Fill in the Blanks

Photo by Michael Gaida on Pixabay

Did you know that some people make a hobby out of “reading” the forest in winter? By that I mean identifying trees despite their being bare of leaves this time of year.

This can be quite challenging, because frankly, many species of trees look almost identical to each other without their leaves. How do these nature lovers do it? How do they “fill in the blanks” and distinguish one species of tree from another in winter?

Read more

Short But Sweet

Scottish Terriers: short but sweet!
Photo by Trisha Shears on Wikimedia Commons CC BY-2.0

Last week, the Scots celebrated “Hogmanay,” or New Year’s Eve. A particularly delicious treat often consumed there on this holiday is shortbread, which is a Scottish invention. It’s not really a bread, but rather a buttery, rich, crumbly type of cookie (recipe below).

But why is it called “short” bread? Is it vertically challenged? Well, yes, it’s quite a flat cookie, but in this case the word “short” means something different.

Read more

2020: Here Be Dragons?

Map of Norwegian coast, 1539. Public Domain.

Have you ever seen antique maps with the ominous words, “Here Be Dragons” written across the uncharted regions, or with drawings of sea monsters lying in wait in the menacing oceans?

Heading into a new year, do you feel like you’re entering into unmapped territory in your own life? Do you worry there may be “dragons” lurking ahead for you in 2020?

Read more

Christmas Fruitcake Solution

Do you like Christmas fruitcake? Or do you just pretend to? Some people look forward to making or receiving fruitcakes at this time of year. Other people dread the prospect of eating fruitcake yet again.

If you’ve been faking enjoyment of Christmas fruitcake all these years and would really rather not eat any more of it, I think I have a solution for you:

Read more

The Perfect Christmas?

Photo by Adam Clark on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

What’s your idea of the perfect Christmas? Many of us have images in our minds of what the ideal Yuletide should look like.

It usually involves a spectacular Christmas tree with enticing gifts piled beneath it. The house would be decorated with pine boughs and red bows inside, and the exterior decked out with lights. The day itself would feature a scrumptious dinner with all the fixings, and numerous home-baked desserts. Top it all off with a house full of family, friends and laughter.

There’s only one problem with this picture.

Read more

How Larch Trees Are Like Jesus

Larch Trees, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Photo by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr CC BY-2.0

It’s easy to categorize trees, isn’t it? Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the autumn. Coniferous trees bear cones and keep their needles throughout the year. It’s simple to tell them apart.

Case closed, right?

But what about the larch tree? It bears cones and has needles like a conifer, but the needles drop off each autumn like a deciduous tree.

So which is it, coniferous or deciduous?

Read more

My Lifeguard Walks On Water

The historic Leuty Lifeguard Station in Toronto’s eastern beaches
Photo by synestheticstrings on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For those of you who live near a large body of water, or who might be visiting one during the holidays, what are some important things to remember when spending a day at the beach?

Remembering to apply sunscreen is definitely important. So is bringing snacks, a blanket to lie on, and perhaps an umbrella to sit under. Maybe a toy bucket and shovel for the kids to play with in the sand.

But isn’t there something more important than all of those?

Read more

Here To Help

Not far from The Faith Cafe, there’s a big-box home-improvement store. I had occasion to go there recently, and noticed the smiling greeter at the entrance.

He had name tag sticker on his apron which read, “Frank: Front End.”

I was both puzzled and amused.

Read more

What Is Your "Burning Bush"?

Photo by Leonora (Ellie) Enking on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

You’ve got to love a plant which turns pink in the autumn. I’m referring to the Euonymus alatus shrub, whose leaves change from green to a vivid, hot pink this time of year.

One of its nicknames is “burning bush,” because in autumn the shrub looks like it’s on fire. It must have reminded people of the burning bush Moses encountered in Exodus 3, through which God spoke to him.

I think God uses many different ways to speak to us today, each a “burning bush” tailored to our unique personalities.

Read more

The Banana Paradox

Who doesn’t like banana cake? Even people who won’t eat bananas seem to like banana cake. It seems to be one of those desserts that is universally liked.

And what kind of bananas do you use to make a banana cake? Only the most uniformly yellow, firm, spot-free, perfect ones, right?

Wrong.

Read more