Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Weekend With Ruth

Soon you will tire of these posts where I post pictures of fun things I've done with friends and family and you'll want something serious. I don't blame you. Unfortunately (for the serious reader), my life is filled with such visits. Fortunately (for the forbearing reader), they will come to an end when the summer is over. Summer is a great time to celebrate bounty. (I'll share pictures of my garden bounty with you soon.) And I'm realizing there are different kinds of bounty. This summer has been flush with friends and family bounty. My dear friend Ruth--a friend for 10 years now!--came for a visit last weekend, and I have some pictures to prove it. I hope you enjoy the photos and are reminded to thank God for the friends and family in your own life.

Ruth and I spent the afternoon and evening at Manito Park closer to downtown Spokane on Sunday. We enjoyed the beautiful flowers, warm evening, and had a picnic dinner in the garden you see behind us.
After the picnic dinner, we went to Riverfront Park downtown for the Royal Fireworks show in which a Baroque band performed music on a floating stage in the Spokane River with a fireworks show at the end. We sat with my housemate Pam, her two friends, and my friend Katie and her husband Ben. We had about an hour before the concert started, so we were experimenting with funny pictures. It was a delightful concert and the fireworks show was amazing!

Ruth brought me these wonderfully colored pot holders from Guatemala where she spent a month earlier this summer. I've put the pot holders on the wall in my dining room because I can't bear to have them not displayed. They're so great!
We did some other fun things, too, like hang out with people from my church, watch Wives and Daughters, make pesto lasagna, go to Green Bluff, and more, but the pictures above are a good representation. I'm so thankful for Ruth's visit!
I hope you're getting to spend some lovely time with family and friends this summer!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Visit With Mom and Dad

My parents drove into town Wednesday, July 10 and stayed until Monday, July 15. I was able to take half of Thursday and all of Friday off work, which was great! This is my first summer working full time, and I'm telling you, it can be rough at times. :) Whitworth's Annual Institute of Ministry was also happening the Wednesday and Thursday my parents were in town. The evening worship services are free and open to the public, so my parents and I enjoyed two wonderful worship services. The preacher, Carolyn Gordon, was fantastic! I can't wait until the podcasts are up on the Whitworth website, so I can listen to her sermons from Monday and Tuesday evenings, too. If you get a chance, listen to them. You'll be challenged, encouraged, and amused.

Wednesday and Thursday, my parents and I did some fun things, like hosted an ice cream social with some of my parents' friends from college, enjoyed ice cream at Doyle's Ice Cream Parlor where my mom and her friend used to take boys in college and make them drink a monster shake (which they still have!), and enjoyed an enchilada dinner with three of my housemates. My mom calls this the ice cream vacation because we had ice cream every day. Part of this is because I'm making good use of my new ice cream maker. The other part is that all three of us just really, really love ice cream!

On Friday, we embarked on our big day trip to Canada. We've all been to Canada a number of times, but not since I've been in Spokane. The drive up there is a mere three hours through some gorgeous countryside. We left at 7:30 AM on Friday morning, and our first stop was to eat muffins and look at the Pend Orielle river at an overlook. Our second stop was at Sweet Creek Falls, which turned out to be this beautiful, Columbia-River-Gorge-like waterfall:

Our crossing into Canada was easy and quick. About 10 minutes into Canada, I burst into laughter. Like tears-rolling-down-my-face laughter. It was all because of my dad's behavior with the Canadian border guard. He made us look so suspicious! My dad took my laughter graciously. Here's the grand Canadian flag:

Our end destination was the city of Nelson, British Columbia. The picture below is just a tiny view of the mountains and beauty surrounding Nelson. We started off at the Visitor Center where we had the pleasure of talking with a delightful young woman who's a student in Geography at "U Vic" (University of Victoria). She gave us some great advice. With her help, we had lunch at a beautiful little park, walked along the waterfront, got milkshakes, and visited an eclectic coffeeshop. My dad decided to hike to Pulpit Rock across the bridge you see in the background in the photo. While he hiked, my mom and I sat in the park at the waterfront. She read, I wrote in my journal, and we both people watched. It was a great spot to observe families. The main center of town has some major hippie influence, so it was nice to see a different side of the city. Being in a different country made me think about nationality. There didn't seem to be any difference between the people we were observing and us except that they say "Eh" and prounouce "ou" differently. Does nationality even matter? I didn't come to any conclusions, but it's interesting to think about.

We left Nelson around 4:30 or 5 and decided to take a little detour to Crawford State Park back in Washington. We drove 12 miles to get there only to find that the park was closed. Fortunately, we serendipitously turned off onto a side road and found a lovely campground by a river that had big picnic tables. We had great food (old favorites like chicken salad and pasta salad) and enjoyed sitting in the peaceful campground. Here's the pasta salad:

They might hate this picture, but I think it's hilarious. :) We were feeling pretty tired on the road back and went to sleep practically right after getting home around 9 PM.

On the road out to Crawford State Park, we saw three beaver dams in the water. It was awesome! We didn't see any beavers, but I guessed it was because they were inside their dams eating toast and kippers (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe anyone?).

On Saturday, we met my friend Margy at Petit Chat bakery. It was delightful to talk with Margy and enjoy pastries together. After that, we drove up to Green Bluff to (as you can see) pick cherries! We picked exactly enough pie cherries for a batch of sour cherry jam. The picture below is my mom showing my housemate Pam and me how to pit cherries with a paper clip. So easy! We also picked Rainier and Bing cherries, all from Cherry Hill Orchard, whose owners go to my church. After Cherry Hill, we walked around Eleven Acres Farm and chatted with the farmer and enjoyed the new microbrewery at another farm. It was lovely to be relaxed at Green Bluff. I'm usually on a mission and fail to enjoy the process of picking food that farmers have so carefully cultivated.

On Saturday afternoon, we had some down time and then enjoyed raspberry lemonade with Dottie, my college mentor and friend. Saturday evening we enjoyed a steak dinner with broccoli, watermelon, and this delicious orzo "risotto" from one of Mark Bittman's cookbooks. My coworker mentioned a couple weeks ago that she broiled steak and loved how it turned out. My dad loves steak, so I used the last $20 of my June grocery budget to buy two quality New York strip steaks from Egger's. We were not disappointed. The broiling method worked wonderfully and the meal was delicious. 

On Sunday, we had a big waffle breakfast with cherry compote, went to church, hung out in the afternoon, and went up to church again for a concert and hot dog dinner. Oh yeah, and we also cleaned the ice that had been building up in my chest freezer. That was quite the process! In the end, it was pretty easy, but I was so glad my mom and dad helped me out. I would never have had the gumption to clean it on my own. Everything's all neat and tidy in the freezer now and is being filled as we speak with fresh raspberries. 

On Sunday night, I brought out all the leftovers from all our meals and found that we each had enough left for meals for another week. It was such a pleasure to make meals for my parents. Foolishly, every meal I made for them except two were new recipes. It could be unfortunate that every new recipe I tried worked out splendidly. :) I discovered soba noodles and liked them so much, I'm going to make another soda noodle dish tonight with zucchini, cabbage, and green onions (from my garden!).
After breakfast together on Monday morning, my parents drove back to Portland, and I drove to work. It was a lovely weekend together. I'm so grateful for my parents' companionship. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Made-From-Scratch Wontons

Last Saturday night, my two friends from church and I gathered to make wontons from scratch! Margaret, at whose house we were meeting, had made wontons with friends once before, so we had a potluck style dinner and she showed us how to form the wontons. We made nearly 50 wontons! Below are some pictures from our time together.

Here are the wontons ready to go out to the fryer:

Bethany frying up the wontons and me looking weird: 

Our wonderful spread ready to be eaten and enjoyed! 

We had two different kinds of wontons. The wontons in the middle of the table are stuffed with pork, shrimp, mushrooms, green onions, and water chestnuts. The wontons at the end of the table are stuffed with cream cheese and green onions. We also have apricot and cherry dipping sauce, lemongrass, baby corn, and ginger rice from Trader Joe's, and fruit salad. Yum!!

We had a lovely evening and had leftovers for later, too, which I ate for Sunday and Monday lunches. For dessert, we enjoyed my second batch of ice cream: homemade strawberry ice cream with Green Bluff strawberries. Thanks for reading!

What's something you like to make from scratch?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

"Homeward Bound": A Book Review

I just finished an excellent book called "Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity." The book has many facets, but the primary theme examines why many women have recently embraced traditional values, such as being stay-at-home mothers, crafting, canning, homesteading, keeping chickens, buying local, gardening, and much more. The book examines the root causes for the rise in New Domesticity and delves into the lives of those who practice some aspect of this societal trend. (I'm not missing the fact that I took freshly-baked sourdough bread out of the oven half an hour after finishing the book.)

The three biggest root causes seem to be 1) the feminism of the 60s and 70s that encouraged women to work and be free of domestic duties, 2) the uncertain economic times we live in that have caused widespread distrust in corporations and government, and 3) dissatisfaction with the 9-5 jobs that offer no personal fulfillment or flexibility. Author Emily Matchar thoroughly explains how New Domesticity provides answers to these causes.

When I first started reading the book, I found it ironic that interests that had arisen naturally for me through the influence of family and friends were also part of a greater societal movement. I didn't look at a single DIY blog on gardening or canning or cooking when I first started doing these things, but somehow the zeitgeist of the times moved me. I didn't have any great moral pulpits to mount as I started to can, garden, and bake bread, but rather genuine interest in these domestic arts and now a love for supporting my local community. With two years in the work force and three years of canning and gardening under my belt now, I agree with much of what Matchar believes is best about the New Domesticity movement:

"New Domesticity comes out a deep desire for change in the world. We don't want to trade our souls for our careers, and we don't want to live in a culture that encourages us to do so. We want to embrace the richness, creativity, and comfort that can be found in domestic life...We want to live in a more sustainable way, both economically and ecologically. We've realized that the consumption-crazy Standard American Lifestyle isn't good for the earth and it isn't good for us. We want to focus on what really matters..." (249).

However, as with every movement, there is a shadow side. As I was talking to my housemate about the book, it struck me that New Domesticity is simply a secular way of living out the Christ v. Culture paradigms in Richard Niebuhr's book "Christ and Culture." (Thank you Whitworth Core classes.) The paradigms Niebuhr describes are Christ Against Culture, Christ of Culture, Christ Above Culture, Christ and Culture in Paradox, and Christ Transforming Culture.

Matchar's biggest problem with the New Domesticity movement is that it encourages many educated, middle class families to make decisions that put the individual good (or individual family good) over the common good. These trends include homeschooling, not vaccinating one's children, denigrating work outside the home, and seeing DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects (e.g. raising one's own chickens to combat the evils of factory farming) as a way to combat the world's ills. Basically, it's an "Individual Against Culture" paradigm that's becoming a legitimate subculture in the United States. Matchar calls it "troubling hyperindividualism," which is already a characteristic of Generation Y. The same criticism could be made of the Christ Against Culture paradigm. It's better to cut oneself off from the world than to try and change it.

There is a very basic, human tendency in the Christ Against Culture paradigm, which is why I think we see the same trends in the secular world, too. Ultimately, I think Matchar's advice is spot on for both New Domesticity and Christianity. She writes: "The key to making all this to be expansive rather than exclusive" (249). And Christians can be expansive in a way that no other group of people can because we serve a God who is expansive. There are limitless possibilities for the ways we can engage the culture, broken and suffering though it is, so that we can "invite the world" (250) into God's expansive family instead of quarantining ourselves from the world.

I highly recommend Matchar's book. Even if you're not involved in the proponents of New Domesticity yourself, the book will undoubtedly give you an understanding of this significant cultural trend and will reinforce the importance of keeping Christ firmly in the center of your life, domestically-focused or otherwise.