Thursday, September 30, 2010

beauty and beholders

Someone (Sara, Lydia?) introduced us to this blog "Better After".  They take pictures of old objects, or rooms, then photos of the object or room after it has received a makeover.  Many times I'm amazed at the creativity people display.  Other times I'm horrified at what they've done to antique pieces.  And sometimes I admire the work they've put into their makeover, but really dislike the finished project.

And that's the thing I like the most about having my own home.  It's mine.  I can decorate with blue and yellow, have wagon wheel lamps and bear end tables, and have a cartoonish farm theme in the guest bathroom and absolutely LOVE it.  My mother comes and cringes.  My mother-in-law raises an eyebrow and semi-smiles while she looks around. And I just feel content at home.

I've been in some homes where I love the look and feel, but doubt I could every pull the color scheme off here in my house.  I'd feel like an imposer.

I won't like every make over shown on Better After.  They would probably hate my home if they saw it.  But that's as it should be.  Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.  

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

new fall fashions

Brought to you via one of my bestest friends Joni, the Qingdao, China Wal-mart is now introducing its fall fashions.  At least that's one theory.  In all reality, it's very possible that the maintenance/shelving department dropped the mannequin off in housewares instead of clothing and so the housewares employees do what any good Chinese citizen would do - instead of correcting the issue, they make the best of the situation.
Or maybe she's the kitchen goddess, or the new Wal-mart Super hero.  Regardless of the rationale behind it, you gotta love the Chinese flair for art, no matter what medium they use.

And if I weren't so scared of the pictures I'd see, I'd double dog dare everyone to see what kind of household hero you could create it.


This past weekend was a time of reflecting on past seasons in our life. 

Friday night was the WCA Homecoming Football Game, and prior to the game many graduates "tailgated" in the elementary school lunchroom for a brief time of reminiscing. Personally, I would have skipped some of the game to listen to more of the banter and for us spouses to hear more stories of days gone by.  I had to refrain from cheering as I was starting to feel sorry for the other team they were losing so bad that a few times I almost cheered for them!

Saturday night we met at the church where I met Bobby.  Various singing groups from the church's history had returned and after a hot dog supper and much fellowshippin', we listened to about an hour of music.  It was great.

Sunday morning we heard two sermons, one from a previous pastor (never sat under his ministry but I knew his daughter who is almost my age), and a pastor's brother (a former missionary who I had heard before).  After lunch they recognized all the staff, current and former, and had a brief slideshow of historical pictures.  I got to hear my older sister's family sing a few times (my brother-in-law was the associate at the time I met important connection!) and briefly chat with them as well.

I'm continuously amazed as I look back at the various seasons of my life. I can't say I've enjoyed every single one, but I can honestly say that each one has had a purpose.  I've also been extremely grateful for the spouse God gave me, and for his steadfastness during the many seasons we've walked through during the last 12 years of our lives.  I finished this weekend with a few wounds healed, a renewed thankfulness for the mercy and grace of our God, and a sense of calmness that I haven't had in a long time.

And now I get to do my weekend work of cleaning the house. :)  There is nothing new under the sun, indeed!

Monday, September 27, 2010

a conspiracy theory

Every year the American Library Association celebrates banned book week. I had never heard of a book being banned until I was in college, and was quite surprised to hear that some of the books people attempted to ban were books I had already read (Huck Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc).

I only remember my mother "banning" a book twice.  Once, my younger siblings checked out a picture book from our local library that were full of illustrations containing unclothed children.  Almost every page had at least one child without any pants on.  I don't think there were any frontal drawings, but my three and  four year old siblings were having monstrous giggle fits over the book.  My Mom was outraged, and we returned the book the next day while she had expressed her views of how it was inappropriate to the librarian, and the librarian huffily explained that not everyone saw things Mom's way and they couldn't remove it from the shelves.  Thereafter we had to present all books to Mom for a scan before it could be checked out.

The second ban came about in middle school.  Sweet Valley High was all the rage, and when Mom realized I was reading one every other day (my classmate had the ENTIRE series and I was in an ACE school where I had way too much free time on my hands), she read two of them.  We had a little talk about why they were inappropriate (the main characters displayed ungodly characteristics: bad-mouthing parents, slandering friends, jealousy, revenge, etc), and then I was told I needed to replace them with something else.  So I read them at school for a little while, out of parental prying eyes, all the while hearing Mom's voice in my head saying "The Bible says..." every time a character did something that was not edifying or representative of the fruit of the Spirit.

In high school during AP class, we would tell our English teacher if there was an assigned novel we were uncomfortable reading (Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath...made it through 2 pages), and he willingly allowed us to read a different book from the list.  So here's my conspiracy theory: all these "banned" books were banned by the publishers to boost book sales.

I mean, if I don't like a book, I'm not going to read it.  If a student doesn't like a book, they're going to go out and buy the cliff notes and not read the book.  In most cases, if a parent or a child truly has an issue with a book, most teachers would more than graciously allow the student to read 2 or 3 more permissible books in it's place.  Many parents would simply read the book with the child and teach them through the process how to Biblically analyze, dissect, and debate what is wrong with its content.  Everyone knows the way to make a teenager want to do something (or anyone for that matter) is to make it forbidden.

I never dreamed I would be one to submit to a conspiracy theory, but there you have it. It's all a scam.

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's what's inside that counts!

Wednesday nights are a little chaotic at our house.  By the time hubby gets home we're at a slow rush (you know, not the full-fledged "I'm late but I can't find my car keys or shoes" kind of rush, but the "we gotta keep moving" rush). This past Wednesday night I boiled a few extra eggs while preparing the potato salad for supper.  When we got home from church, there were three eggs on the kitchen counter.  Keep in mind, we had gathered eggs while feeding the animals before leaving for church, and the egg total for Wednesday was: three eggs.  So silly me thinks "Oh NO! I forgot to put the eggs in the 'fridge!" and opens all the cartons in the fridge looking for empty slots.

Fast forward to Thursday morning and the normal "get me out the door on time" morning routine, and my boiled eggs for breakfast are nowhere to be found.  I think you all know where I'm going with this. To make matters worse, I know one egg on the counter was a big dark brown, one a green, and one a light brown, so there's no eliminating any from the cartons.

After googling "how to distinguish boiled eggs from raw eggs", I now get to spin my eggs (all 40 of them) or dip them in boiling water just so I can find three boiled eggs.  Or I could just boil 18 of them and make deviled eggs.  Does anybody know what happens when you double boil an egg?  Will its insides burn or overcook?  How would react if you started to crack an egg to scramble and found out it was boiled?  Would you ever take eggs from me again?

And to think I so foolishly thought my life was starting to get organized!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

the new pet

This spring something new happened at the Bryan household: we hatched our first biddie. We're still waiting for it to develop enough to know whether we have a cockrel (teenage rooster) or pullet (teenage hen).  The other birds will terrorize it if it gets too close, but this past week it decided it had a place of refuge.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

the amish stitch

Okay, it's really not an Amish stitch, or even a Mennonite stitch for that matter.  It's a simple quilting stitch.  A quilting stitch should be small, even, and consistent. Like this:

the stitching of Denise Younge and Charlotte Shaw

and then there is not quite so experienced stitching like this:

the stitching of Monica Bryan
We all joked about the "toenail stitch".  If your stitch is too long, they claim a person's toenail could get caught on it.  But really, has anyone ever had their toenail caught in a stitch in their bedspread or quilt? So while I'm not making toenail stitches, I fear my quilting stitches resemble me - fat and inconsistent.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I know how to add.
I know how to subtract.
I know how to line up my columns.
So why can't I balance my checkbook?

Monday, September 20, 2010

you tube

You tube will probably never be on a teacher's list of acceptable sources of term papers, but it probably should be.  I don't know who came up with the concept behind it, and while it does have an excessive amount of perverted posters and people who REALLY need to get a life, I LOVE it for being able to learn what I need on just about anything.

Have a leaking toilet and refuse to call the plumber for the third time (not for the same issue) this summer?  Use the search engine on Youtube, type in "how to fix a leaking toilet" and you'll get numerous videos to watch on how to do that very thing. After watching 4 Youtube videos and buying a $5 part at Lowes, I fixed my leaky toilet (yes, with much fear and trepidation). 

Want to get a graft from an old tree?  There are Youtube videos for that.  (can't speak for their success rate, though)

Quilting, exercising, pickling, cooking - it's all there.

So next time you're in a bind and not certain what to do...Youtube.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yao - second tone

The Chinese word Yao, (pronounced yow, but in 2nd tone (with the voice descending) is translated into English as our verb "want, need".  That always threw me for a dilemma.  I was clearly taught the difference between the two words growing up.  Our parents were forever saying, "No, you don't NEED that.  You just want it.  You will not die before the day is out if you don't have it.  Therefore it is not a need."  And yet for the Chinese, the two words are interchangeable. I asked a student about it once, and she laughed and said something about there being a difference between greed and desire. I took it to mean that you shouldn't want something you don't really need.  But with human nature being what it is, is such a thing possible?

We've discussed this subject quite a bit the last few weeks in our household, and yesterday I learned a friend has been contemplating this same issue as well.  I struggle with how much to save and how much to share, how often to spend and and how often to give, what is enabling and what is assisting.  I still don't have easy answers. I guess growing up in a pastor's home I saw so many people attempt to abuse charity that I'm a little jaded toward helping others.  The family that cried no money for groceries but then grumbled because Dad took them cabbage, potatoes, canned vegetables and milk. They didn't eat those foods.  The family that needed help paying their light bill but then their child showed up to school wearing expensive name brand sneakers while I sported Pic'n'pay hand-me-downs.  The lady on the news who complained about not having money to pay for the gas to heat her house, then followed it up by saying no one should have to choose between having a nice birthday party for her child or paying the heat bill.  The lady who tearfully requested prayer at church because they were having to eat generic brand foods while her husband was on the strike line (and I'm sitting there dumbfounded because that was all our family could afford!) and the list goes on and on.

I've learned a lot this week. I listened to a dear friend lovingly instruct someone on stewardship. It's so easy to forget I know the Biblical principles of "don't work, don't eat" and "labor to show yourself approved" because somewhere along the way my parents, teachers, and Godly family members TAUGHT me.  "Teaching them to observe all things..." is part of the Great Commission.  When we fail to instruct those who simply don't know, we're failing in our job of teaching and making disciples.  I'm becoming more convinced than ever that includes the area of finances. It includes every area of our life if I stop and think about it.

It's hard to get involved in the nitty gritty of people's lives.  That means investing time and energy and emotion, things I often seem short of.  And as I've seen over and over, not everyone wants to be taught.  Some simply want a hand-out.  But what kind of excuse am I giving God when I say, "Umm, sorry.  I didn't bother to teach them your stewardship principles because I was afraid they'd either get mad or ignore me."  I'm sure that will go over about as well as me telling my mother I didn't give my sister the message to fold the clothes because I knew my sister either wouldn't do it or would yell at me.  Yeah, right.  I had a job to do and I better do it or else.

I don't have the answers. We still struggle and pray about the best ways to assist and help those in need, and ask for discernment about the truly needed and those who simply need because they fulfilled to many desires and wants. Even though we have two words for this in the English language, sometimes it's not so easy to truly distinguish them in reality.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Perfect People

Never let 'em see you when you're breaking
Never let 'em see you when you fall
That's how we live and that's how we try
Tell the world you've got it all together
Never let them see what's underneath
Cover it up with a crooked smile
But it only lasts for a little while
There's no such thing as perfect people
There's no such thing as a perfect life
So come as you are, broken and scarred
Lift up your heart and be amazed
And be changed by a perfect God

This song recorded by Natalie Grant, specifically the above first verse and chorus, has been on my mind a lot the last few weeks. I'm find comfort anew in the old lesson that God loves me as I am.  He doesn't love me any less for not being the me I want to be, or the me I think others see, but He again and again lovingly takes my jagged and rough edges and slowly beings the process of sanding them into a beautiful object.  I'm never certain whether we long for our own version of perfection because we're falling into the original sin of trying to be like God, or if it's because we serve a perfect God and deep down desire to truly emulate Him. Either way, I like the last three lines of the chorus.  The me that I am will be changed be a perfect God, so I don't have to worry about Him messing up.  And that is a very cool and refreshing thought indeed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

under the curse

A few weeks ago we introduced the surviving unnamed biddie (we don't know if it's a boy or girl yet) into the hen house for the night.  All was fine until the morning when the other birds jumped it. I knew all about pecking order, but I never dreamed the older birds would be quite so vicious.  Even with opening the outer door to allow the bird an escape route, they still followed it.  Pecking at it was one thing, but when one of the birds grabbed it by the neck like a momma cat does her babies and began slinging it around, I intervened.

Later that week, we heard someone telling about their cats, and how they devoured a kitten that was dying.

As a child, one of my favorite past times (until Mom found out) was thumping on the bedroom window.  The upper right corner (on the outside, of course!) housed a wasp nest, and the upper left corner was a yellow jackets nest. If we stood on the top railing of the bed and I tapped one side of the window while my sister tapped the other, the insects would fight and sting each other.  It was always an interesting war.

As an adult though, watching the viciousness of animals toward each other is very disturbing. It's even more disturbing to see it in humans.  And when I see it repeatedly, I can't help but long for the day when earth will be renewed and healed from the curse of sin which binds it.

That will be the day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

the urge

Some people call it a rush, a desire, a muse, but whatever it is, it always hits in multiples, fast and furious.  Finish a project, and you can think of 20 things you need/want to do next.  Start a project, and you feel the desire to start another gazillion before you finish.
So this morning, while in the midst of crushing grapes to make jelly, I'm thinking about laundry, cleaning the house, AND two quilt projects and another organization project I want to tackle.  Did I mention I'm supposed to be at the gym?
I took this class a few weeks ago on Tuesday morning, some-what enjoyed it (though I had a severe muscle cramp early in that took 3 days to get rid of) and was contemplating bringing on an early death by going again when I realized there was absolutely no way I was going to get everything done that HAD to be done today before I left.  Plus the fact it was time to go and I wasn't ready.  Trivial details.
So what is it that makes some of us want to flit from one task to another?  A lack of discipline?  The enjoyment of the rush of emotions that come with new things?  Hormones? 
What is your motivation to finish projects?  Or do you even require one? Deadlines?  The desire for completion?  Space?  A nagging person?

Monday, September 13, 2010

my messy work room

Two of the three rooms are now visitor ready, and my work room is "messy".  After explaining in a some-what calm but half-way irritated tone of voice to the owner of the previous comment that this room wasn't finished but was a work in progress, I realized that it is near completion.  Sure, there's still two piles that need sorting and putting away, but I've managed to tackle a few (okay, from several years ago) projects and actually finish them this weekend.  In other words, the mess is livable and workable for me. :)
just a bedroom

now my studio

I know it looks messy with a sewing project and quilting project tumped over the table and chair and a pile of art tablets behind to be put away, but I LOVE having all my pattern and reference books in one bookcase together, as well as all my patterns combined into one storage container, separated by sections. The white cabinet (formerly where all the toys were) is still in the room, just against the wall behind the art table and easel. If by chance I finish cleaning tomorrow, you might get a picture of the nice and clean (i.e. not being used at the moment) room, but this room will probably happily stay in various states of organized chaos. 

And once the dust in my life settles, I may actually get a sign for the room, with the quote my husband loves to quote the most about me: "Nature abhors a vaccuum."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

so close I can smell it

the "finished" room



Two of the three rooms are now finished!  ALL my art and sewing supplies are now in one room!!!  Note, I didn't say that room was organized, but it's so close I can smell it! I'm still not totally sure about the wisdom of dumping all the toys into the cedar chest, but on the flip side, it will be a lot easier to clean up.  There's no set space for anything so it'll just be dump it all in! Hopefully tomorrow you'll see pictures of my new work room!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

playing with matches

Not exactly sure who ranks the highest in stupidity these days:

  1. The church in Florida who is paying money to buy Korans to burn in memory of 9/11 (Our church could use some dough for a building fund; I know several missionaries who are in need of money to keep their works going; There are tons of orphans all around the world who need assistance; we've got a national debt; and this church is using their money just to turn around and burn it?!)
  2. The media - If they simply ignored this story instead of filing it under their Muslim discrimination thread, most people would shrug and say, "yeah, those people are a little crazy/creepy" and go on about their life. People overseas would most likely never ever hear about it, hence our troops in Afghanistan and aid workers in Muslim countries would not have to fear the repercussions. So what does the brilliant American media do?  Give them plenty of free advertising and coverage.
  3. Our liberal politicians - Stupid is as stupid does.  They obviously don't know the Proverb "answer not a fool according to his folly." and help fuel the flames by issuing condemnations, pleas, rebukes, and other such carbon monoxide into the already dense atmosphere.
  4. Nazi screamers - It always puzzles me a bit to hear anyone compare book/CD/magazine/bra burning to the Nazis.  The Nazis went into people's homes, forcibly took their books and music, and torched them in the streets.  Americans go to the store, pay their own money for the books and music, then burn them on their own property.  Minor details, but details that totally change the slant of the story.  And yes, I know (or at least have never heard of) the German Nazi's burning bras, but it fit in the list of things people have burned in the past. :)
So what will you do to commemorate 9/11?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I don't remember if I had hurt my shoulder muscle again or if Bobby was sick, but I do know we had three Belarussian kids inside and my brother-in-law was at the house helping out.  He finished and headed home, but then quickly returned.  When I went outside to meet him, he laughingly said, "I know the last thing you want or need is more work, but there's a mother dog with five puppies, still nursing that have been put out on the road just a few steps past your property line.  They look like beagles.  I told him I would go take care of them, and he grinned.  He had them in the back of the truck. We gave away three puppies, the mother ran off, and Lucy and Linus became a delight to watch (and an aggravation to see all their destruction).  For the last three years, whether it be flower pots they emptied and chewed up, to hiding in the van and chewing off the arm rests on chairs, they've enjoyed life with us.  Sometimes a little too much.  But since we've added chickens within the last 16 months, they've acquired a thirst for the hunt.  We were accustomed to finding moles, rats, and birds in the driveway, as well as half-eaten pears, apples, and pecans. (They didn't care for grapes.) But chickens and geese became a diferrent matter entirely.
So today with sad hearts but knowing what was the best (we hope!) for everyone, we gave Lucy & Linus up for adoption.  I know they'll enjoy being petted by children (especially Linus) and having someone to run with (specifically Lucy).  They'll like having a place where they can run, in the country, where there are no chickens or geese to get them in trouble.  I like the fact that the family is also a Peanuts fan and knew where their names originated. And I hope their next 13 years are as wonderful as their first three. So farewell my pups.  You were the cutest dogs I've ever had.

Monday, September 6, 2010


A month ago I started re-arranging the house.  Then a few weeks ago I frantically worked to finish the Keepsake Quilting Challenge. I neglected my garden. I went out every other day and picked stuff, but I did absolutely no weeding.  And then of course, it rained.  And rained again.  And the weeds grew.  They grew so much that Bobby had Tommy take the lawn mower and mow a path near the pepper plants.  He started to mow around the other edge but ran into a watermelon and decided he better stop.
Since everything but the watermelon, okra, and one cucumber vine have died or are dying anyway, I decided it was time to start ripping up, taking down, and maybe possibly put in something else. (and perhaps give the okra some much needed room to grow). So the brave and daring headed out about 10am this morning to tackle the monstrosity I call a garden. I picked all the peppers worth having and pulled the plants and tossed them.  I unstrung the tomato stalks from the stakes, and pulled both plant and stakes out.  I even weeded around the okra and two cucumber vines. And then we came inside for a much needed break.  I felt like I had walked five miles! I'm not sure, but I think the farm boy supervising may think I'm a wimpy farmer to work only an hour and be overheated.
I'm sure the next thing you expect to read is that after cooling off I went back outside and cleaned up my mess and mowed everything but the okra and vines down and tilled the soil so some lettuce and collards can be planted.  But that's not what happened. 
I might clean up my mess today, but most likely I will leave it for Wednesday.  And the lawnmower has a broken tire (like the wheelbarrow) that I'll need help replacing, and my tiller is out partying and has not returned home yet.
So I'm playing in the kitchen and in my studio which is slowly starting to look a little bit organized and maybe I'll remember to take pictures of my garden on Wednesday when I am done, as well as my work room if I ever finish it.
After all, how much labor can you do on a Labor Day holiday?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

the song of the day

Put the laundry in.
You take the laundry out.
Fold the clothes up nice and you shove them all about.
You keep on doing laundry though you really want to nap.
That's what it's all about.

Clean the dresser off.
Dust the wood you see.
Sort through all the stuff and I mean EVERYTHING!
You keep on filing papers though you really want to nap.
That's what it's all about.

Unload the closet.
Strew it on the floor.
Begin making piles and a pathway to the door.
You keep on rearranging though you really want to nap.
That's what it's all about.

Pick the veggies up.
Toss a few plants.
Wash 'em up real good; thankful there's no ants.
You keep on freezing veggies though you really want to nap.
That's what it's all about.

Close your sleepy eyes.
Hear the crickets chirp.
Rest assured that things are going to finally work.
You keep on tackling projects though it seems so all absurd.
Tuesday I'm heading out! :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

a really cool gadget

A friend of ours asked how we picked our pears, and I laughingly said "With our hands."  So he loaned us a fruit picker.  It's great for getting the fruit that is slightly out of reach without forcing you to climb a ladder or shake the fruit down, bruising it (and yourself) in the process.
Yesterday I finally finished using it.  All the pears within reach are in and processed, and all the apples are picked.  Hopefully I'll finish taking care of those today.
So if you ever have need of a new gadget, I recommend the fruit picker. :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

egg production

Occasionally hens go "broody".  That's where they decide they're going to nest, whether they have eggs under them or not.  According to more experienced hen owners, they will either nest until one of three things happen: 1) you break the brood cycle (by moving them and locking them in a new place for 2 days); 2) they actually hatch eggs; 3) they die from thirst or starvation.
We had a hen go broody earlier this year. At first we were excited thinking she would hatch some of the eggs under her. Then we realized ALL the birds were using her nest, so we either would have no eggs at all and have several wasted ones in the hen house, or we would run the risk of having to crack a partially formed biddie.  (See why I'd prefer not to have a rooster?)  We gave her 18 days, the normal hatch time, then broke her brood cycle.
Bearing all this in mind, we've been a bit puzzled by the decrease in eggs this week.  No dark brown eggs at all, and very few light colored eggs.  So imagine my shock when I decided to check a plant on the front porch one last time (it has died and needs to be removed from its pot) and found this:
Since there are nine eggs, that means they've been there at least a week.  With this heat, that's too long a time to sit outside and still eat.  So our only other option is incubation.  We're laughing, but at the same time I'm not quite sure what I think about this development.  You'll get an update of some sort the end of the month.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

a quirky month

Welcome to September!

Remember that cool shop called Honeybeez & Co that was selling Sara & Sherri's work?  They've closed. Yesterday was their last day, and I never made it back by there after I found out the news. :(
Then today I get an e-mail saying that the first real bona-fide quilt shop I've ever visited is going out of business, and their sale starts this coming Tuesday. Excited about the sale, but sad to see the little place close.  I had taken two classes there earlier this year and really enjoyed them.  One is closing due to the economy and poor sales; the other because the owner is retiring. But I heard rumblings at other shops I visited this year that Etc Crafts might not last much longer, which makes me wonder if the retirement is also tied into the poor economy. And it also makes me wonder what it would take, both energy, business-plan, and resource wise for an artsy-crafty type store to make it in this area.

Another bizarre thing is the number of surgeries happening this month.  Our pastor is having surgery on his vocal chords this morning (as I'm typing, actually).  A friend is having surgery next Wednesday, and then my Mom will be having minor surgery the following Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I'm mowing down part of my garden this week, I've finished putting up the pears and only have grapes and apples left.  Those things let me know (as if the later rising and earlier setting sun hadn't already told me) winter is slowly heading our way.

Maybe this will be the month I actually finish a project.  Maybe.