Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Looking for the Limited Plan- Emergency Coverage Only

Uh, hello, yes I was calling today to find out if 
I could get a small serving of Jesus

I just need Him to answer a few prayers

No, no I don't need the full coverage plan
No major transformations or changes
Looking for something just for special occasions 

A small wallet size identification will do
What did you say? Nail marks!!!!
Please, no physically identifying aberrations 

Uh, this doesn't require any of my money, time or attention does it
Because I really only can spare a five 

The thing is, 

When He went to the cross,
He gave it all!

He died and His call is for you to come to the cross too.
Make no mistake, it is a call to die.

Die to your rotten old self- of doing it your way- no matter the cost

An all or nothing proposition
No bartering allowed

You have nothing He needs...

He has everything that you really want and need

Without Jesus you are a dead man walking around like a living breathing mirage

But you do have an expiration date

You need a complete transfusion
He gives you His life for yours

What's it going to be friend?
This offer has an expiration date too, but I personally can't tell you when your offer ends.

Looking for the answers to your questions, The Gospel of John is a good place to start.

Can You Step Outside For A Bit?

We have had torrential rains for a couple of weeks. Gray skies are normal for our area of the country in December.  Usually by January the deep blue skies normally show back up. Tuesday the skies cleared a little early and the sun showed itself.  It has been in the seventies for a couple of weeks, which is definitely a much higher than normal temperature.  It has been like a warm spring without all of the pollen in the air.

Because of the influx of rain, the back of our property is a mud pit right now.  It is gooey and hard to walk across without slipping.  We have a little make shift creek, that runs part of the year.  It drains our property as well as the folks behind us and four or five families that live up the street from us. The little creek was clogged with limbs and leaves.  The brush has gotten pretty thick around the creek.  My husband started the process of cutting and clearing things out while the rains stopped temporarily yesterday.   The rain held off for the whole day and we had good weather to work.  The creek is running now and we have a huge pile of brush.

I helped with pulling off some of the limbs and did some weed eating around the yard.  We both came in mud splattered and a little bone weary, but it was a good healthy tired.  Even our dog spent the day out in the sunshine and she seemed to a bit more tired and maybe a bit happier.
Back yard creek

The chickens were out yesterday enjoying the sunshine.  They are true loafers as we haven't had any eggs for over a month now.

This is our biggest girl.  The rest of them are lean and mean.

Everyone enjoys a reprieve from the rain.   

I look at life through a "beauty" lens.  I see beauty in the smallest of things. Man made things are seldom as interesting to me as the things in nature.
Bits of bark and wood lay scattered about.  I love the texture and colors.  Anything that God makes is pretty amazing.
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created by Him and for Him 
Pine cones amidst the rubble of downed trees, so pretty in their symmetry.
We have a small pond in the fence with the chickens.  They will drink from the pond sometimes. One of them slid in one day while standing by the water's edge.  I guess she got carried away looking at her reflection and lost her footing.  Chickens are comical creatures and sometimes I see my own personality being reflected by them.  I am just as goofy and can be just as illogical as they are.  I personally think the world would be better if most people owned chickens and spent part of the day just watching them.  I am starting a new movement called, Chickens Instead of Prozac.
Trees being reflected in the small pond.  Notice that there are blue skies in the reflection. Today we are
back to torrential rains.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; Sing praises to our God on the lyre, Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who provides rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains. He gives to the beast its food, And to the young ravens which cry. . . Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!

We planted rye grass this year.  It makes a huge difference to drive up to a green luscious yard as opposed to a barren brown one.  I am happier just knowing the grass is green outside.
Rye grass
Because the temperatures are hovering at spring like ranges, some of the plants are pretty confused.  I have some bushes that I snagged from our old home place.  The branches are slender and droop from the middle of the bush. Even though the leaves have dropped, the tiniest  little white flowers are blooming.

It did me a lot of good yesterday to go outside and work. Work is a gift and honest physical hard work is a joy. Today we have been cooped back up in the house and I can relate to my chickens just a little more.  All of God's creatures really enjoy His world.  I personally think it is unnatural to spend so much of our time in man made surroundings.  We need the outside.  We need the beauty and the peace and the order of His world. We really do need to consider the work of His hand...!

"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;…"

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the rivers 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Pictures of Ordinary Days

I love taking my camera with me, pretty much wherever I go.  I see potential shots on every little adventure.  I don't always manage to snag the picture, but it is still a fun game to me.  I think that life has a lot more to offer us than what we always have the eyes to see.  There are always little vignette's being played out around us. My life is pretty routine for the most part.  I go to work, try to keep our household from caving in, run errands, attend church, and spend time with family and friends.  This is the stuff for me that ordinary life is made of.  I love to travel, but it has been several years since we have had the opportunity to go a different culture. It is a given for most people to take a camera when they travel, but I love to find things that are interesting in the ordinary.  These are some of the pictures that are from a 25 miles radius of my home.

Country Roads
Golf course on the way to work
One of the last red leaves in fall.

Tromping in the snow across the road from our house.
Sheep in Pasture

Backyard Fire
Lunar Moth in the yard
Farm Fields

Field near our house

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Night Walk

Don't Mess With Agnes or Mrs. Porch

I lived in the same house growing up.  It was about five miles outside of a small town. We went to the same church.  Our relatives never moved to new houses.  There were no new schools ever built.  Nothing in our lives changed very much at all.  It was a stabilizing way to grow up.

We also had people that were stabilizers. They stood sentinel in our lives.  Christine lived down the road from us.  She had to be in her 60's when I was a child.  She was a no nonsense medium built woman who wore jeans and little gingham shirts in a time when women dressed very differently.  Her husband Vernon was a big man and he smoked a pipe.  They lived in a tidy brick house that set off the road that always smelled like wood smoke and fragrant tobacco.   Christine's brother lived in the basement.  He was quiet and unobtrusive.  I don't know why we were allowed to call them Christine and Vernon, probably because Vernon's mom lived next door.  Old Mrs. Shuping was a sweet little woman with gleaming wood floors and a spotless interior.  Her specialty was tatting.  She gave pillowcases with tatting on the edges for graduation gifts.  She was one of my grandma's old lady friends. Vernon and Christine's son and family built on the property on the other side of them. They had three kids that my sister Gail and I were friends with.  They were solid neighbors to have.

Other folks stood sentinel as well.  Mrs. Porch attended church with us.  Her little house was painted pink.  She was tall and thin with a slightly stooped back. Her hair still had a light brown color even though she was in her late seventies. Her husband had passed away years before and she lived by herself just several doors down from the church. She sat about six rows back in the middle aisle. She was unobtrusive accept on rare occasions when her emotions would be overwhelmed in church and she would begin to  weep, and raise her hands out of her love for her Jesus.  She was a very sweet little old woman but her appearance could be deceiving, because it did not reveal just how tough she really was. Agnes was one of Mrs. Porch's buddies. They were good buddies and went out to eat and shopping together.  Agnes had never married.  She had stayed home and cared for her parents until they passed away.  She lived in the little house that she had inherited from her parents.  Agnes dyed her hair and it came out slightly blue.   She was short, slightly humped and she sang loud and slightly off key in the church choir. One day while this unassuming pair were out shopping, a young buck thought that he found some easy targets. He tried to snatch Mrs. Porch's purse. Agnes and Mrs. Porch beat him with their purses until the would be criminal escaped with his life.

There were lots of people that were a part of our lives besides Christine, Vernon, Mrs. Porch and Agnes.   Most of them, we had very little real personal interaction with them.  They were just always there in the background of our lives.  They lived their lives without scandal and without major drama.  They taught us tons of lessons without even knowing that was what they were doing.  Vernon and Christine taught that family was important.  They watched out for aging parents, unmarried brothers, grown children and grand kids.  They also were caring neighbors who showed up if you needed help but they always minded their own business.  They were always so at ease in their own skin and seemingly unaffected by whatever came their way.

Agnes taught me that regular folks, who may not be the most confident socially, can still make a good life and be happy.  Agnes found friends and she lived in  community with her church family who accepted and loved her.  Mrs. Porch taught me that one can have a flamboyant pink house and be an emotionally demonstrative person without be narcissistic.  She was just a sweet little lady who was herself.  Agnes and Mrs. Porch had a lot of pluck. Agnes and Mrs. Porch gave me some of my first clues that little old ladies are a force to be reckoned with.  There are greater degrees of toughness than physical prowess.

These people were just regular folk living out there lives in a way that added to the general soundness of everything.  We seem to have forgotten that in our self absorbed culture that each of us have a duty to those around us.  We have all to some degree been given the charge to be a sentinel.  Guards are not supposed to abandon their post.  We must live decent lives. Every life either gives courage to others or takes courage away from others.

We believe lies now, about how we have to watch out for ourselves, pamper our sexuality  and live out our own dreams no matter the cost.  What poppycock!  If right now, I abandon my post and I give in to some kind of self indulgent foolishness, many will suffer and that suffering will have ripples into many years.  Have you witnessed the ripples from divorce, abuse, unfaithfulness, or abandonment?  We all have either experienced or witnessed these things.  There are other kinds of ripples.  There are ripples of faithfulness to the very end, courage, endurance, and finding your place of joy in just an ordinary life.  We seem to have forgotten that we are creatures.  We are not the center of the universe, nor do we function well if we forget that.

But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.

Live decent lives among unbelievers. Then, although they ridicule you as if you were doing wrong while they are watching you do good things, they will praise God on the day he comes to help you.

 If right now, I abandon my post and I give in to some kind of self indulgent foolishness, many will suffer and that suffering will have ripples into many years. 

 Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.…

It is time to dust off our courage and stand up tall and live a decent life.  

 All of my childhood sentinels have passed from the earth, but I am still impacted by the steady lives that they lived in witness before me. We do not know who we will impact.  There have been enough of us in our culture who have decided to just live for ourselves.  It is time to dust off our courage and stand up tall and live a decent life.   Lord help us, we need more of the likes of Christine, Vernon, Agnes and Mrs. Porch.  

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Memories

I grew up living in the country.  We were not rich monetarily by any stretch of the imagination.  We lived on a small farm and we had a small wood frame house.  My dad worked every day at the factory and came home and did double duty on the farm.  We grew up with fresh eggs, some of our meats were farm raised and most of our vegetables. All of the floors in our house were hard wood. We had a front porch and a back porch and a working fireplace and another chimney in the middle of the house that was used for a wood stove.  Our house was full of antiques.  I did not realize how rich we really were, because I often compared my lot in life to shallow standards.

Christmas was one of those areas of comparison.   We always received gifts, but they were small and few.  I had cousins and friends who seemed to receive the moon, sun and stars for Christmas and I was often ashamed of how little I received from my parents. Sometimes, it takes a lifetime to understand the value of your possessions. 

 My cousins and my friends believed in Santa Claus way up into their elementary years.  I knew he didn't exist when I was probably 4 or 5. My older sisters couldn't wait to tell me how stupid I was to believe in Santa Claus.  I had to be like an adult with my friends and cousins and not let the cat out of the bag.  It was a rather funny position to be in as a five year old, when your older cousins are running around talking about a fat man in a red suit as though he really left the doll house under the tree for them.  I think knowing he wasn't real helped me to understand why there was disparity between my gifts and some who had more financial means. 
One of tacky but beautiful
Christmas trees.

Cousins Richard and Ethan
For my family, Christmas started when my dad would take the ax down to the lower woods to look for a tree.  My sisters and I would tag along.  Daddy had typical male traits and he just wanted to get the job done.  He was not discriminating in his choice of a tree and would often come back with a tree that needed to be positioned to hide the bare spot or spots.  He would nail a cross piece on the bottom of the tree and often the tree had to be anchored with string to the wall to get it to stand straight.  We decorated it with our ancient ornaments, many of which were pretty shabby.  We used the big lights that are growing in popularity once again and lots of tinsel.  We added candy canes and strung popcorn for the tree.  It was tacky and very beautiful.  For a child, this kind of tree was absolutely enchanting.  When did we get so sophisticated with our Christmas trees?  We can't even put the child made ornaments on our trees anymore because they "spoil" the decorated look of our trees.  

We shopped downtown at the five and ten type stores.  Malls and even shopping centers were not available.  There were  always gaudy decorations on the lamp posts and lots of hustling and bustling. Everyone said "Merry Christmas" in those days.  It would usually be cold and I can see in my mind, Mama trying to get a little something for everyone in her extended family.  We didn't have a lot of cash and so this was a real struggle for her.  

Me, my cousin Elaine, my sister Wanda and Grandmother in the
background talking. (What a shock!) circa 1977
The Sunday before Christmas, we would attend church where we would sing carols.  After church we went to my mom's side of the family.

 Aunt Jan and Uncle Aikens' would host the 50 plus group.  Everyone brought food and we sat literally all over the house.  The tables and counters would be piled with food.  There was always ham, turkey, deviled eggs, potato salad and every kind of decadent  dessert.  Mama would take a homemade coconut cake. She would get a coconut and bake it in the oven and then hand grate it.  It was always delicious.  My grandmother made her famous yeast rolls. We swilled sweet tea and coffee throughout the day.  Football games played in the background and lots of my relatives smoked cigarettes and a few smoked cigars.  It was a lighthearted chaotic atmosphere.  I loved being with our family, but was not used to being around that much smoke.  By the time we left I was usually over stimulated, full as a tick and just a little queasy from all of the cigarette smoke. Our day was not over yet though.

After the family gathering, we went back to church to see the annual Christmas play.  It always started with the wee ones saying memorized lines that they always mixed up.  That was probably the best part of it.  Some years we were in the Christmas play, but not often.  The church was completely packed and everyone tried to dress festive.  After the play, the church handed out Christmas pokes.  In the brown paper bag was an apple, orange, tangerine, chewing gum, candy bar or two, box of raisins. and a hand full of shelled nuts.  Men of the church would hand out the sacks as quickly as possible.  Everyone, including the white haired old ladies lined up to get their Christmas poke. Your goodies were sacred and you got to eat them whenever and however you wanted.  Finally we drove home through our little downtown with the garland decorated stars on the lamp posts and then into the country past all the little houses with their Christmas lights dotting the dark country side.  

My older sisters being goofy on Christmas morning.
On Christmas eve all of the packages had been wrapped, the Christmas lights would glow and we would light a fire in the fireplace and turn out the lights just to take in the beauty of it all.  We hung out socks, not specially made Christmas stockings.  We would go to bed but the excitement would keep us giddy until we finally fell asleep with the light from the fire place flickering throughout the house.

On Christmas morning, we would wake our parents who really were rather put out about it.  One year I got a red tricycle that my dad put together on the back porch after we went to bed.  He was frustrated and angry and was using his "jack leg it" cuss word. We all could hear him banging around from our beds and probably even knew what he was doing. I know mama was exhausted from getting food ready for the next day and trying to get the Christmas things ready to be put out during the night.  They had to wait for us to finally fall asleep before they could accomplish their goals.  

After everyone was assembled in the living room, we opened our presents and checked our stockings that were filled with fruit, nuts and candy.  There was never actual presents in the stockings.  We ate a hurried breakfast and dressed.  We went to my dad's side of the family on Christmas day.  Once again the entire house was running over with people.  We moved from family to family for this get together, so it was never at the same house from year to year.  This side of the family didn't watch football and generally didn't smoke.  I think one uncle smoked cigars.  This side of the family just sat around visiting.  There was always laughter and lots of comments about how big the kids had grown.  Everyone ate too much food and then we packed up and went home.  Christmas was pretty much over, although the tree did not come down until January the 1st.

The real things that I got for Christmas, I still have. When I think about my Christmas experiences now, I see just the richness of family, the excitement of a holiday and traditions that have been etched in my soul.   All of the things we did, from getting the tree from the woods to going to the Christmas play at church and visiting with our large extended families are like little life anchors.  I still have the ability to view Christmas with child like wonder because we were allowed to use our imagination and to be excited with every part of Christmas. It was never about the "big haul".  I was never duped.  My parents didn't create a show for the holidays.  They gave us an honest experience of who they were and then they provided as stable of a home as they could.  They didn't set unrealistic standards that make me even now feel like I have to artificially create a super duper Christmas experience for my family and friends.   It was still a difficulty for my parents  to give the gifts that they could afford.  As an adult I understand the strain and now I genuinely appreciate the effort.

We live in a culture where "the dog and pony show" seems to be unreasonably important.  Somebody, maybe me, needs to tell you.  "You don't have to fake it."  Your Christmas experience is not determined by your bank account or even by your available credit line.  Christmas can be rich with joy of being together.  It can be rich with simple foods.  It can be rich with homemade gifts or smaller gifts.  If you have children, they may be disappointed like I was, but it is a kind of disappointment that is reality and can even be healthy.  (Better to disappoint your children with small Christmas gifts than to disappoint them because you have lived financially irresponsibly and perhaps lost your home or your marriage. ) I am not advocating being stingy because you are selfish.  I am saying that is really is alright to give only as much as you can give without putting your family finances in jeopardy.

Our culture talks so much about diversity, but it demands so much conformity.  I don't think that there is a right way or a wrong way to do Christmas.  Can we give ourselves the freedom to be who and what we are in our present circumstances?  Can we still be joyful in our circumstances?  Can we ever get that we can't really make Christmas?  Jesus is the true gift and the rest of the gifts no matter the monetary value are really just little stocking stuffers.

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

Then he said, "Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own."

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Church Mice Series by Graham Oakley/ Book Review

This post contains affiliate links.
The Church Mice is a series of books written by an English author, Graham Oakley.  In the first book called The Church Mouse, Sampson, the church's cat has decided that he will no longer eat mice.  He has been influenced by all of the sermons on charity and kindness that he has heard in Wortlethorpe Church.  Arthur, the only mouse housed in the church,  invites more mice to join him because the church has become a safe haven and because he wants friends.  The mice over run the church but in the end make a deal with the Rector of the church.  They will do odd jobs like scrubbing the floors, if he  will provide a weekly allotment of food in return.  These are great picture books with fascinating details. Sampson's paws are tied because of his vow not to eat mice. It reminds me of the way Christians can be.  We know that we can't get even with people but we sometimes think it would be the best solution.  All of the dialogue is hysterical.  I like the English mannerisms and the English culture that comes out in the stories.  Most of my important education has come from reading a plethora of kid's books just like these books.

There is even The Church Mice at Christmas  In this book the church mice attempt to raffle off Sampson, the cat so that they raise money for a Christmas party. The only ones who buy a ticket are a rather spurious couple that seem to have ill intentions for poor Sampson.  We get a burglar dressed as Santa and a real Father Christmas who shows up in the mix of the Arthur and Humphrey mice schemes.  We also get a glimpse at what makes for a nice English Christmas party.  The mice are bumbling little creatures, but as in every Graham Oakley book the dialogue will keep the reader in stitches and the illustrations are amazingly detailed.  Graham Oakley is skilled in showing the thoughts of the characters in the stories.

If you have never read Graham Oakley, then you have missed a hilarious literary treat.  These are picture books, and  the very young child will miss some of the sophisticated humor.  The beautiful thing about these books, is that your child will grow into the humor and probably still like them when they become teenagers or most likely become lifelong fans of the books.

I read every Graham Oakley book that I could find to our son when he was growing up.  These are the kind of books that create inside jokes with others who have experienced them. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas
to those who have taken the time this year to stop by
 Blue Willow Contemplations!

Hope you have a wonderful celebration with your friends and family.

I Think I Might Be a Shepherd

Since yesterday was the last Sunday before Christmas, the lesson I did in my Sunday school class was on the Christmas story.  All this past week, I have been thinking about the story as it is told in Matthew and Luke.  When I teach I try to put myself into the story so that I can understand some of what the characters might have been experiencing.  One can end up with bad theology if one takes the concept too far.  I teach 5 and 6 year olds and trust me, they are more interested in the snack than the story most of the time so I work on keeping their attention with my bag of tricks that I have acquired over years of teaching children. One of those tricks for teaching anything to anybody is, "Draw them into what you are trying to teach." When talking about actual events, learners need to make that connection to themselves, no matter how minuscule the connection may be.  I teach through the Bible so when we view the Christmas story it is placed into the big picture of scripture.  God coming to earth is the big deal in scripture.  Jesus is the centerpiece of all the Old Testament and the New Testament.  He is the One who connects all of the dots.  The Gospel of John says in reference to Jesus that, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

As I studied the story of the birth of Jesus, it is evident that God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit are the main focus in the story. I kept thinking about all of the supporting cast and what their experience was like.

 Mary of course was especially hand picked to bear the Son of God.  Joseph, a young man on the verge of marrying finds out that his intended is going to have a baby and he is not the father.  We have Herod, the wicked king, who doesn't want anyone to usurp him from the throne and so he has all of the babies under the age of two killed.  History says that it was better to be his pig than his son, because your life was more secure.  We have wise men or scholars who were wealthy and intelligent.  We have Anna the prophetess who was so attuned to God that she was looking with eager eyes for the Messiah and she knew that Jesus was that Messiah when He was brought to the temple.  Simon, falls into the same category.  He was a godly old man who was waiting for the consolation of Israel.  This was the event that he had longed for and the one that would allow him to now be able to die in peace.  There were angels of course.  Powerful beings who are messenger of God and who are sent to offer aid to those who are part of God's kingdom.  Angels aren't pretty girls with wings and sweet cheeks.  They are warriors with tremendous power.  Finally, we have the Shepherds.  They were on the low rung of society.  They spent a lot of time in the field with sheep and they probably smelled like sheep.  They were not educated or important.  Guess who got the birth announcement.  That's right it was the outcast of society.  A sky full of angels showed up and sang the birth announcement. That would be an experience that could warm you for the rest of your life.

Out of this cast of characters, the shepherds are the ones that I identify with the most.  As a young child  my eyes began to be open to see the reality of a Creator.  I was an insignificant little girl living a small life in the country.  I am now an insignificant woman living a small life out in the country.  God in His mercy allowed lowly shepherds to share in His glory and to be  eyewitnesses to Jesus coming to the earth.  God in His mercy and grace has chosen to reveal Himself to me.  He has chosen to pay the price for my sins and to do a restoration work inside of me. That is the way of God. When my life is over, no one but my family will remember my name and after a few generations, even that will have lost significance.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.

The Christmas story is for everyone with eyes and ears wanting to know the truth.  God came in the form of a baby.  He left His throne to become one of us so that He could pay the penalty for our sins. That was the rescue plan.  It is foolishness to the world, but it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Family Activities

This post contains affiliate links.

Lights in the Park
Several years ago I became disenchanted with the idea that at holidays we were supposed to sit around and look at our relatives and never really interact.  We ate and we opened presents and there was conversation, but never really anything that you could sink your proverbial teeth into.  It was always polite small talk.  I am not a small talk person. Small talk makes my soul break out into hives.  So I began looking for ways to spice up the holidays.

On Christmas eve we are going to a midnight service at the church our daughter in law attended as a child.  This is a special Christmas memory for her and it is a way to share in something of her past. It is a special time to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and settle down in your soul. There is also opportunity for a Christmas morning service at our own church.

Every year I spread Ritz crackers with peanut butter, dip them in melted white chocolate (Vanilla Candy Quik), make orange juice balls, and a simple cheese ball.  These three somehow became the things that our son associated with Christmas.  Traditions may seem stuffy, but some sociologist believe that traditions lend stability to a culture that is often chaotic.  I will have other things, but these are the non negotiable food items.

Orange Juice Balls
3/4 box powdered sugar (plus 1/4 box that is used to coat the oj
1 stick of butter, melted
1 pound box vanilla wafers
1 6-ounce can frozen orange juice
1 cup chopped nuts
 Pulverize the wafers in food processor, add the nuts and process one more time.  Add the rest of the ingredients and process until well mixed.  Form into small balls and roll in the leftover  powdered sugar.  Leave them out for a little while to dry a bit or put them in the refrigerator to harden and then they can be stored in a canister.  
Lights in the Park

Cheese Ball
8 oz. softened cream cheese
8 oz. shredded cheddar
1/3 package of Ranch Dressing powder mix
1/2 to 3/4 cup of chopped nuts
Mix dressing mix and cheddar cheese with a fork.  Place cream cheese and cheddar cheese in food processor until blended and then form into a ball and roll in the nuts. Chill and serve with crackers of your choice.  Easy and delicious- 

Christmas Trees in Town Hall
 So even though I really enjoy trying new things, I still try to do some of the same things every year.  We will go to the little bitty park in our town that always has a light display.  We get out of the car and walk around the park.  When our son was a young boy, this was magical to him, but now it is a special memory.  His wife also has opportunity to share in one of his childhood memories.  We go across the street to the town hall. Every year they have a free Christmas tree display.  The mayor's office is unlocked and sometimes there is candy left out on his desk.  The police station is in the same building and I am sure that there is surveillance but no one is physically greeting you and often we are the only ones touring the trees.  The town hall is the old high school and it has wide halls and hard wood floors.  Just seeing the old building is neat to me.

Mayor's Office
During the day I hope that we can play some games.  Our daughter in law has introduced us to Dutch Blitz, a fast pace card game.  Four people can play with a regular deck but there are expansion decks available so that up to eight can play.  It is a ton of fun to play.  I am still actively figuring out  some other game ideas.  There is a fine line between providing activities and driving everyone in my family crazy.

We will  build a fire in the fireplace if it is cool enough and possibly have one outside as well, just depending on the weather.  We  will also visit with my husband's mother at some point on Christmas day.

This year my immediate family is going to participate in a slightly altered version of what was recently touted on NPR.  In Iceland, everyone gets a new book on Christmas Eve and reads late into the night, snuggled up and drinking hot beverages.  Usually there is a significant emotional blah after all of the hubbub of opening presents and eating all of the rich food.  I am a believer that we all need a little down time.  So this year we each chose a book that will be one of our presents that we get on Christmas day and we are going to read them on Christmas night as a way to relax. I will light candles throughout the house and we will keep the embers glowing in the fireplace. I am hoping to have everyone a soft blanket.  It will also give us something to look forward to after the main part of the holiday is past.

My sister in law and brother in law are heading to the beach this year with their children and their spouses. This is something new for them and I am excited for them.  They all love the beach and so it is a perfect way for them to enjoy each other's company.

Maybe our Christmas is not anything that would interest you.  What are some of the things that you do at Christmas or some of the things you are planning on doing? What are some of your traditions or some of the food that you make each year?

Friday, December 18, 2015


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Common crows caw caw cawing
Hundreds in a flock
Filling up the branches
Filling up the skies

Lifting their wings in one accord
Whirligig they rise
like smoke on a calm day

From the fields where they foray
Swooping through the expanse

Flying ever so low o'er the fields
Shouting insults to each other and at me

Beating their wings
never minding the cold or heat or wind or
Crafty crows united in their sortie

One of Van Gogh's  last paintings was Wheatfield with Crows.  I do a chalk and oil pastel lesson with the four year students each year where we mimic Van Gogh's work.  I love their interpretation of it probably more than I do of Van Gogh's original.

Unafraid they trespass o'er the farmland.