If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Family Celebrations

It seems we have had lots to celebrate lately!  I have loved every minute of the celebrating, too. 

Tomorrow will be a big day for celebrating for us.  All four children are coming with their families and we are going to eat together, share time together, and share the Christmas gifts we have for one another.  I am almost as excited as a child on Christmas Eve! 

I've spent the evening baking sweets for my sweeties.  Since I have been sickly this year, I decided to cheat and bought the break-and-bake kind of cookies in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.  So, I have three different kinds of cookies to whet folks' sweet tooth.  I stumbled across a recipe for Pecan Pie Brownies and adapted it a little bit to make it simpler for me. 

The recipe for that can be found HERE.  I also found a recipe for Sea Turtles in the 2011 edition of Christmas with Southern Living and I have shared that recipe HERE

I used the leftover chocolate frosting from the Sea Turtles and covered some pretzel sticks. 
In the foreground is a platter of Sea Turtles with white chocolate frosting. 
The pretzels are right behind with the Pecan Pie Brownies on the rack in the back. 
You also can get a glimpse of the dark chocolate Sea Turtles at the right.

Surely that and the candies in everybody's stockings will keep us sweetened up!

Mike is planning to grill a couple of port tenderloins in the morning.  I'll bake the spiral sliced ham and cook the slices of country ham.  We will probably pull out a bit of the leftover turkey meat from where Mike cooked Big Tom.  We will bake a few of the biscuits I have in the freezer and I have a couple of loaves of Artisan bread from the grocery deli and we can have sandwiches.  Then, we will mix up a couple of kinds of dips for chips.  I'll prepare a cream cheese/pepper jelly spread and we will be set.  We figure that this sort of munchy fare and some cocktail wieners, pigs-in-a-blanket, and Chex Mix will take us through the evening as we ring in the new year.

The great thing about this celebration is that our whole family will be here with us as we celebrate our wedding anniversary!  How wonderful is that?  Aren't we lucky that the whole world celebrates on our anniversary?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Grocery Shopping

Does everybody hate this chore as much as I do?  Oh, there are parts of it that I don't mind.  I don't mind browsing through the aisles and checking out all that is offered at the store.  I don't mind making comparisons and choosing the better buy or the more appropriate product for our needs.  The parts I hate are the paying part - and who really does like that?  and the unloading and hauling into the house part. 

Today was grocery shopping day for me - not because we were out of everything but because we are feeding the children tomorrow when we all finally get together to share our Christmas love and gifts.  When you have four grown children and they have spouses and some of them have children, that makes for a house full and lots of hungry folks.  We all tend to eat like the farm hands we used to be, too. 

With that many folks and with them also going hither and yon to other family celebrations, it is really hard to settle on a menu.  Mike usually wants to show folks how much he loves them by cooking for them and we all like that because he is a really terrific cook!  I also want it to be a menu which can be prepared a little in advance where we can relax, interact, and enjoy our company - after all, I think entertaining is all about the people.  So, we finally landed on a menu that would satisfy the two of us to a level that we can live with comfortably.  And, as usual, that meant a trip to the grocery store. 

I have been feeling yucky for the past couple of weeks with sinus/ear infections and annoying miserable coughing/sore throat.  It has really caught up with me and I have wanted to do little more than lie around for the past couple of days.  Yet, we still needed supplies from the grocery.  So, I mustered up my strength and headed out today.  I didn't time it this way but it just so happened that I got home right at about the same time that Mike came in from work.  So, loving man that he is, here he came to help me haul all these bags of stuff in to the house. 

He sat and chatted while I found a place for everything and I decided that I'd better sit down and rest a bit before tackling a little bit of preparation and advanced cooking.  That made me fire up my electronic recipe book and then I read my email and one thing led to another and here I am blogging. 

I had been wondering what to post about in my foggy/puny/yucky state of mind and as usual, somebody sweet inspired me.

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

After All...

After all these years, it seems that one of my dearest and best friends still knows how to make a day sunny and pick me up when I am starting to wallow.  I got a quick little forward from my favorite sister-in-law, JoAnn this morning.  I'm sure she enjoyed the sentiment and knows that since we are "of an age," (Yes, JoAnn, I know you are miles younger than me by about a month!) we need little reassurances to help us appreciate who we are and what we've become.  I doubt she realized just how much I needed such a nudge on this day, though.  Here is the bulk of what she shared:

Some very true words to ponder..I hope you enjoy. 

As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend.

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world, too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it, if I choose to read, or play, on the computer, until 4 AM, or sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50, 60 &70's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.

I will walk the beach, in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves, with abandon, if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.
They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And, I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break, when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody's beloved pet gets hit by a car? But, broken hearts are what give us strength, and understanding, and compassion. A heart never broken, is pristine, and sterile, and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong.

I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it).
What a wonderful thing to share! I think that as I sat here catching up on email, sniffling, coughing, wishing the congestion in my sinuses, ear, and chest would magically evaporate, I was starting to have a little pity party.

After all, both light bulbs in our closet have blown and it is completely dark in there. So, I was frustrated that I'd have to drag out a ladder and climb up and down to get those bulbs replaced in order to find something to wear that is clean, somewhat unwrinkled, and sort of matches.  Instead, I should see this as an opportunity and a gift.  With it dark in there, I cannot clean it out even though I've been putting that chore off for months - today I have a real, bonafide excuse!  The outgrown, never-really-liked, ill-fitting, frayed collared, slick-soled, scuffed leather, ripped, worn, and out-dated items there have a reprieve from the trash bin or Goodwill for one more day.  Plus, I can expend my efforts toward something more enjoyable like reading or writing!

After all, the floor looks as if I've been using the entire house as a potting shed, or a place for bedding down some sort of livestock, or the beginnings of a compost pile, or the fresh turnings in preparation for a flower garden.  There are tiny twigs, snippets of mulch, little tread-shaped clumps of dirt, crumbs, dust, and bits of dried leaves all over the place.  When I hobbled into the kitchen from our bedroom, my bare feet prickled and cringed as I schlumped to the coffee pot.  However, after filling my cup and swirling a little sweetness into it, I plopped down in one of our mis-matched chairs and propped my feet into another one and began to read emails, blogs, and newspapers.  I realized that there are spots where the oak boards of the floor still shine and I'm lucky to have a nice floor that gets dirty instead of a dirt floor that isn't nice.

After all, the laundry is piled almost to my knees and the washer and dryer are both full and awaiting my attention so that a new load can begin swish-swashing or tumble-clinking toward cleanliness.  I wonder how two people can dirty so many garments and towels and wash cloths and linens.  Then, I realize how fortunate I am to have a closet full (and overbrimming) with nice clothes.  I appreciate the drawers filled with socks and underware.  I am thankful for fluffy towels and cotton napkins and soft sheets when I could be living more like the folks described and pictured so beautifully by Ann Voskamp in this blog post.  She shows how folks in Ecuador farm and juxtaposes it with an American farmer who participated in a mission trip there.  Those of us fortunate to live on a farm or just to know about farm life will really appreciate just how blessed we are that God put us here to farm instead of somewhere else that poses work lots harder and less fulfilling that what we know.  I realize that I have windows with beautiful hand-crafted curtains or silky, luxurious fabrics to cover and frame them and not a pig-feed sack that is all I can afford.

After all, here I sit during a week off from work on a grey, dreary Tuesday looking out my own back door at a cold, rainy day instead of lounging on a beach with my heels in the sand and the sun beaming down while the waves lick at my toes.  I wonder when my day for adventure, travel, and exotic relaxation is going to be possible.  Then I hear the soft snores of a loving husband who has worked so hard this year that his boss sent him home today because the loads were light and he has earned more time off than there are days left in the year for taking.  I think of how lucky he is to have such a job which meets our needs and ships needed materials to multiple businesses so that they can keep others working and mouths fed and bodies clothed and sheltered.  I think of how he is always nudging and encouraging and supporting me to further my career and take risks which will prove fulfilling and at the same time make my life a bit easier.  I think of how I am fortunate to have a job where folks smile and seem glad when I walk in the door of their building because they know I am there to help them, to make their job easier, to support their efforts in mentoring and facilitating the learning of our future leaders and caretakers.  While at times the job is a bit stressful due to the constraints imposed by those who are not directly involved or trained to understand, it is also fulfilling to know that we are making an impact and we are appreciated.  I appreciate that there are times when we feel like we are underpaid; yet, there are also perks like this week that I have of complete freedom where I can relax in my cozy kitchen wearing my sweatpants and t-shirt and type on a modern piece of technology to connect my adventures here to the world without having to trek out into the dreary, chilly, rain-slicked streets.

After all, isn't everything really just a matter of perspective?  So, when my favorite sister-in-law (Yes, I know I only have one sister-in-law but she really is one of my favorite people and has been since we both were in fifth grade!) sent me this wake-up call this morning, it ignited a spark in me to lighten up on myself and recognize the beauty of where I am and how fortunate I really am.

Oh, I still plan to adjust my eating and exercise habits - but I'll map out a plan and attack that with some real intention.  I still might look at the creases etched in my face and the coarse, grey strands that season my hair - but I'll try to think of them as smile memories and silver gilding.  I will probably frown at the bulges that prevent me from buying an outlandish and trendy outfit - but I'll also appreciate that I am of an age that the classics of style wear comfortably.  I will probably grow frustrated over the things that slip my consciousness that I used to keep current like the sticky-notes and electronic agenda reminders I now post everywhere to remind me of doctor or hair appointments or needs from the grocery.  I still might shed a tear or two over past heart-breaks and even some current heart-aches - but I'll also treasure the journey that brought me to the blessed place of current existence. 

JoAnn's little reminder will be something that nudges me to be a better me.  After all, isn't that what we all need to do?

Christmas Decorating

I do so love the holiday season and the chance it provides for us to gather together and share time with one another.  I also love decorating for Christmas.  This year I have taken a rather minimalist approach - well for me at least.  I started to share our decorating a couple of weeks ago and got side-tracked by a little bit of re-decorating that my granddaughters had contributed.  You can read about that HERE

I started off with decorating outside.  I was pushed for time and knew I would have lots of dashing hither and yon.  So, I really focused on getting the biggest bang for my buck.  After spending most of one afternoon in frustration trying to get the garlands for the porch to all work properly, I wound up pulling out all the lights which were tangled and twisted up carefully woven into the greenery.  Then, I strung brand new lights into each one and tied them to the porch rails and around the front door.  I think it turned out wonderfully!

Here is a look at the entire facade of the house.  Aren't I lucky to be able to live here?

I started to strip this wreath and add new greenery and ornaments and a new bow so that it might look something more like a Pottery Barn creation such as the one mentioned HERE.  (Be sure to scroll down and watch the YouTube video that Susan, of Between Naps on the Porch, has posted.)
Front Door Wreath

When I dug it out of the box, though, I decided that it would be festive enough.  I still like the ribbon even if it is a bit faded and I love the greenery and the little heart Welcome.  So, it is gracing the front door one more time. 

Of course, my favorite shot of it is this one that my sister Brenda made at our wedding ceremony.  Doesn't it look like it is sort of a halo on this sweet man's head? 

I also strung the garland that my mother-in-law gave us last year across the back deck rail.  So, it is almost as if we have the entire house wrapped in garland and lights!  Even my great-nephew, Forest, noticed that we have lights all around the house.  (Of course, he thought I must have everything inside decked out as well and for a couple of weeks the outdoor decor was all I had done!)

I hung the two evergreen wreaths that are almost alike on the French doors leading into the kitchen.  At first I was a bit bothered that one is larger than the other - then, I stopped noticing that and just smiled after I found out what Forest had said.  (Do you see the little white spots on the berries entwined within the greenery?  I noticed the birds pecking at them yesterday.  I'm thinking that I probably need to get out there with a bottle of nail polish one sunny afternoon... Think that will work?)

The stockings are all hung at the chimneys with care...
These crocheted ones were made by Mike's mother.

Remember that I began to work on this post a while back and noticed where my granddaughter, Lillie, had been conducting a little educational experiment?  You can read about it HERE.  I wound up finding magnets all over the place.  There was one in the guest bathroom stuck to something.  There was one stuck to the French Doors in the kitchen.  Those things have popped up everywhere!  Anyway, I love the homespun look of hand-crocheted work.  (I don't know if that is because I have never been able to master crochet or whether I just really appreciate that somebody takes the time to hand-craft things.)  I spread a little holly greenery across the mantle and plopped a snowman up there and it is a warm, cozy, kitchen fireplace.  (Wish I had lit the fire before I made the photo - note to self for next year.)  Below is a shot of the mantle in the den right after I hung the stockings.

Needlepoint stockings with our names embroidered on them.

Looks sort of like last year's Christmas card doesn't it?  We wanted to have a big family picture with all the children or to have one of all four of our granddaughters together.  Somehow, we just never could get that together and this shot of all the stockings stretched across the mantle was as close as I could get.  You can tell in this year's Christmas card that I didn't even entertain such a pie-in-the-sky idea.  I just took snippets from here and there and combined them to make a collage of the young folks (besides one another) who mean most to us in life.  For a link to this year's card, click HERE.  Back to the mantle, do you notice what is different? 
Yes, there is one more on the right side - for Laura's fellow, Danny!

I added a little holly greenery to the mantle, a Santa statue and some cinnamon sticks to the hearth.  (Again, why didn't I think to light the fire before I took the photo?)

Here is another look as I'm moving in for a closer look at the mantle.

I also added a couple of ceramic Santas to the mantle and a bit of greenery to the urn.  I am not one who wants to change out everything with every season.  I try to choose things to decorate the house that I really, really love and leave them in their places or simply rotate them to another part of the house and swap places with something else I really, really love and want to enjoy in a new setting.  I'm just not one to buy something seasonal and store it if I can find a way to keep it out and enjoy it all year long. 

I painted these years ago when my children were small.  I had seen similar tall, thin Santas like this in stores selling for more money than was allotted to my entire Christmas budget.  So, when my mother and I stumbled across them at a friend of hers when we were making ceramic crafts, I picked them up, unfinished, for a song and plied my hand at painting them. 

Here is the guy on the right holding a Christmas tree.

At one time I had three of these fellows but moving a couple of times within a few short years takes its toll on some things and one of the Santas went kerplunk in one of the moves.

Christmas Cards

On the buffet that is adjacent to the mantle is a little basket holding this year's Christmas cards.  I also added a little greenery to the vase Mike's Aunt Peg gave me years ago when I moved into the new house at Rover.

Basket of greenery and seasonal blooms

One afternoon this week I looked down and there sat the basket pictured above.  It was still filled with silk fall leaves and a twig pumpkin.  It had been sitting there like that ever since my niece Julie's sorority dinner I guess.  You can read about that HERE

I stuck with the silver, blue, and holly concept and kept my kitchen table simple this year as well.


I don't usually like a lot of busy-ness on my table for day-in-day out.  We are bad about walking in the door and plunking things down on every available surface.  So, keeping something ornate, elaborate, or fancy on the table is wasted.  This year I went even more simple than I ever have before.  I slid a beautiful, tucked, silk Merlot table runner down the center of the table.  Then, I laid a second-hand wooden tray in the middle.  I already had the silver candle holders and blue candles out for my Thanksgiving table decor.  So, I set them on the tray and swirled a little silk holly garland around on it.  I added a few of the glittered pine cones that my daughter-in-law, Jessica had crafted as decorations for our wedding a couple of years ago and called it done.

Looks like somebody thought it needed just an extra little touch!

I think Lydia was trying to hide this from her sister so that she could play with it without competition.  Mike and I decided he needed to stay there to provide us with a smile and remind us what is really the meaning of Christmas.

Basket of pine cones

This big basket is one I got at the Presbyterian Christmas Bazaar last year.  Well, actually, Mike's mother got it and it was full of little snowmen ornaments.  She didn't really want the basket, so I took it off her hands.  I'm good to her like that!  The pine cones have a soft cinnamon scent and it sits nicely by the front door alongside the umbrella stand.

The Christmas Tree

I guess at our house, like at most folks' house, there is a main Christmas tree which seems to steal the show.  Last year I had a tree in every room and I love, love, love the idea of that and truly intend to return to it next year.  However, this year, we have just this one and a teeny, tiny one on the table in the guest bedroom.  This is the tree that I bought several years ago when I had first moved into my new house.  My mother went with me on the day after Christmas and fought the crowd at a local discount store to get it and a few decorations.  I still love the look of the silver and white.  Of course, I added in a little blue because what doesn't look a little prettier with some blue?

Simple and Special

There is a broad range of ornaments adorning this tree.  Most of them are simple like the white, opalescent, or blue ball ornaments and silver bead garland.  Some are a bit more detailed, like the beautifully engraved silver horn that I stuffed with a fluff of white feathers and some glittered eucalyptus. 

Nothing extravagant or expensive

I've mixed second-hand yard-sale finds with half-off painted and glittered ornaments and plastic glittered snowflakes with memento's like the blue and white ceramic one from Ellis Island.

Sentimental favorites

This is one that Bridgette or Bryan got when they were mere babes.  There is a hole at the top to stick a light in that makes it look as if there is a light on in the bedroom so that Santa peeking into the window can see that the little one is fast asleep.

Silver, blue, and white

The enameled snowflake ball ornament was a gift from one of my aunts who is also a blue and white lover.  It is nestled in beside a couple of glittery discount store half-price ornaments and a hand-painted ceramic memento that came from Ohio when we toured the Longaberger basket factory.

Porcelain Angels

I got this beautiful little piece and a companion for mere coins at the local Historical Society yard sale fundraiser.  Aren't these sweet little cherubs?  I thought it looked like any two of my sweet granddaughters.


This little hand-painted jewel was crafted from a little glass disk that is like a flattened out marble.  It is wrapped with silver and has a little silver wire looped intricately at the top.  I got several of these years ago at another craft sale fundraiser.

glass snowflake

more snowflakes

The one on the left is hand crocheted.  A co-worker's mother made several different designs of these and she gave them to me years ago.  The blue one on the right is an inexpensive plastic glittery one that I got at the dollar store a year or so ago.

When I first got this tree almost five years ago, I didn't think to get a tree skirt to hide the ugly stand while I was doing my day-after-Christmas-bargain-hunting.  Then, the next year when I put the tree up for the first time.  I was too chintzy to pay full price for the glamorous one I wanted before Christmas.  I happened to have this beautiful polished cotton fabric tucked away and swirled it around the base of the tree and my tree skirt was never purchased.  I just pick this up and shake it out each year and hang it in the closet with other fabric and table cloths and it is ready to go the next year. 

glittery baubles

Instead of crowding all the treasures for the children and grandchildren under the tree and distracting from its regal beauty, I've placed the bags and boxes in little piles here and there to serve as decor all on their own.  I did place this hand-painted box that housed a gift from a co-worker a few years back and this silver basket full of silvery, glittery baubles next to the swirl of fabric. 

There are a few stacks and clumps of wrapped packages and gift bags here and there in different rooms of the house.  I also stuck a couple of sprigs of holly here and there.  But, for the most part, that wraps up the decorating I did this year.  I've enjoyed what we have and not been stressed in the process.  Even decorating the tree was a new, fun experience since Mike's granddaughter's spent the afternoon with us one day and helped out.  You can read about that HERE

Usually I'm spending the day after Christmas taking down all the decorations and storing them away.  I like to have a fresh look to welcome in the new year and I'm usually too tired and lazy to want to get that done after the New Year's Eve party and before I have to start back into the school schedule.  However, this year we will keep the Christmas decorations up into the new year.  It seems that all of our children have different places to go and we didn't want them to have to rush from one to come here or to rush from here to go elsewhere.  So, we will be celebrating with them all together here on New Year's Eve.  We can share the love of Christmas, celebrate Mike and my anniversary, and welcome in a new year all in one fell swoop! 

I hope yours was a glittery, sentimental, special one just like ours has been!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree!

I had a little help decorating the Christmas tree this year.  I really mean two little helpers.  Plus, they got Mike in on the action, too!

Finding just the right spot...

I tried just sitting in the chair and pulling ornaments out of the plastic tub and handing them to the decorators.  That worked well for a little while.  Then, the helpers elves decided that they needed to hang some up high, too. 

Mike lifted Cassie to put one in just the right spot.

Then, Evie decided she needed a boost to reach the right spot, too.

Cassie spied another spot high up...

One thing led to another...  Well, I think you see how things wound up! 

Isn't it funny that they could get him to do more than I could?  I'd bet I could have begged and begged and he would have continued to just sit in the recliner and tell me I was doing a great job.  

We did wind up with one little area that is a bit gaudy and more decorated than the rest of the tree.  However, for the most part, every part is balanced and beautiful!  What fun it was!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Rituals

I think we all believe in that Courier and Ives setting or Norman Rockwell image for Christmas.  In reality, though, lots of times our rituals are more like Clark Griswald's or maybe even a bit worse.

A few weeks ago my daughter-in-law came to spend the night when Bryan was out of town.  She was completing her student teaching assignment and the trek from their apartment to her school was at least an hour's drive.  We live only minutes to the school, so when he traveled, she came to visit us for the night.  Mike and I loved it!

Anyway, on one of these visits, Jessica mentioned that she and Bryan had put up their Christmas tree and decorations the previous evening.  She said that she paused and asked him if he had any memories of rituals or decorating from when he was younger.  She said he just looked at her in confusion.  So, she elaborated, "You know, did your mom bake cookies or play Christmas music while you decorated or something like that?"  His response was, "Well, mostly I just remember untangling the lights and lots of cussing."  What a proud moment that was for me!  Warm fuzzy memories like that just cannot be staged.

Sadly, I think that is what happened a lot of times.  We would be in a rush and hurrying to get the decorations done.  Bryan's father and he would hang the lights on the outside of the house and Bridgette and I would hang the lights and ornaments inside on the tree.  I was usually tired from dashing from work to some practice or lesson and it just never seemed to be their father's desire to help decorate for the holidays. 

Ironically, it was just a week later when Mike hauled the tree up from the basement for me and helped me to set it up.  I was eagerly looking forward to decorating the tree and settling in with a cup of hot chocolate to enjoy its beauty.  Yet, when I plugged in the cord for the pre-lit tree, this is what we saw:

Guess what I did!

I'm sure you can imagine.  I was so frustrated.  This tree has only been used four years.  What a pain!  I set about looking and wiggling to see if something was loose.  I plugged and unplugged  and replugged.  Then, I dug the manual/directions out of the box and looked at the troubleshooting tips.  I began replacing bulb after bulb using the ones in the little plastic bag that had been thrown in the bottom of the box.  I replaced every fuse in each strand attached to the tree.  Nothing seemed to work.  So, guess what I did...

I'm sure you can imagine.  Then, I just unplugged it and took a shower.  Of course, this is after I had spent an entire afternoon and evening earlier in the week wrestling with the garlands and lights I put on the porch rails.

Front Porch

 Some of them had strands that would be lit up halfway across then had a three or four foot stretch that didn't light and the rest of the strand would light. Finally, I wound up pulling all the lights off all the garlands and and replacing them.

Back Porch

As you can see, even the best laid plans sometimes go awry.  Do you notice the area almost smack in the middle of the deck rail?  No, you see it right, no lights are shining.  That is a place where I didn't put a brand new strand - it was left from last year.  Yet, it worked when I plugged it in before I wove it into the garland.  However, after I hung it and plugged it in - about 2/3 of the strand does not work.  Guess what I did?

I'm sure you can imagine.  So, both attempts at decorating with lights were dismal failures at this point.  After my shower, I had calmed down a bit and curled up on the couch with my cup of hot chocolate.  Jessica's little talk with me came to mind.  So, I took the photo that starts off this post and sent it in a text message to her and Bryan accompanied by the question, "Guess what I'm doing." 

Almost immediately I got a response from Bryan.  He sent this photo:

Accompanied by this text:  "The same thing I am?"

Guess what I did?  Laugh out loud!

Decorating for Christmas

I love Christmas decorating.  I have always loved the decorations and the warm feeling they bring to one's heart.  I haven't always felt that but I have always loved the concept!  I can remember many years when I felt more like Scrooge and humbug than merry.  Those years when we seemed to be rushing through dance performances, ball practices or games, office gatherings, one family gathering after another, etc., etc., etc. are the ones when I didn't feel much more than a humbug.  One year we never even put up a Christmas tree because we were so rushed and I was feeling so overwhelmed and cramped in the little house we lived in and I just never felt that Christmas spirit.

Then, several years ago, I moved to a new house.  I bought a new tree and began to assemble a new collection of ornaments for this tree.  I had a fresh start and a blank slate and I absolutely wallowed in the spirit for a couple of years.  I had plenty of time to decorate - and once or twice even had a friend come in and help me wrestle with the tree and the garlands and the lights to get them hung and all decorated.  I took time to shop - even though I didn't have loads to spend, I had time and could search for just the right things and find them within my budget.  Plus, I had the addition of new granddaughters to refresh that child-like wonder of the season.  So, not only did I wallow in it - I forced everybody around me to do so as well.  I hosted the gathering for the co-workers.  I cooked and entertained family and neighbors.  I really oozed of the spirit of the season.  This went on for about three years.

Then, I stumbled across the love of my life in mid-September of 2009.  We decided to get married on New Year's Eve.  Not only that, but we decided to get married in a house we were refreshing.  (We weren't really remodeling or making structural changes - just updating wall colors and floor refinishing and combining my furniture with his.)  So, my focus that year was not really on Christmas decorating so much.  We were too busy trying to get our digs ready for habitation and for the wedding gathering.  Oh, we put up trees and decorations here and there but the real push was to get walls painted and furniture moved.  We celebrated with my children and parents and then with his children and parents.  Then, we cleared out the Christmas trees to make room for our family.  We entertained almost forty people for the wedding ceremony and that was just our immediate family - children, parents, siblings, and their spouses and children. 

Last year was the first year that we combined the entire crew and had them all mish-mashed together under the same roof at the same time to celebrate together and begin some new family traditions.  So, when it came time to decorate.  I was ultra-sensitive that we have plenty of the old from both family lines.  I was overwhelmed with trying to prepare for four grown children and their families and both sets of our parents.  I was anxious about following Mike's family's traditions and gatherings.  I was worried that he and his children might not feel welcome and comfortable being enfolded into my family's traditions and gatherings.  It was ultra stressful!

Finally, this year I have come to realize that what will be will be.  I had hoped to really gild the lily here at our beautiful home and have everything ready for a Southern Living or Saturday Evening Post sort of celebration.  I envisioned a Christmas tree in every room and twinkling lights everywhere and glistening and glowing abounds.  Somehow, life has a way of waking us up and making us realize what really is important, doesn't it? 

I was busy dashing here and there at work with no time or energy for shopping at the end of the day.  So, most of the shopping was done online and what I didn't get shipped here to the house, was picked up in a matter of a couple of days jaunting out to a couple of stores each of those days.  We had only a handful of things left on our list and Mike and I took time to go together yesterday and pick those up with no rushing and no fighting traffic or crowds - just a leisurely trip to Tractor Supply Company and Bonnie's Barnyard.  I spent some time last week wrapping and sorting things while Mike was at work.  So, I wasn't pressed and stressed to get that all done. 

I hung wreaths, garland. and lights outside one afternoon at the beginning of the month.  Mike helped me drag the tree up from the basement a couple of weeks ago and set it up (another post about that later).  Cassie and Evie were here and helped us to decorate the tree.  The stockings were hung at the chimney with care about a week ago.  Then, I began coughing and hacking and sniffing and snuffling.  For a couple of days after our school holiday began, I spent most of the time in bed feeling yucky.

I have truly come to realize and internalize what I have told folks for years.  I do absolutely love Christmas decorations and want everything to look just like the magazines and storybooks we envision.  But really, celebrating is not about the ornaments or the wrapped boxes or gift bags.  It is not about the delectable dishes and baked sweets.  Celebrating is all about sharing time with folks you love.  It is about the people and the experiences you share with them.

I do look forward to gilding this lily and dressing her up for Christmas from foundation to roof-peak someday.  For now, though, I'm too busy laughing and sharing time with those I love. 

Merry Christmas!

From our house to yours...

A Couple of Whacks

I was beginning to think that I'd never get around to completing a Christmas post.  I have had a bit of sinus/ear/cough yuckiness and just didn't feel like doing anything that wasn't absolutely necessary.  However, here it is - Christmas Day - and after some help from a Z-Pack, I'm starting to feel a bit better. 

Then... yesterday I got ready to make a few photos and my camera kept trying to start but would simply give me an error message that said, turn it off and back on again.  I thought maybe there was something wrong with the battery's charge and took that out and gave it overnight to charge.  I took out the memory card and emptied everything off of it in fear that it might have somehow gotten corrupted or something equally as electronically scary.

Finally, like everybody else does these days, I went online and Googled it.  Yes, I just typed in "Sony Cyber-shot turn on and off error message."  Guess what!  There were several hits and I happened to click on just the right information. 

Interestingly enough, the first post said to simply tap the camera a couple of times on the table and it would begin to work.  I tried that and nothing changed.  Then, the next post said that it was easy to repair but the person posting worked at a camera shop and didn't feel he/she could advertise where to bring the person posing the question's camera for the repair and posted an email address instructing the camera owner to get in touch.  I was skeptical of this one and didn't try that.  I kept reading along and several folks said they had tried the tapping to no avail and I could commiserate with them.  Finally, a couple of folks said that they had tried the tapping and then decided they had lost nothing; so, they gave their camera a couple of really hard whacks.  One person even said they dropped it on the floor a couple of times and that worked! 

After surfing a bit more using my Google suggestions, I gave up.  I whacked the camera on the kitchen counter a couple of times and got no better results than my hand taps.  So, leaning to the concept that I had lost nothing if it didn't work, I dropped the camera on the floor three times.  The first couple of times I made sure it would land facing straight up.  The second time I made it land with the lens facing down because one of the folks had said something about the lens cover getting jammed.

Guess what... it worked!  My camera is working fine now and I'm wishing I had surfed and experimented and 'carefully' repaired it before Mike's family celebration over brunch this morning! 

So, never hesitate to give something a couple of whacks.  It even seems to work at repairing electronics!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A New Graduate

Our daughter-in-law graduated on Saturday!  We are so proud of her. 

She earned her M. Ed. in curriculum and instruction and is hoping to be hired as an elementary teacher.  I think I have only seen her so excited one other time - on her wedding day. 

Doesn't she look excited to shake the university president's hand?

It was really a learning experience for all of us.  There were almost 1700 graduates from Middle Tennessee State University that day.  Over 600 were awarded their degree during the morning ceremony along with Jessica.

Here is a shot from where we were sitting.

Due to the large crowd of graduates, there were no parking spaces anywhere near the venue.  So, we were required to park and walk across campus.  My five-year-old granddaughter, Lillie, informed her mother that it sure was a long walk from where they parked.  Bridgette told her that was sort of the way college works.  She went on to tell Lillie that this was the college where she had attended and walked for long jaunts and it was the college where Grand B had trekked around campus to get her teaching degree.  Finally, Bridgette informed her that someday she would probably go to college and have to walk around campus, too.  Lillie promptly informed her parents that she wasn't going to college.  She was just going to be a cowgirl and live on a mountain and have a horse ranch!  I wonder if Jessica ever had similar aspirations when she was a little girl?

Jessica is seriously listening and watching the entire ceremony.

I really don't know who was prouder of her accomplishment - Bryan or Jessica.  He certainly was puffed up with pride.

Look at those smiles!

I think everybody there was wearing a giddy smile.  We were all so excited for her and proud of her.
Here she is with her parents and even her dad, who rarely smiles in pictures, is almost grinning.

I know that with each threshold we cross there are new horizons.  This new accomplishment of Jessica's will find her stepping into a classroom - soon we hope! 

The speaker at the graduation ceremony focused her talk on leadership.  We are so excited for Jessica and looking forward to her having the opportunity to lead young children and guide them along their educational journey.

Doesn't she look like she is eager and ready to take the next step in her own journey?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Just Stating Facts...

Saturday was a busy day for us.  Mike had to work, as usual.  Our daughter-in-law, Jessica, graduated with her Master's degree in Education at nine in the morning (more on that later).  As is usual for a big family accomplishment, all of us who were free to do so turned out to witness the milestone.  There was a big long string of us - my proud son, Jessica's parents, my parents, my daughter and her husband and their two daughters, and me filled an entire row in section M at the college gymnasium.

After the ceremony we convened at a nearby restaurant to celebrate her and share one another's company.  Then, I trucked home to get ready for Mike's extended family Christmas get-together.  Bridgette and her family came by to let the children get a nap before that gathering.  We were just rising from naps when Mike came in from work.

As I was bringing him up to speed about the graduation cermony he's had to miss, I saw an opportunity to praise the two granddaughters who had attended.  So, I told him that there were two little girls who were so well behaved.  Mike picked up on the intent and he stated, "These girls are always really good."  At that point Lillie, the five-year-old interrupted to interject this, "No, I'm not always good." 

Don't you just love it?  I guess she doesn't want there to be any false expectations!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Learning Experiment

I was beginning to make photographs for sharing my Christmas decor this year.  I snapped this shot of the kitchen mantle decorations.

Then I noticed something as I was lining up to take another shot...  Do you see it?

Look right here:

See the little dots? 

I went in a little closer and realized what they were. 

Little round magnets off the fridge!

Who knew one would stick to the mesh of the fireplace screen?

So, I began to look around...

Here is one on the enameled metal surface of my Granny Cabinet (a Hoosier Cabinet my Granny gave to me).

Here is another one on the front of the dishwasher.

 I looked at the fridge and realized that several more are missing.  I remembered then that my granddaughter, Lillie, was here yesterday and was playing with the magnets and rearranging things on the front of the fridge.  I guess she was experimenting to see what was metal that those things would stick to.  I wonder where the rest of them wound up?