Family

Taffy Pull

Taffypull

My Family moved to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee when I was 10 years old, and since we moved from a very small town, it was like moving to Disney

World.   My brother and I were fascinated by all of the sights, sounds and smells of the tourist area, but our favorite places of all were the candy stores!

Never in our lives had we seen chocolate candies dipped by hand or the glistening sticks of rock candy. We especially loved watching the taffy being made (probably because they gave us samples.)  It was a fun  place to grow up and I cherish the time we had there.

I came across this recipe for homemade taffy when my children were small and we make it every Autumn. We’ve spent many happy evenings pulling taffy to make the texture just right.

So fun to make and pull, but watch out!  It is messy!

2 cups sugar

2/3 cup cocoa powder 1/2  teaspoon salt

1 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, plus additional for greasing pan and hands   

In heavy medium saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Stir until thoroughly combined. Add corn syrup, water, and vinegar to pan and place over medium heat. Stir until sugar and cocoa dissolve,

raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, clip candy thermometer to side of pan and cook until mixture reaches 260 degrees

  1. Remove pan from heat, add the butter and stir. Butter edges of sheet pan, line with silicone baking sheet and pour on taffy. Allow to cool until you are able to handle it.

Once you are able to handle the taffy, butter your hands, and start  folding the taffy over and pulling it. Pull until it loses its shine and becomes stiff. Pull into ropes, and use scissors to cut into 1 inch pieces. Wrap each piece in waxed paper.. Make sure to keep pieces separated or they will stick to each other.

That’s the news from the homestead, see you next week!


Reading ‘Aloud’ Is Fundamental

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Reading ‘Aloud’ Is Fundamental

Every year the R.I.F (Reading is Fundamental) program would come to my school and set up thousands of new books on tables in the gymnasium.  They would generously let each student pick out not one, but two books.  These books were not for borrowing, but for us to keep forever.  That thrilled me to no end because I dearly loved reading and loved the look, feel, and smell of a brand new book.   I would go home and devour the book in one night.   I still have all of those books from those carefree school days.  After all, they were treasures to me then and still are.  Sweet, simple gifts like that make the best memories.

When we first started our homeschooling journey, I was lucky to read a paper by Carole Joy Seid, a veteran homeschooling mother, on the benefits of not only reading but being read to.

 My Daddy read to us often when I was a child and when he wasn’t reading from a book, he would recite a short story or poem from memory.  He was a radio broadcaster so his stories always sounded polished and professional because he would use his radio voice

I started the habit of reading aloud to my children when they were very young; sometimes I was bad, though and would skip pages of One Fish Two Fish or The Cat in the Hat because after you’ve read it eight times in one day, your brain turns to mush.

It was when I started reading chapter books aloud that I found myself caught up in the stories and couldn’t wait until the next day to read the next chapter.  The best part was, my children were excited too!  We have been on voyages to the Fiji Islands with RM Ballentyne in The Coral Island and have sailed Around the World in Eighty Days with Jules Verne.   We have gone on adventures with Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey and felt the heartache of losing a loved one in Charlotte’s Web.  This past week, we re-read Walk the World’s Rim by Betty Baker.  I read it the first time eight years ago, but my daughter was too young to remember it.  I wanted her to experience the beauty and emotions that we felt at the first reading.  I was surprised when my 16 year old recalled so many of the important moments from the book.  Contrary to what I thought the first time I read it, he WAS listening!

Even though my children are 16, 15 and 12,  I still read aloud to them daily.    It is a beautiful bond that we share, and I will always treasure.  I encourage you to start the trend with your family too!

Developing that passion for reading is crucial, according to Jim Trelease, author of the best-seller, "The Read-Aloud Handbook." "Every time we read to a child, we're sending a 'pleasure' message to the child's brain," he writes in the "Handbook." "You could even call it a commercial, conditioning the child to associate books and print with pleasure."

This reading "commercial" is critical when competition for a child's attention is so fierce. Between television, movies, the Internet, video games and myriad after-school activities, the pleasures of sitting down with a book are often overlooked. In addition, negative experiences with reading - whether frustrations in learning to read or tedious "skill and drill" school assignments - can further turn children off from reading.

That can have long-term consequences. As Mr. Trelease says in his handbook, "Students who read the most, read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest. Conversely, those who don't read much, cannot get better at it."

A few things to keep in mind when picking out chapter books to read aloud.  Do not choose the abridged versions.  They are watered down and to me they are dumbed down.  Read the original!  You may have to hunt for them but you can find them.  Yard Sales and Library Sales are great places to start.  We once found an abridged version of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.  What a sorry mess it was!  The original is filled with such poetic language, it would be a shame for your children to be shortchanged and not hear those beautiful words that Irving penned. 

An important note; if you have small children, let them play on the floor with their toy trains, dolls or legos.  Don't make them sit still while you are reading to them. They ARE listening, Mama!  My boys had a hard time keeping still and I found that even if they were doing flips over the back of the couch, they could dictate back to me the last paragraph that I read.  Sitting for long periods of time isn't natural for young children.  Don't make them do it while you are reading to them.  They and you will enjoy the time better. 

Below is a very short list of some of our favorites for Elementary age children.   If I listed them all, you would grow weary of reading the list, it is so long!

The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe

Charlotte’s Web

Henry Huggins

Miss Piggle Wiggle

Homer Price

The Boxcar Children

Miss Hickory

Along Came a Dog

Tuck Everlasting

Walk the Worlds Rim

A lion to Guard Us

Johnny Tremain

The Winged Watchman

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Borrowed House

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

 

That’s the news from the homestead, see you next week!


I Remember Mama

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Honeysuckle Vine around our old Persimmon Tree

 

The flowers around our homestead are bursting with a profusion of color.  The wild roses down by the stream are in full bloom, and when old Mother Westwind and her Merry Little Breezes pass by, the fragrance is carried all the way up to the house.

When I stand at the kitchen window and wash my dishes, I can look out and see flowers in bloom all along the thorny branches of the blackberry bush.  Those tiny, white blossoms will soon turn into deep purple, sweet berries that I will make into cobblers and ice cream, come July.

When I go out to feed the chickens in the evening, I pass by a honeysuckle vine that grows around an old persimmon tree.   The vine has started to bloom now and even though I am a grown woman, I must stop and pick a blossom, pull the stamen out from the bottom and taste the sweet nectar.

Honeysuckle will always remind me of my mother.  I remember the first time I tasted the sweetness that the flower holds.  I couldn’t have been more than two years old, and my mother was barely 21 when she showed me that mysterious treat.  I remember the taste on my tongue and her gentle smile at my surprised reaction.

Mother’s day is coming up this weekend.    I always made a big deal of Mother’s day for my mother, because she was so good to my brother and me.  (It took getting married and leaving home to realize that.)  She was raised in an extremely difficult situation, but she and my father never let that show through in our upbringing.

We lost my sweet, kind and gentle mother six years ago to pancreatic cancer, two days after her 56th birthday.   For several years afterward, I was terribly sad on Mother’s day because she was gone.   What a fool I was, for I am a mother and have three beautiful reasons to celebrate the day.   Sometimes we get so busy mourning what we have lost that we forget to be grateful for what we have.  Thankfully, I saw the light and no longer feel sad.

For many years, we took my mother to the Walker Sister’s cabin in the Smokies on Mother’s day and had a picnic.   We would take along a blanket and fried chicken with all the fixings.  It was a great way to spend an afternoon.  I will do that with my family this Sunday. We will be bringing some homemade cookies too because after all,  it’s not a picnic without something sweet.

Here is a recipe for a great traveling cookie that I make with good old fashioned lard.  Yes, I said lard.  Everything old is new again, and lard is in that camp.  Store bought lard is okay, but if you can find someone who raises pigs and renders their fat, you will have yourself a super delicious treat!  I have found the best lard at The Naked Pig in Oakboro.

Lemon Cookies

1/3 cup butter

1/3 cup Naked Pig lard

¾ cup sugar

1 egg

1TBS milk

1 TBS Powdered *Real Lemon Brand Powdered Flavoring*

2 cups self-rising flour.

Cream together first five ingredients then add flour.  Roll into 1 inch balls and bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

Be sure to stop by and see me at the Locust Farmer’s Market on Thursday, May 5th from 11-4.  I’ll have all sorts of goods for sale.  Jams, Jellies, Handcrafted Soap, Herbal Salves, Homemade Bread and I might just have some of these Lemon Cookies.

That’s the news from the homestead, see you next week!


An Easter Memory from a Tennessee Childhood

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Last night I dreamt of my great grandmother, Ida Belle Page Mayberry.  She was visiting us here in North Carolina and she was walking through the woods and talking to my boys.  It was a very pleasant dream and left me with a feeling of wanting more when I awoke.

As I lay thinking about her, a long forgotten memory came to mind and it brought a smile to my face.

I couldn’t have been more than three years old; my parents, brother and I drove from Waverly to Nashville to spend Easter Sunday with “Memaw” as we called her.  I remember pulling in to her driveway on Tennessee Avenue and the morning sun was shining on the old red swing that sat on her front porch.   She met us at the front door with a look of excitement on her face.  I remember her saying “Come on in, the Easter bunny has been here and he left something for you.”  I was at the age when Santa and the Easter bunny were pure magic and I remember feeling joyous anticipation while following her across her front room and back to her kitchen.

She opened her screen door and told me to follow her outside.  I still remember the way her shoes sounded on the back porch and the old wringer washing machine that sat back there.  I looked everywhere but couldn’t see anything that resembled a gift from the Easter bunny.  She walked over to her clothes line and said “well looky here!”   Hanging from clothes pins were a row of cellophane wrapped Easter eggs.  I remember her telling me that he sure was a thoughtful bunny for not waking her up and leaving them out on her clothesline instead.

Funny, I can STILL taste that sugary sweet candy with the marshmallow filling and hear the way the wrapper sounded when I took it off. 

 When she was outside that morning, hanging those little treats up for her little great- grandchildren, I wonder if she imagined that her surprise for us would still be a fond memory-40 years later?  She was magic like that so, yes, she probably did.


Dreaming of Warmer Weather

The children and I went out and pulled 25 t-posts out of the ground today.

It felt good to get outside and do some work.  I tend to stay indoors too much during cold weather but always feel invigorated after being outside for a while.  I need to do that more often.

We started fencing in part of our pasture in late December, 2008.  We had lofty thoughts of buying some goats and sheep.

We only had one goat but she kept getting out and coming up to the house and knocking on the front door with her horns.  She also loved to leave calling cards (in the form of goat poo) on the porch for us.  We quickly decided that animals might not be the best idea so our idea was scrapped.

Now, seven years later.  We are taking out the fence to make a larger yard and to plant a field of sunflowers.  It will be a beautiful place to take pictures later on in the summer.

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I'm so grateful for two strong sons and a daughter to help with this project.

As I was surveying our garden spot this afternoon, I noticed some carrot tops in the dirt that we must have overlooked.  I pulled some small, sweet carrots out of the earth and I must say, it felt GOOD to have my hands in that dirt.  I can't wait for spring to arrive so that I can start planting our vegetable garden again.  It's a lot of work, keeping a vegetable garden but there is nothing better than eating, all summer long from your own land.

What about you?  Do you put out a garden?

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Edible Christmas Wreaths

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These are a fun treat to make with the kids!  They are super easy.

The first time I made them was in Kindergarten.  My goodness.... that was a LONG time ago.  Mrs. Mott was my teacher's name and she was so good to all of her students.  Whenever I make these with my own children, I am taken back to those Christmases of long ago when everything about the season was magical!

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All you need is a bag of regular sized marshmallows, 3 cups of Corn Flakes, Green food coloring, red hots or miniature M&M's and butter.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot.  Pour in the bag of marshmallows and stir.  When all of the marshmallows have melted, add in the green food coloring.  When you have your desired color, add the corn flakes.

Butter your hands very well because this mixture is very sticky.  Shape the corn flake mixture into wreaths and add the red hots or M&M's for decoration.

Wreath3Let them sit for an hour or so to harden.

These are a sweet treat to give to your friends or just to enjoy yourself as you relish in the magic of the yuletide.


Morning Walk Report: October 7th, Last of the Tomatoes

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The rain that moved in last night a brought balmy, almost tropical feel. I am glad that I got out and walked when I did because it is raining as I write this.
Everything smelled wonderful this morning! Did you know that when you *think* you smell rain; you are really just smelling the earth? Moisture heightens smells. Think of man’s best friend, they can smell everything and their nose is always damp. Put it to the test, rub a little water on your nostrils and see if it makes a difference.

My garden is still producing tomatoes. I don’t know if they will turn red before the frost sets in but we can still make use of the green ones by dipping them in a little cornmeal and frying them in bacon grease or making green tomato chutney.
When I snapped this picture of a tomato on the vine this morning, it reminded me of an October day many years ago. It was the year 2000 and my husband, baby son and I drove up from Texas to Tennessee to visit with our family and to take in the sights, smells and good times that only Pigeon Forge can offer during that vibrant & colorful time of year!
We had such a good time on that visit and took Nate to his first pumpkin patch. I think I have a picture of that somewhere……
I was finding it extra hard to leave my Mama at the end of that visit and had a huge lump in my throat when it was time to say our goodbyes and make that long drive back to the Lone Star State.
We were at my Grandmother ( Memmy’s) house and before we left, she said “ Oh wait! let me get you a tomato.” Well, she ran to her tiny garden spot and plucked me off one of the prettiest, autumn tomatoes that you ever saw. It was medium sized and a deep dark red, almost maroon color.
She said “now you fix yourself a good tomato sandwich with this when you get back home.”
I rode with that little treasure by my side and each time I looked at it, it reminded me of my Grandmother and the sweet, simple gifts that she was always giving us.
The next day, after we arrived home, I sliced up that tomato and made myself that sandwich with just bread, salt and a little bit of mayonnaise. You talk about heavenly! I have not had a tomato since that tasted that good.
It’s funny how you can feel the love of your family, from 850 miles away, in a Tomato Sandwich, but I did!

Until next time.

The Happiest of Birthdays!

I have been just overwhelmed at the Love that has been shown during my birthday week.  This was a landmark birthday......

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My Sweet Family wisked me away to Asheville on Tuesday for a big surprise! 

My best girlfriend, Lorie from Tennessee ( her girls are the ones that I made the English Country Dresses for) and all of her children drove over the mountain and had lunch with us.

That meant the world to me!

Then, when we went to check in to our room, who poped his head out of the door?  My dear Daddy!

My brother Cameron also came.  We had supper together and laughed all evening long!

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My Grandmother and Aunts in East Tennessee sent gifts along with my Father and my Aunt Deena in Nashville sent these beautiful flowers.

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I came home to Chocolates and a Balloon at my door from my friend, Tracy.

My eldest son, Nate put a hilarious picture of me in the newspaper with the tag line...

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Got a call from my Uncle Dewey in Colorado who shares the same birthday

Lots of cards and texts of well wishes!

And...... on Friday, I got another surprise as I walked into my friend Neecie's house.

Singing, Over the Hill Gifts, a Cake and a Garlic Press ( we eat a lot of Garlic, keeps the Vampires at bay )   from our beloved Adventure Group Friends.

 

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Cake from sweet, Christina.


 

 

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Love that sweet, Neecie for doing this!

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Fun Games at Neecie's House

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Tracy ( missing ) Beth, Lindy, Neecie and Christina.

I feel very fortunate to have such a wonderful family and friends!

 


Oh, bear me away on your snow white wings to my immortal home!

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Three years ago tonight my sweet 56 year old Mama went to heaven.

The events that led up to her death were like a whirlwind. She started having issues in March of 2009. She was misdiagnosed as having Irritable Bowel Syndrome. She was rapidly losing weight but still managed to get up and go to work every day. She even hiked up to the Walker Sisters Cabin in June with me and my children even though she was not feeling well.

After seeing at least 3 different doctors and not finding any real answers, I remember getting a phone call from my Daddy, in late September telling me that one of the doctors mentioned that it might be Pancreatic Cancer. Pancreatic Cancer? I thought that was something that people who drank too much alcohol got. Cancer? Not in my family.

By the time she had surgery at the University of Tennessee on November 12, 2009. It was too late. She was eat up with it and it had spread to all of her internal organs. The worst part of it was, opening her up and messing with that cancer seemed to awaken it and made it angry. It was vile and evil and she never really got better or was the same after that.

I am jumping around here a bit so bear with me. The same day that my Mother was operated on at UT, my Father had a huge Heart Attack and had to go in and have a triple bypass. Thank the Lord we were already at a great hospital so they were able to save him. My brother and I had both parents in operating rooms and thought that we could lose them both at the same time.

When my Mother woke up that night, she kept asking me “Where’s Daddy?” I had to fib to her and tell her that he was not feeling well and that he had to go home. The nurses thought it best that she did not know right out of her recovery.

The next morning, as she asked again “ where is your Father? Where is Daddy?” I had to tell her the truth.

Looking into those sweet brown eyes and telling her that her husband had a heart attack, is in ICU and may not make it was one of the hardest things that I ever had to do. I remember her sounding like a little kitten because she was so weak and hurting, that was the only crying sound that she could make.

She stayed in the hospital for three weeks and I traveled back and forth from North Carolina to Tennessee on a weekly basis. Daddy was able to go home in just two weeks and his brother, My Uncle Dewey was thankfully able to come in from Colorado to take care of him.

Thank God for family. Seriously. My children were 10, 8 and 6 at the time and as much as I wanted to be there all of the time with my Mama, I had to also get back home and take care of my own too. I have a lot of Aunts and a brother who were like Angels in disguise. They stayed with her when I needed to get back home for a few days.

I don’t really know why none of the Doctors ever came in to tell us the straight facts. Maybe it was because of the traumatic situation with my father being sick too. I am just not sure. I remember being in her hospital room Dr. Bell along with 5 Medical Students who were making their rounds.

I was somewhat clueless to cancer but had done some research. I remember him sitting on my Mama’s bed, holding her hand and I asked him, “I have heard that cancers are rated on a scale of 1-4. He said “yes” and it was like pulling a tooth, trying to get him to tell me. When he finally said that she was at stage 4, every one of those young people started crying. I had to just sit down in shock.

Fast forward a few weeks. We finally get to take her home. She was so glad to be able to be back in her own house with her things and to be with my Father again. I don’t know if it was because we were all in denial or what but we didn’t really talk about it. We tried to be normal again. We watched Christmas movies and laughed and cooked good, healthy foods.

She only got upset once.  She had just taken a shower and put on make up and was wearing some pretty black Pajamas that My Aunt Debby had sent for her to wear.  She looked so pretty, sitting there in her bed.  She suddenly just burst out crying saying that she didn't want to leave all of us.  We tried to reassure her that we were all going to help her fight this. Those tears still haunt me.

A few days before New Year’s Eve, she had a follow-up appointment. I drove her to the hospital and her Doctor looked her over then she went over to the Oncologist who was in charge of Chemotherapy. They were ready to get her started on Chemo the next week. I did not like how ready he was to pump my poor, frail Mother full of Chemicals. Thankfully, her doctor told him that she needed to heal better before we even thought of doing chemotherapy.

That night I made up a batch of Spinach Maria for them along with some other goodies and the next day (New Years Eve) I headed back east to my little family. A few days went by then my Mother called me in a very weak voice saying, “I’m not doing too good Lindy”. I reassured her that Daddy would call the doctor in the morning and that I would be back to take her if I needed to.

The next morning, I got a call from her home health care nurse telling me that she sent Mama to UT by ambulance because all of her vital signs were very low and she said that my Daddy was in denial. Well, again I jump in the car to make the 5 hour trip back to TN. Part of I-40 was closed during that time because of a rock slide so I had to drive right through the mountains every time.

When we got to UT, My Daddy told me that her Doctor had been in to see them and that it was just a matter of days before she died.

I did NOT want my Mama to die at the Hospital. I wanted her to die in the bed that she slept in, in the house where the sights and smells were familiar. Not some old hospital.

We had been in such denial about the whole thing that I was quickly snapped into reality when my brother’s girlfriend asked me about where my Mother wanted to be buried. Holy Cow! This is REAL!

I remember walking in to her room and talking to her, completely in a fog and numb. I told her that she was my best woman friend and how much I loved her. I then had to ask her about her where she would like to be buried. She said “I guess you can put me at the little church where Lorie goes”. My friend Lorie is a member of a 175 year old church that is just down the road from my parent’s house. She also told me that she wanted someone to sing The Old Rugged Cross and The Dance.

Dear God, I never expected to be asking her these kinds of questions at her young age. I felt so bad for her. She was only 55 years old.

After we got her home and comfortable, family started coming in and visiting and saying their goodbyes. That was so hard. She had her last birthday on earth on the 9th of January and all of her brothers and sister were there with her. That was really touching. We were telling jokes and laughing, like we always do. Mama even laughed too and told us we were crazy. That is one thing you can count on with the Redding Family; we can find something to laugh about even in the most terrible circumstances.

On January 10th, my husband decided that we needed to go back home and rest for a few days. I did not find out until later that he talked with my very intuitive, Aunt Deena and she told him that my Mama would not die if I or her grandbabies were there in the house.

Before we left, I sat and talked to her for a while. I painted her fingers and toes so that they would be pretty and we all hugged her and told her goodbye, telling her that we would see her in a couple of days.

We came back to NC and I spent the day making a guest book for her funeral with pictures of her throughout it.

That night, I finally sat down to watch Antiques Road show. Mama, my Grandmother and I used to sit and watch that show and then call each other and talk about the treasures that we saw on there.

About 9:30, I got a call from my Aunt Diane. I’ll never forget her words or the sound of her voice “Lindy, your Mama has passed away”. I didn’t have the reaction that I guessed a person might in that situation. I just quietly and calmly accepted it. It all felt like a bad dream to me and I really wasn’t sure how to act. Funny though, as my Aunt recounted my Mother’s last minutes, she told me that they had been watching the Antiques Road show.

It is interesting how people die like they lived. Whenever my Mother had work to do, she liked to put all of her effort into it and she wanted everyone out of the house. If she wanted to do a deep clean, she insisted that my Father leave so that she could do her work without interruption. The night she died, my family was gone, my Father and Brother had left to go spend the night at my Grandmother’s house so that left just two of her sister in law with her. Aunt Dianne said that my Aunt Deena had just stepped out of the room and My Mother took her last breath.

I guess she had to get all of us out of her way so that she could get down to her business of dying.

I miss her so much.

A friend of mine, who was only trying to be helpful, told me that it takes an average of 6 months to get over a death. I remember thinking at the time “what kind of nut job wrote that and were they referencing the death of a goldfish?"

I also was given a book about the 5 stages of death. That is really a bunch of garbage. 

We are all different and not one of us process things in the same way. It has been three years and it is not really any easier. Just different.

After she died, I went numb and lost my faith.

I found out that I have some really great family members and I have a husband that is THE sweetest, kindest man in the world. He sat down and helped me write out all of the Thank You notes after the funeral and has been here for me to cry to, over and over again.

Chris and my Mother did not have the typical Mother/ Son in law relationship. They had a mutual respect and love for each other and several times, if I was fussing with Chris and she happened to be there, she took up for HIM!

It has been three whole years since I heard her voice. I am so sad that my children won’t be able to really get to know the Grandmother who thought they all just hung the moon. I am sad that my Daddy has to go on without the little gal that he has loved since she was 16. I am sad that my Aunt has to go on without her sister and that the life of this good, sweet, loving and hardworking woman was cut short too soon by a very evil and aggressive cancer.

 

One of the many songs that were played at her funeral.

 


The Magic Sacks

This was a project that I did last Christmas but since it had such an exciting turnout, I wanted to share it with you.

My first cousin, Andy Bryan wanted to have a big Smoky Mountain Christmas party and have all of our family together for a grand celebration and feast.

Andy ordered some big fabric sacks for us to put the children's presents in. He sent them to me and asked if I could embroider their names on them. 

I wanted to add an element of magic to the sacks so I aged the sacks and made up a story to go with them.

I used an Old English font for the names and made felt Christmas trees and sewed them to the bags.

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I wanted to make the sacks look old so I brewed up a couple pots of strong coffee and tea.  I wanted them to smell good so I put in a bottle of vanilla extract and a few shakes of cinnamon and poured it all into a 5 gallon bucket.  ( I made 8 so I had to make a lot of aging liquid).

I took everything outside and dipped the sacks one by one into the liquid and then hung them on the clothes line to try.

They sat on the clothes line all night and by the next day, they looked as if they had aged about a hundred years.

Now, my family lives in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and since we were having a Smoky Mountain Christmas, I wanted to write up a little story that included Andy's family and my Grandmother and the area that they live.  The following is what  I wrote to be read aloud on Christmas Eve to all of the little children.

The winter of 1857 was a bitterly cold one for the people in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee.

Folks did all they could to survive and keep warm.   The cold weather was particularly hard for the John Bryan Family as they had just moved from the middle part of the state where the temperature was warmer and they had little need for lots of Quilts and Kivers to keep warm.

Mother Debra did everything she could to keep the family warm but it seemed each night, the two little boys, Andrew and Scottus would surly freeze their toes off.

One morning as little Andrew and Scottus were gathering firewood, they stumbled upon an old abandoned cabin deep in the woods.  They decided to explore the old place to see if there were any leftover treasures from the former inhabitants.

When they climbed the stairs to the attic of the old place, they found an old trunk.  Inside that trunk were some old sacks.  Thinking that their mother could use them to sew into warm quilts, the boys gathered them up and took them home.

That night, an ice storm came to the mountains.  It was 14 below zero outside and not much warmer in their little log cabin.  Debra, had no time to sew the sacks into warm quilts that night so she just took them and laid them over her boys, her husband John and oh yeah, Old Grandmother Memmy. 

Somehow, as the family lay under the sacks, they became warm as toast.  Warmer than they had been all winter.  In fact, so warm little Scottus had to throw his kivers off during the night.  The Bryan Family and Old Grandmother Memmy slept sound and warm that night and had the most pleasant dreams.

Debra decided that making the old bags into quilts would take too much time and she had so many other household chores to do that she would just leave them in sack form and just use them as they had the first night.

Christmas Time was drawing near and Father John was worried that there would be no money for presents.  He was able to buy each boy a peppermint stick at the store at White Oak Flats but that was all.

He went to bed on Christmas Eve, warm and snug but a little heavy hearted that he was unable to buy anything for Debra and Old Grandmother Memmy.

 When Morning came, the family woke up a little chilly.  They wondered why they were so cold and as they looked upon the beds, they noticed that their sack blankets were gone……. But they were not gone!  As brother Andrew looked up, he spotted the sacks lying up against the hearth budging full.  But that is not all!  Each one had the names of every member of the family sewn onto them.

Andrew and Scottus rushed to their sacks and what they found was nothing short of a miracle!  They were filled with hand carved toy animals, new clothing, warm woolen mittens and socks and dozens of beautiful new quilts.

The Bryan Family did not know who was responsible for this but they all felt that it was a gift from the Spirit of Christmas.

Many years have passed since that winter day when the Bryan Boys stumbled upon the magic sacks in the attic of that old cabin.  Their story had been passed down through several generations but no one ever knew what became of them.

Several weeks ago, a group of Archeology students from the University of Tennessee were digging around the old Bryan Homestead in the Great Smoky Mountains.  They came across an old trunk full of very old, fabric bags with names on them.

The Archeology Professors at U.T. decided that they must be given to the descendants of the Bryan Family.

So, here they are, safely in your hands.

Who knows what kind of magic may happen with these old sacks on Christmas Eve!

 So imagine this, it is Christmas Eve and we are all in a huge Log Cabin in the Mountains.  It is getting dark and we gather all of the children upstairs and read this story aloud to them.  After we read the story, we pulled the sacks, full of toys out of hiding and gave them to each of the children.  You can imagine the delight on their sweet little faces upon seeing these!

It was indeed a Merry Christmas for all of us!