Saturday, December 14, 2013


Today I am very much remembering the Sandy Hook school shooting. Seems impossible that it has been a year since that horrific day, and it reminds me how visceral, painful and sweet the passage of time can be.

My dear Quaker friend says that when she wants to lift someone up, to remember them and keep them close, she holds them "in the Light." Today I am remembering the Sandy Hook angels and their families, and holding them oh so gently in the Light.

The families of the victims have launched a new web site worth visiting. I hope you'll stop by:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Show & Tell Friday: The Preparing for Christmas Edition

Happy Friday to you all!

Some good stuff to share this second-to-last Friday before Christmas! (Crazy, right?!)

1.) Michael McIntyre - "People with no kids don't know"

Lately, trying to successfully parent two children under the age of five (one of them a baby) during this most hectic of seasons, do some work, keep the house Christmas-shiny, get to every single preschool performance-choral concert-friend's party that we need to, and do all the holiday shopping, has been exhausting. I know you're all exhausted, too. In ways good and bad. Because there is hectic-exhausted and happy-exhausted.

But I digress. Last night at a concert a friend shared this link with me to British comedian Michael McIntyre doing a stand-up routuine called "People with no kids don't know." It's absolutely hysterical. And I especially like his take on trying to get out the door.

2.) Christmas Concerts in your town

Speaking of concerts: Last night my husband and I attended the annual Brevard College Christmas Concert at the Porter Center for the Fine Arts in our little mountain hamlet in Western North Carolina. If you don't know much about Brevard College--which is a small liberal arts college with a great big heart, known largely for its Music and Wilderness Leadership programs--trust me when I tell you that whenever these students put on a concert, it's a hum-dinger.

Here's a taste of the Brevard College music students and faculty, and members of TCS, directed by David Gresham and singing an African Noel (please forgive the quality--I'm no videographer):

We make it a point to get a babysitter and go each year with friends. It's a great evening, full of incredible music generously performed for free by the College's music students and faculty, and members of the Transylvania Choral Society. Afterwards, everyone gathers in gorgeous lobby of the Porter Center for punch, cake, and time to meet up with friends old and new. This is the time of year in any town, big or small, that arts events--often free--abound. If there's a choral concert in your town around this time of year, I say get thee to it, and take friends! There's nothing like live Christmas music to put you in the spirit.

3.) Recipe - Aunt Gloria's (Adapted) Killer Dip

Everybody needs a good party recipe this time of year--one that's blessedly free of all the "frees": fat-free, sugar-free, etc. This recipe is full-fat and tasty as all get-out. My Aunt Gloria always made it when I was growing up for our annual Crawford Christmas, which basically involved a whole lot of yummy pogey bait.

Don't know what "pogey bait" means? Look it up. (Hint: it comes from WWII.)

Anyway, I altered the recipe just a bit from the original, and tend to serve it at Christmas parties, football games, and New Year's weekends at the lake. Yes, it makes a lot. Yes, it's full o'fat. Don't try to halve it. Trust me: it WILL get eaten.

Here you go:

Killer Dip

1 lb Original Velveeta
8 oz. cream cheese
1 lb sausage
1 can Rotel
Tabasco or Texas Pete to taste

Brown the sausage and drain; melt the cheeses together and stir in the Rotel; add the sausage and stir together. (I do all this on a big pot on the stove. Set on low and stir frequently to prevent burning.) Serve with tortilla chips.
I dare you to take just one bite!

4.) Christmas quotations

I'm a nut for a good quote.

"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!”
~ Dr. Seuss, from How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Christmas is a time when you get homesick - even when you're home."
~ Carol Nelson

"Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart."
~ Washington Irving

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know,
Where the tree tops glisten
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow..."
~ Irving Berlin

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Magical Omens & Great Snowy Owls
Sometimes, magic happens when you least expect it.

It’s easy to miss, in our every day lives, our eyes so used to unnatural light, trained to the tiny things, to the rectangles of our iPhones and our computer screens.

I don’t know about you, but I hunger for the magical. For the mystic. Especially this time of year.

It’s easy to miss. Magic is fleeting, capricious, and will-o-the-wisp. It’s stepping out of your car, child in arms, on a cold, black winter night, and looking up to see stars like pinpricks of lantern light against the pitch. It’s the flash of a genuine smile from a stranger on a busy city street, the warm weight of your dog resting her gray muzzle on your thigh; it’s baby’s breath, sweet with milk, in the crook of your neck.

Magical omens, I believe, take on a bit more drama. An omen in the natural world requires that we open our eyes wider, that we blink back the doubt, rub the cynicism from our sleep-crusted eyelashes. Omens require that we really see, and then seeing, that we believe.

Over the weekend, there was a Great Snowy Owl in my North Carolina mountain town. A man in my Sunday School class told me about it: he’d been driving out in the country, along farm fields and fertile river bottomland, when he came upon several cars parked on the side of the road and a group of people standing outside them, their giant camera lenses pointing out into the field. Far out in the middle of the field sat something, the man said, that looked like a big, overturned white bucket. But it wasn’t. It was an owl–and not just any owl, it was a Great Snowy Owl. Lost on her search for food, perhaps? The birdwatchers were ecstatic: this was a great find.

Apparently, snowy owls have been appearing lately much farther south than their usual range. This article in the Associated Press says that they live in the Artic, but when their food supply–mostly lemmings–runs low, they wander.

Snowy owls have a wingspan of up to five feet. They’re huge, and easy to see. They like wide-open spaces, like that farm field, in which to hunt for mice and other food.

I wish I’d seen that owl. But I don’t need to have been there to recognize the magic of such a sighting. Can you imagine it? A huge, great snowy owl, in the center of a winter-yellow field? Surveying the kingdom with those golden eyes, fluffing its enormous speckled wings in the sun?

I can. And I believe it’s an omen. Sure, there’s a logical explanation. Every four years, scientists tell us, owls have irruptive periods, where they travel far from their normal flight ranges. (The Cherokee, by the way, believe four is a sacred number. And about owls, well, that’s a whole other story.)

But an unusual amount of huge white owls, far from home? The symbolism is endless: the rarity, the color white, the owl itself. A true mystic could take this and run with it.

I think it’s nothing less than an omen–a good, shining, magical one. A blessing for the season we’re in, and for the new year to come.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Adventures in Eating

Baby Feeding 101:

Always keep your vacuum cleaner handy when you feed your 7 month-old. Our vacuum cleaner is patient, stealthy, and 83 lbs.

Keep a steady hand when the dog walks by.

Blame the cereal-face on the dog.

Leave the baby just as happy as you found her.