Natural Sponges are a Gift from the Sea

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One of my favorite places to visit is the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Often we go there just for the food. We love to order lamb at a Greek restaurant and get dessert afterward at one of their delightful and scrumptious bakeries. We also like the ambiance of the shops and the sound of sea water slapping the bobbing boats. Mixed with the smells of florals and food is the hint of sea salt in the air.

If you’re game, you can go out on a sponge boat and watch them bring up a net full, or you can stroll down the sidewalk and choose a sponge from the many varieties and sizes available. The most popular sponge is the natural yellow (shown above). This type is firm and “very absorbent with a dense cell structure that facilitates exfoliation while bathing and showering.” They are also durable and long lasting.

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Then there is the “premium wool” sponge that is the softest, most reliable and absorbent sponge available. Premium wool sponges are firm and close packed. The natural “sea grass” sponge is less expensive and normally used in cleaning or in arts and crafts work, such as faux, etc..

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People should be more like sponges:

  • Dependable. Just as a sponge soaks up the water and moisture around it, we should thirst for knowledge and absorb the good things of the earth that have already been discovered and written about. It’s alarming that many people in our nation and around the world do not read. They are trapped by ignorance and afraid to wander far from their birthplace. Most have never read the Bible and remain in spiritual darkness.

    There are those who lack the faith or even a belief in God and refuse to study His word. Yet the evidences from eye-witnesses and historians from the past have documented and testified of God’s existence and His life upon the earth in the person of Jesus Christ.

    What if scholars and curious minds had refused to read Newton’s words or to benefit from Pasteur’s discoveries and Plato’s wisdom, would we have had the building blocks and the foundation to build civilizations, produce products, and benefit from the conveniences and inventions that we enjoy today? Why then do some people avoid the benefits of God’s perfect wisdom and treat His word and His wisdom with such contempt and disregard?

  • Enduring. Sponges are useful. They have a function, and they are efficient. They have a purpose in life. They were meant to assist and to serve. They perform that service just by being themselves. They are well-designed and last a long time. They’re not quitters. We can learn something from them about being content with who we are. Like a sponge, we can make ourselves useful to others and to society. We can outlast our grievances. We can creatively change our state of mind to conform to changing circumstances. We can soak up knowledge and share it with others.
  • Purposeful. Sponges know how to “get down and dirty.” They’re not opposed to hard work and their compositional make-up never tires. They have what it takes when the going gets rough. They’re not wimpy. They are tough.

    We should keep our own minds open and porous to receive ideas and information. We can become tireless advocates for truth and right. We can be purveyors of good will and, when necessary, sop up the sorrow and pain of others through assistance and a listening ear. We can soothe the wounded soul and washout the heartache of neglect and ignorance. We can soak up hurts and bathe the broken hearted with our own tears. We can learn a lot from the sponge.

"Broken" mixed media on canvas; SOLD, but prints available.

“Broken” mixed media on canvas; SOLD, but prints available.

If you would like to learn more about sponges, go to:

Gulf Coast Sponges

Whet Your Palate with Foods from the Present and Memories from the Past

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My Danish grandfather had several pigs that were kept in a pen near the back garden. If it was “pig slopping” time, I was there. The snorts and squeals of the pigs as they gulped down their food made me giggle. The smell of the mash mixed with whatever leftovers were available from the house, garden or dairy barn seemed intoxicating. Those pigs really knew how to scarf down a meal.

Feral Pig

Feral Pig

When people “feed their faces” or “chow down” on foods they love, I’m always reminded of those blubbery fat hogs. One of mankind’s favorite pastimes is eating. A phrase spoken around the world in many different languages is: “What’s for dinner?” When my children were still toddlers they would crowd around my legs and ask “Time for eat?” They were not only hungry. They wanted it now!

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“The Cook” 11×14 acrylic on canvas

Sometimes I stressed out about what to feed them. I wanted to provide something nutritious that they would enjoy, and I needed to stay within my budget. I didn’t want an anxiety attack every time I had to prepare a meal.

Solution: “The menu Plan.” I literally planned out a full month of assorted meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Now I had something to work from when I went shopping. I didn’t have to worry about food because I knew exactly what we were going to eat and when. I knew the ingredients were waiting somewhere in the cupboards, the freezer or refrigerator because I’d purchased them myself.

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When there were leftovers, I’d incorporate them into the menu. Two big hits were omelets and fried rice. Both used miscellaneous meats or vegetables in small quantities that could be folded into an omelet with cheese or stir-fried into rice. Hidden veggies were eaten with added bacon bits or ham to sweeten the pot.

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Cooking became an art form. I fashioned make-ahead meals and blended together the makings for cookies, cakes, and muffins. All I needed to do was add egg, oil, and milk and the rest was already done. I look back now and I wonder how I found the time or energy. I was a volunteer, I worked as a free-lance writer, and I had a large family. I think one reason may have been “lack of fear.”

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There was a time when parents didn’t have to hover over their children and worry that they might be snatched out from under them by some pervert or kidnapper. My parents certainly never had to worry about me. I roamed the neighborhood and played outside for hours exploring the world I lived in. I rode my bicycle home when I was hungry. My mother knew my haunts and she knew whom to call. I never felt restricted or tied down. I seldom felt afraid.

Food no longer seems to call us back home. We can buy it almost anywhere. In fact, more people eat out than ever before. They either eat fast food or buy take out and eat at home watching T.V. Our society eats on the run and does far too much snacking. Nutrition sometimes gets lost in the balance.

When my kids were still in college, I’d get a phone call asking for a recipe they remembered. Today they have their own recipes and children of their own. Even holidays don’t involve the time and effort they used to. Store-bought items take the place of the time-consuming hot rolls of the past. Potatoes and gravy are now prepared for you. Even a “home-cooked” turkey can be purchased from your supermarket.

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Although the traditions of the past come in a new form, and busy working mothers don’t have the time to prepare a full spread; people still enjoy sharing food and laughter with those they love. Ordinary food will always taste better in good company. Perhaps that’s what those snorting pigs were trying to tell me so long ago” “Bon Appetite!  Let the good times roll – oink, oink!”

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Creating Family Ties that Last

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An Open Book

I recently enjoyed a visit with my oldest son and his family who traveled to Florida. We crammed in as much as we could with the short time allotted to us. We took in the beach and the wonderful Gulf waters, still clean and pristine on the southwestern shores. We enjoyed the parks and wildlife as much as weather would allow. But the most memorable fun came in the evenings when we watched a movie or played games around the kitchen table.

The family had brought a game called “Apples to Apples;” a vocabulary builder that makes you think. We spent two hours playing this fun game and laughed so hard we cried at the comments from the kids and their wonderful imaginations.

I often worry about today’s families and wonder if they have enough memory building activities in their lives? They are so absorbed with work and separated by technology, phones and computers. Playing games with my children and grandchildren gave me hope, and it brought back a whole lot of memories.

My grandfather, a school teacher, loved entertaining his grandchildren. When my cousins and I got out of hand, he’d set us to work in his garden or distract us with games. Not any old games; homemade games that were totally unfamiliar to us. My favorite used a classic Coke bottle and a box of toothpicks. Each person received twenty picks to start.

The objective was to lay a toothpick across the lip of the bottle, in turns. The first person to topple the stack kept them. Anytime you caused a pick or picks to drop, you added them to your pile. The first person to get rid of all their picks was the winner. We played the game until the loser, usually the youngest child, got tired of being “the fall guy.”

When the floor game “Pickup Sticks” came out, it was never as much fun as grandpa’s toothpick game.

"Beach Buddies"

“Beach Buddies”

My sons liked to play “uncle” when they were young. They wrestled on the floor until one of them had the other in a painful twist. Relief came only by yelling “uncle.” Enduring pain and refusing to say the magic word somehow enhanced their manhood. Horsing around took the pressure off, and gave them an excuse for male bonding. The rough and tumble helped them avoid that personal hug or embarrassing show of affection.

Horsing around or playing games is good for coordination, skill building, and brain power. It provides a means for fellowship and promotes conversation. The laughter and talk that takes place during the game is a natural outcome.

When my children were all still at home, our TV went out. We waited to get a replacement just to see what would happen without our hypnotizing, addicting companion. Here are some of the things we did that my kids still talk about today.

We read several classic books together. Sprawled on the floor or with legs dangling over chair arms, the children’s imaginations soared as we read Rudyard Kipling’s jungle stories; their favorite “The Elephant Child.” Other books on our list: “Mary Poppins,” “Treasure Island,” “Tom Sawyer,” and short stories by Charles Dickens.

"With These Hands Wonder" available by clicking image.

“With These Hands Wonder” available by clicking image.

This was before Harry Potter and Shrek. Trips to the library replaced other after school activities. We broadened our reading to include children’s plays. Each child took a part; the older children helping the younger. Simple costumes helped us stay in character. Giggles were the order of the day, but we did manage to put on several plays, including “The Nativity” and the reading of Luke on Christmas Eve.

Once a week, we had a cooking session in the kitchen. The children learned how to make simple things like no-bake cookies, candies, Jello, fancy sandwiches and French toast. One evening the older children learned how to sew on a button. I introduced them to skills I thought they should know before they left home.

Adding more ingredients.

Adding more ingredients.

It was a fun time while it lasted. Besides making memories and learning new things, we learned a lot about each other. When we finally purchased a new TV, it engulfed our lives once again. We went back to our old routines, but the change of pace had made a difference.

During a power outage when my seventeen year old daughter was left in charge of her younger brothers and sisters, they survived. She didn’t want us to worry, so she didn’t tell us. They slept in their sleeping bags and ate cold food for three days until we returned. They had a great time telling stories, putting on plays, and singing songs just as we had done before on our nights-without-TV.

I sometimes feel sad for the young people of today who miss out on good old-fashioned fun, or do they? My husband and I visited with our older children in Minnesota. We were invited to be part of an interactive musical game called: “Guitar Hero.” I was given the drum sticks and waited for the signal lights that told me when to play. The rhythm increased in increments, and soon I was giggling and missing a beat here and there.

Next I played a guitar and had to strum to the tune of a green beeping light. My husband and his grandson played other instruments; his granddaughter sang solo, and everyone else clapped and sang along. By the time we were done, everyone was laughing. The whole family joined in and had a great time singing, clapping and laughing at the players onstage.

Times have changed, and the methods may be different, but families still know how to have fun together. The age-old problem is making the time. Is it worth it? You’d better believe it. The adage: “the family who prays together stays together” also works well with this phrase: “the family who plays together stays together.” So pray and play your hearts out. Make memories that last!