28 November 2009

Decorating for Christmas

As you can see from the header, I have been doing some Christmas decorating.
No, we are not snowed in right now, the photo of the house is from our first winter up here.
We are lucky if we get one good snow fall, usually in January. That is quite enough for me.

25 November 2009

At the Spa

This is just too cute. I had to share.
Spontaneous is having a little "me" time. Do you think the festivities have gotten out of hand?

22 November 2009


Last summer while we were on vacation, my Sweet Hubby snapped this photo. It is evidently, what I do the most, take pictures. I was so lost in the moment, I did not even know he took the photo until we finally had them developed last week. I do that a lot these days, lose myself in a moment.
When was the last time you felt sheer JOY so strongly?
My life is full of grace. I don't mean that I am graceful (several people who know me probably just spit coffee all over their keyboards from laughing at that thought, I am a bit of a klutz) I mean that I have been and continue to be very lucky. I have so much to be thankful for.
(to see the photo I was taking go to
I am lucky that I can share my pictures and my thoughts so easily. I am even luckier to have so many people who care about me to share them with. (Do you see the lovely yellow moth on my keyboard?) My big sister Margaret was quite ill not long ago, she is much improved. Her illness was a scary reminder of how much we all mean to one another.
We are connected by unbreakable threads, past, present and future. Family is a word like Joy, it somehow does not seem big enough or strong enough to really convey all that it means. I have an amazing family. I am loved.
Our home is warm and cozy. We have a good supply of wood stored safe and dry for the fireplace. The teapot is still full. Christmas music is playing (we get to decide when it is too early, right now, it sounds just right). Outside the wind is blowing and rain is falling, it is damp and dreary. Inside it is calm and full of love. Our home is a lovely old Antebellum house, yes, the house in the banner and in the photo at the top of the sidebar is where we live. It is our little kingdom, our refuge, a place for our stuff. Even when it is quiet it is full of the memory of laughter and music and cat hair. Spontaneous curls up to sleep and purrs.
We are surrounded by beauty and promises of possibilities.
Step out on the front porch on an autumn evening, the sky has been painted to coordinate with the trees. I have my Sweet Hubby to share sunsets and sunrises with. We have mistletoe in the oak at the end of the brick walkway. Each time one of us must leave without the other, we kiss goodbye under the mistletoe, not just at Christmas, but year round. Next month we will have been married for twenty six years. He is my love, my best friend, my teddy bear, my partner in all things. He understands me. His faith in me has kept me going many times when it would have been easier to give up. His sense of humor keeps me from getting too full of myself.
We live in the woods. Nature surrounds us. We go for walks together three or four times a week. Way back when, a decade or so ago, I took my annual fitness test for the Air Force, and failed (Yikes). We started walking together so I could get back in to shape to pass it. I did. I kept walking because I enjoyed his company and I wanted to keep him healthy, he keeps walking for me. We have been walking together ever since. When we go to shopping, we park at the far end of the lot and walk to the store (if we are together, we are usually holding hands). We walk in all the places we visit and we are in pretty good shape.
Back to the woods, I was just telling you about them. I can show you pictures and I can play recordings of the sounds, but I haven't figured out how to share the smell with you yet. Sometimes you can smell flowers, even if you don't see them right away. Sometimes, like now, you can smell the leaves and the damp. Outside the window, I can hear a silly old crow calling. We see hawks, crows, turtles, rabbits, squirrels, wild turkeys, and deer (although the deer are hiding right now, it is hunting season). We are surrounded by National Forrest.
As the days get shorter, more of our walks are in the late evening. My wonderful little camera does an excellent job with available light. Don't you think these colors are amazing? The woods are truly Mother Natures garden, a cathedral of light, color and sound.
Thanksgiving will be this week. As you can see from the sad state of poor old "Jack", Halloween is long gone. The seasons roll round again and Christmas is nearly here. Each season gives me new things to look forward to. Already there is a local station playing nothing but Christmas music and last night on the way back from Greenville, I spotted half a dozen houses with Christmas lights up.
I stepped out of Barnes and Noble in Greenville to be greeted by this site. My trusty camera was out before I knew it. The first of this years Christmas pictures is one of light. I hope your Thanksgiving is full of light and that you get the chance to feel the full magic in the words Love and Family and Joy. I have much to be thankful for, like I said, my life is full of grace.

17 November 2009

The Grandparents

This top plate is the one I will tell you about in a minute, let me get the rest of the story in place first. I was in first or second grade and the Vietnam war was still going on. It was a few days before Thanksgiving and my teacher asked if I was going to my Grandparents house for Thanksgiving. I said "nope". She asked why not and I told her "Because, my parents are the grandparents. Everyone comes to our house". That year, they did.

This second plate is one of the saucers from that set.
I am the tail end of a big happy family. Jimmy, my oldest brother, (see his story at http://akatscorner.blogspot.com/2009/07/hero-worship.html ) was stationed, I believe, in Hawaii that year and my sister Mary's husband was stationed somewhere else, but all would be there for Thanksgiving. We got the extra leaves for the dinning room table out, (that thing was big with the extra bits) and we polished the silver. We got out the good table cloth. I helped to stuff the celery. (Spread cheese whiz on celery sticks, that is the only reason my Mom ever bought the stuff and she only did it on Thanksgiving and Christmas. She even had a big platter to put them on).
This is a pie plate from the set, it has been mended.
My Mom made excellent Pumpkin Pie, my favorite desert. (My Sweet Hubby, however, makes much better crusts) We always had Pumpkin pie for desert on Thanksgiving. With a crowd that big, there was probably apple pie too. I don't remember, when pumpkin pie is on the table, I can't see any reason to worry about any other kind. I guess you could count Mom's Yams as a desert too. She used candied yams from a can, put them in a greased square metal pan, put marshmallows on top and stuck it in the oven. We called them sweet potatoes, (I didn't know back then how many wonderful things you can do with sweet potatoes, that might be a whole other post).
This is from our walk a couple of days ago.
Mom made her stuffing almost the same way I do. She used cut apples and walnuts and apple juice for the liquid. She stuffed the bird, then put the rest of the stuffing in another square metal pan with the "gizzards" and neck then roasted it in the oven. (You do have to cover it with aluminum foil before it is done, but let it roast to start so you get the nice crunch bits). Stuffing is the only holiday food I am allowed to cook, (cookies don't count, that is baking, I am a very good baker). I do not put stuffing inside the bird, the bird cooks better without it and the vegetarians in the family prefer it that way. I start with the Pepperidge Farm herb or cornbread stuffing mix as a base. I only use about half the butter it calls for and it comes out great.
This is the first of two streams we pass on our walk, it does not always have this much water.
Mom had a turkey roaster. It was a great big thing kind of like a giant crock pot. Rectangular with removable insides for cleaning. It was huge! I have no idea how big of a turkey it would hold, but even with the whole crew eating, there was always left over turkey (Mom was a master when it came to feeding crowds). The turkey roaster only ever got used twice a year, the rest of the time, it took up space in the kitchen. I think my sister Paula has it now, I hope so. Mom always put bacon on top of the turkey to baste it, I think she basted it the old fashioned way too, but I don't remember for sure.
There were mashed potatoes and home made turkey gravy. There were dinner rolls and bread on the bread tray (Mom had a little silver tray that she put a stack of wonder bread for us kids and a stack of wheat bread for the grownups on). There were black olives and pimento stuffed green olives on a dish and pickles, maybe home made, Mom made good pickles but I don't know if she did that year or not. Everything had a dish or a plate, no bottles on the table at the holidays. There was tossed salad and a dish of green beans. We feasted!
The dogwood as of 16 November 09.
After the meal, we were stuffed, so stuffed that Dad suggested we take a break and come back for pie later (that was amazing in itself, Dad loved Mom's cooking). It was a good thing we waited. The "boys" went off into the other room, and us girls started to help Mom clear the table. I was collecting silver ware, I think my sister Margaret was already in the kitchen getting the dishwater ready (dishwasher, why would you need one of those with all these daughters?) My sister Paula collected the plates and started walking towards the kitchen. I am not sure what happened next, but somehow, poor Paula tripped and the entire stack of plates was on the floor. Every china dinner plate my Mother owned and all but one were broken. They were Currier and Ives, blue and white patterned. My Mom picked them up as premiums from the grocery store years ago and before "the fall" she had enough to feed all of us. The first plate pictured at the top, is the last surviving dinner plate from that set. I also have a few of the pie plates, some saucers, mugs and little bowels that survived all the years in between. We were stunned. We swept up the pieces, I don't think anyone even growled at Paula (even after all these years, I could cry for her, I wonder how she remembers it). We had out pie and enjoyed the visit. Later that evening, Mom went out to the camper and brought in the Melmac dinner plates they kept for hunting and camping. Nothing else was said.
This is one of my art projects for this week. I can't decide if I like it or not.
After that Thanksgiving, life went back to normal, except we used the camping dishes. That year for Christmas, several huge boxes arrived in the mail. My big brother Jimmy sent my Mom a brand new set of China for Christmas. It had everything from serving dishes to tea cups and I think there was service for 12. My sister Mary and her husband also sent my Mom a complete set of china for Christmas that year. Both sets were lovely. The set Jimmy sent was the prettiest and had gold around the rims so Mom decided Jimmy's set would be used for special occasions and Mary's for everyday. The Melmac went back out to the camper and Mom just beamed.
This is the second of my two art projects. I like it a lot better. Both are a combination of digital and hand work from photographs.
On the way back from the walk, I saw our lovely home peaking through the autumn trees and had to snap this picture.
Another generation is using those dishes now, what is left of the blue and white set has been divided up. I see years of memories whenever I look at them. I am not sure yet who all will be feasting with us this year, but we will be feasting and I am hoping all the usual suspects show up. I have to work on Thanksgiving so we have moved the holiday to the day after. I can be truly thankful for my big wonderful family on any day.
Do you go to your Grandparents house for Thanksgiving?

16 November 2009

The other morning

The other day, we finally had a chilly morning. All was ready and so,

The first fire of the season was a lovely warm success! I had to work this weekend and it is too warm this morning, but the season has begun and there is plenty of wood in the pile.

Hope you are warm and cozy this morning.


12 November 2009

Ten things I like about November

1. It is starting to get chilly, we can snuggle in under the covers (I am in danger of wearing out the Snooze button on my alarm clock).
2. It is the beginning of fireplace season and the wood is stacked.
3. It is the perfect time of year for baking, the house smells great.
4. Lots of colors to see.
5. Warm spicy tea.
6. The air is full of inspiration. Walking outside fills me with ideas.
7. Families are discussing Holiday plans. The stores are full of good things.
8. There is an expectancy in the air, I love the Pre-Holiday season excitement. That point at the beginning of every November when I say, I will make this, and I will do this and I will make my own that (before I realize that I am way too optimistic about how long everything will actually take).
9. Since most people say it is too early, all the Christmas music and videos are still available at the local library. (Have you heard "To Drive the Cold Winter Away" by Loreena McKennitt, it is amazing).
10. Taking pictures of all the Mushrooms!(Oh look, there is another one)

06 November 2009

Heintooga Round Bottom Road

The Dogwood as of November 3. I am amazed at how long the display is lasting.
Now, I want you to click on the video below (make sure your sound is on), then close your eyes and just listen. I know, that is an odd request, it lasts less than 20 seconds, go on, give it a try.
I love the sound it makes when you walk through autumn leaves. It is a most satisfying crunch. I made the video just to record it. It reminds me of being a kid and playing in piles of leaves, of walking to school with my big sister Paula and the Dipolma kids (Tammy and Terry were our best friends when we were small). The leaves smell so good too but I haven't figured out how to share that part yet. We went to Maggie Valley in North Carolina a couple of weeks ago. The road side stands are full of lovely things. These pumpkins for instance. This time of year is all about the harvest and being thankful for it. I see beauty everywhere I look.
My Sweet Hubby posed with these for me to show how big they really are. They were part of a fun display that evidently won some prizes. The display included a tribute to the old moonshiners and an outhouse. Cute, but the pumpkins were impressive. I wonder if these big guys would make good pie (Pumpkin Pie is my favorite desert, even over chocolate, gasp, I know, you never would have guessed)?
I know, this is just corny (pretty though, isn't it)? If we were in Britain there would be at least one "Corn Dolly" in this display. They are usually not doll shaped and are usually made from wheat. I have one that we brought back. All cereal grains used to be called corn. The American version was not introduced until Queen Elizabeth I's reign. An interesting note, the stacks the grain or hay was placed in were called Riggs, thus my maiden name is an occupational name for a grain farmer. So like Smith or Taylor, I am not related to everyone with that same last name.
One of our favorite places to hike is Heintooga Round Bottom Road. This time we drove down the road, past our old turn around point, parked the car and hiked from there to find new territory. As with everywhere in the Blue Ridge, this area is beautiful. There are not as many of the sweeping views on this road, too many trees in the way, but the details are worth it. These photos are from a few weeks ago so I am sure the autumn display is more advanced.
What is this, is it, yes, snow. There isn't much of it left, but there is enough to touch. (Yes, I would recommend taking a jacket and some gloves) I do have some great memories of playing in the snow, that does not mean I need any more of it than this to make my winter complete.
These are some of the details I told you about. The lighting was playing games, nature showing off her finest just for my camera.
This tree leans out over the path, doesn't it look like something the from a fantasy movie. I half expected it to speak to us as we pass. Note how the trees behind it are straight up and down.
The sun shines through the leaves. I wonder if this is where they got the idea for stained glass. The woods are a temple on days like this one.

Have you had a chance to take a walk in the woods lately?



05 November 2009

Showing off

We went for a walk in the Smokey Mountains
Amazing views, I have lots more photos to share,
will you come back to see them?
I know, this one is amazing, I impressed myself.
I had only a little help from my trusty photoshop.
but really, what do you think? Is it good, or what.
It is a little late, but I wanted to get at least these three up. More soon, I promise!

02 November 2009

Praying Mantis, a last little bit of summer

This little guy was sitting on the train tracks.
My Sweet hubby offered him a hand, and he climbed aboard.

We moved him over to a safer spot.
He was grateful enough to pose for me.
Isn't he grand?


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