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Thanks for stopping by, whether you got here by a link or hitting "next blog" -- I am glad you are here. I've also done some writing on homeschooling, and what I learned thinking I was teaching.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Ornaments as Ebenezers*

One holiday tradition we established was buying ornaments after Christmas, wrapping them up for the next year’s tree.  Another was always having a fresh tree until the year I invested in an artificial tree . . . I didn’t think it looked so bad once the ornaments were in place; although this was not a universally accepted opinion. 

I don’t remember exactly which year we packed away all the decorative trappings and tree – but, we haven’t decorated a tree for many years, preferring to enjoy the ones our kids and others create – especially since in God’s providence, we travel at this time.  

Doug's Sister's Tree 2013

I now use some fresh greens, and a few holiday ornaments, recently collected to mark the season.
 
Our Mantel 2013
In her blog, a friend asked what do you love about your tree this year, after sharing pictures of baubles that anchored her heart to joyful memories of Christmas past. (Working Moms Weekly) Coincidentally, this was the year I inventoried some of our ornaments – well, three boxes of them, splitting them up between our kids and into a keep pile, and discard pile. So, her question made me think back to favorite trees . . . each we declared was the best ever . . . until the artificial one.

Decorating Christmas trees over more than 30 years, generates quite a collection of ornaments, not to mention more boxes of decorations, a few of which I inherited. Nearly all of the most favorite Christmas decorations and ornaments were the ones that our kids gave us, or made. So, I re-gifted most of them back.  The best ornaments, real and remembered, included:

·      a peanut shell, wrapped and decorated as baby Jesus, now long-gone, was our son’s kindergarten era gift to us;

·      a clothes pin swaddled in white and pink, a friend’s commemorative of our daughter’s first Christmas;

·      a crafty reindeer with a tiny tinsel swag, and

·      a little salt-dough lamb.

I just wish I could give with them the warm-fuzzies I felt each year unwrapping them.

We still are storing [too] many Christmas decorations in our daughter and son-n-law’s attic. But nothing compares to these treasures, and the memories they stir up.  I remember  the dearest children ever, family and friends who came to dinner, sometimes bringing gifts of ornaments and leaving memories of laughter and good conversations.I remember misunderstandings, frustrations, and failures that have disrupted friendships – stinging, when I unpacked these seasonal trinkets.   

From art classes, I have learned what is light and gay never looks so bright and appealing as it does against some dark edges. That’s not  a bad image for all the Christmas ornaments, real or just remembered,  glistening against the dark evergreen trees -- even artificial ones, or the ones I remember.


The Christmas tree is a symbol of love, not money. There's a kind of glory to them when they're all lit up that exceeds anything all the money in the world could buy.” ― Andy RooneyAndy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit

 
Christmas 2013


*Ebenezers – stones of mercy, guidance  and comfort, even the ones I tripped over. (1 Samuel 7:12) Please God forgive me for stumbling others on their journey.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Reflections on Being a Grandmother, Again

We welcomed our sixth grandchild into our hearts the other day – and have enjoyed hearing all the congratulatory wishes, mindful that they and their parents have been the richest blessing either of us have ever received.

Babies are such a nice way to start people. ~Don Herrold
Smarter, wiser women than I have commented on this unique station in life – but this observation comes closest:

Being a mother and grandmother is the best of the best in my life. My grandchildren multiply the joy my [son and daughter] bring me. (Alexandra Stoddard)

 I recognize the emotion I feel for each little life when our kids put them in my arms – it is similar to the delight I felt when I first held them – but altogether different. The feeling is even more wonderful, humbling and bittersweet  . . . for I am holding the greatest agent for change in our own children’s lives.   

Few things are more delightful than grandchildren fighting over your lap. ~Doug Larson


Saturday, December 20, 2014

When I Grow Up . . .


Good Friends . . . help each other cope

Heather Holleman writes in her blog about hearing a little child say what she wants to be when she grows up. (She Wants To Be a Great Friend)

Wow . . . I am as impressed as Ms. Holleman – what an ambition!  Hooray for the influences in this child’s life that sparked such a thoughtful aspiration.

Being a great friend isn’t being a people pleaser. People pleasers aren’t always residents of the real world – been there, done that – and did little good for anybody by pretending, ignoring, or placating, especially myself.

I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better. ~Plutarch

God has put people in my life whose friendships have led me out of crazy dark places and kept me from wandering over stupid cliffs.  They have loved me despite myself, and believed better about me than I did of myself. 

Friendship is Love with jewels on, but without either flowers or veil. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

And they have told me the truth.

Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty. ~Sicilian Proverb
     
Other people’s courage, compassion, commonsense and forbearance have been more important to me than any day dreams I had about what I wanted to be when I grew up – and it’s a comforting challenge to know I am not too old to still want to be a great friend as I grow up!


  • "He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him." (The change in Scrooge -- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)

from Pinterest



Friday, December 19, 2014

Looking Past the Smudges

The sun shines through the large double windows dominating the living room in our little rental apartment, and what captures my view is not the splendid water view but the smudges on the old panes. 
Almost missing a great view!
Now, in fairness, the glass panes are old – and the windows high up; they are also protected by storm windows – so, keeping them transparent is hard and expensive work!  When the sun ducks behind a cloud –the smudges fade; I can look beyond the windows and take in the familiar, agreeable view.  

The Christmas season is a bit like these windowpanes – it is the lens through which I may view the pivotal historical event  -- Christ’s birth, and its attending hope of peace with God and His good will towards us.  But evil, and its attending suffering splatter grief upon this lens – and like seeing the apartment’s windowpanes, these smudges distract – and I lose sight of the Gift .

The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I indulged this propensity Emerson described in last week’s worship.  In the church’s sanctuary, decorated with poinsettias, greens and candles – my mind only saw the images of what is happening to people and their children around the world and close to home. Image after image – from what ISIS does, to what we may have done to enemy combatants suffocated me. Not to mention the images from my less than stellar performances, which my own conscience kept inserting!  It was a battle during the service to subdue their power to assault my hope that God so loved the world, He sent His Son to save us. But,

God doesn’t meet us in the hypothetical places we go to in our minds – he’s a God of REAL time and REAL space. So we can wallow in “what-ifs” and find little comfort. But when HARD shows up, God shows up bigger. (quote source)

Christmas is God saying He’s in it with us. He didn’t come to make life perfect – but to purify a people for God – usually in the midst of sorrowful sorrows. (Matthew 2)  Christmas, often the occasion for great gatherings of folk to celebrate the season, is first a time of private revelry between the soul and its Maker.  (1 Timothy 1:5) If He is for us – who can be against us? Christmas, the day Christ was born, began the change that changed everything – God took on flesh so that He might give His life as the perfect ransom for yours and mine at Calvary.

The one day – when Christ was born, whenever it really happened – is the reason I know light from darkness, can live, and have second chances – and give Him the thoughts of my heart which are often filled with conflict, doubt and pain.

Jesus King of Angels By Fernando Ortega

Jesus King of angels heaven's light
Shine Your face upon this house tonight
Let no evil come into my dreams
Light of heaven keep me in Your peace
Remind me how You made dark spirits flee
And spoke Your power to the raging sea
And spoke Your mercy to a sinful man
Remind me Jesus this is what I am

CHORUS:

The universe is vast beyond the stars
But You are mindful when the sparrow falls
And mindful of the anxious thoughts
That find me, surround me and bind me
With all my heart I love You Sovereign Lord
Tomorrow let me love You even more
And rise to speak the goodness of Your name
Until I close my eyes and sleep again

CHORUS
Jesus King of angels heaven's light
Hold my hand and keep me through this night


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stay Out of Dark Corners

Still Alive in December!
The other day I visited a friend who is staying a spell in an assisted living unit. I looked at my friend’s lovely face – so glad to see her. She is younger than I am – but her body is not cooperating with her heart’s desire to be active, enjoying her husband and children – taking in all the good things that Dallas offers, and contributing her talents to helping others.

Her mother, adjusting to her own limitations, came by to say hello – and it was a lovely, bittersweet moment – a tiny peek into how two brave women are supporting each other in ways they could never have imagined – sadness illuminating sweetness – the most tender gesture unable to soothe what MS and age wrecks.

Life doesn't always follow the script we might write – but wise women won’t let its orneriness back us into dark scary corners – that’s what my friend and her mom showed me.   

·      Oh, my friend, it's not what they take away from you that counts. It's what you do with what you have left. ~Hubert Humphrey

·      If you have nothing to be grateful for check your pulse. ~Author Unknown

·      Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy. Psalm 126:5

·      Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Reflections on Christmas Light

Seriously -- Just One Among BLOCKS of Beauty!
The folks in our neck of the woods are again doing their part to create a magical spirit for the holidays. Nightly, house after house lights up –some more imaginative than others – more than a few are dazzling. Against the sky’s blackness, the lights and lawn displays are wonderful, even the LED displays that look as cold as ice feels seem enchanted – like a fairyland.

During the day, though, the lavish lights are invisible, and the ginormous inflatable characters in many yards and balconies deflate – and look like I feel, given current events. With age, comes the certain awareness that some things just might not work out – and not just on the account pages of my life’s ledger.
 
How I Feel Reading the News
We don’t have anything like peace on earth – riots, terrorists, sex trafficking, Ebola, disappointment, and spiraling national and international debt – and the forgotten survivors in Syria. Life is as downright scary and painful today as it was when B.C. became A.D. The nighttime magic doesn’t lighten the load many of us bear.  And when January comes, and the outdoor lights are gone – the burdens remain. 

But for now the lights and their glory in the dark night remind me of Christ, who is the Light shining through darkness – light that doesn’t fade in the sun’s brightness.  The God who took on flesh offers to bear the load. (Mathew 11:29-30)  And His is the very breath of life. God is, and became like thee and me, mortal, so that you and I might escape what binds us – and live freed, being useful.  (John 1)

In all the wrappings covering up Christmas, I can become useless. Being useful can be as easy as doing a little something for somebody who can’t repay me -- Christ didn’t come to bear my load so I could enjoy all the season but forget to share.  

We live in a culture that lives in excess. We have so much and we want so much more. It’s so easy to get sucked in and think everyone lives the way we do:  Everyone spends money decorating their homes, everyone bakes 8 varieties of holiday cookies, everyone gets the best cyber deals and everyone has the opportunity to make Christmas magical for their kids.

And it’s easy to forget those who don’t live like “everyone” else. (What the Poor Really Want for Christmas)

Praying and giving, serving and sharing, just showing up are year–round opportunities. But I seem to see them more clearly in the light of this season.
 
Still Blooming!


Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Christmas Spirit 2014

We Can't Download PEACE*
Yesterday, I opened some windows and crisp clean air blew through the house, making me think of a quote that I first liked, and then realized I wasn’t sure what it meant the more I thought about it:

For the spirit of Christmas fulfills
 the greatest hunger of mankind.
~ Loring A. Schuler, editor of The Ladies Home Journal, 1928-1935.
 
It’s a charming corroboration that the delights of the holiday season -- gifts, lights, decorations, music, food, and festivities -- make us feel special. 

Like the unseen fresh air that filled up the rooms, the spirit of Christmas is wafting around and about me – stirring me up, even though I am more like a Grinch than an elf. This spirit urges me to give gifts worthy of the love I have for all my people – and bids me hope I get gifts reflecting their love for me.

Is giving and receiving love then what fulfills the greatest hunger we have?

Yes, but . . .

My humble opinion remains that our greatest unfulfilled hunger is for peace:  peace -- within ourselves, with those we love, amongst our fellow man, and with God – the God who so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son – not to condemn us, but to save us. (John 3:16-17)

Whatever spirit of Christmas is goading us to make or buy presents, God’s Spirit wants us to listen – amidst this wonderful old world’s babble sounds -- and hear Him – urging us to accept His gift, then in His love give the gifts that are incalculably costly – grace, forgiveness and restoration. In our own strength, none of us has the resources to give these love gifts. In the strength of Him whose birthday we say we celebrate, though, we can be lavish. 

 Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.







*Source for Image: Jorodo



Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Last Few Weeks of Autumn

It looks like this weekend will be a climax of color – and shortly the splendor of this year’s autumn will wane. The wordless evangelist across the street and many other oaks and maples on our street are bursting with colors that make me think of Septembers and Octobers around the Maryland! 
The fly in the ointment is that only a few days ago, I had all the flower beds cleaned and mulched – now they are perfectly prepared to be covered by all those autumn leaves drifting by my windows.

Timing has never been my strong suit.

But today is sunny and almost eighty – and I have the good sense to know this moment is a gift.

Beside me, a book is making an appeal – Finish me! Atul Gawande’s book,  Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, is the first book I ever tackled about the inescapable realities of aging and death. I am uneasily aware that it  might be a kind of  treasure map plotting out what I might expect. Thus far, I commend the book. Being forewarned many enable a wee bit of forearming.

Dr. Gawande includes bittersweet stories of real people, their families, care-givers and doctors trying “to solve a deceptively simple puzzle: what makes life worth living when we are old and frail and unable to care for ourselves.” (Page 92, emphasis added) And he has includes his experiences from India and other historical notes of how we arrived at the current crises of eldercare.

Old age really isn’t for sissies; nobody gets out of this life without hitting a few rough patches –and many of us face scary lonely stuff!  

I prefer to gaze at the autumn leaves.

·      Won't you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you. ~Richard Brinsley Sheridan

·      God understands our prayers even when we can't find the words to say them. ~Author Unknown 

. . . He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the LORD
will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

And guess what has blanketed the yard as I wrote?


Leaves . . .  






Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Cost of Our Choices – Clanging Cymbal Alert*

In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed four essential human freedoms in a speech to Congress: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.  I remember understanding these freedoms through the sentimental – stirring paintings of Norman Rockwell. One of those paintings is all tied up with Thanksgiving – good food, good times shared with the family and good friends.


But, what’s been going on this November 24, and 25, 2014 in Ferguson Missouri, shows we aren’t as free from all those terrors – and some of us hurt and hunger – we aren’t as whistle clean as a Rockwell character. The good we could do, we don’t and the stupid mean stuff we should not do . . . well some of us are doing it! Ferguson isn’t a panorama of our nation’s troubles – but it is a sharper image of what still needs fixing. 

What might the National Guard, who now protect these American properties from angry crowds, be thinking -- what memories are stirred, remembering maybe their own tours in Iraq or Afghanistan?

For a couple of hours – it sure seemed like war in Ferguson! Thanks to ever-ready cable news, we knew something big might come, and they were right there with the blow by blow.  And in just a couple of hours, people lost businesses and property – maybe even their self-confidence and resolve. No reason justifies the rioting – and no reason excuses mistreating the poor.

It’s been forty-six years since Dr. King was assassinated – over fifty since the first marches stirred many people to examine their consciences – and others to appalling violence.  Many people have fought and won hard battles – and others have behaved badly – or not at all. 

I wish media folk would listen to men and women who can shed more light than heat on the deep divisions in our nation – and can inspire us to get off our collective rears and work for reconciliation and healing.  I hope you click through on the links and read the entirety of their wisdom and admonitions:

Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” We are in this together. (Dr. Tony Evans on Ferguson Mo)

My sons have far more to fear from making bad choices than they have to fear from the police. Voddie Baucham is the pastor of preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas. (Thoughts on Ferguson)

 Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

First Seasonal Warning – from the Dryer

Hang the weather – although it looks grim on the east coast. On the first trip to the washer/dryer early this morning, I discovered the small load I hoped to simply switch into the dryer was somewhat soggy – like the spin cycle decided to go home early. What was OK was the separate bag of unmentionables that is labeled wash by hand – but I not a hand washer. (I am a hand wringer!)

Figuring perhaps the little sack had unbalanced the spinner, I removed them and threw in a dry bath towel. Note the verb.

No . . . the spin cycle drained little water away.

The third time was the charm . . . however, this time I took time, and repositioned the few pieces. Perhaps we have dodged a repair bill – a ten years old dryer can be like me – some innards are flat out tired of doing the same old thing, and I may just not do what I need to do as hard as I need to do it.

The dryer may not need a tune up now, but I do.

As the flu buggies recede, I can see what needs doing, and a wave of panic is wearing out my motor as surely as the lopsided load unbalanced the dryer. I hate that sound -- like The Hulk is trying to break out of the dryer when I’ve crammed too much into the machine, or too carelessly. 

With all the down time, I managed to scour PINTEREST’s quotes and humor, and realize the past few days of enforced rest hasn’t been all bad. (I stayed away from projects, presents, and meals) I don’t want to go out of 2014 like the hulk.

I have no warranty on the dryer – but I found a pin I pass along hoping it keeps me in good working order for a while longer – and I hope it’s better than a shot of WD-40 for you, dear reader.  


 
Or, for the upcoming Holidays. . . 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Vaccinations


So seriously did I take the precautions to prevent flu this year, I beat a path to my doctor’s door when it was first available.  My reward? A dose of flu – I’ll spare you the symptoms, save one: My coffee tastes . . . like it has the flu, and reading the today’s headlines worsens my chills and shakes.
 
What This Bout With Flu Feels Like*
 Following suggestions for staying healthy—is not something I am going to stop doing. But getting sick after being conscientious seems an unfair reward. I still struggle with believing I am entitled to some kind of reward from the universe for commonsense behavior.  The people living in Ukraine, Iraq and Iran, the West African nations – our returning American vets – would be right to shout out to me: Snap out of it!

So feeling the inevitable pull of a pity party, I am refusing the invitation. But I wouldn’t mind a few cards or cartons of chicken soup . . . just kidding – the only plus side of this buggie is it wiped out my appetite.

Advent’s coming – pardon the repetition – and so too the reminder my God did not come for the healthy – but the infirm. 

Remembering, too, this is not 1918, I am grateful I wasn’t living then, and didn’t come down with the Spanish flu – a deadly pandemic disaster. Both my mother and father lived through it.

I am listening to John Rutter’s Christmas Album – and letting the beauty of the music wash through my mind, restoring hope – if not health.  Also I count my blessings, Doug, being #1.  

Things are never quite as scary when you have a best friend. ~Bill Watterson


How about you, dear reader – I hope, if darkness or pain or fear is incapacitating you, you will cry out; you will hear Christ’s call to you. (Mark 10:49) And don’t hang back from hollering to get His attention especially if you are in a good place. Praise is good medicine – more powerful than a vaccination.  


*Our portulaca succumbs to freezing temps -- that's looks like how the stupid chills felt! 


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Barbara Black

Commissioning a Missionary to the Nursing Home
Sunlight rises through the leaves of trees outside my window. It’s good to see the sun – it’s good to see.

I think back to a time when I sat beside the bed of my friend Barbara Black, a woman at least ten years younger than I, who was confined to her bed because of Multiple Sclerosis. She pointed out the moving mural of autumn leaves framed by a picture window. During the time I got to know her, she pointed out many things I wasn’t stopping to see.

Today, November 18, is was Barbara’s date of birth. She finished her race because of others who ran alongside her. Her poetry and her paintings reflected her faith that God ruled. Through her illness, her testimony was as eloquent. 

In Barbara’s battle to live the life God entrusted to her, to its finish, she needed help.  I had never met anyone who was coping with life limitations Barbara and her father did. Nor, had I ever seen the Body of Christ rally so to help two people caught in the crossfire of age and disease, financial constraints, and aloneness. Groups of people offered different gifts – from financial counseling, practical care, and spiritual help – and one couple especially, unwavering friendship to the end.  

The more the I entered into their world the deeper my awareness of the mysteries of God’s faithfulness – He makes a way unexpectedly and perfectly often with small mercies – sometimes with breath-taking kindnesses – and sometimes by withholding answers. And the more awake I became to simple pleasures, and mercies. The chief one being people who value life and will protect it – to name a few, Walter and Jo-Ann Intelkofer, the nursing staff at the Lorien Nursing Home in Mt. Airy Maryland, and a visiting pastor who sang the hymns that blessed and fed Barbara’s joy.

For, joy is her hallmark – what she practiced here, and will possess forever in heaven.



Monday, November 17, 2014

Lessons from My Dishwasher

The new dishwasher when we moved into our home five years ago was not the dish-cleaning powerhouse Consumer Reports touted it to be. It will not clean unrinsed, but carefully stacked dishes and a few precariously stacked pots. And the stainless steel innards grew cloudy quickly.  We therefore learned how use an energy efficient appliance, an oxymoron – for it made more work for me.
My Energy Efficient Sink . . . 

Lowered phosphates in dishwasher soap meant no matter what the manufacturer had promised, getting the dishes ready for washing meant scrubbing them thoroughly, and not filling the racks to their capacity. And because the (cheap) plastic interior racks broke, I couldn’t fill’er up.  (Phosphates and Dishwashers) We also hit the button for a sani-rinse cycle. After I load the dishwasher, I can wash by hand what won’t fit.  If I forget to follow the simple instructions, crusty stuff coats the dishes.  And I have start over, and run the dishwasher again.  So, keeping bad chemicals out of the environment means I use 2-3 times more water – not to mention using additional energy to heat the water for the extra hand washing what my “powerful” new dishwasher can’t handle.

So much for energy efficiency. 

Nonetheless, I see some applications. Like my energy efficient dishwasher I don’t always live up to what I would like to be . . . a Proverbs 31 kind of gal. Nor, can I do all the stuff I used to tell people I could – I don’t think I thought I was Invincible but I was a lot more sure of myself in the early 1970’s than I am at the prospect of the real “seventies!” 

Once upon a time, our church started at nine – and before we walked out the door, to pick up midshipmen and my mother I had Sunday dinner in the oven. Seriously – I think I remember that right, too.  Who was I? I was barely forty – that’s who! Now, we might be late to 11 o’clock services and I won’t have a clue what’s for lunch.

Like my dishwasher, I work – but often, I need to do-over some things that seemed simple enough. Or, I have to do things in much smaller segments!

And like my unpredictable dishwasher, I can use another rinse cycle – especially come this time of year.  The holidays evoke all kinds of emotions from grief to greed, melancholy to the munchies – and from joy to depression. Even right after church, I could use a re-do. My soul feels gritty, like the cups when I pull them from the dishwasher and discover how counterproductive over stacking the racks were.

Still, I am not pumping water from a well, like my grandmother had to do. Nor must I balance heavy jugs on my head and make a long trek from a water source to my home. And the water [I take for granted] is clean: Every day, 6,000 people die from dirty water. (Samaritan's Purse -- Clean Water)

So, thank you Lord for lessons from unexpected places, and directions from unexpected things.




Petition

From that which You have delivered me,
through the stuff You have carried me,
so I might live, thank You God.

God, help me walk – even when I can’t.
Shame me when I won’t, reminding me of the walk You took for me.

For my sins You have forgiven,
so I might have mercy, help me, Lord.

God love through me when I can’t –
 shame me when I won’t,
reminding me of how You first loved me.

Without You, I have no light.
Keep my lamp burning lest I curse the darkness.



 And now to the dishes!