Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Last Post

My last post of this year! I don’t know where the year has gone, it seems to go quicker and quicker every year. We have had our ups and downs this year, but we are blessed to have each other, a roof over our heads, food on our table and family who loves us.

I pray that 2012 ushers in blessings for you all and a wonderful new start! Speaking of new starts, I know that many people have already or will be setting resolutions for themselves. I don’t go crazy and like Lent, instead of taking away, we try and add something positive in to our daily lives.

One thing we found this year, was that between the very busy schedules we keep at work, that once we were home, we didn’t always set aside time for each other until we went to bed, we always talk before we go to sleep. Well, that is something that is changing and no matter how many papers there are to grade or jobs left to finish, we are going to set aside some time for each other every evening.

The way that we are going to do this, is by taking an idea I saw on the Inchmark blog. She and her husband come together every evening over a cup of tea, they either talk, or play a game. We love playing games and usually have something in paper form, i.e. suduko on the go, we also love just to chat to each other. This was their gift to their family this year.

Making sure that other things do not take over and we carve out time for each other every evening is going to be my resolution this year. Because, all that other stuff, is just stuff, it really doesn’t matter.

“The note read: After the children are tucked in bed and fast asleep, we take turns boiling the water on the stove and getting out the tea bags. We fill our mugs with hot water and let the tea steep, then stir in a little sugar. Tea takes some time to cool, so we sit and talk at the table while we sip our tea and discuss the business of our family. Sometimes we take the time to play a game. After a busy day, it’s just nice to sit down together and talk for a minute. We hope you’ll think so too.”

(All images and the last paragraph of text is copyright to Inchmark)

The Anatomy of a Christmas Card

Last year, due to the general craziness of school, the cottage being painted and other things going on, I never mailed out Christmas cards. Instead I made, “Happy New Year” cards in January and mailed those out. Since we were already being non-traditional, we kept it that way and had our design printed up on postcards with envelopes to mail them in.

I had so much fun doing that, that this year, I decided that I would do it again. I created a design to fit on a postcard and this time I had the help of Mr. Michie, Goose Girl & Foxy.

I gathered up a few of my Christmas items, GiGi & Foxy invited over some gnomes and deer to the party and we got to work.

We set up a green screen, laid down “snow” and set up lighting. It was a regular little photography studio we had going on here.

We posed everyone in different positions, until we found one that would work best, after going through all the proofs, we picked a few images to work with and got going.

Through Photoshop, I extracted out the background, placed in an image we found, that seemed to work in harmony with everything else and adjusted the lighting, placed an overlay on the top, to create a frosty feel and added in a “Merry Christmas” banner, drawn by Mr. Michie.

We designed a back for the postcard as well, with a small Christmas message and a vintage picture of Santa. This was a project I truly enjoyed working on and I can’t wait till next year, I already have ideas like sugarplums dancing in my head!!

(My work is my own, please do not use it for your own purposes! Thank you.)

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

This is one of my all time favorite movies and songs. It has been sung by hundreds of people, but there is something about seeing Judy Garland singing it, almost as a lullaby to her little sister in Meet Me In St. Louis.

The nostalgia of another time, the colors of the film, the scarlet red dress she wears to what she believes to be her last dance in St. Louis, it all culminates to create one of the greatest Christmas movie scenes ever.

Wishing you all a very Merry Little Christmas Eve. I hope Santa is good to you!

The Lawrence Welk Show

Aah, The Lawrence Welk Show, it conjures up many a childhood memory for me. Now, I am not that old of a woman, I am definitely, I would like to think,  way too young to know what this show is, but yet I do. Saturday Night Live has a running skit in which they make fun of it and I laugh harder than I am sure others my age, because I truly get the joke. This was a show I grew up watching.

There is something so wholesome and sweet about the show and when you think back to TV way back then, when this was first aired, what a major thing this was to watch with your family, an entire song and dance show, with a full orchestra, colourful costumes, and huge sets. For many people, I am sure this was truly Hollywood magic, the first time they had ever seen anything like this.

This show was a part of my childhood. Growing up, if we were over at my Grandparent’s on a Saturday night for dinner, they would have PBS on, broadcasting a previously aired show and we would all watch it. Going to the beach house in the Summer, my mom and her sister would serenade us good night every evening to the closing theme. As we would lie in bed laughing hysterically.

It somehow gets into your bones this show. You know it is bad when on a Saturday night in College, you are the only person left in your dorm as you work away on a term paper and you turn on Lawrence Welk for company, because it makes you feel closer to home.

It is something, I have even indoctrinated my British husband in to as well. You watch the show and you just have to smile. My family has so many little inside jokes regarding this show, when certain cast members came on stage, I can hear what they would say about them and I can’t help myself, I just bust out laughing. My Nana, loved Joe Feeney and every time he would come on, she would mention what a beautiful voice he had, to which my Grandpa would roll his eyes. She would continue to say how many children he had, to which with a glimmer in his eye, my Grandpa would reply that is the only way his wife could get him to be quiet, he would wink at us and my sister and I would just bust out laughing.

You can’t fault Lawrence Welk though, you would be hard pressed today to find a show that is not only family based on screen, but one that was the same off the air as well. The holidays specials are always the best, the beehives seem to be taller and the dresses more sparkly, you just gotta love it. As we approach Christmas, I thought I would share with you a little childhood memory. Because if I was home on a Saturday night and this was on the TV, we would all have to watch a few minutes of it, just to share a laugh and a memory. Each episode is such a time capsule of that era and you just have to love Bobby & Cissy dancing around. Enjoy!

Holiday Visitors

Molly Moo Holly

I have yet to introduce you formally to my friend, although I said I would do it a few months ago, but time has just slipped away from me. I have an entire story to write about her and how we met.

But, in the mean time, let me just say that we have a special guest visiting us this Christmas. Her name is Molly Moo and she has travelled all the way from Pennsylvania to stay with us! I hope we get some snow for her, since it looks like it will be a white Christmas for her family at home.

Happy Holidays!

Mrs. Moss (Part 2)

At times, Alice would also go farther back into her memory and share with me stories from her childhood. Growing up in the South, in the time period she did, there were a lot of mill towns. In some places there still are in the South, though sadly many have closed as cheaper production options have been outsourced. Her family worked at one of the cotton mills in town, they lived in a mill house, in a neighborhood filled with other residents who all worked at the same mill. She and her siblings had chores to do when they would come home and in particular certain chores for each of them that pertained only to Christmas.

They were lucky, Alice said in that they had a screened-in porch off the back of the house, through a door that led out of their kitchen. That became their “extra” fridge in the winter. That always made me smile, as my grandmother would do the same thing on her back porch, using the icy air to keep the pies she had boxed up and ready for the holidays.

Alice’s Mother would make a variety of cakes and pies and cookies through the Holiday season starting about 2 weeks out from Christmas. She would leave notes for her children to prepare different ingredients for her, so when she came home from a long day at the mill, she could begin baking after dinner. One of Alice’s jobs was to chop up all the nuts and fruits that would be needed.

She would come home from school and go straight to the kitchen. There she would find a list that her Mother had left her and her siblings of their directions for the day. Alice would go to the pantry and collect the bags of nuts that she would need and sitting at the table with a bucket between her knees she would begin to shell her pecans and other nuts that her Mother’s recipe required. She always said pecans were her favorite to shell, walnuts were always so fiddly, for her mother wanted them out whole. Biting her lower lip with her brows drawn in concentration on her task, she would always seem to break more than she could flick out in their entirety with the aid of a little metal nut pick.

After shelling everything, she would begin to either roughly or finely chop the nuts, depending on what they would be used for and would place the finished items into bowls and place them on a sideboard. She would often have to fight off her brother from stealing handfuls of her hard-work to munch on while he completed his homework.

In the coming days, she would then turn to working on the fruit. Slowly and surely she would chop up candied and dried pieces of fruit for fruit cakes and cake decorations. When her Mother arrived home from the mill she would check on their progress and see if any more nuts or fruits would need to be prepared for her nightly baking.

Over the coming days her Mother would begin to bake cakes and pies for Christmas. Alice’s favorite, was a pecan cake that was a delicious vanilla cake filled with spices and chopped pecans, iced in a buttercream frosting with chopped pecans thrown around the sides of the cake for decoration. I think it was her favorite, because she had the job of “throwing” the pecans onto the sides of the cake. Her Mother would decorate the top with a little piece of holly and a circle of pecans wreathed around it.

All the pies and cakes that were made were stored outside on their screened-in porch along with the country ham that they would collect. That was always a special trip and certain years would include one child, instead of the whole family, getting to ride with their Daddy up to the mountains, to get the ham from a huge farmer’s market. It would hang outside in its burlap bag on a hook her Father had fastened into the porch ceiling, until their Mother prepared it for Christmas.

Alice, said nothing was better than that first slice off of the ham, you had waited so long to finally taste, sandwiched between the tender golden flaky discs of a biscuit and smothered in butter. The best part was licking the salt and biscuit crumbs off of your lips!

There are many things that have changed in the South and many that have not. And, that goes for any place. As time moves forward, family memories and traditions are things that we carry with us. As hardworking as her childhood was at times, it was still filled with the sweetness of Christmas.

I could always envision this small child coming home from school in her little plaid slip dress, covered with a sweater, little knee socks and mary jane shoes, a big bow in her hair, running in to her house to see what Christmas jobs awaited her. This small child who grew into a beautiful woman and continued to keep her kind outlook on life, never forgetting the beauty in the little things.

Mrs. Moss (Part 1)

When I was in High School, I got my first “real” job working at a Department Store in my hometown for the Holidays. Now, I had had jobs before, I had been a “professional” babysitter since I was 13 and had numerous families I worked for on a regular basis, my uncles had a flower shop and I would work for them after school, preparing flowers, helping with arrangements, making wreaths and bows. I would also, occasionally work weekends at my family’s farm, in the “shed” selling, depending on the season, peaches, nectarines, apples and fresh apple cider to costumers.

But, this was the first job I had outside of all of that. In fact, it was the same department store, where my Mom worked when she was in High School and I even had the same boss, that she had! I worked in the Children’s and Shoe department and would moonlight in China, Cosmetic’s and Men’s, when someone would be on a break.

I worked with a variety of people, two other High Schoolers like me and in particular two older women. One of them was a very sweet elderly woman who went to my church. Her name was Alice Moss. She always looked just so and had a certain air about her, you wanted to be around Alice to listen to what she had to say. She had the kindest laugh that just made you gravitate toward her direction.

Quite often, she would share stories with me, as we worked alongside each other, of when she was younger. Two of my favourite stories both dealt with Christmas and at two different points in her life.

She began dating her husband in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. They dated for a little while, but both knew they were deeply in love with one another and they had found what they wanted. He proposed after a few months and Alice accepted. During all of this, her Father had become quite ill and eventually passed away. Her mother was sad beyond words and afraid to be “left” by Alice with her upcoming marriage. She pressured Alice to call off the engagement and stay with her and after enough pressuring Alice finally caved, as she wanted to please her mother.

She broke off their engagement, knowing she could never ask him to wait till her Mother would be ready, because she, herself, didn’t know how long that would be. He protested but Alice remained firm, she had to help her Mother and run the household as she asked. A few months went by and any time they would see each other in town, Alice said her heart would skip a beat when she saw him; but nothing had changed, she still had to take care of her Mother.

The holidays came quickly enough that year and with it, Christmas Eve, in all its glory of anticipation and hope. That evening, her brother and his wife picked Alice up to go to church with them. They drove through the snow filled streets, with lights twinkling at them through the frosted window panes of the car as they went along. They drove to a small white church at the foothills of the mountains. A beautiful wreath hung on each of the doors, the red bows on the top of each one gently blowing in the chill of the night air. The glow of candlelight from inside, bathed the walls and open doors and beckoned everyone in. Standing by the door, bundled up in an camel coloured overcoat, hunter green scarf and a fedora hat, stood her former fiance. He took her hand in his and she was breathless, he led her inside the church and her brother and sister-in-law followed.

All through mass she held his hand, not wanting the magic of the moment to disappear, like Cinderella with her pumpkin. At the end of the service everyone filed out of the church wishing each other a “Merry Christmas”, but the four of them remained on the pew. The priest came back inside, shaking the snow off his robes as he walked and stood at the altar, giving them a small nod.

Alice’s brother slowly turned to her and stated that it is important to love and honour your parent’s, but she had found true love and that should not be taken lightly. He and their sister were living their own lives, so should Alice have the right to live her own life. Since their Father had passed away he was now the head of the household and he would not allow their mother to deny Alice the right to happiness, the right to live a life of her own, she was going to be with the man she loved and the man that loved her.

Her husband to be, beamed at her and her sister-in-law pulled out her own wedding veil for Alice to borrow. Stepping to the back of the church she helped her take off the red hat that matched her wool Christmas suit and place the veil in the soft curls of her hair. The lights were turned down, the organist began to quietly play a Christmas hymn and by the glow of candlelight, with her brother and sister-in-law as witnesses, she wed her husband on Christmas Eve, just before the bells chimed midnight.

He was a professor you know, she would say and he took me back to our new home, his former bachelor pad all decorated for Christmas. He carried me over the threshold and we spent our first night as man and wife in that home. That was always how she brought the story to an end. Suddenly the world would come rushing back, for in those minutes it took her to tell me this tale, the world had vanished around me and I could only see this romance of another time and place through Alice’s eyes.