Tuesday, September 29, 2009

An artist short of a Top 5

I don't know about Top 5 albums, but this is a big year in my little music world. I've already mentioned on this blog that Jars of Clay put out a new album, The Long Fall Back to Earth, which I like, and coming up in new albums is Sara Groves (Fireflies and Songs - November), The Swell Season (Strict Joy - October) and Sting (If on a winter's night - November).

I'm not one of those people who camps out in front of music stores (or technology stores either) for new things, but The Swell Season and Sara Groves are must haves for me.

Two boring things

I don't feel very blog-inspired at the moment. Yesterday, for some reason, I was so tired it was all I could do to get home from work. And I have two boring things I could write about: finance and computers.

The company I worked for merged with another global company a while back, and there was a big hoo-hah and presentations we had to go to and marketing videos we needed to watch etc. But one thing that was a while in coming was them changing our superannuation fund, which they've done in the last few weeks. Basically doing nothing wasn't an option, and so we were all given this big glossy folder full of incomprehensible finance jargon and numbers and graphs to help us make our decision. I have no idea about any of that stuff, and the reason I have no idea is because I am extremely not interested. But I am working on that. I went along to the seminar and furrowed my brow and tried to get it, and I have now filled in the half-a-dozen necessary forms and learnt lots of new words. So that's been one big excitement.

I also think I need a new laptop. My fan appears to be dead and so my computer overheats if it's on too long (like when I worked from home one day last week) and shuts down. But it's five years old, which appears to be a good innings for a laptop, so I don't know that's it worth fixing, and there are a couple of other little things wrong with it (the battery's had it etc). I don't really want to go out and buy a new one, but it looks like that's what I need to do. Though if anyone wants to tell me otherwise, please do. Then I have to decide which sort. I know a lot of Christians love Macs - they seem to be up there with Jesus for things some people believe in - and I might consider one, except they are a good deal more expensive. I don't really like deciding on new technology. It feels a bit like trying to buy a car. All suggestions welcome! The other thing I want to know is, if I am backing up my computer on an external hard-drive, is that saving my emails?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Poetry Day - Accustomed to the dark

Another poem by Emily Dickinson and two of James Whistler's nocturne paintings, because they seem rather apt. I think he was clever the way he painted what he could actually see, without the gaps your mind fills in when you're in the dark.

We grow accustomed to the Dark -
When light is put away -
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye -

A Moment - We uncertain step
For newness of the night -
Then - fit our Vision to the Dark -
And meet the Road - erect -

And so of larger - Darknesses -
Those Evenings of the Brain -
When not a Moon disclose a sign -
Or Star - come out - within -

The Bravest - grope a little -
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead -
But as they learn to see -

Either the Darkness alters -
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight -
And Life steps almost straight.

Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Crochet hits the red carpet!

I am so ahead of fashion trends people! Take a look here at what Cate Blanchett, that queen of style (whose similarity to me is often remarked upon ;) ) has stepped out in:

P.S. Calling her "Cate Blanket" in response to this is rather funny however.

Look no further - a love song

For some reason I just can't get into making Top 5s, even though they are a current cultural phenomenon (in blogosphere). I began to think of my Top 5 albums, and realised hours were going to go by, and Top 5 love songs was, well, going to take yet more hours. Then not only that, but I would have to find a decent youtube to go with them, because let's face it, what some people accompany songs with on youtube is awful. And I can't access youtube at work. But, inspired by Ben's Top 5 love songs, I have decided to give you my current love song.

A few years back I asked for an CD for Christmas, which I can't even remember (in my family, we give Christmas suggestions, because that means less stress for some that thinking something up), and I got Dido's Safe Trip Home instead, because they couldn't find the other. I wasn't rapt initially, but then a couple of weeks ago I left my iPod at home for a couple of days in a row and I discovered that I had put this one in my library on the computer, so I started listening, and a few songs on there have now got to me. And I really like this one, for a love song (if you go here you can listen on the right, and just wait for the horns and strings to enter - and I have taken the liberty of fixing up the words, because writing "cos" just looks imbecilic):

Look No Further

I might have been a singer
who sailed around the world
A gambler who wins millions
and spent it all on girls

I might have been a poet
who walked upon the moon
A scientist who’d tell the world
I’d discovered something new

I might have loved a king
and been the one to end a war
A criminal who drank champagne
and never could be caught

But among your books, among your clothes
among the noise and fuss, I’ve let it go

I can stop and catch my breath
and look no further for happiness
And I will not turn again
'Cause my heart has found its home

Everyone I’ll never meet
and the friends I won’t now make
The adventures that there could have been
and the risks I’ll never take

But among your books, among your clothes
among your noise and fuss, I’ve let it go

I can stop and catch my breath
and look no further for happiness
And I will not turn again
'Cause my heart has found its home

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In memory of Fiona

Five years ago today my cousin Fiona died. She was 24 years old.

When Fiona was born she was just like any other baby and she grew and developed just like any other little girl. Until around 12 months old. It was then that her parents began to notice that some things just weren’t quite right. Fiona started to do unusual things, like throwing herself back in her high chair, clapping her hands constantly (which later turned into wringing them), and she never spoke. What followed were months of testing that stretched into years.

Finally, after a lot of effort and travel, she was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, an extremely rare condition involving a problem with gene switches, with no known genetic links, that almost exclusively affects girls. (It’s complicated, and I could write tomes if I go into that, but you can read about it here.)

When my Aunt and Uncle got this diagnosis they were told “you might as well put her in a home here in Sydney and go back to Orange and get on with your life”. In response, my Aunt picked up Fiona, said to the doctor “I will never abandon one of my girls”, and took her home. She then devoted the next 20 odd years to caring for her.

There are women who are stay-at-home Mums, which means they have chosen not to go back to work. And there are other women who are stay-at-home Mums, because being a Mum makes leaving the house very difficult. I called in on my Aunt in Orange during the Easter before Fiona died, on my way back from a wedding in Dubbo (and I am so pleased that I did because that is the last time I saw Fiona alive, and I had a strange notion that it would be). When she opened the door I said “I wasn’t sure if you’d be home” to which she replied “Of course I’m home. I’m always home. I don't even pop out for milk”.

Prior to having kids my Aunt was an A-grade basketballer, who wasn’t the person you would have picked to give a disabled child. But her dedication and devotion was extraordinary. Then there was her friend Mac. If you had passed Mac in the street, you probably wouldn’t have known what gender she was. She wore her hair all cropped short, I never remember seeing her in anything but side-striped tracksuits, she smoked like a dragon and she talked rough. The story goes that she had once been engaged to a lovely fellow, but he died in an accident, and she’d been that way ever since. But every evening Mac came round, walked in the back door, and what she was there for was to help feed and bath Fiona. And she was a different person as she crooned to her.

Rett Sydrome is regressive, which means that sufferers lose even the skills they once had. So eventually Fiona could no longer walk, and the task it was to care for her only increased. Nobody really knew what her life expectancy might be. Then in 2004 she had a stroke and died.

I won’t write about the things that Fiona’s life taught those around her. I am sure she taught us all many things, including what it meant to give with no return, the blessings of being “normal”, the value of a life. But I don’t think we need to justify the life of a disabled person. When “normal” people die others often ask why they died, but it seems that when profoundly disabled people are born or die, people want to ask, or give some reason for, why they lived. But if we truly believe that their life is equal in value to any other life, then that shouldn’t be the case. And so Fiona lived for the same reasons that you and I live.

Sadly though, my Aunt (who is my Dad's sister) and her family aren't Christians, and Fiona's funeral, and the rest of that day, was probably the most tragic experience of my adult life to date, but this post is too long already for that. I keep praying.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The way we were

My sister seems to have suspended the passing of time. She just sent me a message to let me know that Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant are on facebook.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Poetry Day - The privilege to know

How many Flowers fail in Wood -
Or perish from the Hill -
Without the privilege to know
That they are Beautiful -

How many cast a nameless Pod
Upon the nearest Breeze -
Unconscious of the Scarlet Freight -
It bear to other Eyes -

Emily Dickinson

I don't know quite what Emily Dickinson was about with her peculiar dashes and capitals in strange places, but that is how she wrote.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The cultural relevance of High Fidelity

The last few days have shown me just how culturally relevant High Fidelity actually is. Guys, and girls too, really do like making "Top 5" lists, especially about albums. See here and here, then other posts on those blogs, plus this blog and this blog ...

(The guy in High Fidelity and his mates in the record shop are always making top 5 lists, many of them about music, if you have no idea what I am talking about. And in the comments on this post is where a discussion of the book turned to cultural relevance.)

And update, there's more.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A flight of fancy

So I've been told that this blog is whimsical. But I'm afraid that you don't know the half of it. If I had more money than sense, and a large and rambling backyard to keep it in, I would sail away to the South of France and buy one of these.

Go here and flick through the "for sale" tab and be enchanted. H/T here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CS Lewis on Sexual Morality

I quite like The Inklings blog, for random pieces of information relating to Tolkien and CS Lewis, interesting extracts from letters, quotes and the occasional elf song. Recently they featured two posts of CS Lewis on Sexual Morality, here and here. I’ve pasted the whole thing in here for ease of reference. It’s worth reading just for what he has to say in response to the notion of “repression”.

They may mean "There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure." If they mean that, they are right. Christianity says the same. It is not the thing, nor the pleasure, that's the trouble. The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is now, would actually have been greater. I know some muddle-headed Christians have talked as if Christianity thought that sex, or the body, or pleasure were bad in themselves. But they were wrong. Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body — which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy. Christianity has glorified marriage more than any other religion: and nearly all the-greatest love-poetry in the world has been produced by Christians. If anyone says that sex, itself, is bad, Christianity contradicts him at once. But, of course, when people say, "Sex is nothing to be ashamed of," they may mean "the state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of."

If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be ashamed of. There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips. I don't say you and I are individually responsible for the present situation. Our ancestors have handed over to us organisms which are warped in this respect: and we grow up surrounded by propaganda in favour of unchastity. There are people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us. Because, of course, a man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales-resistance. The moral question is, given that situation, what we do about it.

If we really want to be cured, I think we shall be. I mean, if a man tries to go back to the Christian rule, if he makes up his mind either to abstain from sex altogether or to marry one woman and stick to her, he may not completely succeed, especially at first. But as long as he picks himself up each time and starts again as well as he can, he'll be on the right track. He won't damage his central self beyond repair. Those who really want help will get it. The difficulty, of course, is the really wanting it. It is quite easy to think you want something when you don't really. A famous Christian long ago said that when he was a young man he prayed constantly for chastity: but only after several years he came to realise that, while his lips were saying, "Oh, God, make me chaste," his real wishes were secretly adding, "But please don't do it for a few years yet". This catch occurs in prayers on other subjects too.

Now for two final remarks. Don't misunderstand what psychology teaches us about repressions. It teaches us that repressed sex is dangerous. But many people who repeat this don't know that "repression" is a technical term. "Repressing" an impulse does not mean having a conscious desire and resisting it. It means being so frightened of some impulse that you don't let it become conscious at all, so that it goes down into the subconscious and causes trouble. Resisting a conscious desire is quite a different matter, and never did anyone any harm yet. The second remark is this. Although I've had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the centre of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the great vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual.
C. S. Lewis
Christian Behaviour (Bles, 1943)

How to catch a koala

I am getting a bit sick and tired of this blog, and feeling like it's all a bit meaningless amongst the general noise of blogs (and meaningless in and of itself too) and I keep reading blog posts of what other people think other people's blogs are supposed to be, which make me groan and not want to do it anymore. But, there are things out there, dear readers, that other blogs just aren't telling you how to do. So, at least for this post, I am going to soldier on for the good of humanity.

What it is that I need to be the person to tell you is, how to catch a koala.

However, don't try this at home. For starters it's illegal. You can't mess with wildlife without a licence. And even though I'm your friend, if you do I will bust you, because that's what a good National Parks and Wildlife Service employee would do (just here disregard the fact that I no longer am one).

Secondly, wildlife ecology is not for the weak and faint-hearted. It takes bravery, courage, fast reflexes and a certain kind of animal instinct that not all possess. And catching koalas is, above many other things, a stage production in which one can reach dizzying heights. See here:

That's my friend Dave from university days up the ladder, and there's a koala up there somewhere. What one has to do to catch a koala is go where koalas go, so that's up the tree, with the help of long ladders and abseiling gear. You then use a long pole with a (very sophisticated) plastic bag on the end (the blue thing visible here) to herd the koala down the tree. This is done by waving it about over it's head. The idea is that you try not to create too much of a stir, even though you've broken into the house with a plastic bag on a pole, and the koala backs calmly right down the tree. But people stand around with catching gear just incase the koala doesn't do it right and jumps.

I had to stop taking photos of the action unfortunately because I was required to get in and help, to the shouts of "Ali you get the baby", which was coming down on Mum's back. You have to get the joey off before Mum hits the ground or you're in big trouble. You have to get Mum before she hits the ground too, or you're still in big trouble, but you need to prise baby off first.

Thirdly, koalas have the sort of claws that can haul 10 kgs of them up a tree, and the kind of teeth that can snip clean through a eucalypt leaf at the front, and the pulverise it at the back (go home and see if you can do that with your own teeth). If you think koalas are cuddly because you held a tame one in a zoo, you haven't the foggiest. Wild ones are nasty!

This one looks cuddly because it's anaesthetised.

This one is cuddly because it's only teeny.

And this one is especially cute and cuddly because it's like a toddler koala.

What we were actually catching them for was to monitor the impact on them of the Logan Motorway, up in Queensland, which was new at the time (this was 2001). Koalas are not endangered. That is a spurious myth - and the fact that it is red-listed as a threatened species in America is ridiculous. The list of marsupials in this country in much graver danger of extinction is too long to mention. However, this particular population is vulnerable and was threatened by this road, so we were investigating. So they were tagged, then marked temporarily and released.

Those were the good ole days. I think I need to go climb a tree somewhere.

Scrabble your bookshelves

This I like.

Those who are gone

Speeches won't be made today
Clocks will carry on
Flowers won't be left in parks
Work will still be done
People won't be dressed in black
Babies will be born
No flags will fly
The sun will rise
But we will know
That you are gone

Dido The Day Before The Day

(I think that is a lovely, and sad, piece of trochaic poetry, and also a very good film clip. I like film clips that tell a story.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

An added extra

Every now and then I point people to stuff around the internet that I find particularly encouraging to single women, and today is such a day. There is a paragraph in today's post by Jennie on the EQUIP blog club, about our identity being in Christ, that, if you flip it over a little, I find heartening (and challenging).

When I flick around blog world I find that in most women's blog profiles their family relationships feature prominently. That is not a bad thing, but when you don't have those relationships you can find yourself digging up something else, like say a job you had once, because it sounds a bit better/more exciting than the job you have now (that would be me), and you have to try to rake up something to say (and some credit!) from somewhere. So this was good to read:

Being saved is not just an added extra. I’m not a wife, mother, sister, daughter, sister-in-law and also a follower of Jesus, as though that last one is just an item in a set. I’m a follower of Jesus. And he has given me certain opportunities and relationships. All these are gifts from my Lord as well as the context for the good works he has prepared for me in advance to demonstrate his workmanship in my life. I’m not accidentally a wife, or a wife because I happen to have such excellent qualities. Jesus rules my life and he has put me in this, and other, relationships and this is where I serve him. The point is, that as Wendy says, to move beyond idolatry here, we need to focus on the fact that we are followers of Jesus first and foremost and remember who he is and what he has done for us.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Poetry Day

This is just a forewarning and a piece of blog insider information. Incase you hadn’t noticed, I am not very structured or especially disciplined in how I go about this blog. On most days I couldn’t tell you in the morning what I might write a blog post about during the course of that day. But I prefer it that way at this point in time.

Last week I had the usual things on during weeknights, and then, because Thursday is late night shopping night, I went to the supermarket etc on the way home. When I got home I knew I had to get Poetry Friday happening, and I had in mind to post another Emily Dickinson, I just hadn’t chosen which one (and usually it’s not hard for me to choose a poem!). So I got home from the shops, thought I’d use my actual book, scrambled around trying to find it, couldn’t (it wasn’t where a poetry book is supposed to be, or anywhere else either), so I spent too long looking for it because I hate losing books, then went scratching around on the internet looking for that particular one (for all the lack of forethought I need to happen upon a poem that “suits” at the time).

Then I got annoyed that I wasn’t doing other things because I was spending so much time looking for a book and a poem, and got to thinking that Friday is not the best day of the week to post a poem and that would suit me better to do on the weekends, but I don’t want to sign myself up for a weekend day (maybe I’m a blog commitment-phob). So, I made the decision, that from this point on it might be Poetry Day, on any given day that a poem takes my fancy, rather than locking myself into Friday.

Apologies to those who like regularity and predictability. I think I am going through an anti-structure phase at the moment, for those things outside the big things that need to be done that is. Perhaps we can reach a compromise, and I shall endeavour to make it mostly Fridays, but just not always Fridays.

Friday, September 11, 2009

When the atonement is not explicit

There is a significant little discussion going on over in the comments on the EQUIP book club on this post, stemming from some criticism of the fact that the definition of “faith”, based on Hebrews 11, in the book we are currently reading through doesn’t explicitly mention the atonement. It is well worth taking the time to read Jennie Baddeley’s thoughtful (as always) response to this and what she says in it about the example of apostolic and NT teaching etc.

Poetry Friday - I can wade grief

I've discovered this week that I seem to have lost my little book of Emily Dickinson's poems, to my grief. But perhaps that is the excuse to get a copy of her complete poems, because reading poetry online is simply not the same and never will be.

This is a poem about how sometimes we know less what to do with joy than sorrow.

I CAN wade grief,
Whole pools of it,—
I’m used to that.
But the least push of joy
Breaks up my feet,
And I tip—drunken.
Let no pebble smile,
’Twas the new liquor,—
That was all!

Power is only pain,
Stranded, through discipline,
Till weights will hang.
Give balm to giants,
And they’ll wilt, like men.
Give Himmaleh,—
They’ll carry him!

Emily Dickinson

Note: Himmaleh would seem to be a reference to a mountain.

Photo from http://www.massculturalcouncil.org/blog/artsake

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Fashion advice!

I think I need your help people! I went into Vinnies the other day, actually in search of a fancy dress outfit. In there I spotted this shirt, hanging amongst all the other ladies shirts and thought it looked pretty cool, in that sort of checkered-shirts-with-pearl-studs-are-back-in kind of way, so I tried it on and thought it worked and went off to buy it. However, on the way to the cash register I got this sudden sneaking suspicion that it might actually be a men's shirt. So I asked the young, cool-looking bloke who was serving what he thought and he said "it's mens". (It's a size "small", just so you know - and it's roomy.)

For some reason I still went ahead and bought it, but now I am wondering if I will actually get away with it (I mean, since I am "tough" and all). What do you think?

One of my uber-cool Newtown guy friends is rather keen on it if not. (The colours are not quite right in this picture cause it's more that froggy-green, not a bluey-green.)

P.S. You will be pleased to know that the other thing I bought at Vinnies was a pretty blue 1950s dress - I will show you that some time.

A verse for a friend

The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Deuteronomy 33:27a

(It's a verse from Moses' final blessing on Israel, that I am happy to snitch out of context and apply here and there.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A place for everything

A few weeks ago I decided that it might be time to start living my life by the motto "a place for everything and everything in it's place" - which I got from the Unclutterer website, which I believe I got from Gordon Cheng's blog. So to that end I went to IKEA on Saturday. Driving to IKEA here in Sydney is always the worst part of an IKEA trip, on a Saturday at least, so I was pleased to finally get there. The shop was mad, as always, but I knew exactly what I wanted so I just powered through without spending too much time perusing the endless cushions and candle holders.

I wanted this, which I feel a bit embarrassed to tell blogworld because people might think it's a bit "country", but the reason for getting that is because I already have this, from years back, so after much catalogue pondering I thought I might as well run with it (though was irked to discover that it just went up $50 in the new August catalogue), and because it's solid wood with fixed shelves and I am not a fan of particle board with adjustable shelving for holding books, and because I wanted to put some electrical stuff on it and could throw the cords easily over the back, and because I was keen on having that cupboard at the bottom for the messy stuff. So that's why.

Anyway, I knew it was going to come in a big box, that would only just fit in my teeny car, and potentially be quite heavy. Usually when it comes to heavy, what I do is try harder. So, I was a little perturbed when I got down to the self-serve furniture aisle, found my thing in it's box 201 cm x 60 cm and weighing 30 kg, grabbed hold of the end of it to pull it off the shelf and simply couldn't budge it. I tried until had the thing actually budged I probably would have gone flying across the shop with it. Thankfully a nice guy and his family came along and he offered to help me get it on the trolley. So off I went. Then with a good amount of heaving and sliding I managed to get it into the back of my car, where it went from the back of the hatch to the dashboard, and set off home.

That was the easy bit. Next I had to get it out of my car and into our flat. I managed to get it across to the stair case, which I had to go down to get to the lift (I know - but there are various carpark levels in our flat, and my level doesn't have access directly to the lift), but then I knocked the exit sign hanging from the ceiling off. Only a little bit of plastic chipped off the edge, so I hid that somewhere and put the sign back up. Then I started to make my precarious way down the stairs with this impossible box.

I don't know whether he had heard all the sign-knocking commotion but a skinny little Asian fellow appeared and asked me if I wanted help. He didn't look like the most promising sort for shifting heavy stuff, but it was very nice of him to offer, so he got a hold of one end and we got this thing into the lift and along to my flat. When we got there he said "you are tough!". Not what every girl wants to hear, and me, I prefer to call it determined, because I just wanted that shelf and was going to get it somehow or other.

Anyway, I left the whole thing till Sunday to begin the assembly. At this point it was an achievement that it was inside our flat. So, I came home from church all psyched. (I don't have a father, neither am I married to someone who is a father, if you're wondering why I didn't bother about Father's Day.) First I had to go fossick around in our wee shed to find the hammer I bought from the junk shop to put together my last IKEA project. Allen keys seem to be a thing of the past because they didn't give me one and I had to find my own screw driver. I noticed that the instructions had a frowning face next to one person putting this thing together and a happy face next to two people having a go, so that was the first instruction I scrapped. But soon I was away and it really didn't take all that long to finish and I was quite chuffed with myself. All the shelves face the right way out and the doors of my first door-hanging experience open and close nicely. I feel like there are now no limits to my capacity to assemble IKEA furniture.

So, I am one step closer to a place for everything. I've cleared everything off the desk, so now I can actually use it for doing stuff, rather than just piling up stuff.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The side and the dessert

So, if you're wondering what to serve with a stuffed pumpkin, why not try some stuffed tomatoes (Les tomates farcies), courtesy of Inks over here (and see just how many other stuffed vegetable varieties you can manage as well!).

And while we're at it, I shall give you dessert. One of my passions in life is baked cheesecake. And it has to be baked - I am not so keen on the refrigerated version. So, Apartment Therapy, (which is actually a conglomeration of blogs I have discovered - if you subscribe to it in a reader it is out of control) recently posted a 2-minute microwavable baked lime cheesecake. This might not sound so good to the purist (me included) but other sceptics have given it the thumbs up, and for an after-work dinner for which one doesn't have time to wait for cheesecake to bake, it could be worth it!

And here is an update: Because Nathan just posted what looks like a very interesting Spag Bol (with cream in it).

Sunday, September 06, 2009

A recipe tag

The lovely Ally has tagged me in a recipe, err, tag, so how could I resist. Here are the rules:

* I post a recipe here and tag four people.

* They choose one ingredient from my recipe and post a recipe using this ingredient on their blog, linking back to the previous blog that posted a recipe.

* They then tag four new people, and we will see how it grows.

* To keep it exciting please post within a week of receiving the tag.

So, I feel like I am going out into competition with the original recipe over at Harrysdesk, but this is what keeps coming to mind so I will just run with it. It’s a risotto for those who don’t like stirring. I have taken this from Donna Hay Modern Classics, so I don’t know if it is copyright to post it on a blog (if somebody thinks so, let me know). But let me earn the right by plugging the book. I like it, and contrary to popular belief the recipes are not all full of weird ingredients. Here is proof:

Baked Chicken and Pumpkin Risotto

2 cups Arborio or other risotto rice
5 cups chicken stock
60 gm butter
700 gm pumpkin, peeled and diced
Olive oil
3 chicken breasts
½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit). Place the rice, stock, butter and pumpkin in an ovenproof dish and cover tightly with a lid or aluminium foil (note, use a large dish, or two smaller ones, as it expands). Bake for 30 minutes or until the rice is soft. (I usually find I give it 5 or so minutes more.)

While the risotto is baking, add a little oil to a frying pan over medium heat and cook the chicken for 4 minutes each side or until cooked through. Allow to cool slightly, then chop. (Can also chop the parsley at this point.)

Remove the risotto from the over and stir the chicken, parmesan, salt, pepper and parsley through it continuously for 5 minutes, or until the risotto is creamy. Serve immediately. (Serves 4 – at least! – I always have oodles left over.)

I am going to tag Simone, because she doesn’t actually like recipes and might have some anti-procedural alternative, Ben, because he occasionally gives us one of his own kitchen creations, Nathan, because he does too and is currently teaching a friend to cook, and maybe I will tag a new blog acquaintance who goes by the name of Inks because she is French and her husband is Afrikaans and I am curious! Feel free to pass – just let me know.

Picture (and cool serving suggestion) from http://kimberlybelle.com/blog

Friday, September 04, 2009

God is not limited to suffering

If you thought Emily Dickinson was flippant about what life brings, then you should go and read what Jennie Baddeley has to say on the EQUIP book club today. We are currently working through James in my community group, and one of the questions a couple of others and I discussed as we looked at Chapter 1 was 'are trials necessary to make us mature or complete — or the only way we can become mature and complete?'. Jenny answers that nicely. Here's a snippet (the second sentence of the first paragraph is well worth reading if you're feeling like you must have needed a lot more work than the next person):

It is true that we can know God more through suffering; but it is also true that we can know God more through the enjoyable and extraordinary things he brings into our lives as well. God is not limited to suffering, even as he is not limited by suffering — and knowing both that God can make suffering serve his good purposes and that God isn‘t required to make us suffer can be very liberating.

What Romans 8 tells us is that in our suffering we can know God has a big overarching purpose — we do not suffer accidental, random pain — and that this suffering can’t compare with the future he is determined to bring us to. God works for our good — through the enjoyable and the painful — and he works to bring us home to himself, despite all the things we meet in life which are so much bigger than we are. We are not given an answer to suffering as though ‘all things work together for good’ is meant to explain why Christians suffer. God gives us something better: he gives us a reason to trust him.

Poetry Friday - Our blank

Today I have a poem by Emily Dickinson, who apparently had that last poem by Emily Bronte read at her funeral. You could read this poem as being rather flippant, but I think rather the poet is endeavouring to keep perspective and to keep hope.

OUR share of night to bear,
Our share of morning,
Our blank in bliss to fill,
Our blank in scorning.

Here a star, and there a star,
Some lose their way.
Here a mist, and there a mist,

Emily Dickinson

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Boiling myself in my breakfast

I discovered that the proverbial "boiling frog in a pot" scenario was at work on my breakfast cereal this morning. At the beginning of winter I started eating porridge. I actually really like the Wild Oats Hot Stuff if you're wondering (yes, I know, they think a certain something sells everything) - it has grains added so it has a bit more grit and less stodgyness than ordinary porridge. I buy it readymade like that because there's just me to feed. Others might like to go to Aldi and buy six kilos of oats, add their own seeds and do it themselves.

I started out thinking that I would just add a little bit of brown sugar and maybe even wean myself off it. However, slowly but surely I must have been increasing that little bit of sugar over time because this morning I looked at my breakfast, when I wasn't looking at my bookshelf (it was a morning of revelations), gasped and thought 'this is a lot of brown sugar you have yourself here Ali!'. And then I wondered how the sugar situation came to be so bad, how it crept up on me and why I hadn't noticed earlier that I was now putting something like a tablespoonful of sugar on my porridge and was on my way down a slippery slope to all manner of sugar-induced disasters.

A finger wagging

Speaking of the weaker brother notion, last night I went to Overcomers Outreach (for recovering addicts if you're new here) and here is one of those (hopefully rare) moments in which I am going to wag my finger at the world and presume that writing a blog qualifies me to tell everybody what to do:

If you know someone who has a problem with alcohol, that's any sort of problem, because in this case I don't think it matters whether or not you think they have the wrong or right problem with it, don't you ever, ever, ever be the person who encourages them to drink. Because you could completely ruin their life!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Holying-up your online presence

I ummed and arghed for a bit about posting about the book High Fidelity, because, like I said, it's a little rugged, and potentially unhelpful. While I was umming and arghing, I read this on Stuff Christians Like, which I drop in on sometimes:

Doing things you wouldn’t recommend that other Christians do
I caught myself in this one last weekend. A friend sent me a link to a lil’ Wayne remix of Jason Mraz’ song “I’m yours” and it was awesome. I listened to it four or five times to make sure it was clean and then was about to tweet it from my twitter account when I thought, “Is that Christian of me to share that link? I mean it’s lil Wayne. I better not, I don’t want to recommend that other Christians listen to that.” But me? I’m apparently impervious to all sorts of less than holy forms of media. Me? I can handle that. (The second problem in that scenario is that by editing what I tweet but still listening to that song, I create a “twitter Jon” and a “real Jon.” I’m not sure if other Christian bloggers struggle with the temptation to “holy up” how they present themselves online but that is some whackness I need to get under control.)
I agree with that: if I am reading books I don't want to blog that I am reading, then maybe I shouldn't be reading them. However, I don't claim that my blog is a comprehensive picture of my life and there are plenty of things I do that don't get blogged, so I am always making choices about what I share and what I don't (and plenty of perfectly wholesome books go unmentioned).

The other side of the argument, which the quote above partly alludes to, is the "weaker brother" one (Romans 14): that you don't want to be blogging about stuff or recommending things that might cause others to stumble ... so at times it could be wise and loving to refrain, even if that assumes a certain amount of spiritual superiority. (The funny thing about that is, I have never yet met a Christian who thinks they're the weaker brother. We all seem to think that term applies to someone else, do we not?)

So I am in two minds about holying up what I blog - I don't want to holy up how I present myself necessarily (or assume that I have a spiritual maturity over everyone who reads here), but rather ensure the content is such that it's not going to lead people (unwarned at least!) off into sin. Of course, there is only so far you can control that and the impact that anything has on a person. If someone discovers Apartment Therapy and goes off to drown in covetous materialism am I responsible for that? I don't know.

Apartment therapy

I came across this funky website called Apartment Therapy, which appears to be geared towards utilising small spaces.

Who ever said you need a big house to have lots of kids? Check out the beds on the bottom left (from here). I like them!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

It's the level of abasement

And here's my next little piece of insight from High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, after my disclaimer below:

Women get it all wrong when they complain about media images of women. Men understand that not everyone has Bardot's breasts, or Jamie Lee Curtis's neck, or Felicity Kendall's bottom, and we don't mind at all. Obviously we'd take Kim Bassinger over Hattie Jacques, just as women would take Keanu Reeves over Bernard Manning, but it's not the body that's important, it's the level of abasement. We worked out very quickly that Bond girls were out of our league, but the realisation that women don't ever look at us the way Ursula Andress looked at Sean Connery, or even the way Doris Day looked at Rock Hudson, was much slower to arrive, for most of us. In my case I'm not at all sure that it ever did.

I'm beginning to get used to the idea that Laura might be the person I spend my life with, I think (or at least, I'm beginning to get used to the idea that I'm so miserable without her that it's not worth thinking about alternatives). But it's much harder to get used to the idea that my little-boy notion of romance, of négligés and candlelit dinners at home and long, smouldering glances, had no basis in reality at all. That's what women out to get all steamed up about; that's why we can't function properly in a relationship. It's not the cellulite or the crow's feet. It's the ... the ... disrespect.
Which begs the question: is it the media portrayal of what level of respect and adoration a guy can expect to get that's the problem (as in, when men are groaning about Mr Darcy for his unrealistic care and gentlemanliness, should women be groaning about Honey Ryder — that's Ursula Andress in Dr. No with Sean Connery — for her unrealistic smouldering glances and respect, if we were going to play battle of the sexes), or just the plain fact that women don't give it?

Respect, after all, is a biblical command for women, not an option that's only for the deserving (Ephesians 5:33). We're to give unconditional respect in marriage in the same way that we might like to receive unconditional love.

All that said, to be fair, the corollary is that men are also commanded to love as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25), and the "hero" of this book has a fair way to go in his understanding of self-sacrificing love. It takes him the duration of the story to realise that he could actually give his girlfriend a compilation tape of songs that she might like, rather than smothering her with the music he likes because that's what he thinks she's supposed to like — which is sort of the book's point.