Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Friday, December 30, 2011

Recipe Friday-Champagne Slush

I am late this morning. Very late and very sorry. I returned from visiting family in Virginia last night and lost sight of what day it was. (That's a problem I have sometimes.)

Anyway, The Guy and I are going out with friends tomorrow night. (Which is Saturday. New Year's Eve. I got that.) I've invited everyone over after and this is what I am serving:

Champagne Slush

1 pint of rum
2 bottles of Champagne--750 ml. each
3 6 oz cans of frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
72 oz. ginger ale

Mix and freeze until firm. Thaw a little before serving.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year, New Calendar

Yesterday I was shopping and picked up my new calendar for the new year.  I know we have talked here before about how much we love office supplies, especially at back to school time but this time of the year, as Kathy said Tuesday, is a great time to take stock in the previous year and prepare for the new one. 

Just as back to school time fills me with excitement about the possibilities the empty notebooks hold, so does the endless opportunities of a brand new calendar.  I save my calendars, as I know many of you do.  It is a lot of fun to go back and look at how I filled my days in years past. This exercise also lets me see that I need to be sure to have some balance in my life so that some of my days are free to recharge.  I have to be sure to keep this in mind as I fill in the new calendar with exciting new plans!

Here is a picture of my new planner.  It is sort of Tiffany blue with great black and white pages.  It makes me feel all excited about the new year and creative at the same time.

I love the ritual of a new calendar to prepare for the new year. 

What rituals you you have to welcome the new year off to a successful start?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fireworks, Not for the Faint of Heart

I gleefully rub my hands together and enter the store. Fireworks! In the South firework stands are a part of everyday life around New Year’s Day. I love to set off fireworks and watch them explode. Maybe that is some kind of disorder but one I share with a lot of other people at this time of year. I make my purchase and, with the help of the clerk, carry my bounty to the car. I am ready to greet the New Year!

I grew up around aunts and uncles who shared my love of watching the beautiful colors against the night sky. My parents, ever cautious, did not appreciate anything about fireworks and were always watching to make sure I didn’t blow off some vital part of my body. I was careful because I learned from the masters or so I thought.

One particular great uncle (that my grandmother said was “river trash”) enjoyed blowing things up and watching the sparks fly. He always did things in a grand way. One New Year’s Eve, he (after imbibing an admirable amount of Wild Turkey), decided that simple fireworks were just not enough. He and another great uncle (who also shared the same bottle), decided that the dynamite they had in the back shed might just be more entertaining than Roman candles. As usual, I (who was about ten at the time) was slinking around watching the grownups, being exactly where my parents had told me not to be. I stood watching those two uncles excitedly planting the dynamite in an old stump behind my uncle’s house. They lit the fuse and took off running; well as fast as two men in their seventies could run. The dynamite went off, blowing the stump at least a hundred feet in the air, sparks flying and a lot of hootin’ going on. Such excitement!!! Until…the stump came down – right through the roof of my great uncle’s house. My great aunt, a staunch Baptist who did not approve of alcohol, came out of the house as mad as a wet hen. My poor uncle tried to hide in the back shed but to no avail. After a thorough tongue-lashing, he and the other uncle were banished from the house along with their bottle. I still stand in awe of that explosion which was never duplicated again. I was also never allowed back to that particular uncle’s house again.

I understand the dangers of fireworks and I do respect the damage that handling them carelessly can cause. Every year I set up my fireworks, aimed over the pond to reduce fire hazards, and shoot them off to my heart’s content. You know, there is an old stump down by the pond, maybe if I… Naw, the insurance company wouldn’t look favorably on a claim that I had a hole in my roof. Sigh.

Do you like to shoot off fireworks? What are your favorites? Mine are Roman Candles. I never got to get any dynamite.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Taking Stock After Christmas

Christmas is over. Presents have been exchanged. Smiles, laughter, and love abounded. Yes, and now, in the glistening afterglow of celebration, there's the inevitable clean-up as life moves on, leaving the million dollar question, why did the festivities have to end so fast?

I spent a lot of time and energy getting ready for the big day only to have it end in the blink of an eye. Does age have something to do with this phenomenon? I remember viewing Christmas from the eyes of a child, eager for the year to move forward so that the end of the calendar year, December, drew near again. Those years dragged excrutiatingly by, didn't they? But oh, how time changes our perceptions. Nowadays, the years pass by so quickly. Before you know it, it'll be time to prepare for Christmas yet again.

While I did not have my whole family together for Christmas this year, at least modern technology helped us keep in contact with our sons. The Internet helped us converse with our first son, stationed in the Persian Gulf. And scype enabled us to enjoy Christmas morning with our second son, stationed in the U.S. Because of scype, we were able to watch #3 open his gifts and he was able to watch us do the same. Thankfully, it was almost like having him in the room. A great experience at six in the morning, let me tell you. (Yes, we were up at the crack of dawn, thanks to our beloved daughter. Gotta love her excitement and the joy she always brings into our lives!)

I must have done something right this year because Santa was very good to me. I got a Kindle 3G and a fabulous Vera Bradley brief case! In the scheme of things, it's apparent gifts don't outweigh the love shared and memories created. What I will remember most from Christmas are the memories that will sustain me in the years to come.

I hope your holiday was blessed with peace, joy and happiness, and most especially the surrounding love of family and friends.

What is the one thing you'll carry with you in the coming year? And was Santa good to you?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

We're fortunate to share a love of writing, life, and the south, under the Tulip Tree, and there is always room for you on the garden bench. ;)

Merry Christmas, friends! May you be blessed with prosperity and joy, and may your days be brightened with the love of family and friends all around you!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Recipe Friday--Little Green Elf

You see those smart strong women right there? That's part of my posse. Here's what we do: We see each other through marriage, divorce, pregnancy, graduating children, medical scares, career changes, and burying our dead. We lift each other up, eat lunch, and keep each others secrets. We lived through two Junior League presidencies and that was no small amount of drama. I cannot count the number of casseroles we've trotted back and forth to each other when the occasion called for it. We have measured our lives in cans of cream of mushroom soup, bottles of wine, and football games.

In this season, I am thankful for them--and that goes for the ones who don't happen to be in the picture.

Every year Dr. Great Smile (that's her in the blue hat) makes us a wonderful little drink that inspires fun and requires little energy.

Little Green Elf

Mix one part Midori melon liqueur and one part champagne. Drop in a maraschino cheery. Drink. Mix another.

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Which Greedy Santa Personality Are You?

During the last few weeks I have played or observed the playing of a Christmas game known as Greedy Santa or Dirty Santa several times.  I realized at the smashingly fun Christmas party that our  Heart of Dixie, RWA chapter has that there are several different kinds of players. 

I thought we would talk about few of the different types of Dirty Santa players.
In order to protect the guilty, I will not be naming any names.  The players are in no certain order just as they came to me while I  watched the games.

1) The Stealer. You know them.  They ALWAYS take a present that someone else has worked hard to select and open.  Sometimes it seems as if the Stealer doesn't even want the stolen boot but simply doesn't want to bend over and get a present from under the tree or perhaps taking from others is just more fun.   Of course, the Stealers are a big part of what makes the game so fun!

2) The Opener.  The Opener is the polar opposite of the Stealer.  This player will ALWAYS open a present from under the tree. This can be nice if you can identify them early and/or if you think they might really want the same present you plan to steal later.

3) The Instigator (NO, not from the Writing Playground, just  instigating in general). This player just likes to stir the Greedy Santa pot!  It is the Instigator who will kindly point out, to the player whose turn it is, where the really cool stuff is so that he or she can consider stealing it.  The Instigator is also quick to point out which gifts have been stolen "almost" enough times for the last person to have it to keep.  As you can see this player is particularly dangerous if you have a gift that you like!

4) The Kind Heart.  This player is the person who will open a sad looking little present.  I saw a Kind Heart get a GREAT gift near the end of the game once and get to keep it. In this case, goodness got its own reward!  This is also the type of player who will take a present from someone who looks miserable and desperate to have a present stolen.  See what  I mean about having a heart.  While it is nice that some people want to be kind, in my humble opinion, if many players were this type the game wouldn't be as much fun.

5) Bless Her Heart.  This is the player that opens a lot of gifts, or maybe steals several times, but she is having that opportunity because everyone keeps stealing from her thus the bless her heart.  It seems that for whatever reason there is always at least one person who has cool gift after cool gift pass through their hands. Of course, there is a foolproof  method to bring this problem to a screeching halt, just watch this player open a bad present and all that getting stolen from will come to an end.  Bless her heart!

Are you willing to admit which type of player you tend to be?
Are there some other kinds of players that you can think of?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I DO Believe!

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus… I am a firm believer in Santa Claus, his spirit and his unselfishness in spending his Christmas Eve travelling the world delivering presents. Face it, who would want to be flown around the world in an open sleigh, in the freezing cold just to deliver presents to good little girls and boys when he could be sitting at home before a roaring fire and drinking egg nog? To me, he represents the true nature of Christmas – giving to others and spreading the joy of the Season.

Santa Claus has always intrigued me. Where did he come from? What were his origins? I, like Jean with Joseph, had a mission: to find out the origins of the Santa Claus legends. So, I went to the Net and found more than I could possibly put in this blog. A lot came from Wikipedia and even more came from other Santa Claus sites (who knew there was so much information on the jolly old elf?). Here goes a condensed version:

Saint Nicholas was born in Para, Turkey in 270 A.D and became a Catholic Bishop of Myra. Legend has it that he was famous for his gifts to the poor. One day, upon learning that a poor Christian had no dowry for his three daughters (who would be forced into prostitution if they didn’t marry), Nicholas took a bag of gold and threw it down the chimney of the poor Christian man, giving the girls a dowry. Thus the legend of St. Nick coming down the chimney was born. Nicholas was named a saint in the 19th century.

In the Germanic lands, Odin led a great hunting party during Yule. He rode an eight-legged horse, called Slepnir through the sky on this hunt ( eight reindeer anyone?). Children would leave their boots by the fire, filled with carrots and hay. Odin would reward these good children with gifts in exchange for the food for Slepnir.

In the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, Saint Nicholas was called Sinterklaas and was aided by helpers. He gives out chocolate and spices to good children. His feast day, December 6th (the day St. Nicholas died), was the date that presents were given out. In the 16th and 17th century, the date was changed to Christmas Eve. I guess the name “Santa Claus” came from Sinterklaas.

In Britain, a figure named Father Christmas came into being somewhere around the 17th century. He was portrayed as a jolly bearded man who was dressed in a long, green robe. He was the ghost of Christmas Present in Charles Dickens’s festive classic “A Christmas Carol.”

All of these legends merged in the United States. The first time the name Santa Claus appeared was in Washington Irving’s “A History of New York” where he was making fun of the Dutch in New York. Then, in 1823 a poem was published in the Troy, New York Sentinel which is known today as “The Night Before Christmas” and has been attributed to Clement Clark Moore. All the present day legends about Santa Claus came from this poem, including the sleigh and the eight tiny reindeer.

The present-day pictures of Santa Claus came from, drum roll, Coca Cola. It was an advertising campaign in the 1930s. The reason his suit is red and white (I don’t know about this because St. Nicholas wore red as a Bishop) is because those were the colors of Coke. Guess you can choose to believe this or not.

So, there you have it, the legend of Santa Claus in a nutshell. I love Santa Claus. He portrays the anticipation and the excitement of Christmas, along with the good will of the Season. When my son was younger, I got more excited than him about Santa coming on Christmas Eve. Do you have any fond memories of Santa? Do you believe?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Traditions

"Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, please to put some money in the old man's hat. If you haven't got some money, a hae-penny will do. If you haven't got a hae-penny, then God bless you."

As I write this post, I have this song on my lips. (Love Kermit!) But I have a reason to celebrate. All my gifts are wrapped and sent to their recipients. Christmas cards have been sent out to family and friends. The oven is warming and the house is filled with the aroma of baked cookies, fudge and Mom's Rum Cake. (Yes! It's true! The rum is never gone. ;)

Two packages of goodies are on the way to two Marines in Afghanistan and one will be headed to my oldest son, who's stationed in the Persian Gulf, in the next few days. We're sending another box to my youngest son, stationed in the U.S., but unable to get home for Christmas. (Christmas without my boys will not be the same, but the least we can do is try to ease their loneliness while they are away from home.)

Signs of the holidays are all around us, in the music we hear, the products we buy, the fatigue in our bodies. Shoppers busily prepare for celebrations at home and at work. Roads are overcrowded. Shelves are going bare and prime retail merchandise is disappearing faster than you can say "Santa Claus." Yes, these are days to remember, days meant to be experienced in order to bask in the glory of Christmas morning, when all is still and peaceful, that is, after your oldest daughter has awakened everyone in the house at 6 a.m. to open presents.

The 6 a.m. wake-up call. One of our traditions, the earliest our oldest daughter, in her mad-cap zeal, could disturb us when she was little, especially after she'd try to get us up every hour after 3 a.m. Nowadays we regret ever making 6 a.m. a tradition in our household, because yes, even today, our lovely child is determined to wake us up for Christmas at the crack of dawn. That's enthusiasm, isn't it? Cute when witnessed in a child, not so cute in an adult, but it is what it is. Every family has its traditions, right? Love them or despise them, they are yours and they make your Christmas special.

What kinds of traditions do you keep every year?

What's the one thing you cannot do without at Christmas?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Poll. . . Not to be Confused with North Pole

I don't know enough about the North Pole to conduct a poll. Who does? How interesting could it be up there where there are no places to shop and eat sushi? But Christmas--that's a different matter. Just for fun, answer the following questions.

  1. Christmas Dinner--turkey, ham, prime rib, or something else?
  2. Tree--real or artificial?
  3. Lights--white or colored? Blinking or still?
  4. Are the Santa presents wrapped or just left under the tree?
  5. Do you like A Christmas Story? (People tend to be passionate about this, one way or the other.)
  6. Favorite carol?
  7. Favorite Christmas book?
  8. What's your view on re-gifting?
  9. Do you like fruitcake?
  10. Is there a treat you make every year?
  11. How old do you think Joseph was? (Yes. I'm still obsessed.)

I'll give you my answers tomorrow night.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Recipe Friday--Bacon Tomato Cups

In spite of the graphic, this is recipe Friday. In view of my rant earlier in the week, I thought I'd let y'all know I've found a picture--if not a nativity set--I can live with. Sure, they look a little goofy, but they had had a really, really long day. Some occasions call for a little goofiness. I think this would be one.


The subject today is Christmas breakfast. I want something a little special, but that doesn't take a lot of time to prepare and isn't too filling. (After all, there's turkey, standing rib roast, or ham coming.) This fills the bill for me.

Bacon Tomato Cups

  • 8 slices bacon, crisply cooked
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 3 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 - 10 ounce can refrigerated flaky biscuits (the kind that have the layers to separate)

Preheat oven 375° F. Chop bacon, tomato, and onion. Mix with the bacon, cheese, and mayonnaise. Separate each biscuit into 3 layers. Spritz muffin pans and fit biscuit layers in the cups. Fill cups with bacon mixture.

Bake 10-12 minutes until golden.

What are you having for Christmas breakfast?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Ornament Love

Today I received a tweet from the fantastic Barbara Vey got me thinking how much I love and enjoy all my ornaments.

Since I moved to Jasper away from Daddy, his pickup truck, power tools and man-help, I don't put up a Christmas tree.  I am one of those folks--if I can't have a real live Christmas tree, I will just do without.This is a bit of a problem for a single gal living alone.

I have devised a solution that works out wonderfully for me.  I put out some live greenery so that my home smells Christmasy (Thanks, Daddy!), put up some garland with pretty lighs so my house looks Christmasy, and put up two ornament trees so that I feel Christmasy!  It's like all the joy of Christmas without so much mess.

Now, about those ornaments--I have a lot.  There are some ornaments my parents bought for their tree the Christmas that I was born. I have ornaments that my friends gave me in elementary school, usually saying, "Here's your Christmas and birthday present." There are those children gave me when I taught them in Sunday School or youth group and the ones from friends over the years, especially  Pantster, who is a GREAT gift giver. 

I have many Nutcracker/Solider style ornaments. My favorite one is a grey solider that I am sure served with the Gallant Stonewall Jackson.  I put all of these ornaments on the ornament tree in my dining room underneath the print of General Robert E. Lee and His Lieutenants.  I used to say underneath General Lee, but then Mr. Lyle thought I meant the car that Bo and Luke Duke drove so I thought I better clear that up! 

Every year I enjoy hanging  my ornaments and remembering the special people who gave them to me as well as the celebrations where I received them.
This very well may be my favorite part of Christmas.

Do you have a favorite Christmas ornament?  If so, what is the story behind it?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bah, Humbug!

Bah, humbug. Those words have been echoing in my head for the last couple of weeks as I watch people scurrying to purchase gifts. I am usually not this cynical about Christmas but the commercialism is starting to get to me. It seems that every year, people want more and more for Christmas. Everyone is spending and spending to put more and more presents beneath the tree. When is enough ENOUGH?

I looked up the word “gift” which is defined as “a thing willingly given to someone without payment.” Willingly…Hmmm. Okay, yes I gave my parents a computer (pricey) but they didn’t have one and I thought it was a nice gesture. I read on a web page a particular sentiment that I thought was appropriate. It said “The ultimate reason for giving a gift (is) an expression of kindness.” Are we giving all these gifts as acts of kindness or are we succumbing to the commercialism of buying? I also saw a word on another website that I absolutely fell in love with: Want-arrhea. It seems that kids are the biggest sufferers of this ailment. “I want.” I have always told my son, when he is looking at that box of underwear given to him from an old-maid great aunt, that it is called a gift for a reason; it’s the act and not the gift. Just be glad that you are being remembered.

My sister and I discussed this very thing the other day and we both came to the same conclusion. In years before, we always set monetary amounts on the gifts. This year we both looked at each and said, “Why bother?” All we are doing is exchanging money (if you really look at it – the gifts cost the same and it’s kind of pointless). It also takes the pressure off of trying to find something for someone who has just about everything anyway. I am not saying we aren’t still buying something for the “children” (who are all in their twenties) but as for us old-timers, we aren’t buying each other gifts this year. It took a while to put the brakes on the buying but that is what we have done.

In my mind, the best gift is one that someone made for me: cookies, cakes, hand-made scarves – things that mean something to me because it was made FOR ME. I am doing that this year and I am sure that some will look at it and say “Uh, thanks…” But I actually took my time and my thoughts to make a special thing for that person that no one else will have. I think that is the true meaning of Christmas: You give of yourself.

And, my favorite part of the Season is when we all get together and eat a meal that is prepared with love. The food is made so much better because we want to do this to celebrate. I look forward to Christmas Day when we all gather together to enjoy ourselves and the “gifts” that we have been granted – each other.

Do you have an opinion on “Want-arrhea”? Do you think gift giving has gotten way out of hand? Tell me I am Scrooge if you want to. I just want a simpler Christmas this year. Or you can tell me how you celebrate. Do you enjoy the gift hunt and that hunt makes the Season for you? What do you enjoy about Christmas?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Keeping Up With the Griswolds

Last weekend I went to two great Christmas parties. The first was with my writing friends at Heart of Dixie, where we played Dirty Santa. (Waving to authors at HOD! I had a spectacular time, ladies!)

At the second party, my Sunday School played a dirtier version of Dirty Santa. This time used gifts or unwanted items were wrapped and given pretty facades in order to pass them along to unsuspecting, naive individuals attracted to pretty paper and variations of size. As usual, this created a very whacky gift giving experience, let me tell you.

Whether playing Dirty Santa or DIRTY Santa, there is nothing like celebrating the holidays and enjoying great food and fellowship with like-minded souls before the true gift is revealed.

Now, no party can compare to a Heart of Dixie partay. HOD puts on a great party with scrumptious food and inspirational company sure to prompt the muse back into business. But HOD's gift exchange has always been classified as a 'bring a gift you would like Santa to bring you' type of experience. Therefore the gifts are fantastic finds that everyone wants to steal because the items are coveted and with good reason, for instance: shoe ornaments with a matching purse ornament, fuzzy lap blankets, exquisite bowls, crystal, journals, a donut maker, and the boon to every writer's existance, chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Woot!

Not so my Sunday School class. There is no sin in passing along the Resin Owl or the Mounted Talking Fish for immediate satisfaction, embarrassment, laughter and fun. It does get crazy, especially when the worst sort of gift lies at your fingertips. I've always enjoyed what I've ended up with, like the Fitness Santa ornament, a resin plant urn, and this year's gift, a singing Christmas Tree. The snarky tree with the catchy tune was a hoot, but before you could say 'don't touch that fir', my precious gift was stolen by my very own Sunday School teacher. (What would young Joseph say about this behavior, Jean? ;)

Never fear, not all was lost because things happen for a reason and there's always bounty to be found when one waits for the right chance. What to my wandering eyes did appear? But a pretty crystal hurricane etched with trees around the sphere. I asked myself, why did no one else want this fantastic gift? Because it still had a burned candle inside it. LOL! I knew better. A candle will quickly pop out of glass or crystal if the holder is put inside a freezer for a bit. With none the wiser, I stole the crystal hurricane with brass base and brought it home. My plan worked perfectly. Now I have a beautiful addition to my Christmas decore.

"Aye, captain. When your compass points toward Martha Stewart, you can't go wrong!"

Sadly, there was the loss of the coveted Dallas Mavericks Clock, which was quickly stolen from hubby's hands. Being a Texan, I had a special place in my heart for that gaudy white and green clock. But it wasn't to be. (Sunday School pirates! Who knew?)

December is the season for parties, celebrations with friends and family, but how do you keep from trying to keep up with the Griswolds? After two parties in one weekend, I'm spent, though I loved every minute of the jaw-dropping fun.

In a world inundated with Christmas merchandise in August, how can you resist trying to keep up with the Griswolds when you are just getting started? I'm late getting my Christmas decorations displayed. (Just finished yesterday.) By this time every year, hubby and I already have our outside lights up, but this year, time sped by us like a reindeer on crack. Of course, our neighbors didn't seem to have a problem with their calendar. And, as if to make us feel even more inadequate, they've also decided to increase the amount of outside lights and props they put out this year. In spite of my new inferiority complex, hubby didn't have to change his name to Clark on my account. We'd already planned to do simple this year. I'm proud that we've stuck to our guns. I'm quite satisfied with our efforts and for resisting the urge to outdo our neighbors.

Keeping up with the Griswolds is a yearly tradition, isn't it? When the season's message is to experience joy and peace, how do you balance?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Random Thoughts and Brie With Bourbon Praline Sauce

Random Thought One—This really isn't so much a random thought as what is becoming an obsession. I am torn up about Joseph. Or not so much about Joseph as how he is depicted in my nativity scene. (I'm talking about the earthly father of the Christ Child here.) I’m not going to turn this into a religious debate because we don't do that here under the tulip tree. It's against our rules. Let's just say for reasons of my own, I have never believed that Joseph was old. Now, my belief has been validated by one Adam Hamilton, author of The Journey, which I have been reading along with the rest of the New Community Sunday School class at the First Methodist Church of Decatur. Hamilton believes Joseph was fifteen years old and I'm with him. This is the part where I want to tell you why I believe it. But I'm not. Anyway, I love nativity sets. Love them. I affectionately call the two I have The Baby Jesus and His Buddies. I do not think this is disrespectful. If I did, I wouldn't do it. Anyway. My Josephs are old. I can't have it. Amazon has 5000 Nativity sets and I've looked at, roughly, a quarter of them. All the Josephs are old except the ones where the whole cast is children. And that's creepy. Also, there was one made up of mice. Come to think of it, I don't know an old mouse from a teenage mouse, so I don't know how old mousy Joseph is. But guess how I feel about a rodent Holy Family. Not good. So. I need a teenage Joseph. Stephanie says she's going to find me one. I think she told me that because she is tired of hearing about it. Most people in my life are.

Random Thought Two—There are two occasions in my little town where you can dress up and drop a few hundred dollars in the name of charity and a good time—The Gala and The Pact Ball. My pals and I usually go to The Pact Ball but not the Gala. This year, however, Precious, Fun Girl, Cutest Girl in the World and their assorted spouses went to the Gala. It was two nights ago. I have not talked to them since but they put up a picture on Facebook of themselves in their finery drinking chocolate milk at the Waffle House. I can only imagine they shut down the Gala and every other place in town. I can't wait to hear this story.


I know it isn't recipe day, but in the name of randomness I am going to supply you with a recipe that I've had requests for.

Brie with Bourbon Praline Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans.
  • ¼ cup of butter
  • ¾ cup of dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 pound round of brie
Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and add pecans. Cook on medium heat until pecans are toasted. Set aside.

Melt ¼ cup of butter and add brown sugar . Stir over medium heat until sugar melts. Add pecans and bourbon. Keep warm.

Peel rind from top of brie. Microwave cheese until it's runny—30 to 60 seconds . Pour sauce over cheese and serve with crackers and apple splices.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Recipe Friday--Candy Land

Jean here. I didn't use my regular logo because I love the look of Candy Land, though this version is nothing like the one I had as a child.

I am a candy maker from way back. Apparently, I am some kind of idiot savant because I can make divinity on a rainy day--something those who ought to know say can't be done. Lest you think I am claiming to be some kind of culinary goddess, let me hasten to say that I can't make a pound cake and get it out of the pan in one piece. Anyway, I'm not giving you that divinity recipe. I will if you comment that you want it, but I just don't see what's all that divine about divinity. I like a peanut butter situation of some sort way better. I am giving you three of my tried and trues that are always crowd pleasers.

And if you want that divinity recipe, shout out. I don't believe in secret recipes.


Peanut Butter Fudge

  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • ¾ cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy; whatever you prefer. I've used both)
  • ¾ cup marshmallow cream
  • ¼ cup butter

Grease an 8 or 9 inch square pan.Combine sugar and milk in a saucepan and cook to a soft ball on candy thermometer.Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Pour into prepared dish and cool. Cut into one inch squares.


Chocolate Almond Toffee

  • 6 oz. sliced almonds
  • 1 lb. butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 12 oz. chocolate chips—milk or semi sweet

Spray a cookie sheet (with sides) with nonstick spray. Spread with half of the almonds.

Melt butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add sugar, salt, and vanilla. Increase heat to high and stir, working butter into melted sugar. You will think you have too much butter but you don't. It will happen.

Cook, stirring constantly, until it is the color of a Heath bar. (You can cook it until it comes to 300 degrees on a candy thermometer, but I just cook by color. Normally, I am a great believer in the candy thermometer but this is a shallow mixture and I find it works better to just watch it.)

Pour mixture over almonds, spreading to cover them. It doesn't have to go all the way to the edges.

Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Give it a minute for them to melt, and then spread chocolate to the edges of the toffee. Sprinkle with remaining almonds.

Refrigerate until hard—it doesn't take long, maybe an hour. Break into pieces.

The original recipe says to store it in the refrigerator but I never do.


Microwave Peanut Brittle

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 1½ cups unsalted dry roasted peanuts
  • I teaspoon butter
  • I teaspoon vanilla extract
  • I teaspoon baking soda

Combine sugar and corn syrup in a 2-quart glass measuring cup.Microwave on High for 4 minutes. Stir in peanuts with a wooden spoon. Microwave on High for 3 minutes. Stir in butter and vanilla. Microwave on High for 2 to 2½ minutes or until the mixture registers 500 degrees on a candy thermometer, hard-crack stage. Add baking soda, stirring until light and foamy. Pour quickly onto a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Spread with the back of a spoon. Use 2 forks to spread thinly as the candy cools. Let stand to cool completely. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Memories

This week I was sharing about a favorite Christmas with my students.  I teach 3rd grade and the year I was in the 3rd grade was one of the best Christmases that I EVER had. 

Of course, some of that may have to do with the fact that I thought Santa had visited our house and left me a lot of really cool stuff but not left my sister anything!  She had been being really bad.  So bad in fact that Santa had actually called her a few weeks before Christmas to warn her that she was on the Naughty List!   I remember it like it was yesterday!  I had on my navey Winnie the Pooh turtle neck and my red, white and blue bell bottomed pants.   We walked into the living room and there sat all of my splendid gifts...a doll that walked and had hair that grew, an a Raggedy Ann bank, and an 8-track player with detached speakers!!!  But there wasn't anything for my sister! I told her that she had been warned what would happen and that she should have been good like me. (Of course, the defination for "good" can be VERY subjective!)   I let her know right away that since I was so good that I would let her play with my game while we listened to music that I selected and that maybe if she was really good the Easter Bunny would come to see her.

Of course, it was about this time that my mother went into the kitchen, probably to get a fly swatter to smack me with for being such a mean girl, but when she turned the lights on in there she discovered that Santa had brought my sister a kitchen set with a stove, sink and refrigerator so he had set up all of her stuff in the kitchen. Yea!  No, really I was happy for her that she got some things, really.

So what is a Christmas memory that you cherish?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Gift for Everyone on Your List...Maybe

Tis the season to get catalogues. I have been inundated this Holiday Season with catalogues from every known and unknown company in the continental United States. My normal-sized mailbox is stuffed full of them; so much so I am starting to feel guilty about the mail lady having to lift them from her car (maybe not, remember the mail episodes we have been through over the years). Any way, I dutifully drag them home and make two piles: one that I will look through; and one that I will immediately throw in the garbage (mostly farm implements – don’t think I want to be giving a disc harrow to my best friend this year).

Looking through most of the catalogues, there have been items that I sit and wonder why anyone would buy them. For that matter it amazes me that someone actually thought them up, got them manufactured and then persuaded a company to sell them. So, I have compiled a list, with commentaries of course, of the some of the unusual ones that I have seen this season.

1. The Leg Lamp from A Christmas Story – I love this movie and the leg lamp is probably one of the funniest parts. But who in the world would actually put one of those up in their house? Just saying…
2. Remote Control Tarantula – Why would someone want a five-inch tarantula walking across your floor? I must admit I considered buying the dang thing just to scare the boys at the barn. But for what it costs I had visions of them taking a shovel to it before I could stop them. Didn’t want to waste the money even for a laugh.
3. The Target Alarm Clock – This would be the perfect gift for Maven Linda, our resident sharpshooter. The clock has a target sticking out the top and there is a gun that you shoot at the target to turn the alarm off. Just hope they don't grab the wrong gun and actually shoot it (visions of splintering alarm clock).
4. The “Pot” Holder - A silicone potholder for lifting those hot lids - only this one is in the shape of a “Pot” leaf (marijuana). Thought it was a cute pun.
5. The Wand Remote Control – A remote control for the television that is a wizard wand. I am sure there are a few Harry Potter fans who would love this one. Seems you have to master certain moves to make the thing work. That I would like to see.
6. Skeleton Garden Gnomes - Like the cute little red-hated Gnomes you put in the garden only these look like zombies. Gee, wonder if you would put them with the dead flowers?
7. 28-Day Mascara - I have a hard enough time just getting the regular mascara off. I can’t imagine what it would take to remove mascara after wearing it for 28 days. Kind of made me cringe a bit.
8. The Kitchen Assistant – This is a definite gift for our chef Jean. It’s this thing that looks like a long-legged spider that you sit down in the pot and then turn it on. It constantly stirs the contents of the pot for you. It seemed like a good idea until I started thinking about it crawling out of the pot and creating havoc all over the stove, pushing and turning over other pots.
9. A Vertical Turntable – Touted as a space-saving device, this is a turntable which you mount on the wall. I stared at it for a long time trying to figure out how they kept the record (yes vinyl record) on it. You see the record is on the turntable parallel to the wall, just hanging there. Amazed me and it amazed me that someone will probably buy it.
10. The Bacon Rug – It is actually a floor rug that looks like a strip of uncooked bacon. Really? Trychanosis any one?
11. The World’s Smallest Camera – It is this tiny digital camera about the size of the tip of my finger. I wondered how you pushed the button to take the picture without smashing the whole thing. And who would want this? Does it make the world’s tiniest photos?
12. The Beard Cap – It’s a toboggan (sock hat) with a crocheted beard and mustache attached that covers your face. Really looked creepy.
13. Pickle Bandaids – Bandaids with pickles all over them. They also have bacon ones.
14. Champion, the Storefront Horse – Named after Gene Autry’s horse Champion (but it’s yellow and everyone knows that Champion was a gray roan don’t they?), it is one of those electric horses that sit in front of the grocery store for kids to put a quarter in and ride. I wanted this with all the child-like enthusiasm a horse-nut could muster until I saw the price tag - $6,500.00. That’s a lot of quarters.
15. Tattoo Sleeves – The ad actually said it was for the person who didn’t want to sit through being poked with needles. These are tight coverings that are sheer and go up your arm. They are covered in different types of tattoo art. Why???

There were a lot more but I am sure you are now getting the drift of the crazy things out there. My favorite was a t-shirt that said “Even if it’s crap, just get it on the page.” Have you seen any unusual gifts for the Season? Tell us about them.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cutting Corners to Happiness

Cutting corners definitely saves time and saving time keeps Jane sane, especially during the holidays.

During the holidays, it's easy to become stressed by to-do lists and shopping trips, not to mention wrapping gifts and decorating for company. There is shopping to get done, Christmas cards to write, parties to plan or attend, and the list goes on. Getting by is not how I want to proceed with my holidays. I would much rather be celebrating and enjoying every minute, but as the years have passed and my schedule grew to demand it, I learned to cut corners in order to survive.

This is my confession. The confession of a Martha Stewart wannabe. (Pirate!)

Yes! You can create wonderful holiday experiences with less. (Another reason why I like Sara Lee!) All your recipes don't need to be made from scratch. Your decorations don't need to be handmade. Gifts can be simple or extravagant, whatever your budget will allow. There is a shortcut for everyone. The trick is to find one that works for you.

I used to make all my Christmas gifts, but quickly ran out of time as my kids got older. I make cookies for all my neighbors to this day and deliver them on Christmas Eve. Doubling recipes helps me get platefuls of cookies, fudge and chocolate-covered pretzels. The most time-consuming thing on my list- Gingerbread Men. (But it is the one thing my neighbors look forward to.)

Here are some things I've learned to cut corners on:

1. Peanut Butter Hershey's Kiss cookies can be made quickly and easily using store bought Peanut Butter Cookie dough. Simply dump dough into a bowl, pick off a piece, roll dough into a ball, dip in sugar, fill cookie sheet with same. Cook. Immediately when the cookies come out of the oven, insert Hershey's Kiss into the center of each cookie. Let cool undisturbed. (I often put a batch in the freezer for a bit to help the chocolate set faster.) Voila!

2. Sugar Cookie dough can be store bought. Roll out dough, shape or cut into shapes, decorate with sprinkles or paint (if painting, mix egg yoke with food coloring to achieve exact color needed for paint. With small brush, brush paint onto cookies, then sprinkle with plain sugar for crystalized affect). Once baked, the painted cookies will resemble stained glass. Definitely a hit with my young bunch and safe to eat too!

3. Use store bought pie crust. (Though I always make my own because I still suffer from Martha Stewart mania.)

4. To make pull-apart Monkey Bread for breakfast, use plain Pillsbury biscuit or crescent roll dough, roll into balls, roll balls into cinnamon sugar, place in greased angel food or bundt pan, and bake when all balls have been added, one on top of the other. Makes a yummy breakfast treat!

5. When having company over, use candlelight. Candlelight masks any signs of dust or dirt in the room.

6. For a quick room freshening trick, spray room freshener on any artificial plants or arrangements in the house. The scent sticks and permeates throughout the room, keeping the air fresh and clean while your guests are in the house.

Do you have any helpful tips for keeping your holiday stress free?

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Get By With a Little Help

You probably think I am about to get all sappy about how my friends give me strength, my husband always has my back, and my faith sees me through. Wrong. Well, not really wrong. All that is true, but I am in no mood to preach today. You are probably in no mood to hear it, so that works out.

No. What I am talking about today are some little concrete things that I can buy at the store. Cheap. These are things that I rely on make my life better and they work 100 per cent of the time. That's a comfort—especially in a world where Christmas is peeping over my shoulder and I am not done decorating or shopping.

Neosporin. I am the clumsy sort. I cut and burn myself. Cats scratch me. I run into things and break the skin. My little friend in the tube has never failed me. A little dab and most of the time, my owie isn't even sore the next day.

Swiffer Wet Jet. This product changed my life. Really. I like a clean floor but hate a bucket. Also, there was that nasty wringing out of the mop. No more. This little baby (or perhaps I should say babies, since I have one on each story of my house) is always there for me.

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. I've used this every day of my life since I got a job after college and could pay for it myself. Technically, I guess I don't pay for it myself anymore. The Guy pays for it, but I mop the floor (see above) so I think I earn my keep.

Burt's Bees Lip Balm. It is the best. Chapped lips feel better immediately. I do love some instant gratification.

Dawn. Not only does it cut the grease on dishes, I use it pretreat stains on clothes. Also, it comes in a pretty apple green. It isn't mandatory that that I have dish detergent to please my aesthetic senses, but why not take joy where you can find it? Except not Joy, in the bottle. Dawn in the bottle.

What little things do you depend on to make life easier?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Breakfast Treats

I love a houseful of company. I love it even better when they stay overnight. When I have overnight guests I have a rule: "Sleep as late as you like. Breakfast will be on the warming tray when you come downstairs." I have a whole arsenal of breakfast recipes that lead to sitting around in pajamas half the day. And what's better on a cold morning? Good company, flannel, and pot after pot of coffee.
These are a few things I make for company breakfast. I didn't say they were good for you--just good. And it is the holidays.

Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes

  • · 2 cups flour
  • · ½ cup sugar
  • · 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • · ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • · ½ teaspoon salt
  • · 1 ½ cups sour cream
  • · 1 cup whole milk
  • · ½ cup lemon juice
  • · 1 stick melted butter
  • · 2 large eggs
  • · 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • · Grated zest of two lemons
  • · 1/3 cup poppy seeds

In a large bowl sift together first 5 ingredients.

In another bowl whisk together remaining ingredients until well combined.

Pour wet ingredients over dry. Stir until just combined.

Cook over medium heat until bubbles appear. Flip. Serve with syrup and blueberries.


Maple Scones

  • 3 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces, about 3/4 cup walnut halves) finely chopped walnuts*
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening (or unsalted butter, or a combination)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring

*The walnuts are tastier if you toast them before chopping. Place walnut pieces in a single layer in a flat pan and toast them in a preheated 350°F oven for 7 to 9 minutes, or until they smell "toasty" and are beginning to brown.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, walnuts, baking powder and salt. Cut in the shortening and/or butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a separate bowl, combine the milk, 1/3 cup (3 3/4 ounces) of the maple syrup, and the maple flavoring. (You can leave out the maple flavoring if you wish, but it really adds a nice touch.) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until you've formed a very soft dough.

Flour your work surface generously, and scrape the dough out of the mixing bowl onto the floured surface. Divide the dough in half.

Working with one half at a time, gently pat the dough into a 7-inch circle about 7/8-inch thick. Transfer the circle to a parchment-lined or lightly greased cookie sheet or other flat pan; it'll be very soft, and if you have a giant spatula, it's the tool of choice here. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough, placing it on a separate pan.

Using a sharp bench knife or rolling pizza wheel, divide each dough circle into eight wedges. Gently separate the wedges so that they're almost touching in the center, but are spaced about an inch apart at the edges. Pierce the tops of the scones with the tines of a fork, and brush them with some of the remaining maple syrup.

Bake the scones in a preheated 425°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and brush them with any remaining maple syrup. Wait a couple of minutes, then gently separate the scones with a knife (they'll be very fragile), and carefully transfer them to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, with jam or maple butter (or even better, maple cream, an amber-colored, spreadable version of maple syrup, available at just about any New England shop selling native maple syrup). Yield: 16 large scones.


Magic French Toast

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1-cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon maple flavoring
  • 1 8 inch Challah loaf (or any rich sweet bread; I use Hawaiian bread)
  • 1.5 cups half and half
  • 1-teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon Amaretto (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 eggs, beaten
Melt butter, brown sugar, syrup, and maple flavoring in a 9X13 inch pan.

Cut bread in smallish cubes—about 1.5-2 inches. Place in pan. It is going to look like a lot.

Mix half and half, vanilla, salt, and eggs. Pour over bread. Refrigerate over night. It will soak up and look smaller in the morning.

Set out of refrigerator while oven preheats to 350 degrees.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes.

With fruit and sausage, serves 12 adults or one teenage boy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Holiday Stress

Well, after hosting our friends as guest bloggers for most of November I am back.  I hope every one had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  It was great to have some time off to spend with family and friends! 

I had already planned this blog topic before I read Kathy's blog on Wednesday, but the topics seem to have been designed together.  In the words of Boss Hogg, "I love it when a plan comes together!" 

As I mentioned already, I enjoyed spending time this past weekend with family and friends but those fun times can also be very stressful.  Already my calendar is filling up with committments during the month of December. For many of them I will need to shop for a present to take and make a dish of food to share.  Of course, the parties will be a lot of fun and it will be wonderful to see everyone during the holidays but even good fun things can add stress to our lives.  I love to bake and decorate my home but today I find myself twitching at the thought of needing to get my greenery up this weekend while it is still green.  So even though I enjoy both the process and then end results of decorating, I am struggling a bit with actually getting it done.  Of course, it is early days yet but I just know that the closer I get to Christmas the busier life will become.

One way that I have coped with holiday stress the last few years is to take a day off during December.  My church has a ladies luncheon on a Monday early in December and I have taken the day off to go and enjoy that.  I began this personal holiday tradition one year when I needed to assist with the luncheon but it was so nice to have a day off that I continued to take off to just attend the luncheon.  It is nice to be able to sleep in a little and know that I have a day to put a little bit more merry into my Christmas.

What are some ways you cope with holiday stress?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Survived Black Friday

I survived Black Friday, did you?

No, I didn't go out in the middle of the night to fight the horde. I went to work. My job as an Administrative Assistant, is to set up the break room and monitor meal breaks for our employees on Black Friday. Each one is given a 20 minute break, on company time. Isn't that fabulous?

The problem is there are so many of us on Black Fridays that I'm forced to become the Break Room Bouncer.

Now, I've been called the Terminator, Eliminator, Office Guru, among my many other hats, but only once a year do I get to be the Break Room Bouncer. Woot! It's a touch job, but someones got to do it, right?

While I'm appreciated on many levels for my break room etiquette and prowess (at least I think I am, LOL!), the gang knows I'm timing each one of them as they come back to eat what our boss has graciously ordered and had sent in. (Yes, my wonderful boss orders a fabulous meal for our gang every year. We've had Olive Garden and Dreamland BBQ, two years running. Though I didn't vote for the Banana Pudding this year, bah humbug! For those who don't know it, Dreamland has a spectacular Peach Cobbler and drat! I had been really looking forward to it.)

But I digress, because the one thing I really wanted to talk to you about was surviving Black Friday. We did, thanks to great food and morale. But what I wanted to get at were your ideas on the earlier store openings throughout the nation this year.

Walmart, Target and a few other places like Toys R Us opened between 9 p.m. on Thursday night and 12 a.m. on Friday morning. Our opening hours kicked it up a notch, 30 minutes earlier than scheduled. And the majority of mall stores opened between 5-6 a.m., when just years ago, stores opened at the earliest by 6 a.m.

Now, as a retail employee, my concern for these earlier openings goes to the employees who have to cut their holiday with family short just to man the stations, as it were.

Does this upset you? Have we become a nation set on putting capitalistic gain over the very holidays created to bring our families together?

Black Friday gave our economy a great big boost, just as it does every year. My fear is economists will promote an upswing in our economy that will lead to false comfort on the economic front.

What do you think? Do you shop on Black Friday? Or do you take the time to enjoy your loved ones, perhaps even decorate your Christmas tree ?

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Devil in the Details

I want to like the TV show Hart of Dixie. The basic premise: When a New York City born and bred surgeon is fired for lack of bedside manner, she relocates to a small town in Alabama to practice general medicine in an effort to hone her people skills.

I want to like this show so much that I continue to watch it every week. And there are some things that I do like about it. There are some great characters. There is some serious eye candy. The light plot lines are entertaining.

If only they had a southerner on the writing staff. Or even a consultant.

Here are the problems:

  • They had a heat wave in late October that was so bad they were tripping breakers and running around wringing wet. No. Not in October. Not even in Alabama.
  • The local women dress like it's the 1950's.
  • These same women wear white shoes in the fall.
  • And flowery hats—at night. That wouldn't happen.
  • The Founder's Day parade had a float with Crimson Tide AND a War Eagle on it. The same float. Give me a break.
  • There is a woman old enough to be my mother active in the Junior League. No. No. No. She would be a sustaining member. She would not work on projects, go to meetings, or hold an office.

What makes you want to stand up and scream, "Why can't you get it right?"

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I know everyone is busy with Thanksgiving today so I am just going to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving!

  Here is a bit of Thanksgiving sparkle to enjoy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cranberry Jezebel Sauce

This is one of my absolute favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Really, it's pretty much a staple at my house, but Thanksgiving is the time when I stock up on cranberries and freeze them so we can have it year round. It lasts for months. Not only is it good with turkey, it's great with pork or on a sandwich. Pour it over a block of cream cheese or a wedge of brie for a quick hors d'oeuvre. Or is it an appetizer? Is there a difference? I'm going to look that up, but it's going to have to wait for a day when I'm not trying to make Thanksgiving happen.

From all of us, have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Jezebel Sauce

  • 1-Cup Water
  • ½ Cup Sugar
  • ½ Cup packed brown sugar
  • 12 ounces of fresh cranberries
  • 3 Tablespoons horseradish
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

Combine water, sugar, and brown sugar in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add cranberries. Return to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon into a bowl. Let cool to room temperature. Add horseradish and mustard. Mix well. Cover and chill.

Serve with meat, on turkey sandwiches, or pour over Brie or cream cheese and serve with crackers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Reinvent Yourself & Give Thanks

There's a lot of confusion in the world today. If you haven't heard, all you have to do is turn on the news. Politics, the economy, the lost art of patience, dwindling morality and thinly veiled dignity, all play a definitive part in keeping the most humane experiences from reaching the mortal soul. Add the holiday season and a person could become completely undone.

Take the fact that towns across the US have put up holiday decorations way before their time. Holiday music is already playing in stores across the nation as preparations for Black Friday commence. (Shiver me timbers!) Though I work for a retailer, and I know the importance of THE DAY OF DAYS, the crowds, harried customers, and the push by companies for consumers to spend, spend, spend, squeal loudly like a pig trying to maintain its balance on a spinning puzzle piece.

When is enough, enough? Commercials spin the idea that no one will be satisfied unless they receive a car for Christmas. A car? Seriously? In this economy? Have CEOs everywhere lost their minds? If you don't believe me, check out reruns of the American Music Awards and watch JLo's performance. Yes indeedie, the car from her commercials was sharing center stage with her. Was I the only one who thought that was strange?

Does the picture of students getting sprayed with pepper spray just for 'sitting' in protest of increased college tuition ring any bells?

Where does the mania end?

This is nothing new. Long ago, Pilgrims survived a perilous journey across the sea only to be forced into the wilds of a new land with little to sustain them. That they made it through winter came via change, enlisting the aide of a new people, learning better ways to live, and putting those skills into action.

After spending the past two years in pain and the past three months recovering from a surgery that took that pain away, I'm living in a new world, mateys. A clearer world where simple things have become favorite things.

It's amazing how much we take for granted on any given day.

As Thanksgiving approaches, give thanks for what you have because I guarantee you have more than you can possibly imagine if you have good health, people who love you, a roof over your head, food to fill your belly, a machine to get you to and from work, and last but definitely not least, friends to help make each day better than the last.

Change is good. Pilgrims initiated a change that brought this country to life. Are you afraid of change? How can you reinvent yourself?

Live. Laugh. Love.