Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall at sunset

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

John 2:5

2010 is almost here.

I don't usually make resolutions; at least, I haven't for the past few years. But I was reading through some of my life journal entries for the last year and the following one resonated with me.

"...His mother said to the servants "whatever He tells you to do, do it.'"

Such a simple statement. Eight words. Three that are the most important.

#1 - Whatever.

The word "whatever" covers a huge area. It could mean that the Lord wants you to go to India for the rest of your life or maybe He just wants you to reach out to your next door neighbor. Or maybe He wants you to stop beating yourself up.

The Lord could ask anything of you.

How do we do it, whatever "it" is? Mary knew that her son was also the son of God. And we know it too. Behind those eight words there is a universe of attributes - who Jesus is, what He can do, what He has done, what He will do.

#2. - Do it.

Like the Nike commercial - "just do it." Don't whine, complain, or feel sorry for yourself. A miracle might be waiting. And even if it's not a miracle - why not obey the One who made you? Who knows you better than you know yourself?

Lord, in 2010, help me to just "do it".

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

"...in Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

And the light shines in the darkness..."

John 1:4

Wishing all my friends and family a blessed Christmas filled with light.

If you haven't heard of it yet, check out the website below. It might make you want to change a few things next Christmas. http://www.adventconspiracy.org/

Monday, December 7, 2009


When I was researching my first book, Ciara's Tale, I learned a tremendous amount about blacksmithing and charcoal making.

Blacksmithing is an ancient art. One of the oldest references to blacksmithing is from the Bible, Genesis 4:22:

"...Tubal Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron..."

The word "blacksmith" comes from 2 sources: black, because iron was the "black" metal. And "smith" comes from smite, which means "to hit".

In ancient times, blacksmiths were regarded almost as gods because of the mysterious way they used earth (iron ore), water, wind and fire to produce iron.

We don't think much about this now but in other times, without a blacksmith to make the swords and knives, the plowshares and hoes, the pots and pans and hooks - there would be none of the instruments people needed to live and produce food and defend themselves.

In the time period of Ciara's Tale, which is early 5th century, the blacksmith would have had his smithy out in the open, away from other buildings. He would have used a leather apron and his clothing would have many singed holes in it. His biceps and forearms would be immense with muscle from swinging a heavy hammer all day. Burns in various stages of healing would cover his hands and arms.

I have a blackmith character in Ciara's Tale. In May of 2005, I corresponded with a blacksmith named PawPaw Wilson, who helped me get the finer points of blacksmithing correct and critiqued some of my writing.

I also corresponded with some of the fellows of an interesting website called AnvilFire. They offered lots of helpful information, even trying to help me figure out what the smell of freshly "quenched" iron was like. (That's when the hot iron is plunged into water to cool it.) Check out their website: www.anvilfire.com.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Roman Souvenirs

Here are some interesting and extremely rare finds from Roman Britain. I feature these bronze bowls in my second novel, Eleri's Tale.

The bowl to the right is called the Staffordshire Moorlands cup and it was discovered in 2004 by experienced metal detectors out for a walk.

The bowl has the names of the first 5 forts on Hadrian's Wall engraved along the top outside rim, and originally had a handle and might have been used as a type of skillet. It dates to the 2nd century.

It has elaborate Celtic-style curvilinear design and possesses much of its original decoration which was done in vivid turquoise, blue, red, yellow and purple enamel.

In the photo below you can see the name "DRACO" inscribed on the top left. It is uncertain if Draco was the owner of the bowl or the person who manufactured it.

The photo below is of a copy of the Rudge cup, found at the bottom of a well at the site of a Roman villa in Wiltshire, England. It shows a representation of Hadrian's Wall with its turrets and milecastles. The cup dates to the first half of the second century and also lists forts on the Wall.

It is believed that these bowls are military souvenirs of the time, much as we would go on a trip and buy a coffee cup or a set of salt and pepper shakers with "Niagara Falls" or "Las Vegas" emblazoned on it. Probably only high-ranking Roman officers could afford to purchase these.

I visited Hadrian's Wall in northern England in 2008 while I was writing Eleri's Tale. Fascinating country!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Staffordshire Hoard, Biblical Inscription

Of the more than 1500 gold and silver items found in the Staffordshire hoard, none have elicited more interest, excitement and speculation that this one.

It's a thin band of gold inscribed in misspelled Latin, with a scripture from Num. 10:35

Surge domine et dispentur intimici et fugent qui oderant te facie tua...

"...Rise up, O Lord, and let thy enemies be scattered and those who hate Thee be driven from thy face..."

Michelle Brown, Professor of Medieval Manuscript Studies in London, believes the style of lettering implies a 7th or early 8th century date based on the use of uncial letter forms.

Professor Okasha of Cork has identified traits that suggest 8th or early 9th century.

There are multiple websites already dedicated to this hoard and many discussions going on all over the world with experts from various backgrounds weighing in.

One discussion centers around which type of hoard this is because of the nature of the items: all the items are militaristic with the exception of the 3 crosses. There are no feminine items. And the hilts and pommels have all been stripped off the swords and knives they once decorated.

If you'd like to see some great photos, you can go to:

Thursday, November 26, 2009


To all my friends and family I wish a blessed Thanksgiving.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:

Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Psalm 103:1-5

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Staffordshire Hoard

Some new photos of the Staffordshire hoard discovered in July of this year have been published.

In the words of Leslie Webster, Department of Prehistory in the British Museum:

"This is going to alter our perceptions of Anglo-Saxon England...as radically, if not more so, than the Sutton Hoo burials. Absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells."

The hoard dates to the 7th century and contains over 5 kilograms of gold, the richest hoard ever discovered, and over 1500 artifacts, many decorated with precious stones.

It has been said that archaeologists and historians will be evaluating and debating the significance of this find for decades.

The top right photo is of a folded cross. Note the detailed work on the gold.

The artifact above is a gold and garnet scabbard boss fitting for a sword. Below is a gold and garnet sword hilt.
One item that has provoked the most interest is a strip of gold with a Biblical inscription and I will write a post on that this week.

A website has been established for the hoard for anyone who wishes to know more. It has 500 photographs of the finds so far. Many artifacts are still waiting to be dug out of blocks of soil taken from the dig.



Monday, November 16, 2009

Wax Tablets and Writing Implements

My husband read through some of my recent posts this weekend and he noted that the last 4 all dealt with female things such as jewelry and make-up. I assured him that the post today would be interesting to both sexes!

In my second novel, Eleri's Tale, my character Eleri is learning to read and write Latin. She writes her translations out on wax tablets.

These were thin sheets of wood with a poured layer of wax. A stylus would be used to engrave your letters in the soft surface of the wax. The wax could be easily softened over a small flame when you needed a new page.

Above is a fresco from the tomb of a Roman lady. She is shown holding the aforementioned wax tablet and stylus.

Wax tablets have been around for thousands of years. Pictured below is a reproduction kit made for the reenactors of Roman and Celtic history like the organization called PENNSIC.
Below is a new wax tablet with a message inscribed in Latin.

The wax tablet below is similar to the Vindolanda wax tablets found in the 1980's in the Roman fort of Vindolanda on Hadrian's Wall in northern England. Most date from around 100 AD and they cover a wealth of information about life in the fort, from shopping lists and requests for warm socks to a birthday party invitation, sent from a lady in another fort to a lady at the Vindolanda fort.

If you would like to read more about wax tablets and the making of them, go to www.randyasplund.com for a very informative article.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ancient Beauty II

Wealthy women treasured their cosmetics and implements 1500 years ago as we do today. Below is a wood, bronze and carved bone cosmetic box that was excavated from Pompeii. You can see a mirror on the left and other implements and jars.

The cosmetic box shown below is especially fascinating to me. It's Egyptian and it has nothing to do with Eleri's Tale but it is such an amazing box!

It contains a pot, 2 vases, a pumice stone, a cosmetic dish, a pair of sandals and a kohl pot. It dates to about 1550 BC and was discovered in a tomb. There is something so incredibly poignant about that pair of sandals (bottom left of box).
The two spatulas below are made of silver and are about 6.5 inches long. They were designed to reach into long-necked glass bottles to retrieve the powders stored in them, such as ground azurite to color the eyelids blue.

In Eleri's Tale, my character watches her Romano-British mistress, Minacea, prepare for a banquet. The cosmetic slave uses spatulas such as these to mix the cosmetics for Minacea's face. Some of the ingredients used in ancient cosmetics were toxic, such as mercury and lead, used to whiten the skin.

Shown below is the world's oldest face cream, found in 2003 by archaeologists excavating a Roman temple on the banks of the River Thames. This little tin pot is 2,000 years old. The lid still bears the fingermarks of the person who last used it.

Now you may think I am crazy but I find those prints absolutely fascinating!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ancient Beauty

Women who lived 1500 years ago (the time period of my second novel) were just as concerned with beauty as women are today. They used combs and mirrors, cosmetics and the implements to apply them, and wore jewelery.

In the time period of Eleri's Tale, only wealthy women had access to these things, especially cosmetics. Shown above is a set of Roman implements, including bone combs and long hairpins. The mirror is made of polished bronze.
In Eleri's Tale, both her former mistres Ciara, in Ireland, and her new mistress, Minacea, possess bronze mirrors such as the one shown above. This is a mirror that was found in Britain and done in the Celtic La Tene style, with elaborate curvilinear designs that would have been applied with the use of a compass.

This particular mirror is in the British Museum, and dates to about 50 AD, several hundred years before my story takes place, but it gives you an idea of what the mirrors looked like. The reverse side would have been highly polished and given a fairly good reflection.

The details feaure a cloverleaf pattern, engraving in a basketweave pattern and "hatched" texturing. Doesn't it look gorgeous for its age?

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Kirkmadrine Stones

At one end of this tiny Victorian chapel, set on a lonely hill in southwestern Scotland and overlooking the Bay of Luce, is a glassed-in wall. Three of the earliest Christian stones ever found in Scotland sit inside it.

They were erected around 450 A.D. to mark the common grave of three priests who served in the area. For 1400 years they stood unmolested in the churchyard until 1850, when they were pulled up and taken away for another use.

It is thought that the three priests may have served with St. Ninian at his "Candida Casa", or the white house on the hill across the bay. Ninian is a character in Eleri's Tale.

Two of the stones are about 7 feet tall, with the third being about 3 feet. All 3 stones have an early Chi-Rho symbol carved at the top. Each cross is surrounded by a perfect circle, deeply cut into the stone. The circle is a symbol of eternity.

Below the Chi-Rho symbols are the Latin inscriptions. They were meant to stand together and form a continous narrative. The translation of the Latin is:

"Here lie the holy and eminent priests, Viventius and Mavorius (first stone), and Florentius, (second stone), and on the third stone "INTIUM ET FINIS", the Beginning and the End.

If youu look carefully, you can see Mavorius listed under Viventius. Florentius is quite obvious.

I used the names Mavorius and Florentius for the characters of 2 priests in Whithorn in Eleri's Tale. This is an example of how archaeological research can drive the story.

In 1861 the two taller stones were discovered in the manse gate. The third stone wasn't found until 1916.

But that's a story for another post - the "lost" stone of Kirkmadrine.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fortress of the Britons

Dun Breatann, or the Fortress of the Britons, is in Strathclyde, west of Glasgow, Scotland.

In my second book (which I have just finished editing and revising and I just sent out a query to an agent and I am so excited!!!), Eleri's Tale, the action takes place in 3 main places.

The first is this ancient fortress, which stood on this two-headed plug of basalt volcanic rock that rises out of the water to a height of 240 feet.

The Romans originally had a fort at this site and could control traffic and trade from it. Now called Dumbarton Rock, this is where Coroticus, the British chieftain, had his fortress after the Romans left.

Dumbarton Rock was still in use as a military base as recently as World War II. The buildings there now date from the 18th and 19th centuries.

For hundreds of years it was considered impregnable until the Vikings invaded around 900 AD.

Mary, Queen of Scots, hid here for several months in 1548 before being removed to France for her safety.

It is a rarity in that Dumbarton Rock has seen 1500 years of continued use as a military fortress.

It was a great place to visit in the summer of 2008 when I went to Scotland to check out the sites where my story played out.

The other 2 sites are Whithorn, in southwestern Scotland, where St. Ninian had his monastery, "Candida Casa", the white house on the hill, and modern day Carlisle, in northern England, where Hadrian's Wall stands.

In the 5th century, Carlisle was called Luguvalium, and was a Romano-British city. You can travel the length of Hadrian's Wall all across the "waist" of Scotland and visit many of the remains of the Roman forts.

Hadrian's Wall was buit in 122 AD, and large parts of are still standing today.

In upcoming posts I will write about those places. I absolutely loved Scotland and want to go back!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hosea 5:6

"...with their flocks and their herds they shall go to seek the Lord but they shall not find Him..."

I can't think of anything more awful that seeking the Lord and not being able to find Him. To have sinned and offended Him so terribly, to have ignored Him for so long that He withdraws from me. Just the thought strikes terror in my heart.

Even at my lowest point, I always know that He is here with me.

One of the reasons I'm going through Hosea is to remind myself of His faithfulness. And He has indeed been faithful to me.

I am trying to rediscover the "early love of my betrothal", when I was so young and untested, and meld that into now, 35 years later. I am older but I still want to "follow You through the wilderness, through a land yet unsown".

I still want to sing "as in the days of my youth."

Show me how, Lord.

I bless You and praise Your name.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ancient Jewels II

Continuing my thoughts on ancient jewels, my character Coroticus in my current novel, Eleri's Tale, wears a pair of bronze armlets similar to the ones in the photo.

Coroticus was a fierce British chieftain whose name is known today chiefly because he abducted a group of St. Patrick's converts in Ireland shortly after their baptism and brought them to Britannia to be sold into slavery on the auction block.

Patrick's response was to write a scathing letter that circulated among the churches in Roman Britain and condemned Coroticus for his heinous deeds, which included "giving girls away as prizes" without a second thought.

The armlets in the photo are actually Greek and made of gold. The pair that I used as my model for Coroticus are in the British Museum but I was unable to locate them in their current database.

The British Museum has a great website, http://www.britishmuseum.org/, and it's a lot of fun to navigate around the site. Currently they have an exhibition on the Aztec rulers.

Check them out!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ancient Jewels

I use historical research to drive much of the plot for my historical novels, which means that I usually don't know how the story is going to end until I get there.

As I mentioned before, I love archaeology and the study of ancient civilizations. Many of the artifacts that people use in my stories have come from historical finds.

In my second book, Eleri's Tale, the British chieftain Coroticus' wife, Minacea, is dressing for an important banquet. The gold body chain shown above is a piece currently in the British Museum in London. It was part of the Hoxne hoard, found buried in Hoxne, Suffolk, England in 1992.

The hoard was buried in the 5th century and the piece itself dates to the late 4th century.

It contains an oval setting of gold for 9 gems:a central amethyst, 4 garnets and probably 4 pearls, which had long since decayed when the body chain was found.

This is the body chain that Minacea puts on as the finishing touch to her outfit for the banquet.

It is an exceedingly rare piece, and in marvelous condition considering that it's about 1600 years old!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

There's something I like to do whenever I'm at a professional sports game, or even when I'm watching a game on TV. But it's especially great when I'm at a real game, in the middle of tens of thousands of people. Before the game starts there is a festive air. A buzz of anticipation flows through the crowd. Excitement is palpable. People are smiling and happy, united in affection for their favorite team.
The announcer comes onto the microphone and the level of anticipation shoots up. The teams are about to enter the stadium. He works the crowd, extolling the team's greatness and victories.

Your team bursts onto the field and the crowd goes wild. The applause multiplies, there is yelling, chanting, horns blowing.

Then the fireworks explode into the sky above. The crowd gives a collective sigh at their beauty and the cheering and shouting escalate. It goes on and on for a good while.

Here is what I like to do when I'm in that scenario.

I like to pretend that this is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

I imagine that I'm standing with all the believers and we are waiting for the Bridegroom to arrive.

The anticipation is phenomenal.

Then the roar goes up and you know He has appeared in the auditorium. Your heart pounds and the crowd goes wild.

For Him!

Try it the next time you find yourself in a stadium surrounded by thousands of people. One day it will be real.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Latin Man and other Friends

In my search for historical authenticity in my writing, the Internet has proven to be a wonderful resource.

I have made the acquaintance of a number of professional people in very disparate areas.

Teresinha and her marvelous website on woad I have already written about.

I also can count a Celtic historian, Anthony McKinley, among the wonderful people who have taken time out of their busy lives to help me get things right, answered many question about ancient Celtic history, and who critiqued a funeral scene for me.

My first book has a blacksmith character, and I corresponded with a modern day blacksmith named "Paw Paw" Wilson, who instructed me on the finer points of smelting iron. PawPaw has since passed away but I hope to give a copy of Ciara's Tale to his wife when it is published.

Professional beekeepers and sheep farmers have assisted me, too. All in all, I have been amazed at the generosity of the online community to help a new author.

The most recent friend I have made is a Latin teacher at Cardinal O'Hara High School in Tonawanda, NY. I graduated from O'Hara in 1970 and when my sister Bernadine recently informed me that Latin was one of the languages being taught there now, I wondered if I might presume to write and ask for his/her help.

I did indeed find an email address for Mr. Calvin Steck and sent off a note. He responded quickly and soon I had the distinguished assistance of a Latin scholar. In my second historical novel, Eleri's Tale, my main character is learning to read and write Latin and I desperately needed help to make the scenes correct.

Mr. Steck kindly and cheerfully gave me the benefit of his years of study and knowledge.

So thank you, Mr. Steck!

Your students are fortunate to have you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Burren is a high limestone plateau in County Clare, Ireland. It's a huge open place and eerily quiet because no trees grow there so there aren't any birds. The sound of the wind is all you hear.

It's quite easy to become lost. You lose your sense of direction when you can't see any particular landmarks.

I visited the Burren in 2005 and my husband decided that he had had enough traipsing about the Irish countryside in the rain.

It was warm in the car and he had a newspaper so he decided to stay there and let me take the path up the hillside alone.

The top photo is of a megalithic tomb, 4000 to 5000 years old. I stood in that place and contemplated the people who built it so long ago.

There aren't too may places left in the world where you can hear absolute silence. The Burren is one of those places.

I am not superstitious but I do have Irish blood and I almost thought I could feel the presence of something else up there.

I think it was God.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ted's and Tonawanda Tales

Growing up in Tonawanda in the 50's, when I look back at it now, was pretty neat. Of course, these were the days before computers, cell phones, Nintendo, and all that stuff.

We played outside all day and our mothers never knew where we were but they didn't worry either.

My mother whistled when she wanted us to come home to 159 Findlay Avenue. She would stand at the foot of the driveway and whistle down the block, one long note followed by a second lower note, and we always knew it was her.

We lived around the corner from Ted's Hot Dog stand. If my sister Bernadine and I could wheedle a quarter out of my mom, we'd go there after school for a bottle of pop and some popcorn.

If we didn't have any money we'd collect pop bottles in our red wagon and return them to the A & P. The small ones were worth 2 cents and the big ones went for 5 cents. We could get candy bars then, 6 for a quarter at Leader Drugs, and they were way bigger than the fun-size candy bars you get today.

Another favorite place was Jet Donuts across the street from Ted's. It's gone now but to this day I have never eaten a Bavarian cream donut that could rival theirs.

And of course, for anybody who lived in Tonawanda, there was Anderson's Custard stand - still thriving today. Their lemon ice was to die for. I was in Tonawanda last summer and my sister and I stopped at Anderson's. I had the lemon ice.

I don't know if it changed or if my taste buds had gotten older but it didn't taste the same. It had a chemical aftertaste and was nothing like the lemon ice I remembered - tart and sweet at the same time and so refreshingly lemony that you ate in in tiny bites to savor the flavor as long as possible.

Many of my memories of my childhood revolve around food. Lots more revolve around St. Amelia's and the Polish nuns who ruled our lives.

But that's another post.

Monday, October 5, 2009

St. Paul's Tomb in the Vatican

In 2005 a marble tomb was discovered deep under the Papal Altar in the Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-The-Walls in Rome.

It bore the Latin inscription PAOLO APOSTOLO MART. The Apostle Paul, Martyr.

Further investigations were done in 2007. A small hole was drilled and endoscopes inserted to gather material. Bone fragments were carbon dated and the report was that they belonged to a man who lived between the 1st and 2nd Century.

Paul was beheaded somewhere between 62 - 67 AD.

Also found in the tomb were several red grains of incense, fragments of purple cloth with gold sequins and blue linen cloth.

If you would like to see some photos, go to www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/san_paolo/basilica/tomba.htm.

Due to copyright laws, I couldn't put them in this post but they are quite interesting.

Sometimes people ask me what is so fascinating about historical monuments and archaeological sites. Did you ever read H.G. Wells book "The Time Machine"? The idea of being able to step back in time and observe a civilization is not a new one. Sine we can't time travel, the next best thing is to get as close as we can to those people. I think that's why archaeology fascinates me so.

To stand in Newgrange where people stood 5,000 years ago, waiting for the sunbeam to travel down the dark corridor and light up the carved stone at the back of the monument -

To stand on Tower Green where Anne Boleyn lost her head -

To stand before Golgotha in the place where Jesus was crucified -

To walk through the ruins of a Roman Army camp along Hadrian's Wall in Carlisle, England -

For me it is an absolute thrill. I'm not sure if I can explain it any better than that!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hosea 2:15

"...she shall sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt..."

I remember those days, right after I was born again at the age of 22. I remember the sense of completeness, the feeling that I was finally "home". The awe I felt that You cared for me personally. Almost too good to be true.

But it was true.

Knowing that You knew everything about me - all my sins, the secrets that no one else knew, the dark places. And You still loved and wanted me. The was the unbelievable part.

So I did "sing in the days of my youth", rejoicing in what you delivered me from and in the future set before me.

Now, looking back 35 years - how do I still be that young girl? There are times when I grow cynical and weary, mostly of myself, but sometimes of the people around me.

One thing I have learned, especially when I feel like that, is to remember Your loving kindness, and to be thankful for all you have done for me, all you have given me, all you have blessed me with.

You said that Your yoke was easy and Your burden is light.

Lord, help me daily to lay my life before You.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls isn't far from the town of Tonawanda in western New York where I grew up. We went there on dates and after proms and sometimes just when we were bored and needed something to do. I've seen the falls in every season and every kind of weather, crammed with tourists and virtually deserted. I have always felt that the most beautiful time to see the falls is in winter, when most tourists are long gone.
It's dangerous at the falls in the winter. Ropes seal off the most dangerous parts and you may not get as close to the falls as you can in summer. This is due to several things.

First, being close to Buffalo and Lake Erie, there is almost always a thick layer of snow on the ground. Then, because of the continuous mist that is produced by the falls, there is a layer of ice over the snow. On top of the ice is a layer of moisture. Extremely slippery!

That's why certain areas are roped off - so you don't slip and slide right through the bottom of the fence and over the falls.
But it is exactly this combination of factors that makes the falls so beautiful in winter. Every tree, every bush, every fence rail is coated with a thick layer of ice. When the sun comes out, it's like fairyland - everything glitters.

It's also very cold. So wrap up well if you decide to make the trip.

I remember in 1969 the falls were "turned off". The US Corps of Engineers wanted to study if there was anything that could be done about the huge rocks that sat at the bottom of the falls due to erosion. It was dammed somehow above the falls. A mere trickle of water was left. It was so odd! And also somehow just not right.

The falls were turned off from June 12 to November 25 of that year. Tourism took a nosedive. Everyone was happy when the dam was removed and the mighty waters of the Niagara River were free once again. Years later, the engineers decided to do nothing about the rocks and let the falls continue to erode naturally.

I've always wondered what it must have been like for early explorers on the river. What if they didn't know about the falls? The undertow of the Niagara River is very strong and by the time they realized they had a problem it might have been too late to get back.

You hear the falls before you ever get close enough to see them. The tremendous roar and power of the water is hypnotic. Niagara Falls has an interesting history. Tightrope walkers crossed the falls and many people have tried to go over the falls in barrels and other contraptions.
An interesting website to learn more about Niagara Falls is http://www.niagarafrontier.com/.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Snettisham hoard, Staffordshire hoard

Have you ever seen people using their metal detector at the beach?
Their hobby is looking for coins or other items of possible interest. I wouldn't be interested in doing it here but if I lived in England, well now, that's a whole other story. If I lived in England I'd forget the flea markets and the antique shops. I'd be out in the fields and moors with my metal detector looking for gold.
Every day in England people find items from the past buried in the soil under their feet. The 2 photos below are from the Snettisham hoard. Between 1948 and 1973, 11 different hoards were found. They all contained torqs - circular necklets made of gold or silver. All the ones pictured below are gold, and very elaborate gold at that.

Archaeologists don't know if these items were a jeweler's hoard, buried for safety, or if they had been deposited in the earth as part of a ritual sacrifice.

Just this week, one of the largest and most important hoards ever discovered was announced - the Staffordshire hoard.

It was found by an jobless man in a field with a an old metal detector that cost about $4.00.

The find is 1400 years old and valued in 7 figures.

If you'd like to read more about the Staffordshire hoard and see some of the items, go to http://www.dailymail.co.uk. Click on the Science & Tech tab. There is a small box that says "Field of gold unearthed after 1400 years."

It's definitely worth a look!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hosea 2:15

"...she shall sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt..."

I remember those days, Lord, right after I was born again. I remember the sense of completeness, the feeling that I was finally "home", and the awe I felt that You cared for me personally. Almost too good to be true.

But it was true.

Knowing that You knew everything about me, all my sins, even the secrets no one else knew. And You still loved and wanted me. That was the most unbelievable part.

So I did "sing in the days of my youth", rejoicing in what you delivered me from, and in the future set before me.

Now, looking back after all these years - how do I still be that young girl? There are times when I grow cynical and weary, mostly of myself but also the people around me.

But You said that Your yoke is easy and your burden is light.

It always comes back to basics. Being thankful and mindful of all that You have done for me and given to me.

Lord, help me daily to lay my life before you and praise and worship you, Almighty God.


Saturday, September 26, 2009


Remember Mel Gibson in Braveheart? The battle scenes with the warriors and their blue painted faces? That blue paint or dye would have come from woad, a plant that has been used for about 2000 years to make a highly coveted blue dye. You start by picking the woad leaves, shown in above photo.
Making woad dye is a laborious and time consuming process. In my second book, I have a character named Gethin, and he is a woad-maker. Woad makers had to live far away from any other population because of the odors produced in its manufacture. The scent of cat urine and rotten cabbage mixed with feces is one description!

Woad villages existed solely for the production of woad. The woad makers and dyers would have had various shades of blue permanently staining their bodies, especially their hands. If you look at the photo above of a young man lifting wool out of a dye vat, you can see that the rubber gloves he has on are stained a deep vivid blue.

Woad dye produced a gorgeous blue color. It must have been quite a contrast to the drab reds, browns, greens, and yellows that were usually worn. Only the wealthy could afford garments dyed with woad.

Woad was also used by the Picts and possibly the Celts to paint their faces for battle. It's also possible that the woad dye was used to tattoo men and women. The research I have done is inconclusive. I have a Pict character in my second book, too, and I chose to write that his tattoos were permanent.

The tattoos may have looked something like those on the young man and woman above. The Picts used designs of animals and fish in interlaced designs.

If you would like to read more about woad, check out Teresinha's site http://www.woad.org.uk/.

Last year I corresponded with Teresinha about some of the finer points of making woad while I was writing about my character Gethin. Her site is fascinating and it just might inspire you to whip up a batch of woad dye yourself!