Turning the Corner

IMG_4118 Swallows

Swallows in the Mist

There are so many signs that our seasons, here in the Midwest, may be turning the corner from summer to fall. The weather has been rainy and drippy.  We have also been noticing the bird population is changing.

The hawks seem to be plentiful and braver in the fall…or maybe they are trying to prepare for the coming winter when hunting seems to become scarce. We had a bird hawk decide our bird bath was a great opportunity to get a  drink and clean up a bit.

He stayed until he noticed us peering at him through the window. It was hard to stand still and yet get a picture, while he was watching us watch him!

I am not really so happy to see the hawk on our bird bath. I have seen one like him pluck a robin right off the ground as the robin was searching for worms! I like the songbirds we have around here and they are definitely not safe when there are hawks around.

For a couple weeks now, we have not seen the robins. The Orioles no longer inhabit the grove and sing in the trees.  The cliff swallows have arrived in a large group while on their way  through, to wherever it is they migrate to for the winter. We have had large flocks of blackbirds rest in our trees on their way to their destination.

In the misty mornings, the swallows fill the electric wires behind the house. They are quiet while they sit there waiting for the sun to burn off the fog. The entire world is hushed and still in the fog and the birds seem to sense this and not want to be the first to break the silence.

I love the misty mornings. The world is small and focus is narrowed to what is essential. The quiet morning lends itself to good conversation while sitting on the porch drinking that first coffee/tea of the day. It also lends itself to just sitting there quietly listening to the dew drip from the trees and the eaves of the house.

I really wonder how many of the world’s problems could be solved if more people would sit with cup in hand, on their porch and talk things out.  Or maybe if they just sat silently enjoying what God had set before them? I have a feeling it would be a much more peaceful place.

The quietness of the fog seems to take the harsh edges off the coming day. It seems to wrap us in a blanket of peace and blessing.

May you have time in your busy week to sit and enjoy the silence of the morning and may you be blessed by the little things in life……..like a quiet foggy morning.

 

“When you arise in the morning,
think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive
– to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
 Marcus Aurelius quotes 

 “a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak”
Ecclesiastes 3:7

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Learning New Things

IMG_4143

The old saying “You can’t teach and old dog new tricks” is not necessarily true. I am fast discovering that fact. Approximately one week ago I joined (as my kids would say) the current century…..I am now the owner/user of a cell phone.

My husband and I have never had a cell phone. We relied totally on our land line and our laptop computer for people contacting us. Our children would often nag question us as to when we were going to get a cell phone so they could get hold of us when they wanted and to know where we were.

The response my husband always gave went something like this, “Well….you don’t have to know everything.” He was quite content with his landline. It did not bother him at all to be on the road and have family wonder exactly where we were. Our daughter-in-law likened us to a UPS package. We would check in when we stopped somewhere that had WiFi …….and it kind of was like tracking a package!

I knew I would be going to my kids, four hours away this past week to take care of my grand-kids, as the babysitter was not available and school had not yet started. This was going to be my first solo trip to our kids and I was pretty adamant that I would have a cell phone with me, should I run into any trouble along the way.

I also wanted the comfort of that “google map lady” telling me where to go when I got into the city. I did discover that if you don’t know how to make the “google map lady” work properly she is not much help! (It also does not help to talk back to her as she just keeps on telling you the same thing…..speaking loudly to her doesn’t help either.)

The phone was pretty handy to check in with people and I think I have the texting down pat…..sort of.  It was kind of funny how impressed people were with the fact that I had totally skipped the flip phone phase and headed right for the smartphone.

My husband informed me that I was not a “very serious cell phone person”. He was commenting on the phone case that I had purchased from Amazon. I told him I may as well have some fun with it!

My granddaughter, who is 3, amazed me this week. She was looking at the pictures on my phone and then informed me that she had taken some pictures with it….and indeed she had! I decided then and there, if I had any questions about what my phone can do…I would definitely ask a child.  They just seem to ooze technology and it’s mysteries.

I discovered this past week that one is never too old to learn something new….if you want to. I made my solitary trip to the kids and I am learning how to operate a smart phone. It is kind of fun to do the new things! If I can figure these things out, I am confident that anyone can!

I am so grateful for my kids who are always so willing to answer any question…no matter how stupid it might sound. (They will laugh to my face…at least my sons will, but they will answer the question. It is usually safer to ask my daughter-in-laws as they don’t laugh…at least not to my face.)

In the past I have not wanted to try something new for fear of failure. I still hate to fail because I hate to look stupid. I don’t know why I worry about looking stupid…… I sometimes feel I have perfected that as an art form!

Sometimes you just have to get past that fear and go for it. I have found, that in this case, the learning of something new is kind of fun. When you get past that fear of ailure and looking dumb, life gets to be a grand adventure.

May your weekend be filled with adventure the learning of new things. What is the “something new” that you are learning?

 

 

We’re scared to death to try new things
because we think we have to get it right the first time.
Joel Salatin

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You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner,
the whole world opens up to you.
Barbara Sher

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Solar Eclipse Day

I have a feeling, a strong feeling, that God knew I would have a really tough time not looking directly at the sun on this solar eclipse day.  I wonder if it is gray and overcast so that I would have no reason to look at the sun? Maybe this weather is for my own good!

Instead of standing out looking at what I shouldn’t, I have been invited into the world of a 3, going on 4 year old. I am learning so many new things. Things that I have managed to get by without knowing for 50 some plus years! (Okay…..a lot closer to 60 years…..)

I am learning all the names of the little ponies. I am also discovering what it feels like to be “schooled” by a blue-eyed, tow-headed little sprite. When playing with little ponies, I have found that you cannot just make up your own random conversation.

She has instructed me that Rarity (a sparkly maned pony) would never say “Whats up?” or “Let’s go see what is in the fridge for a snack.” Instead, I must learn to recite exactly what would be said in the show by those little ponies.

This small, sparkly child has invited me to play kitchen with her. We have made “air” pizza in her kitchen oven, tested plastic fruits and vegetables, and strategically placed a snapshot of her and her big brother, on her kitchen shelf. I had to laugh because she placed it so strategically that the salt and pepper shaker covered her brother and it looked like she was the only one in the snapshot!

We also played ice cream shop with ice cream legos. I have no idea what flavors I chose but it looked pretty.

I have tried to have a conversation with her about the act that she will be starting preschool next week. She wants nothing to do with that thought. Last month her grandpa tried to encourage her about preschool by telling her she would make lots of new friends. Her response, “I have a friend….I don’t want any more friends.” She is definitely a quality over quantity girl!

This small child, cares nothing for the fact that an amazing event is taking place outside today. It means nothing to her that it will be years and years before there is another solar eclipse like this one.

Perhaps that is okay. When you are three it is the simple things around you that matter. Maybe I should take some lessons from this little munchkin. For all of us disappointed by cloudy skies impacting our solar viewing….the lesson to learn is – life is short, go find something else to do if things don’t work out!

I have a couple more days to learn some more life lessons from my little sprite.  I have a feeling they will be wonderful, funny and memorable lessons for me.

 

“You get what you get
and you don’t pitch a fit.”
James K ~ age 6

Go M.A.D. (Make A Difference)

IMG_4099 Burning off the Haze

Your loving kindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.  Psalm 36:5

 

In a world that seems to be swirling with fighting, violence, hatred and evil; there is something calming about a quiet morning. A morning that steals in subtlety with a hazy fog and the subdued voices of the wild birds is, to me, a blessing.

After being deluged by negative news stories of events happening in our world; I was treated to the gift of one of those wonderful quiet mornings. My husband and I sat on the porch and just soaked it in.

IMG_4098 Quiet of the Morning

 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4:14

 

There is something elemental…something so basic about a quiet morning filled with fog. There is a hush over the land as the vapor swirls, while the sunlight is trying to break through and burn it off.  It softens the edges of the world and has a beauty that is hard to put into words.

We are rather like the vapor that is only here for a bit. In the scheme of things our lives are just a tiny dot on the timeline of life. It is humbling to remember that….we are not as much as we think we are!

It is also good to remember that while we are here, we do get to make an impact…..for better or worse. Just like the fog nourishing the crop with the dew it sends, we can affect those around us. We cannot reach everyone and encourage them…but we can encourage the person next to us. We can reach out with love, compassion and joy. We can help someone else be renewed.

IMG_4097 Hazy Morning Over the Fields

Your vigor will be renewed each day like the morning dew.   Psalm 110:3

 

Like the fog, we can be subtle. We don’t need to be flashy, glaring or loud in our efforts to make this world a little better place. Sometimes quiet things like smiles, hugs, and candy go a long ways.

And now you are wondering, where in the world is that Chicken Grandma heading with candy?????  Let me take you there….

In our church there is an older gentleman who keeps candy in his pockets.  Anytime a kid wanders close enough they are slipped a treat.  (after a questioning look at their moms and dads, of course!) When my sons were young they were always on the lookout for this man, also known to them as, Uncle Howard.

There is no fuss about handing out the candy…..no big showy splash. Just a quiet nudge and an outstretched hand with the treat waiting. To the kids in our church those treats show love.  It shows the effort of someone, to make a little difference in their day.

When my youngest son was in the lower grades in elementary school, they had “Come As a Famous Person Day.”  On our way home from school he was grouching that he didn’t even know what a famous person was!  I explained that a famous person was someone that everyone knew. His face lit up and he declared, “I want to be Uncle Howard! Everyone knows Uncle Howard!”

He did, indeed, go as Uncle Howard. He dressed exactly like him, down to the tire tester in his pocket. He handed out candy all day long….. just like Uncle Howard. I wonder if Uncle Howard really knows what an impact he has made on all those kids during the years….and all it took was a smile and some tootsie rolls.

Many times it is the little things that make a difference. They are the things that get remembered because they do make a difference. We may only be as temporary on this earth as fog, but we do have a choice in how that temporary space of time is spent.

Perhaps this coming week we can be the person that makes a difference. We can impact just one person, young or old, and show them that they matter.  My sister has a saying on her wall, that you cannot miss, when you walk out her door:  Go M.A.D. ~Make A Difference.

Let’s be the person that goes M.A.D. this week. Let’s hand out some smiles and some tootsie rolls. Let’s show the world that good and grace wins every time and that love outshines evil and hatred. We may only be a vapor…but  let’s water those around us with gentle moisture while we’re here. May you be blessed as you Make A Difference!

 

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

 

“I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

― Edward Everett Hale

Good Impulse Buys

IMG_4090 Peaches

A Taste of Summer

I have to admit…..I can be an impulse buyer. The stuff the stores put on the end caps of their aisles draws my eye and sometimes causes me to open my pocketbook and dig a little deeper so that I can purchase it.

Last week I made a quick stop in our local grocery store and discovered they had lugs of fresh peaches standing there…..right where I could not miss them. I love peaches. I love fresh peaches, frozen peaches, peach pie, peaches on ice cream, peaches in smoothies…..peaches.

I found myself walking out of the store with a box of peaches. Of course.  I knew when I saw those peaches that at least one box would be going home with me. (I must also confess I picked up another box a few days later!)

From that first box of peaches I ended up with 19 pints of canned peach halves. I would have ended up with more, but we just could not resist having some fresh, sugared peaches over vanilla ice cream.

IMG_4083 Canned Peaches

Stocking the Shelves for Winter

When I was done filling my jars with peach halves; I was left with a bowl of peach pits and peels. I remembered that last year I had attempted peach pit jam and it turned out beautifully…..it also tasted great on toast or ice cream.

I decided I would give it a try again. I could not find the recipe I had used last year but I found another one that seemed comparable. (If I would organize…maybe I would have my recipes when I needed them!) I did tweak it because I wanted to water bath can it, as I do not have enough room in my freezer to store jelly. Here is the link if you want to follow the freezer jelly directions: that Susan Williams

For those of you concerned about cyanide with peach pits, I have been assured that it is so minimal that it would not matter. (I do not use the cracked pits as they say the cyanide traces are in the seed inside.) I also washed my peaches prior to canning with Young Living Thieves Fruit and Veggie Soak as I did not purchase organic peaches and I really didn’t want all the stuff they spray fruit with, to end up in my jelly.

Here is the adjusted recipe that I used:

Peach Pit Jelly

Yields approximately 8 jelly jars

Ingredients:
Peach pits and peels from a lug of peaches
water to cover peels and pits
1 box + 1 Tablespoon Sure Jell low sugar recipe pectin (the pink box)
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Instruction:
Peel and slice peaches, reserving pits and peels in a pan.
Cover peels and pits with enough water to just cover and bring to a boil.
Let them steep, covered, for 8 hours or overnight.
Drain liquid through cheesecloth or flour sack towel.
Measure out 4 cups of liquid and pour into large pot. (it may boil over)
Bring peach liquid to a boil and stir in the pectin.
Whisk and boil for approximately 3 minutes to dissolve any lumps of pectin.
Add 4 cups sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice.
Boil jelly till it comes to a temperature of 220º.
(I boiled for 4 minutes- stir constantly)

Pour into jelly jars, put on lids and rings and
process in water bath for 10-15 minutes.
(Can also be frozen instead of canning.)

I have also been told that if your jelly fails to set; you can open your jars, bring to a boil again and add another Tablespoon of pectin per each quart of liquid you have. Once you boil that for 3 minutes, again put in jars, (with new lids) and reseal.

IMG_4089 Peach Jelly

Summer in a Jar

I have not opened a jar yet so I cannot say how it tastes…but it smelled wonderful as I was stirring that potful of jelly! I may have to crack open a jar tomorrow just to check the flavor.  I will let you know how it turned out when I open one of those jars.

It is always fun to can the produce but it is also fun to start using those jars. It is a win win no matter which way you look at it.

And now I am wondering….what is your favorite thing to can or freeze? Do you like doing fruit best or vegetables? Do you have a favorite recipe to share….because if you do..please feel free to leave it in the comments so we can all give it a try!

 

An apple is an excellent thing —
until you have tried a peach.

Mountaintops and Valleys

I was reminded today, reading blog posts,  that not everyone is celebrating something fun, exciting and wonderful. Some are grieving and remembering a last year that has been filled with pain and sadness. My heart goes out to those living in the valley.

I am not sure what I can do to help. Sometimes there are no words to share…..nothing one can do to ease the hurt. I think at those times a hug, an acknowledgement that we don’t have the answers, and a big sigh might be all we can offer….and it will be enough.

The song that I posted above is one of my all time favorites. The first time I heard it was at a Christian Women’s Retreat at Inspiration Hills. It stuck in my head and took root in my heart.

The words are amazing and provide a wonderful sense of hope. They give strength to get through the tough times because of the hope of what is to come. There is great hope in the promise of eternal life.

The story behind this song is as follows:

“I lost one of my best friends over the weekend, to cancer.  Pastor Mark Steele was a man who absolutely poured his life into loving God and shepherding people.  We will miss him beyond words.  Corinne’s and my heart are with his family and his church.  I’m posting this lyric from a song I wrote years ago, as a tribute to Mark, as he moves from life to Life, and as a reminder to all of us of the hope we can hold.” ~ Greg Ferguson (author of this song)

 

what a day it will be


what a day it’s gonna be
when as last your captive heart beats free
and all that is within you sings
in heaven’s own harmony
sweet release from all your darkest fears
the sound of laughter that’s been lost for years
you’ll never cry another lonely tear
as your sad heart finally
finally sings

hallelujah
what a day it will be

all those angels that you’ve never seen
watching over you behind the scenes
will at last have reached their goal
presenting you restored and whole
just watch the Father laugh and smile
lifting up His joyful child
and hear the host of heaven sing
in a sweet and soulful angel choir singing

hallelujah

what a day it will be
 
hallelujah
what a day it will be

even now in the in between
we could write it off as an impossible dream
but it’s more than a dream to me
’cause even now i can see
enough to believe

So for those of you who are finding life to be a tough place to be. May you be comforted by the lyrics. May you feel the grace of the Father as He places His arms around you and may there be friends and family who will be Jesus “with skin on” to you” this weekend.

For those of us who have been celebrating. May we open our eyes to those around us. May we open our arms to those who need that hug and may we be a blessing to someone who needs to feel blessed.

Your life is made up of two dates and a dash.
Make the most of the dash.
Unknown

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Baby Celebrations

IMG_4031 Opening Gifts

Sometimes things in life do not go quite as planned. We had this experience this past Sunday. We had planned for a beautiful sunny day to hold a Baby Celebration for my son and daughter-in-law and our soon to come grandson. What we got was a day that started out drizzly.

We had planned to set up tables and chairs outside and have everything ready to go by 11:00, so we could get started on the grilling of burgers and hot dogs.  What we got was drizzling till about 10:45, waiting till 11:00 to make sure it really was done dripping all over, and then scrambling to get things set up outdoors so we would be ready for the guests. We had planned to have this be a casual event; and it was a casual event so that went according to plan!

Lots of prayers were sent up, on my part, for there to be a couple hour break in the drippiness.  (I struggled with that prayer as we really need the rain in this area.) We did get a break and it was long enough to fit in everything we needed to.

The day, while not warm and sunny, was a wonderful day of celebration. Lots of laughter, joking, playing games (Corn Hole and Badminton) and opening gifts. It was a wonderful day to celebrate life, family, friends, and the celebration of a new life on the way.

 

There was plenty of food for everyone….(though the frozen fruit cup was a little bit chilly for the day). Grilled burgers and hot dogs, salads and a S’more table, more than made up for the slightly damp atmosphere.

 

We decided that we would still have our homemade root beer and floats. (It was National Root Beer Float Day on Sunday so we needed those floats!) They were great with the S’mores and no one seemed to mind having a chilly dessert.

 

I had bought the duck a few years back at a garage sale. At the time I purchased it I thought it was a floaty for a pool. I found out later it was a blow up baby bathtub! I am really glad I found a great use for it at the party. It made a great root beer and water bottle holder. (I must thank the mom-to-be for taking pictures of the set up…..I had totally forgotten!)

There was lots of mingling and catching up with family and friends during the afternoon. It was a time to retell old family stories and make new ones. I may be the mom of sons…but I am blessed by the women they have brought into our family! They were the drive behind the planning, food and decorations.

We did have a really good laugh when my daughter-in-law shared that my grandson had been quizzing them on their way here about what happens at a baby shower. He was firmly convinced that this was the day the baby would arrive and we were all going to be together to witness the birth and have a huge celebration! He wanted to know all the whens, whys, and whats on how that was going to happen. I am not sure what they actually told him…but it still makes me grin.

In the end….the day was perfect in it’s weather imperfection. It was a celebration that did not hinge on circumstances like foggy damp rain. It did not hinge on “if everything went according to plan”. In the end…the day did go as planned….people had fun, we celebrated and we enjoyed being together.

It was a day that celebrated family, life, new beginnings and love.  It was a day that celebrated blessings and what they really are. When it all comes down to it I guess that is what really matters…..and it was good.

 

The best times are always found
when friends and family gather round.
Unknown

If you so choose,
even the unexpected setbacks can bring new and positive possibilities.
If you so choose,
you can find value and fulfillment in every circumstance.
Ralph Marston

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