Across the Country

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11 October 2012 by handpeaced

I took a break from blogging through the majority of the summer, mostly because I have been so busy.  After all, some of my summer was spent moving across the country.  In this post, I’ll share some photos from that trip.  Maybe I’ll share some stories later.

In August a friend accompanied me as I moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco.  We stopped along the way in Wheeling, West Virginia; Glen Ellyn, Illinois; Green Lake, Wisconsin; Columbia, Missouri; Englewood, Colorado; Canyonlands, Utah; Unita-Wasatch National Forest, Utah; and Lake Tahoe, California, before finally arriving in San Francisco.  We traveled this zig-zag route in order to attend a wedding, and to be hosted (for free!) by friends and friends-of-friends along the way.  In a later post, I will tell you about the blessing of the hospitality we received along the journey.  Until then, enjoy these photos.

Wisconsin 

Kansas

Miltonvale, KS

Farms and Barns

Grain and Water Storage

Roadside Attractions

The Prairie Museum

Colorado

The River

Utah

Canyonlands

Mesa Arch

Unita-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Salt Plains

California

Lake Tahoe

The Redwoods

San Francisco

If you ever get the chance, do it!  Drive cross-country.  If you’re into camping, be sure to plot some great spots along the way.  Utah was my favorite camping spot.  Also, be open to crashing on couches of friends-of-friends who you haven’t met (which were some of my favorite stays).  And, do stop for a few roadside attractions, farmer’s markets and local breweries.  Your trip will only be enhanced because of it!

Happy trails!

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Breakfast in the Dark

Posted in Nourishment with tags , , on 02 July 2012 by handpeaced

We had breakfast without power on Saturday morning.  A horrible storm tore through most of the Northeast, with hurricane-force winds causing enough damage to steal our electricity for a few days.  So, we improvised.

The challenge: cook our meals only on the grill–nothing from the fridge or freezer–and keep it interesting, yet simple.

The goal: a sweet-style crostini.

Preparations for Sunday breakfast began with slicing up ciabatta bread (from these people) picked up the day before at the farmer’s market in Phillippi, WV.  I sliced it diagonally and brushed coconut oil on it.  (No electricity meant no a/c, and because of summer heat the coconut oil was in liquid form instead of solid.)

That went on grill until toasty.  Flipped once.

Then I sprinkled it with just a little bit of course salt and cinnamon ‘n’ sugar, but…

… not just any cinnamon and sugar.

…Vietnamese cassia cinnamon (my favorite cinnamon!) and vanilla sugar (sugar which has been getting cozy with a used vanilla bean for a couple months now).

Super aromatic, and super tasty!

A fantastic, simple, grilled breakfast.

Lassoing the Kingdom

Posted in Hospitality, Theology and Ethics with tags , on 20 June 2012 by handpeaced

I like to wash dishes.  Hold on…  Before you invite me over to stand at your kitchen sink, let me qualify that statement.  I often like to wash my dishes.

The stack of dishes in my cupboard is an eclectic collection of gems from various thrift stores around Philadelphia.  And, oh, how I love them!  There is the one with the yellow flowers.  There is the one with deep blue painted patterns and a gold rim that is too small for anything but a cookie.  There is the one that is more lightweight than the rest–the one I’m afraid I’ll break one of these days–which is wrapped with vintage pink glazed.

I don’t have too many repeats in the collection, which makes them even more fun to wash.  Each has a different feel–weight, glaze, color, size and shape.  For me, it’s cathartic to run the sponge over the edges and around the middle, before turning the plate over and giving the back a quick swirl.  After rinsing the debris away, I admire the rainbow of plates as they dry.

Perhaps my favorite part about washing the dishes, though, is the act of remembering who has eaten from these plates.  One of my favorite memories comes from last summer.  Dear friends came over for dessert.  Before they arrived, I said a simple prayer, asking that our fellowship would be so great that the Kingdom in its fullness might draw a bit closer to us.  And, about an hour later, after at first shuffling, then savoring bites of flourless chocolate cake and homemade vanilla bean ice cream, I paused.  I took a moment to note the depth of joy in my heart–the product of conversation mingled with wine and dessert.  I smiled.  Then, I giggled.

I shared with my friends, what was on my mind: “I feel like we’ve just thrown a lasso around the Kingdom and pulled it closer to us.”

Let me explain.

My eschatology has been influenced some by Jürgen Moltmann as read and interpreted by my dear friend Josh.  Without considering the ramifications of holding such a theology, I will present to you what I imagine.

I don’t really know about heaven and whatnot, but I know that Jesus talked a lot about the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God.  There’s this idea out there that the Kingdom both is here but is not yet.  Basically, that means we can catch glimpses of the Kingdom-goodness that Jesus talked about, but we can also look around us and see sin and pain and suffering and things that make us feel horrible inside–and we know that there must be something more out there to hope for in the end, because this is horrible.

Biblical examples of the kingdom being here are lame and blind people being healed, many being fed, and forgiveness being offered as once-despised persons rejoin the community.  Modern examples are similar: people being healed, people sharing food, and people being restored to community.

So, for now, we live in a dual reality.  The overarching reality is that God reigns.  We can catch glimpses of beautiful things that point us toward this truth.  But, our present reality is also affected by great injustice, and we know that the Kingdom–as we experience it–is not yet in its fullness.  So, we hope for it.

And, it’s in the future somewhere.  But, it’s not waiting for us.  It’s rushing toward us, even as time carries us toward it.  Yes, rushing toward us!  Doesn’t that make you smile?

And so, with this in mind, why not throw a lasso around the Kingdom in the middle of dessert, and give it a big ol’ yank closer to our present reality?

Ignore the potential holes in the above theology, and enjoy the imagery.  And, be inspired to live into the Kingdom, allowing it to be an ever-more present part of our current reality.

Liberating Pieces of Me

Posted in Handmaking, Spirituality with tags , , , on 01 May 2012 by handpeaced

Sometime last summer a couple dear friends came for a visit.  We were experiencing sweltering heat outside.  To tell you the truth, it didn’t feel much better indoors.  So, we soothed ourselves by sitting in front of the fan and clinging onto our glasses of ice water, which were sweating nearly as much as we were.  Somewhat alleviated, we began to share about our lives.  We talked about where we had come from and what our hopes were for the future.

During my time to share, my brow furrowed as I became lost and a little confused by my own thought process.  Then I interrupted myself with the bold declaration, “I’m an artist!”

What I meant by that was that I am not an academic.  I was frustrated that had spent the past two and a half years in graduate studies.  Even the one semester ahead of me felt like too much.

The conversation moved to other places, and after awhile my friends left, our hearts each a little lighter from sharing burdens with one another.  I reached for my journal and let the ink take record of my wondering mind.  Why had I spent the past three years in academia if the truth was that I was an artist?

After many frustrated lines, I figured out that really I am both.  I am an artist.  I am an academic.  The interruption from my artist self was a declaration of the oppressed.  The artist desired her own liberation.  She was oppressed by too much time with books and not enough time creating.  And, the salvation of my whole self was at stake.  It was on her shoulders to raise her voice: “I am here.  I am you.  You are an artist.”

A few days later, I drove to the local craft store and picked up a sketchbook, pencils and some water colors.  After a few weeks went by, I decided to refinish my table.  (I sanded it with three different types of sand paper–all by hand–and covered it with polyurethane.)   And, then I decided I would take up book-binding.  I was inspired by a friend to try non-adhesive book-binding.

So far, I’ve made five journals.  I’ve given away all but one of them as gifts.  I have found I really enjoy being able to create something that is both beautiful and functional.  I’m delighted to think of these journals–with hand-folded pages, hand-stacked signatures and hand-woven bindings–holding the precious thoughts of my loved ones.

It’s been a joy, too, to learn to listen to myself.  When I begin to feel too academic, I add some creative processes to my life.  When I begin to feel too artsy, I pick up a book.

Balance is beautiful.  It has been my salvation.

For your pleasure, here are some photos of my creative process:

Covering book boards.

Boards and signatures waiting to be bound.

Punching holes into the boards.

Thread, needles and a square knot.

Beginnings of binding.

Double Coptic stitches.

The completed journal.

Forsythia, the Prophet

Posted in Spirituality with tags , , on 30 March 2012 by handpeaced

There she stands, boldest amongst her peers–the forsythia. A large bush–bright yellow–with none to equal her. Leaves on trees are still twisted into tiny spirals, not yet flung into the world. Yellow, with no green backdrop to take away her intensity. Not even the leaves on her own branches sprung. Nothing to tone her down.

Small flecks of yellow might be elsewhere–the daffodil. Though bright in her own way, Daffodil seems so tame in the garden plot, while Forsythia blooms wild with her whimsical and reaching branches.

Her peers? Plenty of other trees and shrubs have also bloomed. Some stretch taller. Others bloom broader. They bloom in pale pinks, sitting like small bouquets of ballet slippers on branches, delicate and refined. Beautiful, yet timid.

The forysthia, bright and bold, is a prophet declaring what is to come. With fortitude in these early days of spring, she declares, “Days of sunshine and warmth are ahead. It will come to pass soon.” Wild and free, forsythia stands. Her proclamation of the coming spring and summer are delivered with more boldness and more veracity than any other has dared. Who would not believe this living example of that which is to come?

The forsythia is a prophet who in her own self both hopes for and is convinced of something new ahead.

I want to be bold like the forsythia. I want to, in the very way I be, declare to the world that something new is here and is coming.

A prayer:

Lord, make me like a spring forsythia, boldly declaring the news of what is to come, while even being a part of it presently. Like the forsythia whose blooms proclaim that spring is just arrived and summer is only a few dreams away, may I bloom. May I announce in my very being that your Kingdom has dawned—You do reign!—and, something more is yet ahead. Make me a prophet, like the forsythia. Give me foresight to see and fortitude to hope for that which is ahead. Give me boldness to stand out, even amongst my peers. Give me strength that I might not wither, even in a few frosty mornings, because I’ve dared to bloom in a world where summer has not yet arrived.

Life Should be Celebrated

Posted in Nourishment, Spirituality with tags , , , on 20 March 2012 by handpeaced

Life should be celebrated.  That’s why my friend, David, received a decadent birthday cake to celebrate his 25 years of life and breath.

Friendship, I have been told, can be conceptualized in concentric circles around a core.  The core is the self.  Within the first concentric circle are those friends who are immediately next to the self–those most often privy to the “true self.”  Then there is the next sphere of friends.  These are not as intimate, but do share special moments and a good bit of quality time.  And, then there is the outer group of friends who by distance, time or simple lack of commonalities are considered friends, but remain in the outer sphere.  Certainly none of the people in these concentric circles are fixed, and sometimes a person from the outer perimeter will dip into the core at a key moment.

Friends aren’t systematically assigned to these different circles.  More, they just are in one circle or another based on how they relate to us.  My hunch is that even if you haven’t conceptualized friendship in this way, you already know it to be true in your heart.  There are those who are closest to you, those who are pretty close, and those who are more than acquaintances, but not best friends.

Maybe this is too heady a thing for friendship–a very heart-y thing.  But, isn’t friendship is an endeavor of both the heart and the head?  And, I find the model useful for guilt-relief.  Sometimes I feel guilty because a particular friend and I aren’t “core” friends.  But, thinking of this model helps me to rest.  I remember that my innermost sphere doesn’t have space enough for everyone.  In fact, in an identical mathematical model, the space between the innermost concentric circle and the core has the smallest area.  In the same way that space in friendship has the smallest room for others.  Too many people too close will cause tension on the core.  (Not enough friends around the core causes tension, too.)

That’s my small thought for the day.

Mostly, I just wanted to encourage you to celebrate your friends–no matter which sphere the occupy.  And, David’s birthday cake is one such celebration.  On to the gooey details…

The recipe I used for the cake batter was called: “Deep, Dark Chocolate Cake.”  It is baked in two 9″ pans.  Each 9″ cake was then cut into two, so the cake can be built into layers.

I made an espresso syrup to brush onto each layer, which serves the dual purposes of moisture and flavor.  The syrup?  Oh yes!  Dark rum that has been infused with a leftover vanilla bean pod for the last 3 weeks.  Some fresh espresso and sugar make it sweet and flavorful.

What else?  Chocolate ganache.  Yes, that’s chocolate and heavy cream melted together, chilled, and whipped.  This went between the deep, dark layers.

     

And for the top, then.  Of course, chocolate buttercream!

And this, my friends, is how we celebrate life together.  Do be sure to make time to celebrate.

Suakoko Market

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , on 13 March 2012 by handpeaced

The best way I know to become acquainted with a place is to take a stroll through the market.  During a recent trip to Liberia, I snapped a few photos of scenes which are uncommon treasures to me, while being just everyday life to Liberians.

Enjoy!

 Above is the center road through the Suakoko market in Bong County, Liberia.

This woman was the friend of a friend. She and I bartered for about five minutes before I purchased a very fine lappa from her stand.

This young one was also selling lappas in an uncovered stand. I bartered with two of her older sisters to purchase more lappas.

This young boy walked around the market selling bags filled with different juices.