Through a glass, brightly

January 25, 2022

There are many things we can only see “through a glass, darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12), but now seeing my little figurines while I’m painting them is not one of them anymore. I had painted the animals as best I could without really being able to see the small details, and thought they had come out pretty well, all things considered. But when it came to painting 1/72 scale people, I just couldn’t make out the details well enough. Clothing I can manage, but hair? Eyes? Mouth?

I tried the handheld magnifying glass I had bought years ago as a prop for my son’s spy-themed birthday party, but it worked much better as a prop than a useful tool. I tried my husband’s lighted page magnifier, which was some help but not enough, and anyway there was no way to hold it in place while painting. I considered a visor-type craft magnifier like my husband uses to have (until it broke). But the one I picked is a tabletop magnifier that goes up to 10x in the main lens (depending on how far I position the figuring from the lens) and up to 22x in the small auxiliary lens. It wasn’t supposed to come until Friday, but today at lunchtime it landed on my doorstep.

The one downside is that now I can see all the imperfections in how I had painted the donkeys. Of course, I don’t plan on setting up the magnifier for anyone to inspect my finished diorama too closely, so I may not try to repaint them – I don’t want to make them worse in the process. After all, while I can see the details better now, but that doesn’t mean I can manipulate the paintbrush well enough to paint those small details as well as I’d like. But at least now I know where to try to paint the eyes and mouth.

goat figuring under magnifier
goats – actual size at left, magnified in center
chickens figurine under a magnifier

Snowmen and sunsets

January 24, 2022

I guess “snowmen” is not quite accurate, since there’s only one. Or maybe I should say snowperson, since it might be a snowwoman. How about snow-neighbor, since it’s right next door? In any case, it was one of the first things I saw when I went on a walk this afternoon, and I couldn’t help smiling. I hadn’t realized it until then, but I don’t remember having seen any other snowmen yet this winter. I don’t know if that’s a sign of not enough snow or not enough children around the neighborhood (at least not playing out in the snow building snowmen).


With the days getting just a little longer, the sun hadn’t quite set when I got to the corner where it’s mostly open field between me and the highway. Sunsets are a little harder to enjoy when the sun is still high enough to be hard to look at. But when I positioned myself just right, a lovely tree blocked it very nicely.

Waffled breakfasts

January 22, 2022

I have occasionally seen ideas of things to cook in a waffle iron other than waffles, but I have had little interest in trying them. I did try one thing – I don’t even remember now what it was – and wasn’t impressed with the results. Mostly it seems like extra work, preparing the waffle iron and then cleaning it afterward (mine is a Cuisinart with removable plates), to get food that I could as easily have prepared some other way. But I make waffles for my husband every Saturday morning (a large enough batch that there are leftovers to reheat in the toaster for several more days), and as long as I’m already using the waffle iron, I might as well make use of it for something else as well.

Last spring someone introduced me to the idea of chaffles. She likes them as a low-carb dessert, but after trying the “sweet” versions a couple of times, I decided they don’t satisfy my desire for dessert. (My current favorite desserts are KIND frozen bars, especially the peanut butter flavor, and diana’s Banana Babies.) The “savory” chaffles, however, make a great breakfast, especially for the days I leave for work at 7 AM and don’t want to eat before my usual breakfast time between 8 and 8:30 AM. Chaffles are easy to keep in the fridge and reheat in the toaster (if I use the reusable toaster bags made for grilled cheese sandwiches, I don’t have to worry about the chaffles getting stuck in the toaster).


This morning I was thinking about making myself some French toast to use up some whole wheat bread, but I didn’t feel like having to clean the skillet, along with the waffle iron and the bowls for making waffles and chaffles. Then it occurred to me that I could make my French toast in the waffle iron too. No wondering if it’s cooked through yet, and watching to be sure it doesn’t burn, and of course no extra pan to clean. It worked pretty well, though I have to admit I think it’s a little crisper than I like it. The crispness is what my husband likes so much about waffles, but I like French toast because it’s nice and soft inside. My waffled French toast was a bit more like … a waffle. But cleanup was easy!

Footprints in the snow

January 20, 2022

The wind chill advisory officially ended at noon, but it was cold enough I decided to get my exercise walking indoors, and admire nature through the windows. It was also cold enough that there was very little to be seen of animal life out there either. There was one bird with yellow just at the end of its tail, that would have been pretty if it had been alive, but lying on its back on the picnic table (did it freeze and fall down onto the table?), it did not inspire me to take pictures.

I returned to the indoor walkway between buildings, where I had seen the woodpecker last week. No birds of any kind in sight, but after a while of enjoying the sight of all those trees, I noticed a squirrel climbing up one tree and down another, about a hundred yards or so away. I thought the chances it would come in my direction were not good, but before long I caught sight of it heading up a tree only about half that distance away. And the next time I saw it, it was coming down the tree closest to the window.

I thought I’d have a great chance to take a picture as it scampered through the snow, but I was taken aback to see a reflection of the inside of the building superimposed over my view of the snow outside. And by the time I realized what I was seeing, the squirrel had come right up to the building … and disappeared.

For a moment I thought it must be too close to the building to see right down the wall outside the window, but then I realized I was standing at the point where the walkway goes from being a tunnel coming out of one building to being an elevated walkway connecting to the next building. (When I started working there it took me a while to get used to entering from the parking lot and going down one flight of stairs to the second floor. From the second floor I can exit at ground level on the other side of the building, or go down half a flight of stairs to the first floor – though the only exits there seem to be emergency exits. Or I can go down two flights of stairs to the tunnel, and continue through the walkway to the lower floor of the next building, which connects by another walkway to the second floor of the third building – and if I then go up to the third floor I can come out at ground level at the far end.)

Sure enough, when I cross the walkway and looked to the other side, there was the squirrel disappearing into the trees some thirty yards away. So I got no pictures of it, but I had enjoyed watching it. And I took a picture of the footprints it had left in the snow (with the reflections of the radiator superimposed over it).

Good morning moon

January 19, 2022

As I was pulling into the parking lot this morning, I caught sight of the moon slipping out from behind the clouds, just over the tops of the trees. By the time I had parked, it had disappeared, but as I crossed the parking lot it reappeared just in time for me to get a quick picture.

moon over treetops on a January morning

Birds and buds

January 17, 2022

I realized as I took a walk this afternoon that I have not usually taken walks in the winter. (At least not since I was twenty and lived next to a forested area where I enjoyed hiking even in the winter. The following year I spent in Spain and never enjoyed the cold as much after that.) I had not realized how many birds I would hear. Most were at the tops of trees (at least those I could see – some must have been in nearby trees that I couldn’t see), so I couldn’t get a good look at them.

This pdf tells which Iowa birds stick around for the winter, and how they manage to survive the cold weather. I had always known that some birds were around all winter and others were not, but never gave much thought to what made the difference. The pdf explains that birds that eat insects have to migrate, but those that eat seeds or meat can still find food in cold weather. I occasionally see birds of prey when driving on the highway, but these neighborhood birds must be seed-eaters.


I also had never realized that trees have buds during the winter. Last week I was looking for a website to help me identify one of the trees I had seen, and I came across a site for identifying trees in winter based on bark and buds. I thought maybe it was showing a few trees that could be identified by having buds in winter, and wasn’t expecting that it would help me any. But as I walked today, I noticed that most of the trees that had branches close enough for me to see them clearly had buds (others may have had only dead branches down where I could see them). It turns out these “terminal buds” are formed in the fall, and they protect the tree during the freezing temperatures of winter.

trees showing terminal buds

Icy branches

January 16, 2022

All those bare-branched trees had a special beauty this morning. A few miles before we got to church, I started noticing trees that looked white, instead of dark, against the blue sky. It wasn’t snow sitting on the branches, but that they were covered in ice. From a distance they looked all white – and so many of them! I would have liked to get a picture there, a few miles out of town, but we were already running late, both from the time it took to scrape the ice off the car, and the snow-covered roads being worse here than near our home. So I settled for the trees right next to the church. Not quite as impressive, but still very lovely.


January 15, 2022

One thing I’ve been trying to notice each day is the little unexpected things that make me smile. I suppose I could have taken a picture of the little footsteps through the snow on my back walk this morning. Probably a cat, judging from the size of the holes in the snow. I have no idea why it came around the house to where the walk begins at the steps by my back door, then went all the way down the walk to the shed. True, I had shoveled the walk at one point, but enough snow had fallen after that, and blown across the yard, that I don’t see how the cat would have known it would be easier to go down the walk than cut straight across the yard. Is it used to using my back walk? (And if so, why?)

But I didn’t think to take a picture, until later after I had shoveled and it was too late. So instead, here is a link to something very unexpected in the news that made me smile. When I first saw the headline about a “fish-operated vehicle” I wondered if it was a typo, or a joke. But no, some researchers really did find a way for a goldfish to “drive” an aquarium on wheels. It’s so incongruous, I don’t see how you can help but smile to watch this.

Snow Day

January 14, 2022

For me, one good thing that came out of the pandemic is being able to “go to work” without leaving the house. It used to be I’d drive to work even knowing there was snow coming and that it would likely be much more than my usual 45 minute commute coming home. If it was expected to be really bad I could take a personal day, but those are limited, so I hardly ever did. I was just grateful that most winters, here in eastern Iowa, there weren’t more than a few days when the road conditions made me feel feel so nervous I wished I could stay home.

Now I can choose to simply work from home, if the winter weather advisory warns about hazardous road conditions. I don’t stay home if it just says to take extra time driving, but that word “hazardous” makes me much more cautious than it did when I was younger – and when I didn’t think I really had much choice about it. Now I can enjoy not setting my alarm in the morning (I’ll always wake up in time to get ready for work when the “commute” is walking down the hall). I can turn on my work laptop, log in, and work just about the same as I would in the office. And I can enjoy watching the snow fall, knowing I don’t have to go out in it.

I didn’t even have to go outside to take this picture, just stick my phone out the back door and snap a picture. (The air really was full of snow, but the flakes aren’t big enough to show up in this photo.)

Not quite bare branches

January 13, 2022

Walking at lunch today, I didn’t see any woodpeckers today, but I did enjoy looking at all the trees. At first, they all look somewhat the same, just lots of bare branches in a variety of shapes and sizes. But then I started to notice more, such as the different shades of bark. I usually recognize different trees (those that I know how to recognize at all) by their leaves, so in the winter I don’t know how to tell which are which. (I could probably recognize paper birch easily enough, but perhaps the only one I know by its bark.)

I noticed with some surprise how many still had leaves – brown and dry but still attached. Some had only a few here and there, but some had a lot, all over the tree. And then I came to these two trees, one of which has dark berries, and the other has … well, I don’t know how to describe them. I have stood under these two trees quite a number of times, because they are in the area where we congregate during fire drills, and I have enjoyed looking at them in the spring and summer. But now (especially after not having been on campus much for two years and certainly not having been present for any fire drills in over two years), I can’t remember what they looked like then. But these not quite bare branches remind me to look forward to seeing them in a few months.

tree branches against the sky