Friday, December 31, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

Grams is not going to review 2010. I've already done that in my Christmas letter post. Instead of looking back, I'm looking forward to a new year with hope.

On Sunday, Grandad and I will travel to Houston. We've set aside Monday for him to recover from the trip. On Tuesday, he will again become a patient at the Texas Heart Institute. Tuesday is set aside for pre-operative testing. On Wednesday, Grandad will have his second Cardiac Ablation. He'll stay overnight in the hospital then will rest in Houston until at least Saturday.

That's where the hope comes in. He had this same procedure last June and for about a month after had no atrial fibrillation and no heart flutter. Over the last five months it has become more frequent and more persistent again. The doctor tells us that this indicates that the ablation procedure will work to correct the problem, but the ablation may have to be repeated several times to achieve long-term results. The doctor also says that this time he will be more aggressive with the procedure.

I'm hopeful that this second time will be the charm. The heart has to heal six months between each ablation. That's a long waiting period if the fibrillation returns.

We'll be staying at our son's house in north Houston. I will have internet access but I'm not sure whether I'll be up to blogging or not. I will at least post an update.

As always, your thoughts and prayers will be appreciated.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

These are NOT Resolutions!

Grams doesn't make New Year's resolutions. Never have! Never will! But my friend Lisa over at Grandma's Briefs published a list of things she will not do in 2011. I like the idea so much that I'm following suit. Thanks for the inspiration Lisa. 
  1. I will not become a neat freak. Anyone who knows me will realize that there really is very little NO danger of this. I will admit to being a little OCD in some areas of my life. Yes, my spice cabinet is arranged in alphabetical order, but that's organized, not neat. Come on over, I'll show you baseboards and ceiling fans that haven't been dusted in years ever.
  2. I will not be miserable or wallow in self pity. I choose to be happy! Sometimes life sucks, but I reserve the right to be happy anyway. I have smiled and laughed my way through a great many hard times. Some days I get by with just putting one foot in front of the other and doing what has to be done, but I choose to be happy ... and I truly believe that happiness is a choice.
  3. I will not abandon hope. Specifically I will keep hoping that eventually we will find a doctor or a procedure that will make Grandad well again. Chronic atrial fibrillation is one of the things that sucks. Some days hope is all that keeps me going. (Here's Grandad's health story.)
  4. I will not give up Starbucks no matter how much my kids make fun of me. I like the coffee, I like the atmosphere and I need the caffeine. Hey, I gave up sugar and fat, I'm not giving up my coffee. They'll have to pry the cup out of my cold dead hands. Did I mention that I like the coffee?
  5. I will not stop looking for the good in people or the good in any given situation. To do so would be to compromise who I am. I try as long as I can to find the good ... but I'm not stupid and I'm no Pollyanna. Eventually I learn that there are some people who are just not good ... and, unfortunately, I'm related to some of them.
  6. I will not correct grammar on Facebook. No matter how many times someone uses your when they should use you're; how often they confuse their, there, and they're; or how many times they say orientated when they should say oriented, I will not turn into the grammar police. Not too often anyway.
  7. I will not give up my reading. I love to read, probably more than anything else I do. Reading provides an escape. It takes me places that I'll never go in real life and introduces me to people from all over the world and from other times. It improves my vocabulary and relaxes me. It's better than Calgon for taking me away!
  8. I will not run a marathon, half-marathon, or even a 5K. In fact, I won't run anywhere. Just thinking about running makes my knees hurt. I will, however, commit to riding my bicycle and walking more in 2011. Since Grandad's a-fib returned, I tend to just sit in the living room with him. That's not really working for me. I will may get my rear-end moving in 2011. After all these are not resolutions!
  9. I will not take up playing Wii or X-Box nor any other expensive and time-stealing video games. But I'm not giving up blogging, Facebook nor solitaire. Let's not get crazy!
There are many other things that I will probably not be doing in 2011, but these are the highlights.

Happy New Year!

How about you ... what are you NOT going to do in 2011?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Grams Made One-Dish Dinner Scramble

Grams has made this one-dish dinner a couple of times now. It's quick, easy, high in protein, and delicious. Grandad really likes it. I especially like that it doesn't make a big mess in the kitchen and you can throw it together in just a few minutes. I got this recipe from The original recipe called for scallions, but I don't keep them on hand so I substituted onions.

1 lb ground turkey breast
1/2 of a sweet onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1 (10 ounce) bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
5 eggs
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup salsa

Cook turkey in a little olive oil over medium high heat in a skillet, stirring occasionally, until the meat is almost done, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in scallions, red pepper, mushrooms and spinach.

Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs with the garlic salt and pepper. Stir the eggs into the skillet with the meat and vegetables. Cook, stirring until the eggs are firm and cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Stir in salsa and serve.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Meet Me On Monday

Today's post is part of a meme hosted by Java at Never Growing Old. Every Monday she posts a list of questions to help bloggers get to know each other better. Here are this week's questions and my answers.

1. What are your New Year's Eve plans?  We quit going out on New Year's Eve many years ago. We'll probably take in a movie and then go out for a late dinner. Odds are pretty good we'll be home for a champagne toast before midnight.

Image by

2.  How tall are you? I'm 5'1" if I stand up very straight. While we're on this subject, Grandad is 6'5". That makes a 16" difference in our heights. We look a little like Mutt and Jeff.

3.  What is your favorite pudding flavor? I don't like pudding, it's a texture issue, so I don't have a favorite flavor. I do, however, like bread pudding with bourbon sauce. Does that count?

4.  What room of the house do you blog the most in? I only blog in the living room. I sit in my favorite chair in front of the television with my laptop on my lap and write away.

5. What is your best physical feature? I have beautiful hair and lot's of it. It's heavy and straight so I keep it short. It's brown with red highlights. Okay, truthfully. nowadays it's brown with red and gray highlights, but I keep it colored. Some day I'm going to get brave enough to just let it go gray, but probably not any time soon.

This is a blog hop.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Calm Before Christmas, Baby Cheese & A Special Request

Today is one of the days that Grams enjoys most at Christmas. Today is the day that everything is ready. The pre-holiday frenzy is over. In the tradition of women everywhere I've spent the past month getting everything ready for Christmas. Here's an abbreviated list of all that's been made ready.
Photo from here
  • Cards mailed
  • House decorated
  • Shopping done
  • Stockings ready to stuff
  • Gifts wrapped
  • Bows tied
  • House cleaned
  • Baking finished
  • Menus planned
  • Groceries on hand
Today is the day I sit back, breathe a big sigh of relief, and anticipate the fruits of my labors. Tomorrow, family will arrive and the pace will pick up again. Today is a day for savoring.

I've already shown you our Christmas tree. Now take a look at some of my other decor. I'm proud to say that I only spent about $25 on new decorations this year. I bought battery-operated LED lights for my mantle garland, berries to add to the same garland, and a package of scrapbook paper to make the Merry Christmas pennant banner. It was a bit of a challenge to photograph, but here's my best attempt.

I made the banner by using Jenn Balcer's pennant banner instructions from Split Coast Stampers. I didn't think the pennants were substantial enough so I added the rectangular card stock behind each one. I'm very pleased with how it came out.

Last year, I went to Hobby Lobby's after Christmas clearance sale and bought three rolls of black and white paper. I used it to wrap our gifts this year. Then the packages were tied with brightly colored bows. I buy remnant fabric ribbons on clearance and keep it on hand. On Christmas morning, after all the gifts are opened, I sit and patiently roll all the fabric ribbons and stash them to reuse. Some of these ribbons have been used at least five years. I like the effect of the black and white with the colored ribbons.

Our Little Princess and her parents visited last weekend. They're spending Christmas with her other grandparents this year, but they were able to join us for the Vanecek family Christmas party. It was fun watching her open presents with her cousins. She really liked the baby doll and carried it everywhere the rest of the weekend.

On Sunday we took her to mass with us. After mass, I took her out in front of the church to show her the Nativity Scene. She walked right up to the lighted plastic figures  and was able to name many of them. The day care center she goes to is affiliated with a Baptist Church and they've obviously been working on the real meaning of Christmas. Her mom had told me that they had a birthday party for Jesus where they sang Happy Birthday. 

She knew Mary and Joseph. She recognized the shepherd and pointed out the three kings. Then she walked over to the manger, pointed at the baby, and said proudly, "Baby Cheese." That made me smile. 

I will admit, I've had a bit of difficulty accepting the idea of not seeing them at Christmas this year, but think I've finally gotten a proper perspective and am going to enjoy celebrating with the rest of the family. Nick and Marie arrived in time for dinner this evening. They've gone to visit friends tonight, but will spend the rest of the weekend with Grandad and me.

Our holiday traditions include attending Christmas Eve Mass with Grandad's family, followed by a family dinner at my mother-in-law's home. We'll exchange gifts there on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning we'll open gifts at home. That afternoon we'll take in a movie and then come home for a roast beef dinner.

We'll be busy celebrating with family for the next few days so I will probably not be blogging. But, I have a special holiday request for all my readers. Please remember six-year-old Liam in prayer. Liam is the grandson of my dear friend, Sandy, and was recently diagnosed with leukemia. They are a family of great faith and I know they will appreciate your thoughts and prayers. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! May the "Baby Cheese" bless all of you!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Pageant Ever

While Grams was dusting, doing laundry, and just generally cleaning house today, I ran across some photos of my kids in Christmas pageants. I have a couple of them framed in my living room and they were dusty. It reminded me of how much I loved their school performances and how much I miss them. See, my kids are not kids any more. Katy is 31 and Nick is 29. It's been many years since they were in school programs of any kind.

So I spent a little time looking through my albums and boxes of old photos looking for the pictures from these treasured memories.

The stories of my two children and their various performances are vastly different.  Here's Katy's stage debut at day care.

Nick's was a little different. He's supposed to be standing in line with the other kids on the stage. Instead, he's sitting on the front of the stage and smiling as the crowd giggles at him.

For at least two years, Katy was an angel in the Christmas pageant. It was a non-speaking role. I like to think that real angels have beautiful red hair that glows like hers. She always wanted to be the Blessed Virgin, but I think the role of an angel fit her perfectly.

Nick played the little gray donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem. This was the Nativity story told from the animals' point of view.

Katy and Nick were both elves at various times.

Over the years there were many other performances. I have pictures from some that I don't even remember.

And then there was my absolute favorite Christmas Pageant ever! 

Nick was in kindergarten at Annaville Elementary School. It was a neighborhood school with a real family feeling. Everyone knew everyone. We were neighbors and friends. The school has been closed for several years now as the district has moved to a primary, intermediate, and middle school format. The kindergarten school pageant was always a big event. Families crowded into the cafetorium and strained to see their little ones on stage. Because there were so many kids, the performance had several acts. All the kids in Nick's group were dressed in clown costumes because they were Jacks-In-The-Box. Moms had sewn the costumes and the kids had rehearsed for hours. Nick was a very cute clown. In fact, all the kids were just precious as only kindergartners can be.

The program started and the kids sang their song. I don't remember what the song was, but the kids were performing beautifully. During the song, the Jacks were to pop in and out of their boxes several times. All was going well until the little girl next to Nick tried to pop-up out of her box and fell over. As you can see in the picture above, she's already having trouble with her hat falling in her face. What happened next was heart-warming and touching. Nick looked over and saw that she had fallen and was crying because she was embarrassed. It was then that he purposely knocked his own box over and fell right next to her on the stage. You see, he realized that she was embarrassed and thought that she would feel better if she wasn't the only one who fell. The crowd laughed a little then broke into spontaneous applause.

While what some people saw was Nick clowning around, I saw the kindness that is innate in his personality. I've never really had to worry about him being a bully or not standing up for the underdog, because it's just part of who he is to be kind and generous.

I do so wish that I had that performance on video. But this is one of those cases where I try to do as Luke 2:19 tells us the Blessed Virgin did. "Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." For me, it was the best Christmas pageant ever.

I can't wait until Our Little Princess and her sister have school performances. You can bet I'll be there if possible.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Meet Me On Monday

Meet Me On Monday is a weekly blog-hop from Java at Never Growing Old. Once a week she posts a list of five questions to help us get to know each other better.

Here are this week's questions with my answers:

1.  What will your Christmas dinner consist of? We have our big family celebration on Christmas Eve at my mother-in-law's home. We'll all go to 6 o'clock mass then meet at her house for an evening of food, games, and opening presents. It's traditional for everyone to bring their favorite dish with very little advance coordination. We end up with a smorgasbord including ham, shrimp, lasagna, olive balls, broccoli rice casserole, and every kind of sweet you can imagine. I'm especially fond of my sister-in-law Jeanne's iced sugar cookies.

On Christmas Day I usually cook a pot roast for lunch. But, since there will only be four of us this year, I'm thinking of making a big brunch with french toast with raspberry compote, scrambled eggs, and sausage or bacon. Then I'll put a pot roast in the crock pot for after we go to the movies.

2.  Do you watch commercials or flip through the channels? We DVR everything. Then we fast forward through commercials. We rarely watch live TV, but when we do, my husband flips the channels which makes me crazy.

3.  How long will you leave your Christmas decorations up? I always take them down on New Year's Day. This question reminds me of my grandfather, who removed the Christmas tree on Christmas Day, as soon as the final present was opened.

4.  What movie makes you cry every time you watch it? Steel Magnolia's makes me go into the ugly cry. When Shelby (Julia Roberts) dies and M'Lynn (Sally Field) is so angry, I just completely break down.

5.  Do you have a Facebook?  Yes, I have a personal Facebook account and a blog fan page for Grams Made It. My kids say I'm addicted to Facebook. But I consider it a hobby.

Grams Made Sopapilla Cake

Grams has found that one of the joys of substitute teaching is the teachers' lounge. In most schools you'll find that this room is a refuge from the noise and clatter of classrooms filled with noisy and demanding children.

Teachers are a sociable bunch. Someone is always bringing food to share. I've been fortunate enough to be on several campuses when the PTA members hosted appreciation luncheons for teachers. Sometimes it's catered, but more often it's potluck with dishes brought by parents. Whichever it is ... it's always delicious and always appreciated.

This recipe came from one such luncheon. The PTA furnished the meal and the teachers contributed desserts. My very good friend, Brenda, who teaches second grade at Wood River Primary School, made Sopapilla Cake. Coincidentally, Brenda's parents are our next-door neighbors. I've known her since she was a teenager. Last weekend, we attended her daughter's 18th birthday party. She is a beautiful and talented woman who has raised an amazing daughter. She's also a great teacher!

If you've never had a sopapilla, you should eat one at your next opportunity. It's a fried pillow-like pastry made from sweet quick-bread pastry dough. It's usually coated in cinnamon and sugar and often comes with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream. Seriously, if you see it on the menu at your local Mexican food restaurant, order it.

But, in case you don't have the opportunity, this is an easier and quicker alternative. Brenda's original recipe called for a little more sugar and I added the vanilla extract. It was a big hit at the Vanecek family Christmas party Saturday night.

2 cans of crescent rolls
1½ cups of sugar
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick butter, melted
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll one can of crescent rolls on bottom of pan 9” x 12” baking pan. Mix both packages of cream cheese with 1 cup of sugar and vanilla extract. Spread mixture on top of crescent rolls.

Roll the other can of crescent rolls on top. Pour melted butter on top. Mix remaining ½ cup of sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle on top. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Our First Christmas Letter

Let me start by saying that Grams and Grandad have never written an annual Christmas letter. But I love them. We have several friends who send them every year. My husband's Uncle Peter and Aunt Margaret sent their 35th annual letter this year. We got it day before yesterday. I look forward to it every year.

I absolutely love getting these letters and catching up with friends and family that we don't see often. In recent years they often include photos. That's been especially fun as our childrens' friends have had babies and we get to see their little ones.

I actually intended to try writing a Christmas letter this year, but then Shutterfly offered me 50 free photo Christmas cards in exchange for a blog entry about their Christmas cards. Here's what the final product looks like. It's called "Shiny Pretty Things" and is printed on beautiful high-quality 5" x 7" card stock. I will admit that it's a little heavy on the pictures of Our Little Princess. (Okay, my son-in-law asked for a royalty. I offered to pay him off in babysitting.)

Even though I didn't send a Christmas letter this year, I've been imagining what I might have included if I had. So, here it is, my first ever Christmas letter.

Dearest Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas from the Valenta family. 2010 has been a year of celebrations for us.

Early in the year, we celebrated Our Little Princess' 1st birthday. She had her first chocolate cupcake that day and her Uncle Nick had to show her what to do with it. Seriously, she'd never had sweets before that day. That situation has now been remedied and I know that some day she'll thank us for it.

In June, Grandad's mother, Mama Ruthie, celebrated her 80th birthday with a family dinner at Gary & Nancy's home in Sinton. We attempted to get all of her children and grandchildren together for a family portrait. At the last minute, some of them had to work, but we had a good time and got some good pictures.

In June we went back to the Texas Heart Institute in Houston where Grandad underwent a cardiac ablation. He's had a problem with atrial fibrillation and heart flutter since his mitral valve was repaired three years ago. The ablation did work and his heartbeat was in near perfect rhythm for about a month. Since then, the A-fib and flutter have returned. We expect that he will undergo a second ablation shortly after the new year. While we are disappointed, we were told prior to the first procedure that it might have to be done as many as 2-3 times to achieve long-term desired results.

We celebrated the 4th of July with our first vacation since 2003. Every year when we watch the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular on television I tell Grandad that I want to see it in person. In 2010, we finally did. We spent the week leading up to July 4th in Massachusetts. I fell in love with Cape Cod. Its history and its beauty were captivating. I just have to tell you ... Cape Cod smells amazing! I don't think I've ever been any place that smells so good. We visited Plymouth Rock, the Sandwich Glass Museum and took a drive up to Hyannis. Then we spent a day in Salem. It was a lot of fun. The history of the witch trials an the National Park were fun. One of the highlights of that day was a walk through the historic district which contains the finest examples of federal-style architecture in the the USA. It's gorgeous.

Then we spent the next four days in the Boston-Cambridge area. In celebration of Independence Day there were re-enactments and tours everywhere. We watched as the Redcoats landed on Long Wharf and marched into the City of Boston. We shopped at Quincy Market and ate lobster for lunch. We walked the Freedom Trail and strolled through the North End (better known as Little Italy). We toured the Old North Church and visited the USS Constitution. We rode the subway and walked through Harvard Yard. We saw an amazing building on the MIT campus designed by Frank Gehry. Then we celebrated Independence Day by spending a day in the park with thousands of other Americans. People from all over the USA were friendly, unabashedly patriotic, and relaxed as we waited all day long for a performance by the Boston Pops and the fireworks over the Charles River. It was well worth the wait and I would go back every year if I could.

A little later in the summer, we enjoyed a day at Fiesta, Texas. We rode the roller coasters and spent quite a bit of time in the children's area with Our Little Princess. We were joined that day by Travis' 14-year-old daughter Mady. She was excited and frightened by her first roller-coaster ride, but she bravely went back and rode it a second time just to prove she could.

We feel so good about how well both of our children are doing. They are both happily married and have settled into homes of their own. Katy and Travis own a 1950's ranch-style home in the Alamo Heights area of San Antonio. They're working on updating it's mid-century style to fit their own funky style. Our Little Princess is growing like a weed. We visit often since San Antonio is only a couple of hours away. In between visits, we stay in touch using a web-cam. She is talking pretty plainly now and will even say "I love you" when we talk on the phone. Her new little sister is scheduled to arrive next April.

Nick and Marie have a beautiful new home in Summerwood near Humble in North Houston. It's spacious and modern and they're working on furnishing it. No kids yet for them, they are both busy building their careers and doing some traveling before they have kids.

In November, we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. We still live in the Calallen area of northwest Corpus Christi.Grandad has been with Chesterton for more than 30 years. He spends a good deal of his time in Houston now as he manages both the Houston and Corpus Christi retail operations. Retirement is still a few years away for him. I enjoy my part-time job as a substitute teacher. I always knew that I should have been a teacher. I enjoy working with all levels of students and spend quite a bit of time in special needs classes. Of course, my favorite days are when I get to teach English or Social Studies. I have found high school mathematics challenging, but I'm learning as I go along.  Thank God, other teachers are usually very helpful and willing to show me how it's done.

This year, for only the second time ever, our family will not be together for Christmas. Katy, Travis and Our Little Princess will visit the weekend before Christmas and we'll celebrate then. Mady will spend Christmas with them for the first time ever. That means they'll be spending Christmas with Travis' family. I couldn't resist reminding Katy that last time she didn't come home for Christmas, it snowed in Corpus Christi for the first time in 100 years. Nick and Marie will be here for our traditional Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We've already chosen what movie we'll see on Christmas Day. It's going to be True Grit.

We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. May 2011 bring you lots of reasons to celebrate.

The Valenta Family

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree!

Grams has finally finished putting up the Christmas Tree. It was much harder than it should have been and took much longer than I planned on.

My main complaint about putting up the tree each year is that assembling and shaping our artificial tree results in my hands and arms being scratched up to the point of bleeding. We bought this tree two years ago and made sure we got a pre-lit tree. This was supposed to make it easier.

Last year my friend Stephanie posted on Facebook that she doesn't actually take her artificial tree down each year. She just covers it in plastic and stores it standing upright. I thought that was a brilliant idea! So last year, instead of taking the tree down, we wrestled it out the front door and into the garage, wrapped it in heavy-duty plastic and stored it standing upright.

I expected that this year, Grandad would just haul the tree back into the living room, plug it in, and it would be ready to decorate. Not so! When we plugged it in, the lights on several limbs did not come on. I then spent the next 3 days, replacing bulbs, searching for the ends of the plugs and re-arranging them. I even went and bought a Light Helper-Pro. For a cost of $20, this little tool is supposed to fix your mini-lights. It did not, but it was useful for removing burned out bulbs and it will help you determine whether or not the lights have power. After three days, I went to Walgreens and bought a strand of 100 mini lights and just strung them over the burned out bulbs. Then it took me two nights to decorate it. This is a 7' tree and I'm only 5'1" tall. That mean climbing up and down the stepladder numerous times. Here's the finished product.

I once answered an online quiz that included the question "If your house was on fire what would you grab as you ran out the door?" My initial answer to that question was "absolutely nothing." I would be happy to get out with just my family in one piece. But after giving it some serious thought I want to reconsider. If I can grab something on my way out the door, I want to save my Christmas ornaments.

I've been collecting ornaments since we got married 35 years ago. I have several hundred ornaments. Many of them are sentimental favorites. The first year we were married my employer and his wife gave us a Norman Rockwell collectible ornament. It was beautiful and I loved it and I added a new Norman Rockwell ornament to my collection each year for about seven years. Unfortunately, a few years ago, I had all eight of them displayed on my fireplace mantle and Grandad bumped into them, they fell and every single one of them shattered. Not a single one of those ornaments survived.

The first year we were married, our budget was extremely lean. There wasn't a lot of money for ornaments. I bought kits for sequined ornaments and spent the month of November making these ornaments. The rest of the tree was filled with candy canes and pipe-cleaner ornaments. That was what we could afford.

These two ornaments are the first ornaments I remember buying. The baby reindeer is hand-painted on porcelain and is very delicate. The wreath is made of plastic beads, but it looks like crystal and is beautiful on the tree. Both of these were bought in 1976 and have held up extremely well.

This angel and Christmas tree are needlepoint ornaments that I made in the late 1970's. There were a few more of them that were done on plastic canvas. Unfortunately, over the years, the plastic broke down and I had to discard them.

When our kids were born, I made each of them an ornament. In addition, I bought or made an ornament for them each year of their life. When they married, each of them received a box of their own ornaments at their bridal shower. It was special to pass that tradition on to them.

Of course, these handmade ornaments from their school years are among my favorites.  When my daughter used to decorate the tree as a teenager, she always put them in the back so they didn't show. I prefer them front and center.

This set of three ornaments is among my prized possessions. They are so special to me that I don't put them on the tree. They are in a shadowbox. Here's the story behind them. The silver mercury-glass ornament at the top was from my husband's paternal grandparents' Christmas tree. The angel in the center is from his parents' tree. The red box at the bottom was a gift from Grandma Valenta the last Christmas she was with us. She prayed for us over this box and told us it would represent her love and prayers for our family.

This butterfly is special because Grandad stole it for me. If you know him at all, you'll know that this is probably the only thing he has ever stolen in his life. And, I'm sure he went to confession the next day. It's made out of plastic, wire and glitter and is probably worth about fifty cents. We were at a fancy dress up party at the Corpus Christi Town Club, sometime between 1975 and 1979. The trees were all decorated with these butterflies and we were both drunk. I begged him to get me one and he did. I treasure it because it makes me smile. 

This set of ceramic kings was a gift from my sister Bylinda.  The sequined Santa Claus was made by my sister-in-law Laurie. I love getting ornaments as gifts.

These angels are made of pasta. One of my former employers and his wife were of Italian descent. Every other year they hosted a big Italian Christmas party. These were party favors.

This Santa and his reindeer ornament has a fun story. I got it in a gift exchange at work. It was a gift from my boss, but one of the other administrative staff picked it out and purchased it. It turned out that I drew her name that year and got her exactly the same ornament. We still laugh about it.

For at least 30 years, the place I worked had an ornament exchange for Christmas each year. These are two of my favorites from that exchange. 

 I especially like this "Joy" ornament. When you put it on the tree you insert a mini-light in the back and it lights up. I have two of this style that my kids gave me.


When we travel, instead of souvenirs I buy Christmas ornaments. The Coca-Cola bottle came from our last trip to Las Vegas. The amber glass bulb is from the Sandwich Glass Museum on Cape Cod. I bought it this summer on our trip to Massachusetts. The red star is made of glass and I bought it because I have a thing for stars.

Some ornaments don't have any sentimental value. I just like them. The Mary Engelbreit teapot is probably the most expensive ornament in my collection. I thought the other one was beautiful. It was made in Germany and is made of glass with a detailed castle inside.

But beautiful ornaments don't have to be expensive. Both of these sequined ornaments came from Dollar Tree. That means they cost $1 each.

And this is my newest ornament. It was a gift from my friend Janna and I love it. She went to North Carolina on vacation last summer. We're going there next summer for my niece's wedding. I can't wait.

I have hundreds of other ornaments, but this will have to do for now. I've got to pack. I'm meeting Grandad in Houston tomorrow afternoon for a weekend with Nick and Marie. We'll all be going to the company Christmas party together on Saturday night. But first we'll be doing a little Christmas shopping.