Wednesday, January 31, 2007

For a Knitting Neighbor~

"Mrs. C. is so nice!" exclaimed Younger Daughter as she burst through the kitchen door. Younger Daughter was returning from our dear friend and neighbor's house where Mrs. C. had helped Younger Daughter transform her knitted rectangle into a purse. Added Y.D., "She even gave me some perfect fabric of her own for the lining and she helped me to sew it together! " (picture ear to ear smile on Y.D. as she tells me this).

Y.D. had been wanting to learn how to knit for some time and since this is one of the handicrafts that I have never mastered, I was very thankful when my dear friend offered to teach her; she is one of those special people who patiently teaches others what she herself enjoys. Y.D. loves to pack up her backpack with knitting projects and head down the street to Mrs. C's to receive loving instruction and enjoy some delightful conversation.

Though she only began knitting this fall, Y.D. has already completed five projects under Mrs. C's tutelage. Older Daughter and I were grateful recipients of lovingly hand knit scarves this past Christmas. Y.D. models her handiwork in the picture to the left: the black scarf is mine, the pink is hers and the black and white one is O.D.'s. Y.D. received several skeins of yarn for her recent birthday and she even has a dreamed of yarn drawer (imagine, a whole drawer, just for yarn!), just like Mrs. C. If Y.D. continues to knit at the rate she has been, we can look forward to a full size afghan by next winter!

Thanks, Mrs. C. You're the best!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Art Class: Watercolors 101

We 've had few opportunites for the kids to participate in art classes through the years so I'm particularly thankful for a new artist friend who offered to teach a beginning watercolor class to interested teens. Both sons agreed to join in (I expected the eagerness of one son but was pleasantly surprised by the interest of the other).

Though I'm not participating in the class, by observation I'm learning things as well: As children mature they can relate to their work in a more mature way. When they were young I exclaimed with delight over their simplest artistic efforts. Now, the kids are able to assess their work more objectively and they don't want praise just for the sake of praise. They like some of their work but can honestly say where they feel they can improve, and this without prompting. They are comparing their work to others for the sake of improving their own. They are making judgements about good technique and technique that needs improvement.

I'm taking note, as well, that art takes time. Uninterrupted time. And we usually don't have a lot of that around here. Younger Son is an artist in that he actively pursues working on his art through the days and he intuitively understands the necessity of time in relationship to creating. In fact, he has asked me not to fill his daily schedule with too many activities for this very reason. I don't think that Active Son will continue to pursue art right now, though he is doing well, unless I carve out some time for it once the painting classes end.

A couple of the boys' initial projects

A First Landscape

A First Animal --a bit more challenging that the usual pencil drawings!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Call to Prayer

"Pray to your Father, who is in secret" ~Matthew 6:6

"The Father is in secret: in these words Jesus teaches us where He is waiting us, where He is always to be found. Christians often complain that private prayer is not what it should be. They feel weak and sinful, the heart is cold and dark; it is as if they have so little to pray, and in that little no faith or joy. They are discouraged and kept from prayer by the thought that they cannot come to the Father as they ought or as they wish. Child of God! listen to your Teacher. He tells you that when you go to private prayer your first thought must be: The Father is in secret, the Father waits me there. Just because your heart is cold and prayerless, get you into the presence of the loving Father."

~ from With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I've passed this recipe on to so many people that I thought it would be a good one to start with. And, it came to mind as I made the Lemon Curd version for our family and guests this evening. Cheesecake isn't the kind of dessert I just whip up for the family so it is the first one that the kids request when we have guests for a special dinner.

This tried and true recipe comes from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, a favorite cookbook of mine, particularly for baking. I've also created a chocolate and a lemon curd variation.

~Lemon Curd Cheesecake~


1 1/3 cup graham cracker or other cookie crumbs
5 T butter, melted
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 cup sugar

4 eggs, seperated
1 cup sour cream (or Zabadi with cream for Ammanites)
2 T flour
1 cup sugar, divided
1/4 salt
1 t vanilla
1 lb cream cheese at room temperature (450 g=24 Kiri squares)


Combine the crumbs, melted butter, cinamon, nutmeg, and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a bowl and mix well. Butter a springform pan (lightly) and pat the crumb mixture over the bottom and 1 inch up the sides. Chill.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (F--about 170 C).

Beat the egg yolks with an electric beater until they are thick and pale. Add the sour cream, flour, salt, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the vanilla, and beat until well blended. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Beat the egg whites until foamy, then gradually beat in the reamining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until the whites are stiff and shiny. Fold into the cream cheese mixture. Spoon into the crumb crust (I place my springform pan on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven because sometimes a little butter leaks from the bottom). Bake about 1 hour or until the center does not trmble when the cake is gently shaken. (It is normal for the cheesecake to crack.) Cool, then chill in the refrigerator.


Chocolate: add desired amout of melted chocolate (I use 8 oz, or 225 g) when you add the cream cheese. If desired, garnish with whipped cream flavored with a small amount of cocoa.

Mocha: make the chocolate variation and add 2-3 teaspoons of instant coffee, dissolved in a couple teaspoons of water. If desired, garnish with whipped cream flavored with a small amount of instant coffee or espresso.

Lemon: add 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in place of the vanilla. Top the cooled cheesecake with lemon curd.

Lemon Curd:

1 1/2 t grated lemon zest
6 T lemon juice (1/3 cup)
1 large egg + 1 large yolk
1/2 cup sugar
2 T unslated butter, cut into bits

In the top of a double boiler, combine all the ingredients except the butter. Over gently simmering water, whisk until hot and frothy, about 5 minutes. Gradually whist in butter. Continue whisking 7 minutes or until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and let cool 1/2 hour.

(This recipe will be filed under the Just Desserts link in the sidebar)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Art Appreciation

It has been too long since we've taken the time to visit an art exhibition; thanks to the interest of an artist friend some of us visited the new Lines Gallery (summer 2006) near First Circle to catch the Mohanna Durra exhibit before it ends this week. We went to the exhibit not knowing much about Mohanna Durra other than he is a well known Jordanian artist and he had painted some beautiful watercolor paintings. His exhibit was, in fact, an interesting juxtoposition of realistic watercolor and abstract acrylic paintings, Durra being the first local artist to introduce abstract and cubist art. The common denominator in his work?

For Mohanna Durra, drawing "is the foundation of his entire artistic vision. The natural easy way in which he catches a rapid movement or the details of a complicated scene suggests a sudden discharge of the artistic impulse...What strikes one most in Durra's drawings is that he
seldom needs more than a few sweeping lines to define with great expression and precision any form or character...His hand moves with the vitality that comes from the whirling winds of the Jordanian desert. The figures are alive, lyrical and moving."
~Maryna L. Viets, 1979

And though we went for the watercolors, we found we could appreciate some of Durra's abstract art as well; some for the use of color, others for the lines and figures found within the painting. We gazed at this painting the longest.

Can you find the four figures in it?

After viewing the exhibition, we headed down to Wild Jordan cafe for a fresh fruit drink. I find its atmosphere and views of the city inspiring, as does my artist son. A thoroughly satisfying journey and we have determined that we must visit the local galleries more--next stop, the National Gallery.

(HT to Roba at Far and Away for the photos of Durra's paintings)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Belated Birthday Tribute to "Tayta"

A friend once floated the theory that everyone has a fixed psychological age, no matter what their physical age. An interesting thought, and some people are easier to peg than others. My dear, youngest daughter is one such person. She was first lovingly referred to as "tayta" or "grandma" in Arabic by her 2nd grade teacher, who noticed my daughter's tendency to take care of other people. With all the youthful energy of a 10 year old, "tayta" blesses family, friends and strangers with ready smiles, engaging conversation, hand knit scarves, or tea and homemade cookies.

Every family needs at least one extrovert, and this dear daughter is ours. Sometimes it gets a little too easy for us to let her be the face of the family as she is the one always willing to answer the phone or run to neighbors with a message or plate of food. Once, when I had to run out quickly while another friend waited in our home I returned to find my daughter had engaged my friend in a game of "Sorry" in an effort to keep her entertained.

"Tayta" stuffing koosa (zucchini) for supper

When this dear daughter finishes her studies and her piano practicing she can often be found helping in the kitchen, reading a book, knitting, or playing with the toddler who lives upstairs. She single-handedly baked half our Christmas cookies this year and we have come to depend on her for our weekly double batch of chocolate chip or molasses cookies. A few of her favorite things: baking, babies, singing, babies, hanging out with her brothers and sister, babies, Anne of Green Gables, babies, listening to audiobooks, knitting, babies, sewing, and, did I mention, babies?

"May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace...Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!" Psalm 144

Dear daughter, you are truly a polished cornerstone of our family and your presence is a blessing to us all. We thank God for you!

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Beautiful World

I've been enjoying the music of the promising, young, Jordanian composer, Zade Dirani thanks to my oldest daughter's thoughtful choice of a Christmas present. Think John Tesh with an eastern flavor. The title track, "Beautiful World" is my favorite so far. You can read more about Zade here and you can hear a little of Zade's music via an Ikbis video at Jordanian blogger, Khobbeizeh's site.

Nibbling, nibbling like a mouse, who is nibbling at my house?