Tales and Stories–Shnodgrate and Napoleon

The Tuesday Reblog

The Professor over at the Punchy Lands is random and quirky and funny, and I especially liked this post today, as a woman who is learning to take herself less seriously and who has on occasion been told by perfect strangers (including the toll taker on the state highway over the weekend) to please smile because I look better that way.


Giving the Boot

Saturday Snippets

I would just like to take this opportunity to apologise for the appearance of a fake tan I have been inflicting on the universe for the last month or so. It’s so false it’s not even a real fake tan. Some of the Readership who know me in real life are now thinking, “Ah–at least she’s aware of it. We didn’t want to say anything.” The rest of you will now be enlightened as to the source of the vague sense of something extra that has become wrong with the world. But it’s not my fault. Not really. I blame boots.

No, not these boots.

No, not these boots.

THIS Boots.

THIS Boots.

I suspect most of my American The Readership aren’t even aware of this product, but back when I was in London and a large percentage of my international friends would come up to me with concern and ask me if I were aware I had “spots,” I discovered Boots No.7 foundation make-up. Boots is the name of a chemist–i.e., drug store–chain in the UK, kind of like CVS or Osco, but classier. Obviously, since they have their own line of up-market make-up. Their foundation never actually cleared up my acne, but it remains the only one I have discovered which doesn’t actually exacerbate it. So although it’s not all nice and “natural” like some of the mineral things they’ve got out there right now, I was pretty happy when CVS and then–after a fall-out between them and Boots, apparently–Target started carrying it.

Then, about three months ago, the Boots shelves at Target were all in disarray and I thought, Oh no! Are they discontinuing carrying it, too? But no. It turns out that all that was happening was that the good people at No.7 were reformulating and repackaging it or something. I discovered this about a month ago, when I was completely out of my last little bottle of the stuff. But there were no samplers, and all the names of the skin-tone colours had changed. Who does that? I stood there for about fifteen minutes trying to figure out which of the two lightest colours was my colour.

All that to say, I bought a bottle one shade darker than I should have, but once you use the stuff, obviously you can’t bring it back to the shop, and this stuff is too expensive simply to replace and not to use one if it happens to be the wrong colour. Adding insult to injury, of course, is the fact that there’s no chance at this time of year that I could be sporting a real tan. But I am going to use this vial of make-up until it’s empty. So there. And so . . . so sorry, everybody.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Family Friday

Are you sick of reading about our garden yet?

Well, that’s too bad, because I’m not done writing about it.

On Wednesday I pulled up all the carrots.

Table takeover

By which I mean ALL the carrots.

By which I mean ALL the carrots.

This morning I juiced a couple, also with the greens (and an apple, which we didn’t grow here). It was pretty delicious. It’s a good thing we have all these carrots, since we finally made it through the pile of peppers. (You know what’s good? Shredding an onion and sautéeing it until it’s a sort of caramelised paste, frying up some bacon and food-processing it to bits, mixing all that in with a brick of cream cheese, and then stuffing it into baby peppers. Try it.) Happiness is having an inordinate pile of one type of vegetable and seeing how many uses you can come up with for it, I think.

Oh! And something gourmet-breakfast-place-y I tried the other day when my Paul (who I suspect would not have been a fan in this particular case) had to leave for work early:

We had some leftover zucchini (courgette) from a previous evening, so I chopped them up into tiny cubes and threw them in a frying pan. Then I beat two eggs and some milk in a bowl and poured them over the top, and then while that was all cooking, I crumbled some lemon balm into it. Lemon balm is notoriously difficult to come up with a use for. It’s good in fruit salad, but that season is definitively over now that we’ve had a frost and turned the house heat on, in spite of my Paul’s facebook post yesterday:

"We still have raspberries, therefore it is still summer."

“We still have raspberries, therefore it is still summer.”

I found a recipe for some sauce made out of lemon balm and made some a few weeks ago, but now I can’t figure out what to do with that. Also, as soon as the sauce hits any air room temperature or cooler, it hardens, so now I basically have this lemony, small-bowl-sized butter lozenge in the fridge. Which I guess could be good? But I still don’t know how to eat it.

I picked most of the lemon balm the day I made the sauce lozenge, and put what didn’t make it into that, into a plastic zipper bag and into the freezer, but I didn’t have high hopes for it. I don’t know what made me think that lemon balm would taste nice with zucchini in eggs (and after trying it, some of you might really wonder), but in my opinion it was fantastic. Adding a slice of Swiss cheese really clinched it, and set me daydreaming about when my Paul and I move to the Middle-of-Nowhere, New Hampshire, and open our bed and breakfast . . .

What Moves Me

Theology Thursday

really get into stories.

When I was two years old, my parents took me to my first movie (Cinderella)–and then took me right back out again, because even though I knew the cat (Lucifer) in the cartoon was “bad,” I couldn’t bear watching Jacque and Gus the mice “be mean” to him, and I screamed my head off. I never did see the rest of the movie until it was released on VHS when I was in high school.


When I was a teenager watching Fiddler on the Roof and the tailor Mottel Camzoil asked a plaintive question about whether now wasn’t a good time for the Messiah finally to come, I sobbed my eyes out because of course I believed (and still believe) that the Messiah had come, and how awful for them (fictional or not) not to know Him.


When I was in college watching The Mission and the baby near the end in the mud and the rain screaming, I sobbed again, and felt like screaming like that, for the Slaughter of the Innocents which seems to keep happening, over and over again.


Nowadays, when my Paul and I watch action movies . . . or a recent (or upcoming–depending on which side of the Atlantic you reside) episode of a popular British period drama, he’ll look over at me and say, “You’re holding your face again.” I guess I usually am.

Guys. I realise there might be some doubt in some people’s minds about this, but I am able to discern that these movies are fiction. It’s just that a) I immerse in a good story and b) apparently (and I’m only recently starting to realise this about myself) I get really deeply disturbed by bullying and injustice. (It is arguable that I don’t actually do much about it, which I probably also need to start wrapping my head around, but I sure do get upset.)

So a week ago tonight, when our Seminary Dean–who has been laid off because of the shut-down–had to speak to our student-body about that very shut-down and what it means to us, I sobbed again. This was a true story unfolding, and I was, once again, immersed in it. I had thought I was over my upset at the news some days before, but . . . apparently not. There was a cake after the question and answer session, as part of a thank you to our amazing Centre Director (also laid off), but I was crying too hard to be able to countenance cake and socialising, even with a bunch of people I have grown to care deeply about in a very short time.

On the way home I had the strangest sensation of being absolutely spitting mad–or, more exactly, rolling-up-the-windows-and-screaming-in-the-car mad, except that I have to drive past the police station to get from The Seminary to The Cottage, so I just screamed in my head–but also having this rock-solid sensation that all would be well and all would be well and all manner of thing would be well. (Thank you, Julian of Norwich, for the extra-biblical quote I quote more than all other extrabiblical quotes.)

Then I started thinking about the crucifixion, and maybe it’s a little bit of a stretch to equate the death of a tiny Seminary no one has heard of with the death of the Messiah, but it really does feel like a death, and an unjust one, to boot. The Centre Director and the Seminary Dean are definitely bearing the brunt of this decision, and it’s pretty clear they’re in pain, because they have really personally invested in this place. Yet they did not once denigrate the Institution. They listened to other people’s fears and worries and even misplaced accusations with grace and patience. They fielded questions about decisions to which they had not been privy. All I could think of was grace, grace, grace. And therefore, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

I thought about how this Seminary has such a focus on spiritual formation–the process of being “formed” more into the likeness of Jesus Himself, in attitudes, behaviour, speech–everything. And I thought that our instructors (the Centre Director, the Dean, the professors) in this process are not hypocrites. Of course they’re not perfect, but they have been spiritually formed, and even now they are being spiritually formed even further, and they are an example to us–to me, who has not moved far enough along yet to completely resist airing this stuff on the internet. But that was why I was crying–because here were these godly people, whose life’s work (at least recent life’s work) appears to be cut off before it was fully realised.

And I guess that’s why I thought of the crucifixion. And I thought about the disciples–the male ones and also the women–and how they felt when Jesus, the quintessentially godly, spiritually “formed,” was outright slaughtered. I’ll bet they sobbed, too. And screamed. Without the windows rolled up, and regardless of police stations. But did they know that “all would be well”? Because Easter hadn’t happened yet.

But now it has. And I believe in resurrection. And restoration. And reconciliation. And hope. I don’t know what those things look like in relation to The Seminary and the people here that I care about. But I believe in them, and I believe they’re in play as much here and now as anywhere and anywhen. Thank you, Jesus.


Wordy Wednesday

I wish that you thought the title of this post was Sold! because it meant that The Seminary had been sold to another institution so we wouldn’t have to shut it down. And I wish you thought that because I wish you were right. But that hasn’t happened (yet?), and that is not what this post is about. It is a little bit about The Seminary, though.

This post is just to tell you that I actually sold my first copy of Trees through the Jenn Store! It was purchased by a fellow Seminary student, who could just as easily (and $4 more cheaply) have bought it from me out of the trunk of my car. I just wanted to tell you because a) selling copies of Trees is, apparently, a big deal and because b) it demonstrates in a small way just what a high caliber of students attend(ed) this here Seminary. I have quality colleagues, I’m telling you. Thanks, Quality Colleague! I hope you (and your wife, whose name is on the shipping label) enjoy it!

A stand of Trees. Get yours today!

A stand of Trees. Get yours today!

Just Stand There In Your Deadness & Be Dead

The Tuesday Reblog

The WannabeSaint posted this approximately the day after we got the news that The Seminary was being shut down. It seemed appropriate, somehow.

The Doctor’s Office

Saturday Snippets

A couple of you have been over here cramming the last few days, if the number of posts in a row that you’ve “liked” is any indication, so I almost feel obligated to give that Jenn story quiz I quipped about last week. I think that might be a little too self-absorbed even for me, though, and also it makes me feel obligated to give prizes, and the only people I’m sure would play along already possess the only prize I currently have to offer. So instead I’m going to tell you what it’s like when TWCN (The World’s Cutest Niece) and Smiley-Guy play doctor. (P.S. The short answer is: adorable and innocent.)


Mom and Dad have the same Fisher-Price® doctor’s kit that Grandma and Grandpa M had when TheBro and I were little and came over to play.  It looks pretty grungy now for all the use it’s had, but that doesn’t stop TWCN from playing with it or Smiley Guy from putting all the pieces in his mouth even though he’s a precocious three and a half and should know better.

TWCN holds up the eye chart with all of the letters of the alphabet in order in decreasing size. I say all the letters correctly, at the pace at which she moves her fingers. She is in Kindergarten now so she knows her alphabet literally frontwards and backwards. “Pretend,” she says. “When you get to the little ones, say some wrong ones.” We go through the chart again. I pretend to see the letters between P and Z with some trouble. “No!” TWCN says every time I mess one up, as if I’m the most hilariously dimwitted auntie in the world. She keeps saying, “No,” until I get it right. Then she waves the little blue wand for looking in eyes and ears and pokes it right at my eyelids. “The eyes are my favourite part,” she says cheerfully, while I wonder if I should be frightened.

She has some pieces of modular plastic screwdriver from Fisher-Price’s tool kit, too. “These are for cuts,” she says.

“Cuts?” I ask in alarm. “I don’t want any cuts!”

“No!” she laughs, as if I have just called a WT. “They’re for cuts. Let’s see if you have any cuts.” Apparently they are applicators to put disinfectant on my pre-existent imaginary cuts. I feel much better.

Smiley-Guy is meanwhile jumping around with the plastic yellow and red syringe and trying to give me shots in the arm while holding it in his mouth. TWCN is taking my temperature and turning the little dial at the end of the giant thermometer so it reads as high as possible. I pretend to be shocked and dismayed by the high fever I am, apparently, running. TWCN lies me down on the mattress she’s been sleeping on all week and Smiley Guy gives me his Blankie.

Both of them get on the rocking horse that Grandpa G made for me when I was T-TAC’s age; because of my scandalously high fever, they are rushing me to the hospital via horsey-cart. TWCN untethers the horse. “Okay, horsey,” she says. “You may go back to your desk now and do your homework.” Then she falls down on the floor laughing hysterically at her own silliness.

At the “hospital,” Smiley Guy starts loudly singing a song he has just made up, using the medicine bottle as a microphone. Something about “The doctor’s office is what we did, the doctor’s office is what we need” over and over again. TWCN begins singing along. It is unclear if they are both singing the same words or not. Or the same tune. Then they tap the little hammer against my knees to test my reflexes, and I kick my feet, cooperatively. TWCN takes my temperature again and Smiley Guy reprises the blue eye-checking wand, approximately as alarmingly as his sister did.

My temperature is still high, but not as bad, although apparently I have a blood pressure of “1.” Somehow, I am still capable of reading them a story.

Not the same event, but a similar approach.  (I have been given permission to post not-the-children's-faces.)

Not the same event, but a similar approach.

Auntie and Niecey

Playing Hooky

Family Friday

I’m using up my last vacation days of the year (minus one) this week, and TheBro and Sister-in-Lu pulled TWCN out of two days of kindergarten so we could all have some Family Togetherness out here in New England–also with my parents, Auntie Susan (who normally lives in Costa Rica) and today, my two grandmothers. Grandma M’s 93rd birthday was last week, and Grandma G’s 98th birthday is in December, so, since this many family members were around at once, my mother is throwing a little party at Cranberry Corners this afternoon.

Homework and other things have been filling in the time-cracks of the week, but there has still been some kind of get-together with The BroFam almost every day, and every one of those seems like a party, actually, because TWCN and Smiley-Guy are so exuberant about everything. We have also finally met Third Time’s a Charmer (aka T-TAC), who really is one, although so far he’s usually quieter than his two older siblings.

I’m not allowed to post photos of the children on the internet anywhere. According to TheBro, “that’s what happens when you’re famous.” Obviously he hasn’t read the post yet about how I’m not. But I respect his caution, so you shan’t be seeing any photos of the kiddies here. I would just like to tell you, though, that my Paul and I read stories to them on Sunday, and on Tuesday they all came over to the Cottage for a ride on the Pontoon and TWCN and Smiley-Guy each caught multiple sunfish and we sat by the bonfire in the dark, and yesterday I went with Mom and Dad and The BroFam to the Living History Museum where I used to work and wandered around feeling nostalgic for my youth in the good ol’ 1830’s, and then TheBro and I had lunch and philosophy, which is what we do (only usually it’s beer instead of lunch), and then my Paul had TheBro and Dad over for dinner while I was at seminary.

It’s been a lovely week. Since I can’t show you too many of the lovely people, I’ll show you some lovely New England instead. The colours this year have been unreal.

Shout Out

Saturday Snippets

Hey crazy kids (a.k.a The Readership)–I love you. I haven’t written anything here since Monday and you’re still stopping by. Bless you, my friends.

This helps, in the aftermath of something I will be writing about after I have figured out how to write about it. Fear not–my Paul and I are fine. My health, it turns out, thank God, is fine. But I myself am a smidge disgruntled about Other Things, you could say. The ones about which I’m still figuring out how to write.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to a visit from The BroFam this week, and to taking my last few days of vacation for the year, and to quaffing a Michigan beer right this second. I will probably take next week off from blogging entirely, and hopefully get back to it (and you) at the other end. But you know. If you wanna keep stopping by, there’s really a lot of reading material here. Also, I used to have this other blog. There will be a quiz at the end of next week . . .


Little Ones

Memory Monday

The other day, Sister-in-Lu emailed me about TWCN’s birthday–which is in the spring:

There’s this store [nearby]

she said,

that has pricey craft projects for kids. I like to stop in, because if I had time to be creative in such ways, I’d try to emulate some of the things they do, but not pay them the big bucks for organization and materials. They have a lot of fairy house crafts/projects that look really fun. But I’m not really into buying natural pieces (acorn tops, branches—seriously?!) to show TWCN how to make a fairy house. I think she might have fun just playing that way in our backyard. So I was thinking, maybe for her birthday, I might consider getting her something like this.


And then play outside with her and make little fairy people and houses in the backyard. But then I thought, if Auntie Jenn is coming to visit in the spring, maybe that’s something she’d like to do with TWCN. So, before I decide whether or not I might get this book for TWCN for Christmas, or for her birthday, I thought I’d pass that along to you, just in case you might be interested.

To which I replied,

Um YES. I made a fairy house once (we’ll just forget the part where I was in high school) and I still have, locked away somewhere, the little maple-leaf outfit I made for the fairy. 🙂

Sadly, I’m having a little trouble forgetting the part that I said to forget, because it’s true. I was kind of a loner as a child . . . and then as a teenager . . . and until I discovered a whole new group of people who were just as geeky as I was in college, I used to wander around in the woods behind the house where I grew up and imagine stuff. Mostly I imagined I was captive to an evil enchantress, seeking an escape and a way to save the kingdom from her clutches.

But there was some evidence that the woods behind the house had once been some kind of granite quarry; there was a big tumble of rocks back there that looked like it should have caves in it. In spite of years of searching, I never found one, but there was a little indentation in one of the rocks near the top of the pile, and one day it occurred to me that for a very very small person, it could be a cave, so I decorated it as a house for a fairy. I didn’t really believe in fairies, but I kind of wanted them to be true because I was so lonely most of the time, and plus this was like having a doll house made out of “nature.” I had a dollhouse which was fun to decorate, but, not being an ambitiously materialistic young person, neither were the dolls, and their house was not going to improve much from the point at which I had it when I was fourteen. So I created a new one.

I ripped some moss off of some other rocks and laid it at the bottom of the fairy cave for carpet. Actually . . . I don’t really remember what else I put in there, but I’m sure acorn caps were involved (Sister-in-Lu is right–purchasing acorns is absurd . . . unless, of course, you wanted to buy some, and then I’d be happy to sell you a bagful), and also that it took multiple trips on multiple days to complete the miniature dwelling. Then I picked four maple leaves–two tiny ones and two medium ones. I sewed the small ones together down the sides, with a hole in the top for a head, and the bottom for a torso. Then I did the same with the larger pair, and I had a blouse and a skirt for the fairy.

I left them in the fairy house for a little while. Then, because no fairy had moved in, I brought them back to my house, and locked them away in my little box of “treasures.”

To which I can no longer find the key, so I can't show you. But the outfit is in there. I promise.

To which I can no longer find the key. So I can’t show you. But the outfit is in there, I promise.