Perspective – Upside Down

My wonderful father, after 87 years of serving the Lord on this earth, is with him in heaven. Even though I knew he could not go on much longer, my heart is aching without him. I know he has rejoined my mother and so many others who went on before him. God is good. I have the assurance of a better world after this one.

He always had movie star good looks. He was often mistaken for ‘The Man from Uncle,’ Robert Vaughn, or sometimes people thought he looked like Johnny Cash. He certainly could sing like Mr. Cash. The photo above is of Dad with my sister and me, Frontier Town, Ocean City, MD, early 1960’s.

Perspective – Throwback Thursday

This beautiful oak cabinet belonged to my parents. It sits in a corner of my living room; a unique piece of furniture I feel blessed to have it in my home. Inside are vintage novels, many written by Grace Livingston Hill. I haven’t read all of them, but perhaps at some point I will find the time to immerse myself into each one. The stories were written in a different time, and might be considered quaint by some, but they are also comforting in their lack of descriptive violence, swearing, and the ‘other things’ that cause me to cringe when I read today’s brand of fiction.

I also enjoy the non-fiction of Faith Baldwin and was delighted to recently find my sixth volume of her prose. This lady had a sweet wisdom that both counsels me and uplifts my spirit. No matter she lived in an era different from mine. Her timeless words live beyond her lifespan.

Gratitude is a humble emotion. It expresses itself in a thousand ways, from a sincere thank you to friend or stranger, to the mute, up-reaching acknowledgment to God–not for the gifts of this day only, but for the day itself; not for what we believe will be ours in the future, but for the bounty of the past.

~Faith Baldwin

This last photo might seem strange, but it illustrates my life at the present moment. Another person I love has come down with Covid even though they received the vaccination. Everything seems awry today, even something as simple as opening the curtains properly. I laughed when I walked into my living room and noticed the disarray of the front window.

Thanks be to God the new person who has come down with this virus seems to be recovering. I won’t tell you how I feel about the virus, what I believe about the origins, reasoning, and treatments, that is for each person to decide for themselves. I will tell you though that I so agree with the four words one of my cousins texted to me yesterday, “I’M SO COVID WEARY.” I think we can all nod our heads and shout, “Me too!” God bless us all in this time we were born to live in. He will equip us to live for him.


Photo Challenges – Fire and Ice/Two Different Things/Cee’s Black and White Challenge

Two opposites – Cee’s Black and White Challenge – Fire and Ice

FIRE AND ICE

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

~Robert Frost
Two blocks of ice.

After I took my ‘Fire and Ice’ photograph I remembered the birds need a source of water in the Winter. I overturn my warm weather birdbath in the wintertime to keep it from breaking in the weather extremes. In its place I use a dollar store tray. Works great, although I did break a bit of the edge trying to get the ice out.

After a week of dreary skies, the snowstorm left brilliant sunshine in its wake. The sun’s rays as it went down set everything ablaze. I took this photo hanging out of my second (two) story back window.

Two pines, two houses, one chimney

Photographs – First Snowfall 2022

The first snowfall of winter is drifting down from whitened skies here in Southern New Jersey. The quick accumulation of several inches is surprising after last week’s record warmth. I took a quick stroll around my yard and found this small sparrow watching me from the leafless Vitex tree.

The gourd birdhouse is vacant, and I am reminded I need to repair the opening and rodent-proof before Spring arrives.

My Rosemary plants are covered with blue blossoms. I’m glad I waited for the first snowfall to use the surprise burst of florets for Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

The bright contrasting tones of peach, courtesy of my last blooming rose of 2021, give me chills in reality, and also in spirit. Covered in a white blanket of snowflakes the flower suggests a mysterious slumber before rebirth in Spring, truly a sleeping beauty. I can see a few starry points of individual flakes. How beautiful and rare, snowdrifts on live rose petals, not a sight I often see.

Plants – Mandevilla Trellis

Mandevilla vines have spectacular pink flowers and grow inches by the day. I brought mine indoors when the nights grew cool expecting the plant to slip into a dormant state. The vine surprised me by growing in every direction at a fast pace. Soon, I needed to find a way to support the long tendrils.

I wanted to keep the appearance of the Mandevilla natural and clean, as minimal as possible. An area near me has quite a few wild grapevines hanging from trees. I found a few branches, about four foot in length, clipped them off and brought them home to fashion into a trellis.

Success! The trellis was easy to achieve. I poked the thicker ends into the soil along the pot sides, about three inches down. The springy tips were flexible, but also upright, and rose high above the plant.

Since the grapevine is loaded with large tendrils I twisted these gently around the uppermost stems and the trellis became self-supporting. I didn’t need to do any tying. How easy was that? The finished trellis does a perfect job supporting the vines as they coil up the stems. Problem Solved!

Philm – The Nativity Story

The blessed story of Christ’s birth never grows old. I watched this again on Sunday. I can’t help crying tears of joy many times throughout this movie. I recommend this every year. It is one of the best, and rarely mentioned in the lists of Christmas movies to watch.

Even the movie trailer imparts a feeling of joy.

Product, Phun, Project – Color Shift Paint/Painting with Natural Objects

Shiny metallic paint and glitter prompt me to create Christmastime art. This year I came upon a paint by FolkArt called Color Shift. I’ve been pleased with FolkArt paints in the past and Color Shift did not disappoint me.

The area above my Christmas village needed some color. A quick Christmas painting was my intent. I painted the background bluish-black to depict a nighttime sky. After the background was complete, I realized the composition needed something to break up the darkness by accentuating the outer edges. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time fiddling around with a complicated border. Hmmm, what to do?

Stenciling, or printing with an object seemed a good idea for a quick border. Outdoors on my lawn lay exactly what I needed, fallen leaves from my Bald Cypress tree. I also gathered a few ‘holey’ oak leaves while walking around the neighborhood. More on that later.

The Color Shift paint worked perfectly. Fluid enough to fill in the lettering without clumping, yet thick enough to dip my Bald Cypress leaves into for printing. (The paint looks a bit faded in this photograph, but it is only intense sunlight beaming across my work area.)

I needed a randomness of mind when I painted the stars. This is an artistic area I struggle with when painting. I find I quickly become uniform in design when painting a large amount of subjects such as stars or dots. The oak leaves came to my rescue and forced me to leave left brain logic behind and create with the bold randomness of the right side of my brain. I used the holes of the leaves to paint the stars. The pattern on the leaves, created by hungry bugs, quickly depicted the scatter of stars I wanted in the background. I’ve used this technique in the past and once again I found success using leaves as a stencil.

I also indulged the child within me and glittered the trees, top to bottom, with glittery balls and stars. The glitter, very fine in texture and easy to use, was found in the local dollar store in gorgeous colors. So much fun. This project was easy and under twenty dollars. The Color Shift paint was a bit pricey, but any other metallic paint could be used in its place.

Phlower & Quote – Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

LO, HOW A ROSE E’ER BLOOMING

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
As men of old have sung.
It came, a flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter
When half-gone was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind:
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright
She bore to men a Savior
When half-gone was the night.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God,
From sin and death He saves us
And lightens every load

Percolated & Pots and Pans – Rollo Pretzel Bites

I still make these every year. The only ‘percolated’ change is I lowered the temperature for mine to 225 degrees and make them on cookie sheets in the oven. They work exactly the same at the lower temperature in the full-sized oven. Delicious!

Rollo Pretzel Bites are a great recipe for the absolute perfect bite. There are only three ingredients involved: Square waffle type pretzels called “Snaps.”

Rollo candies, a bag or a roll. A bonus with the roll type is you do not have to unwrap each piece of candy.

The third ingredient is pecan halves.

I used my toaster oven set on a very low temperature, around 275 degrees. I arranged the pretzels on the pan.

A Rollo candy is placed on top of each pretzel…

I put the pan in the toaster oven and watched until the bottom of the Rollo began to spread out and melt. It only took a few minutes.

To finish them off I laid one pecan half on the top, smooshed it down gently, and there I had it…in just a few minutes…the perfect bite. Yum!

They are a bit pricey to make since pecans are so expensive right now, but definitely worth it.

Photo Challenge & Quick Tip – Six on Saturday/Poinsettias

Poinsettias—I bought several this year to brighten up the house for Christmas. The variety of colors and easy availability of these holiday plants causes me to pause when passing a pallet of the bright flowers. I usually give into temptation and bring one, or more, home.

The ‘Six on Saturday’ Challenge was a perfect foil for my lack of willpower, and I have four types of poinsettias to display as part of my six, with an additional two as a Quick Christmas Tip. The flowers are also a good choice for Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

A common problem I encounter with Poinsettias, no matter how carefully packed inside their cellophane sleeves, is the broken stems from overcrowded displays, a rough ride down the cashier’s conveyor belt, or a bumpy trip home. Taken out of their protective plastic it is almost inevitable one or two stems will be cracked or broken, revealing a dying flower.

Years ago I read a blog post on using these broken stems in vases. It seemed a hopeless experiment, but I gave it a try. Oh my, success was achieved within an hour. The broken stems filled with water, the limp bracts spread out and were almost more beautiful than the stems still in the pot.

If you don’t find a broken stem you can always harvest one from the back of your plant for a vased arrangement. My Poinsettia cuttings are over a week old, and I am hoping they will eventually develop roots. Oh the JOY, another experiment to try. Keeps me going. Merry Christmas to you.

How to propagate Poinsettia plants

Although I read you need to singe the ends of poinsettias to use them in arrangements, I did nothing but cut and pop my broken stems in water. Perhaps singeing the stems is needed only if you use them in floral foam.

Using Poinsettias in Floral Arrangements.

Phish – Lucy and Ethel (Part 2) – Problem Solving with Goldfish

As with everything, the promise of joy can come with some problems. The first problem I encountered was aquarium water that began to resemble pea soup. Yes, my pristine aquarium, within a matter of weeks was as green as the Grinch. I tried what I thought would help…aquarium additives. Chemicals. They were expensive so I figured they must work. Wrong. They didn’t help at all. The aquarium became greener by the hour. Part of the problem was the LED lights. They created a beautiful brilliance within the aquarium, but they also created ALGAE. Green algae. After weeks of trying to conquer the problem with chemicals I felt beaten.

Enter the Green Killing Machine. I researched the problem and read the only way to seriously control the green was through Ultraviolet technology. It was expensive. Of course. I was desperate though, and bought one. Within days the Green Killing Machine did what it promised, cleared out the algae and left behind perfect, crystal clear water. If I had one piece of advice to give when setting up an aquarium it would be to purchase a green killing machine right at the start.

The next problem was Ethel getting a piece of gravel stuck in her mouth. I hoped she could resolve it, but when she began floating sideways on the bottom, I knew I had to help her out, and managed to remove the gravel with a pair of tweezers. Ethel appeared fine within a few hours after the hasty operation.

The most distressing problem I am facing now seems impossible to fix. Lucy has a swim bladder problem and struggles to swim normally. This exhausts her and she often uses the wire from the green killing machine as a hammock. I’ve read fish with a rounded body form are more susceptible to this condition, and I’ve tried a few of the tips that might help. So far there has been no improvement; perhaps Lucy is destined to live part of her life swimming upside down. Hmmm…lately there have been a lot of days when I’ve felt as topsy-turvy as Lucy. I suppose I just need to take on her attitude: be calm, swim on, and enjoy the view.

Quick Tip – Kid’s Craft

I had extra Christmas beads lying around after I finished decorating this year. Hmmm-what to do with them?

The craft project I used them for reminded me of sand art. It is quick and inexpensive to create with children. Glass bottles aren’t necessary, a plastic one will do just as well. This craft has the potential to be as fancy as you choose to make it, glued on stickers and jewels, etc., or it can be super simple, like mine, and take about five minutes time. Unless you glue the large ornament to the top, I recommend you use something plastic in case it gets jostled and rolls off.

No instructions necessary. Even a toddler can figure out how to make this pretty and festive decoration.

Praise – Hark the Herald Angels Sing

HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING

by Charles Wesley

Hark the herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled”

Joyful, all ye nations rise

Join the triumph of the skies

With the angelic host proclaim:

“Christ is born in Bethlehem”

Hark! The herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heav’n adored

Christ the everlasting Lord!

Late in time behold Him come

Offspring of a Virgin’s womb

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see

Hail the incarnate Deity

Pleased as man with man to dwell

Jesus, our Emmanuel

Hark! The herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings

Ris’n with healing in His wings

Mild He lays His glory by

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

Hark! The herald angels sing

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Photo Challenges – Six on Saturday

We visited Longwood Gardens this week. The conservatory was filled with Christmas trees, some elegant and designed by floral experts, a few covered with decorations created by children. All the trees were beautiful, but my favorites were in the Exhibition Hall, atop the sunken marble floor, with faux ice above the water.

This post is part of Six on Saturday.

Phish – Lucy and Ethel (Part 1) – Fish Tanks as a Gift

ETHEL – My close up for Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge

A year ago, my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I thought about it, and decided, I would love a fish tank for goldfish.

For over twenty years we had an outdoor pond. When lifting the dirty filter out of the pond became cumbersome, we filled it in and gave the large koi to a friend. I missed watching the beautiful fish, and knew a fish tank indoors would fill the void.

ETHEL AND LUCY SWIMMING IN THE 20 GALLON AQUARIUM

Most pet stores sell aquarium sets: filters, lights, filter accessories, and heaters are included. Since I already knew I was filling mine with goldfish, the heater was unnecessary, but it was included in the kit. Gravel was not included, plants also were extra. The background was another purchase. Still…when the items were totaled, even adding in the cost of two 3-inch goldfish later in the week, the aquarium set-up was under $75.00. I certainly didn’t feel extravagant in choosing this as a birthday present.

One disappointment was the recommendation of the person who netted the fish I chose, two small goldfish were almost too many for a 20 gallon tank. Goldfish grow fast and are a messy fish. They create a lot of waste. Goldfish aren’t the best fish for beginners. I felt a bit miffed, I had envisioned at least four to five goldfish for my tank. I was wise though, and followed her advice, and picked out two small goldfish who I named Lucy and Ethel. I also bought three snails to take the place of the fish I didn’t have room for in the tank. I named them Ricky Ricardo, Little Ricky and Fred Mertz. Are you old enough to see what the theme is for my aquarium?

Live-bearers, guppies, swordfish, mollies, and platies are a better bet for a first aquarium. If, like me, you have a bit of experience with outdoor ponds, and previous aquariums, give the goldfish a try. Here’s a great article from Fish Tank World about keeping goldfish in an indoor tank.

7 REASONS WHY GOLDFISH AREN’T GOOD FOR BEGINNERS

One thing this article mentions is something I have found to be true: a characteristic of goldfish is they like company. Lucy and Ethel display this trait all the time; they brush against each other gently, much the way a cat rubs his head against your leg. I love watching these two beautiful creatures. Part 2 & 3 of my goldfish adventure will follow soon.

I checked two sources for Aquariums and accessories, and aquarium kits to include with this post. Pet chain store prices are between $75.00 to $100.00 to set up a 20 gallon aquarium. Amazon has kits that contain decor also, but the prices are a bit higher. The best idea is to check out small business pet stores in your area and support local dealers.

Phun – Ten-Second Timer

We haven’t sent a photo Christmas card for years. It’s time. Yesterday’s sunshine and mild temperature was the perfect time to go outdoors and attempt to take a presentable photograph, but since it was just the two of us, we didn’t have the advantage of a photographer. We had to rely on the ten-second timer on my Fuji camera and a trusty tripod. Here are a few of the bloopers—

Blooper 1 – Clicked the shutter button without setting the timer. Who is that old woman? Yikes. How did time go so fast?
Blooper 2 – Silly me, hit the two second setting instead of ten seconds.
Blooper 3 – Tried to get tricky and run from setting the camera for ten seconds, smashing my way through strands of briars, slipping on damp leaves, climbing onto a log bridging the creek, balancing myself, managing to smile and maybe look presentable—all in ten seconds??? I’m amazed I got as far as I did. This was the first time my feet got wet during our photo shoot. I also fell, and the front calf portion of my jeans were stained by watery muck. Do you see the person standing safe on the log laughing? That’s my husband!
Almost – This was almost our choice, but it is so sunny and somehow the camera has condensation spots on the lens. But still…might be a keeper. Can you see me trying to hide my dirty jeans?

Another maybe, but I’m pretty much blocking most of my husband out of the photo, and there’s a bit too much sun on our faces.
Here’s the photo we decided to use, cleaned up, and cropped below. Our legs are a little off kilter, but that’s because to get back to where my husband stood in ten seconds, I had to jump a smaller creek that joined the larger one. He is actually helping me find my balance. I fell once at this location as I misjudged the distance and hit the sloped, wet bank too short. In this shot we are both laughing at all the trouble it was to take this photo. It was fun though, and after the photo was cropped we decided it was truly us. It’s a little early, but we wish everyone the best, and merriest Christmas ever.