Saturday, January 31, 2009

Out in the Country

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This picture makes me think of this old 3 Dog Night Song:

Whenever I need to leave it all behind
Or feel the need to get away
I find a quiet place, far from the human race
Out in the country

Before the breathin' air is gone
Before the sun is just a bright spot in the nighttime
Out where the rivers like to run
I stand alone and take back somethin' worth rememberin'

Whenever I feel them closing in on me
Or need a bit of room to move
When life becomes too fast, I find relief at last
Out in the country

Before the breathin' air is gone
Before the sun is just a bright spot in the nighttime
Out where the rivers like to run
I stand alone and take back somethin' worth rememberin'

Agape and I are off to Oklahoma to visit our dear friends, the Murrells, and hopefully welcome little Ava into the world.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sweet Dreams

Dreams of Atlantis Jigsaw PuzzleDreams of Atlantis Jigsaw Puzzle
I had the great delight of celebrating another birthday last week with all my handbell families. The day before the occasion, I stopped by the Hardy's*. Little Nancy* was sooooo excited to see me. She met me with a great big hug, and danced all around saying,
"We're bwinging the pink wimonaide!"
"Oh, you are?" I responded.
"Yeah, it's going to be a WEALLY BIG pawty!!!!"
'Hmmm . . . and I bet it was supposed to be a really big secret, too!"
*All names changed to protect the innocently, guilty.

The puzzle is the front of the awesome birthday card I got from my sis.

I came across this video today on my photographer's forum:

When David saw it, he said That's how you sleep! So true, sad to say, especially as I am teetering on the brink of official senior citizenship.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Last Orchid

At least for the time being. By no means is this all the orchid pictures I took at Biltmore!
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The Flower Show Continues

because I am too lazy to download cards tonight!
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Agape's Happy Day

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Yes, unbelievably, it was that kind of day here today!

The BIG news around the old homestead is that Baby "Think it Over" came home with Agape today for nearly a whole week! This is the one event that she looks forward to the entire year, even more so than the Nutcracker. She has a perpetual smile plastered across her face. We'll have to see what the "Grandparents" are wearing on their faces after a few nights with baby . . .

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Yes, it's true: I have been ABSENT.
My sister has been in the hospital for almost 2 weeks now. When I got the call last Saturday, we were on our way to Roanoke for a work day at the Rescue Mission. It didn't make much sense to go all the way back to Galax for stuff since I was already an hour and a half into the trip to Va. Beach, so I sized up the situation, made the necessary arrangements, jumped on my trusty steed, and rode to her rescue, sans stuff. I did stop at a Walmart to buy a toothbrush and an airbed with which to fortify myself for the siege. It was down and dirty on Sunday, but we managed to turn the tide on Monday. So, Janet is still a mighty overcomer of stage 4 breast cancer (and a valiant survivor of all the hellish treatment for it): 4.5 years and counting!!

And since I am back home with my faithful Mac, you get a puzzle:
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Friday, January 16, 2009

A Heart-Warming Day in the Frigid Homeland

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In spite of the wicked cold today, my heart has been warmed with gratitude for the simple, small town pleasures that I enjoy living here. I went to Physical Therapy and chatted with old friends as they came in. (And I DO mean some that go WAAAAY back, like to 1979 when I first moved here and started La Leche League in Galax.) After PT, I made a round of the usual errands: post office, grocery store, and bank. At every stop, I'm welcomed with smiling, familiar faces (who greet me by name and make small talk.) Our Special Olympics coach, Vickey works at the post office. And Judy has a grand daughter with autism. We share an unspoken bond. At Kroger, I talked shop with Lisa, a new to our area homeschooling mom and hug my old friend, Harriet, another one of the original LLL moms. At the bank, Becky helps me track down some mystery transactions and reassures me that she is, indeed, at work behind the scenes to get the Methodist church to loan me their 3 octaves of bells that are not being used.

We ate dinner tonight at Agape's favorite restaurant, the Western Steer, which really isn't named that anymore, but old habits die hard with Agape. After supper, we went over to watch some of the Upward basketball games and hear the Mt. Vale youth praise band play. Lots of hugs there! Katy, Daisy, and Rachel were jamming in the band. Elizabeth Anne arrived to play her game with all of her birthday slumber party guests in tow. And Valerie is sooooo excited because it is her first sleep-over ever and, "I'm only 7 and Briana had to wait until she was 13 before she slept over!" She is bubbling over. Her mom is probably at home throwing up. Everywhere we look, there are more of my handbell kids there. Agape kept exclaiming, "Look mom! There's another one of your hand-bellers!"

We wrapped the evening up at the Blue Ridge Backroads live radio broadcast at the Rex. This is just one of those completely ubiquitous Galax things to do. Jo Anne and Betty, the clogging teachers, meet you at the door, and then proceed to fawn all over Agape and how much they miss her at the classes. (They loved her so much, that they wouldn't let me pay them anymore!) Agape heads right down to the front and shakes her booty there the whole show. Tonight, the Snyder Family Band from Lexington, NC were the guests. I met this family last year at the Appalachian JAM night, and I absolutely LOVE them! They are a beautiful, oh so sweet, homeschooling family, and extraordinarily talented, too! And Laine even remembered my name from meeting me last year! So that you can see for yourself, I am embedding a Youtube video of them here for you to watch. After watching the video, surf on over to The Snyder Family Band website and buy one of their brand-spankin' new CD's.

I'm off to bed early tonight for tomorrow we PAR-TAY down at the Rescue Mission all day!

Orchid and Orchkids

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A continuation of the orchid show, which is a cheery reprieve from the grip of the deep freeze outside.

I snapped this while I was sitting here writing this post. Do I look like it's 8 degrees outside?

I heard this inspiring story on NPR about a program in Baltimore at the Harriet Tubman Elementary School in collaboration with the Baltimore Symphony. It's called: Orchkids. You can read about it here as well as listen to the broadcast. More affirmation for my relentless mission to bring music into the lives of children!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Homespun Handbells

I am just about to pop right out of my skin!!!! The JoyBell Ringers have gone nationwide!!! We garnered some interest from the hometown paper last summer, and now the whole handbell nation has been introduced to my phenomenal ringers via the Overtones! (the official publication of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers) Many, many thanks to Laurel Cleary for taking the time to seek me out for an interview and writing such an upbeat article that accurately tells our story and conveys the passion and enthusiasm that I have for ringing bells with my kids. Thanks also to J.R. Smith, the editor of Overtones for working with me to generously incorporate so many wonderful shots of the kids into the story. So, Michelle, you are published now!!!
Please go read it:

JoyBell Ringers in the Jan-Feb 2009 Overtones

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Orchid Show, Day 1

This is my cure for the winter bla-a-ahs: A blooming show of orchids. I'll post up one a day until I get tired of them or something more exciting happens around here!
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It's no secret that I am a sucker for flower images, so here is the first taste of the botanical smorgasbord in the conservatory at Biltmore. And yes, Michelle is right: there's no photography allowed inside the house, but you can snap away to your heart's content anywhere else.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Christmas Handbell Showcase

Here's a bonus feature: Some excerpts of my Christmas handbell performances!
First, the super-duper JoyBell Ringers playing "He is Born":

And, the Rejoice Ringers, playing "Down By the Riverside" at Starmount Presbyterian Church in Greensboro. This was not a very good space to play and record in. The room just swallowed all our bass.

 Rejoice plays on one of the largest collections of handbell instruments in the world: 7+ octaves of Malmark bells,  an additional 3 octaves of Malmark bells, 7 octaves + 3 octaves of handchimes, 3 octaves of Whitechapel bells, 3 octaves of Petit and Fritzen bells, and 2 octaves Malmark Cymbells. The JoyBells play on 5 octaves of Schulmerich bells and 3 octaves of Schulmerich chimes, and wish that we had 2 more octaves of bells and 4 more octaves of chimes.

Deck the Doors

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Doesn't that make you want to just walk right in?

Well, come on, Let's go!

Tune in Tomorrow to see what's inside!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Lovely Winter Day

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In case anybody is still wondering where we went for Christmas, here is the dead give-away!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Cherubic Offering

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Can you guess where we went for Christmas?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Fish Tale

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Even though this story is a couple months old by now, It's still a wonderful tale of God's mercy. It happened on a Tuesday, just 10 days after my knee surgery, when I was trying to cram too many errands in between appointments and obligations. Things would work out swimmingly if I did not encounter any delays. I had just shy of 2 and a half hours to get from Mt. Airy to Winston, go to Stevens Center to buy the Nutcracker tickets, then make a dash over to Kernersville to pick up the last load of stone for the wall, zip back to Winston to another store to buy Moravian stars for the wedding, return a shirt at Hanes Mall for Amos, and get to Rejoice Rehearsal on time (which was a half an hour earlier than usual in preparation for the Christmas concert season.) I was off to a great start getting the Nutcracker tickets, and I even found a parking place right beside Stevens Center, a critical maneuver in my slow moving state at the time.

I cruised on over to Kernersville, loaded my creaky old van up with about a half ton of stone, then went to buy gas, which was an absolute necessity; there was not even enough for the short trip back to Winston. By now, it was about 4:30pm. I pulled up to the pump, shut of the ignition, and started fishing for the fish, my oh so cute little purse that my dear friend, Carol, gave to me last summer. This little fish is totally perfect! It holds just my keys, my phone, and my credit card, and does the job with personality to spare.

Alas, the fish was not to be found! Not to panic, I reasoned that it must have fallen out of the van in front of the stone store, so I hastily beat a retreat back to search for it. It wasn't there, and the kindly, though weary, stone-helper even moved the 100 pound boxes of stone around in the van to see if it had inadvertently been covered up. No luck! I reasoned that I must surely have left it at Stevens Center even though I thought I remembered putting it over my shoulder and wearing it out. I climbed back into the van, called the box office with confidence that they would find it there, but it was not to be.

Well, by now, I'm realizing that I am in a QUITE A PICKLE: No cash. No credit card. 100 miles from home and NO GAS!! I went back to the gas station and asked if they would just take my credit card number and let me gas up (No way.) It's now about 4:45 and I have the brilliant idea that if I can get to a branch of my bank before 5, then I can get cash with a counter check there, so I went back into the gas station to ask directions to the bank. The clerk spent an interminable amount of time pouring over the telephone directory. When I couldn't stand it any longer, I asked him to look it up on google maps. After he stared blankly at the screen for another two-minute eternity, I asked him if I could look. I could see that it was a a short jaunt across the interstate, two left turns and I would be there, but I only had 8 minutes to get in the door before 5 pm closing time. Well, the second left turn came up more quickly than I was expecting, so I ended up stopping at the red light in the wrong lane to make my turn. After going through the intersection, I could see an alley on the left that appeared to have an outlet in the direction that I needed to go, so I turned in, and drove down to what looked like the exit, but it was a dead end! I had to back up and try to back out between the buildings into the street, but there was just too much oncoming traffic. So with only 2 minutes to closing time, I abandoned the behemoth vehicle in the alley (completely blocking the passage) and take off on foot and lame knee to the bank which I have yet to actually see. I ended up hopping down the sidewalk like I was in a 3-legged race, and made it to the door just as the clerk was coming out to lock up. That was my first miracle of the night. Oh, glory, glory!!!! I about killed my poor knee, but I got the cash I needed: $100 to be exact.

I hobbled back to the van, drove to the gas station, and put $20 worth in, the amount of gas that I thought would get me back to Galax; after all, I didn't want to fill up with gas that was 10 cents a gallon more than at home! By now, my little crisis had whittled away more than 30 minutes of precious time, so I was anxious to make haste to get to my next stop back in Winston, but wouldn't you know it: traffic was barely crawling on I-40 as I approached downtown. Even though it was nearly dark, I got the notion to just drive back into town and look along Marshall street for my fish where I had parked earlier. I reasoned that it might actually be faster to drive through town rather than sit on the freeway. Lo and behold, it was time for Miracle #2: As I slowly approached Stevens Center, I saw in the gathering darkness, a little forlorn rumple in the street. I stopped right in the middle of the road, jumped out and scooped up my precious little fish, that had been left completely undisturbed for over 2 hours in the middle of Marshall Street downtown!! I was really singing Hallelujah now!

I had only about 10 minutes before 6 pm (closing time) to get to the star store, and I made it with 1 minute to spare. As I hobbled breathlessly in, I was met by the nicest pooch, who was named . . . drum roll . . . .AMOS! So I just had to tell the sweet, bewildered ladies there all about my Amos, his wedding, and my misadventures and miracles of the evening. They got the stars for me; I whipped out the plastic, and she said, oh, dear, we don't take credit cards! Here comes Miracle #3: Remember that I got $100 at the bank? and I only spent $20 for gas? That left $80 for the stars, which cost $75. I thought I was home free, but then I remembered that the sales tax would add up to more than $80. So the lady leaned in conspiratorially and asked: Do you work for the IRS? Do you work for the state? If not, then I can sell them to you tax-free since we are an internet business. Yee-Haa!! I had $5 to spare to buy a sandwich with as I dashed in and out of Hanes Mall (well, a slow-motion dash) and still got to Rejoice rehearsal before the first downbeat!!

It's days like this that humble me and remind me of how awesome is God's love and goodness towards me. So that's my fish story and I'm sticking to it!! God is great! God is good!

Friday, January 02, 2009

All Wrapped Up

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Inside that festive packaging is the most decadent caramel apple goodness that, like the cracker house, has been over a decade in the making. But persistence paid off, and I finally have found the magic recipe for silky, soft caramel that actually will stick on the apple. I will gladly share that magic with anybody who writes and asks for it: I almost let my well-meaning friends talk me into skipping this intensive tradition this year, but with the help of my tireless army of brownies, we not only knocked out 80 cracker houses in one day, but we made two batches of the caramel apples all in one big Christmas goody-producing marathon.

MMMMMM . . . . .!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

My apologies for such a prolonged absence these last few weeks. Surviving the holidays and recovering from illness and surgery has depleted my reserves, but I think I've made the turn around the bend this past weekend. I've got lots to share from the last few weeks, so stay tuned!

It Takes a Village . . .

. . . and many helping hands to put on the JoyBells' Christmas party!
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Cracker houses have been an institution for us ever since my 20 and 30 something kids were preschoolers. I have made literally, thousands of these houses in my lifetime and I have the craft perfected. If anybody would like my instructions for sturdy, no-fail cracker houses, just shoot me an email:

So here are the "brownies" hard at work:

On party day, everybody gets a pre-fab house . . .
and a bag of treats with royal icing to glue the decorations onto their house.
It's a recipe for endless delight!