a hymn

i came across these words by G.K. Chesterton today, and they seemed especially fitting during a campaign season filled with much vitriol:

God of earth and altar, Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter, Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us, The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us, But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches, From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation Of honor, and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation, Deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together, Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation, A single sword to thee.


october snowflakes

snow before halloween in ligonier, pennsylvania

i'm not emotionally ready for more snow than what is blowing around and sticking to that awning! look at those bare branches. (here is the same shot just a few weeks ago.) may i place an order for another day of indian summer, please?


i am a real american {a manifesto}

i believe that we have more in common than we are led to believe

i believe that Jesus meant it when he said "blessed are the peacemakers"

i believe in hard work and a living wage

i believe in compassion, service, and justice

i believe in a free press that isn't for sale

i believe that the common good and what's good for business are not the same thing

i believe in safe, affordable housing, access to health care, and public education

i believe that the health of a nation is inextricably linked to the welfare of its children, elderly, and poor

i believe in giving the hungry a fish, teaching them to fish, and holding polluters accountable for poisoning the water supply

i believe that budgets are moral documents

i believe that humility and admitting mistakes are strengths

i believe that questioning our government is patriotic

i believe that dialogue, discussion, and honest questions trump false choices and easy answers

i am proud of america when she lives up to her ideals and disappointed when she fails to

i am thankful to be an american and thankful for the freedoms we enjoy

i believe that no demographic is more authentically american than any other, and i believe our differences make this country great

i am a real american, and i vote


last night, dylan and i attended an obama rally in pittsburgh. getting out there was a bit of an ordeal, but i'm so glad thankful we could be there. it was at the mellon arena, and it was incredible to be among tens of thousands of different people eager for something new and better for america.

we were waaaay up high (hence my fuzz fuzz photography), but dylan and i enjoyed looking out over so much activity and excitement. sen. obama gave a rousing, inspired speech, but with the baby, i didn't get any notes. you can read TIME's recap here.

even though senator casey and governor rendell spoke, the honor of introducing obama went to steelers' owner dan rooney. i told you football was a big deal in this town!

{this was not miss dylan's first foray into politics. 

see pics from the peace march we attended last spring here.}


little fox went out on a chilly night...

so, that fox i saw last week? it turns out he is our little neighbor, and i see him (her?) most every day. our house is on the edge of a really big field, and he lives out in the middle of it. he scampers all over the field, playing and driving my dog nuts. perhaps this was a bad idea, but the other day jim let sydney out, and she happily chased the fox all the way into the woods. she caught up to him in an instant. i suppose this is fitting, as she may be part fox hound--just doing what she was created to do:) i got a little worried when sydney took off like lightning, but she actually came back when called. unlike this time.

i don't think sydney knows quite what to make of this interloper. yesterday, dylan and i were in the kitchen, and sydney started barking like a mad dog at the front door. i went over, and even with his head start, i saw the little fox running out of our yard. he must have been really close to get sydney so riled.

jim took these pictures through his binoculars. i didn't even believe you could do that, but here's the proof:


look at those cute ears! just past our clothesline
fluffy tail
i like to pounce!
i know i talk a lot about how much i miss the city, but this little fox is way more awesome than the freak shows who were some of our neighbors back in pittsburgh. i'm kind of smitten:)


nose ring girl

i have a nose ring--a small sparkly stud, really, that i got when i was a junior in college as an ode to the waning days of youth. i imagined i'd have to take it out after graduation, when i entered the "real world."

my parents are not fans of said nose ring. one time when i was home on break it fell out, and my mom suggested that its loss was perhaps the result of God's will. i wasn't so sure.

God didn't seem to mind so much, and i found gainful employment as a youth pastor, despite the piercing. it turns out that the Man isn't bothered by nose studs either, and i later got a civil servant job at the housing authority. actually, the only employer who ever minded my nose ring was camp, so i would take it out during the summers, but even they had a change of heart and trusted me this summer to minister to staff and campers, nose ring and all.

i've been in the "real world" for some time. i'm 28, i have a husband and baby, professional experience in government and ministry (ok, and food service), and a life in a conservative small town. but i still rock the nose ring of my 21 year-old-self, and i like it.



in light of yesterday's steelers post, i probably should admit something. i said that i'm not really a football fan, but will wave a terrible towel every now and again. the thing it, that doesn't quite paint a full picture of the paul household and our football proclivities.

what i am about to show you is anathema here and probably means we aren't worthy to call western PA home, but i thought you should know what happened last sunday when we watched the redskins/browns game at our friends' house:

this is dylan as an itty bitty cleveland browns cheerleader, outfitted in love by her aunt christie. oh yeah, and playing with a cat toy.

as to this picture, there really are no words:
except, perhaps, why doesn't my husband own a normal fan tee or jersey? and who else but a cleveland browns fan in the pittsburgh diaspora would include a hard hat in his football-watching wardrobe?

(i should have gotten a picture of their family, too, all six decked out in redskins jerseys. pretty cute.)


thrifty green thursday

my sister is a great thrift store shopper who can sift through the chaff and outfit herself in cute, funky things for very little money. i don't often have the patience to sort through racks and racks of weirdness, but i did recently have great luck getting a few toys for dylan. she loves to play with whatever she can get her hands on--paper, the remote control, the vacuum--and i wanted to find something that would interest her without wrecking too much havoc. this is what i scored: 

the plastic blocks and rings aren't exactly green, but we're giving them a second life (reducing packaging and waste), so i think that counts. and how 'bout that cool wooden tractor? i got the three toys and a little teapot for jim's office all for $5.58! for more thrifty green thursday tips, visit green baby guide.


october, and the trees are stripped bare...

our side yard

i heart baking soda: green cleaning and household uses

i buy baking soda in bulk for washing dylan's diapers and deodorizing the diaper pail, and i'd been meaning to try it for other cleaning tasks. this week i used it to successfully tackle two nasty household jobs--scrubbing our stove top and deodorizing a funky-smelling couch pillow.

let me first say, that jim and i have had terrible luck with our oven/stove. when we first moved in, we inadvertently lit some kid of chemical fire, thanks to previous tenants who left a lil something special on a burner. we found black ash on both floors of the house for quite some time after that so we took out the burner and made do with three. other than that, it was a great stove.

we live at a camp, and our housing is graciously provided. when someone donated their old stove, camp exchanged it for ours, thinking that it would be an upgrade since it had four burners. as it turned out, not so much, because its four burners had just two settings--off, and burn-your-food high. bah!

we made do, and after a while another donation came in. third time's the charm, right?

well, sort of. the "new" stove was filthy. really, really icky. (what is with people donating nasty and/or broken stuff to non-profits and then presumably claiming a tax write-off? booo!)

i set to disinfecting like mad. it wasn't sparkling, but at least the outside wasn't sticky anymore. (i know, ew.)

the stove was usable, but i still hadn't done an intense, remove-all-the-burners and scrub-everything clean. baking soda completely did the trick, without a lot of elbow grease. i thought i'd have to replace the metal dish parts since they were so bad, but after soaking them in baking soda and water, they are also much improved.

baking soda even made our tea kettle sparkle. it always sits on the burner, and then cooking oils render it gross-looking after a bit. scrubbing it clean can be a nightmare, but baking soda cleaned it in under two minutes. perfect!

my other baking soda success story is my couch pillow. it was smelling less-than-fresh, and my first attempt at scrubbing only seemed to push the stink around. i sprinkled it liberally with baking soda, rubbed it in good, and left it overnight. the next day, i vacuumed it thoroughly, and it was remarkably improved. i repeated the process again, and it now smells clean, fresh, and much better if i'd used one of those chemical-filled perfume sprays that only mask odor.

cleaning with baking soda is cheap, green, and easy. it also works wonders on clogged drains. if you have more baking soda tips, please leave me a comment. i'd love to expand my repertoire.


wild living

dylan is asleep, jim is out on property archery hunting, and sydney was just out barking on her runner--not an ideal combination. she's a good dog and never barks in the house, but she can drive me crazy out on that runner. she often will seemingly bark at nothing, but when i went out i saw what was causing the commotion--a fluffy-tailed red fox, scampering through the field!

last night, jim, dylan and i had dinner with the family of camp's executive director. their house is up the hill and from it they can look down on dozens of deer, and last night we saw an albino doe.

we also enjoyed the company of two other neighbors, an intern and the summer camp director, who asked over spaghetti, "do you ever feel that you have to explain to people that we don't actually live in a commune here at camp?"


the one where i freak out about creatures in my basement

when i was a kid, i was afraid of our basement. we still played down there, but it was unsettling--probably due to all the unsolved mysteries we watched and my recurring dreams that our basement was a hideout for a varied criminal element. who knew what might be lurking in the shadows behind all those boxes?

i may be grown-up now, but i'm still scared of my basement--not so much of unsavory characters as unwelcome four and eight-legged creatures. we live in an old farmhouse, and our basement is dark, dank, damp and cobwebby. our dog refuses to go down there, and i can't blame her. it has a low, unfinished "ceiling," a creepy tub, storm cellar stairs, one bare bulb, and lots of corners untouched by light. plus it smells musty and stale.

it doesn't help that when jim lived here before we were married, he was bitten there by a black widow spider.

the problem is, our freezer is in the basement, so i have to suck it up and go there anyway. i always wear shoes, try to get it over with as quick as possible and keep my eye peeled for rat kings.

what's a rat king, you ask? i don't really want to talk about it. i'll will offer you this link, but for the love of all things holy, DO NOT CLICK unless you are prepared to be horrified. i mean it. consider yourself warned.

i'm not technically afraid of encountering a rat king so much as a rat-sized mouse. jim found a dead one down there last spring whose body was, i kid you not, as long as his shoe--not including its tail! i didn't even know mice could get that big.

last night, jim was in bed, i was at the computer, and i heard a loud shuffling coming from the kitchen.

"sydney?" i whispered. (sydney is our dog.)


"sydney?" i whispered a little louder.

still nothing. the lights were off. i tiptoed back to the kitchen, turned on the light, and saw that everything appeared as it should. i looked over to the mudroom and realized that sydney was in her kennel with the door closed, asleep for the night.

the noise was definitely not sydney, and it was coming from behind the basement door.

i knocked quietly to silence whatever beast was scampering in my basement and intruding in my home.

i'm not a kid, and i'm no longer worried about criminals in my basement. as freaky as they are (DON'T CLICK!) i'm not really afraid of rat kings, either. but there is something lurking down there, and it sounds a heck of a lot bigger than your run-of-the-mill mouse. if it's not a serial killer, and it's not a rat king or mouse, what the junk is hiding out in my basement?

update: as it turns out, mice really can't get that big. a morning show on sunday had a segment on rats which can have mouse-like tails. our illusions are crushed!


grumpy monkey

dylan may be a wisp at 16 lbs, 7 oz, but she is less a baby and more a toddler every day. it is hard for me to believe that she will be one next month! dylan recently learned to wave and point, and she exercises her voice by enthusiastically identifying every baby and puppy she sees. dylan sings, talks, repeats words, and laughs loudly and often. she actively plays with her toys and delights in knocking stacks over. she is becoming steadier on her feet and navigates the coffee table and living room furniture with increasing ease. dylan will pull up on anything, and i have to make sure she's not using the recycling bin or the dog:)

toddler dylan is playful and so much fun...except of course, when she's not. sleep is a resurging battle, and she's taken to getting up several times a night. my ordinarily easygoing baby has also been throwing fits when she doesn't get her way, making diaper changes a predictable disaster.

she is not throwing up (thank you, Lord!), but eating is still a bit of a struggle. after two weeks of a least a few bites a day, dylan has repeatedly refused everything but cheerios this week, and even then just a few individual pieces. maybe she's over the mushy stuff? tonight i pulled some carrots out of our lentil soup and broke them into bits for her. i'm not actually sure she ate any, but she was pleased to pick them up and put them in her mouth without making faces, so i figure we're making progress. i hope so!

i wish i could post pictures, but blogger and my picture software are both malfunctioning, so another day...


got a gun, fact i got two...

as i left town this morning, i was bombarded with this larger-than-life sign:
my husband, like many of our neighbors, is a hunter. i'm thankful that he keeps our freezer stocked with enough meat to feed us all year, but something tells me that this aspiring politico means something else by proclaiming himself to be "100% pro-second amendment."

this sign makes a few assumptions about the core values of my neighbors and me, and while i can't speak for them, i'll certainly speak for myself. when i read the constitution and the bill of rights, no where do i see that americans are endowed with the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of military-grade automatic assault-style weapons for personal use. nor do i think that requiring background checks or even waiting periods encroaches on anyone's constitutional right to bear arms; instead they serve to keep our children and communities safe and prevent weapons from getting into the hands of criminals and people like the mentally ill virginia tech shooter.

food for thought from the children defense fund's 2008 report, Protect Children, Not Guns:
According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,006 children and teens were killed by firearms in 2005, the first increase since 1994 and the first rise in gun deaths since Congress allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to expire in 2004.

The number of children and teens in America killed by guns in 2005 would fill 120 public school classrooms of 25 students each.

In 2005, 69 preschoolers were killed by firearms compared to 53 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

Since 1979, gun violence has snuffed out the lives of 104,419 children and teens in America. Sixty percent of them were white; 37 percent were black.

The number of black children and teens killed by gunfire since 1979 is more than 10 times the number of black citizens of all ages lynched in American history.

The number of children and teens killed by guns since 1979 would fill 4,177 public school classrooms of 25 students each.
so to mr. russell, aspiring congressman, i sincerely hope that my neighbors send a message on november 4 that while we may love our guns, we love our kids, families, and communities more.


fort daze

i biked into town today, which was an accomplishment on two fronts:

1. i rode my new bike for the first time, post-vacation.

2. i was entirely baby-free. (jim worked from home with dylan.)

where was i going? to work! it was my first day at mommy gear, a store owned by a woman at my church that sells nursing clothes, breast pumps, and baby gifts. the store is the official breastfeeding and baby changing site of fort ligonier days, the giant fall festival that started today, turning our little town into and absolute zoo, except with fewer animals, more crafts, and a lot more food. (mmmm, gyros and blackberry pie.) and sometimes a little of this:
(this is me "paddling" camp's float in the parade two years ago. it also featured a climbing wall and mini zipline.)

the plan for tomorrow is to check out a little of the parade and festivities (unless dylan is napping...), and then i'll put in a few more hours at the store. i'm just going to work a few hours one day a week, but i'm looking forward to it, especially since they are such a great resource in the community for nursing moms.

hopefully i can get some good pictures at fort days. i wish i had my camera this morning when i stepped outside the shop and noted a costumed older gentlemen in a tri-cornered hat wrestling with a port-a-john. welcome to my world:)


pumpkin coma

i know i said that i'm not such a big fan of fall, but i have a little confession: i forgot about my mild obsession with everything pumpkin.

today was a day gloriously full of pumpkin. my sister bethany and her friend laura are visiting, and after shopping at the salvation army and an antique store for all things vintage, we stopped for the first pumpkin gobs of the season. then we came home and baked vegan pumpkin custard and cooked up pumpkin soup. the best!

pumpkin soup is a go-to favorite of ours. it can be made in under a half-hour with mostly pantry items. first i sauteed garlic and onion with various spices and a little flour. tonight we used cumin, curry, nutmeg, and garam masala, but you could use anything, really. then i added a small can of pumpkin, a can of coconut milk, four cups vegetable stock, two peeled potatoes and three carrots sliced thin. bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer for twenty minutes. it looked thick, so i added another two cups water, and pureed it all with my absolute favorite kitchen appliance, my immersion blender. it's easy, healthy, and so full of of pumpkin-y, autumnal goodness that it might just make a convert out of a harvest-time naysayer like me.


grammy and the party dress

wordless wednesday

grammy and the party dress



my baby girl is under the weather. (this is a weird phrase, so i looked it up. it comes from when seasick sailors were confined below the deck, or "under the weather." now you know, and knowing is half the battle, after all;)

back to dylan. the good news--no vomiting, and she ate pears or squash five days in a row last week! God is so good. i know she is gaining weight, and this is all a huge answer to prayer. so no throwing up, but she is running a fever along with her little nose.

we went to a family wedding this weekend. it was lovely, and dylan got to be snuggled by lots and lots of family. i feel super neglectful and guilty though, because not once did i wash her hands, and now she is sick. but she's in good spirits, and medicine seems to be doing the trick.

now if i can just get her to take a nice, long, restorative nap...


30 days of nothing recap

our "30 days of nothing" ended september 30, and it was a great month.

this summer we ate all our meals at camp, and since we only had one day off a week, we often ordered in. it had been a loooong time since we were in the regular habit of cooking for ourselves, so the 30 days of nothing was a big adjustment!

it was great to return to cooking, which we both love to do. we experimented with lots of new recipes, shopped the farmer's market, and ate out of our freezer and pantry. it was a very healthy month, in addition to being a frugal one.

i'm not typically a big shopper, so the thing i missed most was stopping for a quick bite while i was away from home; there were lots of long, hungry car rides that i wished i'd planned ahead better!

we officially took a "break" while we were on vacation, but even there the disciplines carried over. we brought snacks so as not to buy much on the road, cooked meals, and window shopped. of course we spent money and enjoyed some meals in restaurants, but we were decidedly conservative on the whole.

it was good to grow in the discipline of carefully considering every purchase and differentiating between needs and wants. it was also really powerful to be reminded that our money isn't really "ours" after all and to learn to be satisfied with what God has blessed us with.

to read more from other challenge participants, see owlhaven.

a goodly investment

bad church signs can be cutesy, trite, smug, antagonistic, or theologically unsound, and they pretty much drive me crazy. this is the most recent "offender" i've noticed:

the economy is bad, people have money on the brain, and i understand the desire for the church to be "relevant," but this is not a good metaphor. think of it: money is valuable, Jesus is really valuable, so Jesus is like money, only better! it's crass.

the idea of God as treasure is a popular motif in praise songs, and as Christians we certainly value Christ above all, but the comparisons to gold that i found in scripture were certainly more nuanced than the sign:

God's law
The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold (Psalm 19:9-10)

The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold (Psalm 119:72)

I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold (Psalm 119:127)
God's wisdom 
Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold (Proverbs 3:13-14)

our faith—of greater worth than gold (1 Peter 1:7)

the blood of Christ 
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19)

what i found most off-putting in the Jesus-as-investment metaphor is the suggestion that Jesus exists to enrich us or to provide us with security like our IRA. of course scripture promises blessing to Christians, including salvation, grace, forgiveness, peace, and joy, but the call to discipleship is a call to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Christ. it's a call to die to ourselves, our desires, and our sinful natures. the true Christian gospel is not the "health and wealth" gospel that is sometimes preached, where faith in Christ is an all-access pass to prosperity, riches, and wordly blessings. it may just be the opposite.

the incredible truth of the gospel is that it is only in dying to ourselves that we are able to experience life to the full, abundantly rich with all the goodness that God wants to give to us. I don't "invest" in Jesus hoping for big returns; it was Jesus who paid the heavy price for my redemption with his own life and "bids me come and die and find that i may truly live."

(can't look away from bad church signs, either? check out crummy church signs.)


baking and back-to-school {rustic pear tart}

while i love to cook, i'm not much of a baker. i'm not really one for measuring, and baking can be so time consuming, not to mention messy. but the farmer's market on saturday had pears, and i was inspired to make a rustic pear tart. honestly, i don't know exactly where i came up with this idea, but i must have seen one somewhere. i googled it and found a recipe on the lovely blog bread and honey, and let me tell you, it was amazing. i would definitely make it again, and if it interests you, click over and get the recipe. yum.

(the recipe calls for dried lemon zest, which i sure don't have on hand. i did however have a bottle of lemon essence; i used a teaspoon and it turned out great. you could zest a fresh lemon or omit it altogether for something a little different.)

last night was the first night i was back volunteering with the high school youth group. last year was kind of disappointing attendance-wise, but this year, not only are there a ton of new freshmen, i had seven upper class girls in my small group! (last year we were lucky to get two girls, total.) this year there is an entirely student-led worship band, and one of the guitarists is female. i'm always happy to see women in leadership roles at church and all-the-more to see teen girls recognizing and using their gifts to glorify God and build up the body of Christ. i'm excited to see what God has in store this year.

let us lift up our hearts and our hands

wordless wednesday
"Let us lift up our hearts and our hands" (Lamentations 3:41)
gooseberry beach, newport RI
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