Thursday, December 31, 2009

the year in pictures

Since I believe a photo is worth many words, here are a few random photos from the past year. Each one evokes a happy memory: a bridal shower, book club meeting, vacation in the mountains, visit of a cousin, Beatrix Potter finds, our home, and a tea party. I'm happy to join Cindy in her "Year in Review" party. Click on her name for some beautiful photo viewing. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

the week between

The house is quiet again, but filled with echoes of happy times. Soon after Little One and her parents drove away after coming to say good-bye, my thoughts turned to putting Christmas away. Not yet, of course, but I'm thankful to have an extra day or two off this week to putter around the house. It's that wonderful week between the two holidays where we eat up the leftovers, clean out the frig, organize a closet or two, get out the new calendars, contemplate how less cluttered the house will be with the decorations put away, and ponder what goals we may at least contemplate for 2010. I went to the red circle store and noticed how organizing components are highlighted now where all the Christmas stuff had been. Good intentions always float around right about now. It's a good process, even if it ends up bringing only small changes.

I enjoy the quiet of this week. People are away, the phone rings less, and the email box is not as full. This whole month it's been pretty quiet for us with the Gardener so sick. He has barely been out of the house. Instead we had a lot of people in (so he could retire to bed if he needed to) and we have great memories of some pretty special times. Which proves no matter how it goes, big splash or simple quiet, there's much about Christmas that is just plain special. I think we know the reason.

Monday, December 28, 2009


My sister commented that four grandchildren ages five and under made for a lively Christmas dinner. It doesn't seem that long ago that our kids were that age and we wondered if we'd ever have another peaceful meal. We did for what seems like a short bit, and now ....  happily we are washing little hands, wiping noses, and cutting up bits of food.

Time seems to pass more quickly as we grow older. It seems like just yesterday our children were gazing at our little manger scene figures that we bought for $10 to take with us for our Christmases in Africa. (We've never found any we like any better, and now how sweet to hear Little One learn to say "Baby Jesus.")

I thought about the cycles of life when I realized Little One was using her daddy's baby cutlery. Wasn't it also just yesterday a little blonde boy was learning to eat with that fork and spoon?

I don't say much about it. It's a mother thing you notice and just tuck quietly in your heart. But I know some of my blogging friends understand. :-)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

the red ball tradition

While 2/3 of the country, I hear, was enjoying a white Christmas, we here in the usually sunny south experienced a torrential rainstorm. I waded out to bring my mother to our house to enjoy our traditional "special" Christmas brunch. My mother used to make this for all of us, but now it's up to me. There were only three of us, but I decided to carry on and make it a really nice occasion. When Mom came to the table she said, "Oh! Edam!" I had the remnant of our yearly Christmas Edam ball of cheese sitting on the table. Edam cheese has always been associated with Christmas for as long as I can remember, and we continue that tradition in our family.

My mother explained that her grandfather, a Dutch immigrant, always had Edam cheese at Christmas. And as his children married, he would give a red waxed ball of edam cheese as his Christmas gift to each family. After he died, my mother's father continued to go to the little shop in that northern New Jersey city, to purchase one for his family. And so the tradition continued. I remember the balls of cheese being a lot bigger than the ones we find today.

 I became curious about this tradition and sent an email to my cousins and second cousins to see if they also have Edam cheese at their house this time of year. So far most who responded do. The wonder of family traditions.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


The candles and beautiful lights we see at Christmas remind me that the baby in the stable came to bring us light and truth and salvation. I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12) A blessed hope, and the source of my joy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

around the house

The presents are wrapped, the stocking (one, that is) is hung, a few cookies (not many this year) are made, parties have been had, and now we settle in to enjoy a week of Christmas. We will have a relatively quiet celebration this year, and look forward to that, especially as the Gardener is still suffering from an apparently bad case of shingles. I love to do quiet little things this week ... certain small traditions and little chores I especially enjoy when there's not a lot of pressure to do them. I like the time to think and remember happy times, pleasant memories, old friends ... it's a wonderful time of year. And I hope to read a book!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

the little things

It's the little things that make it "feel like Christmas" around our house!

For more lovely mosaics see Little Red House.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

about the manger

From my sister's Christmas letter: "Each Christmas as we struggle to preserve a sense of worship and gratitude amidst all the busyness which accompany this time of year, it seems as though there is some point [when] God breaks through and moves me with a song or verse, or maybe a word from a friend, and I am blessed. This year it was the last line of one of the songs in our choir cantata, sung as a solo by a sweet and clear soprano voice: 'The manger held it all.' So simple and so profound.

"Everything we need in this life and the next was held in that Bethlehem manger 2000 years ago. Our hopes, desires, dreams, and above all our need for forgiveness and fellowship with God, are all gathered up and met in Christ Jesus. One of [our] father's favorite Christmas carols, 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' says, 'The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.'"

Reposted from Dec. 23, 2007.    See Happy to Design for more reposts!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

not just a coincidence

Yesterday I headed off to my little part of our big city in search of a few more small things for "Little One." I knew exactly what I was looking for, but wondered if I'd find them. I wanted to find a little tiny purse just her size since she seems to like such things. Finally at the bottom of a huge outdoor barrel of cheapo quilted purses I found just the thing, with a damaged part I didn't need, so I got it for a song. Perfect! Next to find the stringing wood beads to make a little necklace to go in the purse. I laugh at myself now to think I went into that marvelous red circle French store that starts and ends with a "T," give or take the French accent. There were salespeople in the toy aisles actually helping folks with their searches. Of course I didn't find what I wanted. In fact, these youthful clerks hadn't even heard of such a thing! (What they missed in their childhood, though maybe they just don't remember.)

On the way to the P.O. I got the notion, or better, "Someone" instilled in me the idea to stop in a children's consignment shop. On a shelf, right before my eyes, was a full container of the very wood beads I was searching for ... in perfect shape. (I hope Little One isn't reading this post.) Several other things went together extra smoothly that morning, including a string of green lights (that is, traffic lights that weren't red.) It all certainly made me very thankful. Doesn't it say somewhere in the Bible that "before you ask I will answer?" I hadn't exactly asked for help with the beads, but I sure got it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


For ten years we've had the same group of friends over for a festive dinner at Christmas time. For most of those years, we were meeting frequently as a small group from our church. Some of us have gone our separate ways, but still work to maintain very precious friendships.

Quite a few times a friend would pack up and cart over her Christmas china so we could have a Christmasy table. But the dear Gardener surprised me last Valentine's Day with a set of 12 Johnson Brothers Old Britain Castles Pink Christmas plates. Wow,  to finally have Christmas china, and especially for our 10th "anniversary dinner."

The Gardener thought my grandmother's pink depression salad plates would go with the Castle dishes.

He's got a good eye, doesn't he? I've taught him well! (No he came by it naturally).

Shh...notice how the hostess gives herself the goblet with the chipped base and tries to hide it close to her plate?

Turns out we used all 12 of those plates as we invited some extra "surprise guests," which made the evening even more fun. We played a game of identifying obscure lines in Christmas songs, and found ourselves singing our way through dinner as we tried to figure out the answers.

We felt like we were in a "fancy"restaurant when one of the couples flamed the Creme Brulee they had made, and treated us to a beautifully decorated cheese cake.

We are using the castle dishes every evening as we eat dinner this month. What a treasured gift the thoughtful Gardener gave to me!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Handel was there

When I was 11 or 12 my parents took me to see Handel's Messiah at their alma mater. It was my first time, and I will never forget it. All the college's choral groups raised their voices together in that marvelous college chapel. I'm so grateful my parents instilled in me a love for quality music (of all types), and especially this most beautiful and historic pieces of all, possibly the greatest choral work of all time.

So with joyful anticipation I went to our church's performance this past weekend. I knew Handel himself would be there, but I didn't know the affect it would have on me. Stringed instruments from our city symphony joined with the multi churched choir in a candlelit auditorium. Intermixed with the music were short dramas of Handel writing the Messiah. I knew he agonized over it, and that God worked in his life as he wrote, but this made it all so real. Surely was he not only a genius, but used by God. What a time of worship it was for all of us who were there. And as we listened to the beauty from his pen, we saw a shadow of him feverishly writing at his desk. (All completed in three weeks.)

The drama made clear his burden for the poverty-stricken. He was keen on social justice, and during his lifetime, performances of this majestic music raised enormous amounts of money for the poor. And that continues to this day. Last night we took an offering for a local charity.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

ornament transformation

Somehow some oversized blue Christmas ornaments ended up at my house. They don't go with my tree and I was about to goodwill them when I spent an extra hour in a doctor's waiting room. I leafed through a current issue of GH while trying to remain calm about this total waste of an hour. In the magazine I happened upon a clever remake of similar sized ornaments--well actually they may have used styrofoam balls. I loved the idea and went for it.

Two sturdy rubberbands are placed around the ball, as above, to hold in place the ribbon that the ball will hang from. Make sure you like the length of the ribbon.

Take a fourteen inch square of fabric, pull up on  four corners and wrap around the ball, holding it together with a ribbon tied in a bow.

It only takes a couple of minutes once you have your supplies together.
They call these "kissing balls."

I looked them up and learned they are related to mistletoe. A sprig of flowers would add to the simple beauty. Sometimes they are made with flowers fashioned into a similar small ball and used in weddings. I was delighted with the transformation!

For more Transformations, see Between Naps on the Porch's Metamorphosis Monday.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

the village

In a post a few days back I mentioned buying this little porcelain village with a money gift from a friend. It has been a part of our Christmas for 25 years now and holds a special memory for us.

"Memory grounds us in who we are, where we've come from. Memory shapes and guides us. The Lord said to Moses, 'Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered ...' (Ex. 17:14)" from The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan.

And so we remember. And when I get close in to this little scene, it is so easy to become a part of it, with childlike wonder.

See Cindy's My Romantic Home for more "Show and Tell."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

home sweet home

I I love my simple kitchen window. It's a combination of a "gallery" of things I love, as well as my view of the outside world. It creates a quiet place for me to think and daydream as I do dishes--it's always a mental break for me when I work with my hands and see dirty things become sparkly clean. We had a carpenter put in the shelves on the side ... just as in my grandmother's kitchen and our kitchen when I was a child. (Love the way little things like that connect us with our history!)

So today I'm joining with Window Views ... and Doors Too, because I just love windows!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

bad news and good news

Seems like bad news is magnified in size during the Christmas holidays. "And to think, at Christmas ..." we "tsk-tsk" when referring to something sad marring our pleasure in the season. I'm seeing a lot of hard things around: "untimely" deaths (untimely in our eyes at least),  grave illnesses, difficult diagnoses, ongoing and new unemployments, deployments ... situations we'd rather not see right now when everything is supposed to be twinkly lights and presents under the tree.

But it's Christmas that makes it all bearable, truly it is. Because of the baby born so long ago, we don't go through these times alone, nor do we have to question God's faithfulness to us and our loved ones. Sometimes it takes guts to push forward in faith about the trials, but the faith is there for us, with the strength to believe. So thankful, I am, that I have a heavenly Father there for me in the good and the bad. And that's the good news that trumps all else.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

a family journal

If ornaments could talk, they'd tell a lot of stories each year when we decorate the tree. And I, as mother, remember most of them. Aside from a few generic, glittery "filler" ornaments, each ornament we place on the tree evokes a memory of some sort. Maybe it's one from our yearly Christmas party ornament exchange, or one from a special friend, or one of my many homemade ornaments, which in themselves bring forth memories of a particular "era" of life. (By their craft style they can tell you, just like "big hair," for example, exactly the era in which they were made.) Then there's the ornaments I bought or made for the children as they were growing up. That's why I like to decorate the tree with others around so we can recall these stories together.

This year was particularly joyful as a new generation joined us in decorating the tree. Yes, this will be Little One's first Christmas where she, at 18 months, understands--at least a little--what's going on. In the upper right photo she's looking at an ornament depicting her dad. We created ornaments out of clothespins and scraps of fabric during a memorable Christmas many years ago when the kids were little, we lived in Africa, and the Gardener was very, very sick. Difficult days are often remembered with particular fondness and hold a special place in our history when we can recount how God cared for us and brought us through such a time, to His glory. We continue to hang those less-than-pretty ornaments on the tree, to remember.

And so Little One begins hearing the life stories of her family. Life is good, all the time, but especially at a time like this!

To see lovely mosaics, visit Little Red House.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Look Down From the Top

This is a spendid word for a busy day
with its crush of work of all sorts. If we get
caught in the crush and pushed down, so to
speak, the next thing we know is that we are grovelling in the dust.

Things are on top of us, we are not on top of anything.
SO the words come "Look from the top"
Come with Me from all that, come up the mountain with Me,
look from everything UP to the Lord Jesus, Who is our Peace,
our Victory and our JOY, for we are where we look ...

from Amy Carmichael in Edges of His Ways re. Song of Songs 4:8
reposted from two years ago this month
photo by lulu

For more Sunday reposts see Happy to Design.

Friday, December 04, 2009

My Window View: 12 Kuvaa, 12 pics

August 9: You can almost see the heat in the haziness of the sun. 100 degrees this week and very 
humid. The trash cans are out waiting for pick-up, and very noticeable to us is our large, huge, 
green recycle cans. I wonder if I could ever fill one to the brim.

July 9: Another hot summer day. You can almost see the heat and humidity as the photo is a bit hazy. Already in the high 80s (F) at 7:00 in the morning. This is the week we celebrate the independence of our country so it is common to hang a flag outside our door for the week.

June 10, a little late this month, taken on a very humid and hot summer morning. We continue to have had a lot of rain, and still need to cut the grass frquently.

May 3, 2010 The weather is turning warmer, the blossoms are gone and the grass is needing to be cut every 5 or 6 days. The house across the street has a "For Sale" sign on it. New neighbors down the street cut down all their trees and shrubs planted a lawn. Changes out our window--in just a month.

April 2, 2010. Spring is here with all its glory. Rich green lawns, spring flowers, blossoming trees. Across the street and down a few houses a new neighbor moved in and cut down all the trees and other landscaping features on the front lawn, and planted grass.

March 2, 2010. More snow! What is happening to our weather? We never have snow in March here in North Carolina, and rarely have more than one snow a season. This year we have had quite a bit. We love it though. This snow is not going to stay around long and is barely covering the ground.

Feb. 1, 2010. Finally, snow! Can you sense the quiet that is in our cul de sac with the new fallen (and very rare) snow? No one goes anywhere here in the South when it snows. We wait for it to melt!

January 8, 2010. Happy New Year! You'd never guess from this picture that we had a sprinkling of snow last night, and that the temperature is 32. F. Very cold for the south! But all is quiet here, as no one ventures out unless he or she has to!

Dec. 3, 2009. We are in the midst of a huge rainstorm. Notice the street lights are on, and down the street you can see Christmas lights on a front porch. The trees are almost bare, but not quite. The grass is dotted with pine needles fallen from the trees. A happy Christmas to all window viewers!
Nov. 10, 2009: The trees have a lot of changing yet to do and we'll be cleaning up leaves, here in the southeastern US, for another month at least.
October 17, 2009. Though it may not look like it there are several changes in this scene from a month ago. A new roommate for the houseowner across the street, who also has a new truck seen in the driveway. And do you hear the sounds of crying? It's a new baby next door. If you could see a thermometer it would tell you how unseasonably cold our weather has turned! (and rainy.)

View out my front door, Sept. 15, 2009.

(I join in a Finnish bloggers' group who have created a "12 kuvaa, 12 pics" project which involves photographing the same spot from the same perspective each month over the course of one year.)

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