Monday, December 30, 2013

Blue Monday: Christmas Eve Reflections

Blue Monday is hosted weekly by Smiling Sally.
To see more offerings, or to participate yourself, please head on over to her blog.

A few years ago, Michael and I started a sort of tradition of taking a photo of the two of us together, every Christmas Eve.  I guess nowadays that would be called a "selfie," wouldn't it?  Or is it a selfie if it's two people?  Well, whatever.  We usually take it in front of the Christmas tree or a wreath or something decorative (since we're not all that decorative ourselves).  

Last year we forgot to take the photo.  So I really wanted to remember to do it this year.  Naturally, I forgot again.  But earlier in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, I snapped some shots of Michael while we were outside checking on some of the plants (and wondering why the nandina doesn't have any berries yet).

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

And when I looked at this one later, I realized I'd taken a photo of the two of us on Christmas Eve after all.  That's the hubby, plant-gazing - well, his reflection anyway (I did a little cropping).  And that's me reflected in the window too, taking the picture. And that's the bright blue Texas sky reflected in there, too!  And just because it's Blue Monday, here's another shot of that sky.  It really was a lovely Christmas Eve.

I'm also linking up with Holidailies,
even though I've really been doing a terrible job with that, this year.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Cards

I love Christmas cards.  And I have a huge collection of them.  Actually, I love ALL greeting cards.  Always have.  My mother used to save all her greeting cards in a big shoe box and one of my favorite childhood pastimes was going through the box, making up stories to accompany the pictures on the cards.  I especially loved the shaped or die-cut cards - I'd trace around the edges and use the outline to make frames for my drawings.  Hmmmm.  Whatever happened to all that creativity I wonder.  But I digress.

Today, I just thought I'd show you a few cards from my collection.  It's a pretty random selection - some are really old, from the 1920s and earlier.  But most were issued sometime between 1930 and the early '60s.  I used to be able to pick these up for around a nickel each, in thrift shops.  These days, with more and more people collecting, they're usually considerably more expensive - and harder to find.  But I still love hunting for them.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fairy Tales

Ever since my cousin MLB told me about fairy doors, I've wanted one.  Back then, we were living in a high-rise condo and didn't have a garden or yard, or a tree we could use.  But now we're in a house, with LOTS of trees on our property, and one day last month, M surprised me with my very own fairy door!

He built it out of a tiny display case meant to hold small trinkets (my mother used it for thimbles), and part of a wooden cigar box.


Then he painted it the same color as our own front door, and attached it to the base of one of our live oaks.  I was a little nervous about driving nails into the tree, but M assured me it wouldn't do any damage (small nails, big tree).

See how cute it is, surrounded by other trees. (Click on the image to enlarge and get a better look.)

One morning, just a day or two after we put it in, we woke up to find the little door open!  Maybe a fairy family was moving in?  We haven't noticed any activity since then, but just in case, we've decorated it for the holidays.

I have a strong feeling that more fairy doors are likely to appear around here very soon!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Don't Look At the Sun

Travis County TX
November 27, 2013
5 PM / Heading WEST


OK, this is not specifically a holiday-related post.  But I took the photo while out Christmas shopping, so I think that should count for something. Right?

I'm sure these things are all over Texas, but this is the only one I've seen.  It's a mural of a cattle drive, and it resides under an overpass at the junction of 1431 West and 183 South, in Cedar Park TX.  I've been trying to get a photo of it ever since I first saw it last year.  It's a difficult subject because those are very busy roads, and really the only way to take a decent snap would be to get out of the car and stand in the middle of 1431 - not an option.  But during a recent shopping trip, I managed to be at a red light at just the right time, with the sun shining in just the right direction.  So there it is, in all its cowboy glory.

Yee-ha, ya'll!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Catching Up with Christmas Movies

Wow, I am REALLY bad at Holidailies.  I knew I wouldn't be posting every day, but I thought I'd do a little better than I have.  But now that all most of the shopping is done, cards and packages mailed, and decorating complete, I'm hoping I'll have a little time to relax a bit and do some blogging.

And some Christmas movie watching, too.  So far, we've only seen a few of them: the Turner Classic Movie channel was showing The Man Who Came to Dinner the other night, and Michael and I both like that one.  And then last night, after we finally got the last gifts in the mail, we watched The Polar Express.  That's become one of my favorites over the years, although I think it's probably not a good movie to start with - a little too melancholy.  But it's a very cute film, and I've managed to hook Michael on it, too.  This year, he even added the Lionel Polar Express model train to our Christmas decorations - he's always wanted a train to go around the Christmas tree, just like the ones he had as a child.

Actually, I guess we started with A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Grinch (the real original animated version with Boris Karloff voicing the Grinch).  Those are obligatory, as far as I'm concerned.  If I don't see those, it isn't Christmas.  But I don't really consider them movies, since they were originally TV shows. 

Generally, I like to start the movie-watching with the Griswolds and their Christmas Vacation - I think it's become my absolute favorite Christmas movie; I can watch it over and over and still fall on the floor, laughing. That's probably next on the schedule.

Aside from those, there are only a few other movies I feel I need to watch every year: It's a Wonderful Life (of course), and A Christmas Story ("You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"), and The Bishop's Wife (Cary Grant makes such a debonair angel).  

It seems to me that's about as many Christmas movies as one should ever really need.  But Michael has a list of must-see holiday films as long as his arm - must be a couple of dozen by now.  So there are plenty to choose from.  He's already a little miffed that we've waited so long to start the viewing, so I guess it's time to pull out those DVDs!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Outdoor Wednesday: It's beginning to look a lot like....Autumn?

On FM 1431 outside Austin TX

Here in the Hill Country in central Texas, we don't get a lot of fall color.  Most of the trees in this area are evergreen - live oak and various kinds of cedar.  And the change tends to come later than it does up north, and lingers around longer.  Here in the middle of December, it's just about reached its peak now, and leaves are starting to drift off the trees.  Having spent so many years in Virginia, I have to admit I do miss that riot of color every October.  But I think I really appreciate the changing colors more, now that the whole process is so much more subdued and elusive.

The view from our back garden.

Outdoor Wednesday is hosted by

Holidailies: Owl Be Home For Christmas

M and I have put up a full-size tree this year for the first time in over a decade.  For about the last ten years, we've made do with a mini tabletop size tree.  Which I love. And I still might use to decorate one of the bedrooms.  But it's definitely nice to see all the old ornaments again, the ones that were too big for the teensy tree.  It's an artificial tree - our first BIG artificial tree.  I do love the scent of fresh evergreen, but I'm asthmatic and allergic, so real trees are not an option. 

(Click on images to enlarge.)

This year we've added a few new decorations to the collection - notably, a bunch of owl ornaments to reflect one of my most recent addictions.  Don't know why I've been so obsessed with these feathered creatures lately - maybe some kind of retro, return-to-the-seventies thing?  Fortunately, others seem to be on the same wavelength, and there were a lot of Christmas owls available this year. 

This one's a Martha Stewart owl from Home depot.  It was made to hang or clip on a branch, and we've opted to clip them on - they look just like they're perching and looking around for something to pounce on!


And the other two were from Hobby Lobby.  I think that guy in the last photo is my favorite.  (Sorry, Martha.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Blue Monday: New Life Planner

Blue Monday is hosted weekly by Smiling Sally.
To see more offerings, or to participate yourself, please head on over to her blog.

My new Erin Condren planner has arrived!

On the doorstep. Even the box has a bit of blue.

Well, actually it arrived a couple of weeks ago, but I'm just now getting around to downloading all those photos I took last month.  Things have been a little hectic around here lately.

Anyway.  Love the EC Life Planners.  I'm on a constant hunt for the perfect planning system, and although the Life Planners aren't really THAT remarkable, they are very useful and a lot of fun.  I love that they're so colorful and that you can customize your covers.  This year I broke away from the stripey theme I've had going,

The covers are laminated. Nice but hard to photograph.

and chose a paisley pattern, in just two colors - blue and white.

It's a really pretty blue, but I'm wondering now if maybe it's going to get boring after a few months.  Hmmmm.  Well, for now, I love it.

(Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the Erin Condren organization. I just like her planners.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

SkyWatch Friday

(Click on image to enlarge.)

This guy looks a little foxy, but it's really supposed to be an owl.  Metal wind chimes against a background of storm clouds. Winter has come to the Texas Hill Country.

To see more sky photos, or to post your own sky shots,
please visit:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holidailies: Now We're Cookin'

Today's Holidailies prompt is about cooking for the holidays:
Share your favorite holiday recipe. Where / when did you first try it?
And the problem there is that I really don't do a LOT of cooking, during the holidays or at any time of the year.  Fortunately, I'm married to a man who's a great cook and actually likes to do it.  And when I do cook, it's pretty rudimentary - nothing fancy or notable.  So I have very few recipes worth sharing.

But I am a pretty decent baker, and in the past I used to do quite a bit of holiday baking.  Lots of different kinds of cookies.  Mince pies and pecan.  And several varieties of Christmas cakes, including a wonderful old-fashioned dark and bourbon-soaked fruitcake from a recipe I got out of an old Southern Living magazine (I think).  Here, I should say I'm probably the only person in the world who actually LOVES fruitcake - although with all the dental work I've had lately, eating fruitcake is really out of the question for me now. :(

But I digress a bit.  What I was aiming to say is that since I do (or did) like to bake at Christmas, my favorite recipe is my grandmother's recipe for applesauce cake.  She used to bake a bunch of these at Christmas-time every year; we had them at every holiday gathering I can remember from my childhood.  They were delicious, and after I grew up and got married, she passed the recipe on to me.  Mine were never as amazing as hers were (I think she must have whispered some unknown magic word over the batter), but they were still very tasty.  It's been decades since I tried the recipe, and I'm not even sure where I have it filed away.  But after my mother died and I acquired all her paraphernalia, I found my grandmother's old cookbook in the mix.

It's a notebook style book, with empty pages to write down your personal recipe collection, and envelopes to tuck in recipes clipped from magazines or newspapers.  Looks to be from the 1940s or possibly early '50s, and it has a lot of recipe clippings from magazines of that era.  It also has the applesauce cake recipe, which MaMa wrote out by hand:

On the back of a page, she wrote the recipe, doubled (she says doubling four times will make five cakes).

So now I'm having very mixed emotions.  In a way, I want to pull out my baking pans and give this another try.  But in a way, after all these years, I know the real thing can never be as good as those cakes in my memory.

Our World Tuesday: Spying on the Neighbors

For most of this past year, we've been watching a new villa growing up, across the lake from our house.  The builders are taking their time, and we can't figure out if it's meant to be a private residence or a hotel. Whichever - this place is going to be enormous!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Holidailies 2013

It's that time of year again. Time for the Holidailies project.  I don't think I participated last year (if I could remember last year, I'd know for sure), but I'm going to take a stab at it for 2013.  OK, going in, I know I won't be posting daily.  But I'll try to post at least several times a week - something I've been wanting to do anyway (Joysweb is sloooowly fading away, and I'd like to try to remedy that). 

So, I've already missed Day One.  Sorry about that.  Well, not really sorry - yesterday's suggested prompt was "introduce yourself," and I'm really bad at introductions.  Hi, I'm Joy. I'm a blogger.  How's that?

But today's prompt is about Favorite Holiday Songs, and that's something M (the hubby) and I were discussing just the other day, in a local restaurant.  Well, not favorite HOLIDAY songs exactly.  It was before Thanksgiving, but (of course) they were playing holiday music and we were trying to come up with songs that were appropriate to wintertime, but not specifically HOLIDAY songs.  We could only think of half a dozen:
  1. Baby It's Cold Outside
  2. Frosty the Snowman
  3. Jingle Bells
  4. Let It Snow
  5. Sleigh Ride
  6. Winter Wonderland
All of those are winter songs, and some of them have come to be thought of as holiday tunes, but I don't think any of them actually mention Christmas or the holidays.  Is that right?  Can you think of any others? Let me know.

Soooo. I guess this is actually a post about favorite non-Holiday songs?

Blue Monday: Coffee is in Fashion

Blue Monday is hosted weekly by Smiling Sally.
To see more offerings, or to participate yourself, please head on over to her blog.

Confession time - I have a bad habit.  OK, I've got TONS of bad habits, but this one is totally shameful. And here it is: I love snapping surreptitious photos of people in Starbucks.  There, I've said it.  I'm a Secret Starbucks Snapper, and I dig it.  And I don't intend to stop, either.

Of course, as a caffeine addict, I love Starbucks and go there often.  And I've begun to derive a great deal of entertainment from seeing how the people IN the various establishments put themselves together.  Starbucks fashion.  It can be really fascinating.  As an example, a few weeks ago in one of our local places I grabbed this snap of several female patrons in various shades of BLUE:

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Doesn't the young lady in the central spot look interesting?  I love the way she's combined her simple mini-dress with the patterned leggings. If I were twenty years younger (or ten pounds thinner), I'd definitely try something like that.  And I'm totally in love with the striped T-shirt and red shoes on the right. Not so sure about the outfit on the left of the shot - I'd take the boots if they were given to me, but I'm not really crazy about the rest of the look. (Maybe if I were twenty years younger and ten pounds thinner?)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Unconscious Mutterings: Week 566

This week's mutterings from LunaNina:
  1. Taxes ::  TEXAS with the letters scrambled
  2. Deter :: one of those words I have trouble pronouncing
  3. Regret :: one of those things I try not to think about
  4. Consume :: one of those things I try not to do too much of
  5. 1600 :: Pennsylvania Avenue (my hubby used to work just down the street, in DC)
  6. Retire :: -ment: one of those things I'm totally loving
  7. Console :: one of those words that have different verb/noun meanings
  8. Property :: taxes (OK - you got me started with that first word)
  9. Return :: taxes (how long can we go on with this?)
  10. Laughter :: one of those things we need more of