Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ring out, wild bells!

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
From In Memoriam (ring out, wild bells)
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
Photo: Tron Church, Edinburgh, Scotland

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winter Warmth - Spiced Tea!

One of my favorite things to drink during the winter months is spiced tea. This recipe is old, quite Southern, and passed down from my grandmother to my mother to me. This easy-to-do recipe is in EVERY Southern woman's recipe book, but just in case you missed it or you're a yankee (wink) or from the mid-west or western side of the country, I'll post it here. Try it and enjoy!

2/3 c instant tea
2 c Tang
2 c sugar
1 pkg instant lemonade
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together. Store in tightly covered jar (preferably a mason jar!). It's cute to cut a piece of fabric and tie a little string or ribbon around it -- I give these away as gifts during the holidays.

Measure 2 teaspoons to a cup of boiling water.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Reason for the Season

I am so excited about spending the holidays with my family. It will be the first time we have all been together for Christmas in several years. Michael and I will begin our journey tonight as we head toward Kentucky. We love to travel together. We get a lot of uninterupted time to talk as we drive...that doesn't always happen at home!

So, now the gifts are bought and wrapped, the tree and decorations are up, the flurry of the preparation is over. Now it's time to slow down and enjoy the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Savior. There's not a better time to be with those we love the most.

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

So, here it is... Midwinter... the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. This event has been celebrated since ancient times and has taken on a mystical, magical aspect in many cultures. Astronomically speaking, the night of Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere is marked by the three stars in Orion's Belt aligning with the star, Sirius, the brightest in the eastern sky, to show the exact location the Sun will rise the morning after Winter Solstice. Since Summer Solstice until now, the Sun has been following a decreasing arc across the southern sky. Today, the Sun ceased its decline in the sky, and for a period of three days, the Sun will appear to "stand still," as it will not move on the horizon. On the fourth day, the Sun will begin its ascent into the northern sky and the days will begin to grow longer. For this reason, many cultures interpret this as the Sun being reborn.

People all over the world celebrate Winter Solstice in a variety of ways. In Brighton, UK, they have the Burning the Clocks, a Winter Solstice festival that centers around a procession of lanterns and clock-face costumes representing the passing of time. Led by local bands, the procession makes it way through the streets of Brighton city center to the seafront where the festivities culminate in a lantern bonfire and fireworks. While I am sure it is quite cold, I would love to visit Brighton during Burning the Clocks! What a fun way to celebrate Winter Solstice.

As for us, we celebrate the evening a little more subdued and reflective. It is a time to feel snug in my warm home, and I light a candle as night falls and allow it to burn all night. It is our reminder during this longest night that light will soon is our flickering hope in the darkness.

listen while whispered words
turn the hole into deep night sky
stars close together
winter moon rising over white fields
nearby a wren rustling dry leaves
distant owl echoing
two people walking up the road laughing have nothing to do but live.

From Winter Solstice by Jody Aliesan

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Currier & Ives

Currier & Ives' winter scenes are among some of my favorites. I remember many years ago my grandmother having some of their prints. In the mid-1990's, I began collecting a blue and white dish pattern with a Currier & Ives scene imprinted on it, and I love using it during the winter makes such a lovely table! I also remember as a child having a book of C&I prints, and I could look at those lovely pictures for hours and imagine myself in those beautiful scenes. I had long lost that book, so imagine my delight when I found it today in an antique store! Of course I bought it right away and could hardly wait to get home to look through it!
Currier & Ives were the self-described "Publishers of Cheap and Popular Pictures" during most of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. They produced more than a million prints through the process of hand-colored lithography. A staff of artists produced the lithographys, and the colors were applied in an "assembly line" style by mostly German immigrant girls, each of whom added a single color to the print.
The prints depicted a variety of images of American life, including my favorite winter scenes, as well as horse racing images, portraits, pictures of ships, sporting events, and battle scenes of the American Civil War.
In 1907, Currier & Ives closed after the public demand for lithographs diminished. Today, original Currier & Ives prints are very popular among collectors, and modern reproductions of the prints are popular decorations.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men

"I heard the bells on Christmas day.
Their old familiar carol play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sewanee Under Siege

The infamous Sewanee fog has rolled in for an extended stay. Sometimes, the fog moves in for days, even weeks. It is beautiful and gives the mountain a rather dreamy, enchanting quality...almost "other worldly." It envelops buildings, people, and wildlife with its blanket of gray. It softens the edges of everything, blurring the landscape in a surreal sea of ghostly mist. I have been working at Sewanee for nearly four years, and the fog is something by which I am still amazed. It can dilute your senses and leave you feeling somewhat disoriented, as if you are existing in a dream. It is also something that can, after a while, leave you longing for spring days and sunshine. It is not always easy to survive weeks of the fog, but somehow I always do. Perhaps that is because I have the Valley to escape to each evening, where the skies are simply overcast and hope is on the horizon.

Sewanee photos courtesy of

Saturday, December 13, 2008


"The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand."
~~Frederic Lawrence Knowles

Have you looked at the moon the last couple of nights?!?!!! It's absolutely beautiful and it's huge in the night's sky. I could sit outside and look at it for hours if not for the cold temperatures. It's this kind of moon that simply captivates me. Moonstruck. There's something to that word. I often become Moonstruck when that big beautiful winter's moon rises high in the sky. I know I tend to veer a little toward the dramatic, but I swear when I see a moon like that, I hear Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma and the entire world is a romantic stage. On nights like this I actually believe that I am watching "stars which tremble with love and hope!"

Like I say, I'm a little allow me that. :-) I'm going for a moonlit walk with my sweetheart, and maybe I'll sing Nessun Dorma to him.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter's Light

One of my favorite visions is the glimmer of winter light through barren trees...the silhouette of dark branches against the dim winter sky. Many people have a difficult time seeing the beauty in the winter season. I believe the beauty of winter is in abundance...

There's a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

From There's a Certain Slant of Light
by Emily Dickinson

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter's Rain

Today a steady winter's rain has enveloped my world. While a dreary day may bring dread to some, I am so thankful, for it was not many months ago that we prayed for even a little rain to relieve the unending, nearly unbearable heat and the poor ground which portrayed its lack of moisture and nourishment with its cracked and dusty patches. Today, I'm reminded of Longfellow's poem The Rainy Day, and while I can't boast of a dark and dreary life (thank goodness), I do love the images of the winter's wind blowing at the remaining leaves.

Today I would love to curl up with a good book, snuggle into my big cozy chair and read the day away. Somehow, Sewanee and my work here just won't cooperate with that longing, but there's always this evening...

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

~~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow~~

Top photo courtesy of
Bottom photo courtesy of Bill Deneau, photographer

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tales from the Zoo

Those of you who know us well know that we adore our animals...all four of them...despite their idiosyncrasies and bad habits. AFTER ALL, my husband and I know we have our own idiosyncrasies and bad habits; however, the difference is that neither of us chew up our shoes, leave "presents" on the carpet to freak out our B&B guests, chase cars (or birds or squirrels), or pull things off the kitchen table (tablecloth and all) into the floor, breaking dishes and eating the food off the hardwood. We have had a rough month with our "home zoo," and DH is fit to be tied over all of our animals except one. Hermione is allowed to stay. The others...well, let's just say he wants to vote them off the island.

For the past two nights we've been awakened several times by one of the following two occurrences: Molly and Max wrestling on the floor and wanting to go outside to play during the wee hours of the morning, OR one or two of the animals wanting to bite the face off one or two of the others. About 4 a.m. this morning, we were brought abruptly out of our restful sleep by a cat/dog fight RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR BED. You see, the animals are NOT allowed in the bed, but sometimes a critter or two sneaks up there in the middle of the night. Apparently last night TWO of them did so, and there wasn't enough room at the inn for both...or so Molly thought (and we would have thought that, too, if we had been awake and known about it). Anyway, she attacked poor Hermione who has now been cowarding in corners or at the end of the porch ever since.

We've decided enough of this madness!! We have crates. Crates are good. There will be no more doggie freedom in the middle of the night. Crates are the thing. We're using them. Doggie jail for those who refuse to behave. And we're not even feeling guilty! As for the cats...that's tougher. I think we're going to designate a special room for them at night...or at least close the door to OUR room so they can't get in. We've actually tried that, but Hermione plays with the door and mews to the point that we can't sleep, so we may have to come up with some type of alternative because we're really, really tired.

If ANYone has any recommendations on how to control our animals (that doesn't involve giving them away or taking them to the shelter) so that we can get some much-needed sleep, we would be so grateful!!

Top Photo: Molly & Max looking guilty of "something"
Artwork by
Lost Photo: Hermione vs. Hissy Isabella


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Card Scrooge...I mean...Christmas Card FRUGAL

I LOVE getting Christmas cards in the mail. I love those that my friends do with pictures of their children. And I love those I get with the one, two or three sheet summary of people's accomplishments over the year (although Michael thinks these are a bit too much and braggy...but I think they're great). I love seeing the handmade cards that some of my friends do because they're so crafty and talented. I really long to send out cards like those. Really I do. But this year has been rough. My craft supplies are crammed into the back of our storage room (along with my art canvases, paints, sewing machine, and anything else that would assist in my creative pursuits), and I'm too tired to dig them out. In fact, I've not even gone to buy Christmas cards this year, unless you count the box of 30 that I found unopened at an indoor yard sale. Michael and I have discovered that we have between us about a million Christmas cards left over from our single years when we didn't send out the entire box. "What if we send these out this year?" I asked, pulling them out of the secretary by the handfuls. "Okay with me," he said. Which, translated, means...since you're the one doing them, do what you want. So, this year we're having a true "Green" Christmas. We're recycling. We're saving money. I'm a little proud that we're being so frugal and thoughtful of our planet (smirk here). And I may even type a three page letter to go with them...on recycled typing paper, of course.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Season's First Snow

This morning, we awakened to the season's first snow. Sewanee's campus is gorgeous with freshly fallen snow decorating the trees and buildings. What a beautiful way to welcome December.

Above: Convocation Hall in Snow

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Beautiful Life

I know how fortunate I am to have had my beautiful grandmother as a wonderful role model throughout my life. She has been an inspiration to me always, and some of my most treasured memories of my childhood are special times that I spent with her. I remember thinking as a child that I wanted to grow up to be just like her. My grandmother wore beautiful suits, painted her nails and lips red, and wore high heeled shoes, and she always exuded class and sophistication. She went to work, came home and cooked dinner and still had time to spend with me reading or working on craft projects or telling me stories about her remarkable life. I remember sitting in her lap in front of the picture window at her house as she rocked me and told me stories about her sisters and brothers, her parents, her grandparents and growing up in Harlan. I was spellbound from an early age at these tales and hung on every word. And 40 years later, I'm still hanging on every word! My grandmother was ...and still is...a remarkable woman, and I am so proud to be her granddaughter.

Above: my grandmother on her 91st birthday. Above black and white photo: My grandmother, Aretta Lay Whitaker, and my grandfather, Paul Benjamin Whitaker, at Cumberland Falls in Kentucky in the 1940's.

On November 22, 2008, we celebrated her 91st birthday at her home with family and friends. When all the guests had gone, I listened as she talked about the wonderful, blessed life she has lived. As I listened to her reminisce about past times, friends and family, I realized what a testament she is to truly living and enjoying life. She has definitely lived it, learned it, and taught it! My grandmother, Aretta Inez Lay, was the second of eight children born to Albert Lay and Estella Rose Lay in Harlan, Kentucky. She grew up hiking and hunting with her father, learning to cook from her mother and enjoying the simple life they all lead in Harlan. She grew up and married my grandfather after meeting him at Green Mill Drug Store in Harlan, where she worked behind the soda counter. She had two children, taught kindergarten for 23 years, fought for economic and social progress in her community through MANY projects, served as a den mother when my father was a member of the Boy Scouts, volunteered as a "pink lady" at the local hospital, participated in a women's sorority that focused on community service, and still had time to make a beautiful and happy home and spend time with her children and grandchildren.

Those beautiful blue green eyes have seen so many changes in this world since her birth in 1917. She witnessed protests and crimes during the unionization of the mines in Harlan County in the 1930s and lived through the Great Depression, as well as WWII in which members of her family fought for our freedom. She could write volumes on the many things which she's had a first-hand account.

My grandmother continues to be a role model to me. At 91, she is still going strong and is as beautiful as ever. All my life, I have strived to be the kind of woman my grandmother has been throughout her life. She's taught by example, and if I manage to accomplish even half of what she has throughout her life, I would consider myself fortunate. She is beautiful, both inside and out, and has lived a truly amazing life...and she's not finished yet! She continues to be an example to her family and friends of what it means to live a full and blessed life. And we all feel very blessed to know her.

Grandmother blows out the candles on her birthday cake.

Grandmother Aretta Lay Whitaker with her brother, Albert Lay, Jr.

Grandmother Aretta with, left to right, Susie Mavinidis, Lakis Mavinidis, her son, Jay Whitaker

Grandmother Aretta with her nephew, Bill McSpadden, and his wife, Mary

My Grandmother with my aunt Vivian and me at my wedding in 2005.

Grandmother meets her first great-grandchild, Mary Addison, for the first time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Rolling Pin Fetish

I admit I have a problem. I just can't walk away from those beautiful old rolling pins! My husband wonders when the madness will end. Never, I say! As long as there are those brilliantly colored glass rolling pins (I actually have one that belonged to my great grandmother in amber color) and those gorgeous stoneware versions with the painted flowers, I'll never kick my habit!

I've found a great way to display my antique rolling pins. I picked up a wooden antique wine rack cheap, cheap, cheap at an estate sale and placed it on top of my antique ice chest. Instead of wine bottles, I placed my rolling pins in the slots, and it looks adorable! The accordian style racks are the best, as the staggered display allows each pin to be better seen. I've also placed some of my old rolling pins in dough bowls for a cute look, although it's a bit tougher to see the beautiful designs on those in the bowls. I recommend the solid, colored ones and wooden ones for that type of display.

I'd love to hear others' ideas on how to display these great old treasures!!

The photos above are courtesy of The photos below are of my own display and rolling pins at our B&B.

Please share ideas! I have more pins to display!!!


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Laundry Room Remodel Completed!

Today has to be one of the most exciting days we've experienced here at the Little Young House in quite a while! While some people may get excited over new cars or expensive vacations, all it takes for me is a new washer and dryer and a remodeled laundry room to thrill me! I've lived without a washer and dryer for the past three months since we had water damage in the B&B. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to run an inn without a washer and dryer?!?! We actually closed our doors for a few weeks during the worst of the remodel -- we had to tear out old plaster, the floors and ceilings, pull out cabinets, etc. After living in a state of chaos and our guests not having access to our front parlor, today the madness ended. They delivered the washer and dryer early this morning and I've been working since to get a few things on the wall, get the supplies loaded back in the cabinets, and....yes...doing some laundry. That inaugural load was something to behold, believe me!

Anyway, here's the photos of the new room. You can't really appreciate it unless you've seen the photos of the water pouring from the ceilings and the sheet rock falling down...but I can't seem to find those photos at the moment (maybe I'm trying to forget). I still need to put curtains up and do a few final touches like some decor on the cabinet tops and painting the doors to the porch, but for the most part, it's complete.

Here's the room right after the floor installation, before being swept and scrubbed.

Molly checking out the dryer vent. Look at all that space! Wow!

The new counter tops look great, and our new laundry sink is extra deep for hand washing clothes or giving Max a bath! Molly is admiring them, too. She's thinking...nice!

Here come the appliances! The guys from Bradford Appliance admitted they'd never had their picture taken when making a delivery. I explained I was the most excited new appliance owner they'd ever meet!

Isn't that the most beautiful thing you've ever seen? Okay, well maybe not for you, but for me, it's up there with JFK Jr. and red sunsets!

Appliances in and the room doesn't seem so spacious anymore. But I can handle it.

Cleaned, a little decor in, and I'm ready to do some laundry!

The first load in...what a beautiful sight! It was especially exciting because it was the comforter from our bed, and it's HUGE! There was room to spare in the washing machine!

Gotta have something cute to look at, right? Check out my dancing frog lamp. Sooo adorable. Anyone have any ideas on how to hide cords? Those are light bulbs in the basket...they won't be there permanently. ;-)

Cross stitch by Jean Durham and a pitcher and tray we received as a wedding present.

A few more little touches...still more to do, but looking better!

Michael is especially proud of the faucet he picked out. It's a sprayer that pulls out so that we can...spray.

One final look. When the curtains are in, it will look better, but it looks like a thing of beauty to me right now!