31 July 2013

This Week in the Garden: Tomato Surprise

Above you can see our large Common Thyme plant.  What?  You couldn't tell it was large?  I feel proud of how many branches it has growing off its main stem.  This is the one we pruned when it was truly a baby, and even though I know it's still only little one, well, it moved a lot as a baby.

This is our small Common Thyme Plant.  It's the one we didn't prune.  It's also the one that got left in its cardboard tube when I planted it.  I don't remember why--some of the plants just seemed more stable that way at the time, I guess.  My husband believes that's the reason it's still so much smaller than the other one.  He might be right.

Here is the Japanese White Egg.  If you've been reading the weekly garden posts for a while, you know it's a lot bigger than it was to begin with.

 Here are my carrot re-plants, which I slipped under some dirt two weeks ago today.  The first ones didn't come up at all, and we never did figure out why, exactly.  The garden changed hands a few times back then, so nobody blamed anybody and we started over.  The second time, I chose the seed packets that were a) still left in the store and b) harvestable in fifty-two days.  That was the shortest time available.  I'm sorry to say they're not heirlooms, but a girl does what a girl has to do when it's July 17 and none of her (also non-heirloom) carrots have come up.

George Washington's Love Lies Bleeding plants seem to like it where I put them.  Believe it or not, I've already thinned out about a million.  Maybe I should remove a few more?  It just seems so barbaric, this ripping plants out of the ground just to arbitrarily make space for another one.  Ok.  So I'm not THAT emotional about it.

One of the mystery peppers, looking more like a real plant every day.

For a few weeks, I had this nagging feeling I was forgetting to plant something.  When the peas I planted didn't come up, I realized I still had okra to put in the ground, and I put the okra in the peas' place.  I know it may be way too late in the season to do this, but I had never grown okra before.  The seeds were a gift to my dad, and without asking I threw them in, watered them, and waited.  So far, so good.  I hope they at least bloom before first frost.

Some respectable leaves beginning to show on the Wild Zaatar Oregano.

A good view of the pruning process, shortly after pruning the original main stem.  Now two stems are branching off where there would have been only one before.  Once they get a little higher, we'll prune them, and have four stems instead of two.  Then eight, then sixteen....exponential growth in the garden seems like a great idea.

The tomatillo patch = the largest thing in the garden.  Isn't it lovely?  I keep worrying that none of the flowers will come to full fruit.  Is that a weird thing to worry about?  Sure seems like that would be one thing I would let go of for the bigger things in life.

Tomatillo blossoms.

Did I tell you this particular tomato patch (I have three, which I'm hoping are planted according to variety) is planted in a hole where a little evergreen tree used to grow?  My brother dug it out for my mom, who was overjoyed at the chance to get rid of it.  The tomatoes have seemed happy to be in its hole, and have grown a little faster than the tomatoes in the other patches.

Aren't they a beautiful work of art?  Today my husband found blossoms beginning on some of the tomato plants, and upon further inspection we found them on just about every plant.  Isn't that a nice surprise?

Thanks again for tagging along as I wander through our little garden, and document the progress (and maybe a few things we learn as we go).  I hope it's fun for you like it is for me.  :)

How are things in your garden?

30 July 2013

A Voice from Behind Bars

Bee and Dahlia, Point Defiance test garden

 I turned to the place my bookmark kept for me, eyes glancing over the page to be sure I picked up at the right place.  Satisfied to begin at chapter four, I read words written not just for Christians in Ephesus, but also for me.  Paul had me at verse one.

"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called..."  (Ephesians 4:1)

See him there?  No matter how comfortably they treated him sometimes, we know Paul suffered a great many things.  Stoned but alive to tell the story.  Shipwrecked.  Snake-bitten.  Hungry.  Betrayed by his own people.  

Does that sound like Someone Else we've heard about?

 Somewhere in the midst of his life of trials, Paul earned the right to remind us to be faithful.  From behind prison walls, whatever they looked like, he writes to Ephesus, to me, to you:

I suffer much for Jesus, but He has been worth every pain.
I can't guarantee you'll be safe, warm, or cozy, but I call you to faithfulness anyway.
Because nothing costs more than losing your integrity.
Than losing your good name as a Christian.
Than losing your conscience cleared by the blood of Jesus.
 Every other price pales in comparison with the price of losing Christ and all He offers.
Being in prison, like I am now, is nothing.
If I had to do it all again, I would still choose faithful obedience to Jesus over all things--over being well fed, over being in charge of my own life, over having my freedom.
Without Jesus, I wouldn't be free anyway. 

29 July 2013

Memory on a Monday: Revived and Revised

First, the disclaimer.  This post will be similar to one I published here two weeks ago, but not the same.  I couldn't recover all the words, so I had to string most of them together all over again.  But since I didn't want to lose the ideas, and my little blog seemed like a good place to store them, I'm repeating myself a little.

It Takes Work 

It can be tough to get things to stick in your mind. That goes for my mind, too. The toughness of it discourages many people from even trying to memorize. My opinion, however, is that just about anybody can memorize something. Slowly, quickly, whatever. I watch my piano students do it all the time, even when they think they can't. I teach them how to memorize, and I require them to practice every day, and then they work like crazy to make it happen. So when people tell me they can't memorize--and I'm sorry if you're one of those who has told me that very thing--I don't believe them.  {insert teacher smile}  Because I just think it would be better to say, "Memorizing is hard for me."  Or, "I've never figured out a good way to make things stick in my mind."  Or, "I haven't had much success memorizing in the past, but I sure would like to try again."


There's just not a way around it.  For me, memorization takes repetition, and lots of it.  And let's face it:  we usually hear the word "repetition", and think BORING.  Sometimes that's true.  Repeating something over and over until it's stuck in your head for good, ready for recall at any given moment, can feel boring.  (Notice I said "feel".)  I will be the first to admit there are things that would bore me to tears to commit to memory.  However, if and when I'm memorizing a wonderful piece of music, I don't get bored.  The same should be true of when I'm memorizing a promise from the Bible, shouldn't it?  So if I am repeating some of the most profound words ever given to human beings and I feel bored, I have to take a moment, step back, and refocus.

Am I bored because I'm trying to rush through the words too quickly?
Am I bored because I'm not thinking about what the words mean as I repeat?
Am I bored because my memory verse is just another item on my list for the day?
Am I bored because I'm avoiding a challenge the verse introduces into my life?
Am I bored because I think I've heard the same old thing so many times it's no longer relevant?
Am I bored because I forgot to ask for the Holy Spirit to help me discern spiritual things?

 What I don't want is mindless, Spirit-less repetition.  I need desperately need repetition if I'm going to get something to stay in my brain, but it must be interested, alive repetition.

How I Repeat

When I memorize and repeat, I first take one verse at a time, or a smaller section within a verse.  I repeat it ten times to myself.  And to avoid the boredom I mentioned above, I try to notice key words and grammatical structures (like rhyming, assonance--matching vowel sounds--, alliteration, and the like) and imagine the scene (if it's from a story).  I find that after ten times, I can usually repeat the section or verse without looking and without hesitating.  If I take a verse a section at a time, I repeat the whole verse five times when I've learned each section.  Ten and five were random, except that I used to memorize on my morning walks with a miniature Bible in one hand.  I could count the repetitions with my fingers, and five and ten were obvious multiples of my fingers.


After the initial repetitions, I add a verse or chapter to my memory calendar to be regularly reviewed.  I've talked about that before.  I simply can't remember something if I only go over it one day and call it good.  It won't be in my mind if I don't keep it in my repertoire, so I try to be as intentional about the review process as I am about the initial repetitions.  I don't review the with the same number of repetitions each time, but things feel a lot more solid if I focus on it every few days.

Creative Repetition

Sometimes it feels like the above methods get me into a rut.  In fact, I feel a little that way at the moment.  So for me right now, and for those of you who need to get more creative than simply repeating something inside your head over and over and over....here's my brainstorming about how to spice up the memory process a little.  I haven't tried all of these ideas, but I probably ought to.  Because every time I do something a little different, the ideas stay in my head just a little more firmly.

1.  Say your memory verse out loud.  I'm a total chicken when it comes to this kind of thing, even when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that no one is nearby to hear my do it.  I guess I'm afraid of the sound of my own voice, or of being surprised by someone coming in the room when I don't expect it and finding me out.  I've learned with my piano practice, however, to sing aloud with my melody and count out loud, and I've found those practices to be incredibly helpful to my playing.  I have no reason to believe saying my memory verses out loud wouldn't have the same benefits.

 2.  Find or make a recording of your memory verse, and listen to it.  While driving.  While washing dishes.  While taking a shower.  While....you name it. If you're an auditory learner, you need to have some kind of repetition you can listen to.

3.  Find or write a song with the words of your memory verse.  Sing it a lot.  With your family, as you drive in the car, as you do chores around the house, as you pull weeds in the garden, as you try to go to sleep at night and your mind is taking that precious sleep time to figure out your life, as you wait in line at the grocery store.

 4.  Write your verse by hand.  Slowing your mind down enough to write with your hand can help focus or re-focus your mind on what the verse actually says.  It adds a physical motion to the memory work and repetition that helps things stay in my mind, at least, a little more firmly.  It doesn't matter if you keep the page or not--but if your verse is especially encouraging to you, it might be fun to write it out in a beautiful card and send it to a friend or family member who also needs a bit of encouragement.

5.  Scripture Typer.  While I haven't tried Scripture Typer, I have several friends who tell me they've loved it.  Typing out the verses is faster than writing them by hand, and yet it still adds a physical motion to the words they're working hard to remember.

6.  Think up some hand motions to go with key words in your verse.    There's a definition from my freshman music theory class in college I remember word for word to this day...along with the hand motions my [excellent] teacher put to it.  That was twelve years ago, and I never once reviewed that definition.  I think it's just there in my mind to stay, even without the repetition I've been saying I need so much.  Maybe I need to try this idea out soon for myself!

Thanks for coming back for the re-write!  And sorry for accidentally deleting this post without having it backed up.  My apologies to Marciwho left a sweet comment that also got deleted with the first posting of these thoughts.  Thanks, Marci, for reading!

26 July 2013

Berry and Peach Soup Swirl

My mom has this delightful little cookbook called Life's Simple Pleasures: Fine Vegetarian Cooking for Sharing and Celebration.  And although she has had it since 1993, we had really only made one recipe from it (the Minestrone Soup).  Now, the soup recipe has been completely worth making for all these years, but it finally dawned on me when the same cookbook said hello to me from the coffee table in a little guest apartment I stayed in last summer that there might just be more amazing recipes in that little cookbook.

Well, I was right.  I tried several more recipes, and loved every one.  Then this week, as I paged through books looking for something summery and easy and relatively light to make for supper, and wondered where my creativity had gone, I came across two soups.  A berry one, and a peach one, poured into the bowl at the same time to make a swirl.  

Together, they're really called "Berry-Peach Soup", and call for fresh fruit, which I didn't have.  Mine turned out to be more of a swirled smoothie, and I had to substitute apple juice for the orange juice soup base because, well, you know how it goes when you want to make something within about twenty minutes and you don't want to go to the store.

Maybe now you're expecting me to post the recipe for these delicious soups, but I'm not going to.  I'm going to hope that you follow the above link to Amazon and spend anywhere between one penny and five bucks to get your own copy.  And you're going to ask me if it's a vegan cookbook, or gluten free, or vegetarian, or just what.  So I'll tell you, in hopes that you won't hesitate to go buy it for yourself just because you're worried it won't fit your dietary needs.  (I'm not an Amazon affiliate; I just like the book.)

All the recipes are vegetarian.
Many of the recipes are vegan.
And if they're not vegan, most of them are easy to turn into vegan recipes.
Some of the recipes are naturally gluten free.
And if they're not, some of them can be turned into gluten free recipes.

For whatever it's worth.  :)
Even if whatever it's worth is simply the idea to combine two smoothies in the same bowl--here's to a lovely summer weekend!

25 July 2013

This Week in the Garden: We Like Hot Weather

 Yes, the garden reports that it loves the combination of hot weather and water.  I was gone for a few days, and my mother and brother took care of all the plants while I was away.  When I came back less than a week later, everything had once again grown by leaps and bounds.  The beets look ready for some beet green harvests, which I feel sure will delight my newly-returned husband, who enjoys the greens more than the beets.  I, on the other hand, enjoy the beets more than the greens, so we have an ideal set-up.

Even the Japanese White Egg seems happier than it has for a long time.  The leaves are bigger and greener, and its stalk reaches a little closer to the sky than it did this time last week.  The package says it matures in 65 days, and I'm hoping we'll still get some eggplants now that the plants seem recovered from the traumas of moving.

Before I left last week, I did a crazy thing:  I filled every blank spot in the garden with new seeds.  Yes, I did this in the middle of July.  No, I did not do this with fall-crop seed varieties.  When my mom and I visited George Washington's Mount Vernon this spring, we decided the perfect souvenir would be some heirloom seeds.  Our philosophy of gifts, even when they're to ourselves, is to buy something we wouldn't normally buy, something not entirely practical.  So although I had been limiting myself earlier in the spring to seeds that would give me an edible harvest, I bought flowers at Mount Vernon.  When I arrived home earlier this week, I was overjoyed to see my little Love Lies Bleeding seeds all sprouting in their row near the fence.  Now to thin them...
 Mystery Pepper Plant

If I had it to do again, and I had the option of a greenhouse, I would grow my peppers in it.  I'm finding they thrive when the weather is hot, and they've had a slow go of it here when the temperatures get down in the low sixties or even mid-fifties at night.  During the last week, however, they have had quite a growth spurt, reviving my hope that there will be a few peppers in my future...before the frosts of fall hit.
 Mystery Tomato Plant

In discussing the earliest possible frost dates with both my mother and Google, I discovered that the first frost date here could be in October, but might delay itself until as late as early November.  Now that the tomato plants have reached a respectable size, I'm hoping to enjoy many tomatoes from them between now and October.


This week the size of the tomatillo plant I've been showing you here defied the usual photo with the plant measured against my arm.  It was so tall that leaning over with it up against my arm and reaching far enough back with the camera in the other hand simply could not be done without endangering either myself or my plants.  I'll just tell you:  when my arm is straight up and down, with my fingertips on the soil, the plant is almost to my armpit.  It sure seems like it grows several inches a day.  Maybe just one inch a day, though.  I don't know.  Just FAST.  Which is why I would for sure grow these again.  I like plants that grow fast.  They make me feel like a good gardener.

22 July 2013

Togetherness Time

Togetherness.  A wedding, a picnic, a ride up the mountain in a gondola, some discs thrown over the river (except the ones that went in) and through the woods, and all of us offering to help pay for things but none of us accepting the money.  With sunshine and wind thrown in, and a swimming pool, we had all we needed for a weekend of family togetherness.

More photos to come of the weekend scenery, but for now, happy Monday!

19 July 2013

Come, O Sabbath Day

As the Sabbath descends and the sun sinks behind the horizon, I'm thinking of one of my favorite Sabbath hymns.  Perhaps you'll simply join me in this prayer?

"Come, O Sabbath day, and bring
Peace and healing on thy wing:
And to every troubled breast
Speak of the divine behest:
Thou shalt rest,
Thou shalt rest!

"Earthly longings bid retire,
Quench the passions' hurtful fire;
To the wayward, sin oppressed,
Bring thou thy divine behest:
Thou shalt rest,
Thou shalt rest!

"Wipe from every cheek the tear,
Banish care and silence fear;
All things working for the best,
Teach us the divine behest:
Thou shalt rest,
Thou shalt rest!"

Words by Gustav Gottheil (1827-1903); music by A. W. Binder (1895-1966), tune name SABBATH.  Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, number 387.

17 July 2013

This Week in the Garden: General Edition

  {Broad Leaf Sage}

I'm still learning how to take photos of my plants in the garden, but I'm so much enjoying keeping an informal record of their growth each week.  I hope you don't mind that I'm sharing them with you!  
 {Early Blood Turnip-rooted Beet}

My husband loves beet greens.  It looks like he'll have some to eat soon.  I love beets.  I'm hoping this crop turns out as beautifully as it looks like it will.
 {Japanese White Eggplant}

My friend who grew up in Japan says these eggplants grow slowly.  Still, they were large enough for a photo op this week, and I can tell their leaves are greening up since we transplanted them from their tiny little pots to the "big" garden.

 {Mystery Pepper}

All the pepper labels got mixed up in our move, so this one is just one more mystery pepper plant.  All the peppers are beginning to thrive in the hot weather we've been having, but I think they would be happy in even more heat.  I hear tell some gardeners in this region keep them in green houses all summer, and they do well there.  Maybe someday I'll have such a fancy thing as a green house, and I'll try that out, too.  For now, I'm just enjoying watching them begin to branch out a little more.

{Mystery Tomato Plant}

My tomato labels survived, but apparently permanent marker does not last in the sun.  All the tomato labels are faded completely away!  So once again, I have no idea which kind this is, but I do know that I was roughly able to isolate the different varieties when I planted them.  "By their fruits ye shall know them", right? 

This Week in the Garden: Tomatillo Edition

If you saw this post and this one, you know right away that this tomatillo plant has grown by leaps and bounds in the last two weeks.  I'm in constant amazement, and I feel sure I can see the difference in the height each day.  These things, I must admit, make me extremely happy.  By next week, I'll have to have someone else take the photo with the plant measured against my arm, because there will only be so much stretching I can do to get the whole plant in without falling over.

There it is again, without my arm, surrounded by some of its friends.

Then for the really exciting thing:  They are starting to put out buds.  Since I've never grown tomatillos before, this is all a new experience, one filled with the best of garden excitement.
See?  Isn't it beautiful?  And so much the more because it's a promise of good things to come. 

16 July 2013

Oh, Dear

I think I just accidentally deleted today's post!  I meant to delete an unfinished draft, but it appears to have been connected to the actual post I posted.  Does anyone know how to get it back?  I can't seem to find a Blogger "trash bin". 

13 July 2013

Love at Home

Just before my husband and I got married, I wracked my brain trying to think of something to give him for a wedding gift.  I thought of joint tennis lessons (he's active, and loves to play all kinds of things together).  I searched high and low for the right thing.  

Finally, nearly ready to give up, I pulled into my local Christian bookstore, partly to say hello to my friends the employees and partly to make one last attempt at finding the perfect wedding gift for my amazing groom.

Now, if you've grown up in the same circles that I did, you'll remember an oblong, tattered little hymn book that sits on your parents' and grandparents' shelves.  The cover may be ready to fall off, but you can probably still make out the title on the front.  If you're like me, you've wondered about that signature of ownership in the front--who owned it first, which were their favorite hymns to sing, how long they treasured and cared for the  little volume, all the while looking for the soon return of Jesus.  Maybe you see your parents' names written below the first name, with the phone number they must have had when you were born.  Maybe you've chuckled at the directness--and oh-so-trueness--of the temperance tunes, and tried to sing a few of the hymns without ever hearing them before.  Then you might wonder, like I do sometimes, why people ever stopped singing those unfamiliar gems.

So it was that day, as I walked into the bookstore, that I gasped.  Because here all this time of searching for the right gift, I had forgotten all about the one hundred year anniversary Christ in Song reprint.  My husband-to-be was a singer, a choir conductor, a professional musician with the goal and dream to always make music purely for the glory of God.  It was the perfect gift for my handsome singer.  Its title sums up his life mission in its three simple words.

I took it to the counter, where my friend and colleague of four and a half years smiled and promised to engrave the groom's name in silver, to match the title's lettering.  She refused to let me pay for the lettering.  I think her smile may have had something to do with the Bible she was engraving for me, from my groom, with my new married name.

We took our wedding gifts on our honeymoon--my new Bible and his new songbook--and established the habit of family worships in our married life.  (Worships together were a habit even in our dating life, but there's just something extra special about worships with your new spouse.)  We paged through the songs and spent a lovely afternoon near Mt. Rainier singing in our beautiful rented cabin.  (It was raining outside.)  

From that afternoon on, we knew just which hymn would, as often as possible, close our Sabbath days together:  Love at Home.

This Sabbath, he and I are apart.  But these words filter through my mind, drawing my heart closer to Jesus and closer to my husband, reminding me how it happens that marriages stay loving and families stay happy.  Take a look especially at the last verse, and make it your prayer with me today.

"There is beauty all around,
When there's love at home;
There is joy in ev'ry sound,
When there's love at home.

"Peace and plenty here abide, 
Smiling fair on ev'ry side;
Time doth softly, sweetly glide,
When there's love at home.

"Love at home,
Love at home;
Time doth softly, sweetly glide,
When there's love at home.

"In the cottage there is joy,
When there's love at home; 
Hate and envy ne'er annoy,
When there's love at home.

"Roses blossom 'neath our feet,
All the earth's a garden sweet,
Making life a bliss complete,
When there's love at home.


"Kindly heaven smiles above,
When there's love at home;  
All the earth is filled with love,
When there's love at home.

"Sweeter sings the brooklet by,
Brighter beams the azure sky;
O, there's One who smiles on high
When there's love at home.


"Jesus, make me wholly Thine,
Then there's love at home;
May Thy sacrifice be mine,
Then there's love at home.

"Safely from all harm I'll rest,
With no sinful care distress'd,
Thro' Thy tender mercy blessed,
When there's love at home.


Look for all four verses in Christ in Song, number 580, or three of the four verses in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, number 652.

12 July 2013

More Blessed to Give?

You know the saying.  "It's more blessed to give than to receive."
Sometimes I've felt like I've received far more than I've given, or been able to give, especially when I've moved from one home to the next, one state to the next.  Time would fail me to count the ways and friends who have packed my dishes, cleaned my cupboards, fed me lunch, scrubbed my tub.
Thus it was with immense pleasure today that I was able to go help some friends pack up their kitchen.
It didn't feel like they were leaving me:  I'm just around for the summer, and while I'll miss seeing them when I'm I'm in my parents' town, but they are not leaving me behind.
So perhaps because I have so oft received, the chance to spend a few hours packing dishes and wiping out cupboards gave me a special delight this afternoon.  And if it's more blessed to give than receive, it's perhaps in the giving I experience all over again the memories of blessings other givers gave me when it was my kitchen that needed to be put in boxes.

08 July 2013

Washing the Dishes: Keeping Up

A friend and I recently discussed the question of motivation, and more specifically, how to motivate oneself to do household chores that are not naturally pleasant to us.  Because both of us experience a good pile of dishes every day, and neither of us love doing dishes, yet both of us need to do dishes.  To remind myself, and perhaps to give you some little tips you might find helpful, I'll share some of the discussion here. 

1.  Before You Begin:  See the End Result, and DECIDEWhen I'm not in the mood to wash the dishes, I have to remind myself that I don't have to like it, it just needs to be done.  There's nothing wrong with disliking a chore as long as I don't let that stop my from doing the chore and therefore taking care of my family.  Some chores just come with the territory of being an adult--or for kids who are old enough to carry some responsibility, being a younger member of the household who is being taught the principles and practices of responsible habit-building.  I also have to remind myself why I like the dishes to be done on a regular basis, and decide to do something about them.  Here are some things that motivate me:
  • I am more in the mood to cook when the kitchen is clean.  Healthy entrees, home-made bread, a special treat for Sabbath.  If the kitchen is dirty, my family and I do not eat as well, because I tend to scrounge around for something easy without the clear space to put together a viable meal.
  • Clean dishes clear the way for the rest of the kitchen to be clean.  Without dirty dishes stacked on the counter or in the sink, it takes only a few seconds to give the counter a wiping and rinse out the sink.  And let's face it, a clean kitchen is a healthy kitchen.  No smells, no grime in the sink.
  • When I keep up with the dishes on a regular basis, I don't end up with a mountain that seems too hard to climb.  More on this later.
  • When the dishes are done, I feel free to move on to other enjoyable things throughout the day.  Without feeling guilty.
 2.  Getting Started:  Habit FormingWhen I was in graduate school, I honestly ran out of time to work on washing dishes on a regular basis.  We did not have a dishwasher.  My husband and I both tried to do what we could, but there were many days where neither of us even had five minutes to devote to washing dishes.  After two years of that kind of life, I was sadly out of the habit of doing dishes in any kind of systematic way.  I had to start reminding myself that I really did have time to do the dishes, and to set aside the time to do them, rather than rushing off to the next thing without a thought of dishes when I didn't have to.  I had to learn some new habits, such as:
  • Accept that the dishes will take a chunk of time every day, and as you get going, figure out how much that is and plan for that chunk every day.  For me, NOT expecting that I can take five minutes a day and have a perfect kitchen is freeing, because I don't put such a heavy expectation on myself and fail every time.
  • Set aside 15-20 minutes after each meal to clear the table, put away leftover food, wash the dishes, and wipe the counters.  Once per day doesn't usually work for me, because by the end of the day the mountain feels too large.
  • Ask family members to carry their own plates, bowls, cups, and silverware to the kitchen after each meal.  If each person rinses their dishes and either loads them in the dishwasher right away or hand washes their own, there's much less left for me to worry about when I start the clean-up process.
  • When I'm cooking and baking, I try to use wait times to rinse and wash dishes, or at least put away food.  There are always those moments, and it's amazing what I can do in those little spaces of time to keep the kitchen from becoming a total wreck.
  • I try to stack up the dishes in an organized way.  Plates of the same size together, bowls together, cups together, mixing bowls nested inside each other, etc.  When I can wash a stack of similar things together, they stack more neatly in my dish rack (or the dishwasher), and I tend to work more quickly.
3.  Getting Through the Task:  Passing Pleasant Time.  Washing dishes can seem like boring time, but there are plenty of ways to feel like you're enjoying the time rather than just passing it in drudgery.  For example:
  • Listen to music you love while doing dishes.
  • Sing.  Hymns or praise songs.
  • Work on memorizing a Bible verse or a poem.  Make a recording of yourself saying it, and repeat it with yourself as you wash dishes.
  • Hook up your hands-free device and call a friend.  I've passed many an hour of cleaning the kitchen this way.  I even know when some of my friends are liking to be doing THEIR chores, and I call while we're both occupied in our kitchens.
  • If you don't have enough time to get everything done, set the timer for the amount of time you do have.  You won't lose track of time, and you'll make progress on the stack.
  • Enlist a family member to help you with the dishes, and make it a point to engage them in meaningful conversation.
4.  Tell Yourself the Truth:  They Won't Stay Done.  It's funny which stories get passed down through several generations and stick in your mind.  For me, one of those is about my great grandparents.  My great grandfather decided to do something special for his wife:  He got everything ready, maybe even got down on his hands and knees, and mopped the kitchen floor.  Not a spot remained when he was through with it.  The floor sparkled.  As the story goes, he was quite pleased with himself.  It wasn't long, though, before some person or dog came through the kitchen with muddy feet, ruining the whole freshly washed floor.  My great grandfather was beside himself.  How could someone be so thoughtless that they would undo the job he had just beautifully finished?

Well, my great grandmother knew just exactly how these things work.  I picture her smiling, or laughing.  Do you know what she said?  

"Just because you did it, did you think it would stay done?"

Yes, the words of a veteran home-maker.  Although I never met her, these words give me a chuckle and the gumption to get going on the the piles of dishes again, even when it seems like I just finished a mountain of them.  I'm not perfect at it, and it truly never ends, but that doesn't mean I don't keep trying.

07 July 2013

Marshall Gulch, California

Ever since I was a little baby, my parents have been taking me to a little beach called Marshall Gulch.  So when my dad and I were in California, within driving distance of this jewel of a beach just above Bodega Bay, we decided we simply must visit it one more time, on my thirtieth birthday.  My dad and uncle loaded the car with a wonderful picnic, and off we went to meet some of the other people with whom I had visited this beach since I was a baby.  The weather, as you can see, was perfect.
When the tide is out, we like to go out and climb the further-away rock, but when the tide is in, we don't.  The waves here usually have a strong undercurrent, so swimming is not the activity of choice.  Wading and wave chasing, however, are perfectly safe and acceptable.
Also when the tide is low, or the waves are running out, we run around this rock outcropping to the beach next door.  My dad did it during this visit.  I remember a time when my mom tried it, years ago, and misjudged it a little.  She got swept out to sea in the undertow, and we weren't sure we'd ever get her back.  The next wave was gracious enough to push her back in, though, and she came back in one piece.  The camera around her neck didn't fare so well.

There were more people at the beach that day than we've ever seen at our little hole-in-the-wall beach.  We didn't mind sharing, especially with the little girl who protected our container of watermelon from the hungry sea gulls.
I don't have a scanned copy of it to post for you, but right in front of the rock to the left, there is a photo of me the summer I was born.  My parents had rigged up a shelter with a blanket over the top for me to take a shaded nap in, and there are two other nappers right beside me--the same couple who drove to meet us at the beach on my birthday this year.  Isn't that fun?