Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The favorite books you got as gifts

This adorable tabletop book tree was featured on Pinterest.  The original post/ohoto is here
Yesterday I blogged about giving/getting books for Christmas.  I shared what some of my favorite gifted books were as a child, and asked my readers and Facebook friends to share some of their favorite book gifts.

Here are some replies:

Dorene Hostler A very dear friend bought me a beautiful, leather-bound bible many years ago. It's so marked up & worn now...but, it is my favorite book I've ever received as a gift.

Katrina Johns as a child: The Secret Garden (from my Grandma), as an adult: Jesus Calling (from some sweet ladies at my church)

Vicki Walton My Bible I received my Senior year, a book of The Holocaust and those rescued, "Rebecca" a mystery, and as a child, definitely "Charlotte's Web."

Vickie Fanning A Bible...The Giving Tree....Where the Red Fern Grows.... A collection of Robert Frost Poems....A collection of Poe

Teresa Lester Bernadette and the Lady. Angels Unaware. Joni. The courage of Carol. All given to me as a teen girl

Cindy Long When I was about 12, my mom bought me Harriet The Spy, and I remember reading it straight through and enjoying every page.

Karrilee Aggett said...
Oh how I love books... stacks and stacks of books! My favorite book as a child was A Wrinkle in Time... but I couldn't possibly pick a favorite as an adult - there are too many!

Anastasia Rose said...
Books are absolutely my favorite gifts! One of the more recent books I've received (maybe two or three years ago) was called Believing in Narnia, and it was a devotional type book dealing with the real-life themes in the Chronicles of Narnia. No matter how many times I read those books, they still end up showing me something new!

Jo said...
I can never choose favourites. I love far too many! One of the top ones would have to be the complete works of Jane Austen. In my family, books are given at Easter more than Christmas. A tradition that started when I was a child and has stuck. My daughter always receives a book at Christmas too.

Susan Baker said...
Growing up, there were always books for Christmas. Most of them are long forgotten. But I still have my battered and well-worn paperback versions of The Hobbit and (most of) The Chronicles of Narnia.

They were my first "grown up" books and started me on a life long love. I'm happily continuing the tradition with my own sons.

Bethany Boring said...
I have an answer to this!! My favorite book I received as a complete surprise this year. I was wanting a way to bring my young boys around the real meaning of Christmas, but in a way like they had never heard it before. A good friend sent me Ann V new book, "The Greatest Gift." It has been jusr that and more. I blogged about this today...too funny!

Rachel S. said...
Boxed set of Anne of Green Gables books - I still have them, and my girls are reading them now

Thanks everyone, for sharing your favorites with me! Now let's buy a book for someone for Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Give a Book for Christmas!

Read this post for more about this book

I can't remember a single Christmas in my life when I didn't either give or receive at least one book.

Books make wonderful gifts...and they don't have to be expensive. They don't have to be 50 dollar coffee table books (in fact, even those gorgeous coffee table books often go on sale, deeply discounted).

I'm trying to build up my personal library of classics. Borders...now defunct...used to have a beautiful line of classics that was very affordable.  Barnes and Noble probably does too.

Children's books can be very reasonable, and most small children love to be read to. Slip a paperback novel, preferably Christian fiction, into your teen-ager's stocking. An athlete's bio for your sports-crazy son, or a how-to-be-a-better-golfer book for hubby.  For your teen or young adult, one series I can highly recommend is Lisa Bergren's River of Time series.

Many of my favorite, and most enduring, Christmas gifts ever have been books. When my parents were missionaries to Beirut, Lebanon, when I was a child, I really got into British writers. I can remember getting Noel Streatfield's White Boots , which launched me into a Noel Streatfield marathon. Another time I got an anthology of stories by Enid Blyton-- who probably most American children have never heard of, but whose writings I adored.

Actually, I could never list all the favorite book gifts I've received, because many of my favorite all-time gifts, throughout my life, have been books.

What was your favorite book you ever received as a gift?

Years ago I "twittered"' this question, and Katy McKenna Raymond replied: "My mother purchased this book when I was 11: 'Don't Call Me Katy Rose.' My name is Katy Rose! I still have it..."

No doubt about it, those childhood books, often received as Christmas or birthday presents, evoke fond memories to this day.

What was your favorite book you ever received as a gift--whether as a child or more recently? Please answer in my comments section...I'll blog about your replies!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's Still a Wonderful Life...why this is my favorite movie EVER

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."

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A beautiful Christmas book

Note: I'm dipping into the archives this month for some posts of Christmas past! 

A few years ago, I posted on my book blog about a beautiful Christmas book that I had found for 5 dollars at a local dollar store.  Since then, I've gotten some more information about this book and its availability.  

I also have a little addendum to make that happened during a recent Thanksgiving.

Here you go:

As a little girl, I loved Christmas anthology books. Nothing made me happier on a December day than to snuggle up with a big, beautifully-illustrated book full of Christmas stories, songs and poems.

That's why I was so delighted to find this Christmas Treasury at a local dollar store for 5 dollars. I liked it so much, I bought three of them...one for me to read to my grandsons, one for two of my little nieces, and one for two little friends of the family.

(Click on any photo to view larger)

Tom Newsom beautifully illustrates "The Night Before Christmas."

I love the fact that there are several songs in the book, complete with music.

The book includes several Victorian-style illustrations and poems as well.

Among the prettiest illustrations in the book are by an illustrator named Pat Thompson, about whom I was able to find frustratingly little online. Making it even more confusing is that there is also a children's illusrator named Pat Thomson...without the P. I'd love to know more about this artist.

Another lovely Pat Thompson illustration in the book's rendition of "The Nutcracker."

Another Pat Thompson illustration in "The Velveteen Rabbit."

Another by Pat Thompson

A Pat Thompson illustration in the Christmas Story

How about you? Do you have a favorite Christmas book? Let me know about it in my comments section!

UPDATE: I posted this a little a few years ago, and one person was able to give me a little more info about artist Pat Thompson. "Sparrow1" commented:

"Pat Thompson is an artist in Franklin , TN with Southgate Studios. I was trying to remember which book she illustrated to pass the info along to a friend when I came upon your blog. In years past I have taken pastel classes from her and consider her a both a very fine artist and a lovely friend."

Very cool!

UPDATE 2: You can order this book on Amazon! It's about 18 dollars, but this gorgeous book is well worth it. Here's the link.


When I originally bought this book, I envisioned keeping it here and reading it to my grandchildren when they visited during the holidays.

Well, my grandsons, almost 6 year old Payton and 3 year old Josiah, were excited about me reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to them from this book when they were here a couple of years ago for Thanksgiving.

They live in Texas and I live in Illinois, so I treasure the times we get to spend together.

I read the poem and then we thumbed through the pages and I showed them some of the beautiful illustrations.  Both of them love books and love to be read to.  Payton was excited to see the illustrated Christmas story, as he's been practicing to be in a Christmas program at church.

When I mentioned that I had bought the book specifically for them, but that I would keep it at my house, Payton asked, "Why can't we take it home?"

Why indeed? He promised that he would have his parents read to him from the book during the holidays, and I know my daughter-in-law will make sure that it's kept nice.

I wrote in the front of the book, giving it to Payton and Josiah with all my love. I hope they enjoy it for years to come.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Twelve Christmas questions!

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I found this in the archives of this blog, but thought it would be a fun thing to resurrect.  Answer the questions yourself on your own blog, in my comments section, or on Facebook!

1. Christmas is _Jesus______. [fill in the blank with ONE WORD]

2. In memories, what was the best part of your Christmases past?--Opening presents!

3. Was Santa ever good to you? [describe how and what]--Many times. I remember, when I was about eight, getting a baby doll that I had long coveted at a local department store. When my parents were missionaries to Lebanon, a favorite great aunt visited and bought beautiful bicycles for my sister and me. 

My favorite presents of all were books, though--even when I was a little girl, I was an avid bookworm. I never remember being disappointed at Christmas.

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4. Do you open gifts on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or both?--My husband's family is Swedish in origin, and the tradition of celebrating on Christmas Eve has persisted. When our kids were little, we always came home and opened presents after the Swanson family gathering on Christmas Eve. We still open presents then.

5. Is there something you make each and every year? [craft or recipe]--I always make Ritz crackers with peanut butter, dipped in almond bark. Now that I've found out I'm diabetic, I won't be indulging as heavily in these delectable treats, but I'll still make them.

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6. What is your favorite five[5] Christmas songs/hymns?--
(In no particular order):

--Hark the Herald Angels Sing
--For Unto Us A Child is Born, from Handel's Messiah
--Welcome to Our World
--Sleigh Ride
--Joy to the World

7. Is there a new tradition for Christmas since your childhood days?--I don't remember getting Christmas stockings as a child, but I've always given them to my kids. Although they got to open their presents on Christmas Eve, they awoke to find their stockings full on Christmas morning.

8. Describe one of your Christmas trips. [whether it's across town or across country]--We've gone home to Texas a few times for Christmas, starting with when I was expecting my first child, Christmas 1979. A few of my favorite Christmases were in Wyoming with my sister Bev and her family. The snow, the mountains and evergreens were postcard perfect for the season, and Bev and her husband have always made us feel so very welcome and loved. We have wonderful memories of sitting around the fire watching Christmas movies, and incredibly delicious food.

My grandsons Josiah and Payton a couple of Christmases ago

9. Do you have a special Christmas outfit to wear for the day?--I try to have something festive and new to wear for the Swanson family gathering (which is now no longer on Christmas Eve. The brothers and sisters now celebrate Christmas Eve with their own individual kids and grandkids, since the family has gotten so big.) But on Christmas Day it's usual something pretty but comfortable.
My Christmas tree in 2012

10. Have YOU or any of your family members sat on Santa's lap?--Not me! I think all my kids have at one point, as babies. I don't think they liked it, either!

11. What is/or will be on your Christmas tree this year?--I don't think I'm going to put one up this year...it's already a little late in the game.  When I was planning to put it up, I was going to decorate it in teal, silver and white, to complement my relatively new livingroom decor.

12. Do you/or have you decorated your yard for Christmas?--Not really. I have some wreaths on the lights on either side of my garage door, and a wreath on the door, but that's about it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Five reasons why you should wear an apron

Iconic TV moms Lucille Ball, Donna Reed and Barbara Billingsley in their aprons

The other day, a Facebook friend, author Cecelia Dowdy, asked this question: "Ladies, do you ever wear an apron?"

Her replies were many and varied.  Some said yes, some said sometimes, others were all-out apron fans who wear them regularly in the kitchen.  Some said they wear aprons that used to be their grandmother's or another family member's.

Do we need an apron?

The reality is, maybe we don't need aprons as much as our 50's forebears did.  They were constantly in the kitchen.  They baked regularly and cooked three meals a day.  Few of them worked outside the home, but their work inside the home never ended.

Plus, they dressed up on a daily basis.  Shirtwaist dresses, and in June Cleaver's case, pearls! Those nice clothes needed protection from kitchen splatters and spills.

Why I wear an apron

I remember my mom gave me one of her aprons when I got married.  Sadly, in the course of several moves, I lost it...which makes me doubly sad, since she passed away a year ago.

But not long ago, when I ruined a top for the umpteenth time because of the bleach cleanser I spritz often in my kitchen, I decided that was it.  If I was going to be doing any time-consuming cooking or baking, I would wear an apron.

So far, I only have one.

I got this apron on clearance at TJ Maxx for a little over 8 dollars

But I'm definitely in the market for more.

Oh, and I don't mean to be sexist with this.  Many men, and all professional chefs, wear aprons while cooking.  They just may not be as cute as the aprons made for women.

With the advent of Etsy, Pinterest et al, beautiful aprons are available everywhere.  And the aforementioned TJ Maxx and Marshall's usually have a selection for less than 20 dollars.

Susannah's Kitchen

One of my favorite apron websites is Susannah's Kitchen, named after Susannah Wesley, the mother of John Wesley and Charles Wesley and a host of other children she raised admirably and beautiful.

One of the adorable aprons sold through Susannah's Kitchen

Here are 5 good reasons you might want to consider wearing an apron:

  • To protect your clothes from stains...even if you're dressed casually you don't want to mess up your clothes, and if you're hosting, the apron will protect your fancy clothes
  • So you won't get flour all over your clothes when you bake
  • To protect your clothes from glue and glitter while crafting
  • To take advantage of the nifty pockets most aprons have
  • Last, but not least:  When you wear a pretty apron, YOU feel pretty.  There's something about donning an apron that says,"I'm the queen of my house.  Yes, this is work, but I can still feel cute while doing it!"

How cute are these mother-daughter Christmas aprons from Infashionkids.com?

This elf-themed apron from Sylvester Mouse is just too adorable

Do you wear an apron, or would you consider it?  Why or why not?  Let me know in my comments section!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Do you remember wiglets?

Actress Elke Sommer with a wiglet look.  My mom's was not this exaggerated.
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If you remember your mom going to the beauty shop to have her wiglet styled along with her actual hair, you might be a child of the 70's like me.

My mom wore a wiglet for several years.  She would go to the beauty shop weekly and have the wiglet styled into her hair and hair-sprayed like crazy.  She would then maintain that hairdo throughout the week...regardless of sleeping, baths, whatever.

There were ways that women would preserve their wigleted do's.  One of them involved wrapping the entire hairdo in toilet paper while you slept.

Which leads me to a funny story.  My grandmother was searching for a particular toilet paper brand at the grocery store many years ago.  When the grocery boy pointed out a different brand that was on sale, my grandmother said, "No, that kind sticks to my hair."

 Referring, of course, to preserving her hairdo while sleeping.

I would have loved to have seen the look on that boy's face. :)

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They're baaaaack

Well, my sister Beverly got to thinking. With all the extensions available today...why not wiglets?

And she found out wiglets are alive and well.  No, not like the one in this picture....and you don't have to carefully preserve your hairdo between salon appointments.

She got one! And she loves it.  She just has to secure it into her own hair, smooth it all out, and voila, instant volume.

Here's just one of the companies that currently sells wiglets.

Below...a couple of current examples of wiglets, also called "additions", from Ultimate Looks:

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Further proof that there is nothing new under the sun.

By the way, my mom always bemoaned her thin locks, and often wished out loud that wiglets were still in style.  If she had only known!

Do you remember wiglets? Would you ever consider wearing a contemporary one? Let me know in my comments!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Portrait of a Veteran...Written by a Marine's Mom

"They weren’t able to listen to new music or watch newly released movies or sporting events on a big screen. Instead, they heard the orders given by their Commanding Officers, bombs exploding, and rumblings of gunfire..."- Kathy Rucker Guzzo

My deepest, warmest gratitude goes out to all US veterans, both past and present, who served our country! A special thank you to my brother David, a Marine Gulf War veteran.

The following was written by my friend Kathy Guzzo, whose son Brian served in the Marines.


The following is a description of a group of people who by their nature and through intense training, do their best to be persons of integrity in even the toughest situations.

A Veteran could be anyone’s child, spouse, parent, neighbor, or friend; but in reality, they ARE someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, wife or husband, fiancé or best friend all who are deeply loved.

My brother, who served in the Gulf War

They are selfless having put their own career and family’s, hopes and dreams on hold in order to be a part of the toughest, most respected and feared military in the world, a part of a brotherhood that is so much bigger than what they were as an individual.

When they enlisted they traded activities like dating, sporting events, hunting, parties, paint balling, movies, and cruising around in their vehicles, for the opportunity to carry a rifle, while wearing a bullet proof vest in a slow moving, armored vehicle on roads filled with hidden explosives.

They gave up comfortable name brand t-shirts, jeans, hoodies and shoes for long sleeve scratchy camouflage uniforms they wear 24/7 for days at a time without laundering.

They gave up talks around the dinner table, cell phones, wireless electronics, and video games, for a few cherished minutes of delayed filled phone calls, sporadic costly internet access while being extremely thankful for letters received by what is now known as snail mail.

My brother is in the middle on the top row

They weren’t able to listen to new music or watch newly released movies or sporting events on a big screen. Instead, they heard the orders given by their Commanding Officers, bombs exploding, and rumblings of gunfire as if they were part of the latest award winning war movie.

They gave up home cooked meals; pizza, fast food, ice cream, and lattes for power bars, instant coffee tasteless powdered meals to which they added warm water.

They missed the birth of children, first words, first steps, the death of loved ones, holiday celebrations, weddings, reunions, vacations, graduations, the change of seasons, and many other events as they endured the loneliness of days that melted together as one.

They gave up hugs, kisses, smiles, and laughter from those they love most, for hatred and evil seen in the eyes of the enemy.

They forfeited nightly sleep in a comfortable bed under a solid roof, to get sporadic rest in a sleeping bag, tucked under a truck, under the stars, in a tent, on anything from lava rocks to sand and if they were lucky in a plywood building.

They gave up ‘regular’ jobs where they would have been safe and secure sitting, in order to be an open target on a road filled with hidden mines or IEDs, or busting doors down looking for the enemy, never knowing what they would find.

They gave up the enjoyment of long hot relaxing showers and a dip in a hot tub, for an occasional dousing on a hot day with bottled water and cold showers in the middle of winter.

They gave up heaters and air conditioners in their home for daily temperature extremes from mountainous winters of below zero with howling winds to sandstorms and a stifling 140 degrees in the desert.

They left the freedoms, culture, familiarity, and knowledge of the country where they were raised, and entered a hostile environment different in every area, from clothes and food, to religion and languages. A place filled with hidden enemies where they couldn’t always tell if those they met were friend or foe.

They willingly took the risk of being injured physically, scarred emotionally or even dying for a duty and purpose they felt called to fulfill.

Veterans are valiant men and women, with an immense pride in having been a part of the history of our great country. They are sometimes as young as 18, who chose to forfeit all these things understanding they’d gain so much more in order to preserve and protect a way of life for the love of a country built on freedoms and liberty.

They are not seeking attention or high forms of praise, they only want to be appreciated, not criticized, for following through with the job they chose that they have been trained and sent to do. For them simple thanks goes a long way.

Veterans developed a sense of maturity and respect for life at a young age. Through their training and life changing experiences, they became responsible, honorable, and dedicated. The words “I can’t” were removed from their vocabulary, as they became self-assured individuals knowing that they could accomplish anything they set their minds too.

They’ve learned that some victories unseen with the human eye can be a victory within themselves and that battles aren’t always won on the front lines, but in the preparation and training that is endured behind the scenes.

They have a deep sense of loyalty, which grew through the life and death experiences they shared with their fellow comrades. At a moments notice, Veterans are available to help their family, friends, or one of their friends, even at the risk of their own lives.

So regardless of the branch in which they served, their rank, whether they served during a time of peace or a horrendous war, Veterans young and old are courageous heroes that have earned this country’s deepest thanks, respect and honor. Americans need to be continually supportive of them for not only whom they are, the sacrifices they’ve made, but also for the difficult yet amazing job they’ve done in protecting and preserving our great country. Any less than that would be a disgrace for us as citizens of the United States.

Written by a Proud Mom of a VFW in honor of her son and the USMC 2/3 “Island Warriors” 2004-2008

© 2009 Kathy L. Guzzo

About Kathy Guzzo

Kathy Guzzo's writing is featured in the book  Faith Deployed...Again. The book, by Jocelyn Green, includes 25 contributing authors from every branch of the U.S. military. Each brief but meaningful and practical devotion includes a question to ask yourself and a prayer.

Listen to this 2-minute clip from an interview I did with Kathy about the book

Kathy conducts a ministry for military familes called "Hope at Home." To receive her newsletter, e-mail Kathy Guzzo at hopeathomeministry@comcast.net

From Faith Deployed.com:

Kathy Guzzo is the mother of four adult children and the author of several articles for military families, including the brochure, “Deployment: What’s A Family To Do?” Her son served in the USMC from 2004-2008, which included deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. She is the coordinator for Hope at Home Ministry in Rockford, Illinois, serving women with loved ones in the military. She also writes a bi-weekly 'newsletter sharing encouragement and resources with women across the country. Kathy and her husband of thirty-two years, Mickey, live in Rockford, Illinois.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The most amazing brownie chocolate cake ever (my mom's)

Today, my sister Lisa made my mom's brownie chocolate cake for her son Nathan's birthday.  Nathan loves this cake so much, he requested it to be his groom's cake at his recent wedding.  And he's not alone.  This cake....amazingly moist, delicious, filled with chocolatey goodness...is a family favorite.

My mom got this recipe years ago from her friend Sandra Griffin.  Early on, my mom added mini-marshmallows to the mix and it just stuck.  If you want to try this option, spread the marshmallows directly on the cake right out of the oven, then spread the icing on them.

There's one problem with this recipe.  A 9 X 13 pan only works if you don't pour all of the cake batter in it, because the full cake batter won't cook completely otherwise.  Since my sister has the only pan my mom ever made this cake in, I have to use a 9 X 13 and just pour in less batter. (So far, I haven't been able to find a pan with these dimensions...more  square than a 9 X 13 but way bigger than an 8 X 8.  Let me know if you know where I can get one!)

An alternative is baking it in a jelly roll pan....in which case the pieces will be thinner and more like Texas Sheet Cake.

Here's the recipe, written in my mom's own hand.  The smudges on the page are testament to how much this recipe is loved!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

It's been one year since my mother died...

On November 5, 2013, my world shattered.  My precious mother died unexpectedly.

It's hard to explain just how wonderful my mother was. I have tried, feebly and inadequately, to verbalize her specialness.

I wrote this as part of a tribute to my mom in 2003:

My mother's walk with the Lord is also something I want to emulate. She is a real prayer warrior. I have so many memories of hearing her pray, and there have been times I have literally seemed to feel her prayers for me when I've been in dangerous or difficult situations. Call me mystical, but there is just something about a mother's prayers!

My mother has endured many trials in her life, and sometimes, I admit, I've questioned why this wonderful woman should be inflicted with so many circumstances that to me seem unfair and unjustified. But these trials have not broken her. Instead, she seems to grow stronger and more lovely with time.

My mom as a little girl

A tough year

In some ways, this has been the toughest year of my life.  God has given me many blessings this year, and I've appreciated every one of them.  But navigating an ocean of grief has been a difficult and burdensome task.

It's easy to just give in to it, just wallow in grief.  My siblings and I have said that at any given time, we are two seconds away from a grief meltdown.  The tears are always right there behind our eyes.

Our mother was such a central part of our lives, and we lost her so unexpectedly.  (She died of cardiac arrest, in her sleep...yes, a wonderful way to go, and for that we're grateful.)

Celebrating our mother

So today, we've decided not to wallow in our grief.  We are going to do our best to celebrate our mom!

Yes, we're going to lay flowers at her grave.  (Ironically, I'm not as sad at her graveside as I thought I would be.  I simply can't think of her being there at all.)

But, we're also going to have lunch at one of her favorite places.  And then...and this might sound a little funny, but so be it...we're all going to buy a new top.  Because one of her favorite things to do was to buy a new top!  So we're doing it in her honor.

My mom would have HATED us to spend this day crying and moaning about her loss.  She wouldn't have allowed it!  So we're going to honor her as best we can by celebrating the happy and wonderful things about her life.

With my siblings and my mom....our last Christmas with her

Live in peace and joy in heaven, Mommy.  We'll see you soon!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Today is National Sandwich Day! Which begs the question...

What's your favorite sandwich?

I can't lay claim to creating a new sandwich variety. The sandwiches I make at home are pretty run-of-the-mill.

Oh, I might throw on some sweet peppers to make it interesting, or slap it on my George Foreman grill for an instant panini. I've been known to get creative about what I put in my tuna salad--I like pretty much everything but the kitchen sink in there, to the consternation of my daughter, who wants some Miracle Whip thrown in and nothing else.

However, I CAN tell you what my favorite sandwich is, currently, and has been for some time.

The Door County Melt.

The Door County Melt is from an amazing little restaurant we have here called Egg Harbor. (The name is misleading; there is oh so much more than eggs at this charming eatery.)

Here's a description of the sandwich, from the restaurant's own menu:

"Our famous all white- meat chicken salad blended with dried cranberries, toasted pecans and crisp diced apples grilled on multi-grain bread with Jack and Cheddar cheeses and ripe tomato."
To quote Ferris Bueller: "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up."

If you're curious, Business Insider has rounded up the best sandwiches in America by state.

So, what's your favorite sandwich? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Gracefully Aging, Day 31: I Did It!!!!

When I began this blogging challenge, Write31Days, a month ago, my blog was lying almost dormant.  I figured, what better way to show myself that I CAN blog regularly, than to be obligated to blog every single day for a month?

I chose the topic "Gracefully Aging," because that is my goal at this stage of my life.  To be honest I found so many resources and angles, I probably could have enough material to blog for two monnths and not just one.  But...whew!...I'm glad I don't have to.

Will I blog every day from now on?

No.  That's a burden that I don't think is even necessary.  My blog readership isn't that big, even though it has increased substantially during this challenge.  I don't have thousands of readers hanging onto my every word.

I blog mostly for the pleasure of it.  It's like having my own little magazine...it's an area where I can be creative in a fun way.

But I will definitely blog more than I was doing before this challenge.

I've learned I can commit to something and see it through to the end...and that's a great feeling!

If you found me through this challenge, I hope you'll continue to stop by here.  One of the best things about this challenge is finding some really wonderful blogs that I don't want to lose touch with.

It was from one of my fellow challengees that I found the quote I'm going to leave you with. Charity of The Wounded Dove posted this as part of her topic, Falling in Love with the Journey.  It's a quote from a Reader's Digest article.  Although it pertains to marriage, I think it fits perfectly with the concept of aging gracefully:

Part of being a happy man is to never lose the boy within; the same goes for women – there is the spirit of a young girl inside, no matter how many wrinkles edge the eyes. Maintaining a childlike love of life, laughter, nature, and each other is the real secret to a perpetually blessed relationship. It is also living in the present, not the past. In the completion stage of marriage, there is never a belief that the best times are over – they should always be today and tomorrow.
To those of you who visited my blog and commented during this challenge. THANK YOU.  It's been a great experience.  It's injected me with a new enthusiasm for blogging.  I hope you'll keep coming back!

I just finished  "31 Days: A Writing Challenge,"  in which I've been blogging on the subject of Gracefully Aging every day during the month of October.  Click the button below for inks to each post in the challenge!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gracefully Aging, Day 30: Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren
photo credit 
We all know women who wear their age well...who are lovely in spite of the advancing years.

In my case, those women include my mom and my older sister, both of whom I've profiled in this series.

There are a few famous women who also appear to be aging well.  One of them is actress Helen Mirren, who was recently chosen as a spokesmodel for L'Oreal Paris.

Several years ago, at the age of 63, Mirren set the world back on its heels when a paparazzi caught her on the beach wearing a red bikini and looking fantastic in it.

This is from a recent article:

"...Mirren, thank the Lord, doesn’t feel bad about her face... She doesn’t look like someone who has had work done. She looks like a woman who has lived a bit, and laughed a lot, and who knows she has been lucky in her looks, but also knows that how you look is a pretty small part of who you are. She looks, in fact, like a woman who is happy in her skin. 'The weird thing is,' she says, 'you get more comfortable in yourself, even as time is giving you less reason for it. When you’re young and beautiful, you’re paranoid and miserable. And then you’re older and it’s ironic.'"

And this from an article about the now 69-year-old Mirren's new role for L'Oreal:

"Participants [in a consumer survey] described Mirren as 'genuine, intelligent and glamorous, with looks that seem only to improve with the passing of time.'  And this down-to-earth, positive approach to ageing comes across in the 69-year-old’s comments about the L’Oréal gig: 'I am not gorgeous, I never was, but I was always OK-looking and I’m keen to stay that way.

'I hope I can inspire other women towards greater confidence by making the most of their natural good looks. We are all worth it!'"

photo credit

I'm participating in "31 Days: A Writing Challenge,"  in which I 'm blogging on the subject of Gracefully Aging every day during the month of October.  Click the button below for more information and links to each post as they become available!

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