friday five: classical music for halloween

One of my goals in life is to get more people listening to classical music. I believe this would be a great weekend to explore some of my spooky favorites, which are shared here in chronological order. (Admittedly, some of these youtube videos are not that exciting.)

1) Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by JS Bach (1685-1750). Such a classic.

2) Erlkonig by Franz Schubert (1797-1828). This sad story is from a poem by Goethe, and you can hear  the child crying “My father, my father!” in terror before being kidnapped.

3) Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz (1803 – 1869). This is just the fifth movement, called “The Witches Sabbath.” This selection depicts the vulgar and grotesque sounds of a pagan gathering. The witches’ dance becomes a diabolical joke as it melds with the tune of a “Dies Irae” chant, which was used in churches to teach about Judgment Day.

4) Danse Macbre by Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921). This gruesome “Death Dance” isn’t quite as exhilarating and terrifying as some of these other songs, but the xylophones are supposed to sound like rattling bones.  Creepy!

5)  Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881). This is another Witches Sabbath scene from a Russian composer.

I hope you can explore some interesting music this weekend!

Friday Five: Pre-Autumnal Foods

I have a tendency to discover a favorite food and then eat it constantly until I can’t stand the thought of that dish anymore. This habit usually drives Aaron crazy, but right now we are both in a crazy food phase together and having a lot of fun! If you stop by sometime soon, we’ll probably be eating one of these:

1. In first place, Roasted Pears. Apparently we have never fully appreciated this fruit before. This recipe gives the basic gist of how it works, but we’ve been making up the filling combination as we go. Our favorite version was cinnamon, almond butter and craisins, but cinnamon, nutmeg, and golden raisins with a touch of real butter came in second. I imagine these would be fabulous with ice cream, but we’ve been eating them on their own.

Pears in the new oven!

2. We have a wealth of fresh juicy tomatoes, so I usually eat a big one for lunch with salt and pepper. Sometimes I add a poached egg to make it a more complete meal.

3. Aromatic Jasmine Rice isn’t anything outrageously special, but this is much more fragrant than regular white rice and adds an extra kick to stir-fry nights.

4. Popcorn microwaved in a paper bag,  covered with an inappropriate amount of melted butter and liberal salting. And then consumed far too quickly.

5. Since fall is almost here, tea has replaced lemonade as the recreational beverage of choice.  The favored blend for both of us right now is Tazo Zen, which has green tea leaves, lemongrass and spearmint.

Tazo on the patio

Friday Five: grilled pizza recipes

We tried throwing a pizza on the grill earlier this summer and it’s totally addicting! We’re calling this “The Summer of the Pizza” and enjoy grilled pizza several times a week. Some people do this with a round baking stone, but I don’t have that – so you can do without one, too!

A) Pre-bake a pizza crust inside under the broiler, not on bake, so the top of it gets a little bit crusty. If you want to make the dough at home, this recipe is very simple and delicious. Super easy if you have a stand mixer!
B) Cover with your preferred toppings -five suggestions will follow!
C) Season your grill grates with a little bit of olive oil on a paper towel.
D) Put the pizza on the grill until the bottom is crispy and the cheese is melted. Some directions say to leave it on high, but we’ve always left our wonky grill on low and it produces deliciousness for us.

fine dining at the Hummel home

While the regular inside method makes a great pizza, nothing beats the fire-oven taste we get from the grill. Now that you know how to be sweet and grill your summer pizzas, here are five great topping recipes you should try:

1) The Hummel Special – tomato paste and italian seasoning, covered with mozzarella, pepperoni, mushroom, broccoli, and pineapple.

2) Smitten Kitchen’s Zucchini pizza is great, but Aaron prefers chopped asparagus so we do that for his half, like in the picture above.

3) Western BBQ – a little bacon and a chicken breast, chopped to smithereens and thrown into a pan with half a red onion, mixed with barbeque sauce and a can of crushed pineapple. Covered with mozzarella to keep it all on the crust.

4) Salmon pizza – herbed goat cheese or cream cheese, with chunks from a salmon fillet, thinly sliced red onions, chopped asparagus and capers. This is PERFECT with a spinach and strawberry salad.

5) Mushrooms and Bleu Cheese – cream cheese and blue cheese for the base, covered with quartered portobello mushrooms and some thinly sliced scallions or leeks.  Sprinkle a little real grated parmesan over the top!

Friday Five: books I’ve read lately

This week I realized I’ve read 14 books already during 2011. I’ve made an effort to read “real” books this year, and I believe this is already much more than I got through in all of 2010. I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to make this a priority! The five books I’m sharing here are some of my favorites, listed here in my own chronological reading order.

1) Orthodoxy
by GK Chesterton. This book is a great look at how Chesterton came, intellectually, to accept the Christian faith. I devoured this immediately after re-reading Mere Christianity, where CS Lewis similarly reconciles his academic intellect and confession of faith, and enjoyed the way they told almost the same story in two very different ways. I especially appreciated his discussions about the way modern thinking (that is, modernism and humanism) affect human belief:

“Everyday one comes across somebody who says that of course his view may not be the right one. Of course his view must be the right one, or it is not his view. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table. …Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next generation, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea, so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought… Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.” (Orthodoxy)

*****

2) One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp is really popular right now and I normally shy away from “those” popular Christian books because I prematurely assume they are fluffy and not interesting, but this one is on fire for a reason. This book was passed on to me by a brilliant woman, a dear friend who assured me it profoundly blessed her on the path to recovery from a life-altering betrayal, and I am so grateful I didn’t brush this off! It is anything but superficial. Her lyrical style is almost burdensome at first, if you’re not normally reading much poetry, but after the first chapter I found it easy to connect with her writing about a life of thankfulness in the midst of heartbreak, disappointment and unhappy circumstances. I loved this quote about reversing your heart in a typical “go-go-go” busy life of ungratefulness:

“The real problem of life is never a lack of time. The real problem of life – in my life – is lack of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving creates abundance; and the miracle of multiplying happens when I give thanks – take the just one loaf, say it is enough, and give give thanks – and He miraculously makes it more than enough.”  (One Thousand Gifts)

*****

3) The Scent of Water by Naomi Zacharias. I enjoyed this book immensely and thought it could be a great companion to the book above. Where Voskamp’s book is framed into her life as a farm wife and home-schooling mother of six, Zacharias uses her experiences of traveling the world in Christian ministry to tell the stories of how God reaches to us in suffering – both the hot-button exotic type, like refugee camps, orphanages and brothels and the every-day challenges we brush off because they seem so common, like rejection, death, and divorce. And what I really, really, really love is that she doesn’t say “I am so glad these awful things happened, and as a Christian you have to be thankful that you are suffering.” Instead, she reflects about the sorrow of her broken marriage:

“I am not in a place where I can say I am grateful for all that has happened. Given the choice I still wish very much that it could have been different, that there had been another way to have learned the lessons. I struggle to accept the life that is mine because it is not the story I wanted. And not a day goes by that I don’t notice it still hurts inside…. But now I see the world with perspective; I view people through vastly different lenses and recognize beauty in things that once escaped my notice. God seems more mysterious – sometimes mysteriously confusing, absent, and maddening. But always mysteriously true. …I opt for a life that is extraordinary over a life that is simple.” (The Scent of Water)

*****

4) Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Aaron actually read this one first and convinced me to try it, too. It’s the only real “story” I read, and it’s still a biography! Apparently there isn’t much fiction being read around here. It was great to talk about this tale of Louis Zamperini, a troublemaker-turned-Olympic-athlete-turned-Japanese-POW, in the context of our own life. While, thankfully, there was no capture and imprisonment business during Aaron’s deployment to Iraq, there’s no denying that any experience of war profoundly affects everyone it touches and we were both blessed by this testimony of the invincible dignity of the human spirit, created in the image of a gracious God:

“Resting in the shade and the stillness, Louie felt profound peace. When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him. He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that [his captors] had striven to make of him. In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation and helplessness, had fallen away. That morning, he believed, he was a new creation.” (Unbroken)

*****

5) Here and Now by Henri Nouwen. I loved these short devotionals, especially his urging to consider the importance of communing with God in the midst of each moment:

“The real enemies of our life are the oughts and the ifs. They pull us backward into the unalterable past and forward into the unpredictable future. But real life takes place in the here and now. God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful or painful… God is not (just) someone who was or will be, but He is one who is. …Prayer is the discipline of the moment. When we pray we enter into the presence of God whose name is God-with-us. To pray is to listen attentively to the one who addresses us here and now. When we dare to trust that we are never alone but that God is always with us, always cares for us, always speaks to us, then we can gradually detach ourselves from the voices that make us guilty or anxious and thus allow ourselves to dwell in the moment. …If we could just be, for a few minutes each day, fully where we are, we would indeed discover that we are not alone and that the One who is with us only wants: to give us love.” (Here and Now)

*****

I hope you’ll take an opportunity to read some of these yourself if you’re looking for straightforward and thought provoking summer reading!