2:1Q 10:F 18:3Q 25:N

Reading recommendation 

The 80/20 Principle - Robert Koch


Saying of the month

"November's sky is chill and drear,
November's leaf is red and sear."
-   Sir Walter Scott



Scripture of the month

""Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more. Whoever has (understanding) will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."

- Mark 4:24-25


        Bible verses


Saying of the month


Reading recommendation


Feng shui can help energize your front door and entryway


Create a personalized, embroidered picture for a child.


It's jam making time. 

Recipe of the month -
A simple plum jam 



Winter is not too far away now, and already the days are getting cooler and shorter. If you’re like most of us, the fall season causes your mood to droop a little. And, our energy-levels can slide even further during the cold winter months when there's not much sun and the green trees, flowers, and grass are long gone. Those are the times we seek the shelter and comfort in our own homes. And, an upbeat home will help keep our spirits up during the long winter.

Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese art of chi or universal energy flow. Feng Shui involves the placing of objects and the use of space to enhance our lives, and we can use these principles to energize our homes in the months to come. The theme of this post is how to use Feng Shui rules at the entrance of the house to increase the positive energy throughout the home.

According to Feng Shui, the main door and the front entryway are very important parts of the home because that’s where most of the positive universal energy, or chi, comes in. That’s also the space that you, your family and friends see first when entering the house. Your choice of decoration at the front door and entryway show something about you and contribute to your attitude toward life. If you feel bad energy entering your home, it will have a negative effect on your psychology.

While other parts of the house may be used by just a few people, all members of the family and visitors alike enter through the main door. So, you’ll want the entrance to your home to be inviting and filled with good energy. Now your main entry to the house may be a side door, through a garage, or a hallway door, if you live in a building. If that’s your main entryway then the energy flow principles that apply to a front door are the same for your entrance. So, start now to analyze what Feng Shui solutions can help you energize the entryway to your home.

Main door
In the outdoors, chi moves mostly uninterrupted in gentle curves – straight lines are human artifacts and often are unfortunate when it comes to energy flow. The outdoor chi flows relatively freely, like water or vapor, coming in through the main door, drifting through the house, and finally exits out of windows and any other doors.

According to Feng Shui, the main door should be a solid construction. It is the “mouth” of the house, taking in nourishing chi. Glass panels in the door and windows that are too close to the door on either side can pull the good energy back out of the house right after it enters. A green potted plant on the windowsill or a hanging decoration on the window help keep the energy from escaping.

You want the “fresh” energy that comes through your door to wander around the rooms unhurriedly before exiting. That is why you don't want to see an exiting door from your entryway. The worst possible position for the back door is in a straight line (shot-gun style) from the front door. Potted plants or folding screens that “bend” the energy to one side can help this problem - that way not all the flow will be in one door and out the other. . 

Crystals, wind chimes, screens, curtains, and water displays can also be used to the stop rapid energy loss through an exit door

Foyer or front hallway
The entrance area, traditionally called the foyer, is the transition from the outside to the inside personal space. It’s important that energy that comes into the front of your home isn't obstructed. Your entryway should be open and easy to move around in, allowing you free access to the rest of the home. The main door should open into an uncluttered, clean front room or hallway. A wall that’s too close to the front door blocks the flow of energy into the home.

Lighting is important in the entry, so use an overhead lamp that’s attractive and gives off sufficient light. Make sure that the walls are painted a light or bright color in the front area. The first things you see when you enter your home should be friendly to the eye and bring peace and joy to your heart. You'll feel much more at ease and comforted when the entryway is an attractive part of the home.

A hanging mirror opposite the door is not such a good idea because it will “reflect” the energy back out of the house. Instead, let the eye see an attractive painting or wall hanging, preferably a landscape, facing the doorway. Mirrors can be used on the walls to the side of the main door, where they reflect the light and make the entrance feel larger.

Clutter stops energy from flowing. Remove anything that is blocking the flow of chi in your entryway. Keep your entrance hall clean and organized by including only a few essentials, such as an umbrella stand, a console table, or a coat rack. The entrance hall should never be a storage room. Don't leave items, such as shoes, clothing or any other unnecessary items lying around. Decorate the area with just a few beautiful objects, plants or flowers. Crystals, devotional figures, good luck pieces, and ceramic eggs are also commonly used in Feng Shui as a means of amplifying the energy in the home.

There is a particular problem when the front door opens directly into a living room or kitchen. While we usually can’t redesign the layout of our homes, Feng Shui remedies can still be of help. If possible, try to differentiate the entryway by hanging curtains or placing a divider or a tall plant near the front door, thereby creating a visual stopping point between the door and the rest of the living space. The addition of rug that’s in proportion to the entrance can help create the feeling of a separate entry space. The most appropriate rugs for the entryway have simple designs - suggesting stable, grounding energy that creates positive energy for the transition from outdoor to indoor space.




Working on gifts for my two little granddaughters is something that gives me a lot of satisfaction. I found ideas for making a personalized, embroidered picture on a couple of different blogsites. Because I wanted these gifts to be truly one-of-a-kind, I decided to make my own design.

The pictures I made for the girls are entirely handmade. They include only simple quilting and embroidery. I used scrap gingham fabric: dark red for one girl and blue for the other. The blue material came from an old dress that was found long-abandoned in a family member’s basement and the red fabric was a remnant from a thrift store. The embroidery floss in several different colors was also a thrift store find. The initials for the girls are “M” (for Myra) and “I” (for Iris). So, the words on one picture are: “ I is for ice skates … and for Iris.” I embroidered a girls on ice skates on this picture. The words in the other picture are: “M is for music … and for Myra.” A cartoon singing face and musical notes are embroidered on this picture. 

This is a really simple gift to make and it takes only about one day to finish. The picture is made up of just a few pieces. Four quilted rectangles of a tiny print fabric (your choice of design) form the “mat” with an embroidered square in the middle. The embroidery is done on white cotton cloth. The child’s initial is also cutout from the fabric and sewn to the center square. All the rest of the design is hand embroidery. The “mat” pieces and the initial are sewn to the background fabric with intentionally uneven stitches, using floss that’s the same color as the fabric. The picture requires cotton embroidery floss  in whatever colors you want to use. I used three strands of floss on the needle and embroidered the entire picture with straight stitches.

Things you'll need
-- Computer clipart, photos or drawings of the initial of the first name of the child and a simplified (cartoon-type) picture of a child doing an activity that begins with the same letter
-- Fabric for quilt pieces (remember to cut an extra 1/2 inch for quilt hems)
-- Tracing paper
-- Washable fabric pen
-- 7-inch embroidery hoop
-- Small sharp scissors
-- Embroidery thread
-- Embroidery needle
-- Straight pins
-- Photo frame with a removable backboard that holds a 11 x 14-inch picture.
-- Light weight cardboard the same size as the backboard.
-- 12 x 15 inch piece of plain fabric as a back for the quilting.

Making and transferring the design to the cloth
If you use a design from clipart, you may want to use photo editing or graphic design software on your computer. That way you can shrink or enlarge the picture to the size that you want the finished pattern to be. Print the image for your pattern in black and white. Or you can use a standard copy machine to reproduce a photo from a magazine, book or a line drawing. It’s best to go over the outline of your design with a marker so that you have traceable outlines to work with. You may want to use tracing paper. Follow the instructions given on the package of tracing paper. Be sure to run over the lines of the design with a marker and draw thin lines - that way your stitches will cover up any marks that didn’t wash out. Also, remember to leave at least an inch allowance at the edge of the embroidery hoop. (It’s hard to stitch close to the edge of the hoop.)

Embroidering the picture
Place the marked fabric in the embroidery hoop and begin embroidering. Simple straight stitch outlines work well for simple designs like these. Then, you can then fill in the outline, if you like. When the embroidery is finished, attach the other pieces to the picture. (I made rather obvious, uneven stitches to give the quilting what I considered an informal, country look.) Finally, rinse the line markings out of the picture, let it dry, and carefully iron out any wrinkles.

Framing the picture
Place the finished picture on the cardboard. Fold the sides (about 1/2-inch of fabric) over the cardboard, keep the fabric taut and hold everything together with straight pins. Use the main color embroidery floss to make small straight stitches to sew the layers of the fabric – both front and back - to the sides of the board.  Remove the pins, insert your work in the picture frame and secure the backing. Your personalized picture is ready for gift-wrapping.



It’s the month of November and, if you’re like me, your thoughts are beginning to run to how this winter’s going to be. Some say that the coming months will be among the coldest we’ve seen in many years. So, the next thing that comes to mind is: "How are we going to stay WARM AND HAPPY?" Well, speaking for myself, last year was cold also. Staying warm in my small house was pretty well taken care of what with my propane gas stove, a small electric heater that I carried around with me, and several layers of winter clothing (including thermal underwear). Staying happy through the cold months is a somewhat different matter - it will take some welcome company - human and canine - and a lot of good food. And, part of winter eating happiness, as well as year-round, includes sweets.

And, that’s what this post is about – making sweets, and in this case, preparing homemade jam. Jam-making has been a valued art throughout the centuries, if not millennia. Like a lot of domestic arts, it takes a day or two to prepare and cook, and that means we have to dig into our time schedule. But, like the wise saying goes: “Time is all we have.” As a mostly-retired person, I do have the luxury of some time, and I like to spend a bit of it preparing (and eating, of course) delicious food.

Now, there are a lot of sweet possibilities for jellies, jam, and liquored-up fruit out there. The fall fruit is in season (meaning it's good quality and as cheap as it's going to get). We’ve got a bunch of choices - from our own trees, if we’re so lucky, or at the farmer’s market for the rest of us. We have apples, apricots, peaches, pears, and plums, to name a few. And, as the heaps of fresh fruit appear (and, all too soon dwindle), the urge is strong to eat a lot now and to preserve some more for future pleasure.

So, there’s no problem for fruit selection. Next comes the motivation. If you’re like me, you probably don’t like to do really big cooking deals alone. Large-scale cooking seems to be a lot easier with a family member or friend. This year, I’m lucky to have a good friend and neighbor who likes to cook all kinds of good things and also, - and here’s the great advantage, is an even better cook than I am. So, next Tuesday, we have a pact to overcome our early fall laziness and make plum jam.

Now, we aren’t too ambitious in this undertaking, and neither of us is so inclined or has enough storage space to throw ourselves into heavy-duty canning. So, I suppose, and at least according to our plan, the quantity of jam we’re talking about is about 16 pints – 8 for her and 8 for me. But, even that’s more jam than my husband and I are likely to eat in a few months, so I’ll probably give some jam away as gifts.


 Oh, and why plums? Mostly, because they’re as cheap as any fruit right now, and my husband and I absolutely adore plum jam. Also, not all of it has to go on bread or biscuits. I’m thinking now of other delights - and already beginning to taste - vanilla custard with plum jam on top, plum and apple tarts, and plum jam upside-down cake. The possibilities for sweet plum jam combinations are almost endless.

 Recipe for November

Simple plum jam recipe

Here’s an easy recipe for plum jam that’s made without adding any pectin. All you need are plums, sugar, water, and some lemon juice.

4 lbs. plums
4 lbs. sugar
1 pint of water
2 Tbs. lemon juice

Wash your plums, remove any bits of stalk, and drain them a bit. Put them into a large heavy saucepan along with the water. Heat the water, fruit, sugar, and lemon juice on moderate heat until the sugar dissolves. Be sure to stir constantly so that the mixture doesn’t burn.

Next, take the pan off the heat and remove the stones with a fork or small tongs. Then continue boiling the plums – don’t overcook them. Skim off the scum with a large spoon and check for the right moment for jam setting. Do this by letting a spoon full of boiling jam dribble onto a cold plate. Let it cool down for a couple of minutes, and then, test it. It’s ready when it looks something like thick honey and shows a tiny impression when you push it around with your fingertip.
(This recipe makes about 6 pints of jam.)

Bottling and storing your jam
When the jam is ready, turn off the heat, and let it cool just a bit. Then use a ladle to transfer the hot liquid from the pot to warm, pre-sterilized jars. To avoid jar cracking, place a teaspoon in the jar while you fill it up. Do not fill the jars up to the top – just to about 80% of the capacity. That way, if by some chance the jars freeze, you won’t lose the jam (and jars) due to breakage.

Cover the filled jars with parchment paper rings and screw sterilized jar lids on tightly. Let the jars sit until completely cool, and then place them in a cold place for storage. Sugar acts as a preservative, but it’s not foolproof. So, if you have any doubts about the temperature of your storage shelves, put your jam in the refrigerator where it should last several months.

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