Saturday, December 30, 2006

Welcome to the 21st Century

Just you case you ever wanted step-by-step instructions on how to photoshop a haunted house, here you go.

And if you're not sure if photoshop...and google for that matter...are really officially verbs now, look no further.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gems


Last Tuesday, our family went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. There are many great things at that museum, but the highlight for me on this trip was the new gem exhibit. We saw all manner of exquisite necklaces, rings, earrings, and other jewelery, including the brooch above. Some stones were cut but not set, being too large (as in egg-sized) to ever be worn. Many of the pieces were brand new, while others were centuries old. There were a few that had been part of the Russian crown jewels. Next time you're at HMNS, be sure to visit the gems.

Murder in the Window

I've been meaning to put up these pictures from my play, which was on December 8, but I've had trouble finding time. Here they are now!

Julia Straitford, rich, obnoxious, and clever.
Here's the hair, which you can't see in the other picture. I had so much fun with the gray hair spray! This is the set. I couldn't get the whole stage in one picture, but this is most of it. We ended up scratching the window, since we couldn't get it to look right.
The play went very well. There were a few mistakes, but nothing terrible. It was so much fun!

As a bonus, here's a picture of the gingerbread house I made last week. I started from a kit, and then I added some extras with graham crackers and pretzels. The house took first place at a contest that Papa's office was having, but that's not saying much, since there were only three entries!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Red Carpet Theatre, Here We Come!



Anna and I went to see The Nutcracker, performed by the Houston Ballet, and had a great time. We went with some friends, and we all enjoyed it. The sets were very impressive, and I think some of those dancers must be made of rubber! We sat near the front of the balcony, so we had a good view of the formations.

The music was great of course, and it was fun to hear it played by a live orchestra.

Half the fun of the evening was getting all dressed up and going out for a "girls' night out." We pretended we were elegant, and complimented each other on how nicely we clean up. We coined a new phrase for the evening, too: "From grunge to glamour."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Soggy Christmas

Hmmm, maybe all this rain means we'll have a nice green spring.


Jury Duty

Last week I went downtown for jury duty. It was my first time to go, but most of the experience was what I expected. There were long periods of doing nothing, I was told lots of things I already knew, I was herded from place to place with only a number for identification, and I was asked probing questions by an attorney. What I didn't expect was for my entire jury panel to be dismissed because there were not enough people willing to apply the law. Out of sixty perspective jurors, thirty-six said they were unwilling to give a guilty verdict, regardless of the evidence, knowing what the minimum sentence would be. Each side was to be allowed ten preemptory strikes, so twenty-four was not a large enough pool to choose a twelve-member jury.

It would have been hard to maintain a belief in the basic goodness of man after watching all those people say they couldn't follow the law, knowing from what I heard that most of them were just trying to get themselves sent home. The charge was evasion of arrest, so it's not like the law was controversial or immoral.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Movie Review

I went to see The Nativity Story the other day, and I thought it was excellent. There were a few things that were altered from the Biblical account, but it was still very good overall. My favorite part was the way they portrayed Joseph. They took the description of him as a righteous man, and really fleshed it out. It was very touching to see the way he cared for Mary. It was also great to see how it all happened to just ordinary, simple people.

So if you're in the mood for a good movie or need some help getting in the Christmas spirit since you live in Houston and it's 80 degrees outside, then I recommend The Nativity Story.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Office

Laura made an office for herself this week. It was very creative of her, but I find it slightly disturbing that my 7-year-old sister is eating her lunch in a cubicle.


Here's to staying out of offices as much as possible.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Quiz Time!

I've been tagged, so here goes!

A - Available/Single? Single, yes. Available? I'm only sixteen!
B - Best Friend? Jesus
C - Cake or Pie? Generally cake, but it depends on the type.
D - Drink Of Choice? Hot chocolate.
E - Essential Item You Use Everyday? Glasses, pencil
F - Favorite Color? Yellow
G - Gummy Bears Or Worms? Bears
H - Hair Style? Long braid down the back
I - Indulgence? Eating sweets
J - January Or February? January. (It doesn't rain as much)
K - Kids & Their Names? Don't have any
L - Life Is Incomplete Without? God and His Word
M - Marriage Date? I'm single, remember?
N- Number Of Siblings? 5
O - Oranges Or Apples? Oranges
P - Phobias/Fears? Standing on wobbly ladders
Q - Favorite Quote? I don't know that it's my favorite, but I like this one: "Maturity is bearing patiently with unpleasant or immature people."
R - Reason to Smile- Jesus loves me, this I know!
S - Season? Fall
T - Tag Three People? No, but all you blog readers out there, feel free to do it!
U - Unknown Fact About Me? I have a souvenir rock collection.
V - Vegetable you don't like? Cucumbers
W - Worst Habit? Reading everything in sight.
X - X-rays You've Had? I had a head X-ray before I got my braces.
Y - Your Favorite Food? Either chocolate or ice cream.
Z - Zodiac Sign? I have no idea.

I've Been Tagged for a Quiz!

A - Available/Single? Who wants to know?
B - Best Friend? Jesus
C - Cake or Pie? Pie
D - Drink Of Choice? Iced Tea
E - Essential Item You Use Everyday? My computer
F - Favorite Color? Dark Blue
G - Gummy Bears Or Worms? Worms
H - Hair Style? Long, but NOT loose
I - Indulgence? Chocolate
J - January Or February? January (my birthday!)
K - Kids & Their Names? None yet
L - Life Is Incomplete Without? God’s Word
M - Marriage Date? Sometime in the future, I hope.
N- Number Of Siblings? 5
O - Oranges Or Apples? Oranges
P - Phobias/Fears? Speaking to crowds
Q - Favorite Quote? I love lots of quotes, but this is one of my favorites: “When a train goes through a tunnel, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” –Corrie ten Boom
R - Reason to Smile? I’m going to heaven when I die!
S - Season? Spring
T - Tag Three People? I’m going to assume that you are like me and only do the quizzes you like, whether you’ve been tagged or not.
U - Unknown Fact About Me? I have a Starbucks travel mug decorated with Lord of the Rings photos.
V - Vegetable you don't like? Broccoli
W - Worst Habit? Staying up too late at night.
X - X-rays You've Had? Do dental x-rays count?
Y - Your Favorite Food? Chocolate
Z - Zodiac Sign? Huh?

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Double Curse

Here's a thought I heard today:

Men never have to bear Eve's curse, trouble in childbirth, but when women become breadwinners, they take on Adam's curse as well as their own.

I'm not sure I agree with all the potential implications of that statement, but it is an interesting way of looking at male abdication of responsibility.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Thanksgiving

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My grandparents and aunt were here from Tuesday to Monday, and it was a full and fun weekend. Katie and John went to dance camp from Thursday to Sunday, so we had our Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday.

Katie, with the fruit of her morning's labor. It was delicious.
After lunch, we went on a walk, or a unicycle ride, depending who you ask.
The six of us children performed a short play, Lost and Found, which was adapted for stage, produced, and directed by B. J. Pedersen, who is introducing it below.
The touching conclusion.
One of our talented supporting actors.
We finished the evening with Grandma's well-loved popcorn cake...
and a jigsaw puzzle.
This is totally unrelated, but Papa took an airplane to lunch today. He was in his boss's office this morning, and his boss asked him if he was interested in an adventure for lunch. The boss's coworker owns a small airplane, and every so often, they fly to Brenham for lunch. There's a diner right at the airport there, so they just park the plane and go eat. When Papa came home from work tonight, he said "Guess where I went to lunch and how I got there." We figured out that he had taken an airplane that seated between two and six people to a hamburger place not in Houston before he had to tell us anything.

This is What Happens When You Combine Two Businesses

I found this in Reader's Digest:

Karate classes and footwear sales: Chop Shooey
Turkey farm and auto-detailing service: Gobble Degook
Frozen treat and mascara booth: Custards Lash Stand
Optometry and psychiatry clinic: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dance Camp

John and I spent last weekend at a fantastic folk dance camp. We went last year, and this time was even better. It was fun to see again all the people we had met last year. We had dance classes during the days, and learned Balkan dances and Vintage dancing, such as the cross-step waltz and galop quadrilles. I loved all the classes. Each evening was a dance party where we danced the night away. Each party had a theme, and here's a picture from Vintage night:


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tamburitzans


Two nights ago I drove to Nederland, TX, between Beaumont and Port Arthur, to watch a folk dance group from Duquesne University. The Tamburitzans are one of the best folk dance groups in the country, and I have hoped that they would come to the area ever since I heard about them three years ago. I have seen a lot of folk dancing, but I was thrilled by their show. From the costumes, to the music, to the choreography, to the energy and charisma, everything was stellar. If I was four years younger, I would be seriously tempted to go to Duquesne just to dance.

At my current advanced age, I will have to be content with going to Texas Camp. Tomorrow Katie and I will be driving to Bruceville, TX for a four-day camp. We will spend our days learning Balkan and Vintage American dances, and our nights dancing to the wee hours of the morning.

Today, my grandparents and aunt are visiting, and we're having Thanksgiving dinner today because Katie and I are leaving tomorrow.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Holocaust Museum

I went to the Houston Holocaust Museum recently, which was a very sobering experience. It's not the sort of thing you can say you enjoy, but it's interesting, and it's important to remember what happened, I think. The museum was a lot like a memorial. There weren't very many artifacts, and those that were there were the kind you'd have at a memorial. There were children's shoes found at Auschwitz, stones from a crematorium, and a boxcar outside just like the ones used to transport the Jews. The museum had a lot of signs to read that told the story, as well as lots of old photographs. There were a few videos that showed Nazi propaganda, the Warsaw ghetto, and stories of survivors.

It was all pretty overwhelming because it was so horrific. Two things really struck me. One was the amazing power of propaganda. It caused millions of people to believe it was right to systematically murder an entire innocent people group. It boggles the mind.

The other thing that struck me was how the Jews endured such terrible things when they’d done nothing wrong. It made me consider whether I’d be able to stand up for my faith in the face of torture and death if I had to. I have such an easy life, that the things I complain about are really nothing at all. The situation was different for the Jews because they were being attacked because of their very identity. There was nothing they could change or any faith they could recant to get off the hook, but it still made me consider the similarity to persecution against Christians.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Campout, Part Two

Papa was in Boy Scouts growing up, and, every so often, he pulls out some camp song or wilderness skill. So, on this trip, we learned rope making and semaphore. Here, Seth and John are testing our rope splice.

This longhorn was at one of the Johnson sites. He was comfortably lounging next to the fence until Seth poked him. It's impressive how quickly an animal that size can stand up. It did put him at a better angle for picture taking, though.
This is where the vultures roosted. We came upon the tree when we were out walking. There were about three dozen birds in it that all took flight when we came up.
It was a busy weekend.

Campout

This past weekend, we went camping at Pedernales Falls State Park. We'd never been there before, but it was one of the nicest state parks we've been to. We spent Friday visiting the Lyndon B. Johnson sites nearby, and then on Saturday we explored the park. We spent the entire morning clambering around on rocks at the falls, and then there were a couple of expeditions to other points on the river in the afternoon. We had beautiful weather all weekend, although it was rather chilly on a couple of mornings.




We're not quite sure how this cute little guy managed to get into the dumpster, but there he was! We also spotted armadillos, deer, and vultures at various times.

Fun Shopping Trip

The truth is, I like shopping...some of the time. I don't like it as a form of entertainment, but when I'm looking for something in particular and I actually find it, then it's fun. This trip was especially fun because I had a bunch of coupons and gift cards to redeem.

This "dancing tea light candle holder" was free at Bath and Body Works

when I bought a bottle of oily skin foaming facial wash. I hope it works.


Oh, and I stopped here:



for my free hot dog. (Hmmm, maybe my face wouldn't be breaking out if I didn't eat junk food. Oh, well, I don't do it very often.) Then I got Olay lotion ribbons body wash with aloe extract (???)


for $2 off at Walmart. There was a quick stop to get more cash,


and my most exciting purchase: a new optical mouse! No more old-fashioned, troublesome rollerball for me. ($10 off at OfficeMax)

I was quite pleased with this too: a lovely bread tray on sale at Macy's. Final price after using gift card: $0.81.

Yippee!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Man Judges By the Outward Appearance

John and I have had a lot of dance performances this fall, which has given me the opportunity to observe the power of a costume. I've danced in ethnic costumes quite a bit, and it's a lot of fun, but I had a costume this fall that was particularly, well, cute. I don't have a picture of it handy, but it looked almost exactly like this. I pretty much looked like a china doll in it. It's not that I'm really that cute, but it was just the outfit. Well, it was amazing to me to see how differently people treated me when I had that costume on. It was like I became a different person when I stepped out of the dressing room. Complete strangers would come up to me all the time and give me a hug or ask to take my picture, even before the dance show. I'm really not very outgoing and I'm easy to overlook in a crowd, but not with that conspicuous outfit on! I met so many people just because of my clothes. The incident that topped it all was when a woman came up to me with a camera and a little girl of about three. She said to me, "Would you mind if I took a picture of you with my daughter? She thinks you're a princess!"

And the moral is: Your clothes say a LOT, so dress wisely.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Texas Celebration

For those of you who don't know, (and who haven't already read Katie's recent post), our family does an annual celebration of a different country or culture. It includes food, costumes, reports, and study. This year was historic Texas.

My parents, stolid and grim.
Becca, shown, made the poster on the upper left. Laura did the one underneath it. Seth did the one with all the graphs on the right, and I made the horns.
The feast! From right to left: chili (which, unfortunately, you can't actually see), chili with cornbread on top, grits with green chiles, corn fritters, sourdough biscuits, and gravy. Not shown are the cowboy cookies, which were absolutely fantastic. The cowboys.
The pampered chef.

Texas Day

My family has the tradition of "visiting" another country for a day by decorating, wearing costumes, having food from that place, and studying it beforehand. This year, we didn't really "go" anywhere because we did historic Texas. It was a lot of fun. Here's our table, with the children's posters and the life-size longhorns behind it.

Laura decided she was going to be a cowboy, so that gave us four "couples." The cowboy boots even made her taller than Becca!



Monday, November 6, 2006

Passionate Love

I just read about a woman who later became the wife of a Muslim terrorist. As a young person, she was full of piety, often staying up all night reading her Quran. When her family found her in the mornings, she would be on her prayer mat with the book in her hands, having fallen asleep reading.

That woman was chasing a lie, but how fervent are we, who have the truth?

If we love God, we will love his Word. When a man and a woman are in the first excitement of love, anything that keeps them apart becomes merely an annoyance which must be tolerated. The necessities of life pull them apart at times, but their desire is always to be together, and one is never long out of the thoughts of the other. This is the kind of passionate love that Christ, our bridegroom, wants from us, his bride. Do we tell our lover that we're too busy, or too tired to stay up and chat? Do we go to a movie, or watch such-and-such show, and never think to invite him to sit with us and share our thoughts? Do we stubbornly try to solve all our problems ourselves, when nothing would please our provider and protector more than to bear our burdens on his own, strong shoulders? God forbid! Instead, we should hunger and thirst for fellowship with him. Embrace every opportunity to grow deeper in relationship with him. Passionately desire to know what he wants from us, and how we can please him more.

Remember your first love.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Starstruck

I went to a Brad Paisley concert last night, and it was a time of great music, and also great people-watching. I enjoy concerts, but I'm certainly not the type that jumps around and screams. I usually try to ignore the people who are jumping around and screaming, but I observed something at this particular concert that I couldn't ignore. In fact, it has given me great cause for consideration.

It was during the song, "When I Get Where I'm Going." If you haven't heard it, it's a beautiful song about the joys of going to heaven. Anyway, lots of people started raising their hands and swaying to the music...exactly like the people at some church services. Even though the song was about heaven, I'm extremely doubtful that those people were praising God. They were the same people who were drinking beer and screaming their lungs out when Brad Paisley appeared on stage.

That led me to ponder several questions. Was I observing idol worship when the people raised their hands in an attitude of praise? Or, was it merely an emotional response to the touching nature of the song and the excitement of the moment? If the latter, then what is the case in so many church services? Are the people worshipping God, or is it just an emotional response to the music and the excitement of the moment?

I don't think I can answer these questions, but it's something each person should consider in their worship of God...and in their conduct at concerts.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Revolution, by George Barna

"Millions of believers have moved beyond the established church, and chosen to be the church instead.

"Research by renowned pollster George Barna points to a hidden revolution--one that will impact every Christian believer in America. Millions of committed Christ followers, looking for more of God, have stopped attending church on Sunday mornings. Why are they leaving? Where are they going? And what does this mean for the future of the Church?

"In this groundbreaking book, Barna examines the state of the church today-- and compares it to the biblical picture of the church as God intended it to be. He documents how and why a new brand of devout 'Revolutionaries' is abandoning the local church building while attempting to become the Church that Christ commissioned us to be.

"This Revolution will challenge you with
-the staightforward biblical guidelines for the Church
-7 core passions of a Revolutionary
-a daring redefinition of the church as we know it.

"Maybe you're afraid of the changes to come. Maybe you've been waiting for this moment to arrive. Either way, THE REVOLUTION IS HERE."

-From the back.

I just finished this book recently, and found it very inspiring. The back doesn't really reflect it so much, but it talks a lot about how people in and out of the church are desiring to take their faith seriously, and are not depending on programs or pastors to do the work of ministry. It has made me want to live more whole-heartedly for the Lord.

The seven passions mentioned on the back are: intimate worship, faith-based conversations, intentional spiritual growth, servanthood, resource investment, spiritual friendships, and family faith(i.e. not relying on Sunday school teachers to bring up your children in the faith). I know I'm not where I'd like to be in these areas so it's been kind of a wake-up call for me.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Classification of Squash

Some people must get confused about which pumpkins are for pie and which are for jack-0-lanterns. I saw a bin of pumpkins at the grocery store that had this sign:

Face Pumpkins

Ok, you got it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

New Project

Well, my businesses really aren't going very well, and while I like my new job, I'm being seriously under-utilized so far. The result of all this is that I am...well...uh...bored. It's just a temporary time of limbo, but I can only hang around the house catching up on reading for a short time before I go stir-crazy. So, my new project is remodeling one of our bathrooms. The only catch is that I don't know how to remodel a bathroom! However, I'm willing and cheap labor, and I learn quickly. John's job for today conveniently got postponed, so he was able to help me get started on it. Here's what we have so far:

Have faith!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Amazing, Huh?

I think a "self-esteem fund" sounds fishy, but this is still a very interesting video.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Emily Dickinson

I have long appreciated Emily Dickinson's concise yet imaginative work, so when I came to her in my literature book, I thouroghly enjoyed the section. She did have a bleak view of death, and a good bit of mixed up theology, so not all of her poems are as enjoyable as others, but here are are of few of the ones I like best. The last one is probably my very favorite.


How happy is the little stone
That rambles in the road alone,
And does n't care about careers,
And exigencies never fears;
Whose coat of elemental brown

A passing universe put on;
And independent as the sun,
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute decree
In casual simplicity.

******
She sweeps with many colored brooms,
And leaves the shreds behind;
Oh, housewife in the evening west,
Come back, and dust the pond!

You dropped a purple ravelling in,
You dropped an amber thread;
And now you've littered all the East
With duds of emerald!

And still she plies her spotted brooms,
And still the aprons fly,
Till brooms fade softly into stars--
And then I come away.

******
I like to see it lap the miles,
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks;
And then, prodigious step

Around a pile of mountains,
And, supercilious, peer
In shanties by the sides of roads;
And then quarry pare

To fit its sides, and crawl between,
Complaining all the while
In horrid, hooting stanza;
Then chase itself down hill

And neigh like Boanerges;
Then punctual as a star,
Stop--docile and omnipotent--
At its own stable door.

******
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it on the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

******
A word is dead
When it is said,
......Some say.
I say it just
............Begins to live
................That day.

******
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,--
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

******
There is no frigate like a book
......To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
......Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
......Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
......That bears a human soul!

Monday, October 16, 2006

And the Rains Came Down

We didn't have any bad flooding in our neighborhood, thankfully, but our prayers are with those who were not so fortunate.