Each Tree Has a Story, Part 6

It was the Christmas my husband jokingly said to me, “I think we have a Christmas tree everywhere but the bathroom.”

Yes, he should’ve known better to say something like that.

Because a few days before that statement I’d seen the cutest little 4 foot skinny pink tree. I’m not much for pastel colored trees, but this one really caught my interest, and of course it gave me an idea.

I’d also seen a bunch of beautiful glass ornaments with an underwater theme at Macy’s that were, you guessed it…on sale. 60% off. I had wanted to add those to my collection so badly, and when I saw that little pink tree, I knew exactly what I wanted to do!

We have a large master bath off our bedroom. It’s for me, because as Ben says, the secret to a long marriage is having separate bathrooms, and he’s actually sort of correct. 

And there was plenty of room in there for a little 4 foot tree. The color was perfect as well, since the bathroom is in shades of rose and green.  It was meant to be.

Since the tree was small, I could set it up myself with no problem, which is what I did. One night after he’d already gone to bed and was sound asleep. 

It didn’t take long to set up, and those glass ornaments were just perfect! I couldn’t wait to show it off!

The next morning I turned the lights on the little tree and waited for him to notice it when he walked by on his way to get dressed. 

Do you think he did?

Of course not.  And he walked by there a couple of times that morning.  I had to finally show it to him.

His reaction?  “Well, it really is cute, but no one is going to see it but us.”

Well, I fixed that. And the next year that little tree found a perfect place in the corner of my home office on a little stand, surrounded by a pink tree skirt and pink silk poinsettias. 

It’s been there every year since. I’ve added a few new ornaments to the glass starfish, jellyfish, shells and tropical fish, including some I made myself to resemble ocean bubbles, and of course a glass flamingo, and this is now one of my favorite trees.

And now that I’ve been working remotely for almost two years I get to enjoy it every day.

But wait….we’re not quite finished here. Don’t forget to read the next installment of “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 7” to be published December 17.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 5

Today’s homes don’t usually have a formal dining room, opting for a big eat-in kitchen or a gathering room, an all-purpose room where family and friends can eat together in a casual setting.

The house I grew up in had a formal dining room, and I had that as well in several of my homes. The house we live in now is no exception, and because we’d added a few feet on to the living room to accommodate my piano, the dining room beside it is a bit oversized as well. But since I have my mom’s large dining set and the bar cabinet my grandfather made, it all fits together perfectly.

Except at Christmas time, when it just seemed a little dark, compared to the living room with its big fancy tree.

And like the area by the fish tank, there’s a corner in the dining room that has a large silk tree in it that could easily be moved for the holidays…

When I told my husband my brilliant idea for yet another tree, he reminded me we hardly ever use the dining room. 

Except at Thanksgiving and Christmas I reminded him, and people could see that tree as well when they walk in the house….it would really look great.

And another 5 foot tree just sort of appeared a few days later, right in that corner. 

I hadn’t really thought about a theme, but since Christmas colors are red and green, I decided to use those colors and just go from there.

Of course I started looking through the ornaments I had on our family room tree, to see what I could move around (and make room for more ornaments on that one, of course). I found a number of red ornaments, and birds, and a few similar creatures, and all of a sudden the ideas started flowing.

It started off fairly simple, but in a few short years, it quickly filled up (imagine that) with a collection of red and white birds, including my grandmother’s little antique glass birds perched carefully on the branches, fancy pine cones, and some adorable little woodland creatures. And since our two Yorkies have a “thing” for squirrels, there are several of those on the tree as well. The dogs aren’t allowed in there unsupervised, of course, or those animals would probably not survive.

The finishing touch was adding a number of our acrylic dated Hallmark ornaments to it, making the tree really sparkle. 

This year I added a couple of strands of garland made with red Buffalo plaid wooden beads, and that really set it off even more.

Lots of our friends have said this is their favorite tree. But I love them all!

And there’s still a few more to come. As you’ll see in “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 6” to be published December 15.

Christmas Cork Crafting

Since I have a large collection of wine corks I decided to do something more with them this year  than the garland and ornaments I’d already made a few years ago.

So I got the brilliant idea to make some of those wine cork Christmas trees I’d seen all over Pinterest. How hard could they be, I asked myself? They really look fairly easy.

Sort of. But what you don’t realize is that wine corks aren’t all the same size. Some are longer than others. Some are thinner. And try as you might, they don’t always fit on that styrofoam cone the way you want them to. It was a bit of a challenge at first.

But I was determined to make it work, and I finally did. They aren’t perfect, but then again, that’s part of the fun of crafting. Each piece I make is unique, my own creation. And I’m probably my own worst critic, not always happy with what I make, even though most people don’t notice the imperfections I see.

It was also a bit of a challenge decorating them, because I wanted to do something different. I’ve had a collection of large metal beads for several years that I’d originally bought for wine cork bottle jewelry, and while those turned out well, they just weren’t that popular. So what to do with the leftover beads has been a challenge. They weren’t quite right for most of my bracelets, but I couldn’t bear to get rid of them.

However they were just right for my wine cork trees. Their slightly curved shape fit perfectly around the corks in strategic places that needed a fill-in or a pop of color. So I ended up designing the trees around the beads.

And no, I’m not going to sell any of them this year. I’d have to charge too much for my time! But they are fun to make, except when I get the hot glue all over my fingers. That hurts!

I’ve also just completed my first wine cork snowman, based on more photos on Pinterest. He was a lot easier than the trees, and I think the plaid Christmas ornament hat (from the dollar store of course) really makes him festive! And even better, my husband painted the corks white for me. And if you try it, be sure to paint it after your snowman is assembled and glued together. Much easier and it saves on paint.

What next? Well I do have some styrofoam cones left, so you never know….

Or I may find another hat and make another snowman. Or I could just make my own hat for him. You can still use snowmen after Christmas!

Have you done any special crafts this season? Or maybe some wine cork trees? Feel free to post pictures in the comments section. We’d sure love to see them!

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 4

Being that someone I’ve already told you about who just has to buy a few (ok, sometimes quite a few) new ornaments every year, eventually that family tree started really, really getting full. Again.

Yes, I’d already added a tree in the living room, but I soon noticed I was going to be “forced” into adding another one if I wanted to keep up with my collecting ornaments every year.

And I couldn’t have that, could I?

Looking around at the ornaments I had on that tree, I realized there were a lot of them in the candy/cookie/gingerbread theme. Maybe there weren’t enough (yet) to fill another big tree, and we didn’t have room for another really big one. But being the resourceful fanatical ornament collector that I’ve become, there was always a way.

So…we have a fish tank in our side foyer off the kitchen, and I noticed there would be a space for another tree if we moved the big silk plant beside the tank. I think I remember asking my husband if we could. Or maybe I just brought another 5 foot tree home and set it up to surprise him. I can’t quite remember.

But the fish needed to have a little Christmas in their space as well, didn’t they? And the smaller trees I can usually set up by myself, just in case I want to surprise someone.

Yes, he thought I was really getting a bit crazy by now (he had no Idea what was coming), but he did agree that the fish probably needed a little Christmas, too, and that’s all I needed!

I collected all the cooking and Christmas treat ornaments I already had, and of course added a few (dozen) more. And once again, very conveniently, the craft stores that year were filled with those clay cookie ornaments that you could even personalize, so I was thrilled to get them (on sale, of course)!

Combining those with all the similar ones I already had, and adding my old candy garland from many years ago, made my Christmas baking tree really easy to put together.

Hallmark had even cooperated with me and came out with a series of cooking appliance ornaments, like mixers and things, and their own line of cupcakes, so what more did I need!?

That tree of course has now expanded by more (ok, quite a few more) ornaments in the same theme, and our grandchildren just love it! They spend probably half an hour looking at it when it first goes up, and it’s so cute when our granddaughter Rachel keeps telling her little sister not to touch it as she points out her favorite ornaments. And of course, she’s touching them as she says that!

Looking at some of my collection of ornaments on here, you can tell this is definitely a tree that children just love!. And since it’s right off the kitchen, where we always bake our Christmas cookies, how more appropriate can it be?

So what do you think of this one? It would probably look better if I knew how to take better Christmas tree pictures, but you get the idea.

seem to be

The fish seem to be happy, too! And they’re even happier now since last year my husband gave them their own set of decorations for their tank! So their home gets decorated when ours does.

And what did I do next? Find out in “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 5” to be published December 13.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 3

Since I was sure we needed another tree, I had to figure out a reason for doing it that my husband would agree with. While he’s usually pretty good at seeing things my way, well, I wasn’t sure about something like this. I also didn’t know what it would lead to.

When I first mentioned it to him he looked at me like I’d lost my mind. But after a little bit of giving all the good reasons for doing it, like the living room is the first room guests see when they come in, it would look pretty through the windows at night, and I just really thought we NEEDED it, he sort of agreed. 

Then he asked how I’d decorate it. Good question.

But one of my contractors had just given me a Christmas ornament a few days before which was a cat dressed as an angel. Why? Because I’d shared with him earlier that year how we’d almost lost our white Fluffy cat to a bladder blockage, and how we knew he had a guardian angel that saved him, with the help of our excellent vet of course. My contractor told me he saw the ornament and just thought I needed to have it!

So I told my husband it needed to be an angel tree and that kitty angel ornament would always be on there to remind us that miracles still happen. 

How could he refuse that? So a new 7 foot tree appeared in the living room within a few days! Coincidentally that same year, our local craft store had a ton of Christmas picks that were different styles of angels, and they were conveniently on sale. So obviously I bought several dozen of them and made them into ornaments, and they’ve been on that tree ever since.

Of course, over the years new ornaments have appeared, and now although the tree still features the angels and my kitty angel ornament, it also has jeweled butterflies, glass roses (my mom’s favorite flower), and loads of other delicate ornaments in shades of pink and rose. (Remember, you have to get a couple new ornaments every year for each tree. Just to keep it interesting.)

You can see we even have lights with acrylic roses added to them that my mother gave us many years ago.

As you can see from the pictures, it’s a beautiful tree, and everyone loves the story of why we started it.

Obviously though, that wasn’t the end of the trees….

So be sure to read about the next one in “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 4” to be published on December 10.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 2

Yes, I do love Christmas trees. For me, the Christmas season starts as soon as the first tree is decorated. It just brings such a festive, happy feeling to the house. And yes, I did say the “first” tree. As you’ve probably figured out by now, we do have more than one.

I’ve always had a Christmas tree every year, even after I had places of my own. I started collecting ornaments my last year in college, and actually still have a few from those early years. They were inexpensive ones, of course, but I bought them because I liked them, and even almost fifty years ago, my tree had a theme to it. I liked the strands of plastic popcorn and candy for the garland, as well as the cupcakes and cookie shaped ornaments and a set of pink popcorn shaped ornaments that I still have, although they’re now on another tree. (Some of my ornaments do move around.)  

But I’ve come a long way from that first tree that I created for myself.

When my husband and I were first together, he helped me decorate my tree. We collected new ornaments together, and we still have a very special Hallmark ornament “First Christmas Together”.  It quickly became a tradition every year to collect at least one special ornament that was dated, so we could watch the progression of our life together. Our family Christmas tree was created.

Of course, it wasn’t just one ornament a year…more like four or five. Four or five each time I’d go out Christmas shopping, that is. After all, they were there in the stores, staring at me from those display trees, and well, I just couldn’t resist some of them. They were so cute. And I knew they’d look perfect on our tree.

There’s always room for one more ornament, isn’t there? And we had a big tree…

And there really wasn’t a theme then. Like most of you, I imagine, I just started collecting ornaments I liked, and because a Christmas tree can really be anything you want it to be, that tree became a myriad of colors, shapes, and sizes. Candies, animals, Santa Clauses and snowmen, flamingos, and oh yes, let’s not forget all the Hallmark Barbie ornaments. I don’t think I missed a year of not getting at least one, and now if I find one on eBay I don’t have, well, let’s just say I make sure it joins my collection. But more on that later.

It turned out that we didn’t have a big enough tree after all, because after our daughter was born, we had to have the Hallmark series ornaments for Baby’s First Christmas, and then the rest of them which went through year five. And yes, they’re still on there. Of course we started collecting a lot of ornaments with children’s themes then, many of which I’ve actually given to our daughter now for her tree.

Still, that one tree kept getting fuller and fuller every year, but I still had to have just one or two (or five or six) more ornaments each year. It was tradition. After all, it was our family Christmas tree. And it was filled with a wide array of different ornaments we’d collected over our years together, so many that I was actually running out of branches to put them on.

I soon realized that one 7 1/2 foot tree in the corner of our family room just wasn’t going to be enough any more. And looking around the house, I realized the rooms looked kind of plain compared to the family room, even with all the silk poinsettias and holly and other decorations sitting around.

So what do you do?

That answer should be obvious. I’ll tell you all about that in a few more days. Watch for “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 3” to be published on December 8.

Each Tree Has a Story, Part 1

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by Christmas trees. Whether they’re decorated in restaurants and store windows and displays, part of an outside holiday display, or in someone’s (or my) home, there’s just something almost magical about the beauty of a Christmas tree.

For me, it just seems to evoke all the feelings of the season…peace, joy, beauty, and love. The sparkling lights and the ornaments, whether glass or acrylic, homemade or purchased from stores, or made lovingly by little hands for special family gifts, are beautiful reminders of things and people we love, as well as the beauty of the Christmas season.

When I was growing up, we always had a real tree. Of course back then there were very few artificial trees, and the ones available didn’t really look that great. (And remember those silver aluminum ones with the colored swirling light in front of it that changed color? I think we all had one! What were we thinking?)

I do vaguely remember my father bringing home a tree each year about a week before Christmas so he and my mom could decorate it just in time for Santa. It would sit outside in a pail of water for a few days to keep it fresh until it was time to bring it inside. I didn’t help much, of course, because I was too young. I certainly couldn’t help with the strings of lights, and the ornaments were glass and fragile, and broke easily, and we always had a colorful glass sphere on the top of it. 

I did get to help throw those aluminum icicles on it after everything else was hung. I just loved that finishing touch. And for those of you in my age group, I’m sure you remember the same thing. And weren’t they messy as could be when it was time to take that tree down? I don’t think they’re even made anymore. And if they are I’d never get them again!

But every year, once that tree was decorated, I thought it was the most beautiful tree ever! Those old, now vintage, ornaments were so special.

And because the tree was real, we had to water it every day so it wouldn’t dry out. Plus the old lights weren’t nearly as safe as the ones now, and there were lots of Christmas tree fires back then from overheated or frayed tree lights.

And those needles made a mess when they started dropping, so we had to constantly vacuum around it, but it sure smelled good…just like Christmas!

Even then, I was always a bit sad when Christmas was over and we had to throw the tree out and pack up those shiny ornaments. It just didn’t seem fair for all that beauty to only be around such a short time. And back then, we could only leave it up for about two weeks before it started drying out too much to be safe.

After my father died, my mom and I always went together to get our tree from the Christmas tree lot set up in a vacant lot in town. It always smelled so good there, many times with a small fire burning in a barrel to keep the attendants, and the shoppers, warm. Sometimes they even served hot chocolate. We’d carefully pick out a tree, and they’d tie it on top of our car. 

Because my mom had no one to help her with it, especially after my aunt and uncle moved a couple hours away, a lot of years one of the men who’d been helping at the lot would follow us home and help get the tree set up for us. 

Yes, times were a lot different back then. And being in a small town, everyone tried to help out everyone else. Especially at Christmas.

Unfortunately I don’t have hardly any pictures of our Christmas trees growing up, and none in color, but in my mind’s eye I can still see them, and still see the colors in the ornaments and lights. Yes, they were old fashioned compared to today’s styles, but they were beautiful to us.

Unfortunately over the years most of those precious fragile ornaments have gotten broken. Between various moves and accidentally dropping some of them, which really upset me every time, there are only a few left, most of which are now used in decorative bowls of ornaments set around the house.

I couldn’t ever imagine Christmas without a tree and all those lights and ornaments; without the beauty they brought to our home, especially when I was a child with my father no longer with us.  And I’m sure if it hadn’t been for me, my mother wouldn’t have ever had another Christmas tree after he died.

I guess my love of Christmas trees sort of sprang from those childhood days, and has slowly evolved to the craziness my husband and I have now.

Craziness you ask? Well I’ve been told having a tree in almost every room is a little crazy, but then again, I’ve never claimed to be totally normal. But I like to collect things, so why not Christmas trees? 

Which I’ll tell you more about in a few more days. Watch for “Each Tree Has a Story, Part 2” to be published on December 6.

Making a Gingerbread House

All the pictures make it look so easy. Right?

Mom and the kids sitting around the table, maybe even with Grandmom, and happily frosting/gluing the pieces together, adding the candy, and then a perfect gingerbread house is completed.

May I ask you, have you ever really tried doing one? With or without kids? It’s really not as easy as those pictures show. And it definitely doesn’t always turn out like it looks like on the box. Even for those of us who are usually quite crafty.

How do I know? Well, last year my daughter and I decided to make one with the grandkids. At the time Rachel was 4 and a half; Ryleigh a year and a half. 

I guess I should’ve said my daughter and I decided to make one. While the kids watched. Or played something else. Or waited to eat the candy that went on it.

We’d actually done one the year before. That didn’t turn out well at all. Besides Rachel being a little too young to really be a lot of help, actually putting these together isn’t that easy. The sides and roof pieces that have to be assembled are “glued” with white frosting. The frosting doesn’t work like my hot glue gun! And getting them to stay upright and in place isn’t a piece of cake, or gingerbread, either! 

Trust me, our finished product from that year certainly isn’t worthy of being seen on here!

Last year though, was a bit easier. But only just a bit.  It may be because we used a different brand gingerbread house kit. Maybe because the grandkids were a year older. Or maybe we’d just learned from last year what NOT to do.

Our daughter learned what not to do. She learned that she had no patience in putting the sides and roof together. So guess who got the job? The same person who did it the year before. As you can see from the pictures.

And getting the roof on and actually getting it stay is almost an engineering project. But I did it. And when the frosting “glue” dried, it actually stayed together. That was an improvement over last year!

Next was the part our daughter and Rachel were looking forward to. Decorating the house. The kits contain all the candy needed for the houses, and there’s usually some left over. Which makes all the kids, big and little, quite happy.

And our daughter and older granddaughter really enjoyed putting the candy on, even though not all of it went on the house. What did little Ryleigh do? She watched for a few minute, grabbed a bit of the candy, and went back to playing and watching cartoons.

Fortunately the house turned out fairly well. We were all proud of our accomplishment. 

So proud, in fact I actually got another kit for them, and we all put together a gingerbread camper. Which wasn’t quite as difficult. Or else we’d learned a little more about how to do it.

So what do you think about our collection? Are you ready to try and do your own? You don’t even need to have kids or grandkids to try it. But that makes it more fun. 

Or you can do what our daughter did and order an acrylic one to put together. Much easier. And lasts a lot longer. Isn’t it cute? And you knew it had to have a flamingo with it!

Here are the finished products. What do you think?

To show how brave we’ve become after this, we now have four gingerbread kits to make this year. We may or may not write about those, depending on the finished products. But you never know!

And why not send your own gingerbread house pictures in a comment. We’d love to see them!

Happy holiday creating! The fun is just beginning!

How Thanksgiving Really Is

A lot of times after a big holiday we have a letdown, a time when we sit back and reflect on all the preparations and hurrying and worrying to make sure everything is perfect, and wonder, after all we did for a few hours of family time and food, was it worth it? All the work, that is.

The turkey’s been eaten, and leftovers put away. Casseroles are covered and refrigerated for tomorrow. Leftover pumpkin pie sits on the counter in case someone wants another piece.

All the work and preparation and it’s over in an hour or so. And everyone is exhausted.

Yes, we gave thanks for time together, and yes it was wonderful, although it certainly wasn’t like a Norman Rockwell painting. It never is. And for those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to, please look up Norman Rockwell and his work. Then you’ll understand.

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At our house, it was a small gathering. Our daughter and her family, and her dad and me. And that was fine.

Now the Thanksgiving crafts Ashley brought for the kids to do didn’t quite turn out too well. Grandpa complained his crayons weren’t coloring right. Little Ryleigh lost interest quickly. Probably because she didn’t feel good. So Rachel and her mom got to have all the fun, including making a Thanksgiving hat for Daddy. Even one of our dogs decided to join in the fun and try to eat a couple of the kids’ crayons. Didn’t know yorkies liked crayons….

The food was good, even though it wasn’t all necessarily homemade. There’s nothing wrong with stovetop stuffing, turkey gravy in a jar, ready made mashed potatoes, and a frozen pumpkin pie. But I did make two casseroles myself. And Ashley and the girls made cinnamon buns from my mother’s recipe, which is our tradition.

We didn’t carve the turkey at the table; that’s just not practical. Good thing, though, because the electric knife decided to die on us when my husband started to cut it, and our son-in-law had to use his deer knife to carve the bird. He did tell us he’d cleaned it after he last used it out in the woods!

We didn’t dress up in our best clothes, like we did as kids at our grandma’s house on Thanksgiving. But we did eat in the dining room. We didn’t use our best china, but we didn’t use paper plates either. Good thing we used unbreakable dinnerware, though! You can imagine why with two little girls….

The grandkids had fun, even though they didn’t eat much. One ate three helpings (kid-sized) of corn pudding and one ate mostly cinnamon buns! Our daughter put ketchup on her turkey while her husband used hot sauce. Who else does that? And why?

The grandkids were actually more interested in running into the living room to try to play my piano and in the next minute go look out the window for Santa Claus. Rachel even said she thought she saw him on the roof and made her Daddy go look! But I guess he’d already left because they didn’t find him.

I wonder if he was starting to make his list early!

The dogs were unhappy because they weren’t allowed to be in the dining room with us, half because they wanted to be with us, and half because they knew the kids were dropping food on the floor and they wanted to help with the cleanup!

But don’t worry about their holiday dinner! They discovered the cloth napkins and tablecloth I’d thrown on the steps to take upstairs to the laundry room, and they were more than happy to grab those and run around the house with them.

Guess they wanted their Thanksgiving treats as well!

Family Thanksgiving pictures? The closest we got to that were pictures of the grandkids helping their mommy make the cinnamon buns and taking pictures of the kids modeling the Thanksgiving paper hats they’d colored.

Now tell me the truth…was your Thanksgiving more like ours or more like the picture perfect scenes you see on tv commercials and magazine ads?

I think I know the answer already. And I really wouldn’t want it any other way. After all, it’s our family, and that’s just how it is!

And if you’re wondering how my husband was able to handle all this after his heart procedure two days ago, well, that’s another story, for another time. While we wait for it to be rescheduled now that the insurance company has FINALLY sent the doctors their approval! Things do work out for the best after all. Because Thanksgiving day would have totally worn him out.

And now it’s on to getting ready for Christmas. And there’ll surely be more stories and memories to cherish.

Being Thankful 2021

(Be sure to read through it all for a surprise at the end.)

It’s almost Thanksgiving again. We’re all trying to plan our meals, figure out who will join us at our feast, as well as what everyone can bring. 

We’re trying to figure out how to prevent arguments at these family and friends dinners because, well, some of you don’t get along with each other that well, and have such uncompromising ideas that you’re afraid dinner will turn into a battleground.

People are already complaining that the cost of our traditional Thanksgiving meal is too high. We can’t get this or that and we just can’t have our dinner without it.

People are complaining that many retailers who traditionally opened after dinnertime for an early start on Christmas shopping won’t be doing it this year. They’re actually letting their employees have off to spend time with THEIR families instead of trying to deal with pushy shoppers who complain that what they stood in line to buy is gone already! 

It just isn’t fair! 

Who said life is fair? Who said we have to have certain things for dinner because it’s tradition? Is Thanksgiving going to be ruined if we have to eat chicken instead of turkey? Not, it’s not quite the same, but you do have food on the table.

You don’t want to have certain family members there because you don’t agree with them on certain things? Maybe they don’t agree with you either. Maybe you can agree to disagree for one day and leave that conversation out of your day?! Or maybe you can just forget about them this year. But do you really want to do that?

Maybe things will be different next year and you can see them then. Or maybe they won’t be around any more and you’ll never get the chance to be with them again.

Tomorrow is not promised. Next week is not promised. And next year is not promised.

When we start making holidays, say Thanksgiving for a start, only about the food and who’s cooking it, and what we can or can’t have, there’s a problem.

When we make Thanksgiving about who we don’t want as our guests instead of welcoming family members to join us for a time of fellowship, gratitude, and thankfulness, there’s a problem. When we refuse to go to our family Thanksgiving dinner because some one or two people we don’t want to see will be there, and give up going and being with others we love, there’s a problem.

When your traditional after Thanksgiving dinner early Christmas shopping can’t happen because retailers decided to give their employees off to enjoy their own families, there’s a problem.

I think we’re forgetting what Thanksgiving means. It’s not about the food. It’s not about shopping. It’s not about refusing an invitation because you don’t like someone who’s also invited, so you’d rather complain that you have nowhere to go. Because you do; you just choose not to.

And yes, I find myself starting to do that as well. I forget, too. But then I was prompted to start writing this, and as I wrote, I saw too many things inside myself that I was doing wrong.

I found myself pushing to make sure I had all the good items we “always” have for our dinner. Yes, we did get the turkey early, but we didn’t pay a fortune for it because we found a sale rather than just complaining about prices. Complaining has become the new thing to do, hasn’t it?

And if we have to change up the menu slightly from what we traditionally have, well, maybe we’ll like the changes so much we’ll keep them for next Thanksgiving. And cranberry sauce? Yeah, it’s tradition but no one really eats much of it.

As long as we can have my mother’s recipe cinnamon buns we’re good. And I ordered the hot roll mix she always used so all we need is for our daughter to make them!

And the dinner guests? Since my family lives several hours away, and my husband’s family lives halfway across the country, our dinner guests are our daughter and son-in-law and their two daughters. Over the last several years we’ve usually had several friends in the same situation; family out of town and they couldn’t get there. Or they’re newly separated or divorced and well, we won’t go there. Or some of our daughter’s friends who couldn’t get to their family celebration that year.

There’s always room at our table for one more, and many times it’s someone who’s invited at the last minute because we didn’t know they had nowhere to go.

The shopping after dinner? I can truthfully say I’ve never done that. Not even wanted to. After a big dinner and cleaning up afterwards, the last thing I want to do is go fight the crowds fighting over bargains on things they don’t really need or gifts that the recipients might not even want.

What’s wrong with stores actually letting their employees have a holiday off? Is the almighty dollar so important that the retailers should be open no matter what? Personally I’m glad a lot of them made that decision. Let families have a full day together, and that means those of you who used to take off shopping as soon as dinner was over. Spend time with the ones who are important to you while you can. The stores will be open the next day. And there will be merchandise to buy.

Now, to make our Thanksgiving even more interesting, a few days ago, a new complication was added to our Thanksgiving plans. But it’s added at the top of our “Being Thankful” list. 

My husband who’s had a history of heart issues (read his story in the Matters of the Heart series on this blog) was unexpectedly notified that after a year and a half of waiting and delays (Covid and insurance, among other things) he finally had an opening for a very important but hopefully minor heart surgery, if any heart procedure can be called minor. Two days before Thanksgiving. We took the appointment.

After a rushed several days of preparation for surgery, final meal planning and some prep for the actual dinner, and yes, finishing up the majority of our Christmas decorations, notifying our family and friends, I think we’re ready. 

Tomorrow morning he will be having a device called the Watchman inserted laparoscopically into his heart. The device is designed to prevent blood clots from breaking off and possibly causing a stroke. Which means he will finally be able to go off blood thinners at the beginning of the new year. And he should be home the next morning.

So you see, our Thanksgiving won’t be the same as other years, either. But with the help of our daughter and other friends, as well as a great surgeon and his team, we’re going to have a truly thankful Thanksgiving Day.

It may not be traditional, but it’s going to be blessed. And full of heartfelt gratitude.

So I ask you now…what are you going to be thankful for this Thanksgiving? Are you going to be grateful for what you have or complain about what you think you’re missing?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Remembering The Price of Freedom

This post was originally published five years ago today. But it’s still very relevant today. So I’ve updated it slightly to reflect Veterans Day, 2021.

The price of freedom cannot be measured monetarily. It is measured by the sacrifice of the lives of the men and women who defend it.

Today is Veterans Day. The day we thank all of those who have served and are currently serving in our military. Their bravery and dedication to duty is not appreciated nearly enough. They have a unique understanding of the ways of the world that we who have not served cannot begin to understand.

To all of those who have served or are still serving, we owe you a huge THANK YOU for the time and sacrifice you, and your families, have given, and are still giving, to this great nation. You leave home and family behind far too often to serve your country because that’s your duty and your chosen profession. You and your families are invaluable to this country.

My father served in the Army during World War II, however, because of a bad knee that he had originally injured playing football in college, he was sent home with an honorable discharge and a knee brace.

My uncle also served, however, he did not get home until the war ended. He was quite fortunate. Although I do not know his entire story, I will relate what I know of it, because in my eyes, he was one of the heroes.

Fowler Cottingham joined the Army as a young man barely 18 years old. He was trained as a crewman on the fighter planes, and consequently sent to Germany, where he flew in several successful missions with his crew.WW2 Plane

The morning of the day he flew his final mission was most likely just another day. Clear skies; light wind; a perfect day for flying. I can imagine the crew loading the plane, going through their pre-flight checklist, making sure their parachutes were ready, and most likely cracking jokes and talking about what they’d do when they came back from their mission.

Flying over enemy territory was never safe. Most of us have probably seen movies of the allied war planes heading out for missions over Germany. What the movies don’t adequately show is the danger our men faced during each of these missions.

They didn’t have all of the sophisticated equipment in 1945 that our armed forces have now. There were no computers, no GPS; only a navigator with paper maps showing where they were supposed to be flying. There were gunners who fired their weapons without fancy electronics to assist them. They had to judge where to aim, and when to pull the trigger, based on what knowledge the officers and ground troops had been able to discern. It was much different than today. But they had courage, and a sense of duty. They had volunteered to serve, and knew the risks involved.

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but my uncle’s plane took a hit from a German warplane. Fortunately they were all able to parachute out, and landed in a wooded area somewhere behind enemy lines. They had only a few supplies, and had no idea where they were. And no idea whether anyone else had any idea where they were, or even if they were alive.

Shortly afterwards they were captured by German soldiers and marched to one of the POW concentration camps. Capture was certainly better than being shot, which I’m sure they were all afraid, would happen. As brave as these men were, just remember, they were all in their early 20’s, the beginning of their lives. They all wondered if they’d ever see home and family again.Blanches Banques POW Camp

Over 93,000 men were held as prisoners in the German POW camps in World War II. They were held in drafty wooden buildings, with uncomfortable cots, and only a thin blanket for warmth. They were fed one or two meals a day, usually some type of thin soup and stale bread. Their only utensils were a tin spoon, and a tin cup for water. One day they were given a treat…candy bars which they quickly bit into. And then saw the worms inside.

My Uncle Fowler and his crew spent six months in that camp, guarded by armed soldiers and German shepherds. They never knew when or if the guards would come for some of them to question them, torture them, or kill them.

There are some experiences that are just too terrible to discuss because they bring back too many nightmares. My uncle would never discuss any of what happened, other than what I have written here; not with his parents, his wife, or his two sons. After his return, and until the day he died, he was scared of German shepherds because he had seen them tear hands and arms off of prisoners who were trying to escape.

How did these men survive this ordeal? And where was the Lord in this? I’m sure the men wondered many times where He was. Even at the young age of 20, when he was captured, my uncle was a man of faith, and I’m certain his faith helped sustain him.

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The Lord was watching over them the entire time.

Yes, their plane was shot down, but the crew survived. The Lord directed the German bullets away from the fuselage so that the plane didn’t explode, which would have killed them all. When they landed in the woods, they had no idea where they were, and no idea where to go. The German soldiers could have killed them, but instead they were captured and allowed to live. Many other soldiers spent years in these concentration camps before being freed; these men only had to endure for six months. Many died in these camps, but these men all survived, because the Lord had plans for them. My uncle had a young woman, my aunt, waiting to meet him, fall in love, and marry. The Lord had plans for all of them and made sure those plans were carried out. Prayers for safety were answered; just not the way that was expected.

I wish I knew the names of my uncle’s crew members, but I never had the opportunity to find out. I would love to thank them as well for serving with him, and being part of his support system while in the camp.

And again, to all of our veterans and those who are still serving, and their families, Happy Veteran’s Day. Thank you for your service. May God bless you all, and keep you safe.veterans_day_thank_you-1940983

Leftover Halloween Candy?

That’s sort of like how to use leftover wine, isn’t it? Like who really has leftover Halloween candy? (or wine?)

Well, actually, we usually do have some leftover Halloween candy each year. We usually buy too much (on purpose) because we do enjoy it, and even though I am still working remotely, I do like to have a candy dish in my home office. And what better to fill it with then those miniature pieces of candy that are so tempting.

And at Halloween it’s worse, because the bags are bigger, and they’re usually on sale.

After Halloween it’s even worse because the bags are marked down even more, and if you get to the store early on the day after, you can really stock up.

When our daughter was still a child, we would sit on the floor after trick or treating with her and our neighbor’s son and sort through all the candy, making sure it was ok to eat of course, and then exchanging pieces back and forth if one kid didn’t like something and the other did. We all made out fairly well from the candy exchange and of course, ended up with a lot more in each house than we really needed to eat!

Now that our daughter is married with children of her own, we don’t have as much leftover candy from trick or treating, because we go to their house and join the granddaughters on their Halloween trick or treating. Their neighborhood goes all out for Halloween, with most of the homes decorating their yards with all manner of blow ups, giant spiders, skeletons; you name it, and it’s there somewhere. Many of the residents (and a lot of them are dressed up as well) sit outside in their driveways with their portable firepits going and hand out candy to all the kids. Some even have adult beverage treats for the adults! Those of us with children (or grandchildren in our case) usually rent golf carts from the clubhouse and decorate them, and then drive around the community with the little ones to get their goodies. It’s really a lot of fun, and much easier to ride in the golf carts than walk, because their development is so big.

But back to the candy. I’ve been hearing ads on the radio and seeing Facebook posts about where to donate leftover candy. Well, that may be good for some people, but chocolate candy is a bit pricey, and call me selfish, but I sort of want to eat it…..?

Last year, I ran across a couple of recipes for brownies using Halloween candy. And I thought, why not try it? I had a big bowl of it sitting around in the kitchen, and since I do enjoy baking I tried it. And it was really good! And easy.

So here’s the recipe for those of you who want to try something new!

Leftover Halloween Candy Brownies

  • 1 cup + 2 tbl flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • t/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup M&M’s
  • 1/2 cup chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups
  • 1/2 cup chopped milk chocolate candy bars

OR, you may want to use a boxed brownie mix, follow those directions and just add the candy!

To make the brownies from “scratch”, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ square baking pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat brown sugar, butter, and vanilla together in a separate large bowl using an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in egg. Gradually beat in flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined.

Fold in candy and press into prepared baking pan. You can add a little extra, which I did, but just don’t add too much or it won’t cook properly. Bake in pre-heated oven 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan on wire rack for ten minutes and then cut into squares.

Then enjoy! They’re delicious. In fact, I think I’ll go make some!