Monday, December 26, 2011

The Littlies Came Today

We had Christmas again today when our oldest was able to come out with our two grandchildren.

Aydan after he looked in his Christmas stocking and opened 80 piece wooden train and tack set.  He lo-o-o-ves trucks and cars and trains and anything with wheels.

And Ari looks pretty happy with her goodies, too.  So does her mom.

I think they like having their pictures taken.

Looking for more, under the tree.

Our daughter wanted a picture of all three of them by the tree.  We had a fun and fairly relaxed afternoon before driving them back to their home (in a not very good part of town) before it got too dark.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all!  Tonight we go to the Christmas Eve potluck/open house at my youngest sister's,  joined by her husband's parents and siblings and their families, as well as my parents and other sister, her husband and their grown daughter who lives in London.  My 18 year old will be going to a party with her boyfriend, who is here on Christmas break from attending college in Pennsylvania.  Then tomorrow night we have the big Christmas Day dinner here at our house, with my parents along with the visiting sister, her husband and daughter, our 14 and 18 year olds, and the boyfriend.  Monday, our oldest daughter will make it out here with the two grandchildren (4 and 2), and we will have a mid-day festive meal of some sort and the little people will see what Santa left for them here.

The 18 year old has already departed with the boyfriend and his family.  The 14 year old is with my visiting sister, her husband and their daughter, along with my youngest sister's 8 year old daughter (yes, it's true -- my mother had only sisters, 2, I had only sisters, 3, I have only girls, 4, and both of my sisters with children only have girls -- our 4 yr old grandson is the only boy in the family aside from spouses!) riding the trolleys downtown, checking out the ducks in the fountain at the Peabody along with the decorations, and seeing Sun Studio if it's open.  I guess since niece Katie took up residence in London, she's decided she needs to see Sun Studio.

This will be the first year our #2 daughter has not been here for Christmas, since she moved to Austin last summer and came here at Thanksgiving to move the rest of her stuff.  I'm sure there will be many changes to our Christmas routine in the coming years as the girls get older and even move away and as we juggle multiple holiday events with other families and schedules.  With the aging of my parents, the venue of the main holiday dinner and present opening has shifted from their house to ours.

In the meantime, the roast is (hopefully) thawed, the stockings are ready to be stuffed, the presents are wrapped, the significant portions of the house are reasonably cleaned, and following my KISS program of holiday coping I have a box of crackers, a sliced brie log, and a jar of spicy tomato jam from my pantry for the potluck tonight, so I am relaxing with a cup of chai (maybe I'll have two!), and reading some mags the rest of the afternoon.  Merry Christmas to all.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Peaceful Evenings

I don't care for a lot of busy-ness, especially at night, and most especially during the winter and holiday season.  Above you see my idea of a pleasant winter evening's occupation indeed!  A visit to the village of Cranford, with a cup of decaf coconut chai tea in a proper cup with saucer.

Almost as relaxing, is the cd I have playing while I do this post:  Sting's "If on a Winter Night".

linking to:
Show off your Cottage Monday
A Return to Loveliness

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Dining Room

The Dining Room is the first room we always decorate for Christmas, because the Dining Room tree is the one on which we hang the small wooden and felt ornaments from the Advent Calendar given to us by my parents when our oldest was quite young.  The box itself is cardboard, but it has held up fairly well over the past 20+ years.

This tree has ornaments that are either home-made or evoke the natural world, in either their nature (apples) or their material (natural fibers, bark, wood, etc).

It has no lights, other than 4 tiny candles (one for each child) that fit in candle holders that clip on the trees.  I'd love to get some small LED candles to put on the tree, but I have yet to find any.  You can see one of the candles in the picture above.

One year I saved egg shell halves, spray painted the white ones gold (kept the blue and green shells from my chickens natural), hot glued some ribbon around the shell half and filled with tiny dried roses from my garden and tiny berries and pinecones from Hobby Lobby.  I gave sets as gifts, but saved a few for myself.

There's an ornament made from old silk ties and rickrack that covers the pinheads where the pins secure the ties to styrofoam ball, and a picture of my oldest when she was 4 yrs old at a "trike-a-thon", holding Abba, her stuffed yellow bear that she kept until she left home.

We even put on the natural wooden baby rattle that my two youngest played with when they were babies.

The paper bird was part of a set of 12 that I made that hung from a mobile for many years, long since dismantled and now the birds hang on the tree, alongside colored and glittered butterflies glued on to sticks that the girls made in years past, and sand dollars picked up on trips to the beach (very rare to find whole ones where we go).

This was a little wooden box with three compartments that some snowflake gift toppers came in, that I covered with paper, some chipboard letters and glitter.

A quilt that my husband's grandmother made probably some time between 1920 and 1950 serves as a tree skirt.  The girls used to love to play with the woodland animals below which only came out at Christmas.

Home-made Christmas cones hang from the chandelier, along with felt elves.  When the girls were young the cones held treats for New Year's Day.  You can glimpse the Christmas Village on the buffet.

Why are there no pictures of the dining room table?  Because it's covered house refinance papers, boxes for lights, miscellaneous garland, some mail, a hat and scarf, and other things that desperately need to be put away or otherwise dealt with.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Kitchen

We have a ridiculous accumulation of Christmas stuff -- boxes and boxes -- one whole box for the kitchen alone.

Snowglobes accumulated over the years and displayed on our big kitchen window.

Even cheapo-plastic-y kind -- they're really the best kind, received by the girls from friends and old scout troops and various Christmas events.  The one on the right is the kind where you can insert a photo, but my now 18 yr old had a real thing for Rudolph when she was young and drew a Rudolph for it when she was 5 or 6.  She was such a tender heart for Rudolph, sobbing at the cartoon "Why are they all so mean to him?  I'll be your friend, Rudolph!".

We have 3 big picture size windows in the kitchen, and we tape all the construction paper stockings and trees and what-not that the girls made over the years to them.  You can see another Rudolph drawing by Hannah, and some construction paper stockings by Loren (now 24), mostly from her girl scout Daisy and Brownie days.  She went through scouts all the way through Cadets, but dropped when the meetings and activities began to conflict with her increasing soccer activities.

 I've got 4 of these vintage winking Santa mugs -- they belonged to my husband's family and now sit on a shelf by the window at Christmas.

I have this candy garland strung around the kitchen peninsula, with some candy ornaments.

An overview looking over the peninsula towards the table.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Even the Sweepings are Magical

If I was a better photographer, and perhaps had a better camera, or knew how to enhance a picture with the  IPhoto tools, then you could see what I see:  even the sweepings are more magical in December.  Amongst the dog and cat hair, the dust and detritus of daily living, there are sparkles and glistenings -- bits of tinsel and glitter and leaves shed from the Christmas Tree (artificial though it is, it still sheds, and all decorated with 36 years of accumulated ornaments, glows with as much spirit as any tree from a tree lot would, imo).

We woke up yesterday to some unexpected snow accumulation.  Snow (which we define as "not rain" falling from the sky) is pretty rare here in December.  Most of our snow, which means usually one or two snowfalls, often with little or no accumulation, happens in January and February.  Every few years we might get a snow that leaves inches on the ground.  December is most often in the 50's and 60's, with lows in the 40's or maybe 30's, and pretty rainy.  Prior to this snow on Wednesday it had been raining since Saturday night.  Today it's finally clear and sunny (but cold!).

The snow is all gone now.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Homeschool Shakespeare

Our homeschool group just finished up a series of "playshops" that I was able to organize with The Tennessee Shakespeare Company here in town.  Over the course of the 5 sessions we had 27 homeschoolers ages 12-18 participate.  I managed to take a few pictures through the door at the last session -- no easy task, as this session focused on Elizabethan Dance, and the participants were VERY active!
Other sessions focused on Shakespeare's text, how to feed and be fed lines so that the speech lives in you and you don't have to memorize, Elizabethan clowns and the role of the clown in Shakespeare, and Stage Combat.

Every session was highly interactive and experiential.  About half the group also met about 4 times to read through Macbeth round robin style, and attended the Tennessee Shakespeare Company's production of Macbeth, which was performed in an outdoor amphitheater at a wooded park in October.

The "Playshops" were such a hit that we are planning for 10 additional sessions for January-March.

They have fit in well with how our family approaches Shakespeare -- first, as great stories and plays that are spoken and performed, and only later as literature, with analysis of character and theme.  My girls started with watching the Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson video of Much Ado About Nothing when they were quite young -- around 9 or so.  They would watch in increments, and often watch favorite scenes over and over and over.  Then we would read a summary in story form, such as from "Shakespeare Stories" by Leon Garfield, or the "comic book" style books of Marcia Williams.  When they were somewhat familiar with the story, we would meet with other families take turns reading from the play.  In the meantime we would read historical novels that focused on Shakespeare or Elizabethan culture, like "The Shakespeare Stealer" trilogy of books.  By the time my girls have become high school age, they are familiar with many of the plays, the language, and the customs of the era and have no fear of Shakespeare and are not intimidated at all.

Now that the Tennessee Shakespeare Company has established itself in our city, we make a point to find out what plays they will be performing  for their fall and spring shows and focus on those plays.  The kids  have grown up with Shakespeare being accessible and not at all scary or "highbrow".  And, honestly -- the language when spoken aloud is very similar to "country" and Appalachian speech patterns, not so very unfamiliar here in the south.  TSC will be performing "The Tempest" in April, so in addition to the workshops, we will probably get a group up to do a read through of the play at some point.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Altered Book Art

The theme of the round robin book I had in November for the Altered Book Club was "Women and Friendship".  After getting that board book that I spoke of in my last post out of the way, and with only a couple of days left before the meeting, I was at a loss as to what to do.  I was the next to the last person to have this book, so it seemed like everything that could be said already was said.  I looked through some old cards I have and found the Hawaiian dancers on the right.  They made me think of when a group of us friends decided we would do Tribal Belly Dance back about 15 or 16 years ago.  We decided we would teach ourselves -- with videos from Fat Chance -- and then found a dance instructor who was more into folkloric middle eastern dance (rather than "cabaret") to work with us.  It was mostly about having fun, dressing up in "gypsy" eclectic style clothes, wearing turbans and crazy jewelry, henna and fake tribal tattoos.
The spread came together when I found this image on the Graphic Fairy website, of this group of women friends splashing and dancing.
Some of our dance forms looked a lot like these Hawaiian dancers -- or like dancers from Minoan culture -- we did a lot of lines and circles and a multi-armed Shiva kind of form, dreaming ourselves into a mythic matri-centric culture of women birthing, nourishing the village, dancing around the village well beneath the moon, dancing for ourselves alone and for each other.  We played and played, and when it was play it was fun.

I found some phrases from some magazines, "Between Friends" and "life happens", and tied the pages together with some butterflies cut from a napkin, and wrote "Between friends life happens when you dance together".

linking to The Graphics Fairy Brag Monday

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Bit of Christmas Art

Miz Helen (you do know that here in the south, the honorific "Ms" has been in use for generations before it came into vogue in the 70's, right?  We always knew from the get go that it was pronounced "Miz"), well, back in October Miz Helen, the intrepid leader of the Altered Book Club, made us all take a board book home, with the challenge to "do something" with it -- whatever we wanted -- and bring it back to the November meeting.  This was a little daunting, because we still had to do our regular round robin book spread and I generally an only good for one decent idea a month.  And then, there's that thing called "life" that has to be dealt with also, which just doesn't leave a lot of time for extras.  Especially in November and December with the holidays!  I tried to bow out of the group earlier in the year, pleading lack of time -- but they wouldn't let me.  They said it wasn't allowed.  Kind of like the Hotel California -- you can check in, but you can never leave.

As you can see, I chose to make a Christmas "altar" kind of thing.  The first thing I did was eliminate having to deal with doing a whole bunch of pages by gluing the pages all together.  Actually, I cut off about 2/3 of some of the middle pages to make a kind of stage, so the spread would be dimensional.  On the left side I taped on part of a small box so it could hold some Christmas cards, or in this case a copy of a vintage edition of "The Night Before Christmas" that a local attorney sends to every member of the bar every year -- so I have a zillion of them.

 I covered the surfaces of the book with some papers and images from recycled Christmas cards, some ribbon and embellishment.  It can neither close nor open all the way, so it just sits there, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

Linking to Masterpiece Monday at Boogieboard Cottage