Saturday, December 31, 2011

Runners to Your Marks

I do not do transitions well. A day like this last day of 2011 finds me melancholy.

Looking ahead to the horizon I see nothing but changes in this unknown 2012.

There will be goals achieved. There will be celebrations of huge importance.

Our oldest son will toss his hat into the air with a meaning which only a West Point cadet can understand

and have bird seed tossed at him with a zeal which only wedding guests can perform.

My youngest son will finish high school and begin college. I will finish 23 years of parenting. I will begin the days when Hillcrest Cottage's walls will quietly whisper the stories of boyhood sword fights, marathon video game parties, late night kitchen raids, and the loud laughter of family gatherings.

Yes, the walls will talk. They will talk a lot.

They will speak of the love we do here, of forgiveness, of grace, of a thousand 'I love you' moments, of acceptance and belonging. The yucky stuff, sifted through grace, will be trampled underfoot and swept aside as rubbish. The good stuff will rise as a sweet aroma full of goodness,

like the smell of bacon on a snowy morning.

In this new 2012, I will write about transitions... a lot. I will talk about finishing... a lot.

If you care to join my 2012 roller coaster ride, you may understand what it means to accomplish a worthy goal. I imagine the lows will be very low and the highs will be very high.

And... as life goes... I am certain there will be a sprinkling of unexpected sorrows and joys.

My motto for 2012 of "Finish Strong" finds its roots in Hebrews 12;1,2:

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

Runners to your mark... get set... GO.

The Lettered Cottage is hosting a "Word for the Year" link party. She is encouraging us to periodically post blogs relating to our chosen word.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fa La La La La is Here!

Hillcrest Cottage is now in full holiday mode.

A sorority holiday tea with three generations of Chi Omegas: Me with my niece and my mom.

Hillcrest Cottage's kitchen has turned out several batches of fudge...

and gingerbread awaiting its icing.

The cousins have arrived home from college and afar.

Jeff has given Santa his holiday requests.

We have gathered with friends for holiday cheer.

We have attended the annual All-Academies Banquet with our West Point cadet.

And #51 has joined my Santa mug collection (Thanks Stu!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Look Kids, A REAL Christmas Tree!

And... my tree shall always... be real.

Dear Children of Christmas,

Once upon a time Christmas trees were... well... trees. Trees with sap and dead needles falling on the floor and the need to be watered. Christmas trees were not green plastic things manufactured from recycled tires. Christmas trees were not pulled out of a box at Thanksgiving to gather dust and become a semi-permanent part of the house's decor for a month and a half.

I rather like the Victorian image of the tree decorated on Christmas Eve with candles being lit for one glorious moment.

It seems incredulous to me that an entire generation of Christmas children have no concept of a real live Christmas tree!

No so at Hillcrest Cottage! This is where 'real' resides. Like it is 'real' that half of the plaster ceiling in my entryway hall nearly killed someone when it decided to crash to the floor last summer. And we are still debating the solution to this problem.

It is 'real' that Beautiful Lucy the Doodle-less leaves her furry calling cards everywhere... on the sofa... on the floor... on our clothes. Thank goodness for lint rollers!

It is 'real' that I have about 4 or 5 unfinished remodeling projects.

In contrast to Hillcrest Cottage's 'real' flaws... it is my constant prayer that everyone who walks through my rickety garden gate will feel the 'real' love and acceptance that this family who lives here has to offer.

So, for all the pre-fab Christmas tree children, this is how a real tree comes to be.

Won't you join us on our annual trip to the Christmas tree farm? It is afternoon, and the sun is lowering in the late Autumn sky. The temperature is dropping and the free hot chocolate that comes with our tree will be looking good when we are finally done.

What about this one?

Added fun on the tree farm are the live animals.

This little guy wanted a snack.

And so did he...

What a sweetie.

It was a beautiful December afternoon for Christmas tree shopping. In the midst of the hunt,we had some fun posing for farm-inspired photos.

Better than the 1970's cheap- photographer fake wagon wheel shots. This one is real.

Ha Ha! Reminds me of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem... "I have a little shadow".

My faithful helpers.

Enough fun... time to work...

Davis saws down the chosen tree... I even got a smile!

This year's tree is so different. I love it; it smells as great as it looks.

Hoping a wagon comes by to help him carry this tree.

Davis loads the tree on the hay wagon.

And... the hay wagon takes us back to the car.

To Davis' car, that is, which is covered with mud, just how he sometimes likes it.


The tree is in its stand and ready for the decorating! The real tree's aroma fills our cottage like a scented Christmas candle. You see, children, 'the scent of the tree' candle derives from the scent of a real tree.

Soon our real tree will have strings of sparkling lights and will be ready to welcome friends, and especially our college children, to Hillcrest Cottage!

It is exactly 14 days until Christmas, and Hillcrest Cottage is right on schedule.

Christmas has arrived!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mugged... Again

High in the butler's pantry of Hillcrest Cottage...

is my Christmas obsession...

The Santa Mugs!!!

Fifty Strong and anxious to begin their annual Hillcrest Cottage mugging.

The jolly mugs are winking and ready to have their empty heads filled with hot apple cider and strong coffee with real cream. That guy on the left is definitely up to something.

Now that my vintage 1960's Santa mug collection is strong and vibrant...

My Collecting Guidelines:
1.) Must say "Japan" on the bottom.
2.) Must pay less than $5.00
3.) May make exceptions to these rules whenever I want
4.) Pottery Barn is selling fun imitations this season ... couldn't resist because they are microwavable and dishwasher safe.

Christmas is tip-toeing into Hillcrest Cottage.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

No Fa-La-La-La-La... Yet

What a beautiful day it was for a mild- autumn- weather bike ride. As I peddled my way along the River Trail, I was celebrating the beauty of an afternoon which was complete with red leaves blowing across the path, ducks flying, and squirrels busily gathering nuts.

I had an unexpected stop when I discovered a pecan tree and my favorite nuts lying all along the path. What fun it was for this city girl to fill my bike bag with fresh pecans!

Do you know how much these things cost at Kroger?

My unexpected treasure!

My River Trail route is about 17 miles long and takes me about 1 1/2 hours to complete. This day the time included nut gathering and stopping to text a time or two.

The first half of the trail is peaceful, country riding. Blue birds, geese, mallard ducks, and deer are sighted very frequently. The second half of the ride begins with crossing the Arkansas River straight into our very busy River Market District.

Today the River Market was unusually full of tourists. Street musicians were playing Christmas carols. It was so lovely that I almost decided to get in the Christmas spirit a bit earlier than I had planned.

I only Fa-la-la-la-la 2 weeks before Christmas. It is my very strict seasonal rule.

Jeff and I paused for candy bars and Gatorade at our favorite outdoor cafe. As we were again on our way, we noticed there was lots of extra traffic for a Saturday. We didn't know that...

the annual Christmas Parade was preparing to go down the street on which we normally ride.

Oops... Couldn't ride any further.

I wondered, " Should I go around the parade on another street or join the festivities?"

The unexpected sight of the parade was so fun that I almost decided once more to suspend my rule of...

"No Fa-la-la-la-la before Two Weeks Prior to Xmas" .

This is the end of the parade waiting to begin.

Guess who I saw next... I smiled... and was glad I had stopped my bike ride long enough to take their picture.

What a Jolly Couple!

Almost... almost... I was very close to suspending my rule.

What began as a fall bike ride did turn into something very different at the end, and, smiling, I was glad to be out on this beautiful Arkansas December day.

But... no tree... and no Santa mugs until next weekend.

And... my tree... will always be real!