Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Some of My Favorite Posts of 2011

If you blog, have you ever worked hard on a post, really put your all into it, only to feel it was completely lost in the shuffle and never thought of again?

Well, I decided to look back on 2011 and dig up some of my favorite posts that disappeared into the ether I hope you'll check one or all of them out when you have a moment!

January--Brisco County Jr, where have you been all my life?--Thanks to DVR, I fell in love with a TV show from several years ago.

February--A Touch of Spring--While blizzards swirled and temperatures plummeted, I yearned for spring with some lovely images.

March--Today is As Young as You Feel Day--Some thoughts on being the best you can be at any age.

April--A Royal Wedding, a Fairy-Tale Princess--I adore Duchess Kate, and I was all caught up in the royal wedding excitement!

May--Paris, Je T'aime--My pictorial homage to a city that I long to see.

June--When was the last time you wrote a letter?--Thoughts on the dying--or maybe still quite alive--art of letter writing

July--Beautiful Bedrooms--If anything inspires you to re-decorate your bedroom, it will be these gorgeous pictures.

August--When I Went to a British School--I reminisce about attending a British school in Beirut, Lebanon, when my parents were missionaries in the mid-60's.

September-- Oh, How Pinteresting!--Yep, this was the year that I discovered Pinterest...probably the most gorgeous and informative place on the Internet. In this post, I display a variety of cool things I'd been seeing on the site.

October--I'm Finally Wearing More Scarves--I finally catch on to one of the more attractive trends of 2011 (and it's a trend that has staying power.)

November--Some of My Favorite Childhood Books--I celebrate National Young Reader's Day by reminiscing about some of my best-loved childhood reads.

December--It's Still a Wonderful Life--My tribute to what is probably my favorite movie of all time.

Monday, December 26, 2011

And so this is the day after Christmas....

...and according to halife.com, it's the observance of a couple of what my former radio co-host Darren Marlar used to call "Weird Holidays":

• Today is National Whiners' Day, a day dedicated to people who return Christmas gifts.

• Today is National Thank You Note Day. Go ahead, do it today before you forget

I actually didn't get a single gift that I'm going to have to return! And there are definitely some Thank You notes I'll be writing.

I don't feel like "the holidays" are quite over until after New Year's Day, so I'm still basking in a sort of holiday glow.

We're still in Normal, Illinois until later today. We came here to celebrate Christmas with my daughter Elizabeth, whose retail job required her to work both Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas.

So we just brought Christmas to her, and it has been wonderful!

How about you? Any "day after Christmas" plans? Well, I've got gift cards from Bath and Body Works and Macy's burning a hole in my pocket, so hasta luego! :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from My Family to Yours

Top: My husband Doug and me, my oldest son Jonathan and his wife Daylyn

Bottom: My son Justin, my daughter Elizabeth and me; Doug and me with our grandson, Josiah and Payton

Many thanks to those of you who read my blog! My Christmas prayer for you is that you may experience the incomparable love and amazing grace of the Christ of Christmas, and that you may be showered with love and blessings throughout the coming year!

Take a few minutes to enjoy this beautiful song...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Still a Wonderful Life

The other night one of my sisters-in-law admitted that she has never seen "It's A Wonderful Life." I was aghast.

This movie is an American institution. This movie is a Christmas tradition. This movie is not just my favorite Christmas movie, but actually my favorite movie EVER.

What do I love about this movie? Well, in no particular order:

--Jimmy Stewart

OK, Jimmy Stewart is just adorable. This quote in his 1997 New York Time obit sums up his appeal:

The lanky actor with unruly hair and an ungainly stride had a boyish grin and an engaging manner. The Stewart way of speaking -- laconic, with a hesitant, nasal drawl -- is instantly recognizable by virtually every American. His early screen image, like his personal life, epitomized a Middle American ideal in a confusing, sophisticated world.

And, he's cute. And I love the integrity and basic goodness of his character. He's just...adorable.

--Donna Reed

As the longsuffering Mary, who loves Stewart's George Bailey from afar and then graciously endures the trials of being his wife, Donna Reed is wonderful. Early on, it's obvious she wants George and she's going to get him...but she does it in such a subtle way, he doesn't even know he's caught until the awesome moment they kiss while sharing a telephone receiver.

You don't get the idea Mary is a doormat. She's just a woman who is admirably full of the grace that is so essential in being a spouse.

There's a luminous glow and wholesome sweetness about Donna Reed as Mary. She's lovely.

--The special effects. No, I'm just kidding!!!

OK, the special effects are really quite awful. That star thing where the angels are apparently talking to each other? So incredibly primitive. But hey, this is 1946! Roll with it. They're so bad they're strangely sweet.

And I don't care...it still touches my heart to hear the prayers of all of George's friends.

--The message.

The idea of exploring how the world would be a different place if one single person hadn't been born is one definitely worth pondering, and it definitely fits in with a Christian worldview.

As this blogger wrote:

"Perhaps the biggest lesson we learn from this film is that we all have an impact on those around us. As Clarence the guardian angel said, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

We all live a life of significance and it’s important we remember that even the little things we do have a tremendous impact on others."

What kind of an impact am I making on the lives of those around me? How would their lives be different if I wasn't around?

--The payoff.

Like most really good movies, "It's A Wonderful Life" has a wonderful emotional pay-off.

The moment after George realizes he wants to live, and the snow starts falling and Zuzu's petals are in his pocket...well, it doesn't get much better than that when it comes to cinematic pay-offs.

You want to run through the streets with George, screaming and hollering for joy.

Life may be tough. Life is often tragic and sad and inexplicable. But as Clarence says, "Remember no man is a failure who has friends."

Still Ringing Those Bells: Revisiting an interview with Evie Tornquist Karlsson

About this time of year, my blog stats start to explode with people looking for information on Evie Tornquist Karlsson's beloved Christmas music, particularly the song "Come On, Ring Those Bells."

As a radio personality, I was able to interview Evie at least twice. The most recent interview, a few years ago, was available to listen to on a ftp site that, unfortunately, no longer exists.

The earliest interview was in 2004, and I think it's worth revisiting because even the transcript manages to capture the delightful personality of this very talented and beloved artist. Here it is:

CINDY: A couple of years ago, I mentioned a certain singer in an article I wrote on my website about my favorite Christmas music. Amazingly, I found that many of the hits on my website were consistently from people looking for information about that singer. That singer is Evie Tornquist Karlsson, and I'm so delighted to have you as my guest today.

EVIE: (laughing) Thank you so much, Cindy, and we're still ringing those bells after all these years!

CINDY: Well, you know, it's almost surreal actually talking to you, because I can remember that when I was student at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, way back in the 1970's, I almost wore out your "Mirror" album.

I loved every song on that album, I just about memorized the whole thing. Also, half the guys at my college were in love with you, so I was even a little jealous of you, and can't believe I'm actually talking to Evie!...

You know, I want to recap your career and of course update people on what you're doing now, but first I need to ask you about something that apparently is still huge...and that is the Christmas song, "Come On, Ring Those Bells."

Most of the hits that I get on my website that are looking for info on you specifically often contain the phrase "Come On, Ring Those Bells"--people wanting to get the lyrics, the guitar tabs, find out where they can get the sheet music, whatever.

Tell me, first of all, how you came to record that song?

EVIE: Well, it was back in the mid-70's, when the folks at Word Records were helping me put together the very first Christmas album that we did.

We did two with them, and this was the first one...and just like in every other situation, the A and R people,whose specific job it is find music that sort of makes sense for the different artists to do, they bring just a big briefcase over with demos and chord charts and we just take several days and look over them.

And I knew I wanted to do some of the older traditional songs like "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and such, but we also needed some fresh new things. And so, which was sort of uncharacteristic for record companies back then,they pitched a song called "Come On, Ring Those Bells" to me which was not part of their roster.

They went to Manna Music, which was another Christian publishing company, and got this song "Come On, Ring Those Bells," written by Andrew Culverwell, and played it for me, and said, "What do you think?" And I immediately loved the song. I thought it had such a great combination of zeroing in first of all on what the season truly is all about, and that is it's Jesus birthday, it's our time to celebrate Him, and keep the focus on Him.

But it also had a very folksy way of applying this to all of us, y'know: (singing)

"Everybody likes to take a holiday/ everybody likes to take a rest/ spending time together with the family/ Sharing
lots of love and happiness...."

All of us could listen to that and say, "Oh, yeah...that's absolutely right. And let's, come on, let's ring the bells of Christmas, and remember that Jesus, we remember this is YOUR birthday." And it just had a wonderful arrangement...and I think it was just something that obviously the Lord wanted to have that be embraced the way it was. It was His plan from the get-go, we just got to be part of it and watch it happen.

The background vocals are done by a lady who is a very well-known country artist herself in her own right, by the name of Janie Fricke.

CINDY: Oh my goodness, really?

EVIE: Janie Fricke is the gal who got two other young women together and did the background vocals for that entire Christmas album. But the "Come On Ring those bells" tune is where you can really hear her beautiful voice.

CINDY: Now that is a little bit of trivia that I had never heard before, Evie. Now, why do you think that it has so endured, obviously stood the test of time?

Enduring appeal

EVIE: Oh, I haven't a clue, Cindy, other than...I don't know, perhaps at that very moment in the mid-70's, contemporary Christian music was in its early stages. There were many of us that were trying to sort of push the envelope a little bit, within reason, not get people upset with us...but sort of bring Christian music to a kind of grassroots, folksy, embraceable way. Because, the purpose here for what we do what we do, and I'm sure it's the same with you, Cindy...is we want to introduce people to the Lord Jesus Christ.

CINDY: Absolutely.

EVIE: And whether it takes a website or a blog or a radio program or a song or a book or words over the fence with our neighbors, that's the whole purpose of why we're here.

So, to do music then, that would be easily embraced by those who perhaps aren't in church on a regular basis....perhaps those who would rather hear an album with Janie Fricke than a Christian singer. I suppose, maybe at that very moment there was sort of an open ear for it, and then as in most cases with holiday music and holiday traditions, something occurs within our hearts. It brings back warm, wonderful memories...And you know how they say the smell or the scent is a very strong memory with us--well, I think Christmas memories are also a tremendous trigger.

CINDY: That is very true. And I also think this song really lends itself well to being sung by children's choirs and children's groups...

EVIE: Sure.

CINDY: There's nothing that sounds as cute as a bunch of little voices singing this song, and I've heard it many times. But the question, Evie, that I've got to ask you is, can people still ahold of the Christmas album that it's on, or can they get ahold of the sheet music or the lyrics...is that available out there?

EVIE: Well, I have to be perfectly honest and say that I really don't know the best answer to that question. We did, or rather Word did a "Christmas Memories" CD about four or five years ago, and included a few new songs as well as "Come On, Ring Those Bells." But to my understanding, that is now out of print.

CINDY: Well let me put my vote in right now, and I'm sure a lot of people will agree with me, for you to make another Christmas album, Evie. I think it's time.

Here's Evie singing "Come On, Ring Those Bells"!

We Have a Winner!!!!

I used Random.org to come up with a winner for my Shabby Apple give-away! And the winner is:

Melody Steiner

Melody is the winner of the gorgeous Pineapple Princess dress from Shabby Apple. I'll give Melody's e-mail address to Shabby Apple, and she'll be hearing from them to arrange the details of receiving her dress.

THANKS SO MUCH to Shabby Apple and everyone who entered the contest. Hopefully I'll have another contest soon!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Gold and White Christmas

REMINDER: Don't forget to scroll down and enter my Shabby Apple Dress give-away...contests ends at the end of December 19th!

For the first time ever, none of my kids are coming home for Christmas.

I would really be depressed about this if not for a few things:

--We're taking Christmas to my daughter in Normal, Illinois, because she works retail and will have to work on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas. I know we'll have a wonderful Christmas with Elizabeth.

--I got to spend two weeks around Thanksgiving with my other children and many of my loved ones. Some of them came up for Thanksgiving and I rode back to Texas with them and spent another week. So although I can never get enough of them, at least I've recently gotten to be with them.

--We'll celebrate Swanson Family Christmas with all of Doug's brothers and their families on December 22nd.

Anyway, because we won't be having any company, I didn't go all out with decorating for Christmas. For the past few years, our tree has been mostly burgundy and gold, but I bring out all the ornaments with special meaning from my kids' childhood, many of them handmade, some by them.

This year, I just decided to do it all in gold and white, and it's really pretty. A nice change, although I'm sure I'll go back to the more traditional tree in the future.

I just though I'd share a few pictures of my gold and white Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Win a gorgeous Pineapple Princess dress from Shabby Apple!

I am SO excited to be hosting my first give-away of a dress from Shabby Apple, an online boutique of women's dresses!

Here's a bit about the company:

Shabby Apple is a vintage dress boutique specializing in women’s dresses, casual dresses, skirts, and women’s apparel as well as preteen and little girls dresses. They also offer maternity clothing, aprons, jewelry, accessories, and more. At Shabby Apple, they recognize that finding the perfect dress can be challenging, which is why they strive to design highly fashionable dresses for all types of women. Whether you’re looking for evening dresses, blouses, or the perfect skirt, Shabby Apple will have something that is right for you!

I'm giving away the gorgeous dress you see above, the Pineapple Princess. Spring may seem far away, but once we get past Christmas, it'll be here before you know it!

One lucky Notes in the Key of Life winner will receive that dress!

How to enter (do this first):


--You must "like" Shabby Apple's Facebook page

--After checking out the Shabby Apple site, you must let me know in my comments section which item on their site is your favorite

For bonus entries (enter a separate comment for each one you do):

--Follow me on Google Friend Connect or Networked Blogs
--Like my blog's Facebook page
--Tweet about this give-away, providing a link to this blog

This giveaway ends Monday, December 19, 2011, at 11:59pm Central time. This giveaway is open to US residents only – Sorry! Be sure to enter a valid email address otherwise I won’t be able to contact you if you are the winner. Winner will be chosen via a random number generator. If the winner does not contact me within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen. Good luck!

Visible Monday: a beauty-full birthday gift

Saturday was my birthday. And while I don't relish the idea of admitting to being another year into middle age, it's a lot better than the alternative :), and I'm just shallow enough to enjoy being made a fuss over on my special today.

Hubby came through. He took me out to a lovely brunch at one of my favorite eateries, Egg Harbor. A high school musical ensemble was there, serenading the diners with gorgeous Christmas carols.

Afterwards, we went to the mall and he bought me what I asked for: a bottle of Estee Lauder Sensuous Nude perfume, and the blockbuster make-up kit that's an Estee Lauder Christmas season special.

As I get older, it's even more important to me that my make-up look pretty, appropriate but as enhancing as possible. I'm a make-up junkie, so I'm like a kid in a candy store with this kit!

Not shown in the picture is another sweet little bag that looks like a clutch (it would be perfect for a Christmas party), an assortment of make-up brushes and a pretty purse mirror.

My family in Texas had already celebrated my birthday when I was there a week ago, so I had a really wonderful birthday this year.

Another year older, I'm even more committed to be the very best woman-of-a-certain-age that I can be...and one of the things that has been helping me lately is following the bloggers who take part in Visible Monday, hosted by Not Dead Yet Style. Check out the fabulous participants!

(Oh, a quick word about what I wore. The beautiful and comfortable gray V-neck sweater is from the Ann Taylor outlet in the Round Rock Outlet Mall. The scarf is from one of my favorite accessories places, Charming Charlie's. Love!)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Pink and Green Thursday, Christmas-Style

Source: google.com via Cindy on Pinterest

A little late to the party today, but I'm participating in Pink and Green Thursday, hosted by Pink Preppy Lilly Lover! Since pink is my favorite color, I always enjoy this meme...and today I've decided to bring a little Christmas to the mix. Enjoy!

Source: bhg.com via Cindy on Pinterest

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Texas Beauty Mini-Haul!

Source: flickr.com via Cindy on Pinterest

All right, you know me. I never met a cosmetics counter I didn't like. So imagine my delight when I found (well, actually was directed to by my sister) two awesome discount cosmetics stores at the Outlet Mall while visiting in Round Rock, Texas.

You have to be careful with these outlet stores...sometimes their prices are just a fraction less than they would be ordinarily. Just as with other shopping, hit the clearance racks and you can get some amazing deals!

One store was mainly devoted to Lancome products. There, I found a Tresor in Love gift package that, after 50 per cent off the outlet price, came to a little more than 20 dollars. It includes a 1.7 oz. bottle of Tresor in Love (which smells absolutely yummy), and 1.7 ounce tubes of lotion and shower gel.

I also got a Lancome Renergie night moisturizer (sorry I don't have the correct name--it was too big for carry-on, so my mom is sending it to me) that is 93 dollars in department stores. At 65 per cent off outlet price, it was also not much more than 20 bucks.

My sister has used this and says it's absolutely wonderful. She's crazy about Lancome skin care products, and only gets them at this outlet...which she says often has even better deals than the ones I found!

Also at the Lancome outlet, I got my husband a good-sized bottle of Armani Diamonds for Men after-shave for only 10 dollars on a 75 per cent off table.

The other outlet store featured mostly Estee Lauder, Clinique and MAC. I got a MAC loose powder and a MAC blush. I can't remember exactly how much I paid for them, but I'm in love with both products. (Believe it or not, it was the first time I've ever purchased MAC cosmetics, although I've bought their amazing Turquatic cologne.)

We currently don't have an outlet mall where I live. If I lived in Round Rock, I think I would be addicted to those cosmetics stores!

Friday, December 02, 2011

A Christmas Brunch

via Stone Gable

I've been having so much fun visiting family here in Texas! Tonight, my family is going to celebrate my birthday early (it's actually December 10th), I get to eat at my favorite Mexican restaurant (Chuy's), and have cake and ice cream.

Tomorrow, I'm excited to be the speaker at the ladies' Christmas Brunch at my family's church, Faith Baptist in Round Rock.

I'm also going to be making this wonderful casserole. It couldn't be easier to make, and it turns out absolutely delicious!

French Toast Casserole

1 1/2 stick of Butter
1 1/2 cups of Brown Sugar
1 Loaf of Bread
2 cups of Milk
6 eggs

Melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter
Stir in 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon to make a paste substance
pour into bottom of a 9 1/2 X 13 pan
Cut crust off of bread (give crust to birds :))
Align bread in pan making 2 layers
In a separate bowl mix 2 cups of milk
1 tsp. of cinnamon
6 eggs
Pour mixture over bread in pan; cover and refrigerate overnight.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes; till top has raised a bit and looks brown.
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