Zero For Six and Coffee? I Can’t be Serious!

I went for LaVazza Super Crema, but when I saw that the yet-untried LaVazza Gran Espresso had “notes” of cocoa and black pepper, I called my partner-in-coffee crimes, Seth. “I would be honored to try Gran Espress,” he responded. I could hear him grinning. “Notes” it would be.

The cool thing was that I could taste the cocoa, and that the black pepper was so good it made me extremely happy. Having gotten my cup first, I said to Seth, “You’re going to like this.” Sure enough. The uncool thing was that I didn’t stop with one cup, and the second one gave me a bit of a headache.

There is so much to be said for, so much to be gained from stopping with that one cup, that one serving. Savoring, enjoying, focusing on, being grateful for, that one lovely cup. More is not always better.

I don’t think I’m alone in over-endorsing the belief that, as Mary Engelbreit put it, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.” Sometimes definitely yes, sometimes absolutely not. It’s called moderation, it’s called balance, it’s called not swinging from one extreme to the other, landing on one ditch or the other–all or nothing! I won’t have coffee for six months!

Why then, am I doing this, if I’m (obviously) doomed to failure? Because what’s obvious is not always true. I may fail now and again, but I’m still moving forward, still learning how to walk wisely in this high place of grace.

So, it’s about grace. God knows I want to do this, to take care of my health, and He knows I want to enjoy excellent French Press coffee with my son. He also knows that I need to move to a place of quality, not quantity, and believe it or not, you can learn that from coffee!

My Zero For Six adventure, as regarding coffee, is Zero consumption of fatiguing foods for six months. I never supposed I would have 100% on this quest. I am simply taking it step by step, and hoping, praying, believing He is with me.

The Art of Conversation Creates Art

It was a lovely morning yesterday. Seth and I tried a new LaVazza variety (falling off the wagon a bit on this aspect of Zero For Six-ing, but more on that later) on the balcony. We likened the rustling of the Aspen leaves to the feel of clean cotton sheets, the breezes in the pines and the birdsong to music.

The conversation went and wound its way here and there, and somewhere in there I had a fantastic idea–a doable, practical example of how to remind our government that indeed, they work for us. I won’t go into the particulars of the idea, because I want to talk about the power of conversation.

We’re meant to have it, and it’s meant to produce ideas, solutions, revelations. It’s meant to connect hearts and minds and put us in the creativity zone. So, if our conversations aren’t producing this magical marvel, especially when we’re talking with our adult children, we can examine ourselves.

Do we listen carefully and thoughtfully? Do we interrupt? Do we have to be right? Are we taking a parental role when our family members are not asking for that? Just as we’re extra polite and considerate in our conversations with non-family folks, are we also with our beloveds? Do we remember that sometimes hearts simply want to be heard–not to hear our opinion?

When we don’t know the answer do we simply say, “I don’t know, but I will pray for wisdom, and I will pray for you to have wisdom, and all will be well”?

It’s helpful to remember that those who talk the most and loudest are often drowning out the words of those with the deepest and best thoughts. Just in case you’re like me, and maybe are a bit chatty, it could be time to put some art into our conversation.

Zero For Six TV is Play

It’s not deprivation! Not watching makes us more childlike, more apt to play. I find myself delving into old joys, thinking new thoughts, considering forgotten possibilities, simply because I’ve freed my mind from the tyranny of watching.

When I’m not watching a fake world I take in my own. I hear the wild turkeys in the yard, come to see the goldfinch when someone exclaims at its beauty, listen for the lovely sound of the blackbirds. I see the cottontail munch, munch, much stems of grass, sing him a bit of a song and watch his ears twitch as he listens. I’m noting the scent of my beloved’s soap on his skin, of the juniper and sage on the breeze, of the lemon curd just cooked. I’m listening to what plays when I try “Romantic music for daydreaming.” I’m listening to my beloveds. I’m hearing the music of life, and life becomes musical.

When I’m not watching, I’m gracefully and rhythmically getting through those little details cluttering my life, thus freeing my mind for larger and deeper thoughts. Or simply thoughts of play, maybe like being in a play, or learning the rules for Charades and having a tea party. A proper English tea, perhaps, as I share Queen Elizabeth’s 23 rules for living (including play) from Bryan Kazlowski’s Long Live the Queen, and dream . . .

If I can’t go to England right now, I muse, maybe I’ll read James Herriot, or P.G. Wodehouse, or Agatha Christie, sipping Earl Grey. Maybe I’ll nap like a baby all afternoon, and stay up all night, and see what I can get up to . . .

We’re meant to play.

Dull Books, Dull Boys and Girls

“You appear to have absconded with my keys, Mother,” my daughter said. “Oh, no! I’m so sorry.” And I was sorry about it, even as I was delighted in a child who says, “You appear to have absconded,” rather than, “Hey! You took my keys!”

It pays to homeschool, especially when you have a literary approach. That is, approach the teaching of spelling, speaking, writing, and thinking via literature. Put excellent books in every nook and cranny. Read to them and with them. Read books they recommend. Talk about it: What was your favorite part? Do you agree with the author’s worldview? Are there plot holes? If you re-wrote the story, what would you change? If this book were to be a movie, who would you cast as the villian?

DO NOT read below their level. One of the best parts of any book is a new word. Beatrix Potter’s use of “soporific” is a great example. Don’t go into Mr McGregor’s garden: your father had an accident there, he was put into a pie by Mrs McGregor. It is said that the effect of eating too muclettuce is ‘soporific‘.

Perhaps he shouldn’t have been absconding with other people’s property, eh?

Phyllis McGinley, in the treasure of a book, Sixpence in Her Shoe, wrote, “If I had time and courage enough, I’d write a children’s book stuck plum-pudding rich with great jawbreakers of words,” and, “I am certain that children, left to themselves, would prefer a rattling good story . . . to the handsomest volume in the world which brings no glory to their dreams or quickening to their pulses.” She continues, “They are a braver generation than we suppose. So they deserve brave books. They deserve the best that men and women of wit and talent can write for them.”

And they deserve parents who will read to and with them. Books with big stories, big wonders, big ideas, big words.

Now We’re Cooking With Nuts!

One of the innumerable blessings of homeschooling is abounding, wonderful, and marvelous wackiness. “You do know your brother is weird, don’t you?” asked my daughter’s friend. A better description is “uniquely quirky”. It was our Creator who decided each and every one of us would be unique in all the history of the world, and in so doing, made it impossible, no matter how hard we try, for any two of us to be alike–unweird. Normal.

Exploring normal. Normal breakfasts, for starters, are too fast and too cruel (like the remarks of that little girl who didn’t take the time to know my son before mis-pronouncing who and what he was). A not so normal breakfast is eggs scrambled by you and/or your children, maybe even from your own chickens, and eaten with homemade blueberry lemon muffins–baked by you and/or your children. Forget the fake OJ. This deserves a spot of tea.

“Normal” ice cream is filled with chemicals, egg substitutes, artificial flavors and colors, fake “milk” and high fructose corn syrup. Oh, and air. And not many nuts. Not so normal ice cream is made at home with such marvels as organic heavy whipping cream and eggs, finely ground vanilla beans and maybe a bit of lavender essential oil–to be had on a Saturday morning, or for brunch, or with a first breakfast of blackberry crumble made with oats, whole grain flours, sea salt, REAL butter, honey, and walnuts.

Or make that a peach crisp with pecans with a purely vanilla ice cream. Chocolate goes well with peanuts and peanut butter topping, or try adding toasted coconut and almonds to your almond flavored dream cream. It’s up to you–you’re unique and you deserve uniqueness, or rather, nuttiness.

This sort of thing will cause your daughter to dance on the dining room chairs and your honey to show you a ballet step you never saw before. Nuts, not normal–both of them. And yay!

Let Us Now Be Good Company

The French Café tells us we can frequent Parisian coffee shops of our choice, perhaps because of “the landlord’s personality, the clientele, the ambience, or the décor.”  In a rural setting we are told the décor of old country cafes is frugal, but that, “they often create their own atmosphere of romance and poetry with a remarkable economy of means.”

There is something particularly satisfying about creating our “own atmosphere of romance and poetry with a remarkable economy of means.”  You don’t need a new French Press to make coffee.  Indeed you can brew a satisfactory cup boiling it on the stovetop!

One of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever tasted was cheapo store brand coffee steaming hot out of a thermos.  I was in the back seat of my husband John’s truck, it was very cold outside, we were crossing a high mountain pass.  John was driving, my brother in the front seat with him, and my beloved, beloved sister-in-law sat beside me.  My sister-in-law is steady, to be depended upon to keep up her end of the positivity bargain at all times. I’ve been sharing meals with Liz since the seventh grade, and she hasn’t failed yet to be good and pleasant company, the kind of company that makes a meal a feast, in fact.

The flavor is enhanced by the setting and the company, so let’s all be sure we’re good company!

I was with good company last week driving with my daughter Rebekah and friend Pam when we got on that subject: politics–the fraudulent elections, disappointments being handed out by the Supreme Court (only Justice Thomas does not disappoint), traitors in Congress, small business woes, etc. Pam reached over and touched my arm. “I’m sorry,” she said, “for ranting about all that.”

But because she was ending all of it with her trust in God, with quoting and reminding us all of Psalm 37, with seeing all the good that is coming out of the bad (and there’s lots of it, especially in that Christians are humbly remembering who their Savior is), it wasn’t a rant. It was an air clearing and mutual exhortation among good company.

Keeping our eyes lifted doesn’t mean we don’t know what’s happening, or that we aren’t doing something about it. It just means we’re looking to our only hope. We’re keeping good company with good company.

Let’s enjoy life a little, and let me say it you and to myself again–let’s be good company.

The Power of Harmony . . .

After giving thanks and more thanks (when I open my eyes and am still snug under the covers) I read my devotionals: Oswald Chambers, Henri Nouwen, and Faith to Faith by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland. This morning’s Faith to Faith mentioned “the power of harmony” and when I hear about power, I listen up. So, please, listen up and let us ponder and consider:

Strife drops the shield of faith, stops prayer results and invites Satan and his cohorts into your midst. Discord is deadly. It paralyzes the power of God in your life.

Don’t allow the enemy to stop you at your own front door by allowing strife in your home. If you do, you’ll be no threat to him anywhere else.

Put the power of harmony to work in your family.

I say “Amen to that!”

Home-First Hospitality

Today’s Henri Nouwen Society offering spoke to my heart and I want to share it, then offer my thoughts, so please read beautiful Henri thoughts, and consider mine.

Henri:

Hospitality
Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. . . . The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adore the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own.

Bev’s:

I read these beautiful thoughts on hospitality, made a comment, and then considered the comments offered, where one wise man said in a nutshell, “One-on-one hospitality is the cure for the world’s ills.”

Let it begin at home. Let us be open to the wounds and ugliness of each others’ hearts and personalities. Let us seek reasons and ways to bless and pray for–not the world first–those with whom we share our dwellings. Let us, as Henri exhorts us to, ” . . . offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”

Freedom. Let us emulate Christ by offering a “free indeed” hospitality. No, this doesn’t mean anything goes. Just Love.

Love doesn’t always keep still and quiet, any more than love mouths off in anger. Love abides in God, Who is Love, and seeks His ways, grace, understanding, wisdom, and even knowledge of what’s in the wounded and precious hearts with whom we live. Love is patient, kind, at peace, hospitable.

Hospitality is Love. Or is meant to be. Again, let it begin at home, where all good things begin and end, Amen.

And Another Thing–Great Cookbooks!

I just finished a post about things found during cleaning and organizing, and I forgot about my cookbooks. Here’s what happened. I’m clearing off the top of the fridge (the best place in my small kitchen for large bowl storage) and what to my wondering eyes do appear, but several cookbooks.

Once upon a time I put some favorite cookbooks in theretofore unused cabinet space atop the fridge, and then promptly forgot about them. When I spied them as I wiped down the nasty fridge top my first thought was, “Oh, this is where I put it!” I peered at the titles and sure enough The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham was among the treasures. Also found (forgot I had this gem, so wasn’t really looking for it) was Better than Storebought by Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie.

Better than Storebought promises and delivers solutions to the ever-present problem of high prices for low quality grocery store offerings. “This is a book,” says the book jacket, for cooks “. . . who love good, real food . . . . “for cooks who prefer to make more cheaply . . . foods . . . that wear grand-scale price-tags . . . for curious and questing cooks who enjoy the creation of intriguing edibles . . .”

As for “intriguing edibles” The Breakfast Book is a celebration of breakfast, with offerings such as knotthole and featherbed eggs, muesli ballymaloe, dewey buns and buttermilk breakfast doughnuts, because, as Marion Cunningham says, “Homemade doughnuts and fritters have their very own marvelous character, better than anything you can buy out and about.”

Well, there are some fairly marvelous pastries “out and about” in my area, but they also have some fairly marvelous price tags.

So, as I’ve said and will no doubt say again, “Do try this at home, with what’s right under your nose.”

It’s Amazing What You Can Find

Each time I do a bit of straightening I am amazed anew at what’s right under my nose, what treasures are in my house. In a recent re-rereading of Alexandra Stoddard’s Living a Beautiful Life I was inspired to deal with some of those little things, those seemingly unimportant details, which get let go when life, elections, holidays and worldwide pre-planned panic attacks occur simultaneously.

Renewing a friendship with old fave authors is the very thing when taking to heart God’s admonition, “Let not your heart be troubled.” And if that trusted friend reminds me of an old truth–that the beauty of small things are worth notice and even close attention–it’s off to the races.

Yesterday I cleared my mind as I cleared drawers and closets. I gladdened my heart as I cleaned and organized my pantry. Heeding Alexandra, I made my fridge a joy to behold–everything straight, neat, and beautiful. I even took the eggs out of the big egg flats and put them into a lovely burlap-sided fridge basket. I may have to pause here and go stare into my fridge.

Homemaking is art.

And art, no matter who says otherwise, pays. It pays to discover there are peppercorns in the pantry, when I had decided I must have been mistaken about buying them. It pays to find my tape measure when I’m going through drawers in the utility room (I had decided to buy a new one). There was great joy in my heart when I found missing lingerie (I had decided I must have given this item away, and wondered why) when I cleared and organized my lingerie chest.

And the great joy to be had simply by straightening shoes in the closet and finding the missing mitten (one I personally knitted which therefore has a bit more “personality” than your ordinary mitten) I’ve been searching for and mourning for almost a year–this is good news, Reader. Why isn’t it on national TV? Bev found her mitten!

And in her Lazy Susan what did she find? As always, lids without bottoms and bottoms without lids (I store containers and a few other items in the Lazy Susan cabinet to the right of my kitchen sink). But I also created order out of chaos as I made my kitchen a bit more user-friendly, and a lot more attractive.

And what wondrous joys await me today? Today, or so I say, I am going to clean the “junk drawer.” I can see myself now: throwing this away and that away and this away and that away; putting the stick pins in thier own little slot, the rubber bands all together; and rejoicing in the “finds”, those things that got stuck in the drawer because I didn’t know what else to do with them. But now I will know.

You can say I am easily entertained, and I will agree with you. It’s quite the life skill, and as I said, it’s amazing what you can find. At home. Right under your nose.