Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'"
"...And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Last Minute Gifts

Is it just us, or is there anyone else out there who's trying to finish up last year's gifts before this year's Christmas? Both in the giving and receiving?

For example, last year for Christmas, we got Theo new seat covers for his car. The upholstery in his car is light tan and was definitely worse for the wear. Thus, we thought the covers were something he could use. Well, he didn't put them on immediately and forgot about them in the back of his closet. When his birthday rolled around 5 months later, we said that we would clean his car, check all of the fluids, etc. and install his seat covers as a gift. But it never seemed to make it to the top of our To Do list and Theo never mentioned it. So our good intentions continued to languish. Finally, a couple of months ago, we checked his fluids, tire pressure, etc. I guess that was probably the most important part of the gift, so good for us for starting with that.

However, the covers continued to remain in their package, that is, until this morning. I am pleased to say that Theo now has a clean car inside and out and new seat covers installed. He is happy and so are we. And it's not even Christmas Eve.

On the receiving end, I was given a couple of things that I have yet to use. No good reason, except for the out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing. These are things that am interested in, but my follow through was not the best. And Ward has a gift card still to use that he was given last year. How many more shopping days do we have?

Better get busy if we're going to finish last years gifts before we finish preparing this years.

Until next time...

(By the way, if you are one of the people reading this who gave us gifts last year, thank you very much. And rest assured, we're not talking about yours being left unused. We're talking about someone else's. 😉 )

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Holiday Ups and Downs

Christmas can be one of the happiest or one of the saddest times of the year. We see the happy parts because they are everywhere. The brightly colored decorations, the Christmas pageants, the special gifts, the family gatherings, the music. But we don't necessarily see the grief and loneliness that are also a part of the season for many. I've been thinking a lot about these ups and downs because of two recent events.

My cousin, TJ,  died two weeks ago. TJ had chronic health problems that had been spiraling downwards for the last few months; however, she remained determined to live life on her terms so she was at home when she tragically died in a fire. A shock to everyone, especially her siblings who had been helping her through these difficult times. This is going to be a very difficult Christmas for them, but they are focusing on the fact that TJ is at peace now and with those who have gone before her.

On the other end of the spectrum, our family is celebrating the birth of Baby Girl. Baby Girl was born a few days ago to my niece and her husband. The baby is healthy and just about perfect in every way. In fact, she has already been declared by her grandparents as smarter and prettier than anyone else around. The whole family is celebrating.

It doesn't get more basic than that--a death and a birth.  Sadness and joy.

I don't really know what else to say other than, I know am not alone in these bittersweet feelings. If you are feeling sadness and loneliness this season, I hope you also get a chance to find some joy whether it is as big as celebrating a birth or as routine as enjoying a warm bed.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ornament Time 5

For the next few posts, I will be featuring ornaments from my Christmas tree.  This is one way I can savor these decorations that only come out once a year. Each post will feature a group of ornaments related by a common theme.

The Ornament Parade--Kids' Handiwork

We have several ornaments on the tree made by Wally, Theo, and other relatives when they were smaller.  And what's significant about these is that most of them were made by kids who were more interested in jumping off the chair instead of sitting on it and doing a craft. It took a lot of effort for them to make these and that didn't go unnoticed by Ward and me.

Without further ado, let the parade continue.

There is a series of this kind of ornament with Wally or Theo's  picture in a frame decorated by them.

This one was x-stitched by my younger cousin and was a gift for one of our early Christmas trees. I think she was in middle school at the time.

This one was made by Wally in kindergarten. I think it was supposed to be a round wreath, but the wire the beads were strung on is flexible and the "wreath" has been many different shapes over the years.

This gods-eye was made by nephew. We were very proud of him for making it because working with his hands was definitely not his thing when he was younger.

Wally and Theo made this when they were in early elementary school with a group of kids in the neighborhood. 

I'm not sure how, but this was made by my niece with gelatin. Originally it was a sun catcher, but it got too hot in the window and started to warp. Then I retired it to be an ornament we enjoy every year on our tree.

This one was made by Theo when he was a Tiger Cub Scout. If truth be told, I think his den leader had as much of a hand in it as did Theo.

This was made by Wally in first grade.

This is a cinnamon applesauce ornament. I helped Wally make a set of these in first grade to give to his teachers and other special adults in his life. For the first several years, they gave off a nice cinnamon smell.

This is not an ornament, but a decoration Wally made it in preschool. The teacher spray painted a pine cone and mounted it on a thread spool. Wally then glued sequins on it for ornaments. Many of the sequins have fallen off over the years, but it's still a cute little tree.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Ornament Time 4

For the next few posts, I will be featuring ornaments from my Christmas tree.  This is one way I can savor these decorations that only come out once a year. Each post will feature a group of ornaments related by a common theme.

The Ornament Parade--Handmade

Today I'm showing you some of our ornaments that were made for us by family and friends.  If you're into crafting, you may find an idea or two that you might want to try.

This is a dried orange slice that I made. I made another set that I gave away that had red beads glued in the middle.

This wreath was made from buttons from my grandmother's and mother's button cans. One afternoon, I sat down with my sisters and we all made ornaments of various kinds from the buttons. We had fun reminiscing about the clothes the buttons had been taken from.

This powder puff lamb was made by a friend. Notice the clove sticks for legs.

Remember the preview of this mailbox made by my aunt? It has two letters and a package inside.

This angel, made by a friend, is crafted from two doilies.

Another friend knit the cover to this ball. I've been meaning to try this myself, but it remains on my To Do list at this point.

This painted ornament was made by the same local artist mentioned in an earlier post. It was a coincidence, but the picture of the house looks just like my grandparents' house where my father grew up. That makes it extra special for me.

This was made by my best friend in grad school. At that point in time, school took up every waking minute, so I don't know how she had time to make it, but she did. That made me appreciate it even more.

My aunt made this Queen Anne's Lace flower ornament. It is a pressed flower encased in epoxy. 

She also made this Christmas stocking.

All of these ornaments were made by adults. Tomorrow, we'll see the ones made by kids.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Ornament Time 3

For the next few posts, I will be featuring ornaments from my Christmas tree.  This is one way I can savor these decorations that only come out once a year. Each post will feature a group of ornaments related by a common theme. 

The Ornament Parade: Book Club

I have belonged to the same book club for 12 years now. Besides reading interesting books and  having lively discussions, each December we go out to dinner and a show. During our evening out, the leader has a small gift for us and several of these gifts have been ornaments. Sometimes they are book themed and sometimes they are not, but they're always pretty.

Below are pictures of them.  Just for fun, do you know what book is being quoted on the open book ornament?

But Wait, There's More!

Here's a quick review of some recent books we've read in my book club recently:

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This is a fiction book about a mother who suddenly has to care for her 15 and 6 year old children after her parents move. The club liked the book and thought it was well written although a few didn't like the behavior of some of the characters.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

This is historical fiction about Christina Olson, who was the subject of several Andrew Wyeth's paintings. The club found it an interesting read though depressing at times. It provided a good discussion as the book was put in context of the rest of the Wyeth family.

Prisoners of Geography-Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics by Tim Marshall

Marshall explores 10 crucial regions of the world explains how geography affects the actions of the countries in them. I'm not sure that anyone had finished this book by the time we discussed it. Many found it tedious reading unless you were very familiar with the region being discussed. For example, I found the US discussion interesting but the China chapter less so. Many loved the concept of this book, but didn't find its format friendly for them.

Until next time...

Thankful Sunday--December 17, 2017

I am thankful for a hungry kitty.

Our cat, Lucky, is 17 1/2 years old. Quite a respectable age for a cat. In fact, that's the oldest we've ever had a cat live. However, he is starting to have various problems as he ages. The most serious one was that recently he decided to stop eating altogether.

However, with a new medicine and change in food, he is interested in food again. Hurray! And here's how I know Lucky is really feeling better. About a week and a half into the new medicine, he started to fight me when I gave it to him. Before, there was only the slightest of protest. I have a new set of scratches, but that's okay because our old Lucky is going to be with us a little while longer.

So for a hungry kitty, I am thankful.

Saturday, December 16, 2017


For the next few posts, I will be featuring ornaments from my Christmas tree.  This is one way I can savor these decorations that only come out once a year. Each post will feature a group of ornaments related by a common theme. 

Parade of Ornaments--Where in the World?

Today features ornaments that have a geographic place associated with them. 

This Inuk/Eskimo (chose whatever word you feel more comfortable with) child was given to us by neighbors after they moved to Alaska. We think of them when we hang the ornament every year and we also think of them whenever we use the broom they left with us when they moved. Twenty-five years later, the broom still serves us well in our garage.

This colorful lady was given to us as a souvenir from a friend's trip to Mexico.

This is a state coin ornament from Virginia. We got it after we realized there was nothing on the tree representing Virginia where Ward was born and grew up. We may have to get another one of these from Louisiana because I realize that we don't have anything for the state Wally was born in.

Ward has cousins who live in South Africa. One of them brought this Zulu doll to us one year during a visit.

This was sent to us the first year we had moved from Texas by friends. It is also the state that Theo was born in. We have another one, but I couldn't seem to find it on the tree when I was taking pictures.

This star was painted by a local artist and has the name of the town we just moved from here in Maryland. We actually have other ornaments she painted. She and I were on the same craft show circuit for a couple of years. I was selling jewelry and felted purses and she was selling painted things.

This ornament was made from olive wood from Bethlehem. I was given a set of them as a thank you gift for volunteer work at my church.

This West Virginia ornament was given to me by my parents during my second Christmas away from home.

This one was given to me by my sister last year. Notice the blue and gold which are WV state colors.

And this is a fair trade ornament showing people from all around the world. This was also a volunteer gift.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ornament Time --1

For the next few posts, I will be featuring ornaments from my Christmas tree.  This is one way I can savor these decorations that only come out once a year. Each post will feature a group of ornaments related by a common theme. 

The Parade of Ornaments--The White House Series

The White House Historical Association, which was was founded by Jackie Kennedy in 1961 with a mission of protecting, preserving, and providing public access to history of the White House, puts out an ornament every year honoring a certain President. We have five of these that were gifts from a coworker and friend of Ward's.

Each one comes with literature discussing the symbolism of the ornament, a bio of the president it is commemorating, and what life was like with his family in the White House. Very interesting reading and who doesn't want a history lesson while they're decorating the tree? :)


James A. Garfield

Ornament 2005 honors President James A. Garfield. He was our 20th president and was elected in 1891. He served less than a year before he was shot and later died.  The color scheme and wreath design on the ornament are from art objects including china, needlework and historic frames from the family home in Ohio. The pattern on the box is based on wallpaper from this house, also.The JAG monogram is from decorations at his inaugural ball and the ceramic stone in the middle was inspired by a period engraving of the South Front of the White House.


Chester A. Arthur

Ornament 2006 honors Chester A. Arthur, our 21st president. Arthur became President in 1881 after the untimely death of James Garfield. The country was recovering economically during that time and Arthur's White House was a luxurious one. The ornament design is inspired by several motifs in the White House during Arthur's residence, many of which were designed by Louis Tiffany.


Grover Cleveland


Ornament 2009 remembers Grover Cleveland, who was our 22nd and 24th president. He was elected elected in both 1885 and 1893 and was the only U.S. president elected two non-consecutive terms. Cleveland was also the only President married in the White House. The front of this ornament is a reproduction of an engraving of that event. The back is his bride, Frances Folsom's, monogram. 


Benjamin Harrison

 Ornament 2008 honors Benjamin Harrison. Harrison was our 23rd president, elected in 1889. The ornament is based on the family's Christmas tree which was the first recorded decorated tree in the White House. The toys beneath the tree are presents Harrison's grandchildren received for Christmas.


Grover Cleveland

2009--BackThis ornament honors Grover Cleveland's second term as President starting in 1893.  It features the south facade of the White House where you can see a lit Christmas tree through the windows of the Oval Room. This was the first time electric lights were used on a White House tree. The back creates a scene from a tree trimming party that the Clevelands held annually for their children and those of the Cabinet members.

So there you have it. The leaders of the Ornament parade. This was harder than I thought it would be.  It took me a while to locate all five ornaments on the tree for pictures, and I hadn't realized that the back of some of the ornaments had significance, also. I guess you might say that I was taking a Second Look at them. I wonder what else I will discover.