Sunday, November 30, 2008

House Signs ...

Most of us have a few little plaques with cute sayings on them scattered around our houses, and when I thought about writing about mine, I didn't realize I had so many ... all of which, with the exception of one, are in my kitchen.

{You can click on the pictures to enlarge them}

I have three cross stitch signs that were
done by friends many years ago ...

I bought this needlepoint at an antique shop years ago and it
hangs over the doors leading from my kitchen into the dining room ...

These two little plaques came from a shop
in the French Quarter of New Orleans ...

I looked for the shop the last time we were there, but it must not have survived Katrina because I couldn't find it.

This one hangs over my cooktop ...

And last, but not least, is this little iron plaque which
hangs over our key rack at the back door ...

I would love for you to share your favorite signs. I've seen so many in catalogs and shops that I'd like to have, but it's hard to find places for them.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving from My House to Yours ...

To every thing there is a season, and along with the Thanksgiving season comes a time of reflection and a time to "praise God from whom all blessings flow."

I have a new blessing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and that is the blessing of you, my sweet and gracious blogging friends. The friendship, inspiration, and encouragement I receive from you each day never ceases to amaze me, and I'd like to thank you and wish you all a very ...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Just a note to wish you a "Happy Thanksgiving Eve," and to share a tip that might come in handy tomorrow. But first, I'd like to share the centerpiece I just made for my dining table ...

I hope you won't need it, but just in case ... here's the tip:

How to remove candle wax from a tablecloth:

To remove candle wax that has dripped on your Thanksgiving tablecloth, first harden the wax by putting a plastic sandwich bag filled with ice on it. Next, scrape off as much as possible with a dull knife or a credit card.

Put the tablecloth between two pieces of paper from a brown paper bag and iron the "sandwich" on low heat until the remaining wax melts into the paper.

Wash the tablecloth with a detergent.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Great Family Movies to Watch during the Holidays ...

I subscribe to Netflix, and have watched a lot of movies in the past year, some of which were box office successes and some of which I had never heard of but sounded interesting. Surprisingly, I discovered that the unknown (to me) movies were usually the best ones.

With the holidays right around the corner, our movie-watching time is going to be limited, but I thought I'd share some of my favorites with you for the weeks ahead when you have a chance to just sit down and unwind (probably after Christmas?).

All of these movies are rated PG or PG-13, and are movies you can watch with your family without squirming every five minutes. You've probably seen some of them, but hopefully, you will find one or two you haven't seen.


"Facing the Giants"
(by Alex Kendrick who produced
"Fireproof," starring Kirk Cameron)

This inspirational drama from award-winning producers Alex and Stephen Kendrick combines faith and football in the tale of high school coach Grant Taylor (Alex Kendrick), who rises above failure to create a winning spirit on the field. Taylor faces a losing team, a failing marriage and the possibility of being fired. At the end of his rope, he puts his life in God's hands and, in doing so, finds a stronger purpose and, ultimately, salvation. [PG]

Also by Alex Kendrick ... "Flywheel"

Dishonest used-car salesman Jay Austin (Alex Kendrick) reaches an important turning point in his life when he finally realizes the errors of his ways in this inspiring family drama. Disgusted with his lies and manipulations, Jay sets out to win back the love and trust of his wife (Janet Lee Dapper), his son (Richie Hunnewell) and the community. Once he makes the choice to live an honest life of love and faith, Jay never looks back. [PG]

During a visit to her sister in Appalachia, gifted musicologist Dr. Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer) stumbles upon a musical treasure trove -- dozens of Scots-Irish ballads that have been preserved for generations by the local populace and are unknown to the outside world. Intent on collecting the beautiful songs, Dr. Penleric comes to admire the locals, who live a tough, hardscrabble existence without complaint. [PG-13]
Sometimes, heroism finds its ambassador in the simplest of struggles: a father's fight to raise his children. Based on real-life events, Evelyn follows the story of Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan), whose wife has left him and whose three kids -- Evelyn, Maurice and Dermot -- are taken away from him and placed in orphanages. Although Desmond vows to reunite his family, he faces the formidable Irish Supreme Court as his foe. [PG]
"Trip to Bountiful"

Geraldine Page won an Academy Award for this bittersweet tale set in 1947 about an elderly Houston woman in search of happier times. Forced to live with her rotten son Ludie (John Heard) and his wife (Carlin Glynn), Carrie Watts (Geraldine Page) decides she's had enough. She boards a bus headed to her hometown, Bountiful, and befriends passenger Thelma (Rebecca DeMornay). But the sheriff catches up to Carrie's bus just 12 miles from Bountiful. ______________________________

"Welcome to Paradise"

When big-city preacher Debbie Laramie (Crystal Bernard) moves to the small town of Paradise with her son Hayden (Bobby Edner), she finds the local community unreceptive to her message of love and forgiveness. Determined to get through to her stubborn congregation, Debbie uses unique methods to shake the churchgoers out of their indifference, such as inviting a homeless man to sing during one of the services. Brian Dennehy co-stars. [PG]


"Secondhand Lions"

In 1960s Texas, timid teenager Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is forced to spend the summer with his rich and eccentric great-uncles (Michael Caine and Robert Duvall) on their farm. Over time, he learns about their mysterious and dangerous pasts. [PG]


"The Legend of Bagger Vance"
(I'm not a golf fan, but I loved this movie ... it's not just about golf)

World War I has left golfer Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) a poker-playing alcoholic, his perfect swing gone. Now, however, he needs to get it back to play in a tournament to save the financially ravaged golf course of a long-ago sweetheart (Charlize Theron). Help arrives in the form of mysterious caddy Bagger Vance (Will Smith). Director Robert Redford's adaptation of Steven Pressfield's novel includes Jack Lemmon's unbilled final performance. [PG-13]


"The Greatest Game Ever Played"
(Another wonderful movie, not just about golf)

With a pint-sized caddie (Joshua Flitter) at his side, amateur golfer Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf) shocked the world at the 1913 U.S. Open when he outplayed defending British champ Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane). But Ouimet's rise to the top wasn't easy, with a hard-nosed father (Elias Koteas) and a hard-knock life to overcome. Actor Bill Paxton (in his third time out as a director) helms this inspiring true-life story based on actual events. [PG]



Academy Award winner Dame Judi Dench leads a stellar cast in this Emmy-nominated BBC miniseries adaptation of the classic novels of celebrated Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell. Stage and screen veterans Imelda Staunton and Eileen Atkins also star this complicated portrait of a group of women inhabiting a town wrestling with modernity and the inevitability of change. (Two discs) [NR]


Jessica Lange, Joan Allen and Kathy Bates star in this road trip yarn, which follows three friends on a journey across the West after one of them is widowed. Along the way, they learn a thing or two about themselves, one another, and life. Powerful performances drive home the themes of friendship and female solidarity, while the awe-inspiring landscapes of the American Southwest convey a true sense of carpe diem. [PG]

"The World's Fastest Indian"

Based on a true story, this drama follows 67-year-old grandfather and New Zealander Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) as he flies across Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats and blazes into the record books at 183.586 mph on his customized Indian Scout motorcycle. Set in 1967. [PG-13]


"My Sister's Keeper"
Kathy Bates, Elizabeth Perkins and Lynn Redgrave deliver compelling performances in this "Hallmark Hall of Fame" family drama based on a true story. Two sisters (Bates and Perkins) have a special yet complicated relationship. They lead completely different lives (Bates has a severe form of bipolar disorder) and must overcome ideological and societal barriers and familial baggage to strengthen and seal their sibling bond. [NR]

"Master and Commander"

Based on the novels by Patrick O'Brian, this dramatic thriller pits "Lucky" Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe), captain of the HMS Surprise, and his crew against a privateer equipped with better weapons. This Oscar-winning adventure co-stars Paul Bettany (as ship doctor Stephen Maturin), Billy Boyd and James D'Arcy, and as the two vessels command the high seas during the Napoleonic Wars, the maritime chase continues to claim victims. [PG-13]

If you like Russell Crowe's movies,
I promise you'll love this one, too ...

"A Good Year"

Oscar winner Ridley Scott directs this adaptation of Peter Mayle's best-selling novel, following the romantic misadventures of an Englishman in Provence, France. After inheriting a vineyard from his uncle (Albert Finney), failed banker Max Skinner (Russell Crowe) moves abroad, where he meets a beautiful French woman (Marion Cotillard), as well as a feisty American (Abbie Cornish), who claims to be his long-lost cousin -- and his uncle's true heir. [PG-13]


"The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio"

With 10 children to feed, postwar Ohio housewife Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore) has gotten used to being resourceful, stretching her husband's meager salary to the limit. But when clipping coupons won't cut it, she's forced to rely on her creativity and enters a jingle-writing contest for extra income. Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern co-star in this uncommon comedy-drama based on a heartwarming memoir by Ryan's daughter, Terry. [PG-13]


"The Ultimate Gift"

When his wealthy grandfather (James Garner) finally dies, Jason Stevens (Drew Fuller) fully expects to benefit when it comes to the reading of the will. But instead of a sizable inheritance, Jason receives a test, a series of tasks he must complete before he can get any money. Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin and former beauty queen Lee Meriwether also star in this coming-of-age drama based on the novel by Jim Stovall. [PG]


"Walk the Line"

Among the pantheon of great country singers, Johnny Cash (played here by Joaquin Phoenix) may just be the most enigmatic. James Mangold's film distills Cash's transformation from man to icon -- from his hardscrabble days on an Arkansas farm to Sun Records in Memphis, where Cash finally found a way for his talent to come into its own. Reese Witherspoon plays his beloved June, alongside co-stars Robert Patrick and Shelby Lynne. [PG-13]


"Ballet Shoes"

An unusual explorer named Gum (Richard Griffiths) and his kindly niece (Emilia Fox) adopt three orphans -- Pauline (Emma Watson), Petrova (Yasmin Paige) and Posy (Lucy Boynton) -- and raise them as sisters in 1930s London. But when Gum doesn't return from one of his adventures, the girls must fend for themselves. Together they nurture their respective acting, aviation and ballet dreams in this charming adaptation of the Noel Streatfeild novel. [PG]


"Ambulance Girl"

Kathy Bates stars in this inspirational made-for-TV movie based on Jane Stern's autobiographical novel. In the midst of a serious depression, a food writer (Bates) changes her career path by training to become an emergency medical technician, hoping that in the process of saving others, she may just save herself. [NR]


"Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"

A dark chapter of U.S. history comes to light in this epic saga (Emmy winner for Best Made-for-TV Movie) of the U.S. government's extermination of the American Indians. Beginning after the Sioux victory at Little Big Horn, the film traces the stories of three men: a Sioux doctor (Adam Beach), a lobbying senator (Aidan Quinn) and the Lakota hero Sitting Bull (August Schellenberg). The acclaimed cast also features Anna Paquin and Fred Dalton Thompson as Ulysses S. Grant. [NR]


"Ladies in Lavender"

It's 1936, and two sisters, Janet and Ursula Widdington (Maggie Smith and Judi Dench), are at their beach house in Cornwall for some rest and relaxation. But their idyll is interrupted when they chance upon a mystery man awash on the beach and decide to nurse him back to health. Turns out he's Andrea (Daniel Bruhl), a violinist who was bound for America when his ship encountered trouble. Before long, he takes the quiet fishing village by storm. [PG-13]


"Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont"

Joan Plowright takes the title role in this heartwarming drama, based on the best-selling novel by the same name. After traveling to London to be closer to her 26-year-old grandson, the recently widowed Mrs. Palfrey moves into a local hotel while she waits -- and waits -- for him to return her calls. But when fate introduces her to a kindly young writer (Rupert Friend), she finds the family she's always wanted. [NR]


"Love Comes Softly"

Set on the Western frontier, this tale follows a newly widowed pioneer woman as she tries to survive life on the open range. After her husband dies, Marty (Katherine Heigl) heeds the advice of friends (Corbin Bernsen and Theresa Russell) by marrying a man (Dale Midkiff) she doesn't love and caring for his child (Skye McCole Bartusiak). Marty plans to stay until spring -- but when it comes time to move on, things don't turn out as she expected. [NR] ... There are three sequels to this movie which are good, too -- Love's Abiding Joy, Love's Unending Legacy, and Love's Enduring Promise.


"A Home of Our Own"

When a mother of six (Kathy Bates) finds herself widowed, poor and wanting to trade the dangers of 1960s Los Angeles for a more simple life in the country, she packs up the kids and all their belongings, and heads to rural Idaho. Here, she finds a place for her brood to live in exchange for work in this touching, bittersweet family drama about the importance of cooperation and overcoming hardship.[PG]



In this romantic comedy featuring Shirley MacLaine as a wacky grandma, Southern girl Carolina (Julia Stiles) envisions an entirely different existence for herself, far from the maddening mix that is her family. So, she leaves home for California, where she hopes she'll find some tranquility. But her efforts are soon wasted when she finds herself torn between two men. Who will win her heart? [PG-13]


I hope you will get a chance to watch some of these movies with your family during the holidays. I don't think you will be disappointed in any of them.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Early Morning Drive through an Historic Garden District

I was in West Monroe, Louisiana, visiting my parents recently, and decided to take an early morning drive through the Historic Garden District of Monroe, which is across the beautiful Ouachita River from West Monroe.

The Garden District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 3, 1996, and is unique in that part of the Garden District, Riverside Drive, has wonderfully renovated grand mansions, and another part of the district has a charming mix of bungalow, cottage, and even one "shotgun" house styles within it. This makes for a very interesting residential area, and gardens come alive in the spring and fall, with blooms and colorful leaves.

I enjoyed my tour of the Garden District and would like to share it with you. It was a beautiful crisp clear fall morning, and I arrived around 7:30 a.m. I soon found out that that was not a good time to be taking pictures because of the traffic. So, unfortunately, I wasn't able to get pictures of several houses that I wanted, short of evoking the wrath of "rush hour" drivers. As it was, I risked the wrath of several barking dogs and just knew someone was going to call the police to investigate a "suspicious person taking pictures of houses in the neighborhood." In spite of all these little annoyances, I was able to get a few interesting pictures (in my humble opinion).

This charming little cottage has been my favorite house in the Garden District for many years. The picket fence and huge old oaks are just lagniappe ...

[You can click on the photos to enlarge them]

I would love to replicate this beautiful old house someday on about ten acres in the country somewhere around Vicksburg, complete with the picket fence and oak trees.

This pretty rambling house has two
giant roosters to welcome guests ...

And a pretty red door and red geraniums
welcome the guests to this little house ...

Gotta love red geraniums blooming for Thanksgiving ...

This colorful house was probably on the fringe of the Historical District, and looks like an artist's house. If you click on the picture, you can see a little patio area at the entrance, with its interesting decorative accents ...

I love the front porch and large dormer on this house. There's a swing on the porch, and I it reminds me of "a grandmother's house" ...

This pretty garage with some kind of vine growing across it caught my eye. I planted Confederate Jasmine around our front doors in a similar manner, and I want to do this on our garage next spring ...

This is a picture of my front doors showing the
Jasmine "arbor" growing around them ...

I can't wait 'til spring to do the garage doors!

Sorry, I got sidetracked ... now back to the Garden District.

I love this raised Louisiana style house ...

And this is the sole "shotgun-style" house in the Garden District, which I love. My husband and I looked at this little house when it was for sale many years ago during our college years. In retrospect, it would have been a good investment at the time since real estate in the Garden District is very desirable these days.

And last, but not least, there's got to be a LSU Tiger fan living in this gold house, complete with an LSU flag ...

I hope you enjoyed seeing part of the Garden District of Monroe. Perhaps I can go back someday and photograph some of the old mansions on Riverside Drive (preferably not during "rush hour" traffic).