Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A story of home

In the sixties, my great-grandparents purchased a few acres in Colorado, with a house that's smaller than my current apartment, and a good barn. This corner of land was named "The Pea Patch." My mother and sister went to college not too far away, and spent their weekends with grandparents. The barn was famous for sleepovers and family dinners, and grandchildren brought home many friends who had no where else to go for weekends and holidays. My great-grandmother served everyone on styrofoam plates, and loved them like family. However, if you defaced your styrofoam plate, you would face Grannie's wrath - after each gathering, she carefully collected the styrofoam plates and washed them in the dishwasher (without the drying cycle) to reuse.

 In honor of my great-grandparents' 80th birthday, their friends and family came together for a huge party- and brought recipes. This became the first edition of the Pea Patch cookbook. Time great-grandfather died, my great-grandmother wasn't doing so great on her own, and my grandparents moved to the Pea Patch. There was a massive celebration of my great-grandmother's 90th birthday, with a second edition of the Pea Patch Cookbook, and of her 95th birthday, when there were t-shirts for all family members. She was 97 when she died, and utterly beloved.

 My grandparents remained at the Pea Patch, where grandchildren slept in the barn and played in the yard at every opportunity. There were horses, Shelties, a compost pile almost the size of my bedroom, a vegetable garden, and a storm cellar. My grandparents had six meals a day- Breakfast, Coffee Break, Lunch, Afternoon Tea, Supper, and Bedtime Snack. During these meals, family and friends came together, and my grandparents served things they made themselves. Homemade yogurt, topped with homemade granola and homemade syrup was what we had for breakfast at Grandma&Grandpa's. The garden supplied enough corn, green beans, and peas to be frozen and used through the year.

 In recent years, it's slowed grandfather developed Alzheimer's, and has been in assisted living for almost two years now. My grandmother still lives at the Pea Patch. A grandson and his friends managed some much-needed repairs on the roof last summer. Her letters continue to be packed with details about the weather, what's growing, what needs to be fixed, and what the grand-kids are up to. When I was in my early twenties this bothered me- because I felt that I didn't know my grandmother, that these were things you'd talk to a stranger about. As I've gotten older, I've realized that these details are in many ways, the foundation of life: home, and the people who gather there. Home is the place we come together,the place we prepare to nourish others (through growing things, fixing things and cooking, in my family's case) the place we share our food, the place where we welcome strangers and transform them into friends.

 There's another story that could be told here...the story of my parents and how they created a home with their missionary friends, and the Peruvians they ministered to , in a place far from their families and radically different from all that was familiar. Maybe I'll tell that story one day. But for now, I'll leave you with my husband and I,trying to make our graduate student apartment home. We're here, throwing slipcovers over 20 year old furniture, growing odds and ends of vegetables and herbs on the front porch (presently kale,parsley,cilantro basil, arugula, and eggplant), hanging pictures and drinking tea. Every chance I get (which isn't often) I have a cooking frenzy and invite a crowd of graduate students and other youngish adults to our apartment for the sake of breaking bread and drinking wine together. And on the top shelf of my bookshelf sits a copy of the Pea Patch cookbook - containing the mints my mother made each Christmas, my Aunt Kimberly's oatmeal cookies, and my grandmother's date pudding (as a bonus,the Pea Patch cookbook also tells me how to make library paste, play-dough, and wiper fluid).
Here's my husband, in our kitchen, trying to make great-grandmother's buttermilk candy.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Another home project: The beaded lampshade

When I moved to my first apartment after college, I didn't have a lot of stuff. My priest at the time decided to send out a call to parishioners who had old furniture they were willing to pass on. One of those pieces is a large green and blue striped lamp that I absolutely adore. In the course of moving to my present apartment, the lampshade got demolished.

Unfortunately, because this lamp is probably older than I am, finding an appropriate new lampshade was easier said than done.


This was what we picked out at Lowes, as a starting point. The next step was to make many beaded tassels.


Here's a closer view. These are pretty basic- 24 gauge wire, threaded through sz 11/0 seed beeds, with a bicone bead at the end.


Then, I stitched the tassels to the lampshade, and hot glued some ribbon in place.Note: I've always used a low-temp hot glue gun because I'm clumsy, and don't want to burn my fingers off. However, I've been getting frustrated with how quickly the glue cools, so I'm realizing it may be time to switch to a high temperature glue gun.

And ta-da! Custom lampshade
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It's a long way from own mediocre craft skills definitely show up here, as does my lazy measuring. But it's mine, and I love it, and I'm finding it  a helpful  lesson in wabi-sabi. As human beings, we have the ability to choose and create our own habitats- probably more so than any other species. But we're often careless with this gift, choosing to stuff our homes with mass produced Chinese factory goods from Target or Ikea. So here I am, in my small way, choosing to make my space my own.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
Of triumphant gladness!
GOD hath brought His Israel
Into joy from sadness
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke
Jacob’s sons and daughters;
Led them with unmoistened foot
Through the Red Sea waters.

 'Tis the Spring, of souls today;
Christ hath burst His prison;
 And from three days’ sleep in death,
 —As a sun, hath risen.
All the winter of our sins,
 Long and dark, is flying
From His Light, to Whom we give
Laud and praise undying.

 Now the Queen of Seasons, bright
With the day of Splendour,
With the royal Feast of feasts,
Comes its joy to render;
 Comes to glad Jerusalem,
Who with true affection
 Welcomes, in unwearied strains,
Jesus' Resurrection.

Neither might the gates of death,
Nor the tomb’s dark portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal,
 Hold Thee as a mortal:
But today amidst the Twelve
Thou didst stand, bestowing
That Thy peace, which evermore
Passeth human knowing.
-St. John of Damascus

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why I love messy liturgy

Now, let's be clear: There's a difference between "messy" and "sloppy" liturgy. For the sake of this post, I'm defining "sloppy" liturgy as liturgy that is poorly written, unrehearsed, or otherwise lazy. It's what happens when we're not careful, when we don't plan. I'll throw out the first Sunday of Lent about three years ago as an example....I was attending a new Anglican church, meeting in a museum auditorium, and at the close of the service, they flashed up a powerpoint slide that had alleluias. I gasped, and the guy in front of me muttered something dismayed. His girlfriend or wife shushed him, noting (accurately) that Sundays are always feast days. But still- this was sloppy. It was unintended, inappropriate, and distracting. (Seriously. I've attended another Anglican church where they had a service to BURRY the alleluias at the start of Lent).

But things don't always go as planned. Sometimes a four yearold shouts "Yay!" at the end of the Gloria. Sometimes a priest topples off a stage in a museum auditorium . Sometimes an acolyte has stomach cramps and has to step out midservice. Palm Sunday comes once a year...leaving  girls scrambling to finish palm crosses, and distribute them through a congregation before Mass starts. And we find ourselves in a pitchy, offkey rendition of  "All Glory Laud and Honor" as we march through the parking lot and step in through the narthex to find the rest of the congregation singing a completely different verse.  It's messy...but we live in the middle of mess. I'm pretty sure the crowds at the first Palm Sunday weren't perfectly in step with each other. Our liturgies, these events we celebrate in the life of Christ and the Church....they are real. Real in a historical sense, in which they happened, in a way that wasn't prewritten and rehearsed....and real, in an ongoing sense, in which we re-enact them, and take them into our lives. I find  L'engle's notion of Kairos and Chronos is helpful here....that sense that we have chronos (wrist watch time- that encompasses history books and calendars) and kairos- (God's time- which holds everything present at once). is the the trips and stumbles, the noisy child, that jerk us into kairos and out of our own neat and perfect expectations and plans.