Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Welcome Sight: Christopher Hitchens

This morning, I was SO very happy to see this video link as part of my facebook feed:

It features Fr. Robert Barron explaining why he loved watching and reading Christopher Hitchens.   It's how I felt about Hitchens, also, although I would have never expressed it so eloquently. 

I've been disheartened by many of the posts and comments I've seen from "Catholic" pages and groups lately and this was a beautiful reminder of one of the many wonderful things about Catholicism.   We do not have to separate faith from reason.   We also do not have to cower in fear or ignorance, but may bravely pursue Truth.   Fr. Barron's ministry is such a welcome breath of fresh air in our current culture.   We need more honest intellectuals like him.

Apple Pies and Jane Austen

Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas 2011

We had a beautiful Christmas season this year.   We started a little early with our trip to Fort Worth to see the dazzling windows at Neiman Marcus.    Then, came lots of faith, fun, food, and family.  

Emmeline's first piano recital.   She's on the front row, fifth from the right.   She was so nervous!

Thomas' new pajamas.   "Mama, my dogs are barking!"

After their shopping trip at Santa's Workshop.   They LOVE buying each other presents.

Thomas: worn out after Santa's workshop

Our tree this year

Dicken's Village: food themed pieces

Dicken's Village: A Christmas Carol pieces

Beautiful, fragrant bouquet from my friend, Nan.   It's still out, in dried form!

Our Jane Austen Girls Christmas gathering: Nan's beautiful arrangement and basket, laden with treats and our film for the evening, Mary's yummy homemade truffles, and Lauren's delicious apple pie

Our nativity scene

Christmas mantle with Mama's vintage blown glass pinecone ornaments and the Mr. and Mrs. Claus dolls she made

Dicken's Village: Parliament

Dicken's village

Crystal village I bought in college.

Mama's nativity shadow box and her ceramic angels

Gingerbread village

Finally did this!

Dining room: Mama's decorations

Mama's sled at our front door.

Yea!   High point: coming home from Midnight Mass and opening the first gifts: the baby Jesus figurines for our nativity sets

Putting Baby Jesus in the manger

Baby Jesus gets put in the manger on the mantle

This was the YEAR OF THE EASY-BAKE OVEN.   I never had one and I've waited 8 years for Emmeline to get hers:)

He loves to vacuum!


Christmas tradition: pretty cookies

Their handiwork!

Espresso cafe playhouse tent

Friday, 2 December 2011


It is impossible to believe that my precious girl is 8 years old.   It really does seem like only yesterday that she was born.   Added to the already pleasant memories of Christmas are memories of bringing home our beautiful baby girl.   Poor baby was sick on her birthday, so we had to cancel her tea party with friends.   We had cake and ice cream at home and we'll make up her party soon!  

She is my artist with a tender heart.   She's my helper, without whom I don't know how I'd get along.   She's my math student, much to my delight.   She's just who she is, unique and wonderful and I'm always thankful I was blessed with the honor of being her mother.  

Catching Up: Victorian Tea, Baby Shower, Pies, Neiman Marcus Christmas Windows, & Gumbo

Since my last posts, here's a little of what's been happening...

A Victorian Tea with friends.   Next year--period costumes!

I was grateful to co-host a baby shower for a sweet friend who has since given birth to a beautiful baby girl.  
Mary's beautiful cupcakes.   They were more amzaing in that they were dairy- and egg-free, but still decadent.   That's culinary talent!

Our guest of honor, Becca, opening gifts with a happy big brother!
This year, the days leading up to Thanksgiving were about PIE.  It was my first year to make and sell pies out of my new kitchen and I was anxious to see how I would handle the switch from two wall ovens to one range oven.   It worked out great and I was able to make twenty-four pies--homemade crust and fillings--in my oven.   Actually, I think I was more organized this way.   In the past, I could have two separate ovens going at different temperatures, so I would bake by order instead of by pie type.   This time, I had my own personal assembly-line.   I could fit 5-6 pies in my oven at a time!

Things went so smoothly with the whole process that I was beginning to get a little sure of myself.   That's when I started to crack the eggs for my pecan pie filling that was cooling on the stove.   I totally forgot to buy eggs when I went shopping, so I had only a dozen (actually not a full dozen--imagine that--me, short of a dozen!).   Each of my pecan pies requires four eggs, so I needed twenty-four of them.   Even with the unplanned run to the store, the pies were all finished before midnight and I was able to get some rest before pick-ups on the Wed. before Thanksgiving.

I love baking for others and I'm thankful I can help pay for Christmas presents out of my pie money.   Whenever I say "pie money,"   Joey says, "There's pie money?" in the same tone Jerry Seinfeld uses in an episode of Seinfeld when he says, "There's crepe money?"  When I was little, Mama would pick pecans and use that money for Christmas gifts and decorations.   I share her feeling of being happy that those extras don't have to come out of our other funds.

A few of my pies

My new favorite fruit pie, ready for the oven
This year, we feasted with friends and had a lovely Thanksgiving.   They made the turkey and the pies (fabulous homemade pies), so it was a treat even before the wonderful fellowship!   Megan enjoys decorating as much as I do and her table was gorgeous.   It looked as if it were straight out of the pages of Southern Living.   We stood and ooh-and ahh--ed and I'm pretty sure we even jumped up and down a little as we giggled and appreciated each item.   Of course, I left my camera and phone at home.  I made Mama's yeast rolls and pumpkin biscuits, along with a few sides and one pie.   I had to make one!   It may be my new holiday favorite: a mix of pears, apples, and cranberries, served with a homemade cinnamon sauce--a lovely mixture of sweet and tart.

I avoided stores on Black Friday and it was wonderful.   Joey went to Lowe's to take advantage of a $5 live wreath special for our Advent wreath and then we prepared to go to Dallas.   For years, we watched the Christmas special on HGTV that featured the window displays for major department stores in the USA and the UK.   One of those stores featured was the original Neiman Marcus in downtown Dallas.   Since we can't really make it to New York City for the Macy's parade, window displays and Rockefeller Plaza just yet, we decided we could go to Dallas and check out the NM displays in person.   They were beautiful.   This year, they were interactive, but we weren't there at the right times for the children to do that.   The days/times on the website did not match the schedule posted at the store.   We also missed out on Santa at NM, but the kids had a great Santa visit at a Dallas mall.  

My favorite: the bakery of levitating sugar cookies

They're fencing--and those are tea infusers on their heads!

Loved the wonder on their faces as they looked at each window!

Interactive element: This tube for crawling through ran through the windows to the outside of the building.

We were able to attend mass in a chapel downtown and it was a beautiful way to start Advent and experience the changes to the new missal.   The crowd was a mix that ranged from those who were probably living on the streets to those who probably regularly frequent the Neiman Marcus across the street.   The priest was so genuinely excited about the changes and encouraged us to be patient with him and ourselves as we changed our ways after so long.

My DVD of Downton Abbey, Season 2 arrived from the UK!   I always like seeing Royal Mail in my mailbox.   My friend Amber is visiting this weekend and we will have a D.A. marathon this weekend--one month before it airs in the US on PBS.   I would claim patience since it arrived before Thanksgiving, but honestly, I've just been too busy to watch it.

We've had a few bits of cool weather.   It was enough for me to make gumbo and share it with friends in our home.  

I finally read The Help, at the suggestion of several friends whose opinions literary I value.   It was a great book.   It was beautifully written and it had that wonderful "slightly off" quality of southern literature.   It's the heat and humidity, I imagine.   It was such a good read I stayed up reading until three in the morning on Thanksgiving.   Love it when I have a book like that!
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