January 30, 2008

eXpelled Movie Trailer

A movie is coming out this spring called "EXpelled". I'm curious about people's responses...

http://www.expelledthemovie.com/playground.php

January 29, 2008

Liturgy

The word liturgy comes from the Greek leitourgia, which literally translates to ‘‘work of the people.’’

Hmmmm ...

January 28, 2008

Trees

Looking again at the news, I see that one thing being done in the UK for the week of activities in remembering the Holocaust, is planting trees. That reminded me of something ... I looked and found that this years Jewish Tu B'Shvat was January 22.

Tu B'Shvat is the New Year of the trees. It's not a Biblical Festival but connected with the beginning of taxes on produce for first fruits. This reminded me of a site I told the MOPS gals about last year. If you have kids and are interested in stories and activities, including coloring pages, about the Jewish Celebrations, this site is for you.

One way people celebrate the birthdays of trees is to plant trees. People collect money for planting trees in Israel. In America we have Earth Day, April 22, which is a much better time of the year for planting a tree where I live!

Jews are without the Jerusalem Temple and not much of an agrarian society anymore ... So many traditions involved the temple and sacrifices. Does their calendar of traditions help in remembering their identity? Even us, who are not Jewish and in America, what helps us remember our identity? I like little remembrances like this to help me stop a moment and remember that all I have is a gift, not just 10% tithe or whatever figure. And also to remember that I'm a steward of the earth.

Thomas Aquinas and Scholasticism

Thomas Aquinas is part of our church heritage and we live in a world that has been changed by his work. I only choose to remember him because he was instrumental in bringing in the Age of Scholasticism. The Church didn't accept his contributions for 50 years. Opponents worried that reason would undermine faith. His teacher who outlived him, Albertus Magnus, defended his writings until the Church made Aquinas a Doctor of the Church.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), was born of Italian nobility and lived during the Reformation - of both Protestantism and the Catholic Church. He lived at a critical juncture following the Dark Ages when so many original writings were being found and able to be printed for the masses to read, including the works of Aristotle. Aquinas is mainly known for combining faith and reason - showing them as complementary gifts from God. This is an era when universities were being founded.

Thomas Aquinas was a philosopher theologian (I personally don't separate the two). His magnum opus, most noted writing, was Summa Theologica, or 'summary of theology'.


But ... I have some quotes from him that show the "scientific" thoughts of the day
about women. There was this "liquid theory" in relation to females. "Because there is a higher water content in women, they are more easily seduced by sexual pleasure" ... They maintained that frequent intercourse (pointing out that man "shared with beasts") could lead to sickness, body odor, baldness, and could cause one's brain to shrink to the size of a pomegranate ... "Only as regard nature in the individual is the female something defective and misbegotten. For the active power in the seed of the male tends to produce something like itself, perfect in masculinity; but the procreation of a female is the result either of the debility of active power, of some unsuitability of the material, or of some change effected by external influences, like the south wind, for example, which is damp, as we are told by Aristotle." Being a female, I take offense, and also wonder at their ignorance. But that was a long time ago.

But too, it could be his personal dim view of the Fair Sex was brought on by his family's disapproval of his choice to join the Dominicans. They locked him in the tower of the family castle for a year, and his brothers sent a naked prostitute up to his room. Thomas seized a firebrand and drove the hussy from his chamber - whereafter he had a vision of two angels wrapping his loins in a girdle - and he was never troubled with temptations against purity.

I hate to throw this into what started out as a great treatise on a great man. But it's odd things like this that add realness
for me into all the hagiography. Rather than putting people on pedestals I prefer to remember we all wear underwear (someone will probably email me saying they don't wear underwear - that's not the point!)

So if I distracted you ... just remember there was an Age of Scholasticism.

He also said, "How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God." I wish we all could come to this place.

January 27, 2008

Holocaust Memorial Day

I could post a lot on this. I've been reading the news ...

I've gotta go to our small group get together, but just wanted to say I'm remembering the Holocaust. It's a memorial that's a hard one - how to commemorate?

Today in the news - Kenya's looking like Rwanda, then there's Gaza, Nigeria, the Congo ...

In looking closer, now that I have the time, I was questioning this date, thinking this memorial is actually in the Spring, and it is. For some reason the UK has chosen January 27th as the revolving date and they use the week in schools and whatever to educate and remember - like with a play on the story of Anne Frank ...

The actual Jewish commemoration, Yom HaShoah, is on Nissan 27. Since it falls on a Friday this year, the actual Holocaust remembrance day will be May 1. The remembrance question? Sometimes it seems that evil triumphs, and why does God sometimes seem silent and absent? Has God forgotten us? Do the nations ask, "Where is their God?" Is there a God? We must never forget who we are and that we are in Gods hands.

Normally the Jewish Festival of Purim is soon on the calendar, but this year is the Jewish leap year too. They add an extra month, Adar I, every nineteen years. So Purim will be on March 21. The first Purim was to be a Jewish Holocaust, but there was a Redeemer in Esther.

January 26, 2008

The Larger Story

I just read this - "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Isaac Newton

Boy, do I resonate with this quote! When I think of all the many shoulders I have stood on, and will stand on, since I read a lot of books ... I really think I do see further than I ever could have just living my own little story.

I think I have a good grasp of the flow of history. From my wide range of reading I've learned a good part of the larger story of life. I don't know if I would score high if I took a test on all the 'facts' of history, but I've lived in enough shoes (and bare feet) through story, that from their shoulders I have an understanding of the cultures that drove people to do whatever it was we know them for in history - why discoveries, why advances in science, why progress and why lack of progress, why wars ...

Now, to move this into more of a spiritual perspective ... I have had a very real experience of God. I know Him and have felt Him, and from that experience I started questioning 'formation versus information' - what if one came to God through formation, through experience - is information important? Over my many years I've done lots of theological study and reading too - I have lots of information.

As a Mentor Mom at a MOPS sleep-over, I was up early and looking for something to read, and there weren't many books in this home, but I found CS Lewis' writings bound all together in one large book. I don't know why but I started reading at the beginning of Part IV in his Mere Christianity. And it was what I needed for that moment and it applies to this subject.

A man told CS Lewis he had "no use for all that stuff (theology) ... I know there's a God. I've felt Him: out alone in the desert one night ... To anyone who's met the real thing they (dogmas and formulas about Him) seem so petty, pedantic and unreal!"

CS Lewis said he agreed with the man, thinking he probably did have a real experience of God. And in turning to Bible study type things and "Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real.

"But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America."

Will I get anywhere by simply feeling the presence of God, by only having a formational experience? Will others?

My belief is that that formational experience, if that's the starting place for some people, will bring people to curiosity about wanting to know more about God, so the information we Christians feel so strongly about will come. My hope is that in our new era, call it "post-modern", for no other term is given yet, that the possibility of us loving on people, and God Himself loving people into the Kingdom, will bring about a new way of gaining information.

I feel I've stood on the shoulders of hundreds of people who really were/are in touch with God - experienced God. Standing on the shoulders of many real Christians helps us see even further - helps us see and hopefully want to enter into the even larger story. HIStory is God's entering the world's story, but the Trinitarian God is outside of our measurable chronos time. God's out-of-earthly kairos time penetrates, breaking through chronos: in a child's play, an artist at work, a person in the desert ... usually a un-selfconscious place.

Oh, I do want to see further than my own story. I want to be a part of the eternal large drama.

January 25, 2008

Clean Plates?

When growing up, did you hear, "You better clean your plate ... Remember the starving people in ..."? And then the sitting with a timer. Or, "You'll just have to have it for the next meal."

We had some teens here for supper and were talking about this. Lots of fun comments, and Lizzie said something that we made her write on a post-it-note. So here it is -

"When you force kids to eat, even 1 or 2 extra bites, you deprive them of the skill of letting them recognize that their body is telling them that they are full." -Lizzie Farland

Her comment is profound because it opens up possibilities that some long-held child training methods may be fundamentally flawed and may even contribute to America's obesity pandemic. And like an old book on health in our home library says, longevity could correlate with eating small meals.

Clean plates got me thinking about the times I used to cook for the student center at the University of Arizona. I remember both Monte and another guy, used to lick their plates clean in front of me to show how much they loved the meal! I guess this has little to do with over eating by being forced to clean your plate as a child. It just makes the point that cooks love to be appreciated.

January 24, 2008

Company Gone


It's been wonderful anticipating a newly married daughter and new son-in-law coming to visit and going through lots of stuff. It was a walk down memory lane, primarily for Heather, bringing Bill along, as they went through boxes. It was fun observing them together.

They've left. Lots of things moved to storage and their two vehicles packed with stuff to start their new life together - primarily for baking and cooking meals! Heather is really ready to get that part of life going. She's cooked for us and for her eldercare people and the family she nannied for. Now she can get on with doing it for themselves and entertaining.

It's fun having company, but it's also nice to get on with life (once over the initial tiredness that comes with entertaining).

Reading

I need to start laundry and getting ready for my felting class tonight. But been reading varied things on the internet. My last bunny trail was reading about Karl Barth. I've always been fascinated with him, so have ordered up some things from the library that he wrote. I'll probably skim them and not be able to understand them. Like this -

It has been said that "a 'Barthian theology' is just as impossible as an 'Eisteinian science', but just as there is a pre-Einsteinian science and a post-Einsteinian science, so there is a pre-Barthian and post-Barthian theology, for the contribution of Karl Barth to theology is, like that of Albert Einstein to nature science, so deep-going and fundamental that it marks one of the great eras of advance in the whole history of the subject". - TF Torrance

- so I'll see ...

January 23, 2008

Pooh Quote

"When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."

I'm having this same feeling right now.

January 19, 2008

Dear Diary

OK, now to just journal my day. I'm off my feet relaxing. It's been busy, though home (except that I started a new felting class Thursday evening).

Heather and Bill, her new husband, are here. We've done lots of work on the house since she left to get married a month ago, and then knowing they were to come back for an open house wedding reception, which is here tomorrow - I pretty much got everything done that I wanted to have done. So I'm ready to relax and enjoy family and friends for the next two days before they leave.

A lot of their stuff got loaded into our trailer and truck by Dawson and friend Aaron today, and taken to a storage unit. Heather's been going through all her stored stuff in our garage, walking down memory lane. I cooked most of the day, but helped in analyzing things and finding things and thinking through things needed for now, rather than later.

"How are you feeling?" emailed a friend of mine. I really think I'm fine. Heather has come and gone several times over the last decade and I'm so glad of her 'choosiness' in who she wanted to marry. She's listened to, and followed her heart, which has grown mature and full of God's wisdom. I've spent days reliving this current journey since all the photos are on my laptop. Dawson printed them yesterday and I put them in a photo album for Bill and Heather last night. And ... (it may sound awful) I'm wanting her things out of our garage!

But I have had arguments with God through this process. This little gal has been praying very specifically for her man and marriage since she was young. Approaching 30 years old is hard. So I've had it out with God, telling Him he's got to honor this gal's prayers, who's lived so honorably in love with Him all her life! And Bill himself at his older age has never been married, which is so rare these days, we've found.

So now, my prayer this night was that what I'm observing - their lovey-dovyness - and her feeling so free to sing aloud and giggle and share stories, as she's going through her stuff to either store or take with them, does not get crushed. Why do we even think that way? Cuz of all the bad stories we hear.

I can't wait for her married brother Travis, to come tomorrow, staying the night. I can't wait for him and Sarah to observe this new Heather and Bill together. I want to hear their thoughts.

They just picked up Bill's 'German' german shepherd at Bill's dad's house. So since he, Max, is not used to the cold, and it has been cold and with snow, he's having to stay in the house. We don't usually have dogs in the house, but I'm relaxing. Actually, my first 'grandchildren' are a tiny Boston Terrier 'Bea' (that would be one mouthful for Max), and a giant Max.

We're all getting used to each other and becoming 'family'.

Flannery O'Connor Quote


"Our response to life is different if we have been taught only a definition of faith than if we have trembled with Abraham as he held a knife over Isaac."

I need to learn more every day about living in faith, and not just talk about it.

I grew up in 'a faith' and am glad for that foundation. But I came to a place of wanting to know faith for myself and not just live what I understood from what I was taught. So over the years I still continue to grow in my faith, God guiding me along many trails. And the bunny trails always lead me home. God asks me to make myself at home in Him, and I do ... I am.

But oh ... the trembling with Abraham ... I've often sat with that story, and my imagination can't go far enough ... I can't really imagine it! In my own small story, maybe God's brought me to a similar small place, for small me, with a small faith.

A faith that grows from a willingness to die to myself, to whatever's important to me ... I think my personality trusts there's a hidden sacrifice ram in the bushes; something better on the other side. Like trust in redemption and resurrection to something new and whole.

January 18, 2008

Icons


Today is Pooh Day: AA Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh and other books, was born in London in 1882. I've always loved the Pooh books and always will.

As a kid I had a record of Pooh stories and loved the voices. If I find we still have that recording I'm going to have it put on CD since we're currently transferring albums or just some songs to CD.

I collected some of the earlier stuffed animals. I've put them on a shelf in our bedroom above the sliding glass door. They are the first things I see in the morning and I call them my "prayer buddies".

Icons are used as aids to devotion. I think of icons as windows showing views of truth. So to me, my Pooh animals are icons. When I see Pooh, I think of Heather - we often joked about the similarities. So I might pray for Heather. Dawson has always been a Tigger - so bouncy, bubbly and into everything. If I had Owl I'd name him Travis since we've always thought him creatively smart. I'm a mixture of Eeyore, Kanga, and Piglet.

Though their images may remind me to pray for our family, in reality, they visually bring me to God-consciousness and I often start my days, "Good morning God!" and go from there ...

Bloodless Martyrs

Yesterday's calendar date was the Feast of St Ant(h)ony: Anthony the Great, Anthony of Egypt, Hermit, Abbot, and the "father of monks". He died in 356 on January 17th, at the age of 105.

I'm reading Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries. I love using the calendar day stories to bring greater depth of living to my days, making ordinary days into the extra-ordinary. It was interesting that I was reading about the desert fathers around the days associated with some of the calendar's Desert Fathers.

Anthony is one of the earlier Desert Fathers and we know his story because his friend Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria (the one instrumental in Augustine's conversion) wrote his biography. It became popular and influential well into the Middle Ages and is still in print today.

Anthony heard the Gospel words, "Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor ... and then follow me" and felt they were meant for him. Much of his story is like Jesus' temptation in the desert, because Athanasius wrote, the devil "who despises and envies good, could not bear seeing such purpose in a youth," and thus set to work to destroy him.

The Desert Saints were called "bloodless martyrs". Christianity was born in the hostile world of the Roman Empire, and for 300 years Christians periodically suffered persecution and deaths. Constantine in 313 granted Christianity legal status in the empire and it became popular and fashionable. So now, rather than an evil empire, those wanting to seek serious Christian discipleship were facing a worldly church.

Solitude did not remain solitude, when thousands of other Desert Saints followed. People became fascinated by stories about Anthony and admirers found him. Though begging them to leave him alone, he became an adviser to hundreds, exhorting them to die daily and take up the cross.
(Years ago I read the desert disciple sayings in The Wisdom of the Desert. I also read From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians in the Middle East, where the author took earlier writings and journeyed, visiting many old sites. And then in the news, maybe last year, was the fear of the Muslims destroying some of these sites, including the monastery built around Anthony's place in the Egyptian desert.)

Anthony longed for martyrdom, hoping to identify with Christ, by exposing himself to danger, like ministering to those in prison and sometimes leaving the desert to combat Arianism. But he realized a person can die daily by serving Christ in ordinary ways with great love. Because he had given away all he had (and taken care of his sister), he wove mats to support his needs.

These Desert Saints call us to seek some solitude, which might separate us just enough from modern culture to allow us to recognize, expose and combat our vulnerability to seductive powers; to ruling appetites that seem to dominate our life.

"All good athletes train hard; they do it to attain a perishable award, but we're after an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly. I'm giving it everything I've got. I'm staying alert and in top condition, so that after telling others about it I don't miss out on it myself" I COR 9:25-27.

Anthony once said, "The man who abides in solitude and is quiet, is delivered from fighting three battles - to those of hearing, speech and sight. Then he will have but one battle to fight - the battle of the heart."

January 16, 2008

Health quote


"It's no longer a question of staying healthy. It's a question of finding a sickness you like."

I just read this quote and it made me laugh - sort of. You see, I disagree with it and definitely have some thoughts on it I'll share.

For most of us it is estimated that around 95% of our body is basically healthy, so why not work to keep that part healthy!

That's what a cell biologist acquaintance of mine realized. She used to give her time to lab work discovering things to help???? cancer cells. And she does have a discovery attributed to her name. But now she's giving her time speaking around the world hoping to help keep the healthy healthy.

A thought question - what's healthy versus vitality?

Process vs Product

I am really in the thick of reorganizing our home. I'm now tackling our bedroom where a lot of my sewing stuff and yarn has been stored. You know what I'm finding? A LOT of unfinished projects, many even going back to my college days - a lot of textile art done to a certain stage, but not a finished product. (That's why at quilt shows there can be so many fine, very old quilts - because someone finished the quilt top and tucked it away in a box, but never finished the quilt.)

I've researched it, talked on it, and written about it - so I'll ask you, "Are you a process person, or a product person?" I am a process person. I love learning about how things are made. I've done it with cooking too, which I've written about in my book Hearth & Home. Like how were things made before we had canned cream of mushroom soup and instant Jello and pudding and Bisquick?

So I have tried my hands at a lot of stuff. I know how to quilt. I know how to tat and do hardanger. I want to know how to make fine lace ... but now I know myself! I've read about the lace process and I could very easily start buying all the materials to do it - all the pretty bobbins (but oh, the choices!), the pillow, and patterns ...

The tools, the materials, the skills, the mechanics, the designing ... these are what attract me. I guess you could say they represent the process. I love the journey more than the destination. I think this idea is part of my attraction to Heirloom art - art done by hand. You can buy handmade items, but to make them yourself, for me, is a spiritual experience. I'm creating, and I feel a comradery with God's creative Spirit in me.

Anyway ... I've collected so much stuff! And I can do lots of stuff. But once I've done it, it doesn't mean I'll keep doing it. I've stuck with some things that I love to do the most, like knitting. I'll take periods of time where I'll do a lot of sewing. Having done my weaving again, I'll probably keep doing it.

What's best to do is take classes. Someone else will own the tools and provide the materials for you to learn the process and finish a product. AND THEN you'll better know whether it's something you want to invest time and money into.

Like I've always wanted to try making stained glass ...

January 13, 2008

Nice Birthday Surprise



Monte and our close friends, the Johnsons, surprised me today. Monte made reservations at a nice Evergreen restaurant for lunch. So after church Jim and Marty, Monte and I, and our friend Kathy all met at The Bistro. It was Marty's birthday this past week too.

We were a wild bunch and had the closed-in porch to ourselves overlooking a snow-covered meadow with pine trees, and snow-capped Mt Evans (having the highest paved road in the US) as our view. We had a lot of fun with our waiter, and Kathy's request for a carafe of coffee just for herself was met by his needing to visit every five minutes to refill cups. The meal was great.

They all came home with us, since we live so close to that restaurant, to see the changes in our house, which they loved. And Kathy hadn't seen Monte's new office either.

When they left, Monte was wanting to use his new camera Dawson and me got him last fall before one of his geology trips. So he started taking pictures of me. Then me of him. Then we tried some pictures with the camera on a tripod and him running to join me on the couch.



So with me putting iPhoto pictures in a folder on my computer for printing for Heather and Bill to have in a wedding scrapbook, and then going to church, and then laughing over a great meal with good friends, and then the two of us having fun taking pictures of ourselves, and then relaxing reading ... That was my birthday; a nice day.

IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!


Another birthday, another year! Life is good.

Since we've been going through things this year in the process of doing finishing touches on our home, I organized all the pictures and looked through old photo albums. I sat with my mom's album she made 53 years ago and read her entries - all in white ink on black paper. It's a scrapbook of her time in and around Salzburg Austria. That is where I was born. My dad was over for military help after WWII. I need to tell her I enjoyed her writing and am glad she made this memory keeper.

Talking of memories - I'm remembering birthdays as kids. It was always a special day for us. No chores and always our favorite foods. You know what I always wanted? My favorite cake is Spice Cake. My favorite supper was Mom's homemade Macaroni and Cheese.

My kids love my Spice Cake with a boiled brown sugar frosting. Since I'm going to be making it later this week for Heather and Bill's wedding open house we're hosting, I'll wait for my cake. Maybe I'll make Macaroni and Cheese for supper. It's liked by my family too.

So Happy Birthday to me . . .

January 11, 2008

Next to the Bible

On this day in 1673 John Bunyan was sentenced to prison. He was imprisoned for the offense of preaching without the permission of the state.

Today, in the center of Bedford England, stands a statue of Bunyan carrying a tinker's burden on his back and a Bible in his hand. Near the foot of the statue is a little bronze plaque with the engraved words of the prosecutor -

"At last we are done with this tinker and his cause. Never more will he plague us: for his name, locked away as surely as he, shall be forgotten, as surely as he. Done we are, and all eternity with him."

While imprisoned, John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress. it is translated into more languages than any other book save the Bible. CS Lewis, who wrote Pilgrim's Regress (a great book), said of Pilgrim's Progress, it is "a literary and spiritual masterpiece". We have Pilgrim's Progress in cartoon form and audio as well.

January 10, 2008

Loreena McKennitt - The Lady of Shalott (LIVE)

The Lady of Shalott

Monte wants me to say something about the poem "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred Tennyson. It speaks of her weaving, though she's tapestry weaving which has it's own style of loom. I could do it on my rigid heddle loom, I think. It is a style of weaving I want to move into. I did a similar style of tapestry weaving years ago, but on old rusty barrel rings.

The weaving picture is by William Maw Egley. The Lady in the boat is by John William Waterhouse.

There's a site that has the poem and beautiful art work. The Lady in the boat reminds me of the scene in the book and movie Anne of Green Gables, when Anne is dramatizing the poem and her boat slowly sinks.

http://www.pathguy.com/shalott.htm

Loreena McKennitt has put this poem to beautiful music (like I posted earlier of her putting "Dark Night of the Soul" to music).

Weaving

I'm going to weave the rest of this day. Monte bought me this Swedish Glimakra loom nine years ago for Christmas. I need to finish the wool lap blanket I'm weaving so we can move the loom. I think I can finish it today if I get at it!

This loom is 54" wide. I wove our bedspread, which consists of three panels and a crocheted edging. I've woven many table runners, placemats, rugs, dishtowels, and material to make clothes and purses from.

I have several looms and we're going to have them all in one room. I have a 36" Schacht loom that can fold for traveling. Both of these looms have 10 foot peddles. I can weave very intricate designs with them.

Rug looms used to be shared in communities. We came home one day to one of these old rug looms sitting in our driveway. We were going to fix the loom (it was unusable with the wood needing fixing and rusted metal parts needing replacement), but have given it away.

These old looms typically only had 2-4 foot peddles which means they could only do a plain weave. I have a rigid-heddle loom that'll weave only plain weave, though the project looks can greatly alter with color and unique materials.

I've demonstrated weaving (like I demonstrate spinning - I wrote of in the Distaff Day post). Most kids have woven pot-holders (these are still my favorite pot-holders, and now that my kids are grown, I'm going to have to weave my own). Pot holders are a plain weave - alternating the 'over-under' of each row.

My 'weaving talk' helps people understand what weaving is versus knitting, etc. I use examples of things they are most familiar with. Sweaters and socks are knit with spun fiber. Jeans are wove with a 'twill' weave, which is a diagonal repeat every three threads. Then to mention that we're buying sheets these days with a 300+ thread count. I typically weave with 10-20 threads per inch and can't imagine threading 300 threads per inch for the warp, and then to have to weave that same amount per inch for the weft!

A fun history tidbit is that in days of old some tablecloths were wove with an asbestos fiber. They could simply put the cloth in the fire to clean.



My Cookbook


I'm making yogurt today and currently waiting for the milk to cool down. I've been making yogurt for years. I bought my yogurt maker at a second-hand store and it makes a 1/2 gallon milk quantity of yogurt.

Here is the recipe that consistently works for me. Heat the milk to about 180 degrees. I do this in the microwave in a Pyrex glass bowl. Then let it cool down to 100-112 degrees. Mix in the starter and pour into jars in yogurt maker.

Hmmmm ... starter .... It used to be you could buy almost any plain yogurt in the store to use as a starter. But today, most yogurts have additives which seem to inhibit it's thickening. Some additives, like gelatin, will work, but it seems to take longer for the milk to firm. Your best bet is is yogurt in health food stores, but still read the labels. You can also find powdered starters, usually in a refrigerated section. If you use the powdered starter just follow the directions.

For a quart of milk I use a few tablespoons of yogurt stirred into the cooled down milk. Once you make yogurt, you can use your own homemade yogurt for starter. I always plug in my yogurt maker, with the empty jars in it, when I begin the yogurt making process for it to start heating. I'll put my yogurt starter in it at this time too, in one of the jars, to take off its chill.

When the starter is mixed into the cooled-down milk, pour the mixture into the jars in the yogurt maker, place the cover on the yogurt maker. Start checking after a few hours. Mine usually sets in 3-4 hours. When I start a fresh batch with the powdered starter it takes longer. Look for a slight firmness of the milk. It will firm up a bit more in the refrigerator. The shorter the time, the sweeter it is. If you forget and let it incubate longer, it gets tart, but still tastes better than store-bought yogurt.

I love the taste of plain homemade yogurt. You can add jam, fruit, frozen juice concentrate, maple syrup, wheat germ, ground flax seed ... whatever you like. Whenever a recipe calls for sour cream or mayonnaise I'll sometimes use yogurt. It can also be substituted for sour milk or buttermilk.

You want the good bacteria that yogurt provides - a 'live', active yogurt with its acidophilus, thermophilus, and bulgaricus. 'Friendly' bacteria helps aid food digestion. Yogurt is a predigested form of milk and it tends to 'crowd out' bacteria associated with indigestion. Lactose intolerant people can often eat yogurt.

When I was a kid, I was sick and on antibiotics a lot. My homeopathic grandmother told my mother to keep feeding me yogurt. "Thank you Grandma." Antibiotics kill the good bacteria along with the bad. Yogurt boosts the immune system and has a natural antibiotic effect.

When in Wisconsin we used to visit Monte's aunt and uncle who lived on a dairy farm. The yogurt Aunt Ruby made from their fresh milk she called "filabunk" (sp?). I brought home some starter from her and used it for awhile.

The cookbook on the stand behind the yogurt maker in the above picture is a cookbook I wrote 12 years ago. You can order a copy from me for $20 or from Amazon.

January 9, 2008

Remodeling


We've been remodeling an office space for me in a room we've called the 'studio' and sometimes the 'schoolroom' off our bedroom upstairs.

The walls had been 'wallpapered' with burlap (the actual material, not wallpaper - just like in Heather's room the walls have actual denim material glued on with wallpaper paste) and covered with a timeline, chalkboard, an old computer/bookshelf area and a drafting table. I ripped the burlap with the timeline off the wall. Dawson retextured it, and now it's a dark purple with some walls a deep golden yellow which I then stenciled.

We bought a beautiful new desk for me. Today is the first day I'm sitting at it with my laptop. I posted more photos on my photoblog site with before and after pictures like you see in magazines.

http://www.photoblog.com/kareyswan/2008/01/09/

This used to be Dawson's bedroom for a number of years when he was young. He has always been very creative and ingenious. When I ripped the burlap off the wall I found his name. Showing him, he said, "Oh, I wrote that with my blood!"

January 7, 2008

Distaff Day

In days of old, today, which is the day after Epiphany, women returned to their spinning after the holiday season of Christmas. I know of this day because I have a spinning wheel and enjoy spinning yarn from wool. And in this world of spinning, I enjoy the little tidbits of history I learn.

Proverbs 31:19 uses the word distaff: "She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hand holds the spindle". It's been written about thru the ages, and Chaucer classed this art among the natural endowments of the fair sex: "Deceit, weeping, spinning, God hath given to women kindly, while they may live". (We've come a long way baby!)

If you wanted clothing to cover yourself, beyond wearing fig leaves or animal skins, a fiber would need to be twisted into a thread. Then it could be crocheted, knit, or woven into a textile material. The twisting of fiber probably was discovered about the same timing as fire, the lever, and then the wheel.

With industrialization we don't have to spin anymore. This puts spinning in the category of 'heirloom art'. Why would anyone want to spin? I like is because it's fun and relaxing. I can even do it while watching movies. Heirloom art brings us into the process of creating. Heirloom by definition means something of value that is passed down through the generations. Not only its beauty but the fact that your hands created it gives it value.

I have demonstrated spinning at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, and other places. It seems men and boys are more fascinated with the process than females, but I think it's because of the workmanship of my spinning wheel - it's beautiful. I had a man watch for a long time and ask me, "How many miles do you figure you're doing with your feet treadling? How many yards of thread in say a minute, or hour? How long would it take you to get enough and make me a sweater?"

People in days of old didn't have many idle moments, and spinning was one of those very necessary jobs. Hand-held distaffs and spindles were the beginning. Leonardo da Vinci probably made the earliest drawings of the spinning wheel's design. The distaff is different from my spinning wheel. It's used primarily for spinning flax, which is a very long fiber. Once the flax plant is soaked and pounded and the fibers teased apart, they can be woven into linen. It's a much more difficult process than making wool or cotton thread, and it's harder on your hands.

In many cultures, a drop-spindle is still the primary tool, and even used by kids walking to school. In our early American history, the colonists were required to give England a quota of yarn and woven material. In order to meet that demand, many single women were taken into households to spin - thus the name "spinster".

January 6, 2008

The Star of Bethlehem and Epiphany

The 12 Days of Christmas are now over and this day, Epiphany, we remember the wise men of Matthew coming from afar following a star to find a child who they recognize as a king.

They came bearing gifts very strange and foreign to us. I still love the image in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever of the Herdman's dragging a ham before the manger - that was like the widows two mites to them; or the little drummer boy in the song; or the girl of Mexico bringing all she could find - weeds, which turned red (poinsettias).
From Bible studies we've learned that frankincense, gold and myrrh were costly gifts fit for kings (for life and burial!).

(I have this work of art by Fabriano sitting on an easel in the house right now.)

What was the star? There's so much speculation, and maybe someday a gas streak tail of a super nova will show up in the sky letting us know the real story. About 25 years ago we went to our school district's planetarium and heard a great story. First they showed why a comet has been ruled out as the star; then they talked about the possibility of a super nova; and then described the various patterns of stars and planets we observe from earth and what we might be able to be see by the naked eye. Jupiter is the consistent star of the stories, and in astrology it symbolizes 'the king' planet. There's records of Jupiter and Regulus (the king star) coming together and in conjunction with the planet Venus.

The explanation for the Bethlehem Star story I like best describes a planet conjunction. Pisces is associated with the Jewish people in astrology, and within its constellation was a conjunction several times in 7 BCE of Jupiter and Saturn, and then Mars joined them. Saturn was known as representing Mesopotamian deity who protected Israel. And Mars symbolized war.

Christians are afraid of astrology and think it evil. Astronomy and astrology combined are the science of observation and interpretation. In 7 BCE there was no astronomy other than astrology. In Genesis we're told God made the stars for 'signs and seasons'. And here in Matthew God is bringing astrologers into Jesus' story.

Were there exactly three wise men? We are told of three gifts. The book Ben Hur names three kings and opens with a dramatic description of how they might have met and traveled together to Bethlehem, but there could have been a whole entourage.


If you were dramatizing the whole Advent season with nativity figures, your wise men would be off in a distance in your house progressing to Joseph and Mary - who would in December be progressing by Donkey to Bethlehem. And baby Jesus and the Shepherds wouldn't show up until Christmas Eve or Christmas day?
Many, don't do gift giving until this day.

The Epiphany story is a remarkable story of grace. God doesn't need anything from us - he is the Creator of everything. Here God is receiving gifts. The pagan astrologers were not religious insiders. This is a reminder to me that God is at work in the strangest places, and in the people I least expect to respond to him. I want my eyes to be open to the potential and possibilities of God's grace. God's grace is at work far outside the arbitrary boundaries I construct.



January 5, 2008

Simeon the Stylite! :-)

When I speak on the Calendar, I love to mention Simeon Stylite, who died on this day in 459. He was the most notorious of the popular pillar-sitting anchorites.

The son of a shepherd, he was moved by hearing the Beatitudes. Wanting to be 'pure of heart' he tried living in monasteries, but they all kicked him out for his extremism in self-mortifications. So in his naivete, he literally did what he could to get closer to God.


This is a piece of early church history. Christians were persecuted and martyred, but when Constantine made the empire 'Christian' in the early 300's, the pagans were persecuted. Seeking safety they went to churches bringing their paganism with them. Serious Christians, frustrated with the watered down churches were asking, "How now to be holy?" Thus the serge of monasteries, and desert fathers.

Outside of Antioch were many 'pillar saints'. People would pack lunches and for entertainment go listen to a pillar saint preach - they were tourist attractions. I wonder if these pillar saints could read and if they knew much of scripture. What would they preach about?

Since Simeon had 'separated' himself at age 13, when did he mingle with people to be able to truly know much of life, or have personal experience stuff to preach from.

They had converts: locals, Armenians, Persians, and Arabs. Simeon had followers - disciples, who in choosing to live close, ended up building a monastery.
Simeon started out on a 10-foot-high pillar. For the last 37 years of his life he lived on a series of ever higher pillars. His final earthly home was a 6-foot-square platform on a 60-foot-high pillar!!! Now set your imagination to work: no roof or walls ... did he cut his hair? how did he sleep? how did he eat? what about excrement? Lightening strikes were prevalent. Maybe a sign of divine displeasure?

Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote a long poem entitled "St Simeon Stylites". Here's a link if you care to read it:

http://www.online-literature.com/tennyson/728/



January 4, 2008

from the land of green ghosts

I read (and listen to) many books, comprised of many genres. Periodically I like books that take me into other countries, whether they are biographical or historical fiction. I really like walking in the shoes of people to better get the context of 'the facts' about a place. The stories that carry the information give me a deeper understanding of a culture.

I just finished reading the book entitled above. It's a Burmese Odyssey by Pascal Khoo Thwe. This young man is surprisingly literate having grown up in the jungles of Burma, from the Padaung tribe famous for their 'giraffe-necked' women. He was a part of the earlier military dictatorship battles, finally able to escape to England, and graduate from Cambridge. But I can picture Burma better now when I hear the news of the thousands of red-robed Buddhist monks marching, and hear that Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest, whom Pascal had put his hopes in.

Now when I hear of Darfur news I'm taken there from having read What is the What by Dave Eggers - a novel and autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the early "Lost Boys of the Sudan" (you can watch that documentary). I now have an understanding of behind the scenes of what's going on there.

I feel I understand more of Africa's history from a variety of books over the years. Like one from two guys bicycling across northern Africa, to The Poisonwood Bible in the Congo, to James Mitchner's huge book on South Africa.

I don't know if I can say I'm looking forward to watching "The Kite Runner", but I do want to see it having read the book. It's a good picture of life before and during Taliban rule. Then I lived with women in the Muslem Middle East world, from Reading Lolita in Tehran.

My latest genre in audio books is murder mysteries. I've enjoyed trying to solve mystery stories since I was a kid, like the old Perry Mason TV shows.

January 1, 2008

Quote

"About the time we think we can make ends meet, somebody moves the ends."
-Herbert Hoover

Isn't that the truth. Just like the phrases "come to the end of your rope" or "scraping the bottom of the barrel"... I've been there! and the rope is elastic, or more length appears. And barrels can have false bottoms and you never seem to reach the bottom.

But then ... there's a "light at the end of the tunnel", and I'm not so focused on where the end or bottom is.

Circumcision of Jesus

Torah required boy babies to be circumcised eight days after their birth as a sign of the covenant between God and His people. So since our calendar has Jesus' birth on December 25, January 1 is the 8th day, the Octave Day of Christmas.

I'm not wanting to discuss this (like, what about us girls? or New Testament baptism ...). I only wanted to say that there's actually works of art depicting the possibilities of this scene! I have one, and if my printer-scanner-old computer set up weren't dismantled, I could post it. And I'm sure I could have found one on the web, but it seemed a little over the edge. I'll let you search and look, or just imagine.

Imagery often flows from my scripture reading that I create into art. I still have images like open files (or as Madeline L'Engle called them 'jags') that I'm still developing and adding to. But I have to say, I've not sat with the Luke text trying to visualize Jesus' circumcision.

New Year

Well, Dawson is gone again skiing for a couple days, so it's just Monte and me. What are we doing? - not watching TV. Would I watch the Rose Bowl Parade? Since I saw it in person several times as a kid, I don't need to watch it on TV. I think Monte is in his office still putting his music on his computer. He's set up his office with a nice sound system and the room dynamics are great!

Me? I'm going to weave again, but was googling toilets. Yes, toilets! Our toilets are 23 years old, and we have low water pressure, and the proper flush is requiring a bit of research. Yesterday I googled TV's. We don't watch TV cuz for the 23 years we've lived here we have not had good TV reception (unless we attach a long antennae cord and someone holds it in a strange position and periodically has to move). There's no cable here, and we're still not sure we want satellite (will it steal our time? and are we old enough yet to control it?). We've not ever had our TV in our great room where most of our living goes on (Monte's calculated that we've saved over 5 years of our time by not watching TV).

We do watch movies though. Now that Dawson and his friends watch movies in his room on his computer with his great sound system, Monte and I have been watching in our bedroom. Our TV is downstairs in our 'parlor', but it's about to die and we often have to hit it. And that room is cold in the winter, and is going to become the weaving, textile, as well as remain the piano room. And then a little TV my mom left here is dying and I've been hitting it too, so lately we've been watching movies on a laptop!

I stayed up weaving last night till midnight waiting for Dawson and Splara to come home from Skate the Lake. Well it ended up to be more than the two of them. So Lizzi and Splara slept in the guest room (actually hardly sleeping since they said they talked till 5:30), and Connor, Caleb, and Aaron were all in Dawson's room. They were all up making pancakes when I came down at 7:30, and Monte was deep in discussion with these blurry eyed youths covering philosophical, and analytical topics, using his typical curious conversational style of open-ended questioning.

It was Connor who was singing yesterday (I mentioned in the previous post), and I woke to him playing jazz on the piano beautifully! So Lizzi took Connor and Caleb back down the hill to their homes, and Dawson took Aaron and Splara further into the mountains to meet their families. Dawson is staying with Splara's family in Breckenridge skiing. (Her family sure had an ordeal getting there yesterday. The I-70 Interstate was practically shut down from the Utah border to Kansas most of the day due to extreme wind blowing snow - and avalanche mitigation.)

I cleaned up the kitchen, made a pot of tea while listening to news radio a bit, and then went to sit and drink my tea, and read about toilets.
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