Thursday, December 31, 2015

It's a New Year!

From Card Cow on eBay

Lighthouses and the New Year--there's a connection! (I pride myself on finding lighthouse connections to just about everything!)

Did you know many lighthouses were illuminated on New Year's Day? It's a fact. January 1st was a good date to add a lighthouse to the lineup of beacons, in the United States and in many other nations. Mariners knew to check monthly notices about changes to navigational aids. December's list of changes was always long, with many new lights to be lit on the first day of the coming year. In fact, New Year's Day was likely the most common day for lighthouses to be illuminated for the first time.

Dr. Henry Maggs, the first keeper of Point No Point Lighthouse in Hansville, Washington, was supposed to light up the lighthouse for the first time January 1, 1880. However, the lens did not arrive on time, probably due to the bad weather the area was experiencing. Maggs, a dentist by trade, and his assistant, Henry Edwards, were concerned that no light would show in the lighthouse on its scheduled opening, so they hung an ordinary household kerosene lantern in the light tower. It was feeble but better than no light. The wind blew it out frequently. The two keepers were vigilant, though, and quickly relighted it. They tended this makeshift light until February 5 when the lens finally arrived. (There was no need for either man to resolve to be more dedicated in the New Year!)

The Point No Point Lighthouse shortly after the lens was installed. Note the fogbell to the right of the tower. Photo from the U.S. Lighthouse Society archives.

The symbolism of lighthouses as guiding the way forward was adopted for use in New Year's postcards and greeting cards in the nineteenth century. Here are a few examples, some from my collection and a few from eBay. It's curious that around 1900 Father Time was thought to live in a lighthouse!

Here's Father Time with his lantern signaling to a ship. Notice the clock in his lighthouse reads midnight.


Lighthouses illustrate many New Year's trinkets. My mom always got a calendar towel for Christmas every year. I don't recall her ever having one with Cape Cod lighthouses on it, but I've had several with lighthouses on them. You can find lots of lighthouse calendar towels online. When the year ends, they can be re-purposed as tea towels!
There are scads of paper lighthouse calendars available for purchase, to get the New Year going. Foghorn Publishing always has them.
There are regional lighthouse calendars, state lighthouse calendars, national lighthouse calendars, or collections that feature lighthouses around the world. The images are always stunning. I think lighthouses are really appropriate for calendar, not just because I love them, but because lighthouses function 365 days a year. The lights are ALWAYS shining. Keepers wrote in daily journals and logbooks, which kept them in touch with the passing days. I've even visited lighthouses where a lighthouse calendar was hung on the wall!


I could post many, many images of lighthouses calendars here! I've always wanted to produce one of my own. I've certainly got plenty of images to use. The caveat--they aren't sellable after the year ends, or even a few months into the year. The ones I do buy from other publishers get re-used for kids' activities in schools. I tear out the pages and laminate them so kids can see the variety of lighthouses on duty.

Did lighthouse keepers of the past make New Year's Resolutions? I suppose so. The tradition of making promises to do something in the new year is very old, dating back at least to the Babylonians. While lightkeepers often made comments about the New Year in their logbooks and journals, I can't recall any resolutions that were placed in the books. These were serious, business-like folk, and most of their written comments were not of a personal nature. They weren't very candid people, at least not in the record books. Also, their lives were regulated by their duties--the lighting and extinguishing of the beacon, cleaning, painting, operating the fog signal, and more--and by nature, which controlled the weather, the tides, and the behavior of wildlife around a lighthouse. There was plenty to do, so there wasn't much time for thinking about self-improvement and dreaming of a better life.
Being far from civilization and bound to their duty 365 days a year, no fireworks or parties or other public celebrations were part of lightkeepers' New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. No doubt they had their own family traditions. All of us do! There might have been a special meal, or some singing.
My family has a New Year's tradition. Some of our ancestors were German, and like them we eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day. It's supposed to bring luck, happiness, and prosperity in the New Year. (And it tastes great, especially piled on fluffy mashed potatoes!)
The New Year will bring some big changes for me. In that regard, I apologize that I have not been doing regular posts on this blog of late, and I probably won't post much until February. The reason? I'm in the process of moving from the Pacific NW to New England. My husband and I have retired from our jobs and want to live closer to our grandchildren. Within a week, my office will be entirely packed up and loaded on a moving truck. By February, I'll be settled in Connecticut, and I'll be back to my lighthouse work. I look forward to living and working in a new home nearer my family. Wish me luck and safe travels!
And thanks for visiting my blog!


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Lighthouse Fun for Kids

The holiday vacation is just ahead. I remember well the Christmas crazies the final week of school before my students went home for the holidays. I had a file full of fun activities to use up their extra energy and keep their anticipation channeled toward educational endeavors. Many of the projects in my file were related to lighthouses.

Are you wondering what do to with the kids on these cold December days leading up to holiday vacation or when school is out? Visit my Pinterest Board called "Lighthouse Fun for Kids" to see some good activities. You'll find it here:

Examples are in this blog entry. First up--Tangrams.

Above is some Tangram artwork done by a second grader. A Tangram is a puzzle developed long ago in China. It consists of seven geometric pieces that form a perfect square when placed together. The pieces can be used to form other objects too, like lighthouses. This is pure problem solving, and it's hands-on too. Here's a Tangram template to download, print, and cut apart. See if you and the kids can put it back together as a perfect square.

Then, have some fun. Make lighthouses with the pieces. Here are more Tangram lighthouses done by second graders. Have your kids replicate them, or they can design their own. The only rules about Tangram pieces are that they must lay flat on a surface, like a table or the floor, and they cannot be cut or twisted or folded. Have fun!


Who doesn't like to color? Kids do, from a very early age. Coloring is now a trendy activity for adults too. It's supposed to make us feel calm and rested; it slows down the brain and the body from the frenetic pace of daily life, especially around the holidays. Here are a few lighthouse coloring pages. You'll find more on my Pinterest Board.

How about making some lighthouse crafts with the kids, using around-the-house materials? There are many projects on my Pinterest Board that are easy and inexpensive. Here are a few to whet your child's or students kinesthetic appetite....on a snowy, cold, holiday vacation day!
Got paper plates, waxed paper, a glue stick. some yarn for a hanger, and a few bits of construction paper and other decorations--tissue paper, sequins, buttons, etc.? Make a lighthouse sun-catcher to hang in the window. Simply adorable, and it's loads of fun to make. You can use clear adhesive paper too.
Learn some sign language! No kidding; this is a valuable skill that not only teaches kids a new way to communicate, but also is quiet, calming, and develops small muscles in the hands.
Have some fun with food! Taste is much about "presentation," and these plates look really appetizing! Kids can brag after lunch that they ate lighthouses and sailboats!
Paint some rocks. Is there any craft so easy and inexpensive? Have kids sketch a design first, then add paint. Acrylic paint is best, as it stays on the rocks long after the painting is done and is waterproof. These make wonderful paperweights that can be given as gifts.
Or, resort to that good old-fashioned amusement all kids should do: Read some books. I have lots of lighthouse-themed books on the Pinterest Board, and you'll find more on Amazon and other book sites.
Find lots of fun ideas at "Lighthouse Fun for Kids"  ---
If you have a lighthouse-related activity not found on my Pinterest Board, send it to me and I'll add it to this blog entry. Add it as a comment to this blog, or if you have pictures email the activity to
Enjoy the anticipation of the holiday season!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

From the Lighthouse Kitchen

Cape Cod is known for many things, including lighthouses and cranberries. After a presentation on Cape Cod more than twenty years ago , a lady in the audience greeted me and said she was the ex-wife of a Coast Guard bos'un who had been a keeper at Nobska Lighthouse. (Photo above from Wikimedia Commons)

We chatted a few moments and then I asked if she had any memories to share. She did, and among them was this recipe for Nobska Lighthouse Cranberry Bread. It's perfect this time of year. I've made it a few times and can vouch for the good taste, especially warm with butter. I included the recipe in my Lighthouse Almanac, (Sentinel Publications, 2000, now out of print).

Nobska Lighthouse Cranberry Bread
2  1/4 cups of flour
3/4 cup of sugar
1 tsp. of baking soda
1 large egg
3/4 cup of milk
1 tbsp. of lard or other shortening
1 cup of cranberries, cooked in a little water to make a gel
1 cup of chopped nuts
Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Combine egg, sugar, milk, and lard and beat well. Work in flour a little at a time, then add cranberries and nuts and mix until blended. Dough will be thick. Spoon into two greased and floured loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until a knife inserted in the bread comes out clean. You can sprinkle on a little extra sugar or make a thick drizzled icing for more sweetness.

Nobska Lighthouse was first placed in service in 1829. Below is an image of the 1829 lighthouse, which cost about $3,000. It was a classic New England saltbox design! This tower lasted until the 1870s. (Photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Historian's Office)
In 1876, the original lighthouse was torn down and replaced.  Cast iron pieces for the new tower were fabricated in Chelsea, Massachusetts and shipped to Woods Hole. The cast-iron lighthouse was assembled and lined with brick.

The 40-foot tower stands on a hill next to the keeper's residence overlooking the spot where Buzzards Bay meets Vineyard Sound and the entrance to Woods Hole Harbor. A Coast Guard officer and his family live in the quarters. This is a heavily visited and photographed lighthouse--one that typifies New England sentinels.