Thursday, June 26, 2014

I is for Images

I am a very visual person. When I read a book, I picture everything I read. My mind produces a vague blurry description of faces, but of things and places, events and actions, my mind fills it all in. Do you read this way?

I just finished reading one of the most fascinating and detailed books about art and its importance, The Monuments Men. Throughout the story, this tiny brave band of men, with little resources and lots of ingenuity, were given the truly monumental task of finding, protecting, counting, and recovering vast hoards of artwork of all kinds stolen by the Nazi's during World War II. It is hard to comprehend the immensity of the job they faced and how colossally important it was.

Throughout the book, different pieces of artwork were discussed--enormously important works of art from all over the world. One of these was the 12-paneled Ghent Altarpiece. Most of you know that I love art, and know a modest amount about it, but I'd not seen this entire masterpiece by Flemish artists (and brothers), Hubert van Eyck and finished by Jan van Eyck, in the 1430's. The Nazi's covetted this prize and upon conquering Belgium, it was one of the first things on their lengthy list of things to commandeer for the planned F├╝hrermuseum.

This is some of the beautiful detail of this piece:

I find it breathtaking. 

This is one of the panels where it was discovered in a salt mine in Austria at the close of the war:

What it must have been for these men to discover it whole and all in one place! It was not known, for much of the war, where the Altarpiece was or even if it had been destroyed by bombing. The Monuments Men spent a lot of time searching for it, along with all the other stolen artwork.

Another one of the pieces discussed in detail, and coveted by more than one Nazi official, was Johannes Vermeer's, The Astronomer.


I have always loved Vermeer as his art has a magical quality about it. To read the story of the search for, and what was almost the destruction of, this work of art was a bit of a page-turner. Even though I sort of figured they recovered the piece, I really didn't know. There are still pieces of famous artwork that they have never recovered. They could be in private homes somewhere in the world or still stashed in Swiss vaults. The Nazi's had a long and terrible--and oftentimes permanent--reach. 

Because I have studied art for so many years, the images that popped into my mind while reading this book, were many and sometimes overwhelming. But it was not only the artwork. As a student of history, I know all about the horror of the Nazi regime and this book does not leave that out. Much of the art and valuables the Nazi's took were directly from the homes of condemned Jewish families. These are images that I cannot forget. Blended with the beauty of the artwork was the monstrosity of war on the millions who died in camps and on the battlefields across Europe. The scope of all the chaos caused by one man's reign of terror is hard to grasp. 

So I go back to the images of artwork that were preserved--saved for the eyes and appreciative hearts of those yet unborn. I remember that many pieces I have seen in my own lifetime would not have been possible to see without the hard work of the Monuments Men. I am profoundly grateful.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

H is for Hymn Singing

Does your church or family sing hymns together? We are a part of a co-op that used to do this and I really do hope we can try it again. (We lost a family that had half of the male singers and most of the sopranos so it made it a little tricky!) We are gaining a family this next year that has lots of males and a few females too. I hope to continue learning them as we learned them in parts and wow, were they beautiful and meaningful when I did not have to struggle over the tunes! These are two we are singing this Sunday as our church sings hymns each Lord's Day.

Praise to the Lord

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

I love all the lines in this hymn, but the first line should be sung with great joy - Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of  creation! Amen and amen! It is hard not to stand in awe of our great God and Savior when you sing this hymn. I sing it loud and am so blessed to be able to praise my Lord in this song.

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wing├Ęd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

This is a particularly haunting one to me because this one always leaves me in awe of the power of God. His mercy is not earned or owed. We are completely His creation - let all mortal flesh keep silence and with fear and trembling stand. We are Coram Deo - before the face of God. Utterly at His mercy. 

I see my complete humanity in this hymn - how it is all of Him and none of me. He deserves praise and honor from my lips and from all life. 

This is, I have come to realize over time, why we sing the hymns we do. It is not that I think you can't find the glory of God in a praise song because scripture says to worship God in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. There are some newer spiritual songs I wish our church would sing, but these two hymns reach my heart. They help me to see the God of heaven for Who He really is--in His majesty and power, and how very much I need Him.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014


“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting - a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, June 13, 2014

G is for Garden!

This is the time of year I really enjoy. It is sunny, but not usually too hot (usually) and the garden starts doing wonderful things. In a recent post on EarthBoxes, I showed you how to put them together. Today, just a few short weeks after that post, I thought I'd show you how well and how fast they work.


Zucchini and Crookneck Squash - already harvested these two!

Cucumbers are coming along nicely:

Red Peppers are in are in the first box and are slower growing, but doing nicely. The bush beans in the second box were grown by seed and are nice and strong. 

Our tomatoes are big and bushy and are starting to develope fruit. I am super pleased with how these look!

Our peaches were spectacular. They arrived early due to unseasonably early heat and ripened so fast that their time has come and gone already! I was tickled that there were so many and that they tasted to good. We now have ripening apricots we are ready to eat. There never are a ton on this tree, but enough to make us happy that it produces! I am going to trim the daylights out of the branches later in the year to see if that helps the next crop.

I don't know about you, but I love flowers. They are not quite a necessity (meaning I don't plant them in the EarthBoxes!) but I LOVE them. They make me happy and brighten the yard. I have zinnias growing from seed in three different bins and this beautiful bright yellow coreopsis that I have loved forever. The bright pink monster flowers (they are the size of salad plates) draw the bees and are absolutely gorgeous. 

Do you have plants you grow because you love them and they bring you joy? I wish I had ten flower bins and a running supply of flowers. If I could, and it would grow in my backyard, I'd plant an astonishing array of perennials. Flowers minister to my soul in a way that nothing else does. What about you? How does your garden grow?

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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

F is for Fresh and Delicious

So when summer time heat hits, I get motivated to make big delicious fresh salads. We are not talking side salads, but huge full dinner salads. Most people I know don't eat this way, but it is THM-friendly, and we eat this meal all summer long and well into the fall. All my kids like it and it is very good for you to boot! This is what I am talking about:

Does that look good to you? It was certainly good tonight! 
This feeds seven people with leftovers for a few lunches tomorrow. 

First I start with three heads of Romaine lettuce and cut it into edible pieces. Romaine is the best lettuce out there and this is why I use it. Look at all that beautiful deep green goodness!

Then comes the good stuff! This salad is flexible, of course, and you can add whatever you like. I was missing avocado and blue cheese crumbles, but that was about the only thing. I always add as many veggies as I can because it gives each bite a different flavor. What are your favorites?

I often add beans and one of our family favorites are garbanzo beans. Do you like beans in your salads? After eating a wickedly good salad at Buca di Beppo with salami pieces in it, I decided to try it in my own salad at home. It is so good! So I added these two tonight too:

When I cut up a salad, I love the color changes that happen as I add one veggie after another. If I had little ones, I'd probably call them up and go through the colors with them. I think the colors God gives us in our food bless us visually and physically. That might sound a little silly, but I love color and love to eat it too! :)

In order for a big salad to be a solid meal that will fill all my peeps, it has to have some real protein. I know I added salami and garbanzo beans, but they don't have the power punch that meat does. Sometimes I add hard boiled eggs too, but not today. Today I added chicken breasts and bacon!

Once I cut these up and add them, I move on to the dressing. I make it from scratch and it is really good! I use these four things:

This is the recipe:

Kate's Homemade Dressing

1/2 C Apple Cider Vinegar
3 T Bragg Liquid Aminos
3/4 C olive oil
2 T Gulden's Mustard (or any brown mustard)

Pour it in the jar, shake, and enjoy. If I am not in a hurry to eat it right away, I add two crushed garlic cloves to the dressing and let it mix together. It adds a whole different punch to it that is really good. This recipe is also good over steamed veggies or on baked potatoes or as a pasta salad dressing. 

So that's a summer dinner for you! What do you like to eat when it is HOT in your home?

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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Kinder Cottage - The Peter Rabbit Series (A Review)

One of my first and favorite books I purchased for my children when they were young was The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The story of a hungry bunny sneaking into Mr. McGregor's garden trying to eat his fill of stolen veggies and almost getting caught by the angry farmer is timeless. The series continues with Peter Rabbit at the Farm where Peter has adventures with the other animals. Kinder Cottage Publishing prints and sells ten of the Peter Rabbit series in beautiful hardback format in a 5" x 7" size that's just right for little hands for only $4.00 each.

Like fairy tales, many of the Peter Rabbit stories share the consequences of naughty behavior without moralizing upon it. They show rather than tell what might happen if a child chooses to disobey. In Peter's case, it was fairly serious! Peter was forbidden by his mother from going into the farmer's homestead. He goes anyway, of course. Upon discovery, Peter races around the farmer's land to escape and barely does so while losing his little blue jacket and shoes in the process. He has eaten so much and has had such a fright that he cannot even eat the delicious dinner his mother has made for him. The farmer even uses his jacket and shoes for a scarecrow!

From this mother's perspective, this teaches my children (without me ever opening my mouth) that disobedience has consequences that are not going to be fun. There is so much value in a story like this!

The second story we read and reviewed is Peter Rabbit at the Farm. This story is more about Peter off for a day of mischief and madcap adventures. He ventures onto Mr. McGregor's farm again, but not into the garden this time. He meets up with various animals, helps a few along the way, and makes some new friends. It is definitely more of a story rather than something meant to teach any particular lessons. The color sketches are all "lovingly preserved" in the books and are highly entertaining. Every two-page spread in this book has a full-color sketch similar to the covers you see here.

As noted above, Kinder Cottage sells ten Peter Rabbit titles in their series all with a different theme:

The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Peter Rabbit at the Farm
Peter Rabbit's Christmas
How Peter Rabbit Went to Sea
Peter Rabbit Goes A-Visiting
Peter Rabbit's Easter
Peter Rabbit's Birthday
When Peter Rabbit Went to School
Peter Rabbit and the Little Boy
Peter Rabbit and Jack the Jumper

They are best suited for children ages 3-9, but they can certainly be enjoyed beyond this range. (My eleven year old is enjoying reading them very much!) It is perfectly delightful to see her pouring through them on the couch just for fun. The reading level varies from book to book so make sure you check the samples for each book on the individual page for that book on their website.

Here is a reading level sample from page 10 from The Tale of Peter Rabbit:

The old Mrs. Rabbit took a
basket and her umbrella, and
went through the wood to the
baker's. She bought a loaf of
brown bread and five currant buns.

Here is a reading level sample from page 10 from Peter Rabbit at the Farm:

"You pesky little rabbit!" cried Pollie
Possum, "now see what you've done!
You've spilled all my nice persimmons, and
my poor old auntie won't have any fruit for

Of course Peter was sorry, and of course he
picked up all the persimmons and put them
back in the basket. He was so nice about it,
and so sorry that he had been rude, that
Pollie Possum forgave him and handed him
a big, fat, juicy persimmon all for himself.

As you can see, they vary quite a bit. Either way, they make great read alouds!

We have enjoyed these little books from Kinder Cottage Publishing. I really like that they are actually affordable hardbacks! That is a rarity in today's book market. I also very much appreciate the illustrations. They are wonderful and old-fashioned and entirely delightful. They help bring the story to life--especially for children that are not around farm animals. Couldn't you see your little one curled up on the couch with these little books in their hands?

If you want to read reviews of the other eight titles in the series, to see which ones your children are likely to enjoy, make sure you click the banner below! There will be many great reviews to choose from!

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