Gift #682: Hidden treasure

This evening I went to Chipotle for dinner and on the way in I admired the roses planted at the entrance.  Actually, I was admiring the rose hips, not the flowers, but then I’m a strange girl.  I was thinking about how pretty the remnants of the sepals were without the flower there.  They were opened into a perfect star shape and I thought they might be nice for preserving and using in an art project.  On the way out I stopped by for a closer look and picked a few.  Underneath the rosebush was a treasure hiding – a perfect little stand of mushrooms.  It’s been so long since I’ve seen a mushroom!  These were in their prime and snowy white – they were a lovely surprise.  And I would have missed them completely if I hadn’t stopped to examine the roses.  So, moral (or perhaps morrel? Ha!) of the day – you should always take time to stop and smell the roses, because you never know when a mushroom might turn up!

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #681: Family Celebrations

I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve been enjoying some family time with my brother and his family in Texas.  It’s been since Christmas since I’ve seen them and it was wonderful to spend time with them again.  We also celebrated birthdays while we were all together.  August is a busy month because it’s my dad’s birthday and then my nephew’s birthday is the day after!  He turned one just a few days ago and my brother and sister-in-law hosted a party for him.  We were all able to help out a bit with preparations and that was lots of fun.  My nephew tasted his first cake, played with lots of presents, and was very excited about the party and all the people.  He had a Mickey Mouse themed party, complete with custom made t-shirt, which was too cute for me not to share with you.

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One of my sister-in-law’s friends made it for him.  Isn’t it adorable?

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And here was the cake for his birthday.  I love that the creator wrote out the sentiment with a script like that of Walt Disney.  And she made the Mickey Mouse cake toppers out of foam so that they would last as a reminder of his big day.

I knit him 5 pairs of socks and a matching beanie hat.  It was  happy coincidence that they matched in color to the theme of the party.  And yes,  I did give him some toys too – I’m not so incredibly heartless and out-of -touch with childhood as to forget children like toys better than clothes.

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However, the best present given or received during the week was the time and love shared with my family.  I hope as we look back on our memories and photos of the celebration that we will remember that it is love given and received that fills our lives with joy.

Blessings to you,
Sarah

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Gift #680: Spring Grove Cemetery

As promised, today I’ll share some pictures of Spring Grove Cemetery.  This is actually the second post I’ve written today.   I liked the first post a great deal, but didn’t quite feel it was the right time to share it, so I think I will store it away until a more appropriate time and in the meantime I will share my two of my favorite places in the cemetery with you.

The first is of Cedar Lake.  This picturesque area is one of several lakes on the grounds.  It is not the largest, but it is one of the most peaceful, as it is surrounded by a grove of cypress trees.  I love to take pictures of the knobby roots sticking up from the ground.

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Geese like it too.  And it offers a beautiful view across the lake of the nearby monuments.

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The Dexter Chapel and Mausoleum may be the most dramatic feature of the cemetery.  Built in 1870, the Gothic-styled chapel was intended as the final resting place for the Dexter family.  At the time of its construction, this was the only building in Cincinnati to boast flying buttresses.

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The chapel was never completed, and services were never held here, as was the original intent.  The sandstone exterior is worn and yielding to the elements of nature.  A large spire has broken off somewhere in time, and moss and ferns decorate the window frames.  All this adds to the beauty of this monument that connects the lives of the past with those of the present.

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I love this chapel so much.  Every time that I see it, I’m overcome by its power to evoke such feeling in my soul.  I’m lost somewhere in time as I stand in its shadow  – I hover on the edges of melancholy and longing – not sure if my feet stand on earth or heaven.  I wonder if that might not be the unspoken desire of the monument; to blur the barriers between worlds that sight and time have separated.  Here in this space the boundaries seem to overlap again and it is holy ground.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #679: Cincinnati Museum part 2

Today we’ll take a brief tour of the Natural History portion of the Cincinnati Museum complex.  This section of the museum does a nice job of appealing to children with lots hands-on and experiential displays, as well as being thoughtful and enjoyable for adults too.  Of course there is the prerequisite collection of dinosaur and prehistoric bones.

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This one is a cast of a mastodon found nearby.  There’s an extensive walk-through exhibit of “prehistoric history” – doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?  It’s quite engaging, with lovely dioramas and life-size animals and lots to see.  At the end of the exhibit is a section on weather and geography – how it has changed through time and the methods used to study it.   Another exhibit I thought was very interesting was a series of dioramas that interactively explained the scientific method and how researchers studied the natural world and archeological digs.

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One of the most unique sections of the museum was a “Trading Post” area where visitors could see natural history specimens up close.  There were bins and bins of rocks, minerals, fossils – all labeled and carefully sorted.  There were biological cabinets of bird specimens and feather collections.  There was a nice library of sorts for children to enjoy.  And there was a counter where kids could bring in items they’d found and exchange them for other natural treasures.  As they did so, the employee would talk to them about what they found, how it was collected, and so on.  No animals were allowed, but they could bring in feathers, bones, sticks, leaves, spider webs.. all sorts of goodies.  That sounded like lots of fun.  The picture of the curiosity cabinet above was in this area.

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Then there were rocks… lots and lots of rocks… including a moon rock brought back by Neil Armstrong.  His space suit was there too.  I’m enjoying a resurgence in my love of rocks and especially enjoyed those exhibits.  They have a nice selection of rocks in their store for purchase and I bought a beautiful geode.

I didn’t get any pictures of this, but the last highlight to tell you about is a live bat demonstration that they offer at the museum.  This was really fun – a trainer released 6 bats in a netted enclosure and we got to watch the bats move about while hearing a lecture about the different types of bats (in the Midwest and worldwide).  The bats were really cute!  They scurried about on the nets and one in particular kept making a beeline for a dark corner, but the trainer kept thwarting his desire.  It was fun to watch him.

I hope you enjoyed the overview of the natural history museum.  If you ever find yourself in the area, it’s a great way to spend the day.

Blessings to you,
Sarah

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Gift #678: Cincinnati Railroad

At the end of a very long week, I’m having a bit of trouble pulling my thoughts together.  I realized that I haven’t shared much from the recent trip to Cincinnati so for the next couple of days I’ll post of some of the experiences we had and beautiful places we visited.  On this trip, we decided to spend one day at the Cinci museum.  We had been there a few years ago when the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit came through but on that visit we didn’t have time to see the permanent exhibits.  It is a lovely museum, housed in the old Union Terminal.  There are technically three museums – a natural history wing, a Cincinnati history wing, and a children’s museum – and they have a theater.  So there was lots to see!  We will need to go back because we were rather rushed at the end.

Today I wanted to share with you some photos from the history side of the museum.  One of their main exhibits is a large railroad model of Cincinnati.  It is the largest “S” gauge model in the world and it takes up an entire room!  The center model is of downtown in the 1940s.

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The lights are on a 5 min cycle to mimic daylight and dusk over the city.  A ramp goes around this exhibit and flanking the walls of the room are models of various suburbs of the city.  At each section of the model is a touch screen computer that gives you information about the key points of interest.  This in itself would take an entire day to get through.  There were menus for architecture, history, religion, arts, and entertainment.  It was fascinating to learn about the places we had seen and admired on previous trips – and I loved the time-frame that they focused on from the 1920s-40s.

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This is of Mt. Adams.  The lighting made it difficult to get a good picture.  You may be able to see a long railway scaling the hill in the right side of the picture.  These were called inclines and there were 5 scattered about the city.  Railway cars would sit on a platform which would move up or down the tracks, enabling transportation to and from the hills.  These inclines made settlement in the hills possible and they became effluent neighborhoods of the wealthy citizens eager to escape the noise and pollution of the city.  They functioned from the 1920s until they were dismantled in the 1950s.

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Here’s the Cincinnati Zoo.  My family and I have made several trips here.  Though not in a good area of town, the zoo itself is a beautifully landscaped haven.  It is state of the art, but manages to retain the charm of the past.  It was here that the last passenger pigeon died and there is a memorial to Martha here.

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And this is Spring Grove – the cemetery that we love so much in Cinci.  This is the main entrance with a tourist car approaching.  It was a popular destination for the residents to enjoy picnic lunches and stroll the grounds.  Adolph Strauch, designed the cemetery with a “lawn plan” to mimic parks throughout the eastern US and Europe.  I’ll share pictures from our visit there soon.

I hope you enjoyed the tour of the Cincinnati model.  I do apologize for the quality of some of the pictures.  The low lighting and glare on the glass made photography a challenge, especially when using the ipad for pictures.  Have a great weekend!

Blessings to you,
Sarah

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Gift #677: Summer flowers

How would you like to stroll through some flowers this evening?  I think that sounds like a fabulous idea.  Don’t you just love flowers?  Every one of them is like a little smile that brightens any day.  I went by a garden center today and saw that all their flowers were gone… already!  Please tell me it’s not time to say goodbye to flowers!  I’m not ready.  So to reassure us all that we have many more days of summer and flowers, here are some photos I took at our county fairgrounds.  I hope you are enjoying the beauty of flowers in your own little part of the world.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #676: “The Gift”

I’m staring at a blank computer screen not knowing what to write or how to marshal my thoughts this evening.  I’m in shock and denial about the recent news of Robin William’s death and quite frankly, anything I had thought about posting seems ludicrously shallow and inappropriate tonight.  Like most people, I form emotional connections to actors and actresses.  Even though you never know them personally, they are invited into our homes and hearts through the silver screen and they naturally become part of our lives.  We watch certain movies based on the moods we’re in – some make us happy, some are our go-to films when we’re feeling sad, others remind us of our childhood or family.  In our culture lots of memories are created by watching films with friends and family and I (at least) associate a lot of my life experiences with certain films and consequently, with the actors too.  Mr. Williams was no exception and his death strikes really close because he made films for my generation growing up.  I watched Popeye, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Hook many, many times during my childhood in the 80s-90s and have enjoyed  his more recent films as well.  He was especially endearing because of his kind, gentle manner – never too busy or important to share a kind word with a passerby.  He always reminded me of Winnie the Pooh somehow – a sensitive, fragile soul not meant for the cruel reality of this world.

In an interview a few years ago he spoke openly of his addiction and relapse.  When asked what might have triggered it, Williams replied “It’s just literally being afraid… of everything.”  I understood what he meant.  All through my life, more than anything else, I have struggled with fear.  Sometimes it’s a great wild feeling that threatens to engulf; other times it’s just a vague feeling of dread.  It’s always a weight, and it’s hard to fight and sometimes I wonder what the point of fighting the fear is because it feels it will never go away.  There’s a lot in the world that’s fearful and there’s a lot in myself that’s fearful too.  God knows this and He knows me and I try to take comfort in that.  God knows it’s a scary world that we live in – uncertainty and evil are everywhere, but He is too.  It is no accident then that the most prolific message that God gives us in Scripture is “Be not afraid.”  I used to think of this as an imperative command and then I would feel guilty because I was disobeying yet another directive because I felt fear.  But then I noticed something – every time God said that to someone, He was interacting with them personally.  God would show up in a scary situation and immediately say “don’t be afraid.”  It wasn’t a directive as much as an assurance.  He’s saying “I’m here, I’m with you in this situation now… you don’t have to experience fear.  You can experience my presence.”  That is the desire of my heart – to be so consumed with God’s presence that I forget to fear.

Later in the interview Williams was asked if he feels happier now.  He replied “I think so.  And not afraid to be unhappy.  That’s ok too.  And then you can be like, all is good.  And that is the thing, that is the gift.”  There’s a lot of wisdom and truth wrapped up in that response; a lot of understanding of the deep things in life.  That is the gift – to find peace in your heart no matter the circumstances you find yourself.  With many others tonight my heart grieves the loss of a great man and remembers all the good he left in the world.  May you always have “the gift” Mr. Williams.  We will miss you.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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