Thursday, December 17, 2015

Is merry leaking from your Christmas?

Creative Commons License photo credit: wolfsavard

Is the merry leaking from your Christmas? Did the advent season start with sharp edges like a broken ornament? Does society's tar-la-la-ing rub you the wrong way when you are struggling with  discord, illness, or outright tragedy? 

First of all, free yourself from "should." Your legitimate (as opposed to  deranged) thoughts and feelings don't have to match the Hallmark commercials. But if you can't point to any good thing in your life right now, seek help. 

Second, consider how and why you celebrate Christmas the way you do. It's  okay to scale back, or cut out the trappings of tradition. Instead, concentrate on nurturing relationships. 

Third, if you are a person of the Christian faith, remember that this wasn't a great time for Mary either.  She was pregnant before the wedding and a lot of folks didn't believe in her virgin birth 2000 years ago any more than they do today. In her ninth month, she hiked one hundred miles. Or if she was lucky she jostled on a donkey's back. And then she delivered her first child without her mama, in a cave, with Who Knows as midwife.

From the angel's briefing to the humble birth, nothing matched Mary's ideas of becoming a mother. Yet despite the circumstances, she hoped in the promise from the angel, "the Lord is with you" and she "treasured" the shepherds eye witness account of the angelic birth announcement, "pondering [these things] in her heart."

The reason we celebrate Jesus is because He is the hope of the world.  He promises that eventually those who love him won't cry any more tears.  Hope abides with Him even when hurt stomps all over your heart.

"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Thursday, December 10, 2015

My "page views" flat-lined

Successful bloggers have growing readership. Mine is more or less stagnant, and a graph of my "page views" looks like the flat line of an electrocardiogram.

So when I checked my statistics this week and saw a 1000% increase in readership, from 5 to 50, I looked again. I also found that Russia was the source of this huge increase.

Hmm, I don't think there was a big rush by babushkas to read about my making doll clothes. More likely, a "bot", web robot, was running an application that involved my site. I don't set store by artificially elevated statistics.

What I do value is every email, oral or posted comments you make telling me that something I wrote resonated with you. Thank you. 

And here's a link to another blog (whose readership numbers are rising) that eloquently lists what you can do to help spread the word about my blog. If somehow, the link doesn't pop up, you can google  7 ways to love 
your blogger. 

Even though it's #2 on Lori's list (in the link), don't bother hitting the Facebook thumbs-up graphic on my Facebook page. Instead, read what Lori has to say about encouraging your local, friendly blogger (me), item #4, 
and email my blog to somebody else who would like it.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Grandma's Workshop: Gift-Making and Gift-Giving

I love it when I can create something special for a Christmas gift. 

At one point my sisters and I shared the unfinished attic of an old farm house as our bedroom. Even though it had a couple of heat ducts it got pretty chilly. So I made one sister a long flannel nightgown for Christmas. It looked cute, but there was a little problem with the sleeves. When she woke the up the next morning  her hands were swollen about twice their regular size because the wrist elastic was too tight. 

This year I made doll clothes for a granddaughter's doll.  I pulled free basic  patterns off of the internet and raided my scrap boxes to make this cute pair of pjs. I double-checked the sizing by trying the garments on a same-sized doll to be safe. Good thing I did. I had to remake the shirt so it would fit over her big head and stiff arms. 

Once I got the kinks worked out I coasted on a creative rush. I designed the little wardrobe using odds and ends of former projects. Maybe my daughter will recognize some of the fabrics. 

I'm pretty sure the clothes will be a hit, which is all a grandma wants when choosing a gift for a youngster she loves. But gift-giving is more fun if it's also gift-making.

What was your "greatest hit" in gift-giving history?  What was your worst dud? 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cable Company Art versus the Prado

I thought a visit to the Prada was obligatory since I was in Madrid. I shuffled through galleries crowded with ancient art for about an hour until I couldn't stand it. How many old Greek statues can a person enjoy? really? 

I much preferred the art I found on the streets of Spain. In Granada, the walkways were sometimes made of smooth river rocks laid on their edges to give the walker a little foot massage. And they frequently created patterns of leaves, or flowers, or in one case, an islamic scimitar.

Even the cable company left a little humor behind, rather than just pave over their ditch. 

In Barcelona, the sidewalks used a Gaudi design found years after his death for contemporary pavers. The hexagons had portions of three designs that came together as sea creatures when laid correctly. What can you see in these two?

Art celebrated more art! The first, a flamenco dancer. The second, cellist Pablo Casals. 

The giraffe rests languidly on her side, hedonistically inviting you to enjoy her on a fine day in the plaza.

We saw some graffiti, the kind that scribbles a quick name or symbol on a foundation corner. We verified with the cab driver that it was "tagging" of territory for drug sales.

These wall sized "pieces" expand names with shape and color, to declare love, or express pride. ( I hope there aren't hidden evil messages that I missed. )

 This one is in a nice neighborhood, I wonder if it's just tolerated, or appreciated.

This lower one is at the edge of Parc Guell (pronounced "way")  Gaudi's planned residential community built on what was the edge of Barcelona. Now you can enter for free. But you must purchase tickets ahead of time to get in and see the homes.  It's caused some dissension, apparently.

All of the examples were delightful and inspiring in their own way. Better than the Prado, in my opinion.   

Next time you see public art in a downtown street, stop and tell the closest retailer how much you appreciate it. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Spanish Serenades

I loved being serenaded in Spain. And I don't mean a violinist strolling between restaurant tables. 

In Barcelona that meant the subway stations where an elderly violinist played to a track of greatest abbreviated classical hits; and a woman strummed acoustic guitar while singing in a clear voice. The tile walls magnified the sound like a really big shower. No thanks to rolling carts and portable karaoke machines, mediocre vocalists accompanied us as we traveled under the city. Then they passed the hat hoping for donations. 

The best ensembles were around the main cathedral. A dixieland jazz duo-trumpet and piano staked out the main entrance. Now that took some major effort! The piano had been rolled onto the plaza from who knows where. A nearby apartment lobby? A truck?

They drew a good crowd, and their donations were more than a drop in their bucket. I was happy to add my euros to it. And to the open music case of the group around the corner. 

There, an Indian-jazz fusion group set up. They had a mellow sound, the oboe player coming in with short improvisation. Usually I can't guess where a jazz melody line is going to go, but I could almost hum along with these guys. I wish there had been benches, I'd have listened for a lot longer. 

In Grenada a couple of scruffy young guys played hot-tub-for-the-mind music. I gave them B+ for the interesting miniature steel drum, only C for their sound.

The violinist in Madrid was clearly trained as a serious musician. We took an outside table at a little bar across the alley  and ordered a beverage so I could listen until he finished his set--about twenty minutes. He not only played beautifully, he engaged the children who came by. If they tarried, he got down to their level so they could clearly see how he created his magical sound.  One young dad danced with his infant. A passing toddler in a stroller turned his whole body to stay focused until he couldn't turn any further. 

I was reminded that there are many talented people in the world. Not all of them find spots on the stage. This man exuded joy, and I thanked him for sharing his disciplined skill and love of music with us that day.

These encounters are among the reasons I won't travel with a tour. They speed walk from "must-see" to "don't miss". And while doing so, they hurry by the very heart of a place.

Where has incidental music captured your attention?  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, where the visitors miss the point

Thirty years ago a friend went to Europe and came home with photos of undulating, fantastical buildings. That's how I was introduced to the work of Antoni Gaudi.

His buildings were outrageous when he began designing them in the late 1800's, and they still feel futuristic. He began the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in 1886, and it's scheduled to be completed in 2026. I don't think I'll get to see the finished work, but I'm glad I got to tour it in October. 

I've been in several famous churches in the US, other nations of Europe, and now Spain.  I love the majestic sweep of the eye up pillars to ceilings. Stained glass teaches history and was the only Bible the original attendees could read.  Sometimes the statuary moves beyond the familiar birth, death and resurrection of Christ to illustrate more obscure Bible accounts.

 Like the medieval cathedrals built over centuries and supervised by generations of craftsmen, La Sagrada Familia displays the varied styles of its different artists. Some of the depictions of Christ are three dimensional, cubist-like figures, all angular as if shaped with a wide flat blade. Others are intricately decorative and more life-like. Every part of the building departs from earlier styles.


There is also a certain symbolic whimsey to the decorative details outside.
Huge clusters of grapes are covered in  broken pieces of colored glass, as are the wheat sheaves, representing the bread and wine of communion, the blood and body of Christ

 Words urge the observer to worship: gloria, sanctus. Large doors have the Lord's prayer embossed in fifty languages.  

Inside, each pillar was different. The number of ribs carved in each decreases as it goes higher. Each capital (head of each column) is unique. You can see the ornamental medallions  glow as if they're electric!  

The windows are more impressionistic than realistic. In other cathedrals we spent time identifying the stories they tell, but here I was drawn to the overall color scheme. Each panel  seems to slide from one hue to the next, like a giant color wheel. 

  At one point the sun hit a wall of glass and the colors reflected onto the  sculpted walls and ceiling. I could imagine swimming in an underwater polychromatic cave.

Gaudi said that God was his client, and the work was done to His glory. 

It's our habit to sit down in every church we visit to pray for a moment. Unfortunately, here the crush of visitors snapping selfies, chatting and giggling, made the interior feel more like a concert hall just before a pop concert. The energy was high, but irreverent, ignoring the sacred nature of the building. 

I imagine for a person who does not know the gospel narrative, it's easy to overlook Who is supposed to get the glory in this magnificent church. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Barcelona: high density and high intensity

Barcelona has a high population density and a high intensity lifestyle. 41,000 people live in a square mile there! 

Each apartment building is attached to the next like a siamese twin. Gracious hundred year old buildings have balconies just big enough for a few flower pots. On sunny days the floor to ceiling french doors open to let in fresh air, sheer curtains shifting with the breezes. At night I saw rows of lights and imagined the people inside reading newspapers or washing dishes in narrow kitchens.

Of course, those many people need all of the services we do. I wondered why every other person on the sidewalk was pulling a wheeled suitcase, then figured out they were shopping carts. No Costco for them. 

Traffic was relentless. Motorcycles squeezed between the lanes of moving cars. Buses were full. Underneath us, the subways carried more passengers. I asked a taxi driver if it was hard to drive there. He said the cars were careful and obeyed the law. But the motorcycles did as they wished, and they endangered everyone.

Every generation from 20's to 60's rode them. I saw stylish business women in skirts and high heels climb on, tighten their coats, and adjust their helmets. Cars seemed reserved for families with kids.

Because of apartment living the common space was very important. The plazas where streets intersected had planters and sometimes small lawns. The major roads had trees planted in strips on either side. Public parks were small, but well used. And every little restaurant had at least two tables outside.

The food was terrific. We'd heard about meals made of appetizers--tapas.

And we loved them. We quickly found two restaurants close to the hotel that we liked.  Catalonians eat lots of olives, green and red peppers, and everything is cooked in olive oil. I'm going to scour seed catalogs to find these tiny  (about 2" diameter) red peppers which were marinated in oil and vinegar before being stuffed with herbed cheese. Many of our salads included fresh asparagus, a real treat for us this time of the year. 

We could have chosen Barcelona just for the food but really came for the architecture. Next blog I will share a few photos of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia church, and a "modernismo" (1900) musical performance hall. 

Get in the mood--go munch olives!  


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Out of Order

Dear Readers,

I upgraded my operating system and messed up by blogging platform. I don't know how to fix it, and will be OUT of ORDER for a couple of weeks.

Thanks for your patience.

Travel blogs will resume!


Pam Glover

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Here to There (Is Surry County in the same universe as Spain?)

I headed out for my walk today and couldn't help but contrast here with there. 

For the last two weeks I've been hoofing over pavement in Spain. There I sidled through jammed sidewalks,  strolled down tree-lined paseos,  or treaded carefully over river rocks  in medieval alleys.

Today I was alone on our country drive, rather than sharing crowded walkways. 

The breeze was moderate with a crisp tinge unlike ocean-tempered Barcelona or warm Granada.

The only color left in my yard was from leggy cosmos lying horizontal. Compared to the Alhambra, it isn't even a garden. 

Join me the next few weeks as I contrast bustling Barcelona to medieval Madrid to laid-back Granada. It will have to satisfy both of us until we book another trip.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Breakfast at the Starbucks Academy

My city mouse grandchildren always look around for the Target and Starbucks. They can't fathom life without one or both at a nearby corner. 

Recently while visiting them, we stopped off for coffee, etc. on the way to a the airport. What surprised me was a line of families stopping to get breakfast before school.

Apparently in that neighborhood the kids don't eat breakfast at home or at the school cafeteria. Thus, Starbucks is fast food. But not really because the line was so long and it takes more than a minute to whip up decaf latte mocha with nonfat milk and no whip cream. 

The nearest two schools to that location are private, both called academies.
One costs $17,000 a year, the other doesn't state the tuition price on line. I guess if you have to ask you can't afford it. As a product of public education, and a teacher in public education, I can't fathom that kind of money.  

It baffles me. It rankles. It makes me sad because the kids I taught deserved beautiful facilities, small class sizes, well-endowed libraries, labs and even sports fields. 

Starbucks they could live without. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Critters in the Suburbs

The distinction between inhabited and wild landscapes is blurring faster than a rabbit on the run. 

My daughter sent this photo taken on her run in a south Denver suburb. She wasn't more than 1/4 mile from major traffic areas. Seeing the doe was a nice surprise, although worrisome for the deer. But the buck! I've never seen a buck even out here in the boonies!

 used by permission of RJ Sangosti, Denver Post

Back in September she took her kids to school to discover the school was in lock down. No, not guns, a school bus full of kids and their driver spotted a bear in the neighborhood park.  No kidding. Later in the week he was tranquilized in a backyard a mile from her house! 

It's good she runs with her cell phone, but maybe she needs a holster for a big spray can of bear-b-gone. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Ivy is a porch barnacle

I just realized that ivy is a porch barnacle. 

Like its seaward sister, it starts small and is a already a problem when you first spot it. 

It fastens itself to posts, crawls between boards, and climbs effortlessly. It grows tiny rootlets that don't need soil, and produces a superglue that allows it to adhere to any surface, even glass. The rootlets absorb water from rain and the air, and flourish anywhere. 

Left too long, it's a struggle to remove the vines. And once you dislodge it, it leaves behind tough tan dry roots. 

If barnacles are scraped off they leave behind their footprint too.  Here's a rock I picked up at the ocean. You can see large and small barnacle imprints. 

Like the ivy, cirripods manufacture a fixative that fuses the larvae to the host. They attach head first, and their bodies have tubes that deliver the glue. As the barnacle grows, layers of the animal are added, and more cement laid down. 

Of course, both ivy and barnacles add weight to whatever they affix themselves to. Ivy in a large tree can literally weigh a ton, and barnacles on a boat can slow its progress.

I don't want my porch to be overgrown with ivy so I snip it off a couple of times a year. 

As for our rowboat, maybe the barnacles are the reason I'm a klutz with oars! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pursuit of the Passion Flower

If you're not a gardener quit reading now because this will be BORING.
But if there's any botanical fervor in your heart, you'll get it.

Last year I spotted an exotic flower along the fence line of my neighbor's tobacco field. Not where you'd expect to find anything lovely. Later I saw one trained over an arbor in a garden shop and my friend identified it as a passion flower.

I vowed to have one in my yard. I snagged one of the pods from the wild plant to see if I could dry it. Unfortunately the pod rotted. I learned they supposedly don't have time to produce seeds in our climate.

I watched for it to sprout again this year. How horrible to see my farmer-neighbor uproot everything with a bulldozer! I held onto hope and kept watching just in case some little root survived. Actually, several plants have developed where there was just one. So much for the seeds-don't-work theory.

Not going to lose my chance again, I vowed to dig up the treasure as soon as it rained.

But I didn't have to, because in the ditch in front of the house, there are two, TWO! blooming there.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Forget Enlightenment - Go for Relishment

I have achieved relishment. (If enlightenment is a a word, a state of being, why can't relishment be a word too?)

Saturday may have been the last 80 degree day we will see for seven months. So I set out to putz my way around the yard, a little trimming here and there, tending the raised bed. Nothing long or strenuous. 

Here's how you can achieve relishment too.

R-Relax. Crumple up the do-list and toss it in the trash.

E-Enjoy the task. If you don't get pleasure from it, quit! 

L-Linger over every little accomplishment.

I- Let imagination, rather than industry, rule. Turn off the timer in your head. Let your mind meander and some new ideas may have room to slip in! 

S-Savor the moment. Take time to sit in your favorite lawn chair and look around. Listen quietly to what's happening around you. Run your nose along the warm green pepper you picked and breathe in its spice. Close your eyes and let the sun warm your face. 

H-If you're healthy enough to get around on your own, live in a place you love, and have a little money in the bank, be happy!  You're not forced to escape from war,  shepherd your family across oceans or confront hostile borders. 

Relish tomorrow! And let me know what you particularly enjoyed. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Don't Need a Calendar to Know it's Fall

I don't need a calendar to know fall is here. There are signs all around:

Spiders spin webs between any two or more points in the yard and house.  :(  

By the way, if I put the period after the frowny face :(.  does it look like a mole?  

A cluster of stink bugs lurk outside hoping to sneak in. When they do, Bill drops them into soapy water to backstroke until they drown. 

The dogwood adorns herself with red berries. 
(Dogwoods are not dioecious, that is specifically male or female.)

The last watermelon in the garden just won't get ripe and we're in a race against the first frost. 

The corn is harvested.

As we near the equinox the sun shines like a klieg light directly through the west doors. The flower arrangement of rosy sedum, purple basil and zebra grass lights up until it glows as if lit from within. 


                       The usually dark hall turns golden.

Welcome, Autumn. I hope you are long and fair.