I'll Be Home for Christmas - Christmas Songbook Series

I'll be home for Christmas, you can plan on me. Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree...
  Doris tied the ribbon on the package she was wrapping and pushed it aside with a sigh. The rest of the presents can wait till later, she told herself and slowly made her way to the couch.
  Little Barbara, only 4-years-old, and Hank, two years older, sat on the floor in front of the Christmas tree playing with their toys. When Doris sat down, Barbara looked up at her mother.
  “Mommy, why isn't Daddy home?” She asked with her innocent brown eyes shining.
  “Timmy's father is home already,” chimed in Hank. “And you said the war was over.”
  Doris smiled sadly. “It takes a while for every soldier to get home. Though the war is over, there is still much to be done.”
  “But why can't he come home now?” Barbara continued.
  Hank lowered his eyes. “Do you think we will get a letter like Mike's mother did?”
  Doris' face paled and her hand flew to her chest. She fought to regain her composure. Taking a deep breath, she motioned for her two children, now very solemn, to come to her.
  With them seated, one on one arm of the couch and the other on her lap, she began gently. “It's hard for us to understand why God allows such dreadful things to happen. But no matter what happens, one thing I know, God loves your father and us very, very much. We've trusted Him this far, let's not lose hope now.”
  She gave them each a hug. “Now let's get ready for the Christmas Eve service, alright?”
  Barbara and Hank brightened at this and jumped up, running with scampering little feet to their rooms. Doris smiled after them but her smile slowly faded again. “Oh Lord,” she whispered, “please bring Chad home... soon.”

  On the way home, Doris' mind was elsewhere. There had been many servicemen just recently returned home and it was hard for her to keep her mind off her own husbands absence. Her two children chattered in the front seats beside her, paying no attention to their mother's somber expression.
  Suddenly Hank spoke up. “Mommy, you must have left a light on in the house?”
  Doris frowned. She particularly remembered having shut them off. She parked the car in the driveway and the children jumped out.
  “The doors open too,” said Hank.
  Doris face was puzzled as she followed her children in. “Now I'm sure I locked the door...” She mumbled.
  The next moment, Barbara gave a squeal and ran into the living room with Hank right behind her. A man in an army drab uniform rose from the sofa and turned around. Doris' mind was plunged into a fog of incomprehension as the familiar figure scooped up both children and held them in his arms. She didn't even notice a second figure rising from the easy chair.
  The children cried over and over, “Daddy, Daddy!” covering him with kisses. Chad, as the man was, returned their affection with his face bursting with his smile. Then the children noticed the second person.
  “Uncle Hank!” They screamed and wiggled free from their father to reach their uncle's outstretched arms.
  Chad turned expectant eyes to Doris. “Hello Dorry.”
  Finally beginning to understand what she was seeing, Doris leaned on the back of the sofa for support. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. Instead, tears welled up in her eyes and she began to sob. She couldn't move but just sat there with her head in her hands trying to control her sudden emotion.
Chad took a slow step forward and pulled his wife into his arms. Unable to stop the flow of tears, Doris buried her face in his shoulder.
  From their vantage point in their uncles arms, Barbara and Hank smiled at their parents touching reunion. In no time they reached the floor and were tugging on their parents. Each holding a child, the two wrapped their free arms around each other and shared a kiss.
  After a proper amount of time, Uncle Hank cleared his throat with a raised eyebrow. “What about the brother? Is anyone happy to see him?”
  Doris gave a sniff and a laugh and let go of her husband to give her brother-in-law a kiss. She wiped her eyes. “I don't know what to say. I didn't want to let myself believe that you both would be home for Christmas!”
  Another round of hugs and the children were finally ready for their story-telling uncle to answer their questions. Only too thrilled to comply, Uncle Hank took the children in his lap and began his tall tales. Doris and Chad sat down on the sofa and listened and laughed.
  During the third story, Doris turned her eyes to her husband. “God answered my prayers.”
  Chad's smile held unspoken emotion. “Mine too.”

Melancholy Sweetness

As a self-styled female crooner (what I prefer to call a canary), I tend to lean toward the more mellow songs of the Christmas songbook. Small wonder that I'll Be Home for Christmas is one of my favorites.

Although the song is a bit downhearted, I find it brings a keener sense of joy and happiness. Today it is one of those famous Christmas songs that you hear every year. But at one time, there was scepticism as to whether it would really make good.

Kim Gannon wrote the lyrics but was turned down in the music business because of the songs dismal ending. He later sang the song for Bing Crosby and in 1943 the song was recorded by the famed voice and, like White Christmas before it, was a great hit. At one point I read that some parts of Europe banned the song, afraid it would lower morale. But evidently it's popularity overturned this rule.

Gannon intended for the song to represent any loved one away from their family and not just World War II soldiers, though obviously this was foremost in the publics minds at the time. Despite the lyricists intentions, when I hear the song, I can't help but think of World War II soldiers longing to come home for Christmas. And many people say the same. It's a smidgen of history to remind us of what we, as a nation, have had to endure.

So next time you hear Bing Crosby croon that bittersweet tune this year, take a moment to consider how your Christmas plans would be different in the era of this song. My story may have had a happy ending, but many did not.

And for all those who are away from loved one's at this time of year, whether overseas or for any other reason, I'd like to wish you a blessed Christmastime.

Merry Christmas all!

A Thanksgiving Misconception

I was surprised the other day to learn that (some) public schoolers were taught the reason for the first Thanksgiving celebration was to thank the Indian's for their assistance in helping them to grow food. In actuality, this is only a minor reason, though I am sure they were immensely grateful to them.

Do you know the real reason? Do you know why the Pilgrims made the huge decision to leave their homes and friends and families and life that was familiar to them to travel miles across the sea to a place none of them had seen?

This is very important, and as Americans we have a responsibility to know the truth about our country's origin.

Now I don't intend to give a history lesson, though personally, that would be fun. No, I want to plainly state why we celebrate Thanksgiving each year.

Times were getting tough for Christians in England and they found more and more of their religious freedom being take away from them. Instead of compromise their beliefs, they decided to stand by their values and take desperate measures. Many would lose their lives because of this decision, and I'm sure they knew this was a possibility. But losing your life for what you believe in was more important to them then a comfortable life of compromise. Can we say the same?

The trip over the sea was rife with disaster and trial. The devil surely did not want this group of believers succeeding in their godly mission. But God brought them to the land they sought.

We can't comprehend how difficult it was for them that first year struggling to survive. Not with our grocery stores only miles away and the internet at our fingertips, our civilization and convenient living where anything you want you can buy. Try imagining living somewhere where there was no hospital, no stores, no lumber yard or construction workers for building homes. It's not a pleasant thought.

When the Indians offered to help the Pilgrims were grateful students. But they knew that the source of their success was God and God alone. He protected this remnant of His people in the same way He did for the Israelites centuries before. Because they loved Him and pledged to serve Him, but mostly because He loved them.

The decision to have a grand feast in celebration was an overflow of their grateful hearts for the One who had made it possible. They invited the Indians to share with them not only the food they had but the truth they had as well. That God made us all with His perfect love, and sacrificed Himself for our eternal security.

The Thanksgiving "story" is about God's ability to create something amazing from a few willing followers. He promises to bless those who trust Him. Imagine what He could do in our lives if we surrendered completely!

When we get together each year for another feast reminiscent of the first we are saying as the Pilgrims did, "We have come this far not on our own, but because of God's blessing!"

We are blessed! It's worth remembering.

In My Backyard - Issue #16 - Mockingbird Attitude

Have you ever wondered why mockingbirds do what they do?

Mockingbirds can be described as obnoxious, noisy, and aggressive, among other things, and oftentimes these descriptions are deserved. They are known to chase other birds and any other animal, or human, that may get in their way, although this is usually the case when a nest is involved. Cats are their favorite punch bags. It's common for us to see one of our cats being continually attacked during such seasons only for them to respond by sitting under the tree and popping their tails.

Personally, I find them amusing. The other day I had the perfect opportunity to watch two Mockingbirds challenging each other. Humanly speaking, what was the point? But to a Mockingbird it was a matter of self-respect. Watch the video below to see what I mean.

And they went on! I believe the only reason they stopped when they did was because the car disturbed them. Otherwise, who knows how long they might have gone on!

About 1:26 into the video you see the bird on the left pick up a bit of grass, hop a bit more, and then drop it. I've seen dogs do something of the same order when in the heat of the moment. Do they get carried away? Like a fighter who beats his fists in anticipation of the next punch? I must say, I was thoroughly amused.

It fascinates me to watch animals. I love wondering why they do the things they do. There has to be a reason in most cases. God-given instinct, for one. If you've never wondered about these things, I would highly recommend you take a minute and look at nature. There is so much for us to learn!

The Corliss Skirt

It's no secret that I like vintage fashion. The elegant cut of the waistline, full skirts, and crisp blouses. There was pride in the way a person dressed, back in the days when people had self-respect. Dressing up was something you did when you went shopping or had company over. I need not say how far we have back-slidden from those days of personal consideration. Now people barely dress up for weddings. It's a shame, but it reflects our society.

I know there are some that would agree when I say I believe we should dress a little more the way they used to. No period in history is without its faults, so I do not propose that this was a perfect era. But speaking in terms of fashion, it was superior to this era by far.

For Instance

The 1945 movie Kiss and Tell is a great comedy with Shirley Temple. Full of side-splitting laughs, Corliss (Temple) attempts to cover for her friends forbidden marriage and gets involved in rumours and gossip as only the flirty girl could. If you watch it, be sure to watch its sequel, A Kiss for Corliss (also called Almost a Bride).

Mrs. Archer enters the room with a nearly finished skirt to try on her daughter. The days of sewing your own clothes are gone. It's sad that so many people today do not, or have never had the chance to sew. It's really an incredibly satisfying thing to be able to make your own clothes.

She wraps it around Corliss' waist and begins pinning it in the back while Corliss throws the straps over her shoulders and attaches a clip at the center of her waist. You can see that the dress she has on already is of a similar design.

It's pretty basic; I would like to think I could remake it fairly well if I had a chance. Unfortunately, I'm still looking for a good sewing machine. Recommendations?

The material appears to be floral, which is a popular pattern of the time and hasn't really gone out of style. The waistband is beautifully wide and comes up to the waist (what a novel idea!), while the length comes to her knees. The broad straps most likely button in the back. 

Despite the fact that this seemed to be a style the younger generation (at the time) would wear, I'm sure the same style instituted today could be worn by women of any age. There's something about it that speaks of femininity and gentleness, as well as giving an air of quaint simplicity to your wardrobe. Paired with a lovely blouse, famous 40's pumps, and a curly hairstyle, and you'll have a great look for today inspired by yesterday.

Have I finished gushing over 40's fashion? Momentarily. But be sure to keep on the lookout for more. Check out my A Look At Fashion page for a list of more posts on the subject. Let me know what you think!

A Small Infinity Scarf Journey

When my friend asked me to make 4 monogrammed infinity scarves for her to give to her bridesmaids, I was naturally thrilled.

I had about a year before the wedding so I worked on it gradually. I created this design, the Cliffside Infinity Scarf, that is extra long and held together with a strap and lovely wooden button.

But it just wasn't what I had in mind.

So I started again. This time I chose a thicker yarn and thought "chunky". I came up with this pattern, the Graphite and Rose Infinity Scarf. I really liked the soft feel of the yarn, Lion Brand Chunky, worked with a large hook. It worked up well and fast.

But my friend had something a little closer knit in mind. So back to the drawing board.

It took me longer than I wanted because I had to juggle creating patterns for Crochet Spot. But I finished it finally and was ready for the embroidery.

At first I intended to design the monograms myself. And yet the more I worked at it the more I realized this called for something a little more professional than I could give it. After talking to some people I began to fear the stitch was still too open for it to work. With fingers crossed, I took it to a local store. The result was pleasing and I learned a few things in the process.

Here is the finished product.

My friend was very happy about the scarves, which made me happy.

You might think I should start a business. Well, I've fiddled for a few years with the idea of starting an Etsy business, but I just haven't felt the final nudge in that direction. And yet I really enjoy making things for people, requested and gifts. I guess the idea of having to make a certain pattern over and over doesn't appeal to me. It's like working in a factory. I know some people don't have a choice, but while I do, I want to make the best of it.

This is the conclusion I have come to after all this. I am more than happy to take orders, especially custom. But as for starting a full, blooming business, I'd rather not. My writing is too important to me to sacrifice.

It's nice to make up one's mind once and a while.

Hydrothermal Vent Series - What about the Heat?

If these are some of the organisms found in the cold, deep ocean, how are they able to withstand the dramatic difference of a hydrothermal vent?

Active “smoker” chimneys precipitating iron, copper and zinc sulfides from 230ÂșC fluid. They are 9 m tall from the base to the top of the chimneys. Dark beehive-type chimneys, here about 30 cm tall, commonly sit on top of these structures. (Courtesy of NOAA, Ocean Explorer)

In the depths of the dark ocean, temperatures reach incredibly freezing degrees and organisms belonging to this habitat have been specifically created to dwell there. But not all areas of the deep ocean are frigid. There are some that reach a different kind of extreme. These fascinating places are called hydrothermal vent sites and at these points along the ocean floor, water becomes beyond boiling! (For more on Hydrothermal Vents, see my previous posts - Underwater Chimneys and Life on the Vents).

Many of those creatures well equipped for freezing waters that we spoke of a second ago frequent the same waters, which causes us to ask the question, how is their bodies both equipped to stand incredibly cold and incredibly hot water at the same time? Do they have a special armor protecting them from feeling any temperature? Well, take a look at the clams, the shrimp, and the octopus-- no such protective barrier exists. And yet, the range of organism variety is just as large as anywhere else in the ocean, if not more so.

To answer our questions, we need to step back and look at the hydrothermal vent site as a whole. A mound of rock pushed up in ridges marks the position of a vent, while the tell-tale signs of mineral-laden chimneys jut from the top. Issuing forth from the openings are clouds of black, or sometimes white, smoke. When the water reaches the magma below it shoots up like a terrestrial geyser many feet above the thriving ecosystem. It quickly mixes with the cold water of its surroundings and, much like the clouds in our atmosphere, begins to spread, thus gradually cooling until it becomes the ambient temperature of deep seawater.

According to an article in Popular Science by Dawn Stover, "the intense heat is limited to a small area...within less than an inch of the vent opening..." (Ocean Planet - Creatures of the Thermal Vents).

So organisms that live on vent sites do not in fact experience the heat from the magma heated water. What they do take part in is the chemicals in which the water consequently abounds, causing them to thrive and flourish. (Read about how these organisms survive the toxic water in my previous article, Life on the Vents).

Pompeii Worm with its protective covering of bacteria. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

There is at least one exception: the Pompeii Worm, which gets its name from the memorable event involving Mount Vesuvius, is an incredibly designed creature that has the ability to withstand up to 176 degrees fahrenheit, while literally living in the structure of the vents' fragile chimneys.

As always, I hope you have enjoyed this issue of my Hydrothermal Vent series. Next in this series we'll take a look at some of the expeditions that were made to such phenomenal areas in the ocean. Come back soon!

Hydrothermal Vent Series - Life on the Vents

At first we were told that life depends upon energy from the sun. And then they discovered hydrothermal vents!

White Shrimp near a hydrothermal Vent, Nautilus in the Gulf of Mexico, 2013
Unlike the extremely cold temperatures of the deep ocean, hydrothermal vents produce waters so hot the form is between liquid and gas, (see beginning post Underwater Chimneys). And then to add to this extreme is the toxicity of the water due to the dissolved minerals, making it seemingly safe to conclude no life as we know it is able to survive there. And yet when the Alvin (a manned submersible owned by WHOI) discovered the first vent in 1977, the diversity of life found surpassed any they had seen before.

Obviously a different world with different species, what they discovered was incredibly diverse. A world teeming with life! Sessile organisms and pelagic creatures alike find the vent ecosystem more than suitable for "home life".

But how? How can they survive the poisonous water? And what about the tremendous heat?

Bacterial Mat at Blake Ridge diapir. Picture Courtesy of NOAA

In the world of science, the primary producers of each ecosystem are the organisms that others rely on for survival. Primary producers translate energy to food for the following consumers in the food chain. In a hydrothermal vent community, chemosynthetic bacteria are the important members, the primary producers. Since plant life is unable to grow and the concept of marine snow hardly provides enough food to account for the oasis, other vent organisms depend on the bacteria to translate the toxic energy into usable energy. Growing in thick mats on the surrounding surfaces near hydrothermal vents, chemosynthetic bacteria is grazed upon by small invertebrates like amphipods and copepods. Larger organisms like eels, crabs, jellyfish and even octopus, feed on these smaller organisms and thus continues the hydrothermal vent food chain of predator and prey.

This ecosystem can never be described as merely managing to survive, but more properly as flourishing. The bacteria provides plentiful energy for the organisms in the community.

Large numbers of vent shrimp and mussels feed on the white flocculent mats on the periphery of white smokers, showing that microorganisms are channeling energy up the food chain. Picture courtesy of NOAA

Many scientists take advantage of this deep-sea anomaly to expostulate on the theories of our origin, saying life may have begun at these points. But sadly, this is just another useless grasp for those striving to find the reason for life in other places than the true account. No sketchy gaseous explosion or bubbling pot can create the intricacy we are surrounded by. The account in Genesis is much more plausible.

Thank you for reading this weeks installment of the Hydrothermal Vent Series. Be sure to come back soon to find out how these incredible creatures can withstand the heat!

Hydrothermal Vent Series - Underwater Chimneys

Like a lit fuse running along the surface of the seafloor, hydrothermal vents are frequently found in areas of volcanic activity, such as mid-ocean ridges!

ROPOS is in position for hot fluid sampling at this black smoker vent. Image courtesy of Submarine Ring of Fire 2002, NOAA/OER.

In the depths of the ocean, vents on the seafloor spew out superheated water in clouds of black or sometimes white. The 'smoke', or plumes, carry minerals up through the vents and consequently, chimneys begin to grow as the minerals build on each other. Because of the great temperatures, much of the minerals are dissolved in the water and released into the ocean.

With so much volcanic activity on our geologically changing planet it stands to reason we would have the same examples of volcanism in the ocean. Similar to hot springs and geysers on land, hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor are examples how the Earth's crust is just as volatile below sea level. Often located along areas where tectonic plates are pulling apart, hydrothermal vents have a lifespan of 20-30 years and their chimneys can grow to be as large as 40 metres! A magnificent feat considering their fragility.

Hydrothermal vents attain their water as it seeps through cracks in the seafloor to the rocks, already heated by magma, just under the Earth's surface. The temperatures at these sites will reach approximately 700° F; 500 degrees more than waters' boiling point. Explorers have built ROV's and equipment especially to withstand these temperatures but even then it still gets the best of some.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

In the hostile climate that exists around hydrothermal vents the last thing one would expect to find is life. And yet despite our presumptions, there is a thriving ecosystem on these toxic vents: tube worms, translucent jellyfish, crabs and shrimp, all of phenomenal size. Also in great quantities are mats of bacteria. All of these depend completely on the existence of hydrothermal vents. When a vent 'dies', so does its occupants.

In the posts to come I will delve a little deeper into certain aspects of hydrothermal vents, such as the types of creatures in their ecosystem and how they survive, expeditions, and attempts at exploitation. Come back soon to read more!

In My Backyard - Issue #15 - Puppies!

Normally, the creatures I talk about on these posts are pretty unusual. But when you have a garage full of adorable little puppies, how could you choose anything else?!

Lucy with her babies

Once again I've let my work get the best of me and leave me with nothing to give to my writing. That's the only excuse I have for not blogging in so long. So many good intentions that never reach their full potential. But finally, today I have set aside some time. So welcome to another issue of In My Backyard!

We first realized Lucy, our Chocolate Labrador, was pregnant only a few weeks before she gave birth. It was strange because Mum and I are with the animals the most and usually notice these things. So obviously, when she started showing signs of labor, we couldn't help but get worried. We thought it was too soon.

You see, she lost her last litter and was very sick herself. We never knew why. The first sign that something wasn't well at that time was how much she drank. So when she started drinking more this time we started praying hard that she wouldn't lose this litter as well. It turned out it was just because of the labor and heat. She gave birth to seven healthy little puppies! Praise God!

Now, only 11 days old, the little things are pushing themselves up on their feet! We just learned that not only do puppies eyes stay closed for a week or more, but their ears do as well. They find their mother with smell alone. So far we've concluded that they are late bloomers.

We have four boys and three girls. Two brown, two dark brown/black, and three black. Just earlier we were taking some pest control measures and I held them on their back till they were content and let Mum do what she needed to. The sweet things would stretch out in my hands, yawn, and heave a great sigh before relaxing and going to sleep. One of them, a black female with white (the only white in the litter, matter of fact), I placed slowly on her back with her head resting on her mother's paw. It stayed there, looking so precious and innocent!

We are telling people to "pre-order", so if you are in our vicinity, send me a message!

Next week I'm starting a series on Hydrothermal Vents. Be sure to check back soon!

My Christmas Dreams... in July

Ice covered tree stump.

It's strange but lately I've been thinking about Christmas. Not necessarily planning for it, though I did tell myself just this morning that I needed to start getting ideas for presents. I even sang Judy Garland's version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas just this morning. Mother gave me a where-did-that-come-from look and I told her I just wanted to sing it.

To those of you who like to "celebrate" Christmas all year round, this is nothing. But to those of you who think of Christmas and groan, I'm sure you are groaning now. If you knew us you'd know that we aren't in the first group and are more like the second. We love Christmas but we never manage to spend it right.

Crochet Christmas Star(s) on Etsy (from Pinterest)

Either way, despite the difficulties we have with Christmas, I can't help but love it and think fondly of what it means to me. If I haven't said already on my blog, I love a good old-fashioned Christmas. Years ago, when I was probably half my age now, my idea of a perfect Christmas was an old log cabin on a snowy mountain, far from anywhere, with candles and lamps for lighting, a tree fresh from the surrounding woods decorated with handmade ornaments and popcorn garland. The cabin would smell of apple spice and the wood beds would all be covered in warm handmade quilts. I longed for the Christmas we'd be able to spend like this. It was also when we used to travel a lot and I actually thought something like this would be possible. I don't suppose it's necessary for me to tell you that it never happened, but to be honest, I've never uncrossed my fingers.

Read my review for Christmas in Connecticut

It's times when the event isn't upon you that you are able to think of it with fonder thoughts. What are your fondest Christmas memories or dreams? I've love to hear them.

Culinary Chronicles - Homemade Tahini Sauce and Hummus

Years ago we found hummus when we were in search of something healthy to eat while travelling around. Since then we've had it as nearly a daily part of our diet because we love it so much. But pretty much anything you buy already prepared cost more than making it yourself. A main goal in our lifestyle is to be frugal. Our mindset is,"Let's make this ourselves."

For years I've prided our mindset for its practicality, and I would recommend most people give it a try. But I must admit, lately I've wondered just how practical we are when all of our time is spent preparing things and very little relaxing fits into our schedule. Making things instead of buying them is more cost affective, and sometimes more healthy, that is why it is really hard for us to justify any other mindset. But what about having time for other things, things that may not be detrimental to living but necessary for a healthy mental state? It's kind of a Catch-22 that only God can work out for us.

But all frustration aside, I've spent some hours in the kitchen trying to figure out how to make this Middle Eastern food for myself. After browsing recipes, and not finding just one in particular that I wanted to use, I made my first hummus using the info I had learned. Unfortunately, it turned out a little too dry.

Since then I've made some changes and this last time I was pretty pleased with the outcome. But first, the tahini sauce.

Tahini Sauce


Many hummus recipes call for tahini sauce but I've never had any to use. I wondered how it would change the flavor of the hummus so this time I made some myself.

I followed this recipe from A Table for Two and added some lemon juice and salt to give it more flavor. When toasting the sesame seeds I wanted to be really careful not to melt them. Once while making Bibimbap (click here for a good Bibimbap recipe) I put the marinated mushrooms and sesame seeds into the hot skillet and the result was disappointing. Needless to say, I'm more cautious with temperature now.

I started toasting the seeds at the lowest temperature on the stove but soon realized that I could bring it up more without endangering the seeds. When you see them browning lightly you'll know you're on the right track.


Having pre-soaked a one pound bag of chickpeas and cooked them that morning, I decided to follow these two recipes from A Table for Two and Pinch of Yum, leaving the roasted red peppers out. (I've tried them in hummus before but haven't been pleased with the flavor.)

Using this helpful chart from Be It Ever So Humble to figure out quantities, I made one batch of garlic hummus with half of the cooked chickpeas. It amounted to 3 cups.

Some recipes require you to "peel" the chickpeas. Obviously, this will result in a  smoother hummus but my family and I have never had a problem with the texture of it so I stick to the easier version -- unpeeled.

I wasn't sure what to do with the last half of the chickpeas since I didn't want to use roasted red peppers but I had no idea where to go from there. Then Mum sent me the recipe for Green Monster Hummus via Pinterest and my mind was set. I think everyone agreed that this was the best hummus I had made yet; they even enjoyed the remainder of the tahini sauce by itself.

If you haven't ever had hummus you must try it. Granted, the brands you choose will differ in flavor. We used to buy Sabra, and absolutely loved it, but stopped buying it when we found out they couldn't assure us their product was made using non-GMO oils. From there we tried a handful of other brands until we finally settled on Athenos.

Then again, if you feel adventurous and want to make your own like I did, Pinterest is full of recipes to take your pick from.

Whatever you decide, be sure and tell me what you think!

Thanks for reading!

Crochet Inspiration in the Movies: The Polly Belt

While watching an episode of Mission: Impossible, the 60's TV series, I noticed Cinnamon's choice of a navy blue dress suit and lemon yellow accessories.

Now regularly, I am not a fan of navy blue --in fact, I'm not a fan of blue itself. It's a bit overused. But then again, that's my opinion and I don't expect anyone to agree with me. I personally love olive greens and mustard yellows, colors most people call gross. But as a costume critic, I have an open mind to colors in general and what looks good on whom.

But back to the blue. When I saw how neatly these two color choices looked together, I had to admit I liked it very much.

Blue and yellow are good choices to put together for contrast because they are opposites on the color scale. (For another example of what I mean, see picture on this post).

By accenting a dark blue suit with a bright yellow, the costume designer made Cinnamon's outfit pop!

Needless to say, I was inspired. And though I do not have a blue suit to sport, I made my own version of Cinnamon's lemon belt. Now if only I could find some lemon yellow pumps...

Using a single skein of Patons Grace 100% mercerized cotton yarn that I thankfully had on hand from a former project, I set about making a belt that I hoped wouldn't be too long or too thick.

I was very happy with the outcome, which isn't always the case. I find I'm rarely happy with the outcome of my crochet designs because I feel like they could always be better. But in this case, I was happy. Maybe it's because I didn't have many problems. Thank God it came together so well.

Previously, I had bought a few D-ring belt buckles that I was intending for skinny belts. They were my only option until I found this buckle I had salvaged from a belt I had thrown away. This one is larger and worked out perfectly!

I call it The Polly Belt! The pattern is available for free at Crochet Spot. Or if you would like one (or more!) made for you, you can contact me through my email: OceansAmy(at)gmail(dot)com.

So what do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

In My Backyard - Issue #14 - Tough Oriole Love

Baltimore Oriole, Adult Male

Only in the past few years have we been blessed with these beautiful birds. The Baltimore Oriole has since been a yearly occupant. We're getting better opportunities to capture them with our cameras each year. The picture above was taken near the beginning of this spring when we noticed their recently built nest. Unfortunately, the Lumix camera I use was unable to zoom any closer.

While sitting in the living room this morning reading, I heard a raucous outside and turned to see two male Orioles fighting right by the window. They took off and we exclaimed over the wonderful chance to see these beauties up close. I went back to reading but was interrupted once again by clear Oriole chirping. Mum turned around and said excitedly for me to look. I jumped up and was thrilled to see this.

Male Orioles, like many of God's creatures, are noticeably more brilliant in color than females. The Baltimore Oriole male has a black head, neck, tale feathers, and wings, with white bands on the wings. Their main body is normally a yellow-orange, being redder at the neck and more yellow down the tail.

The female oriole is quite different. Her main body is a warm gray while her chest down to her tale feathers are a brighter yellow. She also has white bands on her wings.

Juveniles share the females coloring only in more muted tones until they reach maturity.

An Orioles beak is unique in that it enables them to feed on nectar like a hummingbird. That is why you might find them at your hummingbird feeder and you can buy Oriole feeders specifically made for the bigger birds.

The chick sat on a twig in the fence for quite a while, at first waiting patiently for the return of its father and then not so patiently. We had our cameras at the ready prepared for some amazing pictures of both adult and baby. But we noticed in the chicks impatience and agitation it was trying to fly. And we soon realized why the parent hadn't returned.

After some time the chick flapped its wings, flailed about wildly and managed to work itself onto the top of the fence where it perched for a few minutes before getting up enough courage to fly off into the trees.

The wise parents knew exactly what the chick wanted and exactly what the chick needed. In not coming to their child's cries they showed it its strength and stretched its confidence.

This is a wonderful example of life and the way God treats us. And consequently, the way we learn. We might whine and fuss that this isn't easy, but our Heavenly Father knows what we can handle and quietly waits for us to "try our wings". When we do, we learn what He was trying to teach us and that we can handle more than we would have thought.

What if God gave in to our whining and crying? He wouldn't be much of an all-wise Father then, would He?

We never know just how much we can do until we trust God and try.

The Disney Inspired Cephalopod

Courtesy of Ocean Explorer

Of all the creatures seen by NOAA's Okeanos Explorer and those of us onshore, the Dumbo Octopus doubtlessly wins the award of the most adorable!

Courtesy of E/V Nautilus

My first encounter with the Dumbo Octopus was in 2013 from the footage taken by the E/V Nautilus in the Gulf. The species was small, orange, and typically translucent. We watched in amazement as it splayed its webbed tentacles wide and floated with the current in the view of the ROV Hercules' camera. Then our amazement turned to amusement as the ROV pilot endeavored to capture one of these animals with one of the Hercules' mechanized arms .

In contrast, the Okeanos earlier expedition this year exposed us to a surprisingly different species. The following is a line up of stills from the Okeanos' live footage showing a blue-colored Dumbo Octopus, first on the ocean bottom and then casually migrating into the water column. Apparently, this gentle creature was undaunted by the ROV's enormity unlike many crabs.

Courtesy of Ocean Explorer

Courtesy of Ocean Explorer

Courtesy of Ocean Explorer

Courtesy of Ocean Explorer

Though its oblong body may suggest otherwise, this cephalopod is in fact of the octopus family, more specifically, an umbrella octopus. Like all octopus, Dumbo Octopus have a mantle, siphon, eight tentacles, and a beak for eating, among other things. But there are some surprising elements to these creatures that other octopus do not share. For instance, like the squid, some species of this octopus have a shell made of chitin within its mantle. Exceptions to this may be the Flapjack Devilfish, which is also an umbrella octopus resembling something of a jelly.

Another difference is the presence of its characteristic fins. Visually similar to Dumbo's big ears in the Disney cartoon, this octopus uses its fins to maneuver throughout the water column, as well as a siphon, staying fairly near the bottom but remaining in between enough to categorize it as benthopelagic. It happens to be the deepest dwelling octopus known to man, reaching as far as 7,000 meters.

As I mentioned before, there are a variety of species. Some, like the orange one in the pictures above, are bright and quite translucent, a quality many deep-sea dwellers share, while the blue-white species shows very little translucency.

What was particularly interesting was the distinctness in behavior just between these two species. The orange octopus floated into view and quickly spread its tentacles wide and remained in this position until an attempt was made to capture it.

The blue-white species on the other hand sucked its tentacles in close to its body and proceeded to observe its intruders in what the explorers themselves found extraordinarily peculiar.

The fact that this animal is so cute is surprising. Most creatures at such depths are not seen nor exposed to light and consequently have garish features. Why God decided to create one so unlike its contemporaries is beyond me, but then again, that's not too unusual. God's ways are often a mystery to man!

Thanks for reading! Be sure to leave me a comment telling me what you think!

Facts, Research, and Historical Fiction Novels

Torchy Blane, newspaper reporter in film.
I like facts and I like getting all the details. There's just something satisfying about knowing you've covered all your bases. Unfortunately, my love of facts and details -- not to mention accuracy -- causes me to occasionally overload my readers; I'll admit it. But no one said I already know all there is to know about good writing, did they?

Because of my factual fascination I find myself ready to critique anything and everything with a touch of history. We might as well admit it right now, the key to the future lies in the past (now don't quote me on that because I think I heard it from a former teacher).

There is one area in particular that I am hard on: historical fiction novels.

Growing up I absorbed historical fiction (HF) novels written by legends like Gilbert Morris and Janette Oak. My taste in authors in this genre has eventually gravitated more towards Michael Phillips and Judith Pella because of the depth at which they write. In the more recent chapter of my life I really enjoy Davis Bunn and others that write in a similar genre as well as the former authors I mentioned. And I still love a good classic (I would love to recommend some to you!).

Because I've enjoyed HF so much in the past, and been exposed to varying degrees of depth and accuracy, I'm a hard critic.

Sadly what today's authors of historical fiction call factual is often weak and highly infulenced by modern philosophy. I recall watching the 1970's film Chisum and thinking how the women's hair and makeup had a noticable touch of the era in the which the film was filmed instead of the time period of the story. Those of us who aspire to write historical fiction should be careful of where we come from and ask ourselves, "Would people of that day and age even consider that mindset?"

The philosophy most wide spread in period novels is feminism. In today’s culture it is embraced as freedom for women and a blessing to our society. Without getting into the subject itself, it is often that a female character in a period novel exhibits feministic leanings and desires despite the fact that feminism was as distant an ideal as electronics and exploring space.

Here's an example of what I mean:

It's 1850 in Louisiana and Annette, at age 20, rebels against her parents wishes to marry and instead runs away with the dreams of one day owning her own steamboat.

Outlandish dreams are understandable for a child but age should mature reason.

I ask authors, why does adventure only come to the women who defy culture?

Understandably, it is hard for those of us living in this age of equality and freedom to understand life in the past (though for some cultures this still exists) where women were limited to certain occupations, give or take, depending upon the era. But isn't that the reason we have chosen to write in this area?

An idea might begin with a single question: what would that character have done in that society? What would his/her wishes and desires be?

It's purely speculation from there on but try in your speculation to be authentic, real, and as contemporary as you can from with the knowledge you can have. You must be true to history if you expect to learn from it.

An Inspiring Pearl Necklace from a Queen

Though not usually one for diamonds and other precious jewels, I will readily admit my love of pearls. They are smooth with a creamy glow and tend to lend a certain delicacy to whatever they adorn. A simple pearl necklace can take a look and turn it into splendid.

So it's no wonder I was immediately inspired by this large teardrop pearl necklace in the 1940's movie, The Sea Hawk.

Larger than most pearls, this one is fixed on a long enough chain to enable Queen Elizabeth to drape it over her head with ease.

And true to the opulent style in which royalty is known to live, Queen Elizabeth (played by Flora Robson) places this new necklace given to her by the saucy rogue, Geoffrey Thorpe (played by Errol Flynn), around her neck to join the other many adornments. One can't help but wonder how much lighter she must be at night when she removes her jewels. But so suffers royalty.

What I'd like to do is mimic this simple design. Long necklaces are back in style, it seems, and this Queen Elizabeth inspired design would be lovely.

But I would already have made one and be showing you pictures now if it weren't for the lack of good teardrop pearl pendants in the "local" hobby shops. It's a sad thing to search and not find what you are looking for. But I still have my eyes open and one day I'll be able to show you those pictures.

Until then, take a look around and check out the other crafty things that inspires me. Or read what I've written on the incredible finds in the scientific world!

Crochet Today and Mollie Makes

Mrs. Muir Afghan, one of my designs.
It's not news that I really looked forward to each issue of Crochet Today magazine. As a crochet designer, I found it inspiring and very helpful. It encouraged me to be fun with what I made and enjoy what I was doing. It was a brilliant contrast to other magazines I've seen that tend to overwhelm you with technicalities and a sense of formality.

To my utter chagrin, Crochet Today is no longer putting out magazines. Instead I was sent the US edition of Mollie Makes for the remainder of my subscription.

At first I was disappointed at losing Crochet Today magazine but I wasn't too let down since I had previously wanted to look into the Mollie Makes magazine. The all around style of the magazine was alluring and fresh. I realized it wasn't solely a crochet magazine but I love a little inspiration in nearly any craft.

I read the first magazine through and was fairly pleased. It had what I expected, and yet there was an air about it I found irritating.

In the art world there is an amount of "free thinking" and "liberality" that I may not agree with but remains all the same. In my opinion, there is a difference between creativity and liberal free thinking.

Crochet Today kept themselves socially acceptable and subtly leaned toward liberal media while Mollie Makes is awash with it. When did social tolerance have anything to do with making pillows or tye-dyeing shirts?

It's hard for me to enjoy the crafts presented in the magazine when I'm bombarded with social agenda. For example, when they choose to write profiles on people who work on drag and burlesque costumes.

Why does being artistic and creative have to mean accepting all manner of lifestyles and beliefs?

Most of these world-views presented in such magazines, and the world as a whole, are wrong. Liberal thinking like homosexuality, the New Age Movement, and feminism, to name a few, are running rampant in our society but we have the ability, and the obligation, to stand up for what is right and biblical. God is clear about these things in His word. Why should we yield ourselves to this state of life?

In conclusion, though Mollie Makes has some interesting projects and inspiring magazine style, as a whole, I wouldn't purchase it and neither would I recommend it to anyone else.

This is my honest opinion. What is yours? I'm interested in what you have to say.