Tuesday, November 27, 2012


There is no part of pomegranate eating that is labor free.

My son first brought a chunk of pomegranate home from school one day, after successfully trading a part of his lunch for this new treasure.  (Lunchbox trading--another whole parallel universe to my kitchen preparations, when the value of any given item is not proportionate to it's enjoyment to your child, but to its trading value at the school lunch room table.  I had no idea.)  Back to pomegranates ...  I had never seen anything like it: bright magenta little seeds packed with juice ready to squirt a mile at the least provocation. 

You can't slice into the fruit without releasing a red stream onto the counter top, or shooting onto the nearest white shirt. There is no way to coax the seeds from their white tissue membranes without inadvertantly squishing a seed or two, or letting one slip onto the floor where your foot will unwittingly contribute to the carnage. 

"Put it into a bowl of water," my son recommended.  "The white stuff floats to the top and all you have left is the seeds."
Right.  That's only after you have wrestled them apart, leaving the water stained, and now the water also joins the forces bent on wrecking havoc on your kitchen. 

I stood in front of a woman at Costco who bought an entire case of them.  12 pomegranates. 
I tried to bite my tongue.  You don't just strike up pomegranate conversations in the busy pre-Christmas Costco check-out chaos. 

Well, yes, apparently some of us do. 
"How do you serve the pomegranates?" I asked innocently, hoping that she had some secret that she would be willing to share in such a setting. 

She smiled, and said "You only eat the seeds."
"Yes," I acknowledged.  Nodding. 
She continued... "I cut them up, separate the seeds, and put them into bags for my kids lunches." 

I looked surreptitiously at her shirt (not white), her fingers (no stains ... yet), her eyes (she looked completely rational). 

"They are really healthy,"she added. 

I did not go back and get my own case.  But I did stop at Extra Foods yesterday and bought
one.  The deceptive smooth round reddish balls sit invitingly on the grocery shelves.

Yesterday, while my bathrooms renovations started, pumpkin muffins were in the works, and the syrupy beginnings to peppernuts were warming on the stove, I cut up that fruit.  Oh, the mess.  But I put all the seeds into a small bowl, and then took spoonfuls throughout the afternoon. 

The one moment that is worth all the work is the moment you clamp down on a mouthful of sweet, juicy seeds.  Your mouth fills with a tart, refreshingly delicious red.  Just that one moment.  You might keep the seeds in your mouth for a while, trying to work out the last bit of flavor before spitting them out. 

And now, the final straw.  Google. 
How to de-seed a pomogranate

This is not my counter top after wrestling with a persnickety pomegranate.  And the "How to" instructions recommend a specific cutting technique followed by ... immersion in water.  (Yes.  You were right Adam.  I was wrong, and impatient.)  Well. I've run fresh out of experimental pomegranates.  We'll see how long it takes me to gather enough courage to bring another one home. 
Apparently pomegranates join team Astillbe.  (see post from July 9th...)

I am not competitive.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Quoting Mark Buchanan again, this time from his Your Church is Too Safe (Zondervan, 2012): 
 Historian Daniel Boorstin documents a momentous shift that occurred in North America in the nineteenth century:  we stopped calling people who went on trips travelers and started calling them tourists. 
Traveler literally means "one who travails."  He labors, suffers, endures ...   A tourist, not so.  Tourist means, literally, "one who goes in circles."  He's just taking an exotic detour home. 

they have traveled, I think
dropping down on familiar soil
wind turned as they landed,
swept in from the north

a new thinness, a sparseness,
grief, joy, sharpness,
clarity, wisdom,
pruned, honed, tested, poured out


perhaps we have traveled as well
to the brink of life
to watch it spill over the banks

returning mute
for what did we see
but a fading

returning shaken
for what did we see
but a glory
within the fading

returning to a table
after a long summer silence
we ate together
laughed, remembered

singing, speaking
praying, waiting
we come back changed


come to the table that he's prepared for you

Friday, November 23, 2012

new heaven and new earth

this morning's readings from Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21

reverberating promises of a new heaven and a new earth 
   He will make all things new

a morning like this, where pink sunlight seeps into the darkness
pink backdrop for new white snow on roof tops and tree branches 

makes you consider that it might be possible
perhaps a Creator could take this world,
   turn it upside down, give it a shake, and renew all things

how much more difficult is that
than reducing himself to a specific space and time

immersion into this old earth
to plant seeds of eternity

like a pearl
like a treasure buried in a field
like a mustard seed
like a city, dressed up as a bride

like nothing you have ever seen

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What is your name?

These spinning days after the death of my parents have left me sometimes groping for a footing.

Questions posed by Mark Buchanan, in Spiritual Rhythm:  Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul, are quoted from Monty Python's The Holy Grail as a travellor sought to gain permission to cross a bridge:


1.  What is your name?
Darlene (my father sometimes called me Darry, very few friends shorten this to "Dar")
Gloria (also the name of my grandson's 2nd favorite monkey ... because of his favorite Christmas carol)
Krahn Driedger Klassen (men I have been named after) 
Once, a few months ago, someone asked me my maiden name, and I said--oh so definitely-- "Guenther". 
"No it's not!!" corrected my daughter with some alarm. 
No.  I guess not. That was my mother's name.  But for a moment that felt true.
2. Where are you going? 
  • to the coast
  • a little insane
  • always just a bit farther

ok.  The actual question was:
2.  What is your quest?
  • to find beauty ... in gardens, and in friendships, and in this wonderful world
  • Jesus
  • faithfulness

3.  What is your favorite color?
A few years ago I would have said green.  This summer's color was yellow.  But I think that my favorite color is whatever color my flowers have chosen.  The bright pink of October  snapdragons answer the question today. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

marking Novembers by the gingerbread houses

The date on the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies gives me away.   

Display until January 5 

... Make our Charming Fairy-Tale Gingerbread Cottage ...

For some reason, I picked up this magazine in the checkout at one of the Lethbridge grocery stores in our first fall living in southern Alberta, and thought to myself, "I could do this."  I think it may have sat on my shelves for a year while I gathered courage and made a plan.  and a list.  (I am not a crafty person ...)

I sent the girls off to school while my 6 month old observed the first foray into gingerbread house building.
My friend arrived around 9 in the morning, after sending the older kids off to school.  We mixed, rolled, cut, baked, re-cut, assessed building plans, assembled, dismantled, reassembled, built, salvaged, and decorated those houses, finishing them off just before midnight. 
In the midst of the general chaos, lunches were made, a few diapers changed, supper was served and family members send off to another room to leave the builders to their work.  We made our first apple cider that year as well - another recipe from the 1993 issue.

Next year, we decided, we would do the baking on a separate day, and then build them together. 
The year after that I let the girls contribute by putting the mini-wheats onto the roof. 
The year after that, they pursuaded me to bake them their own houses, forcing the project to a weekend. 

Candy, gingerbread and icing ruled the kitchen, and clean up sometimes took as long as construction.  Gradually I found myself relegated to the position of purchaser, porch-maker, chief advisor, roof caving-specialist, construction assistant and icing maker.  I didn't mind.  It was just as much fun to watch my kids build the houses as to make my own.  Usually we stuck to the pattern, although Jeana always had ambitious cottage renovations in mind, and Josie and friends loved to add creative landscaping ideas. 

The youngest was born into a home where gingerbread houses were what we did in November.  Construction had navigated quite permanently to the Remembrance Day long weekend.  Since I was perpetually involved in Christmas programs of some kind, Christmas music had already permeated the house by early November - whether it was "Go, tell it on the Mountain" for preschoolers, or the musical, "A Strange Way to Save the World"  for elementary kids.

Our move to Saskatoon brought a question to  our gingerbread habit.  Did it belong here?  Apparently it did.  There were some years that I baked up to 4 houses.  Each of the kids started with 1/2 a house (the full cottage had a double room plan, so it was easily divided)  till they could guarantee that they would stick through the construction and decoration of an entire house. 

One gingerbread builder and her husband have built their own home now, another is an engineer working on a degree in city planning, another is involved in the construction trade, and the final gingerbread builder will finish high school in another year.  18 seasons of contruction have slipped by.       

Cue the violins for the sentimental music:

mini wheats and vanilla wafer shutters
graham wafer awnings
slipping sugar cookie roofs
candy cane lamp posts, listing and falling
woodpiles and chimneys
pathways and tree cones
kids' Christmas pageants playing their soundtrack
 trails of cookie crumbs, candy and icing tracking through the years
That this is worthy of the supreme teen-age boy's eye-roll, I am painfully aware.  A sentimental mother who often tried to slow down the days or years finds herself a fair way down the road from 1993.  This tradition happened accidentally.  I set out to do it once, and the next year, to improve, and then the next year our kids wanted to try, and then they wanted to bring their friends along.  Every once in a while there is a lull year, where I think perhaps there will be no houses built, but as I wander down the grocery aisles I see that mini wheats are on sale, and I pick up vanilla wafers, prezels, molasses, icing sugar, lifesavers and apple juice ... just in case. 
Bring on the next generation of builders!


Monday, November 5, 2012

Black bean and cilantro chili for a chili cook off!

Black Bean Chili with CilantroWe've had an annual chili cook off at church for several years now, where cooks bring their secret concoctions in crock pots and electric frying pans, and we gather after services to visit and sample the fun variety of food that shows up.  Each chili is named, and at the end of the meal, you can vote for your favorite chili (cowboy chili, carl's chili, 2 napkin chili, creamy white chili ... to name just a few).  

I decided to bring some chili this year, and when my son walked into the house last night, he commented on how good it smelled. That was problematic, because it had morphed over the evening into a completely non-reproducable recipe.

So.  when Lisa sat down at my table at the end of the meal to ask for the recipe, I tried to recall the steps ...

I browned a large tray of lean ground beef (about 3 pounds) in our electric frying pan.  Then added 2 cans of tomatoe soup, 1 can of diced tomatoes (with basil, oregano and garlic flavoring), 1 jar of tomatoes from Karen Friesen's garden last summer, 2 cans of drained black beans, and started it all simmering.

Then started chopping - the last 3 small onions from my garden, and 2 others medium sized onions, and 2 stalks of celery.  Added 5 cloves of garlic, minced, and sauted it all till soft.  Meanwhile, stirred in about 2 tablespoons cumin, and 2 tablespoons chili to the saute mix. 

When that was done, added it all to the meat mixture, and then began to add more flavor...  2 tablespoons Knorr bovril beef bouillon, another can of tomato soup, a really long and generous squirt of barbeque sauce, a thorough sprinkling of cinnamon,  and let it simmer. 

Meanwhile I made a spinach and strawberry salad for yesterday's supper, (dressing has oil, vinegar, worcestershire sauce, sugar and poppyseeds), and when the salad was done, there was a fair bit of dressing left over.  :)  Yup.  Added that to the simmering sauce. 

I refridgerated it overnight, and in the morning, added a whole bunch of fresh chopped cilantro to the mixture before letting it simmer for the morning.

Next up, if I can get it from him, Del's amazing spaghetti sauce!

Friday, November 2, 2012

another list of 50 ... from November's perspective

1. mounds of dirt
2. mother's hand
3. fresh fallen snow
4. christmas lights hung in the backyard in summer
5. hugs from a two year old
6. a surprise pumpkin spice latte from my son at the end of the day
7. Dakota, by Kathleen Norris
8. Circle of Quiet, by Madeline L'Engle
9. sitting on the floor with friends, legs crossed, talking about holy scriptures
10. echo's of angel choirs
11. unsolicited prayers
12. successfully absorbing and redirecting a solid hit from the other side of the volleyball net
13. my "exploding with fuschia blossoms in November" Christmas cactus
14. my new white garden swing, which has found a temporary home in the living room
15. my journal
16. a certain three story house in Winnipeg where my daughter is at home
17. old friendships
18. office with a window
19. hallway conversations
20. sacred watches through the night and past the sunrise
21. image of the invisible God
22. Salt of the Earth calendar - reorienting the days of the year
23. violin and guitar gigs (does playing for the Gideons count as a gig? :) ) with my Randy
24. wonderful in-laws
25. the anticipation of a book
26. my mom's journals
27. both of my sisters' music (one sings her own beautiful songs, the other plays Gaithers)
28. this city
29. my Dad's old 50 horse boat
30. a squirrel jumping through the new fallen snow on the back fence
31. a helpful salesperson
32. walking down Meewasin
33. pottery
34. quilts
35. bright eyes
36. life in West Portal's foyer
37. a long obedience in the same direction
38. canoes
39. Shekinah
40. McNally Robinson
41. long road trips
42. working together towards something grand
43. concrete dust in my house
44. sudden grin on a teenage boy's face
45. Shop Class as Soulcraft, by Matthew Crawford
46. a zip-lock bag of encouragement notes from Player's tour, orchestrated by Kaylee and Randy
47. open horizons for my children and grandchildren
48. the energy that my brother and family bring to a room
49. multi-colored guitar picks, and little fingers using them to strum my guitar
50. going out on a limb

a list of fifty, written in July

within 20 minutes, with no edits - just a random list of 50.  Because this is the summer of 50.  (Inspired by Elaine's list of 40!)
  1. books
  2. lilies
  3. rhubarb
  4. biking along the meewasin
  5. easter sunrise
  6. july thunderstorms
  7. first harvest of raspberries
  8. a three year old's prayer
  9. a seventy seven year old's baptism
  10. watching my daughter tend to her growing sons
  11. tasting my daughter's new world
  12. listening to music with my son
  13. watching my son play basketball
  14. early spring walk abouts in my yard
  15. camping at rick and rene's in Grand Forks
  16. tubing at rick and Rene's in Grand Forks
  17. driving with my family
  18. eating the food that Randy makes
  19. tending my garden
  20. weeding prayers
  21. my freshly mown back lawn
  22. the smell of my morden sunrise
  23. playing volleyball
  24. church with Norah
  25. Del and Lois's back yard
  26. first snow
  27. skyping with Ray and Lisa
  28. hearing Tyler coming up the front steps
  29. long friendships
  30. an evening of laughter
  31. telling stories to children
  32. listening to children tell stories
  33. my new vacuum cleaner
  34. the wicker chair on the front porch
  35. the smell of the lilac
  36. the sight of Hobbs draped over the kitchen railing
  37. dirt biking along the river
  38. tide pooling
  39. the sound of the ocean all night long
  40. sleeping under the stars
  41. an unexpected note from a friend
  42. a canoe on a glassy lake
  43. everyone all together, remembering and laughing
  44. a quiet place all to myself, for writing
  45. a fresh artistic perspective 
  46. pottery
  47. garden tomatoes
  48. singing with my sister
  49. anything that makes my sons grin
  50. my Escape