Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Weather Lore for New Year's Eve

Can wind direction forecast the weather for the New Year?

 According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, it can.

If New Year’s Eve the wind blows south

It betokens warmth and growth.

If west, much milk and fish in the sea.

If north, cold and storms there will be.

If east, the trees will bear much fruit.

If north east, then flee it, man and brute.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Books

This list of books I've read this year contains some literature and some junk.  Don't judge me; I loved them all!

1.  The Kite Runner   by Khaled Hosseini
2.  The Quilter's Daughter by Wanda E.  Brunstetter
3.  Dead Sleep by Greg Iles
4.  A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
5.  Angel Sister by Ann H. Gabhart
6.  Secrets of the Grave by Tami Hoag
7.  Thale's Folly by Dorothy Gilman
8.  To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
9.  Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voight
10. Saint by Ted Dekker
11. My Antonia by Willa Cather
12. No Second Chances by Harlan Coben
13. Homecoming by Cynthia Voight
14. Daddy's Gone a Hunting by Mary Higgins Clark
15. The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
16. Battle of King's Mountain by Sharon McCrumb
17. Running Blind by Lee Child
18. King of the Wind by Marquerite Henry
19. A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama
20. High Heat by Lee Child
21. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
22. The Optimist's Daughter by Endora Welty
23. City of Orphans by AVI
24. Breakwater by Carla Neggers
25. Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson
26. The Schooling of Claybird Catts by Janis Owens
27. What Stands in the Storm by Kim Cross
28. At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
29. A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich
30. Heart Wide Open by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson
31. Criminal Intent by Laurie Breton
32. One of Those Malibu Nights by Elizabeth Adler
33. Shadow of A Bull by Maia Wojciechowska
34. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
35. A Heartbeat Away by Michael Palmer
36. Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons
37. The Stranger by Harlan Coben
38. Close to the Broken Hearted by Michael Hiebert
39. Gray Mountain by John Grisham
40. Blue Labyrinth by Preston and Child
41. Personal by Lee Child
42. The Burning Room by Michael Connelly
43. Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons
44. Doll-Baby by Laura Lane McNeal
45. Beloved by Toni Morrison
46. Oath of Office by Michael Palmer
47. The Death of Pie by Tamar Myers
48. The Lost Island by Preston and Child
49. The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons
50. Water From My Heart by Charles Martin
51. The Bone Orchard by Paul Doidon
52. Reunion by Hannah Pittard
53. Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech
54. Gone Missing by Linda Castillo
55. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
56. Murder in Murray Hill by Victoria Thompson
57. Mobile Library by David Whitehouse
58. The Darling Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott
59. Deadline by John Sandford
60. Death Wears A Beauty Mask by Mary Higgins Clark
61. Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke
62. Burnt River by Karen Salvalaggio
63. Gathering Prey by John Sandford
64. The Forsaken by Ace Atkins
65. You Don't Cry Out Loud by Lily Isaacs
66. Five Miles South of Peculiar by Angela Hunt
67. Older by Wilder by Effie Leland Wilder
68. Partner in Crime by J.A. Jance
69. The Killing Floor by Lee Child
70. The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs
71. Breaking Her Fall by Stephen Goodwin
72. The Winners Game by Kevin All Milne
73. Wicked Ways by Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush
74. Twisted Innocence by Terri Blackstock
75. Bloody River Blues by Jeffery Deaver
76. Molokai by Alan Brennert
77. Our Town by Thornton Wilder
78. Hawaii by James Mitchner
79. Long Lost by Harlan Coben
80. The Orchard by Theresa Weir
81. Gone for Good by Harlan Coben
82.  The Hard Way by Lee Child
83. Memory Man by David Baldacci
84. Bitterroot by James Lee Burke
85. Dark of the Moon by John Stanford
86. The Devil's Code by John Stanford
87. Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles
88. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
89. The Old Buzzard Had it Coming by Donis Casey
90. Night Road by Kristin Hannah
91. Skeleton Canyon by J.A. Jance
92.The Christmas Shoes by Donna Van Liere
93. The Quiet Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
94. The Official Guide to Christmas in the South by David C.                  Barnette
95. Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson
96. Mount Vernon Love Story by Mary Higgins Clark
97. A Covington Christmas by Joan Medlicott
98. Cold Blood by Lisa Jackson
99. A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg
100. Midnight Voices by John Saul
101. Now You See Her by James Patterson
102. Dark Harbor by David Hosp
103. Tombstone Courage by J.A. Jance
104. My Southern Journey by Rick Bragg
105. Desert Heat by J.A. Jance
106. One Shot by Lee Child
107. Private: #1 Suspect by James Patterson
108. Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark
109. Devil's Claw by J.A. Jance

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

             Nativity of Jesus, by Botticelli

Arise, shine, for your light has come,

    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,

    and thick darkness the peoples;

but the Lord will arise upon you,

    and his glory will be seen upon you.

~Isaiah 60:1-2

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tending the Sheep

It is an ancient profession, this job of being a shepherd.

Someone has to tend the sheep.
Someone has to keep the flock together; to chase away the predators.
They have to keep the little lambs from wandering off and getting lost.
They have to keep moving sheep to different pastures, searching for fresh grass.

Fresco by Taddeo Gaddi, Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, Italy, 1332-1338

In the days when believers read Isaiah and waited for the promise, there were many shepherds. The job sometimes fell to single men who had no family responsibilities, who could stay with the sheep day and night. They moved about with the sheep, living in tents or wagons.

Being a shepherd was a mundane, lonely job with little to eat and none of the comforts of home.

Throughout time, God has used shepherds for his purpose.
Before he became the Father of Nations, Abraham tended sheep.
Jacob and Isaac were shepherds.
Moses spent his time in exile tending sheep.
David, who had God's heart, was with his flock when he was called to service.

Then the day came.
The day God had known about since the beginning, the day that would change us forever.
Heaven trembled with excitement.

The angels might have gone to the east, where wise men studied the skies and knew.
The angels might have gone to Herod's castle, or to priests, teachers, or leaders.
The angels went to the shepherds.

The birth announcement that the prophets had yearned for was made to lowly, coarse shepherds....
doing their jobs on a night like a thousand nights before, not expecting this night to be any different,

not expecting to be surrounded by a multitude of angels and the glory of God, not expecting to be chosen to announce the greatest event since the creation of the world.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men to whom his favor rests." Luke 2:8-14

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holy Smoke Pie

I posted this recipe/blog after Thanksgiving last year, and some of you have asked for it again.  Here goes:

I think it was in the late seventies that I first had Holy Smoke Pie.  It was at a party at Debra Morris Harville's house.  After we ate, Debra had to give the recipe to everyone there.  I came home and made it for my family, and it has been a favorite since then.  I always make it at holiday dinners, because I believe tradition is important.  It has become a favorite of our granddaughters.

I've heard it called Chocolate Delight, Four-Layer Chocolate Dessert, and other odd things.  We call it Holy Smoke.  Here is how I make it:

Chop us a cup of pecans; set aside.

Add a stick of softened butter (NOT margarine) to one cup of self-rising flour.

Cut the butter into the flour.

Add the chopped pecans, and work it all together. Save two tablespoons of the pecans to sprinkle on top.

Pour into a 9" x 12" pan that has been sprayed with cooking oil.

Spread it over the bottom of the pan.  It helps to use your hands (or hand, if you have to keep one clean for the camera).

Looking good!  Put it into a 350 degree oven and bake until it is brown, 15-20 minutes.

Watch it carefully.  Looks like this one got a little brown in the Northeast corner.  No one cared. Let cool completely.

Mix a 4-serving package of chocolate pudding and 2 cups milk according to package directions.  See aside to thicken.

Blend together an eight ounce package of room-temperature cream cheese and 1 cup confectioner's sugar.

Add a cup of whipped cream and mix.  How could this NOT be good? I was home alone the day I made this, so I didn't have to fight anyone to lick the beater.

Very carefully, spread the cream cheese mixture over the cooled crust.  I find it easier to do a little bit at a time.  After this layer is on, spread the chocolate pudding on top of it.  

After the chocolate layer, use the rest of your 12 ounce container of whipped cream to cover the top. Sometimes, I use extra whipped cream, just because I like it.

  Make it pretty; then cover with the remaining chopped pecans.  Chill at least three hours; overnight if you can wait.

And here it is, in all its creamy, chocolately goodness.  This was the Thanksgiving dessert.  Have no doubt that there will be another one at Christmas, then my birthday, then. . . 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Advent. Waiting.

We wait in lines, at work, at school, in traffic.

Always waiting, our vaporous time on
this earth dictated by clocks, buzzers, lights, ringing.

Life around us constantly flowing, everyone about
their business, everyone running and waiting, hurry up and wait.

Isaiah waited for a Savior while preaching of His majesty, His healing.
David waited as he sang psalms and adored the one he had not seen with fleshly eyes.
They knew the promise.  The Messiah was coming.

We celebrate the Advent, this season of anticipation, and we tend the sheep in cold silence, wonder about the star in the east, wonder when this promise will walk among us.

The Word, which always was, took on flesh, flesh that laughed and cried, flesh that needed food and water, flesh that felt cold and heat.
Flesh that awoke, worked, rested, slept.
Flesh that walked among us.
Divine flesh that died for our redemption.

                                               "Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

More than two thousand years later, we wait.  We know the promise.
The Messiah is coming.  Not as a baby with human flesh, but as the Lion of Judah, the King of Glory.
The King who will destroy death and darkness, and will reign forever and ever.

Still, longing, we wait.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Scripture: Weary?

 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and 

I will give you rest.  

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I 

am gentle and lowly in heart, 

and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is 

easy, and my burden is 


~Matthew 11:28-30

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Remembering the Trees of Christmas

Our Christmas tree is lovely this year. It is well lighted and adorned with a variety of ornaments, some of them forty five years old.  It has been in the living room for a while, and it hasn't shed one needle. It probably never will, because the people who made it used fine machines and glue and paint to construct it, giving it the general shape of a tree. The closest it ever came to a real tree was when it was in a box in the back of the truck, coming home from Hobby Lobby.  It smells like. . . nothing.  Back in the day, Christmas trees smelled like excitement, like company coming, like the most wonderful time of the year.

As soon as our school dismissed for Christmas break, my lil' ole sister and I went to the woods in search of a Christmas tree. We ambled in woods not our own because we wanted to find something we hadn't seen before. A few times, it is possible we wandered onto government land, but it has been over fifty years and we don't fear prosecution at this point.

Cedars were the best; they had much thicker foliage than the scraggly lob lolly pines that were common there. The cedar trees usually had a few dead branches around the bottom, but that was easy enough to fix, and they smelled heavenly. So we would saw down a cedar, usually no more than three or four inches in diameter at the trunk, and drag it home, our hands sticky. We did this despite dire predictions from my Grandma Gean. She believed cedars were sacred because they were used in cemeteries, and cutting a young cedar was inviting a catastrophe into the family.

In the old farmhouse, a wood heater was our only source of heat. It was located in the large living room, the same room where we would put the Christmas tree. We would put the tree in a large bucket with gravel to make it steady, but sometimes, it still wouldn't stand up, so we put a nail in the wall and somehow wired the tree to it. Say what you want to, but it worked.

For a little while, the cedar tree glistened with aluminum icicles and construction paper and the living room was absolutely glorious. Visitors were greeted with the smell of the forest as soon as they opened the door. I smell it every time someone says Christmas now.

The wood stove had to be roaring for the heat to make it to the kitchen and bedrooms, so the average temperature in that living room hovered around ninety during the day. The little tree held on for about three days before it began to drop its needles, a few here and there at first. By the time Christmas arrived, there were more needles than gifts under the tree, and if you looked carefully, you could see bare branches under the tinsel. We had to take what was left of the tree outside as soon as Christmas day was over.

Looking back, I think our Christmas miracle was that the little tree didn't spontaneously burst into flames and light up the whole holler. But in their short lifetimes, they made such an impression that they are remembered all these years later.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Home, Where We Belong

There is within all of us an instinct to go home, the place where we began, the place where we belong.

We hear stories of lost dogs returning home, worse for wear, after traveling for miles and miles, across rivers and busy interstates, after weeks of being lost. Banding hummingbirds has proven that some return to the same feeders in the spring, after they have wintered in South America, hundreds of miles from the plastic red feeder that feels like home to them. Each year, the swallows return to Capistrano. Pacific salmon return to the stream where their life began.  The circle of life sometimes ends where it began, and somehow, we find comfort in that.

Some terminal patients, knowing that their days on this earth are few, beg to leave their hospital beds and go home, to their place, to spend their final hours. Wounded soldiers on blood-drenched battlefields write of their desire to just make it home, to be surrounded by family, to be buried in familiar soil. Home, where peace and rest can be found, where problems can be handled.

After World War II, many of my relatives left their homes, part of the Southern migration to the industrial cities of the north, seeking jobs that didn't exist in rural Tennessee farming communities. The north presented opportunities for a better life, but those hardworking Tennesseans felt like aliens, strangers in a foreign land. Some prospered and spent their working years there. They never ceased to call Tennessee home. Many returned to live in those rolling hills after retirement, their lives drawn there like iron to a magnet. Things were different when they returned, but it was still home to them, still that place in their hearts where they seemed to belong.

During the time they were in the north, my relatives made every effort to be home at Christmas. Their large families crammed in one car, eating peanut butter sandwiches along the way, they would drive for hours for the privilege of sitting around the dinner table with their kin, people who talked and thought the same way they did. Children loved it, and didn't complain about sleeping on the cold floor on pallets made with quilts. There were never expensive gifts to exchange, but just being together was enough. There was always laughter.

There is something about Christmas that makes us long for home. Not the gifts or even the food there, but just being where you know you are loved in spite of your shortcomings, where its okay if you wear pajamas all day. We long for it enough to sleep in airports and risk being stranded in early blizzards. We long for it enough to give up gifts so the money can be used to buy gas to get to Grandma's house. Even during the hot, growing months of the year, we are looking forward to Christmas, waiting for the time when we can go home again.

There is something about Christmas that makes those in the family of God long for home. Home where we are loved in spite of our shortcomings, home where we are surrounded by those who talk and think the same way we do. Home where we are encompassed by the familiar. Home with our loving Father, where we can rest. Home where each day will be a celebration of the Lamb. Home where we will never be lonely again.

Home where we belong.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 2: 19-22

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Dickens Christmas, Tuscumbia, Alabama

Love, love this courthouse!

The  Dicken's Christmas celebration in Tuscumbia had several snow machines, and it was fun watching it.  Not too realistic, though, since it was about seventy degrees while we were there.

Here is something I don't see everyday...a white bunny with a Santa hat on.  He/she/it seemed to like it.