Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Reflection on Gifts

I have always enjoyed seeing beautifully wrapped gifts. I found pages of colorful pictures showing wrapped gifts in a Idealhome's British edition, Complete Guide to Christmas, December 2007. Here is a quote I found about gifts..."May no gift be too small to give, nor too simple to receive, which is wrapped in thoughtfulness and tied with love." ~L.O.Baird

The next piece though, is the best that I have ever read regarding gifts. It exemplifies my take on gifts so perfectly. It is written by Ken Gire.

"Most of what we have we've worked for, haven't we? By the sweat of our brow and the labor of our hands. But who gave us those hands? And the strength to use them? And the mind to coordinate them? Were they not all gifts?

Or maybe our work is mental not manual, and we are where we are in life because of years in education. But who gave us the mind to utilize that education? Who integrated the circuitry for the storage and retrieval of those thoughts? Who provided the neurological current that even makes our thoughts possible?

Or maybe our work revolves around certain issues burning in our heart, and that's why we're a social worker or a judge or why we volunteer at a homeless shelter. We live and work by the dictates of our conscience. But who did the dictation? Truth, justice, a sense of right and wrong, compassion.

Where did these grand notions originate? With us? Were they not engraved on our heart the way the commandments were etched on stone? Were they not also gifts? The love we give. The love given to us. Was it not a gift? And faith, that most primal of spiritual responses. Did it not also come to us as a gift?

The air we breathe. A gift. The lungs to breath it. A gift. The involuntary muscles that keep us breathing. A gift. Our waking up to a new day. A gift.

Whatever we start with, if we follow it far enough back, the source is God and His generosity in sharing it. It's all a gift. Everything. We live, quite literally, off His generous bounty.

So great the generosity. So little the gratitude. Yet still He gives. Gift after gift after gift."

"Oh God, you who brought me, without consulting me, without my knowledge of what you were doing or why, into this difficult and puzzling, but also fascinating world, help me to trust you to know what you're doing.

I owe every single thing I have, and am, and know, and enjoy, and love, to your generosity, initiative, intelligence, and power...all summed up in the all-encompassing phrase "creative love"...

Teach me to be trusting, instead of cynical; peaceful, instead of quarrelsome; humble, instead of arrogant. Teach me to stop thinking I know more and better than the Being that gave me my being!

~ Joan Bel Geddes

This Christmas season may I be reminded what real gifts are, and that sometimes in this world we find ourselves in, the concept of gifts has been distorted. That giving of ourselves, our time, our care and concern, can be the most important gifts of all.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Last Night's Dinner

A simple transformation it was, but it worked for all of us. The tables and chairs we have had on hand for many years, for this exact purpose. The little clear lights were in place since last year's same celebration. The paper supplies were purchased in bulk from Ollies for only a few dollars. The red glass globed lanterns were from our oldest daughter's wedding almost six years ago. The clear votives were odds and ends I had on hand. The heat came from a little floor heater that we ran all day Friday, making it warm enough for comfort. The Christmas spice candles I burned all day, in old crocks on the floor, leaving the garage smelling just like a Christmas kitchen instead of gasoline.

I host this extended family dinner once a year. This is our third year for this garage dinner event. Tradition has been on this evening, to have a container filled with numbered items(such as a jar of pre-counted candy, or this year pre-counted by me, Reese's Puffs cereal in a clear glass cannister). Everyone is given the opportunity to guess how many pieces are in the clear glass cannister...this year it was 935 pieces. Seated on this make-do shelf are five prizes that I created or baked, with caramel popcorn, a plate of my orange tea rolls, a plate of old fashioned sticky buns... The one who comes closest to the correct number gets first choice of the gifts, the second closest, second choice and so on. It is a fun competition for a highly competitive family. This tradition suits me fine, since I love creating small gifts.

A small table and chairs beside the long one was were two of our grandchildren sat for the dinner. The wooden nutcracker stood guard on their table.

We celebrated the birthdays of those with November and December birthdays. My neice and her husband helped celebrate their twin daughter's first birthday, with their great-grandma.
Here are my two dear neices. The one on the right celebrating her 20th birthday, which just does not seem possible to me. It seems like only yesterday, I held her proudly as her new aunt.

Two more of my sweet neices, holding my new twin grandsons. I feel so blessed to have the best neices and nephews in my life.
The table looked so long from this end, and it seemed like a huge group of people to feed. I kept the meal as simple as possible, and my mother provided all of the desserts. As a tradition at this dinner, she makes her vanilla pudding pies, in graham cracker crusts, with whipped cream on top. They are delicious!

We covered all the garage type backgrounds with old white tablecloths. This table was used as the guessing table, the coffee table(at the end of the dinner), and the candy table.
Traditions continue...this one, my mother provides a big bowl of gummy lifesavers for everyone. In this family, it is the candy of choice. The red glass stones I scattered on the white tablecloth, to add a bit of colorful pizazz.

Here is the little one's table I told you about earlier...with Sesame Street placemats making it complete.
Here is the close-up of the red glass lanterns I used for the center of the tables. I added some twigs of holly from the bushes at our backdoor, once again to add some green to the tables.
You just paid a visit to one of our simple, but fun, family dinners. The colors, the decorations, the food, the Christmas music are all secondary,to the people who are together on an evening like this one, in a transformed garage on a quiet street. is back to the garage it was originally, but thankfully the memories will always be there.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Today's challenge...transform our garage into a social hall to feed the 38 people who are coming for dinner tonight. My extended family will be celebrating Thanksgiving and November and December birthdays. It is always a fun time, especially since family members are home for the holidays. Later, I will show you the transformation and some fun details of the evening. Why the garage? Only place at our home that is big enough to handle this group of people. I'll be back...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Blessings

This Thanksgiving holiday, I am so very thankful for the many blessings in my life. I am thankful for the last week that provided rare time together for me and my three daughters(yes, they have shirts alike on purpose..first time I can remember this happening), and their families. We worked, played, ate meals, did dishes, drank coffee, babysat, changed diapers, helped in the moving details and shared in conversations together. Last evening our middle daughter and her husband went home, thus ending our official Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. The memories I will treasure in my tired heart.

I am thankful for the few simple Christmas decorations I put up(perhaps prematurely) on my kitchen counter, and the beautiful, relaxing Christmas music that they are playing on our local radio station. I was having trouble feeling the Christmas spirit, and these two happenings help me. This little boxwood tree and the tiny lights I added to it, just add a real coziness to my kitchen. I am a rather "simple type" Christmas decorator, perhaps out of laziness...not wanting to take it all down and put it away after Christmas, but what I do put up, I thoroughly enjoy. And, I appreciate seeing each of your individual ways of decorating for Christmas. It inspires me.

On Monday evening we all had the privilege of sitting down together for our turkey dinner. The fancier dishes were replaced with simple ones, the high chairs, booster seats, plastic plates, sippy cups and plastic ware at the table added a new element to my dining room ambience. But, the candles were still lit, the Christmas music played softly in the background, the sounds of laughter, conversation and the sweet music created by five children, three and under, filled the air. Someday...they will be all grown-up, and then we can go back to the Thanksgiving tablescapes of the past. For now...I am so thankful for these precious little ones, and the many joys that Thanksgiving gives to me.
Speaking of joys and blessings...I want each of you to know that I do include you in on that category. I never would have imagined the fascinating and interesting blogs I would discover and the dear friends that I would meet, in this world of blogging. I find myself thinking of each of you as my friends, even though we have never personally met each other. I want to wish you and your families, an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Smokey Mountain Beauty

On this relaxing, beautiful afternoon, I thought I would share a few of the photos that my uncle captured on a recent trip to the Smokey Mountains. I wish I could show them all to you, but I chose a few that I know you would be able to appreciate with me. Beauty that man, no matter how much effort he would put into it, could not create. Grab a cup of coffee and take some time to see the scenery. Thank you dear uncle.

"Dear Lord,
Help me to live this day quietly, easily;
To lean upon Thy great strength trustfully, restfully;
To wait for the unfolding of Thy will patiently, serenely;
To meet others peacefully, joyously;
To face tomorrow confidently, courageously."
a simple prayer for my day, in the "The Speaker's Quote Book" by Roy B. Zuck

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thought I would share a few of the fun moments of our family week together. There were games of Scrabble with their grandmas.

We spent lots of time holding and talking to our two newest family members.

Sisters enjoy the rare privilege of being together. Here they posed together in the back yard of our oldest daughter's "new" home.

The twins are growing and adding so much joy to our lives.

Pawpaw is thrilled to have help in raking the leaves at our SIL and daughter's home. The little guy took the job quite seriously.

This morning they are all coming for french toast and sausage. Thank you for joining us in our stay-at-home vacation moments.

Wishing you all a beautiful Fall Saturday!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Real Pearls

"They are found in an unclean place.

They are found in a dark place.

They are found by men who knew where to look.

They are produced by major irritation.

The process takes years.

It is the only living stone.

Every pearl is one of a kind.

Imitation pearls are of no real value."

~facts shared by Glenna Salsbury, speaking at our church retreat.

This can be some encouraging news for the times in our lives when we face irritations, times of darker days, or when things we hope for don't seem to be happening. Real pearls take a long time to produce, but the finished product will be beautiful and one of a kind.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Double Blessings

Today our daughter and her husband arrived from Texas. They are spending a week with us since they will not be able to be home for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year. We are so excited to have them with us, and look forward to spending times together as a family.

And, also arriving from Texas this afternoon, in the mail. was a box full of wonderful treasures, from a very generous lady in blogland. I won this beautiful," most appropriate for me-
the snowman collector that I am" type gift, from
Cheryl's giveaway. If you never visited her blog I promise you, that you would be so impressed with her photography and her ability to write out her thoughts. Her photography helps one realize just how beautiful the state of Texas is. Her blog is The gift she sent was packaged attractively, and even included a lovely homemade card. Really, this gift was made for me, and I am so thankful that I was the winner. Thank you so much, Cheryl.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Moment to Cherish

Here is the moment I cherished this morning when I walked out to the garage. I can't tell you how cute this looked. They were working on a project, using tools. He wanted the hard hats like he had seen at the Home Depot Store. He wanted the glasses, like at the Home Depot Store. You see, they had a kid's workday demonstration at the Home Depot Store when his dad took him there a few weeks ago. This Saturday morning he considered himself a pro, when it came to this construction project.

Together they worked on this new shelf project.

It was a moment to cherish, and cherish I will. I know you are thinking this blog has certainly become a" one subject blog" lately, and you are right. This week has been moving week for our daughter and son-in-law. Today is the official moving does it all make sense to you????

Wishing you a special moment to cherish, today!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Homemade Fun

It is a cool, overcast day. I have three little ones. I am running out of ideas and for those of you who know me, you probably find this difficult to believe. I went to the cupboard and pulled out my "Good Things for Kids" from summer 2007. It is created by Martha Stewart, and it features, easy ideas for fun parties. I found the page that has the simple recipe for making homemade play dough. Here is the recipe;
Play Dough
"This homemade modeling dough is a cinch for kids to mke; give them premeasured ingredients to make it even easier." (I have real young children so I made it myself, without them knowing it. I thought it would be better to surprise them when it was finished. Imagine what would happen if it did not turn out right, and they were anticipating it.)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
3 tablespoons vegtable oil
1/3 cup of water tinted with 17 drops of food coloring(I doubled this recipe).
Stir flour, salt, and vegetable oil in medium bowl with a wooden spoon. Add colored water, and knead with hands(I used rubber gloves) until smooth. If the dough is crumbly, add more oil; if it's sticky, add flour. Store in an airtight container in thr refrigerator four up to two weeks. (I found it does last longer than this). It produces vibrant colored play dough.

I put old bibs on them, covered the wooden table with plastic 33 gallon garbage bags, got out my cookie cutter, plastic flower sticks, little American flags... and the fun began. For the next two hours, they played, they created, they imagined. My only not mix the colors, and keep it away from the edge of the table. My littlest granddaughter was intriqued for a short amount of time, and then she wanted to eat it. Now, that is one of the good aspects of this play can't hurt them, although ususally the salty taste eliminates the second taste. The older of the two girls pictured above, was thrilled with this venture.

As was her brother. He actually surprised me with his creativity.

Here was the blob of red dough, where she added her two little flags. She was excited to put them somewhere.

They made a flower garden with these little plastic stick flowers that I saved from desserts my family was served, a few years ago. They were going to let them lay on the table, so I collected them and put them away. Why do I do that? Who would have thought that years later my little ones would want to create a flower garden out of play dough.

I taught them how to take their creations, roll it into a ball again, press it down to a flat surface, and start all over again. Time and time again, this took place. I love this picture. It shows just how seriously he took this challenge.

Here is the idea that the magazine used to package the dough for a party. I thought it was a great idea giving each child at the party, an individualized package like this to take home. I like how she added the small wooden rolling pins onto each package.

Here is my idea if you want to make the play dough for a gift for a child in your life. The small purple plastic containers were purchased from Walmart last year. I put different colors in each container, laid them on their sides on clear cellophane paper(this comes in rolls at the craft stores), rolled them up and tied each end with ribbon. I added small cookie cutters to each side, purchased from a craft store also. It is a fun and very inexpensive gift for a child. I like the consistancy of this play dough better than the store bought variety. This could be a fun "grandma gift" to take on a visit to see your grandchildren.


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