29 December 2014

YEAR END REVIEW of Popular Posts and Projects

Everywhere I look on the blogs for the last week or so, I am seeing lists of My Top 10 Posts or My 20 Favorite Projects, or whatever. Most have already discarded their Christmas decorations, and are about to unveil Valentine's.  Honestly... 

I didn't get as much done this past year as I usually do because I had a knee replacement, and I still have a list of things I wanted to do this year which will just have to be carried over into the New Year.  Add those to the new list already generated in my little brain, and it is enough to make me think I might just go back to bed and cover up my head.  

But -- as I was looking through my list of posts, trying to select the ones which looked the most popular, quite a few of those coincided with the projects I finished which were also most read.  So I made a list of links for you in case you might want to take another look.  

The look-back was kind of fun actually, but truthfully I hardly ever look back at my own posts.  It was weird to see just how much has already changed since each one of these posts were written, giving me a reminder that I have been meaning to share updates on this and that and just haven't gotten around to it.  I think I am a lazy blogger.  

I would actually rather look forward than back, although I have certainly done a lot of introspective looking back lately.  It seems that re-examining certain aspects of your life is something that just sort of happens this time of the year.  I don't know if it is the Winter Solstice with the days being so short and often gloomy, or if it is because we are about to turn the page and start fresh with a new year.  

At any rate, here's the list in descending order (date-wise) should you care to look:

Happy New Year!

These photos were of some my own favorites this year -- not necessarily what my readers liked best!

Linking up to Rhoda at Southern Hospitality  for her Best Projects Party

26 December 2014


Boxing Day, as it is known in the UK and several other countries, is December 26, the day after Christmas.  It was traditionally the day when the "help" would go round to the Lord of the Manor and collect a Christmas box of presents and goodies, their reward presumably for being good little workers all year.

Several Brits I have known always throw a big party on that day.  It is actually observed as a banking holiday now.  For Americans, it is a day to go return all those presents you didn't like and scope out the bargains at the after Christmas sales.  Me, I am so tired of Christmas this year I can't even tell you.  Usually, I don't decorate as early as a lot of people do, and I target January 6, the traditional Feast of the Epiphany, as the day to have it all wrapped up and put away.  (Many of my neighbors have already ripped theirs down today!)  We used to burn the Christmas trees in the churchyard at the Episcopal parish where I belonged.  

Things change.  I am a lapsed churchgoer now, and I use fake Christmas trees.  I checked out a couple of sales today, but what I was eyeing was not on sale, all but some little owl-ornament balls for a craft project, that is.  (I'll show you that when I get it done.)

Christmas table

This year, I did decorate a little earlier than I usually do so I could get on with my baking.  I gave away a lot of cookies, etc., and cemented a couple of new friendships (I think) with them.  The neighborhood curmudgeon was quite taken aback when we rang his bell in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve, handing him a bag of cookies with a cheerful "Merry Christmas!" greeting.  The look on his face was priceless, actually.  ;>P

Front Porch

It never did really seem like Christmas this year, not in any sustained way, only moments here and there.  We didn't have company, did very little shopping, and only went to one party.  I think I have become very cynical about the whole thing.  Trying to get in the spirit, I have visited an elderly shut-in relative,

Cousin Girda, age 95

visited the family cemetery, 

sent boxes of goodies to several people, and even attempted to go to Mass on Christmas Eve.  However, there was nowhere to park!  I guess all the other people who show up at church once a year got there first...

We rode around and looked at Christmas lights for a while instead.  When we came home, we sat in front of our little tree in the kitchen, and we talked of Christmases past, present and future.  I just felt unaccountably sad.  I said out loud that I really had no reason to feel so sad, not for myself, anyway.  Others in my family have been having some struggles this year.

New lazy susan --
I am trying to get organized

Today, after our outing, I was reading again, this time, just my email. I had sat up half the night last night reading, then got up very early this morning to finish THE BURNING ROOM by Michael Connelly.  He never lets me down.  (I think I should have been a detective.)  Then the phone rang, and it was my Georgia cousin Mary.  She had heard from her own brother who said that my brother's wife died yesterday.  I have no relationship with my brother, and I haven't seen him in twenty years.  (Not a situation of my making, by the way)

Two deaths of people related to me by marriage just this Christmas week.  First, Grandma Rose on Monday and now a sister-in-law I met exactly once twenty years ago, on Christmas Day.

That's life.  You are born, you live and then you die.  Birth and Death are like the bookends of our lives.  There are many volumes written in between, and they contain a lot of good stuff and inevitably some sad stuff.  There is a brand new baby next door, we made some new friends this year and three family members died -- two very old, and one, not so very.  But that's just life. You roll with it, and keep on living. 


P.S.  This morning I read this article about 27 ways to make yourself happier.  At first, I thought, "Oh great -- some feel good psychobabble."  But I read it anyway, and I think it is worth sharing with you.  You will find some good tips here, trust me!

Here is the link:  

23 December 2014


Not long ago, I told you that Sweet Husband and I met 25 years ago at a Halloween party.  On December 22, we were married 24 years ago by a JP at our home in Texas with my best friend and his best friend (plus spouses) in attendance.  Then the six of us went to dinner at Bistro Bagatelle.  A couple of days later, we took off on a road trip and faced the music from our families, none of whom were too happy about us getting married.  

I took Christmas off the table,  just for this dinner

About 7:30 a.m., the phone rang.  It was my mother-in-law who told us that her mother, my husband's Grandma Rose, had died.  She was one hundred years plus three months old.  You met her in a previous post about the first of October.

Old-fashioned champagne coupes from an estate sale (last year, I think)

We don't really mourn the death of a person this old, not like we would when it is the tragic or unexpected death of a younger person.  Rather, we say, "She is in a better place" or "She isn't in pain any more" because she had no life left to live.  Mostly we remember that she lived a really long time, and she was a productive citizen and lived a very long life that touched many others' lives in some way, like the ripple effects of a stone cast into a pond.  After all, when a person is bedridden, has to be fed and changed like little baby, there is not much quality of life anymore to be mourned.  That life as she lived it is already over.  It is more like a sense of relief for everyone, including the dearly departed.

Rose's family went to her 100th birthday party on September 30, and at the time I felt like that would be the last time we saw her. Although I did not say so to all the others, I think they sensed it, too.  She just looked so tired, although she was excited about it being her 100th birthday.  I am not sure she really understood that all that hoopla with lots of people, etc.,  was actually for her. Who knows, maybe she did.  

The last thing she said to me that day was, "Well!  I never thought I would see you here!"  Then she said, "Where's Ray?"  She definitely knew who I was, but obviously, she had forgotten that I had been to see her many, many times over the years.  We won't even mention the hoops I jumped through during the last 25 years, trying to do nice things for her, trying to make her happy.  Who knows if she ever even saw a lot of the gifts people brought that day, including ours.

Lately, she had slept mostly, and she had pretty much stopped eating and was down to eighty pounds.  Those are the signs that a very old person is about to cross over to the other side, and who is to say that is a bad thing.  My MIL told me that last week, one of her caregivers tried to feed her some soup, telling her it was good, that she needed to eat.  She spit it out into her face!  No filters when you reach 100 years old.

Another caregiver, a perfectly nice woman, she fired because "she chewed gum."  That old saying  really is true, "From the cradle back to the cradle" when a person lives so long.  My MIL told her last September,  "You were a sweet mother to us when we were little" (meaning herself and her brother).  Grandma refused to acknowledge this extended olive branch and offer a reciprocal loving feeling for a peace-making moment.  (Like most mothers and daughters, they had their issues.)  She got ornery and mean during menopause and never got over it, so I am told.  I was warned that she was quite the grouch before I ever met her.  However, most of the time, I got along very well with her.  

The same sort of thing happened with my own mother who was only one year younger than Grandma Rose.  They used to call it "The Change" back in the day -- maybe this is what was meant.  My mother became rather bitter and resentful about her situation of not having as much as many others in the family, blaming it all on having to feed, clothe, shelter and care for her mother-in-law for ten long miserable years with no help from any of the blood family, especially her own daughter, then bearing the lion's share of the burden for her own.  Nowadays, we have better living through chemistry...  thank God for Estrogen supplements during that bridge period, am I right?

Sweet Husband and I had a nice anniversary anyway, going on with our plans to go out and play for the day.  Rose would have been the first person to understand this.  No one could ever say she didn't think of herself first!  She was manipulative in the extreme, (which I always found amusing) and in fact, she was called in the family (jokingly -- kind of), "The Master Manipulator."  She was the first person who accepted me when I came into the family, but then I was informed by the various family members, "She was just being nice to you to get my goat!" Well, alrighty, then.

Pretty soon, we will gather down at the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a family for one last time and bury her next to her beloved husband Bill.  This is truly the end of an era, beginning with earlier this year when my own 93-year-old cousin Eleen died.  They will be gone from this earth forever, but their memories will always be there for some of us, the ones who remember, although in another generation or two, those memories, too, will fade into obscurity right along with the essence of us. 

That is just the way it is.  Not many of us will remain in the collective consciousness forever.  I watched a great documentary the other night called "On Being Susan Sontag" about a writer I always admired.  She was so angry about dying (ten years ago) because she would just cease to be and she still had so many things she wanted to do.  However, she did leave behind a huge body of work, being a woman with a brilliant mind.  Most of us are much more ordinary.

None of us really, truly believes we will be immortal, do we?   That many people will always remember us?  Not unless we were a U.S. President or something.  My father-in-law once said during a dinner table discourse, "You know how long people will remember us after we die?  About fifteen minutes.  They will bury us, and they will soon forget us."  

I think he was probably right.  

The photos you have been looking at are of the little table I set for Monday night's anniversary dinner which we decided to have at home.  The weather outside turned cold and rainy, but it was nice and cozy in here.  We had crab cakes and garlic/red pepper pasta with Lazyballs* for dessert.  Champagne was our beverage of course!  We toasted to another 24 years (at least)!

Here's the food -- I forgot to snap a beauty shot of the food plated -- we just ate it!


garlic/red pepper pasta

*from the Alabama humorist, author and artist Ben South -- an old recipe from his family.  

The gap is where the ones we ate used to be!

17 December 2014


In line with keeping it low-key and laid back and all that jazz this year, here is a little slice of my life today in the run-up to Christmas this year.  If you don't really care, just look at the pictures and move on.  This is typical of our everyday tables this time of year.

Dishes and mugs - PB, chargers and candleholders - Ikea, napkin rings - Pier 1, table linens - Home Goods, flatware -- Tuesday Morning.

I have been mixing up batches of cookie dough off and on, and then baking them off later at my leisure.  This was one of those days when it was overcast and quite chilly.  While Sweet Husband was cleaning up the front gardens and laying out fresh pine straw, the house was smelling sweet with the aromas of Christmas cookies in the oven.  I still have one batch to bake off, and I am looking for ingredients to do two other kinds before I call it quits.  

I am thinking about making a little booklet of my holiday faves to share with you.  Of course, I think about a lot of things, so who knows if this will ever come to pass.

My game plan is to give some of my neighbors a tin with a nice cookie variety this year.  I do this some years, but didn't get much done last year, except a smallish tin over to some new folks who had just moved in a couple of days before Christmas.  (They said their boy home from college ate them all and no one else got any!)  We have gotten to know them, and they are a delightful family from Philly.  It must be fun to call your home town something like "Philly" -- maybe we could say we are from "Hammy" or something.  Actually, some do refer to Birmingham as "The Ham" -- but I digress.

Sweet Husband just discovered someone hacked his credit card -- not good.  I have done most of my shopping online this year, as I do not like crowds.  However, you do open yourself up to attacks every time you do it, I suppose. 

Yesterday, I made a chicken pot pie -- so easy and so good -- while I also baked off some of the cookies.  Thank heavens for two ovens, even if they are crappy electric ones.  We have been having some discussions here on the homefront about making some change$ in the kitchen.  I want a biga$$ gas range and a biga$$ counter-depth French-door fridge. Go big or go home, I always say.

I also want to remove all these cabinets, all the granite, and the tile floor I have to whitewash every six months.  I am thinking cork.  Something easy on the legs and back.  Any one have cork floors?  How do you like it?  The cabinets would get installed in the garage for a lot of storage there, and I would use mostly furniture in the kitchen, not acres of builtins.  I like an unfitted kitchen, and I have always wanted one.

So, how are you doing at your house on this home-stretch to Christmas?  If you don't do Christmas, well then, Happy Chanukah!  I think presents every night for eight days sounds like a swell idea!   

P.S.  Thanks be to God (and everyone else involved) for the release of Alan Gross from a Cuban jail today!  

Linking up with Cuisine Kathleen for Let's Dish
and Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch

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