The Holly and the Ivy

Hindsight here. It appears that returning, or rather attempting to return to blogging, just before the holiday season began was not my best decision.

Now, here in real time, I'm sitting amid the glow of holiday lights and scents and catching up on some blogs while my children, who are all somehow adult-sized now, have piled in to watch Elf. One of them bothered to mention that the movie is 10 years old. Good grief.

I would say that tidbit makes me feel kind of old, but the Mister and I had the immense privilege of attending a beautiful wedding this past weekend of a child I visited as a newborn in the hospital.

The reception was held in the milking room of an old dairy barn!

I thought that event might make me feel old, but as it turns out, spending time in the great company of old friends made me feel young.

Last night, I co-celebrated my birthday with an 18-year-old friend of Middle's, and that made me feel young, too. Today I'm full of good wishes, the best home-cooked Italian food I've ever had, and some mighty fine caramel cake. So, here in my stupor, I thought I'd share a few photos of Christmas decorations inside the T&C House. The pictures were all made with my iPhone with minimal effort on my part, but perhaps you'll enjoy nonetheless.  I hope so.

I've switched things around a bit, and now this dropleaf table does double duty in the entry. It's easily pulled into use to seat overflow from the dining room, if need be.

I spent a happy lunch hour gathering the rose-like cones at the base of the paperwhites. The cones are dropped from deodar cedar trees, kind of rare here in the South but fairly prevalent in the West, from what I've read. There are two on the grounds of a bank near my office, and I coerced a colleague to join me in harvesting a small bag full before they were mowed into mulch.  My boy bust was a side-of-the-road find. Driving to work one morning, I happened to see him out of the corner of my eye--he was nestled against the trash bin beside the curb.

In the family room, we have a small feather tree, with a few old family ornaments and a collection of exotic birds.

Real greens mix with faux evergreen and magnolia on this old cupboard.

Byers Carolers found a new home next to a plate that depicts a house that looks a lot like ours.
I like a little needlepoint in every room. 
Our manger scene is old and dear. The figures are almost a foot tall. 
It always seemed a bit precarious to me, arranging those old papier mache figures and greens and lights on our mantel. This fall, the clever Mister made a "mantel topper," which was essentially a piece of scrap lumber.  He attached a bit of molding, caulked, sanded and painted and voila! The faux mantel fits over our real mantel, providing about six inches more depth for arranging. After the holidays, we can store it in the garage ready for next year or anytime I want to do a "lavish" mantel display.

I've decided little plaid blankets and lap robes are fun to collect and warm up our winter decor.
I finally found a tri-color collie ornament to remember our dear old Marian.
Inspired by the film A Christmas Story, Middle made me this "leg lamp" ornament when  he was about 10. It caused quite a stir because Middle may not have actually asked his sister if her Barbie was willing to sacrifice a leg for his project!
Our Advent wreath, reminding us of the Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love brought to the world at Christmas.

We found our tree this year at Tom Sawyer's Tree Farm in Cashiers, North Carolina. If you're a fan of the classic It's a Wonderful Life, you'll remember Clarence (George Bailey's guardian angel, AS2-no wings) was reading Tom Sawyer throughout the film. 

Big made this clay manger scene when he was but a boy. It fits perfectly on the  edge of the stepback cupboard in the dining room.

More little trimmings in the dining room
More greens in the dining room. I'm kind of crazy about these birch bark "sleeves,"  that fit over your own watertight containers.

The dining room table centerpiece is always this large silver bowl with old ornaments. The little papier mache angel was my grandmother's favorite decoration.

These glass beads came from Austria with the Mister's grandmother around 1910.

Faux and real greens and lots of sticks anchor either end of the sideboard.
A little mistletoe

in the living room

Her Royal Highness in the living room, hoping for a leaf to fall so she can bark about it.

Oh, I do love plaid, not just at Christmastime either.

Boxwood and plaid. The Mister planted lots of boxwoods this past fall.

A little more needlepoint

One of my favorite nativities, on a chest in the living room. I just read that I shouldn't  have turned any lamps on for these interior shots. Rats, and um, sorry.

This little Advent calendar has been a highlight for Big, Middle, and Little since they were old enough to stick an ornament on the tree. It hangs on the pantry door in the kitchen. They literally used to race out of bed and run to see who would get to add the ornament each morning. For a while, we had to institute a rotation!  Nowadays it's mostly Little, but I did overhear them talking about who would be putting on the star tomorrow. 
Our little kitchenside sitting area

Santas and Christmas books for the kitchen desk

More faux and real greens

Yes, all those hot chocolate bars on Pinterest finally got to me, and I made one for us, too.
So far, it's been a hit with friends and family.

Boxwood and juniper wreaths in the kitchen, and a Joy detergent bottle turned into an angel by Middle decorate the window.

We like sending and receiving fresh Florida citrus, Carolina pecans, original poppyseed  cakes from our dear friend in Atlanta, and Tennessee country ham! Do you love getting food gifts at Christmastime? 

Fit for a Queen but Suited to Us

Few posts I've written have received more comments than Good Dog, which was about our faithful Collie, Marian. Many friends and readers hoped we'd add a new pup to our family right away, and although I understand that sentiment, the Mister and I agreed that we wanted a little time.  Our schedules were hectic, and it just didn't seem to be the right moment to introduce a new dog.

A little more than a year went by, and both the Mister and I were looking at the dog rescue sites with regularity. I was advocating for a smaller dog, and I thought a Corgi or two would be an obvious fit for  me  us.

The Mister remained firm in his search for a Collie. We had reached an impasse.

While at the beach with the Mister's family, we mentioned our stalemate to the Mister's mother, who noted that she had a friend who bred Corgis and was expecting a litter. The Mister made it plain that he was not interested.

Months went by, and then my mother-in-law called to say that her friend was looking for a home for one of her two dames. This particular dog had had three litters, and her owner didn't want to breed her again. She, the dog, that is, was free to a good home. We were warned that although she was show quality, she'd never done well in the ring because she was a bit headstrong. That didn't put me off a bit; I had no plans to show her or any dog.

Discussion ensued.

This past President's Day weekend, we traveled to Florida and returned with Rincon Channel Islands Charlotte, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, who goes by "Charlie."

Corgis are known for their intelligence, and she is a quick learner. For instance, we can't say the word ball. At all. She doesn't just respond to "Charlie, do you want to go play ball?" She reacts to "When will you be home from the basketball game, Middle?" Unless, we are ready to head outside ball in hand, then we have to s-p-e-l-l it. I'm sure she'll be on to that soon enough.

Reading her card, at her birthday paw-ty
We've also discovered that she is incredibly quirky.

For instance, shortly after we returned from Florida, I got a case of the sniffles. One evening I snuggled under a throw on the sofa to watch a little television. I sneezed, and before I had opened my eyes, Charlie had run across the room, jumped on my chest, and barked! Several minutes later, I sneezed again. Same reaction. We are bewildered by this behavior, unsure if her, um, interest is out of concern, or if she considers a sneeze some sort of challenge. Either way, after almost nine months of being charged whenever we kerchoo, we all flinch whenever we feel a sneeze coming on, even when we're not at home!

The next and perhaps most hilarious example of Charlie's quirkiness was revealed when I innocently pulled out a box of aluminum foil to line a baking dish. As soon as I began to pull the foil across the serrated edge, Charlie went nuts, from dozing peacefully on her bed to barking and snapping, trying to attack the foil! This seemed almost too much to believe, so, of course, the Mister and Middle had to conduct several tests to see if she reacted the same way each time. She did, and her aggression toward aluminum foil has not abated.  Wrapping up Thanksgiving Day leftovers promises to be entertaining, if not downright dangerous.

Nevertheless, we love her, have nicknamed her Mrs. Petmore, and, frankly, can't imagine life without her!

Many thanks to everyone who left a comment, sent an email or text, or even called to welcome me back to the blogsphere. I had no idea anyone would still read this old blog, and I am really humbled by your kindness.

Starting over in the fall

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall," or at least that's what Jordan says in The Great Gatsby. And, likewise, perhaps, so will this blog.

I left it a little over a year ago, thinking I'd pick it back up in a few days, then weeks, months, and then it just seemed like there was no time. The thing is, I thought about it almost every day. I can't tell you how many pictures I've taken and notes I've made, thinking that would make a good post.

Earlier today I was talking to my daughter, who, if you've read here in the past, is known by "Little" on the blog. She asked why I didn't blog anymore, and I replied, "Oh, L, you know I write all the time now for work." To which she sagely stated, "Well, you need to be writing not just for work but for yourself." So, three hours later, here I am. Less time to write, but a better laptop, so I'll see what happens.

I'm tempted to try to catch up on the past year, document all the family milestones, but that is most certainly the way to frustration, not to mention boring everyone to bits.

Instead, I'll jump in with the story of Middle, who turns 18 next week.

Middle, Little, and Big one year ago

Last spring, Middle decided that he wanted to play football his senior year of high school. The Mister and I considered. We lectured about grades and responsibilities. We worried silently about concussions, broken bones, and worse. We bemoaned privately the loss of our Friday night freedom. We reminded Middle that he had never played football before--no PeeWee, no Pop Warner, no JV, so probably he would spend a good bit of time on the sidelines.

And, then we said, okay, go for it.

The new scoreboard at historic Sirrine Stadium

And he did. Every morning for the next six weeks, Middle woke himself up at 5:30 am and drove to the high school weight room for training and conditioning. He stayed after school every day with the team for spring practice. He ran in the heat of summer until two-a-days started, and then he woke up at 6 am to go to early practice. He memorized plays; he watched old games. He made notes. And the Mister and I said to each other, our boy is really working hard. I hope he won't be disappointed.

Running down the stadium steps and on to the field

The first game was scheduled for the last Friday in August. Hot. With a coolness that is unique to high school seniors, Middle wore his jersey, #79, to school that day, but admitted he didn't know if he'd get to play. At 6'4" and 190 pounds, he's an offensive tackle. The coach put him in with a few minutes left in the third quarter, and the Red Raiders scored their first three goals of the season.

Big crowd for Spirit Week game against rival J. L. Mann high school.
Greenville High raised more than $298,000 this week for Greenville's Cancer Survivors Park.

The next game was almost an hour away against a football powerhouse, and Middle saw only one second of playing time. Our team was 1 - 1. We were back home the next Friday night, and Middle started and played the entire game as he has ever since (unless we lead by more than 30 points!).

Running off the field after a TD

The Mister and I have missed two away games--one for a dinner party with old friends and one for a gala at the art museum. (At both events, we surreptitiously read texts of scores and game updates.)

Showing my Raider spirit

This Friday, the Red Raiders face their first play-off opponent, and we couldn't be prouder. Oh, the rah, rah, rah, playing and winning is great, but what we're really proud of is Middle's determination and self-discipline.

On the line

And, every Friday night after Middle returns home, he and the Mister head for McDonald's. That may not seem like much to be proud of, but senior football players have a lot of options for celebrating after a game, and not all of them are good.

No smiles in the program

So when our Red Raider just wants to get something to eat with his dad, I'm proud of that, too.

Um, yeah, the Mister had the small Coke, and that's all, if you were wondering.
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