God grant you the light in Christmas, which is faith;
the warmth of Christmas, which is love;
the radiance of Christmas, which is purity;
the righteousness of Christmas, which is justice;
the belief in Christmas, which is truth;
& all of Christmas, which is Christ.
--Wilda English

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Devil's Playground Mascot






We've been living here in The Devil's Playground nearly 6 years now & never have we seen the local mascot traipsing through our yard!  The Devil's Playgrounders believe that if a skunk visits your property, good luck can't be far behind.  I sure hope this little critter was just passing through.  I was surprised when I went outside to take some pictures that it didn't scurry away. John said it didn't have to worry about me getting too close.  He got that right   : )      

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Worry Less So You Can Live More

I am pleased to be a book reviewer for Bethany House.  Each month I am sent a list of books that are soon to be released.  I choose a book from this list & am provided with a free copy.  In return I promise to read the book & give it an honest review.

For February I chose this book, Worry Less So You Can Live More by Jane Rubietta.  I am not a worrier but I know a person or two who struggles with worry, & I thought that by reading this book I could perhaps glean a bit of wisdom to pass on to them ... maybe even pass on the book.  That did not, & is not, going to happen.

This book has little to do with worry.  It instead reads like a series of journal entries where the author rambles on about personal neuroses ("obsessive and irrational anxiety or obsession") better kept to herself or shared with a professional counselor.  The introduction was promising, but any expectation of help from this book quickly began to dissipate from the first chapter onward.  By the time I got to Chapter 3, the reading became painful.  I dreaded having chosen this book.  I dreaded having to read it.  I literally had to force myself to read each chapter, & I almost reached the end before I couldn't torture myself anymore & had to stop.

In a book written by a woman who attended seminary & whose life has been spent in ministry, you would expect a lot of biblical references. There are a smattering, but that's all, & some of these references are nothing but ridiculous fantasy.  For instance, in Chapter 9 she refers to the days of creation ... specifically God's behavior at the end of each day.  I have researched Genesis 1 online as it is written in every Bible translation I could find.  All translations read basically the same way as the King James Version, each day describing God's work for that day & then saying "God saw that it was good."  But how does Mrs. Rubietta describe God's behavior at the end of each day?   

"Remember, God stopped to sit back & clap
after each day of creation,
to leap up & down & say,
'Whoa, this is good!  Good!  Good!  Very good!'" 

Most non-Christians, upon reading the back cover indicating you can "exchange your worries for delight in God...," would probably not purchase this book.  Some might, however.  And for someone who doesn't know anything about God to be presented with such a cartoonish word picture of Him is a very sad thing indeed.    

The author goes on & on about not buying herself a pair of red sneakers on sale.  She is not destitute, & these sneakers were not designer sneakers, just a plain pair of Keds that originally sell for $24.95.  She describes her anxiety upon seeing these sneakers & what seems like weeks of berating herself for wanting them before she finally broke down & bought them when they had been discounted to a price that was equivalent to 1/3 of one cent each day for five years. 

The author is noted to have written 15 books, is "critically acclaimed," & travels extensively "speaking hundreds of times a year at women's events, churches, & parenting groups."  It is a mystery to me how she is so sought after if this is the type of drivel she writes.  However, if you are a worrier who doesn't want to worry anymore, & you believe your worries will fade away if you are "good to the little girl that was you," walk barefoot in the grass, pick wildflowers, dance with fireflies, & buy red sneakers on sale, then this is the book for you. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

We're Free!!!

Oh, the headiness & excitement of it all!!! Yesterday, after a bit of effort, John & I were able to break the bonds of the heavy wet slush & leave home for the first time in a week!  He managed ... inch by inch ... to get the SUV away from the house toward the top of the driveway hill.  When he felt that it was now or never, he came into the house & said that once he started down the driveway he didn't want to stop, & if he made it out to the road, did I want to come with him & continue on to the grocery store.  Well, you can imagine my response to that! I grabbed my purse & my glasses, & of course my camera, & trudged out to the SUV.  John approached the driveway hill, picking up momentum, & then made the turn to head down the driveway, slipping & sliding all the way.  It was almost like we were on that roller coaster in Las Vegas again!  As we careened down the driveway, I held on for dear life & prayed that we'd go through the gates rather than slam into them ... & that there wouldn't be any vehicles coming either up or down the road as we entered it.  And we made it!!!  We were giddy as we headed down the road & made our way to the Kroger store in the neighboring town.  Just look at how happy John is that we got some shopping done!
We brought home fresh water, a basket full of groceries, & two not-really-good-for-you 64-ounce frozen Cokes!!!  WOO-HOO!!!!!
On our way back home we pondered if the SUV would make it back up the driveway.  It almost did.  John gunned it & up we went, but we only got this far.
It was only when the SUV slowed itself down at this point & we couldn't move anymore that we discovered that the skid prevention button (or whatever it's called) had been pressed.  We're assuming that one of the 64 ounce cups hit the button as it is oddly positioned on the middle console next to the cup holders ... not that we could fit the 64-ounce cups into the cup holders, but I did balance one on the console while getting situated in my seat.  It doesn't matter though.  We got down the driveway, out to the store, & back up the driveway close enough to the house that we didn't have to make several trips up & down lugging the groceries into the house   : )

As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, "Eggs & water & buns!  Oh my!"

And life returns to semi-normal for the Hills   : )

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Fun Game!

I've suggested to John what I think might be a fun game only we'd need two cell phones & we don't even have one.  The name of the game would be Surprise, & here's how it would be played.  John would go down to the end of the driveway, between the gate & the street, with our trusty garden spade.

I'd stay up here on the front porch, keeping a watch on the main road to the left of us ...
... & to the right of us.
When I'd see a car coming up or down the road, I'd speed dial John to let him know.  He would then immediately drop to the ground, clutching his chest.  It would be a surprise if anyone bothered to stop to see if he was okay.

It's been raining for a few hours now.  The 12-14" of snow has shrunken down to about 8-10" of heavy wet slush.  John tried moving the SUV again without it getting stuck.  I'm sure you can guess how that went.  Tomorrow is the last chance we have to get it down the driveway & onto the road before temperatures return to a string of below freezing digits beginning on Monday.  The plan is for me to move the SUV a bit at a time, inching it out to & down the driveway, with John walking alongside with the trusty garden spade to dig out the tires when they get stuck.  Doesn't this sound like fun?  I can't wait until the sun rises tomorrow!

Grocery Shopping

John walked to town & back yesterday (3 miles each way) to get us some bread & whatever else he could manage.  Here he is starting out, bundled up in two pair of socks, two pair of pants, two shirts, coat, scarf, hat, gloves, & tennis shoes.  The temp was 10 degrees with a wind chill of -1.



The road to town is treacherous in the best of weather.  No sidewalks & lots of blind curves.  He was almost run over a couple times.  The people just zoomed past him as if he wasn't there.  

We had some wintery mix last night & some rain, but it doesn't seem to have made a dent in the driveway this morning.  I can't see his footprints though ... not very clearly anyway ... so maybe that's a good sign.

This past week has cinched it for us.  As much as I've hated living here, there are a few things which have made me question if moving is the right thing to do.  No more.  As soon as we can drive a car up & down the driveway, I will be calling some realtors & having them come give us their thoughts on listing the house for sale.  In the meantime I am going to be tidying the moving boxes that have never been unpacked & packing a few more so that everything will look neat & move out ready when people come to view the place.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Still Snowed In ... & Fabric Question

John has been making trips down to the mail box nearly every day since we've been snowed in. Can you see his footprints through the snowy driveway?
Here's a closer look   : )
As you can see, the road is plowed & clear of snow.  I also noticed after publishing my post yesterday that the nearest neighbors have had their driveways plowed.  I just don't get it.  In places we have lived in the past, if someone plowed or shoveled their driveway & they noticed that a neighbor was snowed in, they'd come over & ask if they could plow or shovel you out too. Oftentimes they didn't even bother to ask ... they'd just see a need & take care of it.  But oh no, not here in The Devil's Playground.  Sigh!  Bread now joins eggs, milk, & bottled water on the list of things we're out of.  Temps are predicted to be in the mid 20s today with no wind.  If this holds true, John is planning to walk to town (3 miles) to go to the gas station to see if he can get us some bread & maybe some eggs, then walk back.  I'd go with him if it wasn't for my stupid toe   : (

Tonight they are predicting another 3-5 inches of snow to fall here along with a "wintery mix," but yes, despite the hardship of not being able to drive anywhere, we're doing okay.  Can you guess what I'm making for dinner today???
Okay ... it won't be dinner, but I'll be making it   : )

Yesterday we saw an unusual bird feeding with the other birds.  We were totally puzzled as to what it was, but I did some research & figured it out this morning.  It's an Eastern Towhee.  Never saw one of these around here before!  
  
I did start kitting some designs yesterday.  I don't have a lot of the fabrics called for so today I'm going to see if I can find any substitutions from my stash.  Does anyone know of a nice white evenweave fabric (not linen) that I can purchase in a 40 count or thereabouts?  I have some 40 count white linen but it may as well be tissue paper that someone bombarded with spit wads. (For those of you who aren't familiar with these, spit wads are made by chewing a scrap of paper until it's a small wet ball-like mass, then either spitting it directly from your mouth or through a straw at something or someone.  This was sadly a popular pastime in my neighborhood when I was growing up.)  I am really saddened at the state of linen fabrics lately.  It seems that 90% of the time when I order a piece of linen, it is full of slubs that can't be removed without destroying the fabric, &/or it has a lot of "plant matter" woven into the fabric that is next to impossible to remove.  I happened upon a new fabric this morning (new to me) & wonder if anyone is familiar with it.  It's called Floba.  It's advertised as being an evenweave & comes in 36 count.  I can't use something like 20 count evenweave & just stitch over one because these designs I'm wanting to stitch include words & it's pretty much impossible to stitch letters nicely over one.  Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  Also, if you know of any good linen fabrics, I'd like to know about those too   : )

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Still House Bound : )

Don't know why I'm smiling ... lol!  Oh wait a minute ... yes I do.  Lots & lots of snow   : )   I had to call to reschedule my dental appointment which was scheduled for today, but I needn't have bothered since the office ended up being closed all week. All the schools & colleges are closed as well. None of the calls I've made for snow removal have been returned.  Ya just gotta love the people around here & the way they do things.  Maybe The Devil's Playground was God's first attempt at creating hell.  His practice run.  Then He created the real hell.  Anyway, I'm guessing the neighbors are all in the same boat as their driveways are unplowed as well.  I don't mind being snowed in, but I must admit I wish I had some milk & eggs & clean water. The boiled water tastes a bit funky.  Maybe I should add sugar to it ... lol!  I could heat it, add sugar, maybe even throw in some dried leaves or something.  Oh wait, that's tea!  I do have plenty of tea   : )

It is -2 degrees as I write this with a wind chill of -16.  Yes, I'm smiling   : )

We've been feeding the birds a few times during the day.  They seem to eat the seeds as fast as we put them out there.  I know the poor dears need lots of food during these cold temperatures to help keep them warm & energized.  I took a few photos this morning.  Here's Joe Cardinal surveying the lay of the land before plunging in for some good eats.  

 Sam & Claudia Cardinal enjoying their breakfast   : )
This next cardinal seems to be hamming it up by doing a Robert DeNiro Taxi Driver impression.  "You talkin' to me?"  I've never seen Taxi Driver but have heard people do this impression about a gazillion times   : )
Frank & Ted Cardinal sharing seeds with Hal Goldfinch.
Hal's brother George waiting his turn .
And last, but not least, Craig Blue Jay & Maggie Mourning Dove.
There were also some sparrows & juncos but they were a bit camera shy this morning.  

I didn't get any designs kitted yesterday (I will do this today) but I did work a bit on my knitting.  I'm knitting a pair of socks which I started prior to our trip to Las Vegas.  Something to keep me occupied while waiting for & traveling on planes.  I used to knit socks many years ago but unfortunately my calves, ankles, & feet are not as they once were.  Let's just say that I need to be careful not to stand on the side of the road for too long because there's a risk someone might come by & nail a yard sale sign or some other announcement to one or both of my legs.  It took a while but I finally got to the point where I felt confident that I had an adequate number of stitches & a nice stretchy cast on, but after knitting down a ways I tried on the sock only to find that the stretchy cast on made the top of the sock just barely fit around my fat calf. "Barely" seemed good enough to me, so I continued knitting. I am now at the place in the sock where I form the heel gusset, which isn't too difficult, but as I eye my ball of yarn, I get the feeling that I'm not going to have enough for two socks.  It seems silly, therefore, to continue knitting this one, but if nothing else, it's a good learning experience.  On the other hand, there's an off chance that I may have enough yarn for two socks (this is what I keep telling myself).  I figure I'll knit the first sock, then weigh it, then weigh the remaining yarn.  If there is at least the same weight of yarn remaining on the ball as on the sock, I should be able to knit Sock #2 without any problems. 

I just remembered that I have a big box of Russell Stovers from Christmas that I haven't opened yet. Breakfast for me!!!  John will have to fend for himself   : )   I'm definitely gonna need to knit bigger socks!!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Has Anyone Stitched or Is Anyone Stitching This?

I've admired this for a long, long time & finally bit the bullet & purchased the chart.  I would have purchased the recommended threads as well, but when I looked at the skeins I had in my stash, I was pleased with the Blue Spruce but not with the Currant.  If you are stitching or have stitched this, could you tell me if you've chosen other red & green threads to use, & if so, which ones you have chosen? Thanks   : ) 

Still Snowing!!!

You probably can't see much difference between the photos below & the ones I posted yesterday, but we've got more snow, it's snowing now, & there's more coming.


Although we have our electricity & plenty of food, we are just about out of water (3 personal size bottles left).  The tap water here is bad, but we are going to have to fill a couple pots with it & boil it for drinking & cooking until we can get out of the driveway which, if the forecast is correct, won't be until the weekend or sometime shortly thereafter.  Maybe.  

True to form, I called several snow removal places yesterday including the guy who mows our lawn, & no one bothered to call us back.  I realize that they were undoubtedly busy plowing the driveways of a multitude of people in the area, but this is how things are handled around here. Since moving here almost 6 years ago I've called various people for help.  Attorneys, medical/dental specialists, realtors, home repair businesses, etc.  It is always a surprise when you leave a message & someone actually calls you back.  I realize this is hard to believe & you are probably thinking I'm exaggerating things, but it's true & I'm not.  So John & I are resigned to the fact that we're going to be here for a while.  

I have a dental appointment scheduled for tomorrow.  I'll need to call this morning to reschedule that. 

My plan for today, other than boiling water, is to kit a few ornaments as well as the cute little cat design that was recently gifted to me.  I have one egg left so maybe I'll also make half a batch of oatmeal cookies.  Sounds good to me   : )

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Uh-Oh ... LOL!!!

The snow we received yesterday appeared to be powdery, so John decided to drive through what turned out to be at least 12" in order to get to the post office.  He backed the SUV up a few feet, & you guessed it ... got stuck!

Of course we aren't prepared for any of this! We never had the need to buy a snow shovel.  That's a garden spade that John is using to try to dig around the wheels in order to just get the car back to where it had been parked prior to the snowfall.  It took a while but he was successful in doing that.  I called our mower guy & the guy who smooths out our driveway now & then & left messages to see if either of them could plow or knew of someone who could.  The temps are going to be cold-cold-cold over the next few days & we're even supposed to get a bit more snow, so it's not likely that any meltage is going to be occurring anytime soon.  That's okay though.  We have electricity & plenty of food, so we'll be fine until someone can plow us out.  

What a happy adventure!      

It's About Time!!!

The last time I was able to enjoy a good snowfall was in 2004 when we lived in Iron Mountain, Michigan.  We were living in a small ranch house & it snowed so much that it was even with the bottom of the living room window!  So much snow fell that the town was running out of places to put it & started just piling it up along the center of the roadways, along the center lines.  Good memories   : )  

I have, on various occasions, referred to the snowfall here in The Devil's Playground as "God shaking a talcum powder can over the ground a bit."  It doesn't even cover up the grass ... just dusts it.  A couple weeks ago we had a surprisingly nice snowfall of 5" or so.  Yesterday 8-12" were predicted, & I sarcastically thought "yeah, sure."  Well, it fell!!!  The following photos are pretty pathetic but trust me, the snow is deep & gorgeous   : )   The following three photos were taken through the back doors.



All those footprints are John's, made when he'd go out to feed the birds.  I couldn't go outside   : (   One reason is I have no boots.  Never had any need for them here!  The main reason, however, is that I did some damage to my left big toe from all the walking we did in Las Vegas.  It is swollen & bruised, looks terrible, & hurts a lot.  It's getting better but I cannot wear closed-toe shoes ... thus, no making snowmen or angels or dancing through the snow with glee for me.  I'm enjoying looking at it though   : )

The following photos are taken from the front doorway.
If you look really, really close at the scene on the right side of the photo, between the corner of the house & the pole, you probably still won't be able to see it, but there is a "hidden treasure" there. With the use of my camera's zoom feature, I can show it to you.  Some of the neighbor's Holsteins huddled around one of his trees   : )
There isn't a hidden treasure in this next photo ... just a cool thing (to me).  This is the front of the yard looking down toward the driveway gate ...
... & here's a zoom of the gate   : )
And one more view, opposite the cow view   : )
I know that some of you enjoy seeing my bird photos.  I took a few yesterday in the midst of the storm.  I think the third photo is funny showing the one bird coming in for a landing.  I couldn't have taken that on purpose if I had tried   : )




Well, I hope you enjoyed my snow photos!  I know that some of you are pretty sick of snow, but for me, I am in heaven right now   : )

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Valentines Day, & 39 Years

It was Valentines Day, 39 years ago, when John & I were married.  Where in the world has the time gone???  We didn't have the wedding I/we had always dreamed of.  It was instead domineered by my mother.  Rather than a beautiful white wedding gown, I wore a pretty pale blue dress. Our friends were not our bridesmaids & groomsmen; my brother & sister-in-law were in their place.  Instead of a church full of people to celebrate with us, there were only a handful of my mother's choosing.  Rather than a large reception with a band & lots of food & dancing & merriment, we had snacks & cake at my parents' house.  No professional photographer ... just my best friend Ruthie with her Kodak Instamatic.  But we were filled with love & with dreams.  The years ahead of us were sometimes exciting, sometime difficult, sometimes sad.  We experienced joy, but also heartbreak; good fortune, but also unfairness. To put it simply, we experienced life.  But through it all, our love was the glue (Crazy Glue) that held us together.  It's still holding ... & as I told John yesterday, I'm looking forward to the next 39 years.  He agreed   : )

Last week we took a trip to Las Vegas for a few days to celebrate not only our anniversary/Valentines Day but also John's birthday which was earlier this month.  We had a great time.  The weather was amazing!  The sun shone brightly every day, & temperatures were in the low to mid 70s ... always with a gentle breeze blowing.  We were having so much fun that barely took any photos!  Here is John on the walkway between the MGM Grand Hotel & the New York-New York Hotel.
Can you see the roller coaster rails?  We rode that roller coaster & let me tell you ... it's not like any roller coaster I've ever ridden before.  The last time I rode a roller coaster was when we lived in Florida & visited Disney World.  Our son was pre-kindergarten at the time & he & I rode Space Mountain.  This was around 27 years ago.  I always thought that coaster was the scariest one I'd ever ridden.  Not anymore!  I was okay as our string of cars made its way up the first incline, but I spent the next two minutes or so ... however long the ride was ... filled with terror!  I should have known something was up when they made us empty our pockets & put everything into a locker before we could get into our car.  It was made of steel, I guess ... some kind of heavy metal ... with a huge padded bar that came over your lap & another huge padded headgear type thing that went down on each side of your head to your shoulders.  There were signs warning you to keep your head against the back of the seat & to keep all your body parts inside the car.  The dips were horrifyingly high & steep.  We went upside down at times, & at other times we went sideways. There was one point where the string of cars sort of evened out & slowed down & I began thanking God that the ride was blessedly over, but then it started up again!  Honestly, if there is a word more intense than "terrifying" to describe this thing, then that is the word that should be used here.  My eyes were closed & I never stopped praying from the time we went down that first dip to the end of the ride for it to be over.  Also, it was not a good idea for someone with cervical & lumbar disk problems to ride this thing.  They really should have had a warning sign somewhere about that.  I am still stiff & sore.  John loved it (he loves all types of roller coasters) & he would have gladly ridden it again & again.  He'd be on his own! I kept thanking God that we did not wait in the line to ride in the first seat!  I don't think I would have lived to tell the tale!  Below is a photo of me also taken on the walkway between the two hotels.  If you look closely on the left side of the photo, you can see part of the coaster rails here too.
We did a lot of walking & played a lot of penny slots in the various casinos.  We also had a lot of good food & visited one of the Bouchon bakeries (this one, in fact) that are prevalent on the strip. 
   
I've seen these macaroons for sale hither & yon, but I never tried them because they don't look like the "normal" macaroons I'm used to.  This time I tried them ... & all I can say is I'm thankful we don't have one of these bakeries around here or I'd be as big as a house!  I bought one of the vanilla macaroons to try one day (I'm a vanilla kind of gal) & the next day I went back to get a box of them!  They are all gone now ... lol!

We stayed at the Signature Hotel ... part of the MGM Grand ... which I would not recommend, but the views from the balcony were nice, especially at night.



We had an uneventful journey to Las Vegas.  On the way home our plane was delayed, but only for an hour ... & our car wouldn't start when we got to the parking garage, but the airport parking angel came & jump started it.  It was a mystery to him why it wouldn't start, but thankfully it's been running smoothly every since.

Yesterday we went to Lexington to have a Valentines/anniversary dinner at Red Lobster.  On our way there we passed by an accident that had just happened.  Many good Samaritans had already stopped to help, so we kept on going to get out of the way.  I couldn't help but think, however, that if we had been driving just a tad faster, we might have been involved.  There were some injuries, but it didn't appear that any were serious.  God was looking out for all of us.  

I took some knitting along to do on the plane & while waiting for connections.  I didn't get much done, but I'll show a photo in another post of what I did accomplish.  I'll catch you all up on my cross stitching as well   : )

I hope that everyone had a lovely Valentines Day!