25 October 2013

Operation Hygge House

Dear Lissy,

In one short week the darkness of Standard Time will descend over New England.  The cold already has us in it's grip.  Sadly, we can't hibernate, so this year I'm determined to make our home a "hygge house".  Pronounce that "hue-guh" and imagine you're in Denmark.  Cold.  Dark.  Happiest nation on earth, and not surprisingly the creators of hygge.

Hygge: (hue-gah), noun.  Convivial coziness, " "fireplace warmth with candles and family and friends and food, tucked under blankets on a snowy day, cup-of- coffee conversation, scarf-snuggle, squiggly, warm baby love." (NPR's Clare O'Neill)

In the summer, hygge is embodied by friends and family gathered around a campfire roasting sausages.  When winter settles over the mountains, hygge moves indoors to light candles, kindle a fire, simmer a stew, brew the coffee, and let the conversation flow.  Or not -- Danish hygge is just as well embodied by a tromp through a snowy woodland with a friend and a thermos of cocoa.  In short, hygge is about replacing the warmth and light of the sun with the warmth and light of relationships.  A hygge house is inviting and embracing, even if it is a long, cold, dark night.

Du er min lille hyggelig pige,

18 October 2013

Cheap Tricks: Keeping Littles and Campers Warm While They Sleep

Dear Lissy,

Stay toasty-warm in a sleeping bag on the cheap by layering an auto sunshade shiny side up between you and your sleeping pad.  For very cold nights, slide it right into your bag.  This is also a great alternative to an electric blanket for babies and toddlers.  Place the sunshade (again, shiny side up) between the mattress cover and mattress.

Stay Warm,

17 October 2013

God's Gift of Intimacy in Marriage

Dear Lissy,

Marital intimacy is a sensitive and beautiful topic.  I'm not willing to put information like this out on the web or expose an area of our own marriage that is sacred to me. And let's face it, this is a pretty awkward topic for a mom and daughter to discuss.  However, intimacy is an important part of life as a married woman, and one that deserves careful thought.  Two books (by the same authors) top my list for this topic. Both books are the result of inductive Bible study, not simply tacking verses onto the authors' own ideas.   Dillow and Pintus speak in a warm, friendly tone throughout both books, and dose their advice liberally with a sense of humor and personal examples.  The books are just plain fun to read.

Intimate Issues is authored by and written specifically to women.  I recommend Intimate Issues as a study before marriage, and then as a resource once you are married.  The chapters deal with twenty one common areas including. . .
  • Can I be godly and sensuous?  
  • Intimacy when you have littles that are draining your batteries.  
  • Body image and intimacy
  • Help for when you're no longer in love or caught in an emotional affair with another man.
  • How to avoid boredom and inspire passion
I've used this book in counseling as much as personally over the years. Intimate Issues is a great resource for a godly girl who has worked very hard to keep herself pure until marriage, and is nervous about transitioning to a role where sensuality is expected.  Their "Gourmet Delight" Couple's Night In plan at the end of the book is fun and a little bit cheesy, but easily transformed to suit your own style.  I doubt too many husbands are going to complain about an evening of great food and intimacy.

Intimacy Ignited: Conversations Couple to Couple: Fire Up Your Sex Life with the Song of Solomon is written by and for couples and can be used as a (very steamy) Bible study.  Intimacy Ignited is appropriate for any stage of marriage from newlyweds to empty nesters rediscovering their bond.  Problems that may interfere with intimacy such as abuse and p*rn are not addressed in this book.   Like Intimate Issues, be prepared for warmth, humor, and a whole lot of inspiration to thoroughly enjoy God's gift of intimacy.

While hundreds of books have been written on this topic, these are far and away my favorites.  Far too often physical intimacy is rejected or neglected by wives, and we are the losers every bit as much as our husbands.  Intimate Issues and Intimacy Ignited will help you keep the flame burning brightly throughout your married life. 

Much love,

05 October 2013

Professor Horner's Bible Reading System Tutorial

Dear Lissy,

Nothing compares to immersing yourself in the Word of God when you are seeking to keep God's power and presence at the forefront of your mind. I've written half a dozen letters (filed under the Devotions tab) detailing various Bible study and reading methods that I've used in different seasons of life. My "default" mode for the past several years has been Grant Horner's Bible Reading System.  I've mentioned Professor Horner's system several times before, but I recently had a fellow blogger from France asked me how I kept on track. Professor Horner's system is a bit overwhelming, especially the first time a few of the bookmarks fall out of your Bible.  I used a checksheet for several months, but found it awkward.  Post-it notes ripped my super-thin india paper pages, but Bookdarts were a perfect fit.  I'll warn you:  Bookdarts are highly addictive.  You may want to buy a tin instead of a sleeve.

A good quality cover on your Bible is a must.  Professor Horner's system involves reading 10 chapters a day.  I rarely have time for all 10 at a single sitting, so my Bible moves around the house and into my tote bag.  Right now it's on my laundry folding counter up in the classroom. 
My daily driver is a Cambridge Pitt Minion.  The letter I wrote on how to pick a Bible is here.
I keep my current plan written in pencil in the front flyleaf of my Bible and slide a Bookdart down as I read each List for the day.  Notice, no paper to fall out of the Bible! If you're just starting, go through at least one full cycle of Professor Horner's original plan before you start changing it up.

Next, I've gone through each book in each list indicating at the end of that book which book should be read next.  In this case, List 5 skips from Job to Ecclesiastes.  I also make a notation at the beginning of the first book in each list.  List 6 begins in Psalm 1.  The annotations were time consuming, but they allow me to read instead of spend time wondering where to read next.
The page I'm reading from in each list is marked with a Bookdart.  Notice that nothing protrudes from the side of the pages -- the bookdarts are flush with the edge of the page.  My system isn't marked 1-10.  I'm used to the reading order after several years of this system, but I can also peek back at the flyleaf if I forget.
Unlike a bookmark, a Bookdart shows you exactly where you left off your reading.  I know at a glance that Psalm 127 is the portion of Psalms I'll read today.  I read one chapter from each list, moving the Bookdart to tomorrow's portion as I go.

Here's a closeup.  Even though Psalm 127 and 130 start just a few lines apart on the same page, I can see that Psalm 127 is the passage for today.
The backs of Bookdarts are rounded, so there's no chance of confusion.  These thin, light metal markers are secure even on my india paper pages but slide on and off easily without leaving marks.
Don't underestimate the power of having a basket with all of your quiet time tools together waiting for you.  I like this particular spot because the morning sun comes in through one window, and the afternoon sun through another.  Being as solar powered as a cat, I know a sunny spot will draw me like a magnet.
Meinheld, the fellow blogger I mentioned at the beginning of this letter, created a different method for keeping her place using simple Post-it flags.   Her post is auf Deutsch, but she offered this simple English explanation:
"Yes, the system is easy. I always put the green tab with the list number on the right side that way I only move it every other page. The red one always goes on the next chapter to read. No more writing things down. When I am done, I put the ribbon bookmark of the Bible to the next list to be read since I not always do the 10 lists."
Here's a peek at her French Bible. . .
Visit Meinheld's trilingual blog, God's Fingerprints In My Life for more pictures and her in-depth explanation of how she uses Post-its.
Wishing you many happy hours with the Lord in His Word!


Linked up at Titus 2 Tuesdays

04 October 2013

French Apple Cruller Bites

Dear Lissy,

I don't deep fry often, but these little French cruller bites require only my smallest saucepan and 2 cups of oil.  We're officially on autumn vacation for a week and decided to celebrate in style by whipping up a batch.  You'll recognize the dough from making Cheese Gougeres:  this is simply another incarnation of choux pastry.

Apple French Cruller Bites
 from Micheal Ruhlman's book, Twenty

In small sauce pan, heat to 350 degrees.
2 cups peanut or canola oil

Bring to boil in second small saucepan:
 4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup water

Reduce heat to medium and stir in:
1/2 cup flour

Continue stirring for 1 minute, and then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
2 eggs

Once mixture has cooled so it can be handled, add:
1 tart apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped

Spoon mix into quart Ziploc bag, and trim off 1/2 inch of one bottom corner.

Pipe 3 inch lengths of pastry dough into hot oil, cutting with scissors.  My smallest saucepan will hold 6 cruller bites.

Drain on paper bag lined with paper towel.

Roll in sugar mixture:
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar

These "donuts" make almost no mess and take very few ingredients -- a perfect little snack for a special day.


Linked up at Homestead Barn Hop #130

03 October 2013

Portrait of a New England Wife

Dear Lissy,

This little gem is to encourage your heart and put a smile on your face:  you are a New England girl, through and through!

Marmee from Little Women, a beloved wife and momma in the New England tradition.
 I've been reading old newspapers from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia (1833) and came across this:

"It has been said that a New England girl makes the best wife in the world - and we think, says the Lowell Journal, that any New England man will cheerfully admit the truth of the above saying after studying domestic life of other countries. New England wives are faithful and affectionate - instances of conjugal infidelity are of rare occurrence among them - they make excellent mothers - are frugal and methodical in their household arrangements - shine in a drawing room, - and appear to great advantage when superintending the economy of the kitchen. Such a wife is a jewel, and no wonder she should be sought after, far and near. The Southern gentlemen, while they strenously oppose the Union of the States, evince no repugnance to an Union with the rosy cheek lasses of the North."