Monday, November 2, 2009

Non-Death & Disease-Related Post (Plum Kuchen, More to the Point!)

Shocking, isn't it? I really do have a post here that doesn't relate to anyone dying or diseased -- including me. And you thought it had become the medical blog! We are all bipping along rather well at the moment. Scott planted approximately 6 zillion bulbs yesterday (daffodil, tulip, hyacinth, crocus, iris -- yes, I know they're not bulbs, lilies, and I don't know what all else), and I graded the same number of essay papers, I swear. No great bloomers this time, except for the student who referred to the "Super Attendant of Education" (as opposed, you know, to the "Superintendant"), and the one who kept referencing The Jim Crow Society, as though it were a club one joined (yes, we're reading Angelou's "Graduation" again -- great essay, why change it?). All in all, my students this year are really quite a joy -- intelligent, cheery, and much better writers (particularly in terms of mechanics) than in former years.

Speaking of joyful things, have I mentioned butter & sugar recently? I have the most ridiculously delicious recipe for Plum Kuchen ever. I got it from my very dear friend Lori Schafer, with whom I spent much time knitting and happily gossiping during long cold Colville winters -- and short sunny Colville summers. Very happy golden years, those were. The kuchen recipe comes from her grandmother, an Austrian native who obviously can bake in the very best Austrian tradition. Don't even look at it if you're doing anything like trying to avoid calories. It's terribly delicious with coffee, after dinner, before breakfast, FOR breakfast .... well, you get the idea.

Note: This recipe can also be made with other fruit, such as apples, rhubarb, peaches, etc. You will want to use a single layer of peeled, sliced apples/peaches, or about 3 c rhubarb.

:: Lori's Oma's Plum Kuchen ::

5 c flour
1 c butter (Lori uses margarine, as they're vegan)
1 1/2 c sugar
3 t bkng. pwd.
2 t vanilla
3 eggs (Lori uses egg replacer [see above reason] and it comes out beautifully)

Mix the above together well -- I do mine in the Kitchen Aid. Add a bit of milk, until the dough holds together, is slightly sticky and almost like a slightly more mobile sugar cookie dough (I usually end up adding +/- 1/4 c.).

Divide dough in half between two ungreased 9 x 13 baking pans. Press or roll dough out evenly over bottom of pan, using fingers to build it up a bit on the sides.

Place halved, pitted plums SKIN SIDE DOWN in a single layer atop the dough. Sprinkle the plums lightly with a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon (like all good family recipes, this one requires a bit of eyeballing).

Top with crumb topping (recipe below), and bake at 350 degrees until crust is lightly browned, and plums are bubbling.

*Crumb Topping
2 1/2 c flour
1 1/4 c sugar
1 c butter/margarine

Cut above mixture together until the butter/marg. is the size of green peas. Sprinkle half on each pan of kuchen.

Enjoy! You will suddenly become deeply popular.

love, kristin

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Praise of the Old-Fashioned Doctor

And I don't mean my husband. Though I do think he is an 'old-fashioned doctor.' Anyone who can deliver babies, take out appendices, do colonoscopies, take out tonsils, see peds cases, do nursing home rounds, handle psych medications and even do the odd home visit seems to me to qualify as the sort of all-round physician fast disappearing nowadays. And he's rather good at it. But he's an unusual one these days -- particuarly because he's young and just starting out in practice. He doesn't deliver babies or do surgeries currently -- there are specialists in this area for that sort of thing, though he came out of residency qualified to do such things. But put him down in a tiny one-doctor sort of town, and he would run the show; heck, he'd BE the show. They don't make them much like that anymore.

I thought of this particularly this weekend. Last Tuesday, I randomly and suddenly got a rather severe pain in my right lower side. By the next morning, I was having chills. Scott hied me off to the ER, fairly sure I was probably having appendicitis. I had the usual dr. look at me briefly, poke me a couple times, do some tests, tell me I didn't have a high white count, no fever, cat scan showed nothing, etc. Go home and wait -- your husband can tell if you're dying and you need to come back in.

By Saturday night the pain was worse (and had lingered all week), and I felt like a wet cat at the dog pound. I went back in. Different doctor this time. Mid-70s; spent most of his practice in a very small town, being the whole show as mentioned above. He had the wisest eyes. He came in, sat down next to me, and said, "Tell me what's wrong." Then he proceeded to ask me exhaustive questions, poke and prod extensively, listen to my lungs, look in my ears (the pain's in my side, but you have to be thorough), etc., etc. The ER was extremely busy, but he still stopped to say (twice!), "Is there anything else you want to or can tell me about this? Anything you can think of you didn't remember before? Have I got everything?"

He took blood tests again, got the same result as before. "Well," he said to Scott, "this is not immediately evident. I've been around a long time, and I know sometimes it takes some digging." He did test after test, obviously enjoying the mystery, never making me feel like I was in his way or that he thought I was being over-reactive or silly (by this time, *I* had about decided I was making it up!). He talked with Scott about appendectomies he had done, mused over the cat scan report, and finally said, "My money is on her ovary." "But I don't HAVE an ovary on that side!" I said. (Sorry for the wealth of gynecological information.) "I know," he said, "but your abdomen can do some pretty funny things."

Then he ordered an ultrasound, something no one had thought to do before. That did it. Partially ruptured ovarian cyst on the left side; blood from the rupture collecting on the right side above my appendix, causing pain (internal bleeding always makes your body grumpy). "Well," he said. "NOW we have a diagnosis." He sent me home with medication and an order to see a surgeon for a consult this week.

I guess my point is that, had he told me my problem was my wishbone was infected, I would have believed him. His air of confidence and care-taking, his calm unwillingness to announce he couldn't "find anything," and his obvious experience with everything from ears to toenails, was the most comforting thing in the world. "I've been in this business long enough to know that you can be fooled," he kept telling Scott as he worked.

He was the best kind of old-fashioned doctor.

love, kristin

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Love Easy Recipes That Make a Ton

A blog that I find really fun to read is Like Mother, Like Daughter. The main writer is just the nicest kind of mother -- the sort who had a well-functioning home full of children, and is herself full of good advice, delicious recipes, warm ideas, and gentle encouragement. You just long to go visit her.

Recently, she did a wonderful post on how to make a fruit crisp (apple for example, but she tells how to use other fruits, as well) with crisp topping that you keep extra of in the freezer to pull out and use later. I have a recipe that uses dry cake mix for a fast crumble top, but a homemade mix has to be healthier, tastier, and, if I have actually planned ahead this way, just as fast. Such a smart lady, she is! At least I can visit her in a bloggy sort of way ...

love, kristin

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Fall has rather abruptly arrived here -- it tends to be that way in this area of the country. Last week we were having gorgeous days of mid-60s weather and warm sunshine; this week, it's downright chilly and near-freezing every night. The fall colors are becoming lovely, and this morning I was considering the lovely presents of the season around me on the homestead:

We get between 7 and 11 of these beauties each day -- for all the effort of dumping some feed into a hopper, filling a water dispenser, occasionally re-laying some straw or wood shavings, and making sure the chicken-run fence is secure. Small cost for such lovely oval gems.

A pumpkin from our garden. Once again, this beauty was almost effortless -- we planted the seeds, made sure the sprinklers ran every other night or so, and watched the vines trail and climb all over the shop. The children picked six of them on Sunday, and now they march down the porch steps, looking officially autumnal.

And then there's this Rome apple I got from our local farmstand this morning. It's 13 INCHES in diameter. If you ordinarily have such gorgeous apples, I can only assume your address includes the word Canaan. And I don't have to buy it from a store (as if a store would have such a lovely apple) -- it comes from people I know; people who know my family; people who grow their produce without pesticides; people who support the local economy; people I meet at the armory when we go to welcome the local National Guard home from tours of duty abroad.

How can I be so blessed and fortunate in the ordinary everyday?

love, kristin

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I'm Back ... and a Memorial

I can't believe it's been so long since I've written. This is the traditional opening for most diary entries and not a few personal letters and emails. In this case, however, it's strictly accurate. I really can't. One of the things that has kept me busy in the "real" world has been the final illness of Bev, Scott's "adopted" mom. Most of you know about this, and have been so supportive and kind to me. I've appreciated beyond words your emails, calls, cards. I've needed them.

I've been so privileged to spend several days each week most of the last month in Orofino, keeping house for Gordon, Bev's husband, and being "the thing that is not quiet in the house"--it was the silence that was killing him. I knew that Bev was well-taken-care-of at the hospital, and had a steady stream of visitors (Gordon was there every day), and decided that my duty was to make sure he stayed on his feet and had a lighted house to come home to every night possible.

Bev slipped away last Monday night about 8:30. One of her sons had left to go home to Florida that morning. Before he left, he told her, "Mom, we have everything all organized, tidied up, and taken care of. If you're tired of fighting, just let go. It's all right if you're ready." 10 hours later, she was ready.

Her funeral was last Saturday. Over 250 people crammed into the Lutheran church in Orofino -- people were sitting in the hallways. The service was liturgical, and I found the well-known texts and the bread and the wine comforting. The window I sat under was a memorial stained-glass window that Bev gifted to the church after the death of her parents. The sun outside shone through Christ arisen and poured over my children playing on the pew beneath Him. Mara spent the prayer trying to kick her sister's head.

All four of Bev's sons (to include my husband) wept during the service, but at home, it was like the best kind of Irish wake. We sat around the kitchen table and laughed, reminisced, drank (liquids of varying strength, depending on your preference), ate. Gordon told stories of his wife, and of his boyhood. Sven and Scott told stories of waterfights through the house, playing football together in the yard, wrestling in the back of the pickup on the way down the river road until they both became violently carsick. Emily looked for Grandma Bev to ask where the art paper was, until she remembered.

How I'll miss her. But yet, it feels "normal" -- a part of the roll of seasons, the movement of life. Children are born, others die. Bev had great faith in her Redeemer, and I have no doubt that I will find her on the Resurrection Day, delighted to see how the children have grown, eagerly searching for her friends and children. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

love, kristin

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Photographs, Actually!

Yes, it's true, I'm actually posting PICTURES! (Not that I ever found the dumb cable -- I invested in a card reader.) Here are some snaps from our recent annual end-of-summer trip to Yachats, Oregon. It's a favorite spot for our family -- my parents even have a watercolor painting of the town on their wall at home. From the top (I do NOT understand how to get the photos to line up properly with Blogspot): Emily proving she is still the same child, coast or not; Scott, my niece Melissa, and our assorted children (our 3, and Melissa & Mike's two -- and they will have either one or two coming soon from Ethiopia!--you might notice it was windy); My dad and his great-granddaughter, Madison (Dad is actually reading, not sleeping -- he wouldn't dream of nodding off!); Emily, Steven, Mara, Emma & Jacob (all the kids in the wind picture) on the sea lion sculpture at Sea Lion Caves (a large sea cave where sea lions take shelter during storms, and sun outdoors on the rocks); and my elder sister, Marsha with her granddaughter Madison (the sleeping baby from the above picture) and Mara (who is her niece -- got it?). I will now start posting all the jillion-and-one pictures I've been supposed to be posting all summer!

love, kristin

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hot Weather Cucumber Salad

We have been having the most DREADFULLY hot weather -- and I know that the Willamette Valley, if nowhere else, has been having the same thing. Following is the most refreshing summer recipe. I got it from (gasp) Mom; she's been making it for as long as I can remember, and I'm sure long before that. It's so cool, easy, and light. In fact, a really scrumptious hot-weather supper is this salad, a potato salad, and a Greek green salad (or a fruit salad)-- everything cold and lovely! Enjoy ...

See full size image
* Evelyn's Cucumber Sour Cream Salad

2 medium, fresh cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin (a mandolin slicer works great for this)

Mix thoroughly and marinate for at least two hours in the refrigerator in the following mixture:

1 c sour cream
2 T cider vinegar
1 scant T sugar (I use a little less)
1/2 t salt
2 T chopped chives (I usually omit these, but they are tasty)
2 T chopped fresh dill weed (1/2 t if using dried, which works just fine)

love, kristin

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Chicken Dinner

Hilary (and other committed vegetarians who read this blog), you may wish to plug your ears! (I guess that would be "shut your eyes.")

We took our meat birds (Cornish Crosses, if you wish to know) to be slaughtered this last week. The dual-purpose birds (i.e., good for both meat & egg-laying) won't go for another few weeks or so. And of course we'll be saving about a dozen birds for eggs only -- our hen house is really not large enough for any more adult birds to room together comfortably.

We had planned to do all the slaughtering ourselves, but experienced bird-dispatchers kept hearing the numbers involved (in the Cornish case, only 7) and saying, "Oh, you do NOT want to do all the set-up for a slaughter operation for that few birds! Don't do less than 50 at a time."

Furthermore, I found that Phinney Hatchery, the local place through whom we got our chicks, will do the slaughtering for you -- for a princely (get ready) $1.95 per bird! Wow, am I more than ready to let them do it for THAT price! So Monday night, Scott kindly caught all the meat birds for me, parceled them out in our two large dog kennels for the night (they aren't supposed to eat the night before their big ... um ... event), and the next morning I drove them into town. The workers at the Hatchery picked them up out of the kennels as smoothly and casually as anything -- no clumsiness like when I try to catch one! Two hours later I came back to a lovely box of plucked, dressed birds.

I thought I might be a little squeamish about eating birds we had raised -- that I might find it difficult, or like I was eating a "pet." But I found this not to be so. I had known from the beginning that this was the end plan for these birds--they never were my pets, always something I treated as livestock. I also felt that, as someone who does occasionally eat chicken, it's much more honest of me to be willing to see the process (well, ALMOST all the process) that to just pretend like they someone how raised from birth as tiny chicken tenders in cling-wrap. It also satsified me to know that their life (although, ahem, short) was full of good food, clean water, plenty of room to run, scraps from the garden and kitchen, sunlight, etc.

The children were remarkably unscathed by the process. Emily was enthusiastic about it from the time they were chicks. Mara has no idea what's going on here. Steven was briefly bothered, and wanted to know if they "ran around and squealed" when they were killed. I explained about the slaughter process, and the fact that the hatchery goes to pains to make it as quick as possible. I also reminded him that chicken McNuggets (which he thinks quite the luxury) were made of ... chicken. Just like the ones we raised. And I assured him that he certainly did not need to eat any of the chicken if he did not wish to. He fell too quite happily.

We roasted one chicken that evening. I have to admit it was the juciest thing (even minus all the injected saline) I've ever cooked. Not to mention tender and flavorful. I think it's worth it.

love, kristin

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Reports of My Death Much Exaggerated (Oh, and Do You Like Peach Pie?)

Wow. What a hiatus THAT was! I knew I'd not be blogging while on our mid-June family camping trip to Idaho, but I didn't really expect to be gone for a MONTH. Just before we left for camping, our friendly local floor guy, Devin, and his crew started work on a major floor replacement for the entire ground level of our house. This necessitated moving out of the ground level entirely -- down to the pictures on the walls (I guess we COULD have left them, but I LIKE them ...). The computer was relegated, with everything else, to the garage.

Now I'm back in business, I have reconnected to the cyberworld (I've missed it!), and maybe I'll be more in gear. Our floors are nearly done -- enough so that we are sort of half-moved in, and half still camped out (our stuff, I mean) in the garage. Currently, the connection cable for my camera is AWOL somewhere out there, so I cannot put up pictures of our camping trip -- they're coming! I'll also post pictures of the result of the remodel. For those of you who have been in my home in your live bodies, imagine hardwood in the living/dining/kitchen area and tile in the mudroom. I'm very happy with how things have gone. Devin is a perfectionist and a craftsman. His business is called Advanced Tile (although he does any sort of floor covering), and I am unabashedly advertising him right here. He does a very high-quality job.

I've also discovered the joys of remodeling in an older house. Ours is a 1913, and we had (drumroll, please) FOUR layers of subfloor and two actual floors below our carpet and linoleum in the living room, dining room, and kitchen. We also had a creative assortment of floor levels, flooring substance, and a rat (thankfully, he's actually confined to UNDER the house, but I really didn't want to know he was there). Devin nobly refrained from swearing all along, but I was beginning to despair.

And since we're talking about despair, how about dessert?? We have some early RedHaven peaches on in our area ("we" meaning someone down the road), and I want to share a really great and unusual peach recipe with you. It's from Mom, of course. All my really good recipes are (well, almost!). The hugely important thing to remember in this is to use a 8 x 8 inch METAL square baking pan. Did I mention to use metal? If you use glass, one of the steps involved will cause your pan to break, and egg and cream custard to spill all over your oven. Ask Mom how she knows this. Otherwise it's easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

** Homestyle Peach Cream Pie **

2 c all-purp. flour
1/4 t. baking pwd.
1/2 t. salt
2 T sugar
1/2 c butter or cube margarine

Fruit filling:
6 medium peaches (you may end up using fewer if they are large)
3/4 c sugar
3/4 t cinnamon
3 egg yolks (or 1 whole egg and 1 egg white)
2/3 c heavy cream/half and half (you can even use Mocha Mix coffee creamer in a pinch)

Preheat oven to 400.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, sugar together; cut in butter with a pastry blender until it's the size of small peas. Press the crust into the 8 x 8 METAL baking pan (it will be crumbly). Pat it down well into the bottom, and up the sides of the pan as best you can.

Peel, halve, and pit peaches. Arrange them CUT SIDE DOWN (i.e., rounded sides facing up) on crust. Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over fruit (it will seem like a lot, but just trust me). Put in oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend egg yolks with cream well. Do not knock it onto the floor. But if you do, bring the labrador inside and have him lick it up for you. Slide the oven rack out with your pie on it, and carefully pour the cream/egg mixture into it. It will mostly cover the peaches. Carefully slide the rack and pan back into the oven so you won't slosh the cream everywhere.

Continue baking for 30 mins. or until set on top when you gently jiggle the pan (it will still move some -- you just don't want raw egg in the middle!). Cool for at least one hour before eating.

Hoo, mama, it's good!

love, kristin

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Oh, My Darling Students ... I Shall Miss Them

That is entirely in earnest, by the way. I enjoy the students I work with--and not just because the things they write make me laugh! They are dear young people, really. Here are some wonderful thoughts from the final essay exam they turned in Monday. As background, they were writing on an essay by Gloria Anzaldua titled "How to Tame a Wild Tongue," which explores the question of language and dialects and the prejudice sometimes tied up with them (even within one's own race group -- in her case, the Chicanos):

* "In writing 'How to Tame a Wild Tongue,' Gloria Anzaldua explains how it is very difficult to live in the United States and not be made fun of." [Especially if you're traveling in France, I suppose.]

* "She suffers from what we now know as Chicano dialect." [Ah. I suppose Scott has had patients ask for antibiotics to cure this -- they've asked for them for every OTHER possible reason!]

Anyway, now you know. It's an interesting essay, if you ever get to read it! Happy Thursday! love, kristin

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sunshine and Shade

Currently, I'm procrastinating (I'm great at that) on grading students' final papers. The quote "We have been friends together in sunshine and in shade" has been on my mind quite a lot lately. The first of last week, a very old (the friendship is old, not the friend! Hah!) friend came to stay for a few days (Heather Mo, for the Grapevine) with her little daughter. We had a great time talking and laughing, reminiscing, discussing the perils and joys of parenthood, picking each others' brains for ideas on how to deal with toddlers and housekeeping, getting up-to-date on mutual friends, discussing current events -- all those things you talk about with an old friend.

It was such fun to sit on lawn chairs and watch the four children (four total, I mean ... I haven't added without letting you now!) wander around the yard, play on bicycles and in the sand-box, feed weeds to the chickens through the chickenwire, and climb the cherry trees (okay, so Mara and Dorothy haven't quite got to climbing trees, but the other two did!).

What reminded me of the quote is that Heather and I are the sort of friends who HAVE been together in sunshine and in shade. In fact, I'm blessed with a downright unfair number of those, considering all the lonely people in the world. Sunshine & shade friends are the sort who have seen you cry -- not the polite little television/movie cry where tears flow neatly down your cheeks while you look sort of grieved. I mean the sort where you're heaving and sobbing and your nose is running, and your face turns all red, and your mascara runs down your chin, and you try to talk and can't and end up sounding like: "Itttttttt's....jjjjjjust [gasp,gasp,gasp]....all" Don't tell me you don't know what that kind of crying is. In fact, using Heather as an example, I don't think I could count the number of times one of us hasn't spent the evening comforting the other one in a state like that. It requires several boxes of tissues, and lots of comfort and prayer. Tea is also useful.

Sunshine & shade friends have also seen you at your most non-beautiful. My particular ones have seen me post-surgery, post-childbirth (and I'm talking about 20 seconds post-childbirth, Kim and Hilary), mid-stomach flu, mid-chicken pox, post-major sunburn (complete with blistered face), mid-mastitis (sorry, male readers), mid-Steven's-first-year-sleep-strike, mid-three-day migraine (not to mention names, but her name is Benita) ... everything dreadful. They never mention that I looked like Medusa. Even if they thought it. Even if they're like Kimberley and have never once, under any circumstances, looked dreadful (can I get a witness? It's really not fair in any sense of the word).

And they've been there in the sunshine part of the equation, which is as important as the shade, really -- not there in a squealy "Ohhhh, isn't that SWEET" way, but in a really joyful way. When I got married, when I actually did well college teaching after thinking teaching was not my gig after all, when I discovered that babies were the most fun thing on earth (Sarah and I used to watch the "Baby Channel" in her living room -- live action), when I actually managed to knit an entire dishcloth without a mistake (the fact that Rose Marie did not think my excitement was in the least silly explains immediately why she's a sunshine & shader).

I finally decided to really solidify it into words after Steven called yesterday afternoon. Not my son Steven (or my brother, Stephen, or Benita's Steven ... we have a lot of Stevens in our family) -- my friend Steven. I've known him since I was 13. I met him at Oregon Campmeeting -- we literally ran into each other walking between tents across the campground. We've been friends ever since (teenagers are good at making friends like that). He's been a sunshine and shader -- we've kept in touch all these years, even when there have been years in between speaking to each other. We just take up where we left off. We've gone through good times (like two weeks on a houeboat at Shasta with his family), and bad times (like him having to answer my question, "How is Greg doing?" with "Greg is dead.") Things that cement people together. He was visiting in Milton-Freewater and came by the house to visit before heading home to Portland. It wasn't a long visit -- but we talked and laughed, reminisced and got up to date on mutual friends, talked about the perils of starting home improvement projects, discussed current events -- all those things you talk about with an old friend. You know, like my conversations with Heather. And the rest of my friends in sunshine and shade.

Thank you, all of you.

love, kristin

Friday, May 29, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

The rosemary and chives (yes, I know I should de-flower them, but I LIKE the purple blossoms, and I'll do it in a bit, OK?) in the garden, with the irises and peonies behind.

Whew. I've never had a spring quite like this one in terms of business. I feel like I'm racing wildly trying to catch up. Not necessarily stressful, just extremely busy. I'm always amazed when I realize it's Friday AGAIN, and a whole new week has gone by. I'm ready for the comparative slowness of summer -- the kids are done with school by next week, and I have a test to do and final papers to grade the week after that, and then ... on to canning, gardening, camping, etc. Still busy, I guess. But it's a different kind of busy. One where it doesn't matter if you're late, and you work more with your hands, doing the same thing over and over, in a rhythm. It's a lovely change. Here are some pictures of what's growing around the Cherry Tree Farm:

Peonies are my very favorite flower. These bushes are starts from Scott's grandparents' farm. The current owner was kind enough to call the family before he had to dig them up during a renovation and ask if the family would like to save some. Wasn't that so nice?

The chicks have changed dramatically! I do believe we have ended up with some roosters -- I didn't exactly grow up as a real farm girl, but this one in the top photo looks a lot more like Frank than Frances to me!

Then there's this odd species that's shown up ... wait a minute!!

And the garden beginning to really look like a garden with:


Green Peas

Corn (if this crop doesn't produce well this year AGAIN, I
think Scott will throw himself in the canal!). The black stuff on the
sides is landscaping fabric to keep down the weeds.

Well, friends and neighbors (as my mother says), that's what's growing in our garden and around the homestead (excluding Steven, who grew a solid inch between January and March ... and probably another one by now). How about you? love, kristin

Monday, May 11, 2009

Astute Observation, Captain Obvious!

I haven't given you any student bloomers for a bit, so here are three. My long-suffering next-door neighbor on the English hall, Jeremiah, got all three of these in one day. And he's still not in tears. Isn't it amazing? They're marvels of ... um ... perspicacity.

"The progression of life begins at birth and ends at death."

"Everyone was a child at some point."

"Almost everything created by humans is designed." (Jeremiah's office mate suggested adding, "Except, obviously, this paper.")

And now, for your mental picturing pleasure, a double-feature. This sentence is from a paper one of Jeremiah's students wrote in which they were supposed to practice advertising writing. It was for air-freshener, or something:

"One pray, and you're running through a field of roses." Not only is the typo hilarious, but as Jeremiah pointed out, wouldn't running through a field of ROSES be painful? "Ow! Ow! I thought a prayed about this!"

love, kristin

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tucannon Camping

The Boxcar Kids -- Emily's current favorite in the kids' book department (thanks, all of you, for your suggestions a while ago!)

We just returned from a last-minute, weekend-long camping trip to the Tucannon area (just outside Dayton, WA). There are about 20 (I'm not exaggerating) little campgrounds every couple of miles along that road, with just a few sites in each -- and absolutely no improvements (that's not true -- there were outhouses!). There are also almost no fellow campers, which suited us just fine. The area used to be semi-forested with pine trees, but following a serious wildfire in 2005, it's fairly open. Plenty of room to ramble, chase butterflies, have campfires, and play Cooties and Uno. (Or, if you're Cap, carry on a failed effort to catch just one ground squirrel.) Boy, do I not miss tent camping! (We have a trailer now -- with bunk beds. Greatest thing ever.)

(From the top:) Scott first thing in the morning by the fire (he's not going to think it's funny that I posted this photo; cheesy breakfast smiles (I know, I know, Steven officially looks like the oldest in the picture -- doesn't he? -- but don't break Emily's heart and tell her); Mara and me (also first thing in the morning, also by the fire); Mara; Steven, Emily & Scott hiking up the ridge behind our trailer (you can see the burn damage well in this photo); Steven (also first thing in the morning --thus the coat & quilt).

love, kristin

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mama, There's Snow on the Trees

This time of year really is beautiful in the valley, and particularly around our house. The cherry trees have been in full bloom for the last week or so, and they are just heavenly. The post title comes from a comment by Steven as we drove into our driveway a few evenings ago -- and the trees do look snow-covered. If you step outside the "green door" (our house, like any good farmhouse, has three outside doors) -- the closest one to the orchard -- you can immediately hear the humming of the bees in the blossoms. About two weeks ago our local beekeeper brought a few boxes of bees in to put in the middle of the orchard, and they'll be there for another couple weeks or so. They're essential to the pollination of the blossoms. This year, the weather is perfect for them -- it's been warm and sunny, and not too windy. The bees have been so active we're finding them in our back garden, sampling our flowers. That's an excellent sign, and we're very happy to have them doing a bit of garden work for us, too!

It's like magic to go stand in the middle of the blossoms, listen to the humming, and feel as though you're in the middle of Kilmenny of the Orchard. Spring is so nice.

love, kristin

Friday, April 24, 2009

Aaack! And Student Bloomer.

I've been trying to post some pictures of our lovely cherry orchard in bloom, but Blogger and I are having issues. Or my computer is having issues. Or our ISP is having issues. Unfortunately, I know just enough about computers to get myself in all sorts of tangles and not have the faintest idea how to untangle myself. Sigh. When in doubt, try again! (That's probably NOT the best maxim for computers, but it seems better for the job than the surgeon's maxim, which Scott enjoys proclaiming sometimes: "When in doubt, cut it out!")

So, for your Friday pleasure, here is my favorite student mess-up of the week (there were several to choose from, but this one provided the greatest mental pictures -- of its aftermath, I mean:

[In an essay about the piece "Graduation" by Maya Angelou--an account of her 8th grade graduation in the Jim Crow South.] "The graduation speaker told them their only ability in life was to be like Joe Louise." Joe LOUIS, the boxer (you know, the Brown Bomber?), is who this young gentleman had in mind. The great mental picture was, as Scott said, wondering what Joe Louis would do to anyone who actually called him "Joe Louise." Of course, he (the writer) also identified "Jim Crow" as being the name of the graduation speaker. That, I felt, was rather sad. It put me in mind of that quote about those not knowing history being doomed to repeat it -- especially considering that this was a student of African-American descent. And Jim Crow was, in fact, recent enough to be in the clear memory of many -- and I don't mean 95-year-olds, either. My mother can remember where she was standing when she heard the news that Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot. My father can remember seeing the "Whites Only" signs on drinking fountains, buses, and restaurant seating IN WASHINGTON STATE (which shocked me).

I could wander on here into a damning critique of schools, or teachers, or parents, or "kids nowadays," but truthfully I think it's everyone's fault. Parents, for not really spending TIME with their children, teaching them. My parents took me to all kinds of museums and historical sites (including ones near to home -- it doesn't have to be a globetrotting adventure, though those are nice, too). They weren't too busy watching television to explain and discuss current events. It is, also, the fault of teachers and schools. I have students in the class -- in all my classes -- who should have been held back long ago. Someone should have said, "No, you can't go on until you really KNOW this stuff. And if it's happening in writing, I know it's happening in other subjects. I know this may be the fault of teachers, or it may be the fault of administration, but this post is long enough already, and I'll tackle that another time!

And, of course, students have to be responsible for themselves. Having a really bang-up and encyclopedic knowledge of Lost or The Simpsons isn't going to prepare you to have a very keen mind. Or to make you mindful of what's happening worldwide. Sigh. That thunk was me stepping down off my soapbox.

love, kristin

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


They've arrived! 25 chicks ... well, 24, since one died on the way ... actually, 23, since one died night before last after everyone else apparently slept right on top of him. I've never before realized the true meaning of the phrase "a head like a day old chick." It's not really meaningful until one actually OBSERVES chicks of that age -- oh, and it's not a compliment.

It takes the little buggers approximately 2 nanoseconds to walk right through their freshly cleaned water dispenser, leaving woodshavings floating in it. Then they get down to dragging all their feed out of the feeder and leaving it strewn about. Then they all decide to crowd to the same place at the same time -- up against the wall of their little pen. Someone is inevitably getting squished by everyone else, but can't figure out what to do about it. The idea of moving seems not to occur!

But they're really dreadfully cute, and for some reason, fascinating to watch ... I could sit there and watch them pip about for ages. I've attached some pictures for your viewing pleasure -- none of them very good. No one would hold still. The golden/red chicks are either Plymouth Reds or a meat cross we got (which name I cannot remember). The dark ones are either Wyandottes or Arcaunas. It's hard to tell without looking at them in real life. And then, I append a picture of James, one of our two cats. He is not out in the shop with the chicks, though he would dearly love to be. He is our resident mouser -- he's caught 3 so far, just in two years, and entirely as an indoor cat! Our (cyber)resident cat-lover, Lady Eloise, reminded me that I was remiss in a previous promise to post pictures of James & his brother Max. Max, however, is being recalcitrant, in a feline sort of manner.

love, kristin

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

I hope your Easter is turning out charmingly -- we are having a very nice one. Here are some pictures from our celebration ... In this one, Steven looks frightfully discouraged. We DID do 7 dozen eggs ... could he be overwhelmed???

Oma (my mom) was helpful as usual. In fact, she boiled all the eggs and provided the coloring stuff. And the candy. And the plastic eggs to put the candy in. And the Easter Bunny to hide it ... ok, not that, but practically everything else!

Ahh, Steven looks recovered. And then there's Opa (my dad--he's supervising. He's good at that. He used to be a university administrator.); and Mara, frantically egg-hunting. And Emily, rather pleased with her haul.
I hope you got lots of chocolate! (And took some time to ponder why Easter really exists.) Love, kristin

Friday, April 3, 2009

VERY cute child alert

Not to mention her skills with lipstick! She's going to be such a glamour girl. This is Dorothy Lou, Heather's baby (as before, info for those of you on the Adventist grapevine. For those of you not attached there, she's my niece-not-really-but-sort-of. You know the kind). She turned one in September. Doesn't she have gorgeous eyes?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Student Bloomer of the Week (and one NON-student one!)

I'm sorry if you're getting sick of these ... I simply love them, and chortle over them much more often than is technically sane. Catherine over at Dispatches from the Deise wrote a hilarious post about grammar. She also mentioned a new book out by John Humphrys, Lost for Words, in the same vein as Eats, Shoots, and Leaves (by Lynne Truss), which is one of my favorite ever. There goes my book allowance (I don't really GET a book allowance, but doesn't it sound good?). Anyway, here are the newest:

* From one of my new writing students, responding to a questionnaire I always give out the first day of class, asking for information about previous writing experience: "I defiantly wrote lots of papers in high school." Actually, I'm not sure -- WAS that a typo, or was he just a mad sort of kid?

* And then, while in Seattle, Benita bought one of those pre-wrapped pseudo-logs for their fireplace (which they use about 25x more than usual when I'm there, because I'm always saying, "Oooh! Let's have a fire!"). The label proudly stated, "Illustrious flames!" It's good to know their flames are highly renowed (of course, I have to admit, I looked the word up and illustrious actually an obsolete synonym for luminous. I wonder if it was a case of trying to translate from a different language? Always hazardous!). Anyway, made me laugh.

Pictures are forthcoming from our ferry trip in Seattle. We did not lose Mara over the side, despite what those of you who know her personality and genius for throwing herself around might suspect! I had also forgotten how interesting it is to people-watch on the ferry! Some of the other passengers were so ... so ... wow.

love, kristin

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ahhh, Bliss

So, here I am in Seattle (northwest side of the state). I got all the final papers and essay exams graded (it was nearly the end of me, but not quite), turned grades in to the Records Office (I only flunked one this quarter, which is really rather amazing for me), and the kids and I got out of Dodge. With the help of Benita (a dear friend of ours, for those of you who aren't on the Adventist grapevine -- she's married to Steve Schwab, if you are in the grapevine but haven't been following it lately). She drove over and picked the four of us up and drove us to their house in Seattle, and Scott will be driving over after work on Thursday.

I got through the last week on fumes, a lot of frantic prayer, and the knowledge that I was going on vacation if I could just survive! All three of the kids got very sick. In fact, the gradeschool shut down for two days because over half their attendance was home sick. Last I heard, the heath dept. was thinking the offending germ was an Influenza B. All I know that my three were sure sick as heck. Fevers of over 102, croup, all that good stuff. Steven's pretty much all better (judging by his level of pestiness to his sisters), but Emily's still a little "peaked," as my grandfather would have said. In between all this illness, I was giving a final and doing a bunch of grading. Mom and Dad had gone on a week-long trip to see family (test week is usually a great week for them to be gone, in terms of babysitting for me -- they had planned it to be as helpful as possible -- you know, when I wasn't teaching, and all that!), and Scott was working his usual 60-hour week with 5:30 a.m. starts. Whee!

But it's all over now, and I spent today shopping at Half-Price Books (greatest new/used bookstore EVER ... okay, Powell's is the best, by HPB is pretty darn good), drinking a lot of coffee, sleeping in while someone else made cocoa for the kids and turned on Looney Tunes for them to watch (aunts are FANTABULOUS), doing some ceramic painting, taking a nap, etc. (not in that exact order). We'll be here (Seattle) all week (I know that makes me sound like a Las Vegas performer), and head home on Sunday. I'll be posting some pictures of our adventures, hopefully (providing I don't leave the camera back at the house every time (the usual state of things -- can I get it implanted in my forehead?). What are YOU doing this week?

love, kristin

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Student Howler of the Week

My favorite howler-writing student (this is the same one who identified Hitler as the "Nazi leader in the Civil War") quoted the phrase "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" from the Deceleration of Independence in her final paper for me this quarter. You might have to re-read that sentence a few times. "Wait, George! We've got to slow this freedom thing down a little!"

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Chicken Update (We Are So Out of Hand Here)

Remember when I said, "We are getting eight chicks?" Hah. That was before the later stages of Mad Chicken Disease appeared in our brains. There are just so many cool breeds out there, and we are trying to raise/produce more of our own food, and Mom (Mom Bergman, I mean) is always up for any project you can think of (I love that about her) ... the upshot is we have ordered ... um ... 25 chicks. Stop laughing.

We'll raise 10 for eggs, and kill 15 this fall, with part of them going to Mom & Dad Bergman (I suspect we might smuggle one down to Mom Fry, too), part of them going in our freezer, and a couple going to whatever other poor saps we wrangle in to help us do the dirty work. I had just finished saying to Scott, "Fine. But I refuse to do the actual executions. I'll clean and pluck, but I can't actually kill them," when Emily broke in very calmly with, "Mom. They're chickens. Why are you so squeamish? I can't wait for fresh chicken dinner!" She is the weirdest combination ever of super-sensitive and ultra-practical. On the other hand, I think it's downright unfair to be someone who's willing to eat meat in its final, clean, tidy form but go all self-righteous about how it's not "nice" to do the dirty-work part (yes, I'm working on that part of myself!).

Anyway, Scott's been working like a fiend on the chickenhouse. We have discovered a direct correlation between him working on said project and the commencement of sleet and/or snow. (We are having such a strange spring.) Here's some recent proof of progress. The "box" on the side is how you can get the eggs without going inside the chickenhouse -- you lift up the little "roof". The chicken run will be on the left side of this picture, going around the north side of our garage/workshop. The chickenhouse has room for 12 full-grown chickens to roost and lay -- so we will have plenty of space for our 25 small ones; plus, there is an "addition" deal that can be built on if necessary.

Yesterday, the kids and I drove out to see some friends of ours who have two two-week-old bumper lambs they are bottle-feeding and raising. They (the lambs) are cute as heck (not to say the friends aren't cute!). Still, I think I'll stop at chickens for now.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Park

Well, last weekend it was (briefly, but it was) sunny, and we ventured out to our local park. It's really a rather decent little park, considering the size of our town. Of course, while we were there, we saw three separate families we recognized, including one couple who are parents of someone we graduated high school with (Jeremy, for those of you who know) -- it is, after all, a small town! I actually like that about where we live -- the seeing of people you know everywhere. I realize there are many people for whom that is practically as pleasant as bubonic plague, but it doesn't make me claustrophobic at all. Here are some pictures of our adventure (and why is it that no-one under the age of 10 seemed any less energetic after running around wildly for an hour?):

You might notice there is only one picture of Steven (and he's looking sort of odd and a little blurry). That would be because my camera does not do well with motion (that little delay on digital cameras is just a killer), and he considers any second at the park during which he is not in constant motion to be a sad, sad waste. I'm glad for children who: a) have a place to play; b) can play; and c) like to play. Wouldn't it be dreadful to have children who didn't have any one of those three things?

Love, kristin

P.S., does anyone else who knows what Sharlene's girls look like think that sometimes Emily looks very like them? It's the chin, the eyes, and the skin color. Um, is that her whole face? Considering that they are her cousins, I suppose that's not surprising!

P.S.S., my great-nieces and great-nephews are SO CUTE, I can't stand it. The twins' newest pictures are here and there are some absolutely killing pictures of Emma doing ballet and Jake at swimming class (goggles are always excellent) here.