Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: some favorite views

Happy 2012 !

Linking to Mary's Little Red House for Monday Mosaics.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Family Reunions

When I discovered this amazing photograph among my dad’s keepsakes, I dove deep into it. So many here kin to me. It’s my dad’s mother’s family. I have it propped with music books at the piano now and when I play I study the faces. I wonder if they sang or knew the songs I play. So many questions fill my curious mind.

Was my great-grandmother stubborn?  (front row second from left) Was some of the old furniture now gracing my home in this house at that time? Did some in this group of kin like to write? To cook or draw?  Is my uncle the babe in arms of the great-great grandmother? What is the thing on the head of a great-uncle in the back row? And too bad we can’t see the top of the house!

This photo makes me think of another family reunion though on my father’s mother’s side of the family. It met yearly at least 50 times. Amazingly also among my dad’s things, I found minutes to the annual around-Labor-Day-gathering. It’s fascinating to read about the games they played, the now-seeming mundane prizes that were given out (a packet of rubber bands for example), and the record of their business meetings. They were serious about the family stuff. Towards the end I read complaints about lack of attendance, particularly among the young people. Does that sound familiar? They tried various things to entice their attendance without much success. Finally, around 1951, the reunions ended.

Another family reunion of sorts, on a much smaller scale, is going on at our house now ... and at many of yours as well. What will future generations be asking about our digital photos, I wonder. Will they hold history in awe as many of us do? Only "time will tell."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

firetrucks, candles, music

Our youngest son's home was bursting with family as we enjoyed a Christmas Eve buffet. Little One had just gone to bed with exhaustion when we heard the sounds of fire sirens and a truck coming near.  Assuming the worst (maybe the luminaries had caught on fire?) we rushed to the door and what did our wondering eye behold but Santa high up on the hook and ladder truck, ho-ho-ho-ing and tossing candy to the children excitedly following his truck down the street. Us old children and the younger were totally delighted. Unfortunately Little One slept through it all. And we're thankful it wasn't a real fire.
Since we had children around our Christmas table again this year it was necessary to celebrate Jesus' birthday with a cake and singing "happy birthday" to the king of kings. This was the best I could come up with, and sing we did, and then enjoyed red velvet cupcakes, fit for a king!
We later enjoyed a beautiful piano concert including a song of bells for Christmas ... complete with bell ringing by little one and her big cousin (who is seen here coaching her on the details of ringing a bell!) One group leaves today and tomorrow the "sidebar" little girls arrive!

Friday, December 23, 2011


You can see Mary is on the donkey and on her way to Bethlehem to "get the baby Jesus." 

And so the Greatest Story unfolds as
 Little One tells it to me in detail. 
She is learning the real reason for all this celebrating and gift-giving.

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over 
their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory 
of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel 
said to them, “Do not be afraid. 
I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
 he is the Messiah, the Lord.
 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  
--from Luke 2.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Yellow Christmas

Hard times can soften with age and become sweet, cherished memories. We were a young family living in a small West African country the Christmas the Gardener turned yellow. Times were unsettled in the country--both politically and economically. We were blessed to be able to take our truck every few months to a neighboring country to stock up on staples that we were unable to find on the empty grocery shelves in our adopted country. That privilege changed when the borders closed. Christmas was coming and our papa was very ill. When his skin turned yellow--almost green--I diagnosed him with hepatatis. He had a fairly rare reaction to the bile under his skin and it felt like fire with severe itching. We were low on food and most of our expatriot friends had left the city for the holidays. We set up our little tree, and that was when we made clothespin ornaments which still hang on our tree each Christmas. And that was when I learned to drink coffee to stay awake in the evenings so I could get things done.

It was a lonely and frightening time as I watched the pounds fall from the Gardener's tall frame. I longed for fruit juice to give him to drink--or meat ... The itching was almost unbearable for him. A hot bath followed by sitting under a fan helped, but we often had neither running water nor electricity. I'd sit up in the evening writing letters back home, reading, praying––often by candlelight––while the Gardener and our little boys slept. I found myself with no one but God to depend on. And I felt His presence so clearly I could almost touch it. He led me to comforting Scripture and filled us both with His peace, which is sometimes hard to comprehend, but it was there. And then there were the tangible evidence of His grace:

1. The first was when a Peace Corp friend knocked on our door before she left for Christmas. She put into my hand a piece of beef wrapped in tinfoil and tied with a red bow. Protein!

2. Another friend passing through our city brought us a bag of food from their pantry: cans of tuna, powdered FRUIT drink mix, and other staples.

3. A truck arrived at our door bringing two small barrels that had come by air from England. Friends who had recently lived in the country and now were home in England, heard of our plight and knew just what to purchase and send to us. Can you imagine our delight (and tears!) as we opened packages of rice, flour, sugar, granola, etc., clean and fresh-looking from the shelves of an English grocery?

4. House calls from the dean of the medical school nearby ... who came empty-handed but kept a watch on the Gardener.

Eventually he told us to go home and we did. It took the Gardener six months to recover from a severe case of Hepatitis A. The jaundice and itching lasted four months and it took him a long time to gain back the 60 pounds he lost. There are many more details to the story, but the key point to it all is that we never once doubted God's love and care for us, and we were amazed to see how He brought healing and provision in every way. The memories have become precious, and the yellow Christmas is probably our most favorite Christmas story.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

the little red suitcase

My boys traveled with a knapsack on their backs, filled with books and other amusements for the long flights to Africa and back. When I was a child our travel was by car or train, and our less exotic destination was always our grandparents' houses. I always had my little red suitcase with me. I recently found it among my mother's things. Of course the memories came flooding to my mind and I can open it now and see exactly what was tucked inside. My faithful stuffed rabbit endured many a costume change as we drove those many miles ...primarily with pretty hankies and pop beads (remember them?!)

It looks pretty rough but I decided to make it a platform this year for our little tree. 
And how enhanced this little tree is now with this box of tinsel my friend Pamela gave me. 

I even think they'd look nice on the big tree.
They reflect the light so nicely.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

up close and personal

 My eye (and camera) catches views as I walk around our house.
 I'm always curious to see if my close up lens actually works...or that I can make it work.  :-)

 Since it hasn't been so cold here, this is a great substitute for a fire in the fireplace.
The Gardener finally agrees with me. 
Last December we used 50% more fuel to heat our house than we have so far this year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Second Look

 Exhibit A:
Every year we seem to have a dinner about the same weekend. Usually for our small 
group at church (which has changed over the years.) We're now in a small 
group of mostly young families and just love it. And this year, even though the table looked 
similar to last year, the people sitting around it were a lot younger. We had a great time.
 It's a challenge to fit 12 in our small dining room, and once seated you mostly have to stay seated.
 But it works. I call this picture "the march of the ... not sugar plums ... goblets?"
After many years of Christmas dinners with regular china, the Gardner gave me 
these dishes three years ago. We use them every day in December.
Exhibit B, or the second look: 
A few days later I had our communication team over for a tea/lunch.
A mere switch of a tablecloth and napkins made a difference! 
I enjoy using my grandmother's depression glass with the red transferware. 
As you can see I served our fruit in its skins. Fresh bread, chicken salad and assorted teas
were the on the menu. Chocolate/peanut butter ice cream pie left over from 
Saturday night was our dessert (thanks Staci)! (Why work if you don't have to!)
Since we were all communicators, each one got a mini journal. I like tucking one in 
my purse .. you never know when you may need to write something.
Joining Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursdays!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas on the Farm

 I have a friend who lives on a wonderful farm. Christiana recently sent me some 
pictures that she thought I would take if I were at her house. Scenes I would enjoy. She "gets me." 
I enjoyed putting them into a mosaic with her permission. Enjoy!

Photos by Christiana; Linking to Monday Mosaics at Little Red House.

Friday, December 09, 2011

around the house

some favorite views

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

mashed marvel

When I was cooking a few days before Thanksgiving I randomly decided to post a picture on fb of the potatoes I was making. It's an old recipe I've used for many years --mainly at Thanksgiving or Christmas. I was amazed at the comments I got. One friend even started to make it right away and soon posted a pic of it in process. She had been wanting to do a lot o cooking ahead of the day of the big meal. Therefore I decided to post the simple, forgiving recipe right here. What's special about this recipe, besides all the calories, is that it can be made up to two weeks ahead of time, stored in frig, and heated at time of serving.  Later I was amazed at the number of friends here and there on fb who told me they had made their potatoes this way! I do like making ahead and having the mess cleaned up.

I'm wondering what makes this able to be stored up to two weeks. Maybe any mashed potatoes actually could be. But this is billed as that, so without further chatter, here is the recipe:

5 lbs of potatoes (adjust for the number you are serving--this would serve 8-10) boiled to tenderness and drained
6-8 oz cream cheese, best to soften if time
1 cup sour cream
1 stick butter
salt, pepper (I like white pepper), onion powder and garlic to taste.
(I like to add a little chicken broth or chicken buillon paste to my potatoes and then put in less butter and salt ... I like the flavor it gives.)
Mix all together and put in large pyrex or corning casserole dish and store in frig up to 2 weeks.
Reheat in oven or crockpot (I grease it first, and this method is great for saving room in the oven).

By the way, take note of my "kitchen aid" -- this hand mixer was cast off on me 30 years ago 
and still does the job, no frills, but the food tastes fine ... IMHO  :-)

Saturday, December 03, 2011

at the back of the tree ... again

I told some friends who were over the other night that I was going to do a post about the ornaments at "the back of the tree."  Some of the wise guys immediately got up and began to check out the ornaments on the back side of our tree, looking to see if I had put any that they'd given me back there--teasing me for sure.  We don't have a tree that would grace the covers of any home or decorating magazines.  Our ornaments, except for some generic "fillers" are important to us because they have history. The ones hung at the back may have the most history, and are very special, and ones I would never give up, but I don't necessarily want them centered in the front.  There are rough plastic Santa boots and peeling antique ornaments from the Gardener's and his mother's childhood, the years when they had a tree. Or ones we handmade with clothespins the Christmas in Africa when the Gardener was so very ill. And some vintage crocheted ones I made in the 70s. We probably all have such ornaments.

But wait a minute. I just realized something. These back of the tree guys are really front and center, for our tree is at a window at the front of the house. They join the merry lights and shine out to anyone heading to our front door. So ... depending how you look at it ....  
And the stories they could tell ...

Reposted from three years ago. Those ornaments are still back there!
Linking to Chari's Sunday Favorites at Happy to Design and Little Red House for Monday Mosaics.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

90th birthday brunch

When my mother turned 90, we celebrated. My sister was in town so it made it all the sweeter. 
When you get to her age, you miss a lot of friends.
 I'm so thankful for some sweet women from my church who visit with my mom, 
take her out for ice cream or lunch, and to get her hair done. 
They are the friends that gathered at the table to enjoy brunch and celebrate Mom's life.
Since mom is in assisted living, her things now have been absorbed into the homes of her kids. 
Everything I used on the table was either hers or her mother's. 
I made sure to use her engraved napkin ring and napkin at her place.
I put her locket around my neck, even though none of us could see too well the images inside...LOL!

It was a day to remember, and we are thankful for her life!
See Between Naps on the Porch for more Tablescapes!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

the nuts and bolts ...

... of giving thanks in celebration with family and feasting.
See Mary's Little Red House for more Monday Mosaics!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Corrie ten Boom's book  The Hiding Place is worth a second or third read. Just to remind ourselves. And if you haven't read it, let me tell you about a part that impacted me. When Corrie and her sister, Betsey, were in a Nazi concentration camp (Ravensbruck), the conditions were dreadful, of course. Not only were they cold, hungry, dirty, and in way too overcrowded conditions, they were also infested by fleas. They had managed to snuggle in a Bible, and as they read it, they realized that they should be thankful for all things. When Betsey decided that meant to thank God for the fleas, Corrie had a problem with that and found it very difficult to do.

Eventually she gave in and joined her sister in thanking God for this miserable part of their lives. But it was amazing to see what God had planned about the fleas. Apparently the guards didn't like fleas either. So they stayed away from the barracks that the women were in. Therefore the women had a lot more freedom––freedom from assault, and freedom to cluster together to study the Bible and to pray. Yes, in the heart of a Nazi concentration camp.

I too find it difficult to give thanks for the hard things, albeit nothing quite so drastic. But so often God eventually allows me to see through the hard things and find the good.

Friday, November 18, 2011


I was home for two days trying to get over this virus I've been playing with fighting for over a week. The third morning I grabbed my purse and headed for the door while I fished out my keys. Or tried to. They weren't there. It was a sort of sinking feeling, like they were really, really gone. I quickly looked everywhere they might be, borrowed the Gardener's set of car keys and headed out. All day I had that sick feeling you get when you know something is not right. I earnestly prayed. I was confident that God knew where they were. I called the places I had been the day before I hibernated. One was a picnic area, the ground  c  o  v   e   r   e   d   with leaves. Sinking feeling.

Being a control-type of person, I have a hard time letting go. Then I was afraid I would find them in the freezer (that is a symptom of Alz. you know) Finally I took courage and looked there, the one place I hoped I would not find them. Nope, they weren't there.

The Gardener grew concerned thinking this might be a "serious loss." And we might need to make some new keys. I had a long talk with God. I knew I had to give up my control and give in to the possibility I may not find them. The next day I went grocery shopping, clutching ever so carefully the borrowed set of keys. After I got home I took our turkey to the deep freeze in the outdoor storage room. There they were, not IN the freezer, but ON the freezer. I raised my hand with the keys and sailed into a meeting the Gardener was having with some colleagues in our living room. Such good news to share, and very thankful.  And so happy they were ON the freezer, not IN it! At least I think that's better. :-)

Photo: our first fire in our refurbished fireplace! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

going bananas

 I wonder if I inherited a gene for going loving bananas. Because I do. 
And something I care a lot about is this banana boat that has been 
passed down several generations. Obviously others in the family also enjoyed bananas.
I love the glass work. Beautiful detail. It looks best when filled with bananas (of course)!
It came "on the boat" from Holland with my great-great grandmother and
 her young girls in the last quarter of the 19th century.
That sounds like a long time ago and it was. 
Sometimes I'm fearful that I will be the one to break it. 
Many a banana has rested here ... for I'm not sure what else would rest there as nicely.
Maybe other fruit would manage there as long as not too close to the edge.
Now I'm suddenly remembering my mother had a milk grass banana boat.
I wonder where it is now. Or was it my grandmother's?
Funny how one memory can lead to another.
And we may not get answers to some of these questions we are curious about--too late in life.
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