Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Few More Holiday Traditions at My House

In yesterday’s holiday post, I confessed my fondness for Christmas decorations!  My one disclaimer is most of my library decorations were given to me.  (Click here if you missed yesterday's blog post and want to see it.)

I have many holiday traditions that make the season special for me, including attendance at First Presbyterian Church’s art show and Noel concert in Shreveport, as well as the Christmas Eve service in my hometown Methodist Church in Virginia since I am usually in Virginia at Christmas. 
I love the tradition of sending and receiving Christmas cards, often the only time I communicate with some friends and family members.  Ricky usually takes a special holiday photo to include in each card.


Display of our Christmas cards as seen through a fisheye lens.
I have DVDs of favorite holiday movies to watch.  My special favorites are two George Burns and Gracie Allen Christmas shows; Last Holiday set in Karlova Vary and starring Queen Latifah; The Holiday with Kate Winslet; While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock; and Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyk.  

Of course there are many holiday gatherings.  Some I attend and some I skip, preferring to enjoy my own house and the company of my husband and pets.  I love to socialize and have fun, but I love to be by myself, too.   My group of long-time early childhood education friends kicked off the season with high tea at our friend Beth’s house.  Then there was the annual party at a friend’s small Highland bungalow that is always filled to capacity. 

Standing room only crowd.

Our writing group holiday gathering featured wine, food, the board game of Lie-brary and a gift exchange of some of our favorite things.   My sister-in-law and her husband stopped by for lunch on their way from Colorado to Alexandria, La.  The resident chef at our house, Ricky, prepared his famous Shrimp Pesto Pasta.

Patty and Dave stop by for lunch.
The Christmas luncheon at the Alphonse Jackson Early Head Start Center was a FEAST, and I loved seeing all “my" teachers and other staff.  One day I ducked into The Arc’s Early Head Start classrooms to wish my former staff there a Merry Christmas and enjoyed catching up with them, too.  I love the cheery atmosphere of Mexican restaurants at Christmas time, so dinner out with close friend Rebecca afforded us an opportunity to get our Tex-Mex fix before leaving for the mountains.  Christmas in Virginia will continue the festivities and visits with family and old friends.

Since I often have a bout of bronchitis around this time, I have the opportunity to read books, too, especially mysteries with a Christmas setting--another secret pleasure.  This year I’ve read the following:

Key Zest magazine food critic Hayley Snow and her family experience a holiday to remember in this lighthearted cozy holiday mystery.  This new offering by Burdette, part of her Key West Food Critic series, is fun for the characters and setting, though the plot and actions of the characters strain my credulity.  But if you want to spend some time during the holidays in Key West, eating good food and gawking at the crowds via the pages of a book, then this book is the ticket.  

Jemima Pitt, daughter of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, is grown and off on her own adventure in turn-of-the-century New York.  She is the chaperone for a young woman who is betrothed to a prominent New York businessman.  There is a skeleton in the closet of the bride's family, however, and Jemima is asked to assist the prospective groom's family to avoid scandal.  It is a set-up, and Jemima finds herself accused of murder.  Each year prolific mystery author Anne Perry selects a minor character from one of her series and writes a novella about them, with the setting during the Christmas holidays.  The setting of New York in 1904 makes this novella interesting, but the structure of a novella doesn't allow for in-depth character or plot development. Still, for me, it was an enjoyable read.

The third Christmas book I read is not a mystery, but Mary Kay Andrews' Christmas Bliss, a chick lit novel that follows up on the lives of Savannah antique dealer Weezie Foley and her best friend, Bebe Loudermilk who runs an old inn on Tybee Island.  I liked Blue Christmas, which told of Weezie and Bebe's lives the previous  Christmas when their lives were in turmoil.  In this Christmas book, they are both settling down, and I'm afraid that made for boring reading. 

We're off to the mountains of Virginia, so wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas in Shreveport's Highland Neighborhood--funky, fun and a little bit crazy

When it comes to Christmas, I admit it--I’m a fanatic.  I like the music of Christmas so favorite Christmas CD’s (e.g., New Orleans Christmas, Aaron Neville and Jazz Christmas compilations) are downloaded into my car so I can listen and remain jolly when stuck in the snarled traffic caused by shoppers who flock to Southeast Shreveport's sprawling shopping district.  I enjoy giving gifts—this year we handmade a lot of our gifts—but I still had to venture into the occasional store. 

One of all-time best Christmas compilations. 
I heard most of the musicians on this CD at a conference in New Orleans one December.
Unforgettable experience.
I usually try my hand at cooking some holiday treats.  This year’s date bread with pecan streusel was a flop, so I won’t foist it off on anyone.  On the other hand, my Meyer lemon curd, made with lemons from our tree, turned out beautifully as did the spiced pecans.  My family in Virginia are excellent cooks so taking baked goods to them is like carrying coal to Newcastle, but I had hoped the date nut bread might have been suitable to share. 

I love decorating in my own kitsch fashion—pulling the numerous bins from the attic so the tree can be decorated with old family ornaments and newly acquired trinkets.  It doesn’t take long for the foyer to be filled with the fragrance of Fraser fir and wrapped packages spilling out from under the tree, waiting to be opened or delivered to family and friends.


The fireplace mantels display my collection of Santa Clauses, started when my hometown of Marion, Va. had a cottage industry, Wood World, where old-fashioned Santa figures of pecan shell resin were made in molds, then local women would paint the figures. 
 Wood World Santa Clauses
I acquired a handful of the Wood World Santas, but since then, my collection of all types of Santas has grown exponentially as friends and family learn of my affection (affliction) for St. Nick.  My great-uncle Joe was Santa Claus in my hometown for decades, so I blame him for my fixation.

The plate rails of the music room, i.e. living room, are decorated with Ricky’s vintage Christmas albums, and he wows the neighborhood with his rooftop Santa in a rickshaw pulled by three well-illuminated bicycles! 

Plate rail Christmas album display.

Ricky's annual roof-top display. 
Note Little Free Library in right hand corner of yard
is also decked out for the holidays.

The library is where my Christmas fixation really takes hold.  Every shelf is decorated with some holiday vignette.  It’s my room so I can go crazy and it doesn’t bother anyone else.  I love the way the fisheye Olloclip lens for the I-phone made each of these photos look like a Christmas ornament:

library decoration detail

Look for more  about Christmas at our house in tomorrow's post....