Monday, December 31, 2018

December Goodbye

It's not already here, surely. Time to say goodbye to December? And time to say goodbye to 2018? 

I rarely sit down to write a post without doing a rough draft and certainly not when I don't even have a clue of what to write. But it's late on Sunday night and this post needs to go up Monday morning December 31 so I'm going to put some pictures up and wing it, with hopefully a better story later on at Dewena's Window to go with more photos of our Christmas weekend 2018.

As usual on the last day of the month, I thank artist Kevin Dodds for his calendar pages that speak to my heart. I loved this year's so much that I ordered a new one that will go up in our kitchen January 1st.

The kitchen shelf next to my calendar changes almost every month, seasonal changes and little things that remind me of our granddaughters every day as I cook our meals.

The sweet photo on the left above is from last year when we got to see Nora play the Virgin Mary in her school play.

I know it's silly to talk about how she and her little sister have grown since last Christmas as children have a way of doing just that...but I truly can't believe how much they've grown. 

Someone is peeking through the tree branches!

These old pink camels keep watch over our girls' current Christmas photo.

And our younger granddaughter is now old enough to help put together and decorate my Viennese Sandwich Cookies. 

Help, nothing! This big girl calmly and carefully put the cookies together herself, dipped the edges in the melted chocolate and rolled them in sprinkles--all by herself, with her mom standing by just in case.

Next year she'll probably be taking over my kitchen, and oh boy do I need all the help I can get now!

I'm so thankful I had plenty of help this year as our sweet houseguests saved the day for me, pitching in while making every minute a joy for me as we got ready for family coming for a party Sunday afternoon.

I don't know what I would have done without their help! 

But the girls' parents did find time for some Christmas kisses. These aren't staged kisses by any means. I hope they won't mind me embarrassing them but these two remain a marriage made in heaven. 

Not all of our guests that afternoon were family. I spy a sweet blog friend sitting on the left end of the sofa who came all the way from North Carolina with her husband to meet us for the first time! And yes, the television is on during the party as well as Christmas music because football is on and RH loves football. And as hard as he works he deserves to have it on...muted, though. Pretty please.

Blog friend Doreen and I did get some time to talk seriously, just as we do in our emails. With our other pen pals Poppy and Tammy we four carry on some lallapaloosas of girl talk. If only the other two had been here too--some day!

I have a photo of Doreen's husband talking to my brother-in-law Fred but can't manage to convert it to jpg. That means a call for help and also I must first get permission  whether I can post the Fisherman's photo or not!

I did my Christmas shopping at the local antique mall and among other things, snapped up all nine vintage aprons I found there. Grandsons Alex and Luke modeled them for us, with help from their little cousin.

That little lace apron went to a daughter-in-law whose wedding to our son last fall on their farm included lace covered hay bales. 

My dachshund apron was a Christmas gift last year from a daughter-in-law, so every lady received a vintage one even with one saved for a daughter-in-law who couldn't be with us due to bronchitis.

I think the aprons were paired up with the right ladies, including those on our beautiful daughter Christy. Who are those young women with her? Only the loves of her sons' lives, that's who! 

My sister Teresa is talking to our granddaughter-in-law. The tiny tot in her mother's arms is our new great-granddaughter! Her big brother is running around somewhere, keeping his daddy busy probably. And that's our beautiful daughter-in-law Courtney in the cool outfit that Christy and I loved and two or our grandsons catching up with each other.

Zack and Bryan sample some snacks and aren't nearly as serious as they look here. 

Christmas Eve morning it was soon time to say goodbye to our granddaughters who had to return home with their parents to get back in time for candlelight Christmas service. Believe me, I stretched that getting ready to leave time as long as I could, watching two episodes of My Little Pony with our darling girls. But all too soon it was time for them to gather their gifts from aunts and uncles.

Christmas Eve night was a quiet one with just us and our daughter and son-in-law. Christy grilled burgers for us and cooked a prime rib roast for the next day. After supper we watched It's A Wonderful Life together.

On Christmas Day RH and I finished up some cooking and then we were off to Zack and Courtney's house, the farmhouse they bought from us two years ago.

I love this photo of RH and Courtney but didn't get one of Zack and Court together, both of them too busy hosting.

And this one of Christy and Bryan!

I have other photos for the Window post so hope to cover everyone then. It was a wonderful time together as we all feasted on turkey and prime rib and delicious sides and desserts galore.

It was the perfect ending to Christmas Day but RH and I were  tuckered out and were the first to leave. We went home and and put our feet up while the young set cleaned up. 

And so Christmas 2018 is over but there's still time for me to read the Christmas books I didn't have time for before Christmas. These below don't include a stack that I have managed to read.

I will continue to observe Christmas through the 12th Day of Christmas and you'll probably find me listening to Christmas music all through January. I'm not ready to dismantle Christmas yet. Not the Christmas trees inside or the one on the kitchen porch with its purple and pink lights that shine in the night and I enjoy while I'm cooking supper.

I'm hoping our neighbors will leave up their Christmas lights a while so I can enjoy them every time I look out my bedroom windows.

Even when the lights go out up and down the street and the trees come down and the last cookie is eaten, I pray that the joy of Christmas will stay with me and with you. 

A happy and healthy New Year to all! See you in 2019!

Note: Many of these pictures were taken by our son Defee--all of the good ones were! A thank you to him!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Dear Nora,

My dear granddaughter, I know you've grown so much since your daddy took this photograph a few years back. Now you share this little white Christmas tree that your mommy and daddy gave me before you were born, and I gave back to you the year this picture was taken, with your little sister.

But someday you will be your mommy's age, or even my age, as hard as that is to imagine. So here's a little advice about Christmas from someone even older than your Mimi that maybe you'll find handy when you celebrate Christmas as an adult someday.

Christmas is not the time for attending to one's duty; it is the time for having attended to it. If duty must be done, do it early. If there are letters that ought to be written, cards that should be exchanged, packages that must be gotten off, do all these things in that first burst of Yuletide spirit engendered by the merchants in late November.
Abbie Graham
Time Off and On

So just remember, dear Nora, do what I say, not what I do! Don't save everything that should have been done in late November and early December for those final few days before the Christmas festivities begin.

I wish someone had told me that way back when I was near your age, lying under the Christmas tree.

My love to you and your little sister, Nora! See you soon,

To my dear visitors here at Across the Way, I'll be back after Christmas but will pause now to celebrate the birth of our Savior with loved ones.

RH and I wish each of you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Love to all,

Monday, December 17, 2018

Christmas Tree Countdown, 8 & 9

Christmas trees 8 & 9 go up first and are taken down last, too cheerful at night or on dark mornings to do without easily while we sit on the sofa and snuggle with BreeBree and James Mason. 

This skinny champagne colored tree was in my dressing room at Valley View but now is our main indoor tree here at Home Hill. 

The ornaments on them are mostly old pale green, blue and pink ones with tarnished silver glitter fish scale design.

It fits tightly but perfectly in an old green garden plant stand and the rim holds vintage speckled Shiny Brite pink and pale green ornaments. Standing guard among the ornaments are four vintage celluloid deer. 

Right next to the champagne tree, on top of a bookcase holding books of three of my favorite mystery writers--Louise Penny's Armand Gamache series, Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series and Margaret Maron's North Carolinian Judge Deborah Knott--is a large old Dept. 56 Christmas tree dressed in fairy lights and old silver ornaments.

It sits on an Old Hall, English tea set, one I never have to polish because it's shiny stainless steel not silver. There's even a cute little mustard pot and minuscule spoon with it.

Maybe waiting for a little honey in his tea is a baby Steiff bear, a gift from my daughter years ago.

This is the end of my Christmas tree countdown, even though there are tiny ones scattered around the house. For some reason, my heart is feeling a little bit tender at the end of this post. 

I imagine because there are so many sweet memories behind the Christmas things I've kept after two downsizing moves. These are objects that bring back memories of decades of RH and I going to yard sales and junk shops and antique stores, with at least two of our four children in tow at a time.

We always promised (bribed) them with cash of their own to spend on their collections--advertising mechanical pencils for our firstborn son, Breyer horses for his little sister, and later with our second batch of kids, sports memorabilia for one son and Native American objects for our youngest, along with minerals and rocks, vintage Christmas items, vintage Star Trek items (and he was able to sell most of those for hefty prices on eBay later on in life!).

And then there was the Christmas decorating that back then began on the day after Thanksgiving Day where there was the fun of hauling barrels out of the attic and decorating the house together.

There was a different tree in those years, loaded down with decorations they made in school and ornaments that were their own with new ones added each year, and taken with them when they left home. 

I had lots of little helpers in those days, lots of little sugar cookie decorating helpers, lots of little ones who even when they were big still wanted Christmas books read to them at night. 

And there were three sons and one daughter to tuck in bed on Christmas Eve and say the final goodnight to:

"Jump in bed and cover your head
'cause Santa Claus comes tonight!"

Hey, little furry squirrel who came all the way from "West Germany" once upon a time and ended up here at Home Hill after traveling with me from Valley View to Florida and back to Tennessee again, you'll understand if you hear some crying in the room along with Christmas music playing, won't you?

Mommas do that sometime.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas Tree Countdown, 6 & 7

Christmas trees # 6 & 7 came together in a set, Dept. 56 Spruce trees that our daughter bought for me in a December trip to Chicago. Since these came from the Miracle Mile and a glamorous daughter, I felt that they merited a little added glamour themselves.

I found the ruby colored tiny ornaments in a Smith & Hawkins catalogue, if I remember correctly, and found some tiny glass prisms to thread them through. When sunlight shines on them they sparkle even more than they do at night by an old Aladdin lamp that was a Christmas gift from friends many decades ago. 

The smaller spruce in the set has only one ornament, a gold bell engraved to Mom, a sweet little gift from our firstborn years ago. I hid little twinkle lights in the tree branches.

The corner where this little tree sits is another example of how much RH and I love old things. The lamp table is from Goodwill and once had a cotton lampshade. I tore off all the material except a few sprigs clinging here and there and now the metal frame of the lampshade brings it more up to date. 

The crewel-work pillow is also from GW as are the curtains, as are almost all of our curtains. I'm convinced that God always has curtains waiting for me at GW when I need them.

The red leather chair from a bank was an antique store find for $20 and reminds me of the weekend we visited our first granddaughter, only a few months old, or was it weeks? She was so tiny!

And on the wall is a mirror that RH surprised me with on Christmas morning one year, an old window that was just being thrown away with a stack of others by a friend. It is very heavy and has been packed carefully for two moves. And when our youngest son came for a weekend to help us settle in here at Home Hill, he helped RH hang it for me--moving it three times until I was satisfied!

I still think it needs to be lowered about 4 inches.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Christmas Tree Countdown, 5

And old Dept. 56 Christmas tree sits on top of the china cabinet. I call it my June Carter Christmas tree.

One cold winter day many years ago I stopped at an antique store on the way to pick up the kids after school. 

I was in the back of the store looking at reduced Christmas items when a woman edged nearer and nearer me. I could see she was wearing a brown mink coat.

I turned to look at her and my stars it was June Carter herself! She flashed me a huge smile and said "Brr, it's cold but I just had to stop and get my antiquin' fix today!" 

We both laughed and she admired the glass beads I held in my hand. I wanted to tell her that she and her husband, Johnny Cash, bought their Christmas tree from us every year but here in Nashville we try to give the country music artists their privacy so we just chatted about the different items on the shelf until a woman who was with her came up and started talking.

I moved on away and that was all of my June Carter moment but the memory of her friendly personality has stayed with me through the years.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas Tree Countdown, 4

No room in the inn for a fresh cut Christmas tree but for the daughter of a Christmas Tree man it's just not Christmas without one.

So the kitchen porch will do nicely.

It welcomes RH home from work every night and hopefully makes our neighbor behind us smile.

And I can keep the kitchen door open to the glass storm door when I'm working in the kitchen and enjoy its pink and purple lights.

And the stars that are purple on one side and silver on the other sparkle for me, the chef in the kitchen.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christmas Tree Countdown, 2 & 3

Two Christmas trees sit in my kitchen.

This little button tree was a gift a few years back from a daughter-in-law. She made one for me and one for her mother and asked me if I wanted a white button tree or a colored button tree.

I asked for a colored button tree and it makes me happy every time I see it and the little critters gathered around it.

On the top shelf a white Christmas tree draws close to Mary and the Babe. 

For years, at Valley View, our main Christmas tree stood in the kitchen, keeping me company while I cooked. 

These two small ones bring Christmas cheer now in this smaller galley kitchen but all I have to do to see our big green Christmas tree is open the door to the kitchen porch.

That one's for tomorrow. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Christmas Tree Countdown, 1

Horses come and horses go and when a daughter grows up her Breyer's horses leave the home pasture, sold off in yard sales or passed down to grandchildren.

So why did an inexpensive little china horse, missing some tail feathers, follow me home from the Goodwill one day and survive two downsizing moves?

Some things that tug at your heart you can't explain.

Carrying him around the house during Christmas decorating, deciding he just did not fit in, I sat him down by a group of old Christmas trees on the dining table, mainly because I didn't want him to break while I decided what to do with him.

Happy accident, he landed in the perfect spot. He thinks so and I think so.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Zest for Life

I don't know of anyone who more exemplifies the meaning of gusto di vivere than my baby sister and brother-in-law, shown above in a Christmas card. I admire that in them so much. 

When I grow up I want to be just like them!

When I read this quote below years ago in David Grayson's The Countryman's Year, I immediately thought of them. 

I still do.

We like people who enjoy life...The pale, the faded, the sad are soon rubbed off the printed page: the man of gusto etches himself upon our hearts.
David Grayson

Here's to living with more zest for life, more gusto di vivere!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

St. Nicholas Day

When I found this photo yesterday in our family Christmas scrapbooks I was also watching the memorial service for President George H.W. Bush.

Tears were flowing during the eulogies for the memories of this remarkable man, mixed with smiles as I turned page after page of family Christmases. 

Okay, I admit there were a few mama tears shed as I looked through the scrapbooks too but only happy ones. 

And I even chuckled as I remembered our St. Nicholas Day pancake breakfasts on December 6th, remembering those two above opening small gifts from the pack of St. Nick and how our youngest told me at a later St. Nick breakfast that he got lots of flak from his fellow 5th grade friends for believing in the old gentleman. 

I believe in believing!

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Nicholas, Bishop of Myra's See,
Was holy a saint
As a saint could be;
Saved not a bit
Of his worldly wealth
And love to commit
Good deeds by stealth. (etc.)
           Phyllis McGinley

Sunday, December 2, 2018

First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and the second day of Advent. Even though I no longer make an Advent wreath, I will take time for my own quiet time of Advent devotions. 

I'm sure I will think back to those days when my daughter and I made Advent wreaths, and later on the years when she and her older brother had homes of their own and their little brothers helped me make them.

In November of 1984 when we still had four children at home, I read an article in the December issue of Southern Living magazine about making Advent wreaths.

I simply had to recreate the lovely wreath with purple and white candles set in a bed of pink and purple heather.

That Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which I don't remember being called Black Friday yet, Christy and I drove to the florist with her little brothers. We entered the quaint cottage filled with themed Christmas trees and floral arrangements, scents of cinnamon potpourri in the air, Christmas carols playing.

I felt as much of a child as my two little boys, entranced by the room, but I had little coin of the realm to spend. We circled the display room in pure awe, watching carefully to be sure that three-year-old Defee didn't "flick" any of the ornaments.

You flick something when you use your thumb to launch your pointer finger at it, and Defee was an expert at this, something that strangers standing in department stores could have attested to. Christy and I had learned to be faster than his flicker. Zack walked a few feet in front of us, at the superior age of five trying to distance himself from such juvenile activity.

I asked a saleswoman if they sold heather, wondering if I would have enough money to buy it. We were taken to the walk-in cooler where we breathed in cold scents of lilies and roses and were shown two buckets on the floor that held heather, masses of gorgeous pink and purple heather.

When quoted a ridiculously low price per bunch, I said I would take one bunch of each color, guessing they would be skimpy and our first Advent wreath would be small. To my great joy, she wrapped up two fat bunches in green florist paper, enough for our wreath and several nosegays. Heather, it seemed, was a bargain among flowers. The florist foam I bought cost almost as much.

At a Hallmark store we found three pink tapers, one purple for Christmas Eve, and the fourth pure white for Christmas Day. We found ribbons in my sewing supplies and the container for our wreath in the garden shed, a large plastic saucer.

This picture is from years later, I'm not sure exactly what year because all of our Advent wreaths looked similar.

It's been many years since our children grew up and left home and our Advent devotions ended. I miss those years where we read scripture, sang carols and prayed together. I miss the years of reading Christmas books to them after the last prayer.

RH usually excused himself during story time, but the kids always lay on the floor looking up at the lights of our Christmas tree while I read to them. Some books, like Madeline L'Engles' The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas, they wanted every year. Some were deemed boring and weren't repeated, such as A Child's Christmas in Wales. The boys howled with laughter but said, "Too weird!" 

Those days of Advent wreaths and family devotions are over but there is still something in me that needs to mark each day of the Advent season. 

I turn on the Christmas tree lights and take out Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton, a book that a blog friend from Devon, England told me about.

Yesterday, Day 1 of Advent, there was a quote from Charles Dickens titled "The Gift of Hope" that I loved and will transfer to one of my many index quote cards.

It is currently said that hope goes with youth, and lends to youths its wings of a butterfly; but I fancy that hope is the last gift given to man, and the only gift not given to youth. Youth is pre-eminently the period in which a man can be lyric, fanatical, poetic; but youth is the period in which a man can be hopeless. The end of every episode is the end of the world. But the power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to the middle-aged; God has kept that good wine until now. It is from the backs of the elderly gentlemen that the wings of the butterfly should burst. 
Charles Dickens: Last of the Great Men

Hey, Mr. Dickens, I love what you wrote but what's with all the gentlemen? I think I feel butterfly wings behind me!