Praise – Gratitude

“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.”     ~ A. W. Tozer


In the winter, I’m grateful for the barrenness of the tree branches, for they give me wonderful views of the neighborhood birds. Even a humble grackle is a glorious representative of feathered beauty as he suns himself in the sunshine of a January morning.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” —Robert Brault


A nuthatch having breakfast on a pine cone thrills me, and my heart is filled with gratitude as I witness God’s providence for the birds of the air. God bless you on this Sabbath Day

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” —Robert Brault

This post is part of this week’s Skywatch.

Planting – Winter Sowing in Photographs

Imagine growing hundreds of seedlings for your garden without the need to tend them indoors. It’s almost like magic! Winter Sowing is the answer to hands-off seedling success. I’m illustrating my steps to winter sowing with step by step photos. You can find amazing articles throughout the web and videos on Youtube if you need more information. I noticed there is even a Facebook group for Winter Sowing now. Today, I sowed and put my first container outdoors for the 2019 growing season. I planted beets from a dollar store packet that only cost 25 cents. I thickly sowed the seeds to take advantage of both greens and beets. Today in the supermarket one large beet was considered a bunch and was selling for $3.49. Outrageous! Winter Sowing is the brainchild of Trudi Davidoff. Detailed information and links on beginning winter sowing can be found here: Winter Sown

I’ve saved milk cartons in the basement for months.

Begin by inserting a paring knife into the carton 3-4 inches from the bottom, near the handle.

After I make a small slit with the paring knife I cut around the bottom with scissors.

Stop before you cut all the way through, leaving a bit of carton near the handle to join the top and bottom. This makes taping the carton shut easier.

I place the bottom of the carton in my kitchen sink over the drain. I push my paring knife through the carton bottom in four spaced out spots.

I insert the scissors in the slits and twist. This creates four large drainage holes. In the past I used a hot screw driver to make holes, but this process is easier and you don’t inhale toxic fumes from the melting plastic.

I fill the bottom of the carton with 1 1/2 inches of sterile organic potting soil. On top of the potting soil I add an equal amount of organic seed starter soil.

I water this until it is soaked and then let it fully drain.

I sow my seeds and cover with a thin layer of seed starter. If I keep the top layer very thin it will usually wick up water from the layer of seed starter soil beneath it.

I label the top with permanent marker. I have to keep a close eye on the labeling. The letters will fade in just weeks. It’s vital to reapply the marker when the letters lighten or I’ll be guessing as to which seedling is what. Tape the edges together with duct tape and place outside in a sunny spot. The wet soil in the carton bottom has always kept my cartons grounded, even in windy winter weather. I will remove the cap later today or the seeds might become too hot in warmer weather. I usually don’t quit my winter sowing madness until every spare milk carton is filled. You can find lists of which plants do best started this way on the Winter Sowing site. Happy Gardening!

Phriday Pheathers – Over-wintering

White Egret in Salt Marsh – Fortescue, New Jersey

I read a post today written by Be Creative Mary that spoke of the salty smell of East Coast seashores. My state’s coast, including the Delaware Bay, also has a distinctive fragrance of salt marsh. Even though we are in the throes of cold wintry weather, the first day of the year was filled with amazing birds over-wintering in the salt marshes of the Bay near Fortescue.

The swans were busy grooming, but one lifted its head long enough for me to capture their graceful beauty.

The sparrows, sheltering in bushes near the beach houses, were a cheerful sight to begin the year of 2019. The scrubby brush provided wintry hospitality for the small birds. I felt a sense of gratitude to see and hear the sweet chirping of this small flock.

I am hoping, that although most of the birds seem to be common house sparrows, perhaps there are a few that are a member of the endangered Salt Marsh Sparrow and the species will experience a recovery of numbers in the coming years.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday and Friday Foto Friends.

Quick Tip – Small Spatula

“It’s largely accepted that the original version of the familiar smiley face was first created 50 years ago in Worcester, Massachusetts by the late Harvey Ross Ball, an American graphic artist and ad man.” ~ Smithsonian Magazine

I’ve always loved smiley faces, they remind me of cartoon characters. Created in 1963, they’ve been around for most of my lifetime. The current emojis, especially the smiling face, have always reminded me of the smiley faces of my childhood.

FYI – “The first emoji was created in 1999 in Japan by Shigetaka Kurita.” ~Wikipedia

I baked almost all of my Christmas cookies for gift-giving over the weekend. It was rainy and dreary, a perfect day to hibernate indoors. I had all the ingredients on hand, and best of all, while shopping the outlet mall for gifts and stocking stuffers, I found the perfect spatula for removing the cookies from the baking sheet. My generation would probably say this spatula was based on a smiley face, a large percentage, if not all, of the younger generation would say it resembles an emoji.

The edge of the small spatula is angled, easily slipping beneath the warm cookies. I’ve had many cookies destroyed by overly large, blunt-edged spatulas. The smaller size of this smiley face spatula keeps its edges from ruining adjacent cookies when you scoop the cookie off the pan.

If you like the look of the Neapolitan cookies you can find a good recipe here:

Taste of Home Neapolitan Cookies.

I make these every year and change up the recipe a bit, leaving out the nuts and the almond extract. We have a grandchild with a tree nut allergy. The Neapolitans are amazing made without the nuts and flavoring…always a favorite.

Perspective – Angels We Have Heard & 100 Years Time

Time To Create – Timesquare Challenge

Did you know a fireplace hearth is a convenient place to produce art masterpieces? My grand-children do, and they use this area quite often for their creations. The youngest grand-daughter is diligent, and doesn’t quit until every inch of paper is covered in color. The girls especially love markers and crayons, and make magic with Princess Pink and Electric Blues.

I feel a sense of gratitude to their parents, school teachers and Sunday School teachers for instilling in them a love for art and singing. While they visited yesterday we danced to Rockin’ Robin, a fifties tune that is cheerful and sweet. The song was part of last year’s school program and the girls still love it. We also sang along to YouTube videos of Angels We Have Heard on High, their favorite song from last Sunday night’s Children’s Christmas Program. I will never forget the sight and sound of those sweet girls exuberantly singing ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo.’ I told them when I was a little girl I also loved singing Angels We Have Heard on High and we spent some time singing Christmas Carols available on Youtube.

Before we finished with our singing I played them an old Chuck Wagon Gang song. What a precious moment I had when I told them that when I was a little girl I would listen to these songs when I visited my grandmother, their great-great grandparent. It was near fifty years ago that I sang along to this group when my grandmother played the album on her stereo. It suddenly dawned on me as strains filled the room of a guitar strumming a quick overture to Echoes From the Burning Bush, that perhaps this would be a century long memory, and one day my grand-daughters will play this song and say to their own grandchildren, “When I was a little girl…” and I’m reminded again of how the Good News of Christ the Savior is best passed down from generation to generation through the centuries of time, and I ask you, are you spreading the Good News and the true reason for this season?

Photo Challenges – Copper Snow & Candelabra Trees

We had a small snowstorm this week. It took me by surprise; I hadn’t heard the forecast and didn’t know snow was on the way.

“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”

                                  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Can a snowstorm be perfect? This one was near perfection, quick, never accumulating on roads or sidewalks, in and out of the area in a hurry, leaving behind a beautiful dusting of white to reflect the waning sunlight.

The winter sun gleamed so brightly in the sky it almost seemed as if it had become a supernova for a moment, illuminating the frozen landscape with a burst of copper.

I looked up the street towards my friend‘s house; she would soon be one of the drivers heading home from work. Maybe she had already made plans to open the curtains, heat up a hot drink, and enjoy the beauty outside her window. The tree in her backyard blazed so bright in the sun it resembled a lit candelabra.

In my backyard, the sun continued to set, leaving behind a pure lavender and gold sky…utterly breathtaking! Winter does have its delights after all.

“Silently, like thoughts that come and go, the snowflakes fall each one a gem

                                          ~William Hamilton Gibson

Places & Pheathers – Town, Country & The Pied Pipers of Raptor

Small Business Saturday has arrived, and we supported the cause by window-shopping in one of the small towns near us, Pitman, New Jersey. I like the reflection of the Broadway Theater in the door.

It’s fun to check out how the small businesses decorate their windows to draw shoppers inside.

We went from town to a small woods and field behind our home. As we walked, a large bird swooped in front of us, almost as if it was showing off a bit, and flew to a tree on the edge of the field. What excitement filled us to see not just one very large hawk, but two. I zoomed in with my camera and after downloading was able to make out their markings. I believe they are a pair of red-tailed hawks, although one appears to be much older than the other. Not only did we see them, they were very aware of us and split up, one flying into the horizon beyond the woods and one towards the homes nearby.

I followed the hawk that flew to the trees near our neighborhood as if it was the Pied Piper of Hamelin, or as my imagination deemed it while I played catch up with it on foot: The Pied Piper of Raptor. I never did get close enough to get a photograph without using the zoom on my lens. Smart birds! What a perfect Saturday we’ve had, a little bit of town, a little bit of country.

This post is part of Skywatch.

Phavorites – The Nativity Story/Christmas Movie Listings Online Guide

I often reblog my favorite tips for seasonal projects or recipes. Every year I also repeat my recommendation of The Nativity Story as a reminder of the events that led up to Jesus’ birth.

My heart is always filled with gratitude as I watch this realistic depiction of God’s perfect plan to bring salvation, through his Son Jesus Christ, to all mankind.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with holiday shopping and activities. For those of us who find it relaxing to pull up a seat for an hour or two of seasonal entertainment, here’s a terrific movie channel and schedule available through Countdown Until Christmas/Christmas Movie Database. The Journal Sentinel also has a day by day movie schedule that is worth a look. Take a look at this amazing collection of Christmas and holiday movies and their air times. There is also a search box on the site with an amazing database of movies.

Quote & Photograph – The Heart of November

“November is usually such a disagreeable month as if the year had suddenly found out she was growing old and could do nothing but weep and fret over it.” ~ Anne Shirley (L.M . Montgomery)

I love the heart of Anne Shirley in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables novels. There are so many wise quotes and life lessons in the books. I’ve read the stories many times over and love to rewatch Megan Follows as Anne Shirley in the 1980’s series, Anne of Green Gables.

November is full of change; the glorious jewel-like colors of Autumn leaves have vanished and left behind the rough textures of grasses burnished to golden hues by the frost. The cooler weather has cleared out the dense undergrowth in our forests, giving us the opportunity to indulge in a short hike this past weekend.

We’ve always wanted to see this beautiful pond up close, but it would be lunacy to try and forge through the massive amounts of undergrowth in summer. In November, when bare branches rule the day, it was finally possible to clamber over the strands of thorny, but leafless brambles to get our first look at this small pond near Belleplain State Forest.

Project – Comminatory Weather and The Big Save

Comminatory is the challenge word today for ‘Your Daily Word Prompt.’ I enjoy expanding my vocabulary, and this was a new word for me: comminatory-threatening, punitive, or vengeful. We have certainly had a change to comminatory weather here in southern New Jersey. Frost, frozen bird baths, ice-sheathed grass blades, are what we wake to in the early morning hours. Today I noticed every garden flower that was lingering is now brown and drooping lifelessly.

I knew a freeze was coming, and took a bit of time on Saturday to walk around the yard and take a few photos of the last flowers of Autumn. I noticed the dill was still green and on closer inspection was astonished to see two black swallowtail caterpillars on its foliage. Since I had good luck a year ago raising caterpillars on dill plants on the porch I decided I should try and save these poor critters from the hard freeze. Unfortunately, my ambitions were forgotten until the evening hours. Resolved not to be put off by my forgetfulness, I went out in the dark and found one caterpillar, the other eluded me.

I placed him in a vase and covered the opening with a knee-high stocking. These make great barriers and are easy to slip over the top of a jar or vase. The soft nylon will not harm the insect.

The caterpillar became lively overnight and the next day my grandsons helped me create a habitat for him. We dug up any dill plants still growing, a parsley plant, and added branching sticks for him to form a chrysalis upon. I know from past experience, while eating and growing, the caterpillar will not leave the food source. When he’s ready to form a chrysalis he might wander, but its fairly easy to find him if he is contained in one area.

We decided it was worth a second look in the garden for the second caterpillar, and after a little searching found him motionless in the garden soil. My grandson said he thought he saw him twitch a bit so we carefully brushed him into a small container and took him indoors. Within an hour or two the caterpillar that appeared lifeless began to move and this morning had joined the other on the dill.

Black swallowtails in their chrysalis have no problem overwintering. A small caterpillar, caught in a hard freeze, isn’t likely to survive to form a chrysalis without a food source. Updates will follow on our winter visitors.

Perspective – Restorative Power!

Saint Francis Xavier Church was founded by Father Thomas Mansell, S.J. in 1704. It is one of the earliest Catholic establishments in the English Colonies and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

History of St. Francis Xavier Shrine (Old Bohemia) Years ago, before the age of digital cameras, my husband and I drove around Cecil County, Maryland. We came upon a beautiful church unawares. I was struck by its beauty and took a snapshot with my camera. The photo above is a digital copy of the beautiful moment I captured.

The Old Bohemia Church was built in 1792. The church was established in 1704 to battle the repression of Catholicism in the English Colonies. In 1953, a group formed to renovate and restore the building. To me, the coming together of three such separate denominations is a testament of what Christianity should represent.

In 1953, the Old Bohemia Historical Society was formed by a Catholic, a Quaker and a Methodist who purchased the property’s core 120 acres with the goal to restore and maintain the historic site. Since that time, members have worked to bring the property back to its original state.

The month of October for me was a month without church. Between vacation and a dental surgery I missed every Sunday at my place of worship. This past weekend I was once again worshipping with the members in our church. When we entered we were greeted with the sight of almost every seat taken in the sanctuary. Hallelujah, what a blessed sight. We made our way to the balcony where there was still room, and I said to my husband, ‘It’s a full house today.’ When I left I felt uplifted and full of joy…I had been where I belonged on Sunday morning…in God’s house.

Yesterday I visited the blog ‘Tales From the Mama Duck.’ She perfectly put into words exactly how I felt on Sunday about the restorative power of church attendance. Here’s a quote and a link to her amazing post. ‘I Didn’t Want to Leave Church on Sunday.’

“Church is not a social gathering for me. Sure, it provides fellowship, but more intimate relationships are experienced in small groups. Church service is restorative. After six days in the world, I need a reprieve from the depravity, the images, the diseases, disappointments, and this Babylonian culture.” ~ Tales From Mama Duck

“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” ~ Psalm 23:3