Even though the tree and house have been decorated since Thanksgiving weekend, the vendor table decked out for Christmas at recent book gigs, and Brian has the outside lights up … I wasn’t really feeling it. By it, I mean the holiday spirit.
The turning point came on an icky night in east-central Indiana. I didn’t get out of the newspaper office until 6, pitch dark this time of year, and as I headed out the back door, the last person in the building, the rain and wind hit me. Not pleasant.
But then I spotted it. The strings of lights draping from the top of the Henry County Courthouse to the ground, the pretty blue lit snowflake decorations sparking in the tower windows, the clock shining like the moon.
I pulled over in front of the Senior Center to take a photo.
I was cold, the evening black and windy, but inside my car, pointed toward home, I felt cozy. I felt the joy of Christmas start to envelop me for the first time this season. Ya-hoo!
Tomorrow is my day off and I have home work to do. Reggie goes to the vet for her annual shots and once-over. I’m looking for some new jammies. I’m going to take a stab at the Saltine Cracker Candy my friend and Chew This! columnist Blaise Doubman posted today on Facebook. (The recipe is in his book, Dessert First.)
If it turns out, and it will because Blaise is providing the recipe, I’m sending a stash with younger son, Ben, who enjoys taking his mom’s treats to share with his coworkers. Ben’s coming tomorrow after work and we’re having our favorite local pizza. So tomorrow will be a good day all around. Got an invite from older son Sam to head down to Fishers to share Thursday Night Football with he and DIL Allison.
On Sunday, I’m hosting friends from church, the Midlife Moms, at our annual Christmas party here. It is always a wonderful time. I am beyond blessed to have these women in my life. And blessed by so much more, besides.
It always happens like this. There is a moment, and I don’t know when it’s coming, when I feel touched by Christmas in a special way, kicking off the season for me personally. Jesus came! For me! And you!
Tonight came the moment that it all kicked in, yet again.
Do you like the wrapping paper? I ordered it on clearance after last Christmas from Current. The ornaments are vintage family orbs. And of course the books are mine. Will have them at the Henry Community Health Bazaar all day Friday as their last official "outing" of 2016. Stop by, say hi, and if you want, we can put a wrap on a book.
I hope there are more hurrahs before the calendar flips, but when it comes to my hobby / job as a bookseller, the last one of 2016 is this Friday, Dec. 2 with the Holiday Marketplace Bazaar at the newly branded Henry Community Health, formerly known as Henry County Hospital.
It’s 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the conference rooms at 1000 N. 16th St., New Castle. I know! That’s a long day. But the nice thing is that it’s planned with various shifts of employees in mind so they get some shopping time. I always have a stash of some sort of work to do on the side and even so, generally find that I’m too busy visiting with folks to get it done.
If you are dropping by because you remember how wonderful hospital bazaars were in the past, (they’ve brought the tradition back this year) then make it a two-fer by heading over to Foursquare Gospel Church on the far southeast end of South 14th St. for the bazaar also going on.
My friend, new author Sandy Moore will be at Foursquare with her new children’s book. There are a few other bazaars on tap this weekend. It seems that this weekend, too, is nearly the last hurrah for those. Every season of the year has its pleasures and bazaars are part of this season’s, for sure.
I get nostalgic about endings. Hinsey-Brown hosted a beautiful luncheon on my behalf to kick of the new book's arrival. I’ve had the pleasure of five book clubs featuring one of my books this year and inviting me for the discussion with included meals or desserts and a lot of great conversation. These have taken me to Connersville, Springport, Pendleton, Fishers and Centerville.
I spoke at two mother-daughter banquets in May, at several service and women’s clubs, including a writers’ organization in Muncie, did some author fairs in Tipton and Upland, a pumpkin festival, and addressed an entire student body, parents and teachers at a back-to-school night on recognizing and encouraging a child’s giftedness. I did bazaars, a few library programs and portrayed a Union County pioneer woman at Founders Day where I read Riley poetry and spoke about Little Orphant Annie’s origins in my fair county.
I challenged a quilt guild to seek out their bucket lists and through it all, I was the one entertained by all the opportunities I was blessed to receive.
Most of it has been documented on Home Row. It’s ALL been a blessing and a joy. I am so grateful that God allowed me to have this book season in my life, and thankful to all who have been and continue to be so very kind and supportive of my efforts. Most of all, I cherish the people connections made.
I suppose the entrepreneur in me would be remiss if I didn’t mention that if you want to give the books as Christmas gifts, well, please do. In addition to availability at the bazaar, they are for sale at The Courier-Times, 201 S. 14th St., New Castle, Indiana, at Sugar Creek Books in Pendleton, and from me via mail or in person. I am delighted to sign them for your gift giving (or for yourself).
Email me for how to connect or get them mailed and I’ll fill you in on the particulars. I would also be happy to wrap them for you. Email me at: email@example.com. If you would rather, the books are available in both print and Kindle versions on Amazon.com. My books are: Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast and the follow-up, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland.
If our paths or emails don’t cross again this year, maybe they will in the next. And along those lines, keep me in mind for your programming needs. We always have a good time, and I can personalize a program to suit your needs.
I might even bring pie.
On Black Friday, while some of my dear ones are out there getting amazing bargains, making their way through traffic and crowds, I’m going nowhere. I’m perfectly content at home digging in the Christmas closet and festooning the house for the holidays. It's a kind of chaos, in its own way, only confined to our four walls.
Our nine-foot tree takes the longest to dress -- not my favorite to deck out. What I like best is putting up wreaths. Lots of them. Show me a door or even a doorknob on a cabinet, and I’ll show you a wreath to adorn it.
I became interested in wreaths when grapevine became the material of choice in the late 1970s. Grapevine wreaths were ideal because not only did I love country decorating (now we have more sophisticated terms for it: farmhouse, cottage, or rural rustic), I also required cheap adornments. With an early-marriage budget and both of us working on college degrees, money was tight. Ah, but my parents had a farm with woods and fence rows. I could gather as many free grapevines as my heart desired.
When we moved to a Fountain County farmhouse, I could find the vines along any number of fences on country roads. I made up a bunch of plain wreaths and on a whim, waltzed into the Veedersburg florist unannounced and asked if she wanted to buy some. She did! My entire stock, in fact. A dozen in all.
Bolstered by entrepreneurial success, I got up the nerve to go big and ask The Apple House owner in Terre Haute if he was interested. He told me if I could make 100, he would buy them. He only bought in bulk. I thought it over and decided that while I could probably find materials for 10 or 15, (I'd alread moved a dozen!) 100 might be pushing it hard. So I didn’t take the job.
But I’ve never stopped loving the humble, and not-so-humble, wreath – grapevine or otherwise.
This holiday season, my first-ever square wreath, made of realistic-looking magnolia leaves, graces our front door. I added a red cloth bow. I wanted something different from the round evergreen wreaths with red bows I put on the outdoor windows every year.
When the holidays are over, I may remove the bow and use the wreath as a substitute for art in our bedroom. Or leave it up all winter on the door. It was affordable, unlike some high-end versions I have seen, if you can even find them. Too cool to store away.
Over the kitchen sink I have another new wreath this year. It was made by Kelly Finch of Liberty and contains small oranges with greenery and real rose-hips add a 3-D effect. Alongside the wreath are two red lanterns with the battery-powered “candles” inside. I found the lanterns in Kroger with the store’s holiday merchandise.
On the kitchen table, a white-berry wreath I’ve had for years contains one of three glass-encased wire-brush Christmas trees and the other two flank it. I found those from Donna Finch at the Union County Extension Homemakers Bazaar.
There’s a red berry wreath on the closet door, a deer wreath from Nancy Huntington, made by her friend, on the china closet door (I added the two feathers for even more of a rustic look), and there’s another Kelly wreath in service as a candle ring in the family room.
If it holds still, I’ll put a ring on it.
What is your favorite holiday decorating task?
For the past couple of years, I’ve sworn off Pinterest.
I’m back! At least for the holidays.
Like many women, I enjoy browsing the incredibly popular and unique website and its boards. I can lose myself in the crafts, cooking, clothing, scenery, rural landscapes, home improvements, books, and decorating boards on that website.
In fact, it’s because I enjoy them so much, I had to leave them behind for a while as I took the time to finish my second book, and then work on the programs for various presentations.
It felt safer that way. It wasn’t only the leisurely looks at clever ideas or a solution to a decorating problem or a great new recipe. It was the fact that I can become easily distracted and if I happened on something that intrigued or inspired, I might scrap revising a chapter or recording a week’s worth of mileage in favor of booking it to the store and picking up spray paint or pinecone picks for an inspired project.
Sunday was my catch-up day. The guys were at the Colts game and I had the house to myself where I moved through a week-long to-do list that didn’t get to-done, including messaging someone something I should have done a week ago, and I even cooked a homemade supper for when Brian got home.
At the Union County Extension Bazaar, I bought a square wreath made of looks-like-real magnolia leaves. I had seen some like this in upscale magazines. I was delighted to find one for myself at a price I could manage. But how to doctor it up a bit?
I have another project I’m hoping to complete this weekend. That is to fill my outdoor urns with winter greens and pinecones.
Yes, I can hardly wait to get started with the annual Christmas decorating projects. I’ve got a lot of plans along those lines and will no doubt be sharing some scenes in the blogs ahead.
Tomorrow, company is dropping by on the way to their family Thanksgiving and my friend is picking up several copies of my latest book for gifts. I’m so grateful for that show of support.
I’m thankful for so many things. Faith. Church. Family. Friends. Work. Opportunities. And I’m thankful for YOU, my readers. Several of you mentioned over the past few days that you read this blog. I thank you.
Now go get those Thanksgiving preps in order! There’s much to be done. Enjoy.
If you would like information about getting signed copies of either of my books for your own gift-giving needs this holiday season, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Confession. I mixed up this batch of words late Saturday night after returning from the beautiful wedding of our former neighbor, Ben McCray, and his lovely bride Jess, in Coldwater, Ohio. It was a perfect day and a fine time to transition from the drama of election week to this one, when we start, I hope, to count the abundance of our blessings as we head toward Thanksgiving day. The Lord remains on His throne.
Meanwhile, because I'm on the road a whole bunch this week, I wanted to have this post ready to go. With the glow of a fine wedding on my mind, I decided write up and share with you now my November specialty, Blessings Mix.
It's really not my recipe, though. It was, however, shared with the public several few years ago by Pam Stigall, who was an educator with the Purdue Henry County Extension Service. Pam put the recipe in the monthly extension newsletter. I've used it every November since.
This is a snack similar to the classic Chex Mix. With this concoction, however, each ingredient has a meaning relating to Thanksgiving. So here you go. I'm sure you may have some ideas for tinkering with it and making it your own. For one thing, I see that Bugles have out a caramel-flavored version. Those would fit well with this dish. But I am content with the salty-sweet mix as it is.
Assemble the following; loosely mix. Store in tightly sealed container.
1bag Bugles Corn Snacks
1 bag small round pretzels
1 bag candy corn
1-2 cups raisins or other dried fruit
1-2 cups peanuts or sunflower seeds
1-2 cups M & Ms (in fall colors if you can find them)
1 bag Hershey Kisses (in fall wrappings if you can find them)
Bugles represent cornucopias or horns of plenty; symbolic of abundance.
Pretzels appear as arms folded in prayer, a free expression of faith.
Candy corn is for the Native Americans' gift of corn that allowed Pilgrims to survive that first winter and prosper thereafter with these precious kernels.
Dried fruitand seeds are for the successful harvests from our bountiful land.
M & Ms are the moments and memories we hold dear.
Hershey's Kisses are for the love of family and friends who sweeten our lives.
For the record, I’m not like my husband who every year says, “I can’t believe the stores have out their Christmas decorations! Already!”
Never mind that he might say that on Dec. 15.
I’m never surprised, even if it’s August. It’s a dog-eat-dog economy. Retailers have to get in the game before the game is over. People are always looking ahead so of course, stores must also.
Most decorators and shoppers aren’t like Brian who is way more of a Christmas Eve than a Black Friday kind of guy.
So while I’m not surprised to see lit Christmas trees, stacks of wreaths and baubles of every description before Halloween, I am surprised that they led me astray today.
I had a number of errands to run in quite a few different business establishments. Everywhere I went, I ran smack into decorations. Beautiful wrapping paper here, wreaths that inspire my own decorating plans there, adorable little miniature lantern tree adornments, and even extension cords uniquely designed for large trees that require endless strings of lights.
Everywhere I turned, I found myself daydream-shopping. I couldn’t get my work done in a timely manner for my rifling through the clever holiday boxes that one fills with treats for gifts. I think I even audibly oohed and ahhed over a set of soft, white sparkly snowballs to hang on the tree. (I hadn’t thought about these old-timey decorations since I was a girl. Mom had one of these snowballs and I loved it to pieces.)
The contrast was stark: it is a beautiful, warm, entirely pleasant, fall day. I need to be doing something seasonal, something productive, not – certainly not – looking at Christmas decorations that I do not need!
I remind myself that the me who appears before the living room with mammoth totes in hand on Jan. 2 will be a far different human than the sentimental one I am today. That future me will insist that for Christmas 2017, I will become a minimalist. I will threaten to take my older wreaths to Goodwill, to donate or upcycle or do something other than pack away all the stuff we have.
I will be so over the sparkle and lights and ribbons (well, maybe not ribbons. I’m never over ribbons). I will put it all way and vow to purge.
But that’s not today. Today I got as excited as a small child on Christmas Eve. I thought about how I would decorate the tables for the Midlife Mom Christmas party I’ll be hosting. Or how I’ll hot-glue vintage ornaments to a candle ring for my holiday-gig book table. Or even, how maybe I should have bought those snowballs!
I got a taste for Christmas earlier this week when I visited the Wilbur Wright Birthplace and saw some of the decorated trees for the annual Christmas Walk. The walk is coming up the evenings of Nov. 4-5 and 11-12. It’s always astounding the number of trees, around 50 this year, that the volunteers decorate, each with a different theme. I’ll have a preview of the event in this Sunday’s New Castle Courier-Times.
Meanwhile, I’ll be dreaming tonight of a white Christmas.
Don't tell Brian.
By the way, if you are in or around Pendleton, Indiana, stop by and check out the Sugar Creek Bookstore on Pendleton Avenue downtown at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 29. I'll be there to sign and discuss the book of the month, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast. So nice that Pendleton has a bookstore. Consider supporting it when you need a book or simply want to browse and see what owner Bobbi Cline has on hand.
Good friends are camping at a state park at a family-reunion. My sister-in-law is returning from Puerto Rico where she’s been on an educational consulting adventure. Son Sam is wrapping up a week’s vacation. What are you up to as we head into Memorial Day weekend?
Brian and I are off work for four straight days, and while there is no trip or amazing outing planned, I will say I’m looking forward to getting lots of things done around the home front.
I hesitate to start listing things in case they aren’t completed, after all. But I sure hope that come Monday night as I anticipate heading to the newspaper Tuesday, there will be more items crossed off my list than remaining on it.
First, I want to take time to remember all those servicemen and women who paid for our freedom with their lives. We owe them so much. And I want to thank those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice as they currently serve the U.S.A.
I know that Brian is looking forward to seeing the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in real time Sunday on TV. It’s the first time the race hasn’t been blacked out in the Indy media market since 1950, is what I understand. This is a special treat given that it’s our state’s bicentennial this year as well as the 100th Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
As much as he looks forward to that, I’m hoping that we can cross off the list a very practical matter – that of trimming back our wild-and-crazy landscaping that has been growing like, well, like weeds with all the spring rain. This is something we always do in May and we’re almost out of May.
I have several different programs I need to work on for my little book-tour talks and it sure would be great if I could make some real progress on those. I don’t kid myself that I’ll get them all done but maybe a goal of two would be reasonable.
There’s also some banking to see to, bills to pay, the grocery store to visit, and little odds-and-ends chores as minor as stitching up a seam tear on my favorite summer sweater.
You know—things that you need doing around the house too.
Even with a list of chores, it all feels like a respite when pressed against the upcoming summer schedule. Don’t get me wrong: I look forward to it all, but there is a lot going on. Wednesday I’ll help judge a bicentennial cookie contest in conjunction with the annual National Road Yard Sale whose roots are in little Dublin, Indiana, and continues east to Baltimore, Maryland, and west to St. Louis, Missouri. The sale’s founder asked me to help. And while I’m there, of course I’ll write a story. I understand that members of the bicentennial commission will be stopping by as this is an official legacy project.
I’m visiting, for a story, Sue Saunders’ new antique store in Lewisville on Tuesday. Thursday is a book-related luncheon. The following week more book fun continues along with visiting the 70th celebration of the Teapot Club. These are English war brides who married American soldiers during World War II and returned with them to Henry County. I love those women, have written about them through the years, and look forward to putting them on the next cover of HER magazine!
If you’re curious about my upcoming book talks, look at the CONTACT tab and scroll down to WHAT’S NEXT. There’s a whole summer’s worth – and then some –of activities on my little tour. And there’s always room for more if your book club, Red Hatters or church ladies need a program.
I have a feeling that the ink on this piece will barely seem dry when I find myself writing a Labor Day post about how fast it all went.
But for now, during this home-based long weekend heading straight into summer, I’m working on a stout to-do list. I’m thankful for the freedom to make my own choices about how to spend my time because I live in the land of the free because of the brave. I love this country.
What are you doing?
When I was a little girl growing up in the 1960s, society was much more formal, even in rural Indiana. This was particularly apparent at Easter when each year, the little girls each got a new Easter dress and bonnet. White patent-leather shoes were also purchased, and we pulled out the white gloves and knee-high white socks.
Easter dresses were always pastel, and when you were preschool-age, there was a lot of smocking. I remember the layers of flounce and frothy fabrics in hues of lavender, pink and yellow. One year, when I had a particularly pretty dress, I begged Mom to let me debut mine on Palm Sunday, a week early. I don’t think she let me.
But that’s OK because the dresses would be worn again and again, Sunday after Sunday, special event after event, until they were outgrown and replaced by the following Easter’s "good dress."
I felt pretty, but not particularly comfortable, in Easter clothes. One dress in particular had scratchy under-layers but worse were those bonnets with the elastic chin straps. Those cut into our necks but I don't think the straps survived long from all the pulling we did at them.
I'm not sure how many times this happened, but at some point a pastor pointed out that it wasn't our pretty new dresses and Easter duds that Jesus cared about. So I felt a little guilty about the satin and tulle after that, and I suppose due in part to his comment, it has never been a stretch for me to believe it doesn't much matter what you wear to worship.
Do you remember the hand-held paper fans? Seems they were compliments of a funeral home and the photo on them was of a sweet little girl dressed for Easter.
The first time I ever wore pantyhose was on Easter. I could not wait for the morning to arrive so I could get them out of the package and wear them with my yellow-checked mini-skirt-length dress. This was fifth grade.
I suspect that women always wore hats as typically as they would have hose -- until the late 1960s -- and we're not likely to wear them as a matter of custom ever again. When I worked at a department store my senior year of high school, there was still a hat department but I don’t recall ever seeing a woman in there trying on anything. I suppose it was a nod to the older-lady crowd that still believed hats made the outfit.
Remember the “I Love Lucy” shows? Lucy loved hats and I remember one episode where she discussed with Ricky her love of a beautiful hat she had purchased. And who could forget Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox toppers?
We’re always hearing that hats are making a comeback, and while I see a few fashion-forward younger women rocking them beautifully, for most of us, they just don’t look right. There’s a Knightstown attorney-author I know, Patricia Goodspeed, whose signature look includes a hat. And she has some beautiful ones, as well as she looks great in them. But honestly, most of us don't have what it takes to pull them off. And frankly, I'm not quite sure what it does take but it's something I don't have.
I enjoy accessories as much as the next woman but, I’m grateful that fashion doesn’t dictate that I add hats to my wardrobe.
I’d rather have another purse. Or some patent-leather shoes. And I wouldn't mind a corsage. For old times' sake.
On the day after Thanksgiving, just like that, we pass from fall to the Christmas season. Down comes the autumn-hued wreath; up goes the evergreen one with the pine cones and red bow.
My post-feast day is spent decorating the house. This year I cheated by assembling our nine-foot tree and getting the lights in place before Thanksgiving so today I could focus on the ornaments. This year I omitted a couple of standards: No icicles and no bows. I didn’t empty every single carton to fill the tree, but gave it a little breathing room. I also didn’t use too many shiny balls, but instead added quite a few from my herd of sheep ornaments. I’ve collected sheep for 35 years, finally accumulating so many that they outgrew joining the other ornaments on the family tree, and merited a tree of their own.
A few years ago, I stopped putting up the lamb tree but I missed those baaaa-d boys. So this year, I placed some of the 100-plus sheep on the main tree and others around the house in garlands and on shelves. Reggie would dearly love to get her paws on those lamb chops. In fact, she snagged one before I noticed and chewed off its rear end! Brian thought it was hilarious. “She’s a sheep dog disguised as a Boston terrier!” he said.
I didn’t find it humorous.
This year our tree has a new location. We rearranged the room and the tree fits great beside the TV, in front of the stairs. Along with the sheep go decorations that tell the story of our lives. The first ornaments we ever got as a couple were actually gifts to Brian before we were even engaged, Christmas 1977. Brian’s wonderful landlady, the late Mary Snyder, who lived in a lovely old home on Seminary Street in Liberty, next to Orrs and across from the Cohens. She gave him four pewter ornaments hung with the original red yarn. They’ve adorned our tree ever since.
There’s the little pop-cycle-stick sled I picked up at a craft bazaar at Indiana State while a student. There are Santas and angels from office ornament exchanges, tassles from graduation caps, a bat key chain from the Louisville Slugger factory, a glittery peace symbol from a show at the state fairgrounds several years ago, a glass corn ornament because I’m a corn-fed Hoosier farmer’s daughter, the little sign I waved when Sam and Allison left the church as newlyweds that reads “Wahoo!”
At the top of the tree is a topper I got from George Washington’s Mt. Vernon gift shop of a dove, symbolic of The Holy Spirit. There’s a glass ornament that was my mom’s and my brother painted the Brownsville Bridge on it. I love that.
There are other ornaments, too, like the accordion Kathy Thomas found for Brian. (It’s a nod to Brian’s brief hobby as a childhood accordionist. Don’t ask). There are vacation baubles. Almost everything on that tree comes with stories, memories or both.
Outside I hung artificial wreaths on the windows but only after replacing the faded ribbons with new ones.
I hung a lighted garland over a doorway. I filled a couple of baskets with greenery and changed out the kitchen tablecloth.
There is no doubt more that I will do but right now, I’m ready to call it a day in the décor department.
Today is remarkable for something that I do not recall doing in my 57 years of life, except on sick days: I remained in my pajamas all day while decorating. Right now, I’m heading to a tub of bubbles, and a stack of old Christmas decorating magazines I’ve saved for inspiration.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll emerge from the tub really inspired for round two.