Thursday, December 20, 2012

Rambling Thoughts on Christmas Present

It is sometime in December as I write this.  It is before Christmas, and one of those nebulous days between the 15th and 24th that I just try to ignore the actual date of so that I don't freak myself out by how close to the final countdown I actually am at any given point in time.  I realize that this is a mind game that I play with myself...but since I'm the only participant and the referee...I think it is okay.  At least I hope so.  From a purely mental health standpoint, that is.

I've spent the past twelve months with full knowledge that Christmas comes on December 25th every year.  Not one of those "floating" holidays like Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Memorial Day or the bank holidays that I'm grateful for...but half of the population doesn't receive.  Wait.  I really need to rethink that in light of our unemployment rate...but you know what I mean.  I act like it is some big surprise every year that I have to rush around preparing for...when I've had plenty of time to get it taken care of...but haven't prioritized it all properly.

I know that I have about four or five activities that I'm going to do every year...and pretty much when those activities are going to fall.  I am blessed to be invited to share the Christmas joy with several different groups...and now it almost doesn't feel like Christmas if I don't get to participate in some of these.  I mean...for some of isn't Christmas without the Living Christmas Tree or the church cantata.  You aren't happy unless the Hallmark Channel is on 24/7 and you've seen the "Charlie Brown Christmas Special."  Or perhaps, you have to bake certain items, see specific people, and decorate in a particular manner.  Even if you don't feel like it, it has "jumped the shark" so to speak, or you grumble about it but do it anyway.

But this year...I am having a butt dragging, head cold surviving, empty wallet, slightly humbug Christmas.  Which totally sucks, by the way.  (Note: I do not normally condone the term "sucks" as a general rule...but some things do kind of breach from "eh" to "sucky" and we just need to call them what they are.  I do realize that I could have used more graphic terms like "blow goats" - but that would offend my sweet friend, Andrea, who has a particular affection for goats as she is raising them. I could also opt for "bites the big one" but I think that's worse than "sucks" - so "sucks" it is.  And Mom, if you are reading this...I'll save you the time to e-mail...I know that I was raised better.)

Some years are like that.  You stand in line for everything from stamps to boxes to checkout.  People steal your parking place...and your joy.  You wipe the sweat from your forehead (in DECEMBER) and deal with checkout clerks who don't even bother to wish you a "Merry Christmas" because to them you are one more problem that they have to get through so that they can go home and get off of their feet.  Your poinsettia dies.  The Christmas tree skirt is christened - twice - by your new-ish shih tzu.

At least that's been my experience this season.

I have a friend who tells me that I cannot fail to enjoy Christmas if I am in attendance at the church's Christmas cantata.  I've also been told (at least ten times) that it is a "Christmas music program" and not a "cantata" - but if it involves singing, is a program and is at the is a cantata.  Kind of like I don't differentiate between makes and models of cars outside of "SUV, sedan, van, and sportscar."  I realize how hard these folks work to put on this program, and how fortunate we are to have a wealth of talent at our church.  And every time that I've gone...I've enjoyed it.  But I have to space out my attendance a little bit or else it becomes just one more thing that I have to do...rather than something that I want to do.

This year, I had the hacking cough that would come on explosively and embarassingly at random times...and thought that it was probably best that I stay at home.  I mean, nothing says "rude audience member" more than hacking all through a performance or falling asleep and snoring because the medicine decided to have the opposite effect than intended. Except possibly what my friend, Jackie, posted last night about the mother of all rude people...a woman who set up a tripod in the center of the auditorium so that she could film her child's Christmas concert.  Never mind the other parents that were sitting behind this struggling to see their children through or around this thing.  So, this Christmas music...other than the Christmas radio station that I keep on in my office when I'm not listening to Rush Limbaugh.

Okay, Mom, roll your eyes.  It's fine.

I suppose that I have found that this year my heart is heavy for families that I know are missing loved ones this year.  Our family is missing my sweet mother-in-law, Barbara.  And on a smaller note, I am missing my nine year old shih tzu/yorkie mix, Rebel.  Yes, I have Riley to entertain and delight me...but I miss my little faithful friend.  The news from Connecticut didn't help matters...nor do reports from Washington D.C. that make me wonder if we will make it through the next four years or not without having another national divide like the Civil War.  I was in a "Facebook fight" with the wife of a family member this week, and I apparently made her so angry over the subject of gun control (technically, my refusal to discuss it until the funerals in Connecticut were over) that she "defriended" me.  Of course, I did the same thing last month to a former sorority sister who put some very inappropriate comments regarding race on there and then attacked me for having an opinion.  And trust me when I tell you that I almost always have an opinion.  About just about everything.

These kind of things can really bring you down for the holidays.

So can having a head cold.  I believe that Christmas spirit was leaking out of me along with...well, whatever.  Know someone who is annoyingly chirpy?  Well, just drop a flu virus at their house and watch the fun-o-meter drop from "I can't WAIT until Christmas!" to "Please wake me when it is over" at the drop of a Santa hat.  Such is my lot this year.  I was so looking forward to a pleasant season in this year of extra days - the year that Thanksgiving falls as early as it possibly can - on November 22nd.  And I got an excellent start, too.  Had my Christmas cards out before December 1st even.

But I couldn't get the one package I had to mail off on its merry way until last Saturday.  Hope it arrives in time.

I've made my share of spinach dip, have already gotten one Dirty Santa gift that I hate, and I have the 2012 ornaments on the tree (thank you, Jamie at J. Mitchell Art - [and if you haven't checked her out on totally should]) and I have enough festive events ahead of me to make me feel all warm and cozy.  (The warm part is because of this stubbornly mild December and some lingering hormonal issues that will not be discussed in detail here, of course.)

My tree is lovely...probably one of the prettiest we have ever brought home from the lovely Christmas tree lot at Home Depot (Big Dave's "home away from home.")...and it doesn't look like it could burst into flames at any second spontaneously and without provocation like the one last year did before we even put it in the stand.  All of the presents are bought, tagged, wrapped, and under the tree or organized in a way that I can actually find what I need when I need it for distribution to various parties over the coming week.  We've had a precious girl (Brecksyn) visiting us...and I've had some great quality time with Jill at the gym...even if she makes me go back and do cardio with her a second time with her although I've done my own cardio so that I can get it over with before I lose my resolve.  (Frankly, I could do cardio nonstop from now until 2014, and I'd still be morbidly it's fine.)  I've also had some pretty marvelous Christmas cookies from the kitchen of my friend, Michelle, in Macon, Georgia (who could manage to find the post office a whole lot better than I could, thankfully.)

It is raining outside as I write this...and I am on vacation.  Normally these two things shouldn't go hand in hand without gnashing of teeth..and most people (especially those who are tropical location or beach bound) would be whining but I honestly couldn't care less about that right now.  I'm sitting here in my robe and pink Crocs and have nothing on the agenda other than going to the gym tonight and attending a branch (where I work) party later on...if I'm up to it.  Oh, yeah, and take the two grandcats and Riley to the vet for a shot (Riley), a free check up (for the new shelter cat, Taylor) and a nail clipping for both cats so that they don't draw blood as they try to "bond" in their new household.  Granted, this rain means that I will have to do puppy pad duty on steroids today...but other than is fine.

I'm hoping that I can capture some Christmas spirit today.  Of course, I could always follow the lead of my hilarious friend (who shall remain nameless) who texted me the following yesterday: "Instead of struggling with holiday spirit, I just went to the ABC store and 'bought' some."

Well, you go girl.  :)

I think that I'm going to spend today just praising God for all of the things that have gone right this Christmas.  For the time I've had to enjoy my friends and family.  That we have a legacy of love in Dave's family that means that I'll see his sweet Mama's spirit in the eyes of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  That my folks will be with me on Christmas morning...and that we will enjoy our little traditions and our present opening for another year...just as we have for the past several.  That I'll cook myself into oblivion beginning today...although I'm just starting out slowly with Christmas cookies and working my way up to two big meals.  One of which I'll share with my friend Bonnie and her family...a tradition we've been observing since our girls were two years old (they are now 22).

Maybe I'll do 26 acts of kindness between now and the first of the year in memory of the children and teachers lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and try to make someone's day that I don't even know.  I'll spend some time reflecting on the gift I have as a Christian living in the Southern United States surrounded by people who love me at best...and tolerate me at worst.  That in spite of being way overweight...I am still pretty healthy otherwise.  The bills for December are paid.  The lights are on.  The food in the pantry, freezer and refrigerator overfloweth.

Yes, I am blessed.

I am also blessed by having people who will actually pull up this page and read my rambling thoughts.  Who think something that I might write is meaningful, or funny, or just entertaining.  If you do...please click one of the buttons below.  They should work even if you don't follow the blog.  Just want to know that you are out there.  In fact, if it is more than 26...I'll do that many acts of kindness in your honor.  As a thank you for just being out there.

Merry Christmas to you.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Brunch 2012

Another year has quickly passed, and it was time for the annual Frazer Women's Ministry function again on December 1st.  This event happens (miraculously) on the first Saturday of December each year...and it brings out some of the finest examples of decorating, culinary excellence, and organizational wizardry you can imagine.  The price of admission was $10 this year...and for that we received a fabulous meal, a lesson on simple flower arranging, and an upbeat and encouraging talk by Lauren Matson on contentment.  How I got involved in this is no surprise to anyone who knows Barbara Christenberry and Sandi Justice.  One minute...I was walking innocently through the atrium at church speaking to people and enjoying the fellowship of other believers and the next I was volunteering to be a table fairy (those who decorate a table, purchase a ticket, and serve as hostess) and purchasing three tickets.

I'm so not kidding.

But back to contentment.  Frankly, I'm going to try to focus on that whole "contentment" theme...because in spite of the beauty of my table...I was still having some serious "table envy" with what I was witnessing.  The wonderful that most of these women are gracious enough to pull back the curtain - so to speak - so that it is possible to see exactly how they were able to make the presentation that they did.  Upside down cake pedestals, placemats and ribbon to make a pretty chair accent, the use of fresh greenery and even a quick trip to the Dollar Tree all made each table unique and special.  Some were classic...and others took what they had around the house, threw them together, and came out with a masterpiece of burlap, gold lame, and towering camels.  Or reindeer.  Or twigs.  Or Pinterest.  Or whatever.

You get the point.

The food could not have been more delectable.  I realize that some people love to cook for family...and others prefer cooking in a more industrial setting...feeding the masses and all.  It takes a particular kind of cook who doesn't tire making thirty breakfast casseroles and about a gazillion sausage balls.  So, hats off to those ladies...especially you, Frances Carr, who totally hit a home run with the menu and the execution.

Execution is such an icky word...but you know what I meant.  Too lazy to hunt down the thesaurus.

We arrived - actually - the day set up the tables and to begin admiring the handiwork of the others.  I use the term "we" this year...because I had the help of my first "special apple" - Erin - and was one table over from my second "special apple" - Amanda.  Amanda went full blown into her own table this year...and pulled it off beautifully.  Here is her table...

Pretty, isn't it?  She used candy canes with her napkins, live mums, and a splash of color with the runners and the ornaments in the center.  Someone was paying attention in Apples of Gold.  :)

Erin and I put together our table using my Spode Christmas Tree china (like several others did), the same runners from La Tree eau Dollar (did that sound fancier?) that Amanda found and a poinsettia that an office friend gave me the day after Thanksgiving when they were on sale for .97.  Yes.  That is exactly how I roll.  Here's our table:

Yes, we were pretty much in the "Great Minds Think Alike" Department with Amanda...but they were different enough, right?  The finishing touch of the ribbons to tie the napkins and the candy canes was contributed by Erin as well as help in placement and general encouragement.  I think we pulled it off pretty well.

Before I go any further, I absolutely must post the food and station photos...because they totally rocked.  Commentary will be under the photos.  Here goes...

Granola thingys filled with vanilla yogurt and topped with a fresh blueberry.  These were made and pressed into muffin tins.  Extremely tasty and even somewhat healthy.  I'm sure that the number that  I consumed wasn't exactly a healthy choice.  But whatever.

In the "I Won't Tell If You Won't Tell" are the sausage balls that were made for the kitchen staff.  Oh, wait.  I just told.  Anyway, the husbands were back in the kitchen popping these at warp speed when I intervened. And then joined them.  

Cute little blueberry lemon muffins.  There were also pecan pie muffins.  Can we just say that the pecan pie muffins were so good that they almost made me cry?  Because they were.

A lovely presentation that any Southern lady would be pleased to offer her guests.

Here's both of the their respective festively adorned baskets.

The lovely table.  Or as I referred to it "The Table of Delight and Massive Caloric Intake."

Just imagine juice in these.  Because it was so there.

After going down the line...which included cheese grits, breakfast casserole and the delights that I've already shown you (minus the sausage balls...that was supposed to be a secret) and some fruit...we settled into the various tables.  Of course, before that, we had some visiting time.  Here's some of that just so you can feel all festive-like.

Just the general crowd...

The perspective from my table...

Betty Henry and Susan Fisher (Women's Ministry Leader) before the brunch.  I had the pleasure of having Betty and her friends at my table.  They totally rocked, by the way.  Susan is just amazing too!  
Here's the Spode used with live greenery under a bell shaped glass enclosure that probably has a name but I know not what it is.  I did overhear her stating that she had located this lovely glass piece at Pottery Barn.  I like the use of the placemats over the side of the table rather than in a standard manner...and actual greenery with the napkins.  Very creative...yet do-able.  Maybe.  Hopefully.

Now this stunner of a table belonged to my friend, Nedra McMullin...and it was oohed and aahed over quite a bit.  Nedra is an artist, of course, so she captured more than simply a centerpiece.  She captured the placing together of numerous items that had meaning...which could also serve as conversation starters over the meal.  She used burlap, her Christmas china and fresh greenery that she cut.  I am proud to note that those are my napkins and she and Erin tied the in a small way, we contributed to this awesomeness.

Well, let me just tell you...this reindeer table totally rocked.  What you may be missing is the beautiful reindeer that were also on the napkins.  I was as green with envy over this particular table as the rims around her dinnerware.  Beautiful job.

Loved this use of red on a burlap table.  Burlap is seriously "in" right now and it is paired beautifully with red as shown here.  Lovely centerpiece that is simple yet elegant.

Here's Donna putting the finishing touches on her table.  I think that she was putting potpourri in a biscuit jar and lighting a candle.  Note the beautiful little gifts on top of each plate.  They are filled with some Lindt chocolates...and because her guests forgot theirs...guess who has one of this sitting on her buffet table right now with the gold chargers.  Yup.  Donna's table was my favorite...her camels are elegant and the whole presentation was lovely.  There will be a better photo later.  Probably several.  But, HI, DONNA!  Remember me taking this?  :)

This wasn't at Donna's table, but it was a lovely idea.  What the lady did was put a placemat on the back of the chair, and then tied it with wide ribbon (very 12 inch wide ribbon).  She then put some fresh greenery and a little pick.  Beautiful, yes?  Simple, too!  (For most of you, anyway.)
Look at this beautiful centerpiece!  Closer shot below...

Gorgeous, yes?

This table was lovely...and the combination of flowers, ornaments and the cute Christmas tree napkin rings placed on the side of the plate.  Loved that.

Check out the bottles with the white and red arrangement, red napkins and cute snowmen on the plates.  Just so you know...those cupcakes were edible Gigi's cupcakes.  Also...burlap!

Closeup of the snowman cupcake from Gigi's Cupcakes.

Another great use of Spode china...with matching Spode napkins and well as a gold Christmas tree to set off the chargers.

Loved the natural centerpiece and the pretty napkin rings.  Great use of the "Grinch green" that Erin likes.

Isn't this centerpiece lovely with the sliced limes in water and the natural greenery with candles?  Yes.  Yes it is.

Here's my "special apple 2" - Amanda - decorating her table.  She did a beautiful job!

Yes.  Just yes.  Look at the plates with "Love" "Joy" and other words on them!  Beautiful table with pretty red ribbon and there it is again..."Grinch green" touches!

So lovely!  The placecards added a special touch to this table!

Confession time: I ate one of the kisses off of this table while I was photographing.  SO cute and tempting, too!

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this red and white theme with the red ornaments and gifts.  White plates with beautiful centerpiece.  Lovely!

This "Winter Wonderland" theme with the white and silver with little pops of red caught my eye.  The centerpiece was beautifully done and the silver pieces that the hostess used tied it all together perfectly.  A farther away shot to capture the entire centerpiece is below.

Same as above but with the entire centerpiece visible.
Look at the pretty lantern in the middle of the table with greenery.  The napkins were placed between the plate and the charger.  Charming!
Another clever use of lanterns and greenery with burlap in the middle.  This one used green chargers and white napkins to match the plates and lanterns.  Beautiful!  

This was one of my favorite tables.  Not only was the centerpiece lovely, the beautiful gold angel plates  were gorgeous. Add a big white candle in the middle and the effect was breathtaking!  A closer up photo of the place setting is below.  The gold flatware coordinates beautifully with the table.

Lovely!  (Dear Santa: Please bring me these plates.  Love, Karen)

One of our table fairies putting the final touches on her beautiful table (below).

Lovely setting with beautiful china!  Love the use of the red overcloth under the china.

Classically beautiful with lovely octagonal china and ornaments scattered about the arrangement.  

A beautiful mirrored centerpiece with crystal pieces and live greenery.  Love the red chargers!

Pretty plaid ribbon around a lovely candle with ornaments and greenery.  Love the  use of 

A very beautiful blue and gold table among all of the red and green!  Loved the use of the ornaments on candlestick holders and the lovely china!  Stunning!

Pretty table with roses and lovely red touches with the greenery.  Loved the china on this table!

With a nod to Saint Nicholas...this table had candles and crystal with red and green touches.  Such a lovely presentation!

Loved the olive green with the red and the pretty crosses at each place setting.  Beautiful table.

This was Elizabeth's beautiful table.  Yes, folks, those are bird's nests on the plates...and this photo doesn't do the centerpiece justice.  One of my favorite tables.  Gorgeous!
A beautiful arrangement with antlers and apples that matched the border of the plates.  Very natural and set off by matching greenery on the napkin rings.  This is the close up photo of the centerpiece. The table is shown below.

Very pretty table!  Loved the centerpiece.
Here's a closeup of Donna's table that I couldn't find earlier.  I love, love, love this table.  I have camel envy.  Big time.
One final picture of the table that sweet Erin and I did.  Check out those awesome Pier One looking trees that we had on the table.  Those also came from The Dollar Tree.  Yes. They. Did.

Here I am with my two "Special Apples" from Apples of Gold (which is an awesome program, by the way)...Special Apple 1 (Erin) on the left) then me (with my "Grinch green" shirt in honor of Erin) and Special Apple 2 (Amanda) on the right.  I love my Specials!  :)

Phil Easter gave us a presentation on decorating for Christmas.  Great presentation!  
Hope that you've enjoyed this display of awesomeness...and that you will come next year!  I'll be there.  Cannot wait.  Really.  Merry Christmas everyone.