Saturday, July 31, 2010

Time Out

I'll be taking a little break from Three Minutes to Nine, a week off.  I'll see you back here on Monday, August 9, at three minutes to nine!  Have a great week.


Ramona and Beezus

Did you grow up with Ramona Quimby?  She and her sister Beezus are the stars of a movie currently in theaters.  Both Tom and I knew them as kids.

They were characters in Beverly Cleary's children's books.  Set in northeast Portland, Oregon, they and their fictional friends, especially Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy, lived in a neighborhood not too different than ours, and had experiences much like our own.  We loved those books.

We loved how Henry Huggins rode the bus to town and found this hungry, pitiful dog and tried to take the dog home in a box.  We loved the story about the guppies and the lesson about how rapidly they multiply.  We loved that they looked out for Ramona even though she was a pest, and how they expressed their feelings.  We loved it all because we identified.  It was like watching ourselves grow up.

When we were on vacation in Portland last summer we went to Grant Park to see the sculptures of Ramona, Henry and Ribsy.  It was a warm day and kids were playing in the fountains that are a part of the sculptures.  Next door to the park is the Beverly Cleary School, Hollyrood Campus.  We also spent a bit of time in the Beverly Cleary children's library in Portland's magnificent Central Library, enjoying a chat with the librarian.

If you've never met Beezus and Ramona, now's your chance.  You can see them on the big screen or, better yet, pick up one of Beverly Cleary's delightful stories from your local library.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do It Anyway

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; 
Forgive them anyway. 

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, 
ulterior motives; 
Be kind anyway. 

If you are successful, you will win some false friends 
and some true enemies; 
Succeed anyway. 

If you are honest and frank, People may cheat you; 
Be honest and frank anyway. 

What you spend years building, someone could 
destroy overnight; 
Build anyway. 

If you find serenity and happiness, They may be jealous; 
Be happy anyway. 

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; 
Do good anyway. 

Give the world the best you have, and it 
may never be enough; 
Give the world the best you've got anyway. 

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; 
It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Corn on the Grill

Next time you have the barbecue going, grill up some corn.  It's easier than you can imagine, and tastes wonderful.  Here's what we did last night:

We put the corn -- husks and all -- directly onto the hot grill and cooked it for 7-8 minute per side.  Here it is, on the grill with the potatoes.

When the corn was done, we pulled back the husks.  Most of the silk came with the husk.

We served it up with creamed seafood and watermelon.  Delicious!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two Compelling Films

Sometimes I get grounded from choosing the movies we watch.  I have to let other people choose for a while because I get too many heavy dramas that deal with cosmic themes and leave everyone traumatized.  I seem to be especially drawn to war films.  I don't know why that is.

We recently watched two such films, however, that you might want to see.  Though they were gripping stories dealing with difficult themes, they were well-told, compelling films that portray hope and courage.

I Am David is set in the early 1950s and tells the story of a 12-year-old boy, living in a Stalinist camp in Bulgaria, who escapes, with only a small satchel of supplies and the instruction to go to Denmark.  Having lived all his life in the camp, where deprivation and suffering surround him, he navigates a world he does not know and faces challenges he never had to face in the camp.

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is set in China in the early years of World War II.  Gladys Alyward (played by Ingrid Bergman), an English parlormaid, has felt called of God to go to China, and has been turned down by the mission board.  So she books passage on the train and arrives in China to help an elderly missionary woman run an inn for mule team drivers.  The indomitable spirit that got her to China helps this "foreign devil" find acceptance in China and, eventually, provides the fortitude to make it across the mountains with 100 children, fleeing invading Japanese troops.

Gladys Alyward was quite upset about the inaccuracies in the movie, especially the love scene, which she thought soiled her reputation.  But Bergman was so moved by the story that she went to Taiwan in 1970 to meet the missionary.  She arrived just days after Gladys Alyward had passed away.  Bergman fell down beside her bed and wept, and a missionary co-worker of Alyward shared the Gospel message with Bergman, leading her to place her faith in Christ.  You can read the story in two parts here and here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Trip to Snohomish

Tom's birthday started out with brunch at my folks' house.  Tim and Ted were both here from Alaska for Auntie Bet's memorial service, and it was nice to be able to spend time around the table with them as well as Dad, Mom and Peach.

Snohomish was our destination for the day.  Armed with our new camera (we still have a lot to learn about that camera!) we stopped in at the Snohomish Information Center to figure out what we wanted to see.

Snohomish is a historic town with its roots in logging.  It's a town that does home tours and garden tours and the downtown features many antique stores, tasty eateries and other tourist attractions. Situated above the Snohomish River, it is a user-friendly town.

One of our first stops was at the Art Gallery.  We enjoyed the variety of styles and mediums in the show and were especially drawn to the paintings of a Japanese artist, Sakae Ouchi.  His colors were vivid and full of life, paintings of Northwest mountains, lakes, barns and tulips.  As it turned out, the gallery attendant for the day was Mr Ouchi, a man who was, himself, vivid and full of life.  

Tucked into the corner of a building, we discovered a cozy, well supplied shop for fly fisherman.  It even had a colorful grab bag of used poles for beginners.  

I guess it was too much for Tom.  We found a park bench at Blackman Lake and he just gave out!

Or maybe he was just tired of being shadowed by his wife!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Tom

To my man of many talents,
my best friend, my biggest fan,
to my encourager,
my peace lover --
to my main man.

To my beloved husband,
to our children's loving dad,
thank you for the joy 
we've shared 
in the years we've had.

As we explore the road ahead --
as we dream and plan --
I look forward
to the future
with my main man.

I love you, Tom.  Happy Birthday!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Family Time

Yesterday was my Auntie Bet's memorial service.  It was a joy to remember this most remarkable, delightful woman.  Stories shared in the tributes and around the tables highlighted her many appealing qualities, such as her magnetism for drawing people and her fun-loving nature.  The slide show chronicled the life of a young girl who grew up, fell in loved, raised a family, spent her life blessing others, and loved to play.  If you knew Betty Cross, you never forgot her.

All of Mom's siblings (all 11 of them) have passed away now, but many of the children and grandchildren were at the service.  Here are the last to leave -- Blanton cousins who don't get together often enough and all who had a very strong affinity with Auntie Bet.

When I spend time with my extended family I am reminded, as I was yesterday, that it is good to get to know your people and care for each other.  Life is worked out in relationship; surround yourself with companions for the journey, family or otherwise.  Stay in touch and work together.  Pray for each other and watch God work in your lives.  We were created for community.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


My friend Deanne recently forwarded this poem to me.  It was written by Jeanne Marie de la Motte-Guyon (Madam Guyon), 1648-1717,  a French mystic who wrote from her cell where she was imprisoned for her faith.  I post it today in honor of my family members and friends who are learning to sing a similar song of joy in resignation.


A little bird I am,
  Shut from the fields of air;
And in my cage I sit and sing
  To Him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleases Thee.

Naught have I else to do;
  I sing the whole day long;
And He whom most I love to please
  Doth listen to my song;
He caught and bound my wandering wing,
But still He bends to hear me sing.

Thou hast an ear to hear,
  A heart to love and bless;
And though my notes were e'er so rude,
  Thou wouldst not hear the less;
Because Thou knowest, as they fall,
That love, sweet love, inspires them all.  

My cage confines me round;
  Abroad I cannot fly;
But though my wing is closely bound,
  My heart's at liberty.
My prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom, of the soul.

O, it is good to soar
  These bolts and bars above,
To Him whose purpose I adore,
  Whose providence I love;
And in Thy mighty will to find
The joy, the freedom of the mind.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In Loving Memory

In loving memory
of my dear, beautiful auntie,
Betty Blanton Cross,
January 4, 1931 - July 18, 2010,
loved by absolutely everybody,
now in Heaven with Jesus.

As I slip from this life I have known
and get my first glimpse of Jesus on His throne,
I fall before my glorious King --
my heart, filled with joy,
can do nothing but sing --
as I enter my heavenly home.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


A couple days ago I mentioned Tommy's Party Pie.  I came across this story which I wrote in 1994, and thought you might enjoy reading it.  

Love came to our house over the weekend.  Its quiet knock was answered by our tender-hearted three-year-old, who quickly invited love in.

Through a video from the library, Tommy was introduced to Gerbert, a cute little puppet with "cheeks like a football," as Tommy fondly described him.  He promptly fell in love.  He'd kiss at the TV screen and say, "Gerbert, I love you."  While I was caring for Samuel on Saturday evening, Tommy was drawing pictures to give to Gerbert.  I was instructed to write on each picture, "I love you Gerbert.  From Tommy to Gerbert."

On Sunday afternoon he wrote Gerbert a letter.  "Dear Gerbert, I want you to come and live with us."  We told him Gerbert couldn't come, he has his own home in Texas. Then we should go to Texas to get him, Tommy announced.  "Mommy, I need some money to go to Texas to get Gerbert.  Daddy, would you give me money and Mommy will give me some money, and I can go to Texas."  He pined away all afternoon for Gerbert.  We couldn't make him understand that Gerbert couldn't come here and that it would cost way too much to go to Texas to get him.  Tom explained that we wouldn't let Tommy go live with someone else just because that person wanted him to.  Neither could Gerbert live with us.

Tommy wouldn't be comforted.  And then I thought of how, as a child, I had pined for the boy who had waved to me from the back of a red pickup truck and a host of other dreams in my life that just wouldn't work out.  I began to understand the grief it caused my parents to watch me long so deeply for things that could never be.  I held Tommy in my arms and tried not to cry.  I remember Mama's eyes as she'd struggle to explain to me why I couldn't have what I wanted.  I sensed the pain my family had felt each time my heart had been broken.

I just hadn't realized that all this started so early.

Tom and Tommy were out gathering eggs when Grandma and Grandpa showed up for dinner.  After three weeks of not seeing his grandparents, Tommy exploded with joy:  "Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!"

He showed great interest in the surprises that they brought us from Seattle, then he presented Grandma with a gift -- a hand puppet of Ronald McDonald he'd gotten on our last trip out.   We put Samuel to bed after dinner and planned to put Tommy down, too.  But he had other ideas.

"I know a recipe we can make," he said.  He proceeded to list the ingredients.  Grandma and I were flabbergasted.  We're supposed to make this? we thought.  "Put on an apron!" Tommy told Grandma.

So we made his recipe.  We listened to his ingredients and agreed with everything, except the crackers and the apples.  We suggested quantities (otherwise we would have had three cups of flour and eight cups of sugar), and we vetoed putting the bread and the  peanuts in the mixer with the other things.  Otherwise, the recipe below is Tommy's own.  He wanted the house decorated so we found two balloons that still had a little air in them.  We hung them up and he lined the bookcase with his stuffed animals.  At 9:00 p.m. we ate Tommy's Party Pie and then sent a happy, tired little boy off to bed.

He's hardly mentioned Gerbert since, except to say we should change the name on the letter from Gerbert to Smokey the Bear.

Tommy's Party Pie

1 egg
1/2 c milk
3 T flour
2 T water
1/3 c sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1 mashed banana

Mix all these together.  Lay slices of bread in an 8x8 cake pan.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.  Pour the milk mixture over the top and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Friday, July 16, 2010

It's Your Turn

Here are a couple of recipes from our Cooking with Beans class.

Hlelem (Tunisian Vegetable and Bean Soup)

3 ounces dried lima or butter beans (about 1/2 cup)
3 ounces dried chickpeas (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 celery stalk, large outer veins trimmed, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 onion, minced (about 3/4 cup)
1 quart chicken broth
1/3 cup tomato paste (about 3 ounces)
4 large Swiss chard leaves, stems removed and cut into 1-inch pieces, leaves shredded (about 5 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 ounces angel hair pasta, broken into bite-sized pieces (about 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons harissa*
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Soak the dried lima beans and chickpeas separately overnight in three times their volume of water.  Drain and cook them separately in two times their volume of fresh water until they are tender, about 45 minutes.  Drain and reserve the cooking water from both the lima beans and the chickpeas.  Combine the lima beans and chickpeas, set aside.  Combine the cooking waters and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic, celery and onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the broth, reserved bean cooking liquid and the tomato paste.  Mix together until well blended and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Approximately 10 minutes before serving, add the cooked beans and chickpeas, the Swiss chard and the pasta.  Simmer until the pasta and chard stems are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the harissa an stir until blended.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve in heated bows, garnished with the chopped parsley.

(Note, harissa is made of ground chilies and spices.  You can purchase it or make your own.)

Black Bean Brownies

1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 eggs
3 T vegetable oil
1/4 c cocoa powder
1 pinch salt
1 t vanilla extract
3/4 c white sugar
1 t instant coffee (optional)
1/2 c milk chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish.

Combine the black beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract, sugar, and instant coffee in a blender; blend until smooth.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the mixture.  Bake in the preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bring On the Beans

Tommy and I went to a "Cooking with Beans" class at the Skagit Valley Co-op the other night.

Tommy has been interested in cooking since he was a tiny boy.  One night when we lived in New York -- he was just three or four -- his grandparents returned from a trip and we were having a welcome home party for them. It was nearly bedtime when Tommy said he had a recipe he wanted us to make and we'd better go to the kitchen.  He dictated us this amazing recipe for Tommy's Party Pie which we dutifully cooked up and served to the family.  It was surprisingly good.  When we were done eating, our happy little cook toddled off to bed.

Now he's 20 and still makes concoctions of his own.  So why not take advantage of some inspiration when it comes to using beans?

There were about 30 people in the room for the bean class, a rather animated group with lots of questions and comments.  At times it was a little hard to pay attention because of the adorable baby in front of us.  Our instructor had several tasty recipes, most of which were made during the 90 minute class, and everyone got a chance to try each one -- Red Beans and Rice, Hummus, White Bean Mash, Hlelem (Tunisian Vegetable Bean Soup, pictured below), Black Bean and Rice Salad, and Black Bean Brownies, which are much better than their name suggests.

For one class member, it was the first time to have hummus.  What do you do with it, she asked?  Full of fiber, fat and texture, hummus is good in burritos, as a sandwich spread or a veggie dip, or even a salad dressing.  Here are some other tidbits that we heard:
- Don't eat dried beans raw because they have toxins.
- Beans need to be paired with a grain to make them a complete protein.
- If you soak beans with a piece of Kombu (a type of Japanese seaweed) it will break down the gas factor.
- You can cook your beans or lentils in a pressure cooker.
- To test the doneness of the beans you are cooking, blow on a bean and see if the skin peels off.
- Wait till beans are tender before you add salt, vinegar or tomatoes.

The class inspired us to make chili for dinner last night.  What we're really looking forward to making, though, is the Black Bean Brownies!

(Check tomorrow's blog for recipes.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ten Years at a Glance

Have you ever sen a ten-year journal?  My friend Deanne is on her second one now (or is it third?).  Each daily page is divided into 11 sections with four or five lines per section, so that you can record your thoughts or activities each year for ten+ years.  (You can begin any time during the first year and still have ten full years of journal notes.)  Additional pages at the back of the book give you opportunity to carry over a thought if you need a little extra space, keep track of less frequent events (appointments, car maintenance, etc), or record goals for the new year.

When Deanne finishes reading a book, she records it on her list in the back of her journal.  When she wonders what they were doing this time last year, or how long it's been since had the furnace repaired, she can look it up in her journal.

A ten-year journal can be used as a spiritual diary; it can track your child's growth and development; it can be used to record a person's journey through college, graduate school and getting started on a job. It would make a great wedding gift.  Looking back over the journal can remind you of people and places you care about, attitudes that have changed over time, God's provision for your family.

I'll be turning 60 next month.  I'm thinking this might be the time to start a ten-year journal.

Here are a couple of companies that make ten-year journals, Future Memories and Because Time Flies.  Check out their websites and see if you or someone you care about should have one.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Faith in a Faithful God

As I read through the Gospels recently I was struck by peoples' response to Jesus.  Many struggled with faith, waffling or demonstrating outright denial of Jesus; but there were some who came boldly to Him, believing Him to be who He said He was.  Matthew records several such folks.  There was the leper who said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean" (8:2); the Centurion with the servant who was ill (8:10); the ruler who said, "My daughter has just died.  But come...and she will live" (9:18) and several others.
And I realize that this is exactly what Jesus expected.  He was God-in-flesh and He wanted us to know that.  Those who believed and trusted Him were transformed.  

No wonder the faithlessness of people stunned Jesus.  Asleep in the boat in the middle of a storm, Jesus' disciples woke Him, terrified for their lives. "You of little faith," He replied, "why are you so afraid?" (Matt 8:26).  He got up and stilled the storm.  That's what He came to do.

Once when He had returned to his home town many who heard Him were amazed, and others doubted.  Mark records that "He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them.  And He was amazed at their lack of faith" (6:5,6).  There is so much He would have done, so much more He wants to do in our world.  Does our lack of faith frustrate His work?

Why do we struggle so much with faith?  Why do we wonder if the Lord knows our needs or will be faithful this time to meet them?

Faith is not us conjuring up enough hope, or thinking enough good thoughts so that everything will work out.  Faith is not working things out ourselves.  It is being assured that, whether or not we can see it, the God of the universe is in charge and can be trusted.  Faith is about God, not about us.  And He is faithful.  Do you believe it?

When Jesus challenged the faith of a father who brought his son to Him, the father cried out, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).  What a great prayer.  If you struggle with faith, you can make this prayer your own.  It's one God loves to answer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Railway Children

We recently watched The Railway Children, a delightful story about a mother and her children who moved from their home to a country house in Yorkshire after the father (played by Michael Kitchen of Foyle's War) is taken from them.  Used to a life of love and comfort, the children now learn to entertain themselves as their mother turns to writing to make a living for the family.

Made in the year 2000, this film is based on the British children's book by Edith Nesbit.  Interestingly, the woman who played the mother, Jenny Agutter, starred as the older daughter, Roberta, in the 1970 version of The Railway Children.

The movie was full of gentleness, kindness, and hope in spite of difficult circumstances and people in their new life.  It shows how a family who loves and believes in one another can rise above their trouble, and even reach out to others in the midst of their own loss.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Anyone Want a Baby Sequoia?

It seemed innocent enough at the time.  About seven years ago Tom, a long-time bonsai gardener, placed a sequoia seedling in the back yard, awaiting transplant from its whiskey barrel into a proper bonsai pot.  It was out of the way -- between the patio and the fence that separates our house from the neighbor's.  You know how life gets busy and you can forget what you had in mind?  Well, that's what happened to Tom.

The baby sequoia, however, did not forget; it did what it was designed to do -- it grew.  It pushed its roots through the drain hole in the bottom of the pot and kept right on growing deep into the earth below.  Now over 10 feet tall (they can grow up to 300 feet!), the tree is trapped between the patio and the enormous pine tree in the background of the photo.

The sequoia will have to come out, or we'll have to build the house around it!  We hope we can get it out without destroying it.  We're not even sure where we'll put it if we can successfully dig it up.

Anybody out there with a shovel, a big pot, a truck, creativity and persistence who would like a sequoia for your yard?  Let us know and the tree is yours!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Farm Fresh and Wonderful

Imagine tonight's dinner salad -- lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and a little dried basil sprinkled on the top.  The ingredients come from who-knows-where, have been sprayed with who-knows-what, and likely taste waterlogged and/or a bit like cardboard.

Now re-think that salad with fresh, organic, never-been-sprayed deep green, leafy lettuce, luscious tomato slices, ripe and juicy, crisp cucumber, sugar snap peas (a tasty bonus) and a little fresh basil.  Let's take it one step further.  Imagine that you've just picked up the vegetables from the very farm that grew them, or you had them delivered right to your door by the local farm.

Let me introduce you to a couple of farms that could make your dream salad come true.

At Arlington's Garden Treasures, on SR530 just east of the Island Crossing exit off I-5, you can purchase a share in their CSA* program.  Each shareholder receives a box of produce each week, from mid-June through Thanksgiving weekend.  That's 24 weeks of fresh produce (mostly vegetables) grown on their own farm.  Pick-up day is Thursday, and shareholders stop by the farm to select their items for the week.

Would you rather have your box dropped off at your home?  Klesick Family Farm in Stanwood offers year-round home delivery from Anacortes to Monroe and Bothell, from Mt Vernon to Mountlake Terrace.  Much of their food is grown in the northwest, some on their own farm; with rare exceptions, all is organic.

Each of these farms offers a variety of box sizes, depending upon your family's size and preference.   Klesick boxes are made up for you based on the foods they are featuring that week.  With Garden Treasures, you choose what goes into your box from a list of recommendations on pick-up day.  Both farms provide a newsletter complete with produce information and a recipe. Their prices are comparable and their commitment to quality is high.

Check out their websites: Garden Treasures and Klesick Family Farms.  It just could be that by this time next week you will be sitting down to that dream salad, brought to you by your local organic farmers!

Here's one more resource for you.  The 2010 Puget Sound Farm Guide lists farms, farmers markets, CSAs and u-picks throughout the Puget Sound region.  You can check them out here.

*According to over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hymn of the Month -- In Christ Alone

When we think of hymns we usually think of songs that were written before our own time, songs that were in our church's hymnal when we were growing up and have been sung for generations.  But in 2001 Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend from Ireland wrote a modern hymn, a song you may have sung in your own church, called In Christ Alone.  They wanted to write a hymn of worship that taught the scripture and Christian doctrine in a way that would be relevant for today, and at the same time be trans-generational, something that people of all ages would sing together.  They never dreamed how quickly it would catch on.  But why not?  It powerfully conveys the message of Christ's life, death and resurrection, and His power to save and keep those who trust in Him.  It is a hymn of praise to the Christ alone.