Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In the Twelfth Blog of Christmas...

So.... in the twelfth blog of Christmas, your blogger gives to you an enthusiastic MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I know I've recently used this scripture, but I think it's a fitting salutation on Christmas Day.

The Lord bless you and protect you;
the Lord make His face shine on you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord look with favor on you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

Monday, December 24, 2007

In the Eleventh Blog of Christmas...

So.... in the eleventh blog of Christmas, your blogger gives to you a look at my second Christmas Tree. It is more traditional, a kind of family tree - the tree where all the meaningful ornaments hang. It is 7.5 feet tall and is covered with 600 colored lights (not pre-lit).

I have another Santa as a topper for this tree. He is a doctor, and proceeds from his purchase benefit the Children's Miracle Network (so buying this Santa helped out ole Arkansas Children's Hospital).

Some of the ornaments commemorate trips and vacations I've taken. The Pineapple (posted yesterday) reminds me of my trip to Hawaii; my friends from that trip actually just sent me a Palm Tree ornament (sorry, no pic). The Goat ornament honors my vacation to Maryland and DC (see the 9th day for the 411 on the GoatMan). The Raccoon or "Mapache" commemorates our trip to Costa Rica, where wild "mapaches" would walk right up to your dinner table and swipe food if you weren't careful.

I received this ornament (from Tammy Adams) before moving away from Tennessee.

Does this Jack Russell ornament need any explanation?

This is the first year this SpongeBob ornament made it to the tree. It was usually relegated to a wreath, displaying oddball ornaments. It was given to me 5 or 6 years ago by a friend, Debbie Dillon, who passed away about a year ago after a long battle with cancer.

I think the neatest thing about a tree like this is the memories that each of the ornaments conjure up for me, whether good memories or bittersweet ones; Christmas should be a time for family, tradition, memories, and fun. May God Bless You this Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

In the Tenth Blog of Christmas...

So.... in the tenth blog of Christmas, your blogger gives to you a photo of the official ornament of this blog.

I know a little lazy, but come on, I've already done nine entries in a row. That's certainly a record on this spot. Anyway, this ornament adorns my second large tree. I'll tell you more about it on Christmas Eve.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

In the Ninth Blog of Christmas...

So.... in the ninth blog of Christmas, your blogger gives to you a doodle of a goat (not exactly Christmas Future, huh, well, at least I hope not).

So, this a a 23 second doodle I did for my nurse Lorie a few days ago. Her daughter "shows goats." Showing of livestock is way big and way cool down here in Southwest Arkansas. Lorie's daughter, Haley, bought a goat (through the FFA program) and named her Barbie Pearl. To "show a goat" one must apparently cloth themselves in western gear, clean, trim, and lead the goat around an arena at one of several local, county, or regional fairs. Actually, Haley and Barbie Pearl did well.

What does this have to do with Christmas? Well, I just recently bought a new piece for my Fontanini Nativity Scene - a goat. All of the Fontanini figures come with a little story (even the goat), but sometimes I don't like their story, so I've decided to start making up my own narrative for each of the figures (the goat shall now be called Marvin).

Anyway, if you've heard me discuss goats before, you're sure to have heard of my fear of The GoatMan. The GoatMan is a legendary boogy-man of sorts that lives in Maryland. I saw a special on the History or Discovery Channel about regional boogey-men a few years ago, and the story of the GoatMan kind of weirded me out - almost as bad as when I hear, see, or read something about the Fouke Monster (the local booger-bear near where I grew up). I had forgotten about the GoatMan until I was visiting my friends in Maryland, and as we were driving to Annapolis, I read aloud from a book about that state. It discussed the GoatMan, and as I read about him, we actually passed the stretch of road (including the exact cross streets) where the GoatMan had been sighted. Fortunately, we made it to Annapolis without any cloven-hoofed interference. Even the Naval Academy respects the GoatMan!

Since I was blogging about my nativity set (sort of) I also wanted to include this picture of Lydia, a figure given to me as I moved away from Murfreesboro (thanks John).

She was given to me in honor of the time I accidentally taught the same Sunday School Lesson (about Lydia) as was taught the week before by someone else.

Friday, December 21, 2007

In the Eighth Blog of Christmas...

So.... in the eighth blog of Christmas, your blogger gives to you a photo of Christmas Present.

This is a picture of my current home, mildly decorated for Christmas. On the subject of exterior holiday decorating, I believe less is more - clearly, that doesn't hold true for interior decorating. Don't worry, kids, that same creepy, decapitated Santa wreath hangs of the front door, inviting friends to enter at their own risk. The two small trees on the porch are hooked up to a remote control, so I just click a button to turn them off and on. My smaller Christmas tree (with colored lights) is visible through the dining room window. Fortunately, this picture being taken at dusk helps to hide all of the leaves strewn about the yard - which I have yet to clean up (why should I, the trees haven't dropped all of their leaves yet).

Does tomorrow's entry hold a clue to the future? Tune in to find out...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In the Seventh Blog of Christmas...

So.... in the seventh blog of Christmas, your blogger gives to you a picture of Christmas Past.

This a a photo from a couple of years ago - it is obviously of 2208 Alexander, in Tennessee, my first house. I really do miss that house. Sometimes I think I'd like to build a new house and pattern it on this one (not that I have any current plans), but there are a lot of things I would do differently. I would want the stairs to face the front door (adding drama), and the treads would be hardwood - no carpet. The upstairs bath would be larger. I would adjust how the breakfast nook was arranged because it actually was separated from the kitchen. I would probably eliminate all the wall-to-wall carpeting. There would also be a fence, and a pool, and a carriage house, and a butler's pantry, and French doors, and some established trees - maybe I won't pattern my next house on this one after all.... Thanks for enduring my nostalgia (and neuroses).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In the Sixth Blog of Christmas...

So.... in the sixth blog of Christmas, your blogger gives to you an early contender for my Christmas Card picture.

I thought this was a wonderful shot of Travis, but I wasn't thrilled how I look (big, thick, white, fuzzy neck - yikes). This idea was inspired by the moose ("reindeer") costume that I bought for Travis for Halloween. I actually bought him three different Halloween costumes. Most of you have seen him as a lobster. Don't be surprised next October if you see a picture of me as Colonel Sanders, holding a Jack Russel Chicken.

Wow, half way through these dozen Christmas Blogs - stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

In the Fifth Blog of Christmas...

So.... in the fifth blog of Christmas, your blogger gives to you five easy ingredients. As is evident in the photo, the five ingredients don't last very long when combined, baked, and served on Wheat Thins. This Baked Cheese and Onion Dip reminds me of a loaded baked potato.

Baked Cheese & Bacon Dip
1-8oz tub of Cream Cheese with Onion & Chive
1 Cup Real Mayo
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 TBS Onion Powder
1 jar Real Bacon Pieces

Mix ingredients together (you can also add Tobasco and Worcestershire to taste - yes, that makes it 7 ingredients, but they are totally optional). Spread into a small (6x9) ungreased casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for ~30 minutes. Serve with crackers. You can double the recipe and bake in a 9x13 dish.

I recommend doubling the recipe - the picture shows what 6 people can do to a single recipe in 3 hours, despite crab cakes, jambalaya, cookies, gingerbread, and baklava.

Monday, December 17, 2007

In the Fourth Blog of Christmas...

So.... in the fourth blog of Christmas, your blogger gives to you a Christmas Mix. Some friends recommended that I post this; they say it's the best mix anyone has given them. All songs are downloadable at iTunes (I wasn't paid to type that).

Mele Kalikimaka by Chris Isaak
aahhh, Hawaii - my blood pressure just fell ten points
Green Christmas by Barenaked Ladies
the ladies can do no wrong
We Three Kings by Fuel
wishing you a post-grunge Christmas
Deck the Halls by The Roches
falalala's in harmony
Christmas for Cowboys by Jars of Clay
a holiday ballad for the American cowboy
Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt & Henri Rene
Eartha is the only one to do this song justice
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear by Sixpence None the Richer
see, Kiss Me, isn't the only SNtR song downloaded from iTunes
Baby It's Cold Outside by Royal Crown Revue & Vicky Tafoya
yeah, I know, kind of creepy
Sleigh Ride by Ella Fitzgerald
to quote Frazier's dad, "she's a groovy lady"
You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch by Boris Karloff
the only grinch
Song for a Winter's Night by Sarah McLachlan
very breathy
I Celebrate the Day by Relient K
the last line of the song is my absolute favorite
Boogie Woogie Santa Clause by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
in a Simpson's episode Homer corrects Brian Setzer, telling him that it's "Seltzer"
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Barenaked Ladies
syncopated perfection, wouldn't you agree
I'll Be Home for Christmas by Nickel Creek
I wish I could play the mandolin
Medley: Carol of the Bells by The Swingle Singers
martini lounge Christmas
Carol of the Meows by Guster
my friends say this is the mistake in this list
'Zat You, Santa Claus? by Louis Armstrong & The Commanders
his voice makes my throat hurt
I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day by Pedro the Lion
slow and almost sad
Christmas Is Going to the Dogs by Eels
canine fun for Travis
(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man with the Bag by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Seltzer :)
?Donde Esta Santa Claus? by Guster
!Feliz Navidad! Yo quiero Guster

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In the Third Blog of Christmas...

So.... in the third blog of Christmas, your blogger gives to you a look at a Christmas tree. I have two big Christmas trees; one has meaningful and sentimental decorations and the other one is decorated with a theme. Though I think both are very pretty, my "theme tree" is my show stopper!

The theme... ah, gold? Yes, and reindeer! This a 9 ft artificial blue spruce with 1200 lights (not pre-lit) and over 300 ornaments. I actually used fewer ornaments this year (in this house the tree sits in a corner). It all began with the large reindeer ornaments I bought on sale after Christmas a few years ago. Then I found a sleigh (which I spray painted gold).

The large reindeer ornaments measure approximately 12in x 10in.

The eight large reindeer course through the tree, drawing Santa's sleigh.

A smaller Rudolph (I painted his nose red) leads the team of reindeer up through the tree to pick up Santa at the top. This Santa is the first Mark Roberts Christmas Fairy I bought.

The tree has glass (and plastic) balls of all sizes; bells; stars; cones; shiny, brass, glittery and tiny reindeer ornaments (see the shopping showdown discussion in the June 27th blog entry); dangling things; twisty things; wiry things; leaves; berries; and a boat load of ting-ting!

Hopefully this pic helps to show how you get 300+ ornaments on a tree - just as in fashion, the key is layering! Decorate all the way down to the trunk!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

In the Second Blog of Christmas...

So.... in the Second Blog of Christmas, your blogger gives to you a movie recommendation. Last night I watched The Nativity Story. It is a good movie! I usually worry that Biblical movies may lean toward the boring or being poorly acted, but I think they did a nice job with this one. I didn't see it in the theater - I meant to (you know to support good movies), but I did buy the DVD, full price, the week it came out. It's on sale now at Wal-Mart.

I thought the movie showed a depth to the characters of Mary and Joseph - something we often gloss over as we read this story we know so well. The only part I had trouble with was Gabriel - apparently the Guardian Angel of the Jheri Curl.

I think my favorite part of the movie was when Mary visited Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: You are most blessed of women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me! She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her
by the Lord will be fulfilled!
Luke 1: 41-45
Elizabeth gave Mary such encouragement during this very difficult time in her life. So often, lately, I've been more apt to complain with and commiserate with a friend in need, as opposed to offering them encouragement. Therefore, I hope to encourage all of you with this, one of my favorite passages of scripture (yeah, I know, 2 Bible quotes in one entry):
The Lord bless you and protect you;
the Lord make His face shine on you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord look with favor on you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

The artwork is The Visitation by Carl Bloch, a nineteenth century Danish painter.

Friday, December 14, 2007

In the First Blog of Christmas...

So.... in the first blog of Christmas, your blogger gives to you a dog with an Advent Wreath. Actually you can't really see the wreath in the photo, but I thought getting the two mirrors (especially with the reflection of the tree) was more dramatic a photo. Anyway, the candlestick sits in a wreath on the coffee table in the living room and looks really festive.

Well, I had never really "celebrated" Advent until a few years ago. Growing up a Southern Baptist, we never lit candles or read responsive readings that much. However, after a little bit of research and some discussion with a Lutheran friend (Amber, you know who you are), I thought it would be a neat way to daily remember and focus on the spiritual side of the CHRISTmas season.

It's really simple. Put four or five candles in a circle, and four Sundays before Christmas start lighting them. Traditionally, the four candles are purple (symbolizing royalty); often one of the candles is pink, or rose colored (it has to do with the Pope giving out roses during Lent - I know, strange). If you use a fifth candle, it is white, placed in the center, and called the Christ Candle. Each Sunday prior to Christmas another candle is lit. The first Sunday of Advent recognizes Hope; the second, Love; the third (pink), Joy; the fourth, Peace. The fifth candle (white), lit on Christmas Day, celebrates Christ.

So, each day of the week I light the candle(s), read a little devotional, and sing a carol. Obviously, this could be a very special time for families - I mean, I like doing it, but Travis would rather play fetch than read about John the Baptist. I've been using a little devotional book, The Christ of Christmas - Readings for Advent, by Calvin Miller, which is a little atypical for Advent devotionals. It actually has 31 readings (for the whole of December). I also pulled out my old Baptist Hymnal (1975 edition) - it was still in use in the mid 80's, and I bought one at the Baptist Book Store with a gift certificate I received for doing all my memory verses in Sunday School. It has about 20 different carols/ hymns.

What have we learned: this Christmas Season, a Southern Baptist (who attends church in a Strip Mall) and regularly vacations with Methodists will, this coming Sunday, light a pink candle is his Lutheran Advent wreath because the Pope used to pass out roses during Lent.

Friends of other Denominations, please take no offense to any of the statements in the above blog entry. As a Southern Baptist, my favorite line from the book, A River Runs Through It, is from the father, a Presbyterian minister, who says, "Methodists are just Baptists who can read."

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas

So.... some people are actually upset that I haven't posted in a while. Again, I apologize. Thanks to all who keep me honest in this blogging thing and especially to those who check this blog everyday (you know who you are - thanks). To show my appreciation, I will try my hardest to give you 12 consecutive blogs in these next dozen days as a countdown to Christmas. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

So.... it's Thanksgiving. Enjoy the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean bundles, sweet potatoes, cream corn, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, chocolate pie, cake, cupcakes, cookies, and other such delicious foods. For all of you Black Friday Shoppers - be careful out there.
Seriously though, I do hope you all enjoy this most sacred of November holidays when we celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus' pet Turkey!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

One Last Hurrah for Halloween!

So.... I mentioned that we went to Wisconsin last month for a friend's wedding. We had a very nice time, and Madison is a very neat city. That Friday night, after the rehearsal dinner, we (Becky, Marty, Misty Leigh, and I) went back to the hotel and just hung out. Well, after a little while we decided we wanted snacks. Misty Leigh requested Crunch n Munch as she fell asleep on my bed (we had adjoining rooms - it was very exciting). Becky, Marty, and I take off in our rented silver Dodge Magnum across Madison, Wisconsin, at 11:45 pm. The only Walgreens open that late (not quite sure why we insisted on going to Walgreens) was about 15 minutes away. Marty said that this late night Walgreens reminded him of Asher in Little Rock (Murfreesboro friends, think January Street); it really wasn't that bad. On the ride over, I said that we should get Halloween masks and scare Misty Leigh, and that's just what we did (sort of).

Becky got this shot of Dracula and Frankenstein driving the awesome Dodge Magnum. Marty wearing the glasses on the outside of the mask had a very eerie effect.

Misty Leigh more than being scared just laughed uncontrollably.

I indulge my Funyun obsession (while wearing a witch's hat).

A ghoulish group photo.

Marty, Misty Leigh, and I pose with Bucky the Badger. There was a University of Wisconsin home game that weekend.

Another ghoulish group photo - not really. We are at the Madison convention center which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Worth the Wait?

So.... I'm finally finished with the rehab of my kitchen/lounge. I know you've all been wanting to see it (at least that's what I'm telling myself). I hope the pics are worth the wait. Remember, we completely resurfaced the cabinets with high gloss white lacquer, new satin nickel hinges, hardware, and faucet, new quartz countertops, new gas stove, removed all the wallpaper, new texture to all the walls, new paint, new window treatments, flat screen tv with custom cord cozy, new ceiling fan, and a partridge in a pear tree (well not until after Thanksgiving). In honor of my friends who suggested I should have my own tv show: Home Rehab with Dr. Aaron - "the doctor who still makes house calls," the photos will be presented in the before and after format. The "befores" are actually the photos the real estate agent used online to sell the house. Also, they are photos of photos - the macro setting on my new camera rocks!

Here are a few bonus shots.

New Furniture

So.... In September I decided that I wanted new furniture for my living room. I realized that I needed to clean out the sun porch (it was/still is chock full of boxes, paper, trash, totes, and stuff); I wanted to use the leather sofa and wingback chairs that were in the living room in the sun porch. Well, six weeks later, the new furniture finally arrived - something about the chair being a special order (not explained to me at the time of purchase) and only delivering to Arkadelphia on Thursdays (so I had to swap days off). The last two nights I worked shuffling things in the sun porch around, so I could move my old furniture down there. I finally got the living room cleared out and ready.

The furniture looks great. Fortunately, the sofa wasn't as big as I was afraid it was going to be. Unfortunately, the sofa was way bigger than the two feather-weight delivery men assumed it was, and after only a few tense moments on the front porch, they safely placed it in the living room.

The awesome zebra chair and the wonderful leather recliner fit just perfectly. I've never owned a recliner, but I've already decided that I totally need a much bigger tv for this room. I also need a different coffee and side table.

This room is going to look so good after I get some new paint (imagine khaki) on the walls and get the trim finished.

Travis loves the zebra chair.