Sunday, March 26, 2017

Maine Maple Sunday

The 4th Sunday in March is always Maine Maple Sunday. The sap's a-runnin'!

Below is an article explaining Maine Maple Sunday.When you think of sugar houses and fresh maple syrup you might think, "Vermont" or New Hampshire" but Maine is right up there with production.  Since 2010, the article states, "Syrup production has more than doubled and the industry brings $48.7 million to Maine’s economy." Plus, fresh maple syrup is yummy!

Sugar houses statewide celebrate Maine Maple Sunday all weekend

Here are a couple of pics I took some years ago when I lived in Maine. I took them with my Lomo camera.

maple sap

maple sunday

Now go eat a pancake! Or maybe a "Dutch Baby"

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Leonardo Da VInci, in all his Pixlr'ed iterations

I spent a Saturday recently scanning in old travel photos. I found this one and I'd forgotten to write the caption on the back, but I knew it was Italy. After scanning and enlarging it I saw that the man atop the base was labeled Leonardo, so it was an easy matter to Google Leonardo statue Italy and discover it's a famous statue of Leonardo Da Vinci in Milan.
The statue of Leonardo da Vinci is located in Piazza della Scala, prominently displayed in front of the international temple of bel canto. The monument offers a solemn and austere image of the scientist and at his feet are four of his pupils. The statue is made of white Carrara marble, whilst granite from Baveno was used for the base.
Ah, yes, now I remember. I'd gone to the Galleria and took this photo on the way in. The Galleria is one of the world's oldest shopping malls, built in 1867. Though Providence's Westminster Arcade was built in 1828 and is Nationally Registered Landmark. I have a photo of that one, too, somewhere...

Notice the photo of the base, the hexagonal shape with each panel artfully carved in bronze in 3-D relief. Amazing work!

I like statues. I like granite and marble, so that stands to reason. I played around with the Leonardo statue on Pixlr-O-Matic. This is an online version of Pixlr, a free photo editing app I'd downloaded to my desktop. There are several versions of Pixlr online for free, too. The O-Matic automatically places several filters atop your picture. I couldn't decide which ones I liked most so I saved several. You decide, lol. First is the original untouched, then an original version cropped. Then all the Pixlr ones.


The Italians are certainly impressive in their creative statue making. All over Milan, Florence, Rome, and else where are impressive fountains, statues and art of all kinds. There's an interesting story that combines the Italians' love of beauty with confidence in their abilities. They began re-building the cathedral in Florence in 1296. The dome that would be built atop the structure was so large, the architect had no idea how t would be built. He designed it,and the powers that be said, well, that's going to be a few hundred years from now when we get to building the top of it, so let's just wait a while and worry about that when we get to it.

And they did! I'm drastically collapsing the story but it's captured both in a National Geographic article and in a good little book called Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King.

I love all the Italian statuary and art. I wonder if they ever imagined that photography would be invented and we'd take photos of their work and then monkey with it by adding filters and gizmos. I wonder if the ancient artists and stonemasons would be impressed and delighted, or offended and angry. Oh well, art marches on.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Birding Saturday

It's the end of a good and busy week. On Friday night, I was at home relaxing, eating dinner of baked salmon encrusted with sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts, baked potato, Caesar salad with broccoli and radish shreds. For dessert- white cake with chocolate frosting and hibiscus tea. I know how to shop Kroger deals like a boss. Total cost, $2.50, or less than McDonald's.

I did find a lot of marked down deals this week. In the marked down cheese fridge, I found herb encrusted brie, prosciutto wrapped mozzarella sticks,. At the fish station, there was a piece of salmon pre-made with encrusted pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes for $1.25. In produce there was lots of greens, including a Caesar salad mix and a bag of radish shreds, which I like a lot. Who knew. Radish shreds. I add them to add to salad or just eat for stand alone snacks. Also in the bread section, I scored several loaves of artisan bread for $1.29 and some dessert-y things also.

I chose the lower income job so as to have my summers off and school vacations, (time is more valuable to me than money. Therefore on my fixed and very low budget I'm content eating peanut butter sandwiches and scrambled eggs. However, it is nice to be able to sprinkle my plain meals with some gourmet tastes now and then. Kroger's marked down items allow me to do that.

Charter Internet has finally arrived in my neighborhood. This is great because Windstream has had a monopoly for many years, being the only option here in rural Georgia. Windstream has issues, namely that they oversold and can't keep up with their promises for fast DSL. It's not only slow, the connection drops all the time. The situation got so bad in 2013 and 2014 that the GA  and the FCC threatened (or filed) lawsuits and Windstream had to pay in two separate settlements. The situation is still pretty bad, they have not improved their infrastructure and consistently fail to live up to promises, so another suit is looming. In this article from 2016, it's stated
Complaints about Windstream’s slow Internet service in homes and businesses throughout Georgia’s 9th District, which encompasses all of Northeast Georgia, have prompted new complaints and a stern letter from Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins ... The complaints have become so numerous and frequent that the Jefferson City Council in Jackson County have established a Broadband Advisory Committee to address possible alternatives.
I live on a main road inside the town center across from the school. I haven't had it too bad and I stuck with Windstream until now because I obtained a $30.00 for life" plan for my internet service. It was a little slow but I don't do gaming, there are no other devices on my line, and all I need it for is to write, and watch or listen to sermons and at night, tv or movies. I could live with it.

However recently it had been dropping all the time sometimes for a minute and other times for an hour. I couldn't watch any sermons even if I put the quality at the lowest level. I really couldn't watch my Ligonier educational theology classes, because on most of those there is no option to go lower in speed/quality. Ligonier's Refnet and Grace to You's Expositor radio had become impossible for me to listen to. I drew the line. After signing up for a Charter Internet and Phone plan that was actually less expensive for the first year and only $10 more than Windstream after that, I jumped.

The guy came yesterday. He was nice and the set up only took a few hours. My cable internet is slightly faster than Windstream, not a lot faster, but that is because my laptop is older and the processor can only process so fast. I knew that going in. So the next step is to save up for another laptop sometime in the next year. If you give a mouse a change always leads to another. But for now I can watch streaming items and the connection is steady, so I'm happy.

Saturday afternoon I sat outside in the upper 60-degree sun, watching the many, many birds in my yard. I sure do love the birds, birdsong, and avian activity. If you know what this guy is, let me know. I see this species a lot but can't find what he is. He was walking across the yard, taking a few steps, then opening his wings wide and strutting a few steps. It seemed like a courtship activity.

gray bird1gray bird preening

I believe these are Carolina wrens?

carolina wrens

This looks to me like a female cardinal. She might be pregnant. She also looks tired. I know I'm probably anthropomorphizing too much, lol.

female cardinal2

Huge flocks of crows ("a murder of crows") sometimes roost briefly in the yard. Here is one who settled above me. I liked how the sunshine showed off his black-purple feathers. Below that, a few of the large murder of crows in the tree-

crowmurder of crows

Later today I'll be at my wonderful church learning from a powerfully packed sermon, and then attending small groups afterward with fellowship & Bible study. Can you say "great weekend"? I hope you had a good weekend all. See you next week.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Ten (15) Books I Can't Do Without

I follow the New York Times Magazine on Twitter. On their Twitter stream you'll see links to beautifully photographed articles from their Magazine. I love looking at pretty things, and their articles always feature nice photography, whether it's about fashion, art, architecture, or any other subject for that matter.

In one particular series, they contact a current celebrity and ask them to list ten books they couldn't do without. It's the old question, which books would you want with you if you were marooned on a desert island? As an aside, I remember in George W Bush's Presidential term (#43) he was asked in a different interview that same question. He'd replied "the Bible." It was 2001, and I was not saved yet, and his answer both confused me and angered me. The Bible?! That boring, dusty thing? I could not for the life of me figure out the attraction.

Now I know. But the question back then as well as this week's in the NYT to Michelle Dockery is a compelling one. It got me thinking about books that have had an impact on me one way or another. I couldn't winnow it down to just ten. My list has 15 books, and the era ranges from my high school years through to my fifties (now). They are all old friends, cherished and loved, having transported me to another place or challenging my thinking. If I read some of them now I might have a different reaction. But for who I was at the time of the reading, these books had a great impact on me.

My list will go in chronological order of when I'd read them. Here they are, my top 15 books starting with my faves from High School to now. My faves...apart from the Bible of course.


The Hobbit

I loved it. I read it. I re-read it. I read it to my little sister. I talked about it incessantly. I thought I was going to have a heart attack when Smaug departed his cavern and breathed fire in attack over Lake-town, it was THAT exciting. I enjoyed it tremendously. So did everyone else: the book has never been out of print since it was published in 1937.

The Once and Future King

Starting in High School, I had a long-lasting love of the medieval era, armor, weaponry, and most of all King Arthur that lasted well into my thirties. This book kicked it off in my sophomore year. It's one of the books on the syllabus in my English class, where I was first introduced to it. I read it afterwards many times and enjoyed it each time, getting something new from it with each reading. "Might doesn't make right."

All Creatures Great and Small

My best friend's mom gave me Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small when I was a freshman in high school. I did not enjoy animal stories at that time and I shelved the book. A few years later, being without reading material for the moment and desperate to read anything, I picked up and I'm so glad I did. I loved the book and it became a treasured companion while I read it and a cherished memory for years after. When the BBC TV series came out I watched that too.


I had a Michener run for a while in High School. I remember his book Hawaii best. The exotic locale, the interesting characters, the tsunami, and most of all my horror at what I considered evil work of the missionaries. Those bad, bad missionaries, trying to force a new god on those natives! They were just minding their own business! They were there first! Hawaii entranced me as a kid, I look back now and see it as a towering monument to a secular wold view held by a lost person very distant from God. But the writing was good.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Growing up in the 1960s & 1970s meant the cold war, Iron Curtain, and Russia dominated the news, our thinking, and our lives. Unfortunately as a kid of the 1960s, words like Gulag were part of our vocabulary. I tread Ivan in high school and was much impacted by it. I thought the writing was starkly beautiful in a way that even Hemingway would be envious of. Combined with the knowledge that the author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, had actually served in the camps and that this was the first book the Communists had allowed to be published on the subject, made the impact on me even more deep.

The Stand

I had quite a Stephen King run in the 1970s and early 1980s. He is a Mainer, and he taught as an adjunct at University of Maine at Orono, my alma mater. I saw him frequently on campus and around town. His first book, Carrie, was published just a few years before I got to UMO. By the time The Stand was published in 1978, the year I arrived at the U, the King phenomenon had to taken off just locally in Maine but nationally, too. It was fun to read published books and then spot the actual author, say, at the mall. It was fun to have a writer for a celebrity in our midst. The Stand is considered his greatest work. It IS a great work, just great. It got me thinking about good and evil, what I considered equal forces battling it out. Plus it's just a gripping yarn.


Pillars of the Earth

Ken Follett's amazingly well researched and deftly written tale of the decades of building a massive cathedral in medieval times fed into my love of the era, as mentioned earlier. I also love architecture, great stories, and good writing, so this book had me at hello.

Bonfire of the Vanities

The 1980s was when was 20-30. I was a new married adult who owned a house, eyeing the American landscape of that era though grown up eyes. The excesses, greed, stock market, Reagnomics, money, finance, real estate were all words that populated the news and our lives as much as Soviet, Russia, nuke, and Gulag had when I was growing up in the '60s. Wikipedia describes Bonfire as a book "about a drama about ambition, racism, social class, politics, and greed in 1980s New York City" and so, it is a perfect mirror of the era. I'm not a huge fan of author Tom Wolfe but this book was excellent for the time.

Love in the Time of Cholera

I had a South American author run during my late 20s. I read Isabel Allende, Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Paul Coelho incessantly. This book of Marquez' contains my all time favorite opening line of any book (almost tied with Hardy's in Return of the Native.) "It was inevitable, the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love." Who wouldn't love such an opening sentence full of poetry, foreshadowing, and mystery?!


Lonesome Dove

Contrasting the magic realism of the South American Authors are the American cowboy writers I was into, Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry. I liked the contrast of the lush S. American tropics to the AMerican dusty, tumbleweed west. During the '90s I traveled widely, including a VW camper van through all the American western states. I fell in love with West Texas. As we traveled through to Big Bend National Park, filming of the epic series based on McMurtry's book Lonesome Dove had recently just concluded. We stayed a couple of nights at The Gage Hotel, a historic and beautifully appointed hotel filled with furnishings that took you back to the 1830s, and occasionally a real cowboy would stride through and suddenly you were living Lonesome Dove life. As for the book Lonesome Dove, it's epic. EPIC.

The Shell Seekers

Wikipedia explains, "The Shell Seekers is a 1987 novel by Rosamunde Pilcher. It became one of her most famous best-sellers. It was nominated by the British public in 2003 as one of the top 100 novels in the BBC's Big Read." This book isn't profound or deep. It's just one of the best reads ever. If you're looking for a good story and quality writing, this is it.


Bowling Alone

The first half of the decade I was consumed with launching and running a weekly newspaper in my city of 7000 people. I had been greatly concerned with Robert B. Putnam's revealing of the decline of civic commitment, loss of political balance, and dearth of wise reporting. So I began a paper, and then along came this book, which mirrored my concerns and had sociological data and a well-researched thesis to support it. This non-fiction book made a tremendous impact nationally, as it did with me.

As for the rest of the first half of the decade, it was spent reading non-fiction about civic endeavors and citizen journalism. As for my private reading not associated with my work, I was being drawn to Jesus and spent any spare moments I had reading material that mirrored that confusing time, such as Buddhist and New Age books that attempted to explain the soul. (Noooo! Anything except Jesus!)  I was also selling my business and moving to GA and re-settling alone down south. Not doing a lot of reading.

2000's teens  

By now I'm saved, and so my reading material changed and the impacts on me changed too. My world-view had completely shifted from seeing the world and seeking answers about it through fiction, which really is what most fiction is about, to seeing the world through the mind of Christ.

Pilgrim's Progress

This book, written by John Bunyan in the 1600s, is considered one of the greatest books of all time. An allegory of a Christian's progress through life, with its joys, trials, and final glorified status, is a pleasure to read, even 400 years after its first publication. Edifying in the extreme, many people consider this book second to the Bible in terms of impact. I enjoyed it so much.

Elmer Gantry

The Lord's Spirit dispensed discernment to me and I have a heightened sensitivity to unorthodox doctrines, falsity, and hypocrisy. This fiction book by Sinclair Lewis is a devastating (and accurate) portrayal of hypocrisy in a pastor, from its first germ to full blown infection. Its insights were illuminating and fascinating to me, as much as they repelled me also. An incredible book for a Christian to read.

The Little Woman

I'd love for all the paper tiger feminists crying about how life just can't go on in a day without women (wah we're so persecuted) to take a look at some of these tremendous Christian women who just went out there and did it. The Little Woman is an autobiography by Gladys Aylward of her voyage to become one of the very first first female missionaries to inland China in the early 1930s. Traipsing mountains, facing jail riots, escaping armies (with 100 orphans in tow) ... all in a days' work. This book shows you what the Lord can do with a willing and obedient heart. It's a joy to read.

Honorable mentions, books that also impacted me and I couldn't do without, at least as far as my development at the point at which I was reading them:

  • 1984, George Orwell
  • Jude the Obscure, Return of the Native, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
  • Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
  • Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  • Dune, Frank Herbert
  • Watership Down, Richard Adams
  • How Proust Can Change Your Life, Alain de Botton

How about you? What books can't you do without?


Further reading

30 Great Opening Lines in Literature

The Great Books Program and Foundation

Harvard Classics

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mixed Media planner - in progress

I'm following a tutorial making a homemade planner/art journal. The tutorial is called Studio Saturdays: Mixed Media Planner. It is in three parts. The first part is making the cover. The second part is making the pages. The third part is decorating the pages.

Since making a good collage or cover to a book requires layers, it requires time. This is because when you apply a wet medium you have to wait for it to dry. Some Youtube tutorials show the crafter or artist using a hair dryer or craft dryer to speed up the process. I just use air and time.
  • The first layer was Liquitex matte medium. Let dry.
  • Second layer was Liquitex matte medium. Let dry.
  • Third layer was collaging on some papers. I used Spanish dictionary pages and some tissue paper with musical notes. Let dry.
  • I applied acrylic paint in dark blue. Let dry.
  • I applied acrylic paint in light blue. Let dry.
Now it's the next day.
  • I applied orange paint. Let dry.
  • Next will be adding a white paint, let dry. Then I'll stencil a design over that, let dry.
Making books is not for the impatient. Which I am. After all that I can get started making the pages. Here is how it looks so far, the last two steps of adding white paint and a stencil pattern are not finished yet.

I'll be covering over the spine so the previous title won't show through. The specs were specific in that we must choose a book cover that was from a book that had at least a 2" spine...but I knew that meant making lots of signatures of pages, and stitching in a complicated way, a task that I usually mess up. So I chose a smaller book and when I get to the part about attaching signatures to the cover I'll figure out what to do then.

But now it's time to make my weekly pancakes. Have a nice Sunday everyone!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saturday cooking

I love my Tea Time magazine. There are beautiful place settings and china to look at, brief and interesting articles about the history of tea or tea accouterments, and recipes. I had tried a recipe of English Pea salad in mini-phyllo cups a year ago and liked it, and I decided to make it again, along with a recent recipe from the latest issue- egg chicks. Here is the result.

I got some reduced, on sale veggies a few days ago and today I decided to do something with them.As I've mentioned before, at my branch of the Kroger Grocery store, they put 'about to go over' veggies in a red net bag and put them in one certain spot in the produce section. Anything in the red net bag is 99 cents. So a few days ago I picked up a bag of yellow squash and a bag of peppers. Since they really do need to be used up quickly, and there is only one of me in the house, I have to cook them all at once and use them in batch form. The peppers will become a rainbow pepper soup, and now that the yellow squash is cooked it can be consumed as a side dish over the next few days.

All I did for the peppers is wash them, put them whole in a gallon sized ziploc, added oil, and tossed inside the bag. WHen you're roasting veggies it's critical that they are evenly coated so they brown well and the flavor is sealed in. That's pretty much the only trick with roasting. Then you dump them out into a baking dish and sprinkle with salt. I roasted them for about 45 min at 375.

For the yellow squash, I carmelized an onion in a large saute pan and then added the yellow squash and let them cook a long time, turning occasionally.

Since a frugal cook never turns on the oven for one purpose only, in roasting the peppers, I added a pan of broccoli I'd bought on Kroger's regular weekly sale. They were really fresh and firm. I love Kroger's produce aisle, lots of good, healthy fruit and veggies there. Plus, the Phyllo cups were in there too, browning. (Browning a little too much, drat). So the oven at least had a few things in it to warrant using the electricity for almost an hour.

A frugal cook also does not use up ALL of what she has, and in that vein, I set aside some peas and did not use them all for the mini-phyllo cup English pea salad. I may make the peppers into soup, or perhaps I'll grind them in my chopper and make a pepper dip. If I do that, then I'd use the broccoli, peas, and yellow squash in a veggie soup. I'll see. That's the beauty of making things in large batches and refrigerating. It puts off the decision making for a few days.

The wind is whipping here, so much so I worry about the power going out, but so far so good. I'm listening to RefNet, Christian broadcasting, while I cook and clean up the kitchen. After that I'll try to make a mixed media planner/art journal while a movie or TV show is on.

Happy Saturday!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Update on Reading Challenge

I started a new 2017 Reading Program that I almost as immediately abandoned. LOL, I'm not great at following an artificial schedule or on putting pressure on myself to reach a non-essential goal. The goal I'd set was Challies' Christian reading challenge, at the Avid Reader level. As opposed to the lowest level, The Light Reader plan, where you read 13 books or 1 book every 4 weeks, I'd settled on The Avid Plan, which increases the pace to 1 book every 2 weeks.

My goal was to read more. I'd stopped reading books with the exception of The Bible, and almost all magazines (with the exception of TeaTime Magazine). I know that as a writer, daily reading is just as important as daily writing. We need to immerse ourselves in language, employ the discipline of reading, and set before our minds new thoughts, new ways to state ideas, and to just enjoy and imagine through the vehicle of language. I'd stopped. Not good.

So I used the mechanism of the Reading Challenge to re-catalyze my reading habit. I have not scrupulously followed its set formula of reading a biography followed by a book by a Puritan followed by a best seller etc, but I have adhered to its principle by widening my usual genre niches to include some genres I have not spent a lot of time in, such as romance and historical. The list of books at Challies' site is helpful in sparking my creativity with regard to different genres I would not have thought of otherwise.

I've read:

The Art of Expressive Collage by Crystal Neubauer

Maude, by Donna Mabry

Memoirs of a Medieval Woman: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe by Louise Collis

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia SanmartĂ­n Fenollera

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

The Witnesses, a short by James Patterson (finished just before the New Year)
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (finished just before the New Year)

And yesterday I started The Little Princesses by Marion Crawford and will begin The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen.

Not bad. And that's with the first two weeks of February being almost totally shut down, due to being tired and not feeling well. I think my interest in reading has reignited, helped by interesting books like the Medieval Woman and well-written books Maude. I'd despaired in the last couple of years, when picking up a book that was just terrible, badly written, or too profane, and I lost hope. I'd been saddened by my disappointment in the last two Grishams. I'd actually thrown away a new hard copy of Will Thomas' latest entry in my beloved Barker and Llewellen series, Fatal Enquiry, because of the unfortunate encroachment of a cultural message I simply did not want to read or expose myself to. I was disappointed in, or perhaps had outgrown, Jan Karon. So after those and other let-downs, I gave up and wallowed, adrift on a sea of booklessness.

But now I'm back! So for my overall purpose, the Reading Challenge has done its work.

I don't totally agree with this essay that says in the time you spend on social media you could read 200 books, in terms of the numbers, but I do agree with its principle that we waste more time that we realize on social media - and other activities - that could be used for reading. If you want to read (or do any other activity) you make time for it.

Here is the list, if you're interested.

Monday, February 20, 2017

I finished a really good book, now I'm bereft

You know that feeling when you have finished a really good book and you're at sixes and sevens? Your mind is still enveloped in the times and characters of the book you just finished and you're not ready to start another one?

I read Donna Mabry's book Maude, an oral history written down into a narrative that's gripping and absorbing. Mabry draws you wholly into the time frame and into her grandmother's life, 1894-1978 or so. The time frame itself has enough drama to sustain even the most boring of characters, which Maude is definitely not. There's WWI, the Influenza epidemic, the coming of automobiles and factories, women got the vote, Depression, technology, westward migration...and her grandmother experienced all of it. Some have said in their reviews that the book is sad, and it is, the times were sad. Maude's life did seem especially fraught with tragedy, yet her pioneer spirit soared above it all.

Some have said the book reminded them of the Little House on the Prairie books, but for me, it reminded me of Willa Cather's O Pioneers! But where Cather's Alexandra seemed remote and unreachable, Maude is vibrant and relatable. The book also reminded me, with its near-past permeatingly vivid atmosphere, Fried Green Tomatoes. You know that feeling when you're in a book and you feel like you're there? Maude does that. You don't even feel like you're reading, but living it.

The author said it took her ten years to write it, adding the stories from her grandmother as she told them, and filling in with other facts and history. The book was the Kindle version, and a free one at that. Sometimes the free books on Kindle mean that the quality isn't very high, but this one beat the odds, it's a stellar book. It spent weeks on the NY Times best seller lists and has high ratings on Amazon as well. Recommended!

I have being delivered today a hard copy of Five Days in Skye: A Novel (The MacDonald Family Trilogy), and on Kindle I already have  The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen's Childhood by her Nanny, Marion Crawford, which I'll start next. When I'm ready to let Maude go, that is.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A few beach photos

I love Georgia, as most readers know. I love the animals and the pastures and the cycle of births and seeing the baby donkeys, foals, goats, birds. I love the birds and their abundant songs. I love the flowers and the early spring and mild winters.

But one thing I miss is the ocean.

I grew up in The Ocean State (RI) where you are never more than 43 miles from it and usually a lot closer. As a kid I used to ride my bike to my grandmother's beach house in the summer. As a teenager I used to drive with a car full of girls to Scarborough Beach or Olivo's Beach or Charleston Beach...and lay in the sun slathered in baby oil to get a tan and talk about school with my friends. My family used to take summer vacations by renting a house in The Bay State (Massachusetts) at Cape Cod or Block Island off RI. We took Sunday drives to Newport and had to use the ferry to get there and then went all around Ocean Drive to see the Gilded Age mansions. The ocean was a huge figure and character in my life growing up.

As an adult I lived for the most art in the Lakes Region of Maine, on a lake and only half an hour from the ocean. A Saturday fun day trip was to drive to Portland and get a lunch and then go on to Pemaquid or Cape Elizabeth and clamber around the parks where the lighthouses were. Or to take a ferry ride on the Casco Bay Lines around some of the near islands off Portland, just because.

So being 4-6 hours from the ocean instead of 4-6 minutes, or 40 minutes, is a hardship. I do miss it. But I have my memories of all the oceans and beaches I visited, from the Bahamas to Labrador, to the Adriatic to the Mediterranean. Here are three favorites in photos.

Venice Florida is on the Gulf Shore of Florida, a state known for holding the southernmost point in the US, Key West (or really Dry Tortugas, even more south than that, another beachy place I visited). But for a long time I enjoyed vacationing in the middle western part of FL at Sarasota-Venice. Here is the Venice Pier, extending out over the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, in that special aqua color. The waves are light, the pelicans are lazy and the fishermen are relaxed. It is a soft place.

Venice, FL

On the other side, we have the Atlantic. There is a harsher light, a sharper ocean, but so pretty nonetheless. When you've been at the beach all day and you just don't want to leave, you linger. The sun is fading in brightness and strength. The warmth is leaking out of the day. Even the shrill and restless gulls are stilling. You stay. The sand is cooling and you dig your toes deeper to find that sandy, sun-captured warmth, but can't. You drape a towel around your shoulders to stave off the coming chill. The waves are now wavelets, and the day is hushing. You know you need to leave. Everyone else has. Yet you stay. This is that moment.

Myrtle Beach SC

Even more craggy are the beaches at Maine and Nova Scotia and Labrador. I've visited all of these and the rocks and waves meet in an unending battle for sovereignty. Their voices crash and resound in opposition to the inevitable erosion, carrying the eternal battle to the whales and seals and puffins. These beaches are for the hardy, the capable, the enduring beachgoer. These beaches demand, not relax. They hide in fog and pound through storms. They are starkly beautiful and remain some of my favorite places of all.

Jasper Beach, Machiasport, ME
Ahhh, the beach.


Further reading:

Dr. Beach, Stephen Leatherman, certified beach expert, lists his top ten US beaches each year

The billion, billion stones of Jasper Beach

Venice Fishing Pier

Myrtle Beach SC Wikipedia

Since 1937, Scarborough/Olivo's Beach complex

Back in the day, macaroni picnics dusted with beach sand at Olivo's

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Watson Mill Bridge Park, driving in the sunny springtime

Hello again from warm and lovely north Georgia.

In one of the several National Geographic photography contests the organization holds annually, this one really gets to me. These are some talented kids! Take a look at the winners of the NatGeo Contest for Kids. I liked this winner especially, because of his picture's low perspective. I enjoy taking pics of flowers from underneath too. But he did it so much better than I ever did!

Grand Prize Winner / 1st Place Dare to Explore
Dewi Baggerman, Age 11, Netherlands

I am on a 4-day mini-break from school. They call it Winter Break but since we have hardly had winter this year in Georgia, today's low temp of 68 will be the lowest we'll see in a few days. It's supposed to be sunny and 70s tomorrow and upper 70s after that. I'll enjoy the outside, as the daffodils, wildflowers, and forsythia are blooming. The birds are back and one is busy building his annual nest in the windowsill under the window air conditioning unit. My cats like/hate that. They hear the activity and little cheep of the bird and rush over to the table in front of the AC but of course can't get AT the bird. But they run over there every time and stare intently at the spot in which they'd heard the sound.

I've been reading a novel the past few days. Maude by Donna Mabry. I like the atmosphere and setting of the book. Set in 1900-onward, a young girl in the south, buggies and dusty roads and hanging linen on the line nad pumping water into a pitcher and life back then. It's well-written and I like it. This one is on my Kindle.

I recently bought these two- (thanks to a wonderful Amazon gift certificate!!)

The Skye book is the first in a trilogy, something I always like because if it's good I won't have to hunt up another good writer with an interesting setting, I can just move on to the next one in her trilogy. It's coming in hard copy, as is the Women's Ministry book, one I've had on my wish list for a long time. There was a sale on it and combined with the gift certificate, I grabbed it up fast. I am intensely interested in women's ministry because foremost I want to make sure I'm doing ministry correctly and also because most church women's ministry is cookie decorating without too much Bible. I won't go on at length about it, that's for the other blog. But I'm looking forward to the delivery. I love when I come home from work and there's a package at the door!

It was a rough week. A 10-year old former student of our school and one who I knew, died suddenly and devastatingly. Tragedies like this truly make one run to the cross, first with the heartbreaking cries of 'why, why?' to our compassionate Father, but also to lean into Him so as to trust Him more, for all He does is Good. But it's hard when it's the kids.

It was also Valentine's Day, and in the young grades that means sugar highs and giddy children! Picture the parapros and teachers herding kittens and corralling balloons and you got it. Secondly, it was a week with two early release days. On Thursday and Friday the kids are sent home at noon and the rest of the day the teachers have Parent Conferences. Early Release days seem to send the kids into orbit, the change in routine makes them even more, uh, vivacious. Yeah, that's it. Vivacious.

Thirdly, my principal pulled me from my regular routine to do a particular task this entire week which was interesting, but new. I had to be trained to do it and then do it. Since I enjoy new challenges and also autonomy within a stable organization, and being with kids, it was fun but also challenging. So now I'm ready for the 4 day weekend!

To that end, I'd ordered on sale two distress inks from Tim Holtz thru Amazon. In doing collage it seems that distress inks are a way to give the finished piece the layered and antiqued look, something I'd been unable to achieve despite years of attempts. So I caved in and bought a gizmo. I'm a believer in streamlined crafting and making do with what you have, but on the other hand, one does need tools and some materials that can't be scrounged. I'll post the results when I use the inks.

I read this book yesterday, and one idea in it was to color and distress papers with used tea bags. Goodness knows I have enough used teabags, in all colors too. I think the pomegranate tea I drink would make a lovely color on some ivory handmade paper I've got. I'll try this technique too.

On the way home from school yesterday, after I had installed two new tires, I took a drive. It was nice to drive around without the steering wheel pulling so hard to one side, something my separating tire had been causing. This Friday, as is my wont to take a drive on Friday afternoons when it's sunny, I headed south, to the State Park at the south end of town. It has an 1800s covered bridge over a waterfall and river. It is a good place to splash and swim in the summer, and the trails for walking, hiking, and horses are gorgeous. It is a scenic picnic spot as well. I brought my lunch and ate a sandwich and then took lots of photos. Here are a few:

Here are a few pics of the scenes to and from the Park:

My principal had told me earlier in the week that one of her goals is to create a safe and supportive school environment where her staff feels like they can come in and do a good day's work, help children, and go home fulfilled and satisfied. That is how I feel in my job, all the time.  I know I'm blessed to work where I do and to do what I do. I believe that helping children is a great work. Between my good hours at work and my good hours at home, and scenes like those above in between, what else can I ask for? I have good work, peace, love, quietude, beauty, and cats.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. ~Steve Jobs