Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The last of the kids left about noon today, and thanks to Linda, my house is about back to normal. Though it's nice to have a little peace and quiet, I'm going to miss the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the days surrounding it.

I'm going to miss turning on every lamp, every lighted house and every Christmas tree each morning with Walker. And I'm going to miss tripping over Tupperware and toys and finding monkey when I try to heat something in the microwave.

I'm going to miss having sippy cups in the refrigerator and fingerprints on the windows. I'm going to miss cooking eggies and bacon for breakfast and making "sun" butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.

I'm going to miss having girls in the house. Girls will go shopping with you to places like Victoria's Secret, and they even enjoy having lunch with your friends.

Girls will offer to cook dinner and encourage their spouses to help, and they'll even clean up afterward. Girls will make sure you have stuff in your stocking and will buy you a card for your anniversary.

Girls will strip the sheets off the bed when it's time to leave and gather up the dirty towels and wash cloths and take them to the laundry room.

I'm also going to miss playing Joker until after midnight and spending hours searching for pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.

But mostly I'm going to miss having family around.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Count One for the Pink Team

After three sons and a grandson, our family will be getting a girl baby.

On Christmas morning Brent and Katie opened a small box containing three small pictures and a note on the back of one that read, "Looks like a girl." She will be named Lauren Elizabeth after LBeau. We can't wait until May!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Getting Aggressive

The squirrel reappeared at 3:15 this morning. He clawed for four hours in the wall between the room where LBeau and I were sleeping and the office, where Hunter was on the inflatable mattress. I ended up finishing the night on the sofa in the den. About 6 a.m. Hunter went to the sofa in the living room. Larry toughed it out. The squirrel left the attic about 7:30.

We are going to make an aggressive attack today. He is using Petunia to jump from the deck to the brick. Then up to the light fixture and onto the roof. We will put a glue trap in Petunia and one on the deck handrail and another in the attic.

Two years ago on Christmas we trapped our first attic squirrel. I'm hoping for similar success this year.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Building a Village

I didn't start out to collect those miniature lighted houses. I know plenty of people who have elaborate collections. My friends Dave and Luna not only collect the Dickens Village houses, but they also do an extensive display of the Spooky Town Halloween pieces. My mother even has quite a few of the Dickens Village pieces.

My collection happened quite by accident. One Christmas season a few years back I was in Michael's looking for who knows what and wandered over to the aisle where they displayed the Lemax lighted houses. It was there that my first piece spoke my name--literally--the Beaumont Inn. And it was on sale, so I bought the only one they had, the display.

A few days later the fiber optic lights quit working, and even changing the fuse couldn't get them going again. So I sadly returned it to Michael's for a refund. By that time, however, I had decided that owning the Beaumont Inn was a must. EBay to the rescue!

The following Christmas I was in Michael's again and spotted another piece to add to my collection. Although there is no Newport Elementary School in Newport, Arkansas (LBeau went to Walnut Street Elementary), I still felt that it was a must have. Now that I had two pieces I added a couple of trees to the display.

Two years ago, Lemax brought out Walker's Department Store. Of course I had to have it. After all, odd numbers look better in a display.

Sometime in October, I noticed that Michael's had all of their Christmas stuff out. Of course they did; it wasn't even Halloween yet. I decided it wouldn't hurt to take a peek at the Lemax display and there was Claire's Card Shop. Since Claire was going to be my daughter-in-law in a few weeks and I had a 40% off coupon, it quickly went into my shopping cart.

But now I had a problem. Four pieces did not make an odd number for my display. Once again, eBay to the rescue. I searched all possible names that meant something to me and Camden General Store popped up.

These five pieces just about fill up the small buffet where I have my village set up, so if I add any more pieces I'll have to come up with another place to display the. But I already have some ideas for Lemax. Hunter's Lodge, Katie's Kandy Shoppe and L'Beau' Lighthouse would make nice pieces, don't you think?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

8 Things

Mandy tagged me in this blog game, so here goes.

8 TV Shows I Watch
1. Arkansas Razorback football games
2. Arkansas Razorback basketball games
3. Dallas Cowboy football games
4. American Idol
5. The news (some nights)
6. Travel programs about places I've visited or will be visiting
7. Other college football games
8. Other college basketball games

That's it. It was hard for me to come up with eight. Makes me wonder why I pay for so many channels on DirecTV, but with only a basic package I wouldn't get every ESPN and all of those Fox Sports channels. And then we have to have The Golf Channel for LBeau.

8 Favorite Restaurants
1. Taziki's
2. Standard Bistro
3. Prairie Fire Grill
4. Panera Bread Company (love their bagels and soup and salad combos)
5. Macaroni Grill (especially the belinis)
6. P.F. Chang's
7. Loca Luna (if I lived in Little Rock, I would have brunch there all the time)
8. California Pizza Kitchen

8 Things That Happened to Me Today
1. Drove 20 miles each way to meet an inspector on a remodel project, but the home owner wasn't there to let us in. I had scheduled the appointment with her yesterday, but I guess she forgot or something. So now I'll have to reschedule and drive the 40-mile round trip again.
2. My friend Glenda drove us to the Galleria to return jackets that we had bought from Land's End. We both hated them after they arrived. Hint: You can return Land's End stuff to Sears.
3. Mailed a package to Susie with a surprise for Sarah, who commented favorably on my Date Cakes. Margie will not be getting a surprise.
4. Got an email from Jeff Long, the new Arkansas athletic director.
5. Talked to Ben.
6. Talked to Claire, who is on the way to Birmingham for an interview at UAB.
7. Got a bunch of Christmas cards. We are not getting very many cards from businesses this year, but friends and family are still sending them. Thanks everyone!
8. Returned some books to Janice, including The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. She emailed me yesterday that she had ordered it from Barnes & Noble. We try not to buy the same books so that we can trade. I quickly emailed her back that she already owned a copy of that book which she had loaned me before Thanksgiving.

8 Things I Look Forward To
1. Christmas with Walker and all of the rest of the family.
2. Dinner tonight with the Bible Babes. They are my original Bible study group that Sandra dubbed the Bible Babes.
3. Taking Walker to Bass Pro Shop to see Santa.
4. Claire's pre-Christmas visit for two nights.
5. Glenda's annual Christmas Eve party.
6. A trip to France in March.
7. The birth of our second grandchild in May. We'll find out what it is on Christmas Day when Brent and Katie open an envelope.
8. A new year.

The Bible Babes at the beach in Destin.

8 Things I Wish For
1. Safe trips for everyone coming for Christmas.
2. Some new remodeling projects.
3. A healthy grandchild
4. To live closer to my children.
5. Sunshine. I think I know what it must be like to live in Seattle. We've had clouds, rain and fog for a week.
6. A good snow. We haven't had a really good snow since the Blizzard of '93.
7. A friends trip. I didn't get to go on the last two because of conflicts, so we need to plan another one.
8. A National Championship for the Razorbacks.

Now I tag Nick, JB and Katie.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Date Cake

I just put my first batch of date cakes into the oven. Mother always made date cakes at Christmas time. She gave one to each of her close friends (the Bridge Club), one to the preacher, one to the dentist, one to Dr. Jameson and later Dr. Dedman, and one to anyone else she thought was important enough.

For a long time she baked them in a tube pan. One recipe would make one cake. She later discovered that each recipe would make two small loaves, and that cut her date cake baking in half.

Before she had a blender, she cut up the dates with scissors that were dipped into water so that the dates wouldn't stick to the blades. I think she used the same pair of scissors she used for sewing. In fact, it's the only pair of scissors that I remember in our house. Later on, the blender made date cake baking a much faster process.

Sometimes my job was to break up the pecans. Pecans always were broken by hand and never chopped in the blender.

I have carried on the date cake tradition, and each year I give one to some of my friends. For years, however, I have been making my date cakes in the food processor.

The recipe calls for 8 ounces of chopped dates. You can't use the ones that come already chopped because they are too dry. Mother always bought Dromedary dates, which came in 8 ounce packages. I haven't been able to find Dromedary dates in Birmingham. Sunsweet dates are packaged in 10 ounce containers. Sometimes I just throw in the whole 10 ounces, and sometimes I try to guess at 8 ounces. If I am going to be baking a whole bunch of date cakes, I can get five recipes out of four packages of dates.

I chop the dates in the food processor and then transfer them to another container to soak in the boiling water. Mother, of course, boiled the water on the stove. I nuke it in the microwave.

While the dates are soaking, I blend the margarine, egg and sugar in the food processor until the margarine is smooth. I have been tempted from time to time to use an entire stick of margarine instead of 7 tablespoons, but I never have. Sometimes I use the leftover margarine to grease the pans, and sometimes I just add it to the butter dish in the refrigerator.

After the margarine mixture is smooth, I add the flour and date mixture. Finally I add the flavoring (Mother always used rum flavoring) and a handful or two of pecans. No need to chop the pecans ahead of time since the food processor will do that for you.

Here's the recipe if you want to try it. You can use Mother's method or mine or make up one of your own. It's good served warm with whipped cream or spread with cream cheese. I also like to eat it for breakfast. Spread a little butter or margarine on it and toast it lightly. Yummmmm.

Date Cake

1 (8-oz.) pkg. whole dates, chopped
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. boiling water
1 c. sugar
1 egg
7 T. margarine
1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. chopped pecans
1 tsp. rum flavoring

Mix dates, soda and water and set aside. Cream sugar, egg and margarine. Add to this the date mixture alternately with flour. Stir in pecans and flavoring. Pour mixture into two 7 1/2 x 4-inch loaf pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Note: If you want to use a tube pan, you will need to extend the baking time to 1 hour.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Down Memory Lane

Looking for books to give Walker for Christmas, I spent an hour browsing in Barnes and Noble this afternoon. What a fun time thumbing through all of those books my boys used to love.

Two of their favorites were The Bear Scouts and Go, Dog. Go! Walker already has those. We gave them to him the Christmas before he was born. I can practically recite them from memory.

"Goodbye, Bear Scouts. Good luck. Have fun. Isn't Dad going with you, son?"

"Not this time. We don't need Pa. We've got the Bear Scout Guidebook, Ma. It tells us all we need to know about camping out and where to go."

Mema Martha hated that book. She thought it poked too much fun at the father figure. My boys loved it.

When Walker gets here for Christmas, we're going to enjoy reading The Sweet Smell of Christmas. I had to buy a new copy. My boys and I scratched and sniffed the apple pie, candy cane and gingerbread boy so much that we wore that book out.

By the time Ben came along, he probably wondered what it was that he was supposed to be smelling. Guess he'll have to take a turn reading with Walker.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hung by the Chimney With Care

For our first Christmas I decided to make stockings for me and LBeau instead of purchasing them. After a trip to the fabric store, I came home with red and white gingham in two different sizes of checks and some Christmas trim.

I used the larger check for the main body of the stockings and attached the smaller check at the top. Using green yarn, batting and lining, I quilted the stockings and cross stitched our names with matching green floss. We've been hanging these same stockings since 1971, so they're almost antiques by now.

When Hunter was born, I was really into my cross stitching phase and found a cute pattern that was cross stitched onto red and white gingham. It seemed to fit the "red and white check" theme that I had going, so I made his stocking and did the same for Brent after he was born six years later.

By the time Ben came along, the store was out of the red and white cross stitch fabric. However, I had a small remnant left over from the other stockings, so I used white for the body of his stocking and the gingham for the cuff.

Katie was the next addition to our family, followed by Walker and now Claire. I searched the internet for gingham cross stitch fabric, but no luck. I still managed to carry out the gingham theme with stockings from Pottery Barn.

A friend told me the other day that she didn't think I had room to hang any more stockings, but I'm confident I can always manage to squeeze in more.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree came out of the basement today. It's plugged in, and all lights are functioning properly. Two years ago, I finally bought a pre-lit tree, but in spite of the ease of putting it up and taking it down, I miss our Christmas trees of past years.

When I was growing up, we got our tree out of the woods. One Sunday afternoon in early December all of us, siblings, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, would load up into the backs of pick up trucks and head for the woods, looking for the best cedar trees. The biggest tree would end up in Grancy's and Poosie's living room, and we would spend the rest of Sunday afternoon hanging icicles and glass ornaments on it.

One Christmas when I was in school at the University of Arkansas, I was admiring the tree in the Kappa house living room and looking forward to our tree at home. To my horror when I got to Camden, I found a flocked tree from a nursery standing in the living room. It seems that my Aunt Sissy had won it in a drawing.

After I cried and pitched a fit, Daddy went to the woods and cut down a cedar tree. He totally undecorated the flocked tree and put all the colored lights, icicles and ornaments on the cedar tree. The flocked tree was moved to the den and decorated in red. It was too expensive to be thrown out.

Sometime in the late '70's LBeau and I bought our first artificial tree. It was one of those "bottle brush" type trees that had color coded branches that had to be hung from a center pole. One year, a few days after we put up the tree, we started smelling a dead animal odor in the den. Convinced that a mouse had gotten into the center pole of the tree while it was stored in the garage, we took all of the ornaments off the tree but found nothing inside. Finally, we called an exterminator who dragged a dead possum out from under the house.

We bought our second artificial tree in Texarkana. It was a nice tree that lasted for more than 20 years, but I had to put the lights on it each year. LBeau and the boys were not much help in tree decorating.

I hated putting the lights on that tree, but I would painstakingly start by folding down the bottom branches and winding the lights in and out as I worked my way up. For a few years, just before we retired that tree, my friend Glenda and I did a trade off. I decorated her stairs and mantel, and she put the lights on my tree. It was a good trade.

Our last live tree came from a Christmas tree farm near Harpersville, Alabama. LBeau, Brent, Ben and I, along with Susie Hay and Maggie went to the tree farm to cut down trees for each family. LBeau tried to convince Susie that the tree she had picked out was much too large, but she insisted that it was just right. Sure enough Wayne had to tie the tree to the banister to keep it from falling over.

So now that the tree is up, I need to get out the ornaments and finish decorating. I just need to decide whether to put the glass ornaments up high and out of Walker's reach or leave them off all together.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Away in a Manger

One of my favorite things to display each Christmas is this wooden Nativity set that I painted almost 30 years ago. I was taking a Folk Art class at Barbara's Tole Shoppe in Little Rock, and one of our projects was this 13-piece set.

I painted several of these sets over the years. After Larry gave me a band saw for my birthday one year, I started cutting my own pieces. Later a friend in Texarkana introduced me to Mr. Burress, who cut wood for me, and after Laura and I opened Rose Hill Emporium, I taught classes on this Nativity project.

My boys always enjoyed rearranging the pieces on the display board. I love looking back at this picture of the boys setting out Santa's milk and cookies next to the Nativity. Notice that Santa rated a Razorback cup for his milk.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Only Good Squirrel...

...is a dead squirrel!!

We have squirrels in the attic again. This battle with those fluffy-tailed rodents has been going on for about two years now. Each winter we, with the help of Critter Control, manage to get rid of them and close up the hole where we think they are getting in. The next winter when the weather turns cold, they're back.

Not the same ones, because whenever we've managed to catch one, we make sure he won't come back. I have no qualms about dead squirrels. Relocating them to a new zip code isn't good enough.

This time he's getting into the wall cavity between one of our second floor bedrooms and our office. If we don't get rid of him before Christmas, whoever sleeps in that room won't have a very pleasant night.

Guess I'll be calling Critter Control tomorrow.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cinnamon Toast

For as long as I can remember Mema has kept an old margerine tub full of cinnamon and sugar on her kitchen counter. She uses it to make cinnamon toast for her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Everyone agrees that Mema makes the best cinnamon toast ever. The rest of us try, but we can't seem to get the right combination of cinnamon and sugar. She uses white bread, either Sunbeam or Wonder Bread, smears it with margerine, sprinkles the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the whole thing and toasts it.

Once it's done, she cuts it into "triangle squares" and serves it to a hungry child or sometimes adult, now that the grandchildren are grown. Since her toaster will only do two slices at at time, she can spend quite a while making cinnamon toast. I think little Ben holds the record at eight or nine pieces in one sitting.

This Thanksgiving A.G. enjoyed her first bite of cinnamon because J.B. couldn't stand the thought of her going a whole year without any.

A. G. gets her first taste of Mema's cinnamon toast.

Molly enjoys cinnamon toast with the rest of her breakfast.