Let us put by some hour of every day for holy things...

Think on th' eternal home,
The Saviour left for you;
Think on the Lord most holy, come
To dwell with hearts untrue:
So shall ye tread untired His pastoral ways,
And in the darkness sing your carol of high praise.

--from Keble's The Christian Year, Thoughts in Verse

Monday, March 6, 2017

My Personal Monster Quest

As most of you who have followed this lame excuse for a blog for any amount of time already know, usually I'm making poodles. Or terriers. Or something in the domestic friendly line.


But with the long winter days and resultant cabin fever, I've gone off on a different tangent. I've gone "squatchy". Or "sasquatchy". Or "bigfooty". Or "yeti-y". Or stark raving mad. You may take your choice. 

Actually, I've been squatchy for decades, but I've just recently got brave enough to mingle in the vast Bigfoot-believer subculture. Here I am hanging out with my sons at my first ever Sasquatch convention. (My middle son is behind the camera; my youngest is the one hamming it up, of course.) As for the big guy behind us, well... And I've joined a couple of discussion groups on facebook to compare notes and share photographs. It's a lot of fun! And nice to have people to talk to about one's experiences who don't treat you like you've totally gone off your nut because you know you saw what you saw, or heard what you heard.

One of these days I'll maybe share some of my family's experiences here, but in the meantime, I wanted to share with you how this "coming out of the closet" has affected my creative output.

Here are a couple of views of my  prototype bigfoot, which I made and sold a few months ago, mixing together a couple of types of leftover yarn I had on hand to get a furry effect.

Apparently this first cryptid was a swamp ape, because he took off for Florida shortly after I listed him.

And here are the latest, new-and-improved sasquatches. I was fortunate enough to stumble across some specialty yarns--usually very expensive--at the local Goodwill. I almost didn't spring for the bag full of novelty yarn, but now I'm glad I did! You never know what will inspire you. Even these are still somewhat experimental--I'm working on getting the coned heads just right, among other things.





Over the weekend, I was attempting to watch television with my husband but was getting restless, not having a project to work on at the same time. Gotta keep those hands busy! I really didn't feel like making another bathroom cozy, so thought I'd fiddle around with a simple toy instead. Rather to my surprise, it turned out rather well. And here he is, my very sweet little yeti!

He's so soft and floppy! I'm quite enamored of him and tempted to keep him, but I'll get him listed in the shop tonight or tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Forget the Romance--Gimme a School Party!

Elementary school Valentine's Day party, 1950's

There are a lot of holidays that go by pretty much ignored in my household, or at least, ignored now that the kids have grown up. Valentine's Day is one of those. I couldn't care less about cheesy sentiment or an obligatory gift of cellophane wrapped roses. Chocolates, of course, are always welcome, but then that goes without saying. Any day of the year, I welcome chocolate.

But growing up as a Baby Boomer, I do hold fond memories of the annual school Valentine's Day party. With what anticipation we kids awaited it--a lovely treat that brightened up the tail end of winter, and promised us, as well, a shortened day of schoolwork as lessons ended early for the festivities. 

I don't know what kids do now for school holidays. I think they're rather tepid affairs compared with the fun we had--after all, we all those lovely unsafe games and toys to enjoy, and refreshments were homemade because no one gave a rip about the possibilities of food poisoning or worried about eating gluten-free. It was a big deal to be designated to bring cupcakes or cookies from home for the party. There was no pre-packaged anything and not a nutritionist in sight!

Best of all was the unveiling of the Valentine boxes, carefully decorated and brought from home on the day of the party, and the ensuing contest for winners. Most beautiful box, most creative box, etc. I don't remember ever winning one of these honors, but it was fun to try every year. 

Most of us made our "mailboxes", using shoe boxes, construction paper, and glitter. A few kids had help from artsy moms and they had fancier boxes, but for the most part they were pretty simple affairs, made with fumbling fingers, pots of paste or bottles of mucillage, and great enthusiasm.

The valentines shared were the standard cheap kids' cards with bright graphics and lots of hokey puns, like these:

Notice we weren't politically correct in those days, nor socially sensitive. Ah, well.

Fifth grade was the last of the parties I remember. That year I decided to forego the standard printed cards and had my mom buy me a package of heart-shaped paper doilies and a pen with red ink, Then I copied out silly verses from a magazine article I had--was it Calling All Girls, maybe? Not sure. I've forgotten all of the rhymes but one, which I gave to a red-haired boy named Carl on whom I had a mild crush:

The man of my dreams 
is handsome and strong
But I'll stick with you
'til he comes along.

I doubt if Carl was impressed with my efforts, but my teacher, Mrs. Fisher, certainly was.

Anyway, I loved Valentine's Day as a kid. And when I homeschooled my own four kids, one of the few things I felt sad about their missing out on was the fun of the school Valentine's Day party. So every year I set out to make up for the deficiency.

The unexpected thing was, my kids couldn't have cared less. Don't get me wrong--they liked receiving the annual treat of a little heart-shaped box of cheap chocolates. They are, after all, chips off the old block in that respect.

But crafting pretty cardboard Valentine mailboxes or fashioning their own cards for members of the family or friends was something that interested them not an iota. They humored me somewhat but it was clear that I was the one who was jazzed about the activity; for them it was just some pointless art project they endured for my sake.

The most famous example of that indifference has remained a family joke to this day. I was trying to encourage the kids to come up with their own sentiments to write on their homemade cards. Nobody was particularly enthused. I don't think they could see the point. But I urged them, suggesting ideas and finally by reciting the old time-worn example, 

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you.

Then I left them to it.

A half hour later I went to examine the results. I think I finally knew it was a lost cause when I read my oldest son's card to his sister. In all seriousness, he had written:

Meat is red
And I like you.

Well, I guess it could have been worse!

Here are some other vintage Valentine "fails" I thought you might enjoy.

This one obviously slipped past the censors.

Definitely the kind of card that would have you phoning the cops to report a potential death threat nowadays.

Something the Texas chain saw murderer might have sent in his youthful ardor.

Apparently nothing says "I love  you" like finding a corpse in your freezer.

Uh.....  Never mind.

I said, "Never mind!"

A sinister-looking clown. Now THAT'S gonna win her!

What planet is this ad from?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I'm Iced In and Have Cabin Fever, So Beware

Snow, icy roads, and freezing temperatures have kept me pretty-well housebound since just after Christmas, and my sanity is even more frayed than usual. Looking at the weather across the nation, I surmise I may have abundant, similarly crazed company, and so I offer this brief distraction for the winter blues.

In the late 1970's, a pastor's wife shared this little gem with me and had me laughing so hard I could hardly breathe. I didn't know the source of the story and for years--nay, decades--searched for it in vain. Thanks to the internet, I've found this ridiculous tale again and, in slightly edited form, I present it here for your entertainment.

January can be such a dismal month. I recommend you read this little story aloud to a group of people and liven up everyone's spirits. Be sure to keep a serious expression and deliver this in as dry and mirthless a tone as possible.

The Wayside Chapel

Many years ago, an English gentlewoman, while traveling in Switzerland, looked at several rooms in a large boarding house with a view to renting future accommodations. She told the landlord that she would let him know about renting one of the rooms later, when her plans were more fixed. 

However, after she returned to her home in England, the thought occurred to her  that she had not noticed nor asked about the toilet, or "water closet", facilities. She thought it prudent to inquire about this important detail before making the reservation, so she immediately penned a note to the landlord to ascertain details. Being of a modest and bashful disposition, she could not bring herself to write out the words "water closet" in her letter, but used the common British terminology, "W.C.".

The Swiss landlord, who was far from being an expert in English nomenclature, did not know what the initials "W.C." meant, so he asked the parish priest, who was more knowledgeable than he, and together they decided that it must mean "Wayside Chapel."

Subsequently, the landlord sent this reply to the (doubtlessly) startled woman.

Dear Madam,

I take great pleasure in informing you that the W. C. is located seven miles from the house in the center of a beautiful grove of trees. It is capable of holding 229 people and is open on Sunday and Thursday only. I recommend that you arrive early, although there is plenty of standing room. (This is an unfortunate situation, I admit, especially if you are in the habit of going regularly.)

You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good number bring their lunch and make a day of it, while others who can afford it go by car and arrive just in time. I would especially suggest that your ladyship go on Thursday when there is social music. Acoustically, the place is excellent.

It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the W. C., and it was there that she first met her husband. A great throng attended the occasion, and I remember the rush there was for seats.

The newest attraction is a charming little bell donated by a wealthy resident of the district. It rings joyously every time a person enters, its tinkling adding much to the friendly, informal aspect of the services. A bazaar is to be held to provide plush seats for all, since the people think it is a long-felt need. 

My wife is rather delicate and does not go regularly. Naturally, it pains her very much not to attend more often. 

If you wish, I shall be glad to reserve the best seat for you where you will be seen by all.

Hoping I have been of service to you, I remain,


Mr. -----, Landlord

(Adapted from the version found at MyCleanHumor.com.)

And I thought the weather here was crummy.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

As We Move Forward to 2017

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and to-day, yea and for ever.
Hebrews xiii.8.

We leave many things behind us as we go on. We can never go back again over the closing year. We never go over any life-path a second time. We never pass a second time through any experience.
We have infancy once, childhood once, youth once, manhood and womanhood once, old age once, and we die once. We are forever leaving things, places, conditions, and experiences behind us. But through all these we have the same Christ, unchanged, unchanging.

The old ark was carried forward into the new land of promise, and still led the people. The Christ of childhood and of youth remains the Christ of manhood and of old age. Whatever changes the years bring to us, we just ever keep our eyes on the living Christ. He will always be all we need. There will never be a path which he cannot find for us and show us. There will never be a dark valley which he cannot light up for us. There will never be a battle which he cannot fight for us. There will never be an experience through which he cannot safely take us. We are leaving the old year behind, but we are not leaving Christ in the dead year. We need not be afraid, therefore, to go forward, if we go with him. We have not passed this new way heretofore, and it is all strange to our inexperience; but Christ knows and he will guide us, and all will be well if we put our hand in his.

                                                             --J. R. Miller, D. D., 1895

Thursday, December 22, 2016

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas!

This morning I turned on the radio and was happily surprised to find that my favorite classical music station had begun a 4-day musical celebration of Christmas and holiday-related music*, with the promise of the annual broadcast of King's College Choir's Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at 7 a.m. December 24 PST. Suddenly the busy-ness of the past several weeks seemed to roll off my back and I got that happy surge of realization that Christmas time is here! This was aided, no doubt, by the news that the package I shipped to my daughter and son-in-law has finally reached its destination and didn't get lost or damaged in transit, as I was beginning to fear from its long delay in delivery. But whatever the reason, I've been happy all day, and the remaining tasks of holiday preparation loom, not as obligatory toil to endure, but as a blithe prospect of purposeful activity. Will I get bummed out before the celebrations are over? Sure, probably, at some point, but that's something I've learned to expect and live with over the years. I take my fun when and where I can, and if I don't "feel" Christmasy, I treat myself to a good book and go off by myself until I regain my perspective. But meanwhile, I'm enjoying the anticipation of coming festivities. 

But first things first! I promised I would show you how to arrange a Christmas Eve treasure hunt.

My sisters and brother and I made treasure hunts for one another frequently when we were kids. We didn't have any decent prizes--it was the hunt that mattered--but I turned my the old childhood game to good account by turning it into a Christmas Eve tradition maintained until the kids grew up, and no doubt they're passing it along to their children as well, because it was jolly fun!

All you need is a prize of some sort (my kids grooved on I Spy! books, for instance. A good family game is another idea, or new pajamas...) . Cut yourself lots of little squares of paper, and grab a pencil.

Step 1: Make up scads of clues. At least a dozen, but please don't be skimpy! The more the merrier. To do this, I recommend you wander through your house with pencil and paper in hand while the kids are outside, or at least are busy with something and not paying attention to what you are doing.

Let me show you what I mean.

Say I'm moseying along in the kitchen and notice the table lamp. I figure it's easy enough to sketch and it offers various places for hiding clues. So I quickly sketch a miniature image to represent this.

Yeah, I know it looks ghastly. Like I say, you don't have to know how to draw! In fact, it makes the hunt all the more challenging, trying to figure out what on earth the picture is supposed to represent.

Those resin swallows on the wall look easy enough to draw... (Hah!)

Then, on the vanity shelf, I spot a vintage Avon tin of talcum powder. I ought to be able to do a semi-reasonable drawing of that.

Don't you feel better about your own artistic skills about now?

And while I'm in the bathroom, I decide to draw the poodle toilet roll cozy.

The old knitting caddy has lots of room inside where I can hide a clue, so....

And the roly-poly Santa is another tried-and-true spot for hiding a clue, so I sketch him, too.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Now this is the basic version of the game; if your kids are older, you can get quite creative with substituting riddles for picture clues and so on. But anyway, let's say you have 15 little paper drawings ready. Now it's time to hide the clues, which is a little bit confusing but you'll soon get the hang of it if you stay focused.

To set up the actual hunt you'll be working backward. So choose one of the clue slips as your final hiding place and stash your treasure there. Let's say I have bags of little chocolate coins for my treasure. I think the knitting caddy would be ideal to hide them in. So I put the candy inside, take the slip of paper with the drawing of the caddy on it, and decide where to hide that. Look at your other slips and choose one. Doesn't matter which one. But choose one, and go directly to that object. I'll pretend I chose the lamp So I go to the lamp, slip the clue with the picture of the caddy underneath it, or tape it to the side, or whatever. Now I would find the clue slip with the picture of the lamp on it and prepare to hide that clue. Inside Santa, say. So I dash over to the Santa, pop the picture of the lamp inside, find the Santa picture, and go to hide that. Is this making any sense? You do this until you have one clue slip left over, and that is the starting clue for the hunt. If you're not sure you're doing it right, go back and retrace your steps, working forward this time. If you've done it right, it will work. 

When it's time to start the hunt, you hand the kids the leftover slip of paper and let them have at it! You can help them with hints if they're having trouble. And you may have to referee if older kids are hogging all the fun and leaving the younger ones in the dust. Make them take turns trying to figure it out if they can't work cooperatively. 

Give it a try--I think your kids will enjoy it and ask you to do it again next Christmas, too. After all, in the end, it's the doing that gets remembered more than the presents. Here's a link to an older post about fun traditions, if you need more ideas:


Wishing you the Lord's bright blessing this Christmas!

* For those of you not in the Portland, Oregon area, tune to allclassical.org to stream the music! It's a free service.