Sunday, December 2, 2018

What I Learned {Last} Month | November 2018

I seem to have developed a habit of writing these posts a couple of days late. Well, c'est la vie. 

Without further delay, here's the November edition of what I learned this month, inspired by Emily P. Freeman's regular practice.

Anne Bogel, (aka the Modern Mrs. Darcy) has a degree in Christian education. 

Bogel is best known for her blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, and her podcast, What Should I Read Next. I've enjoyed her work for ages - thanks to her my to-be-read list is massively long. While I knew that she had a German minor, I had no idea that she had a degree in Christian education. You learn something new every day if you're lucky.

I crave a multi-generational friend-group.

Last year I almost exclusively spent time with peers, which had me feeling a little off-kilter. So this year I decided to join a women's Bible study group, of which I am by far the youngest member, and to help lead my church youth group. So far, so good, but I recently started feeling off-kilter again. I'd swung too far in the other direction and was craving some solid time with peers! Y'all, we all need people from various generations in our lives. I'm currently working out how to cultivate friendships across generations while also doing all the things necessary for life. Figuring out a social life can be challenging!

Turning the heel of a sock is not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be. 

I knit my first sock last month, due to an impulse-buy of a sock-knitting kit at Aldi. I've knit off and on for years, but never attempted socks, due to the notorious difficulty of turning heels. But thanks to this YouTube tutorial, I got through without a hitch.

There was, in fact, turkey at the first Thanksgiving. I quote William Bradford:

"All ye somer ther was no want. And now begane to come in store of foule, as winter appoached, of which this place did abound when they came first. . .besids water foule, ther was a great store of wild Turkies." 

Every year news stories crop up about how there really wasn't turkey at the first Thanksgiving. Those journalists are not doing their research.

I cannot define pie.

I'm not talking about the numeral here. I'm talking about the dessert. Pie isn't a thing in Germany, so when I had some friends over for pumpkin pie last week, they were all quite intrigued. Being German, they hadn't ever had pie, and being German, they wanted a definition. It was entertaining: as I started to slice the pie they all gathered around and started peppering me with questions.

"How is it different than Kuchen [German torte]?"

"Well, it has a crust."

"Is the crust always the same?"

"No..."

"Is the filling always a similar consistency?"

"No..."

"Doesn't it sometimes have a top crust?"

"Yes, but it doesn't have to..."

"Is it always sweet?"

"No..."

"Is quiche a pie?"

"Yes? No? Sort of?"

Eventually they gave up trying to get a definition out of me and simply contented themselves with the goodness that is pumpkin pie.

According to the dictionary, a pie is "a baked dish of fruit, or meat and vegetables, typically with a top and base of pastry," but that doesn't quite seem to capture the essence of pie. Help!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Things I Learned {Last} Month | October 2018


Some months get a little crazy, and October was one of those for me - filled to the brim. Which is why October's "Things I Learned This Month" is coming two days into November. Welcome to my life. :D

Anyhoo, I enjoy this monthly summary way too much to let it slide, so I'm embracing the "better late than never" motto this month.


Prickly pear is pink and beautiful and yummy and - surprise! - prickly. I found one of these at a market, and since I'd seen them growing from cacti at the Cinque Terre in Italy, I bought one to try. It was delicious, but I had to pull some stickers out of my fingers from incautious handling (beware the black spots - they have tiny prickles). 

Pumpkin puree is super easy to make at home. Chop your pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, roast for about an hour, and slide off the skin and mash the flesh. You don't even need a blender or potato masher. A fork works fine. I don't think I'm ever going back to canned pumpkin puree.

Homemade chai masala is also super easy. I read an Indian cookbook from cover to cover this month, and I've been enjoying experimenting with the recipes in it. My favorite so far is the homemade chai spice blend. I finally bit the bullet and bought some cardamom and mixed up the spices for myself. Throw a spoonful in to steep with a mug of strong tea (hello, PG Tips), and add sweeting and milk as desired. Way better than Starbucks.

Basic chai masala:

5 T powdered ginger
2.5 T cinnamon
2.5 T cloves
1.5 T black pepper
1.5 T cardamom

The three oldest heads of state are Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed of Malaysia (93 years), Queen Elizabeth II (92 years), and President Beji Cald Essebsi of Tunisia (91 years). Random facts learned in conversation with my Tunisian flatmate.


October 28th was Czechoslovakia's 100th birthday. Sort of. But the confusing thing is that Czechoslovakia no longer exists. It's the Czech Republic/Czechia and Slovakia now, and those have only been around in their current forms since 1993. So I wasn't quite sure who to wish "happy birthday!" So I decided on "Huzzah for 100 years not under Hapsburg rule!" We happened to be in Prague on that day, and we enjoyed a brief fireworks show in the rain.


{Czech pubs have great names.}




Basic Czech comfort food: potatoes, sauerkraut, and ham. Preferably all mashed together as street food. This was really, really good.


Medieval artists may not have had ultrasounds, but that didn't keep them from imagining babies in mothers' wombs. I found this marvelous painting of Elizabeth greeting Mary in St. Agnes' Convent in Prague, and I absolutely love it.

In the fall, I tend to listen to albums, not playlists. Spring and summer are for lots of artists, lots of albums, and lots of playlists. In the fall, my listening slows down and lingers. I still listen to a decent amount of playlists, but if I cut them out entirely it wouldn't change my fall listening rhythms much. My go-to fall albums are Sleeping at Last's Atlas: Year One and Atlas: Year Two, the soundtrack for Cider House Rules (a movie I've never seen, but I love the music), and James Taylor's October Road. And if I could only listen to October Road all fall, I'd be perfectly content. This album is the sound of my childhood, of Appalachian fall colors, of cosy afternoons studying and cooking and walking Fritz through fields ready for harvest.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Poetry Corner | A Time to Talk, by Robert Frost

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.