Friday, July 27, 2012

Secure as a mountain

Jeanette Fox, between Jim and
Caroline Everard
Lightning flashed across the peaks a few nights ago. The deafening boom of thunder followed shortly. But the mountains were not stirred. The rain gushed through the streams, falling into ravines and crevices. But the slopes did not move.

Likewise, people endure many storms and weather life's changes with God’s help. We stand secure as the mountains in the shelter of God's protection. 

Pastor Erwin ("The Mayor") and Jean Rohde
Two generations came to the cabin for a Creole boil last night. Two of our friends normally reside in California, one winters in Missouri, four live in Montana, and we’re from Washington. Between us, we’ve grown up rurally or lived in national and international cities and towns. We have lots of stories to tell!

W put on Ray Steven's “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” and sparked a memory: “When I was a boy, I caught gophers and sold them to the kids at school for 25c,” said our mischievous friend, who grew up in the Midwest during the Depression. “I made good money on sparrows, too.

Bill Durham tobacco bags
"I’d catch them at night and tie a ribbon around their necks, and pop them in a Bull Durham bag I’d pick up along the roads. If the gophers or sparrows didn’t sell, I let them go. … Sometimes I let them go in the classroom or put them in the teacher’s desk.” 25c was a lot of money back then!

Kathy and Dr. Paul Olson, Waldemar
One friend is a psychologist. Another guest, long since married, remembered him as the speaker at a singles convention in Montana almost thirty years ago. The world of wildernesses, deserts, and forests is small indeed.

We first ate Creole boil with Drs. Jay and Cheryl Taylor at their lakeside cabin in Missouri. Here’s a recipe if you’d like to have friends over, too. Something about the rough setting brings out the best tales of life and God's faithfulness.

Creole boil for 8-10:
Our dinner! (X2)
Set the table by spreading newspaper across the surface. On hand – ice tea in paper cups, lemon quarters, hot sauce, steak sauce, Mixed-Up Salt, Mixed-Up Pepper, and whatever other seasonings you'd like.  

Let each guest sprinkle sauces and seasonings on the newspaper, grab something from the tray, dip it, and enjoy! When everyone's eaten, removed the empty trays and ice tea, roll up the soiled paper and discarded shrimp tails, and toss the works in the garbage. 

·      2 onions. Cut into eighths or quarters.
·      3 lb small potatoes. Scrub.
·      1 ear of corn per guest plus one or two for the pot. Break in half.
·      2-3 lb sausage (brats, kielbasa, or cajan sausage). Cut in 1” pieces.
·      2-3 lb raw, peeled and deveined shrimp (20-40 count. Use other seafood if you like.) Thaw in running cold water if they’re frozen.

45 minutes before serving: bring to a mad boil a huge pot of water. Add onions, 1/4 cup Old bay seasoning or Zatarains shrimp boil. Squeeze in the juice of 2 lemons and toss in the peels. Optional, to taste: add a few cloves of garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns.
20 minutes before: add potatoes and sausage to boiling broth.
10 minutes before: add corn.
3 minutes before: add shrimp (cook a few minutes longer for other shellfish).

Strain, dump in trays, carry to the table, and eat! Let the broth boil merrily while you eat. Freeze the concentrated liquid and use as a base for your next Creole boil, or send it home with guests to host their own fun.

Read more:
*Those who trust in the LORD are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever. Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever" Psalm 125:1–2

*Psalm 89:19-29; Joshua 3,4; Luke 12:1-12

*“I pledged myself to you and entered into a covenant with you,” says the Lord God, “and you became mine.” Ezekiel 16:8

*Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:10 

*But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fearhating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joyto the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Jude 17-25 NIV

Moravian Prayer: We are blessed and have received a wonderful covenant with the God of Abraham. We are called by God’s mercy for his people. What a beautiful blessing in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

DIY: Cotton slipcloths

For those who asked: how I did the sofa covers.

sofa - done!
If you are pin-and-measure perfectionists, this will drive you crazy. Otherwise, have fun! You need sewing experience to make quick work of similar slipcovers (or look online for how to sew corners and zippers).

After you examine the piece of furniture, you should have an idea of how the main cover could be cut and sewn, or in my case, pinned. Take your time to think about all the possible ways you can use fabric on the piece.
For a week, I considered several layouts before deciding how I could leave a 9’X12’ canvas dropcloth intact to wrap around the sofa base, back, and sides. I secured it with upholstery pins where they wouldn’t be obvious. (Re-pinning is easy for washing, if it loosens with wear ,or doesn’t fit the way you’d like.)

The sofa has 3 cushions. I cut one rectangle of fabric to covered top, sides, and bottom of the middle cushion. After putting a zipper in the open end, I sewed up the sides and made diagonal seams to create corners. Easy.

I decided the simplest way to negotiate the curved side cushions would be with a series of side panels. First, I laid out one side cushion on the fabric, turning it over this way and that to make sure I maximized material. Hint: leave yourself lots of room on the floor or use a huge table to make sure the fabric lies flat for an accurate layout. Deciding the layout before you cut is a big deal that saves you grief later!

Side sofa panel
For the side cushions, I laid one side cushion flat-side down on the fabric and traced around the side (plus ¾” seam allowance) with a ballpoint pen. (I like to write on the right side of the fabric.) I flipped the cushion over, allowing room for the front face and then traced around the cushion again, connecting freehand between the lines of top and bottom (first trace and second trace).

Because the second dropcloth was big (9’X12’), I folded it double thickness for cutting. That way, I only had to trace once, cutting through both thicknesses for two slipcovers.

Sofa base pinned
I cut a few lengths that were the width of the cushion side (plus ¾” seam allowances). I cut 2 side pieces to fit the “box-ey” end and inner curve, and installed the zippers into 2  back pieces. Finally, I cut 2 pieces for the inner sides, to be trimmed in place according to how the zippers lined up. (I sewed them into one length to fit the entire sides and backs of the cushion.)

Sofa detail
The trickiest part was lining up the top/bottom and sides – I guess-timated the front-side of the cushion and lined up that “box” before I started sewing. From there, I zipped around the bottom, sides, back, and other side. Then I started again on the top and matched the final edge. Luckily all the sewing lined up after doing top and bottom seams. I trimmed the long extra piece off when I was done. I popped the ugly cushions into their new case.

Yay, quickly done, all those years of quilts, jeans, baby clothes, and other sewing coming in very handy in turning corners and hand-adjusting top and bottom fabrics so the presser foot didn’t pull them through unevenly. I’ve got enough left to do curtains for a room, pillow covers if I feel like it. I have another week before W takes the sewing machine home. Good tools are inspiring, and Bernina is one of them.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Treacherous tranquility

Inflatable kayaks
Have you ever rafted a big river? The Flathead River washes swiftly over its rocks, carrying remnants of winter run-off and draining rainfall off the land. In places, the river seems deceptively lazy where only swirls of current hint of its power. In narrow passages, it churns and chortles with life.

Paul, an experienced Flathead kayaker, rafter, and now paddle-boarder, offered to take us downriver from camp to Columbia Falls. Of course we said yes!

Ready or not!
W inflated two of our three kayaks. He, Jonathan, Paul, and I carried them to the end of the road, down a sandy trail, and along the rocky shore to a little beach where we launched into the river. The current caught us … and we were off.

When you’re in the flow, travel seems easy and tranquil. Only the riverbanks, whizzing past us, confirmed our speed. We avoided the rapids on this first trip downriver. Paul also warned of another danger.

“See those trees on the sides?” he pointed to harmless-looking firs with heads or roots dropped into the water along the shoreline. “Four people have drowned this year, three of them with lifejackets on. Most drownings happen in the water swooshing under such trees. 

"Two-thirds of the tree is under the surface, and as a boat is swept sideways into it by the strong current, the occupants get knocked overboard. People get trapped underwater, snagged by branches and held down by the hydraulic pressure. Avoid tree snags anywhere you see them.”

Gravel bars in the Flathead River
Pulling up on a gravel bar, we consumed the sweet nectarines, chocolate peanut butter cups, and milk puddings I’d packed. Nothing tastes as good as a light feast in open air! A few drops of rain splattered us but the sun came out as we pushed our boats back into the stream.

At Columbia Falls, we pulled into shore between two boats, one a raft filled with teen and twenty-something boys drinking beer.

“They obviously don’t know the etiquette of the docks.” Paul noted. “Get into shore. Get out of the boat, and move out of the way so others can pull in!”

Nope, these youngsters had no clue or maybe they just didn’t care. Paul’s wife Kathy gave us a ride home in their pickup after W deflated the kayaks.

Floating the Flathead
I walked to the river the next day, admiring the view. Rafters and fishermen drifted quickly along on the green-blue water. Respect for the dangers of the ride makes it a safe adventure. It’s like the rest life: if we avoid the places those with experience warn about, we’re more likely to enjoy the journey and arrive safely at our destination.

Read more:
*A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences. Proverbs 27:12

*Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love. Psalm 109:26

Paul wrote: We were afflicted in every way?—disputes without and fears within. But God, who consoles the downcast, consoled us. 2 Corinthians 7:5-6

Moravian Prayer: Your steadfast love gives us victory over fear and defeat. You console us when we need your guidance and insight. Preserve us, in your love. Amen.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Waterton wonder

Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton, AB
We'd never taken the kids to British high tea in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It's not a likely scenario anyway, unless you drive winding roads to the north end of Glacier Park and across the border ... to Waterton, Alberta, and the Prince of Wales Hotel.

What a stunning surprise! The hotel overlooks a glacier lake-filled canyon.  Girlfriends and I, Waldemar and I, and thousands of other visitors have had tea at the Prince of Wales.

The lobby of the Prince of Wales Hotel
 Oh the beauty of a sunny day! The hotel's spectacular lobby stretches from the front door to the window wall overlooking the stunning view. Teatime (1-5pm daily) is in the post-and-beam-framed lobby with its soaring ceilings and old-fashioned iron chandeliers.

The servers and attendants dress in Prince of Wales tartan kilts. "Got me a dress about a month ago," joked the foreign student who served us. It all adds to the opulent atmosphere set in the middle of the wilderness.

A table set for tea: Prince of Wales Hotel
Our server set a tea stand with three trays of goodies on the white tablecloth. We started with the bottom tray of sandwiches, moved up to freshly baked scones (currant and lemon with Devonshire cream and berry preserves), and finished with the top layer of Saskatoon berry pastries, shortbread cookies, and other sweets.

The tea fixings aren't particularly good @ $30 each, though the house now uses Forte brand instead of their own specialty blend. (The house brand, in a free gift box with our receipt in the gift store, consists of indifferent Assam and African tea sweepings, packaged in teabags.) The scones were middling and the cucumber and butter sandwiches were ok, but the egg salad swirls were great. The pastries? To someone who grew up with excellent home baking (yay, Mom!) and a plethora of exceptional German bakers in the family, they tasted disappointing. The trays were pretty, though.

Harpist at the Prince of Wales Hotel
A young harpist accompanied our repast: the setting couldn't have been more wonderful. She got a gentle Canadian hand-clap when she took a break from strumming Gaelic and folk tunes. Her music brought back fond memories of playing and teaching harp. (Great background music, boring to practice!)

Of course, the company was fantastic. What a treat to share such a beautiful occasion, a milestone of family travels more than merely a meal.

Prince of Wales Hotel: view from the
lobby tearoom
After tea, we stood on the bluff overlooking the lake, cheering on the kayakers and windsurfers far below.

To wrap up the event, we drove through the town of Waterton to see if we could spot the infamous mule deer who wander through the streets. Nope, but we saw a lot of tourists around the restaurants, boutiques, and specialty shops that line the thoroughfares. Driving out of town, we slowed for photographers snapping a brown bear strolling through the meadows about 100 feet from the asphalt. Cyclists, tourists casually leaning on their pickups, and people with open car windows - they're just a short dash away if a bear becomes irritated.

Sometimes a glimpse of beauty restores our souls more than accomplishments, financial resources, or reaching a personal goal. It's well worth the trip to visit or stay in Waterton, a Canadian National Park town. It's not as jazzy or built up as Banff. However, the experience is unique between its blend of civilization, the polite and friendly Canadian locals, and the location in God's wild nature as carved between mountain ranges.

Read more:
*God looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens. Job 28:24 

*Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” Micah 4:2a   NIV (admittedly way out of context! 

*God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:20   

Moravian Prayer: Thank you for beauty. Jesus, we are overwhelmed at your concerns and resources to minister to the great needs of so many about us. Thank you for vision and grace to meet these needs. Amen.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Peace among the pieces

Snakes and Ladders: guests at the
dining table
The sun’s out after a stormy weekend of rain and wind. Our visitors left yesterday and this morning’s relaxed pace was a pleasure. I took the dogs for a walk, stopped in at various cabins to chat with old friends, washed bedding, and vacuumed. Gradually the construction dust is working its way out of the corners.

All is at peace. Sunshine streams in the windows, an unexpected reprieve from the weather forecast. While I cleaned the cabin, W and another academic discussed the theology of the marriage and societal roles of men and women; the other fellow is submitting his work to a journal.

Noon came and went. W wired the bathroom light and screwed in hooks for hand towels beside the sinks. Jonathan and I chose light fixtures for the stairwell (a funky two-light “crystal ball” chandelier) and considered options for his bedroom. Our choices included glass-blower art, a Montana Western style, and streamlined futuristic halogens.

Jono and I moved a dresser, measured the bedroom, and figured out that the weird little chuckwagon-pattern sofas are never going to fit there. Too bad! Those funny loveseats are incredibly comfy. Were we so inclined (and if we didn’t want the futon features of the IKEA Beddinges), they could serve us another 20 years … after they were handed down as secondhand discards by Chilliwack friends in the early 1990s. We’ll leave them by the camp dumpsters as giveaways once we get replacements. Perhaps someone else will recycle and enjoy them as we have.
Joanna and I at the Lodge

The afternoon unfolded in Costco, Dollar Days, and Lowe’s. Then it was time for a party.

Joanna called, "It's time to celebrate!” and we were off to the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, a beautiful log hotel on the banks of the water. We sat overlooking the pool and the lake beyond as the sun baked the last swimmers and sank below the horizon in streaks of gold frosting across the darkening sky. My friend has completed another book and I’m done with studies. We did a happy dance in the foyer after savoring ribs and huckleberry mud pie. (Joanna always persuades me that crazy things are normal! I soak in her exuberant good will during this waiting season.)

The view from our table: beautiful surroundings
Joanna also reminded me that a servant does not have to be in action to please her Master. Being at the Master’s side, quiet and ready, qualifies as service, just as well as moving forward on assignment. I needed to hear that again, enjoying the peaceful season of rudderless floating between the completed pieces of the past and the new journey ahead.

Read more:
*O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for indeed, all that we have done, you have done for us. Isaiah 26:12

*But by the grace of God I am what I am. 1 Corinthians 15:10

*This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 

However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17 NKJV

Moravian Prayer: Lord, because you love us, we can remain strong! Be with us especially when we feel your grace, for you give us all we need when we most need it. In God’s grace. Amen.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Montana Musings, July 13

Our niece Adelina in the LR
Have you ever felt like a foreigner though you’ve been close to home? Montana is still a state of frontier memories, of small towns filled with cowboy art and ranching stores. It’s a world away from the coastal cosmopolitan neighborhoods of Seattle where we live. The thunder rolls between the mountains in the middle of the night, black without the lights of city streets, as I write.

I’ve taken two weeks away from blogging, overwhelmed by W’s building projects and people coming and going. W got a head start at the cabin, arriving a few weeks before I did. He thrives on a plethora of projects while I need solitude to recover my balance. I drove from Seattle to Montana after a spring that included a dissertation and graduation, nearly four weeks in Israel and Jordan, a week with my lovely granddaughter and her mommy, and a trip to middle-Canada for a family celebration. I felt ready for a change of pace.

Our cabin sits near the western gates of Glacier National Park. The air is crisp and the water is pure. The tall-treed mountain slopes tower around us and the Flathead River flows less than a quarter-mile away. We’re smack in the middle of a natural wilderness, near the bighorn sheep, bears, wolves, and deer that populate the park. W’s been working on the cabin for 15 years.

Blockbuster's repurposed shelves take shape
The cabin structure is sound, the rooms are trimmed, the bathrooms are in, and the front steps are built. A few things left to do include door handles, bathroom shelving, towel racks, closet doors ... little stuff compared to what W’s built. The walls are still mostly empty of art and the furniture is second- or third-hand. The mattresses range from comfy to lumpy. But the reclaimed wood floors are spectacular and the walls are painted.

We love the people at the Bible camp where our cabin is located. They are friendly, welcoming, and mostly small-town pastors and church attendees whose families have come to camp for generations. We’ve been spending summers here for 19 years. For many of those, mostly seniors and middle-agers like ourselves filled the campgrounds. The past five years, a new crop of youngsters and their 20-to-30-something parents  have played at the playground or ridden bikes on the gravel streets where our kids used to roam. It’s a rediscovery of a treasured community, the kids of yester-year returning with their own children.

Shelves almost done
The little glacier-fed Lion Lake, filled with crayfish and local swimmers, lies a few miles from camp beside the road to the 500-foot-high Hungry Horse Dam, a spectacular feat of mid-nineteenth-century engineering. Yesterday, I dropped our son Jonathan, my Edmonton brother Will, and his kids Lem and Lina at the lake for a few hours while I went grocery shopping.

In the evening, we ordered American-style meals at the Back Door Restaurant in Columbia Falls, a popular hangout for locals. Except for Lem, an eating machine at 17 years of age, we chipped away at the edges of our meal, overwhelmed by the huge portions of fat-rich foods. We took as much home as we had eaten. Around us, tables crowded with diners polished off their plates and asked for dessert, too.

Ziggy, with the hard-working builder
resting on the sofa upstairs. Shelves
are done!
Most of our family is here this week. I’ve cooked more meals in the past two weeks than I ever make at home, trying to accommodate various adult tastes and diets. No beef for one. No vegetables for the other. Certainly no whole-grain breakfast muelsi for another. The rich foods and lack of fiber of the normal American diet are catching up with me: my body feels toxic, sluggish, and without energy. Next week, I’ll cook healthier food with relief.

As the cabin settles into “finished structure,” I hope to unwind from years of study and writing projects. Especially, I’m looking forward to solitude for prayer and meditation on scripture. My husband is energized by constant interaction with people. However, I’m counting on quiet time and the great outdoors for renewal before heading back to city life and obligations in the fall.

Jeremy, Kirsten, and Rebekah chatting on the sofa
One idea that keeps reoccurring this summer is how scripture calls us to self-control, never to control our circumstances or other people. As I get older, I prefer orderly spaces, tidy rooms, and uncluttered schedules. My habit of reading several books at the same time, of spreading papers across a table for research and writing, and my strong curiosity to explore new things function best without a chaotic backdrop. This week, as W moved the saw outside from the back hall, gathered the tools from the tables and corners of the rooms, and took the piles of wood from the kitchen, I felt my breath begin to deepen and my body to relax.

Jesus never promised neat surroundings and untrammeled relationships. We live in families and among friends with their own ideas and preferences of “normal.” Accommodation of others is part of ongoing self-control.

Even in Montana, where keys are left in unlocked cars and little kids run around without parental super-vision, stuff happens and we learn to lean on Christ for rest and refreshing. He remains the same, in familiar or foreign surroundings.

Hope you’re enjoying summer, wherever you are, too. (I’d love to know where and how you’re living it.)

Read more: