Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Prayer for the New Year ...

"A Prayer for the New Year"
- Anonymous

A new year is unfolding ... like a blossom with petals
curled tightly concealing the beauty within.

Lord, let this year be filled with the things that are
truly good ... with the comfort of warmth in our relationships,
with the strength to help those who need our help,
and the humility and openness to accept help from others.

As we make our resolutions for the year ahead, let us go
forward with great hope that all things can be possible ...
with Your help and Your guidance. - Amen.

With my sincere wishes for a New Year filled
with Love, Laughter, and Happiness Ever After.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Why I Love January

I don't like winter weather and the cold dreary days that accompany it ...

In central Mississippi, picturesque snowfalls (such as the one below which occurred in 2000) are few and far between ...

Mind you, I'm not complaining, though. I can't imagine living somewhere like this ...

But, winter weather aside ... I actually enjoy the month of January. There's just something about starting a new year with a "clean slate" and a brand new EMPTY calendar that makes me want to organize and "de-clutter" everything from my computer files and pictures to my closets, cabinets, and drawers.

I don't dare start with my computer files and pictures, because I know I would get so bogged down "playing," and before I knew it, February would be here and I would be out of my "organizing and de-cluttering mode."

That said, I plan to start in the attic with my silk flowers and vines which are, as I write this, scattered helter-skelter all over the attic, as a result of my impatience when I was trying to find my fall arrangements back in September.

A couple of days ago, I went to Home Depot and bought four large plastic bins with lids in which to store them according to the seasons.

Next, I plan to tackle my closet, and then maybe the bathroom cabinets and drawers. By the time I finish all that (or, more than likely, get bored with it), I will be in my "Decorating Mode." That will call for another trip to the attic to find my "January Stuff," which should not be a problem since it will all be stored neatly in the "Winter" bin and marked accordingly ... right?

I hope to keep you posted on my progress, but if you don't hear from me for a while, it's probably because I'm still sorting through all those silk flowers, vines, and berries trying to decide if they're Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall!

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Flea Market Finds ...

One of my favorite things to do is browse flea markets and junk shops ... the junkier the better! Over the years, I've accumulated quite a few treasures which I've used in decorating my house, and would like to share a few of them with you today.

I love old floral prints and was delighted when I found this pair of vintage floral bookends. They are on a sofa table, along with the gilt planter and adjustable stand below, which were also flea market finds.

This ornate candelabra came from a tiny junk shop in northeast Louisiana, and I couldn't pay for it fast enough when I saw its $12.00 price tag. I have it on my piano, a la Liberace!

One of my most thrilling yard sale finds was a vintage Spanish brass chandelier, complete with about 50 crystal prisms. The tag was marked $100, but was kind of smudged so I asked the lady how much it was and she said, "Oh, that's a dollar."

Well, after I closed my mouth which was hanging open, I gave her my dollar and RAN to my car with it. It was beautiful, in perfect condition, and I sold it on eBay for around $150.00.

I'll never forget that one, because, sadly, those kinds of yard sales are fewer and farther between these days.

I love all things Italian, and when I saw this elegant tray, it was love at first sight ...

I think I paid $14.00 for this original oil painting on canvas, including the frame. Another one I RAN to my car with ...

I love serving my mama's homemade Mayhaw Jelly in this pretty little jelly dish with its elegant glass spoon. It's funny how little things can bring so much pleasure, isn't it.

This lovely little plate graces the inside of my china cabinet and makes me smile every time I see it. I believe the mark on the back is Limoges and it cost a dollar.

It was love at first sight when I saw this little magazine stand. I can't remember where I bought it, which is unusual for me, but I've enjoyed it tremendously.

I found this elegant little candlestick at a flea market about eight miles south of Jackson, Mississippi, and paid $8.00 for it.

I love and collect pictures of windmills and I found this one at a yard sale on the 450-Mile Yard Sale trip my husband and I took a few years ago.

I couldn't resist its companion print,
and got them both for $24.00.

And, last, but not least ... I found this pretty brass urn (which was made in Spain) at a local "junk" shop and love its size. It's perfect for displaying seasonal arrangements.

Now that the holidays are almost over, I hope to have time to get out and explore new places in search of more flea market treasures like the ones I've shared with you today. I can't wait!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Mouse, a Chapel, and a High Note ...

Gordon Cotton is a feature writer for 'The Vicksburg Post,' and first filed this Christmas story in 2007. It was inspired by a visit of a tiny mouse during Christmas caroling in a little country church. I love the story and wanted to share it with you.

"A Mouse, a Chapel, and a High Note"
A Christmas Story

Merry Mouse was trying to be so very, very quiet, easing ever so carefully through the fallen leaves and pine straw, up the hill toward the little country church.

Lights the colors of the rainbow — red and green and yellow and blue — streamed through the arched windows and, from inside, came the sounds of music.

Merry scampered up the walk and the steps that led to the doors so tall they seemed to reach into the night sky. There was a tiny opening, where the two doors joined, just big enough for Merry to squeeze through. Did she dare go inside?

Cold air whistled through the trees and around the building, and moonbeams sometimes pierced the clouds. Bits of frost glistened like tiny diamonds. Merry shivered. She looked at the hole in the door. The sounds from inside were so happy. It was probably warm in there, too.

“I wonder if they are in need of a church mouse,” Merry mused as she eased into the room.

Before her stretched a long flat surface of shiny boards; above her was a ceiling so high she could only faintly see where it ended. Perhaps it would be best if she went to the side and made her way to the front. The walls of the room were gray, just about the same color as Merry, and no one noticed as she entered the nave, for she really was just as quiet as a mouse!

Merry hid among the green leaves and red berries, near a flickering candle and looked back toward the doors.

“Those must be people,” she thought as she watched humans in festive coats of bright colors. Her coat was so dull, and theirs were so pretty.

She had never seen people before, but she had heard about them. She chuckled when she thought of the stories her daddy and mother told, of how the very sight of mice would sometimes make people squeal and scream, though they were so big and mice so small. Merry’s folks would laugh until they hurt every time they told the story.

There were other stories, too — horror stories — about her grandparents and what happened to them when they moved into a house where people lived. Just thinking about it made Merry shudder.

These people, though must be different, Merry thought. They were so happy and smiling and sang such pretty songs. Some people with hairy faces sang in deep voices, and then pretty people sang sweetly.

“We three kings of Orient are” ...

“Away in a manger, No crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.”

And other verses even told about animals who were there on what must have been a very special night long, long ago. Everyone was joining in the singing. They sang,

“Silent night, holy night”...

"Hark the Herald angels sing,
glory to the newborn King”...

"Angels We Have Heard on High"

“Joy to the World”...

And when they sang, “Oh, Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining,” Merry wanted, oh, so badly to take part, but how could she, just a little mouse, help?

Then they sang, “Oh, night divine,” and one lady had trouble reaching the high note. Merry Mouse was so excited! She ran across the lady’s toes, and “Glory to God in the highest,” she reached the high note: “Oh, night DiviNNNNNNNEEEEEEE.”

Other people reached high notes, too, but it was just as Merry’s daddy and mother had told her — the people were not happy that she had come to church. Merry Mouse ran toward the doors, her little feet slipping and sliding on the pretty boards, and she literally did somersaults before she reached the opening and darted out into the night.

“They don’t want a church mouse,” she sniffled as she braced herself to face the cold darkness. And then she saw something that made her heart stand still — there, on the steps, were Tom and Alice, the church cats! Some said cats and people worked together against mice.

“Don’t be afraid, Merry Mouse,” Tom said. “But you are cats,” Merry cried. “We won’t hurt you,” Alice told her. “It’s Christmas. We’ll keep you warm.”

It took a bit of persuasion to convince Merry, but the night was so cold, and eventually she snuggled against the fur of her new friends as the angels sang ...

“Peace on earth to men of good will” ...
and also to mice and cats.

Gordon Cotton is an author and historian who lives in Vicksburg, Mississippi

Friday, December 12, 2008

Reflections of an Early Morning Riser and Piddler ...

{Picture borrowed from the internet}

I've always been an early riser, but as I get older it seems that I don't need as much sleep. Most mornings I awaken between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m., and I love the peace and quiet and knowing that I have an hour or two just to myself.

This picture of the sunrise is one I took on just such a morning ...

These days, my pre-dawn mornings are usually spent working on my blog or visiting my favorite bloggers. I love sitting at my computer and listening to the birds wake up and the soft tinkling of wind chimes outside my window when there's a breeze blowing.

Sometimes I'll tackle a chore I've been procrastinating on doing, like laundry, "swiffering," making out a grocery list, watering plants, or balancing my checkbook. I also plan my day and make lists of errands to run or phone calls to make. I can accomplish more in that hour or two before my husband wakes up than I can the rest of the day.

Other mornings, I just "piddle," which is what we call "dawdling" here in the South. I can't count the times my mama has called and asked what I'm doing, and I've said, "Oh, just piddling," ... and she knows exactly what I mean.

To "piddle," according to the dictionary, means "to spend time idly," and I have it down to an art. I don't think of it as spending my time idly, though. Sometimes I may work on a decorating project ... or create one. Or organize a kitchen "junk drawer," or clean out the refrigerator. And some mornings I just walk around my house admiring some of the things I've collected over the years, recalling how and where I acquired them. I may arrange or rearrange a vignette on a sideboard or chest, or put an arrangement of flowers in a different vase to give it a totally new look. Of course, I'm usually the only one who notices the new look, but that's okay.

And as the new day breaks, I look out the windows to check the weather and enjoy the solitude and serenity of the pre-dawn sky. Life is good, and these early morning hours are a perfect time for reflection ... and for counting my blessings and thanking God for them and my sweet family.

If you wake up earlier than usual one morning, try getting up instead of turning over and going back to sleep. I think you'll enjoy the solitude and luxury of some quality time just for yourself ... especially during the holidays.

[Note: This post is one of the first ones I wrote after I created my blog. I didn't have many readers then, so I thought I would re-post it.]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One of My Favorite Places to Shop ...

I'm taking a little time out from decorating and want to talk about one of my favorite places to shop year-round, but especially at Christmas ... and that's Barnes & Noble.

You can save a good bit if you become a member, and they periodically offer additional savings through coupons which you can use online or in their stores.

One of my favorite services (especially during the holidays) is their "Store Pick Up" service. You can place an order on their web site and they will assemble your items at the store nearest you and hold them for three business days. It just doesn't get any easier than that!

I love books and love to read to our granddaughter Avery. Here are some books I picked up today that I had pre-ordered for her, along with a few more I found while I was there ...

I also found these two workbooks for her ...

And this beautiful calendar for me ...

Another thing I like about Barnes & Noble is their reading areas where you can sit and browse through as many books as you want for as long as you want, without being disturbed or being obligated to buy the books.

We have a new store about an hour away from me that opened a few months ago, and any time I go to Jackson to shop, I save the best for last and stop at Barnes & Noble. It's a nice way to unwind before starting the trip back home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What is Your Christmas Tree Saying About You?

I recently came across an article on AOL's welcome screen about "What Your Christmas Tree Says About You," and thought it would make an interesting post since a lot of us have been sharing pictures of our family trees.

After doing a little research, I found that most scholars point to Germany as being the origin of the Christmas tree. One of the earliest stories relating back to Germany is about Saint Boniface. In 722, he encountered some pagans who were about to sacrifice a child at the base of a huge oak tree. He cut down the tree to prevent the sacrifice and a fir tree grew up at the base of the oak. He then told everyone that this lovely evergreen, with its branches pointing to heaven, was a holy tree ... the tree of the Christ child, and a symbol of His promise of eternal life.

Whether its branches are covered in bright shiny baubles or its limbs are light pink, your Christmas tree says a lot about your spirit both in and out of season. If your household's winter wonderland has you wondering what your friends might think, check out these trees and related personality traits to see what your Christmas tree says about you and your family.

A REAL TREE is deeply rooted in ancient Christmas tradition.

If you and your family take the time each year to find your own fresh tree, that probably means that you have tremendous personality ties to old-fashioned traditions as well. Often, people with real trees like to go "by the book" and are authentic. It also suggests that you are a diligent and reliable individual and you find joy in the simple things in life.

A FAUX TREE is frequently favored by the frugal, because after a year or two of use, the artificial tree would have paid for itself.

If you're one of the millions of Americans who decorate fake branches year after year, you might be someone who values convenience too-- once an artificial tree is completely set up there's no extra maintenance required to keep it pretty.

Even more frugal and efficient than an artificial tree is one covered with permanently placed lights.

If you have a PRE-LIT TREE, then you probably are a perfectionist and know how to prioritize well, valuing your time and knowing when to cut corners in order to enjoy yourself and the holidays as much as possible; hands down, the worst task when it comes to tree trimming has to be hanging the lights, and eliminating this chore is sure to make spirits bright!

SENTIMENTAL people (like me) love to cover their tree with all kinds of ornaments and goodies, and with every glance comes a new ornament discovery and often unexpected insight into the family life.

If your tree is covered in trinkets and keepsake ornaments, you are probably an open individual who is comfortable with expressing and sharing yourself. Chances are your considered child-like and playful when it comes to Christmas.

If you choose to display a decorated palm tree or topiary instead of the traditionally triangular Christmas tree, you're certain to be the jovial, humorous type who is perhaps a bit impish and prone to practical jokes. Because you know that everyone who visits will have comments (both critical and complimentary) you might be attention-oriented year-round as well.

If your tree of choice is an UPSIDE DOWN TREE ...

You're always full of surprises and your unexpected ways often lend to mixed messages being sent out about your personality. Chances are you're actually pretty traditional at heart but you love turning the expectations of others onto their heads (no pun intended).

You are probably the innovative type if you're seeking out a HALF TREE, as many families aren't even aware of this type of tree.

You are determined to make your childhood Christmas memories come to life again, whether you actually have the space to do so or not. You are a creative problem-solver and also someone who satisfies their desires no matter what, your main tools being thoughtfulness and elbow grease.

And if you are an imaginative innovator, you might select an UPSIDE DOWN HALF TREE ...

If space is a problem, you might choose a TABLETOP TREE ...

But just because your main tree is a tabletop tree doesn't mean your Christmas spirit is in miniature too. You may be taxed for space, but some table-top types might just feel less is more and may be most interested in the emotional joy of the season without having much of a need for a prominent physical representation.

Idealists love SNOW-COVERED, or FLOCKED Christmas trees because they are artificial representations of a traditionally ideal "White Christmas."

Imaginative types enjoy this type of tree as well because although the blanket of plastic white flakes would never be mistaken for real snow, it allows one to stare and dream of the delightful real thing.

Artists and the creative types just love to express themselves, especially with color and the unexpected twists in ordinary things. What better way to make a huge statement than with an OFF-COLOR CHRISTMAS TREE?

Other people who take pleasure in an unusually hued holiday tree include those visual perfectionists that are extremely obsessed with keeping their home color scheme unmarred, even if it's just for the holiday season.

My husband and I grew up having real Christmas trees and we continued the tradition for our children as well. There may come a day when we won't physically be able to have a real tree, but until that time comes, we will carry on the tradition.

We put our tree (a Fraser Fir) up this past weekend and, as you can see, I haven't had time to wrap presents yet.

I'm working on it but always seem to get distracted or interrupted and have to quit. I plan to post pictures of the finished tree soon and share a few of our special ornaments ... hopefully BEFORE Christmas!