Sunday, December 21, 2014

All Clean for Christmas

Cheyenne got her Christmas bath today. We tried to take a nice photo, but even with all the shots I took, we still didn't end up with what I had in mind. Oh, well, She's clean, shiny, and so soft. And she smells good, too!

Are we done yet??

Now, if only my house was as clean as my dog! How are your holiday preparations coming along? 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas At The Guest House

This is only the second winter we've had the Guest House open, and this year I'm delighted that we have guests coming during the Christmas season! Last year I put electric candles in the four downstairs windows and some greenery with a red bow on the driveway gate, but since we had no guests, I didn't do any decorating inside. But this year we have guests! Although there's not much room to add a lot of things, I had fun "decking the Guest House" with a little holiday cheer.

During the summer and fall, there are pots of pink geraniums on the porch.

For Christmas, I found an old coal bucket and filled it with holly and pine and added a plaid bow.

Since we are using the dining room as the bedroom for now, there's not really any room for a full-size Christmas tree.

I found a miniature one, though, that fits perfectly on top of the pie safe.

It's decorated with tiny gingerbread men, little Santas, shiny orbs, and red bows, all topped with a beautiful red cardinal. Underneath are miniature presents that I wrapped years ago for the little tree I always had in the school library. And most important of all, the Holy Family is there, too.

There are two stockings hanging from the mantle, where the Wise Men are resting while on their long journey to see the Christ Child.

The kitchen window sill is filled with tiny treasures, too.

All in all, it's not much when it comes to the lavish holiday decorations found in most lodging establishments. I often imagine what the house will look like someday, when it's all finished and filled with gentle lights, greenery, ribbons, and pretty Christmas things. And I'm wondering where the perfect spot for a real, live Christmas tree will be. Instead of candles in only a few windows...

I'm looking forward to one day having a light in every window to let our little corner of the world know that Vance's Country Guest House is welcoming the Christ Child.

After all, He's what Christmas is all about, you know.

May the blessings of a Christ-filled Christmas be yours this season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Keep The Home Lights Burning

Last Sunday, I went back to my hometown for the first time since my dad's estate auction, which was in early October. Although my sisters and I ended up with lots of heirlooms and treasures, it was a bittersweet weekend as we watched the rest of our family's things sold to the highest bidder. And then, two days later, we signed closing papers to sell the house our parents built in 1948. No one else had ever lived there; just us Martins. Even though we are thankful the house didn't sit on the market for months or years, it all happened very fast, making it difficult to accept the reality that the house now belongs to another family. In my mind, it's all still there - the house filled with Mom and Dad's things - just like it always was.

But alas, life's certainties not only include death and taxes, but change as well. Us three Martin girls are trying our best to accept the inevitability of losing our parents and the realization that we're now officially middle-aged! Both of these circumstances have brought a boatload of changes and challenges into our lives.

Thus, I was delighted to find one thing that hadn't changed when I made it back to Union last Sunday evening. The Christmas lights were still there!

They are the most magical lights anywhere, I'm convinced. I've not traveled much during the holidays, but even in movies and such, I don't remember seeing lights like these anywhere else. The concept is simple: just strings of regular-size colored light bulbs, hung in a zigzag design over the entire length of Main Street.

Capturing the effect of this colorful display with my camera has been quite a challenge. Someday I hope I can do them justice, but hopefully you can get the idea.

When I saw them, the childhood Christmas memories came flooding back, and it felt good, very good indeed, to be home at Christmas time.

Update: Well, apparently this style of Christmas lights was very common back in the day! I've heard from several people who also remember these same lights from their childhood. I'm so glad my hometown of Union, West Virginia hasn't abandoned them for more modern decorations.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Quiet Thanksgivng

This is the first year in a long time that Robin and I have been at home for Thanksgiving, with just the two of us to enjoy a nice dinner. Although I missed being together with family, I have to admit it was nice not to be traveling or stressing over a dirty house and a huge meal for a houseful of guests.

I enjoyed a laid-back day, setting the table with my mother's pretty china and cooking without being in a hurry.

We had the usual Thanksgiving fare: turkey,


mashed potatoes,

and green beans.

There were a also a couple of family favorites: Corn Pudding

and Cranberry Relish.

I tried a new recipe for dessert: Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie. It was... let's see... interesting! And pretty, a real pretty pie.

There was plenty of room in my day for counting blessings, and I did a lot of that. I could make a list, but suffice it to say that, despite all the change and challenge that's come my way in 2014, my life is sweet, very sweet indeed. And I'm mighty thankful to the One who's blessed me so. I hope you can say the same.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Still Life Photo Challenge

Life is whizzing by, and here it is photo challenge weekend already! I'm dipping into my archives again for some still life shots.

Last December, this lovely white pitcher distracted me from getting my holiday decorating done. The sun streaming in the window was creating some great shadows that I hoped to capture.

Blue Mason jars are among my favorite things.
I find them very photogenic.

Eggs are photogenic, too!

Thanks for taking a look at my foray into still life photography.
Check out the other other participants' photos at

Thanks, Donna, for hosting each month!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Photo Challenge: Motion

This month's Personal Photo Challenge theme is motion, something I'm just beginning to learn about when it comes to photography. Here are some of my experiments.

You have to look closely, but the water was moving, which produced that pretty blur.

My sisters and I have been working at emptying our parents' house this summer. It's a very difficult but nostalgic task. Before my oldest sister moved our great grandfather's Victrola to her house, I took a lot of photos.

This was taken at our tiny county fair a couple of weeks ago. I had fun wandering around the midway experimenting with the camera. To see more photos from my evening at the fair, read this post.

I'm linking up with A Personal Photo Challenge. Visit the link to see what others have done with this month's theme of motion. Thanks to Donna for hosting!!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Take Me to the Fair

Our tiny county fair concluded last night. It's quite a feat of volunteerism and dedication for such a small county. With a population of less than 2500 people, pulling off events like the Fair and the Maple Festival (in March) says a lot about the folks who live here. We may be small, but Highland County is a community that pulls together for the important things: fairs, festivals, and helping our neighbors in need.

I worked a shift selling ride tickets on Friday evening. Watching the children on the midway brought back a lot of memories. I grew up less than 20 miles from the West Virginia State Fair. Our family's annual afternoon and evening at the Fair was always eagerly anticipated by my sisters and me. We looked forward to the rides the most and would have gone straight to the midway upon arrival if we had been in charge. But our family's budget didn't allow for unlimited ride tickets, so we slogged through the exhibit halls and barns first. Although there were some interesting things to see, us three girls were chomping at the bit to begin our adventures on the midway. After taking in all the exhibits, it was back to the car for a picnic supper, which Mom brought from home, packed in a Styrofoam cooler. Even though we girls would have rather eaten fair food, we knew that the picnic supper meant more money for ride tickets, which was OK with us! After supper, there was more looking around until it began to get dark. You see, my parents knew that riding the rides was much more fun in the dark, and even though it meant they had to endure a lot of complaining, they made us wait. And then, when the sun finally went down, what fun we had! Thousands of colored lights blinking and twinkling, music blaring, kids (and grownups) laughing and screaming. Ride after ride, we were whizzed, jerked, spun, scrambled, twirled, and whooshed through the night air until our heads spun and our stomachs rumbled long after we headed home. By the time our car pulled into the driveway, visions of Ferris Wheels and roller coasters danced in our sleepy heads.

Now that I'm all grown up, the midway, with all its lights, noise, and stomach-churning rides doesn't hold the same appeal for me. But, after I finished my shift on Friday, I wandered around the midway with my camera. It was a beautiful night: the air was clear, not too muggy, and a beautiful crescent moon hung over the fairgrounds. I had fun snapping photos, playing with the camera settings to see what kind of photo resulted. I learned a lot about nighttime photography, which I hope I can remember! Here are some of the best photos of the evening.

I think of all the rides, my favorite was, and still would be, the Ferris Wheel. It's a kind of glorified backyard swing, which I loved, and the view from up top is exhilarating. What are some of your favorite memories of going to the fair?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Photo Challenge: Portraits

Can't believe it's Photo Challenge time again already! I'll have to delve into my archives again as I've had no time to plan or shoot portraits this month. Portraits are not something I usually shoot. Sometimes I try to get good shots of our pets, and on special occasions I try to capture the people involved. But as far as shooting posed photos of people, it's not something I usually do.

I'm saved this time by my nephew's wedding. He and his lovely bride tied the knot on May 17. Blue Mason jars, heirloom flowers, and burlap made for a vintage theme amid a beautiful farm setting. One thing that the photos don't show is that the temperature was barely 50 degrees and everyone was freezing during the outdoor ceremony! Thank goodness the reception was indoors, where everyone was much more comfortable.

On the left is the groom's childhood next-door neighbor. She's posing with my oldest sister.

This is my sister and her husband, parents of the groom.

The maid of honor was striking. Thankfully you can't see any goosebumps!

Once the ceremony was over, wedding guests relaxed with cocktails (and got warm!)
while waiting for the bridal party to finish with photos. This is my husband with
my cousin's wife.

During cocktails, guests were invited to pose for silly photos using a variety of props,
including boas, goofy hats, crazy glasses, etc. This is my aunt. She might not like it if I told
you how old she is. Let's just say she was 11 years younger than I am now when
I was 1960. Can you do the math?

My nephew, the groom, watches while his bride dances with her father.

And the bride watches as her new husband dances with his mother.

Their magical wedding ended with a sparkler send-off.
I'd never seen that done before. It was quite a sight.

Not only are the months flying by, so are the years. This handsome young groom was born just five months before my own wedding, 29 years ago.

Linking up with Donna at A Personal Photo Challenge