Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy Birthday, Benjamin!

If you've ever read Elizabeth Enright's Melendy Quartet (The Saturdays, Four-Story Mistake, Then There Were Five, and Spiderweb For Two), then you will have met Rush, the teenage boy who reminds me so very much of our Benjamin.

In "Then There Were Five", Enright describes Rush's room:  It was a masterly confusion of bird's nests, snakeskins, books left open facedown, sheets of music, symphony scores, war posters, disbanded chemical sets, microscope lenses, fishing tackle, old letters and postal cards, and odd stamps which had escaped from his stamp album.  A hammer and saw, some nails, a bottle of varnish and an empty Coca-Cola bottle with a straw in it were among the articles on the bureau, and on the bed were two old comic books, a model airplane, and a volume of the life of Beethoven.  

As Cuffy had predicted, shoes and articles of clothing were draped about the floor.  Rush no more had the instinct to hang up his discarded clothes than a snake has the instinct to hang up its shed skin....Among the shoes and clothes were scattered pages of lined music composition paper.  At the top of each was written "Opus III: Sonata in E Flat"; underneath in smaller letters were the words "by Rush Melendy," and at the left, still smaller the words Largo Maetoso."

Later in the book, Rush and a family friend are discussing character: 

"Remember, you ain't go no character at all yet.  It's still just growin', bendin' this way an' that way.  Nothin' but a little jellyfish still."

"Jellyfish!  Listen, I've got a strong character!  Why, listen, I --"

"Nothin' but a jellyfish," repeated Willy peacefully.  All of you.  Just a lot of little jellyfish."

"Some jellyfish sting, don't forget," said Rush.

He stared at Lorna Doone's tail and wondered about his character.  He was sure he had a strong character but when he began to think hard about it there didn't seem to be anything to take hold of.  Am I generous  wondered Rush.  I guess so.  But only when I want to be, so I guess I'm not.  Have I a good disposition?  Yes, except when I'm mad and then it's fierce.

Every time I re-read this series, Rush and Benjamin "twin" more and more.  Full of love for people, musical, smart, funny, passionate about life.  These books give me insight into the birthday boy.

On Benjamin's 17th birthday, he invited some friends and family (what a gift!) over to celebrate with brunch, then the teenagers (and my awesome husband) headed to the park for some rough and tumble fun

while the rest of us either departed or stayed at our house quietly visiting.

I loved having little ones around my house.  

I totally impressed a six year old by my ability to "make crafts" (even though her sweet mama did most of the work)!

Sarah made a mammoth birthday cake for Benjamin.  Somewhere underneath all of that cream cheese icing, there were layers of gingerbread brownie, pumpkin cheesecake, chai tea ice cream, and something else, I'm sure.

Our neighborhood Christmas party fell on Benjamin's birthday, so we brought the cake to share with our most wonderful neighbors.

Finally, we resorted to running an electric knife underneath hot water, and bit by bit, we sawed through and enjoyed the delicious monument to Benjamin's day of birth.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Tis the Season for Music

All musicians know that December is one of the busiest times of the year.

And we are loving all of musical opportunities that living in Arkansas offers!

We're also grateful for teachers and conductors who help us become better musicians while we're back on this side of the Pacific Ocean and for the family members that come support and encourage our music endeavors.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

This Advent looks unlike anything we could have anticipated.  With Benjamin performing in three ensembles, me teaching orchestra at four different schools, the younger girls performing with Voices of Central Arkansas, all three of the kids at home taking piano lessons, and our college girl making beautiful music far away, our schedule is gloriously musical and very full.

This year we've found evenings aren't a good time to read through our Advent devotional together.  Because we just aren't together!  But breakfast is the perfect time to sing through a hymn and listen as Aaron reads a passage of scripture and the brief devotional.  Even when the chef puts too much orange juice in the cranberry bread and the cranberries float.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent has begun.  And it is anything but still and quiet at our house.  But even in the midst of the bustle, our minds are set on the line from an old hymn:  "Come, Thou long expected Jesus...let us find our rest in Thee."

So we snuggle in matching pajamas when we get the chance.  We jump into "Serving Saturdays" on our Advent calendar.  We enjoy every musical minute that comes our way.  And we prepare our hearts to rest in Jesus.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

While Sarah was home last weekend, we decorated with our little bits and pieces of Christmas that have survived our moves over the years.

In the midst of boxes and singing and lots of laughing, I turned around and found all four kids playing in the floor with the Playmobile nativity set!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving in Memphis

We loaded up Wednesday morning and took a detour to pick up Aaron's ninety-one year old grandmother before arriving outside of Memphis to enjoy the bounty of family at Thanksgiving.

Sarah made two pies before we left our hometown:  apple and peanut butter.  And I pretty much got kicked out of the kitchen once we arrived.  It was Oma and the girls.  All four of her granddaughters were there, soaking up her "kitchen magic".

We are so grateful for the opportunity to live close enough that we can make a quick trip to celebrate with our families.  

Not many couples our age have the privilege of spending time with their grandmothers.  And we have three.  Abundant blessings, indeed.

I think these two have missed each other!

From year to year, our Thanksgiving celebrations have looked quite different, but no matter where we are, we recognize God's hand of provision and direction in our lives.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Every time we come back to the land of the libraries, we add new favorite books to our baskets.  Libraries are such a huge blessing!  Yesterday, the girls and I sat down together to read aloud through some of our Thanksgiving books.  Some new favorites that we've added to our faithful book friends...

The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell

Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller (Not really a Thanksgiving book - but our girls made squash into babies in the village, so we found this book hilarious!)

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin

Thanksgiving With Me by Margaret Willey

An Outlaw Thanksgiving by Emily Arnold McCully

Turkey Pox by Laurie Halse Anderson

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Savory Breakfast Muffins

One of our new favorite recipes to warm up our mornings.  These freeze beautifully for busy mornings!

Savory Breakfast Muffins

Prep: 25 minutes
Bake: 20 minutes
Makes: 16 muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon canola oil
3/4 cup cubed cheese
3/4 cup finely chopped fully cooked ham
1 medium sweet red pepper, finely chopped
4 green onions, finely chopped

1.  In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper.  In another bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, butter and oil.  Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened.  Fold in the remaining ingredients.

2.  Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full.  Bake at 400 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in muffin comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.  Serve warm.

Per Serving: 
124 calories    6 g fat (2 g sat fat)    40 mg cholesterol     319 mg sodium    
13 g carb      2 g fiber     6 g protein