Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Four Sons in One Day

Although I received some great gifts for Christmas, the best one of them all was seeing all four of our sons in one day. Only three in person, however, using Facetime is the next best thing!
That would be Tom's folks on the left. Their lovely home is in a part of England called the Midlands, and it is but a two hour train ride away from Matt and Tom's flat in London. Here in Orlando, we all gathered round my computer to open gifts, and it was wonderful. They had been celebrating for hours already, with champagne in the mix, so it was even more fun. My knitting son made lovely gifts for all four of us, and you will soon be seeing my present, just not today.

So, Matt is pictured wearing a sweater, or rather jumper as they say in the UK, whereas here, the air conditioner is running full blast. It is a good thing the fireplace was not called into action as I needed the space for pretty packages.
I am, though, getting ahead of myself. Bruce and I were both looking forward to the candlelight service at church, arriving way early to get a good seat. Lessons and carols, and it was simply beautiful. Reverend Garvey lit the final candle, the Christ candle, in the advent wreath to begin the service.
What we've now learned is that you just go ahead and sit up front where the seating remains plentiful. You know how it is when you walk into a church and it looks full,  you sit in the back? I think that is what happened here, and it was to our advantage because we could see it all. In between Scripture readings, all familiar, but still ones to give a believer chills, the choir and mini orchestra made beautiful music.
This year, in an effort to keep the dripping candle wax off of the carpet and pews, the entire congregation gathered out front to sing Silent Night while holding lit candles. Okay, so it was as great as you are imagining.
While I was guilty of snapping a quick shot for this here blog, others filmed the whole thing, which leaves me wondering just how much do we really need to document? Is it possible to really be in the moment while holding a phone steady for recording? I'm not so sure. At any rate, that is just being persnickety on my part; go ahead and ignore me!

Because Alissa's family were in town to see her, we got to the business of opening gifts as soon as we were done with the Melton Mowbray crowd. It pained me to purchase these soccer cleats, but it was on Jon boy's wish list.
Then again, in a quilt, those colors might not be too bad! I'm disappointed that I have no photos to show you of Alissa, but I assure you she was there, and not without plenty of gifts of her own. Following their departure, I gave Bruce a gift that, while gone in about ten minutes, he thoroughly enjoyed. He just loves Corned Beef hash and grits!
Before long it was time for two more Peck boys to enter the scene. Obviously not boys to you, but they will always be boys to me. :) That would be David on the left, and Bill on the right.
When they were real boys, well make that toddlers, Bill always wore blue shoes so people could tell them apart...as in Billy blue shoes. These days, Bill always has longer hair making it a breeze to identify who is who. That said, at the party last weekend, Michelle's Mom was confused for a bit! For some of the family, telling them apart in a long ago photograph is a breeze, however, there are some amongst us, and I would be one of them, who oftentimes are stymied. Thus, my identification in this space. Who knows what I will see when I look back at this photograph in ten years? I did manage to get one shot of Michelle and Fallon while they were here. Candid of course.
Jon and Alissa return, Michelle and David go back to their home to make dinner for a lonely friend, and we loaded up the car with gifts, heading to Longwood to my sister Lisa's house. If you were looking for a sign of great days ahead, no doubt this double rainbow would be it!
I know, right?

Every year Lisa and Danny host Christmas in their expansive home, serving lots of great food. This year, Amanda and Emily, their beautiful daughters, helped make light work of things.
Several options for our non meat eating loved ones--roasted butternut squash, warm chickpea salad, roasted asparagus, and more.
Because they have so much room, they are always moving furniture around and this year was no exception...the dining table was in front of the fireplace which looks very inviting, doesn't it? That would be my brother Pat in the brilliant blue shirt, feeling much improved since last I wrote about him. I'm really digging that blue shirt...
Way back in late September I made a quilt for Lisa and Danny to match a dresser in their bedroom...trust me, the dresser looks super cool. Naturally I was happy to finally give it away!
I never did take a photograph of the whole thing, but the above gives you an idea. They, too, are fans of the color orange.

On Christmas Eve, Sherri stopped by to say hi, having just arrived hours earlier from Pennsylvania. If she said it once, she must have said it six times, how much Jonathan looks, talks, and pretty much is a copy of Bruce. She took to calling him Bruce Jr. What do you think? Do they look alike to you?
Although David wanted us to stop by their place on the way home, the truth is, I was pooped, heading straight to bed when we got in the house. You would have thought I'd been cooking or hosting all day with as tired as I was!

Here it is Wednesday already and we haven't done all that much since Christmas, however, the warm weather continues, so perhaps today we'll head out into the great outdoors. Then again, sometimes it is just nice to be together and lay low. Or, in Jonathan's case, nap under a quilt made by his Mother.
A gift to me, in itself.

Hoping your Christmas was merry and bright,

Gail

p.s. I received another amazing gift that so moved me I just had to share...my old friend Leah sent me a message with Christmas greetings AND said how she thanked me for the gift of my blog throughout the year. How awesome is that?

Pretty awesome.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Leave the Light On

Remember those great Motel 6 commercials with Tom Bodett? I couldn't help but think about them when the UPS driver left this on our dark front porch the other night. This time of year, I definitely need to leave the front porch light on.
Hearing the doorbell ring, I did turn the light on, but rarely is the front porch light on simply because people always come to our side door. I remember when we first looked at this house, being pleased with the nice roomy foyer. Little did I know, back then, that people would walk straight into our kitchen space. Nor, did I know, that strangers would not realize that it is the same house when they leave fliers, and such, on both doors. I cannot tell you how many extra phone books we've received over the years! Yup, front door, and side door. Then there are the trick or treaters...ha ha!

I realized that I've spent a lot of time being busy this holiday season, and yesterday was no exception. I made some awesome sugar cookies in the morning, as well as something that was fondly labeled, "Christmas Crack." That's actually a pretty clever title when you think about it. Anyway, about two weeks ago, Publix had my favorite Premium Saltines as a BOGO, and while in line with my two boxes, a young woman, next in line, also had two, as well as a bunch of chocolate chips. She reminded me of this Christmas treat, although I'd never made it before.
I suspect some of you know where this is going, don't you? Perhaps you've made it with graham crackers? A gazillion years ago, when Matt was taking piano lessons, his teacher made them for the Christmas recital with graham crackers, so of course making them brought back some very fond memories. So, I made the caramel...
which is oddly colored in the photograph because of my stove lighting, but you get the idea. It was just coming to the desired simmer. I was thinking to myself, I am thrilled not to be a food blogger because I would go crazy taking photographs at every stage. In fact, the above is all you're getting. They turned out just, okay. We'll see if Jonathan or Alissa like them when they arrive TONIGHT!

Next up yesterday was the wrapping, and good grief, there was a bunch. What if we had grandchildren? Yikes!!!! I had to dredge up my latent bow skills because you know who was working at his desk.
It took me about five hours, and while it may sound silly, by then I was tired. I'd been listening the whole while to Christmas music on Pandora when finally,  about 5:30, I sat down in our cozy living room and really enjoyed the moment.
As is most often the case, sadly we have no outdoor lights. But, other people do!! You will not believe the house we drove by last night which immediately required stopping for pictures. I will be showing several as there is enough lights for at least five other houses!
Crossing the street, I just had to get a better look. Guess what? You can too!
Heaven only knows what it looks like in the daytime! So, these folks, using their corner lot, covered every single bit of it with "Christmas cheer." Plus music!
Perhaps they were competing in the Great Christmas Light Fight? In any case, we will be sure and take Jon boy and Alissa over there!

I've been slacking on my bike riding. I was going to offer excuses, but really, that's all they would be, excuses. Every time I am riding though, I hope I get lucky and see one of the eagles; today was one of those lucky days.
The last time I was there I had a good chat with the owner of the house where the eagles like to hang out and fish. Their nest is across the lake a bit, and even if I do see one in the Pine tree above, I still ride over to see if the mate is there. Back to the chat...she explained to me that at one time, their back yard was filled with trees, not just two Pine trees. Apparently, Hurricane Charley hit them hard and they lost 10 big trees! I cannot even imagine what a mess that was! Anyway, she is as sweet as can be, and always allows me to roam around in her back yard on Lake Conway. :)

So, we saw some pretty darn extravagant  Christmas decorations above, but to my mind, sometimes simple is best.
I wish I could say I'd been as productive today as yesterday, but that's not true. I did manage, however, to get the vacuuming done, so there's that. It has been a beautiful weather day and my boys will be glad to hear that their Papa finally watched his favorite Christmas move this afternoon, "Love Actually," and he is officially, now in the Christmas spirit! If you haven't seen that film, you might want to because it is so funny and heartwarming.

Only a few short hours and this will all be just a memory...
Warming up again..

Merry Christmas to all,

Gail

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Let Us Not Forget Handcrafted

For the last two months I've been making gifts in my sewing room. At last count it was 25 items, from large projects to small. Some of them turned out rather well, if I do say so myself, making me wonder if saying they are "homemade" is good enough? What about "handmade"? That sounds more impressive, doesn't it? But, the granddaddy of them all, in this department, is "handcrafted"! Now that sounds downright glorious, as if they were heaven sent! Now, if I just throw in locally sourced...

Seriously, hasn't it gotten sort of out of control? I think so! Now, I'm just hoping my loved ones will feel the love I put into making them. I know I could buy gifts, but where is the fun in that? These are....wait, I've thought of another descriptor...."one of a kind"! Heirloom pieces....

What with all that sewing for other folks, I decided to make a little something for me. Although I purchased the fabric for another project, I just could not resist using the birds for me, and so I made a top. Channeling Anthropologie, I jazzed it up a bit, using a coordinating fabric for the cuffs and yoke. I'm sort of pleased with it. Here's the back, with some crazy digital line across the back, that is most certainly not on the garment!
And here is the front...
Thank goodness for a teeny cold, well, cooler snap, allowing me to wear it today. Otherwise, the days have been insanely hot while the rest of the country is freezing. Before leaving for Dallas Monday morning, Bruce checked the weather this time, packing accordingly. He called, saying it was crazy cold. Going from 85 degrees to 28 will make a body miserable.

When last we met I said we were fortunate enough to be invited to another party..this one was over at Pam and Glenn's lovely home in Southern Oaks. Score for being so close! It was billed as "Souper Sunday" and super soups they were. Plus it was pretty.
Irene made a plate of cookies that were to die for. Oh my gosh...simple, elegant, and delicious.
She used ground almonds instead of the hazelnuts, also omitting the espresso in favor of some almond extract. I'm still dreaming of them. Have I told you before that cookies are my most favorite sweet? I should have.

I got a few of the ladies together for a photo, including Lynn, on the far right, who does not ordinarily wear glasses, so I had her wear mine in the interest of continuity. Doesn't everyone look happy and intelligent? They are.
Irene, second from the left, is Pam's friend who moved here from Portland, OR, six months ago. We've had such fun with sewing talk...her darling dress is, dare I say it, handcrafted!

What with all the sewing of late, my kitchen skills are waning, however, I did make some time to put together some bread dough using this recipe from King Arthur flour. Because we've been out so many nights I needed to use up the dough, so putting it out early this morning, I baked what was left of the dough. It may not look very pretty, but it is tasty enough. Super chewy crust.
I finally emerged from my sewing room long enough to head to Mall at Millenia for some Christmas shopping. We no longer have downtown window displays, but there are some mighty creative ones at the mall. Puffins and purses anyone?
Then there were the headless runners...
Where are the heads, I ask you?

No one beats Neiman Marcus for glamour....
This mannequin!! She gives new meaning to the word, thin.
Aside from the unrealistic thinness of the mannequin, that dress is spectacular! I suspect the outfit, including shoes, bag, jewelry, dress, and wrap costs over $10,000, don't you?

My writing came to a halt as I had my dinner and watched Jeopardy. If you haven't read he story of the winning contestant , now is your chance to read Cindy Stowell's story?  You might have been too busy before, but take a few minutes to click on the link, should you not know about this special woman, and I feel certain you won't be disappointed. I had to miss it for a few nights, so I wasn't sure what was happening, but, by golly, she won again tonight!!

As I was thinking about all the silly verbiage attached to things made at home, my Christmas tree spoke to me. No, I don't have an actual talking Christmas tree, but if I did there would be so many stories to relate. This ornament was made by one of the Radiologist's wife for the people who made his job possible, by taking the x-rays for him to read. I still love it, nearly thirty years later.
I have no idea how she made it, but I'm grateful she did. I cannot remember who made these cute little stockings, which is a shame, but it still makes me happy every year when I unbox them and place the two I have on my tree. The gingerbread man is "homemade" as well.
More recently, a new friend from church, gave me this super cool ornament made by a friend of hers in North Carolina. Who wouldn't fall in love with a polka dot star? This gal sure did.
Rarely do I read the comics in the newspaper, but today this one was highly relatable...the one about the tinsel. Same for some of my older readers?
The Dennis the Menace one was pretty cute as well.

Let's face it, I'm a maker, I always have been, and unless I go blind, I always will be. My friends and family may call my offerings whatever they like!

Gail

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Nearly Partied Out

I bet you are as well what with it being one week until Christmas. One week!!! That means two weeks until I turn 63!!!

Keeping up my reputation as a Dancing Queen is not easy these days; my knees this morning proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. But, we'll get to that in a few paragraphs.

Let us begin with a posted sign on Pershing that leaves so much up to the reader's imagination...
Seriously, can you make heads, or tails, out of this? Clever, right?

Am I the last to know that OxyClean can be used for more than laundry? It says so right on the container!
Here's what happened--I confess, I generally have a small glass of wine on the counter while I am cooking dinner. Not the only one perhaps, but just saying...  Anyway, while reaching for a bottle of olive oil to put away, I somehow knocked over said glass of red wine and it was not pretty. Pouring down the face of my white cabinets in streaks, I was freaking out! Grabbing my wonderful dish cloth made just for me by Matthew, I wiped as quickly as is humanly possible. Not just the face of the cabinet, but the inside of the door mirrored the front. Because I had no white wine opened, I grabbed some white vinegar, trying that with not even a modicum of success. It came to me in a flash, "why not try my spray OxiClean?" Why not indeed? Within seconds, all those nasty marks were history. I need not tell you how thrilled I was with the results. Have you tried OxiClean on anything besides laundry?

Unloading my camera card in preparation for writing this post, I'd forgotten all about the awesome eagle encounter I had the other morning during my bike ride. What, pray tell, would a Camera Crazy post be without a little nature thrown in for good measure? Here you go:
The moment Fallon has been preparing for these last two and a half years finally arrived on Friday evening. I told you she studied like crazy, day and night, to finish nursing school and now she officially has! The pinning ceremony was held in the College Park First Baptist Church, now re-branded as the "Church on the Drive." Unlike the last time I was there to attend the funeral of Betty Stewart, this occasion was filled with joy, rather than sorrow. Arriving early to secure a good place to take photographs, I was bursting with happiness when she was "pinned" by one of her nurse mentors.
Should you be wondering what a pinning ceremony is, here's the scoop. Following the ceremony we all convened at Bill and Fallon's house to celebrate her awesome accomplishment.
How pretty is that tree? Can you believe it came from QVC. You have to see those lights cycle and change color to fully appreciate it's awesomeness! Have I already written about QVC before? Ever since she told me that both she and Michelle got trees from there, if you can call it a there, I've been on a quest to learn more about the sensation that is the Quality Value and Convenience channel on your television. This article from the Atlantic is genius. Oh wait, that's the aricle title, or nearly so. Perhaps you are not in the dark, as was I for the longest time, about how Spanx became the sensation it is because of QVC? Remember when I graduated Valencia and I did not continue at UCF? It was because I was tired of learning stuff other folks wanted me to learn. I am way more interested in how QVC became the behemoth of shopping!

One thing I told Fallon is that going through a house renovation for years on end is hard on anyone. Doing that while studying to be a nurse is just plain torture! She did both with aplomb though.

Whereas Fallon is our future daughter-in-law, Michelle has been in the family officially for eight years now. She also had a party this weekend. Not just any party mind you, but a smashing 40th birthday party held at her friend's home, Ken and Courtney. It is never easy finding gifts for Michelle, but I hope I managed okay this time. At least the bow, made by your favorite blogger, instead of her crazy talented bow maker husband, was a winner. Bruce was working on a work budget and no amount of cajoling would convince him to come to my aid.
A sparkly present for a sparkly house. This, my friends, was not just any home. Oh my! When was the last time you saw handmade copper hardware in a kitchen?
They also have done extensive renovations, however, unlike Bill, they hired it done, making the timeline significantly shortened. How about this view of the back? BTW--I am standing with the lake to my back.
Earlier in the week Fallon told me I was going to die over the house and while I did not die from seeing it, I did nearly die from dancing the night away in the big room with the Christmas tree. Will I ever learn? Probably not. I at least had to keep up with Michelle's Mom, a dancing queen in her own right, and she is 79 years old!
That would be David dancing with her. To say that she is a little dynamo is putting it mildly! On the home decor front, the blue and gold graphic doors were once brown. The focal point of both this great room, and the foyer, on the other side, they are stunning.

One of the highlights of the evening is when this happened:
And why is Michelle so flabbergasted? Well, here's why:
Can you believe what they can do with cakes nowadays? It is simply astonishing to me. Underneath all that fondant was a delicious red velvet cake, but for some, that was an afterthought!

When I see photographs of myself, I think--who is that woman? I so wish I was one of those people who photograph well, but that is not the case as I always look so weary.
After Fallon handed the camera back to me, following her taking the one above, I took this one of two young woman who do not looks worn out!
Can you say glamorous, times two??? I never looked like this even when I was young! I'm only sorry I did not take a single photograph of that handsome husband of mine with his two equally handsome sons!

Staying up until 1:30 in the morning is just not in our repertoire anymore. Yup, 1:30! Needless to say, it was not easy waking up for church, but we managed and I'm glad we did. The flower guild did a beautiful job decorating the sanctuary...oh my! The advent wreath alone is gorgeous, making use of greenery from yards, as well as florist flowers.
Swagged greenery is on the balcony rails, the staircase, and anywhere else they can find room to hang it. This narthex arrangement...for the record the Nativity scene was, before the flower committee came in, on the top. They definitely have their priorities in order.
Are you tired from reading this? Wait...one more party tonight!! Like in 45 minutes.

I'll keep you posted,

Gail

Limping Along