Sunday, December 30, 2012

the year that was

The sidebar girls have been visiting this week so we've been busy in a very fun way! Above are some of the pictures that remind me of events this past year ... and a new favorite quote from the year came from the girl who is four. I was bemoaning my worn out pjs that have a sheep pattern and asked what she thought of them. "I don't like them. There are too many sheep and no shepherd!" Something I hadn't even thought of, of course!

See Mary's Little Red House for other Monday Mosaics.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Look for art

Lydia Grace set a beautiful tea table for some of us last week. There were many details to take note of and it was all so graceful and beautiful. A wonderful setting for good food and good conversation.

Another friend transformed her den into a beautiful twinkly-lit place to dine by the fireplace. We enjoyed coffee in an atmosphere that beat any cozy coffeehouse.

It's all made me think about how we are all artists in one way or another. After all, we were made to be creative.

So I'm trying to look around more and appreciate beauty and creativity in its many forms and expressions ... whether it's the way we paint a picture, mow the lawn, organize a cabinet, or set a table!

Even if not immediately obvious, it's there to find if I just look!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

the source of joy

The candles and beautiful lights we see at Christmas remind me that the baby in the 
manger 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 solid hope and the source of my joy.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

white gifts

It seems a lot of work to wrap canned goods and packaged foods in white tissue paper, doesn't it? But that is one of my favorite childhood Christmas memories. My dad, a minister, made a large cross, painted it white, and placed at in the front of the church.

During the Christmas season we had a special service where, with the lights dimmed and carols softly playing, we would walk one by one or family by family to the front and place our white-wrapped gifts of food under the cross. We didn't rush, but took our time. What a wonderful expression of giving back, and how beautiful it looked up front with all those pristinely white packages nestled under and around the cross.

The next day the food was taken, as best I remember, to a local orphanage where our church visited regularly to play with the children or bring gifts.

Our present day church makes breakfast on the street for the homeless and brings items for a food pantry for single moms and hurting families ... they are collected in an area of the narthex waiting to be transported away. But somehow the process of wrapping in white, and walking to place the gifts at the cross, was a visual lesson that impacted me as a child. It's a precious memory. I'm grateful to have found this picture of my dad by the cross where I can catch a glimpse of some of the white gifts and remember ... 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012


 I read that on a morning TV show this week someone said that religion
mucks up Christmas and makes it so stressful ...
it would be better if you could just remove the religious aspect (loosely quoted).
 Does that make sense?
Seems to me the religious "aspect" is what the party and decorations are all about. 
Otherwise what would we be celebrating? 
I've been sad this weekend for several reasons. 
I'm grieving for the parents who lost their sweet children, 
but I'm also thinking about the "Lost Boys" in our society and how it is we lose them.
So I am quietly continuing to prepare for next week, 
for more than ever we need to remember 
the Light that came to us so long ago on that early Christmas morning.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

just the girls

 Sometimes dinner with "just the girls" is well, ahem, you know, kind of nice for a change. And so gathered a small group of women I meet with once a month. Our husbands are all in leadership at our church so we have a lot in common.
It was a simple fare. I made white bean chili in the crock part early in the day, 
set the table, and went on with what else I had to do that day.
The others brought salad, rolls, and dessert. Just as easy and good as can be. Before they came I put lots of ice and water in the glasses, so didn't have to mess with that after they arrived. I put grated cheese, taco chips, and sour cream in bowls. And sat down to read as I waited for them. That's my style.
I found an old garland of berries that I wound around my favorite canning jars filled with votives.           
  Simple, comfortable with a touch of elegance.

Earlier in the day I took a break to do a mirror image ... still enjoying our new "on trial but maybe staying" dining room. The antique mirror has been handed down in our family through many generations.

Candlelight, no matter how simple, seems to draw us in. We stayed around the table for hours, laughing, talking, sharing concerns, and lastly, praying together.  A good time, and the clean-up was easy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

the streets of long ago

On a chilly midwestern day, I sit on a bench in my old home town and remember. It is a special treat to be here with my younger sister. We haven't been in this place together since the day we moved away, so many years ago--or was it yesterday--back when we were bubbly teenagers. We park the car and walk. Walk the half block from our house--the house our dad built--to school, except our grade school has morphed into two large homes.
Then we walk to church--a full block--and remember walking our dad home from his church office for lunch. The block seems strangely shorter than we remember. We walk around the block--it happens to be just two days after Halloween, which is a time we remember so much about our neighborhood. Those nights ... tearing up and down the streets with our pillow cases slung over our shoulders, filled with huge (weren't they? or were we just small) candybars and bubblegum. We remember which houses gave the best stuff, where we babysat, where our school friends had lived. Some houses seem totally unchanged by the years, others have been torn down and replaced by huge homes squished on too-small lots. Viewing our charming small town--a bedroom community to Chicago--as adults, we are impressed with what a wonderful place it was to grow up.

Then we walk uptown and have a treat from the bakery which is totally unchanged from when we were kids. We stand on the street trying to figure out which shop had been our beloved "dime store" when a woman stops and points to it. "That's where it was, and that's where Schluter Drug was--remember?" She too had moved away but moved back years later, and was eager to talk about the town we love and how it was when we were kids. We try to figure out if we had been in high school together and I finally ask her how old she is.

We are in town for the 100th anniversary of the church where we grew up, where our dad was the minister for 20 years. It is an amazing experience to see our childhood friends, now looking like older (yes much older) versions of their parents––as we remember their parents. Once again we find ourselves asking each others' ages, trying to figure out how things were when we were kids. For when you are young, age difference is big. So like the friendly woman uptown on the street, we laugh as we realize only at such an event would you ask someone's age or the year they were born.

My older sister lives near there and joins us at the event. An old friend of hers comes up to her and asks, "Weren't we friends? Like really good friends?" My sister agrees, digging deep for the memory. Such funny conversations take place as we gather up and make sense of old memories.

So for a few brief hours, childhood friends and places we remember as clearly as if it were today, become very real again. It is an amazing experience, sort of in the "top ten" of life events. But then, like the Cinderella story, it is time to go back to real life, but going back blessed with new memories of the old memories. It's kind of complex as I process it all. But I'm very grateful for the bringing forth of the old, as a reminder of people, a time of life and a place, that had much to do with making me the person I am today. Yes, that sums it up the best. I came away very grateful.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

your slip is showing

Little One (she's getting tall!) and my Ginny doll made friends the other day. Anyone remember them? They came before Jill dolls who came before Barbies. Between my sister and I we have two dolls--one somehow arrived from the 80s--maybe it was my niece's--and then...
...this "real deal" who looks like she could use a trip to the doll hospital. What amazed me again was the array of clothes my grandmother, and later my older sister, crafted for our Ginnies.
My grandma (this is the grandma that got down on the floor and played with us, and kept a toy box at her house -- and we always wondered if she didn't also play with them when we weren't there!) made these dresses that faintly remind me of the style of dress we must have worn as little girls. The orange and white in the lower left corner was made in a 60s style by my older sister. See the bathrobe? And the full slips? I had forgotten that a "full slip" years ago meant that it made your dress full or "stick out."
Little One loved the dresser drawer with the shoe and comb stash and the way the
 clothes hung on hangers in the "closet."   I loved the raincoat.
"Oops! Your slip is showing!" That was one I had to explain to Little One, who probably
doesn't own a slip. We had a good time together--she playing with something new 
and intriguing, and I, remembering a time long ago.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

she's here

 I did find an angel at the little resale shop around the corner where individuals tenderly 
care for their tiny booths of winsome items. In fact I found three, but this young 
woman angel drew me in with her mandolin and silver. I may decrease her abundance of 
red ribbons and shorten her dress a bit but I am growing to love her. 
It looks like she might have just been to the hair salon.
The other night at our young woman's encouragement group we decorated plain candles
 by gluing tissue paper on them and then ... embellishing them. 
I may have gone too far on the embellishments, but it sure was fun to do.

Monday, December 03, 2012

back fence chatter

It's such a warm day here, I could envision myself talking over the back fence with my neighbor. But she's inside, so I brought a tea tray up to my closet office as I work on a deadline this afternoon, knowing I need a whole pot on this long day. I think about this "go to" teapot of mine that I'm using with a favorite Christmas mug and tray brought home from England. The teapot is so everyday, a 50-cent find years ago in an antique shop. It warms me with pleasant memories of that mountain weekend with friends, just as it warms me with comfort and yes, coziness, (my new favorite word) as the steam from the tea presses on my face. The old pot is my favorite because it is so ... unassuming and I love its shape. And for 50 cents, a drip free spout.

So if I was chatting over the fence I might give a few "observations."  It could go like this:

1. I don't mind this extended warm weather, but I hope it doesn't trick the trees into blooming even before they're finished shedding their dead autumn leaves.

2. I tried so very hard to find a box of Christmas cards that actually used the word "Christmas." Everything looks 3-D and a bit weird to me, even the one or two packs that were truly Christmas cards.

3. And then I'd ask when did all the glitter and glitz take over the ornament aisle? I'm trying to find a pretty ornament to exchange at a party and I went through the shelves of a favorite crafty chain store and the only one that appealed to me was a cute pair of boots ornament. Which didn't really look like Christmas. Personally I'm not crazy--for myself--about all that glitter and powdery stuff shedding in my living room or onto my tree or into my still-recovering-from-bronchitis lungs.

4. And then we need a new angel for the top of our tree. Our angel has fallen to a irreparable state, How hard can it be to find a quaint, sweet replacement? Apparently not easy. The only one or two angels I have found are quite over-done, over-sized and holding electric (bright white LED of course) candles, one in each hand. Again not my taste, or maybe I don't want to mess with the white wires that attach to her candles. I'll head over to a consignment shop, but for now a glittery (succumbed, yes) silver poinsettia stands up in her place.

Of course I feel badly now. My observations sound a bit like complaints about the trivial trappings (of a holiday gone so off course over the years). I've got my focus back. Gratefulness. I might add to my neighbor before we say good-bye, that I love rereading Marjorie  Holmes' Two From Galilee at this time of year. A novel, yes, but it has helped me to grasp the suffering and challenges Mary and her fiancee endured to bring the Savior into the world. Something to ponder.

Oops, the pot is finished and it's time to get back to my real work.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

snug as a bug

Hot cocoa on a cold day; a sip of delectable tea while sitting around a table with good friends; candles in the window; a dog snoring at my feet; a cuddly baby; a soft, warm blanket; nothing too big; somewhat old and comfortable ... these words and more conjure up "coziness" in my mind. We got into the discussion when my mother, surveying the switch in our dining room and living room asked, "Just what is coziness?"

I'm sure she knows, but maybe she never thought about it before. Since so many of you asked about what the "new" and "cozy" living room looks like, I thought I'd tuck a picture of it into a post about coziness. It's a word we often use to describe a place, and when we say the word, a warm feeling comes with it, don't you think? Of course I checked the dictionary and it used words like: "snug, comfortable, and warm," and another set of words I like: "marked by friendly intimacy." That's what we feel when we are in our new room where we read and have conversations.

I place a high value on coziness ... do you? Since pictures, at least for me, speak louder than words, I searched through my photos to come up with some that say "cozy" to me. (An aside: the center photo is of our dear Meshach who went to doggie heaven three years this week.)

We had plenty of "friendly intimacy" last night when the kids were over for the Gardener's birthday. After dinner, since it was "Little Brother's" first view of a Christmas tree (I wish I could have captured the awestruck look in his wide eyes when he first saw it), we hung around in our "small, intimate" room. And it was a bit crowded with the grands playing here and there and us trying to sit and talk. We should have gone to the larger "family" room, but of course we wanted to be by the tree. Next time I'll remember to add more chairs on the edge of the dining room.
I think we all look for coziness especially during the holidays ... 

... possibly in part because we remember the stable where a young teenage mom 
wrapped her baby and laid him in a manger she had filled with straw to make 
it a cozy bed for him. I'm sure the environment was harsher than 
the Christmas cards show, but certainly 
the light and love of Christ filled the place with great warmth.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

the big switch

We finally did it. Something we've talked about for years, and seen friends do successfully. 
We have a small dining room and fitting 12 around our table is the limit and quite confining. 
Once squished into one's seat at the far end of the dining room, there's no further moving 
during the meal. Sometimes I don't even sit at the table. And we love to have many 
around our table. Thinking of 12 or more at Thanksgiving encouraged us to give it a try. 
Yes, we switched the dining room with the adjoining living room.  
Our "new" dining room is so spacious I feel like I'm in a banquet hall. 
(Well, maybe that's an exaggerating a bit.) 
We set up the tree in the new ever-so-cozy "parlor" 
and it seeps into the "dining" room which is nice. I'm not about to move the tree, 
so I guess we'll keep things this way at least through the holidays. 
The "jury's still out" on if this should be a permanent change, but so far I'm 
liking it a lot. If it's permanent, the chandelier will be moved. I know it's a woman's 
privilege to change her mind, but I've been warned there would be no mind changing after that!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Potato Rolls

Potato rolls are a big hit in this house. It's been a few years since I made them, but I really wanted to get into some yeast and kneading last week, so pulled out the crinkled recipe card. My dad especially loved it when I made them--when things switched, and they started coming to my house for holidays rather than our going to their house. I miss my dad and this year as we cleaned up the kitchen we remembered how he always helped with the dishes. So this year I made them in his memory. I realize that this recipe reads a bit like my driving directions! "Turn by the purple house with the large bush at the top of the hill."

Potato Rolls ---  makes 5 doz. rolls    350 degrees/ 20 minutes

3 C milk (scalded) (I heat in microwave)
1 C mashed potatoes
1 C sugar

Put together and mix, add 2 C flour and let stand

I usually put my 1 pckg yeast in 1/4 cup tepid water with a tsp sugar and let it "start" before adding it to above mix. One just has to be careful that the scalded milk mix is not too hot--if it is it could kill the yeast. If it's more like tepid, the yeast should do fine in there, working off that one cup of sugar!

Then add:

1 Tb salt
2 eggs
1/2 C melted shortening
Enough flour to form stiff dough--about 4-5 cups

Knead well and let rise.  Form rolls and let rise two more hours. Bake and enjoy the delicious scent. Of course they are best fresh from the oven, otherwise I'd freeze them for later use. I also usually grease the tops of them with a smidge of butter when they come out of the oven. This recipe could also make a loaf of bread and rolls. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

the week that was

It was full and wonderful week ... left to right: my brother taking Mom on a walk; homemade potato rolls; "the climber;" napkin rings by our nieces; reflective moments; the last day for our pumpkin; Christmas begins; nieces and their grandma make a gingerbread house from "foamies;" and what comes after everyone leaves––cleaning up and enjoying the memories!

See Mary's Little Red House for other mosaics!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pausing for Thanks

This is one of my favorite posts. Each time I read it I am reminded at how much 
I have to be thankful for. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

The day started in the wee hours as the Gardener had a 6 am medical procedure. Seemed the rest of the day filled up quickly, and late afternoon found us at the foot doctor's for another small procedure. I was rather tired, and wanting just to read my book. But I was very aware of my surroundings. I had never been to a foot doctor waiting room before and was amazed at the variety of people that had something going on with their feet. I made particular note of each one's feet as he or she walked out of the office. 

A 70-something woman wheeled in her husband. He immediately lost himself in his news magazine while she registered at the window. She looked exhausted. I was thinking of her small size and how in the world she managed to care for him. A mother and sister brought in their son/brother, a 40 or so year old man with c*rebral palsy. My, they had him in line. Turns out the mother, also in her 70s, had had recent knee surgery. 

But then the most amazing thing occurred. The door opened and it was as if a light filled the room. A beautiful woman in her 50s, well dressed with gorgeous shortly cropped silver hair, sailed into the room. She went right up to the office window and greeted everyone. Obviously she was a regular patient. She asked everyone intentionally about their Thanksgiving plans, and wished them all a happy holiday. I noticed she was wearing a long skirt with nice white sneakers. I looked again and noticed that she had a light limp. And then I looked again and realized she had a brace on one leg for support, and on the other---no leg at all, but an artificial, mechanical leg.

She finally sat down and started talking with the waiting mother-with-the-new-knees in conversation (remember, I had my nose in a book, but obviously wasn't terribly focused on my book.) She ask all about her Thanksgiving plans, down to the details of the menu and who would cook what. What an art she had in engaging others in conversation! Then the mother turned the conversation and asked the silver haired lady questions. "I can't help but notice you have only one leg, yet you are so happy. By watching you today, and how beautiful you are inside and out, I realize my problems are small, and how I need to count my blessings."

The silver haired lady replied in such a gracious manner, "Oh, I can handle this, because I am alive! I have had severe di*betes for years and needed a kidney replacement as dialysis did not work. Oh April Fool's Day some years ago I got a call at 2 am saying they had a kidney and a pancreas for me. My body accepted the transplant beautifully and all was well until I got a blood clot in my foot. They had to amputate my leg (di*betics have poor circulation in their feet, causing many problems, and potential for amputations). But I could so easily have died. Losing a leg is nothing. And it is all the Lord. He got me through it, and HE gives me joy each day."

This woman positively glowed. I felt like I was in the presence of the Lord. It was an experience I will probably never forget.  At this Thanksgiving, though I may fret over some challenges in life, there is SO much to be thankful for. And I am.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012


 I find my eye is drawn to series, patterns or "repeats" when I have my camera in hand.
 If you look for them, you see plenty.
These images are all from the beautiful southern city of Charleston.

Joining Mary's Mosaics on Monday.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

doctoring soup

It's November already and no post here on soup? Something's not right! Soup is my favorite, versatile food, and one of the reasons I like winter so much. I guess "retirement" has been so busy I haven't had time to make soup from scratch. But when I grab a can of soup, I can't leave it alone. Today we had some canned chicken vegetable soup. I added:

one can of red beans
garlic and onion seasoning
Chili powder
a little chicken paste
a cup of low sodium V-8
3 Tb. or so of cottage cheese
Feta Cheese garnish.

It just makes it a bit more special, delicious. and a home made "flare!_

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A moment in time

Do you ever have moments––just a brief second or two––where you get a glimpse of something that brings forth a memory or emotion ... or a sense of calm?

We got lost––my fault––I was tired and missed the turn. We were driving out in the country, and a storm quickly came up but soon turned to a gentle rain. We had to turn around so I found a side road. At the corner was a house with a simple front porch and a porch swing. Two men were sitting on the swing, watching the rain and talking.

It was a moment. I was transported first to the swing and the sound of rain on the roof and swishing water around the porch floor. I could smell the humidity, the mildew, the scent of fresh rain. I felt the cool breeze that stirs with the rain. I felt a peace and a rest and a slowing down. No particular moment from my past came to my mind, but a familiar sense of sitting out rain storms on porches, near open windows, in a schoolyard under a tree, or splashing through puddles protected by an all too small umbrella ...

As I turned around and continued to drive, I savored my reflections and the image of those men sitting out the rain. I felt refreshed just as the rain had nourished a parched earth. I think I'll remember this for a long time. I love a rain storm after all. I'm guessing you understand what I'm fumbling to express.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


 This week three quilting friends and I headed an hour south to a shop called The White House.
 It was in a white house and half of the fun was just walking around 
such a quaint, beautiful old home.
I was interested in the abundant vintage linen, all in beautiful condition.
And my quilting friends were, of course, interested in the quilting fabric.
I was glad I stopped in the little restroom tucked under the stairs.
What a great idea to use a vintage tablecloth for a shower curtain!
Got my creative juices stirring for my next project ... fixing up another bathroom.

Connecting to Mary's Little Red House for monday mosaics.
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