Christmas Carols: What does that mean? #1, Bells on bobtails ring

I love Christmas carols, hymns, and songs. Many of them were written a long time ago. I find myself singing lyrics I have no idea what they mean. So I decided to do a series on those lyrics that reference things that are firmly in the past, gone by, or just something we don’t know anymore!

Let’s start with Jingle Bells. It has a lot of stanzas but we all sing just the first one and the refrain.

Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bobtails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh, hey
Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh

This is a one horse open sleigh. I’m in it on the right. It was small, tippy, bumpy, and cold! It made me grateful for my enclosed car with heat and springs.

sleigh ride copy

The bells that jingled were the old fashioned alarm system. In places where the commute was by sleigh, there was usually a lot of snow. The snowbanks get to be piled high and restrict line of sight. To prevent sleigh collisions, the bells were placed on the horses to alert pedestrians and other sleighs in the vicinity.

But what are bells on bobtails?

It was the style back along to bob a horse’s tail either to tie it back so it looks shorter, or to actually bob (or cut) the tail. Shorter hair on the tail helped keep it from waving in the driver’s face. The bells on bobtails ring are the bells on bobtail horses ringing.

So that’s that! Stay tuned for the next “What does THAT mean?”


Winter Weather Outside but Cozy Conditions Inside

The weather outside is the worst kind, a near-freezing rain, cold, and blustery. But inside, there’s Lavender honey tea in a federal Shape Syracuse China cup, and two homemade butter cookies on a Duchess patterned Tuscan bone china plate, twinkling lights, and cozy clothes! Frightful out, Delightful in!

There is actually some serious weather going on in other parts of Georgia and also elsewhere in the south. Accumulating snow is happening in areas that very rarely gets it.

The neighboring county, Oconee County GA Sheriff’s Department, put up one of their typically funny posts on Facebook yesterday in advance of the snow. It’s snowing lightly in a few fringe areas of our county now, and friends are putting up pretty photos of their tots outside enjoying the strange white stuff from the sky. Most people around here though, just go bananas. Read the Sheriff’s Department post-

Those guys are hilarious.

School the week before the week before Christmas break is crazy. The kids are wild for the Elf on the Shelf, and come into the classroom each day looking for where he might have moved overnight. They really believe the elf is real. One girl told me that her elf at home hasn’t shown up yet. Then she innocently said, “Has your elf come to your house yet?” Awww, what’s a grownup to say in reply? I said that Santa told me there was a shortage of elves and I said “my” elf could go on to a child’s house to watch over a child somewhere. I think she was satisfied with that.

Add to the Christmas excitement, the fact that Georgia was supposed to get some snow today, and the kids were on tenterhooks looking out the window every second. Snow in GA to a kid is as magical as if a unicorn came flying down and delivered a pot of candy to the classroom.

I’m now home and snug inside with my Christmas lights on, knowing I am not moving anywhere until Sunday afternoon!

I plan to have breakfast for dinner, then start reading a book. I don’t know which one. There are so many to choose from.

This storm is supposed to cut a wide swathe up and down the coast, so stay safe everyone, and enjoy the winter weather. It’ll be here a while, might as well!

It’s all about the paper products

Amazon gift certificates are the best! A kind reader sent me a gift certificate last night and I used it immediately, lol.

I ordered the book Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End by David Gibson. Yay! Twitter graphic tweeted by Matt Smethurst, lol-


I use a small, leather blank journal with thick handmade paper for notes during sermons and small group Bible study. I love it because it’s small and therefore portable. The paper is thick and stands up to painting on or collaging, which I occasionally do in order to illustrate a thought or insight I’d had. The paper feels good to the touch, also important. The clasp is metal and medieval looking which is a style I enjoy. I’m almost to the end of this notebook so it’s wonderful I can order a backup to have on hand for when I need another one.


I love paper products overall. I’m a sucker for notebooks, journals, paper, legal pads, and ephemera. I take just as long choosing refrigerator pads to put on the fridge as I do for my spiritual journal and my online classes’ notebooks. And you had me at Post-it.

Along with the notebooks are the careful selections of the pens I use. I have arthritis in my hands so I need a thicker pen. I like retractable so I can ‘close’ the point and it won’t make stray ink marks all around, which I hate. I like ball point and not gel or marker type pens, for the same reason, no stray ink marks. I prefer black ink to blue or colors. The ink needs to lay down on the paper immediately with no warm up, and spread smoothly as I go. And the pen should be pretty. The design should be delicately balanced when I hold it, with a nice taper, and overall pleasing to use and to look at. You didn’t know there was so much to choosing a pen, did you?


A friend gave me some Paper Mate pens a few years ago. They have become my preferred pen. I love them. The Paper Mate Silhouette is my absolute favorite, it meets all the above requirements for use by moi. The Silhouette Paper Mate is is a pen that is becoming hard to find, though. The pens she gave me are so good it’s taken a few years to run out, so I ordered some Paper Mate pens with my gift certificate, This one isn’t a Silhouette but it is also a good pen.

I’ve used journals of all kinds throughout the years. I don’t really write down my thoughts and emotions like a diary, but I use them for picture thoughts, insights into things, collages and so on. Here are a few of my journals.


Clockwise. The leftmost large fabric journal with the sunflower on the front and the turned cover is actually a placemat I’d bought at the Lubec Historical Society annual July 4th yard sale sometime in the early 2000s. I turned it into a journal using a pamphlet stitch.

The beaded journal is festooned with sequins overlaid on black velvet. The paper is good. I rarely use it though.

The flowered one is a journal I’d started about the town I was living in. It has a hand written introduction and pasted-in scraps of life in the town. I started that one in 1990.

The green journal on the right is a Fabriano journal I use for an art journal. I’d written about finding a journal with Fabriano paper here. This one was started in June 2016.

The brown ring journal is a Strathmore Visual Journal from a second hand store. Strathmore is another well-known paper outlet. I wrote about finding this expensive and lovely notebook, here. It’s another art journal. I really prefer smaller ones to larger.

The red small journal is one I’d made. The cover is paste paper and the inside contains hand written thoughts on spiritual books I’d been reading. That one dates to sometime around 2000-2001. I have a LOT of these little notebooks I’d made for the same purposes.

The red one is my very first journal. My parents gave me a trip to London for my graduation. It was a Spring school trip along with other seniors in my High School. Yes, our field trips were to foreign countries. I wrote about what I saw and did and that little journal from 1978 started me both on my world travels and my obsession with chronicling everything I see and do in some kind of journal. I have other travel journals, too, of various kinds, but you get the idea.

I like paper, journals, and notebooks! With me, it’s all about the paper products. I think I’ll always be a Luddite when it comes to notebooks. I don’t have a cell phone and I don’t like keeping track of things on any electronic device, portable or not. I love the feel of notebook with a fine paper, and writing my ideas, lists, and thoughts with a well-balanced pen. Blackberry calendar just doesn’t have the same thrill for me.

How about you? Do you like notebooks? Keep it all on your phone? Use some other method? Or none at all?

Living (and eating) tiny and in interesting spaces: Old London dairy, Silo, Model Market Street Feast

One thing I love about school breaks is that I can let loose on the internet. I can spend time just browsing, and I’m so glad I do. I found some very interesting new things to learn about and love.

There is a British channel on Youtube called Gardens & Homes. I thought it was the official channel. It wasn’t. But the show is called Grand Designs and it can be viewed here on the BBC’s offical channel.

I watched several of the full length videos and enjoyed them all. They feature home makeovers and renovations, but of the uniquely British kind. Renovating an 18th century Shropshire farmer’s cottage, or renovating an East London 1900s dairy, or an ancient Welsh chapel into a living space. The British Isles are dotted with crumbling farmer’s crofts, castles, estates and other historical buildings we just hate to let dissolve into the ground. People do buy them and the channel follows their journey into either sanity or insanity in attempting to make habitable, compliant living spaces out of them. The writing is good and the photography is beautiful too. Check them out. I especially loved the east London Dairy renovation I posted below.

The couple featured in this episode spent an inordinate amount of money for a small space are interior and graphic designers who are mightily attracted to the aesthetic concepts of rough spaces, industrial grunge, and the like. I love industrial also, and I enjoyed watching the host’s amusement as he drew out of the couple their plans for a tasteful reno that included keeping or reusing the peeling paint and rusty metal joists. In the end, the space turned out spectacular as the show astutely depicted their aesthetic sojourn from aesthetic hopefulness butting up against code enforcement reality and achieved a delicate balance of honoring the space’s history, usability, and beauty.

For inspiration at one point in the show, the wife went to a place called Model Market. I was immediately in love with this new approach to using abandoned cityscapes. The developer uses spaces that have been bought and are awaiting development into offices or apartments, and instead creates a family friendly, open air pop up food market featuring lights, music, and a plethora of different restaurants.

Wow, talk about creative.

Traveler photo submitted by KateL1710 (Jan 2016)

Here is an article about it

Street Feast London – Model Market
Last summer Street Feast London took a disused 1950s indoor and outdoor market in Lewisham and transformed it into a weekend street eating destination, breathing new life into the local community.

The other photos at the link above are equally enchanting, beautiful, and cool!

Whatever you want to call it, micro-diners, street food, or pop up restaurants, the business model is one I love. The concept showcases chefs, their dishes, and their restaurants. The venue brings in customers to unloved city areas. It’s a safe and clean business, family friendly (as long as the ratio of bars vs. diners stays appropriate). It helps turn negative reviews of a disused area of the city into one with possibilities and hope. It gets chefs out of the basement or the rear of the restaurant, slaving away in anonymity, to interact with customers and into the fresh air and not last, showcases their talents. It provides a free spot for families or anyone to congregate to on a Friday or Saturday evening in the warm season.

Recently London celebrity chefs Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver teamed up with other chefs to invest in the model, which is the brainchild of Street Feast owners-developers Jonathan Downey and Henry Dimbleby of Street Feast. The new company is called London Union.

What Street Feast did next: Henry Dimbleby and Jonathan Downey on crowdfunding, London Union and breaking Berlin

The aim of London Union is to find areas across the capital that are economically inactive – often waiting for planning permission or for work to start on a new development – and build pop-up markets that create local jobs and provide opportunities for new, up-and-coming street food traders to establish themselves without requiring large amounts of capital.

I’ve always been a fan of creative ideas for using space in a city. The 1994 Greg Brown song Boomtown and Robert Putnam’s 2000 book Bowling Alone have stayed with me all this time.

On another topic, still on Youtube though, I like to watch videos of tours of tiny houses. I have been ahead of the curve with this tiny house movement. I owned a new 2500 sf three bedroom raised ranch in the excessive and consumerism 1980s. The culture taught me to acquire, live high, and show it off. That approach to life turned out to be expensive and enslaving. I dumped the house, met and married a man who was about to embark on his own tiny house approach, and we were off. We moved into a 900 sf homne, then a 37 foot sailboat, then a pop up WV camper van. I did draw the line at the camper van, lol, that was as small as I wanted to go. To this day I live in a 425 sf apartment and I love it.

But the tiny houses all seem to me to lack one thing: comfort. I’ve been watching a lot of tiny house tours on Youtube, and they just do not appeal to me. If you’re a starry eyed 20 year old, maybe you don’t mind sitting on a box. But I don’t want to do that. Tiny houses just don’t have couches. (OK, I know some do, but then again, I don’t want to haul my tired carcass up a ladder to go to bed, either).

I love the idea of cities allowing zoning for this kind of alternate living, it makes sense and it’s eco-friendly as well as budget friendly. I read that one northwestern city has 0% unemployment but homelessness is skyrocketing. Why? People work there but can’t afford the housing prices.

Anyway, in my week-off Youtube browsing bonanza I found this video of a tiny home the man built in a silo. It’s a little over 300 sf and it’s contemporary, stylish, functional, and adheres to the tiny home notion. It should be noted that the couple who own and live in it abide in Phoenix and they do make use of the outdoors for much of their living space. The shower is outside as is a lounge area. But I did spot a daybed in the circular home and the bedroom is aloft but accessed by a circular staircase, not a ladder.

Which reminds me, my first apartment in University was a small place that had a galley kitchen, tiny living room, and a loft bedroom accessed by a circular staircase. I guess I’ve always liked living tiny.

Here is an article about the silo tiny home, and a short video.

Tomorrow I plan to head into the city of Athens to Small Business Saturday at Avid Bookshop for their Book Swap. From 2-3 pm, if you bring a bag of books and have $3, (which puts you into a raffle for a prize) you can browse others’ books and they can browse yours. You can take back home any books that aren’t chosen or leave them for a donation to a charity they fund. Win-win!

So that has been my week of aesthetic pursuits- renovations of alternate living spaces, alternate and creative land use, and design!

Thanksgiving Break

Our school district calendar always allows for the full Thanksgiving week off. I’m grateful for that. It fits, somehow, to have the full week off to prepare the meal and receive family, or to travel and go see family. In any case, I’m glad.

Friday was pretty hectic. The kids had pretty much reached their limit and came in to school loud and boisterous. Teachers were tired, and we were all just looking forward to a good week off.

So here I am, inaugurating the week at 5:30 am, in the dark and quiet, with a fancy coffee I made with whipped cream and cinnamon.

coffee 1

I’d mentioned a few days ago about the Classics Club, an online reading club that blogs about what classics we are reading. Every once in a while the Club moderator puts forth a ‘game’ called Classics Spin. You list 20 classic books you always wanted to read but haven’t yet. Maybe they were too intimidating, or to long, or too intellectually demanding, or you just have put it off and now it’s 10 years later and you still haven’t read that book you always wanted to. So you make a list of 20 and number them. The Club ‘spins’ an imaginary wheel and lands on a number. They publish the number. You read the book you listed at that number by December 31 and post whether you met the challenge or not. It’s very casual and lots of fun.

The number yesterday was 4 and that was Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon published in 1862. It was Braddon’s most successful and well-known novel. Critic John Sutherland (1989) described the work as “the most sensationally successful of all the sensation novels”. The plot centres on “accidental bigamy” which was in literary fashion in the early 1860s. Thanks, Wikipedia, for the summary.

Cover of a pre-1900 edition

I’ve got a few things to read this week. My Biblical Doctrine study, a detective novel called Blind Justice by James Scott Bell, start Lady Audley, and TeaTime Magazine.

For now I’m sitting in the pre-dawn, listening to Pandora Christmas Hymns, sipping my sweet and hot coffee, hearing the coffee pot tick, the gas heat hiss, and cats snore, and all’s well on the first moments of Thanksgiving break.

Have a great weekend everyone.

The Classics Club: The Spin List, and other Saturday activities

I like reading. I don’t often read as much as I would like because…I don’t know. I guess the days just get away from me after I’ve worked, studied, written a blog essay, prepared dinner, done chores, engaged in real life ministry…and if after all that when I sit down to read usually either my eyes are too weak or my body and brain is too tired.

I have to remedy this.

Reading is WHO I AM. It sustained me through a difficult childhood, carried me through a painful divorce, consoled me on lonely post-divorce evenings, provided inexpensive entertainment and travel as a rejuvenated carefree adult, allowed for mind expansion (Read Flatland, just read it!) as a new Christian, and generally offered lots of fun hunting up the next book. There’s always books.

I found this blog called The Classics Club. The About page for this blog states its purpose:

The Classics Club was started on March 7, 2012 by a blogger who wanted to see more people posting about classics literature in the blogosphere. Her goal was to, “unite those of us who like to blog about classic literature, as well as to inspire people to make the classics an integral part of life.” She thought about several ideas but finally settled on inviting people to make out a list of (at least 50) classic titles they intend to read and blog about within the next five years.

I’ve often wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a challenge where a person is challenged to attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. Just write! But I’ve written close to 4000 essays almost every day for the last 9 years, issuing millions of words, so I think I’ve got the writing habit well cemented in me.

So, on to reading.

The Classics Spin Reading Challenge is

Come up with a list of 20 classics still on your to-be-read list and post these books on your blog before Nov. 17. This is your “spin” list! You can choose any books that you actually already have or books you’ve been waiting too long to read or books you really want to get through before the new year. Then, on Friday, Nov. 17, the Classics Club will randomly select a number from 1 through 20 and post it on their blog. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by Dec. 31, 2017. It’s all for fun so no pressure to participate but thought it would give me a boost to get reading done with others.

Specifically, here is how to participate:

Go to your blog.
Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
Try to challenge yourself: list five you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, re-reads, ancients — whatever you choose.)
Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Friday, November 17th.
That morning (11/17), we’ll announce a number from 1-20. Go to the list of twenty books you posted, and select the book that corresponds to the number we announce.
The challenge is to read that book by December 31, even if it’s an icky one you dread reading! (No fair not listing any scary ones!)

My list of 20 classics I’d like to read are as follows. Some I own already, some I bought for free on Kindle today, and some I’ll wait to buy or borrow until it is by chance announced. Sometimes I wonder, wouldn’t it be nice just to go to my Amazon WishList and just buy everything on it all at once? Sigh. But poverty avails.

  1. Austen, Jane: Northanger Abbey
  2. Baldwin, James: Go Tell it on the Mountain
  3. Bengtsson: The Long Ships
  4. Braddon, Mary Elizabeth: Lady Audley’s Secret
  5. Buchan, John: The Thirty-Nine Steps
  6. Burnett, Frances Hodgson: The Making of a Marchioness
  7. Equiano, Olaudah: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
  8. Faulkner, William: As I Lay Dying
  9. Jewett, Sarah Orne: The Country of the Pointed Firs
  10. Jerome, Jerome K: Three Men in a Boat
  11. Kipling, Rudyard: The Man Who Would Be King
  12. le Carre, John: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  13. Melville, Herman, Redburn
  14. Milton, John, Paradise Lost
  15. Mitchell, David: Cloud Atlas
  16. Muir, John: Nature Writings
  17. Pound, Ezra: Personae: The Shorter Poems
  18. Proust, Marcel, Within a Budding Grove
  19. Wharton, Edith, The Decoration of Houses
  20. Wright, Richard: Native Son

We’ll see how it goes.

Meanwhile I have frittered away my day. On the good side, I listened to two Sinclair Ferguson sermons. He is a man whose knowledge of the Bible is solid and his pulpit demeanor is calm and assured and comforting, even when he speaks of convicting things, as he did in the first sermon I listened to: The Priority of Worship. The second was Christ’s Message to the Church, from Revelation 2.

I made split pea soup with carrots and peppers, field pea hummus, eggplant and peppers in tomato sauce, gluten free strawberry cobbler, and 2-ingredient oatmeal banana cookies. The cobbler rocks. I will get more of Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour!

I’m still in my jammies and probably will head back to bed for a short nap. When I get up I’ll take a shower and then read for the evening. I’d like to finish Moby-Dick since I put another Melville on my list, one that RC Sproul had recommended, called Redburn.

I hope there is a nice mix on my Reading Challenge list. I have a few about the Black experience, some poetry, female literature, an adventure or two. I do like an adventure story. Farley Mowat, Jack London, Jon Krakauer… Into Thin Air and Grey Seas Under are two great adventure stories that come immediately to mind. Also London’s To Build a Fire. I also like a good marine tale but I didn’t see any on the list, though admittedly I’m not familiar with every single title.

Television and movies have increasingly been disappointing. I hope this is an indication of increased sanctification and not simply a lull in tv programming that entices my fleshly desires, only to be re-ignited if some other program comes on.

I didn’t watch Project Runway this week, even though it is part 1 of the finale. I also stopped listening to Tom & Lorenzo post-mortem on PR, since they take the Lord’s name in vain too much. I’ve started and stopped watching several movies for similar reasons. So books it is. That’s a good thing! I’ve noticed I’m calmer when I don’t consume too much media.

I have 5 more days of school then we are out for the week of Thanksgiving! I can’t wait! Here is Principal Gerry Brooks on the long month of November. It is long. Really long.

Enjoy, and till next time, ponder this:

It’s the week before Thanksgiving. Why did the turkey cross the road?
To prove he was a chicken!

books 2a