Friday, December 25, 2009

Joyful Christmas

(Image credit: Royce Bair at The Stock Solution.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmastime in Florida

Children who have lived their lives in the era of widespread digital cameras have a hard time grasping a time when we bought film and then paid to develop it.  When I was growing up, it was expensive to practice picture-taking. It was not easy to learn from your mistakes, because often weeks or even months went by before you could see your developed pictures.  I love that now we can take dozens of pictures, scroll through them deleting at will, and only develop or leave on computer the pictures that turn out well. And editting!  I edit pretty much every picture - red eye?  Click. - off center? Click. -washed out? Click. 

Earthgirl loves taking pictures.  She grabs the digital camera, takes dozens of pictures of the cats, dolls, stuffed animals, clouds, and I just smile benevolently, knowing we will delete most of them.  Lately, she has taken to photographing blossoms.

Gerbera diasy

Even way up north here in Central Florida, we have plenty of blooming flowers at Christmastime. Since we have usually had a cold snap followed by a warm spell, the azaleas decide spring was here last week and burst into full bloom.Freezing temperatures this week have nipped these buds, but they are now preserved digitally, along with Earthgirl's budding photography skills.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Working the Week of Christmas

I sit here enjoying Pluto Boy's coffee, which he fixed up in a travel mug, all doctored up with cream and saccarine, and then obligingly left on the kitchen counter while he took off empty handed at 6:15, in the freezing cold (well, pretty close to freezing). 

It's a work day for me; in fact, it's a 3-day workweek.  Earthgirl and I will babysit a precious little 1-year-old sugar plum at her home.  So I'm gathering up our stuff - lunch, crocheting, books, etc., so we can make the most of her naptime.  And I am tossing in my spiral notebook, because I'll need to make notes to keep up with what needs to happen for various shopping, travelling, catsitter-arranging, cooking, and general running of my household while I am at someone else's household. 

This is the easy stuff, though, compared to some week-of-Christmas working years I've experienced.  When we lived in Atlanta, I worked for a consulting firm.  It was not unusual for clients to call with projects and money to spend before the end of the year.  (Sometimes their budgets had a use-it-or-lose-it-from-next-year's-budget clause that made it inadvisable to economize).  We would be in a flurry of activity, trying to schedule meetings and get approvals for programs and deliverables from various client employees who were taking off for vacation, too.  One Christmas week I spent in upstate New York, all day in various meetings, then evenings at their mall getting Christmas gifts that would fit into my hanging bag, so I could run through the airport in high heels 2 days before Christmas hoping to catch the 5:00 flight so I did not have to wait for the 8:10 flight...whew!!!! Can you feel the stress????

I remember whining to my husband that we did not even have a tree up. (This may have been a year when I came home 3 days before Christmas.  The 1980s are a blur.)  He picked me up at the airport, drove me home, and there in the bay window was - a lighted, decorated Christmas tree!  He had spent the time and energy after his workday to go buy a tree, put it up, and decorate it so it would greet me when I came home. It is one of my sweetest Christmas memories.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Answered Prayer

Did you ever pray asking God for something, think He answered, "No," but realized later the answer was, "Yes," but in a different way than you imagined?

As I sit here tonight, I realize that today God answered me, but in a way I did not expect.  Today. This very day that I prayed.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
       neither are your ways my ways,"
       declares the LORD.
  "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
       so are my ways higher than your ways
       and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

                                    Isaiah 55:8-9

Earlier today I was a part of a great big community Christian outreach/help event where those in need received food, clothes, lunch, haircuts, popcorn, the gospel, family Christmas photos -- there was a lot going on, and I was one of the little cogs in the wheel. I had prayed before and during that I'd be able to minister HELP that someone needed, and that I'd be able to COMFORT someone who needed it.  As my pastor would say, "just love on them."  Now, I did get to speak to a few dozen folks, and had a good experience, but I did not really think I had seen my prayer answered - not really.  Now, plenty of folks received help and comfort, but I just did not feel I had really gotten that definite ANSWER.

And then tonight....

We live 2 streets away from a Christmas cul-de-sac.  You know, the kind they list in the paper as a local Christmas decoration destination. All the families on the short street decorate, and even string lights across the empty lots.  There are blow-up figures, Santa who sing and dance, wooden reindeer, lighted reindeer, Santa in a race car, Grinch, a cross, North Pole signs, everything and more.

Tonight, just after dark, our family took a stroll to see the lights.  As we strolled up our street, a young teen on a bicycle called out to us - he was lost!  Only 3 days in our neighborhood after moving from another state, he could not find his new home, even after looking for a half hour. (Anyone local can back me up - the street names are terribly repetitve here - think Oak Street, Oak Lane, Oak Run, Oak Circle, Oak Run Circle, Oak Run Drive, Oak Pass - I am not exaggerating).  We took him back to our house, got on Google maps, while he got on my cell phone with Mom and Dad, got him on the right path, invited them to church tomorrow and Christmas Eve.

When we arrived on the Christmas street, a lady who lives there was outside. I spoke with her to ask about her Dad, who had passed away some months ago, and to offer our sympathies. We stayed much longer than we planned, as we reminisced about her father, a retired carpenter, how he loved to decorate, how he made all those wooden reaindeer, how he just met us on the street the first year we lived here, how he had invited us inside to see all his Christmas decorations, how he gave our daughter an ornament, what a special person he was.  We had never met her, but knew her father.  We probably talked together for 20 minutes.

 On the way home, I hit redial on my phone to call and check to make sure the young man on the bicycle made it home.  His parents both got on the phone to thank us for taking care of him.

Some hours later it struck me - my prayer for the morning had been answered in the evening!  I prayed to be able to minister HELP and COMFORT, and God gave me opportunity to do both these things right in my own neighborhood. Tonight I am thanking God for answering in His own way.

Here is the ornament our kind neighbor gave Earthgirl.  We remember him fondly. He loved to decorate for Christmas. Like Jesus, he was a carpenter.  Like Jesus, he let the little children come to him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Skirting the Issue

I have not sent out a single card.  I hope to get at least a few out, but a few minutes ago I decided that it would be a good idea to drop by Tuesday Morning, Dollar Tree, or somewhere and purchase cards.  I am reining myself in before I start trying to make Christmas cards.  I am shutting that idea down right now.

When Pluto Boy and I were engaged, 25 years ago, I was deciding about a wedding dress right at Christmastime, so I ran my plans past Mama over the Christmas break.   We tried her dress, a white satin-and-lace that  had warmed to a champagne color over the 26 years since their wedding.  She had made it herself, ballet length, with a satin underdress and a full lace overdress, and a fairly simple style.  It went right to the floor on me, and the style suited, too.  Unfortunately, the lace dress did not do so well in cleaning.  So my next idea was a romantic notion of making my own dress, just like she did.

Mama spoke to me, and told me that she understood that I wanted to make my own dress; that it would be a nice idea, but (and here she spoke more emphatically), she said, "Don't make your own dress!"  She encouraged me to not take on that burden, while working fulltime, while living in a different state from the wedding.   It was good advice!  I think she foresaw me arriving 6 days before the wedding with a half-made dress (that is EXACTLY what would have happened!).  I took her advice, went to a couple of shops, landing at Laura Ashley to buy the perfect dress for me - the kind I would have made - all cotton, no lace, three-quarter-length sleeves.

All that is introduction, so you know the type of seamstress I am - and am not. This is actually a Christmastime post, after all.

(A quick note on the type of blogger I am and am not.  This post would be much more fun if I were to grab out wedding pictures and scan in Mama's dress and my dress, but it's just not happening tonight. But here is a picture from an earlier post.)

Years and years ago, I made a reversible tree skirt.

It took yards and yards of fabric.  I sewed and sewed.

And then, I ironed on little pieces of fabric to make poinsettias.

I ironed and ironed.  I ironed on 18 little pieces per gore.  10 gores.  (Actually there are 12, but only 10 have poinsettias.  I rebelled against ironing on the last 36 pieces. That's the kind of crafter I am, and am not.)

 I learned (in case I had any doubts) that I am just not into doing much attaching of little pieces of fabric over the top of other little pieces of fabric.  I like to sew, but my patience for applique or applique-type things is limited.  So now when I see something I like, like this argyle ornament, I really think about whether I want to do it.  (The answer is no - I'm going to just enjoy seeing it on my screen.)   It occurred to me at the time that this skirt would look beautiful if I sewed down the pieces I had painstakingly ironed on, but I have never looked back.  I'm glad I did it, but IF I were to ever make another treeskirt, I would simply pick 2 VERY BIG pieces of beautiful Christmas cloth and not add any embellishment, like this one.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

On Task

Last night I started crochetting a scarf to match Earthgirl's new winter jacket.  We picked out the yarn together - a pink and brown variegated.
When I first piped up to say, "I should crochet a pink and brown scarf for your new jacket," I regretted it - if I kept quiet, it could have been a Christmas gift.  But I would have made it pink, brown, and white striped.  When we looked at yarn yesterday, she very much preferred the variegated. I'm glad she is getting something she wants.  I'll probably try to do a hat, too, though the jacket came with a hood and a pink fleece earwarmer-type headband.


I worked on it last night, sitting up in bed with my crochet hook. (Side note - does anyone remember the movie "Sweet Liberty"? It wasn't great.  But I remember one of the female leads (not Michelle Phifer, but the other one) sat up in bed quilting.   There were problems with pins and needles.)

I really like the way this yarn works up.  It feels good going through my fingers, and the stitches look neat.   

By about 7, I was up, crochetting with my coffee. Now it is finished, except for blocking. But it's noon - and I am still in my pajamas.  Nope, no picture of that.

I just want to add that we are REJOICING with Crispy and the Peters over God's provision of funds for their next (expensive) step toward bringing home their 2 sons from Ethiopia much sooner than they thought.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Go See What's Cookin'

Check out what's cookin' over at Sm'Arties!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our Christmas Bells

These crocheted bells have graced our tree 24 Christmases.  They are our wedding bells, crochetted for me by the lovely lady who made our cake as a gift for us.  They not only remind me of our wedding - such a happy day-  they remind me of Miss Lucille, a sweet, talented lady, a special dear friend of my Mama.

As we approach our quarter century anniversary, we find many friends and family members who celebrated with us back then are no longer with us.  Miss Lucille, already elderly at our wedding, is one of them.  All our grandparents, my Father-in-law, several aunts and uncles, friends. When we look our wedding pictures, we point them out - look! there's Nanny, there's Dad, there's Uncle Willis.   I'm reminded to appreciate dear loved ones while we have them.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fa La La La La

I love Christmas music.   I love all kinds of Christmas music. Earthgirl played "What Child is This" and O Holy Night" in her recent piano recital.  I am so pleased that she has an ear to appreciate beautiful music, and that she wants to tackle the challenge of a song she loves that stretches to the limits of her ability.

We have found that some of our favorite Christmas albums have been the least expensive ones - the ones we picked up at Dollar Tree or grabbed from the $2 bin somewhere.  One accidental favorite is Home for the Holidays, Country Style, a 2-album set I picked up for about $2 at Dollar General two years ago.  The song I thought was on it was not, but what a fun bunch of songs we discovered - Vince Gill, Ray Stevens, Amy Grant, Toby Keith Randy Travis and another dozen or more artists are featured in this collection.

 I've just been previewing Sting's new album, If On a Winter's Night.  Not strictly Christmas, it has, as one reviewer notes, "rustic vibrancy enveloped in a haunting winter fog, vividly suggesting the British Isles or Scandinavian mountains in midwinter." I think it could really grow on me. But I'm not buying right now...I have about zero budget for Christmas music. We have lots already, and there are free sources all around - just turn on the radio! has been playing music on my computer for years now.  We've set up stations with names like "Energy Instrumental," "Instrumental Quiet," "Bluegrass," "Gaelic Storm," "Peaceful Holidays, "Jazz Holidays,"  "Hillsong," and "Bonerama." (I'd link you to Pandora, but I am permanently logged in, and am not sure how that link would work. I dare not log out - who knows what password I used 6 or 7 years ago?)

Amazon is offering 25 Days of Free Christmas Music downloads.  They reveal a new song each day.  I've downloaded 2 offerings so far.  And that is not their only free Christmas music - check it out!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

While I am editting...

I read a post recently that said, triumphantly, that the blogger had "wrestled" a Christmas template onto her blog.  This morning I am wrestling.  I don't change blog backgrounds often, but when I do, I usually go through several before I settle.  I like an easy-to-read-through text area, so no swirlies or dark colors behind my text; I like straight lines on the sides (is there a girl engineer in the house?), and I like free.  So I am looking through Cutest Blogs on the Block, Hot Bliggity Blog, and Aqua Poppy Designs, and maybe some others I haven't found yet. 

I tried putting up this cute banner (love the carolers):

--but found it put "Merry Christmas" right over my header.  I want to not mess with my header, so away goes the cute header.  Right this minute I still have up its matching background, which I love, but it is copying my friend over at Hearth and Home.  Copycatting is the sincerest form of flattery, B.  So I am not totally settled on the vintage wrapping paper background.

I wonder, though, if I should somehow temporarily disable viewing?  I've changed blog backgrounds about 6 times, and messed with the banner, too.  And, presumably, each time I have checked it out, anyone who happened to be viewing would be seeing the backgrounds that did not work for me.  For example, that cute red/black/green striped one, that on my screen, runs out of width before it arrives at the first red stripe, so all black and green - not workin' for me, not my style.  Or the "messy snowflakes" one, with BIG brown snowflakes first, so on a less wide screen, one sees mostly brown snowflakes.  I prefer cleaner snowflakes.

So whatever you see right now may change momentarily. 
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