Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas Memories

Well! How is it possible Christmas 2015 has come and gone so quickly.  It was so magical and wonderful to be reminded again this year of this totally amazing event that is celebrated every Christmas. 

Many years ago the children helped hand-paint the Nativity Scene shown in the below photo.  As I look at each statue I realize now what a good job they did.  I remember so clearly sitting out on the front porch several evenings in a row as we all painted a different statue.  Ceramics were a popular craft back then.

Needless to say, this is the very first Christmas decoration we put in place each Christmas. 

Our "reason for the season" as seen in the below photo.

After mass on Christmas I usually spend the rest of the day cooking our Christmas Dinner.  Our daughters also help cook some of the favorite family recipes.  They bring them over when they arrive Christmas afternoon with the rest of their family.

On Christmas Eve the table is set in order to give more time for cooking on Christmas day.

In the below photo you can see an overall photo of our dining room.  As our family grew with the children, and then the grandchildren, we slowly added on to our home, so we would have enough room for everyone.  The room you see in the below photo was actually our double-car garage many years ago.  We decided to convert the garage into a much needed larger dining room.


When all of the children and grandchildren come home to visit we set up two tables with chairs.  Fortunately,  the converted garage is big enough to do that.  And then, you will see in the corner there is still room for what we call our holiday pie table.  There are usually more pies on the table for Thanksgiving than for Christmas.

If you look to the right of this photo below you will see what once was the stairs leading down to the original garage, which is just off from the kitchen.  Now, of course,  they are the stairs leading down to the dining room.

Several years ago while visiting the outlets in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee we found ourselves in the Lenox store.  We happened to spot the dishes that you see on the table in the below photo.  We live in the country and so very much enjoy the outdoors.  These dishes have beautiful images of nature which include a lovely life-like painted cardinal, pine cones, pine branches, and holly berries all accentuated with a  red Christmas bow and intertwining ribbon.

We enjoy the simple, and subtle Christmasy feel of these dishes 
accentuated with Christmas red glasses and napkins.


Just in case you like this pattern as much as we do I checked with Mr. Google to see if this dinnerware is still available.   Of all things, there is a huge sale on this collection at the Lenox site.  This particular pattern is called Lenox Winter Greetings.

Lenox also offers several serving dishes in this pattern and nice heavy duty, but elegant coffee mugs in the same pattern.  I sound like a commercial, but, no, just sharing what I have found out about this simple Christmas dinnerware that we enjoy so much.


Christmas dinner at our home would not be the same without
Mr. and Mrs. Santa salt and pepper shakers at one end of the table....

And, Mr. and Mrs. Snowman at the other end of the table.

Yes, it was a delightful Christmas dinner with our children and grandchildren who live here in town. And, of course, we missed the part of the family living out of town who could not join us this year

As you can see in the below photo we gathered out in the family room for after dinner pie, visiting, and opening of Christmas gifts.

Our grandsons in the below photo are our greatest gift at any time of the year.

On the left we see Ryan (19) our daughter Stephanie and husband John's son, and then Lawson (10), Papaw and Mamaw,  and Preston (13), John Scott (19) and Will (16) the four sons of our daughter Sharon and her husband Charlie.  And then there is Chase (18) and Dillon (21) in the front, also the sons of daughter Stephanie.

All of the boys are a great joy to us.  It was delightful setting around the Christmas dinner table visiting with each one of them,  and our children as well.

We hope that you too have had a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones, friends and family.  

As the New Year approaches we wish you and your family a wonderful year ahead filled with many blessings wherever you may be.

Happy New Year !

Friday, December 18, 2015

O Christmas Tree

How wonderful it is that so many people around the world take joy in celebrating Christmas.  I love knowing we all join together to commemorate this amazingly special time of year, remembering the birth of Jesus Christ, which took place over two thousand years ago.

It is such a special and magical time of year with all the traditions, sights, sounds, and fragrances of the Christmas season.

All of us can thank the beautiful country of Germany for beginning the very first Christmas tree tradition back in the 16th century.   Back then the first trees were decorated with edible items such as gingerbread, apples, and sweets.  Over the years the custom of decorating brightly-lit Christmas trees has spread, and is now celebrated all over the world at this special time of year.

Each year as I decorate our Christmas tree I am reminded of this pretty Christmas song:

O Christmas Tree
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
How lovely are your branches.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
How richly God has dressed thee.
Oh Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Of all the trees most lovely
Each year you bring to me delight
Gleaming in the Christmas night.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Such pleasure you do bring me.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
No one alive spreads cheer so well.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
You'll ever be unchanging. 


The above photo shows a daytime view of our decorated Christmas tree this year.   Each year we tell ourselves we are going to get a smaller tree, but somehow that just does not happen.  

It is a special time decorating the tree with all of the decorations that bring back memories from so many years ago.

Our daughter Stephanie gave us this home-made tree decoration, seen in the below photo.  It is a photo of our grandson Dillon just shortly before he turned two.   As you can see the date is 1995.  He is now 21.


And as you can see in the below photo,  she made cut-outs of both of Dillon's hands and a foot, pasted them together forming a reindeer-like decoration. 

When she first gave this to us,  there was a little red pom-pom nose representing Rudolph, of course.  That nose fell off years ago and I really need to replace it with a new little red pom-pom.

A Christmas tree ornament treasure.

If you have ever visited Sweet Southern Days in the past you know how I love to take pictures.  For a birthday gift my sweet husband gave me a Canon 5D Mark III camera with a Canon 24-70mm L-Series lens.  I LOVE this camera.  It has capabilities way beyond my knowledge and maybe one day I will learn more of how to use it.   Right now I am content to put the settings on "automatic" and snap away. 

In the below photo is another very special Christmas tree decoration we have had for many years.  This particular decoration was made in elementary school by our daughter Debi.  It is over 35 years old, but still looks like new.

We always go to our local Tallahassee Nurseries to find our Christmas tree, because they have a very nice selection of beautiful freshly-cut North Carolina trees.   They always go to the extra effort of placing the tree on our tree-stand,  which is a great help to my husband.  Then they also place the tree on your vehicle and securely tie it in place.

The below photo is an online photo of Tallahassee Nurseries entrance all decorated for Christmas.

Many years ago a friend gave me the pattern to make the cute Santa ornament seen in the below photo.  I have had this cute Santa for over 35 years and he is always placed front and center on the Christmas tree to remind us of when the children were so little. 

Santa was very easy to make ... Using white, pink and red felt I cut two of each felt piece, glued them together and placed a little gold ric-rack to use as trim for Santa's hat.  Then I cut some of the gold ric-rack to use as a hanger, cut and pasted the eyes, nose and lips ... And, that's it!


The Gingerbread Man was a favorite story book with the children when they were little.  So many many years ago when this pattern came across my path I made several of these cloth calico Gingerbread Men to use as Christmas tree ornaments.  

If interested you could use a large cookie cutter as a pattern, cut two pieces of your favorite fabric, sew ric-rack trim to the front of one piece of the pattern, sew inside out leaving a small space for turning and then turn and stuff with a little polyester filling.  Hand sew the opening.  Cut out eyes, nose, buttons and bow tie from a black felt square.  There, he is all finished ... But, be careful, don't let him run away.


Yes, as seen in the below photo is another homemade tree decoration from many years ago.  This little quilted wreath decoration was made from a kit found in one of the craft stores many years ago.

And another calico cloth candy cane Christmas ornament.  It too was extremely easy to make following the same directions as for the Gingerbread Man, using the candy cane shape.

Santa in the below photo is a wooden tree ornament painted by the children many years ago.

And another hand crocheted tree ornament, again made many years ago.

And below again we see another felt snowman ornament hand-made from a craft kit many years ago.

Other Christmas tree decorations we treasure are the hand-made wood turned ornaments made by a special friend.   He makes one of these amazing ornaments every year for our tree.

The below wooden ornament is very unusual.  Inside the wood opening of this wood turned ornament made by our friend,  is a very small little green painted Christmas tree.

A closer look.

And another pretty hand-painted glass tree ornament from a Garden Club friend.

And one of our favorite ornaments on our Christmas tree is this special 
ornament from our daughter Sharon and family.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
How lovely are your branches.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
How richly God has dressed thee.

A night time view of our Christmas tree.

Well! In just a week from today Santa arrives and leaves gifts for all the good boys and girls under the Christmas tree.   Don't forget to place Santa's cookies and milk under the tree!

We hope that wherever you are in this big huge world that you too are enjoying this magical time of year and celebrating the miracle that happened over two thousand years ago.

Merry Christmas blessings to you and yours wherever you may be.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, my daughter Sharon shared with me that she and her son Lawson were making  a "Pumpkin Bread" recipe as a birthday gift for his teacher at school.  

When they told me how good the recipe turned out, and how delicious the pumpkin bread tasted, of course I asked for the recipe.

Our grandson Ethan and his mom and sister were planning to visit for Thanksgiving.  I had heard from his mom how much Ethan enjoyed Pumpkin Bread .... So, what a great time to try this recipe, just in time for his visit ......

As you can see this recipe makes two 9x5 loaves.

The Pumpkin Bread was really good with an outside crust and a nice soft bread inside.

(Wish I could give credit for this recipe, but do not know where it came from originally.)

               1 - 15 oz. can of pumpkin
               1 cup oil
               2/3 cup water
               2 and 1/2 cups sugar
               1/2 teaspoon salt
                2 teaspoons cinnamon
                1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
                1 teaspoon ground ginger
                1 teaspoon ground cloves
                1 teaspoon ground allspice 
                1 teaspoon vanilla 
                 3 cups flour
                 1 teaspoon baking soda
                 2 teaspoons baking powder 
                 1 cup chopped pecans

                *** NOTE:  (When I made this recipe, I used Self-Rising Flour and then the soda
                                       and baking powder are not necessary.)
  • Combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, sugar, salt, spices and vanilla in a large bowl.
  • Whisk to blend.
  • Add flour, soda, baking powder, and chopped nuts.
  • Whisk again to combine.
  • Pour into 2 greased 9x5 loaf pans.
  • Bake @350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
  • Cool 10 minutes then turn out onto a platter.                   
As you can see this is a super simple recipe.  One morning we enjoyed this delicious bread with our sausage and eggs.  

The loaves wrapped in foil with a pretty red bow would make a very nice Christmas gift.
If you make this Pumpkin Bread recipe I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Wishing you a very nice first week of December wherever you may be.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Thanksgiving Gift

Well!  It is hard to believe Thanksgiving has come and gone.

On this Thanksgiving day when our family members gathered in the dining room we formed a circle and held hands for our Thanksgiving blessing.  Just as the blessing was finished, one of our daughters handed me a rolled up cloth tied with a ribbon and asked me to open it.  As I unwrapped the cloth I was so surprised to see the gift they presented to my husband and me.

Everyone together had worked to make a "table runner" as a gift for our Thanksgiving table.  My daughter Stephanie made the runner from burlap and edged the fabric with Thanksgiving orange colored trim.

The children and grandchildren gathered together the day before to work on this project.  They placed different color craft paint on a paper plate for each person, then placed their paint filled hand on the cloth.  You can see the results of this thoughtful gift in the below photo.

Once the hand prints were on the cloth and given time to dry nicely, our daughter Sharon used black marker to place the names on the corresponding colored hand prints.  We will be using this thoughtful gift on our Thanksgiving table from now on.

Grandson Will was working on the day before Thanksgiving when the family worked on this gift.  As you can see they left a place where Will's hand print can be added later.

It was fun this year again to have help in the kitchen with some of the grandsons.  I asked each grandchild what kind of pie they would like to have for dinner.  We had the usual traditional requests plus additional ideas.  Granddaughter Elly requested a Nutella Pie of all things.  So I went looking online and found a Hazelnut Nutella pie recipe which turned out to be very good.

As you can see in the below photo we see "the pie table."  There is pumpkin, pecan, apple, chocolate, Nutella, and key lime pie.  In the center of the table there is  a "7-up Pound Cake"  thoughtfully made by a friend and brought over the day before Thanksgiving,

Grandson Lawson had a good time in the kitchen making these cute 
little pie crust cutouts for the top of some of the pies.

When all the cooking was finished,  we all took some time to "sit a spell" on the back porch.  

As you can see the Christmas Cactus were blooming so nicely.  I stepped back inside for my camera to try to capture this seasonal blooming beauty.  

How pretty!

It was a very nice Thanksgiving and we still have leftovers to enjoy.  I am swept back in time each year after Thanksgiving when we make delicious turkey sandwiches with sweet pickle slices, just like we did at home with Mom and Daddy so many years ago.  Fun memories!

We hope that you too had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Wishing you a special first week of December and many blessing wherever you may be.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Chili Recipe

Our local weather forecast calls for a couple of cold days and nights here in the deep South.  On these chilly evenings it is easy to remember how warm and delicious a big bowl of Chili can be.

Years ago I made up a Chili recipe by adding to the ingredients on the back of the Chili Mix which was available at our local grocery store.   There are different mixes available. The one in the below photo was somewhat different than the original one used.  I prefer Chili mixes because they are perfectly seasoned.

I will include the recipe here in case you too would like to make a big 
pot of Chili as we advance into more cooler weather.


1 package Chili Mix
1 package ground turkey (amount to your liking)
2 large cans chopped tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
2 cans red chili beans (drained and rinsed)
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced

For Topping if you choose:
diced onions
grated Cheddar cheese
Sour Cream 
  • Saute onion and green pepper until tender.
  • Add ground turkey and cook until done, draining any juices.
  • Add tomatoes
  • Add tomato paste
  • Add Chili Mix and mix well.  Add seasoning packet a little at a time until it tastes the way you like.  It is easy to use too much seasoning!!
  • Add the chili beans.
  • Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • If you wish you can sprinkle diced onions and Cheddar cheese over Chili.
  • Some folks like Sour Cream spread on top as well.

As you can see the recipe is super simple and ready in no time at all.

If you make this recipe I hope you enjoy it as much as we did this evening.

I do hope you had a nice Monday.  Wishing you many blessings as we all 
enjoy this special Thanksgiving week.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dear Paris

Oh my goodness! ... To our neighbors across the sea in Paris ... How our hearts here in the United States break for you in the terrible loss you have experienced.  

Every time I see our beautiful Statue of Liberty I am reminded of the kindness and generosity of your country to ours.  That Statue is an icon of freedom sent from the very thoughtful and kind citizens of France to all of us here in the United States ...
 From Wikipedia

We here in the United States wish you freedom from worry, 
and we wish you peace of mind now as you recover from your tragedy.

Sending you flowers selected from the garden of a friend in our local Garden Club.

Our hearts and prayers are with you now and always.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Parson Branch Road In The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

"Hello" to those of you who are stopping by Sweet Southern Days today.  On the site I can see the country from where you may be visiting Sweet Southern Days during any particular week.  I am happy to see this week there are visitors from the United States, and a lot of visitors from Poland, France and Italy.  Also, some of you are visiting from the Ukraine, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Romania.  I LOVE that we can connect and visit together if only in this small way.

I hope you will come along with us today as we again visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This time we travel down a narrow and interesting out-of-the-way roadway that we have never visited before.  It was a fun adventure and we do hope you come along with us.

I found the below map on the internet and was hoping to show you exactly where this interesting roadway is located, but the map does not show up very sharp, however you may be able to get somewhat of an idea.

If you are ever in this North Carolina/Tennessee area and have time to visit,  you would really love to see this beautiful park, which is highlighted in light green, in the below photo.

On this day, we drove through the middle of the park,  highlighted in red (Highway 441) and on to the turn-off to the Cades Cove area seen at the top of the map to the far left.

We have visited the Cades Cove area previously, and I had my camera to try to capture some of the beauty of this old historical area.  If you would like to see that particular Blog Post just click on the link below.

As you drive through Cades Cove you can make a loop and come back where you started from.  Or, at about the half-way point of the Loop,  we were told there is a very primitive roadway called Parson Branch Road leading out of the park that would intersect with Highway 129.

If you look at the above map you can see Parson Branch Road leading away and down from the Visitors Center at the far left of the map.  It is the last black line on the extreme left side of the map.

Fall is a very popular time of year to be visiting this area.  As you can see in the below photos, cars were bumper to bumper.  But, that was OK with us because we were able to inch along and enjoy the beauty all around us.

Amazingly, Smoky Mountains National Park is reported to have ten million visitors a year.  
After visiting this beautiful area I can definitely see why.

As we inched along in traffic we passed by this cute black bear in the below photo busy eating what looked like a crunchy pine cone.  He was totally enjoying himself and paid no attention to the cars passing by him.  He was black so it is hard to see many details and I definitely was not going to get out of the car for a close-up.

    In the below photo you can get an idea of why these mountains are called the Smoky Mountains.

As you can see Fall has come to Cades Cove.

In the below photo we see the beautiful valley that runs through the Cove.

At this point we had reached the halfway point of the Cades Cove Loop,  and we see the sign pointing to Parson Branch Road.  We could have continued on around the Loop, but no, we definitely wanted to drive along and see what was called a very primitive roadway.

So here we go ... Looking for Parson Branch Road.

Not too far down the gravel road we pass this very old cabin seen in the below photo.

According to what we could find out, this cabin was built by Henry Whitehead in 1895.
He was a widower with three daughters.

If you look closely at the bottom photo you will see a much smaller cabin located in the back.  This smaller cabin belonged to Matilda Shields whose first husband left her alone with a small child.  Her brothers quickly built this very small cabin for her when her husband deserted her.

When Henry met Matilda he courted and married her and built what was considered a Smoky Mountain dream home at the time.  The new "dream home" was attached to the original tiny cabin seen in the back.  I love this sweet, happy ending.

Traveling a short distance from the Whitehead Cabin we see the beginning of Parson Branch Road.

Looking to the side we see this pretty, peaceful creek.

Parson Branch Roadway looked safe to us.

Oooh!  Then we saw this sign!

But, that was OK,  it still looked pretty safe to us.  
And, I love a bend in the road and wondering what is up ahead and around the curve.

Turns out there were lots and lots of bends in the roadway as we traveled along for this eight miles.

And, lots of Fall color.

We kept looking for wild creatures as we drove along.

We were told to be on the look out for possible sightings of bears, turkey, deer and wild boars.

All of the creatures must have been napping because we did not 
see anything, not even a bird flying by. 

There were several creeks crossing the road as we drove along.

The creek dropped off into a very small little waterfall.  
How pretty with the Fall leaves drifting along.

So far we felt perfectly safe as we drove along.  This stretch of roadway is a one-way gravel road.  
So,  if you decide to turn back,  that is not possible.

This unpaved road was previously a wagon track that has been used for more than 150 years.  We were told the road was used by Parsons or Ministers to travel to and from Cades Cove.  But, some say it may have been named after Joshua Parson who was an early settler in the area.

And we pass another creek with a larger waterfall ... so peaceful!  

There are a lot of huge rhododendron bushes all along the way.  
They must be beautiful in June when they are in bloom.

According to our calculations at this point we have almost reached the eight mild mark.  

It was so pretty to see this creek with the mini waterfall as we drove along.  

And then we rounded the last bend in the road,  there it was....the end of Parson Branch Road!! 

There are gates at the beginning and end of this road so the Park Rangers can close off the road if need be.  We were told they close the road if there are heavy rains or stormy conditions.  Also, the road is not open year round.  

The road opens April 10th and closes November 15.  Buses and motor homes are not permitted on Parson Branch Road.

It was delightful to drive this road with no problems what-so-ever. 

We did not encounter another car all along the drive except when I got out of the car to take photos of the end of the roadway another car pulled up behind us.  So, even though we thought we were all alone out there,  there was another car not too far behind us.

We have arrived at the end of Parson Branch Road which intersects the famous Highway 129,  more so known as the "Tail of the Dragon."  And,  as always,  there were lots of motorcycles on the road.

Leaving Parson Branch Road we turned left onto the Tail of the Dragon or Highway 129 
and headed back toward our cabin in Robbinsville.

If you would like to see a previous Blog Post telling about the 
"Tail of the Dragon" you can click on the link below:


It was a pretty drive heading back toward the cabin and seeing all the Fall leaves along the way.

Thanks so much for stopping by for a visit. I surely do hope you enjoyed driving along with us down the quiet and peaceful Parson Branch Road.

As we begin the second week of November I do wish you a wonderful week with many blessings wherever you may be.