Monday, November 30, 2009

A Christmas Candy Centerpiece

I can't believe Christmas is almost here. Where did the year go?

I'm going to start decorating this week, and one of my first creations will be this whimsical centerpiece I use on our breakfast table.

It's an arrangement of old glass jars I have collected through the years, filled with Christmas candies, cookies, and candy canes. It is very easy to assemble and is always a hit with little ones.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Photo Potpourri

Just a few "odds and ends" photos for today (you can click on the pictures to enlarge them, if you'd like) ...

I love the dew drops on the petals of this sasanqua blooming in our courtyard.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Friday Lagniappe: The Bridges of Vicksburg

One of the most photographed scenes in Vicksburg is the twin bridges that span the Mississippi River. For this Friday after Thanksgiving, I thought I would share a few photos from my collection.

Thanksgiving Reflections

Before I share my thoughts for today, I'd like to remember our soldiers scattered across the world who are sacrificing being with their families and loved ones today. I wish I could thank each and every one of them for their dedication and courage, and the sacrifices they make for their country every day.

This is how a lot of them are spending their Thanksgiving Day ...

May God bless them and keep them safe, and let them know we are ever mindful and grateful for their service.

To every thing there is a season, and along with the Thanksgiving season comes a time for reflection. It is a time of gathering … a time of remembering loved ones who are no longer with us … a time of sharing memories of Thanksgivings Past … and a time to "praise God from whom all blessings flow."

But sometimes when counting our blessings, we overlook, or take for granted, the little blessings of life that we receive every day. They are there, all around us, just for the taking. All we have to do is slow down and listen and open our eyes and senses to receive them.

I think I have become more appreciative of these little blessings as a result of my passion for photography. The smell of roses, or honeysuckle, or sweet olive drifting around me as I photograph them, or discovering a lady bug snuggled within the petals of a flower, dew drops clinging to the petals of an exquisite magnolia blossom ... those are small, but oh, so sweet, blessings.

I am an early riser, and every morning, just before daybreak, I am serenaded by song birds outside my office window, announcing the dawn of a new day. That's a blessing, folks.

And the beautiful sound of church bells tolling the noon hour, as we go about our busy days ... a sound that never ceases to give me chill bumps when I hear it. How about you -- do you hear them?

Are you inspired by a beautiful sunset through your windshield on your drive home from work? Or are you caught up in the stresses of the day and worrying about getting home to fix dinner?

One of the most precious sounds to me is our granddaughter's sweet voice. I am blessed each and every time she bows her little head and puts her heart and soul into saying the blessing for us, or saying her bedtime prayers. And the sweet sound of her singing or humming just melts my heart. All of these little blessings are just a part of one of our greatest blessings in life ... a little girl named Avery Grace.

Here are a few more things I think of as little everyday blessings ...

The night music of crickets and tree frogs in the summertime (which may be considered a nuisance by some, but is a comforting and peaceful sound to me. When I was a little girl and spent the night with my grandmother, she used to tuck me into bed at night, turn off the lamp, and say, "Shhhhh ... let's listen to the night music.")

The sparkle and wonder in a child's eyes at Christmastime

Watching butterflies, hummingbirds, and bumble bees as they flit from flower to flower, drinking the sweet nectar God made for them

The beauty, grace, and tranquility of falling snow (not something we get to enjoy much here in Mississippi)


Beams of sunlight bouncing off a lake, sparkling like diamonds

The joy of seeing a deer and her little ones feeding on the side of a road

I could go on and on ... God's glory and blessings are all around us, every day and night. And as we come together today to praise Him and to thank Him for the countless blessings He has bestowed upon us, let us remember to thank Him for the little blessings, too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Under One Roof

There's nothing I love more than having all of my family safe and sound under one roof, and that's what is going to happen today. My parents are coming this morning to help with our Thanksgiving Eve cooking and preparations for tomorrow, and our son from Tennessee will arrive early afternoon. Then late this afternoon, my daughter, son-in-law, and AVERY GRACE will be here. I've been up since 3:30 this morning, excited, ready for the day to begin, and making lists and checking them twice:

  • The yard has been mowed and edged [check]

  • Leaves picked up in the courtyard, and the patio furniture washed [check]

  • The dining room table is set, except for fresh flowers which I have to pick up this morning (I'll try to get a picture of it later).

  • The cornbread and chicken broth for the dressing are in the refrigerator, along with my Sweet Potato Casserole [check]

    And today, we will make the Ambrosia, which is a family tradition and BIG production. Don't you love family traditions?

    I hope your day is going to be filled with traditions and the laughter and love shared by a family ... all under one roof.

    *Photo borrowed from the Internet

    P.S. ... I just came across this precious "Turkey Song" video and HAVE to share it with you. It's SO cute! Just click on the link and be sure your speakers are turned up. You'll love it!... Turkey Song.

  • Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Hand-Me-Down Recipes

    Some of my most favorite and fun times with our four-year-old granddaughter Avery are spent in my kitchen. I introduced her to cooking with me when she was two, and she was, and still is, like a little sponge, soaking up everything I teach her. Whether it's making potato salad, cornbread, muffins, pancakes, or cookies ... she loves it all, even washing the dishes!

    Another cooking-related activity we enjoy together is watching Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa show on the Food Network Channel. I record all of Ina's programs and on the weekends Avery and I curl up on the sofa and "watch Ina cook." Avery is fascinated by everything Ina does, and doesn't miss a thing, even commenting on the color of her lipstick!

    It seems that Ina has replaced Veggie Tales, Angelina Ballerina, Wow, Wow Wubbzy, Blues Clues, and all the other children's shows that Avery used to watch. She even asked her mommy and daddy to record Ina's shows at home so she can watch them when she gets home from pre-school. Now, that is true devotion ... and from a four-year-old little girl!

    That same little girl came into my kitchen the other day, and said, "Grandmama, I want to whisk something!" I gave her a bowl of water with some flour and dish washing soap in it and she "whisked" away to her heart's content. Another time, she wanted to know if a pear I fixed for her was like the "butternut squash" that Ina cooks. So, not only does she watch Ina, but she's learning from her, too. And I can't think of a more talented, gracious, and elegant person for her to learn from than Ina.

    After realizing that Avery has a real interest in cooking, I decided to create a cookbook just for her, featuring recipes for some of her favorite foods. I included pictures of Avery in the book, too ... when she was two, making Christmas cookies with my mother ...

    It takes lots of concentration to get that rolling pin to 'do right' ...

    And holding your mouth just right helps, too ...

    She was three in the following pictures, helping me make a Lemon Ice Box Pie:

    This pie-making business is serious stuff ...

    Are you sure you want to put this in our pie, Grandmama?

    Tada! All done!

    Looking back at these pictures makes me teary-eyed seeing how much Avery has grown. But I know we have many more fun times ahead of us filled with whisking and chopping and stirring and mixing and kneading ... and sharing stories and "hand-me-down recipes" from her great grandmothers and great-great grandmothers ... stories and recipes that Avery will pass along to her children some day.

    And I hope she will still have her first cookbook to share with them, too. A cookbook created with love, by her Grandmama. I can't wait 'til Christmas to give it to her.

    I published the book through Blurb, and couldn't be more pleased with it.

    You can click on this link if you would like to see a preview of the first 15 pages of the cookbook ...Cooking with Grandmama

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    A Nature Lesson: Battle of the Birds

    We spent the weekend at my parents' house in West Monroe, Louisiana, and their yard is a virtual sanctuary for all kinds of birds ... from doves and woodpeckers to cardinals and sparrows. There is a feeder outside one of their living room windows and the birds literally fight over it.

    I loved watching their antics and finally couldn't stand it any longer, and "staked out" the feeder with my camera from inside the window.

    With the exception of the first picture, the following pictures were taken shooting through the glass of the window, and I was pleasantly surprised with the way they turned out (you can click on the photos to enlarge them, if you'd like).

    The sparrows, roosting in nearby trees and bushes, outnumbered the other birds and were very aggressive, not wanting to share the feeder.

    Sparrows are mentioned several times in the Bible:

    Psalm 84:3:Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God.

    Psalm 102:7: I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.

    And the verse that inspired the song, "His Eye is on the Sparrow," Luke 12:6: Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

    Most photographers prefer the more colorful cardinals, finches, and bluebirds as their subjects, but I discovered that sparrows have a beauty all their own.

    Ouch! That can't be comfortable!

    I was excited to capture a couple of them displaying their aggressive nature. Oops ... watch out, Sam! Spike is sneaking up on you!

    Whew! Sam stops him in his tracks, or would that be flaps?

    Ohhhhh ... Spike is a sneaky little sparrow, and tries attacking from the side. But he can't put anything over on Sam. He's on the ball!

    And THEN, along came Clyde the Cardinal, in all his radiant splendor ...

    Happily munching on sunflower seeds, minding his own business ...

    But that feisty little Sam the Sparrow wasn't in a sharing mood and decided Clyde had had enough ...

    Look at their tangled feet in this picture ...

    But Clyde won that battle, if not the war, and went back to his munching ...

    A few minutes and several sunflower seeds later, Clyde's turn at the feeder was rudely interrupted by the arrival of Wally the Woodpecker, who gobbled to his heart's content for several minutes.

    I loved capturing these beautiful little birds with my camera, and enjoyed experiencing a lesson in one of Nature's basic principles of survival -- that of "the pecking order."