Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Family Calendar

To everything there is a season ... and with a new year comes the season of new beginnings and a chance to begin life anew.

In the spirit of celebrating these new beginnings, I would like to share an excerpt from a story written by one of my favorite inspirational writers, Marjorie Holmes. The story is from her book, Love and Laughter, and is titled, "The Family Calendar."

I wanted to write a similar post, but suffered from a bout of writer's block and couldn't come up with the words. There's no way I could have said it as eloquently and as beautifully as Ms. Holmes did, though, and I hope you like it as much as I do.

This is the season of calendars. They make their bright bustling invasion even before the old year is laid to rest. Calendars, you think, taking down the old one in the kitchen, to replace it with the new.

Yet, with a tinge of regret, you hold it a minute longer. You know it isn't the illustration that makes you reluctant to part with it. It is the scribbled notations: Surprise party at the Engelbachs' ... Dentist, Johnny, 4:00 ... Graduation ... Mark's wedding.

Some of the spaces are crammed with appointments and with reminders. Others bear witness to a child's eagerness: "My birthday," and a picture of the pet he's been dreaming of.

It is tattered and smudged, this packet of papers you hold in your hand. It is fingerprinted and jelly-smeared. Yet it is a rich document of living, for fixed there with pen and pencil strokes are all the things that mattered, the occasions so eagerly anticipated: the parties, the plays, the dances. The hopes, the disappointments, the tragedies. Finished now, over -- only a few of them to remain alive in memory.

And gazing on the new one, so bright, so clean, unmarked, you ponder: What record will be written there before another year has passed? What shining events to be looked forward to? What trivial tasks dutifully cited; what joys, or sorrows?

For the calendar that hangs in the kitchen is so much more than a sheaf of dates -- it is your family's history.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

May the pages of your new year's calendar be filled
with many happy occasions and sweet memories.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I always feel a bit nostalgic this time of year ... as a year ends and a new one begins. I'm looking forward to the new year and the adventures it will bring, but I can't help looking backwards, too.

As I take a trip down "memory lane," I have a tendency to dwell on times that, at least in my mind, seemed to be kinder, gentler, and simpler than the fast-paced world in which we live today. And as I reminisce, I recall so many people and things from those kinder, gentler days that I miss.

Like cabooses ... sometimes I wonder if I am the only person who misses seeing a caboose at the end of a train, and the friendly conductor who always waved to us as it passed.

To me, it's like a sentence without a period ... or an "i" without a dot over it -- a train should have a caboose!

I also miss clotheslines, with their cheerful patchwork of colors decorating backyards in small towns all across America. Every yard used to have a clothesline, but they are a rarity these days.

[Photo by Anne Kimberly]

And speaking of rarities -- I miss Johnny Carson, who was truly one of a kind.

And the extraordinarily-talented Mr. Dean Martin. I loved his tv show ...

I miss Andy, Opie, Barney, and Aunt Bea, too, and think the world would be a better place if they still made tv shows about life in places like Mayberry.

Do you remember those wonderful old Doris Day movies? I love Doris and always wished my hair looked like hers.

Another actress I loved was Natalie Wood. It was heartbreaking to lose her at such a young age.

Here are a few more people and things I miss ...

The Carol Burnett Show

Paul Newman

Mr. Ronald Reagan

I was never really an Elvis fan until after his death, but I miss him. The story of his life fascinates me and I'm sorry I didn't get to see him perform in person.

I miss seeing the Delta Queen docking at the Water Front in Vicksburg.

I miss country music -- real country music, as it was meant to be played ... with the twang of a steel guitar and the sound of a fiddle in the background.

I miss Chet and Conway and Johnny Cash.

And this man ...

I miss LaVyrle Spencer's books (if you've never read one, be sure and google her. Ms. Spencer's books are as good as the covers are pretty).

I miss the wit and wisdom of Erma Bombeck and Lewis Grizzard.

I miss Paul Harvey's resonant voice telling us "the rest of the story."

I miss the gracious and elegant Laura Bush.

And the youthful Sean Connery as James Bond (he will always be the only James Bond, as far as I'm concerned).

I could go on and on, but I'm sure there are things and people you miss, too, from times you think of as being kinder and gentler ... and I would love to hear about them.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009 -- A Photo Journey

As 2009 comes to an end, I'd like to share a few random photos I took during the year. When I look at these photographs, it's like taking a trip back in time as I recall the days I took them.

JANUARY: Narcissus is one of my favorite flowers. They are in their peak blooming season here in Mississippi, and I hope to capture some with my camera soon. I took this picture last January.

FEBRUARY: Close up shot of a monument in the Vicksburg National Military Park

MARCH: Headstones resting under the branches of an old dogwood tree. Taken at one of my favorite places to photograph in Vicksburg -- the Vicksburg National Cemetery, located in the Vicksburg National Military Park.

APRIL: The inside of a Snapdragon blooming in our courtyard

MAY: One of the first hummingbirds of Spring

JUNE: Cotton Blossom near Lake Providence, Louisiana

JULY: July 4th Celebration, Vicksburg

AUGUST: Mississippi Delta Sunflower

SEPTEMBER: Twisted Crape Myrtle trunks in the Vicksburg National Cemetery

OCTOBER: The seed pod of a Dogwood Tree at the Old Court House Museum, Vicksburg

NOVEMBER: Oak Tree in Vicksburg National Cemetery

DECEMBER: Light dusting of snow on a Japanese Maple Leaf in our courtyard

I'm looking forward to a new year of rambling with my camera and discovering and capturing in pictures the places I go and the things I see along the way. I hope you will join me.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Message

I'd like to share an excerpt from a beautiful and inspiring Christmas message I came across early this Christmas Eve morning which was featured in Fosters Daily Democrat, a New Hampshire newspaper. It was a nice way to begin my Christmas Eve and I hope you will enjoy it, too.

Beginning tonight, we celebrate the precious gift of Christmas.

Christians will gather with their families and friends tonight and Friday to observe their holiest of holidays and to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago. We celebrate the wonderful Christmas story about Jesus' arrival on Earth, His miraculous birth in a stable among the creatures who lived there and the humble shepherds with their flocks.

On this day, the swirl of world events slows, and we interrupt our workaday routines to create a time that allows us to remember the joy of the Savior's coming and how He changed humankind.

We give the telling of the Christmas story to our children. We dress them as angels and shepherds during pageants at churches, where they recreate for us the message of a story that is simple, yet repeatedly full of wonder.

By now, we have finished the preparations that go into the holiday. The joys and the stress of shopping in crowded malls, gift wrapping, decorating, and baking are memories of another season about to pass. So now it is time to relax and enjoy these days and become mindful of the meaning behind all our preparations.

If we look around us as we gather with our families at the tree on Christmas and hear what is in our hearts, we will understand that we already have the most precious gift that life has to offer. Christmas is a time for us to be mindful that love is the greatest gift of all ....

It is time for us to be thankful for all the blessings in our lives. And we use this day to renew our faith in Christ and to carry His message with us into a new year.

We take this time to remember those who are less fortunate than ourselves and to realize that for some people, the holidays can be a very difficult time — particularly difficult as additional tens of thousands of Americans pursue the cause of peace in far off Afghanistan and other troubled corners of the world, a peace humankind has sought since the earliest days of civilization. And here at home, millions of American struggle in the second year of a terrible recession.

We see Christmas as an opportunity and a hope for people of all faiths to make a difference in someone's life, perhaps that of a needy stranger or family otherwise overlooked as we rush to manage our own hectic lives.

Christmas is a wonderful time. It is a season to warm our hearts and our very being. Christmas reminds us of the goodness in the human spirit.

We create Christmas memories and follow our family traditions. The holidays help us mark the time as it passes. We remember our children's faces when special gifts were opened with their small hands. We remember the gaiety of family members around holiday table settings and the practical jokes we played on each other. We revel in our togetherness and talk about old times. And we remember the family members who have passed on — and how the traditions they brought to our holidays continue to live within us.

May the spirit of this special season fill your hearts and homes.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Season of Christmas

To everything there is a season,
And the season of Christmas is upon us.

It is a time for Traditions,
passed lovingly from one generation to the next;

A time for Reflection,
as another year ends and a new one begins;

A time of Joy and Adoration,
as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord;

A time for the Music of Christmas,
that warms our hearts and stirs our souls;

A time for Gathering -- of families, friends, and loved ones;

And a time to Remember those who are no longer with us,
but who will always live in our hearts and in our memories;

A time for Hope and a time for Peace ... and a time for remembering
with sincere gratitude our servicemen and women who risk their lives
every day so that we may continue to have Hope and Peace.

May God protect them as they protect us, and bless them and their families for the sacrifices they make for us, especially at this time of year.

The Season of Christmas is a time for Prayer and Thanksgiving, and I'd like to share this Christmas Prayer, which, I think, says it all ...

"A Christmas Prayer"

Lord, we welcome You into our hearts and homes.

Bless us with Your peace,
Fill us with Your joy, and
Surround us with Your love.

We celebrate You and thank You for coming. Amen.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas is ...

Christmas is ...

A time to remember
how far we've traveled,
and to appreciate
those who shared
the journey with us.

Thank you for sharing
my journey with me this year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Merry Christmas from Our House to Yours

We're having a family "get together" with my husband's family this Sunday, and expect around 30 people. I'm going to be busy with party preparations the next few days, and thought I would share my Christmas decorations in this slideshow. If you'd like to hear the music, be sure your sound is turned up before you click on "Play."

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Stress Busters

Just a note to share a few things that have made my Christmas preparations and shopping easier and less stressful.

Have you tried the new Scotch Pop-Up Tape? I love it!

It's great, and makes wrapping gifts a pleasure. I'm not sure how it stays put, but it does!

Another thing I love this time of year is Williams-Sonoma's Winter Forest collection of soap, lotion, and air freshener products. I especially love the room freshener spray, and they offer it only at Christmastime. It smells wonderful, and brings the aroma of an evergreen forest into your home. I use it year-round.

I ordere these little guys from Coldwater Creek, and they make me smile every time I see them. I put them on our porch to greet our visitors ...

I've also enjoyed doing the majority of my Christmas shopping online this year ... mostly through Amazon.

They make the whole shopping experience as easy as possible, and give you detailed information on each of your orders, including shipping dates, tracking numbers, and delivery dates. And an added bonus is that you can call and talk to a courteous and knowledgeable customer service representative at any time, if you have a question.

Barnes and Noble is another one of my favorite less stressful places to shop. I love their "pick up" service, which is wonderful if you are in a hurry. You can place your order online and if they have the item(s) you want in the nearest store, they will put the order together for you and you can pick it up at the checkout desk. How easy is that!?

I've saved my best stress-reliever for last -- a recipe for a delicious hot holiday drink, which is also the best party punch ever when it's served cold. I don't care for most hot drinks, especially spiced teas and ciders, but we're having a family party this Sunday, and I want to serve something hot when our company arrives. Yesterday, I made the punch and heated it, and it was absolutely delicious. Here's the recipe:

The Perfect Punch, Hot or Cold

Bring to boil:

1 3-oz Package Apricot Jello
1-1/2 Cups Sugar
4 Cups Water


Large Can of Pineapple Juice
1/2-Oz Almond Extract

This can be done ahead of time, then just before serving, add 1 Quart of Ginger Ale. Simmer until hot. [Makes One Gallon]

If you have any "stress busters" you'd like to share, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Special Christmas Cactus

A couple of years ago, my husband's mother gave me a Christmas Cactus plant and it has started blooming, just in time for Christmas.

A year ago today, that precious lady fell asleep on her sofa and woke up in Heaven.

She was the sweetest, kindest, gentlest, and most humble lady, who devoted her life to raising five fine children and taking care of her husband.

She was 86 when she died and was still very active, spending the last several years of her life ministering to the needs of "the old people," as she called them, at a community senior center. She was always doing for others and was as close to a saint as a person can be on earth. She loved to laugh and never had an unkind word about anyone. She spent her life glorifying and serving the Lord.

Every time I look at my cactus plant, it's as if she has stopped by for a visit, and it warms my heart when I remember the sweet, sweet spirit of the dear precious lady my husband called Mom.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Votive Christmas Tree Project

I recently saw a little votive candle tree at one of my favorite shops and fell in love with it. I didn't like its price tag, though, and thought ... "I can make one of those!" Famous last words, huh?

I did make one, but even after using materials I hand on hand, it ended up costing me several dollars more than that little tree in the shop (isn't that the way it always turns out?). But, mine is bigger and, I think, much prettier than the tree in the shop.

I started with a tomato cage and a couple of vine garlands I rescued from my attic.

I wound the garlands around the frame of the cage and attached them securely. I love their "airy" natural look.

Then I painted the whole thing gold ...

Next, I went shopping for votive holders that were lightweight and opaque.

I attached the votive holders with my glue gun, then added the led tealights, which flicker and look very realistic, and are much safer than using real candles.

After the tree was finished, it was pretty, but needed a little something else with the votives.

I found these sweet little angels at Hobby Lobby and knew they would be perfect.

When I started making my tree, I knew I wanted to use it on the sideboard in our dining room. I wanted a "neutral" look, and I'm very pleased with the way the tree turned out (it didn't take me long to discover that it was very hard to photograph, but I think you can get an idea of what it looks like, especially if you click on the pictures to enlarge them).

I found this little gold metal angel and love it perched on the top of the tree. I wish my pictures were better, because it's much prettier "in person."

Overall, I love the tree. If I was going to do another one, though, I think I would make it a little smaller.