Daily routine – Advent edition

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

—Annie Dillard

Recently, Katie from Cakes, Teas, and Dreams listed this quote and blogged about her daily routine, its everyday ordinariness, and the comfort this brings. When partnered with Emily P. Freeman’s clarion call to simplicity, over the past few days I’ve payed more attention to this sacred echo and the quiet moments that bring balance and order to my life in this season of Advent.

Weekday Mornings

The alarm goes off around 6:00 a.m. and I am usually the first to fully awaken. These mornings when the Earth tilts the farthest away from the Sun mean a few extra moments to lay in bed and by the light of my phone check the day’s weather, e-mail, Instagram, blogs, and read in Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman.

Shortly thereafter I putter around to feed Sylvester, turn on indoor Christmas lights, and return back to bed for a few last warm cuddles with The Optometrist and the kitty before returning to the kitchen to make us a quick breakfast.

Entering the kitchen heat from the vent warms my feet as I tap the iPod speaker to play Christmas music while I gather smoothie ingredients. It is most often a banana, ice, peanut butter, cocoa powder, vanilla & coconut extract, and almond milk (from Cooking Classy). Over the weekend I bake a dozen muffins, enough to last us the week, so I also pop two in the microwave with a little pat of butter to round out our breakfast (this orange cranberry muffin recipe is our current go-to, seasonal favorite). Before heading out the door The Optometrist and I usually incorporate a bit of reading aloud – the day’s Jesus Calling devotional and/or J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers.

As I arrive on campus, I greet our student workers and staff before heading upstairs to my office and turning on my lamps and M&M Christmas lights. The library is busy with students studying for finals, but at this point they no longer require research assistance, so I relish the quiet refuge of my office. At the end of the semester e-mails are less assailing than they have been, but mornings usually mean catch-up time from what’s arrived since the night before. It’s also imperative I login to Blackboard to check for straggling assignments I need to score so students will have a better idea of their final grade.

Weekday Afternoons

Living in a small community means having only a 5-10 drive to and from work, which is convenient for going home to eat lunch. Most of the time this means we reheat leftovers and squeeze in a few moments to watch clips on YouTube via our Chrome Cast: Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, or Rhett & Link.

Sometimes we ride together, sometimes we grab a quick bite to eat at a nearby Chinese or pizza buffet, and sometimes we fly solo – especially on Thursdays when I often attend a lunchtime yoga class downtown, taught by my favorite teacher Mindy.

Returning to campus, I often have afternoon meetings and/or follow-up to-dos from committee work that needs to be addressed before the university closes for Christmas break or shortly after we reopen in January. This is also a prime time to clean accumulated clutter and organize files in my library office before the end of the calendar year.

Weekday Evenings

I don my handknits to stay warm in my car as a local radio station plays Christmas music and I return home to the inviting glow of our exterior Christmas lights, already on thanks to a pre-set timer.

On nights when we have a scheduled music/civic/church event, it’s kibble for kitty and a quick dinner reheat for us before we grab jackets, gloves, and scarves and head out once more. Lately Tuesday evening has been my night to meet up with friends to knit and chat at a local coffee shop and Wednesday evenings find us both at church, rehearsing Christmas choral arrangements for upcoming services.

But the best nights are the ones when we are able to stay home and cook together – especially soup or something else hearty and comforting that can take temporary residence on our Christmas china. As we eat with tea light candles lit around us we debrief about our respective days, mention conversations shared with colleagues, and update one another on upcoming plans that might have adjusted.

The hours after dinner are typically filled with a rotation of playing music together, watching a Christmas movie or something on Netflix (Broadchurch and The Great British Baking Show are two current favorites), gaming (him), knitting or reading (me), a cup of herbal tea (both), and a few text messages exchanged with my parents before bedtime.

Then before another day dawns I often read aloud from Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien, we ask one another, “What are three good things that happened to you today?,” and offer up a prayer of supplication and gratitude to Emmanuel, God with us.


These rhythms of life are grounding, are they not? Despite the hustle of the season, I hope you too are taking time to seek quiet, holy moments. Feel free to share your Advent routine in the comments below.

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4 Quick Christmas Reads

With Christmas less than two weeks away, if you need a short but memorable way of getting into the Christmas spirit, I might I suggest these four titles?

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The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

While this is classified as a novella, I found it to be more of a short story that takes place on Christmas Eve as a man of importance examines his actions and behaviors in a selfless way.

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Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul 

More of a traditional novella, this story takes a cute perspective of Christmas magic combined with Christian principles and God’s love. Themes include looking beyond the surface of those you think you know, kindness to others, developing new traditions at Christmastime, and a sweet and chaste romance.

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The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson 

This Newbery medal winner from 1959 is one I never before remember reading, but the cover looked very familiar to me. Recently I was intrigued when another book blogger mentioned how this story of a beggar and a family with small children find one another on the streets of Paris at Christmastime. So I pulled it off the shelf from my academic library’s youth collection, found it tinged with sadness at the beginning, happiness at the end, and a wonderful reminder of how often family are the people you choose.

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Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

Of these four, this is the only one I haven’t yet finished reading. Since I still have another week to read it before it’s due and our library closes for the Christmas holiday, The Optometrist and I are enjoying taking our time reading aloud these imaginative letters J.R.R. Tolkien wrote from the pen of Father Christmas to his children, spanning the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. The illustrations drawn by Tolkien aren’t to be missed so if you are on the lookout for this, I highly recommend the print versus the audio!


Do you have any other quick Christmas titles to share? If so, please leave them in the comments below!

Christmas Knits 2016

Now that Christmas has come and gone (avoiding posting spoilers beforehand!), I’m happy to share some gifts from the heart I made for loved ones this year.

gardenwaffle

Title: Garden Waffle Socks
Pattern: Blueberry Waffle Socks
Recipient: Momma
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light: Mansfield Garden Party
Needles: US 1, 40” Addi Turbo Sock Rockets
Method:  Two-at-a-time (magic loop), toe up
Heel: Fish Lips Kiss Heel
Sock Blockers: Squire Country Crafts (Size: women’s small)

hermione

Title: Blue Hermione Socks
Pattern: Hermione’s Everyday Socks
Recipient: Dad
Yarn: Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk: Marine Blue
Needles: US 1, 40” Addi Turbo Sock Rockets
Method:  Two-at-a-time (magic loop), toe up
Heel: Fish Lips Kiss Heel

policebox

Title & Pattern: Police Box Sox
Recipient: The Optometrist
Yarns: Cascade Yarns Heritage Solids: Marine, Koigu Premium Merino: Black & White
Needles: US 1, 40” Addi Turbo Sock Rockets
Method:  Two-at-a-time (magic loop), cuff down
Heel: Fish Lips Kiss Heel
Toe: Hermione’s Everyday Socks

gingerbread

2016 Christmas Ornaments
Title & Pattern: Felted Gingerbread Ornaments
Recipients: various family & friends – smallest star and smallest heart
Yarns: Stonehedge Fiber Mill Shepherd’s Wool Worsted: Roasted Pumpkin & Cascade Yarns Sunseeker: White
Needles: US 13, 24″ Hiya Hiya Bamboo

forall

Title & Pattern: Mittens for All
Recipient: Josiah D.
Yarn: Hobby Lobby I Love This Yarn! Tweed: Red Tweed
Needles: US 5 & US 6 DPNs

worldssimplest

Title & Pattern: The World’s Simplest Mittens
Recipient: Gideon
Yarn: Plymouth Yarn Encore DK: Gray
Needles: US 5 & US 7 DPNs
Size: Child
bonbon

Title & Pattern: Bonbon
Recipient: Olivia
Yarn: Hobby Lobby I Love This Cotton! Carousel Ombre
Needles: US 6 DPNs

purlsoho

Title & Pattern: Super Easy Lap Blanket
Recipients: Lauren & Max (New Year’s Eve wedding afghan!)
Yarn: Knit Picks Brava Worsted: White, Clarity, Dove Heather, Silver, Cobblestone Heather, Asphalt Heather, Black
Needles: US 10, 47″ Addi Turbo

 

Gifts of Christmas

With Christmas having come and gone, I pause on this New Year’s Eve to reflect on some special gifts of Christmas – both received and given.

  • friendship with an octogenarian
  • four part harmony sung with family
  • beauty appreciated by our 2 year old niece
  • worshiping at my father-in-law’s Christmas music concert
  • reminiscent laughter
  • reuniting with an out-of-state cousin
  • fun of surprising the Optometrist with unexpected gifts
  • the Optometrist’s excitement in seeing me open some sparkly gifts

As a homeowner I have come to realize how we don’t need more store-bought stuff, and neither does anyone in our families. Therefore, as a knitter, many of our gifts to others were some of my hand-knit creations:

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Egg to Alligator & Flower Fairy in a Tulip

These little reversible toys were Christmas gifts for our nephew and niece and are from the book Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out Knit Toys: Magical Two-in-One Reversible Projects by Susan B. Anderson. I remember playing with a sewn topsy-turvy doll at my grandma’s house when I was young. One side was Little Red Riding Hood and when you flipped up her skirts the Big Bad Wolf dressed in the grandmother’s clothes lurked underneath. I hope our littles will enjoy playing with these like I did in my childhood days.

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This Christmas gift was for my Mom, a Hitchhiker shawl/wrap, pattern by Martina Behm. I knitted one for myself this summer and enjoyed the pattern so much I wanted to make her one, too! I used Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in the Mansfield Garden Party colorway and chose it because the color variegations match many of the colors she often wears.

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This set of six coasters were adapted from a Knook pattern (isn’t it just easier to learn to knit or crochet, rather than try to master this gadget?) and were given to my Uncle & Aunt. I used one of my favorite yarns, Hobby Lobby I Love This Cotton in Ivory.

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For the past four years I’ve knitted Christmas ornaments, which has become a fun annual tradition. The pattern I originally selected in the fall was beautiful and required some simple color work, but was proving to be overly time intensive and the finished size was larger than I wanted hanging on the tree. So I moved on to Plan B, the free Santa Baby Ornament pattern by Susan B. Anderson. (I think the name of the pattern implies a small Santa ornament vs. the song by Eartha Kitt). It was a coincidence finding another pattern by Miss Anderson, and I enjoyed knitting these very much. Even though I knitted nine of these little hats, they were quick (appx. 30 minutes a piece), fun and, most importantly, low stress.

Also, a brief fall recap of items knitted during the fall amid dropping temperatures and changing leaves:

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Entries into the County Fair: Ember’s Embrace (3rd place ribbon), Big Red Dog (3rd place ribbon), baby booties & hat combo (2nd place ribbon). Total prize earnings = $14.00. Woo hoo! (It should be noted that this money has already been spent to purchase…you guessed it, more yarn.)

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This Tanzie headband was knitted for my student teaching partner, TJ. After working with her all semester I wanted to give her a little thank you gift and figured a hand crafted one would mean more. Since she frequently wore beanies and other fun hats, I thought she would enjoy this ear warmer. I (eagerly) asked her to open it after our last class period and she was so pleased I chose to use blue for the crocheted flower, which turned out to be her favorite color (the easy tutorial I used can be found here). I saw her at an end of the semester luncheon and she was wearing it, which made me happy.

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Two other fun love gifts were sent to my best friend Addie, who lives in Florida. She’s the proud owner of two Siberian huskies, so as a part of her birthday care package, I knit a husky dishcloth, which she loved. And since Florida falls/winters are much warmer, this thin scarf can either be used as a light layer or a fun, bright accessory.

Finally, this fall I also completed my first mystery knit along (KAL). I remember seeing information last fall about the Stephen West KAL and thought it would be a fun challenge. This fall the timing worked out for me to dedicate a month to this year’s “Exploration Station” project, almost exclusively. I enjoyed working with the Ella Rae Lace Merino yarn (still have some left over for small projects – i.e. baby booties), was pleased with my fun color choices, grew as a knitter learning some new stitch techniques, didn’t let minor mistakes get me down for too long, and am proud that I kept up the pace with the weekly clues! The shawl is a sportier look for me, which is fun on days when I want to have a more casual look.

Now in my knitting queue for the New Year:

  • finishing a baby blanket ASAP
  • finishing a pair of socks for the Optometrist
  • hopefully a hat for me?
  • maybe also a cowl for me?

The Star Still Shines

Today celebrates Epiphany, the day when the wisemen arrived to present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (or “murph” as a little boy in my mom’s Sunday School class recently said) to the newborn King.

For me, I look forward to December 25 with anticipation, embrace the new year when it rolls around a week later, and then turn my sights towards the Lenten/Easter season. Thus Epiphany has often been overlooked on my calendar of spiritual observations. Today, however, I am reminded of how this thirteenth day after Christmas is the day the Magi finally arrived, which meant that the star was still shining, guiding them to the babe in the manger.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
(Matthew 2:1-2, 7-12; NIV)

Four things stand out to me about these men:
1.) Physical endurance – they must have endured rugged and hot terrain as they traveled a lengthy distance to seek the newborn king of the Jews (vs. 1).
2.) Focused awareness – they were learned men, students of the heavenlies, scholars who recognized this new star in the East prophesied the lauding of the Messiah (God with us) (vs. 2).
3.) Joyful arrival – they excitedly came bearing gifts. As they bowed on bended knees I can’t help but wonder if they recognized how their earthly treasures only paled in comparison to the majesty of the Savior of the world before them (vs. 10-11).
4.) Spiritual wisdom – they heeded the warning given by God, chose not to obey reigning King Herod, and outsmarted him by going home a different way (vs. 12).

Another good reminder came as I read this devotional today:
“These men came to the King, bearing gifts. You and I have gifts to bring to the King of Kings as well. Ephesians 2:10 reveals that we are each masterpieces of God – one-of-a-kind creations – complete with certain gifts and talents. These gifts help us fulfill God’s good plans for our lives. When we use them to bless others, we bless our King as well.”

May we not lose sight of seeing where God is at work, giving our best, and joining him there (Henry Blackaby). And, most importantly, may His light continue to shine in our lives, continually pointing towards and drawing others to the Savior (Matthew 5:16).

Oh come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee.
Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne and Thy Kingly Crown – Emily E. Elliot, 1864

This is a New Year

As 2011 begins I’m thankful for fresh, new starts. To me, this is a reminder of God’s grace in my life, continually giving me a clean slate of opportunities to know Him better. Yes and amen.

At this conclusion of 2010 I have taken a look back at books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched and reflect on those which have had compelling story lines. Out of the 70+ books I’ve read this year, the ones that have stuck in my mind are:
The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Host by Stephenie Meyer

While I haven’t watched nearly the same amount of movies, those that have made a lasting impression are:
It Might Get Loud
Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I
Inception
The Way We Were

As always, there are so many more books to read and films to watch, which I simply haven’t yet experienced. It’s always exciting to discover untapped personal treasures.

For other recent treasures, here are a few memorable moments shared with friends towards the conclusion of 2010.

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Celebrating my friend Brian’s 30th birthday, along with some of our closest college friends.

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Nothing says Christmas like a cookie exchange! My friend Alyssa and I enjoyed hosting some of our friends & work colleagues prior to Christmas break. (My Oreo bonbons were a smash hit!)

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A beautiful Oklahoma sunset.

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Fellow college music major friend Andrea and I met David Phelps (The Voice) after his Christmas concert. AMAZING! (Both the concert and getting to meet him afterward. He’s taller than he looks on TV, but let’s face it, practically everyone is bigger/taller than me…)

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How does one spend the last hour at work before the Christmas holiday? By reading Elle (Sarah reading about Sarah) and joining in on the bean bag throwing contest off of the third story of the library, of course! One of our staffers had drawn a super cute target depicting rabbits in various poses of duress. A good time was had by all.

Christmas itself was a wonderful time to take a quick trip to Silver Dollar City with mom & dad, be with family, read by the fireplace, and simply have time to sleep, which is a wonderful feeling of mind and body being restful. Yet, as much as I enjoy having time off, I equally love routine, so I’ll be glad to go back to work tomorrow. Our students return next Monday for the dawn of the spring 2011 semester and I’m excited about all it holds. After all, the best is yet to come.

This is a new year
This is a new day to rise shine, lift up your eyes
And point the way to God’s great light
New Year by Charlie Hall

All Things New

As a new decade begins, I’ve had plenty of time for reflection over the past year and past ten years. My how exciting it’s been! I can only imagine what my life will look like in ten more. Furthermore, my photo project goal is complete! I’m not going to tackle it again this year, but will continue taking pictures as I feel led. Here are the final few from 2009:

Thursday, December 17 – Light Looking ’09 continues with this two story house with icicle lights and an outdoor Christmas tree. Pretty!
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Friday, December 18 – My last day of the semester, which included finishing paperwork and then treating myself to a quick break (a.k.a. excuse to go play in the snow).
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Saturday, December 19 – More Light Looking, with this house being one of my favorites in town (a historical home, I believe). It’s stunning both when it’s decorated for Christmas and the rest of the year also.
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Sunday, December 20 – Pardon the blurryness, but this was a photo worthy moment Markli and I couldn’t resist when driving around looking at Christmas lights. hee hee
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Monday, December 21 – I’ll take ’em however they come. Maybe someday I’ll own a barn and advertise books for sale on the side of it, too.
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Tuesday, December 22 – My sweet momma decorated the house in such cute decor for Christmas. This festive display was in my room.
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Wednesday, December 23 – I tagged along with mom & dad as they took their turn ringing the bell for the Salvation Army on behalf of their church. We were bundled up and had a good time ringing, smiling, and wishing people a Merry Christmas.
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Thursday, December 24 – Christmas Eve included watching “White Christmas” on TV, baking chocolate gingerbread cookies for the first time, and then attending a candlelight service at the local Methodist church. Such a lovely way to spend the evening.
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Friday, December 25 – I awoke to a white Christmas! The day included time spent with family eating, laughing, giving and receiving presents, and being thankful for Christ’s birth.
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Saturday, December 26 – While I took more books with me than were probably necessary, I couldn’t bypass an opportunity to go to the library with mom. I finished Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol,” which I brought, and checked out/preceded to read “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine.
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Sunday, December 27 – Such a beautiful Ozarks sunset.
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Monday, December 28 – We finally made it to Branson! Lunch, shopping, and an evening show seeing Pierce Arrow combined to make a terrific day!
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Tuesday, December 29 – He owns the cattle on a thousand hills – Psalm 50:10
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Wednesday, December 30 – Since I’m still on vacation-mode, I indulged in reading “The Friday Night Knitting Club” while watching the snow fall outside. Ahhh.
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Friday, December 31 – Another cooking experiment, which I shared with our NYE party-goers at church: a baked brie, including cranberries, sliced almonds, and brown sugar. With an angel cookie press and a little egg wash, it had a golden brown texture that tasted as good as it looked (quite honestly).
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Thus concludes 365 days and 365+ pictures. I can add this to the fun things I’ve chosen to accomplish in my life.

For further reflection, here is a short list of my favorites from 2009.

Favorite Books (in the order they were read):
– American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
– The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn
– The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
– Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
– Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Favorite YA books (also in the order which they were read):
– The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
– Beastly by Alex Flinn (I don’t know if he is any relation to Kathleen Flinn…interesting)
– Viola in Reel Life by Adrianna Trigiani

Favorite Movies (in the order which I enjoyed them):
– The Brothers Bloom
– Julie & Julia
– Sunshine Cleaning
– Pucker Up – The Art of Whistling (a fun documentary I found at the library)
– Miss Potter

Looking ahead to this year, a few goals worth sharing:
– Begin composting
– Run two 5Ks and get in shape to run a marathon by the time I turn 30
– Keep in better contact with my distant cousins
– Knit a sweater (begun today!)
– Finish reading the Bible
– Really try to balance my checkbook…

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~ T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”