Friday, December 30, 2005

Max: I'm Going to be a Basketball Star!

My new ball. (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they'd make up their minds." ~ Wilt Chamberlain
See what Santy Claws brought me for Christmas? It's a new basketball! It is orange and bright and it squeaks just like I like it. It is a funny ball and even though I can get it in my mouth, it slips out a lot. Sometimes I just push it with my nose when I'm disgusted and it rolls a long way down by the tree. Then I will go and try to throw it. My mom has some pictures of me trying to do this but she doesn't have them ready yet. I love my basketball, it sleeps with me. Now all I need is one of those little hoop things.

I am going to visit the dogs at the Carnival of the Dogs this week, hosted by Mickey's Musings. Hey! Did you hear that she got engaged? (end of post)

Magnolia Blossom: Best of 2005

Magnolia blossom (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
Majestic flower! How purely beautiful
Thou art, as rising from thy bower of green,
Those dark and glossy leaves so thick and full,
Thou standest like a high-born forest queen
Among thy maidens clustering round so fair,--
I love to watch thy sculptured form unfolding,
And look into thy depths, to image there
A fairy cavern, and while thus beholding,
And while thy breeze floats o'er thee, matchless flower,
I breathe the perfume, delicate and strong,
That comes like incense from thy petal-bower;
My fancy roams those southern woods along,
Beneath that glorious tree, where deep among
The unsunned leaves thy large while flowercups hung!
~ Christopher Pearce Cranch, Poem to the Magnolia Grandiflora
This was one of my favorite shots of 2005, a macro of the magnolia blossom. The purity of the creamy white petals and the inner cone of curled stamen and the distinct but subtle fragrance evokes a Southern mystery. It feels as if one is gazing on a forbidden fruit or a hidden arbor not meant for human view. Such is the secret of the magnolia.

Submission for Photo Friday topic "Best of 2005". (end of post)


Nicky (Nicholas Alexander) (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me." ~ Meister Eckhart
Nicky the Shy, quietly sits in his favorite bean bag chair on a lamb's wool fleece. He doesn't race through the house, rather plods quietly along. He doesn't hiss or spit or snarl at anyone, even when being hissed or spit or snarled at. He never knocks over glasses, bats at ornaments on the tree or fights for the catnip toy. He is a loner but with proud, almond shaped eyes of a clear blue. He is my strange and wonderful Nicky.

Nicky will be visiting the animals at Friday's Ark this week. If his shyness permits he will also make a stop at the Carnival of the Cats, hosted this week by Elms in the Yard. (end of post)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Birthday Celebration

A birthday celebration. Posted by Picasa
"Fly free and happy beyond birthdays and across forever, and we'll meet now and then when we wish, in the midst of the one celebration that never can end." ~ Richard Bach
A birthday party
Outdoor picnic
Scavenger hunt
Teddy bears and hats
Beehive pinata
Lots of sun
Break out the sunglasses
Food and fun with friends
A happy little birthday girl, Nyssa
Celebrate six!

Submission for Thursday Challenge topic "celebration". (end of post)

My Wacky Family

My wacky family: Stephen (brother), Mom, Nyssa, Dad. Posted by Picasa
"The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together." ~ Erma Louise Bombeck
Here is my wacky family, all dressed up and ready to go. They would like nothing more than the typical boring family portrait with "Mona Lisa" smiles, sober faces and every hair in place. Fortunately, they are just crazy enough to let loose and make wacko faces when asked. Well, at least all but Dad; this is as strange of a face as he can muster.

We were off to see "The Lion King". The show was good, not really "great" but very good. The stars of the show were the Timon and Pumbaa (warthog & meerkat) and the costumes. The music of Sir Elton is not the best in the world and the miking was poor tonight, hard to hear them. (The music of Beauty & the Beast is better.) The little boy who played young Simba was very, very cute but "bless his heart" he can't sing; dance he does well, but he was not even close with his main song. It was still fun, especially as it has been a very long time since we've been to a Broadway show. So, now it is off to work, Nyssa work, Mom therapy, more finalization of Medicare prescription plan for them, CME for me, etc.....'Nite.

Submission for Photo Tuesday topic "family". (end of post)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Note to My Love, Sophie

Rhett rests with his Christmas gift from Sophie. (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"There is no 'cat language.' Painful as it is for us to admit, they don't need one!" ~ Barbara Holland
Rhett had a very special package under the tree this year; not from "Santy Claws" but from his girlfriend, Sophie. He was very good and didn't unwrap it before Christmas Day. He kept the other kitties from messing with it; they could sniff but not touch. He wanted me to call her so he could talk, but Sophie's mom is on vacation so he is writing a letter instead. It is as follows:
My dearest Sophie,
As I write this letter, I keep the fragrant catnip bag under my other paw. Thank you for this lovely token of your affection; your generosity is surpassed only by your radiant beauty. Your mom's note said that you played with the mouse bag before you let her send it. You are wise as well as gorgeous. I could smell your delicate scent on the little bag; I gazed at your picture and knew that this was from my love. I am so giddy from the catnip and thoughts of you, that I can write no more for now; but remember my heart is yours.
With all my love,

Rhett is a little flowery with his letter, but he is a Southern gentleman after all.

Rhett will join his friends (and hopefully Sophie) at Friday's Ark and will read about other beautiful cats at this weeks Carnival of the Cats, hosted by Elms in the Yard. (end of post)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Following The Christmas Star

A star in the east. Posted by Picasa
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also."

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
~ Matthew 2: 1 - 12 (New King James Version)
The wise men had nothing more to go on than promises passed down from father to son through generations. They came from a far with only hope and the light from an unusual star. They were persistent, pressing on to find the new King. Their faith was great and constant in the absence of any written account of His birth. How much more we have now, God's Word, the account of Christ's birth, death and resurrection; and yet how small our faith is at times. Yes, wise men still seek Him.

(end of post)

Without Him There Would Be No Christmas

The Christmas Story Posted by Picasa
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. ~ Luke 2: 1 - 20 (New King James Version)
The gifts we give to one another, are carefully chosen to be perfect, just right; these gifts pale and become like dust in the wind when compared to God's Perfect Gift that night in Bethlehem, His Only Son. What more could we ever ask for? What more could we ever need?

Have a Blessed and Joyful Christmas. (end of post)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

My Favorite Candy

Well, one of my favorites. (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"As with most fine things, chocolate has its season. There is a simple memory aid that you can use to determine whether it is the correct time to order chocolate dishes: any month whose name contains the letter A, E, or U is the proper time for chocolate." ~ Sandra Boynton
My favorite candy, M&M's, plain or with almonds; well at least one of my favorite candies along with chocolate covered cherries, jordan almonds and MalloCups. I don't need peanut butter cups or Milky Way bars or even plain chocolate bars; just give me my little favorites and I'm a happy camper.

Submission to Macroday topic "candy". (end of post)

Friday, December 23, 2005

1994: My Christmas Elf

Nyssa: Santa's Elf Posted by Picasa
"Joy is a subtle elf; I think one's happiest when he forgets himself." ~ Cyril Tourneur
The Christmas picture with Santa taken in 1994 has Nyssa as Santa's Elf. She wore this outfit in the picture and it was adorable. The costume has over 40 small jingle bells on the saw-toothed hem, collar, sleeve hems, and larger bells on the hat and at the tips of the coiled toe shoes. Oh, my! This girl did jingle and jangle when she walked. Santa wanted her to accompany him to the North Pole but she had other pressing obligations.... school. Christmas morning she acted as our elf, handing out the presents. It was a wonderful joyful time that year. How nice to remember the Christmas' past as we celebrate Christmas present and build memories for Christmas' future.

(end of post)

Colonial Christmas: My Pick for Most Unusual

My pick for most unusual. (Click pictures for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." ~ Norman Vincent Peale
Here it is, my finale for this series; "My pick for most unusual." For one thing, there is no red or green or evergreen anywhere on this wreath and while you might be able to use it on into the new year, it still exudes Christmas. Another reason I chose this one is my friend Deb in Mississippi. Deb is a psychologist who was a good neighbor and friend for fifteen years. I would love for her to meet Vicki as I know they would hit it off right away. Deb has a large antique loom in her living room, lots of live green plants including a fourteen foot ficus in her living room as well. (We are talking skylights and vaulted ceiling here.) She would love the natural materials of all the wreaths, but this one is special. The outside rim of dried leaves are magnolia leaves, the state flower of Mississippi. More importantly, the cluster of flowers in the center, globe amaranths, are a bright fuchsia-purple and Deb loves anything purple. Even the front door of her house is painted a dark muted purple. (Click read more to see close up views)

Around the center cluster of dried flowers is a luscious ring of dried blueberries, both the fruit and attached leaves. Around this are the largest poppy seed pods I had ever seen. These were at least 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter. In the six o'clock position a gathering of dried green moss is anchored along with long thin dried flowers. This is topped off with long sticks of cinnamon spiking out from the top and the bottom. Yes, this is definitely my pick for the most unusual decoration this year.

I promised to give a couple of references. These books are listed at the Colonial Williamsburg website. I found them in our local library as well. The first book
is Williamsburg Christmas (The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) by Libby Hodges Oliver & Mary Miley Theobald. Harry Abrams, Pub. (Library # 975.54252). This book shows a variety of Christmas decorations and holiday traditions in Williamsburg. The second book is Christmas Decorations from Williamsburg by Susan Hight Rountree, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation pub. (Library #745.59412). This book is more of a "how to" with instructions in making wreaths, fans, sprays, centerpieces, garlands and other decorations including tree ornaments. There are also recipes from different taverns and inns of the area. Recipes include Mincemeat & Mincemeat Tarts, Miniature Crab Cakes & Virginia Ham on Toasted English Muffins, Winter Vegetable Soup, Lobster & Crabmeat Dijonnaise, White Chocolate Mousse Pie and Pecan Pie among others. Hope you can find these at your local library. And now I end my series for this year with the following thought.
"A joy that is shared is a joy made double." ~ John Roy
Sharing the beauty of the season from Williamsburg this year has truly been a joy. Merry Christmas! (end of post)

Willow's Secret

Willow and "her" presents. Posted by Picasa
In a cat's eye, all things belong to cats. - English Proverb
Willow occasionally hides under the Christmas tree. But now that a few presents have started to trickle in, she would rather sit near them to both keep them safe from the others and to take actual possession of them. Here she is settled in next to a small bag. It's pink. What is it? Of course, it's a Victoria's Secret bag! What is in there Willow? She won't tell but whatever it is, you can be sure she has already touched it, looked at it and claimed it for her very own. Nyssa will be hard pressed to get this away from Willow on Christmas morning.

Willow is taking her secret to Friday's Ark and to the Carnival of the Cats. The special Christmas edition is hosted this week by Watermark. (end of post)

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Festive Posted by Picasa
"If there is no joyous way to give a festive gift, give love away." ~ Unknown
Christmas is the most festive time of year. Lights, brightly colored decorations, tinsel, wreaths, time with family and friends, wonder in a child's eyes, remembrance of Christmas past, reflections on God's love and his supreme gift. It is a time of hope, peace and joy; of angels proclamation and shepherds faithful obedience. Christmas is the star and wise men who followed, bringing their gifts to the babe. Yes, Christmas is all this, and more. Merry Christmas!

Submission for Lensday topic "festive".
Submission for PXITE topic "shiny". (end of post)

Colonial Christmas: The Decorator's Nightmare

Here begins the decorator's nightmare. (Click pictures for larger view) Posted by Picasa

"Until one feels the spirit of Christmas, there is no Christmas. All else is outward display--so much tinsel and decorations. For it isn't the holly, it isn't the snow. It isn't the tree not the firelight's glow. It's the warmth that comes to the hearts of men when the Christmas spirit returns again." ~ Anonymous (Pipefuls)
These square wreaths adorn the door of a private home in Colonial Williamsburg. The greenery is boxwood. The fruit clusters include Lady apples and an Osage orange. The blue flowers are spidery and my best guess is the Eastern blue star. (Amsonia) These are very simple but the blue flower really pops. The picture was a bit fuzzy due to the cold and I couldn't help it very much.

I know you are asking "Why would this be a decorator's nightmare?" Click the "read more" below to find out as we pan out and back for a better view.

Here we have zoomed out a bit to get the full effect of the square wreaths and the staircase to the small porch that flares out at the bottom; the black wrought iron railing wrapped with long pine garland. Can anyone see a few little clues yet as to the nightmare? No? Well, then let us move a little bit farther back and look again.

This house would be at least a two story, perhaps two and a half as the basements are not as deep as in modern homes. Notice the side of the house, the small square spaces seemingly where bricks were purposefully left out during construction. Now imagine another side of the house exactly like this, just as tall, just as wide; and then add the two ends of the home, about two-thirds as wide as the sides, ALL of them having this same design with empty square spaces. Now look at this picture and the previous one and tell me what you see in ALL those spaces. Yes, that's right. Every single space contains an apple. Some are red, others are yellow and still others are the variegated Lady apples. Now, can you imagine how tall the ladder had to be to reach all those little spaces and how many times the decorator had to climb up and down that ladder to get all those apples in there, on all four sides of the house. And can you imagine how long it will take to climb back up and get them all down after the holidays?

Now, tell me that is not a "decorator's nightmare"!!!!!!! (end of post)

Colonial Christmas: Sprays

Sprays: I never said they were ALL wreaths.
(As always, click the pictures to see larger views)
Posted by Picasa
"Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles." ~ Unknown
I told you that all decorations in Colonial Williamsburg were not wreaths. My battery ran down before I did so I had to skip several lovely wreaths including the one from the tin maker that included small tin cups among the flowers and fruit; and the cobbler with a partially made leather shoe and other instruments of his craft intertwined with greenery, flowers and poppy pods. All the wreaths in this series were from buildings along one main street and around the palace greens. We never made it to several other areas of the town.

This set is dedicated to those decorative accents that would be classified as "sprays". A few were complementary pieces to wreaths but most stood strong on their own. We will start above with a window treatment centering on a large pine cone with cedar evergreen. The round seed pods have been identified by Judy, the best botanist I've ever known, as lotus or water lily seed pods. Dried money plant is included and the color is added with a bright red dried flower or they could be sumac berries.

(Click "read more" to continue)
Above, a base of cedar evergreen is dressed with stalks of wheat, golden yarrow, purple statice, and perhaps the red is more cockscomb. Other small orange flowers and larger mum-like flowers were included. A small artichoke is noted centrally. I think the lighter golden flowers are lona or golden argeratum (at least they looked like the picture) and the larger yellow-orange one may be a strawflower.

This window treatment centers on the large artichoke in a background of evergreen perhaps both pine and fir. Golden yarrow again with poppy pods and Amaranthus caudatus. There is a huge variety of plants in this plant family. This piece was not made with a large number of different plants but the colors are great together.

Finally, another traditional decoration is the "fan". Usually placed above an entry way or over a window casing, these large pieces most often are made often adorned with fruit. Here the pine background is nested with central pomegranate and side clusters of oranges. Pheasant feathers top off the fan.

I have only two more entries in this series. On the last post I am going to include two reference books about the wreaths and other decorations at Colonial Williamsburg. One gives detailed instructions in making wreaths and many other holiday ornamentations. See you soon. (end of post)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Lights

The Christmas wreath on our door. (Click picture for larger view) Posted by Picasa
Christmas is not in tinsel and lights and outward show.
The secret lies in an inner glow.
It's lighting a fire inside the heart.
Good will and joy a vital part.
It's higher thought and a greater plan.
It's glorious dream in the soul of man.
~ Wilfred A. Peterson (The Art of Living)
Mom so wanted a wreath for the front door with clear lights. We searched the internet, checked out trusty QVC and visited craft stores and home building supply stores.....nothing worked to her satisfaction. (I personally thought the one from QVC with the fruit and lights was pretty.) Finally, she found a lady who makes decorative accents for store displays and individuals. This is the wreath she made to Mom's specifications; simple with a few pine cones and berries and lights, of course, bright and clear and glowing.

Submission for Thursday Challenge topic "lights". (end of post)

Colonial Christmas: Other Wreaths

Other beautiful wreaths. (Click on the pictures to see a larger view) Posted by Picasa
"And so we come again to Christmas, with all its color and joy, its magic and wonder, its spirit of goodwill and warmth." ~ Esther Baldwin York
This wreath could very well have fit into the "flower" category. I chose to include it here with some of the more unusual wreaths. (actually they are all unusual in my book) This wreath is made up of all flowers and no greenery. I'm sure Judy can tell us what many of the flowers are in the close-up photo below. She let me know that the long ivory pipes are called "Churchwardens". The mixture of vibrant red, golden yellow, bright blue, ivory and various shades of purple and lavender are stunning. I do believe there may be two types of yellow flowers, one being goldenrod. It is very easy to come-by in this area, so I didn't get too close. It wreaks havoc with my sinuses.

(Click read more to continue)

I really liked the wreath above. It is asymmetrical in an off balanced way. The green pine wreath is dressed with pine cones, seed pods ( I know there is a better name for these round pods), more goldenrod and clusters of dried red chili peppers. Two special touches are the cotton balls straight from the field and the spray of pheasant feathers. This wreath would also make me sneeze, but it is gorgeous.

The last wreath in this group adorns the window of the "tack and bridle" shop; no not "bridal" but "bridle". See the metal bridle and bit hardware and the long leather reins woven in with the greenery and hanging down from the wreath? Small clumps of straw are bound together and attached between large red and small red and yellow variegated apples. Bright red berries finish off this unusual creation. What better wreath to hang on this shop, filled with all the snacks a horse could love? I bet this fellow would love one of those juicy apples right now!

(end of post)

The Two Men In My Life

Mr. Rhett (Click pictures for larger view) Posted by Picasa
"The things we do at Christmas are touched with a certain extravagance, as beautiful, in some of its aspects, as the extravagance of nature in June." ~ Robert Collyer
"Everything that moves serves to interest and amuse a cat. He is convinced that nature is busying herself with his diversion; he can conceive of no other purpose in the universe." ~ F.A. Paradis de Moncrif

Sir Nicholas Alexander of Brevard (Nicky)

The two men in my life, calmly lounging beneath the Christmas tree. See how they look but don't touch? Obviously they are very well behaved, or maybe they know the breakable items are higher up. I worry about only one thing. What will happen when they all decide to hide under the tree at the same time? World War III? Nicky will leave things alone. Rhett has an affinity for chewing the tips of the branches and revels in the ribbons and bows on packages. Be prepared for cat teeth marks in all bows. Right now he is still pining for Sophie, hoping she doesn't fall for Nicky.

Nicky and Rhett will visit Friday's Ark this week and Carnival of the Cats, this week hosted by Watermark. It will be a special Christmas edition, so everyone come visit. (end of post)