Thursday, December 30, 2010

Trails, Tracks, and Travertine

Falls Ridge is an 80 foot waterfall over what the Nature Conservancy claims is the largest known exposed deposits of travertine. Very cool rocks.
Very cool. The trail looping round the falls is less than a mile, and though steep in places is really an easy hike. A second trail offers an additional 2.3 mile (4 round trip) which is well worth doing.
Only the wildlife had bothered with this second snow covered trail and we saw evidence of deer, rabbit, raccoon, and turkeys.
Lots of turkeys.
We hiked along a ridge and admired the view on both sides...

... and then my camera died.

Which is a shame, because the witch hazel trees were in bloom, the lowering sun through the trees was making really neat shadows, and there was an awesome cave that we saw (went into) on the way back to the car.


Falls Ridge Falls Video

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Father Abraham

I finally got my computer and phone to talk to each other. Which means, finally, I can post pictures of my Sparkies Stars bulletin board.

The story was Abraham and Isaac -- God's promise of nations and peoples as numerous as the stars, all descended from Abraham. Explaining this concept so five-year-olds could remember it seemed like it might require a game.

The sort of game where they have to guess how many stars there are... there were 96 blue stars, 28 stars that I painted with a special paint so they glow in the dark (they loved that), 154 total 3D stars (there are more stars printed on the fabric background)...
and one Abraham standing on a small green hill in the bottom right corner looking on in amazement.
God took Abraham outside and said "Look up at the sky and count the stars -- if indeed you can count them." Then God said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Genesis 15:5

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holy Night

Luke 2
1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reader Favorite: How To Break Up With an Evolutionist

The following conversation may vary with the unscripted responses of the other individual -- the most likely comments were chosen as representative.

“Umm, Honey, I believe the evidence examined in the unbiased light of real science supports the Intelligent Design and Creation.”

“What!?! How could you be so ignorant? Don’t you know that evolution has been proven?”

“Define proven.”

“Well, Everyone knows it’s true.”

Try not to be smug when you say: “I don’t.”
At this point they will look at you as if you are the stupidest person on the planet. Tell your soon to be in-significant other “Evolution is an unproven Theory. Even Darwin didn’t believe it in the end.”

The rebuttal to that point will most likely be an inarticulate scream of frustration and a forcible attempt to remove hair from their own head. A movement resembling a figure skating sit-spin sometimes accompanies this.

Now show some mercy, soften your voice and speak calmly but pleasantly. “I am willing to postulate that both Intelligent Design and Evolution are un-testable hypotheses and therefore theoretical, with no proof beyond sheer faith. I even go so far as to grant your right to believe, however misguided, that you are the product of millions of years of accidental mishaps in the life of an amoebic protein chain.”

“So you do think evolution is true, then.” Confusion and relief will struggle for dominance in this response.

“No.” Not too breezily, now. Be kind.
You and I know what you’re going to say next, but they do not see it coming. “But since I can neither prove nor disprove either theory to your satisfaction, I have decided to let you be the product of evolution if you want and I will continue to be the purposely created child of a Loving God.”

“Well, I… What?”

“It’s a compromise.”

“So I’ve evolved and you’ve been designed.” The shaking head and patronizing smirk indicate amusement and a degree of disgust.

“Yes, I will accept the idea that you are the end product, the eventual genetic offspring of random mutant monkey parentage, while you will admit I am the deliberate, intentional child of a purposeful Creator.” Pause for a moment, let it sink in. “Unfortunately that means I can’t date you anymore.”

“Huh?” [editor's note: there is a 47% variable indicating that this response might actually be "Wha...?" as that is not an actual word we have kept "Huh?"]

You continue, “Our compromise requires that I no longer believe that we are the same species, I’m sorry. I'm just not willing to practice inter-species dating.”

They will tell all their friends that they broke up with you because you're nuts.

Disclaimer: the above is pure imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental and mostly unintentional. For entertainment purposes only. ABSOLUTELY NOT MEANT AS RELATIONSHIP ADVICE.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Please Don't SPOIL the Children

Translation Courtesy of The Oxford American Dictionary, The American Heritage Dictionary, and the OED:
Make Useless,
Harm the Character of,
Flaw Grievously,
Impair the Quality of,
or Render Unfit

Merry Christmas to all the parents of children who's grandparents say "It's a grandparent's job to spoil their grandchildren."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Feathered Dreams

I am dreaming of fresh eggs, straw filled nesting boxes, and gentle clucking. Realistically, I am also thinking of all the fresh fertilizer and the danger from marauding neighborhood cats, and the question of neighbors themselves getting huffy about possible roosters. **

... but I'm perusing chicken catalogues anyway. And looking at hatchery websites.

I've been reading about rare breed chickens. I love rare breed chickens, those fluffy headed furry footed beauties. But when choosing chickens a good natured attitude matters as much or more than the plumage. Granted I'm still advocate for choosing rare breeds and odd birds.

Here are my top three:

1) The Silver Grey Dorking Hen.

She is a very rare English breed with short legs and should lay about 200 eggs a year. She's so quintessentially an old standard chicken. Isn't she pretty?

2) The Silver Pencil Wynadotte Hen. She gets good reviews on all the backyard chicken forums for being a reliable layer with a sweet personality. Actually all the Wynadottes get good reviews, but I think the Silver Pencil is one of the prettier feather variations.

3) The Ameraucana. The hen shown here is a "Blue" Ameraucana.We had Ameraucanas growing up. My pet chick from the straight run batch ended up being a roo instead of a hen but I still remember the green, blue, and pink eggs we got from the rest of them. The hatchery description says they'll lay about 180 eggs per year, but our free range hens always laid better than that.

** Despite what many people errantly believe, it is not necessary to have a rooster in a laying flock of chickens. The hens will produce just as many eggs, you just can't get baby chicks from those unfertilized eggs. Hatcheries offer "straight run" batches with both genders in it, or "sexed" batches of male only or female only chicks, so it is possible to order just laying hens with no crowing roosters tagging along.

Friday, December 10, 2010

...Candlestick Maker

These are 3/4 inch female adapters for copper piping found in the plumbing aisle at Home Depot.

And those are 10 inch plain, unscented, taper candles. The classic candle, with the classic "just wax and fire" scent, in the classic "thank you but white is a color too" color.

When there are no copper candlesticks to be found, indeed when any kind of candlesticks at all seem to be a rare find on store shelves devoted to jars, pillars, and votives, a bit of creativity is called for.

A little Boraxo and a scrubby pad quickly removed the price stickers from the copper fittings, and no further cleaning or preparation was required. Insert candle. Voila.

I love when simple things are actually simple.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Favorites: The Traditional Poinsettia

A non-indigenous poisonous plant is the perfect "must-have" symbol of seasonal cheer.

The tiny inflorescences surrounded by large red leaves masquerading as flowers send a message of sincerity and friendliness which even the smallest child or pet cannot help but reach out to embrace.

We must purchase poinsettias in mind boggling numbers, import them, grow them in greenhouses, and display them everywhere at Christmas.

After all, this is a poisonous plant.
This is a plant that, although in its native middle eastern countries it will become a huge tree-like shrub, here in our climate it will die if planted outdoors.
This is a plant that will not bloom again without being locked in a dark closet with half an apple.
This is also the only plant I know of regularly sprayed with glitter glue by florists -- to what end I still do not know.

This, then, is a plant that can be left unwatered in a dusty corner of the house and guiltlessly thrown away after the parties. It is the perfect hostess gift, the perfect last minute gift, the perfect holiday decoration. Have several on hand, pick up extras at the grocery store, put some on the alter at church.

Surely the ease of disposal post-Christmas atones for any veterinary bills or accidental fatalities?
Because nothing, absolutely nothing, says "Happy Christmas" and "Thanks for inviting us to dinner" like a foil-wrapped plastic pot full of toxic phytochemicals.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pieces of Recent Days

Bread rising next to the fire because it is too cold in the kitchen and the yeast needs to be warmed up.

All kinds of holiday baking.

Cranberry bread dough, an experiment.

Yeast doughnuts rising (as best they can).
White roses and rosemary.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


The house is toasty warm from a gas fire in the fireplace. No more errands need to be run and I can enjoy the day.

The smell of fresh bread and cookies fills the air. I have been baking this morning. One pan slides into the oven as another comes out and I am running out of counter space. This is a good thing though.

Fresh doughnuts are finishing cooling, waiting to be iced. And it's snowing! Real, thick, fat, fluffy flakes of white are falling. And falling with intention, as though they mean to keep on falling.

I just wanted to share this with you. Hope your day is as happy and nearly perfect as mine.

Photo: trees after an ice storm 2008, Pennsylvania

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Are You On Our Mailing List?

It's a question I have to ask whenever I am at the register at work. "Are you on our mailing list to receive coupons? Your total today is..."

Some people are on the mailing list already. They have the coupons that got sent to them in the mail or by email, they use them, and they grin at the savings as the total $$ decreases.

Then there are the people not on the mailing list.

"Did you have any coupons today? Are you on our mailing list?"
"Would you like to be? All you need to do is fill out this card with your name and..."

How they respond is interesting. Some of them are already grabbing a pen looking for the place to sign up.

Some of them are in a hurry and want to take it along and think about it.

And some just cut me off with a quick "No, that's okay."

Today it occurred to me, in many ways this is a lot like how people respond to the Gospel message.

The first way is that those of us working for the Lord are required to ask people if they want to be on the mailing list. We are supposed to share the good news of salvation with everyone and offer them the opportunity to be saved.

The second way is that while some already have their coupons in hand and know all about the saving work of Jesus there are a lot that don't and are just waiting to be told. "Oh, that's great," they say "No one's ever mentioned this to me before. What do I need to do to sign up?" They're eager to get on God's list.

The third way is that many people will take what you've said and want to make a decision later. They don't want to stop to do this right now, they have other things that are more important to them, and all you can do is hope they remember what you said.

The forth way is that some people just don't want to sign up. No matter what they're not putting their name down, they're not joining anything, and they're certainly not interested in praying anything. They're "okay" just like they are and they don't want whatever you've got no matter how good. That's their choice. All you can do is ask the question.

And that's the fifth way. All we can do is ask the question. We're not responsible for how people respond. We can tell them about the savings from coupons or about Salvation through Jesus Christ, but we can't control how they respond. God knows that. He only requires that we ask the question.

Are we asking the question?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Constance's Song

You learn to hold the Hand of God
You learn to walk the narrow way
You learn the hardest path to trod
Becomes the one away from God
When you do not obey

You learn the only peace of mind
Depends upon the strength you find
In arms that hold the lost and blind
And point the way to Truth

You learn to bless the grace of God
You learn to walk the narrow way
You learn the Comfort of the rod
The Shepherd’s staff, the Will of God
When you learn to obey

You learn to walk upon on your knees
To ask the Savior “Help me, please.”
The Holy Spirit intercedes
And leads you back to Love

~from an old work in progress currently gathering dust.

I was thinking of my story, the one this song (well, these lyrics, really) appears in. Thinking about why I started writing it and why I let it go half-finished for so long (about 3 years now). It's a story that falls between two markets, the Christian market won't like certain things and it's too Christian to sell in the mainstream market. Not salable if I believe the gurus.

Mainly though, I put it away because there were only a few parts that met my high standards. Okay it is a rough/first draft, but still!

'If I wouldn't put my name on it,' I thought 'why am I still writing it?' And so the characters sit there, living, breathing, patiently waiting to have the rest of their story told.

And some days they hum a little tune so loudly it rings in my ears. Like today.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Smug Little Pillow

So few things that I've been making lately can be put up on this blog. Christmas presents are in full swing but since my family occasionally read this blog it's not safe to post photos of their Christmas gifts until after Christmas.
Ergo, random postable project: this fat little two-sided throw pillow. Just because.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Simply Color

"The simplification of anything is always sensational." -- G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Genesis RAP: The Story of Lot

Yo, My name is LOT and I’m here to say
I gotta little story ‘bout getting my way
I see something good I just gotta have
Like land for my sheep and fields for my calves
I want the land with the fields and streams
That rich rich land is the land of my dreams

Uncle Abe, you know, is a kindly dude
So he puts up with my attitude
I take what I want an’ leave none for him
An’ he lets me do it ‘cause we’re blood kin

I shouda known better but I didn’t care
I was bein’ greedy didn’ wanna share
So up in the hills and far away
Ol’ Abe and his peeps live from day to day
While me and my fam live a life of ease
Down in the valley doin’ as we please

Now the land was good but the towns were bad
Every kind a’ sin was the latest fad
But I couldn’t see how they made God mad
I just saw all the riches they had
Sodom and Gomorrah were tempting to me
So I moved in my whole fam-i-ly
We lived in the city and thought it was grand
A big big house and lotsa good land

Some angels came and said run away
The Lord is gonna bomb this city today
I didn’ wanna listen, I’m sorry to say
But it’s a good thing we didn’ get to stay
‘Cause fire and brimstone started to fall
God was so mad He destroyed ‘em all

Even my wife is a pillar of salt
I gotta admit that’s mostly my fault
If I could go back an’ do it again
I give the good land to Abraham
BEin’ greedy just doesn’t pay
Kindness is the answer e-ver-y day
Kindness is the answer e-ver-y day

And why did she write this you ask? I've been filling in for the Kindergarten (Sparkies) Storytime at our church's AWANA -- and let's face it it's hard to keep the attention of 17 or 18 five year olds. Coming up with new ways to tell the stories keeps them interested. Why rap? I don't know, I don't even like rap, but the kids loved it. :D

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Flying Geese

Still a favorite quilt pattern, "flying geese" has been around for centuries. I thought of this quilt today when I heard the geese flying overhead. High and behind the clouds they flew, and the sound of their calls came faint but clear in the early morning hours as I curled warm and sleepy in my layers of quilts.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Leaf Burning Deep

All Hallows Day burns yellow
with the fire of martyrs,
with the licking flames of ancient

judgment. Gusting
maple red, and glowing
the zealous sun overflows
a wind seared sky.

Clouds circle the heavens,
like wild white geese
who fly against

this ardent azure sky.
On the seventh day
the trumpets sound
in Jericho. A shout rings out,

a sign, a frost, leaves crumble
from the trees and fall. For
a moment they were green

and growing, grasping still
to oak and walnut, poplar,
ash. They clung as though
the planet burned,

like Rome,
like the bush of Moses,
like the Saints at Pentecost.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Fall Colour

Autumn chrysanthemums are in full flush of bloom along my front walk.
Every time I write the word chrysanthemum I hear Anne of Green Gables spelling down Gilbert Blythe with a look of disdain :
"C-H-R-Y-S-A-N-T-H-E-M-U-M." Funny how that classroom memory, fictional and not even my own, stays with me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The First Annual Butternut Beauty Pagent

What is the use of an Aunt growing butternut squashes if they cannot be harvested, decorated with markers, and judged in a butternut beauty pagent? The winner, in a blind judging (Mommy closed her eyes and picked), was taken home to be baked and the loosers took a nap in Aunt's bed.