Monthly Archives: October 2013

What I celebrate on Halloween

Standard

Every year on the 31st of October, popular Western culture tells us that it’s OK for the dark and demonic to come out to play. People make a fuss with costumes and parties and scary stories; shops stock up on icky black sweets; kids dress up and eat too much candy.

It’s so predictable it’s boring.

Of course, there is the genuinely wicked side of Halloween too. The occult is alive (?) and kicking. But really, all of it – the silly dressing up or the true satanic worship – doesn’t ruffle me much. Different people respond differently to Halloween, but for me it’s quite easy to ignore. Probably because I have something much more meaningful to celebrate on October 31st 🙂

Martin Luther's 95 Theses (courtesy of Wikisource)

Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (courtesy of Wikisource)

It was a Saturday, 31 October 1517, when the German monk Martin Luther bravely nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church – and consequently changed the world. The gist of the theses could be summed up in the document’s original title: Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.

Aaaand… I’ve lost you already, haven’t I? No?

OK, so why did Luther vandalise a church door with his Latin grafitti?

In short, the Roman Catholic Church, which was at that time one of the most powerful institutions in Europe, promised people forgiveness for their sins and escape from purgatory in exchange for what the Church had more than enough of already: money.

But the papacy had it all wrong. They never realised that salvation is a free gift from God. No amount of wealth or good works or ‘churchianty’ could ever be enough to rescue a sinner from the rightful punishment of their rebellion against a holy God. It wasn’t enough then and it isn’t enough today.

Think about it. If you can buy your way into heaven – with money, or prayers, or flagellation, or donations and alms, or being a nice person – then how is Christianity different from any other religion? The only thing that separates true Christian faith from every other belief system is this: for the former, God is entirely responsible for the salvation of sinners. For everyone else, man has to earn the forgiveness/blessing/help of his deity through some form of works or sacrifice.

It was a clever ploy, though, on the Church’s part. They knew that what people craved most was peace. Everyone wanted to believe they were good; everybody wanted the chance for a clean slate again; no matter how poor, people wanted assurance that they and their loved ones were right before God. The Church knew that, and they capitalised on it.

It had gone on that way for centuries. Those who were supposed to have brought the light of the gospel to the world had instead created the spiritual Dark Ages in so-called Christendom. Then, thankfully, Luther’s probing queries and barely veiled jabs at the Pope’s pardons, indulgences and other man-made contrivances eventually led to a revolution now known as the Protestant Reformation.

‘All right,’ I hear you say, ‘nice history lesson. But so what? Why’s that worth celebrating?’

Well, fast-forward five centuries and here I am, a modern girl still influenced by the Reformation today.

For one thing, I’m thankful for Luther and the other Reformers for translating the Bible into their local vernacular, making it accessible even to those who couldn’t read Latin. It’s a precious thing to have the Word of God in your own language. (In God’s providence, the Western printing press was developed at just the right time to help speed up the dissemination of the Bible.)

In addition, Luther and his compatriots advocated an important way of reading the Bible, often referred to as hermeneutics and/or exegesis. This basically means we read the Scriptures in context, rather than latching onto a single random verse and making it mean whatever we want it to. Trust me, it makes a world of difference!

I’m also better off for the Reformation because it showed that my relationship with God doesn’t have to be mediated by a whole complex network of bishops, priests and a pope. Those guys are just human, and they can’t stand before the Most High God on their own any more than I can 😛 Jesus Christ is the only mediator who can and should bridge the gap between God and man.

The knock-on effects of Luther’s writings that day in 1517 have changed millions of lives. The Reformation removed the gilt-edged encrustations of centuries of papal policy to show the core truths of the genuine Christian faith.

In summary, I celebrate Reformation Day on 31 October because the Protestant Reformation exposed the Church’s empty religious rituals and man-centred pomp, and pointed people back to the proper foundation for their faith: the Word of God.

And it’s that same Word of God that teaches me I have no need to either fear or participate in what other people might get up to when they celebrate Halloween 🙂

Handsome young bucks

Standard

Our pet rats are heading for 4 months of age soon, which is about the equivalent of 25 human years. I thought it was time for an update on how they’ve grown in the almost two months they’ve been with us.

Firstly, they’ve all pretty much doubled in weight. Since rats reach maturity at 6 months, these guys are only halfway there – but already they all weigh much more than an average adult female. They’re gonna be beeeg squeeeshes 😀

Cuddles in the cold weather

Cuddles in the cold weather

If you look back at when we got them, you can compare their weights then with what they weigh now:

Mishka – 400 g (gained 150 g) – still the chunkiest hunk 😉

Vodka – 380 g (gained 160 g) – the fastest-growing boy

Knight – 380 g (gained 190 g) – doubled his weight; no longer the tiniest!

Moon – 340 g (gained 140 g) – the slowest grower

So they’re all healthy and doing well, and I’m sure the Russian Blues would weigh even more if it wasn’t for their op!

Moon

Moon

Their coats have also changed in the time we’ve had them. Moon, the sweet variberk, hasn’t showed too much fading or colour change apart from some extra white hairs on his back.

Knight

Knight

Knight, the black Berkshire rat, is showing his mother’s colours through his dad’s black coat. He’s getting lots of white flecks on his back and his sides are a bit lighter than before.

Mishka

Mishka

Mishka the dumbo’s Russian Blue coat isn’t fading too fast; there’s some white flecking on his bum and around his sides, but so far he seems to be hanging onto his lovely colours 🙂 Which is more than can be said for his brother…

Vodka

Vodka

Vodka’s Russian Blue colours are fading daily. He has a dark spot above his tail and a dark ‘mullet’ behind his head, but the rest of the grey is going white very quickly. He’s clearly on hyperdrive, this boy: the biggest weight gain, the fastest-fading coat, the first to learn new tricks and the first to explore.

Personality wise, they’ve settled into our original expectations rather well 🙂

Moony Moonbeam has a ‘body clock’ that’s the exact opposite of his cagemates’. He’s always the one up and about in the middle of the day when the other three are fast asleep. And at night he settles down in his hammock all drowsy-like while the others gambol about him. He loves exploring and quietly slips away undetected, and he has a sweet nature with his humans and doesn’t mind cuddles.

Sir Tiny Knight is hardly tiny anymore. He’s big enough to put everyone else in their place and topples even Mishka if needs be. He’s still a bit squeaky when he gets groomed, but on the whole he’s laid back, neat and gentle. We’ve got another nickname for him too: Tiny Stark. It’s a play on Tony Stark (Iron Man) because Tony never likes to have anything handed to him, and the same is true of Knight. Bring treats to the cage and the other boys will snatch them up with no manners, but not this little dumpling! He just won’t take anything (except lettuce and fresh veggies) from you with his mouth. You have to put the treat on the floor in front of him before he takes it away 😛

Voddy Vodka is, as mentioned above, the rat on hyperdrive. He’s been on meds this week because he got an infection from his op, but we never would have known about it because he just carried on as normal. It looked very sore when the vet removed the stitches, but now our crazy ‘Rat of Rats’ is back in good health. I’m glad I have Vodka who’s so outgoing and friendly, because if both my rats turned out like Mishka I would feel a bit discouraged!

My lovable teddy bear Mishka is not just the biggest and cutest bub; he’s also the most fearful and nervous. As you can see from his first free run, it took him way too long to realise that freedom can be fun. When he’s out of his cage, he freezes with fear and struggles to relax. Ninja and I have to sit very still when Mishka’s on the loose; no loud noises or sudden movements allowed. Still, he has his days. Sometimes he bounds around just like the others. I’ll need to put in a bit of work with this one to help him learn to trust… but with a face like this, who can resist? 🙂

Teddy bear

Teddy bear

Free at last: rats on the loose

Standard

After more than a month of living with us, it was time for our ratties to experience their first free-range run. We’ve let them run on the furniture so far, but last night we braved it to set them loose on the bedroom floor for the first time. And really, it wasn’t that bad. My vague fears of being unable to retrieve them from some tight spot melted away as I watched them bounding around with glee :mrgreen:

Moon and Knight were naturals, Vodka was the first to leave the castle, and Mishka took a very l-o-n-g time to warm up to the idea of roaming…

Rat free ranging 1

Rat free ranging 2

Rat free ranging 3

Rat free ranging 4

Rat free ranging 5

Rat free ranging 6

Rat free ranging 7

Rat free ranging 8

Rat free ranging 9

Cheddar: how to stay young

Standard

Have I discovered that cheddar cheese is the secret elixir of eternal youth? Alas, no (how I wish!).

But receiving Cheddar the Rat as a gift from my wonderful husband did make me think about what keeps us young at heart…

Here’s Cheddar:

Rat soft toy

Rat soft toy

Cheddar is a soft toy character from the ‘My Blue Nose Friends‘ series, related to the ubiquitous ‘Tatty Teddy’ or ‘Me to You’ brand. Cheddar is supposedly a female field mouse, but if you ask me it’s a male ratty 😉 (The Blue Nose series does include a ratty, Scraps, but his buck teeth bother me somewhat… I think my blue mousie is way cuter!)

Anyway, so what does this plush toy have to do with defying old age and staying youthful?

Well, it struck me as pretty cool that at my age, Ninja could get me a gift such as this, knowing I’d be happier with that than with something fancy or ‘grown-up’.

Sure there’s a time to be mature and behave properly. There’s a place for serious occasions and adult gifts. But I’d rather be fun than fancy, and in my opinion playfulness is a big factor in keeping people young.

Besides, I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Have you heard of Stephen Jepson? He’s an old man on a mission to stay young, and his key to success is creative play. If you have a moment (and even if you don’t), take a look at his website: Never Leave the Playground. How’s that for a healthy dose of inspiration?

So I may be well on my way to 30 and have plenty of real-world responsibilities to face each day, but most of the time I’m still just a happy little kid clutching my stuffed toy ratty and bouncing around with glee. Which is what I did – right there in the mall – when Ninja bought Cheddar for me 🙂

How can you add some play to your day too?

Zest

Flowers for my mother

Standard

The 56th goal on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days was to surprise my mom with flowers. I crossed off that goal this past weekend, taking my Marzipan a bunch of bright yellow beauties ‘just because’ 🙂

Flowers for my mom

Flowers for my mom

My mom would never say she deserves flowers, and I can’t say we’ve always had that kind of relationship where I’d think of getting her any… but despite our various differences she is a huge blessing to me. This poem reminds me of her:

 

We search the world for truth. We cull

The good, the true, the beautiful,

From graven stone and written scroll,

And all old flower-fields of the soul;

And, weary seekers of the best,

We come back laden from our quest,

To find that all the sages said

Is in the Book our mothers read.

˜ John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807–1892 ˜

Rat-themed cupcakes

Standard

It’s a rainy grey day in my corner of the world today – and as you know, this weather always draws me into the kitchen to make sweet treats (boy it’s a good thing I don’t live in the UK or I’d become a real roly poly!). I baked ratty cupcakes today, and tried out a new marshmallow frosting technique for fun.

Rat-themed cupcakes

Rat-themed cupcakes

The cupcake recipe is the same one I used for my husband’s ninja-themed party. This isn’t the first time I’ve tried a rat or mouse theme with baking, but it’s the first time I’ve used cute mini Marie biscuits for ears 🙂 The eyes are noses are just silver and red dragees. I would have loved to have added whiskers too; maybe next time…

The marshmallow icing was sticky messy fun 😀 It’s a quick alternative to normal icing with confectioner’s sugar – if you happen to have marshmallows on hand, of course.

Making marshmallow frosting

Making marshmallow frosting

It’s as simple as taking the cupcakes out of the oven about two minutes before they’re done baking. Place a marshmallow on top of each warm cupcake and pop them all back in the oven.

Marshmallow frosted cupcakes

Marshmallow frosted cupcakes

Hardly a minute later, as you see the marshmallows sliding and melting, take them out again and smooth the sticky sweets over the surface of the cupcakes. Then pop them back in one last time for a minute longer so they melt completely. Take them out again, decorate and cool as usual.

Cute rat cupcakes

Cute rat cupcakes

The marshmallow icing is very sticky to work with but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s not too sweet if you only use one ‘mallow per cupcake.

So, did I share my ratty cupcakes with my ratties?

What do you think? 😉

Happy birthday Sunshine Scrapbook!

Standard

WordPress has just reminded me that it’s been a year since I first signed up with them to begin creating my blog. I can hardly believe it’s flown by so quickly (but don’t we say that kind of thing every year?) 🙂

It all started with a tentative first post but soon kicked off properly with a post about – of all things! – cayenne pepper. After muddling around a bit with my doomed-from-the-start Fascinating Womanhood experiment, I branched out into a variety topics ranging from ratties to baking to setting goals. Along the way I’ve learnt a lot about myself. I’ve discovered some very special fellow bloggers and their writings. I received a few blog rewards, which was an honour, and I gained a few more followers over time.

Thank you!

:mrgreen:

But a lot has also changed in my life over the year that’s passed. When I first began, I had just recently quit my job to become a freelancer and housewife. I had so much free time to spend creatively, and I had a good idea of why I wanted to blog here. A year later and I’m back in the routine of an office job, which, although a blessing in its own right, leaves me with precious little time and energy for so many of the things I’d like to do.

I’ve realised that this blog is going to have to grow and change with me. I’ve been letting it lie fallow for a while (which by all accounts is blogocidal!) in order to think about my goals for this space. You may have noticed I’ve been posting infrequently, and I thank you for your patience. Just know that it’s with good reason. I want the Sunshine Scrapbook to be something more than a happy, messy jumble of rats, recipes and randoms 😉

Here’s to a new year filled with fresh perspective, fun ideas and new friends!

Zest

Goal #26 – Done!

Standard

Goal #26 – Participate in a 5km run/walk – is DONE!!! Today my best friend and I finally checked this fitness goal off our lists, and if I may say so, I am inordinately proud of myself for succeeding! 😀

Jozi 2013 Spar 5km Women's Race

Jozi 2013 Spar 5km Women’s Race

You see, I’ve never, ever excelled at anything physical. I’ve rarely even participated in anything physical. I’ve just always felt clumsy and not 100% at home in my skin; I don’t take part in sports, I can’t throw or catch, and I’ve believed everything people told me through the years to affirm that I’m ‘no good’ at physical activities.

Occasionally it’s bugged me that that aspect of my self has been left undeveloped for decades, but usually I forget about it because most of my living is in the emotional, intellectual and relational spheres. That’s the stuff I’m good at, so of course that’s what I’ve channeled most of my energy towards.

But then along came two factors that set me on a path to working on what I lack – and that path led me to today’s race.

The first factor was a very negative influence: a job that robbed me of everything that mattered to me (or, I let it do so). Months of erratic overtime and constant stress made it all too easy for me to compensate with feel-good foods, quick-fix dinners and zero time for exercise. In short: I got fatter and unfitter than I’d ever been in my life. This negative factor pushed me to to a place where I was desperately ready to reverse the damage and improve my physical health.

The second factor is a very positive influence: my best friend. It was her idea to do this race at first, but the more we chatted about it the more I realised that I actually really wanted to do this for me too. I wanted to do it precisely because every voice in my head was arguing that it’d be too tough and I’d fail and I simply wasn’t made for this kind of thing. I wanted to do it because I’ve spent my whole life avoiding physical challenges, which is just ridiculous!

So I had a push factor and a pull factor that got me through today. I was running away from something – from being overweight, from disrespecting my body, from making unhealthy choices, from the labels of ‘lazy’ and ‘unfit’. And I was running toward something – a physical challenge, a body I’m more comfortable in, a special achievement with my sister, new labels of ‘growing’ and ‘willing to try’.

Being among those thousands of milling women of every shape, size, age, colour and fitness level, I came to accept that there’s no need to be as hard on myself as I have been in the past. Sure, I’ll never be a pro runner; I don’t aspire to it at all. I’ll never look that way or train that way or try to fit into that mould. But hey, I can still run for fun! I can still set goals that involve hard work and physical fitness. I can still deliberately choose to challenge myself to become better for as long as the Lord grants me breath.

Today was amazing 😀

One tiny 5k race for Jozi, but one enormous leap of growth for me!

Creative creatures Part 1

Standard

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are a couple of really weird creatures on this planet. And I don’t mean the human kind 😛 Some are cool-weird and others creepy-weird. Some are endangered and others are flourishing. But all of them have this in common: they never fail to bring a smile to my face.

Here are a few of my favourite strange birds and fish for now; next time I’ll tackle some land animals.

(Pics and facts courtesy of good ol’ Wiki.)

Birds

Kakapo

Now here’s a bird I’d love to meet one day! The lime-green, owl-faced, parrot-like Kakapo, native to New Zealand. It’s a big birdie, and it can’t fly – in fact, it’s the only known parrot that can’t. Its funny expression just makes me want to cuddle it 🙂

Kakapo

Kakapo

Birds of paradise

I never thought of adding Papua New Guinea to my dream list of travel destinations… until I started researching birds of paradise. The beauty and variety of these feathered creations leaves me speechless. These guys are definitely awesome-weird! I find myself wondering how well they can see, and whether all those beautiful rainbows and embellishments are more for our viewing pleasure than theirs 🙂

Wilson’s bird of paradise

Stinkbird

Its proper name is the Hoatzin, but any bird with a nickname like Stinkbird has got to make this list! (Apparently Hoatzin smell like dung.) This South American bird is full of suprises. Starting with its outward appearance, it has striking colours and a fancy crest – but did you know that its young have claws on their wings to help them climb? If that wasn’t enough, Hoatzin chicks can also swim underwater to escape predators. It’s no wonder scientists have had trouble classifying this species properly!

Hoatzin

Hoatzin

Fish

Flying fish

Alright, maybe it’s not so weird. Or it’s just cool-weird. But the flying fish still deserves mention here. With sheer wings that lift them from the waves and up into the air, this is not your average seafood! Nowadays when I hear of them I instantly think of that scene in the movie Life of Pi…

Flying fish

Flying fish

Blobfish

But if that wasn’t weird enough for you, the blobfish may be just the kind of creepy-ugly-weird you’re looking for. The pic below doesn’t do its sad blobby face justice, so I suggest you google a few images of this poor creature to get the full effect. Another resident of the world Down Under, the blobfish was recently voted the world’s ugliest creature 😦

Blobfish

Blobfish

Pufferfish

Here’s just one more sea creature that deserves mention. The pufferfish is just the cutest thing – maybe one of the only fish that has the same ‘awww!’ factor for me as a kitten or a puppy. They come in a variety of designs, but the basic idea is a funny ball of spines, attitude and (hot?) air :mrgreen:

Pufferfish

Unfortunately that’s as much as I have time for today, but sometime soon I hope to post Part 2 about weird creatures of the land-dwelling kind.

Until then, keep smiling! 🙂

Voddy and Teddy in recovery

Standard

Snip 1

Poor Vodka and Mishka are a bit out of sorts since their op yesterday. The vet did a very neat job and apparently it all went fine, but the poor boys are sore and very grumpy! It makes me feel bad to see them slithering around their cage trying to find relief from the discomfort :/ But I trust that we did the right thing and it will be interesting to see whether the ops make the difference everyone says they will.

Snip 2

Ninja and I have separated the convalescing boys from the little guys so that they can heal in peace without too much rough-and-tumble from their boisterous and unsuspecting smaller brothers. That’s right, Moon and Knight: it’ll be your turn next! In ten days’ time we’ll take them back to the vet for their stitches to be removed, and Lord willing they’ll make a full and fast recovery 🙂