Julie A. Swanson

Purer and Purer Streams…

Misogynist Tomboy

Just wanted to share an article I could really relate to and that I thought was very good.

Me Peonies!

Just had to share these before they are done (unfortunately, they don’t last long). The color is so vivid.IMG_1094

Another Good Post from Entheos…

Sharing another one I’ve been saving and reading over every so often in the past months; http://www.entheos.com/ideas/guy-finley/1254/7-ways-to-increase-your-spiritual-strength)…

(Entheos is a great online newsletter you can sign up for; they send you several daily articles/essays (? I’m not sure it’s that regular, but sometimes it seems I get them everyday) written by people who teach classes or put on virtual conferences they offer, which they also describe. I enjoy reading the ideas presented and the quotes they choose, find them to be inspirational and thought-provoking.)

7 Ways to Increase Your Spiritual Strength

What is spiritual strength? To put it simply, it’s knowing you don’t have to compromise yourself in any way — with anyone, over anything — in order to be content, confident, and secure in life.

Here are seven proven ways to increase this special kind of strength. Study them with the wish to uncover their secrets. Practice at least one every day. You’ll discover that by disconnecting yourself from the fears and doubts that compromise your life, you are re-connecting yourself to a new kind of power that never abandons you in your hour of need.

  1. Refuse to revisit your own past for a way out of any present problem.
  2. Say no to anyone or anything that you fear saying no to.
  3. Never explain yourself to anyone out of fear they may misjudge you.
  4. Learn to see your own defensiveness toward others as an offense against your own right to be fearless.
  5. Whenever possible, realize that the person you are about to argue with is in as much pain as you are.
  6. Never accept any negative reaction within yourself as the only possible answer to your present challenge.
  7. Remember that everything you resist in life increases its weight by the magnitude of thought spent in not wanting it, so accept all that you can and quietly drop the rest.

Persist with these spiritual practices, and you will see old doubts turn into new certainties, and dark fears replaced with a bright fearlessness.

Something Good for Me (All of Us) to Remember

What follows (from www.entheos.com/profiles/steve/posts/9283) is a great thing for me to remember–as an author who hates self-promotion, but who’s writing something that I think will help a certain niche of people/kids/girls (thank you, Steve Chandler and Entheos! Too good not to share): 





“When self-promotion is done right, it’s help.
Help everyone.”

~ Peter Shankman

There is a village and you are its newest resident. You have just moved to this village.

You are a doctor.

You don’t tell anyone you are a doctor because you don’t want to come across as looking superior to the other villagers. So you settle into your small home in the village. The neighbors like you because you are humble and self-effacing.

One night you hear a disturbance in the cottage next to yours. Human voices. Some yells, then silence. You look out your window. All seems quiet. All seems okay.

The next morning you see an ambulance pull away from their door. You step outside and ask what happened. A little girl died last night. She had a seizure and no one knew what to do. The nearest hospital is 100 miles away. She died.

You could have saved her life. Rather easily. But they didn’t know you were a doctor.

Self-promote? I’d rather die. Or let other people die.

It is a service for people to know who you are and what you do. It is not bragging. Stay focused on whether something is a service. Not on whether you will be “liked” or not.


What in the World? (Don’t touch if you see one of these)

IMG_0816This caterpillar-like creature was crawling across our driveway yesterday. It was about an inch long and the brightest fluorescent green. Doesn’t it look like it’s wearing some sort of fringed horse blanket? Never in my life have I seen anything like this. I had to laugh.

Talk about creative! God has such a sense of humor, and such flare.

I didn’t dare touch the little burr-like things or pick it up. One time when our oldest was about three, we found a caterpillar that was brightly colored and covered with these spiny black hairs. She asked me to pick it up for her and put it in her hand, and when I did, she started screaming and said it had stung her. Her palm hurt for quiet a while afterwards. Admire but do not touch hairy caterpillars was the lesson we took away.

I searched for this beauty on google and found an image that matched it (go to this link for Caterpillars that belong in Outer Space: the 15 Most Alien Looking Caterpillars on Earth, http://www.socialphy.com/posts/pets-animals/9418/Caterpillars-that-belong-in-Outer-Space.html) but under the picture of the caterpillar that matches the above, it said it’s a native of the Phillipines.

Butterflies and moths are at their most vulnerable stage as caterpillars because they can’t just fly away and escape. Therefore, they have developed some interesting, one might even say bizarre, defenses. These include blending in with the environment, false faces with bright eye spots, mimicking other insects, and bright colouring that warns potential predators not only that they taste bad but could also be poisonous.
This green alien is a native of the Philippines and seems to have taken the fake eye spots to an extreme, making its “face” quite large and scary. Normally, a caterpillar’s face is much smaller and not on the second abdominal segment.”

On another site with a picture that matched (http://www.gityasome.com/blog/tag/green-and-brown-caterpillar), it says it’s called a Saddleback Caterpillar (so I guess my thinking the green looked like a horse blanket wasn’t so far off), and that it can be found from Massachussets to Mexico, and that if you touch it, it has a poison sac at it base, and that if you brush up against it, it can produces ‘a multitude of stings’–pains that shoot from your hand or finger up your arm, and that burn like fire; “It was like someone had poured scalding hot water up my arm.”

Glad I didn’t touch it!

For those of you who have Flying Dreams…

and love and can never find enough on these intriguing things–

Here is someone’s take(s) on flying dreams that’s pretty interesting. It reflects what I’ve come to know and think of my own flying dreams. Always nice to find another kindred spirit and fellow flyer, if only online:


I found this in working with a dream I had last night in which I was driving around in a ‘magic carpet’ mobile type car. Read the rest of this entry »

Oceanside Glass Mosaic Mirror Frame

IMG_0802 (1)I made these mosaic mirror frames out of Oceanside Glass Tile’s Tessera ‘Beach Blond’ mosaic blend, peppered with a few seashells. You can’t really tell how cool the iridescent tiles are in this photo , but when you hang them in a place where the natural light hits them right, they come to life.

I’ve gotten really into making mosaic mirror frames and tabletops, mostly out of glass tiles I pick up at tile stores, in the ‘artist bins’ they keep out back, where they sell random leftovers and old samples for next to nothing. But sometimes I splurge when I can find Oceanside glass tile in the colors I want on sale (go to www.xsstudio.net/info.html for discount Oceanside tiles). I also use non-glass tiles if they are a great color, polished stones, shells… It takes forever to make these things, to crack and cut tiles, to polish sharp edges, fit them together in a pleasing design… ‘glue’ them down, grout it when it’s done… Sometimes I go random in design and don’t plan it out and just ‘glue’ them down as I go. Other times I plan and set them down ahead of time for a less abstract/chaotic look or if I want to make recognizable symbols or pictures. But I tend to be stiff in my artwork and find the random mosaic designs are a good exercise for me and turn out better anyway.

It’s really fun and satisfying to play with the colors, designs, and shapes. Oceanside glass is such gorgeous, high-quality stuff, the best I’ve found (but sharp! Watch your fingers). I like their Tessera line for its rustic irregularity and artsiness (in the mirror  frame on the left); their look lends itself better to mosaic. The mirror on the right has Oceanside’s ‘Muse’ line of tiles in it, which are more uniform in shape and surface finish, and have slightly rounded edges.

The Deer, My Totem Animal?

IMG_0804We see a lot of deer around our house, up close and personal.

Yesterday while outside with my daughter, we got this photo of the very friendly deer family who frequents our yard. Just twenty feet away from us, the mother stopped to stare at us and then two fawns ran up to her and began to (rather roughly) nurse from her. When my daughter pointed her cell phone at them to get a picture of it, the mother startled a bit and tried to run away, shaking one fawn, but with one still hanging from her, slowing her down. We decided to leave them to nurse in peace.

Every summer we have twin fawns romping in our yard. One year we even watched a doe lying on her side at the edge of the woods giving birth to twins–they stood on their wobbly legs almost immediately, while still wet. How do they do that?! It was an amazing thing to witness and the long-legged fawns were tiny and adorable (these are quite large). I’ve always thought that this was unusual, to have a doe on your property who has twins each year, or an extended deer family, a local deer population, with a tendency toward having twins, but when I looked it up online just now, the consensus seems to be that deer can give birth to one, two, or three fawns, though three is rare.  Read the rest of this entry »

Grandma Ag’s Plum Kuchen

IMG_0805This recipe is a family favorite. Kuchen means cake in German, but this is more like a thin fruit pie. You can substitute any fruit you want or use canned fruit if you don’t have fresh. The original recipe is for a 7×11 pan so I give that first, but it’s so good that’s never enough for a crowd, so I give ingredient amounts for a 9×13 as well. Since converting to mathematically exact proportions gives strange measurements and rounding up/down distorts the original perfection of the recipe, I wanted to be sure to give the original. In the 9×13 version, I round down on butter and sugar to make it a tad bit healthier.

But it’s scrumptious, the plum taste so different and summery! We just had it tonight. Had to share. Enjoy…

Grandma Ag’s Plum Kuchen
Slice up 6-8 plums (or substitute/combine fruits: apricots, peaches, nectarines, raspberries) and set aside.
Sift together in a bowl:
1 1/4 -1 1/2 cup flour 
1Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
Cut 1/2 cup butter into the above dry ingredients with a pastry cutter.
In a separate small bowl, beat 1 egg yolk and add “2 Tbsp. or so of milk.” Add these two combined liquids to the butter/dry ingredient mixture. Mix with fork to get a rather stiff dough and pat into the bottom of 7×11 pan.
Arrange fruit on top however you like, evenly dispersing over bottom dough.
Make the following streusel–3/4 cup sugar + 2 Tbsp. Flour + 2 Tbsp. Butter, cutting together with pastry cutter–and sprinkle over top of the fruit. It will be very white and sugary.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. YUM!
—-For the 9 x 13 recipe, the ingredient amounts are, in order:
For bottom: A little bit less than 2 cups of flour, 1.5 Tbsp sugar, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1.5 tsp. baking powder, 3/4 cup butter,1.5 egg yolks, 3 Tbsp. or so of milk.
6-10 plums (no hard and fast rule here, the more the better)
Streusel to sprinkle over top: a little more than 1 cup sugar, 3 Tbsp. Flour, 3 Tbsp butter


A Couple of My Favorite Things that I Need like I Need Another Hole in the Head


The hydrangeas behind our house are going crazy right now. One of them is sprouting blooms of many different colors–blue, lavender, pink, everything in between, all on the same bush… The color pictured here is amazing, kind of a light periwinkle. I love color, bright colors, pastel colors, blues, greens; it’s the first thing I consider when I shop for clothes or plant something or decorate or buy or make anything at all. Such a simple thing, what color a thing is, but I keep looking at this periwinkle and thinking how amazing it is and how happy it makes me just to look at it. Had to share.

Since my frog salt-and-pepper shakers just happen to show in this picture (frogs are another one of my favorite things, ever since I was a little kid), I will share the story of them as well.

I first saw these at the Monticello. My brother and his family were visiting and wanted to go see Monticello (which is another of my favorite things! I could never get tired of going there. Each docent tells you another fascinating detail about the life of Thomas Jefferson), so I went with them. While waiting for the time of our tour, we walked through the gift shop. I saw these frogs and picked them up and stood there deliberating about whether or not to buy them, but then I heard the voice of my dad in my head, and it said, “You need those salt and pepper shakers like you need another hole in your head!” And so I was like, Yeah, you’re right, Dad, what a waste of money, what a foolish idea, I don’t really need another set of salt and pepper shakers. And I put them down.

That Dad voice in my head can be a real party pooper. He has a bunch of sayings, very practical, grounding ones.

Well, skip ahead a year and Steve and I are on vacation, and I am in another gift shop, and I see the same frog salt and pepper shakers. I pick them up again and I hear my dad again, “You need those like you need another…” Only this time, I talked back to him–in my head of course. I said, “You’re right, Dad, I don’t need them. But I want them, and I am going to buy them.” And I did.

They might just be stupid salt and pepper shakers, but I can’t tell you how much I enjoy them, if only because they’re a symbol of my victory over that voice in my head that’s all too often kept me from doing things. Isn’t it OK to do things sometimes just because we want to, to buy a little thing we like but don’t really need? Once in a while it feels good to treat yourself to something just because it’s beautiful or fun or it makes you happy to look at it because it reminds you of someone or something.

Every spring I put lime around our hydrangeas to give them a slightly pink tint that turn them from the bright blue they would naturally be in our soil to the lilac/lavendar/periwinkle I like. Despite having done so, two of our bushes look like this one, still mostly blue but more pastel and a teensy bit more lavender than the vivid (almost dark compared to these) royal I see everywhere driving around.

This is the hydrangea of many colors. I put lime on all our hydrangeas this spring to give them the tinge of pink that makes them a lilac/lavender/periwinkle rather than just the bright blue that's normal for ours, but two bushes down from this one...

This is the hydrangea of many colors, just two bushes down, which seems wonderfully confused by the lime …or whatever it is that’s made it this way, when every other year all its blooms were the same color.