Thursday, May 12, 2016

Both ends of the candle

my first peonies :: eastern towhee in song :: blue ridge parkway :: last year's nest :: mayapple
Baltimore oriole from below :: eastern phoebe in a run-down shack :: cliff swallows

This is Julian's bridge week where classes are over but he still needs to stick around. Graduation is on Saturday and he will be turned out in full regalia, but until then this week is feeling much more like "break" and nothing like the "new normal" that June and July with both of us home will become.

Julian and I are both creatures of excess - in eating, in sleeping, in being awake, in going and going and going until we drop. We just happened to end up planning two birding field trips and one vacation during the month of May. Crazed birders sometimes do this thing they call "A Big Year" for which they plan and save for many years and then spend the entire designated year devoted completely to some insane bird goal - number of species seen, high counts on all continents, etc. In jest, we said we would have "A Big Month" and it has gathered momentum and taken on a life of its own.

Our birding goal for the year of 2015 was one we felt was ambitious: 150 species seen. For Julian who was wrapping up his PhD, me selling a house, buying a house, both of us leaving jobs, Julian starting a new job, it was a bit intense to reach that benchmark.  Now, we can potentially blast through last year's goal in a single month.

We've been on the shore of the lake all week, with friends and with birds. The house chores are undone, the rain has been growing the weeds at breakneck speed. We've been hitting the sack at 1:30am and waking at 6:30am, listening to bird song recordings, pacing the yard with binoculars, and have tallied 98 species this month with trips to Highland Co. and Chincoteague still remaining.

My new (and also birdy) friend Joann asked me this week how I got into birding. I told her that I had always enjoyed the birds but really took notice after Julian bought me my first Peterson Guide for my 24th birthday. The following year, we were married and living in Blacksburg and spotted a "rare" bird on the duckpond that we had seen in flocks and flocks when we honeymooned in Maine. Seeing this bird - what we know now was a double crested cormorant - made me want to attend the local bird club meeting to talk to other people who shared this interest. We went that month and the program just happened to be on pelagic birds, or rather, on being seasick on a boat and attempting to ID birds that are mere shadows on the horizon using the angles of their observable wing beats. Um. No. We we didn't even stay for cookies afterward. Those folks were crazy. They weren't our type. We were never going to be that kind of person who schedules a vacation of misery just to say they could check a bird off a list.

Never say never.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Amanda Makes - Episode 11

Thanks for all the love I've gotten on Instagram after sending out my very first skeins 
of hand dyed yarn and also being under the weather. I really appreciate it! 
Turns out a few slow days is just what I needed to get another podcast on the air! 
I hope you'll find me on Instagram (littlehousebigwoods) and Ravelry (AmandaMakes) so we can continue the discussion there. 

On the Needles

Yarn Acquisitions
Rowan Fine Art, Lapwing
Patons Kroy, Blue Stripe Ragg

Stitch Markers


Knitting Knee Highs by Barb Brown
Lila by Marilynne Robinson
The Other Daughter by Laura Willig

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Book Review - Hunting Hope

Spring has turned to summer this week and on the deck is the only place I want to be. Our bluebird pair is feeding their babies almost constantly and the yard is parched and dry. In two weeks' time, the spring semester will be over and our summer break will be sprawled in front of us with near limitless potential. It is wild to think how quickly this first year at Longwood has passed for Julian.

We are having a pancake party at the house Thursday night for all the students he has taught these past nine months. They really love him, think he's funny, and they spend way too much time loitering in his office when they should be doing other things. It's a good problem to have, I suppose.

So I am doing all the usual party prep things: baking in advance, coaxing the flowers to bloom, scrubbing floors, praying for rain, dyeing yarn, praying for good weather on the day. In addition to Julian being generally like-able, we want to show this college-aged, desperate-to-be-grown-up-but-still-not-sure-of-themselves crowd that you can do a million and one fun things without getting wasted, and that there are lots of people in this world who will love you for who you are, and that we are two of those people.

The opportunity to review Hunting Hope by Nike Maples comes at a perfect time for me. In addition to the fact that there is never a bad time to read a message of hope and gospel truth, it is a perfect time - as I am praying for these students as they go off to have their summer break and come back older to us in the fall - to add another arrow to my quiver of faith-based resources that I feel strongly enough to recommend. Here is my review of the book I posted on Amazon:

"I am always hesitant to give a book to someone who is struggling because so many "devotional" type books can make a struggling person's situation seem trite. Not this one! In the introduction {don't skip that part!} Maples points out that God created darkness and while He separates Himself from all spiritual darkness, He is alongside you in any situational darkness. The author equips you to know the difference between the two and then uses scripture throughout the book to show you how to find hope through the scriptural truths of God's character. The last 40 pages of the book are devoted to refining YOUR character so that you can be a person who knows joy and light through the trials and darkness of life. Great book. I think I'm going to sit down and read it all over again."

Oh I do hope they come here and feel good, feel at home, feel loved and looked after. Students unload a peculiar number of things on their favorite professors' shoulders and I just hope that we can do justice to the trust they give us and pray them through to the other side.