Monday, December 23, 2013

A Childhood Christmas in Germany

As I have written before, I lived with my grandmother in Germany until I was six years old. I still have vivid memories of those years living with her, especially during the holidays.

Anise oookies
Hazelnut cookies
Bars of Swiss Chocolate
Oranges wrapped in tissue
Frost on the windows
New hats and mittens
A freshly cut Christmas tree
Narrow streets with snow piled high
Softly fallen snow twinkling beneath the stars
Fire burning brightly in the wood stove
Sausages wrapped in butcher paper
Crusty Bauern Brot (farmer's rye bread)
My uncle pretending to be St. Nicholas
Yummy Apple Strudel fresh from the oven
Church bell ringing at midnight on Christmas Eve
Merry Christmas!
Frohe Weihnachten!
The little town I was born in.

Christmas Crafts and Cookies

Guess what I've been doing? Yes, baking cookies and making crafts with the grandchildren.

 Here are the birdhouses that the children painted and decorated. Of course, I had to help the two-year old. She was more interested in painting herself;)

"Rudolph" is nothing more than an inexpensive washcloth and a bar of soap.
I helped the kids make these as little gifts. They loved them!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Christmas Memory

This time of year always takes me back to childhood memories of Christmases spent in Germany. From ages 11-15 we lived in Landstuhl, Germany in government housing, or quarters as we called them. Landstuhl was on top of a hill and was about as close to a picturesque German town as you would find.

It had woods and forests to explore and an old historic tower to climb. The caretaker sold little drinks like Capri Suns for a few pfennigs. Landstuhl had the largest military hospital in Germany. In fact, many of the military Dads were assigned to the hospital or to local artillery batteries (my father was one of them). At Christmas the post would be lit up from all the Christmas lights and decorations on the balconies. My mother would prepare for the holidays in early December, baking dozens of cookies that she put away. Of course we would sneak a few to sample. A fresh tree was put up with tinsel and old-fashioned bulb lights about a week before Christmas. Oma, my German grandmother, usually made the trip by train, arriving in her fur hat and coat, for once not wearing her everyday apron, bearing gifts for all of us. Christmas music played throughout our house from my parents’ stereo and to this day Jim Reeves Christmas album is one of my all-time favorites. The house was filled with family and friends. The air was full of joy and anticipation. Our Christmas gifts were simple, but plentiful. New pajamas; a sweater from Oma, books for me, games and puzzles, and one year, a guitar that I’d been longing for. We hoped for snow on Christmas day, so all the kids who got sleds would head to the “hill” to go sledding. We didn’t come home until the dim hours of the afternoon, brushing off the snow and ready to thaw out.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Around the House

I am posting a few more pictures of what I call "Christmas Vignettes". My house is rather small, so I only put up a little tree, but I love to decorate around the house.

I like to frame favorite Christmas cards and place
them around the house.

In the foyer

My $5.00 bargain tree all dressed up

Old Christmas card made into an ornament.

Nativity snowglobes

Tree angel

My favorite doll ornament

Sunday, November 24, 2013

More Things to Be Thankful For

I am thankful that my two daughters are close and stick up for one another. I always told my girls not to carry a grudge because your sister will be the closest adult relationship you have after your parents, husband and children. They are 30 and 33 years old and have very different personalities, but have maintained a close, sisterly friendship. The cousins, all four of them, also get along and even accept the scrappy two-year old who is a little force to be reckoned with.

I am thankful for my home and quiet days like today. Believe it or not, I like puttering around the house and doing household chores and love the smell of Pine Sol. It was cold and windy all day, so staying home was a good option.

I am thankful for my church. I made it to the 11 o'clock service today and the sermon was on thankfulness and testing our character. There was a skit to go along with the sermon and had a really good message. I am thankful for the many people who make it possible to open the doors on Sunday morning; for the minister to prepare a Bible reading and sermon; for the music director and organist to arrange the music; for the ushers and childcare workers and communion servers and acolytes, all who come faithfully, so that the church members can worship God and we even have a choice of three services.

I am thankful for plenty of food to eat. I went to the grocery store after church to stock up on baking supplies and food for the holidays and a few gift items. Not only did I have enough money to pay for my purchases, I had barely enough room in my pantry and refrigerator after putting everything away.
My cup surely runneth over.

I am thankful that I have to get up in the morning and go to a job. And  this week I only have to work three days. I meet many people in my line of work (financial service representative) who work two and even three jobs, many who do not have the luxury of getting off on the holidays. My son-in-law is a law enforcement officer and is one of them.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fall Wanderings

This past Sunday was a perfect Fall day. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, and the
trees were bursting with brilliant colors. After church I decided to take my
grandchildren to the local State Park on the mountain.
We collected leaves and went for a walk, the children finding sticks
to use as their "walking sticks". They wanted to go on one of the
steep trails, but I said, "No, it looks too dangerous."
A middle-aged grandmother with three children on
a rocky trail screams 911. My oldest granddaughter reminded
me that if I fell down the mountain she could call her mother's cell phone.

Love this view.

My grandson acting silly.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Reading the Bible

I heard a minister once say that we may be the only "Bible" that someone may read. Those words have stayed with me all of these years. It's a great analogy. What kind of Bible" would I be? Would I be a Bible that is covered in dust, sitting on a bookshelf, with pages barely turned? Or would I be well-worn, with pages crimped and high-lighted and notes written in the margins? Would my life's experiences speak for themselves while still praising God? We are the witnesses of our Christian faith everyday and never know who is watching, who is reading our "Bible".

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Train Station

The train station near the German town where I was born

There I was, just a little girl, holding the hand of my grandmother as we stepped onto the train.

The train cars were filled with all the people I knew: aunts and uncles, cousins. As the train left the station the scenery changed. Cities with tall buildings and crowded streets changed to pastoral scenes with cows grazing in the meadows. There was even a castle in the distance. Night came and then the dawn. Sometimes the train engineer would blow his whistle and we would pull into a station.
At the first stop my uncle got off. Uncle Angus always brought me bars of chocolate when he came to visit. He was just a young man when he stepped off the train. Some other people got on and took his seat.
The trip continued and soon my beautiful Aunt Maria had to get off. She was as beautiful as a movie star. I still remember her with a scarf tied around her blonde hair, wearing a pair of dark sunglasses, driving her convertible.
Further along the trip my grandmother finally got off. She didn't say good-bye. I saw her walking through the train station wearing her fur coat and hat and carrying her handbag, a little old woman, barely five feet tall.

Still more people filled the cars, familiar faces, friends and relatives. We talked and laughed and cried.

At one stop my brother-in-law got off, leaving my sister and her baby to continue the trip alone. At the next stop three of my cousins left the trip early.

Still, I was enjoying the trip. My car was filled with my mother, my husband and our children. But soon my mother had to depart the journey. We were sad to see her go. It was hard to enjoy the scenery with my sweet mother not with me any longer.

Further down the line my husband had to leave the train unexpectedly. We hugged him and said good-bye and watched him walk away.
And before long I said good-bye to another uncle and an aunt and other relatives who stepped off the train when I wasn't looking.

The cars were practically empty now. But soon the train pulled into a station and little children got on board. They made me smile and kept me company.

And the scenery was breathtaking.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Perfect Fall Day

It was a perfect Fall day. My grandchildren and I went
to the Botanical Gardens to see the Scarecrow Trail.


Pirate Tree House

A peek through the trees

Lily pads

My granddaughter took this picture.

Pretty Dahlias

Miniature Train

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Nina and the Pinta

I read in the local paper that the Nina and the Pinta
were docked at the local marina on the Tennessee River.
These are actual replicas of
Christopher Columbus' ships. From the information page that
was handed out, we learned that these ships were called "Caravels"
and were used by explorers during the Age of Discovery.
They travel all across the United States. Amazingly, they were built in Brazil
only using shipbuilding methods of the 1500s; no modern tools
were used. I was surprised at how small they were. The Nina was only 65 feet long and the
Pinta was 85 feet long.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by a Six Year Old

This was written by my oldest grandchild when she started first grade. She is now 9 years old. My daughter found it recently and shared it with me. I thought it was precious.

1 day it wax a little catpilr and he wax hugre win the sun wit down on Sunday he eat 1 apple on Munday he eat 1 per on Tuesdat eat 1 plum on Winday 1 sobere on Thurszday he eat 1 orij and he eat sum sor suf and that day he had a beleak and that day he goa a coco and the nex day he wus a buttrefly.

Her Journey Has Just Begun

Her journey has ended here on earth
Gone too soon
We miss her

But she is still with us
She is in the scent of the flowers
She lovingly grew
She is in the face of her grandchildren
Whom she loved so very much
Her spirit is everywhere
She is in that favorite song
That she sang along with on the radio
And she is in the stories she told
Of her childhood, of a different time and place
She is in the hearts of those she loved
And forever will be
She is in the old photographs
Pasted in the family albums
And in the worn and tattered quilts
Stitched with her own two hands
She is in that favorite recipe
That everyone always asked for
And she is in the memories
Of friends and relatives who smile
And remember how special she was
She is in the joy and the laughter
Of the family she called her own
Yes, her spirit is all around
Her journey has just begun
(In memory of my sister-in-law who passed away recently after a brief battle with cancer)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Had a Teacher Who Read to Us

A few friends and I got together for dinner one evening and the conversation turned towards teaching. We all agreed that a teacher probably has the greatest influence on a child, other than a parent. We never realize how our words or actions can impact a child. My adult daughters think that I am such a nerd because I can remember (almost) every teacher's name back to elementary school. I was a military brat and changed schools frequently, attending at least a dozen schools before I graduated from high school.

 A few of my favorite teachers that I remember were:

 Ms. Prince, my fifth grade teacher, who gave me enough confidence to try out for the Christmas play. I was the new kid in class.
Mr. Croce, a short, balding, Italian man who instilled music appreciation in his Junior High students by playing classical records and Opera for us while we diagrammed sentences.
Ms. Gierl, our 7th grade teacher, who favored costume jewelry and bright colors, and loved English.
Mr. Standridge, my 9th grade English teacher, who encouraged my love of Writing (Composition) and Poetry.
Ms. Scholten, my 10th grade History teacher, who took us on field trips to France and England, and made History alive and interesting.

And then there was Ms. Hyde, my 6th grade teacher. We were living in Landstuhl, Germany at the time. She was a new DOD (Dept. of Defense) teacher and had just arrived in Germany. Ms. Hyde didn't smile much, probably because we had a few misfits in class. But every day, after lunch, she opened a book and read to us. She introduced us to the one and only literary spider, Charlotte, and Wilbur, the pig, from "Charlotte's Web," She took us on an imaginary journey with "A Wrinkle in Time," and kept us from falling asleep in class while reading chapters from the  "Island of the Blue Dolphins."

I went by our local library on Tuesday evening, and there on display in the Children's sections were the Newberry winners, "A Wrinkle in Time" and "Island of the Blue Dolphins."

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day Trips

I am on vacation this week. Yay! It has been eight months since I've had a week off from work, so I was more than ready for some rest and relaxation. I made a list of things to do, but it includes mostly fun things to do with the grandchildren and lunch with friends, etc. Yesterday my daughter and grandson and I went to Desoto Falls, which is less than a two hour drive from where we live, right on top of Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga. We also went on a scenic drive through the Little River Canyon and stopped at several overlooks. I even ran into a friend and her husband riding their motorcycle through the hills. Talk about a small world! Our little day trip and stopping for lunch on the way home, was less than eight hours. I had time to pick up paint at Lowe's and made it home in plenty of time. I plan on going back in the fall, wearing comfortable shoes and when the weather is cooler.

I have to say that Alabama has some beautiful scenery. Who would have guessed that we have canyons and waterfalls and gorgeous scenery only a short drive away?

The gorge at Desota Falls

Desoto Falls

Little River Canyon Falls

I took this picture of my grandson, the budding photographer.
Don't worry, it's the camera angle.

One of the scenic views of Little River Canyon

This waterfall is over 100 feet long.
Next time I hope to walk on the trail and get views from the bottom.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wedding in the Woods

My niece got married this past weekend at a state park. Here are a few photos I took.

"All things grow with love"

The little country church

My sister did the reception. This was the children's
table and only part of the wonderful food she made.

The bride and groom displayed wedding pictures of
their parents and grandparents.
I thought this was very nice.

The bride and groom left in this vintage vehicle.