Thursday, December 13, 2018

Thinking About Christmas

Nativity scene at my church. The infant Jesus will be added on Christmas Day.
Do you have a favorite word at Christmas?

Mine is Immanuel, "God with us." To know Jesus is in every breath I take, enabling the next beat of my heart -- this comforts me more than I can describe.

Years ago when I had an accident and sat in excruciating pain, waiting for an ambulance to arrive, one of the first thoughts to enter my mind was the words from Matthew 28:20, "I am with you always."

Immanuel or Emmanuel, however you prefer to spell it, God is with us. We need Him more than gifts, the approval of people, or anything else.

window lantern at my church
With the Presence of Jesus in our lives we have light -- direction for   the many decisions life requires of us.

Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying,
I am the light of the world:
he that follows me 
shall not walk in darkness, 
but shall have the light of life.
John 8:12

Light is so important. I usually wake up briefly around 4 a.m. every day. In an effort to not wake Beloved, I walk across the house to the powder room. A night light, the microwave clock, and tiny little LED lights embedded in some of our wall outlets break up the darkness just enough so I can navigate without stubbing my toes on furniture. 

Immanuel, God with me, gives me just enough light to get me where He wants me to go.

another Nativity scene at my church
Worshiping the baby in the manger both privately and with others enhances my understanding of God's love for me. While we desperately need frequent quiet times alone with the Lord, we also are commanded to be with others of like belief. 

None of us can go it alone. We need others to listen to us; we need to listen to them. The sharing of our lives with others, face-to-face, is how our Creator designed us to live. 

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,
as the manner of some is;
but exhorting one another:
and so much the more,
as ye see the day approaching.
Hebrews 10:25 

Joseph and the manger taking shape;
lavender threads will be Mary's clothing
These are some of my thoughts as I quietly sew and consider what Christmas means to me. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Waste Not; Want Not

'Tis the season when menu planning tends to take a back seat because of so much else going on. For my part it's not that I'm too busy but I've been trying to narrow down what's in the freezer and pantry to make the move to the new house easier. The drive from the old house to the new one will be over two hours in length and I'd rather not have to deal with keeping a lot of food cold for the trip. Our cars will be full enough of other stuff.

Like so many people these days, I often snap a photo of my dinner plate. Why do we do that? For me, it's like a photo food diary. Today I'm sharing some of those plates. 

If you're stumped for what to serve for dinner, maybe some of my combinations will give you a jump-start into the kitchen. note: I had a lot of frozen ready-to-heat chicken!

And please, don't judge. Those who know me well know I am adamant about eating dark leafy greens DAILY. But sometimes we have to use up what's in the pantry and just save the greens for breakfast smoothies. As my blogging friend Linda likes to phrase it, I'm 'just keeping it real."

Menu #1
Cooked carrots, cooked apple slices and a frozen-to-baked chicken patty topped with barbecue sauce

Menu #2
Chicken nuggets with barbecue sauce, cheese quesadillas, apple slices

Menu #3
Chicken breast quarter baked with whole-berry cranberry sauce,
green beans (cooked till limp! as Beloved prefers them), a salad of spring greens combined with orange segments, diced red onion, and topped with whatever salad dressing was on hand in the refrigerator

Menu #4
Fried Spam slices (this was leftover Hurricane rations, reminds me of my childhood, a rare treat these days), canned kernel corn, canned fruit cocktail

Menu #5
Ham slice browned in cast iron skillet, roasted asparagus and potatoes, cole slaw

And for dessert? Well, I had a bottle of dark molasses to use up ...

Gingerbread men!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Light in the Tunnel

It's been a wild week here, but all is good and our stress levels about our move are loosening up. Backing up to the previous week, we got a contract on our house and a few days later the big inspection took place. 

Five men descended on us all at once to check the roof, the air systems, the doors, the floors, every window in the house, opening and closing cabinets, inspecting the appliances, and so forth -- all during a raging storm outside. It was fun, exciting, and a bit terrifying. 

Late in the day yesterday we got word our house passed with no problems found that needed fixing, so we move forward with thankful JOY! (and we get to remain in this house until the new house is ready!!!) These are all answers to prayer. The Lord has blessed!

Beloved's note to me
After that excitement we both found time to do our Christmas shopping for each other. Beloved has posted this sign on one of the closet doors, forbidding me to go in there until he can get gifts wrapped.

While Beloved was doing his shopping, I stayed home to wrap my gifts for him and had the funeral on all of our televisions so I could keep up with everything nearly wherever I was in the house. It's probably not quite right to say I "enjoyed" the service, but I do appreciate civility, honor for the honorable, tradition, and so many other positive aspects of a proper funeral. ... which is a good thing as we age and have an increasing number of them to attend!

I will insert a little humorous story here that is indirectly related to the late President George H.W. Bush. My father was a corporate pilot flying out of Chicago back when President Reagan was being inaugurated for his second term. His employer had famous friends, including Mr. Bush (who was the Vice President at that time). From time to time these people were guests on the Lear Jet my daddy piloted. 

We lived in a Virginia suburb near Washington D.C. Daddy was flying his employer and Mr. Bush into D.C. for the inauguration and called ahead to ask if he could stay at our house since we were close by. He asked me to pick him up at the General Aviation terminal at Washington National Airport (which is now named for President Reagan). 

When I got there in my dark red Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme station wagon, I had to wait in a long line of black limousines who were also there to pick up dignitaries for the same event. Daddy hopped into my car and commented how my car stood out from all the others and it was easy to spot me!

Beloved with Grandson #4 in his first suit with tie!
Moving on through this week, we made a trip south to visit Surfer Girl, Surfer Boy, and their children, Grandson #4 and Granddaughter #5. Grandson had a very prominent role in his school holiday program, so we wanted to see that.

Granddaughter #5 shows me how things work in her room
I had fun playing with Granddaughter #5 while her mommy got supper on the table. We also played Rock Paper Scissors in the car en route to her brother's program. 

You may find it hard to believe I have never played that game before although I have certainly seen it done. Granddaughter #5  (age 3) had a great deal of trouble getting me to understand the concept of Rock Paper Scissors. That night after we left the kids' house, Beloved had to explain it to me. I have to tell you, I'm just not real bright when it comes to games. I get it now, but it still seems a little pointless to me. I try to be a fun Grammy but clearly, I can be too serious and/or practical at times!

our new house under construction 
The thrill of today was to watch the roof supports added to our new home. We stood at a safe distance for over two hours watching the process from beginning to nearly the end. This was supposed to be done earlier in the week, but due to high winds it was delayed until today. As a result it looks like we may not be able to move until sometime in March.

I need to slow down my packing ...

Before we left town, we made an inspection stop at the quilt shop. I am happy to report it is a delightful place and will most surely see more of me after we are moved.

In a previous visit to our new hometown we found the cross stitch shop, which was also a nice discovery. We are finding our way around fairly easily, making note of the Sam's Club, Walmart, our favorite restaurants, two major shopping malls, and churches. 

listening to Christmas music via Comcast on our TV
This evening we are home, tired from all the driving but pleased with what's transpired over the past several days.  We are relaxing in front of a roaring fire on our television. (Somebody's dropped off to sleep in his recliner). We discovered we can use our TV remote to request Christmas music and this is what we got! Love it!

This weekend is the Christmas program at our church featuring the adult choir and orchestra. We have so much behind us now that I feel we can slow down to really enjoy the sweetness of this season.

Here are the words to one of my favorite Christmas carols that helps to calm and quiet my spirit:

1. Bring a torch, Jeanette, Isabella
Bring a torch, to the cradle run!
It is Jesus, good folk of the village;
Christ is born and Mary's calling;
Ah! ah! beautiful is the Mother
Ah! ah! beautiful is her Son!

2. It is wrong when the Child is sleeping
It is wrong to talk so loud;
Silence, all, as you gather around.
Lest your noise should waken Jesus.
Hush! hush! see how fast He slumbers!
Hush! hush! see how fast He sleeps!

3. Hasten now, good folk of the village;
Hasten now the Christ Child to see.
You will find Him asleep in the manger;
Quietly come and whisper softly,
Hush! hush! Peacefully now He slumbers.

Hush! hush! Peacefully now He sleeps.

What Christmas songs help to quiet your heart and remind you of "the reason for the season"?

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Hanging of the Green and Posting of the Cards

"Hanging of the Green" is a Christmas tradition at the church we attend. It's the ushering in of the season with music from our children and youth choirs on the first Sunday in December.

graphic on my shirt
It was the perfect opportunity for me to wear a shirt I save for this wonderful time of year.

stairs to the balcony
I don't know that I've shared pictures from the inside of my church building. This is one of the largest churches we have attended and it's been a very enjoyable experience. 

this is about 1/5 of the sanctuary
It is the warmth and sweet spirit of Jesus in the members that make a church grow and endear itself to the people. But I have to say in all honesty that beautiful architecture and a big loud organ do a lot for me, too.

two sets of stained glass windows in the worship center
The pews are arranged in a large semi-circular fashion. We usually sit on a far side close to one set of these windows and can see the other set straight ahead of us, across the sanctuary. 

the baptistry
For the Hanging of the Green service, tinted lights were directed toward the choir loft and baptistry. The hanging lanterns are an addition for Christmas.

the Crismon tree

The Crismon* tree is probably at least 12 feet tall, standing in the church narthex (foyer) near that staircase in the third photo above. The decorating committee hung the ornaments on the higher branches and at the end of the Hanging of the Green service, the congregation was invited to finish decorating the lower branches.

Crismon ornaments

These Crismon ornaments are made with white styrofoam, gold and white pearl beads, other trims and sequins with braided gold trim for hanging on the tree branches.

The service was a beautiful evening event with the children and youth choirs, flute and piano music, special readings from both the Old and New Testaments, carol singing, and prayer.

our tree at home
While I'm blogging about Christmas decorations, I'll put in a few pictures from my home. As my faithful readers already know, we are packing up for a move in a couple of months and I'm recovering from a painful case of biceps tendonitis, so decorating our usual 6-foot tree held little appeal for me this year.

This small table-top tree is leftover from our dining room last year. When packing it away last December, I just put a big black trash bag over the top, used a twist tie at the base to close it up, and stuck it on a shelf in a closet. There's a lot to be said for simplifying things!

ceramic tree from Hobby Lobby at 40% off
We also have a cute little ceramic tree in the breakfast nook that doesn't provide much light at all but is a cheerful addition nonetheless.

card holder basket
I bought this wire basket and used twine to tie the sign to the front. This is where we'll collect the Christmas cards and newsletters as they come in.

Today our Christmas newsletter was completed and I hope to have our cards into the mail later this week. We used Zazzle this year to print up photo cards with a Bible verse.

I prefer to do all my Christmas greetings via social media because it costs $nothing!!! but after having done that for the past several years, I realize not everybody relates well to that; and there are some, the elderly in particular, who don't use the Internet. So we're greeting via snail mail, Face Book, email, and this blog.

* Crismons are Christmas decorations with Christian symbols on them. They help Christians to remember that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus' birthday. They are often used on Christmas trees in churches and in the homes of Christians. For more information, click on this link:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Art of Change

Since the announcement that Beloved and I are selling the house and moving about one hundred miles farther south, a change in my blog header is necessary. The design on the left illustrates our current proximity to the ocean (12 miles as the crow flies) and some well-known sites we have frequented during our time here in Northeast Florida. 

With the relocation, we'll be about 90 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean and about an hour from the Gulf of Mexico. We'll have a little less of the 'beachy' atmosphere and more of a traditional, southern hospitality ambiance. I'm thinking the red print  design on the side borders of my new design go well with the change. (Note: if you are viewing my blog on a mobile device, you might not be able to see the side borders, or even the header. Sorry 'bout that. It's clearly visible on a regular computer screen.)

a new use for the dining room

We're all about change here these days. We have some things we will be moving ourselves, not entrusting them to 'professionals' because we have moved a lot over the years and we know what tends to get mangled or lost in transit. Oh the stories we could tell... 

Now that the dining set has been sold, we have plenty of floor space to make collections of items that will go with us and which will be entrusted to the moving company.

DMC embroidery floss organization 
I've also spent a couple of hours re-vamping how I organize my threads for cross stitch, buying up additional cases and then spreading the thimbles of thread out so they aren't so crowded when I need to add or subtract them for projects. I do enjoy playing with the wonderful colors and labeling all the boxes. Organization is deeply satisfying to me. Clutter makes me crazy.

blankets of lights on our bushes
Then there is the matter of Christmas. As you can well imagine, it's complicated getting ready for a move during the holiday season. Do we unpack Christmas decorations while packing up everything else?

Beloved's laser light show on the garage doors
That is especially tricky since we live in a neighborhood that prides itself with an annual Christmas display that draws lookie loos from all over town, driving s-l-o-w-ly up and down our streets to ooh and aah.  We want to be good team players, so for the sake of our mental health, we have put out a modest display this year and will let our neighbors' efforts steal the show.

our foyer is a refuge for those in need of a warm place for the night
Change has come for my back porch plants, too. Our temperature tonight may get into the 30s so we brought them inside. Although we don't get ice and snow here, it turns surprisingly frigid in November into December. That 'endless summer' theme on some of the local license plates is stretching the truth.

Beloved at the movies
With so much change afoot right now, it's easy to fall into edgy ways with each other.  This afternoon we put everything concerning the move behind us for a few hours to have a date with lunch at Chick-fil-a and then a movie matinee in luxurious reclining chairs. 

In all honesty I can't say the plot of our movie was stress-free but it was good to get away from the accumulating boxes and spackling of nail holes long enough to focus on something else.

The next few days will be busy with signing paperwork and getting estimates from about four moving companies. Somewhere in there I need to resume Christmas shopping and then try real hard to not pack into a moving box the gifts Santa will be distributing!

Tis the season, right?

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Picture This!

There are so many photos from this past week. They can tell the happy story and I'll add a word here and there.

The celebration of Beloved's birthday (occurring on Thanksgiving Day this year) began two days early because I gave him two new polo shirts and wanted him to have them before he began packing his suitcase for our trip.

My current cross stitch project had to be put aside because the 22-count Hardanger is challenging enough for me to see when I'm sitting at home in peace and quiet. Car travel and the busy household we were visiting would not be good conditions for this hobby.

On the road toward Florida's Panhandle, we made a stop at the Busy Bee. Wonderful place! It's not as big as Bucky's in Texas but worth the stop for food, gifts, and gas.  I have added the link to Busy Bee in the sentence above after people not familiar with it asked me what it is.

I also give them a strong thumbs-up for clean, attractive, and spacious rest rooms.

If you are an American, I probably don't need to tell you where we stopped for lunch ....

My choice was something light as I anticipated a hearty Thanksgiving dinner the next day at the home of Gray Beard and Blondie. But truth be told, this is one of my favs on the menu at any time of year.

For the next nearly 100 miles we drove past a lot of hurricane damage from last month. Along our route we saw downed trees, mangled highway signs, some torn up sheds, and a few seriously-damaged houses. Our route along Interstate 10 is north of Panama City and the other towns that saw the worst of the storm, with the exception of Marianna, which is north of the road and also got hit really bad. Clearly, giving thanks will not be easy for those people this year.

Beloved's birthday celebrations resumed when we reached our destination.

Since our last visit to their house, our kids have been very busy updating with paint, changing out window treatments, and re-arranging furniture for both beauty and a smoother traffic flow for their large family. 

House rules in this busy household are encouraged with wall decor...

And while I'm on the subject of words, Granddaughter #1 has taught herself calligraphy. She made pretty labels for the buffet table and place settings, too.

Blondie had been busy in her kitchen for days preparing the feast, starting with all things pumpkin.

The dinner was worth the wait; I loaded up my plate and found my place at the table.

The turkey was by Butterball, taken directly from freezer to oven,  baked in a cooking bag. I had not seen that done before (baking a FROZEN bird). The result was delicious.

Of course, no family gathering is complete without the group pictures. Both weather and lighting were perfect. I'll let you guess as to which of the young ones is our offspring: Blondie or Gray Beard? Whichever you guess, they both "married well."

Here we are with 9 of our 11 grandchildren. Note Grandchildren #6 and #10 (and their parents, Surfer Girl and Surfer Boy) were not with us this time. They celebrated Thanksgiving in their town while Web Designer and The Lil' Red-haired Girl dined on turkey in Colorado. As most of you already know, it is nothing short of a miracle for entire families to gather for holidays any more. We are no exception.

Guy talk. We had ample time during this visit for good one-on-one conversations. There was a game of football in that big yard until somebody (who will go unnamed) forgot his age and pulled a hamstring -- but at least they all had fun!

The next day we all piled into the family van (oh, except for one who had to stay home to do homework for his college degree) and went through a traveling Bible History exhibit. It was interesting with more to see than we had time to view. 

All too soon it was time for us to say our goodbyes and head for home. We made wonderful memories with positive experiences. 

As we departed with the Thanksgiving holiday behind us, Blondie ushered in the Christmas season.

Until next time ...