Thursday, September 30, 2010

Call Now to Reserve Your Pet’s Spot

If you’ve ever been caught scrambling to locate a place to keep your pet while you travel over the holidays, you probably don’t need to read today’s post—unless you just want a friendly reminder. The point is, if that’s ever happened to you, you’ve probably already made arrangements for your dog or cat or hedgehog by now.

We endured this painful—yet-oh-so-rewarding—learning experience a few years back when my husband and I got our wires crossed. I thought he was taking care of boarding arrangements. I thought he was. You see the problem. So, please learn from our mistake. Look up the number for your pet’s bed and breakfast or and dial them today or ask your trusted neighbor. You can always cancel later if your plans change, but it’s much more difficult to add a reservation as the holidays draw near.

You want to make sure Scout or Sadie has excellent care, right?

Leslie Porter Wilson

Monday, September 27, 2010

All Creatures Great and Small

This week's theme: pets at Christmastime: do you do anything special for yours?

Over the years, our household has had four farm dogs--one at a time--Benji a beagle, Honeybun an Irish Setter mix, Cyrus a purebred hound (loved to hear him bay), and finally Dugout (found abandoned in a baseball dugout), a mix but definitely some pit bull. Dugout loved children and he loved my husband. My husband uses a John Deere front end loader tractor to load his dump truck, and Dugout got in the habit of sleeping in the loader, and he wouldn't let anyone near the tractor except David or me.

All of those farm dogs are gone and we decided that we'd not get anymore. But what special friends they were. We liked to treat them to those packets of Moist and Meaty, especially on holidays. Also, we always try to give our farm cattle a little extra alfalfa on Christmas morn. And we see many critters who travel from one wooded area to another across our yard. We continually see a rabbit, probably not always the same one. Hawks, owls, coyotes, deer--we see or hear some of these nearly every day.    

We keep bird seed and water out for our winged friends year round. The dirt dobbers even like to get a sip out of the bird bath and go make their mud homes in the summer. I plant Zinnias and the Monarch butterflies are winging their way to Mexico and visiting every day now. In general we have a friendly place for domestic and wild thangs throughout the seasons.

Do you give a special treat to your pets on Christmas day?  

Saturday, September 25, 2010

With Every Christmas Card. . .

Christmas carols and hymns are an integral part of our Christmas celebration. The sounds of the season fill my husband's car from Thanksgiving to New Years. When the kids were really little, they would join in with us as we sang to the songs on the radio. Later they would just sit and sigh and put up with us. But it was another way for them to learn the story of Christmas--to see that it was more than just a gift-giving/receiving holiday. That it was a celebration of the birth of Hope.

Back when I was twenty-something and had more time and energy to expend, I handmade my Christmas cards. Often I used a hymn or carol as the theme to my card. Today, it is so much easier to make those cards with all of the nifty scrapbooking supplies, stencils, and card stock available in craft stores. Or my favorite now, easy-to-use computer programs like Word and/or PhotoShop that allow you to create your own card in a jiffy.

Here's a quick idea for Christmas cards from your computer.

You will need:

Letter-sized parchment paper with matching envelopes
Your computer and printer (color optional)

1. Open a Word document and change the page layout to landscape. Make the margins .5 all the way around. (You may get a warning notice when you go to print that the margins aren't big enough but run a test page to see how it prints.)

2. In page layout, choose three columns. Your envelopes are most likely business sized so we will make a tri-fold card.

3. Choose an old favorite hymn. You can find lyrics on the web if you search for the hymn. You can copy and paste either directly to your card or in another doc to copy the words from.

4. When you look at your page layout, remember that the column on the right will be the cover of your card. Move your cursor to that area, click to center the text and enter your hymn. You may have to play with font size and type of font to get it to fit. If you want it to fit horizontally, use a text box and the tool that allows you to change the direction of the text.

5. The left side of your page will be the second page of your card. You can either continue the hymn on here or say something like "Wishing you and yours. . ." (We'll finish the message inside.)

6. Now make a second page. You can do this easily by going to the bottom of the first page and inserting a page break. This way you get a second page with the same layout. The center column of this page will be the inside of your card. Here is where you will finish your message, "A Blessed Christmas!"

7. Run a test page and do the tri-fold to be sure you have everything placed well. And don't forget to Spellcheck!

The rest is up to you. If you have a color printer, you may want to add some clip art or even a picture of you and/or your family. It's another way to share your favorite hymn or carol without having to sing a solo. Let's face it, you really don't want to hear me sing "Oh, Holy Night."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Admit It, I’m Shallow

A couple of weeks ago, we shared our favorite popular Christmas song, and today we expand this to our favorite hymn or carol. I wish I could tell you my favorite had some deep, hidden or spiritual meaning. I wish I could tell you that hearing it changed me from the inside out in a positive way.

But nooooooooooo, I love “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” And I enjoy it less for its lyrics or tune and more because it brings back fond memories of the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Remember? The kids begin arguing over the Christmas play—who gets to do what and when. In the middle of the ruckus, Linus dons his blanket like a shepherd’s head scarf, picks up the staff and shares the story of Jesus’s birth from Luke 2. The kids quiet themselves and listen to Linus as he shares the real meaning of Christmas. After, the whole gang lifts their voices to the heavens as they belt out none other than “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

Call me crazy, but I get chills just thinking about it.

Leslie Porter Wilson

Monday, September 20, 2010

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer Tra-la-la-la-la La-la-la-laaaaaaa

I goofed. Two weeks ago, when we posted about Christmas songs, I was supposed to share my favorite "popular" song. One not related to the birth of Christ, but the jolliness of the season. So, while my other dear co-authors remain on the right track (8 track, surely not), I'll tell you my favorite popular song. Mine is a dark Christmas song: "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." 

Three of my grandchildren live on the farm near us in their own home, but we're about a quarter of a mile apart. At a very young age they heard this song and their parents started making up stories about additional things that happened to me walking to their house. I'm a good sport, and I've feigned tears and a loveless life when they start singing the song or their versions. But our outrageous sessions always end in laughter and hugs and kisses. If that's what results from singing that dark Christmas jingle, then bring on the reindeer!  

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Tevye struggles to keep to tradition in Fiddler On The Roof. I can relate to his struggle. Life changes. Kids grow up and choose their own way to go--their own traditions. It always seemed that just about the time something became tradition at our house for Christmas, it changed.

Decorating the tree is one example. When the kids were little we put the tree up on Christmas Eve making it appear that Santa had brought it and his elves decorated it. As time went on and it became more difficult to hide the tree, we put it up and let Santa's elves decorate. Then when the boys started getting older and knew about those elves, we let them stay up a bit to help decorate. As they got to be teens, we put the tree up early and then everyone got to decorate. When I gave in and we turned to an artificial tree, we put it up even earlier. Now it goes up Thanksgiving weekend when everyone is home and the grandkids are here. Hmmm. There's never been a take-down-the-tree tradition though.

One tradition that was started by my aunt and was truly appreciated was her gift of a Christmas ornament each year for each of us. When our boys got married, there were enough ornaments collected over the years for them to have a good start on their own tree decorations.

Now my aunt's ornaments were purchased but this being Crafty Saturday, you might want to consider a handmade ornament. One of the best places to make a really nice ornament is at a ceramics store. There are lots of them in malls and shopping centers where you can pick out some greenware or unpainted ceramic ornaments and with the paints they supply you can create a keepsake. Some of them have paints that dry with a glossy finish and others will fire them in a kiln for you. Take a friend along and enjoy an afternoon of creativity!

Here are several links to help you locate a store:

Paint Your Own Pottery

The Painted Penguin

Color Me Mine

Friday, September 17, 2010

Our tradition of opening presents

Opening gifts at Christmas is part of most families' traditions, and often there are two distinct times to do this.
Many families open gifts around the tree on Christmas eve. This photo shows our Christmas tree and cat, Bigboy, on Christmas eve, 2008.
My family opens the presents on Christmas morning.
Which camp is your family in?
My husband grew up in Ohio and I grew up in Wisconsin and custom there in our families meant waiting for Santa Claus to come in the night, come in through the chimney and bring gifts. This meant we waited for Santa and opened gifts on December 25.
Many families choose the other option and open gifts Christmas eve.
It was SO hard to sleep Dec. 24, listening for sleigh bells in the night. One night a neighbor ran around our house ringing sleigh bells, which was very thrilling for my sister and I to hear. Since we did not have a fireplace, Santa came in through the front door, which we left unlocked for him.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Enjoying Tex-Mex on Christmas Eve

Christmas involves some amazing traditions—birthday cake for Jesus, day after Christmas shopping, watching A Christmas Story in our PJs, reading the story of Jesus’ birth, and many more. One of my family’s favorites is eating Tex-Mex on Christmas Eve. Perhaps our minds and bodies realize we’re shifting to turkey and dressing, etc. the next day and several more following, and we desire something completely different the night before.

My family buys homemade tamales. We’ve made our own, but it’s time-consuming and complicated and the end result is never as good as authentic ones made by people who really know what they’re doing. We have seven-layer dip and thin, crispy tortilla chips. Sometimes we make a taco salad or tostadas, but the highlight of the meal are the spicy pork tamales.

I think of them as opening act—sort of warming up my tummy for the feast to come the next day. Yum—I’m hungry. How about you?

Leslie Porter Wilson

Monday, September 13, 2010

Opossum for Christmas Dinner

I ran across a recipe for Baked Opossum with Sweet Potatoes, and I thought why not share the recipe....just in case you lost your grannies' recipe.

This week we're sharing traditions that we keep at our house, so far, we've not tried the Southern O'Possom, preferring the Southern Ham or a Turkey with a drawl. After the possum recipe I'll share what we really eat on Christmas morning.

1 opossum
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
6 red peppers chopped
4 large sweet potatoes

Clean and skin opossum, removing small sacs from small of back and under forelegs. Place opossum in 4 cups of water in saucepan; add salt, pepper, and red peppers. Simmer until pan liquid is reduced by half. Pare and slice potatoes. Combine opossum with pan liquid and potatoes in a baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour or until opossum is tender, basting occasionally.

OK. I see numerous problems with having opossum for Christmas dinner at our house. 1. Who will catch opossum? 2. Who will help it meet its creator? 3. Who will skin it? 4. Who will remove those little sacs? and 5. Who will taste to see if it's tender?
Let me know if any of you have ever tasted baked possum? What meat does it resemble?

I guess we'd best stick with our tradition of Christmas brunch at the Messecar's house. Somehow we got into the habit of making our big feast at Thanksgiving and then having a fancy or unfancy brunch at Christmas. Here's one dish I always make:

Eggs in a Muffin Tin.

Spray a muffin tin with Pam
Wind around inside each muffin well one thick slice of smoked bacon
Crack one egg into each muffin well.
Puncture the yolk
Sprinkle with paprika

Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour or until yolks are set.

Enjoy! Hey, tell us about one of your family's traditions.

Or if you prefer you can get these weird Marsoupials 


Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Want A Hippopotamus!

Remember "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth"? How about "Santa Baby" where Ertha Kitt belts out a list that would make retailers' little hearts beat faster? Those and other I-want Christmas songs have been replaced on my favorites list by "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas." Perhaps it's the grandma in me but every time I hear that song I think of my grandkids--especially a couple who would probably see no problem in asking Santa for a real hippo.

Now, how to turn the topic of the week into a Crafty Saturday? Easy. Get those kids to make a recording or a video of them singing some of those clever kid songs. There are lots of ways to do it. Use one of the computer cameras and mics to record directly to a file on your computer. Digital cameras also include a video mode for making short videos. These can be downloaded to your computer and then linked together by using Windows Live Movie Maker or similar free software that often comes with your computer.
What grandparent wouldn't love getting a CD or DVD of her grandkids performing Christmas songs? It would certainly beat getting a hippopotamus for Christmas. I'll bet they eat as much as the kids did when they were teenagers.
Here's the recording if you'd like to listen:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Remembering My Grandmother’s Favorite Christmas Song

Perhaps I’m not very original, but I often latch onto others’ favorites. I would never have tried fish tacos had my husband not raved about them. The same with Clark shoes—mom suggested those and actually bought me a pair to get me started.

The same is true with my favorite Christmas song. But first, a little background. I grew up in a musical family. Though my siblings and I didn’t carry on the tradition (Sorry Dad!), we loved listening to and singing along with my dad, uncles, great-aunts and cousins as they strummed guitar and banjo, played piano and harmonica, or pounded out the base. My dad’s mom, Grandmother—then G.G. when her grandkids started popping out children of their own—placed herself center stage for their many “concerts” at family reunions, birthday parties, Thanksgiving and Christmas. No one cared how anyone sounded; we just belted out favorites from country to rock-n-roll. G.G.’s favorite song was Jimmie Rodgers’ “Waiting for a Train,” it became one of my favorites. Occasionally, I still sing it—when I’m alone—as a tribute to my wonderful grandmother, who, by the way, made THE best homemade cinnamon rolls on the planet. Similarly, I adopted her Christmas favorite as my own: “Silver Bells.” Whenever I hear it, I remember fondly my wonderful grandmother.

I’m also a big fan of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” When I was a kid, I could sing it at breakneck speed.

Leslie Porter Wilson

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Sounds of Christmas

Imagine with me for a moment, that all Christmas music will be banned in the 2010 season.

How disappointed would you be if all Christmas music were shelved this year? What song/s would you miss the most? What music inspires you--breathes new life into your soul, adds a spring to your step, and puts a smile on your faces despite a Bah-humbug day?

Rick Larsen said "Music is the backdoor to the soul." I think he meant that music can ably reach a part of us that words, example, and demands cannot. Music stirs us to loftier goals, energies, and dreams. Anne Lamott says she finally believed in the Christ because the music of a church she walked past beckoned to her. The music bypassed her hardened exterior built up by drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity. The hymns aimed directly at a softer nucleus.

So which songs of Christmas stir your soul, tickle your jolly bone, or makes you merrier than your circumstances?

Several are my favorites: "What Child is This?" "Mary did You Know?" and a couple of traditional English carols from the Renaissance era are "Down in Yon Forrest" with a refrain, "I love my Lord Jesus above everything," and I suppose a second runner up from that era for its spirited tune would be "Three Ships Sailing."

Do you have a favorite carol or song about the Christ Child or about the season such as "White Christmas" or "Jingle Bells." Leave a comment about favorite titles or personal stories connected to them.

It's a little early, but can you hear me now...."Deck the halls with boughs of holly. Tra la la la la la la laaaa.? 

(Clip art from    

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Light Bulb Snowman

Before you throw away that burned out incadescent light bulb consider two things. One, it could become a collector's item soon once all of these energy-saving-new-fangled-break-them-and-call-HazMat-for-disposal bulbs are in place everywhere. And two, it could become a clever tree decoration. If you like idea number two, here is how to put it together.

You'll need:

Light bulb
Craft paints - white, black, optional: red, yellow, brown
Paintbrushes - 1 small, 1 large
Craft or floral wire about 12" long
Baby sock
Quick-drying glue
Needle and thread

1. Paint the glass part with two coasts of white paint.

2. Paint eyes, nose, mouth, and tree-limb type arms, leaving space at the top of the glass for the hat rim. If you want a little more control, it might be easier to use a black fine tipped marker for the details.

3. Cut the top off the sock, the part that goes over the ankle, but be sure it is long enough to cover the metal part of the bulb.

4. Place the sock top inside-out, down over the metal top of the bulb. Wrap one end of the wire around the sock and at the metal base then make a loop and wrap the other end around the metal and sock in the opposite directioin. This will be the hanger. Anchor the wire and sock with a little glue if necessary.

5. Pull the sock up over the metal and, allowing the wire loop to be exposed, stitch the sock closed. This makes the hat for your snowman.

6. Use the rest of the sock to make a little scarf and glue in place.

Now don't you feel better? You recycled an old light bulb and didn't have to call HazMat!

Friday, September 3, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

One of my favorite holiday songs is "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas", sung by Bing Crosby with its first public performance on his radio show on Christmas Day 1941. This song is very nostalgic for me since I grew up in "White Christmas" snow country in Wisconsin, and we built snowmen and rode sleds as we waited for Christmas to arrive.
This photo was taken by my husband one fall recently in the mountains of California near Strawberry. We live in California now and if we want to enjoy snow we have to travel.
What is your favorite popular Christmas tune?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Homemade Gift Bags

My uber-creative sister brought new meaning to recycle last Christmas when she announced—several month before Christmas, so we’d all have some warning—that she intended to give only recycled gifts. She cleaned out items in her home before a move, and unearthed treasures she didn’t use any longer. She cleverly decided to re-gift them to family and friends who might be able to use them. She gave me several pairs of earrings she thought I’d like—and I did! She gave our family a Go Phone in case one of us were to lose a cell phone. I love having that back-up!

I don’t consider myself quite that creative, but I do recycle store paper bags and use them for Christmas gift bags. Here’s how you can do the same.

• Collect them through the year as you make purchases.
• Store them vertically—behind a bookcase or cabinet works well.
• Cut out portions of Christmas cards to cover the store’s logo.
• Use another smaller portion of the same card for a tag.

Presto—totally free, unique and very cute!

Leslie Porter Wilson