Monday, February 28, 2011

February Psalm Sing

On Saturday we had another psalmody class here in our home.

We "warmed up" with a familiar tune, singing the first four stanzas of Psalm 19 to the tune Crediton.

Then we sang Psalm 119 verses 57-64 (Cheth) to the tune Belmont, which is a favorite tune for many of us.

Finally, we sang Psalm 90 v. 8-10 to St. Agnes again, because when Jesh listened to the recording from last month, he thought we needed to work on the tune a little. This month's recording was indeed a little better, so I've replaced last month's recording with this one on

You can download these recordings to your own computer at

As always, we enjoyed the opportunity to sing psalms with our dear friends, and look forward to doing it again, D.V.  

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Psalm 40

I saw this on another blog and thought you might enjoy it.

Psalm 40

2. He took me from a fearful pit,
and from the miry clay,
And on a rock he set my feet,
establishing my way.

3. He put a new song in my mouth,
our God to magnify:
Many shall see it, and shall fear,
and on the Lord rely.

4. O blessed is the man whose trust
upon the Lord relies;
Respecting not the proud, nor such
as turn aside to lies.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's a Zoo Around Here

Y'all might know that we have a lot of small children here in Texas.  The other night at church I realized that of fifty-two people in attendance, twenty-two were children aged six and under (granted, a few of the little ones belonged to visiting families and won't be here much longer).  Since we keep our little ones in church with us for the most part, only taking them out if absolutely necessary, most of those twenty-two were in the service with us.  But on the whole, the service was very quiet, as usual--not a zoo at all!  

Yes, I'm getting to the zoo part.  On Friday, a group of friends went to the actual zoo, near the medical center in Houston.  The boys go to the zoo frequently with their dad, who has a zoo membership, but I've only been once; but that morning, the ex kindly called the zoo and added me to his membership, so that I could go myself, and join our friends when they went.

It was a beautiful warm and sunny day, and we enjoyed ourselves greatly.

My sister was there with her two daughters.  Olivia (her oldest) was out well past her naptime and you could tell that she was tired, but she stayed reasonably cheerful and only cried once, at the end of our outing, when she had to part ways with her beloved aunt. Yes, that would be me. :D

And Charlotte (my sister's youngest) spent most of the afternoon napping in the Moby wrap.

Leah (my sister-in-law) also had her youngest in a carrier.  Brooklyn is such a smiley baby!  I'm disappointed that I didn't get a picture of her lovely smile.  You will have to settle for a picture of her lovely chubby cheeks.
Brooklyn again, this time with Mrs. Anna (Leah's stepmother).  That's Clement (Rachel's youngest) in the green shirt.

Noah was a happy boy.  Elijah, on the other hand, was a bit sulky because we didn't do the activities he wanted to do as quickly as he wanted to do them.  Must work on his attitude...

Noah in the tunnel by the prairie dog exhibit.

Brown pelicans.  We see pelicans when we go to the beach--I love watching them skim the waves, scooping out fish.


White rhino in the new African Forest exhibit.

Benjamin (Rachel's second oldest) in the petting zoo area.

It's hard to take pictures through glass, but I thought this one was pretty neat.  We have a book about otters that the boys really like, so they were thrilled to see some real live otters.

Lastly we stopped at the aquarium.  By the time we'd seen everything else, we were getting pretty tired, so the cool and dark of the aquarium was quite welcome. 

These are piranhas.

Jellyfish of some sort. 

I think that's probably the most pictures I've ever put into one post!  If you haven't had your fill of pictures yet, you can see more on Rachel's blog--from the zoo and elsewhere too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Favorite Psalm Tune

The other day, a psalm-singing friend from Scotland commented on my blog and shared the link to a collection of psalms that he has posted online.  These psalms were recorded at a weekly Bible study in Glasgow.  I have enjoyed listening to the recordings; and I've just added them to this list so that you can enjoy them too. 

One recording in particular caught my ear--the tune is "Land of Rest" which I had not heard before.  I like this tune a lot.  It reminds me of Maitland, or Retreat, or Cunningham; in other words, it's a very American-sounding tune.  When I googled the tune, I found that it is in fact an American folk tune.  I tried to find a midi file or the score for this tune, but the closest thing I could find had very different harmony, and wasn't nearly so appealing.

If anyone has a midi file or written music for "Land of Rest" with the parts as they are in this recording, I would be delighted if you would e-mail it to me via the e-mail address on the "About Me" page (click on the tab above).

The parts kick in on the second verse--wait for it:

  Psalm 36 (v 5-9) - Land of Rest by Niallags

Psalm 36
5. Thy mercy, Lord, is in the heav'ns;
thy truth doth reach the clouds;
6. Thy justice is like mountains great,
thy judgements deep as floods:

Lord, thou preservest man and beast.
7. How precious is thy grace!
Therefore in shadow of thy wings
men's sons their trust shall place.

8. They with the fatness of thy house
shall be well satisfy'd;
From rivers of thy pleasures thou
wilt drink to them provide.

9. Because of life the fountain pure
remains alone with thee;
And in that purest light of thine
we clearly light shall see. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Garden Planning 2011

The weather is beautiful, which means--it's garden planting time!  I grabbed the shovel and turned over my little garden plots yesterday--which only took a few minutes.  Last year I had three little 3' by 4' beds.  This year I'd like to expand a bit.  How much?  We'll see!

I really ought to have started my tomatoes from seed at the first of the year, in order to have them ready for planting now.  Since I didn't start my tomato seeds on time, I have to decide whether I will buy plants, or start seeds now and plant late.  Maybe I'll do some of both.

I harvested the last of last year's tomatoes the first week of December, so if I'd started seeds the first of January like I should have, I would only have had a three-week off-season from gardening!  I really could have gardened year round, actually, and the Cambodian community not far from us did just that--I saw garden plots lush with kale and other greens all through the winter.

Three things I'd like to figure out this year, all being well:
1. Figure out how to support my tomato plants.  The cheap tomato cages from Wal-Mart that I used last summer were completely inadequate.  I would have had to prune back my tomatoes by 2/3 to get them to fit into their cages.  I'm really not sure how I will support the tomatoes this year.
2. Figure out the whole composting thing.  My whole "throw all kitchen scraps and weeds into a heap" method isn't working too well.  I'm left with a pile of dry, woody stems with black sludge underneath.  (Interestingly, the black sludge is inhabited by a big, fat toad.)  I'm sure the black sludge would make excellent fertilizer, but I would have to hack through all the dry, woody stems to get to it. 
3. Find effective ways to combat stink bugs, hornworms, and armadillos, without resorting to toxic pesticides.  I still think that manually picking off the bugs could work well, but I would have to be more diligent than I was last year.

And of course, any solutions I come up with have to cost next to nothing, given that gardening funds are squeezed out of the grocery budget. :)

I can't wait to get seeds and plants into the ground!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Homemade Ranch Dressing

I've been a ranch dressing fan ever since my college days at Indiana University, where it was apparently the "thing" to put ranch dressing on everything.  But in recent years I've avoided ranch because it tends to contain MSG (monosodium glutamate).  So I was happy to discover a easy, delicious, and MSG-free recipe ranch dressing recipe online.  After some trial and error, I modified the original recipe a bit, and came up with this:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk*
3/4 tsp dried chives
3/4 tsp dried parsley
3/4 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
*Just discovered that buttermilk tends to have a lot of artificial ingredients in it.  Happily, a homemade buttermilk substitute is quite easy to make and also quite a bit cheaper--stir 1 tbsp vinegar into 1/2 cup milk, and let sit for a couple of minutes until thickened.*

Dump all ingredients into a jar, close the lid tightly, and shake till well blended.  Or, if you don't have a jar with a lid that fits tightly, whisk all ingredients in a bowl.  Refrigerate for at least an hour, or ideally overnight, before serving.  This dressing may look thin at first, but will thicken up as it sits in the fridge.

If your homemade ranch doesn't thicken up as much as you would like, try adding an extra tablespoon of vinegar.

If you'd like a dip for vegetables rather than a dressing for salad, follow the above recipe, but substitute sour cream for the buttermilk; so you would use 1 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup mayonnaise.

You can tweak this recipe all you want--more spice, less spice, different ratios of mayo/sour cream/buttermilk, etc.  Have fun!

Monday, February 7, 2011


This is one of my favorite nieces.  (I have four favorites.)

Most of the time, Olivia graciously allows me to think of myself as her favorite aunt.  But now and then, she decides to act like she doesn't even know me. (It's okay, I forgive her.)

Olivia likes animals, including kittens. I was with her one day when she spotted the kittens at the manse.  She promptly sat down on the sidewalk, held out her little arms to one kitten and said "Up?  Up?"  The kitten didn't take the hint, so she very carefully gathered him up, like so:

Oops, he's slipping...

Poor kitty endured this patiently for a few minutes, but finally, in an act of desperation, clutched at her with his little claws to keep from falling.  Olivia didn't make a sound, just looked at me with big round eyes as I gently unhooked his claws from her flesh.

She was a little bit afraid of kitty now that she had learned about his claws, but she still really wanted to pick him up.  Look at her trying to decide what to do.

Kitty didn't try to run; he just crouched there, switching his tail and looking at her narrowly.

At the beginning of the year, Olivia became a big sister.  Little Charlotte is a very sweet baby who sleeps a lot. In fact, I rarely see her awake.  Mercy tells me that she is in fact awake now and then, but those times do not generally coincide with our visits.

For some pictures of Charlotte awake (and some of Olivia, too), see this post on my sister's blog.