Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Good-bye, August

What a month it's been! We had numerous birthday celebrations, church events, and visits with friends and family. It was a good month, although a bit strange for me. That's because August is the time when people around here go back to school....and I didn't! I haven't been out of school -- either as a student or as a teacher -- since I began kindergarten all those years ago.

I've thoroughly enjoyed being home. Things have come up that I hadn't even planned, and some things have gone smoothly as planned. I have a good number of piano students, have had more time for music and writing, have prepared for Kids Praise (the children's music ministry I am beginning), have gotten to play with my new sewing machine (love that!), and have been able to spend time with friends and family without the usual stress and anxiety of school. Of course there have been moments when I've missed teaching, since I actually always enjoy the beginning of the year. Overall, though, my life has been good and full in a much healthier way for me.

With the coming of September tomorrow, I am excited for many things: a change in weather (we've already had a glimpse of that), more piano students, holidays around the corner, new church ministries, kick-offs for old ministries, and amazing things happening in the lives of our family and friends. I hope September is bringing a new exciting wind your way, as well!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spiedies!

Spiedies (pronounced speedies) is a traditional New York sandwich containing delicious grilled marinated chicken on bread, drizzled with a creamy white sauce. Although I did not have one in New York (sigh...one of the many things I didn't get to experience there), I tasted many wonderful meals in New York and know that New Yorkers sure can produce some yummy food! So, when I found the recipe in Best of America's Test Kitchen 2010 (great magazine!), I had to make them. We invited some friends over and enjoyed our tasty spiedies last night. Try them out!

For marinade:
1/2 c olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T chopped fresh basil
1/2 t dried oregano
2 t grated lemon zest
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t red pepper flakes

For Sauce:
Two tablespoons of the above marinade plus...
3 T mayonnaise
1 T red wine vinegar

1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
6 sub rolls or slices of Italian bread

Directions:
1. Mix all marinade items together in a large bowl.
2. Take 2 tablespoons of marinade and put in a smaller bowl for sauce. Add mayo and vinegar. Cover and put in fridge.
3. Chicken - Before cutting, poke the chicken all over with a fork. (Brilliant! It helps with the marinading.) Cut chicken into 1 1/4 inch chunks. Put in bowl with marinade and cover. Put in fridge for 30 minutes to four hours. (No longer! That's part of the trick!)
4. Once chicken has marinated, use skewers and barbecue the chicken on high, turning the skewers frequently, until chicken is lightly charred, about 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Put chicken on bread, drizzle with sauce, and serve.

It's spicy, tangy, delicious. You'll love it!

By the way, if you want to know how Kelly was able to score dozens and dozens of recipes from ATK for free, click here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Faves: Sara Snow


Today's Friday Fave is about a book that I've enjoyed reading: Sara Snow's Fresh Living. I picked this up about a year ago when Sara made a guest appearance on Jon and Kate Plus 8. Each chapter focuses on a different room and has tips to being more natural and green. I'll be honest and say that the book is overwhelming a bit if you try to implement everything she says. From changing laundry detergent to cleaning products to children's toys to bed linens, it can be quite a feat to try to make your house totally green. I took her advice and decided just to make a few changes.

The first change was simple: add house plants to your home! I love plants for their aesthetic quality, but the fact that they are a natural air purifier makes them not only lovely but practical. One of the easiest plants I've found to have is the umbrella plant. I have two different types, and both of them are super easy to care for and very happy about anywhere.

The second change started a year ago but has become a bigger deal now that I stay at home. I try to buy and eat fresher food. Although it isn't always organic, I do my best to buy locally grown veggies and fruits from the Farmer's Market, and at the very least keep my shopping to the "perimeters" (one of Sara's tips), where healthier and fresher food is stored.

The last big change was implemented today. Last Friday, after I cleaned my house, my chest felt tight and it hurt to breathe. I had a feeling it was spurred on by my cleaning products, since I usually use a lot of bleach and ammonium (not mixed, of course). I felt better Saturday morning, but when I went to help my sister clean her house before she moved in, it all came back. A doctor's visit later in the week confirmed my suspicion: my lungs were not happy with all those chemicals I was breathing in.

So, today I made the change. I got rid of my harsh products and opted for naturally made cleaners. This is what I used today:

That's right, my products today consisted of basic ingredients you can find in your fridge and cupboard right now. One other item should be added in the photo, and that's hydrogen peroxide. I started small and made only a few cleaners, including an all purpose, a glass, and a furniture polish.

All Purpose: one part vinegar to one part water
Glass: 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup lemon juice, rest filled with water
Furniture Polish: two parts olive oil to one part lemon juice
Toilet Bowl: pour in one part baking soda, then add four parts vinegar; let sit for 15 min.
Disinfectant: Fill one spray bottle with vinegar and one with hydrogen peroxide; spray one then the other on any surface you want disinfected

The best part about this change? My house doesn't reek of bleach, and my cleaning products bill is going to be pennies compared to what I usually spend. Plus, my husband is happier, since he actually has an allergy toward chlorine. (I know, I'm mean to have used bleach as long as I have.)

Check out Sara's website, including the article specifically on "Cleaning Green."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

DIY: Bird Mobile

As I've already stated in previous posts, I am in love with Design*Sponge. Hands down my favorite section is the DIYs, of which I've tried a few when I've felt brave. With the welcome of my new sewing machine (thanks, Debbie!), I finally finished a project I began awhile ago for Stephanie (How Sweet It Is), who is expecting a baby girl this November.

Confession: When I saw this adorable bird mobile, I initially thought, "Who needs a baby to enjoy this darling thing in her home?" However, once we found out the Gimlin's were having a girl, I just had to make this for her. I can always make one for myself later!

Click here for the Design*Sponge post, complete with directions and pattern for birds.

"Whatcha Reading [Two Months Ago] Wednesday"

About two months ago, I finished the third book in C.S. Lewis' Space Triology, which is called That Hideous Strength. Although I loved the book and think that every single person should read the Space Trilogy, time escaped me and I never sat down to write about it. Now that two months have passed, my thoughts are a bit muddled, but I thought I'd share a few things anyway.

First, I had heard that the Space Trilogy was somewhat the Chronicles of Narnia for grown-ups, but it really is something beyond that. It's everything one would expect from the genius author of Narnia and more. Read it!

Second, although I loved Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra (and it seems those two are faves among Space Trilogy readers), I couldn't put down That Hideous Strength. It is much more action based than the first two, a fantastic culmination and denouement of the struggles developed in Planet and Perelandra. Although Ransom, the main character of the entire story, plays a quieter part and practically takes a backstage to the two new characters (Mark and Jane Studdock), he is still what the story is about, and his sanctification and spiritual growth is remarkable.

In the story, Mark and Jane Studdock are newlyweds who are discovering that marriage isn't exactly what either of them thought it would be. Jane is bored and resentful with being at home; Mark is annoyed and somewhat nostalgic for their exciting courting days (at his best) and selfish bachelor days (at his worst). It is pretty clear from the beginning that these two are headed down different paths, and that is exactly what happens, even if their course of events seems almost accidental. Mark (through ignorance, manipulation, and fear) gets pulled into a powerful and frightening plan that is straight from the Evil One, and Jane finds herself experiencing vision-like dreams and, after much prodding, seeks help from Ransom. It is easy at the beginning of the novel, before Ransom makes his appearance, to forget about all the truth Ransom learned concerning the eldils (spirit-like creatures), Oyarsa (angels), and Maleldil (God). However, it becomes very clear that this is what the entire conflict is about.

"Our own crew, the terrestrial eldils, are at the back of the whole conspiracy. You are to imagine us, Mrs. Studdock, living on a world where the criminal classes of the eldils have established their headquarters. And what's happening now, if the Director's [Ransom] views are correct, is that their own respectable kith and kin are visiting this planet to red this place up."

The conflict is not something new, however, but has been a constant struggle since the beginning: the struggle between Logres (truth, goodness, and soundness, appropriately named, right?) and Britain. Ransom, who is the Director of the group called Logres, explains this struggle in an interesting way: that Britain is always haunted by Logres. It cannot escape it, try as it might. It is more, then, than simply a struggle between good and evil, though surely it could be viewed that way. Dimble (not Dumbledore, although Rowling's hat-tip to Lewis, perhaps?), one of the Logres and perhaps the most spiritually-minded (except for the Director) says, "If one is thinking simply of goodness in the abstract, one soon reaches the fatal idea of something standardised--some common kind of life to which all nations ought to progress. Of course, there are universal rules to which all goodness must conform. But that's only the grammar of virture. It's not there that the sap is. He doesn't make two blades of grass the same: how much less two saints, two nations, two angels. The whole work of healing Tellus [Earth] depends on nursing that litle spark, on incarnating that ghost, which is still alive in every real people, and different to each."

And this gets to one of the main themes of That Hideous Strength. Abstract ideas--meaning ideas that are not grounded in a solid, real truth, ideas that sound good but have no substance, ideas that are nonsense--are lethal. It is, in fact, the abstract philosophizing that got Britain into its opening mess in the story. As the battle comes to a close, one entire town is wiped out, including a well-known university. When one of those part of Logres expresses sorrow for seemingly "innocents" who were killed, another pipes in: "But all the same...was there a single doctrine practised at Belbury which hadn't been preached by some lecturer at Edgestow? Oh, of course, they never thought any one would act on their theories! No one was more astonished than they when what they'd been talking of for years sudden took on reality. But it was their own child coming back to them: grown up and unrecognisable, but their own."

This is what attempts to destroy Britain, and this is what the enemy uses to bring it down. Mark, a learned man, goes down the wrong path because of what he fills his heart and mind with, which is not the sound, true word. As one character says, "Those who have forgotten Logres sink into Britain. Those who call for Nonsense will find that it comes." As a reader, we love taking the journey with Mark, who must rid himself of the Nonsense he has consumed, come to the end of his rope, and then finally see the light. Jane, though in some ways similarly affected by false teachings, finds Ransom and Logres much sooner, and therefore seems to be the foil for Mark. As Mark is pulled deeper into the mire, Jane quickly begins to rise and find truth. Of course, it all centers around Ransom, who points everyone to Maleldil. He is the saint-like figure who sees the world for what it is and sees Maleldil for who He is, a symbol of both Christ and the glorified Christian.

That Hideous Strength is the story of the great struggle, true, but perhaps more importantly it is the story of people involved in the great struggle: Ransom, the Logres group, Mark and Jane, and of course, those who have chosen the other side. There is no question by the end of the book whose side we want to be on.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Daddy-o

August is our month for birthdays: first Camille, then Dad, next Chelsea...and that's just the Vander Kooi's side. This past Saturday, we celebrated Dad's fifty-seventh with him! For this special day, I decided to return to my old card making days. I'm not quite sure when this little tradition began, but years ago I made my dad a card with a birthday poem, which he loved, so I would often do that for him. You have to know something about my dad to really understand why he thinks this is so great: He loves funny cards. He really does. He loves buying them, and he loves receiving them. He puts them up on the mantle for months and shares them with everyone. For some people, getting the card is just something you have to do to finish up your gift, but for my dad, the card is what makes the gift.

Here's the 2010 birthday poem, complete with plenty of inside jokes that few will understand.

It’s been a few years

Since I’ve written a rhyme,

But in honor of you, Dad,

I think it’s time.

Your birthday is something

For which we all cheer—

Without it, four of us

Wouldn’t be here!

So to properly say

How much your life has meant,

Here’s what you’ve taught us,

Worth more than two cents.

You’ve taught us that food

Truly gets to the heart.

A perfect grilled steak

Hits it right on the mark.

In fact, nothing better says

Fun party time

Than a steak and rib barbecue

And a little John Prine.

About haircuts, we’ve learned

The difference between

A good one and bad one

Is simply two weeks.

As for what’s garbage,

That just depends—

If it can be salvaged,

Everyone (‘cept Mom) wins.

Concerning the doggies,

We know how to please!

We’ve learned from the master:

Hotdogs and cheese.

If outnumbered (like you were)

We’ve learned how to beat ‘em:

Don’t fight it, just give in,

And watch “Drop Dead Diva.”

You’ve taught us

A comical card saves the day,

And a little good humor

Goes a long way.

You’ve taught us that things

Don’t always go right,

But at the end of the tunnel,

There’s always a light.

This and much more

You’ve imparted to us,

So thanks for the wisdom

And thanks for the love.

There’s one last tidbit

That’s a favorite to hear:

“I get better looking

Every year!”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blogger, you bug me

I have spent much of my time the last two days trying to figure out how to upload a document into my blog. (Blogger doesn't really have an easy way to do this, so you need to get around Blogger...annoying.) One of the purposes of my new blog (candacefeelymusic) is to provide resources for my piano students and their parents, as well as for those planning a wedding.

Here's the how-to, in case this is something you've also wanted to figure out. Create your file and save it as you would like, probably a PDF if you don't want it to be changed. Upload it unto your Google documents and make it public. Once you do that, open your document, and you will see that there is now a url link that you may use to direct people to that page, or also a way to embed it, if it's a small enough document that will be an image on your blog.

Just be careful what you upload there. It is, as the name says, accessible by the public. You don't want to give Google too much power.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beebs is 21!

This weekend we celebrated the 21st birthday of my littlest sister Camille, whom (you probably know) we call Beebs. It's hard to believe the baby of our family is twenty-one, but I guess we're all growing up. Chels is in the Netherlands (straight from New York), and so wasn't with us, but we still had a nice time lounging around by the pool, eating yummy food (including delicious cupcakes from Frosted Muffin--love that place!), and celebrating with Camille.

Great presents: cool Toms shoes and framed pictures from our New York trip

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Heart Bakersfield

I never thought I would have a reason to love Bakersfield, but I do now. Bakersfield keeps our friends the deGrassie's close to us, even though they've recently moved to San Diego, since Kelly's parents live there. It is practically impossible for them to come to Bako without seeing us, and this week was no different. We were able to spend all of Friday and Saturday morning with them. Fun!

Kelly and I did homemade pizza again. We're getting quite good at this. Look at this yummy thing! It was heaven. We used the thin crust recipe from Williams-Sonoma, which really does produce a great tasty crust. If you try it out, one tip is to roll your dough way thinner than you think you need to. It's amazing how much it puffs up. We topped it with whatever we could find and devoured the whole thing.

Rob and John's pizza wasn't quite as good because they were late and got somewhat of the leftovers. They weren't complaining though - they got golf and Robby's tortilla pizzas to supplement.
The evening ended with an intense game of Scattegories and a lame movie, The Ghost Writer, which has been much a part of our discussion today, even though it is really one of the worst movies I've seen all year. (Kelly is supposed to be writing about it, so you can check her blog for the info.)

Coffee and crepes for breakfast was the icing on the weekend cake for us. A deGrassie visit always ends way too soon, but at least we enjoy our limited time to the fullest.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A little change for Friday Faves

I have not been very good at keeping up Friday Fave Fives. That is because I can never think of a good category that contains five things for me. So I'm adjusting it to be Favorite Things Friday. The amount of favorite things is just going to be a surprise. We shall see if I keep this one up.

Today continues the Bird Lady theme because I wanted to share one of my favorite things I have in my home, which just happens to highlight birds. It's not really about the birds, though. It's about my mom. These beautiful framed ceramic pieces were a wedding gift to my parents from my grandma, and I have always loved them. (Could that be the reason I'm obsessed with birds to this day?) When my parents moved from their house two years ago into their new home, I was helping my mom unpack boxes and pulled these out. I told her how much I loved them, and she said I could take them and hang them in my house now. They were one of the first things to go up on the wall, and I have no plans of taking them down. They are so special and beautiful.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chilli Jam

I spent most of Monday morning assisting my mom as she made her version of Nigella's chilli jam to give as gifts this school year. The jam really is delicious: spicy from the chiles and peppers, but sweet from the sugar. It's great for topping a cracker or adding to a meal. Plus, it's just so pretty!! Find the recipe here if you're needing something exciting to give as holiday gifts this year.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A week already?

I haven't gone a whole week without posting something in quite awhile. The sad part is last week was my first real week home, the first week of my new phase of life. You would have thought I would have plenty of time to sit around, but I actually kept myself quite busy. Plus, I had my inevitable illnesses that come from a busy traveling season and the usual blues that arrive after a busy time ends.

It was a nice week, though, and I was able to spend time with Josh and Jessica and their adorable baby boy Elliot, Ben and Steph (and Baby G on the way), and all of our family, not to mention phone calls with the Bestie and sister Chelsea, who is preparing to leave to Holland from New York as we speak. I also cleaned a bit, did laundry, started some projects, and finally began a new book.

Things are good, and I especially am quite thrilled about the lovely weather we are having here in Visalia. Nineties in August?? Fantastic!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Elevate

Something cool has happened recently at our church: we have enough students who have graduated from high school to finally make a college group. (If you've ever been in a small church, you know that's an exciting thing!) However, "enough" is still a small amount, and when you factor in jobs, homework, classes, etc., it's hard to choose a night that can get everyone together. Robby decided to make use of a local venue to jump start our college group. Every Tuesday night at Cafe 210, a Christian coffee shop downtown (it's run by a Presbyterian church), a group called Elevate meets. It's a service geared toward college age students and consists of great worship music and a speaker each night. Last night, we took six of our students and checked it out. Overall, it seems we liked it, although we know it'll take some time to really say what we think. But I think for us and our situation, it's perfect. Whether ten students can make it or only a couple, it's a really great service. Plus, the coffee shop afterwards provides the perfect place for us to hang out, perhaps do a small Bible study, or just catch up.

If you're in the Visalia area, it's worth checking out! Click here for more information.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Down to the river

We had a very special and meaningful event this past Sunday. My youngest sister Camille and I were baptized! What made it even extra neat was Robby baptized us.

This event came from a long process for me, and because it would take a long time to explain, I'll just simply say this: Although I had been baptized through the sprinkling of water at the age of thirteen, and although that event was indeed baptism, I have felt for some time that God was asking me to be baptized through immersion as an act of obedience to Him. This was an awesome day for me and Camille (and our whole family), and it is truly is another "ebenezer" in my life.

Centrifuge 2010

Our last hoorah for the summer was taking our youth group to Centrifuge, a Christian camp held at Jenness Park near Sonora. It was an awesome time. I know many people were praying for us (and probably me specifically), and we felt it. Many of students evaluated and recommitted their lives, and two of the students we brought accepted Christ to be the Lord of their life!

Our theme was Kairos, which is a Greek work that means "an appointed time." During the week, the word was used to talk about those defining moments in our life. Each day centered on one characteristic or quality that God calls us to have: love, obedience, commitment, integrity, and sacrifice. Some of our students were part of a painting track, and one student did this to remember the theme.

Each day at camp was a full day. We began the morning with breakfast at 7:30, then the "AM Show" at 8:30. After that, students went to their Bible study leaders and recreational time. The rec games centered on trust and team-building. From there, students had two different tracks, which changed after two days. Our students chose anything from painting to ultimate frisbee to a class on cults to a mission trip (nearby, of course). As adults, we too had Bible study and rec, although we ditched the rec time this year. The rest of our time was spent hanging out with students and leading the church group time at the end of the night.

Here's a picture of our two students who accepted Christ. Jenness Park has a neat tradition: each student who accepts Jesus during their camp time gets to ring the big bell at the end of the week.

The camp was busy and exciting but was set in a really beautiful place. The weather was ideal to sit in the shade and enjoy the lovely surroundings.

We had a great time, and each one of our students expressed how impacting the week was for them. For me, it was most amazing seeing how different this year was for me than the last. God truly has brought me a long way! Thanks to all of you who prayed and supported us!