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.

Photo Challenge – Six on Saturday/Sanctuary of Light

GOD’S DIAMONDS – An overnight rain left our pine trees covered in a million sparkles in the morning sunlight. I feel blessed when I am able to see such a beautiful work of art at the beginning of the day.
LIGHT REFLECTED ON RIPPLING STREAM – Slanting Autumn sunlight mirrors the colors of stained glass onto the brook.
END OF THE ROAD GOLD – A final glory, the best is at the last…golden leaves beside the creek.
STAINED GLASS COLEUS – Did the first stained glass craftsmen use nature as inspiration? (This beautiful pot of coleus are growing in my home. They self-seeded in the front garden in an odd and unusual manner. More on this in a later post.)
MORNING-BORN GRATITUDE – I don’t need rose-colored glasses to feel blessed when a day starts in living color.
GOD’S DIAMONDS PART II – I am bookending my Six on Saturday with more morning sunshine diamonds in the pines.

Thanks to THE PROPAGATOR blog for this great challenge.

Perspective – Thanksgiving

My grand-daughter, aged 6, is a good reader at a young age. Sunday morning, she stood beside me in church services and read, with the rest of the congregation, the responsive reading, Psalm 100.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. ~Psalm 100

I listened to her sweet voice as we read the words together. I was reminded of my second grade teacher, Mrs. Ware. This lovely Christian lady taught our class to memorize Psalm 100. I remember it still, near sixty years later, and I am ever grateful for the treasure she gave us. It was a different time, the 1960’s, there had not yet come banishment of anything Christian from the curriculum.

I felt so blessed to have both my grand-daughters with me in the service, and began to remember all the times I worshipped alongside my parents, grand-parents, in similar services throughout my childhood. How blessed I am that generation to generation the Lord remained forever with us. He is eternal. I know that my grandparents prayed for me, my children, and probably as I do now, for all the generations that will come after us.

I see within this certificate for the Cradle Roll department that my grandfather’s parents were also believers. These would be the great, great, great-grandparents of my own grandchildren. It fills my heart with Thanksgiving, that through the last century and longer, prayers have been spoken by my family for their descendants. These prayers are still being answered today. How could I not make a joyful noise, speak prayers of Thanksgiving, to my Father in Heaven on this special day? I am resolved to pray even more fervently in the coming year for all of my family, and for those as of yet unborn, who will come after us.

Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation. Lamentations 5:19

Projects – Drying Out Gourds/Bird Houses

At this time of year many farm markets are closing down until Spring. After the pumpkin and Christmas tree season is over, large gourds are on sale for next to nothing in our area. Recently, I bought two large goose neck gourds, and one apple gourd, for $1.00 each.

I already have two bird houses created with gourds hanging in my garden. If you look closely, you can see the swirl of twigs inside, brilliantly constructed by small birds.

I’m not sure if the babies made it to maturity. There are small chipmunk/squirrel bites around the entrance. We also had a wily black snake in that area of the garden this year. While I was happy to have the small rodent population kept in check, I once caught the four/five foot long snake hanging out in the pine trees. From that vantage point it would have been possible to get into the gourd bird houses. I will have to come up with a solution to the snake and chewing problem before the birds begin building nests again. (I’ll make sure to update with any results I find.)

I use bath puffs to hang the gourds for drying. When you cut the inner tie the puff opens up into a long tube.

Knot one end of the tube. Place your hand over the stem as you slide the gourd into the tube or the sharp edge will create holes. Knot the other end of the tube and hang your gourd on a hook outdoors. It will become moldy on the outside in a few weeks, and begin drying on the inside. This is normal.

Dried gourds are a natural and inexpensive material for creating crafts of all kinds. If you find a good sale give bird house-making a try.

Praise – Sing

This post was originally posted in 2011, and is now buried deep, deep, deep within the blog archives. I stumbled upon it recently and thought it was worth another look. I can still remember the moment I heard the “Whoo-Hoo” from the jogger. It has reminded me once again to SING, SING, SING!

I also looked up how many times the Bible tells us to sing and found the answer in Answers.com.

121 times. It is the most recorded of the commandments, to sing to the Lord. The count rises to 209 if you use the New English version of The Bible. ~Answers.com

Creek at Hickory Run

I try to walk daily. Often as I walk I will softly sing songs of praise. A few days ago, as I happily strolled and sang, I heard another singer down the road a stretch. He was a jogger, with earphones, singing along to the tune. Suddenly, he let out a happy whoohoo in the midst of the song, and I smiled with happiness at the joy in his voice. The thought of his unabashed singing has uplifted me many times throughout the week.

I love this Bible verse: “For he (Jesus) says in the book of Psalms, ‘I will talk to my brothers about God my Father, and together we will sing his praises.’ ” Hebrews 12:2 (The Living Bible)  I like to think that when I sing songs of praise I am singing a duet with Jesus. Singing songs of Praise and Thanksgiving often ignites the presence of God within my life. It doesn’t matter if I harrumph along like a frog or trill melodious as a bird. The Lord God will inhabit the songs of his people.

I wonder how the world would change if people all around the world would stop throughout the day, lift up their voices in songs of praise, and sing a duet with Jesus.

Quick Tip – Fels-Naptha

I like Fels-Naptha soap because it works at removing stains and has been around a lot longer than me. Invented in 1893, the original soap actually contained Naptha, but it was removed due to a risk it could cause cancer. I use Fels-Naptha soap in the laundry room. In the winter, my light-colored shirts get filthy around the cuffs. Before laundering, I run the Fels-Naptha bar along the grimy edges. It works great breaking up the ground in dirt.

You can see from the condition of this very old piece of soap that I really do use it quite a bit. It lasts forever. The Frugal Navy Wife Blog has quite a few tips I hadn’t heard before. Check it out for some new uses for this versatile soap.

Plants & Photo Challenges – Bald Cypress Tree

When I saw Cee’s Pick a Topic challenge today, my front yard Bald Cypress immediately became my focus. Planted about the time my first grandson was born, it has probably been growing for about fifteen years.

The challenge, November Pick a Topic, included orange, along with other words, vintage, cast iron, etc. Orange is my choice, because it is easily accessible, blazing in the sunlight; my Bald Cypress glows russet orange.

The tree, although an evergreen, is a deciduous evergreen and loses its leaves in the Autumn. The leaves, when they fall, are like velcro and stick to whatever they touch. Small evergreens in my front garden are now wearing a garland of rust. The lawn becomes carpeted, making it fun to mow, turning the grass from orange to green again.

Whenever we drive down our road on the way home from outings, and I spy this majestic tree, I can’t help exclaiming, “What a beautiful tree.” It has grown from a six foot sprig, to a towering giant, and is now beginning to dwarf the house. Bald Cypress trees can grow to 120 feet and can live for 600 years.

In a corner of my garden a small sprig of a Bald Cypress tree is growing. Planted by way of the wind,or a foraging squirrel, it now stands about a foot. In the Spring, I will have to decide what to do with it. It needs to have plenty of space. In twenty years, it might be on its way to becoming a giant too.

This post is part of Skywatch.

Percolated/Quick Tip – Recycled Bubble Wrap and Padded Envelopes

It’s been quite awhile since I came up with a new category, or re-blogged an old, but still timely post. My new category is titled “Percolated.” In short, it means the post is still a good one, but over time I tweaked techniques, or found new uses for what I’ve blogged about. It’s all a matter of percolation.

My original post now includes extra uses I found over the years for padded envelopes I can’t bring myself to throw away.

Cut off envelope corners create a perfect piece of roundabout padding to protect the corners of picture or fine art frames you want to move or store.

Another way to use these cut off corners is on the edges of steel bed frames. Anyone who has cracked or gouged their shin on the sharp edges will appreciate this tip. A bit of double-sided tape holds the padding firmly in place.

Original Post: In the Autumn of the year, I hang this sweet welcome sign on my front door. The scarecrow and greeting are painted with acrylics on a heavy piece of slate making the piece very durable. My problem over the years is the racket the plaque makes by banging to and fro when the door is opened or shut. At some point, after years of bouncing around, I’m concerned the slate will crack and be ruined.

Bubble wrap to the rescue! Cut out cushioning strips and put them on the back of items that might be broken by movement. To safeguard the plaque, I cut a few bubble wrap envelope strips and glued them to the back with my glue gun. The whole process took about five minutes, and the strips work great. The racket is diminished and the plaque is protected.

Inspired by my success, I googled recycling bubble wrap. The Secret Yumiverse: 9 Poppin’ Uses for Bubble Wrap gave me two additional ideas. One was practical: put bubble wrap inside empty handbags/purses to help them keep their shape. The second just made me laugh: make a primitive burglar alarm by putting bubble wrap under the doormat/rugs near your front door. Funny, but hey, it just might work!

Quote – Seasons

Ralph Brownrig (1592-1659)

“Trees have their seasons at certain times of the year, when they bring forth fruit; but a Christian is for all seasons — like the tree of life, which bringeth forth fruit every month, Christ looked for fruit on the fig tree when the time of fruit was not yet. Why? Did He not know the season for fruit? or, did He do it “altogether for our sakes?” For our sakes, no doubt, He did it, to teach us that Christians must always be fruitful; the whole time of our life is the season for fruitfulness.” Ralph Brownrig

Based on Mark 11:13

Photo Challenge – Sycamores

I love the beautiful bark on Sycamore trees. Although, the actual tree Zacchaeus climbed in the Bible story was a Fig Sycamore, I am still reminded of the children’s chorus when I gaze at a sycamore tree. In our area Sycamore leaves begin drying out and falling long before other trees. We don’t find them very colorful, although I have read in other areas of the country they will exhibit a bit of gold.

The story of Zacchaeus – Luke 19:1-10

This post is part of Friday Skywatch.

Plants – Autumn Superstar – Tithonia/Mexican Sunflower

In my back garden you’ll find a towering plant near eight feet in height. I didn’t know Tithonia (Tithonia diversifolia), often called Mexican Sunflower, could grow so tall. The petals open up for me in late summer and are surprisingly velvety to touch. The seeds were part of a Wildflower Mix by Botanical Interests. The plant grows in a plot of ground once prepared as a square foot garden. The amended soil, vermiculite, mushroom soil, etc., must still have some ‘POW’ remaining; the plants within the confines grew much larger than average.

The size the plant reached in one season amazes me. Unfortunately, Tithonia is an annual and won’t survive my southern NJ winter. I saved mature/ripened seeds and will replant in Spring. The ground hasn’t frozen yet and is still soft and workable; this week, in addition to the seeds I saved, I will also scatter a few Tithonia seeds throughout my garden beds in hopes they will grow when warm weather returns. Seeds overwintered in the earth always grow best.

The flowers blossom at the end of a long stem, perfect additions to floral arrangements. The stems remain sturdy in a vase, the flowers, if picked at peak bloom, stay fresh and lovely for over a week. The stems can be cut short or tall for height.

Requirements for growing Tithonia:

*7-10 days for germination

*Sun for most of the day

*Needs at least three feet of spread room

Will I grow Tithonia again. Oh yes…I am saving many of the seeds and intend to leave the remainder for the birds to nibble through the winter. I will leave the plant in place instead of cutting away. The branches and any leaves that stay on the plant will provide shelter for the birds and also give them a chance to land and check for predators in the area around the bird feeders.

This post is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day and Friday Skywatch challenge.

Perspective and Plants – It Is Well.

My new rose garden is in a full flush of bloom. The roses thrived from the start, but the warm days of summer, and a season of good rain and fertilizer, bumped up the amount of Autumnal blooms. Also a help was the waning of the pest attacks that decimated the foliage in early Spring. My Mother loved asking about the rose garden throughout the Spring and Summer months. She frequently called me in the early morning to chat a bit and often asked about the roses.

Mom is no longer with us. You might have noticed I have not posted for months. During that time my Mother struggled with injury and failing health, and she went to heaven in early September. When she passed into the presence of Jesus, a small bouquet of my roses lay upon the tray near her bed. My sister and I were with her at the end. It was peaceful, yet so hard; we were aware by her deteriorating condition there was no coming back from the strokes she suffered in the last three days of her life.

When we left her, we took the elevator up two floors to where my Father was also a patient. Yes, both of my parents were in the hospital at the same time. The nursing staff allowed Dad to be brought down in a wheelchair to visit with Mom, and he sang to her the old beloved hymn, ‘It Is Well.’ My Dad is recovering. I am grateful for that, and we hope with some Physical Therapy he will continue to improve.

The photograph above is how I remember her in appearance when I was a little girl. I am in the middle. I believe from my size this photo was taken in the early 60’s, and I would have been between four and five years old. She was beautiful until the end of her life.

The photo was taken on my back porch this summer on the Fourth of July. We had no idea at the time it would be the last Fourth we celebrated together? My Mom is on the left, my Mother-in-law on the right. They became good friends over the years.

In the early years of this century my mother fought breast cancer twice. God healed her and gave her twenty more years to live and spend with family. During that hard time of chemotherapy and radiation she was encouraged by Jeremiah 29:11. The verse is engraved on the cross I took from her desktop and placed amid the roses. 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~Jeremiah 29:11

While I was packing up her devotional corner, near her chair, one of those faith-boosting divine mysteries occurred. The devotional she had been reading had a bookmark inside. It wasn’t at the date she would have stopped reading, instead it was on the date July 17th. I read the words, wanting to connect with the place she had marked, these words were at the top of the page. “It Is Well.” A devotion based on the the hymn my father sang to her. It is well! I know I will see her again one day.

 

Phlowers – Amaranth/Love Lies Bleeding

Amaranthus caudatus – Love Lies Bleeding, is a beautiful annual plant. Mine self seeds and comes back every year in the same spot. It is a heavy plant, bending over in summer storms when laden with flowers.

The flower heads droop down, in a deep magenta/crimson shade. Often the strands will touch the ground.

My Love Lies Bleeding grows in full sun. When the flowers reach a good length I often cut them where they join the stem, rubber band them together, and hang them in a dark closet. Harvesting and drying them is that easy…but wait…I should have put something beneath them to capture the seeds that fall out as they dry.

I have also dried the flowers in my dehydrator.

One drawback is the inevitable chewed leaves on the plant. The lush foliage is attractive to bugs, and is also a green that can be eaten by people. The leaves can be used like spinach and sauteed. The seeds are a type of grain and can be dried, cooked, and eaten like porridge. They can be ground into flour. Amaranth is gluten free.

I love this unique, old-fashioned cottage garden annual. Love Lies Bleeding is part of Cee’s Flower of the Day Challenge.

Pheathers – Osprey

Osprey Nest in Fortescue, New Jersey.

I was delighted when I bicycled past this beautiful home built alongside the Delaware Bay. I wonder if the ospreys and their chicks are noisy. I saw at least one chick, and most likely there is another inside the protective barrier of sticks. We also saw a Bald Eagle flying over the bay on the day I took the photograph.

Althought I’m a bit late, this post is part of the Skywatch Friday Challenge.