Popcorn Attack

Having a sister like Claudia is another reason to be grateful.  (Check out the gratitude group on flickr.)

She is such a good sport to go along with my photographic adventures.  

During our stay in Rochester earlier in the month, she happily agreed to come with me to the beach at Lake Ontario.  I was looking for a shot of flying gulls against the water and sky.

Heading out the door, I shoved a handful of leftover popcorn into a ziplock bag. 

 "Here, Claudia, this will attract the birds!"  

It started out so well.  See how happy she is!

"This is fun!" she said.  She always did like animals.

But then things took a different turn. 

It was like a scene from The Birds. She told me later that she was a little frightened.

So, she made a getaway.  By this time, I was laughing so hard I couldn't focus.  

Now, how could you not love a sister like Claudia?  I do.  

Big Sis, Lil' Bro

For the month of November, I am participating in a group on Flickr, 30 Days/Gratitude '10.

Though I am a little behind, it has been thoroughly enjoyable.  It has helped me stay focused on the many, many gifts and blessings in my life 

Here is today's post:

Grateful for children in my life.
This image, far from the best in the series I am working on, grabs my heart.
Maybe it's the big sister, with little brother wandering out of the frame.
Maybe it's the camera.
Maybe it's because I am a big sister with a camera.

What grabs your thankful heart today?

John and Corinne Moriarty

When I was in Rochester, NY earlier this month, I met John and Corinne while visiting my mother and aunt. They are no longer able to live by themselves and recently became residents at a very nice home.  

John was sitting across the table from me.  He looked like a banker on a break. He was reading the newspaper while my sister, Claudia, and I chatted with my mother and aunt.  

He caught my eye.  Leaning over to me, he said, "Something is not right here.  I don't know what it is, but something is wrong.  It is kind of like deja vu."  

One of the hardest, saddest part of aging can be the dementia with which many older people struggle.  A few minutes later, he said, "I'd like to talk with you when you have a chance.  Something is wrong here and I'd like to talk with you about it."  I told him I would, pretty certain he wouldn't recall our conversation.

My aunt said something about his wife Corinne, but my mother reminded her that sometimes couples are not together, that both may not need to be at the facility.  Now, both my mother and aunt have dementia, so conversations are not exactly linear, but this was the gist of it.

Well, a few minutes later, Corinne came rolling up in her wheel chair.  

When John saw her, his eyes lit up and they started an animated conversation.  It turns out that Corinne went to school with one of my uncles, and knows my mother and aunt.  

After a few minutes, it was time for lunch.  John took hold of Corinne's wheel chair and off they went to the dining room.

The next day, we had another chance to see them, and I am so glad we did.

This couple is #2 and 3  in my 100 strangers project. Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at www.100Strangers.com.

Love never dies.  Inspired speech will be over some day....understanding will reach its limit.  Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of these is love.  I Corinthians 13, The Message

Trick or Treat?

This is not a discussion about the good and bad of celebrating Halloween.

As I child, I loved dressing up and going out  with my siblings and friends.  
And later, when fall festivals and alternative Halloween activities became available, we still took our children into the neighborhood for treats.  

Yesterday, I lugged home a big bag of candy from Walmart.  
We are ready for the dozens of children who will scream at us tonight, "Trick or treat!!"

Last night, I persuaded Larry, my long suffering husband, photo assistant and driver, to go with me scouting Halloween decorations. 
I recently decided to focus on a project of shooting quirky, decorated homes, and this is the perfect time of year to get started.  

So here is what we found in the hour before sunset.

Driving down Garland Avenue, I spotted some orange and black out of the corner of my eye.  
"Turn around, driver!"
We could hardly take in the explosion of Halloween goodness in this yard.  
Mr. Ramsey does this every October, though he told us a heart attack this year meant that he couldn't do as much.  
This is the more subdued version.  
He and his wife expect 2,000 - 3.000 visitors tonight.

He also does it up big at Christmas.  
We will be back.

Here are some other treasures we found.

Whether you greet little ones at your door, 
or hide in the back of your house with all of your lights off,
or go out for dinner, 
or watch the World Series,
have a sweet evening.

The Woman and the Grape

Jody is truly a Renaissance woman.

While I was preparing to write this post,  I was mulling over all her areas of interest and expertise:

arranger of flowers
musician and vocalist
business woman
foundation board chair
Bible study leader
fitness and  wellness expert
source of inspiration and encouragement
hostess with the mostest
wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister
kind and generous friend

She can dive into her pantry and refrigerator and produce an impromptu meal for six or more faster than anyone I know.  And it will be delicious.

I have heard that she has driven a truck on a construction site.  I believe it.

And if this weren't enough, she is classy and beautiful.

On this day, she kicked off her Christian Louboutin pumps, grabbed her vintage apron, and dug her hands into a pile of wild grapes.  They had been gathered from Thunder Ranch and were waiting to be made into jam.

Jody makes it look so easy.  I've never canned a day in my life, and I was in awe, watching the process unfold.

Here is how she did it.  
Plus her secret ingredients:  zest for life and all things growing,  and the joy of capturing the delicious summer flavor of a wild grape to share with friends. 

6 cups prepared fruit, about 4 lb. fully ripe grapes
1 cup  water
1 box SURE.JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp.  butter or margarine
7-1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

make it

BRING boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
SLIP skins from grapes. Finely chop or grind skins; set aside. Mix grape pulp and water in saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 5 min. Press through sieve to remove seeds. Combine skins and pulp. Measure exactly 6 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot.
STIR in pectin. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
LADLE immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 min. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

You called in distress and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret places of thunder.  Psalm 81:7

The Cows and the Mamas

Smack dab in the middle of the bustling suburb of Plano, there is a family owned ranch.   
It is a delightful surprise for those who don't know it's there, and just happen upon it on their way to somewhere else.

On her travels to and from preschool, Piper looks for the cows and the mamas.
You would call them "llamas."

Now that cooler temps are here, we've taken some time on Friday afternoons to stop and visit.

And just to give you an idea how this close this bit of nature is to the hustle and bustle  . . .

At one point, I asked Piper to, "Stand here, please, so I can get you with the llamas."  Not what I had in mind.

PS.  My editor just informed me these are alpacas, not llamas. 
There goes the cute name.  

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight." (Luke 12:6; cf. Matthew 10:29)

Goin' down to Houston

On Friday, I flew down to Houston for the weekend to visit my friends, Tom and Deb.  I love flying with Southwest Airlines (bags fly free - yay! )

But flying itself is not that much fun anymore.  Have you noticed?  Even though I continue to be enamored by the ease of zipping from one location to another, airports seem more like the bus terminals of my youth.  The crowds, standing room only waiting areas, travelers toting their drinks and sandwiches - you know what I am talking about.

But I digress.

On Sunday, we drove along the coast down to Freeport.  Two years earlier, Hurricane Ike devastated the coast line.  At this time last year, I was in Galveston Island, and the effects of the storm were still evident.

This Sunday, we drove to Freeport.  Roads that had been closed last year are now open, and signs of new life are evident everywhere.

The balmy breeze and gentle sunshine made it a perfect day to be out.
The mosquitoes thought so, too, though you would never have know it from looking at the two buddies above.

.... To give to them beauty instead of ashes, The oil of joy instead of mourning, A covering of praise for a spirit of weakness. Isaiah 61:3

All Boys are Princes

One of my favorite movies is "The Little Princess."  I am talking about the 1995 version, and not the one that starred Shirley Temple in 1939.

My paraphrase of a favorite line is, " All  girls are princesses."  So it seems obvious that all boys are princes.  At least that's the way it goes in our family.

In July, we celebrated Prince Elijah's first birthday in Knoxville, with Lindsay and Brent, and Brent's parents, Barry and Sharon. 

There were balloons....

and cake  (gluten free in this case, made lovingly by Mommy)

and the Prince.

Let's not forget the paparazzi.

We came bearing gifts, including this state of the art Radio Flyer wagon from Barry and Sharon.

It was a happy day.

"Don't you see that children are God's best gift?  The fruit of the womb His generous legacy? ...Oh, how blessed are you parents...."
Psalm 127, The Message

Sum Sum Summertime!

We are squeezing out the very last drop of Summer.

Our days have contained plenty of heat but little water.  She's been sick a lot this season and it's kept her landlocked.

Since we've had so many 100+ days in Texas , it's hard to imagine that soon it might be too cool to swim.

So this was her day!

  Yeah, there is still a kid in there, too.

Summer, please stay a little longer?  See you in September?

Who is she  kidding!  Often Summer lingers until October.  

She loves Texas.

Sometimes Life is like a Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, a friend of a blog writer became ill. 
So ill, in fact, that she died.

The writer was heartbroken, having lost her dear friend, whom she had known and loved for many years. 
The writer did not have enough words to describe the vast hole her friend's departure left in her life.
But her heartbreak could not compare to that of her friend's husband and children. 

The husband is a knight in shining armor, as gallant and kind as they come. 
He grieved for several years. 

Then one day, his doctor said, " I have a prescription for you.  I am giving you the name of someone I think you will like. 
Call her."

Hesitating at first, and praying a lot, he called her. 
They talked.

He learned that she was a loving wife and mother for many years who had lost her husband to the same dreadful disease. 
Her heart had been broken, and her life had been hard. 

She is elegant, graceful, wise and loving. 

They are a perfect match.

The wedding was yesterday. 
Two hearts, two families who have endured so much, are now one.

Friends came from near and far.  So much was felt and expressed at that glorious celebration. 
There was love and honor for the lost loved spouses, for the children and grandchildren. 
And for the life companion each one has now found in the other. 

And, of course, words of thanks for their mutual doctor, who brought them together.
Doctors' orders were followed here.

The blog writer, though missing her friend still, was very happy. 
And she is certain her friend would be, too.

"I waited and waited and waited for God. 
At last He looked; finally He listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
pulled me from the deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock
to make sure I wouldn't slip.
He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
a praise song to our God. 
More and more people are seeing this;
they enter the mystery,
abandoning themselves to God."

Psalm 40:1-3 from The Message
selection from wedding program

A River of Water

An early evening stroll in the neighborhood made us realize again just how hot it was.  The heat radiated off the concrete and we kept to the shade at the sides of the road.  Rain had not made an appearance for several days and there were deep grooves in the ground between the curb and sidewalk.

Then suddenly, a stream of water was headed our way, running downhill from somewhere up the street.

Our parched street was transformed into a water park!

Running, splashing, laughing! 

We were all 4-years-old.

The source of the water is a mystery; perhaps it came from a draining swimming pool.  To us, it was a like a mountain stream and that's the way we want to think of it.

Jesus said, ".....Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst - not ever.  The  water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life."  John 4:14
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