Friday, December 23, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Here we are.  It's almost Christmas at our house.  The past two Christmases have been a bit muted to say the least.  But all is well this year and we are so looking forward to the big day.  We always do a lot of decorating which, by the way, is ever so much easier when you are retired and don't have to do it all in one weekend.  One of my favorite decorations is a lovely Santa, complete with toys for good little girls and boys.

There is an interesting little story about this Santa.  My husband bought it in Sarasota, FL where he was attending a conference.  He asked the store owner to ship it to his office since it was a surprise for me.  A few weeks later, a very large box arrived at his office.  The package was actually two boxes taped together.  When my husband pulled off the top box he was totally surprised to see that the bottom box was not as tall as the Santa.  When he pulled it off foam peanuts flew all over his office and especially all over his wool suit.  He called his adminstrative assistant to help and after she stopped laughing, they managed to gather up all the peanuts.  The assistant loved to tell everyone this story about her boss.

I just love him.

 He has such a kind face.

Lucy is reminding me that Fridays are supposed to be all about her.  Well, and a little bit about Ellie.

Her Royal Highness!

 When you are the Princess you can rest your head anywhere you wish.

 This is Lucy's version of silent night.

I am having my children here for the holidays.  So I will not be posting until after 2012.  So whatever you are celebrating, or even if you are not celebrating anything except the coming of another year I hope you and your family and loved ones have a wonderful week.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gratuitous Cards and Gifts

I can understand when circumstances preclude sending Christmas cards.  We sent none in 2009.  And I suppose it would be fine to send ecards if a person is otherwise not able to mail cards.  But this year I have received several ecards from people I know to be perfectly able to sign and address cards.  They always get caught by my spam blocker and I simply hit "silently discard."  Am I being unreasonable?  Perhaps so.  Except in rare circumstances I believe people should decide whether or not to send cards.  And if they decide to send cards they should send real cards.

I feel much the same way about gratuitous gifts.  Everyone has acquaintances with whom you have exchanged gifts.  There comes a time when the relationship has changed, either by moving away or moving on.  When that happens and the gifts are more of a burden, then it's time to stop the exchange.  One of our relatives sent us Hickory Farms packages for several years.  What's the problem with that?  We lived in Wisconsin at the time, home of some of the best and freshest cheese around.

The best Christmas gifts are those that clearly indicate that the person knows you and has selected a gift that is right for you.  So it is with one of my best friends.  When she last visited us, she thoroughly enjoyed watching my husband suddenly rise from his seat and fly out the door to attack a squirrel with his super-duper water gun.  Yes, my husband hates those beady-eyed little monsters as much as I do.

When her Christmas package arrived yesterday, she had included a perfect gift for my husband.


Although my friend indicated that my husband need not wear it, he will.  In fact, he will wear it to Wild Birds Unlimited to pick up another "squirrel proof" bird feeder.  It gets pretty chilly running out on the deck in the midst of winter.  And of course he cannot take time to close the door or the squirrel will be gone.

When will we learn to stop exchanging gifts when it becomes a chore rather than a pleasure?  I can assure you with confidence that my friend had almost as much fun sending this gift as my husband did in receiving it.  And that is how it should be.

[Totally unrelated note:  If you are a fan of NPRs "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," or a fan of Neil Gaiman you need to turn to BBC America Friday night at 8:00 pm (EST).  The show will be televised with Neil Gaiman as the special guest.]

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Collection Part Three

I may have mentioned that we have a lot of the Byers Carolers.  Fortunately we have them spread over the house so they are not overwhelming.

These are the street vendors, including Molly Malone and her kitty.  I think my favorite is the organ grinder with his little monkey holding a cup.  My dear husband made a slip of the tongue one year and called him the "monkey grinder."  In our family we remember things like that for a long time.  Perhaps it is because he seldom makes such a misstatement so we have to rely on the few he does.  Not a Christmas goes by without mention of the monkey grinder, usually more than once.

These are the villagers, including the lamplighter.  The nurse figure was the first Caroler that we had, a gift from our son.

 Once again I am posting a photograph that someone sent me and I cannot credit.  But I think it does emphasize that Christmas is a time of peace,  misinterpreted as piece.

Well dear readers, I wore my lucky Packer shirt.  My son and his wife ate tacos at halftime for the fourteenth week in a row.  But somebody dropped the ball and the Green Bay Packers lost their first game yesterday.  Actually, more than one person dropped the ball.  Unfortunately they were playing on the field and couldn't hold on to Aaron Rodgers passes that hit them in the numbers.  So, Suz, you can relax.  The shirt is in the dirty clothes.  I'm hoping that washing it will restore the good luck for the next game.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fridays are Golden

Friday is here again.  You hardly need a countdown, but in fifteen days we say goodbye to 2011.

Our Golden Girls hardly notice the time flying by.  Life for them is so simple; eat, play, sleep.  Because they run a lot, they also sleep a lot.  And no matter where Ellie chooses to sleep, sooner or later Lucy will plop down and use Ellie for a pillow.

When it is gloomy outside;

 Or in the bright sunshine,

 Lucy finds creative ways to be more comfortable.

The following photograph has nothing to do with dogs.  I cannot credit the photographer because it has become one of those viral pictures and someone sent it to me.  She captioned it, "Something you didn't really want to see."  I looked at the photograph and felt entirely different about it.  My caption would be more like:


The ladies are dancing the ballet "Swan Lake."  It brings to mind an anonymous quote:
Never be afraid to try something new.  Remember, the ark was built by amateurs; professionals built the Titanic.

I will leave you this frantic Friday with a poem that I memorized as a young child.  I can't remember a time when I didn't love poetry.  Our third grade class learned this one.  I was so proud of myself when the teacher asked me to recite it alone.  Then she turned to the class and said, "See how Carolyn did it?  You don't pause at the end of each line.  You pause at the end of each sentence."  I was so thrilled and I guess I still am because it has been many decades since third grade.  And I am sitting here smiling to myself.

  The poet is John Greenleaf Whittier.

Somehow, not only for Christmas
But all the long year through,
The joy that you give to others
Is the joy that comes back to you.

And the more you spend in blessing
The poor and lonely and sad,
The more of your heart's possessing
Returns to you glad.

I hope joy comes back to you and your hearts are filled with gladness.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Collections Part Two

Many years ago our son gave us one of the Byers' Carolers.  She was a nurse like me.  The following year he gave us a doctor like my husband.  We like them so much that we started buying others ourselves and before long we had quite a collection.

We were delighted when Byers offered the Christmas Carol collection.  We love the story and watch the DVD every Christmas Eve.  We have several DVDs of the story, but our favorite is one that was originally a made-for-television movie.  George C. Scott plays the role of Scrooge, and the film has the best Tiny Tim ever.  He is so frail, so angelic.  (The link is here)

The ghost of Jacob Marley visits Scrooge and foretells the three spirits.

 The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to his past.  They watch Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig dancing.

The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to the home of Bob Cratchett.

 The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come silently shows Scrooge his own death and burial.

We haven't bought any of the Carolers for several years.  We have them displayed in three areas of the house.  Maybe we should look for more.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Collections

Neither of us were born rich.  There was no "grandaddy's trust fund" to inherit.  We each brought to our marriage a car payment, outstanding student loans, and a strong work ethic.  Throughout our married life, we never bought anything if we couldn't pay for it.  The only loans we had were for cars and houses.

Both of us are fond of Hummel figurines and we knew we wanted to own a Hummel Nativity.  Our first Christmas together, we bought the Holy Family because three pieces were all we could afford.  Each subsequent Christmas we bought one figurine until the time came when we could afford to complete the set.  We found a stable at an estate sale and purchased the palm trees from another collectable set.  We have been lucky in that we managed to raise two children and four dogs and still have the intact set with no broken figures.

Our Hummel Nativity Collection

We bought a small and inexpensive hand-pinched clay Nativity for our future children even before we had any children.  Over the years this set delighted our growing children.  The excitement began each year as we brought out the box containing the figures.  Our son and daughter alternated choosing one figure at a time.  The biggest triumph was selecting the Christ Child.  All during the Advent season, the children would rearrange the figures.  The only rule about arranging the figures was that all of them had to remain on the table.  So at a given time, one might find Baby Jesus anywhere.

This is the most common arrangement.

My husband bought this inexpensive Nativity in a fair trade shop.  All items in the shop were handmade by women in South America who otherwise would not have meaningful work.  I just love these fat little figures.

 The Holy Family, an Angel, and some Lambs

We have other Nativity sets but we rarely display them.  Perhaps the smallest one is also the oldest.  It is one I purchased for my parents when I was ten.  For years it was called "Carolyn's Little Manger Scene," by my Southern Baptist family.  No photograph of it, since it's packed away.

I love bringing out Christmas decorations that we have used for years.  Not the least of which are ornaments made by our children when they were small.  Each one is treasured and my now grownup children still move them around on the Christmas Tree, making certain each ornament has a conspicuous spot on the tree.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fridays are Golden

How can it be Friday again so soon?  The waning days of 2011 are just flying by.  Our weather has been bipolar this week.  Heavy rains, followed by a cold front.  Fortunately the predicted snow did not appear and by week's end the sun burst out to brighten our lives (and show every little particle of dust and dander).

We often take the Golden Girls to places where they can run free.  Sometimes we go to large cemeteries or our less popular community trails but most often we go to one of the four lakes within the community.  The girls love racing up and down the steps leading to the various docks along the lake.  And it is great exercise for them.

They always run in tandem starting up the stairs.

Still together as they race to the top.

 You already know that they often lie in the same bed.  Surprisingly enough, they also lie together on the hard floor.  It is rare to find one dog without the other.

The holiday season is in full swing.  Everyone is anxious and busy.  Like children, we get so caught up in the mad rush that we never slow down.  And because we have been so rushed and anxious, many of us suffer a post-holiday letdown.  Stop.  Take a deep breath.  (just don't forget to exhale)  Repeat often and remind yourself that this is a season of peace, not panic.

Seneca the Younger said it well:
Expecting is the greatest impediment to living.  In anticipation of tomorrow it loses today.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

We Just Bought Some Stock

We bought a new stock this week.  It will never go up in value.  It cannot be sold but can purchased as a gift for someone else.  It does not pay dividends.  Once you own the stock it can be transferred only within your family.  It has not been available for the past fourteen years and will no longer be available after February 29, 2012.

So what does this stock do for us?  Well, all modesty aside, we are now part owners of the Green Bay Packers.  This team, in relatively small Green Bay, Wisconsin (population 105,000) is the only publicly owned team in the National Football League.  We fell in love with the Packers when we moved to Wisconsin many years ago.  A good friend with season tickets provided the opportunity to attend games at Lambeau every year.  We loved seeing the outstanding quarterback Brett Favre before he threw his adolescent temper tantrums, retiring and un-retiring and took his football and moved on to play for two other teams.

Since Brett moved on, we have seen that a quarterback can be immensely talented, have a deep love for the game, be as enthusiastic as a teenager, and still be a grownup.  Aaron Rodgers is unbelievably talented and after leading the team to win the Super Bowl last year, he has led them to an unbeaten season this year.  (I was actually sort of wishing Eli Manning might have beaten him.  I'd hate for their first loss to be during the playoffs!)  Watching this team is so much fun.  You will see Rodgers chatting with the opposing team.  The players seem to be having fun as well.

The fans certainly enjoy the team, especially when they do the "Lambeau Leap" after a touchdown.  Lambeau Field is outdoors and when there is snow during the season, local people vie for the opportunity to work with shovels clearing the stadium.  Every summer the fans line up several persons deep at the fences surrounding the training field to watch the players in training camp.  Little kids stand at the gate with their bicycles.  Many of the linemen will take a kid's bike and ride it to the fieldhouse.  What a wonderful sight...a three-hundred-pound player on a kid's bike.  The excited kid runs alongside.  More often than not the Packer riding the bike stops to autograph it for the kid before going into the locker room.  And pose for a photograph if Dad or Mom brought the camera.

(Both photographs from the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel)

Aaron Rodgers and his winning smile.

 My two favorite players, Rodgers on the right and Donald Driver on the left.

So what will we get from our new stock?  Although we are not likely to do so, we can attend the annual meetings that precede the training camp.  We have voting rights.  So why would we bother to purchase stock that will never appreciate in value and that we cannot trade or sell?  Because the stock sale is to raise money for renovations at Lambeau Field.  And, as I mentioned before, because technically speaking, the stock makes us  team owners.

Next Packer game, I can more honestly say they are MY Packers.  I will be glad when the season is over and I can wash my Packer shirt.  (I don't dare wash it for fear it will jinx the team.)  Of course I wear it only on game day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Local Culture Cannot Trump the Constitution

Here in the "Bible Belt" many schools do not follow the letter of the law.  Over the holidays there are frequently religious Christmas themes in the work children do.  Recently in a nearby county, the public elementary school participated in "Operation Christmas Child."  This project is run by Samaritan's Purse, led by Franklin Graham (son of famous evangelist Billy Graham).  Is that a problem?  Probably not.  The problem you see, was that each first and second grade child in this public school was given a little fill-in-the-blank questionaire to include in the box of little gifts.  The questions in this project included the following:

I love Jesus because_____________________________________________

An employee of the school sent an email to a friend.  The friend forwarded the email to everyone in his contact list.  Can you see where this is going?  Yes, the recipients and bloggers lit up the Internet with discussions about First Admendment rights.  Of course the word eventually got to the members of the school board and the principal sent out an automated voice message to all parents.  He indicated that the project was undertaken to give the students an opportunity to experience the joy of giving.  He said that he did not receive a single complaint about the Jesus question from any parent.  He did, however apologize and said the school will look more closely at documents to make certain they do not include any religious matter.

We had some First Ammendment problems here in Transylvania County two or three years ago.  It seems the school board and the County Commisioners both included an opening prayer in their meetings.  A concerned parent went to the school and county leaders stating that invoking the name of Jesus Christ to look upon the public meeting was not only offensive to non-Christians; it was also against the law.  The man was "blown off" by both boards so he called the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  An ACLU attorney called the boards and explained that the practice of Christian prayer could not be part of a public meeting and indicated that the ACLU was prepared to bring legal action if necessary.  So the boards reluctantly agreed to eliminate the prayers as part of the meetings.  The Chairman of the school board made a statement to the press.  She said that the prayers were not limited to one religion but that all religions were represented, including Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians.  [Does that send a message to all us Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Agnostics, etc.?]  One of the other members said something to the effect that if the ACLU was not going to permit the liberty of bringing Jesus Christ to the meetings then it did not support Americans or their liberties.

BTW:  Generally speaking, the reason many folks in western NC do not always recognize Catholics among the Christians is their mistaken belief that we "worship Mary."  My daughter was the only Catholic in her first grade class.  Upon learning that we were Catholic, her teacher asked me if it was all right for her to join the other children in praying just before going to lunch.  I told her that was fine with us and then bit my tongue to prevent me from adding, "But it's not all right with the Supreme Court."  Until we moved to Wisconsin, my children participated in Christmas programs at public school, including Christmas carols and the Nativity.  In Wisconsin, the program was "Winter Sing" and did not include any religious songs.

For the record, we do celebrate Advent and the religious meaning of Christmas.  We do have several Nativity sets around our house.  But our secular decorations far outweigh the religious ones.  Because this is my house, we can do what we please.  And I, for one, am glad that no public school first-grade child should feel uncomfortable because his or her parents are not of a particular religious (or non-religious) belief.

One of my favorite Santas, cradling some dolls he just made for the good little boys and girls.

There are folks who are surprised to find that I am Roman Catholic.  It's especially hard for those who knew me in my younger years to be Southern Baptist.  I think their surprise comes with the fact that I am vehemently pro-choice, I support birth control of all kinds, I strongly support marriage of same sex persons and I respect people of all faiths and non-believers as well.  I am just as furious as you are that the Bishops of the Church who turned a blind eye to child molestation by some priests were never held accountable.  I am definitely a cafeteria Catholic and pick and choose what I wish to believe.  Is this being hypocritical?  I think not.  The only religious dogma I could support without question would be the Church of NCMountainwoman.  Otherwise I can choose which parts of the church I will support and which parts I will cast aside.  I did the same when I was a Southern Baptist.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fridays are Golden

This has been an amazing weather week here in Transylvania County.  It began with pouring rain.  We got more than eight inches of rain from late Sunday and through the day on Monday.  The river basins overflowed into fields.  Eight roads were closed because of flooding.  Fences were underwater and the cows and horses had to find the highest spots in the pastures.  A major logjam threatened to break loose causing further damage.  All the rain was followed by snow during the night on Monday.  At our house the snow was less than an inch but higher elevations received much more.  The storms were called "twenty-five-year" storms.  Statistics don't amount to much.  This is the second consecutive year in which we have had the "twenty-five-year storm."  The sun came out on Tuesday afternoon and we have had a very pleasant week since then.

Our Golden Girls hate the rain but they love the cooler weather, especially the high winds we have also had.  On rainy days they go out as little as possible quickly completing their business and wanting to come straight back home.  They follow us up and down the stairs, settling down whenever we do.  We have several dog beds throughout the house but most of the time Lucy will come over to share (or take over) Ellie's resting place. 

Lucy, that is too much even for you.
Well, Mom, she could move if she wanted to.

 Ellie's head is actually shoved underneath the chair.

 Lucy squished her way onto the bed, leaving no other place for Ellie's leg.

Finally, it is Lucy getting squished.

I must admit that I sometimes fear that the weight of Lucy on Ellie's shoulders or hips might cause a problem.  In those cases, I just go get two little treats to give them.  Most often Ellie will wait for Lucy to take a bed and she will then take the other one.  And if she is lucky Lucy won't get up and move to Ellie's bed.  Only the most devoted pet owner knows how much we love these two.

The quote for the week comes from Albert Schweitzer:

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.  Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

If someone has rekindled your light, think of them with gratitude.  Then reach out and thank them once again.  Tel them again how much they have meant to your life.  And take every opportunity that comes your way to rekindle the spark in someone else.

Twenty-nine days left in 2011, folks.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter Flowers in the Snow

All day Monday, the rain poured down in buckets.  Inch after inch left runoffs, standing water in roads, and forced the rivers out of their banks.  Eight roads in our county were closed because of the flooding.

Two Golden Retrievers went through a lot of towels, coming back inside after the rainy trips out.  It was still raining when I went to bed on Monday night.  Imagine my surprise to awaken Tuesday morning to see everything coated white.

Snow dusted one of our favorite winter-blooming plants.  This mahonia is called "Winter Sun" or "Midnight Sun."  Bright yellow blossoms fill the plant this year and we enjoy watching the flowers and then the berries on this lovely plant.  The snow will not cause a problem because temperatures did not stay below freezing for very long.

These little yellow blossoms will turn into berries soon.

The snow clung to the trees with a light covering on the ground.  Fortunately the snow did not affect the roadways for long and with rising temperatures the snow was gone by evening.

Now THAT is the kind of winter snow we expect here during our mild winters.  Definitely not the 10-12-inch snows like the ones we have had during the past two winters.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Staying on the Learning Curve

Had you asked me anything about John Brown last month, I could have given the answer quickly:
  1. He was an abolishionist
  2. He led a raid on Harpers Ferry before the Civil War
  3. He was hanged
  4. His body lies a'mouldering in the grave
That extensive level of knowledge comes from one of the few times I ever gave John Brown a thought.  The information is recalled from my high school American History class.  Our textbook devoted two whole paragraphs to John Brown and the raid on Harpers Ferry.  It was accompanied by a sketch of the armory at Harpers Ferry.  We studied little about the raid and its real implications and did not touch at all on the man himself.

So what have I learned about John Brown since last month?  Tons.  For instance:
  • The Harpers Ferry raid was not the first incident in which John Brown killed innocent people.  He already had a long history of violent acts in Kansas.  He was a zealot who believed that any actions taken to free the slaves was justified by God.  He met with escaped slave, orator and writer Frederick Douglass but Douglass refused to participate in his activities.
  • Robert E. Lee, then a Colonel in the U.S. Army, led the sucessful attack on the armory where John Brown, his men, and his hostages were sequestered.  His second in command was Lt. J.E.B. Stuart.  Major Thomas Jackson was among the soldiers fighting John Brown.  Major Jackson would later be known as "Stonewall" Jackson.
  • John Brown sustained significant injury during the attack but survived.  He orated eloquently at his trial and many people had great respect for his bravery during his confinement in jail, his trial, and most especially during his hanging.
  • Henry David Thoreau  gave an oration on Brown's behalf,  It was later published as "A Plea for Captain John Brown."
  • Louisa May Alcott wrote of John Brown, "Living he made life beautiful - Dying, made death devine."
  • Herman Melville, on the other hand, called John Brown "The Meteor of War."
  • John Wilkes Booth stood among the citizens watching the hanging of John Brown.
How did I come to know all this (and MUCH more) about John Brown?  I read Midnight Rising, written by Tony Horwitz.  I am a lover of history so I might be a bit prejudiced but I truly enjoyed this book.  Thoroughly researched and annotated, the book flows as easily as a novel.

I have listed only a few points but unless you are a history professor or buff it is a certainty that you will learn a great deal about the Harpers Ferry raid and what it meant and how it affected our nation's history.

I have often repeated that one of the very best things about retirement is having the time to read.  At a given time I usually have three books in process; a novel, a biography, and a non-fiction book.  When I started reading Midnight Rising I did not read anything from the other two books in process.

Next up?  In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.  My husband enjoyed this story about the American Ambassador to Hitler's Germany in 1933.  And on the shelf waiting a turn is LOST IN SHANGRI-LA BY Mitchell Zuckoff.  Another true story about WWII, this book details an amazing rescue mission in the Pacific.

I hope you can find some time to read something that expands your knowledge about our country.  I think it was Mahatma Gandhi who said, "Live as if you will die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever."

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fridays are Golden

"Best turkey I ever ate," said my husband.  And these words cannot be taken lightly since there are few people on our planet who love turkey more than he does.  Several readers were interested in the outcome of my first brined turkey.  By his statement you already know that my husband thought it was most delicious.

He has a wonderfully short memory of the Desi/Lucy circumstances the day before.  Typical for us, we had a few miss-steps along the way.  The first thing I did was to allow my husband to order and pick up the turkey.  Remember I told you how much he loves turkey.  He came home with a sixteen-pound bird.  For the two of us.

It all started out so well.  I made the brine and then put the turkey inside a special brining bag.  I got out the roasting pan.  I'm usually a very perceptive person, but it never once occurred to me that the turkey/brine-filled bag would not exactly fit in the roasting pan.  So I'm standing there with six inches of fluid hanging over all sides of the roaster.  Fearing that the bag might break, I called my husband to help.  "Get out the pasta pot,"  I said, "we can't use the roaster because it isn't deep enough to hold it all."  (I don't know if it's really a pasta pot, but it's that large pot you use to make tons of soup or to boil pasta.)  Just a quick eyeballing of the pot next to the now mammoth bag informed us the turkey was not going to fit.  And that is the biggest deep pot we have.  What to do?  In order to shorten this episode, I will tell you that we finally found success with a utility pail.

The pail has never been used except to hold the instructions and supplies needed to de-skunk dogs.  For many reasons I was glad we had not needed to use any.  So we decided that we would put the turkey in the pail.  Now, we did not come to his conclusion quickly.  We took turns holding the bag that was overflowing the sides of the roaster.  I would go through the house trying to find something useful.  Then I would come back to turkey sentry duty while my husband searched for something useful.  I'm not sure which one of us finally came up with the utility pail.  We both thought it weird putting the Thanksgiving turkey in a utility pail.  But, we reasoned, it was clean and had not been used.  So we took out the peroxide, soap, and other de-skunking supplies and washed the pail.  Regardless of our feelings about the pail, we had no other options.

We plopped the brining bag filled with solution and turkey into the clean 12-liter (3.17 gallon) pail.  Perfect!  Then we looked at each other and laughed.  We both said it at the same time. "How are we going to get this thing in the fridge?"  After removing and re-arranging some shelves, we put the pail in the fridge and were actually able to close the door.

The Golden Girls were quite confused despite the fact that they are familiar with our Desi/Lucy predicaments.  They didn't know whether to stay by the one guarding the turkey or to run up and down the stairs with the one trying to find a suitable receptacle.  They were quite happy when the turkey was finally in the fridge and the kitchen was back to normal.

The Thanksgiving Bird in a Bucket.

I've already told you my husband's reaction to the finished product.  As for me?  We always have a fresh turkey and I always put herbed butter between the skin and the meat.  So our turkeys are always quite moist and tender.  I have to admit that this one was more tender and wonderfully flavorful.  But I have to wonder just how tender the turkey needs to be.  Isn't a nine almost as good as a ten?

Will we do it again?  ABSOLUTELY!  After we went through that big learning curve, we aren't about to make this a one-shot deal.  Truthfully, we will purchase all the supplies we need.  The next time won't be nearly as funny, but will run quite smoothly.  Like so many other things, once you know how it is easy.  I hope.

You no doubt came to this post to see the Golden Girls.  They did not get any special treatment on Thanksgiving Day.  No turkey, no dressing, no gravy or potatoes.  Just the constant attention to which they feel entitled.

 You can't blame tryptophan for this nap.

 Lucy still using Ellie for a pillow.

 And two dogs stretched out on one bed.

I do hope Thanksgiving Day went smoothly for everyone.  And that you have leftovers to enjoy.  The weather here has been perfect these past few days and now we are looking forward to the Christmas season.  Which will be here about the time we finish eating the rest of the turkey.

Our quote today comes from John Fitzgerald Kennedy:
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We're Tacky at Thanksgiving As Well

You already know that we have some tacky Halloween decorations.  Actually I don't think there is such a thing as a Halloween decoration that isn't tacky.  We are a bit more tasteful at Thanksgiving but we still have plenty of tacky.  Now if only I could find a fiber optic turkey...

Our very large Tacky Turkey greets guests in the foyer.

 Our flag looks as if it came from a child's coloring book.  It will surely wave furiously today and tomorrow since we are having some really strong wind.

 On the other hand, I don't think our Thanksgiving wreath is tacky at all.

I am brining the turkey this year.  I had no idea it was this time-consuming.  Mix the brine, boil it, let it cool then refrigerate.  When it's cold add ice water and apple juice and pour over the fresh turkey and let it brine for 24-36 hours.  We'll have the usual side dishes and dessert.  I'm looking forward to finding out for myself if the brined turkey is better.

Whatever you are doing and wherever you are going:


Monday, November 21, 2011

Another Short Trip

There are many places in and around our county that call us to visit often.  One such place is the North Carolina Arboretum in nearby Buncombe County.  Well known throughout western NC, the Arboretum is home to a wonderful display of Bonsai trees.  During our most recent visit we saw that most of the deciduous trees had already lost their leaves.  My favorite Bonsai displays are the ones that mimic the flora in various places in the mountains.

This one represents the trees on Mount Mitchell, the highest peak East of the Rocky Mountains.

 This is a Trident Maple.  A few colored leaves remain but the little tree is mostly bare.

 In the summer, this Roan Mountain Bonsai is filled with gorgeous rhododendron blossoms.

We lamented the fact that it was so late in the fall that none of the bonsai exhibits were in bloom.  The day was absolutely gorgeous with bright sunshine and streams of clouds in the blue sky.  (Yes, Carolina blue sky.)  It was so nice that we passed on the greenhouse, preferring to be out in the wonderful weather.  The day following our trip, the Asheville newspaper had an article about all the bonsai that were in full bloom in the greenhouse.

Art work and water features are all along the paths at the Arboretum.  There is one sculpture that pulls me toward it like a magnet every time we visit.  The bronze is more than twelve feet tall and I love every inch of it.  I have taken dozens of photographs of this lovely piece of art.

Wonderfully titled, "Oh Great Spirit"

 A closer look at the face.  You might notice that behind the sculpture on this side the trees have leaves.  On the other side the trees were bare.  It's about the sunshine.

Much ado is made in mountain counties about whether or not one is "native" or a "transplant," the latter being a rather derogatory term for someone who doesn't understand mountain ways.  There are even automobile tags that read NATIVE.  I am always tempted to carry a photograph of this sculpture and show it to the next person who feel compelled to tell me he or she is native.  I will show him or her this photograph and say, "Goodness, you don't LOOK Cherokee!"

I grew up in Watauga County in higher mountains than Transylvania with more rugged country roads and harsh winters.  But since I moved to Transylvania County five years ago the residents do not consider me a native.

Author Vicki Lane (here) wrote spot-on about how the locals view newcomers.  She included the anecdote in one of her Elizabeth Goodweather books.  (here)  She has lived in a nearby mountain county for many years.  Her son was born here.  Someone once mentioned that Vicki was not a native and she replied that her son was born here so at least he is a native.  The response she got was, "Cat might have kittens in the oven but it don't make'em biscuits."

One of my friends has a typical New York accent.  We were having lunch and someone asked her, "You ain't from around here are you?"  My friend replied, "Well I wasn't born here but I got here as quick as I could."

Very near the Arboretum is the Asheville Farmer's Market.  Several warehouse buildings chock full of fresh produce, jams and jellies, nuts, etc.  It's almost a requirement that you visit there if you are in the vicinity.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fridays are Golden

We've had a great week around here.  The weather has been quite variable, as it often is in late autumn in the mountains.  We have had some sunny days and we always  take advantage of them.  In fact, one of our primary reasons for retiring here had to do with the weather.

Ellie runs free on a recent outing.

 Our Lucy is a very "needy" dog.  She will often lie on the wood floor and thwock her tail for attention.  And yes, she wants you to come to her rather than for her to get up and come to you.  If the tail thwock does not get results, she comes over to my husband's chair and puts her sweet head on the arm of the chair.  That works every time.

It's pretty hard to ignore that pleading face.

Lucy prefers to play on her own terms.  She often signals that by picking up an old rubber tug the girls love so much.  She brings the tug to you and quickly runs away when you reach out your hand.  She thinks that is a great game.

Come on, Dad.  Try to catch me!

 When Lucy tires of the game she takes the tug with her, usually to her bed.

If I don't bring this with me they might just throw it again.

Time is flying, isn't it?  Thanksgiving is next week.  After that the Christmas season will really ramp up.  I love Christmas in a big city.  So exciting, so much fun, and so many things to enjoy.  But I have to admit, I now prefer Christmas in a small town.

Regular readers know how much I love our small town newspaper.  We eagerly wait for the publication on Mondays and Thursdays.  The paper does not have comics, but our "Letters to the Editor" section rivals any comic pages for giving me a laugh.  The sports pages cover only the local college, high school and elementary school sports.  (For instance you would never know that the Green Bay Packers are still undefeated if you relied on our local paper.)

Small towns in the North Carolina mountains still have Christmas parades.  They are not Holiday parades.  Only the larger towns have Holiday Parades.  Nearby Asheville has a Holiday Tree.  A photograph in their newspaper today gives the caption that the man is stringing the Christmas lights on the Holiday Tree.  You figure.

Our neighoring town of Rosman (smaller even than Brevard) had a newspaper article about their upcoming parade.  I found it amusing.  Here it is:

The Rosman Christmas Parade will be held on Sunday, December 4, at 2:00 p.m.  Line-up and registration will begin at 1:15 at Rosman Elementary School.  Parade rules are the same as previous years:
1.)   No ATVs
2.)  No one dressed in a Santa Suit
3.)  Candy must be thrown out of the roadway for the safety of everyone.

I love the simplicity of the parade rules.  Why add all the political rhetoric?  Just keep it simple and easy to understand.  I think we all should look at our own lives and try to simplify things this holiday season.  As someone said, "In a hundred years it won't matter.  It hardly matters now."