First Day of School Traditions!

IT’S BACK TO SCHOOL ACROSS THE WORLD!

Handmade or purchased cones are given to children starting first grade in Germany and Austria. They are called schuletuete which means school bag. School supplies are in the cone along with sweets. I made mine with two favorite things…MMs and crayons. When I was in Germany many years ago, I saw them in the stores and was told they were filled with mostly candy.

In Russia, the first day of school is called Day of Knowledge. Children bring flowers to their teachers which I think is a wonderful idea. Students are given bright colored balloons in return. Children receive gifts of sweets and pencils from their parents.

Parents of children entering first grade in Kazakhstan often host a feast in celebration. The feast often includes lamb and sweets. The child is asked to recite seven generations of grandfathers. I found this to be one of the most unusual traditions.

Children in Italy wear work smocks on the first day of school and the boys’ smocks are blue checked and the girls’ are pink checked for kindergarteners. First graders and older wear dark blue smocks and they are frequently personalized.

Holland parents transport the little first graders to school on the first day in cargo bikes. It looks like it sounds. A large box sits between two wheels. It looks like a fun way to go to school.

Many of us have our own first day traditions that frequently begins with pictures. I also made a special dinner and dessert for my children. I remember chocolate chip cookies being made the most often. I hope all of our children and grandchildren will have a school year they not only learn but enjoy.

Butterflies are Magical!

Monarch butterflies bring beauty to the garden.

Like most people I welcome butterflies to my garden and enjoy watching them go from flower to flower. Many stories have been written about butterflies and fairies. Fairies are drawn with wings like butterflies and fairies are also said to catch a ride on a butterfly. However, I think they ride on dragon flies most often.

I thought I knew a lot about monarchs, but I didn’t know they only live two to six weeks until recently. The most amazing thing for me has always been the metamorphosis process from caterpillar to a beautiful winged creature. My grandmother said that butterflies carry prayers to heaven and that is why God gave them such beautiful wings. Maybe she was right.

I remember seeing dead butterflies displayed on boards when I was a little girl and hated it. I know some people did it as a teaching aid, but I thought it was cruel. Seeing dead butterflies didn’t make me want to learn about them. It just made me sad.

The butterfly in the picture is dining on my butterfly bush. I’ve only seen a handful of visitors to the bush, but I’m hoping for more. It’s almost August so the time will go quickly before they are gone. My hummingbirds will also head south and I will miss them. The good news is they will both return next summer!

Hope you are enjoying the summer visitors and these long days!

My Favorite Place!

My garden brings me such joy!

Not long ago I was in a group where we were asked to separate according to our favorite places. It was an ice breaker activity which I admit I am not a fan of. The categories were beach, mountains, and exciting city. I didn’t choose any of them. Fortunately someone else didn’t either. Hers was her home and mine is my garden.

I love my flowers and the critters it attracts. Hummingbirds are at the top of the list. This year I have a baby bunny living in the bed, and I know he or she has eaten my pansies; I don’t care. It is so cute! I feel the presence of God when I’m in my garden. Its beauty is something only God could create. I have filled the beds with a variety of flowers so that I have color from spring through fall . I sit in a chair with a cup of coffee and smile. Memories frequently fill my head because my garden has hosted many festivities. Graduation parties, weddings, birthdays, and holidays have all been celebrated there. It is a place of joy because of its beauty and the memories it holds.

I have been fortunate to have been able to travel to many beautiful places, but for me a favorite place needs to be a place I can go to frequently. It is a place where I relax and count my blessings. A place filled with memories and a place that makes me smile just by being there. I’d love to hear where your favorite places are. Please share.

Fungi Houses for Rent!

Fairies Wanted!

Looking for a new home? Newly grown fungus homes are available for rent. Their shining white domes reflect the sun during the day and the moonlight at night. Picture the fun you and your fellow fairies can have frolicking in the lush green grass! The homes are close to flowers, herbs and fountains. It’s a perfect setting for any fairy family!

I think it would be fun to have fairies in my yard, so why not advertise! When I was in Ireland, I was told we should always inform the fairies before we mow if there are toadstools in the lawn. Of course it would be better to mow around the toadstools. Some people do believe in fairies and tell stories of people who have seen them. Of course telling fairy stories is a great draw for tourists.

I think of Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell when I think of fairies. She was Peter’s friend and helped him. I have learned that people in the middle ages did not see fairies that way. In fact, they were afraid to say the word fairies and instead called them little people or the hidden people. Not all fairies were believed to be good, have wings, or were small.

Fairy rings were either thought to be good or evil. In some countries the devil was responsible for them and should be avoided or they were good luck. Since fungus does not die, fairy rings can continue to live and increase in size. France has a fairy ring that is believed to be 700 years old. Some people believe fairies dance inside fairy rings, and I like that theory.

Many children and some adults have fairy gardens. I made one with a granddaughter a few years ago with things we found in the yard. We collected leaves, twigs, flowers and created a little pond for the fairies. I remember it as a fun summer activity. I heard a woman comment that she believed in angels and had never seen one, so maybe fairies do exist. She did have a point. Has anyone seen a fairy? Please let me know.

A Place Called Waiting

Waiting is exhausting!

Dr. Seuss talks about the ‘Waiting Place’ in his book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! He mentions other non- desirable places, but the waiting place is the most challenging.

He talks about being in a slump and says un-slumping oneself is not easily done. I agree, but at least a person can do something! In the waiting place all one does is wait.

Entering an area with unmarked streets and darkened windows is scary, but one can keep moving until he or she has left the area. Moving is better then waiting.

When I’m waiting I feel I have no control. Sitting in traffic, standing in long lines, waiting for test results or a pie to finish baking are times when I just have to accept the fact I have to wait. It’s not easy.

There are other difficult places Dr. Seuss mentions, but he ends on a positive note. He says he knows you’ll face your problems and you will succeed. You have to succeed because he ends his book with Kid, You’ll Move Mountains!

I like this book because it cleverly describes the challenging areas in life one faces, like being lonely and afraid. He also warns about getting mixed up with strange birds. That always brings a smile! I know I have done that a time or two in my life.

Wishing you all a good week and hoping none of you get stuck in the waiting place!

The Great Seducer!

Plants, plants, and more plants!

Some people go crazy over shoes or purses. Not me; my obsession is with plants. One of my sons told me if I didn’t stop creating flower beds, we wouldn’t have any grass left. Funny how kids turn into adults. I recently said the same thing to him!

I do have a lot of flowers and that means a lot of perennials, but I I can’t go through the summer without annuals. There are baskets and pots and various locations where color is needed. I need color to brighten the beds all summer and that means annuals.

Plant popularity changes from decade to decade. Roses however are always valued in a garden. Gardening didn’t become a hobby until the Victorian Age. During this era,(mid to late 1800s) the Victorian fern, orchids and celery were in demand and the wealthy had time to grow them. They enjoyed the fresh air and appreciated the results of their labor. The 1920s and 30s saw potted plants for the first time which eliminated growing flowers from seeds. I appreciate not having to grow from seeds, so I can see why more people took to gardening.

The 40s and 50s saw people using their back yards for entertaining and flowers were studied and planted. Flower societies were launched such as the American Daffodil society and the American Lily Society. Houseplants became popular in the 60s and 70s and are currently popular. We all know how trends reappear.

I could write a lot more about gardening, but I won’t. My garden is my sanctuary. I thank God every day for his creations and that I am able to enjoy them in my own yard. My tulips were particularly pretty this year, so I’m sharing a picture. They survived the snow that bent them over, but once it melted, they stood. They are a lot like people I think.

Anyone Have a Match?

Where have all the matches gone?

I still enjoy the thrill of striking a match. Yes, thrill. I like the sound, odor and of course the flash of bright light. I don’t remember what age I was when I was allowed to strike a match, but I know I felt very grown up. This past Christmas, two of my granddaughters were allowed to strike matches and throw them into the fireplace. They had never down this before at ages 11 and 12.

I read on the box that the Diamond Match Company has been making matches for over 100 years. Its founder was Columbus Barber and his company was in Akron, Ohio. He later moved it to Barberton, Ohio. The company produced 85 percent of matches used in the United States during the early 1900’s. Unfortunately working there created a serious health problem for the workers. Inhaling the phosphorous that was used in the matches caused the cartilage in the jaw to deteriorate and people were unable to eat and speak. By 1910, red phosphorous replaced white phosphorous. The side of the box (striking surface) contains red phosphorous, binder and powdered glass. The head of the match consists of sulfur, potassium chlorate, starch and glue. I am always in awe of how people think of these things.

The spark of a match is frequently used to represent an emotion. Writers say sparks fly when people argue or when people feel a spark of attraction for each other. When an idea comes to me, it feels like a match has been struck in my brain. Sometimes those matches take awhile to light, but I am thankful when they do.

As I look at my various flower beds today, I need those matches in my brain to start igniting. As always there are plants that need to moved, but to where?

Passover and Holy Week Align

This year Passover began on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter.

Passover and Easter almost always overlap. but it is unusual to have all days in alignment. It does make sense that the two religious times coincide since Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover when he was arrested.

Jesus was Jewish and it was customary to travel to Jerusalem to worship at the temple during Passover. When people heard that Jesus was entering the city, they greeted him by saying Hosanna (in Hebrew means save us). When he entered the temple to pray, he was furious to see all the merchants and money changers. He angrily turned over the tables where they worked. Jesus declared that the temple was a house of prayer and they were defiling it. Only Jewish and Tyrian shekels were accepted at the temple so all foreign coins had to be changed, and all offerings had to be purchased at the temple. The temple was a place of business for many people and not a house of worship.

People of the Jewish faith continue to honor and remember Moses leading the Hebrew people from slavery during Passover. The Pharaoh wasn’t easily convinced and it took plagues of locusts, flies, frogs, boils, hails and water turning to blood. The last was the worst when the first born child of the Egyptians died. The Angel of Death passed over the Hebrew households because they put lamb’s blood over their doors. Jesus sat with his disciples for the Seder meal in Jerusalem before he was arrested in memory of what the Hebrew people had endured.

This Thursday is Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday and Christians will attend church in memory of Jesus’s last supper. Good Friday will be remembered in prayer and some will walk the stations of the cross. Joyous hymns will fill churches as Jesus’ resurrection is celebrated. Jesus was Jewish. Christianity began after he died and was resurrected.

Having two holy weeks coincide means God is hearing from a lot of people this week. I’m one among the many who are praying, and I am thankful I live in a country where I can pray and attend church.

The Happiest Faces of Spring

Pansies bring joy with their bright colors and cheerful smiles.

I can’t remember an Easter that pansies weren’t outside in pots and Easter lilies weren’t inside filling the house with fragrance. I have happily continued this tradition that my mother started.

As you know, I enjoy research and even though I knew that pansies are edible ( I wouldn’t eat them) I didn’t know that they had been used for medicinal purposes. Chinese medicine used them at one time to prevent cancerous tumors and also as a source of nutrition. The Greeks thought that anger would be reduced by munching on a pansy and the Romans believed they cured headaches and dizziness. Plants have always been used to treat ailments, so it’s not surprising.

I also learned that in Victorian England it was not proper to openly express affection, so pansy bouquets were wrapped in doilies and quietly passed to a sweetheart. Today they are considered a gift of platonic love to be given a parent or a friend. Like most flowers, the color carries a meaning. I love all the colors and this year I have orange pansies for the first time.

If you are looking for something to bring you or someone else a daily dose of happiness, fill a pot with an assortment of pansies and set it on the porch. Every day when you leave the house and return, you will be greeted with smiles!

The Artistic Eye!

Beautiful pieces of art have been created for centuries from a variety of metals.

Once ores were discovered, man began shaping it into useful items like cups, bowls and plates. It didn’t take long for man’s artistic nature to want to make these objects beautiful. Prior to metal, shells, stones, bones and animals skins were used in creating objects of beauty. Even primitive man created jewelry.

I love this bird that was created by drilling three holes into a stone and then attaching the metal parts. The other piece has color and dimension in the metal. I think both show the artist’s creativity and skill.

Long ago people decorated the doors of churches with elegantly created metal hinges and handles. Metal workers were hired to create beautiful chalices, crosses and candlesticks for the church. Wealthy Romans paid for metal art pieces to hang on the walls of their homes in addition to creating decorative cups and candlesticks for their personal use. The wealthy Egyptians adorned themselves with jewelry made from gold and silver. These pieces included precious stones such as lapis and amethyst.

I find it exciting to see metals used with wood, cloth, and stone. It expands the uses and the realm of creativity. Clock makers were experts in combining metal with wood not only in making the clock work, but in making the clock on object of beauty.

Metal art has become popular and is seen in many stores and art festivals. A little research showed that Pablo Picasso was interested in using metal as an art form and experimented with it. Tools for working with metal have made creating unusual pieces easier and has allowed the creative mind to expand. So, once art festivals return, I hope you’ll spend some time admiring the metal pieces of art.