no more energy for picking plums and doing things with them.  I did try this recipe for a Polish plum cake today.  We'll take it to fellowship tomorrow and see.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Political Tuesdays: Media and a Crisis of Confidence

As I've been following news coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict, it has been dawning on me that I cannot trust the news media to present developing events in an unbiased manner.

This is really nothing new.  I was backstage at the Rally for Life in 1990 when a crowd numbering in the hundreds of thousands spontaneously turned to the media enclosure and chanted "tell the truth" for quite some time, in protest of entrenched media bias against the pro-life movement.  It was an iconic moment, and since then I've never quite been able to accept at face value the formula dished out by mainstream media.  I'm still a news junkie, just a somewhat cynical and suspicious news junkie.

The kind of coverage you see greatly depends upon the media outlet you choose as a consumer.  If I only read the Columbian (our local newspaper) I would know little beyond the current status of the legal marijuana shops in town.  I have an app on my Kindle that lets me read the Washington Post, and I'm enjoying having well-written articles on a world and national scale to read.  But the news feeds I choose to "like" on Facebook tend to lead in quite a different direction.  The cognitive dissonance is troubling, and leads me to question the most reputable of sources.

"Mainstream" media would have me believe that peaceful Palestinians live in Gaza under terrible threat from the warlike Israelis, who target mainly U.N.-run hospitals and schools.  Graphic photos show only one side of the story.  But the video by Dennis Prager I shared last week sticks in my mind.  I'm starting to question whether every mainstream outlet has a streak of anti-semitism.  Or is it just that Israel is a stable and relatively safe destination to fly into for journalists, and Hamas has a good public relations system and an abundant supply of gut-wrenching photos?  I don't see nearly the same amount of coverage, particularly photo coverage, from Nigeria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Syria -- all places where the death toll is vastly more than in Gaza.  But how safe would it be for a reporter to visit these places (assuming there was any desire to cover atrocities committed by Muslims)?  Maybe the very abundance of pictures from Israel tells us something about the stability and security of Israel -- and the laziness and corruption of those who publish only one side of the story.

If it bleeds, it leads.  As long as you have pictures and pre-packaged text that supports your

Monday, July 28, 2014

Design Wall Monday and Kid update

For the first time in a very long time I have something different about my design wall... that's because I stitched this block this weekend:
 It's the sixth one I've finished with that low-volume quilt-along.
 So I put them all up, and there has even been a tiny bit of progress on the string diamond star.  But the sunshine out the window will tell you, I'm not getting a lot of quilting done at the moment.  Summer is just too short!
Up to our eyeballs in plums, but they sure are pretty.
 Quarta has been delivered to camp, where she has many friends.  The house will be a LOT quieter this week!
Pretty cool treehouse.
Peter has been doing things like this,
and this,
 and this (yikes!)
and this for the last 4 weeks at Basic.  He was allowed access to his phone for half an hour yesterday to call us for the first time.  I think he's doing great but he's definitely reached the point of wishing it was done.  And it's a long way from done yet!  He very much appreciates everyone who's been praying for him and writing to him but doesn't have any time to write back.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Randomday, with plums

Try as I may, I am having a hard time keeping up with the blog this summer.  And I'm not really trying very hard!
These are the last two quilts I pinned for Grandma -- This one is sweet with the butterfly embroideries and appliques.
 She also had a small hexagon quilt with some "leftover" blocks.
The plum tree is loaded with big juicy plums.  Followers will know I have collected a lot of plum recipes.  I've tried a few more this year: a version of plum jam that I call "Plum Preserves."  It's no-pectin added, it' cooked 4 different times, and it is like a cross between plum jam and plum butter (Pflaumenmus).
This is the plum preserves together with a batch of plum-orange jam.
For a light refreshing dessert you might try Plum Flummery.  I nestled this serving in the kettle of plums... and there are a lot more on the tree.  I am not sure whether I'll be dehydrating any plums this year, but we recently defrosted the freezer so we'll be able to freeze quite a bit.  I have found a lot of recipes I would like to try on Pinterest.  These plums are wonderful eaten fresh ... I wish we could have them fresh all year long!
Quarta's 12th birthday was observed with appropriate fanfare and a gooey chocolate caramel cake.  And a trip to Joann's to buy a rubber band loom and beads.  And a date with Mom and Dad to see the Parade of Homes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Political Randomday

It's summertime.  My day has consisted of Duolingo lessons, making blueberry jam and plum preserves, baking a gooey caramel chocolate cake for Quarta's birthday tomorrow, browsing plum recipes on Pinterest, and picking plums. The political world goes on, and I'd just as soon it went on without me.  But here are a few interesting reads along the way, if you're interested.

Ted Cruz targeted by vampires in HBO's True Blood series: a brilliant response.

What happens in September, when the flood of immigrant children need to go to school?  Is the immigration crisis about to create an education crisis?

A level-headed and simple explanation of the situation in the Middle East, by Dennis Prager.  This is the best presentation I have seen on the subject.  And you should also read Charles Krauthammer's moral clarity.

Christians in Iraq presented with no options by ISIS: a mass exodus from Mosul.

John Kerry, apparently trying to cover for a bit of (?) anti-semitism caught on open mic, acknowledges that war is tough.  You know, I'm glad he has it figured out.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Today we picked blueberries.  At least, some of us did.  Daniel stayed home with Quarta, who is suffering from the worst blistering sunburn I've ever seen on her shoulders and can't stand to have anything touch her skin.  Which means she has worn a swimsuit top for the last few days.  She was taken out to see "How to Train your Dragon 2," so it was not a total loss.  Steve and I (and Tertia a little bit) picked a lot of blueberries, most of which need to be frozen.  I also need to make a batch of jam.  But not tonight.

Peter has sent us a few letters from boot camp; he says he is "not too miserable" and that most of the sergeants don't know his name, which is a good thing.  His battery has a facebook page, and some pictures of him have been posted so far.

A few cool things are happening on the internet.  Dutch for English speakers is now in Beta on Duolingo!  And Daniel brought this cool site to my attention: akinator.  Pick a character - any character, and play 20 questions with the computerized genie.  It's fun to stump it, but it doesn't happen often.