Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Christmas 2020

I originally started this blog because I needed a way to remember life - good and bad - and to write down the bajillion thoughts that popcorn around in my head. I wrote the first post on June 4, 2009. For a while, I blogged often and there have also been times where I've stopped writing all together. The pandemic has actually given me more time to stop and think and jot down a few thoughts. I wanted to take just a few minutes to remember this Christmas. Our granddaughters are so cute right now and I want to remember!

Even though Christmas 2020 was different in many ways, there were some wonderful moments. We decided to go ahead and celebrate with my mother-in-law, who is 95, BUT DO NOT LET HER KNOW THAT YOU KNOW THAT FACT! We stayed away from her for several weeks back in the shut down but she was so lonely that she begged us to come. We've seen her every week at Sunday lunch - yes, she still cooks for her family. Mark has lunch with her one day a week and I've been dropping off Wednesday night suppers from the church when our chef has prepared them. Mark's twin brother goes and checks on her every morning and every afternoon.
We decided that we could safely (hopefully) celebrate with her. We met at her house before lunch on Christmas day and ate lots of good food that we all prepared. We opened presents.

Evie with her new baby doll from great
grandmother - she was rocking the baby!

Emma was sweet - I'm not sure what she is
opening in this photo

My son's favorite family tradition is
this one. The family plays croquet
on Christmas day! My mother-in-law has
a large flat front yard and we've been 
playing all these years. This was THE
COLDEST game of croquet ever. I didn't play
because I was supposed to rock Evie and put 
her down for a nap . . .but yes -- that is Evie
in the cute red coat. Naps didn't happen
on Christmas day. There was too
much going on to sleep!

Emma played this year! Our son-in-law had never
played croquet BUT he plays golf. He whacked it
so hard on his first swing that he broke the
mallet!! Everyone is still chuckling about
his swing!

It is rare to get a photo of the two
of them together since they
live in two different cities.

Emma usually has Pops all to herself and she 
wasn't thrilled with the fact that she
had to share Pops with Evie BUT she
was very sweet. These little girls
love their Pops so very much and
he loves them right back!! If you ask
Emma, "who is the best Barbie player?" 
Her answer is, "pops!" He tells these
wonderful stories and the barbies
act them out!

We celebrated with our children/grandchildren on
December 26. We've done that two years now and
it really works. I hope we can continue that tradition. 
Watching the "kids" (all ages!) open their gifts is much fun.
We had lunch together after opening gifts.

Not only was there some jealousy between
the girls, but Harvey is usually in either
my lap or Mark's lap and there was
someone else in Mark's lap!

We have multiple parks in our neighborhood
and after lunch, they all loaded up in the
golf cart and went to Emma's favorite 
park. No one texted any pictures of Emma to me!
She likes this park because
there is "bigger" kid stuff.  She was probably
in constant motion so there may not be any
photos of her!! Thank goodness
for little swings, too. It was a cold day again!!

We always eat the leftovers on the Sunday
following Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Laura and Scott and Evie were able
to stay through lunch and we were able
to snap a photo of the oldest and the
youngest together. This is such a special


Kick 2020 out the door!

 Thanks to Joyce at From This Side of the Pond for the questions. Copy the questions and answer and link up!

1. Tell us about your favorite moment or share one of the bright spots from the year we're leaving behind. There are probably many good moments and bright spots from this crazy year but one of my favorites is the fact that I know many more neighbors by name! I'm taking a few days off this week and when I was out walking today (it was 62 degrees with sunshine!), I spoke to numerous people and called them by name! I didn't know them before the pandemic. When I worked from home (mid March through the end of May), I walked for 10 minutes every day after I ate my lunch. I had a short little route around our circle and down a few blocks and back. I met so many people! I've expanded that walk to a larger area in our neighborhood and it feels good to be known and to know others.

2. What do you wish you'd known at the start of 2020? Elaborate. I hope I'm always learning and growing and 2020 has certainly required learning and growing. I wish I had known that I needed to spend every moment I could with friends because we miss our friends! I'm going to be honest. If you had told me that we couldn't hang out and have supper club or have friends over, I wouldn't have believed you. Even in mid-March, I truly thought it was going to be over in a couple of weeks.

3. Best book you read this year? If you did not read any books this year, what's the best thing you ate all year? We've all eaten, right? I have read SOOO many books this year! I enjoyed Fannie Flagg's newest book - The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop (I live in Alabama!). Some of my favorites were All The Light We Cannot See and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. How about The Girl with the Louding Voice?? I liked The Giver of Stars, too. I read some more books by James Patterson and some by John Grisham. Oh my goodness -- have you read Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral. Ok - I should be embarrassed. I did it again. You asked for one book and I told you about a WHOLE bunch of books. I also read some wonderful and silly cozy mysteries - they are my secret reading pleasure. I've read over 100 books this year for pleasure. I'm not counting the Bible, commentaries and books I've read in order to facilitate on Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings. 

What is the best thing I ate this year? I can't answer that with one thing either! I had falafel straight out of the grease in the Old City of Jerusalem and it was DELICIOUS.

 I had lots of wonderful hummus and pita bread, too, and an orange at a home in Palestine that was divine! 

We've been ordering meat from Evan's Meats - a local company in town that usually sells to restaurants. Due to the pandemic, they have opened up to the public. You can go online and order and pay and then drive through and they will load the meat in the back of your car - contactless pick up! We've had some amazing filets and I've eaten my weight in Alabama shrimp since March.

4. The Pantone Colors of the year for 2021 are ultimate gray and illuminating yellow (a bright shade)...are you a fan? Would we find either of these colors in your home or wardrobe? When we purchased our home, the decorator wanted to show me all of the gray paint chips. I think it looks lovely in someone else's home but I think I would begin to feel "gray" if I lived in it all of the time. Illuminating yellow sounds fun and to be honest, it probably looks great with the gray. I have a small yellow sofa in our loft area upstairs and some yellow pillows and a yellow throw. I don't think they are "illuminating yellow" though.

5. If you were/are making a list of 21 things to do/accomplish in 2021 what is one thing that would be on it? Dadgum - I am not doing well with these "one thing" questions. I want to travel. I want to be with friends. I want to sit around our dining room table with friends and family and laugh until I hurt! I want to be back in fellowship with our church family. I want to kneel at the altar rail and take communion the real way - not from a disposable "peel the lid" cup. I want to eat at Hot and Hot Fish Club (wonderful local restaurant with an award winning chef). I want to hug people (and I'm not a hugger!).

6. Insert your own random thought here. Many years ago, I felt like God was calling me to the foreign mission field. I applied through the denomination where I had grown up and I was rejected because I was divorced. "Man" might not have thought me worthy to spread the gospel but God had other plans. Today I was reminded of the fact that we are all called to the priesthood of believers - we are all called to be ministers in different ways. I love when you finish something and you realize that God was right smack in the middle!

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood . . .but you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter Chapter 2)

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Random Christmas Eve 2020

Isn't this an unusual year? Normally, we would have attended church tonight and celebrated with pizza with family after church. Instead Mark and I took his mom to drive-through communion at 1:00. My mother-in-law kept asking us if the wafer was to be eaten. She kept saying that it tasted like paper. Yes, Gmom . . .it does indeed taste like paper! We then watched the pre-recorded Christmas Eve service at 4:00, the livestream of the service at 6:00

and then we rewatched the Contact Christmas service from Sunday night (our contemporary service). While we watched we sipped some Bailey's. Yes, it is indeed a strange Christmas. Now Christmas Vacation is on! I worked a couple of hours this morning and this afternoon (after communion), I made cookies (M&M cookie recipe from The Turquoise Table - which I am reading).

 and Cherry Polenta Cake (except we used blackberries). The "cake" is very similar to a clafoutis and has an "egg custard" taste. Mark loved it!

We watched Chef Symon and his wife make this recipe the other night and both wanted to try it! 

We've texted and talked with some out of state family. We've texted with some friends. We've had several thoughtful gifts dropped off on our porch today from bourbon balls (Mark's favorite) to popcorn to warm socks.

Santa just drove by on the firetruck (that is a normal thing!!). Of course, I ran outside and took a quick picture and you can't see Santa - I'm thinking that he is inside the firetruck because it is so cold here. The firetruck was moving rapidly - I imagine those firefighters were cold and tired  - it was almost 9 p.m. and they had been driving around for hours!

Last night (Christmas Eve Eve), I finished decorating our dining room table. I've never been a "flower arranger" but right before the pandemic I went to a wonderful women's conference and one of the breakout sessions was flower arranging. I know this sounds totally stupid but I have always thought I could NOT arrange flowers. I wouldn't even attempt it. I made one arrangement in the breakout session and for some reason it gave me enough confidence to try several things this year. I'm never going to be an expert and don't aspire to be . . .but if I can decorate my mailbox or my dining room table, I'm happy!

So how was your Christmas Eve? Did you do what you've always done?

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge, Volume 400. 400!! Answer on your own blog then hop on over to From This Side of the Pond to share answers with all of Santa's elves. Thanks so much to Joyce!! I cannot imagine how much thought has gone into 2000 questions spread out over 400 blog posts!!

1. I feel like episode 400 cannot go without comment. That's a whole lot of Hodgepodging folks. 2000 questions if my math is right. So, what's something you feel like you do 400 times a week? Even with just two of us at home now, I sometimes feel like I wash 400 loads of clothes each week!

2. Tell us where you were and something about what your life looked like in the year 2000? Our twins were 14 years old in 2000. That is so hard to believe! I was a stay-at-home mom and drove a lot of carpools to school and back.

3. Do you like cinnamon? What is something you make and enjoy that calls for cinnamon? Of the cinnamon 'foods' listed which is your favorite-red hot cinnamon candies, cinnamon toast, cinnamon rolls, cinnamon toast crunch cereal, apple cinnamon oatmeal, churros, an Indian curry? I love cinnamon! I like the taste of cinnamon and I love to smell it. I've received two of the coolest gifts. The gift is a clear gift bag filled with an orange, a couple of cinnamon sticks, a few cloves, some fresh cranberries, and a couple of small pieces of rosemary. There are instructions to slice the orange, put everything in a pan, add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil and then simmer. OH MY GOODNESS! We did one on Saturday and just kept adding water through Sunday. Our house smelled like Christmas!! I think my favorite thing to eat might be pumpkin cinnamon oatmeal. I know - once again I'm venturing away from the correct answers. I'm going to be honest - red hot cinnamon candy, cinnamon rolls, cinnamon toast, etc. all taste really good! I just don't eat sweets like that anymore.

I borrowed this photo from
images on google

4. Does Christmas 2020 (or Hanukkah) look much like it has in years past, or is this year vastly different for you and your family? How so? How are you feeling about it all? Yes, it looks different. I work on a church staff and everything is somewhat different this year due to covid regulations. My husband and I (and family) will not be attending Christmas Eve service but will be participating in drive through communion. We plan to pick up my mother-in-law tomorrow and drive through with her. We normally gather for pizza on Christmas Eve after church with my husband's siblings and their families and we won't be doing that this year. This will be the second year in a row that Mark and I have awakened all alone on Christmas morning and that is unusual. We are going to try to come up with some new traditions for just us. How do I feel about it all? Normally I "feel" like Christmas has arrived right at the end of the Christmas Eve service. This year, I'll be watching from home and I am going to keep reminding myself that God is with us - Emmanuel - no matter where I might find myself on Christmas Eve.

5. What's one thing you need or want to do before this year ends? I'm going to rest next week. Yes - rest before the end of the year so that I might enter 2021 refreshed and ready to go. I have ordered a chair that folds out into a twin bed (from Pottery Barn) and I hope they deliver it while I'm off. I need to clean up that room upstairs and get it ready to set up a little bedroom for our granddaughters. The room is a total unorganized disaster. It used to be my craft room and I got rid of some things and packed up things because we were going to move Mark's exercise equipment into that room. That is evidently not happening and now it is a mismatched bunch of junk. This is the chair I ordered and it says it has been made and has arrived at the delivery center - eek! I have to get busy tonight! This is the exact chair and color.

6. Insert your own random thought here. Did y'all see the Christmas "star"? We could see it from our courtyard, and I tried to get some pictures. 

This was taken with my Canon
rebel with my biggest lens - you can sort
of see the rings on the right

This was all I could get on my Iphone

Speaking of pictures, my husband has been setting up the game cameras each week at the farm and I sure do love seeing the animals. 

Turkeys love to eat the corn!

Deer love the corn, too!
They are beautiful creatures.
There are some shots where the
deer are eating at the same time as
a raccoon and I love that they "share"

I don't think coyotes eat corn . . .I hope he leaves
everyone else alone.

One more random thought – Santa and an elf drove through our neighborhood last night on Vespas!! Yes, I may be 62 years old but I ran out onto the front porch and waved like crazy!

Friday, December 18, 2020

Do you shop local?

I'm going to be the first to admit that I have ordered more things online over the last 10 months than ever before. Sometimes you just can't beat Amazon. I do love to buy local when I can. This year, we have made three major (major for us) purchases from local companies and have been very pleased. The products we purchased are not local but the businesses are run by locals.

For our first project of the year we had our garage floors finished by Southern Grit. George lives in our neighborhood and had offered a discount to fellow neighbors. We are so pleased with this floor! Working with George was easy and he was so patient with us! He came out a year ago and gave us an estimate and it took us months and months to decide to have this project done. The worst part was having to move everything out of the garage (of course, I didn't do that!). George even came back over on a Saturday morning and helped Mark move the fridge and freezer back into the space. Our son-in-law had been visiting the previous weekend and helped Mark move stuff out. Another good thing about these new floors is that Mark cleaned out a lot of stuff and organized everything he kept.

The pictures do not do justice to how
great the floors look!

The second project we decided to do was replace our garage doors. Our doors were builder grade with very little insulation. Mark exercises in the garage every day and I had purchased a free standing air conditioner for him and he had run ductwork from the inside air conditioner to the garage but we quickly realized we needed doors with more insulation. We ordered the doors from Golden Garage Door. They came out on a Saturday and measured and helped me pick out a color and ordered the doors. Due to Covid-19 it took longer than normal for the doors to arrive but as soon as they arrived they were installed (actually the next day). It was an all day job but the folks were so nice!! Our previous doors didn't have windows and we have been amazed at how much light comes in through those small windows -- it is awesome! The builder had installed white doors and we have nothing white on our house so it is also wonderful to have doors that match!

Our last purchase of the year was a . . .golf cart! We purchased a refurbished golf cart from Smitty's.
We live in a neighborhood with LOTS of golf carts and we have enjoyed riding around so much. They delivered it right before Halloween and we were able to ride around and look at all 400 homes. We will drive around this weekend with our granddaughter and look at all of the Christmas decorations. I won't allow myself to ride on it if I haven't exercised already! Mark even hung Christmas lights on it for me. I'll have to take a picture of it with the lights on!

Grandmother was not really thrilled
with riding in the golf cart!

I know I said 3 purchases but we have a store in town called Alabama Goods and I did order a box full of Alabama products from them last week. They delivered to my house for $15 and I was able to shop local and have it delivered without worrying about the packages getting stuck in the post office and it was contactless delivery. That is very important! I ordered some small gifts and stocking stuffers from them but spent enough that I felt like I truly supported local.

By the way, these businesses have no idea I'm writing a blog about them - I received no compensation from them. These are strictly my opinions.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

Yes, I realize that I'm writing this in December but to be honest, I haven't had time to write. I've said that I haven't had time for several things and I am struck by how much I was evidently doing in 2019 and earlier compared to this year. How in the heck did I have time for anything back then?? I should have all of the time in the world in 2020 since most things have ground to a halt. Alas, that is not so for whatever reason.

So Thanksgiving 2020 -- Thanksgiving in the middle of a pandemic -- Thanksgiving in a year where we were urged not to gather in groups greater than 10 or with only those who live in the same house. 

Every holiday for over a year has been different for us starting with Christmas 2019. 2019 was our first year to wake up all alone on Christmas morning but it was actually okay. Different but okay. We rolled around to Valentine's Day which we celebrated with a salad from the Chick Fil A drive through because we had jet lag from our wonderful trip to Israel. Then just a few weeks later Covid-19 hit in full force and everything shut down. Easter was different. Birthdays were different. Halloween was different. Of course, that meant Thanksgiving would be different. The good news is that we have been with Mark's mother and siblings most every week since June and we've been with our son's family most every week so we felt "relatively" safe gathering at our house for Thanksgiving. I only took one picture with people in it!
pumpkin (butternut squash) casserole ready
to go back in oven to brown marshmallows
green bean casserole and gravy

cheese ball and crackers and our 
non-alcoholic (mother-in-law is a teetotaler)
cranberry juice and gingerale

We only have 1 oven so after I made a great honey glaze,
Mark heated our ham
on the grill

Our family always has a "relish" tray -
does yours? I love Thanksgiving
decorations - those are nutcracker

The "spread" - a ridiculous amount of
food for 8 people
My son made one dish and
my brother-in-law and sister-in-law
brought 2 dishes and my
mother-in-law made the pies
so I definitely didn't have to do it all

Mark smoked the turkey on his
Pit Barrel Cooker

Two turkeys

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Hodgepodge #399

Joyce has written and published 399 sets of Hodgepodge questions -- that is truly amazing!  Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog, then hop back to From This Side of the Pond and link up to the party. 

From this Side of the Pond
1. What's something about Christmas that most people like, but you don't? Elaborate. 
I actually had to stop and think about this one and I guess my answer would be that I don't like to decorate too early.  I love Thanksgiving! I do not like to put up any Christmas decorations until after we have celebrated Thanksgiving. Every year folks decorate earlier and earlier and this year, I saw some Christmas trees already up on Halloween. I really like Halloween, too, so I definitely don't want to decorate that early! Most years, I start decorating on the day after Thanksgiving. 

2. Tell us about one cherished tradition from your childhood and if you'll make it happen this year? 
This sounds really sad but I don't know if I have any cherished traditions from my childhood. My mom died when I was a sophomore in high school so there was no one to keep those traditions alive. The one that I remember is that we went to my grandparents on Christmas Eve. Granny and Grandpa Walls were my daddy's parents. The whole family would gather. My daddy had one brother who was still alive and Uncle Tal and Aunt Polly and their kids and our family and my cousin, Willard (whose mom was no longer living) would all gather in my grandparents house. My grandpa gave each family a bag with some groceries - like fresh oranges and a HUGE thick candy cane. One year, my cousin paid me a dollar to be quiet for a few minutes. I was the youngest grandchild so I guess I was pestering the older ones! We ate a meal together and I think my love of pimento cheese (GOOD pimento cheese) came from those gatherings. I found this picture online of my grandparent's house. It didn't look like this back then.

3. In 1941 FDR declared December 15th Bill of Rights Day. Citizens were encouraged to fly the flag and gather for prayers and other ceremonies as appropriate. Did you know this? Will you fly a flag? Can you name all the rights and protections guaranteed in the first ten amendments of the US Constitution? Of the ten, which two do you value most? 
I did not know this about December 15th! We fly a flag on the front of our house - along with most everyone on our street! Lots of flags fly in our neighborhood! I've never thought about having favorites in this category - possibly freedom of speech and religion. My husband would definitely vote for the right to bear arms simply because he is a hunter.

4. Do you know someone named Bill? Tell us something about him? Is there a famous 'Bill' you'd like to meet? 
I do know someone named Bill! My brother-in-law is Bill and he is pretty amazing. He has Parkinson's and it was early onset and he still keeps on smiling. He rides a big trike that his siblings bought him for Christmas last year and his willingness to keep on exercising is definitely an inspiration. I don't know which Bill I would want to meet - Bill Murray? Bill Nye, the Science Guy?

5. A step in the right direction, on the right track, bragging rights, be in the right place at the right time, get off on the right foot, right as rain, right side up, give your right arm for, have one's heart in the right place...choose a 'right' that applies to your life in some way in recent days and tell us how it's so.
It should be "have one's heart in the right place" since we are approaching Christmas! I need to remember why we are celebrating. You would think that wouldn't be difficult since I work in a church but I sometimes get caught up in the hustle and hurry and buying when I should be kneeling and bowing my head. I also did a little bragging this week which usually comes back to bite me in the butt! I was able to set up a poll for a zoom call and was quite proud of myself!

6. Insert your own random thought here. 
This little nugget can say "ho! ho! ho!" and it is so cute!! We got to spend a few hours with her last weekend. 

This weekend, our "bigger" nugget will be spending the night with us while her parents are doing grown up things. I'm sure there will be some time spent riding in the golf cart looking at Christmas decorations but I imagine we might be bundled up.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Ho! Ho! Hodgepodge!

From this Side of the Pond

Just jumping in with the questions Joyce writes each week over at From This Side of the Pond. Feel free to copy the questions, write your answers, and link up with Joyce

1. What do you think it means to have the holiday spirit? Last night, we were doing our zoom study with the young adults and I was sharing with them about my moment of peace each year on Christmas Eve when we are singing Silent Night surrounded by our church family and lifting our candles in the air. I feel at peace with myself (this is a biggie!), at peace with my family and friends, and at peace with God. I know most would think of Holiday Spirit as the "good feelings" that go along with the holidays and I certainly understand that and have probably felt that way before but this year -- 2020 -- I think that sense of peace is my holiday spirit. I won't be attending a live church service on Christmas Eve this year but I think I'll have some candles to light and Silent Night playing in the background. I think my Christmas spirit this year will be more focused on the baby in the manger and the peace he brings to my heart - even in the middle of a pandemic. Sunday afternoon, our children's and music departments presented an amazing virtual Christmas concert. I sat at my kitchen island and cried because it was so sweet and perfect and I must admit that I felt the peace of Christ at that moment -- maybe that was the beginning of my holiday spirit!!

2. What's one thing you've baked this month? Have you eaten the finished product? How much baking do you do around the holidays? What baked sweet something does your family insist is on the menu during this season of the year?  

On Sunday, I baked cherry/blueberry sheet pancakes and apple cider donuts -- both are WW friendly recipes. (WW is Weight Watchers). Both are delicious!! I can't decide whether to bake things to share this year or not. Are people willing to eat shared goodies this year?

3. Your most recent 'half-baked' idea?

I can think of several small examples - an idea I had at work which I hadn't thought all the way through; a few cooking disasters; AND I overloaded the washing machine which led to really wrinkled clothes. . . but I was in a hurry!

4. Where were you the last time you 'baked' in the sun? The top ten sunniest destinations in the world (most sun from January-December according to this site) are Dubai, Bali Indonesia, Los Angeles CA, Miami FL, Barbados, Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, Mauritius, Antiqua, and the Canary Islands Spain. Have you been to any of the cities listed? Which one on the list appeals to you the most? If the world were not upside down crazy and you could lie on a beach anywhere right now where would you go? 

This summer, I sat in our sweet courtyard almost every day for about 10-15 minutes. This was not the year of vacations. We had planned to go to the beach (Alabama gulf coast) in September but a hurricane cancelled that vacation. I would love to go to all of the cities listed! I've been to beaches in Alabama, Florida, sort of in South Carolina, Nassau, St. Martin, and Galveston. I have stood on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea and on the bank of the Sea of Galilee.

5. Today I wish I had more time -- how cliché is that?? 

6. Insert your own random thought here. We bought our tree at Costco and the tag said 7-8 ft tree . . .well, I think they counted the stick on top! Yes, I'm pretty sure it is leaning a tad! I love my mailbox decoration I made on Sunday - literally between watching livestream worship and teaching zoom Sunday School. One more thought - yes, I know Joyce asked for one random thought . . .my iPhone X battery has decided to not hold a charge. I started going online to get an appointment at the Apple Store on Sunday. The earliest appointment I can get for a battery replacement is Friday afternoon at an authorized Best Buy in a city that is an hour and a half away!!