Monday, September 29, 2014

Little Girl's "Teddy Bear Tea Party"

This is a little girl's "Teddy Bear Tea Party".  :)   My youngest has always loved her dolls and teddy bears... she has enjoyed dollhouses and tea parties, so for one birthday, we set up a fun tea party with her teddy bears. (Well, with SOME of them anyway. :)

   Some of her "babies" also joined the party.

Her dolls are pretty special to her... and these aren't even the most special ones. Recently, she sadly told me that she can't find some of her dolls - many months ago, we did a project where we had to empty all the bedrooms at once and paint them and lay carpet. A big job. Her dolls had to be bagged up and moved with everything else... and she is afraid some of them may have been thrown out.... I admit that is sad for me as well. I had never liked dolls as a child, but when my oldest daughter (Wholesome Joy) was little... and I learned to LOVE dolls because she did. She made up stories about her babies... and knew which ones had already had chicken pox and which ones hadn't. :)

 Anyway, this little tea party made my little girl was so happy... we had put so many special touches... pink flowing material at the entrance to the room, fun things tucked here and there. She LOVED it! :)

One of my young sons kept grumping... "There's too much pink in here!" and "It's too girly!"  but I could tell he was glad his sister enjoyed it, even if he couldn't understand why. :)
It wasn't a great big deal...and we didn't spend money on it, but it sure made a little girl's birthday very special.  She still likes tea parties, and when we have little neighbor girls over or friends from church, she loves to play dollhouse or tea party with them. Little girls are so special.. and I am thankful to see her enjoyment of pretty things.

As she is becoming an older girl/young lady, she loves having tea parties... real ones.  We tend to drink a LOT of tea around here.... not always as a tea party, but it is fun to do that sometimes and special times.

One day last winter, both of my daughters and I sat in front of the fire in the family room and just quietly read books while we sipped hot cocoa from china tea cups and nibbled on homemade shortbread. It was a chilly gloomy day... and we all enjoyed the cozy time. The funny thing was that the guys kept looking down the stairs at us to see WHAT we were doing....
We invited them, but they wouldn't come... they ate their shortbread in the kitchen. :)  Their idea of fun and ours differ... and we enjoy the differences..... and we also enjoy teasing each other about them, in a kind way.  They are learning how to appreciate each other.... and each other's interests.

Thank you for joining me as I remember a sweet and special time... these days go by so quickly and we need to cherish them. I hope you have a wonderful day. :)

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Elusive Beauty in the Sky

If you have read my blogs for very long (Gentle Joy Photography  and Gentle Joy Homemaker), then you know that I like nature, weather, clouds, the skies and so much more. I love sunrises and sunsets, cloud formations and even stormy skies... there is such a beauty in all of it.

The other day, we came out of the grocery store, and of course, we looked at the sky.... and there was a part of a rainbow... on a beautiful sunny day with no rain where we were.

 It was a bright rainbow... and most of it was hidden in the clouds... the color was brilliant and so pretty. At first, the upper colors showed up more.... then eventually the purple began to stand out as well.

I am not into the rainbow craze that many are... I don't decorate with rainbows and I don't collect them... I don't ascribe meanings to them,  but I love the REAL rainbows that God puts in the sky... His creation... and it magnifies HIM as the great Creator of all things - even rainbows.  :) 
This rainbow was there for about 10 minutes or so... and it stayed pretty bright most of the time. Some people on the way in or out of the grocery store saw it and glanced away, to busy to care. One mother pointed it out to her young child and they enjoyed it. Some may have taken pictures like I did. It wasn't visible for long... only a short time... and I am so thankful I was able to see and enjoy it.

God set His bow in the clouds and He does all things well.

Thank you for visiting... I hope you see God at work in your life today.... even in the simple things. :)

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Monday, September 22, 2014

A Sunset Walk...

 It was a beautiful evening... my oldest son had stopped in and had supper with us... that was a treat. As he was backing out of the driveway, he stopped and said, "That would be a nice picture." We walked to the spot to see and he was right.... it was beautiful, so we took some photos....  :)

  Something about the combination of the sun and the reflections, just looked really pretty.  The whole scene changed very fast, but we enjoyed snapping some pictures as it did.  A simple sidewalk view... turned glorious. :)

We see this same scene every day, and while it is a nice scene... the sun transformed it into a different sort of scene. It didn't last long... and I am so glad we were able to enjoy it.

 I noticed that even the sidewalk had taken on a special glow. Even as we walked just a bit, the sun was going down...

Pretty soon, the scene changed even more and the reflections were not on the ground anymore... only the sky showed color.

So nice to watch... although I admit I was thinking that I should have started taking pictures just a few minutes earlier. :)

Sunsets are pretty spectacular sometimes.. other times they are mild, but they are beautiful, all the same. The everyday scenes we see are transformed when sprinkled with the light of the sun. Even these trees, that only show black here .... are beautiful.

It reminds me of what God does with us... regular, ordinary people.... and how He transforms us into something beautiful as we reflect His love....  When someone looks at me, I hope they see Christ in me - the changes He makes in us last a lot longer than the sunset. Thank you for visiting my blog today.... I hope you have a wonderful day and that you are able to enjoy the beauty around you as you remember the creator who made it. :)

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork."  Psalm 19:1

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Friday, September 19, 2014

The Beauty of Water!

It's JUST water.... we see it all over the place. We love to play in it, to drink it, to enjoy it's beauty... and sometimes we fear it, but it is JUST water.  Hmmm.

 The water droplets that form on leaves can look so pretty. So many times, we just see that it is wet and gloomy.. and we miss the beauty. It is there, but it does take some close looks to find it.
 Those simple little water droplets can act as a magnifying glass, showing the fine detail of the leaf under the droplet.
 The droplets on flowers can reflect and show a beauty all their own.
 A single drop can reflect the image of other things in the area we haven't really noticed.
 The overall effect of droplets on a flower can highlight the beauty of the flower............ or we can miss the beauty completely and just complain that we want nice weather with no rain.
 We enjoy lakes and the beauty they add.... but it really is "just" water.
 The steam rising so beautifully on a cool morning at the lake transforms an oft-seen vista... into a delightful glimpse of mystery and wonder.
 The water in a lake reflects the beauty of the clouds, the sky, trees and more. We tend to take it for granted... after all, it is "Just" water.
 In the garden, the droplets form only on the edges of certain leaves.....
 and gives a jeweled look to their edges. We miss so much when we just complain. The beauty is all around... and it comes in the form of water... "just" water.

Okay, I am issuing a warning here.... the next pictures may be a bit hard to look at... but we all know the time is coming where these will be here... so be prepared.....
 Icicles are beautiful, and they only come in cold, wintry weather.....  we decide to enjoy the beauty, because we have to endure the long cold winter, but isn't it amazing what God can do with "just" water?  :)

The treacherous roads and walkways come also... with ice and snow...

Yes, yes, I know.... it hurts to think about, but it is coming... snow and the cold along with it.... another form of water... it is "just" water.

We enjoy the snow, the sledding, the beautiful snow covered scenes.... and we fear the snow covered streets... the slippery surfaces, the endless shoveling, the severe cold.

The intricacy of snowflakes is amazing.... what a marvel of design.

Then there is water that comes and stays were it shouldn't... causing flooding of varying proportions... a simple backyard flood.........or huge devastating floods that threaten lives and property.

Fog is another form of water that can be dangerous... and it hides our view of the road or scenery... and yet it also creates new beauty. There have been times when we would wake up and see fog... the kids and I would rush to get ready (at 6:30 on a Saturday morning!) to go to the nearby park on a photo shoot. My husband said we were crazy and he went back to sleep. :) The rest of us enjoyed a morning of wonder in the quiet hush of a world surrounded with tiny water droplets. Since we don't get much fog here, it is a novelty and we enjoy seeing the world in its shroud of misty humidity. It is beautiful and unusual, but if we just dismiss it with a cranky attitude, we will miss the elusive and amazing sights.

Different plants react differently to the water droplets.. some resist it and it flows right off... others allow it to cling, creating a special look.

Even plain grass in our yards, has a special kind of loveliness when seen up close with all the jeweled drops of water clinging to it. 

 A plain birdbath.... with water... reflects the sky and trees above it... but it is "just" water.

God uses "just" water... He makes it beautiful, useful, reflective, and more. If He can do that with "just" water, what could He do with us?
Droplets clinging to orange and red leaves take on the color of the item they cling to....

It makes me wonder... what am I reflecting? What am I clinging to? If I cling to Jesus, it only makes sense that He will be reflected in me... and give glimpses of him to those around me.

Like water is "just" water, I am "just" me.... but God is the One who transforms and who creates loveliness we have never imagined. Instead of wanting others to see "me", I can want others to see the One reflected in me...

Thank you for visiting today..... I hope you are able to see the delightful beauty of "just" water.... and the delightful beauty of those reflecting God, instead of themselves.  I hope you have a great day. :)

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Pinecones- Are They Edible? Hmmm...

This is the time of year when the pine cones are falling.... and there are a lot of them.  Pine cones are pretty and useful too. We have 2 big white pine trees and we love them... they are beautiful trees, but the more I learn about them, the more I appreciate them.

Right now, the cones are falling... what to do with them? I was hoping to find some wonderful way to eat them or turn them into a great medicinal remedy, but so far, I haven't found that.

 Each pinecone is quite amazing in design.... my son has had a pine cone that fell from a neighbor's pine tree, but it wasn't open yet.... and it opened in about 3 days... they enjoyed watching it.

Many people use pine cones for decorating... especially around Christmas.  I read that if you bring them into the house, it is a good idea to bake them for about 45 min at 200 degrees to bake any bugs that may be hiding in them and keep them from coming out into your house. Seems like good advice... I do NOT like bugs. :)   After such treatment, they can be varnished .... or varnish and add some glitter to the wet varnish... or paint them.... or keep then natural.

 Right now, there are many falling from our two beautiful trees.. these are getting run over by bikes and lawn equipment.... and kids, but we still have lots more.

People also make firestarters from these... one way I have heard is to drizzle wax over them... or dip them in wax. They can be used to light a fire in the fireplace or in a fire pit.
 I read that young male pine cones can be eaten.... hmmm, maybe we will have to try that next spring... I wonder how I could sneak them in, so that the kids won't reject them simply because they are pine cones. My husband is a "bit" more tolerant... he says, "Well, if it helps the budget." :)

Pine trees have anti viral, anti tumor and anti bacterial properties, so I like finding ways to use them to improve our health. I couldn't find any ways to eat or ingest full grown pine cones... except for using the pine nuts .... and the pine nuts on our trees are too tiny to bother with. SO, I guess the pine cones will be used for decoration or as fire starters here.

As I write this, I am drinking a cup of pine needle tea...   I started a pan of water to boil, then cut up lots of pine needles into it and boiled slowly for about 1-2 minutes. The tea turned a bit yellow. After straining, I added honey... it is fresh unprocessed honey, and it came out faster than I expected, so the pot of tea was sweeter than I intended.  My kids all drank a cup of it also (because Mom asked them to)... we have had sickness here.... the respiratory virus and more and I am starting to have a bit more energy so that I can try even more things to get us well and build immunity. Pine needles have a decent amount of vitamin C as well as other goodies.

Some of the kids liked it, and one son KNEW he would hate it (before he even tried it) because he saw a couple of stray pine needles on the counter and suspected what kind of tea it was. *Sigh*   Ever since I made  Redbud Chef Salad
he has been suspicious... after all, there was no hiding those pretty redbud flowers in the salad. He thought it unmanly to eat "PINK" flowers. He remains on the lookout for anything I might add to our food that isn't "normal"...  hmmm...  We have a good natured on-going argument about the benefits of all that God has provided in the wild.... and the desire for "regular" food, which he also gets PLENTY of, so don't feel too sorry for him. :)  As you know if you have read my blogs for long - especially the Gentle Joy Homemaker blog, you will see that we do cook a lot of wonderful foods... in large quantities and he gets plenty to eat!  The ironic thing is that he experiments also.... on all kinds of things (we call him The Professor, sometimes), but he draws the line at experimenting too much with food.  He loves my regular experiments where I have developed recipes like cranberry muffin bars and more... but doesn't want experiments with out of the ordinary foods. :)

As you can tell, there are still a LOT of pine cones on the tree waiting to come down.... too bad we can't eat them, but I'm sure I will find more uses for them.... and I will give many of them away...

I do plan to make some drawing salve from the sap of the pine tree.... it is so helpful... and there are many other things I can use the pine tree for, but no, apparently we can't eat the pine cones. :)   By the way, if  you search and experiment with wild edibles like I do, be sure to do lots of research.... there are so many wonderful things to use for food and health BUT there are also some dangerous things and you don't want to use the wrong thing. There is a lot of information available in books, online and more. Online research is great, BUT I would test the information as I do not believe you can trust all of it. With that said, though, there are a LOT of great things to learn.  :)

Thank you for visiting my blog today.....  :) 

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

There's A Storm Coming....

 This storm moved fast... the clouds were amazing, the colors were vibrant and the sky kept changing.
When big storms threaten, we need to figure out what to do... we need to evaluate how big it will be... we need to be prepared.
 We were working outside and noticed the clouds... they were beautiful, so I started to take pictures. We started watching the clouds and noticed they were moving really fast and the clouds changed quickly. It was beautiful.
My kids had been cooped up for many days with some sickness and they still had coughs, but this was an exciting reason to get OUT of the house! What a beautiful sunset....

 We left my husband working on the deck and the kids and I left in the vehicle to go where we could see the sky better... the kids were pretty excited... they seemed to feel like they had been set FREE. :) 

 We drove a ways to where there was more of the sky visible, away from so many houses, so that we could get better pictures. Just in the time we drove, the sky continued to change quickly....

 The sky was amazingly beautiful.

It was also looked a bit threatening...
the winds were picking up and the temperature was cooling.... a set up for a big storm...

 The top of the sky seemed to cap over the area.... The clouds looked like they were boiling...

Though beautiful, such clouds can signal bad storms... and sometimes here in the Midwest, storms blow up and strike with a vengence.
 We watched carefully as the sky continually changed since it was so exciting to watch...

We like watching the weather... after all we live in the Midwest where tornadoes and big thunderstorms happen. It makes for great Science study also. :)
 The colors had an odd quality to them... there was a glow and the colors were so intense... in the sky and on the ground. It was so wonderful to see.

After it got a bit lighter, then it got darker again... like I said, it was strange...
The winds were blowing a lot... changing between warm and hot.. and refreshingly cool, then we would feel the warm air again, so it was obviously mixing.

It made me think of the word blustery.....

As you look at the pictures, you can see some of the changes in the sky.... it was challenging to look in all directions for the changes... including over top of us. It was really quite a sight.

You can see that the pink/red color is diminishing and the light was fading also.

The colorful sky has changed... not much color left, but it was still interesting.
See the parallel lines in the clouds? This system was interesting because it contained various types of cloud formations.... and we had studied those last year in school. :)
This looked a bit ominous over the house.... no that is not our house. :)

By the way, if things would have turned dangerous.... we would have either hightailed it home... or taken cover in a ditch if necessary. We enjoy watching storms, but we are careful with them also. It is foolish not to have a respect for what the weather can do.... so please don't think I was taking chances with my kids.

By the time we got home, it was dark... really dark... and we weren't gone terribly long. We had to turn on lights... it had been light enough for no lights when we left. We were all geared up for a big storm... expecting to sleep with thunderstorms throughout the night. That little bit of excitement was there with the danger of the impending storm.

The kids were quite disappointed the next morning that the storms had moved on around us... and they felt "cheated".  :)  Now, they wouldn't want to have severe storms that cause great damage, but there is something majestic about a storm... where the winds and sky seem uncontrolled and yet we know the One who calms the storm.

We carefully watched the storm... and the next time one comes, we will also watch. We will take pictures of the beauty and we will take note of what weather is expected... the wind, rainfall, flooding, tornado, thunderstorm alerts. We will do what needs to be done... like we will put the cover over the solar panel on the shed when the sky turns green or when hail is expected. We will be ready..... but we will also trust God to take us through the storm. We will not allow our amazement of the weather lead us to foolishly take chances with it. We will also work to not live in fear of it. 

This storm had some qualities about it that we have seen before when very bad and dangerous storms came that spawned tornadoes.... but this one went around us. What if we had lived in fear and been trembling over it.... only to have it not even happen? We would have wasted the opportunity to see the amazing beauty of the storm around us.... God created the winds, clouds, light, rain, color and more. He sure put on quite a show the night I took these pictures... and I am so thankful we were able to see it. How nice of Him to show us all of that wild beauty... even when the storm was headed somewhere else.

What about when storms of life come? We know they will come....and they will come many times. Life is like that. When we see a "storm" threatening, whether it be a health crisis, a problem with a family member, money issues, or anything else.... we need to watch carefully. The enemy loves to use such times to lead us into fear, doubt, anger and more..... we need to be vigilant.... but God tells us not to fear. That can be so hard and sometimes it feels impossible.  No, we shouldn't be foolish in the way we treat such storms... but we should allow the fear or other emotions to drive us closer to God.... and to trust Him. 

Another post with cloud pictures:
Look at the Clouds!