city in winter

7 Things I Learned This Winter

My City in Winter

I can’t believe that winter is almost over, as we’ve had the mildest, mostly snow-less, New England winter I can remember since living here. But it’s already time to join my favorite link-up and share what I’ve learned. I hope you enjoy this little list.

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1. There are fewer things that really matter to me about Christmas than I realized.

And I don’t mean the important, real-meaning-of-Christmas things. Those ARE important!

I love traditions and believe they are fun and meaningful, but I’ve been learning and am beginning to accept that they can change over time or fluctuate depending on life seasons, and it’s OK.

This year brought a desire for us to keep our Christmas tree smaller and more simply decorated, adorn the house with only our favorite ornaments, and keep the baking to a minimum. I’ve been paring down our ornaments to those we really use and love, and I discovered that in reality there are fewer that really mean something to me and that I truly enjoy. And this is still new to one who is rather sentimental, especially when it comes to the holidays.

We had conversations as a family about these changes and I’m not sure we won’t do things differently again next year, but it felt more peaceful and less stressful. And this is closer to what Christmas is really about.

2. Wooden cutting boards need to be maintained with mineral (or other food-grade oil).

Who knew? Now I do.

I wondered why my nice wooden cutting boards were beginning to look dry and cruddy and decided to look it up. I never realized (although now it seems obvious) that they need to be maintained with a food-grade oil every once in awhile. This can be done monthly (or anywhere from weekly to at least a couple of times a year).

You simply rub the wooden boards with mineral oil (or other appropriate food-grade oil or mixture) and let sit for a few hours or overnight, then wipe off the excess. This should become a quick and easy part of our kitchen routine.

So why have I waited so long? Here’s to giving our wooden cutting boards a little TLC.

3. Are scented candles (and cleaner, etc.) really dangerous?

Oh how I love the ambiance of beautiful scented candles!

But like so many things, I began to hear fearful ideas about the dangers of burning them, so I decided I needed to look into it.

I spent a good deal of time reading (and re-reading) four different articles about the possible dangers of burning scented candles, (including one very long and detailed study with scientific wording and charts that I only partly read and understood). While I would like to more clearly summarize my conclusions for you, I honestly am left with mild concern and no clear conclusion.

The different articles I perused for information are Do Yankee Candles Have Toxins, Are Your Favorite Candles Slowly Poisoning You?, Effects by inhalation of abundant fragrances in indoor air – An overview, and The Big Problem with Scented Candles.

My best suggestion if you are concerned is to do your own research and form your own convictions.

Although I am not fully convinced that they are dangerous, I am reconsidering the length of time I burn my beloved candles. I would also be more concerned for those with compromised health issues, and will perhaps revisit this topic again in time.

For now, I think we will still enjoy our candles, realizing the small risk is hopefully outweighed by the immense satisfaction and simple joy of burning scented candles.

4. Tipping your head forward helps while swallowing pills.

How much do you enjoy swallowing large capsules or pills? Apparently we’re not alone.

Recently I read or heard this unique method of swallowing pills, and it really works! It’s especially effective for capsules to actually take a sip of water with the capsule in your mouth and then tip your head forward to swallow. The water pushes the light capsule to the top of your throat and down it goes. I’ve tried it will some rather large calcium tablets and it still seems more effective than my usual efforts at swallowing.

There is also another technique called the “soda bottle” (or “pop bottle”, probably depending on where you’re from), which we can try as well.

Either way, I am learning that another secret is to be sure to drink enough water to help the pills on their way down.

5. When Calls the Heart has a spin-off !?!

It’s called When Hope Calls.

It is similar to our favorite When Calls the Heart, and two of the main characters starred on a couple of episodes of that familiar series. I’ve read since then that they may have some characters doing crossover episodes between the two shows.

It can be seen on one of the Hallmark channels, although I am personally still trying to sort out what is in fact the best way to watch the series personally. I may just splurge and subscribe to the channel instead of waiting for it to come out free later on.

We will see, but I’m definitely looking forward to another positive, wholesome, family-friendly show!

6. “Stop, Drop & Roll” is outdated.

Who remembers learning this memorable fire safety technique as a child? I do.

But recently I heard that perhaps it isn’t up to date.

While this short article and video explains, Stop, Drop & Roll is not always taught now as the best or first information a child should be thinking of when in a dangerous fire situation. There are often more important rules for a child to think about, such as getting out of a burning building and having a safe family meeting place outside.

But according to this and several others articles, it seems it is still useful and effective information to use if one’s clothing catches fire.

It’s one of those things that we hope and pray we never have to use, but it’s good to be prepared.

7. It’s probably better to call 911 from a land-line (as you’ll usually get through to local help faster).

I recently heard this from the police officers who were at my staff training for my library job, and it immediately caught my attention.

It really depends upon how calls are routed as to how efficient the call is. In general, it seems a landline is much more effective.

One resource adds more detailed instructions for best practices when calling 911 and explains that when we call from a landline our location is clear, while when calling from a cell phone the signals are being sent through the air and the call may not even be picked up by local emergency personnel.

Although you should check for the best practices for your own local area, this paragraph seems to explain and sum up the facts nicely:

This question of whether to use a cell phone or a landline to make your 9-1-1 call on is a very important one. It may vary depending on your jurisdiction and your location. For example, in California we have an issue with cell phone calls and delays. They tend to be delayed because the calls are routed through the highway patrol and the state system, whereas landline calls go directly to a 9-1-1 center. In addition, those landline calls allow the dispatcher to see who the caller is, where the address you’re calling from is, and have a much closer relationship, and in particular they answer the phone more quickly. The recommendation from several police officers has been that if you are needing to use your cell phone because that’s all you have and perhaps you’re away from the home, is to predial into your phone the phone number for your local police precinct. So if you can’t get through and there are delays that you call that local police precinct who can then patch you through.

I think the best piece of advice when using a cell phone is to program your local police, fire and other emergency phone numbers into your cell and use those to reach them directly.


Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a few of the things I’ve learned this past winter.

I hope we all remember to keep on learning, and to consider keeping track of the things we learn. It’s a great way to reflect on things both important and just enjoyable.

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Fall in our church yard

7 Things I Learned This Fall

It’s been a busy fall, but I managed to record at least some of the different things I’ve learned. Join me and others at Emily P. Freeman’s link-up to read about what we’ve learned this season.

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1.I learned the proper way to forward an entire conversation in gmail.

Do you ever wonder when you wish to forward an email conversation whether the receiver got the whole thing? I took some time to look up the proper way to do this, and it’s really simple. Just choose the conversation you want, select “More” from the toolbar, choose “Forward All”, add any comments you wish, and send.

2. Praying mantis females only eat their mate about 1/3 of the time.

Yes, it’s true.

You may have heard that female praying mantises eat their mate, but I guess it only happens about one third of the time. I learned a bit more about mantis mating habits here, as well as the fact that they can and some have actually eaten hummingbirds. (Yuck!) I also learned some other interesting facts (and not all as gruesome), including how good they are at eating unwanted insects in your garden.

I think I’ll just tuck away this useful information and focus on how cute they are and the fact that they look like they are praying. Perhaps we should have named them, “Confessing Mantises”?

3. I figured out why the leeks I purchased had hard, woody centers.

I bought some leeks to use in a recipe this fall, and was disturbed and confused by the centers being so hard and woody that I almost couldn’t cut through them. To aid in my perplexed state, I looked up some information about leeks, and discovered that they are not even native to our area, and there is a better season in which to buy them. Also, if they have been allowed to flower, the centers will get woody and almost unusable.

Leeks are native to the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, which surprised me, since they look like a big sort of onion. They can also be grown in other areas. The preferred season is September to the end of April, so that’s the best time to enjoy them.

4. There are many creative ways to use up unwanted conditioner.

We had about half of a large bottle conditioner that just wasn’t cutting it for it’s intended purpose. In an effort to not be wasteful, after storing this unwanted hair product for several weeks, I set out online to see if I could find a good use for it. Apparently, there are many interesting ideas on how to use up unused conditioner, everything from shining up your fridge or your boots to putting it in your bath or helping to clear clogged drains.

In the end, I have to admit the only thing I was comfortable attempting was to help clear our often-clogging drains. So I dumped it down. I’m not sure it made any difference.

So I guess I could have just done that to begin with.

NY cheddar wheel squash

5. Yes, you can ripen green squash off of the vine.

One of the blessings of my farm-stand job (and getting our farm share), is getting to try some new vegetables and storing some for the winter. This year I had the privilege of “meeting” a somewhat rare squash or pumpkin variety known as the Long Island Cheese pumpkin. I guess it is considered an heirloom seed.

What is an “heirloom”? The definition is open to dispute. But the term is usually applied to fruit, flower or vegetables varieties that were being grown before World War II.

https://www.burpee.com/gardenadvicecenter/vegetables/general-gardening/what-is-an-heirloom/article10162.html

If you’d like to learn a bit about this older pumpkin variety, this article gives a brief history of the squash, as well as a nice recipe for Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Soup and a tasty-sounding Long Island Cheese Pumpkin pie.

If you happen to have some squash that are a bit green (like a couple of the ones I got), you can indeed ripen it indoors by placing it in the sun. So pick those green squash at the end of the season and bring them indoors with you.

6. The Crown changed all of their major actors in Season 3.

Have you watched the first two seasons of the Netflix series, The Crown?

My husband and I have enjoyed them together (although we are partial to the first one with John Lithgow portraying Winston Churchill). We were excited to hear recently that Season 3 was finally going to begin, and eagerly watched the first episode. It’s good, but it took us well into the first half of the show to stop being distracted by the fact that the actors all seemed to be different. At first we thought it may be really good make-up, but the changes were too great.

So we paused the show and did what all good modern people do and asked our phones.

Sure enough, The Crown replaced all of the principle characters with new actors, in order to better reflect the difference in time and their ages. It was the plan all along, and I now know to not get too attached, as they plan to change them again for the fifth and sixth seasons.

It’s hard to accept unfamiliar people playing roles to which we’ve become accustomed, but after just two episodes, we think they made good choices. Only time will tell.

If you haven’t tried the show, you may wish to watch the first two seasons and join in for the third, or if you wish to “cheat”, this article will bring you up to date, including sharing recaps of what you’ve missed.

7. When you give someone the right thing at the right time, it is like gold.

A single girlfriend of mine recently underwent surgery, so I and a group of other ladies have been going to help her out and many have provided meals. She came home from the hospital right before Thanksgiving, so as somewhat expected, many delicious turkey leftovers were shared.

A couple of days ago, my friend asked if I could put in a request for something different, like macaroni & cheese or tuna casserole. I took it upon myself to whip up a batch of macaroni & cheese in my Instant Pot, and brought it with me as I went to help with the laundry.

Now I think my cooking is pretty good and macaroni & cheese is tasty, but it isn’t my showcase recipe and doesn’t usually bring on raving reviews. But my friend texted me later that night, stating how much she was enjoying my meal, that it was real comfort food, and it seemed to me as if I had brought her a fine steak.

Like many things in life, doing, saying or giving the right thing at the right time can be impacting or even life-changing. It magnifies the act and turns it into a blessing.

What better time to focus on intentional and sensitive giving than during this Christmas season that we have found ourselves again.

Who knows? Maybe your little gift will make someone’s day.

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my wet black mailbox with white post

Liquid Beauty

This post has been created for The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge, where the prompt for the week is liquid.

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A rainy day this week provided all the opportunities I needed for my liquid photos, right in my front yard.

 

my wet black mailbox with white post

 

 

wet copper hummingbird feeder

 

 

rain droplets on red and green bush leaves

 

 

raindrops on dwarf blue leaf arctic willow

 

 

magic carpet spirea in the rain

 

 

raindrops on car window and mirror

 

Beauty can be found anywhere, even in the rain.  We just need eyes to see and hearts that are open.

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Adirondack chair on dock at cabin

Inspire

Adirondack chair on dock at cabin

Today’s post is on the prompt, “inspire“. I’m joining some fine folks at Five Minute Friday to write for five minutes, adding my (mostly) unedited thoughts to the variety of writing of many other bloggers today. Join me as we pause, write and/or read today.

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When I browse for the meaning of “inspire”, I find it rather inspirational.

According to the dictionary, one of the meanings of “inspire” is:

“fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”

It comes from a Latin word, meaning “breath or blow into” or to infuse (with something, such as life) by breathing, and was originally used of a divine or supernatural being.

 

I know that for me, many things inspire me.

Nature, for sure, is one of my main sources of inspiration, and worship music, to be sure.

When I take the opportunity to simply soak in the beauty around me, I find my soul replenished.

On a recent vacation, just being out in nature, especially on the water, was incredibly peaceful and inspiring. It made me catch my breath on many an occasion. It’s inspiring to stop & observe God’s handiwork.

Oxtongue Lake boat neighbour dock & boat in mist

 

Oxtonge Lake bridge and sunset.

 

sunny day canoeing on the lake

 

river at Big Bend Lookout

 

When I see the result of someone’s creativity, or especially when I apply my own imagination and talent to a work of art or a craft of some sort, I feel inspired.

In a church service, when we are singing praises to God or listening to good teaching that encourages our spirits and enlightens our minds, I also find inspiration.

When I’m sitting in the quiet, whether at my computer desk with a cup of warm coffee nearby, at a lakeside or on a mountain trail, or enjoying the crackle and warmth of a fire, I feel a peace that inspires.

It’s amazing to see a person acting in their God-given talents and abilities, whether it be preaching or singing in church, creating art, or simply building, teaching, planning, helping, cooking, serving, encouraging or loving others.

I love to be inspired, and pray that my life will bring at least some small inspiration to others.

When we tap into the deepest places within us and share it with others, it can be life-giving both to us and to those around us.

If we take the time to stop, look and listen to the world around us, whether it be in a wilderness or nature setting, or in the middle of a crowd of unique individuals, we will find inspiration.

Let’s be intentional about setting aside the time and space we need to be inspired.

Let’s be open to sharing our lives and our hearts with those around us.

Life is so much more full when we inspire and are ourselves inspired.

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What do you find inspiring? Do you find yourself inspiring others, either intentionally or without knowing it? How can we purpose ourselves to both give and receive inspiration?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

snowy pine tree

One Thing I’ve Learned in (Almost) 50 Years…..

snowy pine tree

Today we got the snow that we’ve been waiting for all winter (well, some of us, at least).

We’ve only had a little snow so far this winter, and any we got has melted away within days. In fact, it’s been unseasonably warm for New England.

But today we got about six to eight inches of sticky, wet snow.

snowy branches and sky

It was fairly warm, so it clung tenaciously to the branches and rooftops, until the wind picked up and blew it around, creating a momentary blizzard effect.

As I was out shoveling along with my neighbor across the street, at one point we heard a loud crack. Looking to see what on earth was making such a noise, we caught sight of a very large limb falling out of another neighbor’s tree. Fortunately, it didn’t look like it did any damage, and I’m thankful no-one was hurt.

As I was working, I began to realize that it was the ultimate snowman-making snow.

snowy mailbox

So when my portion was complete, I first took some cold, snowy pictures, careful not to let my camera and my tablet get too wet in the process.

Then I began to build my snowman.

shoveling with snowman

My teenage son doing his share.

I still remember (and my parents have some photos or slides somewhere, I believe), my grandmother building a snowman in her front yard when she was probably in her sixties. She lived right next to us in my early childhood years, alone for many years after my grandfather died of a heart attack in his fifties, but she definitely still knew how to have fun and stay young.

Update from 09/16/16: I’m so thrilled to have been given a photo of two of my Grandma’s snowmen to share with you! Thanks to my thoughtful Mom, this 1983 photo was included in a memory box she gave to me for Christmas. In it are many photos and a few little trinkets to remind me of my dear Grandmother, who passed on this past year. Grandma would have been about 61 years of age when she built these particular “twins” in her front yard. 🙂

my grandmother's snowmen "twins"

My Grandmother’s snowmen “twins”, built with love in her front yard in 1983. Grandma was about 61 years of age.

 

snowman, snowlady

Me and my new friend.

Yes, I’m now almost fifty (only a few short months away).

 

snowlady Feb 2016

 

Yes, I had lots of “more important” things to do today.

 

home with snowlady 2-5-16

 

Yes, the neighbors may think I’m a nut.

 

snowlady close-up

Isn’t she beautiful?

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my almost fifty years of life (especially growing up in Ontario, Canada 🙂 ), it’s not to miss out on building a snowman when the snow is just right.

 

back of snowman

I think she has her arms raised in worship. 🙂

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m still learning the importance of living in the moment, enjoying this fleeting life for all it’s worth.

 

Live, Laugh, Love

 

And later in the afternoon, I glanced out the window to see a most stunning view of the late afternoon sunlight on the treetops. Grabbing my camera, my sneakers and no coat (so as not to miss the breathtaking sky), I ran outside and shivered while I took pictures, soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

sunlight on treetops

home with snowy trees

golden treetop

snowy pine with pink sky

house with snow and pink sky

trees with pink sky and snow

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Have you ever built a snowman, as an adult, and NOT because you were helping a child? What other types of activities do you engage in to keep yourself “young” at heart?