Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cloud Shapes - haiku

Early Morning Clouds over the Atlantic

Castles, dragons, gods,

Heaven’s clouds mass, forming shapes

Men’s myths born on high

Have you ever looked up at the sky and wondered? I have and I think our ancestors did also, and thus were born the stories and legends of gods, floating castles, dragons, giants, flying horses, and a host of other things. I find the heavens, especially when the skies have clouds in them, to be spiritual. When you add the open ocean vistas it feels like your spirit can fly - up, up and away or sail over the oceans waters to lands found only in dreams.

Spirit, freedom calls

continue your adventure

open gates, fly beyond

When I remember to bring a camera along, I take photos of the sky, like the three photos following this commentary (and the one above). I find that the coolest shots are those where I can see shapes in the cloud formations. Of course a little imagination helps in order to see the shapes and perhaps what you see is totally different than what I see. Still, there are shapes in clouds.
One Friday, while at work, I looked out the window at some approaching clouds and charging ahead of them all was a poodle, looking like it had just come out of the grooming salon after a haircut. The cloud (sorry no photo, was at work after all) looked just like the poodles they show at the Dog Shows on TV where the hair is shaped into those odd poofs. Unnatural look perhaps - distinctive none-the-less. Slowly in morphed into a shapeless mass of clouds which turned dark and then spit out the water in them as a hard rain.
The following 3 photos have shapes in them. I’ll tell you what I see in each of them after you get a chance to look them over. If you want to, leave your impression of the clouds in the comments section that follows this post.

So, what do you think you have seen in the above photos? Did you recognize shapes formed in the clouds? There are no right or wrong answers - it is all up to what you can see.

Scroll down a bit and you will see what I think I see in the above photos.

Here's what I see:

Photo 1: Phoenix rising from the ashes of fire.

sun's fire burns sky

from the ashes of dawn

the Phoenix rises


Photo 2: Dragon soaring through the sky, mouth open in a mighty roar.

Dragon soars skyward

crosses Atlantic expanse

stateside safari

Photo 3: Godly arms forming a cradle.

Souls rise to bright light

welcome in God's cradling arms

gateway to heaven


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Candle Jars and Seashells

Finished jar with a votive candle inside
One of the things you can do with clean candle jars  (link to cleaning candle jar post) is to decorate them in various ways. There is no limit to what you can use to decorate candle jars, although if you plan on using them with candles I would be careful of items that can burn easily such as cloth and paper. I like to use seashells that I have picked up during beachcombing trips. 
The basic ingredients for a seashell craft using candle jars are:
     clean candle jar

Like I said, I like to pick up seashells during beach walks and use them to make seashell crafts. If you want to make a seashell craft similar to this and don't have a beach nearby to scavenge from you can always buy your seashells on line (affiliate amazon link). You can probably buy everything from Amazon except imagination (although I'm sure there are books on imagination there).

front of jar
Once you have all the ingredients on hand you can start gluing seashells onto the jar's outside surface. You can do it helter-skelter or with a design in mind. I had a design in mind all centered on some scallop seashells I had. You can see the design in the two photos: front of jar and back of jar.
On the front (just pick any side that speaks to you and declares itself the front) I placed my first scallop. See it there, more or less, in the middle? Below it I decided to place a rope of clam shells that circle all the way to the back. Then I added more seashells around the scallop to sort of frame the scallop and make sure it was the center of attention.
back of jar
 I felt the jar needed to be stiffened up so I added a spine on the back of it (clever of me don't you think?)  A spine, like the one in our backs, that keeps us from turning into blobs of flesh. This time I used seashell pieces that I had picked up on the beach (love those beaches) although a vertical column of small seashells would work too.
Ah. I almost forgot the lid. Take a look at the lid and you will see that it keeps with the design parameters using a scallop in the center surround by seashells - in this case more clam shells (a very common seashell on the local beaches).
For this seashell craft I found that standard non-washable white glue was real good. Just apply it to the edge of the seashell and stick it to the glass. Oh, you probably should know that it is best to lay the jar on its side and to apply only a few seashells at a time. Prop the jar so it doesn't roll around.
I have an article published that shows you another way to craft with candle jars. I used fish, coral and seashells inside the jar to create dry aquariums. For those of you who read this far, here is the link:


Never use cracked or broken jars. You could end up with a bad cut.

If young children are involved, please provide adult supervision. The small seashells could be a choking hazard if swallowed.

When used as a lantern (as I did here), the glass of the candle jar craft may get hot. Be careful handling it – you don’t want to get burned.


Use an old towel fluffed around the jar to keep it stable.

If your seashells are dull after cleaning them, you can brighten them up by painting them with clear gloss or semi-gloss polyurethane paint. Try not to get the paint on the jar – it makes glass look dull.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Freddy's Dayventure - a Short Story

The following fictional story is based on an old knickknack I made back in 2002. It was one of my first ventures into crafting using a mix of found and bought things. I still have the pig & gator sitting on a shelf.
It's on a 1/4" thick 3x5" scalloped edge wooden base. The pig was originally colored pink, so I painted him white and added the black smudges - my idea of a farm pig. The "rock" is actually a chunk of coral I found on the beach. The bushes came from a dried floral arrangement that had seen better days and was heading for the trash bin. Mr. Gator I found in a small stall inside the Festival Flea Market in Pompano Beach.

gator lays low – sees

four foot meat slake thirst

ham served on platter


Freddy's Day-venture

Freddy, a farm pig, wanted to get out of his pen. He was curious about the lake at the bottom of the hill. He could see it when he looked between the rails of the fence surrounding the pig pen. He also wanted to take a walk through the woods that led to the lake. The woods called to him.

Freddy tried climbing over the fence but it was too high. He tried digging under the fence but the ground was too hard and rocky. He was the smallest of the pigs in the pen but still couldn’t squeeze himself between the rails.

So Freddy took to walking around his pen looking through the fence then walked around some more looking for a way out. Sometimes he followed Merle, the farmer, around as he did some chores like adding drinking water or food to the troughs. Merle would also come into the pen and clean things up. Once in a while, Merle would remove a piglet or two from the pen and they were never seen again.

One day as Merle cleaned up he heard yelling from his house. He took off running to see what the problem was. Freddy ran with him until they got to the gate. As Merle passed through he slammed the gate behind him.

Freddy sat down to catch his breath. As he looked around he saw something that made him look twice. It seems that Merle had slammed the gate so hard it had popped open. Freddy’s chance to see the world was at hand. The pig walked over and with a grunt and a squeal he managed to squeeze his way right out of his pen.

Freddy took a long, leisurely walk down to the water walking slowly through the trees and looking at everything he saw. When he finally reached it, Freddy just sat on the bank and looked around. He had heard some weird noises coming from this way a day or so before, that had reached all the way up the hill to the pen. So Freddy looked around for anything that may have caused the ruckus, using both his eyes and his snout but nothing looked or smelled out of place.

It was a lovely setting with grass and wild flowers growing right down to the water. As Freddy got close to the lake his feet started sinking into the ground. He backed up quickly and looked around.

Freddy noticed some big rocks scattered around the lake’s edge. There was one rock a bit to the right of where Freddy was standing that was rather flat and from which he could easily reach the water. He walked over to it, hopped on the low surface, and walked down to the water.

The water was clear, a pretty blue in color. There were some little fish swimming in front of the rock. Three to four feet in front of the rock was a largish log which floated just out of reach. Not seeing anything at all dangerous, Freddy walked out onto the rock and sat down. A nice breeze kicked up and he let it play around him.

The excitement of getting out of the pen, the walk through the woods, and the nice morning weather all combined to make Freddy thirsty. He leaned over the edge of the rock and started to drink his fill. As he drank, he saw something strange. The large log seemed to be slowly turning. He finished his drink and sat back up.

Suddenly, there was an eruption of water and a huge head with a mouth full of teeth appeared in front of Freddy. He was so startled he let out a load squeal and sat back on his haunches. The jaws full of teeth snapped just in front of his snout.

Totally frightened, Freddy kicked himself into high gear and ran as fast as possible up the hill. He raced for the safety of pig pen. He pushed through the gap at the gate and ran into his little hut, where the farmer found him - trembling in the hay.

Back at the pond, the gator sadly eyed the suddenly empty rock. He’d eaten a few days before and could wait for the next meal to show up. He slowly lay back down in the water and settled down to wait. Perhaps next time he would be a bit quicker and the prey a bit slower.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Recycling Candle Jars - Cleaning

Did you know recycling candle jars can be done at home? You can then reuse those jars for all kinds of different things. (There are 10 possibilities in this article: Using Recycled Candle Jars )
I have to admit that after enjoying the wonderful scent from burning a candle in a jar, the used candle jars are rather ugly. There is that greasy feeling black soot on the sides of the jar. Then there is the left over wax which can look like a big smear across the glass and sometimes has pieces of unburned wick on it. Finally, what good are those wick holders after they refuse to light up the wax? Why no good at all.

You may think that as disgusting as they look you might as well dump them in the garbage. Who wants to mess with such dirty looking items? They are finished. No more pleasant evening light or rich scents floating throughout the home.

You could of course recycle the jars by cleaning them up. Now you’ll have fairly airtight jars you can keep things in (I’ve kept book matches in one for almost 7 years and they still light up just fine), or canvas for when crafting inspiration comes calling your name.

clean jars sit waiting

goods storage, craft projects call

re-purpose fulfilled

So let me show you how to recycle those candle jars using hot water.


Using a Teapot for Recycling Candle Jars

This is one way I use to get the water hot enough so I can get the wax out of the bottom of the jar. This method may not be for everyone, as it requires a bit more work to get the wax out. Also the wax comes out in chunks instead of totally melted. I only use it if I need a jar sooner rather than later.

Steps for Teapot Method

Add water to the teapot and bring it to a boil. Remove the teapot from the heat and let it stop steaming.


Use a bowl that can handle heat. A thick “stoneware” bowl is a good candidate. 

Put the candle jar to be cleaned in the bowl. 

Pour hot water in the bowl around the jar but not in the jar (see WARNING below). 

Let the jar sit in the water for ½ minute to 1 minute to let the heat soften the wax. 

Use a butter knife to cut the wax into chunks. Pre-heat the knife by placing the tip in the hot water in the bowl.


Using a Large Pot for Recycling Candle Jars

If you are looking for an easier way of getting the wax out, then this method is for you. It used more energy (electric or gas) than the teapot method but the wax can be melted completely. Then you can pour it out into a different container.


Steps for Large Pot Method

Grab a nice big pot and put an inch or two of water inside.
Add a few candle jars. I usually wait until I have 3 or 4 jars to clean. A bit more efficient that way.
Turn on the stove burner and bring the water to a boil.
Turn the burner down so the water simmers. Watch the candle jars, you are looking to make sure the wax melts into a nice liquid form.
Once the wax is completely melted, you can turn off the burner.
With your collection tin handy, take each jar out of the hot water (use pot holders or oven mitts so you don’t burn yourself) and pour the melted wax into the tin.  I use an old coffee can – metal not plastic. You can use any tin can like soup or vegetable cans. Got the idea?





How do I know not to do this? I did it and the jar did not like it. I thought it would melt the wax with no waiting. BAD MOVE!

The heat from the hot water expanded the thin side glass faster than the thick bottom glass. Since the glass expanded outward the whole bottom came right off. I heard the crack and then a nice puddle of water formed inside the stoneware bowl.


Finish the Job

Take a look at your jar and make sure there are no cracks in the glass. If it looks like the glass is whole, wash the jar with warm water and soap inside and out. You may as well wash the lid while you are at it.

Dry the jar with a paper towel or rag then let it sit somewhere, without the lid on, to air dry for an hour or two.

By the way:

The label should have come off easily when the jars were heated up. The glue loosens up and all you need to do is peel the label off. The adhesive residue and any grime should wash right off.

The Finished Product

Crystal clear glass is the result of de-waxing and washing. Anything you put in this jar will be easily seen. No guessing about what you may have stored inside.

So the next time you need jars for storage or crafting, consider recycling candle jars. You already own them, might as well use them.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

My Florida Blue Jays


Frequent visitors to the area behind my home are Blue Jays. No not the baseball team from Toronto, but little birds dressed in blue feathers like the one pictured above. This particular fellow was sitting on a branch that was sticking out from the hedges. He was talking in Jay, rather loudly, which caught my attention.

little bird in blue

proclaims loudly: jay bird here

bullhorn amplitude


I ran back inside, grabbed my little digital camera and took a couple of photos. At first the Jay did not notice me. He (highly visible bright blue) just kept on talking in Jay, not a word of which I  understood, with his back to me.

Blue Jays (Amazon link) like to talk, chirp, and even sing. Sometimes they may copy sounds they have heard and repeat them. I’ve heard them making all kinds of sounds from soft chirping, to loud announcements and very loud alarm calls. Especially if a neighborhood cat gets to close.

protesting from high

blue feathered bird alerts all

cat meows, saunters off


When I approached a bit closer, he stopped talking, turned and put his eye on me. His look was intense, and it seemed to me that he was telling me “that is close enough, buddy.” He looked at me, I looked at him and we just stayed there, looking at each other while the branch he was perched on swayed gently to the breeze.

The magical moment was broken when I, wanting to be a bit closer to him, took that next step. With a chirp the Florida Blue Jay flew off down the line of hedges, never for a moment looking back until he finally flitted over the hedge to the other side.

The jaybirds come regularly to our side of the hedges. In the early morning they may perch high on the hedges, an Oak tree, or even on the roof and sing a song or two. They sing in a moderate tone as though welcoming the new day.

Florida blue jay

Sits high near the sky, sings

Dawn breaks, day lights up


Sometimes they return in the afternoon, after the day’s heat has moderated a bit, and you will see them below the hedges scratching and pecking in the dropped leaves.They enjoy a variety of foods, feasting on fruits, nuts, seeds, insects, and lizards. They also enjoy human foods picking up bits of meat, grabbing peanuts - shells and all, and flying away with pieces of bread and French fries.

Did I mention we have Oak trees?

Noisy bird in blue

Surveys area, hedge branch perch

Dinner a la Oak

Acorns are one of the Blue Jay’s favorite foods. The Jays will pick up one or two and fly up to safety and eat their meal. Their beaks are strong, which is a good thing, as acorns can be tough to crack. Of course, they also take advantage – along with Muscovy ducks and other birds – of the acorn cracking ability of human automobiles.

Florida Blue Jays – Who are they? - Briefly

The Florida Blue Jay is the smallest of the Eastern Blue Jays (Wiki link). They generally do not get bigger that about 9 inches in length and weigh around 2.5 ounces. They are a very scrappy bird for a bantam weight, chasing off birds of prey and cats.

Their scientific name is cyanocitta cristata semplei. Heck of a long name for such a small bird. The "cyanocitta cristata" is for blue jays with the "semplei" being for the Florida version of these pretty birds.

These birds are curious about what is happening around them. They will check out anything they see and track it. I have watched them watching me as I tend my garden. Some times they will even pick up things, shiny things seem attract them the most, and fly around with them as though trying to figure them out.

Their mating season starts in March and can go into July. Florida Blue Jays form pair bonds for life. They can raise broods of up to 5 chicks every year for about 7 years, the average life span of these Jays in the wild.

If you would like more information on the Florida Blue Jays do a search for cyanocitta cristata semplei.