Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday of Holy Week: Betrayal and Help from Unlikely Sources

I have two quotations for today. In the one, a beloved member of the inner circle unexpectedly betrays his Lord and all his friends. In the other, a great genius tells how help never came from all the people and places that he had expected it, but only from the place he least expected.

The Gospel reading traditional for Wednesday of Holy Week recounts the events that occurred when Jesus' disciple Judas took a bribe to betray Jesus:

Matthew 26:1-5, 14-25 (New International Version)

"When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, "As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified."

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him.

"But not during the Feast," they said, "or there may be a riot among the people."

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"

He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.' " So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me."

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?"

Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?"

Jesus answered, "You yourself have said it."


Albert Einstein, from Time Magazine, Dec. 23, 1940:

"Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom;
but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. . . .

"Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly." Albert Einstein

Both are historical statements made by men who actually lived through the events. They may be debated, protested and denied, but they remain matters of fact and truth.

The Church has always, from its very beginning, suffered from weak people within it who betrayed their brothers and sisters in Christ by doing evil deeds. It is not "magic", it does not suddenly make us perfect or remove our free-will to do wrong things.

Today's reading reminds us of that, reminds us not to judge the Church, or Jesus, or sincere Christians, by the conduct of those who have betrayed God and themselves by wrongdoing or misconduct.

And both readings, from Matthew and Einstein, remind us that the Church has always been hated in advance of such betrayals, without cause. That is the "blindness" referred to in the song "Amazing Grace". Even a man with one of the greatest minds in history, who uncovered secrets of the universe no other human had even imagined, was blind to the Truth about the Church - until his eyes were opened, and then he could see the actual Truth.

Only when our eyes are opened can we see God's Truth.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday: Jesus Comes To Jerusalem To Celebrate Passover

John 12:12-18 (King James Version)

12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,

13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.

14 And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,

15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.

16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.

17 The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record.

18 For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.

Photo is an artist's bronze representation of Jesus after washing the feet of his disciples. The statue is on the campus of Howard Payne University in Brownwood Texas. The plaque reads "Do As I Have Done. "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." John 13:15 "

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Asparagus From Our Own Patch

Woohoo! 3 years ago we planted 70 asparagus crowns along the back fence. This year it is finally well established enough to pick! This was our first small batch, check out the size of two of those spears!

I tossed them in a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt and roasted them. We had them the other night with calf liver and onions.

I had never picked my own before and Paul showed me how to make sure there's no woodiness in the end. Just hold one end gently in each hand and slowly bend the spear until it breaks naturally. It finds its own break point just above the woody end.

I nearly missed the first picking, since I was away, and the freeze this week snapped the new spears, but more are coming up. We should get to pick for a few more weeks before we need to let them alone to grow and store food for next year. In our climate, spears come up and the fronds stay green all through the summer until the first freeze, packing away nutrients into their root system for the coming year.

With hardly any care, and a little luck, and the Good Lord willing, this patch of perennial vegetables should provide food for our table for many years to come. How cool is that?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mandatory Insurance: A Gamble Against Ourselves

A kind of national health care has long been a dream of mine, but this bill prevents my dream from ever coming true. I had hoped the reform would mean limits to lawsuits and damages, protection for health care professionals to rely on their own good judgment without fear of punishment regardless of future results, establishment of systems similar to the VA, greater support for local non-profit hospitals, simple expansion of the public-funded clinics we already have in most towns, with the private system continuing unabated and parallel.

This bill assures those things will never happen.

Much the meteoric rise in medical treatment charges has been linked, by the medical community, to underwriting the costs of doctors not being fully reimbursed by Medicare and the rising costs of processing insurance claims and paying malpractice premiums. Certainly it is a fact that as the percentage of Americans with insurance has grown, so has the end-user cost
of medical care.

In the mid 1970s, I was hospitalized for a week, requiring transfusions. I didn't have insurance. My final bills, all totalled, were about equal to a month's wages in our young household. Today, a week's hospitalization for the same illness could easily equal the value of my home - with absolutely no increase in quality of care.

I am hearing that some doctors have decided to stop accepting insurance of any kind, and to operate on a cash basis. That is a ray of hope, a silver lining, I think. Perhaps without the constant upward pressure created by the vaccuum of 3rd-party payers, medical doctors who cease relying on insurance payments for the bulk of their income can - like dentists, chiropractors, accupuncturists - return to setting their own fees based on their own actual costs and profit needs.

Do you remember when Texas first passed the mandatory automobile liability insurance law? We were told that it would greatly reduce the premiums we all paid, since risks and losses would be spread out among the citizenry. Instead, auto liability premiums have climbed precipitously, and only non-mandatory collision and optional comprehensive premiums have remained in reasonable and appropriate ranges.

I oppose this health care reform, mainly because I oppose mandatory insurance of any kind. I'm still angry that the first bailout was of AIG. Insurance began as a cooperative way for people to help each other, in cases of dire situations, such as fire burning down one's house or the untimely death of a family provider. Insurance has evolved into a gamble against ourselves, and a ruinous expense for businesses and citizens.

The proliferation of liability insurance is directly responsible for the rate of litigation growth we've seen in the past 20 years, which in itself assures the continued proliferation of liability insurance. If we add up the total of insurance premiums we are required to pay: homeowners (if mortgaged), automobile, business liability (if licensed or bonded), Social Security, FICA - it is shocking how much of our budgets go toward throwing the insurance dice and betting against our own selves.

And that is what this legislation does. It simply continues the process of obsessive pre-paid gambling that even conservatives have supported, in subscription bets against our own future, in a game the house always wins.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Your Quiet Voice In Our Government: Who Your Representatives Are and How To Contact Them

While it's everyone's hobby to complain about the government, most Americans at heart still trust our own representatives and tend not to communicate with them. Perhaps we assume they share our values and aspirations for our town, state and country. Perhaps we fear too much involvement would interfere with the peace of our lives. Perhaps we simply have too little time and have to prioritize for our own responsibilities first.

After all, that is why we elect people to lead our government: so that one of our peers does have the dedicated responsibility to tend to those matters and to devote time, attention and talent to good governance.

But something has changed just in the past 10 years. Technology now provides tools that enable very small groups to make such a loud noise that it can drown out the majority. Whereas previously, responsible newspapers would not even publish anonymous letters to the editor, now one person with an agenda can - anonymously or under false names - send out literally
thousands of emails, or post to dozens of websites. They can make 3 people look as though they speak for thousands.

Groupies used to follow bands around the country, driving to concert after concert. Now, in addition to the sincere person who attends a rally in their own town or travels a single time to the Capitol, political groupies may use their vacation days and make a hobby of flying everywhere one is scheduled to swell the numbers of protesters, picking up their signs and T-shirts du jour as they get off the plane.

Our representatives are smart people. They know that these things happen, and they should know to discount some of this frenzy.

But what they don't know, unless we politely tell them, is what the ordinary, normally quiet person thinks about all this. What the ordinary, minding-our-own-business, average person wants the representative to do about these issues.

And that is a new responsibility that we all bear. To quietly speak our piece, so that our representatives can go forth armed with a balanced understanding of who their constituants are and the different points of view we have.

There are simple ways to be sure your elected representatives know and respect your opinions, without turning into a crank or taking up too much time. We can just be ourselves, and write a short letter in our own words, and mail it at the post office: "Dear Sir, I hope you will (oppose)(support)_________. You should know that I believe ________ is ________. Thank you for your service and I appreciate your attention. Sincerely, [name], [address], [town]

Or we can make a single, brief phone call when there is an issue we have an opinion on, being cheerful and pleasant when we ask the person who answers if they can pleast let our representative know that we hope he will support or oppose __________. Thank the person for their work, wish them a good day, and that is it.

We don't have to be controversial. We don't have to be mean or rude or loud. We don't have to explain why we feel the way we do. All we have to do is send a polite, short note or brief message, and then go on about our business.

There are some non-partisan links in my sidebar under "Other Sites of Interest" that might be helpful, if you are interested in learning who your representatives are:

Write Your Elected Officials: Find Names and Addresses here

Who Represents Me? Find your Texas Legislators

Tracking the US Congress: Factual Non-Partisan Information

And you know what - I bet your representatives would also love to receive a thank you note every so often too. :-)

PS The vintage Liberty Bell Canister in the photo was made by House of Webster, a pottery in Eastland Texas that did all sorts of cute canisters and sold them filled with jams and preserves. It was my favorite find this week, and an inspiration piece for a new project I'll talk about later! The flowers are from one of our apricot trees. I sure hope the frost this week didn't bite all of them. The bees were having a field day gathering pollen from them yesterday!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Weather Signs & Lore: Predicting A Spring Frost

What a crazy winter it has been! And our Spring is "acumin in" by fits and starts - like Sandy said "one day 75 and the next day we have 4 inches of snow!" When will the cold weather finally end?

The signs and lore (aka natural history observations by ordinary people over time) are sometimes the only help when it comes to the "last frost" of spring. When can we safely plant tender garden veggies? In Texas, two highly reliable signs are:
(1) Never plant before Good Friday; and
(2) When the Mesquite trees leaf out, all danger of frost is past.

Easter is at its midpoint this year, on April 4th, so we don't have much longer. Especially during years of a Late Easter, it sure is hard to wait until Good Friday to plant, with our warm Texas springtime, but it pays off. One year the only snow we had in Midland was 8 inches on Good Friday.

This past year (2009), the date for Good Friday was April 10th, and we had a late frost on April 7th that was so hard it froze the leaves on our pecan trees on the North side of the house, and so widespread it decimated crops all over Central and North Texas.

In some states this maxim is adjusted: not before Derby Day or not before Memorial Day - but all seem to have a traditional touchstone date that accurately pinpoints the most extreme last killing frost date for that region.

This lore will differ from the standard horticultural guides because they use the "Average Date of Last Spring Frost", which is also useful but a different thing entirely. Here are a couple of standard guides:

Texas A&M University Spring Frosts
Dave's Garden Freeze and Frost Dates

Here is a great article from the Farmer's Almanac about how to tell when a frost is coming:

Another Easter-related bit of lore is "If it rains on Easter, it will rain for seven Sundays". In 2009, it rained on the night of Holy Saturday, and we had rain within 36 hours of Sunday for 6 out of the next 7 Sundays. So there might be some truth to this one. Let's watch and see, shall we?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vintage Bedroom Design: Classic Blue and Yellow and Duncan Phyfe

I love this room. It started with a set of little vases from the Spode Blue Room collection - classic English florals in blue, on a yellow ground. It has taken a long time, since many things I'm using are vintage, or need to match exactly. Still looking for Duncan Phife bedside tables, and I need another half yard of fabric to make a shade for the door, but patience has paid off. Now that it is nearly finished, it is as pretty as I had hoped. And Paul likes it too - by avoiding ruffles and frills, I was able to keep it from being too feminine, even despite the floral pattern.

Paul had already suggested yellow for the room, and we matched the wall paint to the porcelain in the Spode vases, which I found while shopping with Devin and Sandy and all the kids at TJ Maxx. That was a fun day!

Next I went hunting for an old fashioned bed spread. We don't like comforters because we sleep under quilts, and comforters are too heavy, too slippery. At the time, I couldn't find one anywhere. I've since discovered that the best places for real bedspreads are companies like Miles Kimball, Lillian Vernon, Walter Drake, and such - great prices and pretty selections.

Anyway, I couldn't find one, so I ended up buying a beautiful Waverly fabric "Claremont", that was being closed out at Hancock Fabrics, and making my own spread and shams. My spread is simple, with no ruffles or piping. The shams were shockingly easy to make - I just looked at the ones I had and copied the pattern. Our padded headboard was originally covered with white cotton duck, from when we lived on the beach, and the new cover for it is just a case that slides on - easy as pie. I even made an "antimacassar" for Paul to rest his head against, since he likes to sit in bed and watch tv.

Instructions for making the padded, upholstered cornice board are in the post right below this one. Nick made the frame for me and it was very easy to cover and hang. Paul has commented several times how much he likes it. Since we both prefer simple window treatments, this finishes the window nicely.

Here again is furniture on legs: up off the floor seems to help create more space. The room is bright, sunny, and cheerful, no matter how dreary the weather.

I searched for over a year for a chair, and found this perfect leather wingback in an antique shop that Nick and Lani took me to on South Congress Street in Austin. It was in pristine condition, matched my swatch perfectly and priced to sell. What fun we had that day, and the chair reminds me of them each time I see it!

The picture above the chair was my souvenir from a visit to Westminster Abbey, a signed and numbered print by Angela Fielder. The Heron Rookery print above the chest of drawers is from Kenspeckle - link in my sidebar, I think that one is still available. And the picture above the bed is an original, vintage 1952, by Dura M Clarke.

Remember I said we collect what we like, and only one has to like it? That picture "The Aegeans" is one of those. Paul loved it from the minute he first saw it and I did not. However, after putting it in a new mat, with a new frame, and hanging in the right spot, I find I am enjoying it more as time goes by. It works beautifully over the padded headboard.

While we search for matching bedside tables, a vintage mexican tile tray tops a small cabinet next to the bed.

The rug I found in an antiques mall in Abilene. Isn't it wonderful? A large brass tray gives Paul a place to put his keys and change at night, and the book box caddy was a gift from Devin and Sandy - perfect dresser-top storage. And because this is a real room, there's Paul's "Marine Dad" cap on one side of the mirror and his Florida Gators cap on the other. I mean, let's be honest: where an American Man lives, there's gonna be a gimmee cap! :-)

The room has the updated 1940's look that works in this house. Comfortable and cheery, easy to live in. Our decorating style is very eclectic but here, I wanted that old fashioned fully coordinated everything matching look. By keeping the rest of the color scheme bright with the same tones repeated everywhere, the dark furniture feels fresh and serves as the accent color, its red shine reflecting light back into the room.

I hurt my back on Friday working in the yard, so I spent the next two days immobile in this room. Despite the forced inactivity, and Saturday's dreary, raining weather, the light and colors kept my mood buoyant.

The coordination - matching furniture and fabrics - is soothing and comforting. Even if "matchy matchy" is out of fashion right now, by next year it will be back in style and I'll be two steps ahead!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How To Make a Padded Upholstered Cornice Board

This is an easy project that gives a lot of pop for the effort. Nick built the cornice board frame, and I finally got it covered and hung last week. It's one of the finishing touches in my bedroom re-do (which will be my next blog post so check back to see the result!).

Because our windows are a standard length, he was able to build it out of a single 1x12 board. This made construction much simpler. Ultimately, a cornice is a 3 sided box (no back on it, as the wall it hangs against becomes the back).

The height of the cornice board should be about 1/5 the length of the window. Just measure the window and divide the height by five. If you are using floor length or puddling drapes, you might want a taller cornice, but for most windows, the one-fifth ratio is ideal.

How far the finished cornice box extends from the wall depends on your other window treatments. If, like me, you are only using blinds or shades, it only needs to come out 4 or 5 inches from the wall. and DIY Network both have good step-by-step instructions for how to measure and build one.

I sprayed the board with spray adhesive, and covered it with one layer of polyester batting. The batting should extend around over the front edges but should not cover the thin back edge that will be against the wall, nor is it needed on the top.

The fabric is upholstery-weight Waverly, a pattern named "Claremont". Having a pattern to match in the fabric meant a bit of creative cutting and very careful measuring to be sure the pattern matched along the full length of the board.

When measuring and cutting the fabric, allow a good 4 to 6 inches extra so that you will have plenty of selvege to staple into. Remember you are wrapping the edges too, all the way around to the back. Excess can be trimmed later, but there's no way to fix it if you cut too much off beforehand.

This fabric also required a seam in the length (it goes over a double window). The seam is located in the exact center, so as not to annoy us every time we look at it, and pattern matched exactly along the widest point in the pattern. That little trick also helps hide the seam from the eye.

I didn't iron the center seam until after the cornice was otherwise completed, then used an iron to set the crease in the seam - don't slide the iron as that might stretch the fabric.

I stapled the fabric to the back sides of the board, starting in the center of the top edge, alternating stapling one side of the top edge, then the other, and eyeing up the pattern with each staple, to be sure it matched its opposite. It will be done faster if you go slowly during this process.

The reason for starting with the top edge is that the top is the first thing you will see when it is hanging. A little error on the bottom edge might go unnoticed but the top needs to be perfect.

Do the same with the bottom edge, being careful (1) not to stretch the fabric (you don't want puckers), and (2) to use a straight edge to be sure the pattern runs straight from top to bottom as well as side to side.

Lastly, staple the sides, folding and tucking the corners. After trimming excess, I used white glue to smooth down the cut edges inside the board. If your board is going to be in a location where the inside will be visible, you could finish the inside fabric edge by gluing ribbon or seam binding over the cut edge.

Paul used L brackets to hang it for me, first attaching the brackets to the wall, using a level, then settling the cornice on them, marking the holes, and drilling small pilot holes in the board before setting it in place perfectly.

How many L brackets you use, and how carefully you hang depends a lot on whether you want to merchandise the top of it or not. If you plan to set things on it, be sure to hang it into studs or with anchors, like you would any shelf.

Isn't it great? We are very happy with the results. Next post: better photos of this bedroom, and how pretty it turned out!

Sept 2011 UPDATE: Per request, here is a close up of the middle seam, which is nearly invisible from an ordinary vantage point in the room. Details in the comments. Click to enlarge so you can see how the seam looks up close.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Texas Anniversary

On March 16, 1836, the Republic of Texas approved its first constitution. You can read it, in its original form, here. Nine years later, Texas joined the United States of America. Here is a link to the text of all of Texas early constitutions:

The current version of the Texas Constitution may be found here:

Although much has changed over the years, to this day, the State of Texas requires that major laws be passed by the voters themselves in the form of constitutional amendments. This is one of the keys to Texas' current continued freedoms and prosperity.

We are not native Texans, but our children are! It's no accident that everywhere you go in Texas, our flag is painted on buildings and signs and roofs, and fences. We are proud of our home state, and of the United States, and appreciate the singular heritage that we have been blessed with. A heritage that fosters self-reliance, patriotism, faith, shared meals and shared values: a melting pot of cultures that all came together to build one state that is like "a whole other country".

God bless America, and God bless Texas!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring, and a Thousand Generations

I was away for two weeks, and my sweet husband had flowers waiting for me on my return. Thank you Honey. So glad to be home.

Spring arrived while I was gone. Daffodils are blooming, Spring is here! No matter how cold the winter, Spring comes again.

A few days ago (on the 11th), I came upon this verse in three different places, including my own blog in the Verse of the day, in the King James version:

Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

and on XtnYoda's blog, a blog I had never visited before, in the version from the Holman Christian Standard Bible:

"Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands." ( Deuteronomy 7:9 )

What a beautiful promise. Christianity teaches us to honor our parents and grandparents, and to remember gratefully those who have gone before. So many of our blessings and the goodness in our lives came from them and their faith. Lord, please let my life be such that it can be another link in extending your promises through the generations to come. Thank You for the richness of Your Grace through all of time!


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