Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Out and About

My younger sister, who lives in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas (about 70 miles southwest of here), was not able to join us for the family Christmas gathering. So, today I travelled to her home for lunch, a visit, and exchange of Christmas gifts.

We had a simple lunch (soup and sandwich) but an extra-special dessert, something I haven't had in a long, long time: homemade, vanilla custard-filled cream puffs! I had to get a photo, of course! Don't these look yummy? They definitely were delicious.

When we lived in New Mexico, our mother used to make custard-filled cream puffs quite often. I think she, herself, was fond of them, and they were one of our favorite treats. I can't remember that she made cream puffs after we moved to Arkansas, and I've missed them. I got all misty-eyed when these were brought to the table.

After lunch, I helped my sister create her own blog, Nutmeg. When she has a few posts up, I'll share the link so you can, if you're interested, see what she's doing.

It was an absolutely lovely day for my visit. Temperatures were in the mid-60's with a gentle breeze. To stretch our legs after the blog creation, we headed to nearby Cortez Lake (there are several lakes within the Village) to see if we might find some photo opportunities. We did.

At this particular site, there are a number of xeriscape areas . At one end of a now mostly barren bed, there is a large holly tree, glossy leaves shining in the sun and absolutely laden with berries. I don't believe I've ever before seen as many berries on a holly tree. I may use this image (or one of the several others I took) for some of my 2009 Christmas cards.

Among the dried plants close to the lake shore, I found one I've not seen before, and have no idea what it is. I found the curl of the dried stems very attractive.

Incorporated into the flower beds, and in groupings closer to the lake, there are a number of unusual rocks. I believe the one pictured below to be granite laced with quartz, a mineral which is plentiful in the Hot Springs area. (I'm open to correction from anyone more geologically knowledgeable.)

Cortez Lake stretches for some distance, with a number of beautiful homes built on its shores.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. I enjoyed visiting with my sister and her husband, and the time spent taking photographs at the lake. I got back home before dark, refreshed, relaxed and ready for the last day of the year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Watching the Sky, but not Sky Watch Friday

When I arose this morning, the temperature was already at almost 70 degrees. Definitely not a good thing for December 27 in Arkansas! When I checked the weather report, it was as I suspected; we are under severe storm warnings. I stepped outside the front door a few minutes ago to see what, if anything, was going on in the heavens, and found only heavy gray clouds. They were being pushed by a strong southwesterly wind and really scudding across the sky. You'll have to imagine the movement, since while I have the capacity to make a short video on my camera, I don't have the know-how to get it into the blog (yet).

The storm warnings (actually tornado warnings) are to expire shortly. I'm hoping that they are not reissued. I don't wish for history to repeat itself; the Little Rock area was hit by a bad tornado during Christmas week a few years ago. That's not nice, Mother Nature!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sky Watch - The Morning and the Evening

Christmas Day Morning

The skies were full of contrails; the ethereal reminders of aircraft coming and going. In my imagination, each plane was filled with happy travelers, making a last minute journey in hopes of being at home with their loved ones on Christmas Day.

Christmas Day Evening

Skies overcast with a tiny bit of the soon-to-be-setting sun coloring the undersides of the clouds with the barest hint of gold. A peaceful end to a special day.

Sky Watch was created by Dot and expanded upon by our retired friend Tom. This weekly theme post is brought to you by Klaus, Sandy, Fishing Guy, Ivar, Wren, and Louise. Visit the Sky Watch Friday home page anytime after 7:30 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time on Thursdays to see sky photos from around the world. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Wish is Old, But the Wish is True...

... a Merry Christmas, my friends, to you!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oh, my Darlin' Clementines

I am extremely fond of Clementines and bought a box of them when I was at the grocery on Friday afternoon. I've eaten 5 or 6 already, directly from the box, but thought I'd put them in a bowl to place on the table. Whilst looking for a suitable container, I suddenly thought that they'd make a nice Christmas decoration if placed around a candle. So, that's what I did. I rounded up a few pieces of artificial greenery and pinecones (it's entirely too cold for me to go roaming around outside looking for real holly) and tucked them here and there. My heretofore decoration-barren home now has a decorative centerpiece. And... I can eat it! Well, at least the Clementines! No telling what this will look like by Christmas Day!

At Wikipedia (don't you love Wikipedia?) I found the following information: "Clementines, usually grown in Morocco and Spain, have been available in Europe for many years. A market for them in the United States was created recently, when the harsh 1997 winter in Florida devastated domestic orange production, increasing prices and decreasing availability. California clementines are available from mid-November through January; this availability has them referred to in some areas as "Christmas Oranges"."

My cats are very interested in this intrusion to their stomping grounds. I'll have to watch them when the candle is lit; they don't need frizzled whiskers.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sky Watch

Scudding across the sky, driven by a bitterly cold north wind, the gathering clouds announce that Winter is here, even though the official date for the season is a couple of days away. Don't let those glimpses of blue sky fool you; there was an impending ice storm in those clouds.

Sky Watch was created by Dot and expanded upon by our retired friend Tom. This weekly theme post is brought to you by Klaus, Sandy, Fishing Guy, Ivar, Wren, and Louise. Visit the Sky Watch Friday home page anytime after 7:30 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time on Thursdays to see sky photos from around the world. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, December 12, 2008

More Bits of This and That

Image copyright Thomas Kinkade.
Bit 1: I'm dragging my feet about Christmas cards, and that's not a good thing. Time is getting away... fast! I send only handmade cards, these days; I have to justify my insanely large collection of Christmas-themed rubber stamps. I rationalize my procrastination by reminding myself that there are 12 days of Christmas, so if my cards arrive any time before Epiphany (Jan. 6) I have still sent timely cards. Can I get by with that? A scan of my first efforts is above. It's really nicer "in real life" as the base card has a metallic sheen to it and the color blends better with the image.

Bit 2: I finished the last of the soup, and the remaining meatloaf made a tasty sandwich for supper last night. This one-two, usually sure-fire, knock out combination didn't work; I still have a plethora of cold symptoms! Bah! Humbug! I feel like I am single-handedly keeping the Puffs people in business.

Wait! I forgot the macaroni and cheese! I think that might be lunch today. I am inexplicably fond of a boxed product, the maker of which refers to it as "the cheesiest." My good friend who specializes in yummy, made-from-scratch mac and cheese is appalled at my taste. I don't care. I like it; it's quick to fix and requires only one saucepan.

Bit 3: My youngest daughter, who is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, currently stationed on the island of Okinawa, Japan, has been in the States on leave since just before Thanksgiving. She and her husband have been looking for a place to retire. Her husband is already retired from the military, and she has only one more year before completing 30 years of service. It will be nice to have all my children (and grandchildren) residing on U.S. soil again. Daughter's older son has just finished Air Force boot camp, and she was able to attend his graduation ceremony in San Antonio, TX this past Friday. It made him very happy to see his mother, of course, and the feelings were mutual, I'm sure. The three of them will be back here tonight. Their remaining time stateside will be short as they have to leave again on Dec. 17. While I wish they could still be here at Christmas, their being here at all, when I didn't expect to see them until year end 2009, has been a wonderful gift.

Bit 4: The same cannot be said about gifts, which, for persons who will not be present at the family Christmas gathering, really are expected to have arrived at their homes before Christmas Day. I don't do a whole lot in the way of gift-giving these days, but try always to send something to my sisters and brothers-in-law. Baby sister lives in Virginia, the other (but still younger than I) lives about 75 miles from me. This year, their gifts will be my own photographs, suitably framed. I will leave the packing to the UPS Store. To me, it's worth the extra cost not to have to accumulate all the stuff necessary to adequately protect whatever I'm sending.

Bit 5: Local daughter Jean assisted a friend with friend's annual open house/food frenzy yesterday. I took my box of Puffs and my crochet bag to her house and played baby-sitter for my 4 year old granddaughter. We watched The Last Unicorn, read a couple of books, made strange creatures with Play-Doh, colored in the color book, drew pictures of other very strange creatures (she's very fond of goblins at present, but will tell you that she has nightmares because she watches too much TV --very likely true) and otherwise had a good time. I was ready to come home when her mama returned.

Ta! for now. I'm boiling the water for my mac and cheese. I'm gonna feel better!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Special Christmas Story

I invite you to visit and read a very special essay by one of my favorite bloggers, David McMahon, of authorblog. The story is not on his own site, but worth the visit here. Enjoy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

December 8, 1941

I realize that yesterday was a special remembrance day for many veterans in our nation, even though it's been 67 years since the event, and "a lot of water has gone under the bridge," as they say. However, I don't remember anything special that happened to me on that day. It's the day afterwards, December 8, about which I now write.

I was a "big girl," having turned 7 years old in the previous September. Our family was living in Las Vegas, NM; at least most of us, Mama and we four kids. Daddy was home only on weekends, his job at the CCC camp in the mountains keeping him away all through the week.

Daddy was granted some leave/vacation time for the second full week in December. On this particular morning, he and Mama headed for Santa Fe for a week of together time, leaving us in the capable hands of "Grandpa and Grandma" Carrington, who owned the house within which we had an apartment. Since there was no radio in the 1937 Chevy, they had also taken Daddy's portable short-wave battery-operated radio .

I had just arrived home from school for lunch (we did that, in those days) when suddenly Mama and Daddy were back at home. What happened? What happened?

What happened was the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. On the way to Santa Fe, they were listening to the radio and heard President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's address to the joint session of Congress: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941--a date which will live in infamy--the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs Declaration of War against Japan. December 8, 1941 (Wikipedia)

I don't recall much else about the remainder of that day except sitting on the stairs to our apartment, listening to that little radio and hearing a lot of information I didn't fully understand but which I realized, even at 7 years of age, would change our lives.

The upshot was that Daddy had to report back to his CCC camp on the double. I don't remember any of the activity that took place afterwards, but it was only a few days until Daddy had gone to Grand Junction, Colorado, now being a 55-year old civilian employee of the United States Army. He was employed to teach automotive mechanics at the Army facility at Grand Junction. He would later be transferred to Ft. Lewis, Washington to do the same sort of training, and would not be home again except for emergencies (another post) until after VE Day in 1945.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sky Watch - Ouachita National Forest

( please click to enlarge photo)

I had the pleasure of accompanying my daughter and her husband on a brief trip to eastern Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago. This photo was taken from a Scenic Overlook on Highway 259, where the Talimena Trail crosses from Arkansas into Oklahoma. This part of the country is really beautiful. Enlarging the photo permits you to see some of the color that is still left amidst all the evergreens.

Sky Watch was created by Dot, and expanded upon by Tom, who is retired. This weekly theme post is brought to you by our friends Klaus, Sandy, Fishing Guy, Ivar, Wren, and Louise. Visit the Sky Watch Friday home page anytime after 7:30 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time on Thursdays to see sky photos from around the world. You'll be glad you did.

Bits of This and That

My week, so far:
Monday, December 1 - My granddaughter Juliana's 4th birthday. She had a great time at her birthday party, as did all those in attendance. She helped make and decorate/undecorate her birthday cake. I suspect that the pink frosting was especially tasty; she just couldn't wait.

She is particularly fond of musical cards, so that's what she got from Grandma (this one plays banjo music), along with more Play-Doh than any mother should have to cope with. Sorry, Jean.

Tuesday, December 2 - Mr. Abraham Lincoln (My Birds Blog, etc.) is home from the hospital. I had a nice note from Mrs. Lincoln to let me know. I'm wishing him a speedy recovery and return to blogging, when he feels like it.

This day would have been my 40th wedding anniversary. My husband died of lung cancer in 1989. Our years together were too few.

Wednesday, December 3 - We experienced a thunderstorm with heavy rain and gusty winds. Probably received an inch of rain in an hour or so. Our priest's Wednesday night homily was punctuated with a lot of lightening and thunder, perhaps to go along with the Gospel reading: ("render unto God the things that are God's.)

My husband's only remaining sibling, his sister, Dorothy, age 88, died tonight after a long illness. She always called me "Sister" and I will miss her.

This morning - Awoke with a sneezing fit, streaming eyes and a slightly sore throat. Oh, no! I'm not ready for a winter cold. I have a big pot of soup on the stove, and I put plenty of hot pepper flakes in it. That ought to cure me. While I was making soup, I put together and baked a meat loaf. That and some mac and cheese are sure-fire comfort foods.

Last night's rain and wind stripped most of the remaining leaves from my Japanese Maple tree. The grayish looking leaves are frost-damaged. It's pure-d pitiful looking. (You've never heard of "pure-d?" My translation: "sure-nuf.")