Friday, May 29, 2009

Homemade Vanilla Extract

As with many good things of this sort, this was inspired by my sister. Turns out it's actually quite easy to make vanilla extract.
  1. Get a bottle of vodka.
  2. Get 6 vanilla beans.
  3. Slit the beans, stick them in the bottle, shake it up.
  4. Put it in a cupboard for a few months.
You can take it out once in a while to give it a shake, and to watch the color deepen as it goes along. I find this kind of thing rather fascinating, actually, so I took photos at intervals:

Homemade Vanilla Extract

As you use it up, you can top it off with more vodka, and if you need a vanilla bean for something, you can pull one out and replace it with a fresh one. So it can be a fun sort of ongoing thing. Yum!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

And Hills for Climbing

Nightingale has a beautiful song on their third album called "Hills," which I only started really hearing properly a couple weeks ago.

It's actually from a poem by Arthur Guiterman, and apparently they turned around the last two lines, but that's the part I now like most about it:

God, give me strength to climb,
And hills for climbing.

We can pray for strength, but what is strength without a use for it? Both sides of the equation have to go together.

Those lines for me resonate back two years ago, when I saw the movie "Evan Almighty." I think it was a decently entertaining movie, but one part burned into my brain and crowded the rest of it out. Morgan Freeman, as God, is comforting Evan's wife, and says:

Sounds like an opportunity. Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does he give them opportunities to love each other?
(video clip)

It's a good reminder. If we're going through difficult times, we're not just suffering -- we're learning to be patient, or brave, or loving, or whatever our own personal lessons need to be. It's an opportunity to consciously acknowledge and accept those lessons. Sometimes it may be hard even just to tell what's going on, but we can still keep climbing our hills, and trust in the strength that goes with it.

So let me hold my way,
By nothing halted,
Until, at close of day,
I stand exalted.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dance Limericks

In honor of Limerick Day, which I only just found out existed, I dug up a bunch that I wrote probably about 8 years ago. In Richard's social dance classes, we had to write a one-page "essay" each quarter, to justify him giving us an actual unit. After a few years of this, I occasionally had to get more creative, like when I submitted the following collection of limericks. Many of you Richard-Powers-groupies out there may recognize some of his teaching metaphors. :-)

An arrow protrudes from my chest,
And a laser beam comes from my vest,
I take the blow with my back,
As we roll, Jill and Jack;
The waltz tends t'wards violence, at best!

The hustle, as a dance, isn't funny,
Except when one hops like a bunny,
I simply can't stand,
To see a one-two-three-AND --
It just makes my insides all runny.

Occasionally persons pontifical,
Say the waltz is a dance quite centrifugal,
But whether forces act out,
Or around and about,
Is a question considered most difficul'.

There was a young lady named Cindy,
Who danced a remarkable lindy,
Her skirts and her hair
Just flew through the air,
Whether or not it was windy.

Some people may think you are odd-ish,
When the ska plays, and you dance a schottische,
With a one-two-three-hop,
And some pivots on top,
That makes their legs tangled and knot-ish.

There once was a dancer named Luke,
Who made a bet with a good friend from Duke,
That he could waltz 'round and 'round,
And around and around,
And around, until ready to ... stop.

While attempting to waltz on my toes,
I repeatedly fall on my nose.
It is quite a treat,
To get off of my feet,
But my nose flows a rose on my clothes.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Son of Contra Plus!

So if you missed out on Contra Plus!... well, you missed out. But Bob and I are going to be DJing for the first couple of hours at Big Dance this Friday, so you can come get your fix of contras + couple dances there. We won't have the incredible band we had a week ago, but we've still got plenty of good stuff lined up, so it'll be fun. Come dance! (And then stay up all the rest of the night and dance some more!)