Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Birthday Party ... Southern Style

This is my first time to participate in "Tablescape Tuesday,"
which is hosted by Susan at Between Naps on the Porch.

If you are a Rate My Space fan, I'm sure you've seen
Susan's gracious southern home featured
under her RMS name, "Moonlight and Magnolias."

I know you will enjoy her blog and
will love "touring" her beautiful home.

For my first "Tablescape Tuesday," I'd like to share a birthday party we hosted for my mother-in-law in honor of her 86th birthday in February of this year.

The party preparations were a family affair and I had help from my husband, of course, my mother and daddy, my daughter Whitney, and granddaughter Avery Grace.

We decorated two tables, with the birthday cake and "sweets" in the dining room, and sandwiches, appetizers, and punch bowl set up on the breakfast table.

[You can click on the pictures to enlarge them, if you'd like]

The coffee service was placed on a kitchen counter and included a set of very old cups and saucers which belong to my mother ...

Relish trays were on the island in the kitchen, with my mother's set of "tumbling angels" tumbling through them ...

I asked the bakery to put 86 candles on the cake,
and it looked like the cake was on fire when we lit them ...

My sweet mother-in-law had to huff and puff
to blow them out, bless her heart, but it was fun.
She doesn't look 86, does she! ...

This is the breakfast room table. The rose bushes were real and I bought the little baskets with rosebud fabric liners at Big Lots ...

The vegetable dip tray holds my mother's "Curry Dip," for which I recently posted the recipe.

It was a pleasure giving this party for my mother-in-law. She is a beautiful lady, both inside and out, and raised five wonderful children, one of whom I thank her and the good Lord for every day ... my husband.


Monday, September 29, 2008

When "Challenger" Flies ...

I recently received a music video in an e-mail from a friend and thought it worthy of sharing ... especially in light of all the challenges our beloved country is facing these days.

This awe-inspiring video features a special free-flying Bald Eagle named "Challenger" ... and this is his story.

[Photo by Eleanor Davies, AEF]

In early 1989, Challenger was blown from a wild nest as a baby during a storm, and was hand raised by the people who found him. Unfortunately, he experienced too much human contact at a very young age and became highly "human-socialized." As a result, Challenger thinks he's a person, and cannot survive on his own in the wild.

He was released into the wild twice during the summer of 1989. After his second release into the wild, Challenger was rescued from a close encounter with death. He had landed near a man to beg for food, and was almost beaten up by that person with a stick. Another man was Challenger's" guardian angel that day. He stopped the stick-wielding man from doing bodily harm to the eagle. This had been the third time Challenger had sought out people looking for food when he became hungry, so he was declared "non-releasable" by federal and state wildlife authorities and placed under the care of the American Eagle Foundation.

He was named "Challenger," in honor of the crew of the space shuttle, and was trained to perform educational free-flight demonstrations at high profile public events. He has been making appearances throughout the country since 1993, along with Al Cecere, founder and president of the American Eagle Foundation, which is headquartered at the Dollywood entertainment park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Acting as an ambassador for his species, Challenger has raised a great level of national public awareness about the need to restore and protect America's eagles, natural resources, and environment. The bald eagle is still a "threatened" species throughout the lower 48 states, and much of its nesting and feeding habitat is being encroached upon by humans.

Challenger is the first bald eagle in U.S. history trained to free-fly into major league sports stadiums during the presentation of the National Anthem. He has flown before four American presidents and participated in five MLB World Series, three NFL Pro-Bowls, the 1999 Fiesta Bowl, and 2005 NCAA Men’s Final Four Basketball Tournament, as well as hundreds of high profile patriotic events.

His life story is told in a children's storybook titled, Challenger, America's Favorite Eagle, written by Margot Theis Raven.

Here is the video showing Challenger in flight. So, turn up your speakers, click the arrow below, and be prepared for chill bumps, teary eyes, and a heart filled with love for this great country of ours ... and for a magnificent and endearing eagle called Challenger ...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Loss of a Legend ... Paul Newman 1/26/1925 - 9/26/2008

He will be missed ...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Reflections on the Doors of Blogging ...

On April 21, 2008, I wrote my first blog post (I do wish it was called something a little more elegant than blog, considering the time and effort we put into creating them!). My first post wasn't anything personal or exceptional, just an excerpt from a book about funny Southern expressions ... but from the moment I clicked on the "Publish Post" button, I was hooked. I thought it was the "neatest thing since sliced bread," as we say here in the South.

But at that time, I didn't realize how blogging would open doors for me that I probably never would have entered if I hadn't discovered the fascinating world of blogging.

[Picture borrowed from The Art of Shirley Reade]

The first door blogging opened for me was the "Door to a New Perspective." Since I began writing my blog, I seem to see everyday things in a different light and from a different perspective. Everywhere I go, I see places or things that I want to share with my family and friends. It may be a pretty house, or a clump of wildflowers on the side of a road, cows grazing in a pasture, or butterflies fluttering amongst my lantana blossoms outside my window. Everything seems to be more vivid and interesting now ... things I didn't really "see" or notice before.

Another door blogging has opened for me is the "Door to Learning." I have learned so much from reading other blogs -- from decorating and gardening tips to recipes, and exploring new places. I've also learned from writing my blog.

Once I decide on a subject to write about, I spend a good bit of time researching it, which helps to enhance the experience for me. For instance, I recently wrote a post about our hummingbirds (see Saying Goodbye to our Hummingbirds), and through my research, discovered so many things about them that I didn't know. I find them even more fascinating now and enjoy watching them so much more.

And when we spent a family vacation in Blue Ridge, Georgia, my husband and I traveled to the quaint Alpine village of Helen, Georgia, and I devoted an entire post to that visit, including its history and several pictures I took while we were there. If you'd like to learn more about Helen, please read my post called, A Visit to an Alpine Village in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I'd like to go back to Helen someday ... there were so many things we didn't have time to see.

The third door blogging has opened for me is the "Door to Creativity." I love every aspect of creating my blog ... from choosing a subject and researching it to visiting new and interesting places and sharing them with you through my stories and pictures. I feel as if my imagination, creativeness, and writing skills (what little I possess) have been stimulated and challenged through blogging.<

Since I began to write my blog, one of my favorite pastimes has become photography, and I love seeing the world around me through the lens of my camera. I've gotten to the point that I take it with me most places I go now, just in case. You never know when you're going to see something you'd like to capture in a picture to enjoy later or to share on your blog. Everywhere I go, I see photographic opportunities, which I either took for granted or just didn't see before I started my blog ... like this old urn I discovered in a cemetery on the Natchez Trace ...

Or these spider lilies I spotted on the side of a road ...

The most meaningful door that blogging has opened for me is the "Door to Friendship." Everyday I am amazed and inspired by the heartfelt comments from my blogging friends about my blog posts. To think that you seem to sincerely care about the things I write about just boggles my mind. I truly appreciate your taking the time to read them and leave such sweet and supportive notes.

Although we haven't met "face to face," I have come to know ... and admire ... and feel affection for so many of you from reading your life stories as told through your blogs. I've shared your emotions, both happy and sad, and have laughed and cried as I've read your words (sometimes at the same time). Your sweet spirits, compassion for others, and devotion to your families and God never cease to inspire me to be a better person.

I am so glad that I discovered the wonderful world of blogging ... and I am thankful to have found you, my friends.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Some of My Favorite Things ... From Bounty to Wickles

I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite things ... not the usual things I think of when I think of "favorite things," like my piano or a favorite outfit or shoes ... but just random everyday things.

Diane at A Picture is Worth a 1,000 Words, recently wrote about a couple of her favorite cleaning products, one of which is a Swiffer mop. I think I have everything Swiffer has ever made, except for the vacuum cleaner, but my favorite Swiffer product is their "Swiffer Dusters with the Extension Wand." It's perfect for baseboards, tops of door frames, and all those little hard to reach nooks and crannies into which mops and vacuum cleaners can't fit.

I have to confess that I am addicted to my next favorite thing -- Bounty Paper Towels. And believe me, "addicted" is an accurate description.

I buy the package of eight jumbo rolls that equals 12 of the regular rolls (which, by the way, seem to be shrinking, like everything else these days).

I'm never far from a roll of Bounty ... they're beside the kitchen sink, beside the sink in my laundry room, and under the counters in all the bathrooms in the house. I use them for everything -- washing dishes, drying dishes, wiping up spills -- and feel that they are cleaner and more germ-free than damp dish cloths, sponges (yuck!), or dish towels. Next to my phobia about running out of Dr. Peppers, I guess my "running out of Bounty" phobia comes in second.

And, speaking of "germ-free" ... another one of my favorite cleaning products is Clorox Wipes. I don't know if it's true or not, but it just makes me feel better to think that I'm destroying 99.9% of the germs lurking in my house with just a swipe of a Clorox Wipe!

When thinking about favorite things, favorite foods always come to mind, and I'd like to share some of those, too.

If you like spicy pickles and haven't tried "Wickles Pickles," I hope you will.

Made by Sims Foods, of Dadeville, Alabama, the recipe is a family secret that until a few years ago was just used for family and friends who were lucky enough to get a jar. Their friends shared Wickles with their friends, and soon people from all over were calling to see where they might get some.

Wickles are a unique blend of dill, garlic, and sweetness, with just enough spice to keep you reaching for more. I love them, but it's true -- you can't eat just one!

Another favorite is Sister Schubert's Yeast Dinner Rolls ...

I first discovered these delicious little rolls at our favorite restaurant when I made a comment to our waitress about how good they were. She leaned over and whispered, "They're Sister Schubert's!" ... and I was delighted. I've been serving them ever since. They're a little flatter and heavier than regular dinner rolls, but are so good and pretty to serve, too.

For years, I cooked rice "the old-fashioned way," by bringing it to a boil and then covering it for 14 minutes and letting it sit. Nine times out of ten, it came out sticky and not very appetizing. And then, about a year ago I finally got smart and tried Minute Rice, and was so excited about it (it doesn't take much to excite me).

I kept reading the directions, thinking that there had to be more to it than that, but discovered that after about five minutes, I had a pot full of fluffy rice that didn't come out in big clumps when I served it. I've even converted my mother, who cooked her first pot of Minute Rice last week and said she'd never go back to "the old-fashioned way," which is the way she taught me. Gotta love it!

On another subject, one of my most favorite things is my camera. It's Canon's new EOS Rebel XSi/450D, and literally does all the work for me.

My husband also bought a telephoto lens for me, and it's amazing the difference it makes -- it opens up a whole new world of photo opportunities. For example, this picture I took of our little hummingbird friend [click on picture to enlarge it] ...

My newest favorite author is one I discovered about a month ago -- Anne Rivers Siddons.

I was browsing in Barnes and Noble and came across her newest book, Off Season, and bought the audio cd set, plus two of her paperbacks which are in reprint (The House Next Door and Peachtree Road). I've almost finished listening to Off Season, and have almost finished reading The House Next Door.

Ms. Siddons was raised as a "southern belle" on the outskirts of Atlanta, and I love the way she writes. I'm so glad I discovered her books and look forward to reading more of them. Don't you just love good books with pretty covers!

And last, but not least, my newest favorite thing is my new computer.
It's a Dell T3400, with a 24" monitor, and I just sit and stare in amazement as I zip from one blog to another and don't have to wait for pictures to load, or for the little hourglass to stop spinning.

I've transferred most of my files from my old computer, except for my outdated Photoshop Elements 2 program. I've pre-ordered the latest Elements 7 version, but it won't be available until next week. Editing pictures is one of my favorite things to do, and I can't wait to see all the new features available.

In closing, I've enjoyed sharing some of my favorite things and invite you to share some of yours.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Things I Would Save if There was a Fire ...

I'm sure we've all thought about the "Things-I-Would-Save-if-There-was-a-Fire" scenario, and have a mental list of those precious irreplaceable things we would grab, after we grabbed our loved ones, of course.

I'd like to share with you a few of the things I would try to save, not necessarily in order of significance ...

1. Family Pictures ... I know where they are (two large plastic storage containers in an upstairs closet, one large and very heavy plastic container in the attic, and a couple of albums in a guest bedroom desk drawer) ... but, realistically, there's probably no way I could get to any of them in the event of, Heaven forbid, a fire.

I need to put them all together in a safe, more easily accessible place. I don't know where that would be except in the back of my SUV, maybe.

2. My maternal grandmother's Biscuit Bowl ... One of my favorite "little girl" memories is standing on a chair in my grandmother's kitchen "helping" her make biscuits and kneading the dough in this bowl. It's in my china cabinet in my kitchen and would be easy to rescue. I hope to give it to our three-year-old grandaughter Avery Grace someday.

3. My Piano ... Of course, there's no way I could save my piano, but I would if I could.

4. One of my most precious heirlooms is my maternal Grandfather's Scarf, which was used on top of his dresser. I use it as a runner on my dining room table in the fall and winter, so it would be easy to rescue in an emergency ...

5. This delicate little Vase in a Brass Stand is another cherished heirloom. It belonged to my paternal grandmother, and I keep it in my china cabinet in the dining room ...

6. My maternal grandmother's little Blue Mixing Bowl is another bowl I'd like to save ...

7. My Camera ... I love my new Canon EOS Rebel xsi digital camera and I'm sure I would grab it (AND my computer) on my way out, if there was a fire.

8. And last, but certainly not least, is my beloved first doll, Nancy.

Santa Claus brought Nancy to me when I was five years old and from that Christmas Day forward, she was my constant companion, "best friend," and confidante.

She still has the battle scars from a little girl's love, including three chewed fingertips, nailpolish "lipstick," and brown painted hair under her wig (you can see the little curl at the top of her forehead in the first picture).

I love her dearly and she would be one of the first things I would save. I will give Nancy to Avery Grace on her fifth birthday and hope she will love her as much as I do. Goodness, that makes me teary-eyed to think about.

After writing all this, I realize now that I'd have to have a small moving van (and a couple of moving guys) to "save" all my treasures. I just hope we never have to find out what we'd really save if there was a fire.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Designing for Your Life ... My Kitchen

In celebration of their year of blogging, Kari and Kijsa at Ask Kari and Kijsa invited us to share our "Design for Life," spotlighting a favorite room or area in our homes and telling about a favorite item in that room.

With that in mind, I'd like to share my kitchen/breakfast area with you, since it is where we spend a lot of time, especially when we have company.

Although I like a lot of different styles of decorating, from country to cottage to Old World ... I guess you would call my style Traditional.

I borrowed these pictures from my Rate My Space post, so they're not the most recent, but I wanted to get this posted today. If I stopped to take new pictures, it would be the middle of next week before I finished the post because I have a tendency to get bogged down editing pictures (not that I'm obsessive-compulsive, or anything). To see a few updated pictures featuring my fall decor, please read my recent post called It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fall, Y'all.

The kitchen and breakfast areas are in a long rectangular space with a wall of windows overlooking our courtyard. Along with the breakfast table, there's my desk and a game table in the corner which we use for ... well, playing games, of course ... but also as extra informal dining space, if needed.

I found this old bench at an antique shop and it has gotten a lot of use ...

Kitchen pictures ...

My Pantry ...

I love my kitchen and I guess if I had to choose my favorite feature, it would be the Viking induction cook top. It's truly amazing and makes cooking fun.

My least favorite thing is the height of the counter tops. They are 38" tall and since I'm about 4'11," I spend a lot of time on my tiptoes. I believe the standard counter top height is 36" and I don't know what possessed the contractor to make them 38" high. Unfortunately, we bought the house new and couldn't do anything about it.

Thank you, Kari and Kijsa, for inviting us to participate in this fun post.

Congratulations to both of you on your first year of blogging ... We sincerely appreciate the time you put into creating and sharing your elegant and timeless "designs for life." You are an inspiration to all of us.