Bina-Effect-Letters-alphabet-red-19-800px

Soup, Snow, and Sentences

I have no trouble avoiding boredom on snow days, when 1st Grade classrooms are empty, preventing me from doing Winners Walk Tall lessons, or Bible study is cancelled, freeing up Tuesday mornings. Being stuck at home offers opportunities to try new recipes, crochet for Warm Up America and the American Heart Association, or  take in some lectures from college professors such as The University of Iowa’s Brooks Landon who is teaching me to Build Great Sentences.

A couple of years ago, I began receiving catalogs from The Great Courses offering audio and video discs loaded with lectures from The World’s Greatest Professors on an array of topics, topics ranging from math, science, and history, to drawing, cooking, and psychology. After a moment of wistful consideration, I always added the junk mail to our recycling bag, that is until the latest catalog’s cover touted an 80% OFF Special Sale for New Customers. Flipping through the booklet, I turned down corners of pages displaying courses of interest, realizing that the chances of an order being placed were slim, but tossing the catalog onto a table for later consideration.

When I next opened the cover, two red words caught my eye. A FREE TRIAL offered unlimited video streaming of all of the courses for thirty days, giving me a chance to test my level of interest before purchasing individual discs or a monthly subscription. Starting my trial was easy, and now I’m looking forward to watching the eighth of twenty-four lessons from Professor Landon, a lover of long sentences, who encourages writers to “change the period to a comma and keep on writing.”

SOUP

On one of these wintry afternoons in January, I was listening to a Building Great Sentences lecture while adding a bag of chicken bones, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and parsley to a stockpot full of water. As I covered the pot and turned on the stove to induce a boil, Professor Landon likened a writer building a great sentence, rich with descriptions and details, to a chef boiling down a broth or sauce, resulting in a richer, fuller end result. I was experiencing the very illustration he presented! Wanting to document this moment of wonder, I took a picture of the simmering pot of water and then sat down to craft a sentence about making chicken stock.

Tiny droplets of water formed on her hands as she held the camera over the brimming pot to snap a picture, knowing that a picture is unable to convey the sound of a watched pot slowly coming to a boil, the smell of water turning to broth, or the sensation of being warmed by both the heat of the burner and the moist comfort of rising steam on a cold winter day.

SNOW

Yesterday afternoon,I considered writing a post similar to Summer in Ohio, but instead took the opportunity to craft some sentences about our winter weather, existing on the other side of the window through which bright sunshine was streaming into our comfortably heated home.

Winter’s cloudy skies, now raining, now snowing, deliver precipitation with a crucial measure of heat called “freezing” deciding which.

Driveways, streets, and parking lots disappear as fragile snowflakes in growing numbers work together, blanketing the landscape, enjoying a bit of time undisturbed before shovels, snowblowers, and plows intrude.

The sun, as bright as a summer sun, stays low in the sky, warming spirits, but not bodies, and disappearing by dinner time.

Weather has its way, dominating our conversations, dictating our clothing choices, deciding whether crops thrive or die.

Weather tricks and teases, ignoring averages and expectations, dropping a day of springtime into the middle of January, chilling a June bride, capriciously coating a palm tree with snow, quickly overwhelming streams with a deluge of rain, coaxing spring flowers to sprout and then plunging them into a deep freeze.

Were weather to attempt to behave, to harness its extremes, finding a perfect balance of wet and dry, warm and cold, windy and still, could it succeed in pleasing those it serves, making everyone happy, able to enjoy favorite activities or necessary duties?

SENTENCES

I can almost hear my sentences being read by Professor Landon. I’ll close with an inspired weather sentence recorded by the Bible’s prophet Isaiah.

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10,11

 

 

Bina-Effect-Letters-alphabet-red-19-800px

Holding On to Christmas

The twelves days of Christmas have passed, and retailers have quickly moved on to Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, and Easter (April 1). Only a tiny offering of discounted broken and picked over Christmas merchandise remains. As I was removing our lighted nativity set from the front yard yesterday, a neighbor called out, “Leave it till next year.” By the end of the day, though, our block was devoid of lawn decorations with just a few wreaths and window candles remaining. Another dead Christmas tree had been dragged to the curb. Any day now, our city’s festively illuminated downtown  will return to blocks lit by functional street lights alone.

Owners of artificial Christmas trees have been making hard decisions about when to store away their seasonal living room centerpieces. Ours was disassembled and boxed over almost two weeks ago. I’ve been gradually carrying decorations up to the guest room closet, while strategically leaving some in place: the “winter” village that we both love, the whimsical reindeer plates that look so nice with my wallpaper, and the little evergreen tree, now trimmed with Valentines.

In late November, I was reluctant to rush into the season, while in mid January, I’m happily holding on to the holidays. A friend who is still enjoying her Christmas tree was glad to find some decorations in my home today. With the exception of folks who leave trimmings up all year, most of us will soon be ready to move unencumbered toward spring.

Seasonal norms aside, we can still focus on the Christmas experience as more than decorations and delicacies. I smile as I turn on remaining lights, remembering rushing around the house to get them all plugged in before son Kyle arrived on December 21. Seeing those reindeer plates reminds me of the sweet Saturday morning before Christmas when our sons and daughter-in-law each chose a plate for our brunch of S’mores Pancakes* and bacon. And, while we’ve removed Joseph, Mary, and the Baby from our yard, a small nativity set still graces our dining room, bringing to mind the blessing of being back in my childhood church on Christmas Eve, holding my lit candle and singing Silent Night alongside all of my siblings.

December 24 was a snowy night at Emmanuel U.C.C.

The carols have ceased, gifts are being used, and homes are returning to their everyday look. Still, I wonder if the spirit of the season can remain.  I’ve noticed folks at our mall continuing to be friendlier, at least for now. Sadly, we seem to slip back into our more self-absorbed state as the new year grows older, not taking the time to visit friends or to reach out into our communities as often. January newspapers contain pleas from local help agencies that see a surge of goodwill dwindle after Christmas.

People who do believe in God’s gift of peace and goodwill through the coming of Jesus have a responsibility to show love for Him every day by loving our neighbors. I’m one of those people. I pray that even as the last candles are put away, His light will continue to shine through me throughout the year.

My brunch plate – Vixen

*To make S’mores Pancakes, after pouring your pancake batter onto the skillet or griddle, sprinkle some graham cracker crumbs over each pancake. Turn and finish cooking. Remove when cooked and spread some marshmallow cream on the graham cracker side of a pancake. Then place about 8 milk chocolate chips on top and cover with another hot pancake with graham cracker side down for melted goodness.

Bina-Effect-Letters-alphabet-red-19-800px

Reviewing & Reviving Resolutions

“I want to look back on 2017 and see that I’m living an abundant life, using the gifts God has given me and blessing people. Not knowing exactly what that will look like, I resolve to keep my eyes and ears open to how the Lord wants me to live each day.” Those were the last words of my January 3, 2017, blog post.  January 2018 has arrived and I have dared to allow thoughts shared last year to hold me accountable. One year ago I told of five ways I had grown in 2016 and then resolved to continue in that growth.  I haven’t been consistent in all five areas. Perhaps you can relate and will decide to join me in reviewing and possibly reviving our resolutions.

Reviewed Progress:

  1.  Playing the piano: I’m not sure I improved as a pianist, but I did keep at it sporadically. During December, I played from a lesson book of Christmas carols. Then, after our little family finished our gift exchange, I sat down to play “Silent Night” for them. They seemed to appreciate it, so I continued with more carols, played quite imperfectly.  The music prevented that little let-down that comes when there are no more gifts to open.
  2. Memorizing the book of James:  I’ve reviewed James often enough to keep most of it and also put Psalm 103 to heart.
  3. Helping my future daughter-in-law choose her dress: On April 1, she wore that dress as she became Eric’s wife. We have grown closer during holiday gatherings, Easter at their home and Christmas at ours. My husband and I are blessed to be able to worship and eat with them in Columbus from time to time.
  4. Continue to blog: The first anniversary of Thoughts Collected by Lisa came in August. I signed on for one more year and kept writing, completing my 75th post on December 27. I’ve added some pages, including Fruit of the Spirit and Printables.
  5. Connect with neighbors at Christmas time: I picked a date and invited the ladies who live on each side of me and across the street to a Christmas brunch. All were available!  I’m thankful for a season when it becomes a priority to visit with friends and family.

I wouldn’t give myself an A+, but progress is progress. In looking through other posts from 2017, I noticed some additional and perhaps more meaningful ways in which I challenged myself and my readers. Putting resolutions in writing increases the likelihood of carrying them out as does sharing the goals with someone else. I’ve realized that posting the commitments on the internet adds an extra sense of responsibility to follow through.

Revived Resolutions:

This list could completely overwhelm me if I sought to complete it in my own strength. In January 2017, I shared the story of a couple who walked In Perfect Step. Seeing their synchronized movement helped me to understand the role and power of the Holy Spirit in my life. My part is to “focus on where He wants to lead, as well as when and how fast we are to move.” My resolutions can be summed up as follows: “link elbows with the Holy Spirit, walk in step with Him, and bear the fruit that is uniquely Christian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bina-Effect-Letters-alphabet-red-19-800px

How to Crochet a Temperature Afghan in 8 Minutes a Day

One year ago, I noticed a Facebook post about a crocheted Temperature Afghan. With a bit of research, I learned that the afghan consists of 365 rows, one stitched each day of the year according to the day’s high temperature. Cool! I wanted to make one, but knew that such an undertaking would require motivation and diligence as the year wore on. Then the idea came to let each day and it’s crocheted stitches represent the three months leading up to son Eric’s wedding to sweet Amanda on April 1 plus the beginning year of their marriage. The Temperature Afghan would be a gift for their 1st Christmas.

Son Kyle liked the idea and thought the gift would be well-received. He assisted as I set out to choose colors and get started on January 1. The unique gift was appreciated as you can tell in these photos.

If you love to crochet, maybe you would like to begin a Temperature Afghan as 2018 begins. You only need to know how to chain stitch and do a single crochet stitch to make the one I completed.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Set up your Color Chart. In Ohio, our high temperatures  can range from zero to one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. I chose a color for each ten degree range with one for below 30 degrees, one for 30-39, one for 40-49, one for 50-59, one for 60-69, one for 70-79, one for 80-89, and one for 90 and above.

Select your yarn. I used  LION BRAND Vanna’s Choice medium (4) weight acrylic yarn.  My colors from below 30 to above 90 were Eggplant, Colonial Blue, Silver Blue, Fern, Mustard, Rust, Cranberry, and Burgundy. I used about thirty 3 1/2 oz balls (5,100 yards). I started out by purchasing 2 or 3 balls of each color and bought more as needed.

Choose your stitch.  After doing some calculations and test swatches, I realized that 365 rows of crochet could get VERY long, so the stitches needed to be small and compact. I used a a combination of chain and single crochet called the Seed Stitch (instructions below). This created a tightly worked, warm fabric.

Choose your width. My completed afghan is 80 inches long and 57 inches wide, great for cuddling or putting on a twin sized bed. You can make it narrower by using a shorter beginning chain, but remember that the length is determined by the number of days.

Get started.

Abbreviations: ch = chain, sc = single crochet, sp = space

Notes: After crocheting each row, leave the yarn attached until you know the high temperature of the next day. If it’s the same, chain 1, turn, and work in the same color. If it changes, cut the yarn leaving a 6 inch tail. Pull the new color through to complete the last single crochet of the row, chain 1, turn, and single crochet in the first single crochet.

Begin: Using a size G crochet hook and the yarn color that corresponds with the day’s high temperature (mine was Silver Blue for a 44 degree day), chain 300.

Row 1 (Right side): Single Crochet in second chain from hook, * chain 1, skip next chain, single crochet in next chain; repeat from * across: 299 stitches.

Row 2: Ch 1, turn; sc in first sc and in first ch-1 space. (ch 1, sc in next ch-1 sp) across to last sc. sc in last sc.

Row 3: Ch1, turn; sc in first sc, ch 1, (sc in next ch-1 sp, ch 1) across to last 2 sc, sc in last sc.

Repeat rows 2 and 3 until you have crocheted a row for each day of the year.

Weave in all ends by threading the yarn onto a large eye needle, drawing it through several stitches (hiding as best as you can). Then turn and weave back through a few more stitches. Carefully trim the end close to your work. It’s a good idea to work your ends in as you go, although I only did this about once a month. I wanted to know where each month began, so I didn’t weave in the ends for the last row of the months. Then, as I was working the finishing round, I crocheted a picot stitch at the beginning of each month.

Edging Round: Choose a color to outline the entire afghan and make a neat edging. I used Mustard because most of the months included at least one row of that color and I liked the way it looked. Working in the ends of the rows on the sides of the afghan and the single crochet and chain stitches on the ends of the afghan, single crochet evenly all around. (On the sides, I worked 4 sc in the row ends and then decreased over the next two ends so the edge would lay flat. To decrease, pull up a loop in the next row end and one in the next to have 3 loops on your hook. Then yarn over and pull through all 3 loops, making one stitch over two row ends.) If you want to indicate where months begin, work a picot stitch: ch 3, sc in 3rd stitch from hook. Single crochet in the next stitch or row end and continue. Work corners as follows: sc, picot stitch, sc in the corner. Sc in next stitch and continue.

Finishing by Christmas: Six days before the afghan needed to be ready to wrap, I checked the weather forecast for  likely high temperatures and worked 3 rows a day. I also began the edging round a few days early, stitching down one side, across the beginning chain and up the other side to where I left off. Then I only had a short distance to work up when time was running out! Here I am beginning the last row (it was a bit emotional).

Keeping Track of the Temperatures and Keeping up with the rows: I filled in a Blank Calendar chart each day with the high temperature and worked that day’s row. When I was away from home, I just filled in the chart and then stitched the rows when I got back. I also kept a list of interesting details including record highs and lows. I didn’t get to use the Burgundy yarn because we did not have a 90 degree day this year!

I marked the day of Eric and Amanda’s wedding by running a size 10 white cotton crochet thread with a silver metallic twist along with the Silver Blue yarn for the day.

It only took me 8 minutes each day and then about 30 minutes a day during the last week to get the Temperature Afghan done.

Download my printable Crocheted Temperature Afghan pattern here.

If you have any questions about this project before or after you begin, you can contact me in the Comments of this post or by using the Contact Form in the Thoughts Collected by Lisa header. I would LOVE to see a photo of your work! It will be a one-of-a-kind project and gift that will not only WOW the recipient, but possibly become a family treasure.