Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A short but unusually difficult Wednesday Hodgepodge

Some weeks the Wednesday Hodgepodge seems right up my alley. What are you doing to save money? What's your favourite thing in the winter? What's your favourite shade of brown? The questions for this week are harder to answer, and I considered skipping the whole thing, but here goes.

1. What makes you feel accomplished? Explain.

Hard question because I do not take credit easily for things, and often for good reasons: someone else may have helped or been involved just as much, or I think I should have done a better job, or I never stopped feeling like a learner even well into the project. Or it just feels like God should get the glory for whatever it is.

Getting the house emptied and things moved to the apartment, that was an accomplishment.

I went to the big-box hardware store today with Mr. Fixit to buy a mirror (the more "local" store we prefer didn't have what we wanted), and while we were there we looked at some shelving. Mr. Fixit said, "those aren't real wood," and I answered with what came into my head: "Some kind of laminate." Right. So how did I learn that? Fifty years of living in houses and looking at houses, and twenty-five-plus years with Mr. Fixit. One person's "accomplished" tends to rub off on the other one.

2. If you had your own talk show, who would your first three guests be? Tell us why.

Hard question because I don't know who's watching. Would I choose famous people, or people nobody knows who have good stories? I think I would invite some of my homeschooling friends who have done great things and don't get much airtime.

3. Do you have a great burger recipe? What's in it? What do you like on a hamburger and where is your favorite spot to order one out?

Somewhat hard question because I don't make the burgers here, Mr. Fixit does (unless maybe they're lentil burgers). I like a Teen Burger at A&W because they have those frosted mugs of root beer.

Lydia likes the funky burger place uptown where they have a huge menu of mix and match toppings, buns, and patties, served in industrial-looking metal trays. According to their menu, if your date orders "Boring #1," a.k.a just cheese, your relationship is doomed. I wonder what they would make of my preference for vanilla ice cream.

4. What's the biggest anxiety producing thing you do on a regular basis?

Going out on the balcony. I have never liked heights. I don't even like escalators.

5. This is the last Hodgepodge of May. Tell us about your summer plans.

Hard question because I honestly don't know. How about: sitting on the balcony with some lemonade? And working on writing projects.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

I read in today's local paper (they're a bit behind, the news is a couple of months old) that an extremely large department-store owner (you know which one) bought another corporation which now gives it ownership of a popular online indie-quirky-vintage clothing store, not my style exactly but one that I have heard the Squirreling girls mention over the years. 

And that is the business of those companies, really, but it does remind me never to assume anything about preferring little labels over big. Because lots of times now, the little fish feed the big ones.

Linked from the Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What's for supper? Skillet Chili Chicken: did you like it, dear?

Tonight's dinner menu, which felt to me like that thing you make when your boyfriend is coming to dinner and you want to show him you can actually cook:

Skillet Chili Chicken, from Saving Dinner, which is not chili but chicken pieces browned in spices, then simmered in a sauce made of canned chilies and broth plus sour cream added at the end

Mix of brown rice and barley, in the slow cooker

Vegetables: use-it-up mixture of zucchini, peppers, frozen spinach, and a couple of mushrooms

Oatmeal-chocolate chip bars

Monday, May 29, 2017

Frugal Finds and Fixes: Four Weeks In

We took possession of our apartment two months ago. Our move-the-furniture date was almost four weeks ago. Two months, or four weeks: both go by pretty quickly.

We are lucky to have a washer and dryer in our unit, but a lot of my own and Lydia's clothes are better hung to dry. We bought two drying racks: a standing one and an over-tub one, and I can't say enough good things about those. They both fold up small enough to slip in beside the washing machine (a very small space), and the tub rack can be also be used flat. If the clothes aren't dripping, we can set the standing rack up by the balcony door to catch the breeze. Drying racks actually would have been useful in our house, even with all the furnace-room clotheslines; I could have used them on the back porch when we no longer had an outdoor line (it blew down in a storm).

I'm rereading Erin Boyle's book Simple Matters (borrowed on my tablet from the public library), looking for help with some minor storage issues that we are still working out. The simplest solution to lack of space for something is to get rid of it, but that's not always possible. Another strategy is to use what you have, including existing cupboards and drawers. This morning I fixed the ongoing spice-jar problem, and the solution was the simplest one possible, other than just leaving them on the kitchen table (where they've been since we moved in): I put the jars in a drawer, the same way I had them at the house. Yes, we're still short on kitchen drawers. But it was better than hot-gluing magnets on baskets to stick on the fridge, or screwing holders to cabinets, or searching for a rack to fit my fat little jars. Besides, the drawer solution was the free one. The utensils that were in the drawer were moved to other places, and the spice space hog has been tamed.

Moving next door to an everything-under-the-sun chain store has been a bit of an ethical dilemma. On the "bad" side, we can assume that most of the clothes, household things etc. are sold without much thought for where they came from and who made them.  There's also the temptation to impulse buy: you go in to buy milk, and besides the obvious snack foods and cute/funny seasonal things (right now it's patriotic M&M's, who knew?), they get some nice baked goods in, and the strawberries look good, and oh look they have Noah Martin summer sausage. There goes another five dollars.

On the "good" side, having the store so close means we save on car trips, and do not have to keep a deep pantry. It's just as easy to walk over there and buy hamburger buns fresh when we want them, as it is to keep a package in the (small) freezer. I have a hard time finding shoes at all, never mind whether they're expensive/cheap/ethical/used/new, so when I saw a rack of comfy running shoes and summer slip-ons, I bought a pair of each. (Also a bathing suit.) In the past, Mr. Fixit has bought jackets there (think plaid flannel), and we've sometimes found good DVDs and small housewares. The discount store won't be our major source for clothes, but it is helpful for food and for small things like greeting cards.

The main way we've been frugal over the last month has been, mostly, not to buy anything much new. Other than human-and-guinea-pig groceries, and a couple of new things for the apartment, we haven't been bringing too much in. We stopped at a couple of yard sales on the weekend, but couldn't see anything we needed. I guess that's a good thing! We have also made use of the freebies that come with the apartment building: the swimming pool, outdoor barbecues, and a pool table (Mr. Fixit and Grandpa Squirrel, and occasionally the Squirrelings, like to play pool). There is a bring-one, borrow-one library in the room with the pool table, and I noticed a couple of interesting books in there along with all the Clive Cusslers.

Life several stories up is not bad, especially now that they seem to have gotten the fire alarms to stop ringing for an hour at a time every other day. Or night.

Well, it gave us a chance to meet some neighbours.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Quote for the day: The beauty in a working home

"Thus I find myself dreaming of the day I can go up to the checkout stand and see [my imaginary] Working Home magazine, with pictures of real people in their gardens, the old wooden tools and the bursting eggplant alongside the real gardeners...showing what life looks like in a real and functional home. There is so much in the rich potential for beauty in made-over and made-do, in homegrown and home-cooked, in mended and patchwork, in home-built and fresh-made, and the art of hybridity--the transformation of an ordinary suburban ranch or an apartment in the Bronx into a place that is full of art, and life." ~~ Sharon Astyk, Making Home

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Strawberry Cherry Banana Muffins

I had a jar of cherry jam, bought last fall at the vegetable stand. I also had the end of a bag of frozen strawberry and banana slices. Combined: fruit muffins.

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Stereo Typing

1. What color is prominent in your home? Are you glad about that or wishing you could cover it up or remove it?

In our new apartment, we have a lot of browns, beiges, and greens. The carpet is light brown and the walls are "neutral." If I wear beige myself, I disappear. But in the living room, it works fine.

This side table is new, from Ten Thousand Villages. Mr. Fixit did the choosing and I did the carrying, in case you want to blow up any more gender stereotypes (see #3).

(I thought about including a photo of the stereo, but I've already done that.)

2. What's something you'll NEVER do again?

Pour something hot straight into a glass pitcher. We don't have that pitcher anymore.

3. Tell us a couple of ways you fit the stereotypes associated with your gender, and a couple of ways you don't.

The last university course I took, right after I got married, was a summer crash credit, Marriage and the Family. One of my essays was on the theme of non-stereotyping children. Little did I know.

When we had kids, I was the one who stayed home to care for and later homeschool them. It only made sense: Mr. Fixit was the one with a steady job with benefits, and we wanted the kids to be at home, not in daycare. Our oldest, at a very young age, liked to go outside and "help Daddy"; but I was startled when she told me that I couldn't come along on one of their adventures, because "wimmens stay in the house.

The ironic part is that, in spite of my lack-of-career, lack of a driver's license, and lack of support for certain "wimmens'" causes, more than one of the girls has said that, to them, I seemed like a feminist. Maybe it was because my role as the at-home parent was viewed as the choice we had made, but not as the only way families could arrange things. Maybe because they were homeschooled, they heard "that's a boy thing" or "girls can't do that" less often than most girls. 
We tried to give all the Squirrelings room to explore whatever interested them: hairstyling, model rocket building, dressing dolls, electronics, voice lessons, photography, quantum physics. We read books with both male and female main characters, and had discussions about the history of women-as-persons, hiring and pay equity, education, voting, and so on. 

They also had a father who blew off a few male stereotypes by enjoying housework (he's better at it than I am, I fight with the vacuum cleaner) and not caring much about sports (I am the one more likely to turn on a Blue Jays game). 

4. May is Motorcycle Awareness Month. Have you ever owned a motorcycle? Ever ridden a motorcycle? If the opportunity presented itself would you hop on a motorcycle and go for a ride?

One ride behind someone else, too long ago to matter.  Motorcycles are too noisy for me.

5. If someone wanted to understand you, what should they read, watch, and listen to?

Mr. Fixit says about himself: early Neil Young music.

Mr. Fixit says about me:  "Read Lunch at the Homesick Diner." He means this book.

6.  Insert your own random thought here.

This has been fun to write, but I know it has been a hard week for many people in the world. Some of the hard things are in the news, some have happened in the lives of people I know. 

"This sharp, heartbreaking realization of our condition silences all argument and hair-splitting rationalization. It makes us simultaneously recoil from God, because we realize that he also sees us for what we are, and yet we reach out for help and refuge in him." ~~ Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines

Linked from the Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

What's for supper? Pasta Salad and (surprise!) Something from the barbecue

Tonight's dinner menu:

Primavera Pasta Salad
Barbecued Sausage on Buns

How do you barbecue sausages in a highrise apartment building?

Weĺl, in this case, you take the elevator down, walk out the back of the building, and there are picnic tables and propane barbecues, free to use.  When Mr. Fixit went to do the sausage, he was the only person there. Imagine that on a holiday weekend. Maybe it's too cold, or everybody's camping or at the cottage.

Mama Squirrel made a pasta salad to go with the sausages. It was an easier version of a recipe in Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely; easier mostly because I used frozen vegetables and only had to dirty one pot. The trick is not to let either the pasta or the vegetables get mushy.
Pasta Salad, Squirrel Version


1 package Green Giant Valley Selections Stir Fry Medley
3 small handfuls pasta bowties
1 can corn, drained
3 tbsp. olive oil
A little cider vinegar (the recipe didn't call for any, but it seemed to need it)
1/2 tbsp. basil
A bit of minced, jarred garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Some shredded cheese, Italian type preferred

In a serving bowl, mix the dressing ingredients and add the drained corn. Boil a large pot of water and start cooking the pasta; after about six minutes, add the package of vegetables, bring the water back to a boil, and cook just a few minutes more. The pasta should still be slightly chewy. Drain well in a colander. Mix with corn and dressing.  Sprinkle with cheese (if it seems too hot, wait until it has chilled a bit, you don't want the cheese to melt). Chill until ready to eat.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Quote for the day: The world at our command

"She passed Joshua Appleby's bookshop with an awed glance for all the books inside, and she wondered what it must be like to be able to read. She thought it must be wonderful and it surprised her that the gentry who were able to read could be bored. Yet they were. What was the matter with them?" ~~ Elizabeth Goudge, The Dean's Watch

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Can I have a grass skirt to go?

1. May 17th is National Pack Rat Day. Sidebar-should we be celebrating this? Hmmm...

Are you a pack rat? Even if you're not a full fledged pack rat, most people have one thing or another they struggle to part with. Tell us what's yours.

I grew up very pack-ratty. Maybe that had something to do with moving house a number of times: it was natural to want to hold on to my own stuff. I got stuck in an early idea that if someone gave you a birthday card, you held onto it forever; and that trips meant souvenirs, both for yourself and those back home. Which you also kept forever, unless it was a can of macadamia nuts. Then maybe you kept the can.

Aside from the purely sentimental stuff, hoarding certain things did make sense years ago: finding another copy of the map or part for the toaster might be hard. Better to keep the thing around if it ever had any chance of being passed on or recycled. Cobbling bits and pieces together was morally superior, even if they didn't work as well or look as good as if you had bought new materials. Maybe that's why I got so good at using leftovers. Add to that the Mama Squirrel and Mr. Fixit shared interest in old things and yardsaling (not to mention two years of thrift store volunteering), and we could have ended up with a true packrat's nest. We did donate things often, but we still ended up with quite a lot.

You might think that it was the recent move that impelled a new view of Treehouse stuff, and that's partly true, because we remembered how hard previous moves were, even when we had less to pack. But we've been working on paring down for longer than that. In some ways what smoothed this move was timing: maturing and moved-out Squirrelings who did not insist on keeping childhood belongings; not too much pressure from other relatives to keep what we no longer had room for; reaching a place ourselves where we could say goodbye to the antique desk, the math games, the electric train, the floor polisher.
Like this one

The things we brought along are a mixture of old, middle-aged, and new. The common threads are that we use them, we like them, and we have room for them, as much as possible. I did not know how I was going to make room for my family-heirloom little rocking chair, but we found a place for it in the dining area.
2. What are two things you know you should know how to do, but you don't?

Drive. Cook seafood (never had to, Mr. Fixit can't eat it).

3. Do you crave sugar? Do you add sugar to your coffee and/or tea? Do you use artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes? When dining out is dessert a given? Are you someone who has slain the sugar dragon, and if so tell us how you did it.

I usually go for sweet rather than salty; but I am happy with a small piece.

4. What's a trend it took a while for you to come round to, but now you can't imagine living without?

I had to think about this one for awhile.

How about...Pinterest? I had a "Moving Stuff" board there long before we found this place, plus tips on organizing small spaces, and also a board for decorating photos. It's funny how many of those pictures did end up influencing our new space (Mr. Fixit had quite a lot to do with it as well).

5. What's a song that reminds you of a specific incident in your life? Please elaborate.

I can't think of just one right now.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

Random thought: today is hot.

Linked from the Wednesday Hodgepodge: Hodgepodge Hoarding, at From This Side of the Pond.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Quote for the day: Life as we know it

"The distance between the aspirations and the physical realities of humanity can be the stuff of the ridiculous, the cynical, and the tragic but at the same time be filled with compassion, faithfulness, heroism, and creativity. In short, that distance is life as we know it." ~~ Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What's for supper? Storage room stew

I made this two nights ago from the rather sparse pantry leftovers we brought with us and a few things we had in the fridge. We will be eating the leftovers tonight.

Unstuffed Peppers, or Storage Room Stew

1 lb. ground beef
A bunch of mini red and yellow peppers, tops cut off
Some baby-cut carrots, chopped in thirds
A few mushrooms, sliced
Half a cup of mixed rice and barley
1 small can chopped green chilies
1 can tomato paste plus one can water
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. jarred garlic
Seasonings: dried onion, smoked paprika, salt, pepper
Leftover potatoes, optional

(I think that was everything I put in it.)

Brown the ground beef and drain as necessary. Add to other ingredients in the slow cooker, except for the potatoes. Cook 4 hours on high, longer on low, or until the grains and carrots are soft. We sliced some leftover baked potatoes and reheated them to serve with the stew.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge

Notes from our Hodgepodge Hostess: "Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. I'm going to try a 5-question format this week. Several of you said you felt seven was too time consuming on a regular basis anyway so let's see how this goes. Rest assured there will always be one to make you think, because what fun is the Hodgepodge if every answer comes quickly and easily?"

1. Share a favorite memory of your mother or share a favorite something from your own life as a mother. If you're a mother (or stepmom) tell us how your experience as a mom differs from your own mother's experience.

I have trouble sometimes grasping the fact that I've been a mother for a quarter of a century. That all those baby things we learned are now so, so yesterday's news; that some of the baby gear we had now pops up on Pinterest as "vintage" and "remember when." When we had our first homebirth, midwifery had no legal status here, midwives couldn't deliver in hospitals, and you paid out of pocket. Now it's all covered under provincial health insurance, and midwives have to be licensed.

2. In May we celebrate teachers (May 9) and nurses (May 6) both. Most every family has at least one in their midst, so tell us something (or a few things) you appreciate about the teacher or nurse on your family tree.

In the 1930's, my grandma was a young nurse in our (then) small local hospital. One day a pair of twin boys were born, small and needing special care. She had no idea that one of them would become her son-in-law, my dad.

She gave birth to at least one of her own children at home, defying the norms of her time. She did not like the obstetrics nurse who was working at the hospital, and did not want the "twilight sleep" medication that had become common, so she bribed a doctor she knew to do a home birth.  I think she was a bit of a groundbreaker for making one's own health choices!

3. Chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad...which would you go for if all three were on the menu? On bread or a bed of lettuce? If you answered bread, what kind of bread would make it the perfect sandwich?

I would eat any of those. When I met Mr. Fixit, we used to go to Reggie's Sandwich Factory. We named our first hamster Reggie Lou in honour of those lunches.

4. Do you have a desk? Is it organized? If so, share your secret to keeping it that way. If you don't have a desk, where in your home do you take care of family paperwork and business? Where do you normally sit to blog?

I do not currently have any desk at all. We just moved into an apartment, and we're still figuring out who does what where. 

5. When I was nine years old....
I was a Brownie. I was busy doing things that Brownies did to win a Golden Hand and a few badges for my sleeve (this was before badge sashes appeared). According to the little book I saved, I spent the year I was nine finding points on a compass, sewing on buttons, wrapping and tying parcels, practicing stove safety and first aid and "the rules of courtesy," whatever those were. The badge with the magnifying glass is the most worn (as in, most washed), and contrary to appearance it was not earned for bug inspection but for a dolls-of-other-countries collection. I started out with a few, and then, you know how it goes, it was my "thing" and people kept giving them to me.  Those dolls are all long gone, and I don't even remember them all, except that I had a pair of Greek dolls a lot like these, and I wish I had hung onto those. Not that I know what I'd do with them...
6. Insert your own random thought here.

Who says guinea pigs aren't smart? We have lived here less than a week, and Muffin already identifies the sound of the fridge door with FOOD. 

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Frugal Finds and Fixes: Moving In Edition

Welcome to the first apartment-sized installment of Frugal Finds and Fixes.

Moving, of itself, is not a frugal thing to do, unless maybe you pack everything into free grocery store boxes (if you can find any) and stuff it all into the back of your car. (Or borrow Grandpa's hauling-stuff trailer, as my parents used to do.) The last time we moved, it was with a station wagon and the help of friends. This time around, we went with a moving company for the furniture and heaviest boxes, which did not save money but did save time, aggravation, and thrown-out backs. Because we had early access to the new place, we did pre-move what we could manage by ourselves.
The frugal part of moving, for us, was taking the opportunity to size down, to sell and donate (and trash) the things we no longer needed, and to make better use of what remained. You've probably all had the experience of moving a somewhat-ignored picture or a piece of furniture to a different spot, and all of a sudden you notice it again? Moving house is like that, only multiplied.
Scaling down does not have to mean bare walls and futons. It doesn't mean having an apartment that looks like nobody lives there.

Sometimes it means big things, like going from three bedrooms to two, and no longer having a rec room and the rest of the basement. Sometimes it means little improvements that accommodate personal needs, like a stepladder in the kitchen.
Or sticking the kitchen scissors on a round fridge magnet. (Only a very strong one will work, though.)
Or finding a home for kitchen clothespins in what used to be a magnetic laundry-room stray-button/coin catcher.
Or resurrecting the grandparents' kitchen table, which had gone to the workshop when we bought the green table which is now in our dining room.
Or putting the guinea pig in the centre of life. (Muffin says the meal service is much improved. He is already tuned in to the sound of the fridge door opening.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge, in our just-before-moving hodgepodge

Notes from our Hodgepodge Hostess: "Hola! Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog then scoot back here tomorrow to share answers with your amigos. Here we go-"

1. Can you tell I'm embracing a Cinco de Mayo theme here this week? Do you like Mexican food? What's your favorite dish? How about on the side-black beans, pinto beans, refried beans, rice? What about heat-mild, medium, hot? Will you celebrate with Mexican food and drink on May 5th aka Cinco de Mayo?

I like the wussy, mainstream kind of Mexican food. Taco Bell. Mr. Fixit is the one who slathers on the hot sauce. Cinco de Mayo is not really a thing where we live, unless you're actually Mexican.

2. Ever been to Mexico? For work or holiday? Love it or no? If you haven't been is this a place you'd like to visit? Can you speak Spanish?

No to most of that, including Spanish, except for what I learned from U.S. Sesame Street ( a few useful things!). Does first-year Italian come close?
3. What's one thing you may accomplish this month?

Oh, funny, May, I get it.
I may buy a bathing suit for the first time in who knows when. Because I don't own one (who needs one for just dipping toes in the water at the lake?), and our new building includes a swimming pool.

I may learn to use a dishwasher. We have never had one before.

4. If you were mayor of your village, city, or town, what's one thing you'd like to see changed, done away with, revamped, or accomplished? Is serving in public office something you've ever seriously considered?

Our roads are a mess. That's all I'm going to say.

5. What's something that may be popular, but that you just don't get?

Paying for everything with a debit card. 

6. Can't let this week slip by without mentioning Thursday May 4th is Star Wars Day. As in 'May the 4th be with you' ahem. Are you a fan of the Star Wars series? Exactly how much of a fan are you? On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being 'I've seen every film, own the action figures, might have dressed as Darth Vader for Halloween one year', and 1 being, 'what's a Vader?' -where do you land?

Three, maybe, as in 'I did see the last movie, and I thought the scenes with Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher were fun.' We watch more Star Trek than Star Wars.

7. Scroll back through your blog posts and in three sentences or less tell us the general theme of your fourth blog post. Does it still ring true today? Is it a topic you re-visit on your blog from time to time?

"Curdie and Calling," from February 2005. Yes, actually, that's still a big idea for me..

And then he goes on to talk about the need for us to understand that we are "called to be" (more on that another time). But the connections were so obvious, I wondered for a minute if all these writers had been sitting at the same table while they wrote! Yes, that's it, I thought, what Curdie had lost and what he seemed to find again by visiting the grandmother: responsibility. And there is a hidden meaning in that word: it also means "response-a-bility." Fascinating.
8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Marking big moving boxes just "kitchen stuff" is probably not specific enough to easily track down the frying pan and the chili powder. However, you do what you can do. We have been downsizing and packing nonstop for the last month, so at this point, even getting the room right feels like someone should be patting me on the back.

But by the next Hodgepodge I should have at least found the chili powder.

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Book Review: The Ecumenism of Beauty

The Ecumenism of Beauty. Edited by Timothy Verdon (Paraclete Press / Mount Tabor Books / ISBN 978-1-61261-924-8 / 128 pages/ full-color illustrations / Hardcover / $28.99) [Published May 1, 2017]
Paraclete Press, Mount Tabor Books: Brewster, MA, and Barga, Italy
"The last fifty years have seen a rediscovery of the role of the visual arts in the lives of all Christians. In tune with this ecumenical age, this book shares the belief that beauty and art can bridge differences." (from the publisher's description)
At the risk of just doing a cut-and-paste book review, I want to share the vision behind this book:
Other contributors to this book include Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant artists, scholars, and clergy who will participate in a two-part symposium, The Arts and Ecumenism—What Theology Risks in Artistic Creation. Part one will take place in May of 2017 in Paris, Strasbourg and Florence. Presentations will discuss Catholic and Protestant approaches to art through history, theology and liturgical contexts...The US portion of the symposium will take place in October, 2017, in New Haven, CT, at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music on the topic of Sacred Arts in North American Context, and in Orleans, MA with academic presentations, musical performance and an art exhibit on the theme: The Word in Color, Action, Music and Form.
It sounds like some big and important things are going on this year! The Ecumenism of Beauty is a sort of preview of what will be shared at these events, including photographs of the works of art that will be discussed. After reading the book of Clyde Kilby's essays earlier this year, I was really looking forward to reading how some of those ideas might be playing out in the meeting point between today's church and today's art.

Unfortunately, I can't give this book all the stars I would have liked to. If I have to nail down one reason, it's my probably unfair position as a Protestant trying to pass judgment on a book written by and published by Roman Catholics, in an area (visual art, particularly liturgical art) that is not something I am very knowledgeable about. As an under-educated but interested observer, the discussion didn't seem all me. I've been part of a variety of churches, some more liturgical than others; so I'm not very opinionated on highly-decorated or less-decorated worship spaces. However, I found the overall tone of the essays somewhat dismissive of those who prefer to worship without what they see as visual distractions. Perhaps the authors felt those Christians would not have much to say on the subject of liturgical art, particularly in churches--which is, for the most part, the "beauty" referred to in the title.

I may come back to this book when I'm feeling less distracted myself. I did enjoy looking at the included art, though again some of it just puzzled me.

If liturgical and contemplative Christian art is something that excites you, you will probably want to get a copy of this book and also stay tuned in as the European and U.S. symposia take place.

Statement of disclosure: I was sent a free e-copy of this book by the publisher for purposes of review. Opinions given here are my own.

A moving addendum: the kitchen slims down, like it or not

We had some plans for the things that would go with us to the new place. Some of those ideas have gotten a bit nipped in the bud recently.

We weren't going to take the microwave, for space reasons and because we knew it was probably not going to last much longer, but it conveniently died a couple of weeks ago before we got around to dealing with it. We went out and bought an extra electric kettle for heating water. (Our old one is at the apartment.)

We were going to take the toaster oven, but it turns out that the best space for it is too close to the fridge, and we were reluctant to take up any of the rest of the kitchen real estate with it. Besides, there is a brand-new stove/oven in the apartment. Mr. Fixit went out and bought a toaster. (Pattern here?)

We were going to take the bread machine (I love my bread machine), but we did buy a stand mixer with dough hook at the thrift store, last winter. Because of storage issues and the age of the bread machine (it came from a yard sale almost four years ago), we have decided to send it to e-waste as well.

When we said new adventures, I wasn't expecting this much of a turnover in gadgetry. But better to figure it out now, I guess, than to have a storage room full of half-working kitchen gear.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Home Stretch

In the space of one month, we have gone from being the town-joke Delta Dawns of home-seeking (give up already, that mystery man is not ever coming) to sitting here with our furniture covered with sticky notes. (Living Room. Thrift Store.) This is the week that we do indeed move up to our Mansion in the Sky. (Another Delta Dawn quote if you're too young to know that.)
We went out this morning (after dropping a last load at the thrift store which included a vacuum cleaner, leaf blower, and ironing board), and bought two racks, one big, one small, to air-dry clothes. Another thing we bought as soon as we got the apartment keys was a little cart that looks like a scooter, for moving boxes from the parking garage, to the elevator and up to our unit. This has been incredibly helpful for taking over a lot of odds and ends.
I'm glad that Mr. Fixit is good at knowing where and how to hang things on different kinds of walls, how to fit those plastic anchors in the drilled holes and also get the whole thing centred. He also came up with a "beauty treatment" for the sticky wooden cupboard handles that regular soap and water didn't improve. It is taking awhile to get them all done, but the ones he's worked on feel much nicer to the touch.
On our way.