Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Daughters

My youngest daughter celebrated her 28th birthday today. It seems like only yesterday when she was born during an icy winter storm in, of all places, El Paso, Texas. We had just moved there two months before, returning from a three year military tour in Germany.
28 years. Where did the time go?
My youngest was always a Mama's girl. She stuck to me like glue when she was little, but became a little social butterfly once she started school.
She loved her naptimes. I would pick her up from school and she was still rubbing the sleepiness out of her eyes. Even in high school, she would come home in the afternoons and take a little nap.
Now, as a full-time mother of two, she could definitely use a nap every now and then, especially with baby #3 on the way.
But she loves being a Mommy. She wouldn't have it any other way.

God bless all of our daughters.



Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Child's Manger

My two- year old grandson has been fascinated with my little manger. When I first put it on display he would constantly rotate the figurines around. I let him play with my child-size Nativity, and so far he hasn't broken any of the characters. He was curious. He'd bring them to me, one by one, and ask,
"What is this?"
"The Wise Man."
"What is this?"
"The shepherd boy."
What is this?"
"Mary, Jesus' Mommy."
"What is this?" he asked, as he carried the tiny Jesus, cupped in his little hand.
"Baby Jesus."

But today took the cake. He put one of the Wise Man in his toy police car. I wish that I had taken a picture:).

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Going Where?

My daughter shared this cute story about my six-year old granddaughter on her Facebook page.

Erika was reading the Nativity story to her little sister. My daughter laughed when she heard her read about Mary and Joseph and how  "they had to travel to Birmingham".

It made me smile.






Saturday, December 11, 2010

Trees of Christmases Past

This was our Christmas tree from 1980. We were living in Germany. My oldest was seven months old, so this was her very first Christmas. We only had one car at the time, so I was a real stay-at-home Mom. I learned how to sew and crochet and made these homemade ornaments just in time for Christmas. I missed my family, but we made some good friends in our apartment building.

This was Christmas 1986. My youngest daughter (pictured here) was four years old. Our living room was warm and cozy, and I especially loved the stone fireplace in our little rental house.

We had moved into our new house by the time this picture was taken in the late 1980's. I was in a country decorating phase. Notice the ruffled curtains in the background. Even if I don't write on the back of my photos I can identify the time period by the decor.



I think that this one was taken the following year (same curtains).

My Victorian Christmas tree.

Christmas at my mother's house. Our family always got together on Christmas Eve. She would make her famous Potato Salad and Bratwurst, along with assorted cold cuts and rye bread. There was always a Stollen, a traditional German bread, and of course, Christmas cookies.

Christmas, 2005
I paid $5.00 for this little tree on clearance the year before.





An old-fashioned Christmas tree, 2009.  


Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Other Wise Man

From my postcard collection
One of my favorite Christmas stories is "The Story of the Other Wise Man" by Henry Van Dyke. I first read this story many, many years ago when my parents bought me a small book of short works by this Presbyterian minister. I had no idea who he was, but I loved the stories in this little pocket-sized book.
Artaban, the fourth Magi, is a man of forty when he begins his quest to find the Messiah, the King of the Jews. For years he is on this journey, but his travels do not bring him any closer to his King. Instead, he uses his wealth to feed the hungry, to heal the sick, and clothe the naked. The jewels that he had set aside for the Messiah are used to help ordinary people in need. Many years pass by, and Artaban is now an old man. He has yet to see the face of his King,  Finally, thirty-three years from the time he began his quest, he meets his King.
"Three-and- thirty years have I looked for thee; but I have never seen thy face, nor ministered to thee, my King."
And Artaban hears the words from his King, faint and far away:
"Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me."
He had found Him, at last.

Blessings,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Long-Ago Christmas

During the first six years of my life I lived in Germany with "Oma," which is what I called my grandmother. We lived in a tiny, picturesque village in a cozy duplex apartment. It was a hilly village and I remember walking down the steep roads with Oma to visit the butcher or baker. At night we could look across our berg and see the twinkling of lights from houses dotting the hillsides, surrounded by thick, wooded forests. At Christmastime, when the landscape was covered in snow,  it was especially picture-postcard pretty.
Oma would start the Christmas preparations in early December, by baking spicy Lebkuchen and the traditional German Christmas bread, Stollen. Everything was then wrapped and put away until Christmas. A freshly cut tree would be brought in on Christmas Eve and set up on a table in one of the two bedrooms. My grandmother, who had lived through two wars, never wasted anything, so wrapping tissue was carefully folded and saved for another use. I usually received a new sweater and mittens, a woolen hat, and other warm clothing. The winters in Germany could get bitterly cold and we stayed warm with the wood stove in the kitchen. Besides clothes, I would also  receive a doll or toy and a bar of Swiss chocolate. What I really adored, however, were oranges. They were a real treat. We didn't have them at any other time of the year.

I remember the excitement of waiting for Christmas and wondering if St. Nicholas would make an appearance. My uncle would often scare us with his loud footsteps and his gruff "Ho-Ho-Ho's". Oma always disappeared around that time, and it was only later that we discovered who played the role of St. Nicholas.
The church bells would ring on Christmas Eve, and we could hear the footsteps of people crunching through the snow, on their way to midnight  Mass. Tucked into bed on a cold and wintry night, underneath the featherbeds, it was truly a 'Silent Night, Holy Night.'

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I collect vintage postcards and this is one of my favorites. I told my daughters that I am having a simple, "modified" Thanksgiving dinner this year. It will be a small gathering, so I am only baking a turkey breast with the usual side items.

A Kid-Friendly Menu

Turkey with Cornbread and Sausage Dressing (old recipe)
Cranberry Jello Salad
Corn Casserole (my daughter's recipe - the kids love it)
Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecans
Macaroni and Cheese
Steamed Broccoli (the green vegetable)
Yeast Rolls
Pumpkin Bars
Apple Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Old Photos

I've been going through old photos, some of which have been damaged from being stored in boxes over time. I tried to save the ones I could.
The canals of Amsterdam. We took a boat ride on the "John F. Kennedy."
This is the famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany. Pretzels and beer...we skipped the beer because our (then) two-year daughter was with us.
Most of my photos from Paris are damaged, such as this one. But the color gives it a strange, vintage look.


London Bridge

London...it was rainy and foggy during most of our stay. I loved London! Gorgeous gardens, magnificent history, and plays every night.



Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Day at the Pumpkin Patch

A family of scarecrows and a row of pumpkins greeted us.
We spent part of today at a Pumpkin Patch nearby in Tennessee. It's a real working farm with lots of things for the children to do.Last, but not least, is a ride on a tractor to pick out your very own pumpkin. With two small children and three pumpkins to carry back, my daughter and I had our hands full! The Petting Zoo was very popular with the children.


One of the goats in the Petting Zoo.


My grandson trying to feed the mules.


The piglets captured everyone's hearts!

"Which one should I choose, Grandma?"




Monday, October 11, 2010

Procrastination



            Why should I do it now?
Why can't it wait?
I'm in no hurry
I won't be late

I put it off yesterday
Now today is here
Tomorrow sounds better
What is there to fear?

But what if tomorrow
 never comes?
What if I had the chance
and didn't take it?
What if I dressed for the dance
but didn't make it?

What if I looked at my watch,
but time slipped away?
What if I waited...and waited
for yet another day?

 What if that day
 never comes
to right a wrong,
 to hug someone,
to read a book,
to sing a song
to go some place,
and watch the setting sun

So today is all we have
There is no guarantee
Every second is a gift from God,
a gift for you and me

(c) 2010 Anita M. Ashworth

Monday, October 4, 2010

Katrina Stories

Lighthouse on Biloxi Beach
It's been a little over five years since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and changed lives forever. Most of my in-laws live in the Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi area. My television had just gone kaput the same weekend that Katrina was about to unleash her fury. My sister let me borrow her small, portable plug-in television to keep up with the news. Naturally, we couldn't get through on the phone lines, so we sat, anxiously waiting for any news from Mississippi. We saw the devastating videos of  New Orleans and could only hope and pray that family members were safe. On Wednesday my daughter received a text from one of my three sister-in-laws. "We're okay," was all the message said. They could text, but not call. When we were finally able to make phone contact, I made arrangements to drive down half-way to pick up my elderly mother-in-law and one brother-in-law (that lived with her). They had no electricity at their apartment complex and it could possibly take weeks before power was turned back on. Bridges were out, the coastline was gone, and people were in survival mode those first few weeks after the hurricane hit.  I loaded my car with bottled water, canned foods, cleaning supplies, batteries, extra gas cans, and anything I could think of that could be usable. People were waiting in line up to eight hours to fill up with gas, so one brother-in-law was going to bring as many gas cans home that he could. One sister-in-law lost her mobile home and another one had severe damage to her home. The second one stayed at a shelter during the storm and said it was horrific. Her husband stayed home during the storm. After it was over, with no electricity, everyone got together with their grills and cooked up whatever was in the freezer and shared with the neighbors.

One sister-in-laws works for the State of Mississippi and told us how hard it was to locate clients, because everything:  road signs, trees, landmarks, not to mention, homes, were totally obliterated. It took weeks, and in some cases, months, to locate many of the missing. My in-laws stayed with me for three weeks. I took them to the local Red Cross to file a claim, where many Katrina refugees found themselves homeless and with no place to go. My in-laws were some of the more fortunate ones, but they didn't get away unscathed.  Some lost jobs and had to find new employment. The damage to their homes took months to repair.  One sister-in-law lived with her in-laws, with seven adults and seven household pets, in a three-bedroom house, instead of the FEMA trailor they were loaned.
Slowly, the Gulf Coast recovered, but a part of the coast was gone forever. Many of the stately homes that sat on the oceanside, are no more. The casinos now sit on solid ground, no longer on the barges, as before Katrina. The lawmakers made that concession.  My husband's family still live there. One brother-in-law died the year after Katrina and I made the trip down for his funeral. He stayed with me the year before and I missed him.  I've been back a couple of times since then. A lot has been rebuilt, but there are still construction cranes everywhere you look. But the spirit of the people is amazing. Like my in-laws, they are all survivors, and with amazing grace, they go on.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Grandma's Rules

When my grandchildren spend the night I try to keep a few simple rules in mind.

1. Have plenty of snacks on hand.
 Leave the nutrition to the parents. Kids want Popcorn, Oreos, Popsicles, Chips and Coke, and chocolate milk when they go to Grandma's house. I also keep apples on hand, because my grandchildren love apples, so I don't feel so bad about the sugary snacks and drinks.

2. My motto is "Don't let the kids starve."
Therefore, I will give in whenever they open the refrigerator door and pull out the yogurt, or string cheese, or yesterday's spaghetti. All they have to say is "I'm hungry," and Grandma jumps. The only other rule is that they have to eat a few bites.

3. Have lots of activities on hand.
They have the attention spans of a flea, so be prepared to buzz from activity to the next. I stock up at the Dollar General for coloring books, Play Do, Bubbles, and have lots of books to read, and videos for them to watch when I am ready to fall down from exhaustion.

4. Lower my housekeeping standards while the kids visit.
Treat sticky floors like a crime scene. Just walk around it and don't touch anything. "A messy house is a lived in house" is another saying of mine. This is not a museum, and kids are allowed to touch things.

5. Be prepared for lots of questions.
Kids love to ask questions and most of them start with "Why?" such as "Why is your desk so messy, Grandma?" "Because I'm baby-sitting," is my reply. Sometimes the questions are hard. The three-year old has been asking me, "Why did Grandpa die?" I don't know where she came up with that one.

6. Be prepared for crankiness, especially after 10 o'clock.
I know, I know...their normal bedtime is 8 o'clock, but remember, they are at Grandma's house and these rules don't count.

7. Take time out for each grandchild.
Be prepared for a little jealousy. With three young children there can be competition for my attention. Reading stories are great for dividing attention because I let them each pick out a book to read.

8. Make bathtime fun.
Towels are supposed to be absorbant. You can mop up the water later.

9. Don't scare them into going to bed.
Don't tell them about the 'boogie-man' or what will happen when their parents pick them up. They know that Mommy and Daddy are not coming "in a few minutes." Just pretend your house is a frontier fort and you have guard duty for the night to protect against Indian raids. You'll sleep tomorrow night.

10. Give them lots of hugs and kisses.
That's what grandmothers do best.



Monday, September 20, 2010

Ordinary Faith; Extraordinary God

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet."
I've been thinking a lot about God lately. Have you ever noticed how you can find God in the most ordinary way, and how he will make an appearance, out of the blue, and surprise you with a dose of grace when you least expected it? And then I remember how my faith can be as small as a mustard seed and it is enough for God. That gives me great comfort, because there have been times that my faith has dangled from a thin thread and yet God gave me the strength to hold on, and guess what, the longer I held on, the stronger that thread became.

I talked to a friend yesterday. She is going through a difficult time, and is scheduled for back surgery for the third time this upcoming week. Her husband is also having health problems and his position at work is at stake. He's worried that he'll lose his job and his health insurance, and possibly, their house. But after church yesterday, he felt renewed hope and felt his faith restored. "I can live without a job and without insurance, but I can't live without God," he said.

Children, too, think about God and surprise us with their innocent reflections. My granddaughter, Teka, saw a picture of 'The Last Supper" at her other grandparent's house and asked her mother, "Mommy, is that God and his friends?"

A few days later, Little Sister was playing with the miniature manger that she found in the bedroom. Teka scolded her, "No, you can't play with that. That belongs to Jesus."

My oldest daughter has been having severe neck and shoulder problems. On her way to the doctor she stopped at Burger King to grab a bite to eat. When she arrived for her doctor's appointment and checked her purse she realized that the cashier had given her too much money back, so on the way home she stopped and returned the cash. The manager stated that the cashier was short in her drawer and she'd already left work. She was genuinely surprised that someone would return the money.  My daughter thought that the employee might be in trouble, or she might be new and need her job, but now the employee can return to work tomorrow knowing that there are still honest people in this world. Little things do matter to God.

And one more...At work we gather in a huddle each morning to start our day on a positive note. This week we are discussing positive experiences we have had in the workplace. There are too many to list here. but I think of all the little things we do for one another to lift each other up. It may be a hug or a prayer when a co-worker is going through a rough time, or it may be simply sticking around to help a fellow employee during a busy time without looking at the clock. Ordinary faith; extraordinary God.

"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

Blessings,


Friday, September 17, 2010

Yellow Days

"Do you get to take naps in 1st grade?" I asked my granddaughter, 'Teka.'

"No, you only take naps in Kindergarten. I think that's why I got on 'Yellow', because I was so-o-o tired."

"Oh," I said, "What other colors do you have?"

"There's green, of course, and orange and pink, because we don't have a red card."

"Does anyone ever get on Orange?"

"Not really. 'Orange' means you miss 10 minutes of Recess. 'Yellow 'means you miss 5 minutes of Recess."

"What happens when you get into trouble?"

"I have to pull my card."

"Would you get upset and cry?"

"No, then everyone would look at me and say, 'Look at that little girl...she's crying."

Do you ever have days when you stay on 'Yellow'? I do. Sometimes, like my granddaughter, I have 'Yellow' days. Days when I just can't seem to get going. Days when my brain is in a fog or when I just can't seem to get things right and I don't feel like reading the instructions, because even the instructions are hard to understand. Days when I can't seem to tackle that mental 'things to do' list. It's hard staying on 'Green' all the time, and occasionally I slip and have to pull my card and land on 'Yellow'. I just hope that no one is watching and says, "Look at her... I can't believe she did that....because I might be on 'Yellow.'

But fortunately we get to start fresh tomorrow. No marks against us. No unhappy faces. A clean slate. And if I stay on 'Green' all day, it's a good day:)


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sunday at the Park

I spent Sunday with my grandchildren. We ate a late breakfast at Cracker Barrel.

We took the kids to the local state park, where they played on the neat playground. They wouldn't be still long enough to get any good pictures.

They did like playing in the dirt...





And taking a short hike with their 'walking sticks.'


Here's another scenic view...

And one more.



After our visit to the park, we stopped at Earth Fare, a gourmet grocery store with lots of organic foods, and I couldn't resist the deserts, so I bought a sampling.  I just ate a bite of each, honestly!

The kids still had energy left over to jump on the trampoline. Whew! I was tired.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tickled

My grandchildren tickle me with the things they say.

Teka, my 6-year old granddaughter, was watching "Alvin and the Chipmunks" for the umpteenth time and practically had it memorized. "Uh-oh," she said, "Alvin is about to say the 'S' word." My daughter is thinking, surely not that word! Alvin says, "stupid," and Carrie breathes a sigh of relief. Sometimes children do listen to their parents and Teka knows that "stupid" is not a nice word, either.

Little Allie, at three, is still a little hypochondriac. She had a slight temperature one day this past week and ran to get the thermometer. "Wait until it goes 'beep-beep'", said my daughter. "Take me to dokor," Little Allie tells her. I have never seen a child that loves going to the doctor and is curious about everything. Perhaps she'll want to study medicine when she grows up.

Carrie was making  reservations for a cabin in the Smoky Mountains for Fall Break. When Little Allie saw the cabin on the computer she said, "I wanna go, I wanna go." "No, silly," said Teka, "you can't go now. The invisible woman on the computer said it won't be ready for six more years."

Kids..they say the darndest things.

Blessings,

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Plum Cake


My mother used to make the most delicious Plum Cake. Unfortunately I couldn't remember her recipe, but I found one a few years ago in "Heartland Baking" that is pretty close to my mother's Plum Cake.

"Plum Cake"

2/3 cup butter or margarine, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 lbs of purple plums, pitted and cut into halves

For the topping:

1 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
6 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350. For the topping, combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon and add the butter with a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside. Line a 9-inch round or square pan with wax paper and grease. Cream the butter or margarine with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. In a bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder and fold into the butter mixture. Pour the batter into the pan. Cut the plums into half once more and layer the plums on top of the batter. Sprinkle the Streusel topping over the plums. Bake approximately 45 minutes, or until done. Let cake cool down, and then serve slightly warm. It is also good the next day with your morning coffee.



Enjoy!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cherry Pie


I made a pie,
a Cherry Pie
For the record,
I ate a few
Enough,
that my fingers turned blue

Now the crust was ready
and I filled it high
with the bowl of cherries
for my Cherry Pie

I put it in the oven
And watched the time
I couldn't wait to eat
My Cherry Pie

But, so ugly is my pie
Have you ever seen an ugly pie?
Not I.
I'm telling the truth
I would not lie

I ate a piece
of my ugly Cherry Pie
And it was good...so very good
My "Rustic Cherry Pie"

(photo from flickr - Dani 9-5 photostream)

(c) 2010 Anita M. Ashworth

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Coffee Cake and Tea Break

I'm in a baking mood once again. This cake didn't last long. It's great for breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea. I didn't have any nuts on hand, so I omitted the walnuts. It's good either way.


"Streusel Coffee Cake"

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sour cream

(Topping)

1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
6 tablespoons cold butter

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with wax paper and grease thoroughly. For the topping, place ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork or your fingertips, until the mix resembles coarse crumbs (streusel).
For the cake, cream the butter with electric mixer until soft. Add the sugar. Continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until mixed well. In another bowl, mix the flour and other dry ingredients. Fold the flour into the butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the sour cream. Pour half of the mixture in the prepared pan and sprinkle half of the brown sugar topping mix over batter. Pour the remaining batter in pan and top with the remaining sugar mixture. Bake until browned, 60-70 minutes.







Friday, July 2, 2010

Money in Our Pockets

     I grew up in a military family in the 1960's and sometimes we were lucky enough to live near our grandparents in Tennessee. We were always excited about those weekend visits.

    We were spoiled on those delightful weekends, but not in the material sense of the word. We were spoiled by the delicious freedom we enjoyed when we came to visit. There were no shopping malls or video games and cell phones to keep us entertained, just our sense of imagination and adventure. We explored new neighborhoods, and waded in the 'old swimming hole' which was nothing more than a creek. We'd collect RC bottle caps from the grocery store and turn them in for free Saturday matinee movie passes. Afterwards, we'd walk around the Dollar General Store, looking as if we had money in our pockets.

As dusk fell the mosquitos came out in full force scouting for their supper. Grandpa would be leaning back on his chair on the front porch, nodding at passing acquaintances with a friendly, "How are y'all doing this evening?"

     We played in the street until after dark, catching fireflies in jam jars, until Mama called us inside to wash up for bedtime. Bed was a spare mattress on the floor, or the roll-away bed. Listening to the hum of the grown-up voices in the front room, we would talk and giggle and tell scary stories until a voice calling shushed us, "Y'all better be quiet now and go to sleep."

     Sunday morning came too soon. Grandma and Grandpa were early risers no matter what day of the week it was. The sounds of hillbilly music made us stir, or old-time Gospel, if Grandma had her way. She was already in the kitchen, coffee percolating on the stove, and rolling out biscuits. Grandpa would be puttering outside while the dew still clung to the grass. After breakfast, I rode the church bus with my Aunt and came home to a Sunday dinner of Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes, with homemade Banana Pudding, with real Meringue topping.

     With our bellies full and the clock ticking, we'd pile into the car and head on home. Until the next weekend.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Day at the Park


Sunday afternoon at the park.
It sure is hot. 
Let's go for a swim!


And get others to join you. Quack quack! Come on!

Look at those fish, Mawmaw!



Let me watch them for one more minute!



Okay, I'm tired now and ready to go home.

Pictures

Growing up in my era we didn't take a lot of pictures. Of course, there were the school pictures, which I dreaded, and Mom rarely bought...