Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas on 18th

Catherine Clement


The outside of the house is certainly adorable, but it's when you peek inside the windows you begin to glimpse that something magical might be happening inside. The first time I stepped foot in Catherine Clement's house, I felt that I had come home to the house where dreams come true. Imagine the world of Mary Englebreit married to the whimsical illustrations of a Tasha Tudor and you begin to get an approximation of the charm that awaits within the walls of Catherine's home.  This creatively inspired little treasure on 18th Avenue (near Belmont University) is a place where not only dreams, but also your favorite Christmas fantasies can be fulfilled. Come to Christmas on 18th Avenue this Saturday, December 3rd, from 10-5 as Catherine opens her home for her annual Christmas shopping extravaganza. Some of my favorite artists and artisans will be there with all kinds of treasures for you to hide under the tree for those people you know and love.

   May the following pictures serve as an added enticement for you to come experience my favorite place to shop during the holiday season. Rest assured that I will be there when the doors open. The treasures are many and plentiful, but I always like to make sure that I don't miss out on anything! Is anyone surprised?!! Nonetheless, I hope to see you there!

By the way, I am still in love with my bottle brush wreath
I purchased last year and haven't taken it down yet.
Who said it had to be Christmas decor?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

    Yippee. We are having a "Favorite Things" party this year with my Ish Bible Study Girls instead of our annual ornament exchange. I totally highjacked the idea from Pinterest. And I love it. Each person (there are seven of us) brings six of their favorite things, but the caveat is that you can spend no more than $6.00 on the item. Then after we have brunch, we will go around the room and explain what the gift is and why it is our favorite thing. When it is all said and done, each person will get to give away one of her own favorite things, and will take home six of her friends' favorite things. How fun is that?!
    I have been having a delightful time dreaming up all of the things I would love to give my friends and pondering what it is about this good life that I love so much. I have decided that some of the best things in life are not those that can be wrapped with paper and string. They are intangibles connected with memory or experience or they are those things that remind us of times when we can transcend ourselves or forget ourselves or can be our best selves. Without further ado, here is my short list:

The smell of a well-loved old book.
The sound of rain falling on a tin roof.
Watching the rain as it sweeps across the bay.
A novel that keeps you entranced until the very end.
The milky smell of a newborn's breath.
The tail-wagging greeting from your favorite dog after a long day at work.
Exotic postage stamps on a letter addressed to you.
Picking and eating figs on a warm day.
The first daffodils of spring.
Jumping in a pile of leaves.
New snow boots.
The music of Yo Yo Ma.
Alison Krauss' voice singing hymns.
The look and the scent of peonies.
Seeing my children's faces for the very first time.
The moment when I first remember understanding what it meant to be a child of God.
Falling in love with my husband.
The clean scent of newly-mown grass.
The beloved faces of family and dear friends.
Lying on a blanket in the middle of the night watching the stars.
Remembering to appreciate the beauty of a particular sunset.
The familiar cadences of a well-loved scripture.
Going away from home and coming back again.
The perfect pillow.

Upon reflection I find that there are a preponderance of things I love...far too many to list. I struggled even to narrow it down to these few. Somehow that makes me incredibly happy. That there are too many to list. Lord willing, I hope it will always be so.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Iron Bowling

    Today is the Iron Bowl in the South. The rest of the world goes on, but down in the Deep South there is only one thing on people's minds, and it's not what they got at the mall yesterday. Alabama is playing Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. And just so you know, the sportscasters are correct when they pronounce it, "Jurrrdan-Hare" rather than "Jordan-Hare." These things are important to know. THE GAME is always historic. No matter where they play. No matter who wins. The old-timers can give you the scores and the quarterbacks for both teams for the past twenty years without blinking an eye.
   In our family, we are a house divided. One son went to the University of Alabama to play baseball and the two remaining sons went to...Auburn. Even the husband and I are on opposite sides of the fence on this one. His sisters went to Alabama...and my sisters and just about every other living relative of mine went to....Auburn. He gets totally obnoxious during the game, but I try not to unfairly denigrate or malign the opponent. He all too willingly lets me take the high road and does not seem to  lose any sleep over his attitude. But I make sure that he gets up and goes to early church the next day. Repentance is good for the soul.
   The one thing we are in total agreement about today is that our Alma Mater, Vanderbilt, is now certain to be bowl ready after turning Wake Forest on its ear. A bowl eligible Vanderbilt is something to be celebrated as it only happens every decade or so. But today that's about the only thing we have in common.
   It's truly a good thing that this rivalry or division does not extend much beyond the gridiron. Otherwise, we would be headed for more than church would probably be marriage counseling, as well.
   But since I have the computer and he is on the other side of the room, I'll just type my sentiment real loud: WAR DAMN EAGLE! Win or lose, the Auburn Tigers are my only Alabama team!

Source: via Tricia on Pinterest


Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks

     I can close my eyes and see him sitting there. His elbows are on the table and his hands are folded. He is waiting for the hubbub to die down, for everyone to find their place at the table. There is one last shift and shuffle, chairs scraping across the linoleum floor as each finds his or her place. His beloved wife, my grandmother, wipes her hands against her apron and brings one last steaming dish to the table. She takes her seat at the other end, he nods, and we are ready. All heads bow as my grandfather begins to utter the words. The sibilant sounds rise and fall from his lips. He is thanking God for the bounty and suddenly I am sitting here so many years later thanking God once again for him. This humble gentle farmer who never raised his voice to me or anyone else that I can ever recall. He was the proverbial Rock of Gibraltar. He and my grandmother both. Faithful to the end. Lovers of family, friends, community and church, and deep deep lovers of God. They were certainly never wealthy as the world defines wealth. Yet they possessed riches untold, riches so deep that they are still being mined today. Riches remembered as my aunts and my cousins gathered in the kitchen of that house one last time yesterday.
   My cousin lifted the wheelchair out of the car. All week long they had wondered if my aunt would be able to leave the Hospice wing of the nursing home to make the trip to her home for one last meal. Thanksgiving. She did. Today I am giving thanks that strong backs, strong arms, the sacrificing love of her sisters, and a hospital who understood prevailed. That plus the indomitable spirit of this once adventurous aunt. It wasn't easy. In fact, it was downright hard. But it was what everyone wanted, most especially this aunt and her precious sisters. In a perfect world, I expect my father would have been there, too. He, who left this world too soon as a young, young man.He would have been there helping my cousin lift the chair. He would not be that young man forever frozen in time, gone at 34. He would be in his eighties, hair gray, but eyes still twinkling. There is little doubt that my aunt will be seeing him soon. The disease that is ravaging her body is robbing her of her ability to cope with daily life. She is withdrawing from this world. The ship is getting ready to sail.
   By God's grace, and the love of my aunts and cousins, she made it home yesterday to sit at that table once again. As has happened so many times over the years, heads were bowed. Thanks were given. A meal was blessed.  A family heritage of hope, faith, and love was celebrated. It was and is Thanksgiving at its best.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Party Time

   My Momma loves acorns. Word has it she even put them on her wedding invitation, and you can find them tucked in little places all over our house. Her china, Constance by Bernardaud, is green and gold and guess what? They tell me it has oak leaves and  little acorns all around the rim. I wouldn't know. I am still eating off the plastic plates from Ikea.
    Back to the acorn theme. It was no surprise when my Momma got around to planning my first birthday party that she had an invitation designed with a little acorn and the opening sentence, "We are nuts about"... well, me, of course!
    So acorns turned up everywhere at my birthday. First up front and center is my darling cake from The Painted Cupcake. But it couldn't hold a candle to me....just saying.
      Here I am with my Daddy giving the "Number One" sign! Too bad you can't really tell that I am all dressed up for my special day with an adorable shirt that boasts an acorn applique complete with my name, (not that I can read, yet!)
     And here I am trying to figure out what in the world is happening...I certainly think Daddy has lost his mind. He is always telling me that fire is hot and to avoid it at all costs...and here he is, shoving a candle in my face. Why is it that adults get to break all of the rules?

   What in the world is this thing, anyway?

Am I supposed to eat it?

    I am not too sure until Daddy offers me a taste of that pink fluffy stuff on top. My food groups have been rather limited at this point. I eat things like carrots and green beans. Definitely nothing pink...until now. But my culinary horizons have suddenly expanded. I am not too wild about the cake, but I really, really like strawberry icing. Will someone please make a note of that?

  My Birmingham family also made the trek to celebrate with me. Here are my cousins and my Momma's sister. Isn't she pretty? I think she looks like my Momma, don't you? And my cousins are sooo much fun! I want to grow up to be just like them.
     And here is one of the whole crew! I forgot to look at the camera. Oh well.
    And this is what I felt like at the end of the night....
Plum tuckered out and in my best friend's bed! 
As everyone knows, birthdays can be exhausting. 
 I don' t know about you, but I am headed to bed to get my beauty sleep. 
After all, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's a ONEderful day!

 One glimpse and our hearts were hers. That's all it took. Who would know that a little being could wield so much power? She is our second son's firstborn child, and she entered the world one year ago today.

     Little Two is joy in human form! Over the past year we have relished watching her grow and change. Her personality has emerged and we have discovered that Little Two is keenly observant, loves dogs, is mostly laid-back and easy going, can be shy at times, and loves to jump, swing, climb, and push things around. She has a hard time taking a nap if there is anything exciting happening. At her playcare, they have dubbed her the Class President. She likes to hang out by the door so that she can greet whomever is coming or going. She doesn't want to miss out on any of the fun! She is a whiz at finger painting and loves to give it her full concentration. Music also entrances her, and Little Two can boogie with the best of them!

    She looks like her Daddy except for the fact that he was blond as a little boy. She has dark blue eyes, chubby cheeks and her once wild hair has settled down into a beautiful cap of dark hair with soft curls in the back. And when she says my name, I melt.

     To say that I am thankful simply does not touch what my heart feels when I am with her. And when I watch my son and his precious wife caring for Little Two, I glimpse once again the greatness of God's love and the beauty of His incredible plan for each of us.

      "Behold what manner of love the Father has given us that we should be called the sons and daughters of God." This love that God has lavished upon us is a love beyond compare. It is a love that would sacrifice everything and did. It is a love everlasting. It is a love that loves without condemnation but with clarity. It is a love that sees, forgives, redeems, restores, and keeps on loving. It is a love that is not defined by expectation or performance. It is simply love, God's love.

      Being a grandparent has afforded me an understanding of the heart of God that escaped me when I was a parent. I think, perhaps it was because I felt the tremendous weight of responsibility coupled with an innate fear of failure. As a grandparent, I feel neither. I have the unbelievable freedom to be able to love without restraint, without fear, and without condemnation. When I look into Little Two's eyes, I see the reflection of the incomparable love of the Father and His goodness in giving all of us the gift of this little girl.

      I pray that as she grows into the woman God has called her to be that she will always know that His hand knitted her together in her mother's womb and that she is fearfully and wonderfully made. There will be times when she will experience self-doubt and angst, but I pray that God's tender mercy will always be near at hand, reminding her that she is both a treasure and a daughter of the Most High. For it was for her and for you and for me that His only son was given as a ransom. What love, what love indeed.

    May this love surround you and enfold you, Little Two, all the days of your life. And may you serve the Lord with gladness and enter His courts with thanksgiving. We see the faithfulness of the prayers we prayed for your Daddy whenever we look at you. We know that God is very good, very very good. We are so very thankful for you.
    Happy Birthday! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Lovely Quote to Share

      The weather has been weird. Here in Nashvegas we have been running about 20 degrees above the average. The leaves don't seem to know that it's time to come off the trees, and I don't blame them. I finally got my black linen pants back out of the back of the closet and started wearing them again. Then today we had rain, fog, and a sky that looked like snow could be in the offing. The temperature finally dropped about 35 degrees which puts us back into the normal range for this time of year. I am glad. I can eat my soup without sweating, think about having a cup of hot tea in the evenings, and put some cider on to simmer and not feel in the least bit ridiculous. It is, after all, fall, and despite my love for the warmth of the sun, it remains one of my favorite seasons.
      If you hop on over to Dear Lillie, you can download the lovely graphic below without charge. I read it aloud to myself and sighed.  Even after all this time, I am still a lover of the red-headed orphan girl from Prince Edward Island whom Lucy Maude Montgomery immortalized for generations of young women. No matter how old I grow, I always know that Anne of Green Gables and I will remain kindred spirits.

Monday, November 14, 2011

  I am so very thankful for the joy of being a grandmother to Little One and Little Two. Daily as I pray for them, I ask the Lord to shelter them in His loving arms and to whisper to them of His greatness as they wake and sleep. It is joy unspeakable to have lived to see my children's children and to be able to share with them in words, stories and songs of the great, great love that Jesus has for them and for each of us. I pray that His name will always be on their lips and His word hidden away in their heart.  Aren't they precious?!

 Jesus loves me! this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
they are weak but He is strong.

Jesus loves me! loves me still,
'tho I'm very weak and ill,
that I might from sin be free,
bled and died upon the tree.

Jesus loves me! He who died
heaven's gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
let His little child come in.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Momma Told Me It Was So

   Things I learned while I was at Momma's this week:
    Bonanza sasanqua
  1. A sasanqua bush is a member of the camellia family, but is not a camellia per se. The sasanqua may also appear to be similar to a japonica, but it is not to be confused with one. I don't know if this is horticulturally correct, but my grandmother told my Momma so that makes it so in our family. Sasanquas, japonicas and camellias thrive in Southern Alabama and Northwest Florida, but all three species apparently originated in China and Japan. According to my mother, my grandmother (my mother's mother), was known for her camellias. She even had a horticulturist who would come over to her house in Samson from Montgomery to graft and take rootstock from her camellias. She was very proud of these aristocratic beauties that had been grown from very old "family" stock. The Sasanquas are currently in proud display at my Momma's house. They have a beautiful luscious double pink bloom. Apparently these sasanquas are also well-loved by the bees who were having their own little pollinating party all over them this week, but I managed to find a few buds that had not yet fully opened.  I brought them into the house and put them in a vase for Momma to enjoy. I know they won't last long, but they are gorgeous in the meantime. 
  2. Momma and I both like Kettle corn. This is not necessarily a good thing. Between the two of us we just about demolished a whole bag in two days. Again, this is not the best thing to discover about your mother -- that you have a shared addiction to kettle corn.
  3. My grandfather had fat knees. That is apparently where I get my fat knees. Great. I think I could have lived another fifty years and been fine not knowing this. My grandfather also played the saxophone, the violin, and the piano. He was the musical one in the family. My mother must have inherited her ability to play by ear from him. Apparently, I got the fat knees, but I did not get any of the musical genes. Sigh. 
  4. My great-grandmother, Annie Frances Brooks (Momma Frankie) knew how to wring a chicken's neck. She had a housekeeper named Pearlie, but Pearlie was a bit squeamish and drew the line at wringing a chicken's neck. So my great-grandmother took over the task. Apparently she was very good at it. I am not sure why this was important for me to know.
  5. My mother is still using her dictionary to look up new words. She also likes to talk about the finer points of grammar. We spent some time discussing whether or not it is redundant to say "falling down" or if one should just say "falling." My mother is concerned that "falling down" is similar in redundancy to the expression "close proximity." I told her I would check it out and get back to her. 
  6. I am now in possession of the famous family recipe for cornbread dressing, i.e., dressing that is served with turkey. While I was cleaning out a cabinet at Momma's, I found a copy of the recipe in my aunt's handwriting with little notes about my grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother and the particular way that each prepared the recipe. My sister has modified it and modernized it, but I wanted to print it in its original form. If I were as smart at Colonel Sanders with his 17 different spices for fried chicken, I would patent and copyright this tried and true family gem. It is moist, delicious and amazing. When my daughter and I get together to make it in a couple of weeks, we will represent the fifth and sixth generations of women in our family to make this dressing. Oh, and for you Non-Southerners, dressing is NEVER confused with stuffing. They are two totally different animals. Dressing is served with turkey and welcome at my table, stuffing is not. Here is the recipe in the original format:
Cook a 3-4 pound hen a few days early. Simmer the whole hen. Even if you like the white meat the best, be aware that the thighs, legs and back make the best stock, so use the whole hen. Separate your stock and put it aside. Good chicken stock is like gold and will serve as the basis of your dressing.

Prepare and cook a skillet of cornbread using about two cups of meal. Remove from skillet and crumble it up. Let the cornbread sit out, cool down, and dry out. You want your cornbread to be slightly stale. This step can also be completed several days in advance.

Make a dozen biscuits. After you eat a few, let the rest sit out and dry out. Like the cornbread, they work best in the dressing if they are slightly stale. This is yet another step that can be completed several days ahead.

Now you are ready to get started.
     Dice celery and sweet white onion until you have 3 cups of celery and 3 cups of each. Saute slightly in a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large deep skillet. (Momma said that we were not wild about celery, so she cut this back a bit.)
     Crumble and pack cornbread until you have 4 firm cups
     Crumble biscuits (or rolls) until you have 2 cups.
     Mix bread (cornbread and biscuits) with the onion and celery.
     Add four cups of chicken stock to the bread mixture. It will be soupy. Salt and pepper to taste.
     Let this set-up overnight in the refrigerator.
    The next morning, heat it back up and add more stock to the bread mixture as needed (usually about a cup).
     Beat 3 eggs and combine into mixture by hand.
     Butter your baking dishes. Cook at 325 degrees for one hour. Increase to 350 degrees or higher for 15 more minutes or until brown on the top.
     Note: If you are desperate, you can use canned stock.

Well, I am not going to be wringing any chicken's neck, but I will be making my own stock. I am not yet desperate enough to put canned stock in this recipe. But it's nice to have plan number two in case I run out of time.

Bon Appetit, ya'll.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Woo Hoo Little One Turns Two

    You would think we have all gone to the dogs. It was a dog-themed birthday party for Little One who recently turned two. Little One has a love affair with Clifford, the Big Red Dog, so it seemed apropos that he should take center stage on the table and the birthday cake.

   There were bone crayon favors for the kiddos.
      These were not to be outdone by the dog hats modeled by Uncle Bro Bro and Uncle Bear. Don't they look cute?!

  And as you might surmise, Little One had a ball. She donned her Minnie Mouse costume (compliments of Uncle Bro Bro and Betta) and paraded around as if she owned the day. She did.
Her own parents got into the spirit of things.

There were a few grandparents who would likely have been sent to the funny house if they had been seen anywhere other than Little One's Birthday Party. I am hoping you might not be able to recognize a few of these people. If you are not a grandparent, you should be forewarned that grandparents are likely to do all kinds of crazy things for love.
In case you can't tell, that's Little One and Little Two with an unnamed male relative wearing some sort of ratty wig.
Here he is again with The Daughter. I think he needs to find a new dentist.

Lots of family came to share in the fun! Grandmother GiGi actually looked pretty cool in her hippie costume!
Little Two enjoyed the party as well
Even a young Justin Bieber made an appearance.

But the Queen of the Day was undisputably Little One. Here she is opening one of her favorite gifts with glee. What little girl doesn't love a purple tutu?
That smile is worth a million dollars. I mean it better be, because there is really nothing too cute about an almost sixty year old dressed up as a luau princess. Like I said before...oh, the things we do for love.  And for a smile like that, I would probably do it again. And again. At least until the grass skirt wears out.

Happy Birthday, precious Little One. You have brought great joy to our lives. Our hearts are full...