Calendar Girls…February

I am waayyyyy behind on this but at least I’m doing it before it’s too far into March which got here much too quickly.  February was a really busy month getting things done around here and there was little trip to Texas thrown in as well.

Last month I wrote about the calendar exchange that I took part in for this year. I love my little calendar that sits on my kitchen counter!  February’s page was done by my sweet friend, Beth Ann. She and I met at a scrapbook retreat several years ago through FredaMac who organized the calendar group. Beth Ann loves to camp and has the most adorable little retro camper that she has named Lola. Frank is her tow vehicle and they even have a Facebook page, Adventures with Lola and Frank. Knowing this about Beth Ann, it came as no surprise that her page had a camping theme to it!

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Isn’t it just adorable?! I wish February had more that 28 days so I could leave it on my counter for just a few more days.

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Calendar Girls~ January

Last October, a very good friend sent me a message and asked me if I would be interested in taking part in a calendar exchange. It was something new she was going to try this year and was looking for eleven crafty friends to join her. She had seen an example on a trip to Washington State and talked to a lady there that had done it for several years. That lady was gracious enough to allow my friend to take pictures of pictures on her phone of some of the ones she had done in the past. It was a great way to get us all excited about this project!

There would be twelve of us and we would all take a month. She would send us the calendar page and we would decorate it-actually, we’d decorate twelve of them. Once done, we’d send them back to her and she would sort them and then send us back a complete calendar for 2018.  I was intrigued, and thought it would be fun, so I said I’d be glad to join in on the crafty fun!

I already knew several of the girls participating and knew that the creativity was abundant so the bar was going to be high. I had no idea. When the  calendars arrived right at the first of the year I was blown away. They are all gorgeous! Every one is very unique and utilizes different techniques, yet they all go together very well. This month’s page was done by FredaMac, the girl that put it all together and is perfect for January.  I have certainly enjoyed having it sitting on my desk all month. IMG_7052-1Everyone that participated this year is already thinking about what month they want to do next year and everyone that has seen these, loves them. She’s started a waiting list for those that are interested in participating in case someone bows out next year. I would say her experiment this year was a success!

Elves

I have a friend that has these adorable elves, Harvey and Conway, that arrive at her house around the first of December. They stay through the Christmas Eve and although they are there less than a month, they get into all sorts of mischief!  While the Elf on a Shelf has been all the rage in recent years, Harvey and Conway are not the creepy, little red elf that everyone else has. Nope, they are in brightly colored clothing and have these cute little faces that scream ‘trouble’.  They even have their own Facebook page and Instagram account!

Thankfully, my kids were grown and gone before the Elf on the Shelf became popular. This did not stop my friend…her kids were in high school when Harvey and Conway arrived! That is one bandwagon I would have probably jumped on and it would have frustrated me and worn me out trying to come up with things for it to do every night. However, I do love following their adventures and even had them visiting me for a while last year.  We had some fun times fishing, cycling, and even watched the eclipse!

I don’t really do much decorating for holidays other than Christmas but I do like a seasonal wreath on my door. Am I the only person that has problems with what to put on the door between Christmas and Spring? Because there’s really not a good general theme to use. You can always use something  winter (snowman, snowflake, etc.) for January, a heart for February, Shamrock for March, and so on, but you have to remember to change it every month, not to mention store it somewhere. I like something for Spring, then I usually use a Patriotic something for summer (Memorial Day thru Labor Day), Fall/Harvest which will take me through Thanksgiving. Then, it’s time for a Christmas wreath. But from January until Easter, it’s a bare door, which is just depressing.

It’s Mardi Gras time here and there are all sorts of great decorations and fun things in the stores for the season. I picked up a simple tinsel wreath a couple of weeks ago and love having it on my door. It will have to come down right at Valentine’s Day so it’s not going last me into Spring but I’ll figure something out then. IMG_7001BUT, the other day I was in Hobby Lobby picking up a few things for a project I’m working on when I came across this cute little guy. I just couldn’t resist him and he found his way into my cart and all the way to my house. I named him Rex (King of Carnival) and he’s promised to stay out of mischief and just hang out making me smile as I cook. I think he might need some beads, what do you think? I’m sure I have some around here somewhere from a parade we went to before Christmas. Oh, and I may or may not have gotten his brother to send to my friend so that Harvey and Conway can have a Carnival cousin. I think they might like that!

 

 

 

Mac and Cheese

I had a craving for macaroni and cheese today. I’m sure it was prompted by a conversation with a friend yesterday about side dishes and one of the ones we talked about was mac and cheese.  When I started thinking about what to have for dinner (this morning and not ten minutes before it’s time to eat as is usually the case!), I knew we’d have the chicken I had thawed out yesterday that we didn’t eat last night. (We decided to indulge in our monthly all you can eat shrimp at a local restaurant instead). But, what to fix to go with that chicken? Potatoes, rice, green beans, broccoli…these are my usual go to’s. Standing there looking at my pantry, trying to decide what to fix, my eyes settled on the box of elbow macaroni. YES! I was pretty sure I had all of the ingredients. Mac and cheese, the ultimate comfort food. As it turned out, I was a little short on milk but had some whipping cream that I used to make up the difference.  I was also a little short on the amount of cheese I needed to make it awesome, but enough to make it good.

I’m not talking about just any old mac and cheese that you can get anywhere. Nope, I’m talking about honest to goodness, homemade mac and cheese. The kind my Nanny makes. The died and gone to heaven one that you get at family reunions. The one that comes in a baking dish and bubbles and smells soooo good while it’s cooking that your mouth waters and you can’t wait for it to cool before taking a bite.

This is the only kind of macaroni and cheese I make.  I was a teenager before I had macaroni and cheese out of a box at a friend’s house. I honestly didn’t know how to act when it was served because it was nothing like the mac and cheese I had eaten all of my life. But, it was good. Not bad at all, really. But, not what I would consider real mac and cheese. Because it just wasn’t what I was use to. Please don’t get me wrong-I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with even the store brand of mac and cheese (although we all KNOW that the name brand is better!). For me, it just boils down to personal preference and I prefer my mac and cheese baked from scratch.

When my son was a toddler, he stayed at an in home daycare with a wonderful lady that took great care of him. She fed him lunch and snacks every day and always gave me a report on what he had eaten when I picked him up. One day, she told me he had eaten two helpings of mac and cheese and a hot dog for lunch. Great!, he’s always had a good appetite. But, wait a minute…he didn’t like mac and cheese!! And, believe me, I had tried many times to give it to him because it was a favorite at our house. When I asked her what kind of mac and cheese (and could she show me the brand), imagine my surprise when she pulled out the local store brand box. I could have saved myself a lot of time by using that instead of boiling noodles, grating cheese, and getting my kitchen all hot by turning on the oven to bake MY mac and cheese.

Okay, all honesty here, it’s not MY mac and cheese. It’s my Nanny’s recipe and one of the first ones I asked for when I got married and started cooking for my own family. It is SO good y’all. My cousin says that if she shows up at a potluck without it, she’s sent home and not allowed to come back until she’s made a pan of it. We don’t have the whole big shebang dinners at Nanny’s house like we use to but one of the dishes we do have is mac and cheese.  I’m off to sample it now that it’s cool enough to eat without burning my mouth. Enjoy!

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MACARONI AND CHEESE

8 oz package of elbow macaroni

8-10 ounces cheddar cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten

4 ounces sour cream

½ stick butter

2 cups milk

Cook macaroni until tender and drain. Add butter and salt. Stir well until butter is melted. Add sour cream and egg. Stir. Add milk and stir in cheese. Pour into baking dish and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until firm. Optional: sprinkle paprika over the top of the macaroni mixture before baking for added color.

New Year in a New Place

SO much has happened in the last six months and I’m so far behind in everything but I’m trying to play catch up as quickly as possible. We finally found a house we love and after a few bumps in the road, we closed on it at the end of October and it’s been a whirlwind since then. 22791640_10155012868050814_3994138780477406840_oOnce we got all of the boxes unloaded from storage, it was time to start unpacking and getting settled in to our new home. Every box was like opening a Christmas present because we hadn’t seen any of that stuff in over a year.  Since this house is much smaller than our last one, finding a place for it all was impossible so several of the thrift stores in the area got some great donations. As is usual when you move, some things get lost-or never got packed-and some things you look at and wonder ‘why did I keep that?!’ If I’ve thought once, I’ve thought it a hundred times already…’Surely, I wouldn’t have gotten rid of THAT!’

The holidays were right around the corner so the unpacking got put on hold and the Christmas tree and garland went up as soon as possible. Our kids came to visit for Christmas and we all enjoyed spending our first Christmas together in our new home. It was cold-for the coast, anyway-so we drank hot chocolate, opened our presents in front of the fire, and celebrated the birth of Christ. It was a great, laid back holiday which we were all thankful for.

I’ve spent the time since Christmas finishing the unpacking, hanging pictures on the walls, and getting my craft room organized.  And trying to stay warm. Gee whillikers, it’s been cold here. We even had a dusting of snow and some of our outdoor sprinkler pipes froze and busted.  The thermometer is finally on the upward trend today and the sun is shining brightly so hopefully, we are done with that cold stuff.

I have a long ‘to do’ list for this year. No real New Year’s Resolutions, but rather a list of things that, at some point, I’d like to get done. Goals to strive toward. Some things are very specific and some aren’t; rather like a general idea to look at and formulate a plan to achieve. Some are big, like getting some scrapbooks done,  writing daily, and an outside entertaining area built. Some are small, like reorganizing the pantry or reading more. Some are really big, like exercising more or being more social (I tend to be an introvert and like to stay home). So, it should be an interesting year in our new place.

Harvey and Houston

For the last four or five days, I’ve had a close eye on Houston and the monster called Hurricane Harvey. I know that Harvey made landfall further down the coast and devastated the area there, including the towns of Rockport and Port Aransas. KB called Corpus Christi home for several years before he and I met and knows that area well. It’s beyond terrible, the pictures we’re seeing come out of there. I don’t mean to lessen the devastation or need there at all because it’s real and it’s huge and they are most likely going to get the short end of the assistance stick because of all of the attention Houston is getting. But, Houston hits me in my gut. Because it was home and I know so many people still there.

As I sit here watching the horrific images of Houston slowly being drowned, neighborhood by neighborhood, my heart is breaking. I called Houston-or the area-my home for a little over seven years. Along with all of the stuff I accumulated while there, I carried many memories with me when I left; some wonderful and some not so great, but all a part of the experience of living in the country’s fourth largest city. The friends we made while there are, by far, the best part of having lived there.

Some people have been extremely fortunate in that while the water has literally lapped at their door, none has entered their home. Others have lost everything right up to the rafters to the floodwaters. Places that have never flooded have feet of water in them right now. The pictures and videos that are coming out of there don’t even begin to convey what it’s really like. It’s truly heart breaking and gut wrenching to watch.

But, for all of the awfulness that we see, there is something amazing and wonderful happening in Houston and being transmitted on our tv and computer screens as well. People are coming together. In a day and age where everything is divisive, people are coming together to help each other. We’ve seen all races affected and all races helping each other. No one is stopping to ask who you voted for, what political party you belong to, if you’re gay or think it’s okay or not, what your thoughts on statues are, what religion you are-or if you even believe in God. No one cares. All anyone sees is a PERSON in trouble that they can help and they do. THIS is the America that I know and love. THIS is the America that I am a proud to call home. Because that’s what we do in this country. We come together in a crisis. It’s when our true colors come through shining brightly.

If we could continue this attitude of service and love past this disaster, we’d be living in a much better world. As the waters recede revealing the extent of the damage and the sun comes out and start drying things out, the media trucks will leave and the relief trucks will arrive. There will be people of all races, walks of life, and beliefs that will come from all corners of this great big country and help. They will shovel mud and muck, tear down, haul off and help rebuild, wipe tears, give hugs, pray, feed, clothe, and support and love on the people of Houston and the surrounding areas. You won’t be seeing those stories on the nightly news because it doesn’t bring in the ratings or stir the pot. But, this is what America NEEDS to hear and see. Because it’s us at our best.

My heart hurts for the people of Houston and the other areas impacted by this disaster. They, and their towns, will never be the same. It will take years for some areas to rebound and, sadly, some never will. I pray that mixed in with the awful memories, there will be some good ones, too. Of friendships forged by shared experiences, of the good people that stepped up and did what had to be done, and of the love that people showed their fellow man. My heart holds hope for the future because there are still many, many good people just doing the right thing. This week, they are the ones wading through water to help their friends, neighbors, and strangers. Love wins.

ELI

About six years ago a dear friend posted asking for prayers for a little guy from her church that had been diagnosed with brain cancer.  We all see those kinds of posts every day. Many, many of them. I don’t know why some of them really hit home and sort of settle in the corners of our hearts and minds and others don’t, but Eli did.

Like many others, I watched him fight a battle that no one, much less a child, should ever have to fight. Through the ease of social media, I watched this family deal with the laughter and the tears, the pain and the frustrations; all of the things that come with the horrific disease that had invaded their life. They did it with grace, love, generosity, and hope. Until the day that hope died and they knew that, in the end, this monster was going to win. But, they didn’t let it. Not easily. They continued the research and the treatments, and didn’t go down without a fight. In the process, they made life as normal as possible for their family while making memories that will, hopefully, bring comfort to them in the future.

One thing they did early on was decide that they were going to give back in some way. Once they carried hundreds of DVD’s to add to the library at St. Jude’s. They took donuts to the nurses that had given such wonderful and loving care to the children in their charge. Target House received laundry detergent and cleaning supplies. Toys and games for the children that were spending months in the hospital undergoing treatment. They set up a charitable foundation to raise money for cancer research. A well in Africa bears Eli’s name thanks to someone that wanted to make a difference in his honor. I could go on and on if I could remember all that they’ve done. Instead of letting this monster named cancer suck all of the good out of their lives, they used it to create good things in a nightmare world.

I tell you all of this because while they were just trying to get through the days, sometimes just the minutes, they were inspiring people all over the world by the way they lived their lives. The strength, courage, and faith they have shown is remarkable. Most people would have collapsed under the burdens they’ve had to endure. They have been a light in a dark world.

They will be the first to tell you that God has sustained them.  God has been their strength along every step they took in this horrific journey. THAT has been their message to the world. Rely on Him and He will get you through. Not their will, but HIS.

Last night, Eli’s earthly life ended peacefully and this world got a little bit darker.  But, his eternal life began and his little body is whole and healthy again. What a wonderful gift Christ gave us when he sacrificed himself on that cross so many years ago-salvation and eternal life. That is what will bring his parents comfort as they face the days ahead.

I added Eli and his family to my prayer list that night six years ago and have prayed for him so many times since then. Those prayers won’t end just because he’s gone. They’ve added so much to my life and I have never even met them that I count myself privileged to be able to pray for them.