The Purpose of a Pipe and the Redemption of Scribbles


“The Pipe gives the wise man time to think and the fool something to stick in his mouth.” – C.S. Lewis

This is a birthday present I painted for my friend Scott. He liked it. The depiction of Lewis is based on this photo I found on the Internets.

I just might have to paint a series, as it turns out that many famous people have expressed their opinions on pipes.

(Here’s one Scott quoted today: “On land, on sea, at home, abroad, I puff my pipe and think of God.” – J.S. Bach )

It’s been a while since I’ve painted anything and I really enjoyed picking up a brush.

I used to paint watercolors for my mom when I was a kid and she’d calligraphy Bible verses over them. One of my favorites was a of muddy grayish red blob. It may have even been an unintentional painting… birthed out of mixing colors together on a sheet of paper and the addition of way too much water, to the point where the paper threatened to tear if moved. After it dried, in ornate lettering, mom wrote Genesis 1:2, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”

Suddenly the scribbles were beautiful; redeemed.

Undefeated: Seven Strategies for 7Wonders


7 Wonders is my new favorite game to play during our Family Time. After three games, I am still undefeated. Booooooooooyah!!!!

I’m a noob, but these strategies seem to be working:

1. In the first Age, focus on resources. Get as many free resources as possible as early as possible, especially ones my neighbors do not have (then they have to buy from me to purchase structures). Also, I buy resources needed to facilitate the building my Wonder.

2. Build Wonders early, if it is beneficial to so. While it may sound glorious to build a Wonder, sometimes the benefits from doing so are more easily obtained in acquiring the right cards.

3. Opt for cards that support other future cards. For example, I choose the “Baths” card over “Pawnshop”. During the first Age, these foundational cards are often free.

4. Don’t spend resources on military unless my neighbor’s military is going to drastically make me lose points. No matter how many military cards I have, I can only get 5 points for a win against my losing neighbor per round. If a neighbor only has one military card, my having six military cards will give me the same number of victory points as if I would have two military cards.

5. Choose Scientific Structures wisely to rack up points.
Because points are scored twice and based on sets, opt for a card that will add to a set or a match. If a Scientific card is not attached to a set, it’s only worth one measly victory point.

6. Pay attention to the cards in hand. I often forget to look my cards carefully to make sure I don’t have duplicates (which are illegal.) My eyes tend to get big over the victory point value, and I fail to see I already have that card in my pile. I then end up having to “burn” the card for coins, only slightly better than forfeiting my turn. Also, don’t forget to look at Commercial Structures before purchasing new resources. Some Commercial cards are only used once, where others give resources throughout the game. To prevent these victory-point-costing-mistakes….

7. Keep cards neat! Just long division, sloppy columns lead to mistakes. It is important to see all of the information on the cards, so arrange them in columns accordingly. Also, by keeping the cards around me neat, I don’t accidentally lose my cards to my excited, grabby kids. When we play at our house, we put our chosen cards above our city cards to signify we are ready for the next phase of the round. One person, chosen at the beginning of the game, always flips their chosen card first. Each flip is settled one at a time. Coins are placed in hands during purchases, not thrown on boards. When cards are sloppy or people go out of turn, valuable cards get shuffled to the next player or end up in the burn pile… not that the other players mind!

What are your 7Wonders strategies?

Female Eacles Imperialis

On going inside to examine the moth, I found a large female Eacles
Imperialis, with not a scale of down misplaced. Even by gas light
I could see that the yellow of the living moth was a warm canary
colour, and the lavender of the mounted specimen closer heliotrope
on the living, for there were pinkish tints that had faded from the
pinned moth.

She was heavy with eggs, and made no attempt to fly, so I closed
the box and left her until the lights were out, and then removed the
lid. Every opening was tightly screened, and as she had mated, I did
not think she would fly.
– excerpt from Moths of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter

All the way from the road, as my sister-in-law Liz and I pulled up to my house after a girls’-night-out, we could see this yellow winged creature clinging to my front screened door. This moth, a female, is so enormous, it looks like a bat who narrowly escaped after nearly drowning in a pail of yellow paint.

When I was a little girl, my parents took our family on a homeschool field trip to the homestead of naturalist and pioneer female photographer Gene Stratton-Porter. We walked through the lush green Limberlost trails and climbed the very steep stairs of her Indiana cabin.

The memory of my childhood trip was vividly recalled during the search to identify my incredible catch, when I stumbled upon an e-copy of Moths of the Limberlost, of which Porter devoted an entire chapter to this particular species.

Isn’t it amazing how her description still perfectly details the “Yellow Emperor”, as she fondly called it, almost 100 years later?

Holly Blossoms

As the holly groweth green
And never changeth hue,
So I am, ever hath been,
Unto my lady true.
Henry VIII

I have a love-hate relationship with holly trees.

On our property, there are three of them: two males and one female.

I love them because they are tall and beautiful – a green friend in the winter – and smell like honeysuckle when they bloom in late May.

I hate them because they drop their prickly leaves in spring — just about the time when I have a hankering for kicking off my shoes and going barefoot in my yard.

This photo was taken this morning. Holly blossoms are about as big as a pencil eraser. Observe that the stamens and anthers are nearly as big as the blossoms themselves!

(I plan on picking some as soon as I get the chance, and pressing them in my flower book.)

Did you know that holly wood is traditionally preferred for making bagpipes? Until today, I didn’t either. Thanks, Wikipedia.

Mark Phenicie’s Steampunk Airships

For as long as I can remember, my dad, who owns a furniture restoration shop, has been imagining things and building them. Everything from a treehouse with dragon along the ridge pole to one-of-a-kind furniture designed by elite customers to intricate woodcarvings that take months to make.

He has always been drawn to a steampunk style, long before it had a name.

As a side project from his furniture restoration and design, he recently began making airships out of salvaged parts for himself and a few lucky people.

Maybe you’ll be one of them?

Are Dragons Real?

“Were there any dragons discovered yesterday?” my children ask daily.

“Not that I know of…” I say, sometimes searching the news to be sure.

They used to ask me if dragons were real.

I would say, “If they are, they have not yet been discovered.”

Which mythological creatures do you wish were real?

Photo by my brother Elijah, of our costumed sister Grace.