Monday, June 25, 2007

What to climb, what to climb...?

Fiona keeps telling us she wants to go climb a tree. The odd thing is, we can't find any good climbing trees around here. Apple trees would be perfect. Most citrus trees are great ('cept for the thorns) but just about all we have around here are maples. The mulberry tree in the front yard might be good, but the lowest branch is six feet off the ground. Not so good for someone in the three-foot-something range.

Fortunately, that's what uncles are for. (Daddies aren't off the hook, not by a long shot. But when having your head sat on is a daily phenomenon, you sometimes forget to inject some creativity into the situation.) So the impression has stuck: Uncle = Jungle Gym.

Personally, I think Paul brings that on himself...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The shot I did get

"Have you gotten that one perfect shot yet?"

Well, maybe. But it wouldn't hurt to shoot a few more...

Every now and then, I get a shot I'm completely happy with. This is one of them. No cropping, no touch-up, nothing. Just the pure joy of the moment.

Thank God for Digital Cameras

As I'm sitting here, downloading photos off my camera, it occurs to me how grateful I am for the relative cheapness of digital photography. Take the month of May, for example. Had I taken the same number of photos on film and had them all processed and printed, my film-and-developing budget would have exceeded my mortgage payment.

I live a well-documented life.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

They said it couldn't be done...

Just so you know, you can do shading on a Magnadoodle. You just have to hold the magnetic stylus at a very low angle.

And now, on to my third impossible thing before breakfast...

The books go marching one by one, hurrah! Hurrah!

Finally, after far too much time, the books have started marching out to our very patient customers — and a few of the other ones, as well. :-) Thank God for people who keep asking, for lo, they do help us to get things done.

Anything fragile, liquid or perishable? Nope, all books...

Neal the Longsuffering, and Justin the Cheerful hold up one of the new covers. Things had actually been going badly at the moment — the metallic inks weren't getting along with the black ink — but they smiled anyway. And so did I. It came out OK in the end.

We were supposed to have a book collating party tonight at the youth center at our church, but only one person showed up, and it wasn't someone with a key. It was an odd contrast to last time they helped us out, when some 16 or so teenagers helped us assemble 800 books in just a few hours. Maybe we misunderstood when we were supposed to be there... who knows. We haven't figured out yet what happened.

Hey, that looks better!

For some time now, I've been looking at the weathered, peeling paint on my house and shed, and dreading the day I'd have to do something about it. Well, that day came, but I had help. Professional help, no less, in the form of Joel and Paul, who both work for Matthew's Painting Company. Joel rented a pressure washer for the weekend, and came over to do our house first. (Joel is trying to sell his own house, and, now that he's graduated from seminary, move somewhere and go be a pastor. If you want a new pastor...)

The first order of the day was to bleach the whole house. This is necessary to kill off any mold or mildew that's living on the house and would ruin the paint, I'm told. So I went ahead of Joel, using a "spray ranger" that mixes the bleach and water to get an even mix. Then Joel came behind me with the power washer, to rinse off the bleach and remove anything loose. (Loose items can include outdoor thermometers, peony bushes, fingers... gotta be careful with this thing!)

Paul takes a turn with the pressure washer on the shed. You couldn't see this with the naked eye — it just looked like a fog coming out the tip — but the camera caught the rotating nozzle here. Apparently, the idea with this tip is to have an extremely high pressure stream, but rotate it so fast that it won't do (much) damage.

Joel's wearing shorts. Can you tell? Apparently a lot of the stuff that comes off the wall comes straight back at the person holding the wand.

Joel let me try it out on the shed, where the paint was the worst. I laughed out loud as the old, peeling paint practically leaped off the wood. It was enormously satisfying, especially since I knew how long it would have taken by hand with a scraper.

(I've since gotten my water bill. It was 5,000 gallons higher than normal. Small price to pay...)

Later, once the flood waters had abated, and the wood was dry again, Paul came over and showed me how to finish preparing the wood. There was still some work to be done with a scraper and wire brush, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I had imagined.

We finished up the trim on the house on Saturday, and we'll be tackling the shed soon.

Monday, June 18, 2007

And then Jesus said, "Ribbit."

During the school year, we go to a small group Bible study, and drop Fiona and Aiden off at the church gym for activities there. At the end of the year, they had a "Fun Fair" with activities for both parents and children to enjoy together, and awards for things like best attendance.

While we were there sitting together on the floor during the presentations, Fiona got out the foam cross she had decorated at one of the stations, and some plastic animals she had won in a game. "Look!" she said, hopping an armadillo up to the middle of the cross, "here's a cross for this frog to die on!"


What do you say then?

On the bright side, the message is getting through, although not quite in the form I would had hoped for!

Friday, June 15, 2007


Stippling. It's one of the words on Andy's List of Words that are Fun to Say. It's also on Andy's list of things that are fun to do. Take, for instance, this catalog cover, which will be going to press in a week or so:

Now, would you like a closer look at that winged sphinx?

This is a bit smaller than the actual size of the page. You can always click on the image to see all those dots up close.

Basically, for this last week, I've spent the very last part of my working day making little dots with a Micron pen. It's been such fun. I've been giggling to myself all day: I get paid to stipple!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

In Memoriam: The Rabbit

Mr. Rabbit died today, at the ripe old age of two. Which, if you stop and think about it, is pretty darn old for a small rubber rabbit you get in an Easter basket. He died under mysterious circumstances, and his head was found in a children's book.

Mr. Rabbit's longsuffering characterized his existence. For more than two years, he was regularly stretched beyond all reasonable measure, often to four times his original length. He was eaten by crocodiles, banged on furniture, tied in knots, thrown to and from great heights, stuffed in pockets... and in all these things, he never let go of that carrot. He was, both literally and figuratively, loved to death. In this terrible time, let us remember Mr. Rabbit, for he persevered, despite all odds.


MMMMMmmmmm, strawberries.

Deborah took the kids strawberry picking yesterday, along with some friends of ours. There are several pick-your-own patches around here, and they largely work on the honor system — pick it yourself, weigh it yourself, figure $1.35 per pound, leave the money in the milk jug. (The milk jug makes getting change a little difficult.)

With the kids around, Deborah didn't get quite as much as the rest (wonder why?) but it was plenty, about five pounds' worth. I'm told they assume you'll be eating as you pick, too!

Aiden, looking cute in the wagon.

Fiona took Aiden for rides...

...and helped pick, too. And then she very carefully put them in her pockets, and carried them over to the bucket! Deborah had to tell her to just carry them in her hands, instead.

Once everyone was home, washed, and put to bed (as appropriate) we called up Paul to come help us make jam.

Take the stems off...

Moosh it up... cook it up...

Ta-dah! Strawberry Jam!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Visualizing the Imagination

Recent advances in digital imaging technology have made a quantum leap, and we can now, for the first time, show you pictures of the IMAGINATION. Scientists do not yet have a good explanation for why some people can see these objects, while others can't, but the startling new evidence suggests that these objects are real. Normally, these would be at best hazy or indistinct to the naked eye, but our computer tracing technology has been able to superimpose outlines of these images on ordinary photographs, giving the rest of us a glimpse of what some people see so well. Our subject tonight is a young boy, living in Indiana. His name is Aiden, and we've been able to capture these images as they were projected onto a seemingly ordinary stick. Let's take a look, folks.

This was one of the more straightforward projections, a standard fantasy of Olympic glory. We're looking at at about 600 pounds in the clean-and-jerk.

"By the power of Grayskull, I HAVE THE POWER!"
This sample was unusual in that we were also able to pick up an audio signal. We have yet to determine how this young boy could be quoting lines and actions from an 80s animated cartoon. We hypothesize that this may be a projection from the boy's father.

Leaving so soon, son? Hooverville is the other way.

At first, we thought the equipment was malfunctioning, but then, we realized that the metaphor was already complete: the staff, the cat, the pastoral stance of a shepherd. Yes, he's pretending to manage programmers.

"Aaaaaandy, I aaaaam your sooooonnnn..."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How does your garden grow? (part 2)

Since Paul helped us with our garden, we went and helped him with his. The two Pauls wanted to grow vegetables instead of flowers, though, so there was a lot more ground to prepare. Fortunately, our neighbors loaned us a tiller, and that made the work a little easier... or, at least, different. I was pretty sore from lifting that tiller in and out of the trunk!

Paul Hostetter and Deborah work at tilling the soil.

Andy and Paul Hostetter clear out the remaining grass.

Paul plants tomatoes.

We did one afternoon all together, including the kids. They got into it, too, with Fiona digging up the yard...

...and dumping it on Aiden. Aiden normally has sparse blonde hair, not brown.

Deborah had pretty dirty feet afterwards, too — I guess that's why you don't see too many farmers in sandals.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The shot I didn't get

The Amish, because of their beliefs, don't care to be photographed. So I didn't get the shot, even though I had my camera on, and in hand — but it's a picture that will stay in my memory for quite some time.

I had been standing at the side of the road, getting pictures of Shipshewana, when a horse and buggy went by. Most of these carrieages are severe-looking, all-black affairs with only the tiniest of windows, but it was a hot day, and some of the doors were open. As it went past, a little girl, about Fiona's age, in a plain, pink dress and I saw each other, and her curious eyes followed me all the way out the door, looking back so all I saw was the glossy black side of the carriage, interrupted by a head covering, a blonde braid and two little eyes staring back at me.

That was the picture I wanted from this trip. I'll have to be content that I saw it, even if I didn't interrupt it by using a camera to record the moment.

Go fly a kite

While we were wandering around the flea market, we noticed a very colorful booth, looked at each other, and said, "Lets' go over that way," both of us knowing we'd be walking away with a new kite. (Hey, we've been married 10 years now. Some things are obvious!)

"This is a great kite! Here, I'll show you!" This guy insisted on launching our kite for us to show us how easy it was. He got it up, unassisted, on the first toss, from the middle of a crowded aisle in the flea market.

We weren't disappointed. This guy was enthusiastic, and obviously in the business because he loved kites — a fun change from the standard "service with a shrug" that you get in most of Indiana. He found us a good kite, gave us a non-crash course in flying it ("There's no reason to be running with a kite, folks!") and made sure we knew how to put it together.

Thursday turned out to be very windy, plenty for a kite. So we went out on the lawn and flew it for a bit before heading home.

Up and Away!

Kite not flying.

Kite flying!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

10 Years

On Wednesday and Thursday, Deborah and I went and celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. We went up to the Farmstead Inn in Shipshewana. (Just the two of us. Paul very kindly stayed home with the kids.)

Nearly everything had an Amish- or farm-based theme, including our hotel. The "barn" here houses the pool and exercise room.

Wanna race?

Shipshewana is primarily known for being Amish. According to the brochures, the population is 516, and they handle over a million visitors a year. They seem to put up with tourists (like us) rather well.

So what did we do? Well, we...

Bought Deborah an anniversary dress...

It seems odd to have found an Indian dress in the middle of an Amish flea market, but no one else seemed to notice any irony about that.

Looked at Amish arts and crafts...

For the prices, you wouldn't dare sleep on it...

Sat around in hot tubs until we looked like prunes...

This is what my hands will look like for our 50th wedding anniversary.

...and sampled the local cuisine.

Yum. Amish peanut butter (in this town, it was just called "peanut butter") is a mix of peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, Karo syrup, maple syrup, and a few other things. That's what our waitress told us, anyway.

My dentist asked me if this meant that "number 3" was on it's way. I told her Deborah wanted twins. :-) (No, that's not an announcement.) We did a few other things as well, but those are musings and photos for a different post on a different day. For anow, it's just weird to think that I've now been married for nearly a third of my life. It's easier to imagine it in two- or three-year chunks, and then put them all together.

Ten years. Ten!

Point of Interest

On the way up to Shipshewana — more on that later — you pass through North Webster, a small, lake-based town. For years, I rode past this sign, and couldn't figure out where the point of interest was.

The only thing I found within half a mile that looked at all out of the usual was this well of sorts. I guess other people wondered about it, too, because they finally put up a sign:

So I feel a little vindicated for figuring out that it was this little thing beside the road, but I've stopped and looked at this thing many times now, and one nagging question remains in my mind.

...What's so interesting about it?