Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thanks to all of you. It has been a wonderful Christmas holiday season as blog friends share recipes, craft ideas, Christmas decorations and stories about family traditions. This is my first Christmas as a blogger and it has been a wonderful discovery. No matter how you celebrate the season I hope that your Christmas is everything you could wish for and more. May your New Year be filled with promise.

We are leaving tomorrow night to go visit my husband's family in Beirut so I won't be blogging until mid-January. Until we come back with new photos I wanted to share some photos from previous trips.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

Well, this isn't like Christmases past and I hope it isn't like Christmases future. My oldest son is serving overseas and now, because of weather, my daughter isn't coming home for Christmas. It was a bit shocking at first and I have to admit that I was on the verge of tears for a portion of the afternoon. Then, as mothers would have it, motherhood kicked in and went to work. You see our Christmas traditions won't take place - no Christmas Eve movie, trip to Waffle House, no one to open gifts from Santa, no pigs-in-a-blanket, no lobster (yes, we eat lobster on Christmas) AND missing children. None of this means there won't be Christmas - it just won't be like any Christmas we have ever celebrated. My middle son will be here trying to lift our spirits, thank goodness! SO, we sent Mimi money for her own feast, movies and a good greasy spoon outing in Portland. She even called my sister to get her traditional Beer Cheese Soup recipe to make it feel like home. My husband and I rounded up her packages and gifts and took everything to the airport Fedex office for priority overnight delivery. My oldest son received his gift package three days ago, and combined with the Atlanta Falcons win, he will make it through the day in Iraq. Meanwhile I will go to Christmas Eve Mass, enjoy the pageant and instead of lobster we will enjoy comfort food - lasagna from our favorite Italian restaurant.

We have decided to have a family gathering in the spring when we can try once again to assemble as a family but in the meantime we are making the most of our lemons and enjoying the blessings of the season. By then we can enjoy some lemonade on the front porch!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Baby It's Cold Outside - NOT!

While singing along with the many Christmas songs one hears this time of year I realized today how thankful I am for the warm temperatures. Yesterday I got an email from a hometown friend living in Colorado who said, "Yesterday morning when I went out to feed the horses, it was 19 degrees BELOW zero. The high temp was about zero. Today it was 2 above, and the high was about 20 degrees above. The dry cold isn't that bad out here if the
wind isn't blowing too hard."

Meanwhile my husband received a photo from a friend living in Las Vegas showing the snow covering her front yard. Here in Atlanta temps are in the upper 60's and I have to admit - I am loving it!!!! In the past few weeks temperatures had been hovering in the 30's and I found myself feeling so lethargic. Cocooning is not good during the "most wonderful time of the year with those kids jingle bell-ing" and all that stuff.

In the middle of the Christmas rush, the warm weather inspired me to do some home improvements, so for now when I come home from work the front door is off its hinges as the workmen haul materials in and out of the house. "The weather outside is frightful but the [work inside] is delightful." Meanwhile, "over the [house] lies a mantle of white" as sawdust drifts through the air. When I go to bed at night "I'm dreamin' of some white [bookcases]" My Christmas tree now has an added silvery look because all of the sawdust but thankfully the project should be complete tomorrow and it will be just in time for Wine Club being held at my house this Saturday night. But there is much to be done before guests arrive!!! I will share more about our hectic schedule in the coming days but for now I am happy to be "[livin'] in a [warmer] Wonderland."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Friends, Decorating and Christopher Radko

Yesterday we went to an afternoon open house for cookies and spiked punch at my girlfriend's house. Each year she decorates every inch of her house (I mean that) and it is exquisitely adorned. Every room has its own theme but no matter what room you are in there are holiday "surprises" tucked in every nook and cranny. You will even find Christmas movies playing on flat screens throughout the house. It is such a delightful holiday event to attend and every year I look forward to going to see all the decorations and decorating that has taken place in preparation for Christmas. One of the most spectacular sights is the Christopher Radko tree in the living room. It is completely covered in ornaments though not all of her ornaments could be hung on the tree. I wish I had thought to take more photos to share with you but one photo I did take is the Christopher Radko tree. Click on the photo to enlarge and see some of the beautiful ornaments. Please note the "sweet" candy garland.

A fellow blogger didn't have as much luck at getting her tree up but it made for a very funny post. Stop by and visit Mary at Little Red House to read about her tree adventure.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Littlest Angel

It is Sunday afternoon and I wanted to post before we rush off to three events this evening. It seems many fellow bloggers are busy doing much the same - baking, hosting events, shopping, making gifts and trying to prepare for family events.

Yesterday part of my family came together to spend an afternoon with two children I have been mentoring for the past four years. They are wonderful children who just happened to be born into less than perfect circumstances. This summer their mother, who had struggled with drug and alcohol addition, died at the age of 39 leaving behind two young kids. These kids have a twenty-four year old brother who is now their legal guardian.

When my niece heard about these children and that they had lost their mom, she decided to do something for them. She has been saving money and rounding up gifts of all kinds so that she could give these two orphans some Christmas memories. Yesterday she brought bags of all sorts of cool goodies wrapped and bagged. It was incredible to see these kids opening a makeup bag, pillows, an alarm clock (so they can get to school on time), silly string, Georgia football sweatshirts, sparkly face gels, soaps, tons of toiletries and other goodies. We spent the day playing together with my son, sister, brother-in-law, husband and especially my neice, playing and laughing with Pinkie and Yondon. When we drove them home they wanted to know when we could do it again. Today I want to honor my niece Melanie. During this holiday season so many children are making long lists for Santa but it warmed my heart to see sweet Melanie giving unselfishly from her heart making a very special day for two very needy children. Blessed are the pure in heart. . . .

Friday, December 12, 2008

Proximidade Award

Every day I look forward to setting aside some time to get to visit my blog friends' pages just to see what they're making, thinking or doing each day. Over the past year I have "met" new friends and learned so many things thanks to blogging. In recent months, together we have gone through one historic election, a hurricane, empty nesting, crafting, decorating, citizenship - it is always exciting. It is also nice to know that others read my blog and share their comments. Being a part of this community has meant a lot and today I was honored to have been given this award by Enzie at World Market Portraits.

The Proximidade Award focuses on the development of friendship and camaraderie through the blogging community. "Bloggers who receive this award are exceedingly charming, say its authors. They aren't interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement but to propagate friendships."

The nice thing about this award is that is to be shared with eight of my favorite blog friends with the understanding that they pass it on to eight deserving blog friends. Thank you for being a part of my blogging community.

1. Cindyava
2. Home and Not
3. Little Red House
4. Between Naps on the Porch
5. From the House of Edward
6. Belle Blanc
7. Wonders Never Cease
8. Mille Fiori Favoriti

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Holt Howard

We used to have an incredible antique market that opened once a month. It was my favorite because you could find almost anything there. No matter what you might collect and no matter what your budget might be, you could find it at Lakewood Antique Market. About 12 years ago I was scouring one of the buildings during the holiday season and spotted a pot with holly on it.

Holly Berry Hot Chocolate Set - 1959

When I picked up the pot I noticed my maiden name on the bottom. Once I saw Holt, I was convinced that Holt Howard was the collectible for me. Since that time I have added many pieces and I thought I would share a few with you.

Winkin' Santa Mugs - 1959

I also love some of the fun pieces that remind me of decorations and "what-nots" we had around the house in the 60s, like the angels. (Do people say "what-nots" any more?)

Angel Candleholder - 1958

There are so many pieces to collect and generally they are so affordable. For me it is nice to enjoy some vintage pieces without having to spend a fortune. You'll find plenty of Holt Howard on eBay.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tiny Tree

Both of my sons have always enjoyed Christmas but my younger son has especially enjoyed every detail of the season, particularly the tree and decorating. When he was young I decided to make him a tree out of tiny glass beads. These days thanks to imports, bead work is easy to find and very affordable. When I made this tiny tree I had to mail order the beads and it literally took me three months to string the beads in order to construct the tiny limbs on this 6 inch tree. Each year I pull out the 20 year old box and proudly display my son's tiny tree. One day (maybe?) he will eventually move out but until that day arrives he is always proud for me to showcase his tree. Thought you might enjoy seeing it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Are You Making Cookies?

I used to have dozens of cookie cutters that had been collected through the years but when we moved a few years ago, in my packing frenzy, I must have discarded them. I was a Home Economics major and for several years after graduating during school breaks and even when my children were young, I worked for a shop at the Merchandise Mart doing demonstrations. It was great fun trying out all sorts of cookware, kitchen gadgets, convection ovens, etc., and it was during these years I acquired a ton of cookie cutters. One of the holiday seasons my demo product was a line of cookie cutters and to demo the cutters I made
gingerbread houses and gingerbread men. It might not sound like fun but keep in mind this would have been decades before the Food Network, Martha Stewart or HGTV - doing food demonstrations was a real novelty. Yesterday while visiting Posie Gets Cozy's blogpage I spotted some gorgeous snowflake cookies and I was longing for my cookie cutters. Today during lunch I went to Dillard's to buy a couple of ornaments that were on sale and low and behold - there was the snowflake cookie cutter on sale for $6! Hopefully there will be time this weekend to make a few snowflakes.

Monday, December 1, 2008

So Many Wonderful Memories

It's hard to remember all the wonderful things we did over the past few days because we did so many things. First there was the puppet show and the nice thing about the puppet show at the Center for Puppetry Arts is that after the show you can make your own puppet.

We all got new flannel pajamas and it was so comforting in the evenings to put on our new pink pajamas and snuggle up for a bedtime story.

Nothing feels as cozy and warm as new flannel pajamas, warm socks and a toasty fire in the fireplace. It's the perfect time to sit and enjoy some delicious hot chocolate and cookies so that is exactly what we did!

I must have taken 200 pictures just trying to capture all the of the things we did so that we could send all of the memories

to my son who will be in Iraq during the holidays. Even though he wasn't here, we catalogued everything for him including the girls being so exhausted and sleeping in the car on the way to ice skating and The Varsity.

Before the girls left for home we started decorating the tree. Can't wait to show you how that turned out.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Trying to Find a Tree

We made our traditional trip to the tree farm with the girls. This year we found the most aromatic tree ever - the Carolina Sapphire. The tree smells heavenly, is silvery and soft both to look at and to touch. Our tree farm is about 8 miles away from our house and is really in the country but only 12 miles or so from the Atlanta city limits. The girls had fun helping make the tree selection and then playing hide and seek in the Christmas tree forest. This was the final selection. More pictures on the way once we get the decorations hung.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A New Christmas Dress

During the time when I grew up getting a new Christmas dress meant that we went to the fabric store and picked out a new pattern. There were 3 girls in my family so one fabric would be selected and cut for all three girls so that all of our dresses, while not exactly alike, were in the same fabric. My oldest sister or my mom got to pick the fabric - I don't recall getting a voice in the selection process. One year I do recall that instead of picking patterns, we all had off-white felt skirts with a Christmas tree appliqued on the skirt. We almost never got a store-bought dress so I consider shopping for a Christmas dress a luxury.

This morning I got up really early so that my granddaughter and I could go and get a Christmas dress for she and her sister and she made the selection. The six year old did a fantastic job if I do say so myself. Here she is in the fitting room.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cooking Tomorrow

After our puppet show and Thanksgiving deliveries tomorrow, the grandgirls and I will be coming home and preparing our traditional pumpkin cheesecake with a maple-bourbon sauce. Our family has been enjoying this delectable dessert since the recipe first appeared in New York Magazine back in 1991. Even if you have already planned your menu for Thursday, this is one recipe that you might want to put on file for a later date. Once the final product is complete, I will add a photo.

1 1/2 cups Gingersnap cookie crumbs, (about 1/2 lb. gingersnaps)
3/4 cup Chopped pecans, or walnuts
6 tablespoons Unsalted butter, melted
1/2 pound Cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg, freshly grated
1 cup Pumpkin puree, unsweetened
5 large Eggs
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 cup Maple syrup
3 tablespoons Bourbon
1 cup Light cream
1/4 Vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large Egg yolks
1/4 cup Sugar
3/4 teaspoon Cornstarch
1/3 cup Heavy cream, whipped

1. Crust: Lightly butter a 10x2 inch round cake pan. Combine gingersnap crumbs, nut, and butter in a bowl, and mix well. Press mixture firmly into prepared pan, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Make Filling: In a bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugars and spices, beat until light in texture, 3-4 min. Add pumpkin puree and mix until just blended. Stir in eggs one at a time, scraping sides of bowl after each addition. Stir in cream. Pour batter into crust, and put cake pan in a roasting pan. Add hot water to roasting pan halfway up sides of cake pan. Bake in center of oven until cheesecake is firm to touch and slightly puffed, about 50 minutes. Let cheesecake cool on a wire rack for about 45 minutes. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. When cheesecake is completely chilled, lower pan into a hotwater bath for 2-3 min. to loosen the crust. Invert a large, flat plate on top of cheesecake; invert pan, and remove. Put a second plate on bottom of cheesecake, and turn it right side up. Cut with a hot knife, and serve with Maple-Bourbon Sauce. Cheesecake will keep for 4-5 days in refrigerator and 2 weeks in the freezer.

3. Maple-Bourbon Sauce Combine maple syrup and bourbon in a saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by 1/3, about 10 minutes; set aside to cool. Put light cream and vanilla bean in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat, and let bean infuse cream for about 10 minutes. Remove bean, and scrape pulp into cream. Whisk together egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Stir in 1/2 C. cream and return mixture to saucepan with rest of cream. Stirring continuously, cook over low heat until thickened enough to coat back of a wooden spoon, 5-8 minutes. Add reduced maple syrup and bourbon, and strain through a fine sieve into a bowl set in ice. Stire until completely chilled, then fold in whipped cream.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Grand Girls Are Coming!

There is one more work day before the girls come to visit for the holiday and I am so excited! We have tickets to Sam the Lovesick Snowman and of course we plan to go to the lighting of the tree. In addition I have lots of make and do activities which of course includes a Gingerbread House. If anyone has some suggestions please share your ideas. I still have 2 days to gather supplies if need be. The girls are 6 and 3. My girlfriend from work has made some special cookies as a surprise. Her baked goods and creations are amazing should you ever want something custom made. Stop by Dragonfly Custom Cakes - you really cannot imagine the artistry in sugar. (My favorite on this link is the Sweet 16 Computer).

We will be going to the tree farm and cutting down a small tree as I think the girls have always had an artificial tree. Just going to the tree farm has always been an experience for our family. This will be our Christmas celebration since they go to the other grandparents for Christmas.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Glad He's Back

My husband just got back from visiting his cousin in Dubai and he just can't stop talking about it! Dubai hasn't been on my travel destination wish list but I must say that dear husband continues to describe some really fun adventures for those interested in visiting there. One amazing site is the Burj Al Arab hotel. Here you can see it is a striking architectural structure and is especially beautiful when seen from the water at a distance. It appears almost like a sailboat in the desert.

Speaking of the desert, one can actually go camping in the desert. While Dubai may not be known for its outdoor activities, camping and deep sea fishing are fun things to experience while there. When the temperatures reach unbearable measure, perhaps skiing will cool you down after a little shopping. That's right - there is a ski slope in the mall.

And if your are interested in viewing an exquisite hand-blown glass Christmas tree, take a look at this incredible tree on display in the new Atlantis Hotel.

There are so many other places that I hope to visit but if the chance presents itself, I don't think I want to miss this interesting travel experience.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Bed

If you have been reading my blog for a while you may remember that my husband and I sponsored a young girl from Africa who fled persecution and is seeking asylum in the U.S. She has been living in California with a young girl from church as she waits for her hearing date. She has been going to school and is working on her GED. Out of the blue the landlord where she has been staying must have discovered she was living with her friend and she was kicked out yesterday and left on the street where she spent the night. When the library opened this morning she was able to email me to tell me what had happened and I panicked. By 7:00 tonight we had found a place for her to stay but not without many phone calls and some very surprising and unkind responses along the way. It made me realize how thankful I am to have a warm bed. Tonight I will sleep well in my bed especially knowing that this young girl is safe and has a place to sleep.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I was catching up on my favorite blogs and while on Penny's website I read her posting about Stained Glass Cookies. It immediately reminded me of ZOOM - Z double O M, 350 Boston Mass 0-2-1-3-4. Out of curiousity I searched for ZOOM, the 70s television show on Youtube and it was there! I loved the show, never missing an episode. I spoke Ubbi Dubbi, made stained glass cookies and tried to do just about any other activity that was aired on the show. Just curious if there are any other ZOOM fans out there. I can't wait to email my sister and share the links.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Last night The Enchanted Cottage was on TCM so I finally got to see the film. It was such a beautiful story in illustrating the power of love. The film also made me think about how important it is for each of us to find that "enchanted" place in our own lives. Wonderful.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

This week I was working in New York for a few days and yesterday before heading to the airport I walked down 5th Avenue. The window dressers were out on the street, measuring, sizing and covering the windows as the work is underway for the holiday season. Of course I had already realized the holiday season was just around the corner by the price of hotels as they typically go up after November 1.

Last year I was lucky enough to have traveled to NY the day after the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center so I spent one night just walking around taking in the decorations, window displays, the Nativity at Saint Patrick's Cathedral and all the hustle & bustle.

Just seeing the window dressers got me so excited about the upcoming holiday season. But New York is not the only city getting ready for Christmas. My sister lives in middle Georgia and she just called from the Hallmark store where they are kicking off the Christmas shopping season. I am going to be buying these guys and singing this song.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Fence

Every time I see this fence, it reminds me of fall. Next to my office building is a day care center and for some reason the metal fence is topped with the beautiful amber leaves. It is such a beautiful fence topper. In the summer it always seems a bit out of place it's perfect for this time of year.

Last week I started thinking about holiday movies and it reminded me of a made for television special that came on when I was in high school. Do any of you remember A House Without A Christmas Tree? Growing up this was my favorite Christmas story and after thinking about it I was hoping that it would be on DVD. I got on Amazon and sure enough you can buy it! I ordered it last week and it arrived Friday so when I got home from church I watched it. During the holiday season all I want to do is watch Christmas movies. The ABC Family channel typically runs 25 Days of Christmas which is always fun to watch but I like having a good collection of holiday favorites on hand too. What are some of your holiday favorites?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

It Has Been a Crazy Month!!!

Hopefully things will go back to being "normal" whatever that is but there were times this month I was feeling like my hair stood on end. My granddaughter's photo illustrates the way I felt during some of the hectic days of October.

It is hard to recap all the exciting and exhausting activities but I will try. We spent a great weekend in South Carolina taking our grandgirls to the South Carolina State Fair. As many of you know, I work with our firm's pro bono and community service programs so there are always exciting things happening. The month of October is when we hold our workplace United Way Campaign which brings with it many activities including our own production of the Idol Show. This year's show was terrific and our campaign always raises a lot of money but it also brings with it a flurry of activity. We also run our AIDS Walk and our fall Habitat house build gets underway. In the middle of the month there was a work trip to Chicago (wish I could have stayed longer) and then, I got sick. Last weekend my daughter was back home to do a benefit for a Catholic School Fall Festival in my hometown so of course we went to home for the fun. Here is a link to a segment from her television appearance To top off events, Mimi put on an outdoor concert in our backyard last Sunday night. So much fun and so many great memories!

My apologies for not posting, responding to emails, etc. - I MISS MY BLOG FRIENDS!!!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ever Taken a Look At John's Costumes

Have you ever noticed the link to John's Hollywood Costumes listed under my favorites? A friend and colleague actually collects Hollywood costumes and haute couture. His holdings are quite amazing actually - costumes worn by Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and many more. My favorite is the gown worn by Leslie Caron in An American in Paris.

I am amazed that someone personally owns these pieces of Hollywood history and I am always wishing that I could see some of his collection when they are being exhibited. John lives in NY and when he has exhibited, he is usually showing his collection in NY or NJ - not convenient to Atlanta. Every time I see an old film it reminds me of John. More than likely there is a costume from the film that he owns.


For the past several weeks finding gas has been a challenge. Last Saturday we got up at 5:00 and my husband drove around for 30 minutes before finding a station with gas. The wait in line was about only about 15 minutes. We felt so happy to have a full tank of gas! The gas shortage has made us so careful to drive only when necessary as we try to conserve what we have. I take a ballet class on Saturday mornings and I have skipped for the past two weeks just because of the 25 minute drive to the dance studio. So naturally I don't go out on any Saturday excursions. This weekend a couple of more stations in the area have gotten gas so I am hoping things will get back to normal. Hoping to resume my Saturday morning outings next weekend.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

One of My Favorites

It seems like only yesterday that I went with my older brother to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It's one of those movies that I own and enjoy watching over and over again but I have especially enjoyed listening to South American Getaway It is one of those songs that sounds exciting and sad at the same time. Posting this as a tribute to Paul Newman.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How Fast Can We Go?

Most of us are accustomed to juggling but last week and this week both home and work seem to be moving at such a rapid speed that I can't keep up! Have you ever noticed those signs on the interstate that post a minimum speed? Well I fear that I am going to be ticketed shortly! Sometimes life just comes at us at all angles and so for the time being I remain a turtle. Slow and steady, I am determined to make it to the finish line.

At least for a moment while I stop and type up this message I am taking a break from all the many demands that life is sending my way. Meanwhile my niece (10 years) called earlier this evening as she was working on a Christmas card. What a happy thought. It gave me a mental break just to stop and talk about silent nights and Christmas tree lights. If your September is anything like mine I hope you will stop do something pleasurable and take a deep breath in between tasks. I keep reminding myself to do the same.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


My friend just moved to Houston so tonight Ike is on my mind. I just called to check on her and she said the city is in a frenzy but they have provisions and are prepared for the coming storm. It was interesting to learn that gas prices jumped from $3.50 to over $4 today. It just so happens that this girlfriend grew up in Orlando so dealing with tornadoes and hurricanes have been part of her growing up but for me I am still worried. When I called to check on her I had to confess that I have always wished that I could hunker down and experience one of these storms. The part of the country where I live we do get plenty of rain from storms and sometimes tornadoes but not the hurricane.

One of my childhood friends emailed me yesterday from coastal South Carolina. She too has seen plenty of these storms but her viewpoint of the storm is more focused on maintaining shoreline and protecting the coastline.

While I am not sure what your weekend weather might be, I hope that you have time to enjoy some candlelight and time together with your loved ones whether it is rain or shine.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My Ex Voto

Just a few weeks ago I purchased a beautiful antique Italian ex voto to mark the entrance of my house. I thought it would be the perfect thing to remind me of answered prayers and life's many blessings. Many times you might have noticed these items on blogs, in decorative magazines and in other places. They are often pictured as hearts sometimes with small religious markings, adornments in silver, gold, enamel or sometimes even jeweled. I have seen some that were made into lockets for holding a prayer inside. Some of the ex votos were designed with a small flame attached to illustrate the Sacred Heart, such as the one that I purchased. Here is a picture of the one that I bought and hung in my entrance hall. To me the Sacred Heart ex votos are some of the most beautiful.

For those of you not familiar with an ex voto, Wikipedia says: An ex-voto is a votive offering to a saint or divinity. It is given in fulfillment of a vow (hence the Latin term, short for ex voto suscepto, "from the vow made") or in gratitude or devotion. Ex-votos are placed in a church or chapel where the worshipper seeks grace or wishes to give thanks. The destinations of pilgrimages often include shrines decorated with ex-votos. Ex-votos can take a wide variety of forms. They are not only intended for the helping figure, but also as a testimony to later visitors of the receieved help.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Visitor

It doesn't happen often anymore, but this week we had quite a nice surprise. My husband is Lebanese and most of his family lives in many other parts of the world. Just in case you aren't familiar with families from this part of the globe, the families can be large. Not because there are so many siblings but because extended family is just as important as your immediate family. In fact it can sometimes be a little overwhelming when marrying into the family but you eventually get used to it and for me and my kids it has been exciting to be a part of such an extended clan. Back in the '80s and '90s, because of the civil war, many of the younger cousins came to the states to go to boarding schools so our kids had the opportunity to "grow up" with their overseas family over school holidays and breaks. During that time aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws would come to visit regularly and would stay with us for weeks and sometimes months at at time. It was wonderful - most of the time. But in recent years as family has gotten older and young cousins have started families of their own, the visits have been less frequent. We have taken advantage of Skype and Facebook and Google Talk but it just isn't the same.

Now back to the surprise. On Tuesday when I got home from work my husband said he had just gotten an email from a cousin and that he would be arriving at the airport at 8:45. This family member now lives with his wife and family in Geneva but he had an unexpected work assignment in Atlanta. It was so exciting to have him here even if only for two days. We took advantage of the evening hours so I have to admit we stayed up much later than we normally do while he was here but it was worth every minute. As we said our goodbyes it made me realize just how much we miss our family.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Joining Becky's Party With a Wonder

Please celebrate Becky's birthday as we all share our wonders. I was inspired to share something with you after attending a big arts & crafts show this weekend. It just so happened that at this fair there was a collection of old buggies and wagons and one in particular caught my eye. It inspired me to share my fascination with you.

I have always been fascinated with gypsies. Back during my piano lesson days I know there was a gypsy tune that I loved (and could play) in one of those John W. Schaum piano books. That song and the illustration is surely responsible for my strange fascination with gypsies. My first encounter with a real gypsy was a few years later. When I was in high school I worked at a department store in our hometown mall (a very small mall but a big deal in a small town). Anyway, we had gypsies who lived somewhere in the vicinity so the store manager would tell us when they came in the store (we were supposed to keep our eyes out for shoplifting). He said you will know they are here when the Cadillac pulls up. I remember the day a yellow Cadillac pulled up to the back door of the mall and a clan of five women, all dark haired with olive complexions, piled out of the care and entered the store. To me it was exotic and exciting to observe. I later learned that they were Roma gypsies.

Many years later as I was planning my first trip to Paris when someone warned me to "beware the gypsies." Of course I am thinking to myself, gypsies? Sure enough, within the first 12 hours in Paris, we encountered a gypsy mother with a baby and a toddler begging. We saw gypsies in the train stations, gypsies outside the churches and gypsies on the Champs Elysees.

In the early 90's I saw a movie about the Tinkers and discovered the Irish gypsies. Even though the name is different, they are still gypsies.

Photo of a Tinker wagon

Then in 1997 the most amazing thing appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution obituaries. The headline read, "U.S. Gypsies Come to Say Goodbye to Their Chief Justice." It was so unbelievable that a very important gypsy leader had been living right here in the Atlanta area. To this day I remember reading about the white horses and carriage that would carry the gypsy dignitary to his final resting place.

Since that amazing discovery NBC has run a special on the Murphy Village community just north of Augusta. After watching the program I was even more intrigued and fascinated with gypsies, their society and culture. I am just curious if others have had encounters with the gypsy communities.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Room With a View

We had such a nice weekend and I hope you did too. We spent the weekend in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Thankfully there was no sign of a hurricane our way and the weather was perfect for celebrating the end of summer. Normally we go to my Dad's family reunion in Tennessee for the Labor Day holiday so somehow it seemed a bit strange to be away from my siblings but because my son is in Iraq, we decided to spend the weekend with his girls and go to the beach together. Here was our view from the balcony of our room. It was a perfect weekend on the beach with plenty of sun, fun, sand and water. So tomorrow is back to work as we say goodbye t0 summer.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Enjoy the Holiday

We are picking up the grandgirls and headed to the beach. Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dialogue In the Dark

Maybe I haven't mentioned it before but I do a lot of volunteering. Volunteering and community service is a part of my job and I love it. Today my volunteering led me to a most unusual experience. The Center for the Visually Impaired needed volunteers to help work with visually impaired tour guides in practicing going through an exhibit in total darkness. Yes, I spent 2 hours with Terence my tour guide who is legally blind. We went down several different paths in total darkness. Our first stop was a garden. We walked on a squishy path, traveled across a bridge, sat on a garden bench and listened to a waterfall. The next stop was a supermarket. We had to find a shopping basket and then locate items on the store shelves. I couldn't really figure out if we were feeling juice bottles or containers of vegetable oil. If you can't see, how do you know? We took our things to the cash register and then left the store and crossed a city street!!! We then went through a door and reached a dock. I walked up a plank and took a boat ride feeling the experience and hearing sea gulls. Our last stop took us to a cafe where we sat and discussed my experience. My role as a volunteer was to go through with my guide and then offer feedback so that when the exhibit opens this weekend, the visually impaired guides are fully trained and can lead groups through the exhibit.

Let me just say that going through the "paths" in darkness was such a challenge for me. My guide just kept reminding me to use my guide stick to help me find obstacles and to follow his voice. It worked but I also found myself sliding my feet just to be sure I didn't trip on something. The whole experience for me was amazing. When I left the exhibition hall I was wondering to myself what it is like to travel as a blind person. I love traveling but without vision, travel becomes a very different experience unless someone is willing to help paint the picture for you. If you live in the Atlanta area Dialogue in the Dark is definitely something to you won't want to miss.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Labor Day Weekend Makes Me Think of Port St. Joe

My mother grew up in Port St. Joe, Florida so when we were young we went back there often to spend Labor Day weekends on the beach. This weekend I was having dinner with my girlfriend, remembering back some of the beach adventures and she suggested that I share this one with you.

I usually spent a couple of weeks every summer with my cousins in Port St. Joe. It just so happened that my relatives lived across the street from "the monument" and just a short walk from the museum. By now you must be asking yourself what museum could possibly be in Port St. Joe. Most people don't know that Florida's constitution was signed in this small Florida town and at the time it was signed St. Joe was a bustling community. Unfortunately in the early 1800's the area was wiped out by yellow fever and a couple of hurricanes. When I was young we all believed a tidal wave had swept the town off the map but you can read more of the history here. After the hurricanes hit the surviving community, whatever was left of PSJ was washed into the bay. This is where I come in. During the summers the curator of the museum would pay me and my cousins 25 cents to walk in the bay at low tide to squish around in the muck for porcelain pieces and other items belonging to the early settlers that might have washed out to sea. Keep in mind that when I was in second and third grade, a quarter was good for 25 pieces of candy! We spent many hours in bare feet squishing around in the bay. So if you ever happen to get to PSJ, Mexico Beach or Cape San Blas, stop by and see the monument and enjoy the museum. I hope you will see some of my childhood summer footwork.