Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Even More Decorations

While it would take more than a month to show you all of our decorations, this will be the concluding post. We decorate just about every inch of our house and truly enjoy all the decorations.

This is another favorite Santa. He has several lovely dolls in his arms, each quite detailed.

This Santa is flying through the sky with a little friend hanging on.

This Santa reminds me of Moses. He is standing next to a lovely little tree that lights up and plays music as well. Why do all of them play "We wish you a Merry Christmas," one of my least favorites?

Several Santas decorate the top of the large display cabinet in the great room.

I must admit...I am not fond of nutcrackers. I've always thought they were a little creepy looking. But then, I'm not fond of clowns either. These are Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge.

I actually do like this one. It is Tchaikovsky, holding some figures from the Nutcracker Suite.

It's New Year's Eve. I'm glad we are back in Eastern Time where New Year's comes at midnight. In the Midwest, the Big Apple ball drops at 11:00! We won't do much celebrating. But we will definitely raise a glass to toast our friends and neighbors, including those blogger friends we have come to love.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Carolers

We have carolers all over the place at Christmas. Starting with a gift from my son several years ago, we have added them until we probably have enough. I am amazed at how many of them there are.

These represent the street vendors of old England. The fishmonger is my favorite. She stands behind her cart and I can almost hear her yell, "Cockles and mussels, alive alive oh." The kitten beside her has a fish in his mouth. My husband's favorite is the organ grinder with his little monkey and tin cup. Once he was mistakenly referred to as the "monkey grinder," at term which brings us a laugh every year when we put these carolers out.

These carolers are true carolers, in that they are singing carols in the street. The clock above them is my favorite of all the many clocks we own. It is a rosewood schoolhouse clock. I love to imagine the children in the one-room school anxiously watching this clock each afternoon.

A closer look at the singers, shows the nurse on the left with her white uniform and navy blue cape. This was the gift from my son that started our collection.

So thank you, son, for this great Christmas tradition. It has added a lot to our Christmases over the years.
Hope all of you are still enjoying the season as much as we are. Tomorrow will be New Year's Eve! will soon be 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008


As I mentioned in a previous post, "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens is a favorite Christmas tradition at our house. Before the days of VCRs and DVDs, it was a read-aloud story. Now it has become a movie-watching event. As collectors of Beyer's Carolers, we were delighted when they released carolers based on our favorite Christmas story.

Jacob Marley appears to Scrooge on Christmas Eve:

The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge happier Christmases when his employer Fezziwig gave parties for the employees. Here Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig dance a jig:

The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to the Cratchit home to see the Cratchits and Tiny Tim:

The most-feared Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come silently guides Scrooge to glimpse into the future.

If you still have guests, I hope you are enjoying them as much as we are. Today the sun is shining brightly for the first time in a couple of weeks. We are still in a severe drought category and are entering our third consecutive year of drought. We are hoping the winter rains will replenish our piece of earth. I hope you are safe and happy whatever the weather.
In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us. Everyone."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Children's Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations are far too often beautiful and enticing "don't you dare touch" items for the children. When we began our family, we started some children's traditions. Items that belonged to the children, items they could move and change.

I made this Advent wall hanging the year our daughter was born. She was born in November, so it was a few years before she could appreciate it. Inside each pocket is a Christmas ornament to be placed on the tree. The first ornament is always a star for the top of the tree and the last ornament is always Santa, put on the tree on Christmas Eve.

After our son was born, there was always a little argument over who could put the first ornament on the tree. Very quickly, our son realized that the first person to choose never got to put the Santa on the tree. So he would cleverly pretend that he wanted to go first, then suddenly become gracious and let his older sister put on the star. Sister picked up quickly on this and once again there was a little argument every year.

The Advent calendar has weathered thirty-five years of use, and still looks pretty good, considering the fact that the ornaments were moved on a regular basis.

We purchased a small nativity with clay figurines even before we had children. Always called the "children's nativity," this set has been re-arranged countless times every Christmas. I've always kept the figures wrapped in tissue paper, inside a box with sections in it. The children took turns selecting a slot which contained a figure. When they were small, the biggest decorating excitement came from being the lucky person who picked the Baby Jesus. Throughout the holiday season, the children would move the figures all over the place. You may note that the angel has lost some paint on her wings. She did a lot of flying around, assisted by the children.

Another "kid friendly" nativity is this one.
Our son and daughter tell me they appreciate that we had some decorations specifically for their use. While they knew not to touch some of the items, they also knew that some were for them alone and they could move them as much as they wanted.
Hope you are enjoying the holidays as much as I am. We have had endless days of fog and mist, along with some rain. I can't recall this many consecutive days without sunshine since we moved here. But with family together, the days are bright. Who cares if it comes from outside or within?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fridays are Golden

We rarely buy toys for Ellie and Lucy anymore. They destroy most of them and seem disinterested in the others. They tend to prefer tennis balls to the most elaborate, expensive dog toys. They do play with a few of their old toys now and then.

Our son and daughter-in-law brought some Christmas gifts for the dogs. We gave the wrapped gifts to the girls who immediately knew the gifts were for them.

They switched from one to the other, since there were no tags on the packages. Lucy wasn't sure exactly what she should be doing, so she watched Ellie open the gifts.

Oh! Look, Lucy! I think it's a Ms. Santa rubber chicken. Whoopee.

Looks like the other one is a fabric Christmas tree. Double that whoopee.

Ellie immediately took the Christmas tree searching for a weak spot in the seam.

Lucy decided to take it and work for a while herself. Truth be told, neither dog was terribly interested in the presents.

They have a little conference. "Well, seems we lucked out this year." "Yep, I don't know what that jolly old fat man was thinking."

No doubt all of us receive a Christmas gift now and then that we don't really care for. But we accept them in the spirit of Christmas. Dogs are a bit more forthcoming about their likes and dislikes.
But they do join me in hoping you had a wonderful Christmas and that every gift was wonderful, even if it was for its humor value.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

It's almost here! And how quickly it came this year. The traditional Christmas Eve in our family hasn't changed in years. We snack all day long and have a Christmas Eve buffet in the evening. We always have ham, shrimp, beef sticks and assorted cheeses, veggies, and spreads. Everyone fills his or her plate and we sit watching two movies. One is "A Christmas Carol" with George C. Scott as Scrooge. This movie has the best Tiny Tim of any of the versions of this story. After that, we watch the Allistair Sims old version of the same movie.

When the movies are over, we sit around drinking wine (or whatever), listen to Christmas carols and look at the tree and the fire, usually remembering Christmases past. Then we head off to bed and wait for Santa.

We have a lot of Santas decorating our house at Christmas. This one is by far my favorite. This carved wooden Santa stands about four feet tall. The detail is wonderful with his lovely robe and his hands full of toys.

Note the wonderful detail of his facial features:
As with every decoration we have, this one also has a background story. My husband purchased him in Sarasota, Florida when he was attending a meeting there. He had him shipped to his office so that I would be surprised. Santa arrived in a package made from taping two boxes together. My husband removed the tape and pulled off the top box. To his surprise, hundreds of styrofoam peanuts came pouring out. He was wearing a wool suit and the peanuts clung to his body and fell all over the carpet. He called his administrative assistant for help and when she quit laughing, she helped him gather all the peanuts. It must have been quite a sight, and his assistant laughed about it for years to come.
I hope that you enjoy your own Christmas Eve traditions tonight. And I hope all is calm and bright at your house. Oh, and I hope Santa loosely defines naughty.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Around the House

Things are going to be pretty busy around here for the next couple of weeks. The wonderful kind of busy with my son and his wife and my daughter visiting for the holidays.

Rather than take a complete blogging break, I've decided to show you some of our favorite decorations. The first is our Hummel nativity. We were married in November, and for our first Christmas we bought the figurines of the Holy Family. It was a fairly large purchase for us at the time. Back in those days nurses were not well paid, and interns got a token stipend. Each year we added at least one more figurine. And each year we treasured our growing nativity. After several years, we were able to purchase the remaining figures needed to complete the set.

It always has a place of prominence in our home and has survived two children and several dogs. The light in the stable shines down on the Baby Jesus and we too are filled with the light when we look on it.

You will note that I have turned on comment moderation, thanks to a spammer who decided to hit upon me. I hope you will continue to comment. I'll turn it off soon.

I do hope all of you are enjoying this wonderful season of the year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sharing the Suet

Every now and then, we will see a small bird on one side of the suet feeder remain there when another bird flies to the other side. They often cannot see one another because of the suet cakes. On this particular morning I caught a Downy and a Chickadee sharing the suet. Both sat there eating away. Guess Christmas is indeed a season of sharing.

Although most other birds clear out when this lovely lady appears, I have no doubt she would be happy to share as well. Of course, there's not much room for anyone else.

Note the condition of our suet feeder. No one has ever seen squirrels do such damage to this brand of feeder. It has a lifetime guarantee, so if it gets chewed to the point that it will no longer hold suet, Wild Birds Unlimited will give us a new one.
By the way, the squirrels still have not figured out how to beat the baffle my husband made. But that doesn't stop them from trying.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Addendum to Hooker Falls Post

Some commentors on the Hooker Falls post mentioned that they enjoyed the hike from Hooker Falls to Triple Falls. Well, the further the hike that day, the foggier it became. Here is a terrible shot of Triple Falls, taken the same day as the photographs of Hooker Falls. The fog was so dense that one can barely see the middle part of Triple Falls and cannot see the top falls at all.

I promise some better photographs of Triple Falls when the weather clears. Hopefully while the water flow is still normal.

Hooker Falls after the Rain

We have had more than seven blessed inches of rain in the last 10 days. The rain fell gently and soaked into the ground, giving the trees a much-needed drink before winter. There was no flash flooding at all, but the rivers and streams filled to their normal levels.

Little River, the main stream through DuPont State Forest in our county has been very low all summer and fall. And the water flowing over Hooker Falls has been much reduced. With the recent rain, the river level is back to normal and all the waterfalls along Little River are beautiful.

Hooker Falls is one of the most accessible waterfall in the area, only a short walk (not even a hike) from the parking lot. It is not tall, cascading a mere eleven feet, but it is wide and beautiful nonetheless. Fans of the recent version of "Last of the Mohicans" recall Hooker Falls as the waterfall the canoes went over.

Here is Hooker Falls, taken in the mist last week:

Little River is full and flowing recklessly over the rocks.

Compare the flow with this picture taken last June. Notice all the visible rocks, now hidden with normal flow.

A fisherman takes advantage of the swirling water, wading into the middle of the stream.

The normal flow of water near the horse ford along the trail to Hooker Falls:

How wonderful the rain has been. Transylvania County has been in a drought for two consecutive years. Despite the recent rains, we are still categorized as D3 - Extreme Drought Conditions. All of us are hoping for a wet winter and spring to replenish the water sheds.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fridays are Golden

Ever been to a family reunion? I'll bet there was at least one obnoxious person with a camera clicking away at everyone, managing to capture everyone unaware in a less than flattering pose. At least we didn't have to see any of these photographs immediately. And the cost of film kept the numbers reduced at bit. More importantly, we didn't have to see them until the next family gathering and the viewing of the pictures kept the camera quiet for a while. Affordable digital photography has brought more of these voyeurs to light. They run around the room having everyone look at the LCD and laugh, always pointing at you!

There are times in which I think our dogs view me as the obnoxious "photographer" bent on messing up their lives. It's been so foggy and damp this week, the girls have been slugs and slept much of the day. You've already seen a lot of sleeping poses. So I took them outside to take a few shots. They clearly were not happy to be there.

As they came out the door, I was standing at the bottom of the steps. Lucy looked up as if to say, "Watch it, Ellie. There stands Mom with her camera!"

Girls, could you sit for a picture? It will only take a moment.

All right. We'll sit, but we won't like it. No way are we going to smile for you. Just go ahead and take the picture.

So I took the pictures of the solemn girls. They clearly did not want to be there and they didn't want me to be there, either. To their credit, it was nearing their dinner time. Their afternoon meal is at 4:30 and beginning around 4:00 they follow my husband around puppy dogs.

So I let them inside. They breathed audible sighs of relief.
----------Friday again. Exactly one week until Christmas Day. Only two days until the beginning of Hanukkah. This weekend will bring the longest days of darkness to our part of the world and we can anticipate the lengthening of daylight from now until June. Granted, it will be measured in milliseconds for a while, but it's the thought that matters.
Have a wonderful weekend, filled with holiday fun and laughter. Give thoughts to our neighbors to the north and midwest who are still having some wretched weather. And stay safe and happy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Man on a Mission

I've always said that if you give a man on a mission some duct tape and PVC pipe, he can do almost anything.
----------There has been a fierce battle at our house for quite a while. It's between my husband and the squirrels. For more than a year, the suet feeder hung without disturbance. We watched the squirrels try to climb the pole to no avail. Then one day, one squirrel learned how to get to the suet. Within a week, it had spread the word to all the squirrels in the area. Not only did the squirrels eat the suet, they chewed on the feeder as well.
----------My husband's mission began with a jug of water. Whenever he saw a squirrel on the feeder he would run out and douse the squirrel with water as it ran down the deck post. The squirrels quickly learned that if they ran down to the lower porch, they were safe from the water.
----------Next came the super-squirter water gun. It didn't seem to faze the squirrels at all. I think they appreciated the bath.
----------His next attempt was with a little pistol that shot plastic BBs. The pistol had a range of about three feet, and the little plastic BBs came out with very little force. It clearly wasn't going to work.
----------Bring on the BB pistol with a CO2 cartridge. You know, a BB "Uzi" that shoots 15 shots in a row. I will tell you that my husband is not a hunter so it's not surprising that this pistol didn't work either. Although we do have some BBs imbedded in a few of the trees.
----------We looked everywhere for some kind of baffle that would deter the squirrels. We didn't find one, although the folks at Wild Birds Unlimited said they would replace the suet feeder if the squirrels destroyed it to the point that it wouldn't hold suet.
----------Last week, my husband made his own baffle with PVC pipe and duct tape. The pipe covers the straight section of the pole and swivels when a squirrel attempts to climb up. For the moment, IT WORKS! I say "for the moment" because I know that one squirrel will figure it out and tell all the others.
----------Here are some shots of a squirrel determined to get to the suet. It's quite foggy here, with intermittent rain and warmer than normal temperatures. So the pictures aren't great, but they entertained me. This particular squirrel is a bit cautious. In previous attempts it has fallen all the way down to the ground. And this is a second-story deck.

The instant the squirrel's paw touched the baffle it began to swivel. The squirrel, possibly remembering previous experiences, immediately turned and headed back down the pole.

I have been quite entertained on these foggy days, watching the squirrel attempt (and fail) to get to the suet. Truth be told, however, my husband's antics in trying to get rid of them were actually more entertaining.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tufted Titmouse

We are still having much-needed rain on and off. The days are unseasonably warm, so we have very dense fog most of the day. Every now and then the sun peeps out and we enjoy a little bit of sunshine. I was sitting on the deck enjoying the sun when this little titmouse flew into a nearby tree. He looked straight at me as I raised the camera. One click, however, and he took off.

The Tufted Titmouse is one of our most common birds, but they never cease to give me pleasure. Unlike the Chickadee who will sit at the feeder for a long while, the titmouse will almost always grab a seed and fly away with it. They are such fun little birds.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dove Season

North Carolina is one of the thirty-eight states in which is legal to hunt Mourning Doves. In fact, here in NC we have three separate dove seasons every year. We even maintain land to attract doves for hunters, calling them "Gameland Dove Fields." These fields are seeded with some or all of the following: millet, milo, sunflowers, sorghum, or corn. The fields are mowed just before the start of the hunting season.

The final dove season of the year opened on Friday and we began to see more and more doves coming to our feeders. Wonder how they know that our community does not allow any hunting? The season will continue through January 10. The daily limit for each hunter is fifteen doves per day.

I will tell you that I have eaten my share of doves throughout my lifetime. My father was a hunter and he didn't hunt anything we didn't plan to eat. And I can assure you that doves are extremely tasty, marinated in an Italian dressing and cooked on the outdoor grill. Doesn't taste like chicken, either. It's WAY better than chicken. Today, I'm not at all certain that I could eat a dove.

Here are a couple of shots of a dove who, along with his mate, are hanging around our house:

Hey, Lady. You're not going to shoot me, are you?
I am a bird lover, but I have no problem with dove hunting. We have an extremely healthy Mourning Dove population here and across the United States. Unlike a lot of trophy hunters, dove hunters almost always eat what they shoot.
----------I must admit, I did have a little concern about this statement from the Website of Cabela's, the well-known outfitter:
Dove hunting is also popular with kids and women because they can shoot often, meet lots of other hunters and learn about safe firearm handling practices. Dove hunting is an interactive situation, and a dove field with many birds flying overhead will provide lots of stimulus for any age hunter. I frequently see fathers with young kids around dove fields. Small kids who are too young to shoot like to fetch doves and participate in the hunt when permitted.
----------I didn't like the insinuation that women somehow would be bored if not for shooting often and meeting other hunters. And somehow, the vision of little kids running around the fields like little retrievers just doesn't suit me at all.
----------I have mixed feelings about most things in life and my feelings about hunting in general and dove hunting in particular are also mixed. I have no problem at all with hunters who actually consume the animals or birds they legally hunt. I am opposed to hunting just for the sake of hunting.
While I never try to attract Mourning Doves to the feeders, I feel obliged to help them out a bit during hunting season. After that,'re on your own again.